The Book and the Soul
In the formation of the character of a successful minister of the Word of God, two ingredients are absolutely necessary, namely an accurate acquaintance with the Bible, and a due sense of the value of the soul and its necessities. The combination of these two qualities is of the utmost importance in the case of every one who is called to minister the Word. To possess only one of them will leave a man a thoroughly one–sided minister. I may be deeply read in Scripture, I may have a profound acquaintance with the contents of the Book, and a most exquisite sense of its moral glories, but if I forget the soul and its deep and varied necessities, my ministry will be lamentably defective. It will lack point, pungency and power. It will not meet the cravings of the heart, or tell upon the conscience. It will be a ministry from the Book, but not to the soul. True and beautiful no doubt, but deficient in usefulness and practical power.
On the other hand, I may have the soul and its need distinctly before me. I may long to be useful. It may be my heart’s desire to minister to the heart and the conscience of my hearer or my reader, but if I am not acquainted with my Bible, if I am not a well–taught scribe, I shall have no material by which to be useful. I shall have nothing to give the soul––nothing to reach the heart––nothing to act on the conscience. My ministry will prove barren and tiresome. Instead of teaching souls, I shall tease them, and instead of edifying, I shall irritate them. My exhortation, instead of urging souls on along the upward path of discipleship, will, from a lack of basis, have the effect of discouraging them.
These things are worthy of some consideration. You may sometimes listen to a person ministering the Word who possesses a great deal of the first of the above named qualities, and very little of the second. It is evident he has the Book and its moral glories before his spiritual vision. He is occupied with them, so engrossed in fact at times to almost forget that he has souls before him. There is no pointed and powerful appeal to the heart, no fervent grappling with the conscience, no practical application of the contents of the Book to the souls of the hearers. It is very beautiful, but not as useful as it might be. The minister is deficient in the second quality. He is more a minister of the Book than a minister to the soul.
Then again, you will find some who in their ministry seem to be wholly occupied with the soul. They appeal, they exhort, they urge, but from lack of acquaintance and regular occupation with Scripture, souls are absolutely exhausted and worn out under their ministry. True, they ostensibly make the Book the basis of their ministry, but their use of it is so unskilful, their handling of it so awkward, their application of it so palpably unintelligent, that their ministry proves as uninteresting as it is unprofitable. What is needed is both an accurate acquaintance with the Bible and a due sense of the value of the soul. Let every minister ensure that he possesses this healthy combination. Let him study the Book and its glories and at the same time think of the soul and its needs. Yes, let each one remember the link between the Book and the soul.