Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

April 24, 1888

Preach the Word

By Mrs. E. G. White

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.”

The duty of the minister of Christ is made plain in these direct and forcible words. He is charged to “preach the word,” not the opinions and traditions of men, not pleasing anecdotes or sensational stories to move the fancy and excite the emotions. He is not to exalt himself by parading his accomplishments, and by seeking to make manifest his wisdom; but as in the presence of God and Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, he is to stand before a dying world and preach the solemn truth of God. There is to be no levity, no trifling, no fanciful interpretation, but in sincerity and deep earnestness the minister must be as a voice from God expounding the sacred Scripture.

There are ministers who wrest the word of God, to their own destruction. They handle the Scriptures deceitfully, and will receive the greater condemnation when they appear before the Judge of all the earth to render up their account. Those who make it appear that the inspired utterances of the Bible support false doctrines that teach the transgression of God's law, though they stand in the sacred desk, are agents of Satan, and are deceiving and being deceived.

The faithful minister of Christ must preach the word of God in such a manner as will carry a weight of influence, and impress men with the importance and truth of its instruction. He must be instant in season and out of season, ready to seize and improve every opportunity to further the work of God. His appointments should be filled with promptness and interest. He cannot afford to be negligent or indifferent when a suitable occasion presents itself for bringing the truth before the minds of men. To be “instant in season,” is to be alert to the privileges of the house and hour of worship and to the time when men are conversing on the topics of religion. And “out of season,” when you are at the fireside, in the field, by the way-side, in the market, seek to be ready to turn the thoughts of men, in a suitable and wise manner, to the great themes of the Bible. With tender and fervent spirit urge the claims of God upon the soul. Many, many precious opportunities are allowed to slip by unimproved, because men are persuaded that it is out of season. But who knows what might be the effect of a wise appeal to the conscience, by using the word of God that will accomplish that for which God has given it? It is written, “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they shall both be alike good.” Satan has a whole store of excuses and evasions to keep men from the performance of duty. If he can lead them to neglect their opportunities, he can keep souls in darkness that might have yielded to the claims of the truth, if the followers of Christ had discerned their advantage and improved upon it.

The minister is not only to warn men, but to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” On every hand there are openings for the work of the God-fearing minister; and he who deals faithfully, as one who must give an account, is a laborer together with God. He is sowing seeds of eternal truth, and though he may bear a burdened heart, and send up prayers with supplication and tears, he will come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

The minister who loves to sermonize will be in danger of preaching long and wordy discourses. His prolonged effort will leave him without strength or disposition to engage in personal and individual labor.

Ministering in the sacred desk is not the complete work of the embassador of Christ. Paul, as well as laboring publicly, went from house to house preaching repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. He met with men at their homes, and besought them with tears, declaring unto them the whole counsel of God. Jesus came in personal contact with men. He did not stand aloof and apart from those who needed his help. He entered the homes of men, comforted the mourner, healed the sick, aroused the careless, and went about doing good. And if we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we must do as he did. We must give men the same kind of help as he did. We must come close to the hearts of those who need our ministry. We must open the Bible to the understanding, present the claims of God's law, read the promises to the hesitating, urge the backward, arouse the careless, strengthen the weak. The minister must become a servant unto all men, like Him who came “not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” This is faithful dealing with the flock of Christ.

There are many who neglect the work of personal and private intercourse with families and individuals. Many leave their fields of labor with much neglected that should have been done. They have not reproved the injurious and evil habits of the people, nor showed the positive necessity of clearing the life from everything condemned by the word of God. The fear of giving offense, of losing the friendship of men, often causes the minister to lower the standard to the people, instead of bringing the people up to the standard. Plain dealing with errors at the right time will prevent a vast amount of evil, and will be the means of saving souls from destruction.

