The Call Of The Prison To Ministers -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 045:179 (Jul 1888)
Article: The Call Of The Prison To Ministers
Author: Anonymous


The Call Of The Prison To Ministers

The general opinion among pastors has probably been that the acceptance of a chaplaincy in a penal institution is not a forward step in a ministerial career. There are few paths out of the pastorate that a minister can follow to-day without some loss of caste among his associates. A chaplaincy in the army or the navy of the United States, or even a prison chaplaincy, probably is not one of the few. A pastor may accept a college presidency, or even a first-class professorship, or possibly even in some instances an editorial chair, and be cheered on his way with very hearty and even admiring congratulations. But the church pastor who becomes a prison chaplain is often considered to have taken a step backward. Although his friends may speak very kindly to him about the change he has made, and even fortify their praises with generalizations, pious or profound, there is, nevertheless, a lack of fire in the phrases which often change speedily into the style of a condolence such as smoothes the path of decline.

The purpose of this article is not to lessen any man’s estimate of the privilege or the honor of a pastor’s position. Let us yield everything that can be asked upon that point. Let it be admitted that no life on earth is more sweet, more dignified, more full of splendid compensations, more consonant with the true health of the body, the mind, and the soul, than that of the pastor. Nevertheless we cannot all of us have an unqualified liberty of choice in this matter. Not every man, not every minister, not every good and successful minister, can have for his field of labor even an approximation to the ideal parish and the ideal church. The Lord of the vineyard has a great variety of places to be filled. Although the prison chaplaincy in the estimation of a man of good taste and well-balanced judgment and correct ambition may be less desirable than some other work, it may yet be very much underestimated by the world and by the ministry. It is undoubtedly true that few men ever taste the vital, ever-new joys of a pastors life, and then go into a different work however exalted in the opinion of the world, without ofttimes looking back with longing to the occupations of the days gone by, and without many hopes, cherished even beyond reason, cherished in the secret places of the heart long after they have ceased to be openly mentioned, that some time the exile will return. Still there is no service under the Master’s call but somewhere conceals, even though it be under an external appearance most unpromising, a charm peculiar to itself, a charm too wonderful for an angel to tell.

The rewards of the Lord’s work among prisoners are underestimated. Why should they not be? Why should we expect that re...

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