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1881: Mental Qualities Requisite to the Pastor

1881:

MENTAL QUALITIES REQUISITE TO THE PASTOR.

Brethren op The Graduating Class :— Some years ago there was placed upon the Index Prohibilorius at Rome, a book which bore this title: "The Priesthood a Chronic Disorder of the Human Race." It was.a skeptical book. It protested against churches, because they so easily became machines; against pastors, because they so easily became bishops. And yet the refutation of the book was in its title. When the priesthood was called a chronio 1881: MENTAL QUALITIE8 REQUISITE TO THE PASTOR. 507

disorder of the human race, it was confessed that there is an instinct in humanity which prompts it to seek religious guidance. The inference should have been that a wise and benevolent God will somewhere provide a supply for this need in a true ministry of his word.

You go out to-night to meet this crying want of humanity, and you go believing that God calls you. We share this confidence with you. We are glad that so many churches are to receive as pastors men so good and true as you have proved yourselves to be. We have done what we can for you, and in many respects you are well furnished for your work. But there is a training which books can never give. There are good gifts which teachers can never impart. And this suggests the subject of my brief parting address : — The mental qualities requisite to the highest success in the pastorate. Notice that I speak of qualities requisite, not for success in preaching only, but for success in the whole work of influencing men, whether in public or in private. Notice that I do not say "requisite to success," but "requisite to the highest success." You must not be discouraged if you seem to yourselves to be almost lacking in oue or another of these qualities. Notice that I do not say " spiritual qualities," but "mental qualities." I speak of those only which at least in some degree belong to you by nature, and which it is quite in your power to cultivate. Indeed, to a thoughtful mind, one of the chief attractions of the pastorate is the stimulus it furnishes to the very characteristics of mind and heart which I am about to mention. The very work of the pastor for others draws out all parts of his own nature, and makes him a living example of well-rounded and developed manhood.

The pastor is a shepherd, and the business of a shepherd is to care for the flock. He is to care for them by being a teacher and example of the truth. Now one of the most important of the mental qualities required for this work is frankness. The minister of the gospel should not be a man of concealments or evasions. In his preaching he should think right, and then he should say out what he thinks. He should be open-minded to receive truth, and then he should be open-minded to communicate it. No human creature is more despised by discerning men than the trimmer, or the man of policy, in the pastorate. They feel that converse with the things of eternity ought to give him strong convictions, boldness of utterance, freedom from the trammels of party. He should be willing to tell men their faults, if need be. He is to "reprove, rebuke, exhort," as well as to invite and comfort. If you have the Spirit of Christ, and exercise a wise moderation, you can do this without repelling those whom you seek to influence. They will respect the man who deals squarely with them. Be sure that in your private intercourse with your church there be nothing underhanded. Abhor all wirepulling and indirection. Have good ends, and go straight at them. No toadying, and no mock humility. Let no man despise your youth. Take responsibility. Stand forth, and do your work. None but a manly religion is worth the having. You wish to cultivate the open and sincere spirit in others. Show them an example of noble Christian frankness in yourselves.

But there can be a frankness that is oppressive and discouraging. It is not the fault-finding tendency, which I would have you cultivate. Add to your frankness, therefore, as the second quality of mind requisite to the highest pastoral success, a hopefulness of spirit. The best men tire at last of minute and incessant criticism. We are saved by hope, and we must try to put hope into those we teach. You are not to be prophets of lamentation, nor is it your main business to denounce. Many a man's failure in the ministry has been due to the fact that he had no confidence in the Christian character of his hearers. He has dealt with them as if they were reprobates, instead of taking it for granted that they were subjects of God's grace — imperfect indeed, but still 011 the whole intending, when they know God's will, to do it. Such dark views with regard to the condition of the church are often born of an arrogant and self-righteous spirit. Paul took for granted that the Corinthians were saints, and in beginning his epistles he called them so. And Paul was not only a gentleman, but a Christian. If you would make men better, you must recognize the good which God has wrought in them already. Praise your people, then, more than you blame them. Show, in public and in private, that you appreciate what they do for yon and for the cause. Tell them, not only of their failings, but of their excellencies of character, as Paul did. Speak, not only of needs, but of possibilities. Set over against the depth of sin the infinite riches of the believer in Christ. In practical matters, take a cheerful view of the situation. Joy wins more hearts then tears ever did. A mournful and ascetic Christianity belies its very name. Go to your work, then, confident that you will win. Be hopeful men,— or, if you are by nature despondent, keep your despondency to yourselves, as a weakness and a sin. Be careful not to utter your moodiness and your fears, for utterance reacts upon the spirit that prompted it and makes it more intense. Since it is Christ and no human lea<der whom you follow, be persuaded that he will lead you to conquest. We can believe all things, because Christ is our hope.

