Let the elders that rule well I.
ITS FAITHFULNESS SHOULD BE HONOURED. "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour."
II. ITS REPUTATION SHOULD BE CHERISHED.
1. We ought to be slow to believe evil. "Against an elder" (here used in the official sense and not with reference to age) "receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses," or (as the Revised Version has it), "except at the mouth of two or three witnesses." The reference is obviously to a well-known Mosaic law. Timothy was not to be credulous of evil reports, he was to pay no attention to mere gossip, and still less was he to show any encouragement to slanderers. He was not appointed specially as a judge; but in contentions, such as unhappily arose in the Church, his authority would often be appealed to. Again and again noble reputations have been ruined by slander, and the injustice and wickedness of the charges have only been demonstrated when it was too late to repair the wrong. But while we are to be slow to believe evil —
2. We ought to be brave in the rebuke of evil. No fear of man, no mincing words to please fastidious ears, no wish to smother up iniquity, should be ours. "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear."
III. ITS ASPIRANTS SHOULD BE APPROVED. "Lay hands suddenly (or hastily) on no man." The custom of the laying on of hands dates back to patriarchal times. Jacob laid his hands on Ephraim and Manasseh when he blessed them. It was an appropriate indication of the subject of prayer, a solemn act of designation and of dedication; and in the apostolic days it was used to sanction and ratify the elective act of the Church. In such work we are not to be ruled by caprice, excluding one we dislike; nor by partiality, appointing our personal friends, or those having some claims upon us. "I charge thee" (says Paul) "before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality." What could be a stronger inducement to the keeping of these commands than the realization of the fact that an unseen God and holy angels are near us, and that all our works, and even our purposes, are open and naked before Him with whom we have to do! And there is yet another word here for every Christian, especially for those who work for the Master, namely this: "Be not partaker of other men's sins; keep thyself pure," for the emphasis in the original is to be laid just there. It is easy enough to see other people's faults, and even to rebuke them; but beware lest any have occasion to turn on you and say, "Physician, heal thyself." Purity in the sense of chastity is, no doubt, included here, for an impure life is fatal to a Christian and ruinous to his influence for good — nay, even if such evil is only harboured within, it will prove the paralysis of spiritual life.
I became an usher in a school at Cambridge, and at the same time, when only sixteen years of age, accepted the pastorate at a Baptist chapel in the neighbourhood. After a while I gave up my post at the school, and was thrown on the generosity of the people, and they gave me a salary of L45 a year; but as I had to pay twelve shillings a week for two rooms which I occupied, the salary was not enough. But the people, though they had not .money, had produce, and there was not a pig killed by any one of the congregation that I had not some portion of, and one or other of them would bring me bread, so that I had enough bread and meat to pay my rent with. An old man in that place who was a great miser, one afternoon gave me three half-crowns, and as I was wanting a new hat at the time I got it with the money. The following Sunday the old man came to me again, and asked me to pray for him that he might be saved from the sin of covetousness, and said, "The Lord told me to give you half-a-sovereign, and I kept half-a-crown back, and I can't rest of a night for thinking of it."
Claude, the Indian preacher, after his conversion a few years ago in Russian America, began to sing hymns and tell gospel truths to his idol-worshipping fellow-countrymen. The old medicine men there wept, cowed by the felt presence of God's Holy Spirit. "Claude," said his companions, "it is too bad for you to chop wood. You ought to tell the people these things all the time." "I should not have anything to eat if I did not chop wood," he replied. "We will chop harder and later and get enough for you to live on too," said they. So Claude began to preach and teach. His support was salmon. Salmon for his breakfast, dinner, and supper, every day all the year. This was the salary of the first Protestant missionary to Alaska. Soon he had sixty scholars and an audience of from four to five hundred. God's Spirit was poured out. There were sixty converted, and hundreds gave up their devil worship.
In one of his conferences with working men Dr. Parker said: Some people sneered at preachers because they accepted pay. He contended that the question of payment ought never to arise in estimating the value of a true ministry. He could order a table to be made and delivered at any time, hut where could he order a character to be made and delivered on such a day? The man who gave them a thought gave them inestimable riches. The man who gave them an inspiration lifted them up above fog and cloud and depression and difficulty and gave them a new start in life. If he were asked to go and speak to the humblest outcasts of London, then the question of payment ought not to arise: they were his brethren and sisters and friends and were in darkness, and he had the light. They should have the light for nothing. But when men came to him and said, "The well-to-do people of Bath, and Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Bristol want to hear you," he asked, Were they to escape without remunerating the man who instructed them and ministered to their enjoyment? He was prepared to preach for nothing if the landlord, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker were agreeable, but these showed a brutal disregard for his feelings at quarter-day.
When addressing a body of working men, Bishop Wilberforce speaking of the nobility of true work, said, "Though I am addressing an audience of working men, I may claim to be a working man myself, for I work as hard as any man here present." A voice called out from the middle of the room, "But how about the pay? "A burst of general laughter followed, which was, with some little difficulty, hushed down by those who thought that the bishop would be offended. But not a cloud passed across his face. His eye twinkled as he joined himself in the general merriment, and then, when silence was restored, without a moment's hesitation, and the smile still playing upon his face, he said, "My friend asks, how about the pay? I will tell him at once. You see I am paid the same whether I work or whether I don't." His audience saw at once the significance of his words: Work done for its own sake, not for greed or necessity. And the rafters of the roof above us rang again and again with their cheers.
I know of a parsonage to which the death-angel came, and took to heaven a faithful and beloved under-shepherd. The kind members of his flock went to that desolate home, and could not say enough in praise of him whom they did truly love. A volume of his sermons was published, and widely circulated. Then the broken-hearted wife said: "Oh, if they had only said one-half to him which they now say to me, how it would have lightened his labour and rejoiced his heart!" I know of another parsonage to which a pastor returned, after a Sabbath of extreme mental fatigue, and of intensely loving work for his people. The almost agonizing tone with which he said: "Not one kind word to-day, and I've done my very best," would have met a kind response from every parishioner's heart, could all have heard it. "Not one kind word to-day." I know of a pastor to whom a parishioner said one Sunday evening: "I have been benefited by both sermons to-day." When his pastor replied: "It always helps me to hear that," this warm-hearted man said: "If I always told you when I feel benefited by your sermons, it would be very often." I wish you could have heard the prayer of humble thankfulness which went up to heaven from the family altar in that pastor's study that night.
Doing nothing by partiality
A suggestive anecdote comes to us just now from New York. One of the good clergymen of that city lately travelling, was engaged in pleasant conversation with a friend. He presently found himself greatly annoyed by a drunken fellow-passenger on the seat in front, who recognized him, and persisted in trying to take his share in the conversation. At last, losing all patience, our clerical friend arose, and, pushing his annoyer aside rather roughly, exclaimed: "You are drunk, and I don't want to have anything to do with you." At this his unfortunate interlocutor was for a moment silent, and then, turning and gazing reproachfully at the irritated clergyman, replied, in a tone so loud as to be heard nearly through the entire car: "Mr.—, 'pears to me you don't care very much about my soul." It is one thing, truly, to care about the souls of the intelligent, and the cultivated, and the agreeable and the clean, to say nothing of the temperate, and quite another thing to care about the souls of the ignorant and the ill-mannered and the unclean. And yet it must not be forgotten that the claims of this latter class are just as strong upon the Christian Church and the Christian worker, as the former, and that in our efforts to bring men to God we are not to select those who present themselves agreeably to us, but are to take them as they come.
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