"Calling to Ministry"
"And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them." (Acts 16:10)
The peculiar occurrences recorded in connection with this passage, suggest the general remark, that the Divine mode of indicating human duty is almost limitless in its variety. All the reasons of this may not now be open to our scrutiny, but the fact is everywhere patent to the observing eye.
It appears in that whole series of instruction by which the Divine Teacher would advance the race. Every department of knowledge, whether natural or revealed, admits of the application of the principle; it regards what we are called on to believe, and what we are required to perform.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry comes in various ways.)
The context furnishes a striking instance of peculiar direction in Ministerial duty. The Minister directed was St. Paul, whose whole history had been of a peculiar type; it details voices and visions in earth and heaven, by which his Apostolic course of matchless heroism, and success, was unerringly directed.
(Note: But even though Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry comes in various ways, he also believed that the calling to ministry is definite for a true preacher.)
In the instance before us, he was approached, at a midnight hour, by a spectral messenger, with a solemn request. The voice was Macedonian; it had a most sententious utterance. The language was enigmatical. It was not, "come and preach to us the Gospel - shed on Macedonia the morning light in which you are now bathing the moral creation;" but simply "come over and help us." The involved meaning was understood to be "come and proclaim to us salvation, and expound to us the terms of its reception."
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's special calling to ministry tasks was, in the early days of establishing the church, by godly visions and dreams and the like.)
This mode of enjoining a special Ministerial duty, illustrates a general probationary principle - one which is applicable to the entire economy of time. What is there in all the hopes lighted up along our pilgrimage - in all the conflicts which make life a field of battle, or in all the requirements of which the entire system speaks - which involves not this principle of dim or hidden import? The certainty which flashes on moral questions, disclosing all their meaning, must appertain to another state; it cannot coexist with the mingled lights and shades of this twilight abode.
The single exception to this procedure is in the interference of miraculous agency. The period of this has ever been restricted to the establishing of a new religion; when that had been accredited, voices from heaven died away - the hand of miracles was withdrawn from human affairs, and the Divine administration resumed its even and wonted tenor. This difference palpably appears in the Ministerial call.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry was established by miracles and even a divine voice in the early beginning days of the church.)
The Apostolic call came in no equivocal impulse, or nightly dream, or mysterious vision, but in emphatic terms, by the living voice of the risen Restorer; or it came, as to the smitten persecutor, from mid-air, attended by a sound from beyond where the thunder sleeps - by a light outvieing the Asiatic sun.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry for the Apostles did not need a miracle because Jesus personally called them.)
But the rushing wind and tongues of fire have long since ceased to accredit the Ministerial vocation. While the fundamental facts of the new religion were purely miraculous in their nature, it was fit that the commission of its first propagators should, in this distinctive, entirely harmonize. It was also fit that this great element should fade from the call of their successors, just as the hand of God gradually withdrew its miraculous interposition which had indicated their commission.
The cooperating action of the agent and subject, inseparable from all spiritual duties, can never be absent from the Ministerial commission. The living voice could not be the appointed channel of successful truth, were not the sympathetic power of the speaker intended to imbue that truth. Now, as this power and that truth can perfectly combine only under a heavenly impulse on the heart, the sacred functionary can never dispense with it. It is, then, not the miraculous, Apostolic call, here to be investigated, but that common to the holy office, in all ages of the church, since that of miracles expired.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry no longer comes by way of the miraculous or the "in person" calling of Jesus, but the Lord speaks to our hearts by way of the Holy Spirit.)
Our text may suggest the matter, manner and object of preaching, together with circumstantial indications of the times and places of our Ministry. But the occasion will restrict our attention to the call and pious qualificationsof the Ministry.
Permit me, then, my young Ministerial brethren, to earnestly address this discourse to you in the order here indicated, begging your special attention-
I. To the Minister's Call.
The topic chosen is too broad a subject for thorough investigation in a single Sermon. The elucidation of a few points, involved in it, is all at which this attempt can aim.
In discussing the Ministerial call to the sacred office, attention will first be directed to some of the pre-requisites to that call.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry comes with certain assumed pre-requisites.)
That personal experience of regenerating grace sustains to it such a relation, ought here to be assumed. The refining power of Christian truth, on the moral man, has been accredited by so many ages, as to now claim the position of an adjudicated question. Nor can it require profound research to perceive that no power in the universe can bring an unchanged heart into harmony with a single element of the Ministerial character; every demand of that character would be on a class of emotions of which such a heart had never been the subject. Indeed, the statement is not too sweeping, which asserts everything to be indispensable to the Ministerial character which is essential to the Christian character: between these two characters exists the relation of species and genus.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry can only come to true believers.)
