the necessity of an earnest ministry

This brings us to the subject of the present discourse, and that is the necessity of an earnest ministry. Nothing less than earnestness can succeed in any cases of great difficulty, and the earnestness must of course be in proportion to the difficulty to be surmounted. Great obstacles cannot be overcome without intense application of the mind. How then can the work of the ministry be accomplished? Every view we can take of it replies, "Only by earnestness." Every syllable of the apostle's language replies, "Only by earnestness." Every survey we can take of human nature replies, "Only by earnestness." Every recollection of our own experience, as well as every observation we can make of the experience of others, replies, "Only by earnestness." This, this is what we want, and must have, if the ends of the gospel are ever to be extensively accomplished, an earnest ministry.

We have heard much of late about a learned ministry, and God forbid we should ever be afflicted by so great an evil as an unlearned one. We have been often reminded of the necessity of an educated ministry; and in this case, as in every other, men must be educated for their vocation; but then that education must be strictly appropriate and specific. We are very properly told from many quarters, we can do nothing without a pious ministry. This is very true, nor can any truth bearing upon this subject be more momentous; for of all the curses which God ever pours from the vials of his wrath upon a nation which he intends to scourge, there is not one so fearful as giving them up to an unholy ministry. And I trust our churches will ever consider piety as the first and most essential qualification in their pastors, for which talents, genius, learning, and eloquence, would and could be no substitutes. It will be a dark and evil day when personal godliness shall be placed second to any thing else in those who serve at the altar of God. But still there is something else wanted in addition to natural talent, to academic training, and even to the most fervent evangelical piety, and that is, intense devotedness. This is the one thing, more than any or all other things, that is wanting in the modern pulpit, and that has been wanting in most ages of the Christian church. The following sentence occurs in a valuable article in a late number of the British Quarterly Review: "No ministry will be really effective, whatever may be its intelligence, which is not a ministry of strong faith, true spirituality, and deep earnestness." I wish this golden sentence could be inscribed in characters of light over every professor's chair, over every student's desk, and over every preacher's pulpit. Condensed into that one short paragraph is every thing that needs be said on this subject. I feel that every syllable I have to write would be superfluous, if all our pastors, students, and tutors, would let that one sentence take full occupation of their hearts, possess their whole souls, and regulate their conduct. The most I can hope to accomplish is to expand and enforce it.

—John Angell James, An Earnest Ministry: The Want of the Times, 27–28

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