The Voice in Speech and Song


Chapter 48—Oratorical and Theatrical Display

Eloquent Orations As Sounding Brass—The life renewed by divine grace and hidden with Christ in God is eloquent in its simplicity. The orations and speeches made by apparently learned men are in God's estimation as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal in comparison with the words which come direct from a heart refined by belief in Christ as a personal Saviour. Those who are eloquent in God's sight are willing to walk in lowly paths. They are unappreciated by those who are constantly striving for the supremacy, who have no sense of what it means to walk in humble subjection to God's will and way; but God declares: “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word” [Isaiah 66:2].—Manuscript 176, 1899. VSS 283.1

Ministers, Not Actors—Unless men are led to value the truth as a choice possession, to receive it as that which will sanctify the soul, no lasting good has been accomplished. He who presents eloquent words, simply causes the people to forget the truth that is mingled with his oratory. When the excitement passes away, it is found that the word of God has not been fastened upon the mind; nor have the simple gained in understanding. The people may go away from the church and may speak in admiration of the oratorical powers of the man who has preached to them, but they may not be convicted by the truth or brought any nearer to the point of decision. They speak of the sermon in the same way as they would of a play, and of the minister in the same manner as they would of an actor at a theater. They may come again to listen to the same kind of discourse, and may again go away unimpressed and unfed. VSS 283.2

People should not be encouraged to prize oratorical display. This kind of sermonizing has the same kind of effect upon the mind as does the reading of an exciting story. It has a stimulating effect, but does not transform the character. The influence of this kind of preaching has been made plain in the results that have followed. The people are attracted to the man, and think no one is equal to him; but I have been shown that as it was in _______, so it is in other places, that no solid foundation is made for the organization of a church. When such a minister leaves those who have apparently embraced the truth, it is made manifest that the people are not bound up with Christ, but have been bound to the man. Christ was as a stranger to them, and they knew Him not. The people left His company, and walked no more with Him. VSS 284.1

The messengers of God are to deliver the last, solemn, testing message of mercy to a fallen world. If the minister exhibits himself, he interposes himself between the message and the people. If he educates himself to present the truth in a certain manner, he can make his work of no effect, and leave it so that it will ravel out. This is because the Holy Spirit does not work with his efforts. The people are encouraged to look to him and to exalt him, and Jesus is not the one who is seen, but [rather] the man [who] steps into the place of the crucified and risen Saviour. The minister may preach a discourse which will go clear above the people into the clouds and stars, but leave no lasting impression upon the hearts of his hearers. Unless conviction is fastened on a heart, then time and means are expended to no effect. Of what value is it that the people think much of the minister, when they do not have a regard for saving, testing truth? VSS 284.2

The Holy Spirit must work the man; the man must not endeavor to work the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a servant, but a controlling power. The Holy Spirit causes the truth to shine in every mind, and speaks through every discourse where the minister surrenders himself to its working. The Holy Spirit walks with the soul by the way, and talks with the human agent. It is He who gives the atmosphere that surrounds the soul, and speaks to the impenitent through words of warning.—Letter 29, 1895. VSS 285.1

Men of Prayer, Men of Power—It is not eloquent speakers that are needed, but humble, earnest workers, men who have childlike trust in a higher strength. It is the men of prayer, who seek the Lord with humble, contrite hearts, that are men of power.—Letter 146, 1903. VSS 285.2

Oratory a Possible Snare—It is the truth enshrined in the soul that makes one a man of God. Oratory, though it may please a certain class, will prove a snare to the one who uses it, and a snare to the church.... VSS 286.1

Our anxiety should not be to secure a minister who will please the people by smart speeches and oratory, in order to gain flattery and applause, but to secure men who are laborers together with God, men who study to show themselves approved unto God.—Manuscript 1a, 1890. VSS 286.2