And yet it is possible for a pastor to be frank and hopeful, while at the same time he is hard. Frankness and hopefulness may make him rash. A driving energy is quite consistent with an unfeeling self-will. As the third quality of mind requisite to the highest pastoral success, therefore, I would urge you to add to your frankness and hopefulness, a true sympathy. I do not mean a maudlin sentimentality ; I do not mean an unctuous graciousness; I do not mean a quivering sensibility. The sympathy to be cultivated must be calm. There should be a certain dignity and sobriety in it. It should be a hearty, manly fellow-feeling, that shows itself in helpful words and helpful deeds. Who can estimate the power of it, in a pastor! To be the true friend of all his flock, to have compassion for the erring, interest in the poor, a smile for the children, a word in season for the weary, a tear for the bereaved — this is the pastor's mission; this will so knit him to his church, that separation will seem like death. True sympathy can never be put on; it is an inward grace, a virtue of the heart. A kind natural disposition is much; but the tenderness of soul which Christ gives to the penitent and saved sinner is more. No merely natural sympathy is equal to the demands of your work, my brethren. Paul never could have so longed after his converts, except, as he himself says, "in the heart of Jesus Christ." Joined to Christ, as he was, he was capable of entering into other's griefs and needs, as he never could have done without. Unostentatious, yet untiring, his love passed all selfish bounds; he will love them the more, the less he be loved. And this is the first question which your people will ask of you,

namely, "Has he a Christian heart in him? Does he love Christ, and love his people? Has he the instinct of the shepherd, to support the weak, comfort the sorrowing, seek the lost?" May our Lord give you this power of sympathy, and enable you to comfort others with the comfort with which you yourselves are comforted of God.

And now these remarks must come to a close. I trust you have seen the inner connection of them. I have been speaking of mental gifts — frankness, hopefulness, sympathy. I have been urging you to be open, cheerful, warm of spirit. You have doubtless recognized that these natural gifts are but the obverse human side of those lofty graces of the Holy Spirit which the Apostle to the Gentiles has joined forever in triple union, namely, faith, hope, and love. And so we have indicated the true source of these human excellencies of character. Faith will give us frankness ; hope will give us cheerfulness; love will give us sympathy. Remember the divine Author of them, and look to him. You may easily have your natural frankness turned to suspicious reticence; your youthful cheer darkened into fearful forebodings; your ready sympathies chilled into hardness of heart, — and all this by the misapprehensions and disappointments and hostilities of life. You need a higher and more constant source of supply than the inspirations of your own hearts. Such a supply you have in the omnipotent Spirit of Christ,— for the faith, hope and love which he imparts abide forever.

We expect you to be a class of preachers. You have shown that you have tastes and gifts in this direction. But remember that you are called to be pastors also, and accept this last word of exhortation in which we urge you to seek from God, and to cultivate by effort of your own, the frankness, hopefulness and sympathy needful to the best success. As you have the source of these qualities in the Spirit, so you have the model of them in Christ — the frankest, most hopeful, most sympathetic, of all shepherds of the sheep. Follow Christ's example. Take hoed unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost shall make you overseers, to feed the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood. To this work we now dismiss you. May you so perform it, as to reflect honor upon this training school of Christian pastors! May you so perform it, to the very end, that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive, at his hands, a reward more welcome than any earthly praise — the crown of glory that never fades away!