Gildas Silvanus Or The Reformed Pastor By Richard Baxter
Forward Even though Richard Baxter had very little formal education, it has been said that if he had lived in an earlier time, he would have been considered one of the early church fathers. To read his collected works is to brush up against genius. He was remembered by friends and colleagues as a man with conviction, and he was well known for engaging in lively, heated debates on religious matters with those friends and colleagues.
In a real sense, Baxter was a “scholastic” theologian of extraordinary abilities, but saw “practical” theology as what was most important; he saw little use in a doctrine or belief that could not be applied towards men‘s salvation. The book which you are about to read, The Reformed Pastor, is a fruit of this belief in practical theology. When it was written, Baxter noticed that ministry had become an issue of religion and formality; many ministers lacked zeal, nor were they committed to serving the body of Christ as they should. In his 20 years ministering off and on at Kidderminster, England, Baxter was able to apply his beliefs and see the results. The Reformed Pastor was written after his ideas had been successfully implemented over an extended period of time, and after the ministers of the area came together and asked him to teach them how he was doing it. To this day he is cherished as the true apostle of that district.
Though it was written 350 years ago, Baxter’s work is a practical, Christ centered outline for ministry and leadership in today’s church; the same concerns which he confronted in Worcester in 1656 have re-surfaced and are eating at the marrow of 21 st century evangelical/charismatic religion. As you read The Reformed Pastor, I encourage you to take notes, notice where you and your church are failing, repent, and institute Baxter’s methods. To summarize, they are: A) Ministers and overseers must commit to individual instruction within their congregations. B) Discipline within the church is an ordinance of God and must be re-instituted. C) Ministers and overseers must have personal relationships with their congregations, risking familiarity and contempt towards themselves to achieve a greater good. D) Personal, direct one-on-one ministry, takes precedence over study and preparation; an overseer will learn quicker by hands-on work than by book work. E) Total commitment to the church is required of a minister or overseer. While they should be paid, they should also be willing to give it when required, even at their own families expense. A ministers life is not one of ease.
Though I wish to, I will not describe Baxter’s life in further detail because excellent biographies exist already, and the purpose of this abridgement is to bring Baxter’s ideas to today’s church in a way which may be quickly applied; we can not wait .I have purposely condensed Baxter’s full work to 25% of the original, and strongly endorse the original, and early 18th century abridgements. If I can be of any further assistance in implementing Baxter’s methods, contact the publisher.
Steve Simpson September, 2007
OUTLINE-THE REFORMED PASTOR
Chapter 1 Overseeing ourselves A) Section 1- The nature of our self-supervision 1. God’s grace given in our souls 2. Actively exercising God’s grace 3. Practice what you preach 4. Keep yourselves qualified
B) Section 2- Motives for our self-supervision 1. You have heaven or Hell to win 2. You have a sinful nature 3. You will be tempted more than others 4. Many will see your sin 5. Your sins are greater than other men’s 6. You need more grace than other men 7. Christ’s honor lies on you 8. Your success depends on your self-supervision
Chapter 2- Overseeing of the flock A) Section 1- The nature of this oversight 1. 1 pastor-1 flock 2. Flock cannot be too big for individual instruction a) Ministering to the unsaved b) Minister to those on the fence c) Minister to those truly saved 3. Overseeing families 4. Overseeing the sick and dying
5. Admonishing the un-repentant offender
B) Section 2- The manner of overseeing the flock 1. 16 practical ways to oversee the flock
C) Section 3-Motives for overseeing the flock 1. Our relation to the flock 2. The source of our commission- God’s Holy Spirit 3. The weight of the object we are to oversee- Christ’s Church 4. The price paid for this flock
Chapter 3- Practical Applications A) Section 1- The use of humiliation towards ministers sins 1. Pride 2. Lack of devotion 3. Worldly interests 4. Church division 5. No church discipline
B) Section 2- The duty to personally instruct the flock 1. Motives for this duty a) 14 benefits in doing personal instruction b) The difficulties of the work 1) In ourselves 2) In our people
c) The necessity of the work d) How to put these motives to practical use 2. Objections to doing this duty a) 9 objections and answers to personally instructing the flock 3. Directions for this duty a) How to get your people involved and excited about it b) How to be most effective in your instruction
To my brothers, the faithful ministers of Christ, in Britain and Ireland; Grace and Peace in Jesus Christ.
REVEREND BRETHREN This is written for you and the churches committed to your care.
Even though some of you may not like this letter, let me tell you why I’m writing it. When the Lord had awakened his ministers in Worcestershire, they met and realized that they had neglected their duties for some time. They agreed to meet on December 4th, 1655 to pray for mercy and help, so they could do their job right. Others, and myself, were asked to preach at this meeting. I prepared what you are about to read, but realized it would take more than one or two sermons to cover all of it. I got sick before the meeting, so I was asked to provide this book in order that all would be able to read what I was unable to preach.
The first and main point is this: Is it the minister’s duty, in these three nations, to now recommit to individually instructing those under our care? I say yes. I think we all agree that:
1) People must be taught the principles of religion and the matters related to salvation. 2) They must be taught it in the most edifying, advantageous way. 3) Personal examination and instruction, has many advantages. 4) Personal instruction is recommended to us by Scripture. 5) We should personally instruct as many as we can, not just those we like. 6) This work should take up much of our time. 7) If we all agree on the above truths, there is little for us to argue about.
I ask all of Christ’s faithful ministers to begin this work. I wonder why it has taken so long for us to figure this out. I have supposed, like others, that it would be too hard and the effort not worth it; I figured that not many would want to do it. For the last year, however, we spend Monday and Tuesday, from morning almost to night, teaching fifteen or sixteen families a week, in a congregation of eight hundred families! Not one family has refused to come, and I find more success with them than from all my public preaching. What we do is this: we take a list of all the families who want to learn, and schedule appointments every hour (one family at eight o’clock, the next at nine, and the next at ten, etc.) I am forced by the number to deal with a whole family at once; but only one family at a time. Now, doing it this way isn’t just my idea, read what the Westminster assembly says to do: “It is the duty of the minister not only to teach the people in public, but privately, and particularly to admonish, exhort, reprove, and comfort them upon all seasonable occasions, so far as his time, strength and personal safety permits. He is to admonish them in time of health to prepare for death. They are to talk often with their minister about the estate of their souls,” I cannot see why a minister, if he loves God and is sanctified, would refuse to do such a wonderful work as the one we are all committing to now. This is the means of getting God’s work done, and I am taking it for granted that you will do it. Do it vigorously and with all your might; make it your great and serious business. Study how to do it beforehand, just as you study for your sermons. I fear nothing more, than that many ministers who preach well, will be found not qualified for this work. This work is cast upon us, and it is we that must do it or it won’t get done.
My second request to the ministers in these kingdoms is that we would at last, without any more delay, set ourselves to the practice of Church discipline. It is sad that we have neglected it for so long. My last request is that all the faithful ministers of Christ help each other, maintaining unity in our churches. Read the excellent letter of Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury to Queen Elizabeth, for how to set up meetings and the like. You will find it in Fuller’s History of the Church of England.
15 April 1656
Your unworthy fellow -servant
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood. Acts 20.28
Some think that Paul’s words to these elders proves that he was their ruler; we who are speaking to you today hope that we may do the same. Just as we teach our people, we may teach one another as brother ministers. We have the same sins to remove and the same graces to strengthen as our people do. However, we have greater works to do and greater difficulties to overcome than they. We also have to be warned and awakened by each other, just like we do to them. If that was all we ever did with each other in these meetings, I think we should have them more often! We should talk sharply and plainly with one another, after all, why should our congregations be the only ones getting pushed into a lively faith. This was Paul’s opinion, and I don’t need any other proof than this rousing, heart-melting exhortation to the Ephesian elders; a short sermon, but one that was not quickly grasped by them! Had the bishops and teachers of that Church learned
from this short exhortation, how much easier do you think it would have been on them? As I talk about this verse, I want you all to see:
* What he means by “take heed to yourselves.” * Why we must take heed to ourselves. * What it means to “take heed to all the flock.” * The way we are supposed to heed to all the flock. * What reasons we should take heed to all the flock. * Lastly, how to apply this all practically.
CHAPTER 1 SUPERVISING OURSELVES
SECTION 1 — THE NATURE OF THIS SUPERVISION
Let us go over what it means to “take heed to ourselves”.
