The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

God’s ploughmen

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It has been quiet on the blog because I have been away preaching in the US of A, of which more in due course, once the work is done and I am, God willing, safely home. To keep things ticking over, here is a passage from Hugh Latimer’s Sermon of the Plough (containing one of his better known phrases) in which he addresses with some directness the labour of the preacher, and which is a healthy reminder in advance of the services of the Lord’s day:

A prelate is that man, whatsoever he be, that hath a flock to be taught of him; whosoever hath any spiritual charge in the faithful congregation, and whosoever he be that hath cure of souls. And well may the preacher and the ploughman be likened together: first, for their labour of all seasons of the year; for there is no time of the year in which the ploughman hath not some special work to do as in my country in Leicestershire, the ploughman hath a time to set forth, and to assay his plough, and other times for other necessary works to be done. And then they also may be likened together for the diversity of works and variety of offices that they have to do. For as the ploughman first setteth forth his plough, and then tilleth his land, and breaketh it in furrows, and sometime ridgeth it up again; and at another time harroweth it and clotteth it, and sometime dungeth it and hedgeth it, diggeth it and weedeth it, purgeth and maketh it clean: so the prelate, the preacher, hath many diverse offices to do. He hath first a busy work to bring his parishioners to a right faith, as Paul calleth it, and not a swerving faith; but to a faith that embraceth Christ, and trusteth to his merits; a lively faith, a justifying faith; a faith that maketh a man righteous, without respect of works: as ye have it very well declared and set forth in the Homily. He hath then a busy work, I say, to bring his flock to a right faith, and then to confirm them in the same faith: now casting them down with the law, and with threatenings of God for sin; now ridging them up again with the gospel, and with the promises of God’s favour: now weeding them, by telling them their faults, and making them forsake sin; now clotting them, by breaking their stony hearts, and by making them supplehearted, and making them to have hearts of flesh; that is, soft hearts, and apt for doctrine to enter in: now teaching to know God rightly, and to know their duty to God and their neighbours: now exhorting them, when they know their duty, that they do it, and be diligent in it; so that they have a continual work to do. Great is their business, and therefore great should be their hire. They have great labours, and therefore they ought to have good livings, that they may commodiously feed their flock; for the preaching of the word of God unto the people is called meat: scripture calleth it meat; not strawberries, that come but once a year, and tarry not long, but are soon gone: but it is meat, it is no dainties. The people must have meat that must be familiar and continual, and daily given unto them to feed upon. Many make a strawberry of it, ministering it but once a year; but such do not the office of good prelates. For Christ saith, Quis putas est servus prudens et fidelisQui dat cibum in tempore. “Who think you is a wise and a faithful servant? He that giveth meat in due time.” So that he must at all times convenient preach diligently: therefore saith he, “Who trove ye is a faithful servant?” He speaketh it as though it were a rare thing to find such a one, and as though he should say, there be but a few of them to find in the world. And how few of them there be throughout this realm that give meat to their flock as they should do, the Visitors can best tell. Too few, too few; the more is the pity, and never so few as now.

By this, then, it appeareth that a prelate, or any that hath cure of soul, must diligently and substantially work and labour. Therefore saith Paul to Timothy,Qui episcopatum desiderat, hic bonum opus desiderat: “He that desireth to have the office of a bishop, or a prelate, that man desireth a good work.” Then if it be a good work, it is work; ye can make but a work of it. It is God’s work, God’s plough, and that plough God would have still going. Such then as loiter and live idly, are not good prelates, or ministers. And of such as do not preach and teach, nor do their duties, God saith by his prophet Jeremy, Maledictus qui facit opus Dei fradulenter; “Cursed be the man that doth the work of God fraudulently, guilefully or deceitfully:” some books have it negligenter, “negligently or slackly.” How many such prelates, how many such bishops, Lord, for thy mercy, are there now in England! And what shall we in this case do? shall we company with them? O Lord, for thy mercy! shall we not company with them? O Lord, whither shall we flee from them? But “cursed be he that doth the work of God negligently or guilefully.” A sore word for them that are negligent in discharging their office, or have done it fraudulently; for that is the thing that maketh the people ill.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 9 July 2011 at 22:04

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