The Ministerial must be adorned with every supernatural characteristic of the Christian, while this is without a single one which is peculiar to the Ministerial. Though personal piety, then, is no part of the Minister's character, no agency in the universe can make him a Minister without such piety. It is a Divine maxim of ever-enduring force, that "the blind can never lead the blind" (cf. Matt. 15:14) without periling the safety of both.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry comes only to spiritually sound Christians. God reserves the calling to ministry for those who love Him and walk with Him, lest the blind lead the blind.)
Another pre-requisite to the Ministerial office is a fervid desire for the world's salvation. This is one of the phenomena of that new character, with which regeneration adorns its subject; it is the legitimate emanation of that pure fountain, unsealed by the Infinite Spirit, in the renewed heart. But though this newborn offspring of regeneration is never absent when that saving change occurs, yet there is no indemnity, in the structure of the mind, or in the grace it experiences, against the waste of its intensity. The perpetuity of this desire, in its original vigor, depends on other conditions. These must be fulfilled with fidelity, or the heart of the man, and the functions of the Minister, will become the fiercest antagonisms. This desire, then, which is the instant offspring of renewing grace - which emerges from the changed heart, like a star from the depths of heaven, can never cool, in its ardor, without becoming a disqualification for the sacred office.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry comes only to those who have a heart for reaching and winning souls for the Lord.)
It was the flame of this desire in which dying love expressed itself on Calvary; it is impossible the disciple should be so unlike his Lord, as not to kindle into kindred emotion. But if, from its very nature, this be inseparable from Christian experience, how can it be dispensed with in Ministerial functions? Though this desire does not make the Minister, he cannot be made without it. Belonging to every disciple, male and female, through the whole range of Christendom; how can he be without it, whose office is, to fan it to an intenser flame? The mightiest throbbings of a Saviour's love is a fundamental qualification for a Saviour's work.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is to those who seek to be like Christ in His ministry. He died for lost souls. Those who have a genuine calling to ministry will have a heart like their Savior, who longs for the souls of man.)
The sufficiency of an agent's qualifications can be adequately tested only by their correspondence to the functions assigned him. The Minister's work lies in two distinct spheres of probationary mind-in the emotional andintellectual departments. Such is the moral nature of our species, as to be the theater of all religious experience; without this nature, all felt religion would be as impossible to us as to the time-pieces we wear. And as the demands and processes of our moral powers can be known only experimentally [i.e., by experience], how can the Minister cultivate this only strictly religious field in the universe, without having had it cultivated in himself.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry comes only to those who have been redeemed in mind and emotion. They possess a true morality from God, which qualifies them for a moral ministry.)
By no possibility can moral nature, moral truth and moral government, be severed, or substituted, or transposed. It is to the moral universe that the Minister's high commission chiefly relates him; and as the richest class of this order of truth is experimental - that to which all other truths look forward - the Minister's pious affections should be the last, in his whole emotional nature, remaining dormant. But the depth, extent, and growth of his piety, must be exhibited elsewhere [in part III below].
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is a holy calling. That's why God's Word says, "Be ye holy, as I am holy." That holy calling to ministry is also a calling to holiness.)
Another preparative to the Ministerial call, is found in a preparation in nature - an inherited power of communicating truth connectedly. The requisitions of the Scriptures, on the Ministry, clearly involve this ability: "A Bishop must be apt to teach" (1 Tim. 3:2), must have the power to communicate to others what himself has learned. This capability may be wanting in the presence of other very rich mental endowments; the ability of clear perception, vigorous judgment, and of powerful reflective energies, may be present, while that is absent. The sacred office demands this, while it cannot dispense with those. The Minister must be able to transfer to other minds the thoughts of his own - to make his conceptions theirs, and thus open the channels through which his own emotions shall become the property of other bosoms.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is to those who can communicate the Bible truths that they have learned to others.)
We, not infrequently, meet with a mind capable of molding its desires into words, of appropriately expressing isolated facts, or of stating a simple conclusion, but capable of going no farther. Such a mind cannot retrace the steps by which it reached the conclusion; the very attempt issues in confusion - the longer it is continued, the darker the chaos; every struggle enhances the perplexity, till utter gloom involves the whole. How could such an intellect reason? How could it communicate thought consecutively? How, without logical discernment, could it wield logical argument? How could it instruct, by public address, without the power of laying hold on the connecting principle which gives unity to a discourse? - without ability to trace the links of that chain which binds the exordium [introduction] to the sermon, and the sermon to the conclusion? - without that perceptive power which can place thought in such order as to give it ever-growing strength.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is to those who see God's big picture and can logically discern and then explain God's plan found in God's word. Dempster believed that the person who could not see God's big picture and learn to logically convey it, could not have God's calling to ministry.)