1) Make sure that God’s saving grace is produced in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves so that you don’t perish while you are busy pointing out to others that they are perishing. Why starve while you feed others? Many have preached to others about Hell
and ended up there themselves; many tailors wear rags but make costly clothes for others. God doesn’t save you because you’re a preacher; he does so because you are holy, sanctified, and doing his work. Make sure you are what you’re trying to convince others to be. When you write your sermons, don’t you ever think that you might be convicting yourself? We live saying, “Lord, we have prophesied in your name,” only to hear these awful words in return: “Depart from me, I know you not.” It is a common danger in the Church, that un-renewed and inexperienced men become preachers before they are Christians. Unfortunately, men ordain them to be priests of God, before they are sanctified by God’s Spirit as disciples of Christ; they worship an unknown God, preach an unknown Christ, and pray through an unknown Spirit.
2) Don’t be content with being in God’s grace, but be sure that you keep this grace alive by exercising it. Preach to yourselves the sermons that you study before you preach them to others so that your prayers, praises, and doctrine will be sweet to them. When I let my heart grow cold, my preaching is cold; when it is confused, my preaching is confused. I can often judge the state of myself by the reactions of good church members; when I have grown cold in preaching they grow cold too, and the next prayers I hear from them are too much like my preaching. If we, as ministers, don’t chew on God’s word ourselves, our parishes will starve. If we eat bad food (either errors or fruitless arguments) our hearers will be the worse for it. Watch your own hearts: keep out lust and worldly ways; keep in faith, love, and zeal. If you don’t make it your daily job to study your own hearts, overcome sin, and walk with God, everything will go wrong and your congregations will go hungry. Above all, be in secret prayer and meditation. Remember, if you neglect your walk with God it doesn’t only hurt you- many suffer because of your laziness and error. You may become a plague instead of a blessing, and they may wish they had never seen your face. Keep guard against vanity and pride, for great apostasies have usually started small. The prince of darkness often looks like an angel of light. Besides all this, I think a minister should prepare himself before he goes to the congregation. Go to God for life, read some book, or meditate on the subject that you’re preaching about, so that the zeal of the Lord is on you.
3) “Take heed to yourselves,” so that your lifestyle isn’t a stumbling-block to others. Live out what you say with your tongues. What good is it if you build up for an hour or two with your mouths, only to pull it all down with your hands the rest of the week. If we are servants of Christ, we must not be tongue servants only but must serve him with our
deeds, so that we don’t “deceive our own selves.” We must study how to live well, as much as we study how to preach well. When you are studying what to say to your people, you will often be thinking to yourself, “How can I get to them? What can I say, that will convince and convert them.” You should also be thinking, “How do I live, and what shall I do, to be most effective in saving men’s souls?” If your daily study was on how to use your wealth, your friends, and all you have for God, as well as your mouth, then you will see fruit from your labors. If you intend only to have a pulpit ministry, I think you are unworthy to be called a minister at all. Now let me tell you how to do well in addition to speaking well: Be “zealous of good works.” Do not spare any cost if it promotes your Master’s work: (A) Maintain your innocence, and walk without offense. Let your lives condemn sin, and persuade men to duty. You need to be as careful with your own soul, as you tell others to be with theirs; if you tell them to redeem their time, don’t waste yours; if you want them to speak with humility, be sure that you speak only that which edifies and “ministers grace to the hearers;” treat your own families well if you tell your church do the same. (B) Abound in works of love and goodness. Buy your people small books that instruct them, and make them promise to read them. Stretch money as far as you can in this; don’t think about being rich or of greatness for yourselves. If you impoverish yourselves to do a greater good, is there loss or gain? If you believe that God is the safest treasury, show them that you believe it. I know that your flesh will complain because this goes against its best interest; but any one who cannot spare something in Christ’s cause is not a Christian. Lay up treasure in heaven, though you leave little on earth. You lose nothing in heaven by becoming poor, you just travel lighter. Saying is one thing, and believing is another. Ministers would do so much good if they were cold towards the world’s riches, and spent all they had in their Master’s service. Now, I’m not saying to do the same thing that Catholic monks do when they get rid of everything and go off to a monastery; I am saying that all we have must be for God’s use. (C) “Take heed to yourselves” and do not live in those sins which you preach against in others. Will you make it your work to magnify God in your preaching and then, when you are done, dishonor him as much as others? Will you proclaim Christ’s governing power and then rebel against it? Will you preach his laws and willfully break them? If God’s warnings are true why don’t you fear them? “Take heed to yourselves” so that while you cry down sin you are overcoming it.
4) Lastly, “take heed to yourselves,” so that you are qualified for your work. You cannot be a baby in knowledge if you are going to teach men all those things which must be known for salvation. We must be able to solve divine problems in addition to knowing
the basics of our faith. We must teach on the hard verses, know about the sneaky sins that can creep up, and be powerful enough to tear down strongholds! We have multitudes of raging passions and contradicting enemies to battle, all at once, whenever we go about the conversion of a sinner; yet such is our work, and it is a work that must be done. We must have skill, determination, and tireless diligence in order to be qualified. Didn’t Paul cry out, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Peter says, “What manner of persons ought we should to be, in all holy conversation and godliness!” I say to every minister, “Seeing all these things lie upon our hands, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy endeavors and resolutions for our work!” This is not a burden for the shoulders of a child. Every part of our calling requires skill. Preaching a sermon is the easiest part of our job, and yet skill is needed to make the truth plain and convince the hearers; to screw the truth into their minds and work Christ into their desires; to meet every objection and resolve; to make sinners see that there is no hope, that they must either be converted or condemned – and to do all this so everyone understands it! This, and a great deal more that is done in every sermon, requires a great deal of holy skill. What skill it takes to deal with one poor ignorant soul for his conversion! I tremble under the sense of all this work. Woe to us, if we tolerate our own weakness! We have quenched the Spirit in our laziness, and then blamed the Spirit for doing it.
SECTION 2 THE MOTIVES FOR THIS SELF SUPERVISION Now that I’ve show you what it means to “take heed to ourselves,” I will give you some reasons to do it.
1) Take heed to yourselves, for you have a heaven to win or lose, and you have souls that will either be happy or miserable for ever. For this reason we should focus on ourselves before others. Good preaching may help to save others, but without holiness it is impossible to save you. “Many will say in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?’ and he will answer, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you that work iniquity.’” How many men have preached Christ, and still gone to Hell? God is no respecter of persons; a holy calling will not save an unholy man. Preachers of the gospel will be judged by the same sentence as any other men. Take heed to yourselves for your own sakes, seeing you have souls to save or lose, the same as others.
2) Take heed to yourselves, for you have, a sinful nature just as others do. If innocent Adam had need to heed, how much more need do we have? Sin dwells in us even after we preach against it, and one little sin prepares the heart for the next. At our best, we still have the same remnants of pride, unbelief, and self-seeking that our congregations do. Ministers are not only the sons of Adam, but sinners against the grace of Christ. Your hearts will deceive you if you don’t take heed. Those sins you thought were weeded out will spring up. It is so important that men of so much weakness should take heed and be careful in the supervision of your own souls.
3) Take heed to yourselves, because the tempter will more try to tempt you more than other men. If you are the leaders against the prince of darkness, don’t expect him to have any mercy on you. He directs his greatest anger to those that can harm him the most; this is war, straight and simple. He hates Christ our General the most, then Christ’s leaders, then the common soldiers. He knows what a panic he can stir by making the leaders fall first. This has been his successful strategy for years, and he has no reason to stop using it. As wise as you are, take heed to yourselves, so that he doesn’t outwit you. The devil is a greater scholar than you and a better debater; he can transform himself into an angel of light to deceive. He will get within you and trip you up before you are aware; you will never see the fishing line or the bait because he is a master angler and he knows what kind of lure will work, and in what weather it will work in. Just think of what a happy fisherman he is when he is able to pull the biggest and smartest from the water! He will glory against Jesus Christ himself, and say, “These are your champions? I can make your greatest servants abuse you.”
4) Take heed to yourselves, because there are many eyes on you, and many to observe your falls. If you fall, the world will see it. Other men may sin without anyone knowing about it, but you are not permitted that luxury. Even if people are malicious, you should thank God that you have all these eyes upon you watching your mistakes. Praise the Almighty that you are a light set on a hill and cannot hide! Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and do your work as if everyone was trying to find the smallest fault in you.
