Contrary to a once popular conception that associated ill-health and piety too closely together, health is a prime requisite to ministerial success.
I. The first and highest reason why good health should be cultivated by the minister, is the Glory of God.
1. Consider the Jewish law as to priests. Thus the Lord spake unto Moses, "Speak unto Aaron saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations, that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God." As South so finely says, "Solomon built his temple with the tallest cedars; and surely when God refused the defective and the maimed for sacrifice, we cannot think he requires them for the priesthood." The Jews are believed to be still the healthiest people in the world. In the fourteenth century, when the black plague was raging in Europe, there was such a notable scarcity of deaths among the members of the Jewish race that they were actually accused of poisoning the wells and rivers to destroy the Christians. So not only as regards their priesthood, but also as regards the whole nation, strict adherence to the Levitical laws has ever made the Jew superior in health to the average man of other nations.
2. Again we note the part that health bears in ministerial success, when we remember that the characters in Scriptures that have done most for God's glory have been men of sound bodies. Moses climbing the cliffs of Sinai, Samuel battling with Agag, Elijah journeying in the wilderness, these and many other heroes of the Old Testament performed feats that required no mean physique. We can recall hardly a prophet, priest, or king, who was not a man of physical strength and sturdy health.
Nor in the New Testament do we find men less stalwart. Those must have been robust men whom Christ chose for his twelve apostles. The foundations of the church needed men of physical force to lay them. "He chose fishermen, among other reasons," said T. De Witt Talmage, "because they were hardy. Rowing makes strong arms and stout chests... A Galilee tempest wrestled men into gymnasts." Nor are we to think of the Apostle Paul as an exception to this rule; of slight stature he may have been, but it is not always the largest man who has the most enduring force. Notwithstanding the assertion of his enemies, we do not believe that the man whose ministry was so largely made up of journeyings, perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, weariness and painfulness, watchings, hunger and thirst and fastings, cold and nakedness, abundant labors, repeated imprisonments, with eight public scourgings, a stoning and a shipwreck to his credit, could through the years of his incessant ministry have borne the care of all the churches without a strong body to aid him.
3. There is also a Christian philosophy of the body which we must not forget. "Your bodies are the members of Christ." The doctrine of Pascal—an invalid during most of his life—that disease is the natural state of the Christian, is taught neither by word nor example in the New Testament. Be thankful therefore, if you have splendid animal spirits. While much may have been done for the glory of God by men here and there without them, such is not the uniform rule. We read in the life of the poet Longfellow: "How much depends upon animal spirits in intellectual efforts! Sometimes one dashes on in gallant style and language flows in rhythmic numbers, at other times one has hardly words enough to furnish forth a tolerable prose sentence." It was John, the beloved disciple, with whom we naturally connect the things of the spirit rather than the things of the body, who could write, "I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as thy soul prospereth."
4. "For health is the first wealth," is a sentiment of Emerson with which the teachings of history are in full accord. Beecher, himself a noble illustration of his own words, says in one of his lectures: "Who are the men that move the crowd—men after the pattern of Whitefield, what are they? They are almost always men of very large physical development, men of very strong digestive powers, and whose lungs have great aerating capacity. They are men of great vitality and recuperative force... They are catapults, men go down before them." Among a few of these "catapults" let us recall John Knox, Luther, Latimer, and Andrew Fuller; and to come to times more recent, Joseph Parker, Cairns, Newman Hall, and Moody, whose robust frame and powerful nerves aided him so greatly in his influence with men, and helped to make him, in the opinion of his friend, Professor Drummond, "the greatest human I have ever known." There is reason then in the old rhyme which has it:
... intellect, whose use
Depends so much upon the gastric juice.