A mind, deeply stamped with this logical destitution, can never have been Divinely summoned to the Ministerial office. Still must we cautiously discriminate between this destitution being real and only apparent. Many a mind of superior logical strength, at first, appeared invested with no such element. This power was there, though not disclosed; education developed it. The mind itself may have been unaware of its presence; it may have eluded the scrutiny of associates, till rigid discipline, or some stirring event, roused it from slumber, and quickened it into action. Never should the candidate be prematurely disheartened, or rashly rejected.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is only for those who can see and logically explain God's big picture, but the ability to accomplish that may at first be hidden until God calls and men develops those previously hidden spiritual gifts.)
Indomitable efforts, made in the spirit of self-reliance and God-reliance, wield all but a creating power; they have elicited, from the unknown depths of apparently barren minds, faculties which have enriched the treasures of thought, and adorned the age that gave them birth. Never, therefore, till the most resolute, untiring efforts have proved fruitless, should the candidate relinquish the hope of success. But when the logical power can be evoked by no amount of perseverance, let him know, assuredly, that the work of the pulpit has not been Divinely entrusted to him.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is obviously not on the man who seeks to succeed in the work of the ministry and cannot. That is because when God issues a calling to ministry, He installs the wherewithal to accomplish it.)
Other arguments, to enforce the importance of this qualification to the Ministry, are superseded by the inspired direction explicitly given to Timothy, to commit what he had learned to "faithful men, who should be able to instruct others" (2 Tim. 2:2). Indeed, this ability to communicate truth instructively, is involved in almost every Scriptural reference to the sacred functions. These are comprehensively included in that primary commission- "Go ye and teach all nations." This high command could never be executed by proclaiming unconnected facts, or stating isolated truths, or solitary conclusions. To teach the Gospel scheme, is to communicate connected, systematic truth - to exhibit it in its relations, demands, and purposes.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is to those who understand what they believe and can communicate it systematically.)
The very structure of the human mind prohibits a narrower import to the great commission. All the intellectual laws demand the systematizing of truth, to replenish the mind with knowledge. Why else would all classes seek truth in the broad field of analogy? - in the transpiring events of providence, and in the history of departed generations? Why else is no mind satisfied in the knowledge of a fact cut off from all its relations? Or why should everything, that presents itself to man, do so in the form of asystem, so that no event, in the compass of thought, can ever be foundalone? Why should all the mental faculties be related for systematic operation, and all the physical and moral worlds be correspondently constructed, and yet the sublime truths of the pulpit not be so taught?
In accordance with these unmistakable indications, is the most familiar experience. That determines truth to be powerful, other things being equal, as its parts are connected; this is so subjectively and objectively - to the speaker and to the auditor - to the mind that apprehends it, and to the listener that bears it. Each moral truth, composing a series, may be very insufficient in its evidence, and yet that evidence become resistless when converged from every part of that series, to one focal point.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is to those who can see His truth in context and explain it as such.)
Now, this inherent susceptibility of moral truth, of receiving accumulating evidence, and this mental structure demanding such combination, decide forever, the demand on the Ministerial instructor, and give profounder emphasis to the Apostolic requisition, that he must be "able to instruct others."
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry comes only to those "who are apt to teach." In other words, God won't call someone who cannot learn to teach.)
Now, this power - in its germinant state - to grasp and communicate truth, classified in the form of principle, is never the gift of education, or of miracle, but of nature; it is not acquired but inherited. The office of discipline is not to originate, but to cultivate - not to create, but to improve. This preparation, in nature, is one of the preparatives to the sacred office.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is given to those who have been given the ability to properly minister. It comes from God and not just from education.)
The intellectual attainments, indispensable to the office, are not added to this list - not because they are to be supplied or superseded by miracles, but because they are afterwards attainable. Who, without a perverted view, can deem the Ministerial call entirely retrospective, touching this class of qualifications? Why should Providence, in this case, depart from all analogy to the usual mode of its operations? Why should it not conspire, with grace, to give the candidate indications of his future work, as an incentive to present preparation? It is the fact, that adequate faculties have been inherited, and not the extent to which culture has unfolded them, which is preparatory to the call.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry comes to those whom the Lord is already equipping and preparing.)
