It is a glorious task that lies before the minister of to-day—to maintain, develop, and uplift the spiritual life of the most wonderful epoch of the world’s history; to place upon human souls that vital touch that shall hold their powers subject to eternal influences and aims. The times are not wholly unfavorable: our era, which spurns many ecclesiastical forms, is at heart essentially religious. The World for Christ! How this war-cry of the spirit thrills anew as one realizes how much more there is to win to-day than ever before. The Warrior girds himself and longs eagerly to marshal great, shining, active hosts for God!
It is true that the conditions of work are more trying than they have usually been. A man goes out from the seminary. He has had a good education, followed by perhaps a year or two abroad, and some practical experience in sociological work. He has plans, ideas, ideals, a vigorous and whole-souled personality, a frank and generous heart.
What does he find? He soon discovers that the battle is not always to the strong, the educated, or the well-bred. Too often he is at the mercy of rich men who can scarcely put together a grammatical sentence; of poorer men who are, in church affairs, unscrupulous politicians; of women who carp and gossip; and of all sorts of men and women who desire to rule, criticise, hinder, and distrain. They, too, are the very people who, in the ears of God and of the community, have vowed to love him and to uphold his work! The more intellectual and spiritual he is, the more he is troubled and distressed.
Many churches, too, are in a chronic state of internal war. As for these rising church difficulties—try to put out a burning bunch of fire-crackers with one finger, and you have the sort of task he has in hand. While one point of explosion is being firmly suppressed, other crackers are spitting and going off. Whichever way he turns, and whatever he does, something pops angrily, and a new blaze begins! And this business, incredibly petty as it is, blocks the progress of the Christian faith. Men and women of education and refinement, of a wide outlook and noble thoughts and deeds, are more and more unwilling to place themselves on the church-roll; a minister sometimes finds himself in the anomalous position of having the more cultured, congenial, and philanthropic people of the community quite outside any church organization.
All these things mean, not that a minister must grow discouraged, but that he must set his teeth, and with pluck and endurance rise strong and masterful and say, This shall not be! Let him not listen to the barking and baying: let him hearken to the great primal voices of man and nature. Love lies deeper than discord. The constructive forces of humanity are stronger than the disintegrative. The right attraction binds.