We languish for men who feel themselves expendable in the warfare of the soul, who cannot be frightened by threats of death because they have already died to the allurements of the world. Such men will be free from the compulsions that control weaker men. They will not be forced to do things by the squeeze of circumstances; their only compulsion will come from within–or from above. This kind of freedom is necessary if we are to have (powerful preachers) in our pulpits again instead of mascots. These free men will serve God and mankind from motives too high to be understood by the rank and file of religious retainers who today shuttle in and out of the sanctuary. They will make no decisions out of fear, take no course out of a desire to please, accept no service for financial considerations, perform no religious act out of mere custom; nor will they allow themselves to be influenced by the love of publicity or the desire for reputation.
Great industrial concerns have in their employ men who are needed only when there is a breakdown somewhere. When something goes wrong with the machinery, these men spring into action to locate and remove the trouble and get the machinery rolling again. For these men a smoothly operating system has no interest. They are specialists concerned with trouble and how to find and correct it.
In the Kingdom of God things are not too different. God has always had His specialists whose chief concern has been the moral breakdown, the decline in the spiritual health of the nation or the Church. Such men were Elijah, Jeremiah, Malachi, and others of their kind who appeared at critical moments in history to reprove, rebuke, and exhort in the name of God and righteousness. A thousand or ten thousand ordinary priests or pastors or teachers could labor quietly on, almost unnoticed, while the spiritual life of Israel or the Church was normal. But let the people of God go astray from the paths of truth, and immediately the specialist appeared almost out of nowhere. His instinct for trouble brought him to the help of the Lord and of Israel.
Such a man was likely to be drastic, radical, possibly at times violent, and the curious crowd that gathered to watch him work soon branded him as extreme, fanatical, negative. And in a sense they were right. He was single-minded, severe, fearless, as these were the qualities the circumstances demanded. He shocked some, frightened others, and alienated not a few, but he knew Who had called him and what he was sent to do. His ministry was geared to the emergency, and that fact marked him out as different, a man apart.
To such men as this the Church owes a debt too heavy to pay. The curious thing is She seldom tries to pay him while he lives, but the next generation builds his sepulcher and writes his biography as if instinctively and awkwardly to discharge an obligation the previous generation to a large extent ignored.
Such a man as this is not an easy companion. The professional evangelist who leaves the wrought-up meeting as soon as it ends to hurry over to the most extensive restaurant to feast and crack jokes with his sponsors will find this man something of an embarrassment, for he cannot turn off the burden of the Holy Ghost as one would turn off a faucet. He insists upon being a Christian all the time, everywhere; and again, that marks him out as different.
Towards him it is impossible to be neutral. His acquaintances are divided pretty neatly into two classes, those who love him will all admiration, and those who hate him with perfect hatred.