PREACH THE WORD – Ministers’ Ordination Sermon by W. R. Walker

Scripture— 1 Tim. 4: 6-16; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; Tit. 2:7, 8

 

MY Brethren : I am to speak to you of the solemn, 
but blessed, responsibilities and opportunities of- 
fered in the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

My inability to speak with the wisdom befitting the 
occasion is perhaps more than compensated by the in- 
terest manifested by this large congregation assem- 
bled at this early hour to participate in these holy 
moments of consecrated dedication. 

Sufficient justification for the program of the morn- 
ing may be found, should Scriptural precedent for it 
be questioned. Special, solemn, prayerful services 
grace and dignify the important moment when young 
men are formally sent forth as ambassadors for Christ 
by a church great in its historic traditions, devotion 
and loyalty to the revealed will of Jesus Christ. 

Bethany Memorial Church has consented to lay its 
hands of blessing and approval upon you because it 
has confidence that you will honor your holy calling. 
Proof of your ministry has already been produced. 
You have brought some wave sheaves as an evidence 
of your skill in harvesting souls for the kingdom. 

This has been required that we might not violate 
the Pauline injunction to ''lay hands suddenly upon 
no man." 

The lofty sentiment of your motto, ''Not to be 
ministered unto, but to minister,'' is suggestive of 
high ideals and Christlike spirit. The prayers and 
heartfelt benedictions of the congregation thus honor- 
ing you will ever be an unfailing source of help and 
encouragement when passing through the trials and 
discouragements incident to a life of ministering. 

Let me first direct your attention to the message 
we entrust to you. You are to preach the Word, 

This means that you are limited to the same Word 
which Jesus and his apostles preached, the Word able 
to make men wise unto salvation, the Holy Bible, the 
only infallible teaching God has given to men. The 
spiritual epochs of the church have always been those 
in which the gospel has been preached in fidelity, and 
with convincing power. The message for a lost world 
remains the same through all generations. That which 
condemns men to-day condemned the first pair in 
Eden. The sinners, priests and rulers in Jerusalem 
sinned just as men sin now. Human passions, hopes, 
fears, joys, sorrows and needs have not changed 
through the centuries, but are the same as those 
that ruled in the hearts of Jesus' auditors nineteen 
hundred years ago. That which meets the deepest 
needs of life in one age is certain to meet them in 
every age. 

Therefore, your message requires no recasting. It 
is not new, but we hope it will be delivered with a 
new power. Proclaim it as if anointed with an unc- 
tion from on high. Preach Christ as living and reg- 
nant. Make him a personality throbbing with life, felt 
in the hearts of those to whom you minister. John 
Brown, of Haddington, once preached before the skep- 
tical scientist, David Hume. Hume went away saying, 
''That is the man for me; he means what he says; he 
speaks as if Jesus were at his elbow.'' I tell you, 
brethren, Jesus is at the elbow of every one worthy of 
Him, whose supreme desire is to proclaim His gospel 
in its purity and simplicity. 

Preach Him as the world's only Saviour, the only 
one with authority to forgive sin. ''And in none other 
is there salvation: for neither is there any other name 
under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we 
must be saved." The salvation taught in the New Tes- 
tament as coming through Jesus Christ is the forgive- 
ness of sin. It is not a field for philosophic specula- 
tion, nor is it entirely a matter of character. It is a 
simple doctrine if taught as inspired men presented it; 
preach it with full assurance that you have the author- 
ity of Jesus Himself for your message. 

You have here avowed your faith in the Bible as 
God's inspired word. In your student life you have 
examined the evidences on which this faith is based, 
and found them convincing beyond doubt. Now, 
preach the Bible as if you believe it. Most of the in- 
difference so noticeable to-day in many quarters is due 
to a lack of faith in the old Book. Much present-day 
preaching, even, has lost its note of assurance. The 
questioning attitude of the university which boasts 
that its chief function is to raise doubts is being intro- 
duced into the pulpit with a resultant loss of faith in 
the eternal verities. A certain brand of criticism is 
offering us stones of humanitarian philosophy and 
"evoluted" eclecticism in religion, but we are hunger- 
ing for the bread of revelation from God. Do not 
imagine that your people either desire or need philo- 
sophic vagaries. They need the word of life. 

Trouble not the people with undigested theories, 
nor predigested tabloids of scientific, speculative dog- 
matism. There is so much golden truth, tested in the 
crucible of experience, tried in the fire of application, 
that there is no occasion for proclaiming untried and 
unproven theories which may contain much dross of 
error. "With the stone of fact hurled from the sling 
of confident faith, you can smite unbelief as it hides 
behind the shield of science, falsely so called. 