5) Take heed to yourselves, for your sins are greater than other men’s. It was a saying of king Alphonsus, that “a great man can’t commit a small sin.” How much more may we say that there is no such thing as a minister, or a teacher of others, committing a small sin. Here’s the A B C’s of why your sin is greater:
(A)You sin against a greater knowledge, because you know more than others do; you sin against a greater light. (B)Your sins have more hypocrisy in them than other men’s, because it’s your job to speak against sin. Don’t be a Pharisee. (C)Your sins have more let-down in them than other men’s, because, in all likelihood, your lifestyle has been against sin more than theirs.
6) Take heed to yourselves, because such great work as ours requires greater grace than other men. Weaker gifts and graces may carry a man through a normal life, one that doesn’t have so many trials. If you lead the troops of Christ against Satan and his followers; if you rescue captive sinners out of the devil’s paws; do not think that you won’t suffer deeper wounds than most. Weak men do more good for God in private service, than the weakest do in ministry. If you will venture into the midst of God’s enemies and bear the burden and heat of the battle, take heed to yourselves.
7) Take heed to yourselves, for the honor of Jesus Christ lies more on you than on other men. As you render him more service, you may also do him more disservice than others. The closer men stand to God, the greater their mistakes. The heavy judgments executed on Eli and on his house were because they kicked at his sacrifice and offering: “The sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.” If you are a Christian, the glory of God will be dearer to you than your lives. “Offenses will come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” Take heed of every word you speak and of every step you make, for you bear the ark of the Lord, — you are entrusted with his honor! God will wipe off any stain that is cast upon him, but you will not easily remove the shame and sorrow from yourselves.
8) Lastly, Take heed to yourselves, for the success of all your work depends on it. Now, if God’s work is not firmly fixed in your own hearts, don’t expect him to bless your attempts to build it in others hearts. He may do it if he wants to, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t help. Here are four reasons why we should think that God will help sanctified ministers more than unsanctified ones: (A) Can it be expected that God will bless the minister who works for himself and not God? Only converted men make God their chief end, doing everything for his honor. Others make the ministry nothing but a “trade” to live by. They choose it, rather than being called; it is not him, but themselves, that they serve. No wonder he leaves them to be blessed by their own hands.
(B) Common sense tells us that the man who doesn’t truly believe in his work won’t be as successful as the man who believes it with all his heart. How can you, day and night, do something that your carnal hearts are against? How can you seriously call upon sinners to repent and return to God, if you’ve never done it yourselves? (C) Do you think it is likely that a servant of Satan will fight against Satan with all his might? Will he be true to Christ if he is in covenant with his enemy? This is the case of all unsanctified men, whatever rank or profession they may have. (D) It is not likely that people will pay attention to the doctrine of men, who don’t live what they preach. If someone tells you to run because there is a bear coming, but doesn’t pick up their own step, you think they’re joking with you. Likewise, when you tell people about how they need to be holy, but don’t see the need for holiness in your own life, they can’t take you seriously. Your life is your message. God has promised to bless his faithful servants and to put his Spirit in them, but where is there any such promise to ungodly ministers? Don’t provoke him to forsake you by your hypocrisy.
CHAPTER 2 THE OVERSIGHT OF THE FLOCK
SECTION 1 — THE NATURE OF THIS SUPERVISION Having showed you what it is to take heed to ourselves, I am now going to review what it is to take heed to all the flock. 1) Every flock should have its own pastor and every pastor his own flock. Just as every regiment of soldiers has its own captain, and every soldier knows his commander; it is God’s will that every church has its own pastor, and that Christ’s disciples “know their teachers that are over them in the Lord.” When we are ordained ministers without a specific congregation, we are commanded to exercise our gifts to the church as a whole.
When we have undertaken a specific commission, however, we must limit the use of our gifts to that congregation, except where it is needed for the public good. All of the shared work of a local church flows from this pastor/flock relationship. 2) When we are commanded to take heed to all the flock, it means that the flock shouldn’t be greater than we are capable of overseeing. God won’t give us the impossible. I think there is something very wrong with the worker who decides to gather in all of the harvest in one county, not to mention taking it a step further and attempting it! The physician that undertakes the care of all the sick people in a whole nation, when he is not able to visit one thousandth of them, might as well say, “Let them all die.” The Church of Christ is happy when laborers are able, faithful, and proportioned to the number of souls, so that the pastors are able to “take heed to all the flock.” We should know every individual under our care, for how can we take heed to them, if we don’t know them? We must get to know the people and their personalities; what they like talking about, what temptations they fight, etc. If we don’t know their illnesses, we will be poor doctors. The prophets were often sent to single men; Ezekiel was made a watchman over individuals, and Paul taught his hearers not only “publicly but from house to house.” Paul “warned every man, and taught every man, in all wisdom, that he might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” I will quote Ignatius, “Let assemblies come together often; ask about everyone individually.” You see, back then it was the minister’s duty to look after every member of the flock by name. If you have a large congregation then you must get someone to help, perhaps an assistant. You’re better off neglecting your family, than undertaking a ministry which you can’t oversee properly. If you are truly called to be a minister and have too many people to oversee, you should hire someone with your own money to help out. Tightening your family’s belt is part of your call, and many men in the past have sacrificed more to be sure that God’s children were all being ministered to. Are the souls of men so worthless to you that you would have them perish eternally, rather than your family living in a poor condition? If you are a minister you should beg for your bread rather than put men’s souls at stake. The next time you are preaching to them, listen to your conscience and see if it doesn’t say, “If they had private instruction man by man, and if I had another minister helping, this could be done. If I could live sparingly and deny my flesh, I could pay for an assistant. Do I dare to let my people live in the ignorance which I myself have told them is damning, rather than put myself and family through some lack?”
The bible says that a man’s soul is worth more than a world. All that we have is God’s, and should be used for his service. It is inhuman to let souls go to hell, for fear that our wives and children should live a little lower. How are all things sanctified to us, but in their separation and dedication to God.
While it is our duty to take heed to all the flock, we must pay special attention to some types of people in particular.
A) We must work in a special way, for the conversion of the unsaved. The work of conversion is the first and great thing we must do with all our might. Who can debate about doctrine or the unnecessary points of salvation, while looking at ignorant souls who are damned?
B) We must be ready to give advice to those in the middle, whose consciences are leading them towards salvation. This was the case when the Jews asked Peter, “What must we do to be saved?” A minister is not only a public preacher, but must be known as a counselor for their souls, as the physician is for their bodies. Just as Nicodemus came to Christ, each man who has doubts can bring his case to us for resolution. We must not only be willing to take the time, but should invite them to come. One word of seasonable, prudent advice, given by a minister to persons in need, may be of more use than many sermons.
C) We must build up those who are already truly converted. In this respect our work is various, according to the various states of Christians. (a) There are many of our flock who have been coming to church for a long time, but are weak. This is the most common condition of the godly. Most of them are content with this, and it is difficult to get them to move higher. It is a very sad thing for Christians to be weak as it exposes us to danger. The seducer easily shakes them, evil appears as good, truth as falsehood, sin as duty, and so on. “They that obey not the word, may be won by the conversation” of those who are known for their godliness. It is, therefore, a most important part of our work, to perfect these weak saints so they become strong and fitted for their Master’s service. (b) Another class of converts that needs our help is those who have some sin. This makes them a trouble to others and a burden to themselves. There are many like this. Some are addicted to pride, and others to worldly-mindedness; some to sensual desires, and others to other evil passions. It is our duty to help all of these; partly by pointing out
the stink of sin, and partly by teaching them how to beat it. We are leaders of Christ’s army and must resist the works of darkness wherever we find them, even if it’s in the children of light. We can’t be gentler with the sins of the godly, than with those of the ungodly, nor favor them. (c) Another class who needs special help is declining Christians that have either fallen into sin or gotten lazy. To these we must show that they have lost their first love. We must have diligence for the backslider’s recovery. Partial backsliding has a natural way of turning into total rejection of God and his ways. We must watch out for the honor of the gospel, making sure that there is real evidence of repentance; much skill is required for restoring such a soul. (d) The last class requiring our attention is the strong, for they also need our assistance; partly to preserve the grace they already have, and partly to direct them in improving their strength for the service of Christ. We must encourage them to persevere, that they may receive the crown.
