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It cannot be far wrong to say that a great proportion of ministers of the Gospel, if not the whole of them, began their career with high hopes and with a noble conception of what they were to be and to do. The energy of early zeal, the glow of first love to the Saviour, and the hopes of a nature not yet vexed and tried by the troubles of the high but difficult calling, bore the aspirants forward towards the realisation of a lofty ideal. It was no desire to be members of a profession that animated them, no base seeking for a piece of bread in the priest's office, no assumption of superiority over their fellow-men. There might be, there probably was, some admixture of earthly elements with spiritual forces; there might be some colouring of Christian hope with a desire for influence for its own sake; there might be more self-reliance than was consonant with profound convictions of the sufficiency which comes alone from God for the great work, yet all this did not fairly forbid them the title of good ministers of Christ. Their hearts were loyally bent on doing some good in their day. They were not without tenderness of love towards men, nor faithfulness of purpose towards God.
A few years of work and trial generally make a great difference in these early thoughts and hopes. Some, nay, many, may find themselves with higher thoughts and loftier conceptions of their calling than they had when they left college. There may be less false lustre around the ideal, but there is more of the unspeakable glory. There may be a sternness around it not observed before, but it is also clothed with corresponding majesty
VOL. III.—NO. I.
and authority. All unconsciously to themselves, as the process went on, their Master's conception of a minister and of a minister's work outgrew and overgrew their own thoughts, and the human was replaced by the divine.
This change for the better has not, however, gone on without a deep consciousness of a counter tendency to deterioration.
After a similar period of trial, some may find themselves disappointed, humiliated, and disgusted; or perhaps they may hardly have feeling enough left to be either one or the other. They have not realised their early hope, and now they care little for realising anything. Enough if life goes on, goes on anyhow, if they are not troubled too much with Church cares and public duties, if they keep something like peace around them, though it be the peace of stupor or death, if they get through the number of sermons in a week—deliver their tale of bricks, and if they get their money at the appointed time.
Such a period of trial may be the utter ruin of others. The hopes of the student are dashed to pieces; his ministry has failed; and he is a castaway! Melancholy memories of such former friends linger in the mind of most ministers who still stand by the help of the Lord.
Be the result of the trial what it may, every one feels that his work is to be carried on under circumstances which daily try his steadfastness. The battle between life and death, which rages over the whole field of humanity, is nowhere fiercer nor more obstinately prolonged than around the ministers of Christ's Gospel. The god of this world knows that one minister injured is a Church injured, injured in prayerfulness, in faith, in charity, in everything Christlike; and therefore at ministers he aims his truest, deadliest shafts. The holiest men are always under hot fire. Something is always held out to them to mislead and ruin them-now it is, to be satisfied with the fact that they are respected and honoured ministers; now, to be content with keeping their Churches from faction or declension in numbers; and now, to be persuaded that they have done all their duty when they have preached their sermons,