Bishop Dickerson's Address: November 6, 1884

Bishop Dickerson’s Address
Christian Recorder: November 6, 1884

Young Ministers West Kentucky Conference:

Your conference having just adjourned, and having had more trouble in assigning you to your fields of labor than I ever had or heard of, and leaving more discontented among you because of my failure to give everybody a first-class church, when there is not one in the entire conference, if I am to judge from the reports made to conference, unless it was Columbus, and that was poor enough, heaven knows. And having been myself literally disgusted with the complaints and insinuations which came to my ears, because I changed men whom the people said they would not receive if the Bishop returned them, I thought, in addition to what I tried to say before the conference, I would republish the powerful remarks of Bishop Dickerson, which he delivered before the North Georgia Conference in 1881 upon the reception of some young ministers. Surely the Bishop was inspired from heaven when he utters them Read and learned a lesson from all time to come. Mark well what he says about poor work, and what class of ministers make poor work and good work. But mark well every sentence; they are words of gold:

“The candidates for admission being called before the bar of the conference, the Bishop, among other things, instructed them to be unselfish; to work for the good of others, not to make ‘my support’ the first and chief object of their administration; to take an instant and thorough interest in the church; work to organize the official brethren into a sort of mutual-improvement-society, and therein have them discuss matters of practical importance, as, for example: What is the best method to secure means to discharge church debts? From a layman’s standpoint, what is the best method of conducting a class meeting? What is salvation through Christ? And many other questions, disciplinary and theological, can be profitable in such a meeting.

“As a judge administering the law, never administer it more severely than the necessities of the case demanded. Be serious, but do not affect seriousness. Visit your members---visit all of them; make no difference between them; and in your special visitations, be sure that both branches of the household-government equally desire your presence. In moving among your people let your life be as fragrant as the rose.

“Never search the Scriptures to find in them an excuse for breaking the moral law. Follow no man; follow only Christ, who is indeed the only infallible guide. Degrade no one, but help all who come within your reach to higher and nobler life. Be slow in believing evil of anyone; by nature, we believe evil before good; by grace, we are enabled to believe good of everyone until the evil is proved. ‘The judge is always supposed to be the on the prisoner’s side;’ but, unfortunately, in our day he seldom is; to decide with the strong against the weak seems to be a practice growing more and more in popular favor. In making haste to cast the fire out of your own bosom, be sure that you do not cast it into the bosom of some other person. Indeed, I advise that you do not have much fire in your bosom to cast out; far better keep cool. Affectation is simply ridiculous; be yourself. Art may aid in the training of nature, but it must never be substituted for nature.

“Preach the preaching I bid thee,’ may apply to your matter and method as well. “The servant of all;’ not the slave of any. Hand out to your people what God has handed down to you--- serve. A punctual pastor, all other things being equal, will always make a punctual church. ‘Poor work.’ Well, I have heard that expression often; I understand it. The largest and wealthiest church in our connection is ‘poor work,’ if a poor good-for-nothing preacher be sent to it; and equally true is that the smallest mission is ‘good work,’ if a good, faithful and energetic pastor be appointed there. A poor pastor nearly ruined one of our largest and wealthiest churches, and he, also, fared badly there. A good man, he was only, as I feared, mistaken in his calling. On the other hand, a good pastor went to one of our smallest missions, and in one year built a house of worship for the people, added members, and received $1,400 for his own support, where his predecessor had failed to receive $200.00 for the previous years’ service. So labor, by God’s grace, to make yourself in all respects as good as the best of our pastors.

“In all things use common sense, which, wrongfully, as I think, has been declared by someone to be ‘the most uncommon thing in our day.’ You are now, my brethren, at the door of our Christian armory. The rules have been read to you, and you have studied them; can you subscribe to them?”