3) We must keep a special eye on families, to make sure that they are well ordered and that each member is doing their part. The welfare of both the Church and the State depends on family government and duty. If we neglect this, we will undo everything. If the heads of families do not do their part at home, they are unable to help us. If you desire the welfare of your people, do everything you can to promote family religion. Focus on these five things: (A) Learn how each family is ordered, that you may know how proceed in your endeavors for their further good. (B) Visit them in their free time; find out if they pray together, read the bible together, etc. If they don’t, then show them what you want them to do and have them start committing to certain daily activities. (C) If someone has never prayed or doesn’t know how to, tell them to start by praying for their own desires; even this is better than no prayer at all. Make sure you point out that it is their fault they don’t know how to pray. When every beggar can ask for money and every cripple needs a crutch; why don’t they pray? (D) Make sure every family has some good books besides the Bible; have them buy some. If they are not able to buy them, then give them some if you can, or ask someone else to make it their responsibility. (E) Show them how to spend the Lord’s day; how focus on God that day, and how to spend time with their families after church. Teach the husband to go over what the family learned that day in church and go over the doctrines of our faith. The strength of the
church very much depends on this family time. You will not see much change in your church until you start to see families change.
4) We must be diligent in visiting the sick and preparing them for either a fruitful life, or a happy death. When people are face to face with death, they are very interested in spending their time getting ready for eternal life! When we see that we only have a few days left to talk to them we must do all we can for their salvation; if we don’t care at this time, we are worse than an infidel. Doesn’t it awaken us to compassion to think that within a few days his soul will be in heaven or in hell? In serving dying men, we have an opportunity to discern whether we are sincere about the ministry. A man’s impending death should awaken pangs of compassion in us, to make sure his soul is ready to be carried to the “inheritance of the saints in light.” When a man is at his journey’s end and the next step is heaven or hell, it is time for us to help him if we can. We should take advantage of the opportunities that sickness and death present to us. Even the stoutest sinners will hear us on their death-bed. In my experience, 9 in 10 of my worst critics will hear me and repent on their death beds. Now, you might say that these forced changes are not real and didn’t do them any good; I admit this is often the case. I also recognize that while it is often the case, we must still spend time with the dying because of that rare case where one does receive genuine salvation. Just one more soul in heaven has immeasurable profit. Here some things to keep in mind when visiting the sick or dying: (A) Once their strength and understanding are gone, it is too late. Go to them as soon as you hear they are sick, whether they send for you or not. (B) When the time is so short there is not time to teach them the principles of religion in order- stick to the main points, those that focus on the glory of the life to come: the way it was purchased for us, the sin of their having neglected it while healthy, the possibility of still obtaining it if they will believe in Christ and repent of their sins, etc. (C) If they recover, make sure to remind them often of the promises and resolutions made in time of sickness.
5) We must reprove and admonish those who live offensively without repenting. It is best if we ministers figure out how the sinner can be brought to repentance in private, especially if it’s not a public sin. This takes some skill because we have to use tact, and at the same time shake their careless hearts to recognize the evil of their sin and its sad effects.
6) The last part of our oversight consists of Church discipline. This includes correcting people in private, as I have already mentioned, and public discipline. (A) In the case of public offenses, and even of those of a more private nature when the offender remains in sin, he must be reprimanded before all, and again invited to repentance. Do not think that this is any less our duty than private correction is. The only reason you think less of public correction is because of your neglect of it for so long. It is not only Christ’s command, but Paul’s to “rebuke before all”. Many of us, who would never cut our preaching or praying time in half, have no problem avoiding public discipline altogether. Our congregations’ sins are on our heads if we don’t use the ways God has told us to fix those sins. To those who say that say that the shame of public reproof only makes people worse; I answer – [a] If God’s ordinances didn’t work, he wouldn’t have made them. [b] The usefulness of discipline is obvious; it shames sin, humbles the sinner, and shows Christ’s holiness to everyone. Which one of these makes things worse? [c] If someone doesn’t receive private correction should we now just stop and give them up as hopeless? That’s crueler than correcting them in public as a last measure. What other “last choice” do you suggest when everything else doesn’t work? [d] The principal use of this public discipline is not for the offender himself, but for the church. It effectively stops others, and keeps the congregation and their worship pure. (B) With public reproof, we also must encourage the offender to repent, and when he does repent, have him do it publicly. Just as there was physical evidence that he was sinning, we ought to seek evidences that he has repented as well. Much thought and wisdom must be put into public discipline so that we don’t do more harm than good. Christian prudence must dictate what we do here, as opposed to our own “carnal” prudence guiding our actions. In performing this duty we need to make sure that there is no ill will in us, but that we are simply doing it as a duty of our office; be humble and sharp at the same time. Sometimes it helps to go over where the bible tells us to handle things this way. Here are examples of things we can say to our congregations when dealing with sin publicly. We can say, “Because of sin, God, commands us to ‘exhort one another daily, while it is called today, so that none of us get hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,’ (Hebrews 3.13) and that we do not hate our brother in our heart, but rebuke our neighbor, and not allow sin upon him (Leviticus 19.17). If our brother offends us we should tell him his fault; and if doesn’t listen we should take two or three more with us; and if he doesn’t
listen to them we should tell the church; and if he doesn’t listen to the church, he is like a heathen and a publican (Matthew 18.15-17). We must rebuke those that sin in the presence of everyone, so that others don’t sin too (1 Timothy 5.20); we are to rebuke with all authority: (Titus 2.15) even an apostle of Christ that sinned openly was reproved openly, as Paul did to Peter (Galatians 2.11,14).If a brother won’t repent, we must avoid them. (2 Thessalonians 3.6, 11, 12, 14; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13.)” Continuing on we can say, “Having heard of the sin of brother XYZ, and having proof that he hath committed the sin of _____, we have tried to bring him to repentance; but, he still lives in the same sin. It’s our duty to proceed to the remedy which Christ has commanded us to try. So we ask him publicly to realize how great his sin is and repent of it.” (Baxter’s original version is longer and more specific) So, that’s how I think we should conduct our public reproofs. In cases where the sinner doesn’t think his sin is that bad, it would be a good idea to give specific examples of how he has affected others; cite some passages of scripture which speaks of its evil and danger. (C) To these reproofs and exhortations, we must join the prayers of the congregation in behalf of the offender. This should be done in every case of discipline, but particularly if the offender won’t be present to receive admonition, or gives no evidence of repentance, and shows no desire for the prayers of the congregation. We must be sincere in our prayers, and our congregations must have his best interest in mind while they pray. Who knows, God may hear our prayers and the sinner’s heart may relent under them, more than under all our exhortations? As ministers, when we shrink from all that is dangerous or ungrateful in our work, and shift off all that is costly or troublesome, we cannot expect that any good should come by such a carnal, partial use of God’s ordinances. (D). If he realizes that he was wrong and repents, we must restore the sinner to the fellowship of the church. We must assure him of the riches of God’s love, and the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to pardon his sins, if he believes and repents. We must also command the church that they imitate Christ in forgiving and in retaining the penitent person, and in restoring him to their communion. (E) The last part of discipline is removing the chronically un-repentant, commonly called excommunication. The minister or leaders of the church charge the people to have no communion with him. Nevertheless, we must still pray for the repentance and restoration of the excommunicated. If God gives them repentance, we must gladly receive them again into the communion of the church.
I would persuade all ministers, without any more delay, to start doing everything I am writing here. To be against discipline, is close to being against the ministry; and to be
against the ministry is close to being absolutely against the church; and to be against the church, is near to being absolutely against Christ.
SECTION 2 – THE MANNER OF THIS SUPERVISION
Having just considered the nature of this oversight, we shall next speak of the manner of it in general.
1) Ministerial work must be carried on purely for God and the salvation of souls, not for any private ends of our own. Those who make a trade of it for their livelihood will find that they have chosen a bad trade, though a good employment. Self-denial is of absolute necessity in every Christian, but it is doubly necessary in a minister, as without it he cannot do God an hour’s faithful service.
2) Ministerial work must be carried on diligently and laboriously; it is of unspeakable consequence to ourselves and others. We are seeking to uphold the world, save it from the curse, and set up the kingdom of Christ. Are these works to be done with a careless mind, or a lazy hand? Make sure that you do this work with all your might! Study hard, for the well is deep and our brains are shallow. Haven’t you ever thought to yourselves what lies in your hands? If you don’t waken yourself, people will perish, and their blood be required at your hand.
3) You must minister prudently and orderly. Milk must go before strong meat; the foundation must be laid before we attempt to raise the superstructure. The work of conversion, repentance from dead works, and faith in Christ, must be first and frequently and thoroughly taught. We must not go beyond the capacities of our people, nor teach them beyond what they have not yet grasped.
