The Review and Herald

583/1902

June 23, 1891

Spiritual Benefit the Object of Camp-Meetings

EGW

Our camp-meetings are not conducted in a way that will result in the greatest benefit to the largest number of those who attend, and the reason for this is that spiritual interests do not have the prominence which they should have in meetings of this character. Many and varied business meetings divide the attention, and meetings for the education of workers in different departments of missionary work, claim the services of those who should devote themselves to feeding the flock of God. All these different interests are of great importance; but when they have been attended to at camp-meeting, only a small margin of time and effort remains in which to treat of the practical relation of truth to the soul. Those who come for enlightenment and strength, return to their homes little better fitted to work in their families and churches than they were before they came to the meeting. RH June 23, 1891, par. 1

Many meetings are conducted in which the larger number of the people have little interest, and if they could attend all the meetings, they would go away wearied, instead of refreshed and benefited. The special branches of the work should receive attention; but they should not be allowed to monopolize the time and talent of those who are called of God to look after the spiritual interests of the people, and if they are diverted from this work of building up the children of God in the most holy faith, the camp-meeting does not meet the end for which it has been appointed. The specific object of the camp-meeting is to lead the people to discern what they must do to inherit eternal life. If the time is given up largely to the education of canvassers and workers, the spiritual standard is not elevated before the people. Many are disappointed over the failure of their expectations in gaining help from the camp-meetings, but think that the order of things cannot be changed, and that they must submit to the existing state of affairs; but decided reforms are possible and essential. Methods must be discovered, plans must be carried out, whereby the standard shall be uplifted, the people taught how they may be purified from all iniquity, and may be elevated by adherence to pure and exalted principles. RH June 23, 1891, par. 2

Those who labor at camp-meeting should have an appreciation of the importance and solemnity of their work. They should not imagine that a display of oratory, a discourse made up of flashy rhetoric, spoken in a loud voice, is something essential to the salvation of souls. The minister should learn to speak in a clear, low voice, using the vocal organs in such a way that the throat and lungs will not be taxed or injured. He should cultivate a pleasing manner, and give discourses short and to the point. In this way neither minister nor people will be wearied. Some of our ministers have worn themselves out by loud speaking and long sermons, and they have been looked upon as martyrs to the cause, when they were victims of unwise habits. Brethren, your voice is a talent given you of God, by which you are to glorify your Creator. It can be put to the highest use, or perverted and abused. You can use it in such a way that the vital organs will be enfeebled and injured. Every power God has given should be used with discretion, that physical vigor may be preserved. The minister must have strength for work in the pulpit, and in the homes of those who are interested or in need of personal effort. RH June 23, 1891, par. 3

The conversion of souls does not depend on the loud tone or the long discourse, but on the conviction which attends the word spoken, on the inculcation of ideas that are of vital importance in obtaining eternal life. How much better truth is appreciated when spoken in a calm, unexcited way. Ministers should feel the importance of the theme of redemption, and realizing that they are speaking to judgment-bound souls, their voices should be filled with pathos and melody, and the words of eternal life should be spoken with distinctness and impressiveness, that the people may realize the value of the truth. To preach in a hard, strained voice, pitched on a high key, is suicidal, and those who have practiced this way of speaking should cease to do it, and learn of the divine Teacher. Several of our ministers might have been alive today if they had observed the simple rules that apply to the use of the voice. Let loud speaking and long discourses cease from among us. RH June 23, 1891, par. 4

Do not immediately follow one discourse with another, but let a period of rest intervene, that the truth may be fastened in the mind, and that opportunity for meditation and prayer may be given for both minister and people. In this way there will be growth in religious knowledge and experience. Bible readings should be given, and believers and unbelievers should have an opportunity to ask questions on points not fully understood. Those who profess to be advocates of truth, should ask questions that will bring forth answers that will shed light upon the present truth. If any ask questions that serve to confuse the mind, and to sow doubt and questioning, they should be advised to abstain from such questioning, that others may be brought to Christ. We must learn when to speak and when to keep silent, and learn to sow seeds of faith, to reflect light and not darkness. Special meetings should be appointed for those who are interested in the truth, and who need instruction. RH June 23, 1891, par. 5