But let us inquire-
II. In What the Call to the Ministry Consists?
When the pulpit is viewed in the grandeur of its purposes to secure the conversion, or seal the perdition of the race - its occupant cannot be deemed an uncommissioned agent. Were he, like king Uzziah, to enter the house of God an unaccredited priest, he would be in danger of going out, like him, a perpetual leper (2 Chron. 26:16-21).
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is so important that it must only be occupied by those who have been divinely commissioned.)
Ages there have been - of fearful midnight gloom - which have sought the basis of the Ministerial vocation in the monstrous fable of prelatical succession. This utter blindness, which confounded the institution of Aaron with that of the Christian Ministry, cannot long hold its ground against that exegetical movement which is now unfolding the dispensations of God. Nor can the imposition of consecrating hands, any more than lineal descent, constitute the Ministerial call; on knaves and novices such hands have been laid - on such as were wolves, and not shepherds.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is not from man but directly from God.)
It is true there is a large sense in which Christian truth may be taught by all its votaries, as unrestrictedly as science and literature; but this license amounts not to Ministerial authority. For reasons, abounding in the Scriptures, God designates, anoints, authorizes his Ministers. Though every peculiarity of the Levitical and Prophetical offices has vanished, with their departed dispensation, the general principle, underlaying their appointment, still remains, and can never loose its force while the existing ordinances of the Church endure. Because the institute of Aaron perished in his great Antetype, and the prophetic office found its grave in the completion of the sacred canon, we by no means infer the abolition of the great appointing principle - that by which God designates, and has ever designated, chosen men for sacred offices.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is not the same as the priestly or apostolic appointments, but is just as sure. And this calling to ministry is just as much an appointment from God.)
Another modification occurred, in the application of this principle, when the hand of miracles was withdrawn from the Church. That there is nothing in the relations between the human mind and the Spirit of God, precluding their direct intercourse, religion, under all dispensations, directly assumes. For ages that voiceless instructor communicated ideas, with all the force and precision of the most expressive language. The completion of the sacred volume was the termination of this kind of inspiration; but not of all inspiration. Though it has recorded, in that volume, all the Divineinstructions needful for the race, it has not imparted all the influence needful for the application of those truths.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is not for preachers to come up with any more truth but to proclaim the truth that we already have in Scriptures.)
Its former functions were to communicate truths, which should guide the faith of coming generations; its latter to move men to experimentally embrace that truth, and ministerially to proclaim it. In ecclesiastical language, it makes men feel "that they are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon them the sacred office."
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry does not mean that we are given new truths, but we are given the wherewithal to explain the truths we have already been given. The calling to ministry is just as real today as it was in the Old and New Testaments.)
This profound impression on the candidate's heart, urging him to the Ministerial work, is an indispensable element of the Ministerial call. This may never amount to that intellectual communion between the mind and the Spirit, which would furnish the former new thoughts, clothed in appropriate words; it may never add a single idea to his previous store of thought, or a solitary word before unknown to him, and yet find ample scope, in his other faculties, to impart the Ministerial call.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry does not mean that God gives us new thoughts or truths, but He gives us the ability to impart the whole of His written thoughts, the Bible, that we have.)
The Spirit's function is not to impart to the man a message, but to prompt him to proclaim that which is as old as the Gospel; - not to teach him what to say, but to incite him to reiterate what has been sounding through all the ages of our era.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry does not mean that we come up with a new message but that we proclaim the eternal Gospel message that we already have.)
Our mental range is far too limited to allow of our restricting the Spirit's agency on the human mind. As we have no beam of light to guide our researches into the manner of its operations, we must be content with the evidence of facts, viewed in the light of consistency. All we dare to assert, is that it never reveals to the individual Ministerial mind what it has revealed to the Church in the sacred canon - that it never suspends, infracts, or inverts the mental laws - that it never employs the intellect to feel, or the sensibilities to think, or either to determine, but acts on the mind in accordance with the constitution which God has given it.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry means that we as preachers minister in a way that is consistent with the principles of the Word of God. If what we say or what we do contradicts the Scripture, it is not of God nor in line with our calling to ministry.)
As, by this very structure, the whole region of the intellect and sensibilities is passive, the infinite Agent can act on them, to any extent, without impinging on the ground of responsibility. His agency, then, on the Minister's mind, can be restricted only by previous revelation, and by the Divine purposes of the Ministerial call. How much the intellect is implicated in this sacred impulse on the feelings, no attempt is made to determine; all that is asserted is, that the Ministerial call is never without this impulse.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is certain and is felt and will always be a part of the calling to ministry.)
