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Written by F.A. Chick   
The Gospel Messenger–July 1883


REISTERSTOWN, MD., May 15, 1883.
Dear Brethren :—The teachings of the apostles are, that there is a variety of gifts bestowed upon the church for mutual comfort, and growth in grace and knowledge and love. These gifts are enumerated, Eph. 4:11, as “apostle prophets, evangelists, pastors and teacher That is, he has committed unto men these varieties of gifts, which constitute them what they are, and make them, each in his place, useful to the church. These gifts are enumerated again, Rom. xii. — prophesy, ministering, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling, and shewing mercy. Again they are mentioned, 1 Cor. 7:28—31, as “first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers; after that, miracles then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” To men called of God to be saints, and in themselves destitute of any spiritual power or gift, has God given these gifts for use. None of them are to be regarded lightly, or to be neglected in the house of God. These gifts were bestowed upon the church for her good in the very beginning of the gospel. If needful then, they most certainly are no less so now. One is no more needful than another. If the body is to be healthy and well developed, every nerve and bone and muscle and sinew, must be called into exercise. Not one can safely be neglected. That the apostles, when setting in order the churches, put all these gifts to use, and enjoined upon all, to see that none were idle, is evident, from what we are ‘told of the practice of the churches. That the practice was, for ALL to take a share— for instance, in public worship—is evident from the caution of the apostles, for the churches to avoid confusion in their meetings, by one only speaking at a time, 1 Cor. 14:30; also, from the language, verse 26: “EVERY ONE bath a psalm, hath a doctrine, bath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.” The apostle, also, would guard against the danger of the churches neglecting these gifts, and would stir them up to their duty in this matter by exhortations not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, Heb. 10:25.

 

2nd. The reason why I have called attention to this is, that it has been the case among most of our churches, that nearly every gift has been neglected, save the one gift of preaching. No meetings are held for the special use of these varieties of gifts among the churches and if a brother has desired to speak and attest of the goodness of God on his behalf, at once the idea of preaching is thrown out, and the poor, timid man, who feels NO CALL to preach, but DOES FEEL a call to testify of what he has seen and heard, among his brethren, is frightened into silence, lest it should be said, “Brother so-and-so wants to preach. Now, brethren, there is utterly a fault among us in this respect. We unduly exalt the gift of preaching, to the exclusion of other gifts. In former days, “they that feared the Lord spake often ONE to ANOTHER.” In the early Baptist churches of this country, “Conference day” was looked forward to as a day of really greater importance than the meeting on Sunday. And on “Conference day” no preaching was expected or desired, but the members generally each contributed his or her mite to the general treasury of joy and comfort which was experienced. I remember times of that kind that were sweeter seasons to me than any preaching I ever heard. In such meetings all varieties of gifts can be useful. One can tell of his present experience of joy or heaviness. Another can tell of something which he has seen and felt in the past. Another can speak of a view of some scripture which has been very precious to him. Another can bring a hymn as his or her experience, either to be read or sung. Another can interpret a text that has been revealed to him; and so each one is of use, and the store-house is full, and God blesses that meeting with his presence.

 

3rd. Such exercises are mutually profitable to all. It is profitable for the pastor. If brethren will allow me, I will in this speak of myself. How many times have I gone to our evening meetings and church meetings hungry for some word from a brother or sister, feeling as I did, cold and empty and barren! And I have labored on in the exercises of the hour, wishing that some dear brother would say one word of comfort and cheer. They would say, “We want to hear, and you must speak.” They forgot that I wanted to hear something, too. I wanted to know whether we were one in experience; whether my preaching  was the feeling of their hearts; and I had a real hunger of soul to gain some testimony that it was so. I can recall seasons in my early ministry, when I was among churches which held such meetings, when, by the testimony of many, I was comforted above measure, and strengthened to preach with greater confidence the next day. So such meetings would be profitable to every pastor, and brethren would find his preaching richer and more suited to their need, and so the profit would return to the souls of the brethren themselves. Again, such meetings would be mutually profitable to all the brethren. A brother has a word within him burning like fire in the bones, and he longs to speak, and the speaking will refresh his soul, and there will be profit to himself. And some hungry soul will gather a crumb from your hymn, psalm, text, experience, exhortation, or interpretation, which crumb the Lord has so blessed and magnified that it will satisfy all his need. And from that other, as he testifies to the comfort and instruction which he has received, you also will gain a blessing. We may say that each number of the MESSENGER constitutes a conference meeting. I contribute something, and a dozen others contribute something. If my words do one soul any good through the blessing of God, on the other hand I have got instruction and comfort from the rest, and so all have been benefited. The difference is, that in writing we are not face to face, while in the conference room we are, and this is so much the better.