John Angell James, in an address to the students of Spring-hill College, thus declared the three qualifications for the making of useful preachers: "First, brains, to take in and receive all the Latin, Greek, and logic your professors can give; second, bowels, for intellectual power without pathos and tenderness in preaching will not succeed; third, bellows—get out of doors in the summer months and give free play to your lungs in the open air." If it could be said that "to the iron health of the Duke of Wellington we owe the victories of England from Assaye to Waterloo," as much could also be said of the victories won by Christian ministers that have told for good and the glory of God. History, the Christian philosophy of the body, the vigor of Bible characters, and the Jewish law as to the priesthood—all alike declare the high place God has given to health, in effectiveness and usefulness in his service.
II. But further, the minister should cultivate Good Health for the Successful Prosecution of his Work.
1. The strain of a religious service upon the physical system is very great; upon the nervous system it is still more severe. Hard work seldom kills; it is overtax of the sensibilities that does the mischief. An eminent physician once asked and answered the question, "Whoever heard of a professor of mathematics dying of overwork? The differential calculus never caused a worse evil than a headache." Few of our hearers realize the amount of nervous force demanded in the conduct of a minister's duties. Robust and radiant health affects the oratorical powers of the speaker and thus becomes an element in the pastor's influence. The feeble, complaining preacher dishonors his profession. In the work of the ministry holiness means wholeness.
2. No less is this true in the minister's work from "house to house" than in the pulpit. There is the necessity in pastoral visitation for putting forth continuous and trying exertion and yet preserving a mind itself cheerful, hopeful, and adequate to all calls upon it. Sympathy is the virtue which must go out from every successful minister if the people with whom he comes in touch are to be healed. A pastor without sympathy will be a pastor without that deep and abiding influence which the church that he serves rightly demands. Sympathy draws deep draughts from the springs of physical strength, and must be natural, not forced, to do its appointed work. Oliver Wendell Holmes hints that he might have chosen to be a minister, if in his youth he had met more of the sound-bodied, sane-minded, cheerful-spirited divines of his later days, and fewer of the "wailing poitrinaires with the bandanna handkerchiefs round their meager throats and a funeral service in their forlorn physiognomies." One clergyman, he tells us, visiting at his father's house, so often congratulated him "in a sad and wailing voice" on his blessings as a Christian child that he wished he had been born an infant Hottentot. Of all men, the minister has most need to be hopeful and cheerful, for on him alone many a sad life will depend for its brightness, and many a weary heart for its blessedness. Jonathan Edwards, called to the presidency of Princeton College, refers, by way of objection, to his physical ailment, "often occasioning," he writes, "a kind of childish weakness and contemptibleness of speech, presence, and demeanor, with a disagreeable dulness and stiffness much unfitting me for conversation; but more especially for the government of a college." On the other hand, the power of health and cheerfulness is illustrated by Professor Bruce, who declares in an address delivered in Free St. Enochs, Glasgow, that for success in a city charge, the battle is half won if the minister is possessed of a cheerful spirit and a hopeful temper. The Christian minister must be cheerful. "I don't believe in going about like certain monks I saw in Rome," said Spurgeon, "who salute each other in sepulchral tones, and convey the pleasant information, 'Brother, we must die,' to which lively salutation each lively brother of the order replies, 'Yes, brother, we must die.' I was glad to be assured upon such good authority that all these lazy fellows are about to die; but until that event occurs they might use some more comfortable form of salutation."
III. Before we pass on to give some counsels for promoting health, Several Preliminary Remarks are in Order. On the whole the nature of the minister's work would seem to be likely to promote health. His task is to help and to heal. While his work draws on his physical resources; its very nature should react upon him for good. Every minister of long experience will, we think, bear witness to the truth of the words of Leonardo da Vinci, "I am never weary when I am useful." The knowledge that one is doing good in the world should promote cheerfulness, and cheerfulness in turn influences health. Bacon might have been writing an essay on pastoral theology when he laid down the following precept: "To be free-minded and cheerfully disposed at hours of meat and of sleep and of exercise, is one of the best precepts of long lasting." And boyish-hearted Robert Southey tells us no little of the secret of his own life and influence when he writes: "A healthy body, an active mind, and a cheerful heart are the three best boons nature can bestow; and God be praised, no man ever enjoyed them more perfectly."
