The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Charles Bridges

The shepherd’s soul

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At the recent “The Call” Conference, I was preaching on the shepherd’s concern for his own soul. For the main thrust of that address – the need for elders to take heed to their own souls if they are to be truly profitable in serving God and men – I had a number of quotes from the great and the good, as well as a number of examples, which – for the sake of time – I was obliged to leave out. However, for those who are interested, here are the quotes I had at my disposal (I think I used about two or three during the sermon). Here is the truth of Scripture confirmed by men of God.

John Bunyan (describing the true pastor): “It had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon its lips, the world was behind its back; it stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over its head.”

Wilhelmus à Brakel: “He must have the heart of a preacher; that is, he must stand in awe of the God in whose Name he preaches, and with love seek the welfare of the souls to whom he preaches. He must know himself to be entirely undone in himself and have a lively impression of his own inability, so that he will not trust too much in having studied properly. He ought to pray much beforehand, not so much to get through the sermon, but for a sanctified heart, for a continual sense of the presence of God, for suitable expressions, and for a blessing upon his preaching to the conversion, comfort, and edification of souls. His concern ought not to be whether the congregation will be pleased with him and will praise the sermon, but his motive must rather be a love for the welfare of the congregation.” (The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 2:138)

William Arnot: “The more that the teacher absorbs for himself of Christ’s love, the more benefit will others obtain from him. . . . Those who drink in most of the Master’s spirit are most useful in the world. Those who first take heed to themselves will be most effective in caring for the spiritual weal of those who look up to them.” (Studies in Acts, 380)

Charles Bridges: “Upon the whole, therefore, our personal character must be admitted to have weighty influence upon our Ministrations. ‘Simplicity and godly sincerity,’ disinterestedness, humility, and general integrity of profession – are an ‘epistle known and read of all men.’ Indeed character is power. The lack of it must therefore blast our success, by bringing the genuineness of our own religion, and the practical efficacy of the Gospel, under suspicion. Apart also from the natural effect of our public consistency, there is also a secret but penetrating influence diffused by the habitual exercise of our principles. Who will deny, that – had he been a more spiritual Christian – he would probably have been a more useful Minister? Will not he, who is most fervent and abundant in secret prayer, most constant in his studies, most imbued with his Master’s spirit, most single in his object, most upright and persevering in the pursuit of it – be most honoured in his work? For is not he likely to be filled with an extraordinary unction? Will not he speak most ‘of the abundance of his heart?’ And will not his flock ‘take knowledge of him,’ as living in the presence of his God; and ‘receive him’ in his pastoral visits and pulpit addresses, ‘as an angel of God – even as Christ Jesus?’” (The Christian Ministry, 164-165)

John Owen: “Sundry things are required unto this work and duty of pastoral preaching; as, . . . . (2.) Experience of the power of the truth which they preach in and upon their own souls. Without this they will themselves be lifeless and heartless in their own work, and their labour for the most part will be unprofitable towards others. It is, to such men, attended unto as a task for their advantage, or as that which carries some satisfaction in it from ostentation and supposed reputation wherewith it is accompanied. But a man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. And no man lives in a more woful condition than those who really believe not themselves what they persuade others to believe continually. The want of this experience of the power of gospel truth on their own souls is that which gives us so many lifeless, sapless orations, quaint in words and dead as to power, instead of preaching the gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit. And let any say what they please, it is evident that some men’s preaching, as well as others’ not-preaching, hath lost the credit of their ministry.” (The True Nature of a Gospel Church, 76)

Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “. . . do not forget the culture of the inner man, – I mean of the heart. How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his sabre clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword, – His instrument, – I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” (To the Rev. Dan Edwards, in Memoir and Remains, 282)

Attr. Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”

Robert Traill: “What use the Lord may make of the gifts (for great gifts he gives to the worst of men) of ungodly men, even in the ministry of the gospel, is one of his deep paths. But no man can reasonably imagine, that a walker in the way to hell can be a fit and useful guide to them that mind to go to heaven. If a man would have peace in his conscience, and success in his work of the ministry, let him take good heed to this, that he be a sound Christian. . . . It is found by experience, that as it fares with a minister in the frame of his heart, and thriving of the work of God in his soul, so doth it fare with his ministry both in its vigour and effects. A carnal frame, a dead heart, and a loose walk, make cold and unprofitable preaching. And how common is it for ministers to neglect their own vineyard? . . . Your work is full of danger, full of duty, and full of mercy, You are called to the winning of souls; an employment near a-kin unto our Lord’s work, the saving of souls; and the nearer your spirits be in conformity to his holy temper and frame, the fitter you are for, and the more fruitful you shall be in your work.” (Works, 1:239, 241, 250)