Your own studies, leading you into many fields and 
familiarizing you with substitute religions, may tempt 
you to offer some of your discoveries instead of the 
plain gospel story. Yield not to such temptation. 
No one will be fed with that kind of ministering, and 
the only thing satisfied by it will be your own vanity. 

Preach so as to weaken no one's faith. Even an 
imperfect faith is superior to doubt. Doubts are fiends 
ruled by the same law as other demons, thriving on 
attention, starving if not fed and fondly coddled. The 
normal state of every heart is one of belief rather 
than doubt. Make it clear in your preaching that 
the presumption is always against doubt. It is scarcity 
of argument or questionable testimony that makes a 
position doubtful. Otherwise it would be in the posi- 
tion occupied by faith. When compelled to go into the 
miasmatic lowlands of doubt, dread, despair, where 
duty may occasionally call you, tarry no longer than 
necessary to drain the infected region. Return speedily 
to the healthful highlands of faith and trust. It is 
courageous to enter plague-smitten districts to carry 
help, but foolhardy to abide there. 

Preach so as to bring men to repentance. Repent- 
ance is what men most need to-day. A new crusade 
in the spirit of John the Baptist is necessary to save 
the age. Men laugh at sin instead of fearing it. They 
toy with it instead of hating it. They view it through 
reversed telescope, then deny both its magnitude and 
hideousness. They are so blinded by the smoke of 
their sacrifices, offered upon altars of materialism and 
commercialism, that they can not see that what God 
requires is justice, mercy and a contrite spirit. Self, 
not Jehovah, is their god, and success rather than 
service their pole-star. 

Hesitate not to preach sin's punishment as eter- 
nal. Even if some have eliminated hell from their 
scheme of things, it has not been eliminated from 
God's word. Destructive critics may expurgate it 
from their eclectic bible, but that can not change the 
Bible whose truth shall never become falsehood. The 
certainty of future retribution must be proclaimed to 
touch certain natures. 

Perhaps the goodness of God may move more peo- 
ple, so neglect not that, but rather magnify it as your 
ability permits. There are always prodigals whose 
hearts will be melted by a portrayal of potential for- 
giveness in the Father's heart. Let despairing souls 
hear of God's love and self-righteous ones of his jus- 
tice and mercy. 

Preach positively and constructively. Guard 
against becoming mere rebukers and critics. Your ex- 
perience with frail humanity will tempt you to de- 
pend too much, perhaps, upon the plucking-up process. 
Jesus' teaching is that evil is to be remedied not so 
much by denunciation as by the growth of a new 
spirit. ''You must be born again" is still the law of 
regeneration and admission to Christ's kingdom. A 
heart with new ideals implanted is safer than one 
with old ideals uprooted. Your work is a hundred 
times more positive than negative. That is what makes 
it difficult. Little talent and weak energy are suf- 
ficient to pull down; the gravity of inertia performs 
most of such labor. But to construct, re-create, re- 
quires ability, skill, hard work and perseverance. 

A most vital truth is now suggested. Your word 
of teaching must be energized by incarnation. It was 
so with Jesus. He began '^both to do and to teach.'' 
The latter without the former would not have saved 
a single soul, even Jesus being powerless to work a 
miracle of that sort. How imperative, then, that his 
present-day representatives should live the life they 
expect of others. A chief reason why the spoken mes- 
sage produces so much more fruit than the written 
one is that it is illustrated in the person of the 
preacher. If the minister does not live his own teach- 
ing, he is sounding brass and clanging cymbal. 

You are to be living epistles. Right or wrong, the 
world will look to you for leadership in living, and 
will study more closely what you do than what you 
say. The flock of God has been ravaged by wolves in 
sheep's clothing often enough to be wary. Live much 
with God in prayer and meditation on His word that 
the peculiar temptations of the preacher may be 
overcome. 

The very intimacy of your association with the 
people will necessitate constant watchfulness and 
guarding, that it lead you not into temptation's 
power. 

A word on the urgency of your ministry. You 
are to preach to save the world. This has been af- 
firmed before, but its importance requires special 
emphasis. 

A gospel of salvation necessarily implies a lost 
state. If there is no hell, there is most certainly no 
heaven; the one necessitates the other. The gospel 
of Christ, which we to-day send you forth to preach 
with our sanction, will accomplish in the fullest sense 
the salvation of all who accept it. What an honor to 
be assigned a part with God in the remaking of 
marred images of his likeness. 