More careful consideration of the subject, however, may lead us to modify somewhat this opinion. We have already noted that the work of the minister is a constant tax on his whole nature, and there certainly is truth in Longfellow's statement, "I do not believe that any man can be perfectly well who has a brain and a heart." Certain it is that the minister is not, in popular estimation at least, a model of health. Emerson had this in mind when he said, "to be a good minister and healthy is not given." It is hard for any one who has read Galton's work on "Hereditary Genius" to forget his somewhat unkind description of the evangelical divines who had come under his notice, as very apt to pass their days in "a gently complaining and fatigued spirit." Enough has perhaps been said to show that the question of health should be carefully considered, not studiously avoided, as well by the candidate for the ministry as by the settled pastor.
1. The first counsel which we offer regards the necessity of paying particular attention to the hours and habits of work.
(1) As a rule, conform to the hours of other business men: rise, eat, drink, work, and sleep as they do.
(2) Do the principal part of your mental work early in the day. There is no need to study in the afternoon. The cause of ill health, weariness, and insomnia in ministers is often to be found in violating this rule. During the morning hours, when men are at their business, the minister should be at his. Dr. R. S. Storrs is only one of many who ascribe their long pastoral vigor largely to the fact that they do all their studying in the day-time. However fixed the habit of doing work at night may have become, and though we may seem then to do it more easily, if we would preserve our health, we should abandon the practice. "Never work at night," said Erasmus, the greatest scholar of the revival of learning, "it dulls the brain and hurts the health." Spurgeon was often in his study at half-past four in the morning, and while for most of us such early rising may not be necessary, yet a fixed hour in the morning sufficiently early to give us ample time for our work is advisable. The best work of the world has been done before the clock struck noon, as Goethe, Scott, and Longfellow, who with many other such masters were early morning workers, by their example attest.
(3) Do not sit too long at your work. Writing at a standing desk has many advantages, although this practice is more common in England than America. Dean Farrar stood to write, and Cardinal Manning also—" the high desk where Manning stood, not sat to write." The Rev. S. Baring-Gould writes at a high desk, as does also Dr. Alexander Whyte, the Edinburgh minister, the amount and quality of whose composition are a marvel to his fellows.
(4) Never write when you are tired. Recognize the extent and limitations of your powers. Husband your vitality for the chief thing which has to be done. This is a grace at times exceedingly difficult to practise, yet it is one main secret of continuance. At all costs the minister should give himself some recreation the moment he begins to feel fatigued. To work when we are tired is to turn out "tired" work.
2. And this brings us to the second counsel: Do not neglect to rest.
(1) Sleep more hours than the mechanic, who uses his brain less than the minister. A hard and fast law cannot be laid down as to how long we should sleep; but physicians seem to be fairly unanimous in declaring that the hours devoted to sleep should not be less than eight. "Nature's soft nurse" certainly demands at least seven hours in which to do her complete work for most men. Beecher's rule it is well to remember: "Whoever and wherever and however situated a man is, he must watch three things: sleeping, digestion, and laughing." It may hardly be needful here to advise that all artificial methods of inducing sleep should be avoided. A healthy man sleeps without effort. The Duke of Wellington and Napoleon could sleep on horseback, and to the faculty of falling asleep at will Gladstone attributed much of the health of his long life. He declared that he had been kept awake only twice after a great speech, and then because he was haunted with a feeling that he had made some misquotation. Gladstone enjoying the profoundest sleep after the rejection of his Home Rule Bill is an example that many a minister on a Sunday night would do well to follow. Would that we all with Sir Robert Walpole could say, "I put off my cares when I put off my clothes."