4) Throughout the whole course of our ministry, we must stick to the greatest, most certain, and most necessary truths, spending less time on the little things. If we teach Christ to all of our people and they get to heaven we have done well. What is the use of moving on past this one great truth into something minor, if many still are not saved? You are better off trying to get through the basics with someone who isn’t saved, than you are teaching more advanced matters to someone who is saved.
5) All our teaching must be as plain and simple as possible. Speak to the ability of your hearers. Truth loves the light, and is most beautiful when it is naked.
6) Our work must be carried on with humility. We must carry ourselves meekly and teach others, as well as be ready to learn from any that can teach us, and so both teach and learn at once. Pride is our enemy here, be on guard against it.
7) There must be a prudent mixture of severity and mildness both in our preaching and lifestyle; each must be predominant, according to the character of the person we are dealing with. If there is no sharpness then our advice will be despised. If all is sharp and severe, however, we will be called “control freaks” rather than persuaders of the minds of men to the truth.
8) We must be serious, sincere, and zealous in every part of our work. Our work requires greater skill, and greater life and zeal than any of us bring to it. It is not a little thing to stand up in the face of a congregation, and to deliver a message of salvation or damnation, as if from the mouth of the living God himself. It is not easy to speak so plainly that the most ignorant understand us, and so seriously that the deadest hearts feel us. If our words are not sharpened, they will not be felt by stony hearts. To speak coldly of heavenly things is nearly as bad as saying nothing at all.
9) The whole of our ministry must be carried on in tender love to our people. We must let them see that nothing pleases us but what profits them, and that what does them good, does us good as well. Let them see it in your speeches and in your conduct. Let them see that you are spent for them; that all you do is for them, and not for any private ends of your own.
10) We must carry on our work with patience and be able to take injuries from those to whom we seek to help. Know this going into it, but do not let it stop you from doing right to every person.
11) All our work must be as if the presence of God was always with us; we must not become familiar with holiness. To be irreverent in the things of God is hypocrisy, and shows that the heart does not agree with your tongue. Jerome says, “Teach in your
church, not to get the applause of the people, but to get them crying; then, the tears of the hearers are your praise.”
12) All our work must be done spiritually, as by men possessed of the Holy Ghost. The wisdom of the world must not be magnified against the wisdom of God; philosophy must be taught to stoop and serve, while faith is the main influence. Remember, God doesn’t make fishermen out of preachers, but preachers from fishermen. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the great writers, but compare none of them with the Word of God.
13) If you would prosper in ministry, keep up desires and expectations of success. If your hearts are not set on the conversion and edification of your hearers, you are not likely to see much success. Let all who preach for Christ and men’s salvation remain unsatisfied till they have the thing they preach for. No good doctor is happy to keep giving examinations if the people aren’t getting better.
14) Our whole work must be done under a deep sense of our own insufficiency and of our entire dependence on Christ. Prayer must carry our work and our preaching.
15) Let me conclude with one last necessity: that we ministers must have communion among ourselves, and peace between the churches that we oversee. Instead of quarrelling we must join against the common enemies. All ministers must associate with one another, and hold communion together.
SECTION 3 — MOTIVES TO THE OVERSIGHT OF THE FLOCK
Having considered the manner in which we are to take heed to the flock, I now move on to show you some motives to this oversight.
1) The first thing which the verse suggests to us, is drawn from our relation to the flock: We are overseers of it. (A) The nature of our office requires us to “take heed to the flock.” To be a bishop, or pastor, is not to be set up as an idol for the people to bow to, nor are we to live a life of
ease. We are to be the guide of sinners to heaven. It is sad that men who are called do not know this. These overseers who live in ease and pleasure, and have recreation time to take, have no idea what they are called to do, nor do they have Christ’s conduct in them. O brethren, what a field of work is before us! If we cannot do everything, let us do what we can; for, if we neglect it, woe to us and to the souls committed to our care. (B) Remember that you do this work voluntarily and that no man forced you to be overseers of the Church. Doesn’t common decency tell you to be true to your job? (C) It is a great honor to be the ambassadors of God and the instruments of men’s conversion- to “save their souls from death, and to cover a multitude of sins.” If we would faithfully lay out ourselves for Christ and his Church, and never think of titles and reputation, we will have honor. When we seek honor, however, we lose it. (D) Think about the other privileges of being a minister to encourage you in your work. It is worth taking into account that you are supported by other men’s money. Either do the work, or don’t take the money. While the world lies ignorant, your employment is to be brought into a delightful walk with God! How much better can it get, than to make a living in studying and preaching Christ? Others are glad when they can relax on Sunday, or when they can spend an hour or two with God during the week; but we are paid to keep a continual Sabbath. We may do almost nothing else, but study and talk of God and glory, and engage in acts of prayer and praise, and drink in his sacred, saving truths. Our employment is high and spiritual. (E) By your work you are related to Christ, as well as to the flock. You are stewards of his mysteries, and rulers of his household; he that entrusted you, will maintain you in his work. Be true to him and never doubt that he will be true to you. Feed his flock, and he will sooner feed you as he did Elijah, than leave you hungry. If you are in prison, he will open the doors; but then you must relieve imprisoned souls.
2) The second motive to “take heed” is that the Holy Spirit himself made us overseers of his Church. The Holy Ghost makes men overseers in three respects: a) By qualifying them for the office; b) By directing others to perceive their qualifications, and recognize the best men for the job; c) By directing the people and themselves, for the overseer’s commission in the church. It is the same ancient Spirit which makes men overseers of the Church, now as well as then. None of these commissions can be undone by man, or made unnecessary. God gives men the qualifications, so that all the Church has to do is discern and determine who the men are that God has qualified, accept them, and install them into this office. If our commission is from heaven, it is not to be disobeyed. When the apostles were called by
Christ, they immediately left friends, houses, and trades, and followed him. Though our call is not so immediate or extraordinary, it is from the same Spirit.
3) The third motive in the text is drawn from the object committed to our safekeeping. It is the Church of God which we must oversee – that which is sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and which is the body of Christ; that Church with which angels are present. Oh what a responsibility we have undertaken! Shall we be unfaithful to it? Do you think so poorly of the Church of God, to think it doesn’t deserve the best of your care and time? Those given into your trust are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, to show forth the praises of him that has called them.” How can you neglect them? What an honor is it to be one of them, and yet you are the one to answer for their well being!
4) The last thing to motivate us is the price that was paid for the Church which we oversee, “Which God has purchased with his own blood.” Whenever we feel ourselves getting lazy and careless, we should picture Jesus talking to us. “I died for these people, and you won’t look after them? Were they worth my blood, but not your best effort? I ask you to do so little compared to what I sacrificed! I let myself be abused and humiliated, and then was willing to make you my co-worker- are you going to be careless with the little I give you to do?” Every time we look at our congregations, let us remember that they are the purchase of Christ’s blood, and therefore should be regarded by us with the deepest interest and most tender affection. On that last day, we do not want Jesus to say to us, “You did not value my blood enough to value the people that it had purchased, why do you think it is valuable enough to save you?” My fellow ministers, knowing that Christ’s blood will plead for us, if we don’t let it drive us to duty, it will be the cause of our damnation.
I have now covered just some of the things that should motivate us to oversee our congregations properly. If we set only these few upon our hearts, we have plenty of reasons to repent and do a better job than we have been doing. I know myself to be unworthy to scrutinize you; but an observer you must have. It is better for you to hear of your sin and duty from anyone, than from nobody.
CHAPTER 3 PRACTICAL APPLICATION
SECTION 1 – THE USE OF HUMILIATION Dear brethren, our business here is to get humble before the Lord for our past negligence, and to get his help in our work for the future. Isn’t it amazing how hard we will work to humble our congregations, while we ourselves remain un-humbled? We can find that the guides of the Church in Scripture confessed their own sins as well as the sins of the people. Ezra confessed the sins of the priests, as well as of the people, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God. Daniel also confessed his own sin, as well as the people’s. There are some great sins that we overseers are guilty of, and I want to go over them.
