Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Yesterday at 4:46 a.m. the population of the United States reached the 300 million mark, so the experts tell us. How have we done since America's first founding father, John Winthrop, called us to be a "City on a Hill"?

Ninety-five years ago, almost to the day (October 4, 1911), Professor B.B. Warfield was called upon to address seminary students at Princeton. He challenged them to both learning and piety. He called them to faithfulness in public worship and private devotion. His conclusion is a timely reminder to twenty-first century Americans:

"Activity, of course, is good: surely in the cause of the Lord we should run and not be weary. But not when it is substituted for inner religious strength. . . . In the tendencies of our modern life, which all make for ceaseless . . . activity, have a care that it does not become your case; or that your case--even now--may not have at least some resemblance to it. Do you pray? How much do you pray? How much do you love to pray? What place in your life does the 'still hour' alone with God take?"

"I am sure that if you once get a true glimpse of what the ministry of the cross is, and of what you, as men preparing for this ministry, should be, you will pray, 'Lord who is sufficient for these things?' Your heart will cry, 'Lord, make me sufficient for these things.' Old Cotton Mather wrote a great little book once to serve as a guide to students for the ministry. The not very happy title which he gave it is Manductio ad Ministerium. But by a stroke of genius he added a sub-title which is more significant: The angels preparing to sound the trumpets. That is what Cotton Mather calls you, students for the ministry: the angels preparing to sound the trumpets! Take the name to yourselves, and live up to it. Give your days and nights to living up to it! And then, perhaps, when you come to sound the trumpets the note will be pure and clear and strong, and perchance may pierce even to the grave and wake the dead."

From "The Religious Life of Theological Students," in The Princeton Theology: 1812-1921, edited by Mark Noll, pp. 266-267.

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