His duty must be a felt duty; the intensity of feeling will graduate the vigor with which it will be achieved. To the commissioned herald, that inspired inquiry, "how shall they preach except they be sent?" (Rom. 10:15) is loaded with significance. He knows that being sent implies more than the consecrating imposition of human hands - more than ravishing conceptions of revealed truth - more than a burning desire for man's moral rescue; that while it implies all these, it implies something more than these: it implies that more than man or angel has indicated his duty - that God has mysteriously communed with him, by an impulse adapted to the inspection of consciousness, but not to the expression of words.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry, though not discerned by the fleshly ears, is emphatically discerned by the spiritual ears of the heart. This empahtic calling to ministry by God gives us the want and the will to preach the Gospel as directed and authorized by God Himself.)
In harmony with this private indication of duty, will be the public recognition of the Church. In this regard, the first age of the Ministry was unlike any after age. From the necessity of the case, the incipient Ministry of the Apostles was independent of the Church, which as yet had not an ecclesiastical existence; it, of course, could have no part in creating that agency which was afterwards to give it existence. But as the nature of this necessity could allow it only a temporary existence, the first state of the Ministry could be no criterion for its permanent guide.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry was imparted to the Apostles directly from Jesus.)
While the Divine Founder of the Church was present in person, all authority of the Church in recognizing the Ministry was superseded; "go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," endowed them with plenary authority. It made the functions of the Ministry personally binding on them; they demanded of men a recognition of their official character, by virtue of this authority which had invested them.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry, though directly from God to the preacher, is now comfirmed by the church since the departing of Christ.)
But when the opened heavens had received the Master from his disciples, and those, whom he had in person commissioned, had finished their Ministry, new relations sprang up between the Church and the Ministry. When that radiant age of plenary inspiration had rolled away - when the heavenly voices and visions were over - the Ministerial authority ceased to come miraculously from heaven, but that office required the approving voice of the Church.
This is not inverting the order in which these relations were first established, but greatly modifying it: the dependence of the Ministry on the Church, in other respects, requires it should need the confirmatory voice of the Church. As no Ministry could long advance, in the prosecution of its aggressive commission, without support from the treasury, and countenance from the Church, that body must either sustain every pretender to a Divine mission, or have a controlling agency in determining who has received it.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry does not mean that the call comes from the church, only that the church ratifies or confirms what God has alread done. It is the church aggreeing with God about the calling to ministry with a loud "amen".)
In pressing the necessity of this ecclesiastical recognition, let me not be misunderstood. It is not affirmed that this is, in all possible circumstances, indispensable. In the days of general apostasy, large divisions of the nominal Church may be so utterly void of vitality, as to reject the applicant for its approval, on the very ground that he possesses Divine qualifications. An example of this is found in almost every great reformer, and in the noblest sufferers at the stake; such should "obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29). They should cooperate with the Infinite Spirit, though not recognized by a single voice on earth. They should do it in the light of the kindled fagots (bundle of sticks bound together), and in the midst of the thunders of priestly anathemas. Even then should they advance, with an intrepid step, unawed by the most fearful blow impending to crush them.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry does not mean that we need the approval of man, especially fallen man or church. But this calling to ministry needs the approval of a godly church who will accept what God has commissioned. That's the only way we can have a ministry...if someone lets us minister to them.)
But though it is a sublime virtue of the most gifted spirits, to thus toil against the interdict of a fallen Church, in the face of consuming flames, it furnishes no justification for neglecting the voice of the Church when that body is in its ordinary purity. In this state, the Ministry, as the messengers of the Church, should await its solemn behest; it should deem her voice in harmony with God's command.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is a blessing when God and church agree.)
Such is the person's Divine impulse to the Ministry, that a direct knowledge of it is entirely confined to his own consciousness. But while this inward knowledge of his call can belong only to himself, in its very workings, indications of its reality will appear to others; the impulse felt in himself, is felt, through him, to others. Though this high charge was privately committed to his trust, yet, like any other deep-seated principle, its workings put the fact in the possession of the public.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry certainly becomes evident to others who know and love the Lord.)
That profound impression of connected truth, made on his faculties, will unavoidably be self-revealing. His communication of consecutive truths, bathed in the radiancy in which his own spirit is kindled, will never permit his call to remain a secret. The Church will know it, earth and heaven will know it; and, except in the dark hour of satanic assault, no doubt of it will ever shade his own mind. Nothing can be transferred which is not possessed. As, in lithography, the stone can impart no impression until it had received it, so is it in the speaker's communications to other minds; he can no more fail to transfer his own emotions, than he can kindle them in other bosoms when they are not in his own.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is very important because you can't give what you don't have.)