Charles H. Spurgeon: “Moreover, when a preacher is poor in grace, any lasting good which may be the result of his ministry, will usually be feeble and utterly out of proportion with what might have been expected. Much sowing will be followed by little reaping; the interest upon the talents will be inappreciably small. In two of three of the battles which were lost in the late American war, the result is said to have been due to the bad gunpowder which was served out by certain ‘shoddy’ contractors to the army, so that the due effect of a cannonade was not produced. So it may be with us. We may miss our mark, lose our end and aim, and waste. our time, through not possessing true vital force within ourselves, or not possessing it in such a degree that God could consistently bless us. Beware of being ‘shoddy’ preachers. . . . Recollect, as ministers, that your whole life, your whole pastoral life especially, will be affected by the vigour of your piety. If your zeal grows dull, you will not pray well in the pulpit; you will pray worse in the family, and worst in the study alone. When your soul becomes lean, your hearers, without knowing how or why, will find that your prayers in public have little savour for them; they will feel your barrenness, perhaps, before you perceive it yourself. Your discourses will next betray your declension. You may utter as well chosen words, and as fitly-ordered sentences, as aforetime; but there will be a perceptible loss of spiritual force. You will shake yourselves as at other times, even as Samson did, but you will find that your great strength has departed. In your daily communion with your people, they will not be slow to mark the all-pervading decline of your graces. Sharp eyes will see the grey hairs here and there long before you do. Let a man be afflicted with a disease of the heart, and all evils are wrapped up in that one stomach, lungs, viscera, muscles, and nerves will all suffer; and so, let a man have his heart weakened in spiritual things, and very soon his entire life will feel the withering influence. Moreover, as the result of your own decline, everyone of your hearers will suffer more or less; the vigorous amongst them will overcome the depressing tendency, but the weaker sort will be seriously damaged. It is with us and our hearers as it is with watches and the public clock; if our watch be wrong, very few will be misled by it but ourselves; but if the Horse Guards or Greenwich Observatory should go amiss, half London would lose its reckoning. So is it with the minister; he is the parish-clock, many take their time from him, and if he be incorrect, then they all go wrongly, more or less, and he is in great measure accountable for all the sin which he occasions.” (Lectures to my Students, 3, 10)

Thomas Murphy: “It is beyond all question that this eminent piety is before everything else in preparation for the duties of the sacred office. It is before talents, or learning, or study, or favorable circumstances, or skill in working, or power in sermonizing. It is needed to give character and tone and strength to all these, and to every other part of the work. Without this elevated spirituality nothing else will be of much account in producing a permanent and satisfactory ministry. All else will be like erecting a building without a foundation. This is the true foundation upon which to build – the idea which is to give character to all the superstructure. Oh that at the very beginning this could be deeply impressed upon the hearts of young ministers! Oh that they would take and weigh well the testimony of the most devoted and successful of those who have served God in his gospel! A man with this high tone of piety is sure to be a good pastor; without it success in the holy office is not to be expected.” (Pastoral Theology, 38)

Christian ministry and worldly conformity

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Good stuff from Charles Bridges over at The Cripplegate:

The importance of studying urbanity of behavior in our intercourse with the world, is sometimes pleaded as an excuse for avoiding the direct offence of the cross. But let it be remembered, that God never honours a compromising spirit. The character of our profession with the world must not be merely negative. It must be marked by a wise, tender, but unflinching, exhibition of the broad line of demarcation, which, under the most favourable circumstances of mutual accommodation, still separates the world and the church from real communion with each other. (116)

That “broad line of demarcation” that separates the church from the world becomes narrower and narrower and is only blurred by ministry gurus who re-imagine the church as a place where one “belongs before he believes.” A ministry that God honors maintains the biblical distinction between the world and the church which is called out from the world.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 17 February 2012 at 09:39

More pastoral theology resources

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Yesterday I began posting some mini-reviews of volumes of pastoral theology. Having covered the As, here we hit the Bs. For some reason, there are lots of As and Bs, as well as Cs, but a smattering of Ds and Es, with a dearth of Qs and Xs, will even things out over time. As previously mentioned, the entire list will eventually appear on the pastoral theology resources page (see sidebar), which I hope you will visit from time to time.

I welcome comments on the list (especially on the pastoral theology page, where I can keep track more readily) and would be particularly interested to know of any other older or newer works of pastoral theology that readers might recommend. Thank you.