(2) For the minister Sunday must be a day of work; but he must take at least one whole day in the week for entire change, or if this be impossible, then two half days. Not to do so is to miss the purpose for which the fourth commandment was given. Monday is probably the day taken by most ministers for this purpose; but some find themselves on that day too tired to enjoy rest, when gentle work may be better. Tuesday is excellent for this purpose, and Saturday afternoon the minister should always be quite free. The Sunday sermons become a different thing to the minister, and we may add to his congregation as well, when he has formed the habit of taking long walks on Saturday afternoons. Oxygen for the body as well as grace for the soul Spurgeon has reminded us "would sweep the cobwebs out of the brains of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive."
(3) An annual holiday of at least four weeks should be secured by every minister. This should be arranged for at his settlement, and the sensible church insists that its pastor shall take such a rest. No minister can do twelve months' work in twelve months, though he can in eleven. As a rule, preaching in vacation-time is to be avoided. It is fair neither to his people nor to the minister himself that he should use his holiday for purposes other than that for which it is given. The church should see that the minister's place is supplied through a pulpit committee, and if he would enjoy to the utmost his vacation, let the minister use his influence to get the best possible supplies. In vacations the minister should really rest, and should spend his time in the woods or by the sea in such an entire change of surroundings that he shall forget in a measure that he ever was a minister. His Sundays so far as possible should be spent away from any church. To the minister alone would we give the advice that in these few brief Sabbaths he find his cathedral among the pines and listen to the voice of God speaking in the running brook The minister who thus takes what is sometimes called a "long vacation" will not be exempt from criticism. He will hear quoted, without doubt, the example of the Prince of this world who "never takes a vacation." Our advice is that he pay no attention to such critics, but stolidly pursue the even tenor of his way determined in this, as in all other respects, to be as unlike Satan as possible.
(4) Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the caution that the minister let himself down as gently as possible after preaching. On Sunday evening there should be no violent exertion, no discussion, no plans made for the next Sunday All care should then be cast aside, and the words of Bishop Hall heeded, "that the student lives miserably who lies down like a camel under a full burden." Let us not forget the example of our Master himself, who in his wisdom and compassion said to his disciples, "Let us go into the desert and rest awhile." The work of the world must be done; but there are times when it must not be done by us. Time of resting is not time of wasting. That minister only can keep his buoyancy and his power for doing the highest good who takes time to gather fresh strength. As the fields must lie fallow if they are to bear a worthy harvest, so the minister must place the duty of resting second only to the duty of working.
3. A proper amount of exercise must be taken if the minister would keep himself in proper trim for work. "Every other abstinence," said Lord Palmerston, "will not make up for abstinence from exercise." If a good gymnasium is not available, then the pulley-machine in the study, or Indian clubs and dumb-bells, will form a substitute. Better, however, the bicycle; and best of all for most of us, the long walk with some congenial companion. However exercise be taken, we counsel that it had better not be in conjunction with pastoral calls, for the mind should be free from care. Perhaps it is not too much to say that an hour's real exercise in the open air is worth two indoors. To read the "Journal" of John Wesley is to discover that this was one of the means by which, as he said, "at seventy-three years old, I am far abler to preach than I was at three and twenty" Those who have climbed the long hill of the Wartburg have realized at least in part the truth of Martin Luther's statement, "the best exercise and pastime are music and gymnastics, the former dispelling mental care and melancholy thought, the latter producing elasticity of body and preserving health." The importance of the morning bath many of us recognize, but few have carried it to the verge of the pulpit like Joseph Parker, who was accustomed, after his two-mile walk to the City Temple in London, to take a bath there and after he was vigorously rubbed down by a servant, thus enter immediately upon the service in a glow of physical exhilaration.
In the consideration of the exercise which "is profitable for a little," we include change of occupation, which, broadly considered, is truly a part of exercise. Such recreation is to the mind what whetting is to the scythe. It is the "fairy kiss" which Ernest Renan laments was unknown to Marcus Aurelius. But of the profit to be gained from varying our reading, our work, our exercise, we shall have more to say when we come to a future chapter on "The Minister at Work."