1) One of our worst and most obvious sins is PRIDE. How often does it follow you to your study when you’re preparing for a sermon? Let’s be honest and admit that pride often helps you choose the subject of your sermon, and the big words you use in it! God commands us to be as plain as we can so we can help the ignorant; but pride stands by and dirties the waters of God’s word. Simply put, in studying and preaching, pride makes men seek themselves and deny God when they should seek God’s glory and deny themselves. I know of pastors who are afraid to let someone more gifted than them preach in their pulpit, for fear the other man will be better received than themselves. This should not be the case; we should welcome men greater than us, and allow God’s graces to work through others! Some pastors do not allow members of their congregations to have opinions different from theirs, nor do they allow people to question their beliefs. If you embarrass them by showing them the error, or mistakes they make, the overseer takes it as a personal attack, and uses “reverence” towards himself as a defense against injury. Pride is a sin most deeply rooted in our nature, and is the hardest to root from the soul.
2) Another serious sin we ministers fall into is that we do not work hard enough; we think that being a pastor or overseer gives us a special privilege to take it easy. Now, there are many who do this work with all their might; but most, even those of us that are taken to be “godly ministers”, go through our work as if we are not fully devoted to it. Let me give some examples of this negligence. (A) If we were duly devoted to our work, we would not be so lax in our studies. Some men have no delight in their studies, only now and then do theynset aside an hour which they are forced to undergo. Many ministers study, only to write their sermons. (B) If we were heartily devoted to our work, it would be done more vigorously, and more seriously than it is by most of us. How few ministers preach with all their might, or speak about everlasting joys and everlasting torments in such a way as men might believe that they are being sincere! How can we speak so coldly and flatly about eternal life and eternal damnation? In preaching, there is a communion of souls; there should be passion and intimacy; we are instead promoting familiarity. (C) If we are devoted to the work of God, why don’t we help more of the congregations around us to find good ministers? A sermon in these places, by a powerful, well known preacher might help them more than you think.
3) Another sad sin is that we look after our worldly gains more than the interest and work of Christ. Here are 3 examples: (A) For worldly advantage, most of us will connect with whoever will promote us. How often have we seen ministers change their religion, politics, and opinions, as the governments changed? (B) We avoid the ministerial duties that get in the way of our worldly interests. How often do you see ministers drown themselves in worldly business-even in their ministry? Many pastors won’t use any form of church discipline, for fear that their congregations will bring them less money. To those doing this I ask, “If it was a sin for Simon Magus to buy the gift of God with money, why do you sell it?” (C) We are barren in works of charity, and in using all we have for our Master’s service. If our carnal interests did not rule over the interests of Christ and his Church, most ministers would be more fruitful in good works, and would more willingly use everything for his cause. Experience has proven that charity removes prejudice and opens the heart to words of holiness. If men see that you are addicted to do good, they will more easily believe that you are good. When they see that you love them, and seek their good, they will the more easily trust you. Ministers must, in proportion to their talents, give beyond others. It is not
enough to give a little to a poor man: others do that as well as you. I think that all you have should be devoted to God. I know the great argument is, “We have a wife and children to provide for, they deserve more than a little.” To this I answer: [a] There are few texts of Scripture more abused than, “He that doesn’t provide for his own, and specially for those of his own house, has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” This is many ministers excuse for saving up money, living in a big house, etc. They leave out that the apostle was speaking to those who put the responsibility for their families welfare on the church, instead of taking care of it themselves when they were able to, like with a widowed daughter. [b] Educate your children so that they have their own livelihood by some honest trade or employment, without other great provisions. I know that your charity and care must begin at home, but it must not end there. There must be some proportion between the provision we make for our families, and for them Church of Christ. A truly charitable heart, that has devoted all that it has, to God, would be the best judge of the right proportions. [c] If he that doesn’t marry does better than he that does marry, surely ministers should labor to do that which is best. One of the highest points of the Roman church’s policy is that its bishops, priests, and other religious orders, do not marry so that their children do not take up he churches money, and so the ministers can stay focused on the congregation. It is a pity that we can not imitate their self-denial, when our cause is so much more just. [d] They that must marry should earn as much as it takes to maintain their family, and then devote as much to the church’s service as they can.
I don’t want to put extreme rules on any man, but marriage does cause a biased judgment in the best of ministers. A man that preaches about getting an immortal crown should not seek after vanity; if he also preaches against riches he should show it by his life. Ministers are doubly sanctified: they are devoted to God both as Christians and as ministers; therefore, they are doubly obligated to honor him with all they have. Those ministers who make more money must do good that much more. There are some ministers who have large salaries, and such large churches that they cannot make time for personal instruction with even ½ of their people. They are content however, just to preach and leave everything else undone, as if that was all that God required. They are content with multitudes going to hell, rather than paying one or two diligent men to assist them. If this is not self-serving ministry than what is?
4) We are guilty of undervaluing the unity and peace of the whole Church. It is a common sin throughout the Christian world, that instead of having love and tender care for the universal Church, we limit that love and respect to a certain group. Communion must be held with each other as much as is lawful. If there are some called Lutherans, some Calvinists, some other denominations here, isn’t it true that we will pray hard for the prosperity of our own party, but really care less if some other denomination suffers a loss? How rare is it to meet with a man that bleeds with the whole church. Is the distance so great, that Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Independent can’t move forward for peace? If men’s hearts were touched with love to one another, even if we couldn’t agree on the “minors,” we could hold communion in the main issues. We may talk of peace as long as we live, but we shall never obtain it unless we return to the apostles’ simplicity. The most necessary thing to the Church’s peace is that we unite in the necessary truths, and tolerate one another in the small ones; we do not need to make a larger creed than God has already done. With this end in mind, make sure you do the following things: (A) Do not spend much time on controversial opinions; if better godly men than you, and whole churches, cant come to terms, what makes you so smart? (B) Do not spend time on those debates which only end in a grey area anyways. (C) Avoid the debates that are only “verbal,” those which, if they came to life, would go away. (D) Do not stress any point of faith which was not known to the whole Church of Christ, in all ages. (E) Don’t emphasize those issues which the great Christians of better ages had never heard of. (F) Don’t stress any point which all ages since the apostles, commonly held as being wrong.
5) Lastly, we are sadly negligent in performing acknowledged duties like church discipline, as mentioned before. How many ministers are there that do not know this is part of their job, that never cast out one obstinate sinner, nor brought one to public confession, nor even admonished one publicly to call him to repentance! It is God’s ordinance that says they must be personally rebuked and admonished, and publicly called to repentance, and be cast out if they remain impenitent. Besides the reasons which we have already stated, let these few be seriously considered as to why we should do our duty:
(A) It is sad to live in the willful omission of any known duty, year after year! (B) We are lazy and slothful in the work of Christ. I speak from experience. It was laziness that kept me so long from this duty; I even pleaded hard against it! It is work that calls for self-denial, because it will bring upon us the displeasure of the wicked. Can slothful servants expect a good reward? (C) The neglect of discipline has a strong tendency to make those who really aren’t Christians, think they are saved (D) We corrupt Christianity in the eyes of the world, and we make them believe that Christ is no more holy than Satan. (E) By permitting the worst to be un-reprimanded, many honest Christians are forced to withdraw from us. I have spoken with some members of the separated churches who joined themselves to other churches because, thinking that discipline (being an ordinance of Christ) must be used by all; they could find no Presbyterian churches that did it. They told me, that they only separated temporarily, till the Presbyterians started to use discipline, and then they would willingly return to them. I confess I was sorry that such good people withdrew from us. Our churches are not emptying because we’re disciplining the wicked; the saints are leaving because we tolerate sin. (F) We bring the wrath of God upon ourselves and our congregations, and so blast the fruit of our labors. If the angel of the church of Thyatira was reproved for allowing seducers in the church, we may be reproved on the same grounds, for allowing open, scandalous, impenitent sinners. What stops us from performing discipline? The biggest reason is that it is not glamorous and causes us trouble. It is true that very few can be brought to make a public profession of true repentance. We don’t see church discipline as our duty because it doesn’t suit our needs. [a] In regards to being a Christian, couldn’t the martyrs have said, “it will make us hated and it will expose our very lives to persecution?” It is the worst kind of hypocrisy to say that we won’t discipline our churches because it causes us hardship, while our very faith has hardship at its core. [b] While we may think we will fail in performing church discipline, it is God who blesses his own ordinances to do good, or else he would not have made them. The “last means” of public rebuke are meant to work together with the first methods of private correction. [c] I confess, if I had my way, any man who doesn’t oversee his people with discipline should be ejected as a negligent pastor, just as I would remove the one who won’t preach.
