The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Advancing Christ’s kingdom together #1

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IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

In 1806, the Baptist pastor and theologian Andrew Fuller drew up a letter to be circulated among the churches with which his congregation was associated. This particular letter was entitled, “The pastor’s address to his Christian hearers, entreating their assistance in promoting the interest of Christ.” Like other letters of the same sort, it was intended to be read and received among the churches as a means of stirring up the saints to lively faith and a faithful life.

As the title of this particular letter indicates, Fuller’s concern is to engage the hearts, minds, hands and mouths of God’s people in the cause of Christ’s kingdom, urging them to use all proper and legitimate means to add their strength to that of gospel ministers in seeking the glory of Christ in the salvation of the lost and the building up of his church. It is a cogent piece of pastoral reasoning, profitable as much now as it was then.

While the author acknowledges that he might have gone in any number of directions with such entreaties and exhortations, he settles on the plan of identifying four groups of people with whom pastors deal – serious and humble Christians; those who are walking in a disorderly way; people concerned about salvation; and those who are manifestly unconverted – and shows how God’s people can assist pastors in bringing the Word of God fruitfully to bear upon them, and pleading with the saints to do all they can to this end.

I intend to post Fuller’s letter in several parts over the coming days (with links to help navigation), and hope that it will prove a spur to each one of us to embrace our privilege and responsibility in this matter. We begin with Fuller’s introduction, in which he sets out the grounds of seeking such assistance from the church at large.

The pastor’s address to his Christian hearers, entreating their assistance in promoting the interest of Christ

Beloved brethren,

The ministry to which God by your election has called us forms a distinguished part of the gospel dispensation. Divine instruction was communicated under the Old Testament, and an order of men appointed of God for the purpose; but their work can scarcely be denominated preaching. They foretold the good news; but it is for us to proclaim it. The poor having the gospel preached to them is alleged in proof that the Messiah was come, and that they were not to look for another.

The very existence of Christian churches is in subserviency to the preaching of the gospel; or they would not have been described as “golden candlesticks,” the use of which is to impart light to those around them. We speak not thus, brethren, to magnify ourselves. There is an important difference between Christian ministers and the Christian ministry. The former, we are ready to acknowledge, exist for your sakes. “Whether Paul, Apollos, or Cephas – all are yours;” but the latter, as being the chosen means of extending the Redeemer’s kingdom, is that for which both we and you exist. “Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

These considerations will enable us to account for the joy which the apostle expressed in “Christ’s being preached,” even though it were from “envy;” and may teach us to rejoice in the same thing, though it be in the most corrupt communities, or even from the most suspicious motives. But though God may cause his truth to triumph wherever and by whomsoever it is taught, yet it should be our concern to publish it willingly, and to the best advantage.

The primitive churches were not mere assemblies of men who agreed to meet together once or twice a week, and to subscribe for the support of an accomplished men who should on those occasions deliver lectures on religion. They were men gathered out of the world by the preaching of the cross, and formed into society for the promotion of Christ’s kingdom in their own souls and in the world around them. It was not the concern of the ministers or elders only; the body of the people were interested in all that was done, and, according to their several abilities and stations, took part in it. Neither were they assemblies of heady, high-minded, contentious people, meeting together to argue on points of doctrine or discipline, and converting the worship of God into scenes of strife. They spoke the truth; but it was in love; they observed discipline; but, like an army of chosen men, it was that they might attack the kingdom of Satan to greater advantage. Happy were it for our churches if we could come to a closer imitation of this model!

We trust it is our sincere desire as ministers to be more intent upon our work; but allow us to ask for your assistance. Nehemiah, zealous as he was, could not have built the wall if the people had not had a mind to work. Nor could Ezra have reformed the abuses among the people if nobody had stood with him. But in this case the elders, when convinced of the necessity of the measure, offered themselves willingly to assist him. “Arise,” said they, “for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.” Such is the assistance, brethren, which we solicit at your hands.

We might enumerate the different ways in which your assistance in promoting the interest of Christ is needed. We might ask for your prayers, your early attendance, your counsels, your contributions, and your example; but what we have to offer will arise from a review of the different branches of our own labours.

In the discharge of our work we have to do with four descriptions of people, and in dealing with each we stand in need of your assistance: namely, serious and humble Christians – disorderly walkers – persons under concern about salvation – and persons manifestly unconverted.

The key question for the saints is: are you persuaded of the identity and purpose of Christ’s church, and of the part you might play in pursuing the ends for which the church has been called out of the world? Will you say with Fuller that

[the early churches] were men gathered out of the world by the preaching of the cross, and formed into society for the promotion of Christ’s kingdom in their own souls and in the world around them. It was not the concern of the ministers or elders only; the body of the people were interested in all that was done, and, according to their several abilities and stations, took part in it.

Furthermore, saying it, will you embrace it? In Fuller’s quaint language, “interest” is not passing concern, but active involvement and determined participation, knowing oneself to be part of the body of Christ.

IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 19 November 2010 at 16:56

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