4. We counsel further that especial attention be paid to diet. It is significant that when Cardinal Wolsey built the College of Christ Church at Oxford, his first care was the kitchen. A touch of dyspepsia alone is needed to convince the doubter of the truth of the words of Cobbett that "the seat of civilization is the stomach." The minister's wife, if not the minister himself, will recognize the importance of the recommendation now given, that hours for meals should be regularly observed.
In times of revival or special work it is the custom of many ministers to take food after preaching. Dr. Theodore L. Cuyler has made it the practice of a lifetime to take a bowl of hot bread and milk after speaking at night. If this is our habit, we should not hesitate when away from home to make known our wants; in fact hosts who are accustomed to entertain visiting ministers have grown used to such requests. The minister cannot be too particular at all times in maintaining the simple laws of health. Worry and indigestion are largely different sides of the same thing, either being at times the cause of the other.
To the two new commandments which R. W. Dale said he wished to add to the ten, "eat enough, sleep enough," we would dare to add a third, "chew enough." The Japanese proverb is to be noted and inwardly digested which declares that "a man digs his grave with his teeth." This connection between the body and the spirit was once illustrated by an old Scottish preacher, who upon hearing a dull minister said with no intentional irreverence, "The Spirit would not be in any place, if a man ate two pounds of beefsteak at breakfast before preaching." Even to the average minister, on the average salary, we commend the importance of a simple diet. There was much wisdom as well as wit in the words Sidney Smith wrote to his friend Arthur Kinglake, Esq.: "I am convinced... that character, talents, virtues, and qualities are powerfully affected by beef, mutton, pie-crust, and rich soups. I have often thought I could feed or starve men into many virtues and vices, and affect them more powerfully with my instruments of cookery than Timotheus could do formerly with his lyre." "Plain living and high thinking" go together, as well in the minister's manse as in the philosopher's cell.
5. A counsel of especial importance to the minister concerns the care to be taken of the voice. Do not wrap up the throat or neck more than is necessary, and if the laws of health are properly observed the use of troches and all artificial aids to the voice will be unnecessary. Food should be sparsely taken before preaching; and care should be taken while speaking to avoid screaming, which does harm alike to the preacher's throat and the hearer's patience. After speaking, the voice should be rested. It is well to avoid speaking at all for a few minutes after leaving the pulpit. On coming into the open air, breathe through the nostrils, and the value of deep breathing then as at all times should be remembered. With refreshing candor, Mr. Moody once said, when he caught a cold from sitting in a draught, that "the draught and the cold were neither a visitation of Providence nor an affliction of the evil one, but simply due to rank carelessness."
The preacher will do well also to follow the example of public singers in not letting the voice lie idle too long. Use is a stimulant that the vocal chords demand.
6. The last counsel, and one which sums up all that has been said regarding the minister's care of himself, is so to live that we have no need to talk about our health. When anybody asks you how you are, always say you are very well—for nobody cares. Robert J. Burdette says to theological students, "Divest yourself of the thought that you have lungs, or throat, or liver. Don't dilate on your ailments until the people will think that you have graduated at a hospital." The same thing is thus said by Epictetus in his "Student's Manual": "If you drink water, don't take every opportunity of saying 'I drink water.'" The minister, perhaps not more than other men, should follow the example of Susanna Arnold, sister to Arnold of Rugby, who through a martyrdom of twenty years of pain, "adhered to her early formed resolution of never talking about herself." No better way can be found of producing ill health than constantly to note its symptoms.
Thus have I spent my health, an odious trick,
In making known how oft I have been sick.
In conclusion, health is wealth, especially in the ministry. As we come to the end of this chapter "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." And no law of God needs more to be observed than that which pertains to the "temple of the Holy Ghost." The best way to banish the "blue Monday" from a minister's week, and to postpone the "dead line" in a minister's life, is by a proper observance of such counsels as these, which are as old as the proverbs of Solomon.
Let us not always say,
"Spite of this flesh today
I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole."
As the bird wings and sings
Let us cry, "All good things
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul."