Confidence

By this we mean coming so wholly into the confidence of the one we seek to help along the avenue of personal friendship that we know his verdict on his own case, see him through his own eyes. The physician of souls must know his patients intimately, or he cannot diagnose their troubles accurately. Some of the material for his diagnosis, in addition to that which arrives through the primary channel of spiritual apprehension to which we have already alluded, will arise out of a study of human nature as a whole. It was his knowledge of the human heart that made Henry Ward Beecher so irresistible a preacher, and that gave him the content of the very suggestive chapter on the "Study of Human Nature" in his Yale Lectures on Preaching. This is a study in which all of us can engage, with the material lying about us on every hand. If it is worth while for the salesman of a business-house to study men in order that he may know how best to win them to a desire to purchase his wares, how much more important is that study for us who would win men to, a new life of spiritual health and victory in Christ. Says Drummond: "Many men study men, but not to sympathise with them: the lawyer for gain, the artist for fame, the actor for applause, the novelist for profession. How well up is the actor in plot and passion and intrigue! How deftly can the novelist, anatomise love and jealousy, vengeance and hate! And when there are men found to study human nature for its own sake, for filthy lucre's sake, shall there be none to do it for man's sake-for God's sake?"* Further on he quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes as saying somewhere that we must try to be "a man that knows men in the street, at their work, human nature in its shirt-sleeves-who makes bargains with deacons instead of talking over texts with them, and a man who has found out that there fare plenty, of praying rogues and swearing saints in the world."†


* TA, New Evang,'ism, p. 284.
† Ibid., p. 283.

And just as the doctor needs to know the whole subject of disease, so the soul-doctor must know sin. That does not mean experiential knowledge, in either case, but the knowledge which comes through vital healing contact with the real life-experiences of men. Books can help us here, but life will yield far more. Mr. Buchman tells of how in his early preaching days there was no conviction of sin in the audience, no spiritual results, and he could not understand what was the trouble until Rev. F. B. Meyer, of London, when his advice was asked, replied: "Tell your people on Sunday the things they are telling you during the week". The trouble was that they were telling him nothing. He was not in their confidence, and his sermons, instead of being woven of the very stuff of their lives—their temptations and doubts and problems and failures-were intellectual dissertations which largely went over the heads of the people and, even when they reached their understanding, did not touch and move their hearts. No speaker to men in the last half century better illustrates the positive side of this truth than Drummond. Consider the following paragraph, beginning an address on Temptation in his memorable Edinburgh Lectures to Students: "Gentlemen, I must ask the forbearance of the men here tonight who are in intellectual difficulties if I speak to the men who are in moral degradation. It has come to my knowledge through the week, from a bundle of letters from men now sitting in this room, that there are a large number with their backs to the wall. They are dead beat, and I shall consider their cases first."* After such an introduction could there be an inattentative ear in the whole vast audience? The minister who knows men will win men, provided he has evangelistic passion and constant touch with God's spirit.

Paul can set us an example here. I have recently been re-studying his epistles to gleam from them for my own use what the great apostle knew of the spiritual diseases of men—and the result is at once suggestive and appalling. One who does not know men to-day might say that if what Paul wrote—for example in the first chapter of Romans—was true in his day and world, it is not characteristic of the India or Europe or America that we know to-day. But we should ask the physician about disease, not the Christian scientist who denies its existence. We should ask the true winner of souls about the sins that are cutting the nerve of spiritual power in men and women all around us. Yungtao, the great Chinese social reformer who recently became a Christian, says that China's three great sins are :concubinage, "squeeze" and gambling. And he further says that Christian missionaries so often fail, either through ignorance or fear, in not speaking directly and courageously of these deepest fundamental sins, and dealing incisively and adequately with the sinner, instead of talking of sin in abstract, theological language. What Yungtao has the courage to say with regard to China, needs to be said no less regarding Japan and India, Great Britain and America. Indeed, Harold Begbie says it in his own way, regarding Great Britain, in his Crisis of Morals.


* Life of Drummond, p. 515.

Not only must the soul physician know the soul, in health and disease, the universal human heart, which is found to be so surprisingly alike in all lands when its passions and fears and aspirations are analyzed; he must also know the particular individuals to whom God's spirit has directed him to lay seige with all the powers, seen and unseen, that he can muster to his support. As a preliminary step in gaining his confidence, let him study his patient's tastes in literature and drama, his likes and dislikes, his habits and associations. Horace Annesley Vachel, in a recent novel (Between Two Worlds) tells of how a father's unexpected discovery of the type of books his daughter was secretly reading broke through the crust of his blind, worshipful belief in her innocence, and gave him the knowledge that he needed to make him the real help to his daughter that he ought always to have been. How many parents fail tragically in helping their children in the delicate and critical problems of their sex life through ignorance compacted of unholy reticence, blasphemous confidence and sheer cowardice. And the same would apply with no less force to teacher and pupil, and pastor and parishioner, and to most of us in our work of personal evangelism.

This background of knowledge of men and of sin, coupled with a study of particular individuals, is indispensable, but our diagnosis of any individual case can never be complete until, to our general knowledge of human nature and our specific knowledge, such as any observant detective might acquire, of the man we seek to win, there is added the knowledge that is locked away from the detective which comes through the lips of the patient himself.

In introducing the word "detective", let us pause to observe with emphasis that the true soul-winner is no spiritual detective, secretly spying on his friends and neighbors, with a morbid taste for discovering the failings of men, and then following them with spiritual nagging. We do not think of our family physician as a detective; far less can we thus think of one whom God can use to help us spiritually, but who can only help us adequately and permanently when we are as frank with him as with the physician who nurses our bodies back to health. We must remember, however, that the peril of our becoming the mere detective is always present, and can only be avoided as we realize what almost infinite respect and love and faith, what constant consciousness of the dignity and worth of an immortal human soul, must be his who would serve as a medium to men of the healing power of Christ. Above all, the physician must keep human, sensitive, courteous, remembering his own shortcomings and respecting another man's reticences. Says Drummond: "Brusqueness and an impolite familiarity may do very. well when dealing with his brains, but without tenderness and courtesy you can only approach his heart to shock it. The whole of etiquette is founded on respect; and by far the highest and tenderest etiquette is the etiquette of soul with soul."*


* The New Evangelism, p. 280.
Yet at the same time we must also remember the great truth to which Drummond, out of his all but matchless experience, gives the concluding emphasis in the article from which I have quoted so often: "Men do not say much about these things, but the amount of spiritual longing in the world at the present moment is absolutely incredible. No one can even faintly appreciate the intense spiritual unrest which seethes everywhere around him; but one who has tried to discern, who has begun by private experiment, by looking into himself, by taking observations upon the people near him and known to him, has witnessed a spectacle sufficient to call for the loudest and most emphatic action,"* Every personal worker could multiply proofs of this fact, and of how his action on that hypothesis brought further proofs of its truth. Says W. D. Weatherford in his latest book, after speaking of our natural reticence in the West, in speaking of religious matters requiring a break in the barrier of reserve that holds us apart and obviates the reciprocal confidence on which all true helpfulness is based: "The very fact that religion is so vital to persons means that I must continue to share what I have found so valuable to my own growth. My testimony need not be prying or lacking in reverence, but it may be intensely in earnest. If I have a real friend who has meant much to me, I am eager to share that friend with other friends and even good acquaintances. In like manner, if I know God and He means life to me, I must of necessity desire to share this experience. By some method or other I must break through all reserve and share my treasure."† In another place he gives his experience: "Not only do men not resent being approached, but I am sure that many of them are wondering why we do not open the conversation. I shall never forget an experience I had some years ago at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. After speaking one night, I came downstairs and was just starting to leave the building. It was a rainy night; and out on the porch, which was very dimly lighted from within, there stood a young college man. I greeted him as I walked out, and noticed that his greeting was rather cordial. I then ventured the question as to whether he had attended the meeting. His reply was cordial again and in the affirmative. Made a little more bold, I suggested that he was probably one of the Christian workers. No, he was not even a Christian! I asked him if he would mind going in and talking it over. Imagine my amazement when he replied: 'I have been standing here waiting for you to come out, hoping you would ask me to do that'. After half an hour he made a decision for the Christian life. Suppose I had missed that chance!"‡ And then he gives this instance of failure to follow the inner leading and break through the reserve that keeps us silent: "Once at a Northfield Conference I knew a young man from Yale, who said he had come down to this conference with the delegation, thinking that surely some man would, in that atmosphere, speak to him about the Christian life. One of our international student secretaries of the Young Men's Christian Association told me that his room-mate in college, a prominent athlete, had to make this secretary talk to him about the religious life. What must people think of the value we put upon our Christian experience when we are so slow to share its blessings ?"‡ In an American university, after an outside evangelist (A. J. Elliott) had won a student to Christ, when the college pastor started to shake his hand by way of congratulation the student refused to take it until he had told this man, to whom was entrusted the religious life of the students of the university, his honest opinion of one who had been closely associated with him ever since he entered college and yet who, as he expressed it, "would have seen me go to hell without telling me personally about Jesus Christ". Milton's indictment still holds true of too many ministers of our time: "The hungry sheep look up and are not fed". But we cannot apply it only to the clergy. All of us who pretend to be Christian workers, followers of Christ, are surrounded by hungry sheep who are dependent upon us, whether or not they or we realize it, for finding the way to the great spiritual Shepherd of men's souls.
* The New Evangelism, pp. 283,284.
† W. D. Weatherford, Ph. D., The Christian Life, a Normal Experience, p. 183. Association Press, New York.
‡ W. D. Weatherford, Ph. D., The Christian Life, a Normal Experience, pp. 192, 193. Association Press, New York.