And now, brethren, what is left, but to cry guilty to these sins, and humble our souls for our miscarriages before the Lord? This is “taking heed to ourselves and to all the flock,” it is just like the pattern that is given to us in the verses! It is time, therefore, for us to take our part in the humiliation to which we have been so long calling our people. Shall we deny our sins while we tell our people to freely and fully confess? Is it not better to give glory to God with our confession, than to look for fig-leaves to cover our nakedness? We have neglected our duty in public; it cannot be hid. There is no way to repair the breaches in our honor but by our own free public confession and humiliation.
SECTION 2 – THE DUTY OF PERSONALLY INSTRUCTING THE FLOCK
Our duty for the future lies plain before us. God forbid that we should now continue in the sins which we have confessed, as carelessly as we did before. I will now exhort you to the great duty which you have undertaken, namely, personally instructing every one in your parishes or congregations that will submit to you. First, I will give you some motives to do this, and secondly, I will go over some objections I have heard to instructing everyone personally. Lastly, I’ll give you some practical directions, the “how to’s” of getting it done.
PART I- MOTIVES TO THIS DUTY 1) There are benefits in instructing this way. We have begun a blessed work that you, your parishes, our nation, and the unborn children may rejoice in; thousands and millions will have reason to bless God for it someday. I bless the Lord that I have lived to see so many servants of Christ doing this work. It is not a new invention, nor is it a point for debate; no, it is our well-known duty- the more diligent and effectual management of ministry. Here are some of the benefits: (A) It will convert souls. The work of conversion takes two things: First, teaching the basics of Christianity; second, the will’s being changed by the truth sticking to the soul. Individual instruction will help greatly in these two areas. Now, there is nothing wrong with reading; personal instruction lets us go over what they have read to make sure they understand it. If you are ministers of Christ you will long for the perfecting of his body and the gathering in of his elect; you will “travail as in birth” till you see Christ formed in your people. And what is your “hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?” Is it not the people you helped get saved, “in the presence of Christ Jesus at his coming?” They are your glory and your joy!
(B) Personal instruction gives “order” in building those who are converted, and establishes them in the faith. How can you build if you don’t lay a good foundation, or how can you set on the top-stone while the middle parts are neglected? (C) It will make our public preaching better understood and regarded. When you have personally instructed them in the principles, they will the better understand all you say. (D) It, keeps us acquainted with our people. While familiarity may breed contempt, it also helps them to trust us more. (E) Because of personal instruction, we will be better acquainted with each person’s spiritual state, and know how to watch and pray over them better. (F) It will show men the true nature of the minister’s office and awaken them to appreciate it more. (G) It will help our people to understand the nature of their duty toward their overseers better. I am convinced, by experience, one of the roadblocks to their salvation and to a true reformation of the Church, is the people do not understand what the work of a minister is, and what their own duty is towards him. If our people knew their duty, they would come to us to be instructed and to give an account of their faith; they would come of their own accord, without being sent for, knocking often at our doors, and calling for advice and help for their souls. What a happy thing it would be if you lived to see the day that it was ordinary for people to come for personal advice and help for their salvation. Our diligence in this work is the way to bring this about. (H) It will give the governors of the nation more correct views about the nature and burden of the ministry, and so may get us further assistance. (I) Individual instruction will make it easier for the next generation of ministers to do their jobs. (J) Once the heads of families have been personally instructed, they will begin to do the same to their own families. (K) It will keep us ministers from being idle and getting lazy; it will keep us sharp and prepared for our own benefit as well. (L) When we are busy instructing and teaching, we won’t have time to get caught up in contention, or vain controversies. (M) Once we get started, this way of ministering will spread and help countless others. (N) Lastly, personal instruction is the main way to a general reformation of the church. How long have we talked of reformation, and how deeply and devoutly have we vowed it for our own part; and, after all this, how shamefully have we neglected it to this day! We
thought about the blessing and how nice it would be, but never thought about the way to get it done because it takes commitment and sacrifice. Reformation is, to many of us, what the Messiah was to the Jews. Before he came, they looked for him and rejoiced in hope of him; but when he came they hated him and persecuted him to death.
2) Having gone over the benefits of the work, I come to motives of another sort, which are the difficulties of one-on-one instruction. Now, I confess, they look more like discouragements than motives at first glance; but when we look at them together with the motives we just covered, the case is far otherwise: these difficulties excite us to greater diligence. (A) Let me notice the difficulties in ourselves. (a) In ourselves there is much dullness and laziness, so that it will not be easy to get us to be faithful in such a hard work. Mere sloth will tie the hands of many. (b) We have a man-pleasing disposition, which makes us let men perish rather than making them angry with us for desiring their salvation. (c) Many of us have a foolish bashfulness which makes us not speak plainly to them. We are so modest that we blush to speak for Christ or contradict the devil. We don’t want to offend them. (d) Being hellishly carnal, we subordinate the work of Christ so that we don’t hurt our income or bring trouble upon ourselves. (e) The greatest problem is that we are so weak in the faith. We need, therefore, ministers who live their faith with power and joy. (f) Lastly, We have many worldly, unqualified men engaging in ministry. (B) Having noticed these difficulties in ourselves, I shall now mention some which we see in our people: (a) Many of them will be unwilling to be taught, thinking they are too good to be taught doctrine, or too old to learn. We must deal wisely with them in public and private study, by the force of reason and the power of love, to conquer their stubbornness. (b) Many that are willing to learn are so dull that they have a hard time understanding, and therefore they will keep away because they are embarrassed by their own ignorance. We must be wise and diligent to encourage them. (c) Next we must deal with the carnal heart! It will resist the most powerful persuasions. When you have done all, let the Spirit of grace do the work here.
(d) Lastly, when you have made some impressions on their hearts, you need to look after them and have a special care of them. If you don’t, their hearts will return to their former hardness, and their old companions and temptations will destroy it all.
3) If personal instruction was not so necessary, lazy ministers would be discouraged, rather than motivated, by the work involved. A) This duty is necessary for the glory of God. Since every true disciple lives for the glory of God as his end, we gladly take the course that will best promote God’s glory. If our idleness was turned into study, and every shop and every house was learning the Scriptures and speaking the Word of God, God would dwell in us! It is the glory of Christ that shines in his saints, and all their glory is His glory. If his saints increase in strength and number, He is glorified all the more. Every Christian is obliged to do all he can for the salvation of others; but every minister is doubly obliged, because he is separated to the gospel of Christ, and is to give himself wholly to that work. Personal instruction is so important because even after listening to years of my public preaching, most of my flock still has an ungrounded trust in Christ. They hope that he will pardon, justify, and save them; but their hearts are still in the world and they live in the flesh- this trust they take for justifying faith. I have found that some people who have gotten nothing from my sermons, gain more knowledge and repentance in half an hour’s personal talk, than they did from ten years’ public preaching. I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the best way to do it because we speak to many at once. It is usually more effective, however, to preach it privately to a particular sinner because we can better answer their objections. If you ignore the duty of private instruction, you may study and preach for long hours with no results. B) This duty is necessary to the welfare of our people. Can you tell men in the pulpit that they are damned unless they repent, and afterwards not feel driven to personally instruct them for their salvation? C) This duty is necessary to your own welfare, as well as to your people. This is your work, according to which you shall be judged. Our death, as well as our people’s, is at hand; and it is as terrible to an unfaithful pastor as to anyone. Gird your minds and fix yourselves like men, so that you may end your days with these triumphant words: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me in that day.”
4) Having found so many powerful reasons to motivate us to this work, I will now apply them further:
A) If we had but set about this business sooner, who knows how many more souls might have been brought to Christ, and how much happier our congregations would have been? We have sinned, and have no just excuse for it. B) We must deny our lazy flesh, and rouse up ourselves to the work before us. The harvest is great, and the laborers are few. To be fellow-workers with God and his Spirit is an honor. The fields now are white unto harvest; the preparations that have been made for us are very great; we have carelessly loitered too long already; the present time is passing away; while we are trifling, men are dying; oh how fast are they passing into another world!
If you will not set yourselves faithfully to this work, to which you are obligated, what an inexcusable thing our neglect will be.
PART II- OBJECTIONS TO THIS DUTY I shall next answer some of those objections, which may be made to the practices I have been recommending.
OBJECTION 1: We teach our people in public. Why are we also required to teach them, man by man? ANSWER: You pray for them in public: must you not also pray for them in private? Paul taught every man, and exhorted every man, doing both publicly, and from house to house, night and day, with tears. Daily I am confronted with people that have heard me preach for years, yet don’t know the basics of our faith. These people would have heard my personal instruction.
