The very first and most important thing is to melt and
subdue the soul by presenting our Lord Jesus Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour. Never should a sermon be preached, or Bible instruction in any line be given, without pointing the hearers to the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29. Every true doctrine makes Christ the centre, every precept receives force from His words.
Keep before the people the cross of Calvary. Show what caused the death of Christ--the transgression of the law. Let not sin be cloaked or treated as a matter of little consequence. It is to be presented as guilt against the Son of God. Then point the people to Christ, telling them that immortality comes only through receiving Him as their personal Saviour.
Arouse the people to see how far they have departed from the Lord's ordinances by adopting worldly policy and conforming to worldly principles. These have brought them into transgression of God's law.
Many in the world set their affections on things that in themselves are not evil; but they become satisfied with these things, and do not seek the greater and higher good that Christ desires to give them. Now we must not rudely seek to deprive them of what they hold dear. Reveal to them the beauty and preciousness of truth. Lead them to behold Christ in His loveliness; then they will turn from everything that would draw their affections away from Him. This is the principle of the Saviour's dealing with men; it is the principle that must be brought into the church.
Christ came into the world to "bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." Isaiah 61:1. The Sun of Righteousness shall "arise with healing in
His wings." Malachi 4:2. The world is full of men and women who are carrying a heavy burden of sorrow and suffering and sin. God sends His children to reveal to them Him who will take away the burden and give them rest. It is the mission of Christ's servants to help, to bless, and to heal.
Christ's favourite theme was the paternal character and abundant love of God. This knowledge of God was Christ's own gift to men, and this gift He has committed to His people to be communicated by them to the world.
In presenting to the people the various lessons and warnings of the special message for this time, we must bear in mind that not all are equally appropriate for the congregations that assemble at our camp meetings. Even Jesus said to His disciples, who had been with Him for three years: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." John 16:12. We must endeavour to present the truth as the people are prepared to hear it and to appreciate its value. The Spirit of God is working upon the minds and hearts of men, and we are to work in harmony with it.
Of some truths the people already have a knowledge. There are some in which they are interested, of which they are ready to learn more. Show them the significance of these truths and their relation to others which they do not understand. Thus you will arouse a desire for greater light. This is "rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15.
Let the message for this time be presented, not in long,
laboured discourses, but in short talks, right to the point. Do not think when you have gone over a subject once that you can pass right on to other points, and the hearers will retain all that has been presented. There is danger of passing too rapidly from point to point. Give short lessons, in plain, simple language, and let them be often repeated.
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 ministers and people. Thus there will be growth in religious knowledge and experience.
Keep the mind concentrated on a few vital points. Do not bring unimportant ideas into your discourses. God would not have you think that you are impressed by His Spirit when you fly from your subject, bringing in foreign matters that have no connection with your text. By wandering from straight lines, and bringing in that which calls the mind off the subject, you lose your bearing, and weaken all that you have previously said. Give your hearers pure wheat, thoroughly winnowed.
Be careful never to lose a sense of the presence of the divine Watcher. Remember that you are speaking, not only before an assembly of men, but before One whom you should ever recognise. Speak as if the whole heavenly universe were before you.
One night, previous to an important meeting, I seemed
in my sleeping hours to be in meeting with my brethren, listening to One who spoke as having authority. He said: "Many souls will attend this meeting who are honestly ignorant of the truths that will be presented. They will listen and become interested, because Christ is drawing them; conscience tells them that what they hear is true, for it has the Bible for its foundation. The greatest care is needed in dealing with these souls.
"Let such portions of the message be dealt out to them as they may be able to grasp and appropriate. Though it should appear strange and startling, many will recognise with joy that new light is shed on the word of God; whereas if new truths were presented in so large a measure that they could not comprehend them, some would go away and never come again. Some, in their efforts to tell it to others, would misrepresent what they had heard. Some would so wrest the Scriptures as to confuse other minds.
"Those who will study the manner of Christ's teaching, and educate themselves to follow His way, will at tract and hold large numbers now, as Christ held the people in His day. At every meeting, Satan will be on the ground, that with his hellish shadow he may obtrude him self between man and God to intercept every ray of light that might shine on the soul. But when the truth in its practical character is urged upon the people because you love them, souls will be convicted, because the Holy Spirit of God will impress their hearts.
"Arm yourselves with humility; pray that angels of God may come close to your side to impress the mind; for it is not you that work the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit must work you. It is the Holy Spirit that makes the truth impressive. Keep practical truth ever before the people."
Do not make prominent those features of the message which are a condemnation of the customs and practises of the people, until they have an opportunity to know that we are believers in Christ, that we believe in His divinity and in His pre-existence. Let the testimony of the world's Redeemer be dwelt upon. He says: "I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches." Revelation 22:16.
At the Queensland camp meeting in 1898, instruction was given me for our Bible workers. In the visions of the night, ministers and workers seemed to be in a meeting where Bible lessons were being given. We said, "We have the Great Teacher with us today," and we listened with interest to His words. He said: There is a great work before you in this place. You will need to present truth in its simplicity. Bring the people to the waters of life. Speak to them the things which most concern their present and eternal good. Let not your study of the Scriptures be of a cheap or casual order. In all that you say, know that you have something which is worthy of the time you take to say it, and of the time of the hearers to hear. Speak of those things which are essential, those things which will instruct, bringing light with every word.
"Learn to meet the people where they are. Do not present subjects that will arouse controversy. Let not your instruction be of a character to perplex the mind. Do not cause the people to worry over things which you may understand but which they do not see, unless these are of vital consequence to the saving of the soul. Do not present the Scriptures in a way to exalt self and encourage vainglory in the one who opens the word.''
The work for this time is to train students and workers
to deal with subjects in a plain, serious, and solemn manner. There must be no time uselessly employed in this great work. We must not miss the mark. Time is too short for us to undertake to reveal all that might be opened to view. Eternity will be required for us to know all the length and breadth, the depth and height, of the Scriptures. There are some souls to whom certain truths are of more importance than other truths. Skill is needed in your education in Scriptural lines. Read and study Psalm 40:7, 8; John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:14-17; Revelation 5:11-14.
To the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos were revealed the things which God desired him to give to the people. Study these revelations. Here are themes worthy of our contemplation, large and comprehensive lessons which all the angelic host are now seeking to communicate. Behold the life and character of Christ, and study His mediatorial work. Here is infinite wisdom, infinite love, infinite justice, infinite mercy. Here are depths and heights, lengths and breadths, for our consideration. Numberless pens have been employed in presenting to the world the life, the character, and the mediatorial work of Christ, and yet every mind through which the Holy Spirit has worked has presented these themes in a light that is fresh and new.
We desire to lead the people to understand what Christ is to them and what are the responsibilities they are called upon to accept in Him. As His representatives and witnesses, we ourselves need to come to a full understanding of the saving truths gained by an experimental knowledge.
Teach the great practical truths that must be stamped upon the soul. Teach the saving power of Jesus, "in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the
forgiveness of sins.'' "Colossians 1:14. It was at the cross that
mercy and truth met together, that righteousness and
truth kissed each other. Let every student and every
worker study this again and again, that they, setting forth
the Lord crucified among us, may make it a fresh subject
to the people. Show that the life of Christ reveals an
infinitely perfect character. Teach that "as many as received
Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God,
even to them that believe on His name.'' "John 1:12. Tell
it over and over again. We may become the sons of God,
members of the royal family, children of the heavenly
King. Let it be known that all who accept Jesus Christ
and hold the beginning of their confidence firm to the end
will be heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ "to an
inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth
not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the
power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be
revealed in the last time.'' 1 Peter 1:4, 5.