It is soul-thrilling to come to the kingdom for such 
a time as this. It requires no magic vision to see 
that we are in a period when a new age is being born, 
nor oracular powers to forecast the next decade or 
two as startlingly eventful. Another millennium is roll- 
ing round. The cloud of augury heralding its charac- 
ter has both a dark and bright side. The dark reveals 
that we have been walking on a very thin crust of 
civilization over a molten sea of barbarism. The politi- 
cal and industrial eruptions have become almost a con- 
stant roar. Smoke of threat and lava of destruction 
are belching out of furnaces of malice and hate in un- 
regenerate hearts. The red glare of materialistic com- 
mercialism makes lurid the plain of human activity. 
Priests of Mammon are parading their heartless god 
with brazen and thunderous acclaim. Why all this, 
when leaders in this unholy riot are flattering Jesus by 
prating the Sermon on the Mount? They are publicly 
lauding Him and His teachings to blind us to the fact 
that they are privately trampling them underfoot. Th(> 
German philosophy of the power of might (the legiti- 
mate child of modern evolutionary teaching) has sup- 
planted the New Testament doctrine that greatness con- 
sists in humility, purity, righteousness, service. It is 
time that men be made to understand that it is impos- 
sible to sow a theory of God's being chained, rendered 
helpless by his own laws through the operation of which 
the "fittest" survive, without reaping the harvest of 
ruthlessness, lust, contempt for contract, and all that 
has gone with German culture. 

That which illumines the bright side of the cloud 
is the fact that multitudes are being filled with hor- 
ror at the effects of the cold-blooded commercialism 
of the age, and are beginning to see the cause of the 
world's bitterness, hate and infidelity. They are try- 
ing the quack remedies of communism because its title 
spells brotherhood, and acclaiming every theory that 
promises peace. What a day for the preacher of the 
gospel of peace on earth, good will among men ! What 
an opportunity to show the inefficiency of the plans of 
selfish men, and the effectiveness of Jesus' plan on un- 
selfish service. What a time for men who, like Jonah, 
hesitate not to declare the fall of a nation that will not 
repent, and bring sinners to their knees in penitential 
confession. The real saviors of the times are the 
preachers courageous enough to rebuke sin wherever 
found. Men that fearlessly rebuke the rich who oppress 
and the poor who defraud. Who show that life con- 
sists in what it is, not in what it has. You must pull 
the bit on those who would recklessly rush to the 
charge, and use the spur on those who lag or are in- 
different to the battle raging about them. Show that 
the only way to pluck the world out of the abyss is to 
put God on the throne. 

Never have such burdens been laid on men's shoul- 
ders, but never have backs been so able to bear them. 
Not only does God temper the wind to the shorn 
lamb, He also suits the burden to the back that is to 
bear it. The intricate and complicated life of what 
has been called Christian civilization appalls us, and, 
were it not for one faith in God, would dishearten. 
But everywhere men are turning to the Bible with 
new interest and hope that it may furnish solution 
to our problems. The inevitable result of honest 
study of this sort is to deepen their faith in the 
program of Jesus as all-sufficient to meet every need 
of men. 

Forget not your study habits. Linger frequently 
in any field of study where Christ Himself tarried. 
Nature, God's unwritten Bible, will wonderfully en- 
rich your illustrative possessions. Fields and flowers, 
birds and bees, may provide more helpful sermonic 
material than the philosophic wisdom of Plato. Facts 
of science (not often, its theoretic speculation) will 
also serve you well in bringing lessons to the people 
to whom you minister. The God who inspired the 
Book established every law of nature, and they will 
always harmonize, and, at times, illumine each other. 

Be students of men. It is axiomatic that a knowl- 
edge of those whom you would serve is imperative 
if you would minister efficiently. The depths of your 
own soul will be the best text-book in the study of 
man, for the motives and thought methods of the race 
are one. 

You will need to keep in touch with the currents 
of social and religious thought also. Some new phases 
of life and duty will be presented for your considera- 
tion. Most of that which will pose as new, upon ex- 
amination will be found to be old philosophy or theory 
relabeled. You must be able to read discerningly in 
order to winnow the wheat of fact from the chaff of 
assumption. 

First, last, always, study the Bible. Paul exhorts 
Timothy *^to give heed to reading, to exhortation, to 
teaching.'' Again he is urged, ''Give diligence to pre- 
sent thyself approved unto God, a workman that need- 
eth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of 
truth/' Our New Testament provides you a larger 
library than Timothy had. Its fathomless wisdom, its 
correct appraisal of the human heart, its admonitions, 
its instruction in righteousness, its satisfying promises, 
its simple profundity, will constantly astonish and de- 
light you, bringing new assurance that it is in a most 
unique and peculiar sense God's word. 