Undoubtedly one reason why men do not confide in us more, even when they are longing for help and real friendship, is because of our own reserve which holds them back. We must be as ready to give as we are to receive, realizing the need of reciprocal confidence. It is generally understood that if the preacher's message is to strike home to the hearts of his hearers, it must proceed from his own heart. That which comes from the heart reaches the heart, as the French proverb says. If preaching is "truth through personality", as Beecher defined it, it must come charged with the authoritative power of personal experience. There must be an abandon of self-giving. But what has not been as clearly seen is that the personal evangelist, like the pulpit evangelist, must also give himself, his treasured experiences of the soul, with similar abandon, if he would woo the confidence which must precede true friendship and service. And who that has attempted both does not know how much more difficult it is to achieve this personal abandon in the private parlour where only two are present, than in the pulpit where there is a second barrier of unapproachableness, keeping the audience at a distance even after the barrier of personal reserve has been thrown aside.

With most of us this abandon, this willingness to be "a fool for Christ's sake," is probably lacking to some extent, simply because we do not care enough. Our "passion for souls" is theological and abstract, rather than personal and concrete. Drummond's biographer, who was his intimate friend, tells of how, on his return to college, after the great mission of 1874 which made him famous at 23, his friends were "a little afraid of him and of his chances for tackling us upon the religious life." But he goes on, "We felt that he was interested in us, and his interest being without officiousness won our confidence and made us frank with him. We could tell him, as we could not tell others, the worst about ourselves—the worst, and, just as easily also, the best—our ideals and ambitions, of which men are often as ashamed to speak as they are about their sins. To the latter he was never indulgent, or aught but faithful with those who confessed to him. But in every man he saw good, which the man himself had either forgotten or was ignorant of."*


* Life of Drummond, p. 115.

One of the chief secrets of the success of the Salvation Army has been the element of deep personal love involved. As the founder himself, General Booth, has written: "The first vital step in saving outcasts consists in making them feel that some decent human being cares enough for them to take an interest in the question whether they are to rise or sink."

It was because the pastor cared for individual men and women, that under the ministry of the late Herbert Roswell Bates, the Spring Street Presbyterian Church, in the tenement house district of New York City, grew rapidly from a dejected remnant of a congregation into a powerful church of six hundred members. One of his fellow-workers contributes this incident to the biography of Bates, by S. Ralph Harlow: "One event, which made a lasting impression upon me, I want to share with you. It was during an illness when we lived together in the Annex of the Neighbourhood House, and I had been helping to care for him. One evening, as he lay on his bed, he asked me to bring him his little book which contained the names of all the members of his congregation. As he held it in his hand, I sat by his side, and he told me of his love for them all. He said: "I know what it means when I read those words, 'He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs,' for I, too, have tried to carry their sorrows and bear their burdens!" He told me how he used to spend hours on his knees, praying for each one by name, bringing to God their trials and temptations. He said that at first they had been like one great family, and then he broke down, for he was very weak at the time, as he told how the church had grown so large that he could no longer bring to God each one by name, and know their burdens, as he could before his work had grown to such proportions. That little talk gave me an insight into the heart of a man who was the kind of minister I longed to become."* To those who have attended student conferences at Northfield in recent years, a familiar figure at almost any hour of the day up to midnight, or later, was "Herb" Bates, sitting under a tree in some quiet spot in earnest conversation with a single student about the deepest things of life.

Let me give a single example of the same drawing power of painstaking love in India. Professor J. B. Raju, of Madras Christian College, has said that his first vital interest in Christianity dates from the morning when he learned that Sherwood Eddy had been sitting up all the preceding night for the purpose of making a prayer and Bible study calendar for him.

Often the knowledge that we have been praying for a friend comes to him, at the right moment, with arresting power. The very surprise of learning that another cares so much gives him pause, and may lead him to pray for himself with real earnestness. There came to me last year, on unimpeachable authority, a recent incident in the life of a distinguished British journalist, the change in whose later writings reveals a transformation in his inner life. A friend of his, generally known as a society woman but actually a woman of prayer and an earnest if unconventional Christian worker, sent word to this man, asking him to come to her home on a matter of importance. When he arrived, she asked him to wait in the drawingroom while she went to an upper room to pray for him. Left alone, he later told a friend that he turned over the pages of the books and magazines on the table with increasing disquiet, until at the end of a half hour he began himself to pray. When his friend returned, they had prayer together, at the close of which he assured her that a mysterious change had taken place in his heart, a change to which his life bas since given witness. Only the courage and love born in prayer could lead one to venture for Christ as this woman did, to meet with such success as probably no other method could have achieved. Often the unconventional way, introducing an element of surprise as well as a revelation of love, may take another unaware, and cause him to look at religious matters from a new angle.


* S. Ralph Harlow: Life of H. Roswell Bales, pp. 54, 55. Fleming H. Revell Co.

From all these illustrations, it is evident that true "lovers of their fellow-men" do not possess an abstract "love of the crowd" but a warm, sympathetic, enduring interest in individuals around them, which expresses itself in varied forms. And to such men and women the confidence of others naturally comes.