By W. H. McRidley, D.D., 2001
Pastor, Second Baptist Church
No subject commands and demands such serious consideration and attention at this hour as Ministerial Integrity. At no time in the history of our church have we been in greater need of ministers of integrity, men to occupy the pulpit in all the churches of this land, especially Baptist churches, men of intense, honest purpose.
Our church life is greatly marred and impaired by dishonesty in the pulpit; yes, seriously undermined, and we are becoming totally oblivious and indifferent in too many places where there is a great need of waking up for the future of our zion.
Irresponsible, unreliable, characterless men should not be placed in charge of our churches at the detrement of the cause of Christ; men whose life and deportment are below the standard, utterly oblivious for the cause they pretend to be called to espouse, recklessness in the minister of his character should not be condoned; abuses of the minister greatly endangers the religious life of the church and her standing in the community, is measured by the deportment of the minister in charge; therefore, the church of God should see that his ideal of Christian integrity is of the highest and best obtainable, but so frequently can you see the world pointing at the cause of Christ sneeringly and with contempt, on acccount of looseness in Christian morals on the part of the ministry, and not without cause, because of this cancerous looseness on our religious life in many places, it occasions, or gives the church little concern.
We seem to take no thought of the personal or professional character of the men who are called to preach the gospel of the blessed Christ. More attention should be given to the literary qualifications. Character and fitness are very necessary in the minister of the gospel.. Notwithstanding this essential, churches should not, in their mad haste, overlook even another essential, that is this, viz.: Ministerial morality and honesty, integrity of purpose to serve and honor the Master as well as their personal aggrandizements.
In too many places, the above qualifications are wholly ignored. and men are elevated to the pulpits for no other reasons than they have fine “voices,” and the personnels suit the whims
of the worldly-minded in the churches, until to-day, in many churches, men of standing and ability are at considerable worry and expense trying to hold their people in line and work them up to the standard of Christian usefulness.
Too many seem to forget that pure ministerial life is requisite to the life-blood of the churches; that is, the churches are potent factors for good in proportion to the standard lived by minister and people. Truly said: “As is minister, so are the people composing the churches.” By this rule of measurement, the world applies the yardstick for the church of God. Men who do not come up to the measurement are blots on the fair name of the church of Christ. The life principle in Christianity is blurred by men who do not come up to the requirement.
Let the churches of the twentieth century demand in the clergy an unquestioned character for virtue and morality; say in tones of thunder, you must maintain a life worthy of your profession or you and your ministry ends now, once and forever. No minister should be allowed to exhibit an indifference about the life he lives, but tireless effort on his part to reach the highest ideal, maintaining a life worthy of the high calling of a gospel preacher.
Moral causes affect the standing and falling of churches as much as it does individuals. A pure, upright minister, first of all, is a good man, true to himself and true in his relations to his Christian brethren. If he respects not the dignity of his high office, yea, the dignity of the human nature in himself, but degrades it by lying, or sensuality, or criminal dishonesty, how can he feel a genuine and generous interest in the cause of which he has been summoned to uphold and defend? He just can not do it, and he dare not attempt to do it, and if he does, it is with half-heartedness. Such a ministry threatens the life-blood of the cause: yea, is a usurper and slander.
An unprincipled ministry is a drawback and a positive hindrance to the cause of Christ, an instrumentality of corruption and a breeder of crimes, yet, strange though true, that in some places, Baptist people will continue to indorse such men, elect them to preside over their congregations, when these same meh, they must know, would fit any other calling infinitely better than in the ministry — the sporting art gallery, the bar-rooms, gambling dens, and the low dives of sin and vice.
Men who spend their precious time running over the country,
hunting churches, remaining hardly long enough,for the people to know them ere they are off “splitting” other churches, uniting themselves with a vexatious, kicking, quarreling faction, slandering the cause of Christ, they say He has called them to uphold and defend. Men who are using their lofty position “breaking up” churches, instead of strengthening them; pulling down the morals and good name of the church of God. Men who spend the summer months running excursions, especially Sunday excursions, are used for leading the young people from the true ideal of the Christian Sabbath.
The church of to-day needs ministers called of God, and men who love their race, love Christ, and love His cause more than self and ease; men of true convictions, men of honest purpose. Men of untrue, convictions and dishonest purpose should be driven from the pulpit to their own place, where they properly belong. They should be allowed no shelter or quarter.
Men chosen to occupy the pulpit should be men of character, good moral standing in the community where they are best known, and where they live: officers of the churches should be men of character and some recognized ability, lovers of that which is good, pure and noble — honest integrity — and these should guard the pulpit against these bad men, who seek the pulpit as time-servers, men who have turned traitors, men who have become partners of the world in sin and folly.
Men who are enslaved in chains self-wrought and riveted by their own hands, the dignity of their manhood obliterated with every noble human quality, every elevating attirbute of character, and every God-like trait defaced, blurred and buried beneath the teeming vices of greed.
Men who have sold the rights of God and man to advance their own personal gain, after sneaking into the pulpit, have covertly turned cowards and are using the same opportunity for serving sin and Satan, prostituting the cause of Christ for their own wicked and sinful purposes.
Will the good people of the twentieth century indorse these lecherous characters on our religious life? I hardly can indulge the thought that they will, with the increasing means of spreading information, exposing their scoundrelism, made to feel their sinfulness and shame by a righteous indignation of an outraged public sentiment.
Let Christian churches insist on elevating the standard of the
Christian ministry, until it shall have been restored to its former lofty place in the estimation of the people, ministerial honor higher than it has been in many a decade. I have full faith and confidence in the good people in our churches doing their full duty along these lines, so that men who have no regard for honesty and integrity, who do nothing to uphold, and build up a standing for honesty and truthfulness, will lie driven to seek other professions, where they can not do so much harm to the cause of the Master, but men who will strive for uncorruptible soundness in life, yea, upright men, and these only should be able to find a place to ply their holy avocation.
Men who will subscribe for and pay for their denominational papers; men who will take the lead in procuring homes for their families, and seek to elevate the tone and character of their race in every way; men who will send their children to their own denominational schools, and cheerfully pay for their board and tuition fees without being “dunned,” and then, after paying these reasonable demands, still remain true and loyal to the cause; men who dare fight their own leaders, because they have not been wise enough to improve their own opportunities and possibilities to lead; men who dare spend the year loading themselves with hate and envy to discharge at the district and general associations; men who believe in the capacity and ability of the negro to do his own work if given like chance with other races; men who are willing to serve their apprenticeship of drudgery, knowing that success comes to men of tireless energy.
W. H. McRidley was Founder and President of Cadiz Normal and Theological Institute, 1884-1915.
[From The National Baptist Magazine, June, 1901, pp. 286-289; via SBHL&A. H/T to Ben Stratton. An abridged version of this document is available at The Spencer Journal. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More on Various Subjects
Baptist History Homepage