 

4th. The benefit of such meetings are manifold. They make brethren to be better acquainted with each other in the Lord. They draw the hearts of brethren closer to one another. Paul had enjoyed such sweet communion with the church at Ephesus, that when they were about to part, they fell on his neck and kissed him, and wept because they should see his face no more. How closely their intercourse had united their hearts! These meetings are profitable for instruction, for comfort, for admonition. They serve to encourage, to strengthen, and to stir up the forgetful to a loving remembrance of their Saviour, of each other, of the salvation which they have felt, and of the obligations which they are under to honor and glorify God. Brethren who have thus met, bringing each his tithes into the store-house, have often found such a blessing poured out that there did not seem to be room to contain it. God owns and blesses such humble and childlike obedince to his word, while they who neglect his commandments bring leanness and dearth into their own souls. “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall he made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him ; but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.”—Prov. 11:24—26. O, brother! has God given you one word, and do you withhold it? Be admonished; you are not only robbing your brethren, but you are wronging your own soul. Bring to his house the tithe of that which God has given you, and prove the Lord, as he has said, Mal. 3:10. It would be good, and a blessing would be found in it, if every church, large or small, living compactly or scattered, would meet in such meetings often, and speak one to another of the things of God. Try it, my brethren, and see if it be not so.

 

5th. I desire to speak of some things which may occur as objections in the minds of some. One says, “Is it not more profitable to have a good sermon, when the pastor is present? Does not seem like a waste of time for brethren to be heard, who can say but little?” I answer most emphatically, No! else God has bestowed a waste of gift upon his church, and the apostles were grievously mistaken. Another says, “Will not this tend to introduce confusion by reason of brethren who are not wise bringing in novel ideas?” etc. I reply, Not a bit more danger than there is of the introduction of such things in the preaching of the word. And besides, if God has commanded it, can we not trust him to guard well his church? A third good brother is afraid that such meetings will resemble too much, Methodist class-meetings. Let that brother consider that this would stop all preaching, and praying, and alms-giving,—for the Methodists do all these things likewise. No! no! my brother, the fault is not in the act of preaching, nor in even the class or conference meeting, but in what is said there. Another dear, humble brother says, “I should like to hear my brothers and sisters, but I could say nothing to profit, myself.” My brother, watch, lest the real feeling of your heart be this, “If I could say as much as they, I would gladly speak”; lest you be not satisfied with, what God gives you to say, because it is little. This would be but fleshly pride, and

must be crucified. Can you not bring a psalm, or a hymn, as your contribution to the general stock? Can you not say as much as this, “I am a poor sinner and nothing at all, but Jesus Christ is all and in all?” Can you not tell of some hour of darkness or trouble out of which the Lord de livered you safely? How such a narration, though broken and imperfect, might cheer some fainting soul!

 

Finally, brethren, let us beware of despising the day of small things. If a brother can bring but little, let us remember that it is what God has given him. Much of the flesh, I fear, too often is found in this desire to hear great sermons, eloquent sermons, well delivered sermons. The natural ear may be pleased when there is nothing to feed the soul. And the bread of heaven may be given in abundance when the natural ear may find nothing to delight it. Let us look for the true bread from heaven. We may find it in some feeble brother’s broken prayer or exhortation,—in the hymn or text he brings,—more than in the most eloquent of preaching.

 

I have written earnestly, brethren. I have long felt deeply about this matter. May the churches generally be led to think about it. And be not HEARERS of the word only, but be DOERS of it.

 

As ever, I remain your brother in the gospel,      F. A. CHICK.

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