Christ is the minister's model. How directly to the point, how well adapted to the purpose and circumstances, are Christ's words! How clear and forcible are his illustrations! His style is characterized by simplicity and solemnity. Throughout the teachings of Christ, there is nothing to justify the minister in the relation of humorous anecdotes in the pulpit. The lessons of Christ should be carefully studied, and the subjects, manner, and form of discourses should be modeled after the divine pattern. Oratorical display, flashy rhetoric, and fine gestures do not constitute a fine discourse. Many are deceived by these things, and call a man a good minister who does not deserve the name. If the simplicity of the gospel of Christ is lacking in a discourse, there is a great need that the minister learn lessons of the divine Teacher, that he may become truly wise. The minister must have his heart melted by the love of Christ, and his words must be full of divine power. He must lift up Jesus, making him the center of attraction, the source of all power. The truth as it is in Jesus will be efficacious in converting souls to God. The holy truth is always to be presented in its true simplicity; for in this time, when the end of all things is at hand, the way of the Lord is to be prepared, the third angel's message is to lighten the earth with its glory. RH June 23, 1891, par. 6

The greatest Teacher the world ever knew, educated those who came to him in the simplest way. Sometimes he taught them, sitting among them on the mountain side; sometimes walking with them by the sea or way, he revealed to them the mysteries of the kingdom of God. He did not sermonize as men do today. In intensely earnest tones he assured them of the truths of the life to come, of the way of salvation. The Jews did not expect the Messiah to come as a teacher, but as a temporal king, to sit upon the throne of David; and if they had spoken the unbelief of their hearts, they would have scoffed at the idea of his Messiahship. And yet some believed on him, even among the chiefs and rulers. Nicodemus voiced the sentiments of many when he said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” RH June 23, 1891, par. 7

If the man who feels himself called of God to be a minister will abase himself and learn of Christ, he will become a true teacher. This is what we need in our camp-meetings,—a ministry vivified with the Holy Ghost. There must be less sermonizing, and more tact to educate the people in practical religion. The people must be impressed with the fact that Jesus is salvation to all who believe in him. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” There are grand themes on which the gospel minister may dwell. Jesus has said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” RH June 23, 1891, par. 8

If the minister's lips are touched with a coal from off the altar, he will lift up Jesus as the sinner's only hope. When the heart of the speaker is sanctified through the truth, his words will be living realities to himself and to others; for those who hear him will know that he has been with God, and drawn near to him in fervent, effectual prayer. The Holy Spirit has fallen upon him, and his soul has felt the vital, heavenly fire, and he will be able to compare spiritual things with spiritual, and to tear down the strongholds of the enemy. Hearts will be broken by his presentation of the love of God, and many will inquire, “What must I do to be saved?” RH June 23, 1891, par. 9

The minister who is ready to engage in frivolous conversation, ready to jest and laugh, does not realize the sacred obligations resting upon him, and if he goes from such an exercise to the pulpit, the Lord cannot stand by his side to bless him. The Lord cannot be a hammer to break the flinty rock in pieces; the man stands alone. If the people are in any way affected, it is not due to the efforts of the ministers, but in answer to their own prayers. If they have felt their need, if they have besought God for a blessing, by drawing nigh to him, then God has fulfilled his word and drawn nigh to them. If the people have friends for whom they have carried a burden, and these friends turn to God in true contrition of heart, the credit does not belong to the Christless discourse; for God has set other influences at work to change the heart and convert the soul. O that all our ministers might be indeed the ambassadors of Christ! RH June 23, 1891, par. 10

Flowery discourses will not be sufficient to feed the soul of the famishing child of God. The following desire will give a voice to the longing of many a heart that is fed on what are called “smart sermons.” An intelligent man remarked, “O that my pastor would give me something besides pretty flowers, and brilliant periods, and intellectual treats! My soul is famishing for the bread of life. I long for something simple and nourishing and scriptural.” Daniel Webster gave utterance to these forcible words: “If clergymen in our day would return to the simplicity of gospel truth, and preach more to individuals and less to the crowd, there would not be so much complaint of the decline of true religion. Many of the ministers of the present day take their text from St. Paul, and preach from the newspapers. When they do so, I prefer to enjoy my own thoughts, rather than listen. I want my pastor to come to me in the Spirit of the gospel, saying, ‘You are mortal. Your probation is brief, your work must be done speedily... You are hastening to the bar of God. The Judge standeth before the door.’” RH June 23, 1891, par. 11