It is this state of commissioned mind which makes it "desire the office of a Bishop" (1 Tim. 3:1); it desires the office, not the title of a Bishop, not theemolument of a Bishop, not the lordly sway of a Bishop, but the hazardouswork, the strenuous toil of a Bishop. Its aim will be immeasurably higher than what glitters before the eye of vanity, or cupidity, or ambition; for these that mind pants, with an eagerness unknown even in the fiery chase of ambition. It is no more possible that a message could come from such a heart, without revealing the truthfulness of its source, than that the light of noon should be self-concealing.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is evidenced when one desires the office of a bishop, not just the title. God's calling to ministry is evidenced when it's no longer about the minister but it's about the ministry. The calling to ministry is not about what I can get but what I can give.)
It is never perplexing to determine whether the Minister performs his work, as the patient enters on his course of medicine, deeming it a less evil than the disease which it is to vanquish; or whether he does it, as the hungry take food, with the intensest appetite. No, the kindled thoughts, on fire within him, will move his lips to powerful utterance. The majesty of his theme will be his inspiration; the vision of eternal realities, which has burst on his view, makes the sphere of his conceptions too bright to allow the hearers to doubt of his commission.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry will be noted by the true flock.)
The Church needs no art of the casuist to settle the question of his call; this is readily adjudicated on the authority of infallible signs. It will appear in every truth that leaps from his opened lips in public; so that the Divine voice which called him sounds through him, calling the Church to a recognition of his commission, and, in accrediting him, the voice from earth harmonizes with that from heaven.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is obvious when the sheep know they have heard from the good shepherd through the under shepherd.)
Your attention is next directed
III. To the Devotedness Required by the Ministerial Vocation.
The conviction of the holiness of this calling has never been the peculiarity of one age; it has swept over all ages; its antiquity is higher than that of the sanctification of Aaron's sons; it runs back to the mysterious Priest of the Most High God, Melchizedek, who met and blessed the fathers of the faithful. The basis of this all pervading conviction lies deep in the recognized nature of the office. No degree of devotion corresponds to its nature, but that which is supreme - that which excludes all motives which would rival the love of Christ.
To the choice of other professions, men may fitly be incited by the combination of various motives; but this would vitiate the Ministerial office. That office excludes professional eminence, greater emolument, higher social connections, facilities to the pursuits of literature, and whatever else may be secular in its character; all these, as leading incentives, are absolutely excluded from the holy office.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry should motivate us unlike any secular profession.)
The Minister's work is the work of God; to perform it, therefore, from any of these motives, cannot make it something else, but it would make his character something else, and thus abolish all correspondence between the office and the officer. The master spring to Ministerial character is faith; the motive, therefore, for assuming it, must be within the unseen territory of faith. Cecil arranges these incentives into three classes: the rush of thousands in the gulf of flame - the restorer's dying love for their rescue - the appointment of Ministerial instrumentality to make that love availing. These comprehend a Minister's incentives; "a fourth idea would be a grand impertinence."
If entire devotion to Christ's work involves unqualified submission to his will, then does it exclude all mixed motives, all conflicting motives, and all suspension of holy motives. It requires obedience to what Christ has commanded, in the manner he has commanded, and because he has commanded it. His complete submission to his Father's will is the never changing pattern for his servant's obedience; His mind must be in them. The conviction of this has the certainty of an intuitive flash - the strength of a first principle - a power transcending demonstration. How is it possible to doubt whether the same spirit, which wrought man's redemption by price,must imbue those instruments of his redemption by power?
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry means we submit whole heartedly to His will and His will alone.)
It, then, has the clearness of vision, that but one class of Ministerial motives can be paramount; all others competing for this rank are antagonistic.
But how shall we fairly test our motives for becoming Ministers? Who has ever attempted to analyze these etherial states, in their light and flying shades, without finding them eluding the most piercing eye of introspection? Here is a demand for the severest scrutiny. No amount of mere emotion can be a safe test. This may be nimble and changeful as summer gales; it may be dark and strong as the winter storm, and yet act only on the soul's surface; the inner man, seated far deeper, may remain in untroubled repose. Low down, in the depths of our nature; are often the hiding places of our motives; how shall they be evoked, and placed fully before the inspecting eye?