Fanciful Eloquence—The minister may make a high range into the heavens, by poetical descriptions and fanciful presentations which please the senses and feed the imagination, but which do not touch the common life experience, the daily necessities; bringing home to the heart the very truths which are of vital interest. The immediate requirements, the present trials, need present help and strength—the faith that works by love and purifies the soul, not words which have no real influence upon the living daily walk in practical Christianity. VSS 286.3

The minister may think that with his fanciful eloquence he has done great things in feeding the flock of God; the hearers may suppose that they never before heard such beautiful themes, they have never seen the truth dressed up in such beautiful language, and as God was represented before them in His greatness, they felt a glow of emotion. But trace from cause to effect all this ecstasy of feeling caused by these fanciful representations. There may be truths, but too often they are not the food that will fortify them for the daily battles of life.—Evangelism, 182. VSS 286.4

A Few Simple Rules—I was shown that our ministers were doing themselves great injury by carelessness in the use of their vocal organs. Their attention was called to this important matter, and cautions and instructions were given them by the Spirit of God. It was their duty to learn the wisest manner of using these organs. The voice, this gift of heaven, is a powerful faculty for good, and if not perverted, would glorify God. All that was essential was to study and conscientiously follow a few simple rules. But instead of educating themselves, as they might have done by the exercise of a little common sense, they employed a professor of elocution. VSS 287.1

As a result, many who were feeling that God had a work for them to do in teaching the truth to others, have become infatuated and crazed with elocution. All that certain ones needed was to have this temptation presented before them. Their interest was attracted by the novelty, and young men and some ministers were carried away with this excitement. They left their fields of labor—everything in the vineyard of the Lord was neglected—and paid their money and gave their precious time to attend a school of elocution. When they came from this drill, devotion and religion had parted company with them, and the burden of souls was laid off, as they would lay aside a garment. They had accepted Satan's suggestions, and he had led them where he chose. VSS 287.2

Some set themselves up as teachers of elocution, who had neither discretion nor ability, and they made themselves disgusting to the public, for they did not properly use what knowledge they had gained. Their performances were void of dignity or good sense; and these exploits on their part have closed the door, so far as they are known, to any influence that they may have in future as men to carry the message of truth to the world. This was Satan's device. It was well to make improvement in speaking; but to give time and money to this one branch, and absorb the mind with it, was rushing into extremes and showing great weakness. VSS 288.1

Young men who call themselves Sabbathkeepers attach “professor” to their names and abuse the community with that which they do not understand. Many thus pervert the light which God has seen fit to give them. They have not well-balanced minds. Elocution has become a byword. It has caught up men to engage in a work that they cannot do wisely, and spoiled them for doing a work which, had they been humbly and modestly seeking to accomplish it in the fear of God, they would have made a glorious success. These youth might have been fitting for usefulness in the missionary field as canvassers and colporteurs, or as licentiates proving themselves for ministerial labor, doing work for time and for eternity. But they have been crazed with the thought of becoming teachers of elocution, and Satan stands and laughs that he has caught them in the net which he has laid for them.—Testimonies for the Church 4:604-606. VSS 288.2

Eloquence Even of a Stammering Tongue—Most precious gems of truth are often rendered powerless by the wisdom of words in which they are clothed, while the power of the Spirit of God is lacking. Christ presented the truth in its simplicity; and He reached not only the most elevated, but the lowliest men of earth. The minister who is God's ambassador and Christ's representative on the earth, who humbles himself that God may be exalted, will possess the genuine quality of eloquence. True piety, a close connection with God, and a daily, living experience in the knowledge of Christ, will make eloquent even the stammering tongue.—Testimonies for the Church 4:314. VSS 289.1

Use of Common Fire—Some ministers make the mistake of supposing that success depends on drawing a large congregation by outward display, and then delivering the message of truth in a theatrical style. But this is using common fire instead of the sacred fire of God's kindling. The Lord is not glorified by this manner of working. Not by startling notices and expensive display is His work to be carried to completion, but by following Christlike methods.—Gospel Workers, 383. VSS 289.2