If this work is neglected by one, it has to be done by some other under more unfavorable circumstances; for those who are in error think the faithful reprover is exacting and uncharitable by comparing him to the first laborer. Oh, how important it is that every one should be faithful to his God-given trust! It is not enough to be simply a minister in the desk. You must reprove, rebuke, exhort, give full proof of your ministry, ever showing your disapproval of iniquity and your sorrow for sin. But all efforts must be made in the spirit of meekness, of long suffering love and untiring patience. Nothing will be gained by manifesting impatience or unholy anger. You must cherish the spirit of the meek and lowly Jesus. If there seems to be but little good resulting from your work, you are not to be discouraged. It will work for your good; for the long-suffering will make you patient, and give you an experience in trusting God in dark hours. Keep working, be discreet, be discerning when to speak and when to be silent; watch for souls as they who must give an account—watch for the devices of Satan, lest you be beguiled from doing the disagreeable duty. Difficulties must not dishearten or intimidate you. With strong faith, with well-balanced minds, with intrepid purpose, meet the difficulties and overcome them. Do the work of an evangelist; and that is to water the seed already sown.

When the laborer is called to other fields, the new church should not be left destitute of help. It should be visited and strengthened from time to time. Timothy was to go from church to church, and do this very work of building up the churches. He was not to be settled over one church, but he was to minister to those that were raised up, confirming them in the faith.

Those who preach the word must have an understanding of its doctrines and principles. They must study to show themselves approved unto God. As the servant of God opens the word of truth and humbly seeks to know its significance, its meaning will grow clear to his understanding. But he must be a diligent, painstaking student. He must not be content to depend upon the researches of other minds. He must search for himself. Strength of mind is acquired by exercise. Ability to expound the word of God, depends upon the work that is put into the time of study—depends upon the attitude of the soul toward God. The mental faculties must become strong and able to deal with great questions of truth and duty. The study should be critical and thorough, and should be pursued with meekness, and with sincerity of purpose, to know the truth as it is in Jesus.

There is little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Bible. One may read the whole Bible through, and yet fail to see its beauty, or to comprehend its deep and hidden meaning. One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind, and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view, and no positive instruction gained.

Those who enter the sacred desk should not feel when they have become able to present a certain round of subjects, that they are excused from further labor and study. There is no end of preparation for the solemn responsibilities of your office. The importance of your position as a representative of Christ, should urge you to most diligent habits in acquiring all the knowledge possible to be obtained. Carefully, prayerfully, conscientiously, you should search the Scriptures, that you may be able to give meat in due season to the household of God. You must bring forth things new and old from the treasure-house of God's word.

“Preach the word.” It is the word that demands your attention. There is not so much need of a knowledge of authors as of an understanding of the Book of books. A thoughtful and painstaking task is put upon the mind when the sacred Scriptures are diligently searched. The practicing of the truth in your daily life is to preach the word, as well as the exposition of Scripture in the pulpit. The knowledge you obtain is to be committed to faithful men who in turn will teach others.

Every one should seek to understand the great truths of the plan of salvation, that he may be ready to give an answer to every one who asks the reason of his hope. You should know what caused the fall of Adam, so that you may not commit the same error, and lose heaven as he lost paradise. You should study the lives of patriarchs and prophets, and the history of God's dealing with men in the past; for these things were “written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” We should study the divine precepts, and seek to comprehend their depth. We should meditate upon them until we discern their importance and immutability. We should study the life of our Redeemer, for he is the only perfect example for men. We should contemplate the infinite sacrifice of Calvary, and behold the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the righteousness of the law. You will come from a concentrated study of the theme of redemption strengthened and ennobled. Your comprehension of the character of God will be deepened; and with the whole plan of salvation clearly defined in your mind, you will be better able to fulfill your divine commission. From a sense of thorough conviction, you can then testify to men of the immutable character of the law manifested by the death of Christ on the cross, the malignant nature of sin, and the righteousness of God in justifying the believer in Jesus, on condition of his future obedience to the statutes of God's government in heaven and earth.

Thousands more might have been saved if men had preached the word, instead of the maxims, philosophies, and doctrines of men. If from every pulpit had sounded the faithful truth of God, men would have been left with a better knowledge of the Bible, with a deeper conviction of the truth of its principles, and the reality of its promises; and far more might have come to an understanding of what is truth. The world is full of unsound doctrines, of the traditions and opinions of men, of seducing theories of evil spirits; but let every one who has a knowledge of the present truth, study to show himself approved unto God; and by word and action let him proclaim the word of God that “liveth and abideth forever.”

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