Not by supposing what paragons we should be, what Godlike deeds we should achieve, were scope given to our pent-up moral energies; not by gilding our future career by the creative lights of fancy; our relation to the future renders our coming character a contingency. The hero, that vaunts in the fireside circle, is not the last to exhibit the coward on the grim edge of battle. The moral splendor of future achievements is not infrequently "the stuff of which dreams are made" [Shakespeare, The Tempest]. That noble daring - that lofty self-sacrifice, on which we purpose in future, may vanish like the sleeper's vision, when the future becomes the present; the living present can never be apart from the true test of character.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry means we test our motives and know our motives. It means we allow God to show us our true motives.)
The only pertinent question is, what am I now? This searching inquiry should pass like lightning through all the attitudes and relations of my present character. Do I now live disinterestedly? Is my strenuous toil for others? Do I now value human salvation above human applause? Do I now act for Christ, as though the whole universe contained not another incentive to action? Does this master principle, which absorbs self in the endless good of others, now control every living power of my being? The prospectiveexistence of these states can never be confounded with their presentexistence. That bright future may be peopled only with the creatures of a fancy-loving brain.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry will cause us to evaluate what we are now, not what we want to be in the future.)
But not only may our imaginary selves in future dangerously misguide us, but our former selves may be an equally deceptive standard. What has a remembered consciousness of self-consecration to do with a presentconsciousness of it? This substitution is full of peril; it is the assumption of the immutability of human goodness - the truth of which is disproved by the most significant pages of man's moral history. It is disproved by the most startling gleams of light which have broken in on angelic history. The terrified universe may know that angels have sunk into devils - that the first human son of Divine love [Adam] became a child of God's wrath.
After these events, at first so strange, how can the mutability of human character be encumbered with a shadow of doubt? How often, in later records of the most eminent piety, has "the gold changed, and the fine gold become dim" (Lam. 4:1)? How many a noble heart, in the brightest array of Christ's servants, - under the sway of motives which would honor an angel - has been mysteriously transmuted into directly the opposite? How fatal, then, the fallacy of reasoning from the past to the present? - in the belief that this heavenly grace glows in the heart, like the star lighted up in heaven, without being fanned by the eternal breath that kindled its fires?
All should know that this supernatural glow in the heart is enduring only as it is perpetually fed by the oil of grace. The danger of this Divine change is measured by the fierceness of the moral conflict. The Divine oracles speak of this probationary struggle with startling emphasis. They call it an agony to be endured (Matt. 24:13) - a race to be run (Heb. 12:1) - a battle to be fought (1 Cor. 6:12) - an antagonist to be vanquished. They pronounce the conflict to be with "principalities and powers," (Eph. 6:12) and assume the certainty of the field being lost, unless we are guarded with the panoply of God, and our vigilance be sleepless.
In this high conflict, the soul must often fall back on those profound principles, familiarity with which consists only in a deep insight into those viewless motives which are farthest from the careless eye. Should some etherial historian depict what has transpired in the hearts of God's most eminent servants, nothing would so arrest us, as an exact correspondence between the depth of their agony and the glory of their Ministry; the severity of their conflict would be the measure of their success. Both testaments are replete with illustrations of this principle; nor are they wanting in the recorded experiences of God's most eminent Ministers in after ages.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry certainly means we must never live in the past and rest on past accomplishments. That is as dangerous as living in the future.)
What one function belongs to the Ministerial office not demanding the deepest spirituality? The whole character calls for a high, controlling piety - a living, energetic, all-conquering piety - one that imbues the heart, the life, the studies, the habits, the whole man. This principle must sway the Minister with the power of a passion. He can have no substitute for this living, glowing spirit - for a heart throbbing and flaming with restoring love. Nothing else, within the compass of thought, can disclose to him the soul's worth, or gird him with power to snatch it from the gulf; nor can anything else invest him with that harmony of character which sheds the light of consistency over all the various events of his history.
From his manner it will put to flight all artifice, all affectation, all assumed dignity. It will ally to him naturalness, simplicity, earnestness - the unaffected air of sublime philanthropy. The light of assurance will never fade from his path; it will grow in its intensity till it shall reach the maturity of perfect day. He will understand how the fact that God has spoken involves the obligation that man should cease to doubt.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry necessitates consistently walking with the Lord for direction and power.)
This depth of pious devotion makes his Ministry more availing, also, by its strengthening operations on his intellect. Who can number the mutations of that light which looms up from earth's interests? Who knows not that its bewildering glare leads millions to measures subversive of their own aim? - that it is only the beam, which falls on our path, from the [effectively] eternal sun, which, like its source, is never changing. Under this influence, - the sweeping purpose of self-consecration, bringing all the faculties into continued and concentrated action, - their utmost strength is employed.