Baxter, Richard. The Reformed Pastor. Baxter’s sense of his obligations before God weigh heavily upon him and us in this classic text. Although at times you are almost driven to despair by the felt gravity of the calling and its duties, there is much gold to mine from even the deepest caverns. The sensitive man might wish to keep a complementary volume near at hand to encourage his soul, but anyone with ears to hear will be taught, reproved, corrected, and instructed in righteousness by this treatment of the theme. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Berry, Cicely. Your Voice and How to Use It: The Classic Guide to Speaking With Confidence. The voice director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, with some utterly unnecessary but would-be achingly cool vulgarity, gives helpful counsel on the right use of the voice. Quite technical at points, but something like this would help many of us with such things as pitch, tone, diction, variation, and a host of other pulpit failings that make us hard to hear or listen to. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Bickel, Bruce R. Light and Heat: The Puritan View of the Pulpit. Really two shorter books in one, Bruce Bickel mines Puritan preachers (and some of their successors) for their thoughts on preaching in the first part, weaving it profitably together. The second part is really a comparison of two different kinds of evangelism (Puritanism vs. Finneyism, in essence). There is lots here to stimulate, pointing the reader back beyond the Puritans to Scripture to see whether or not our convictions and the practices that flow from them are what they ought to be. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Blaikie, William Garden. For the Work of the Ministry. Setting out to be brief, complete and practical, Blaikie does a cracking job. One of the old school, in the best sense, treating the nature of the ministry, the call to it, the work of it, the character required in it, with all manner of homiletical and pastoral tips and hints along the way. Not all of its emphases and nuances need to be embraced to find this a real gem. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Bonar, Andrew. The Visitor’s Book of Texts: A Vital Tool for Pastoral Visitation. A very different little book, detailing the various cases which a visiting minister may find when he goes into a home or hospital (or wherever), giving some general counsels for approaching each instance, then highlighting a number of relevant texts, sometimes with thoughts or comments upon particular ones, all intended to help the visitor find appropriate Scriptures and well-directed words for ministering. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Bonar, Horatius. Words to Winners of Souls. An exercise in self-examination of a painful and profitable kind. Bonar deals not only with what we ought to be, but also exposes what we too often have been and remain. He searches the heart, probing and prodding, before pointing us to the remedies for many ministerial sins and the reviving of our hearts and the rejuvenation of our work. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Borgman, Brian. My Heart for Thy Cause: Albert N. Martin’s Theology of Preaching. An odd book, this, essentially consisting of the boiled-down essence of Al Martin’s lectures on preaching filtered through Borgman the redactor. While much of the profit remains of close attention to the Biblical material on preaching and pastoring, joined with telling and apposite quotes from past masters, it seems to me a book that loses too much in translation. There is much here that is profitable, and yet the book as a whole seems unsatisfactory because it is much less than it could have been. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Boston, Thomas. The Art of Manfishing. I think that this was the work of the young Boston intended solely for his own benefit. It therefore has the virtue of unfailing honesty, insofar as any man is honest with himself. There is no show, only a man dealing with his own soul. Boston considers the promise of Christ to make us fishers of men, then looks at the ministerial duty to pursue such a calling, before asking himself how to cultivate such an art. Good stuff. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Bridges, Charles. The Christian Ministry (with An Inquiry into the Causes of its Inefficiency). Bridges was ridiculously young to have so much wisdom and insight when he wrote this. With very little of his own ecclesiology intruding, Bridges gives us an overview of the ministry before considering its inefficiency connected with general causes and with the pastor’s own character (guess which bit hurts the most?). He then moves on to give many corrective helps with regard to public and private or pastoral ministry. Deservedly recognised as a classic in its field. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Broadus, John A. (ed. E. C. Dargan). A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. As long as you get the right edition (the Dargan one) you are in for a sustained and meaty treat. A treasure-house of homiletical insights, Broadus ranges far and wide to give us a grand and focused overview of the sermon. Worthy of more attention in an age when the productions of the pulpit are so often bland and diffuse. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Brown, Charles. The Ministry. Another oldie but a goodie. Fairly short and sweet, again he deals with godly character (a signal failing of many newer works), an excellent treatment of public prayer, and some delightful thoughts on pulpit ministry. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Brown, John, of Edinburgh (comp.). The Christian Pastor’s Manual. A collection of addresses by various worthies. When looking at more modern collections, it is striking how some of the same topics concerning preaching come up time and again. Has the virtue of addressing the pastoral calling and character as much as the work of preaching. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Bucer, Martin (trans. Peter Beale). Concerning the True Care of Souls. Bucer is one of the sleeping giants in Reformation studies, and this is the fruit of some twenty-five years of pastoral ministry, in which he sets out the nature of the work of a ‘carer of souls’ in the context of his doctrine of the church. The linking of these two is part of the genius of the whole, which abounds in good things. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

The whole list so far is here.

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