How marvelous its completeness in moral content. 
It contains less than half the material of a metropoli- 
tan Sunday paper, yet in nineteen centuries no new 
moral truth has been discovered. 

You are to be teachers as well as students. This is 
a reason for being a growing student. There is little 
crowding in the ranks of real teachers of the holy Book. 

Here is a field worthy of your best endeavor, and 
fruitful beyond your highest hopes. This Word will 
never return void. Somewhere it will enrich and save 
the life of one lost. 

I have a conviction that we are entering a period 
in which the work of teaching will be restored to its 
New Testament prominence. As ministers, you will need 
to lead in this. There is a false liberalism abroad of 
which you must beware. It asks the surrender of vital 
New Testament teaching to what it is pleased to call ex- 
pedient practice of Christian union. On the plea of 
charity, it would alter the divine terms of membership 
in Christ's church. The true minister will be neither 
less nor more charitable than the New Testament 
warrants. 

The Christian world is groping for a platform for 
Christian union, and many are the bases suggested. 
Few who are doing what they think to be pioneer 
work in this matter appreciate the fact that the New 
Testament itself provides the only basis on which per- 
manent union can be consummated. You will have a 
coveted opportunity to present that basis when periods 
of discussion on this subject occur. You can, and you 
should, conscientiously agree to stand with every fol- 
lower of Christ on that platform. In the meantime, 
you should desire and cultivate the largest possible 
fellowship with all believers in Christ, consistent with 
absolute loyalty to Him. 

Your success will depend much upon the faithful- 
ness with which you discharge your pastoral duties. 
The good Shepherd gave his life for the sheep. So 
must you. Unless that is literally true, yours will not 
be a ministry. Faithful serving will be fully compen- 
sated in that day when the Lord knights you as a 
member of the Order of Basin and Towel. 

In closing, I direct your attention to the reward 
of the faithful minister. Your labor itself will be its 
own best remuneration. No wage is so satisfying as 
the peace and joy growing out of a consciousness that 
you are laboring together with God, in a partnership 
where both profits and losses will be mutually shared. 
When humiliated by apparent failure, the Lord will 
halve your burden by helping bear your disappoint- 
ment. When elated with success, he will double your 
joy by sharing it. 

There should be some relief in the knowledge that 
you will be spared the temptations of the rich. Your 
salary will be much less than you might have by em- 
ploying your talent otherwise, and it is well that it is 
so. The church can never afford to offer inducements 
to men who are worldly-minded, ambitious or greedy, 
no matter what their intellectual equipment. To do 
so would invite spiritual stagnation or death. The 
scanty monetary reward automatically sifts out such 
as are not consecrated, and no better plan can be de- 
vised. You will not measure your life by the stan- 
dards others use. It will not be rich in earthly pos- 
sessions, but rich in things moth and rust can not cor- 
rupt nor thieves steal; namely, gratitude, respect, love 
from those you serve. You will be admitted to the 
inner life of people where few are permitted to enter. 
You will be with them in their joys. At the banquet, 
family reunion, social circle, you will be an honored 
guest. 

In many homes where the intimacy of the family 
group is broken to admit just one outsider, the 
preacher is the one for whom the door swings wide. 
At the wedding, where united hearts are sealed, you 
will be invited to throw the mantle of religious ap- 
proval over the founding of a new home. 

Yours will be the privilege of sharing the deepest 
sorrows with those to whom you minister. This ex- 
perience may sadden, but it can wonderfully bless. 
You will learn the hidden meaning of the proverb 
that it is better to go to the house of mourning than 
to the house of feasting. 

When erring, careless members of the family are 
to be won back to Christ, when financial disaster 
drives its shaft of gloom and despondency, when the 
pall of death settles slowly or the sudden storm of 
tragedy breaks, yours will be the supreme joy of 
drawing forth, from the fountains of revealed truth, 
things new and old, that will heal hearts, quiet fears, 
renew courage, strengthen faith, rekindle hope. What 
a wonderful, blessed, rich life you may have! 

My prayer for you is that you may so labor that 
when nature's warning voices announce the approach 
of the life that is life indeed, you shall be able to find 
a true minister's joy in saying with Paul: ''I am al- 
ready being offered, and the time of my departure is 
at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished 
the course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is 
laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the 
Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me at that 
day, and not to me only, but also to all them that 
have loved his appearing".