Heart Talks

By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer

Chapter 20


By E. E. Shelhamer and Others


     There are some things that are admitted by all to be wrong, then there are other things upon which there is a difference of opinion; yet to do the same would not be exemplary to say the least, but rather the appearance of evil and a step in the wrong direction. The not refraining from doubtful things encourages others to go still farther and thus grieve the Spirit and some of the people of God. Take, for instance, the using of tobacco, "the wearing of gold," viewing a race, or baseball, Sunday travel, or the doing of other things which are matters of conscience with many good people.

     An old railroad conductor was asked what was the most important rule in their "Book of Rules." His quick and positive answer was, "When in doubt always take the safe side."

     If this is such an important rule for those engaged in earthly transportation, how much more careful ought those to be who have anything to do with Celestial railroading. In making the run for Glory we cannot afford to run any risk, since we are going this way but once. It would seem that those who travel and especially those (preachers) who are in charge of a party, would take the utmost precaution to be on the safe side of every question.

     It is unfortunate that there are lopsided souls who are very loud on some issues and very loose on others. Some of these dear Ones are ever ready to discount and depreciate every one who does not measure up to their light or way of thinking. Now, this is wrong. If the Holy Unction is upon a man and he manifests true humility, his message ought not to be discounted even though he does not do things to suit my personal convictions. And to this I hear a thousand "amens."

     But it is a poor rule that will not work both ways. If it is wrong, and a sign of "weakness" to stumble over another because of what he does, is it not equally wrong to set or follow a precedent that is known to be a source of grievance to many conscientious souls? Why not be on the safe side and take such a position as will enable one to be as helpful to every soul as possible? In so doing nothing is lost but possibly much gained. Someone might stumble over me if he saw me do some questionable thing, but he cannot stumble over me if I am clear in these and all other matters.

     The same principle will hold, relative to the wife and children of a minister. In too many cases his lips are closed, or if he does speak out against worldliness, extravagance, and Sabbath irreverence, his words fly back into his face or are taken as a pulpit-joke, because of the poor example set by his family. This is very unfortunate and reflects upon him in one or all of three respects -- his sincerity, home piety, or lack of family government, either of which is a calamity.

     Is it not a notable fact that compromisers never quote a ruffian, but rather the best man they can find, to uphold and defend their position in the wrong direction? And who wants the unenviable record of being such a champion?

     But it has come to pass that he who dares to preach and follow his convictions in every respect is looked upon by many of his brethren as being "narrow". Nevertheless, such men are often entrusted with grave and responsible positions, which proves that if they are capable of filling these, they ought to be able to judge in smaller things.

     Was it a sign of weakness or greatness in Paul that caused him to say, "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth lest I make my brother to offend"?

     Again he said, "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak."

     How unlike some of our modern "representative men," who would more than likely say, "Well, if you want to stumble over such little things, you will just have to stumble." Oh, my brethren, why not be exemplary on every line, especially on those lines which are agitated during the particular age in which we live? What if some do brand you as being sticklers for minor or decaying issues? The great need of the day is for men who have the courage not simply to rally around popular issues, but who can keep tender, yet as unmovable as Gibraltar when it comes to obeying God and conscience in minor things which, nevertheless, have a vital underlying principle. To do so requires more manliness and strength of character than to face pestilence, cannon balls or death itself. Reader, will you be one?

     In reference to some of these things Bishop Simpson, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, says, "Avoid all stimulants of every character which may be recommended to strengthen your voice or to assist you in pulpit duties. I can scarcely suppose that anyone who believes himself called to the ministry will countenance their use. Yet kind friends will sometimes suggest that you are weak, your nerves are tremulous, you have been out in the cold, you need a stimulant; and they will urge the taking of a little wine or brandy before preaching. These friends, if from England or Ireland, will tell you that the most distinguished ministers are in the habit of using them; and I regret to say that in many churches there both wine and brandy are kept in the vestry for the use of the minister both before and after preaching. On my first visit to the old countries the kind sextons seemed to be as much astonished that I would not accept them as I was amazed at their being offered. I have known some young ministers who used a few drops of paregoric or a small quantity of opium to give them temporary strength in the pulpit. I am glad to say that I have known but few such cases, but I must add that these were led in the end to either physical or moral ruin.