In this simplicity and immutability of purpose resides the mightiest executive power; it is the sole remedy for that blighting disease - fitful effort. This has extinguished half the glory of the finest geniuses of the race. That change of pursuit, which is the eclipse of the soul, has wasted the energies of many a gifted spirit. The devotion in question is a security against this unsteadiness of aim, which has scattered and baffled those angel powers.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry and ever increasing devotion to Christ will give us the focus we need to continue to the end.)
Alliance to God is stability of purpose, and this girds the soul with the combined strength of its ever-growing powers. It gives distinctness of aim, fixedness of purpose, vigor of will, patience, and perseverance in execution; and thus does it impart the utmost strength of character. The soul, under the dominion of this ruling purpose, pressing all its faculties to bear on one point, advances towards its object with a momentum which sets itself on fire. The conviction is ever upon it, like an angel-hand, that it has one thing to do; towards the accomplishment of this, it advances on an air-line [direct, straight line], under the obligation of principle, blended with the ardor of passion.
It is impossible too strongly to illustrate the truth, that piety is essential to the Ministry. No postulate can be clearer - no truth more momentous! What Ministry was ever effective -no matter how intelligent - without strong faith, true spirituality, profound earnestness? The discipline of the heart is even more momentous than that of the intellect. There is the seat of impulse, the spring of energy, the fountain of eloquence. Faith and utterance were never disjoined; the energy of the one is supplied by the power of the other. "We believe and therefore we speak" (2 Cor. 4:13); not merely what we believe but as we believe. A weak believer was never a strong preacher. Whatever beauty and vigor may be the attributes of thought, to have power it must be bathed in the fire of feeling. Without this it may be the glitter of the aurora borealis, but never the vivifying beam of the fervid noon.
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry will get us nowhere without strong faith in the One who called us. I love how Dempster put it, "A weak believer was never a strong preacher." WOW!)
None of you, beloved pupils, can so misconceive of the emphasis with which we enforce piety, as to imagine we would exclude intelligence. Your teachers are not of those who seem convinced that God has more use for our ignorance than for our knowledge. He could prosecute his work without either. But while it shall please Him to employ instrumentality, he will do it wisely adapting means to ends. He never fitted sound for the eye, or the light for the ear, any more than he employs ignorance to instruct, or irreligion to promote piety. Why should we impute to Him distortion in the moral system, while we find the sweetest harmony in the arrangements of the physical system? or why should we rank Ministers in the class of mereinstruments, while their great master holds them responsible for their official fidelity.
While we denounce dull formality, stiff uniformity, rigid routine, and pompous assumptions, we no less reprobate mere fervor and everlasting repetition. The Minister's course lies as remote from the contortions of epileptic zeal, as from the death-like numbness of the paralytic victim. It is no more adapted to the frenzy of the one than to the mortal calm of the other. His is a glow which kindles without crazing his powers. It makes him seize, with intuitive quickness, on every fitting means, but never to substitute them for the end. It makes him feel that he may have too little piety, but not too much knowledge - that had he the lore of [Francis] Bacon, the genius of Tully or Demosthenes, still would he need the mantle of Paul, or Peter, or John - he would need the "love of Christ constraining him" (2 Cor. 5:14).
(Note: Rev. John Dempster believed that God's calling to ministry is a balance between dull formality and uncontrolled zeal. It is always under the control of Christ who will make our ministry just right.)
And now, my beloved brethren, permit me, in conclusion, to implore your most deep and deliberate attention to your sacred call and pious qualifications. In whatever other pursuit you may err, commit not the fatal blunder in this. Review the whole ground of your call, I beseech you, once more.
You have marked, with agony, the inefficient manner in which many a pulpit is now filled. Instead of piercing, and thrilling, and agitating the listening mass, it leaves that mass still stagnant. While you can scarcely suppress the apprehension that some other voice than God's has called into such pulpits their occupants, resolve, once for all, that you will never swell their number - that you will never ascend the sacred desk unbidden - that no earthly hope shall lure you to it - that you will dig, or beg, or starve, rather than avoid it by choosing the pulpit - rather than place yourself there as a chilling medium to congeal the stream of life that should flow to the perishing.
(Note: Dempster believed that you should never choose the preaching ministry unless God has chosen you.)
"A Discourse on the Ministerial Call" addressed by request to the members of the Biblical Institute, Concord, N. H., By Rev. John Dempster, D. D., February 23, 1854. [Emphasis his]
"The Preaching Ezine"
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