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The Work Of The Ministry PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Purifoy   

ZION'S ADVOCATE - April 1882

DEAR BROTHER CLARK: --This is my seventh year in the ministry, and I do not feel like a preacher yet. I do not feel grave, and sober, gentle and meek, nor love the pulpit as I once thought preachers should. On the contrary, I am often perplexed and in doubt whether the Lord sent me forth or a delusive impression. I go from a sense of duty; I go because I feel that I must, not because I love to go. I enter the sacred desk with fear and trembling, feeling totally dependent upon God to make me useful to others. I feel just as dependent on God, and just as unworthy of so high a calling as I did the first time I ever stood before an audience and attempted to preach. And I feel now as I did then, "woe is me if I preach not." But for this I am sure I would have "stepped down and out" of the ministry long ago; in fact would never have begun it. If I had my own wish, or dared exercise it, I would bid an eternal farewell to the pulpit. But I dare not do such a thing lest a worse thing come upon me than Jonah's experience with the whale. Is such a state of mind and feelings consistent with the feelings and mind of the true servants of God? [Yes.--ED.] Are they compatible with the workings and teachings of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those called and qualified of God for the work of the ministry? [Yes.--ED.] If not, then I am undone, doing that which I was not bidden to do, and presuming under strong delusion to be doing the will of the Lord, claiming to be called of God when I was not called, and claiming to be sent of Him when He did not send me. Tell me, fathers in Israel, are there no sure and certain evidences of a Godly call to the ministry? How am I to know beyond the shadow of a doubt whether or no I am called of God to preach the Gospel? I do not want to be a hypocrite; I do not want to be a mere pretender. Does God require of me what I am doing? Could I know that God does require it and demand it of me, I think I would work more willingly; I think I would love the work, and be willing to endure all manner of hardship, as did the Apostles. Another thing troubles me greatly. The Apostle Paul wrote, that God has ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. (lst Cor. ix. 14.) To ordain is to appoint or decree a thing to be done. If, therefore, God has called me to preach, He has also ordained that I should live by it. Can I do it? Nay, verily. To depend upon it for support would, it seems to me, land wife, children and preacher all in the poor house in short order. Again, the same Apostle asks: "Who goeth a warfare at his own charges?" I and hundreds of others must be the answer.

Once more; the same Apostle told Timothy that "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." (2d Tim. ii. 4.) It is evident from the above quotations that God requires the whole of the preacher's time in the work of the ministry; and I know from experience that it would take all my time to do the full work of the ministry. And I know from painful experience, that secular pursuits greatly disqualify and hinder the servant of God in his work for the Master. I know also, from my short experience, that the flocks of God need the whole time of the shepherd to watch over them and feed them regularly. But necessity, want of faith in God, or a mistaken call, or something worse, has caused a goodly number of preachers to run the starvation plan on their flocks, and the result is just what might be expected, viz: Small and weak flocks and thin congregations. Try the same plan on your horse or cattle, and learn a Spiritual truth by this simple illustration. Now the trouble is this, returning to my own case, I must plead guilty to three charges: 

First: I do not live by preaching the Gospel, as God has ordained, but by secular pursuits.

Secondly: I go a warfare at my own charges; that is, I am compelled to support, myself and family while preaching to others.

Third: I am greatly entangled in the affairs of this life, being weighed down with the cares of business to such an extent that business matters demand the whole of my time. 

How could all this be if God has called me to preach the Gospel? It so perplexes me, and so increases my doubts of a call to the ministry that I do not know really what I ought to do. But for one thing I know very well what I would do and that is, if I did not feel that necessity is laid upon me, and that I dare not refuse to try to preach, I would never make another effort. I dare not attempt to quit. 

I am now realizing how hard it is to serve two masters; realizing how hard it is to take no thought for what I shall eat or wear, and how utterly out of the question it seems for me to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and then depend upon God to add unto me all needful blessings of a temporal nature. It does seem that any child ought to be able to believe his parents, and trust them implicitly in all their promises to him. Now we are told that God is more willing to give good things to them who ask Him—why should we then so shamefully distrust our heavenly Father in temporal things? The same God who clothes the grass of the field, and feeds the fowls of the air, has promised to feed and clothe His ministering servants; and yet we are afraid to turn loose the things of the world lest we suffer for it; afraid to give our whole time to the work of the ministry lest we come to want.

The Gospel plan is plain and clear enough to be understood by all regenerated people. The plan is this: God calls and qualifies men to preach the Gospel, and ordained that they live of the Gospel, which means that they are to devote their whole time to the work of the ministry, and leave the whole matter of temporal support in the hands of God. Now, if my faith were strong enough to give up all secular callings, and give my entire time to study and preaching, and visiting among the saints, especially the sick and destitute, raising funds for their relief, and thus make full proof of my ministry, seeking "first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness," I doubt not but God would do just exactly what He says, and add all that self and family need in food and raiment. And I have often asked the Lord for such faith—and because it is not granted I am again made to doubt my call of God. Remember, our faith is proved by our works what sort it is. It is therefore what we do that proves our faith, and not what we say. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." It is easy to say and do not, like the miserable Pharisees; and it is not the looks, but the tree is known by its fruit. So every way I turn condemnation is before me.

Now, dear brother, I have made out a strong case against myself; what say you! What think you of my case? Once a lady told Rowland Hill that she had grave doubts about her conversion. "Glad to hear you say that," replied Rowland, "for I have long doubted it myself, from the way you live."

In conclusion, let me ask you, Brother Clark and all the old veteran heralds of the cross, who may chance to read this, to give me light on the subject. God knows my heart, that I do not wish to attempt to fill a place that He has not required of me, and all I want is to know the yea or the nay of the matter I am greatly inclined to think that if God's preachers would adopt the Gospel plan of preaching, instead of the present starvation plan, that both the shepherd and his flocks would fare much better. A well-fed cow gives more and richer milk than a lean and poorly fed one. So the Christian, whose heart and soul are full of the love of God, and plenty of Spiritual food, is more liberal with his pastor.


SnowHill, Ala., Feb. 8, 1882.

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