     "Others limit themselves to two or three cups of strong coffee or tea. The effect of these stimulants is unquestionably to give greater strength to the system for the time; but all such artificial strength is a draft which must be repaid with interest. The unnatural excitement will be followed by subsequent depression. God does not require us to use artificial strength in the pulpit. We must give ourselves in our best vigor and culture to His service, but we should so give ourselves that the service of one hour shall not destroy our power for subsequent usefulness. I believe one reason why so many ministers complain of 'blue Monday' is that they have keyed up their systems by extra efforts beyond their natural tension and the excitement, passing away, leaves them depressed.

     "So with tobacco. In some places congregations are unwilling to receive ministers who indulge in its use. Many families almost dread the visits of such ministers, lest their growing sons will be led to adopt a practice which they so earnestly discountenance and oppose. The least that can be said is, it is a costly mode of needless self-indulgence, and as such, it stands in the way of a minister's usefulness. He pleads the missionary cause and urges his congregation to economize; but his words fall powerless when they see that he does not love the cause of missions so much as to restrain his own indulgence. To many, the odor of the cigar or of tobacco is unpleasant, and especially in the sick room. But for persons of nervous organization, as ministers usually are, it is an unmixed evil. It gives temporary tension to produce ultimate relaxation. Not a few cases have I known of most promising and talented young men who have been by it hastened to an untimely grave. I suppose there is sometimes a relish and enjoyment connected with it, for I have seen men sit for an hour, smoking, with their feet upon a table and professing to be studying. I have no doubt they had visions of greatness and glory; but a somewhat extensive and prolonged observation shows that their lives usually end with their cigars -- in SMOKE."

     Rev. A. Sims says: "Who is to blame for the shallow experience of many professing Christians? We reply, the men under whom they are professedly saved. If deluded souls were taught the whole counsel of God by ministers and editors, they would see their unsaved condition, and spurious religion would not spread so rapidly. As it is, a vast multitude are made to believe a lie under the teachings of these men. Milk-and-water papers publish their testimonies. Many of the holiness journals are laden with just such shuffling testimonies. We have read them until we are perfectly disgusted with such sham holiness. We ask, can one wonder at such hollow testimonies, when so many holiness (?) teachers are doing shoddy work? Like begets like. These men say they let the Holy Ghost show the people in regard to dress, Masonry and tobacco, etc. Now, if it is right to leave to the Holy Ghost the work of showing the people these sins, it is equally right to let the Holy Ghost preach pardon and holiness. Paul says, 'I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God.' Both he and Peter did show the people in regard to pride in dress, and many other popular sins. So will every true ambassador of the Cross."

     Says Wesley: "But how terrible is this! when the ambassadors of God turn agents for the devil -- when they who are commissioned to teach men the way to heaven do in fact teach the way to hell. If ever asked, 'Why, who does this?' I answer, ten thousand wise and honorable men; even all of those, of whatever denomination, who encourage the proud, the trifler, the passionate, the lover of the world, the man of pleasure, the unjust or unkind, the easy, careless, harmless, useless creatures, the man who suffers no persecution for righteousness' sake, to imagine he is in the way to heaven. These are false prophets, in the highest sense of the word. These are traitors both to God and man. These are no other than the firstborn of Satan; the eldest son of Apollyon, the destroyer. These are far above the rank of ordinary cutthroats; for they murder the souls of men. They are continually peopling the realms of night; and whenever they follow the poor souls they have destroyed, 'hell shall be moved from beneath to meet them at their coming.' "