OBJECTION 2: Not everyone in my church are members, nor am I their pastor. Because of this I am not bound to be in charge of them. ANSWERS: (1) The pay which most receive is for teaching the whole church, even though you be not obligated to take them all as the church.
(2) The common bond that lies on all Christians is to further the work of men’s salvation and the good of the Church, and the honor of God, to the utmost of their power, together.
OBJECTION 3: Individual instruction takes up too much time, there won’t be any time left for us to prepare ourselves. ANSWERS: (1) It is good for a physician to study hard. If, however, he was in charge of a hospital where an epidemic was raging, and was busy studying the circulation of the blood, blisters, etc, when he should be visiting his patients and saving men’s lives, we would say he was being negligent to that which was most needed. We must remember that men’s souls can be saved without knowing all the fine points of predestination, or of man’s free will. There are a hundred similar questions which you could be studying when you should be out saving souls. Get your people to heaven first, for you will learn all of the other stuff when you die. (2) Whatever you neglect in your studies, you will learn by practice; this is the better way. You will find that doing things this way makes better pastors. (3) Yet let me add that you can make plenty of time for your studies and personal instruction, if you don’t waste your time or sleep too much. Do not waste a second! (4) Do the most important jobs first. I would throw away all the libraries in the world before one soul went to hell due to my neglect in teaching them about salvation. I now what my first duty is.
OBJECTION 4: We will wear ourselves out, thereby endangering our congregations. ANSWERS: (1) This is the plea of the flesh for its own interest, and a poor one. (2) We may take time for necessary recreation, and yet still privately instruct. An hour of walking before dinner is as much recreation as even the weaker ministers need. (3) The labor in which we are engaged is not likely to hurt our health. If anything, it will revive and refresh us. (4) What do we have our time and strength for, but to lay them out for God? What is a candle made for, but to burn? (5) As for visits and public events: if they serve God or others better than your typical ministry duties, you may break the Sabbath or even not preach that week. But if that’s not the case, how dare you make up excuses for neglecting so great a duty as serving God’s church? I admit, I don’t understand ministers who have time to spare; who can go hunting, or go to sports events. How do they justify two or three hours-even whole days together- that they can sit an hour together in vain debates, and spend whole days in
complimentary visits! Good Lord! What do these men think on, when so many souls around them cry for help; when even the smallest church has enough work to keep them busy night and day? What are the forty years of my life that are past? What a clever thing sin is, that can distract men that seem so wise! Is it possible that a man of any compassion and honesty, or any concern about his duties should have time to spare for idleness and vanity?
OBJECTION 5: If ministers preach diligently, and visit the sick, and perform other duties, I don’t think that God requires us to instruct every person individually; it makes our lives a burden. ANSWER: Do you think God doesn’t require you to do all the good you can? Will you watch sinners gasping under the pangs of death, and say, “God doesn’t require me to save them?” This is the voice of sensual laziness and diabolical cruelty. The chief misery of the Church is that so many are made ministers before they are even Christians. If these unqualified ministers had seen Jesus himself preaching all day, and all night in prayer, they would have stopped him from working so hard.
OBJECTION 6: The times that Paul lived in required more diligence than ours. The churches were being planted, the enemies were many, and persecution great. It isn’t the same now. ANSWER: This argument stinks like a man locked up in a study and unacquainted with the world. Good Lord! There are millions in the church itself that don’t know whether Christ is God or man; whether he is in heaven or on earth, nor what they must trust for pardon and everlasting life.
OBJECTION 7: If you make ministers work so hard, the Church will be left without them. What man will choose such a hard life for himself and his family? ANSWERS:(1) It is not we, but Christ, who has imposed these laws which you call severe. Even if I stayed quiet about them, it wouldn’t not get rid of them, nor would it excuse you. He that made them, knew why he did it, and will expect obedience to them. (2) As to a supply of pastors, Christ will take care of that. He who imposes this hard duty has the fullness of the Spirit, and can give men hearts to obey his laws. If you dislike his service, don’t do it; but don’t threaten him with the loss of your service-the King of the universe doesn’t require your help or preferences. At the hour of death and judgment, does Christ need you, or do you need him.
(3)To you ministers that are afraid to serve him for fear of failing, let me say: First, It is not involuntary imperfections that Christ will judge so dreadfully, it is unfaithfulness and willful negligence. Second, it does you no good to run out of the vineyard, on the high, humble ground that you don’t think you can measure up- he knows that. If you run, he can follow you and will overtake you, as he did Jonah. He will arrive with such a storm that will lay you “in the belly of hell.” To shed off a duty because you cannot be faithful is a poor excuse, at best!
OBJECTION 8: But what’s the use, when most of the people will not submit? They will not come to us to be taught. ANSWERS: (1) I can’t deny that many people are obstinate in their wickedness, that the “simple ones love simplicity, and the scorners delight in scorning, and fools hate knowledge.” But the worse they are, the more diligent we should be for their recovery. (2) I think that it is the ministers’ fault that most of the people are so obstinate. If we shined before them like we should, and had convincing sermons and convincing lives, the mouths of many would be stopped. (3) The unwillingness of the people does not excuse us from our duty. If we don’t offer them help, how do we know who will refuse it? (4) All of our people are not changed by our public preaching, yet we don’t throw it away as useless. Likewise, if some refuse our private instruction, others will accept it. The success with them may be so much as to reward all our labor.
OBJECTION 9: But what is the likelihood is that men will be converted privately, if they are not converted by the preaching of the Word publicly, when that is God’s chief ordinance; for “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the preaching of the word.” ANSWERS: (1) I have already gone over the advantages, so I will not go over them again here. Just as the doctor’s work is only half done when he understands the disease; so, when you are well acquainted with your people, you will know what to preach on. Talking with an obstinate sinner will furnish you with as much useful sermon material as studying for an hour.
At this point I want to show the pattern in Paul’s words so that we learn our duty. I confess, some of Paul’s words have been so often presented before my eyes, and impressed upon my conscience lately, that I have become convinced of both my duty and my neglect. I think this one verse deserves a year’s study; write it on your study doors, set
it in capital letters, so that it is always before your eyes. If we only practiced two or three lines of it, what preachers we would be!
Our general business – Serving the lord with all humility of mind and with many tears.
Our special work – Taking heed to yourselves and to all the flock.
Our doctrine – Repentance toward god and faith toward our lord Jesus Christ.
The place and manner of teaching – I have taught you publicly and from house to house.
Our diligence, earnestness, and affection – I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. This is how we must win souls, and preserve them.
Our faithfulness – I didn’t hold back that was profitable for you, and have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of god.
Our disinterestedness and self-denial for the sake of the gospel – I have desired no man’s silver or gold or clothes: these hands have paid my own way and those that were with me- remembering the words of the lord Jesus when he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Our patience and perseverance – None of these things move me, neither do I count my life dear, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the lord Jesus.
Our prayerfulness – I commend you to god and to the word of his grace which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
Our purity of conscience – Wherefore I tell you to record this day that I am pure from the blood of all men.
Write all this upon your hearts, and it will do yourselves and the Church more good than twenty years’ study of those things which may get you greater applause in the world. The advantage of ministers’ having a sincere heart is this: that the glory of God and the salvation of souls are their very end, and where that end is truly intended, no labor or suffering will stop them, or turn them back; for a man must have his end, whatever it costs him.
PART III-DIRECTIONS FOR THIS DUTY The main danger in not completing this work arises from the lack of either of diligence, or of skill. The main points which you need to accomplish are these two: First, To bring your people to submit to this course of private instruction; for, if they will not come to you or allow you to come to them, what good can they receive?; Second, to do the work in such a way as will cause the most success.
1) I will first give you some directions for bringing your people to submit to this course of catechizing and instruction. A) The main way to get your congregation involved is to live in a way that will convince people of your ability, sincerity, and unfeigned love towards them. If they are convinced that you understand the duties of being an overseer and that you are capable, they will respect you and more easily take your advice. If ministers valued the affections of their people and would get familiar with them, they would help their people more than we see now. Now, most ministers say that it really doesn’t matter whether they love or hate us. If our people’s loving us was for their own good, however, we would get off our high horses and become a real part of their lives, and let them into ours. What commander can do any great service with an army that hates him? B) The next thing is to convince them of the benefits and necessity of this instruction to themselves. The way to win the people over is to prove that it is good for them. You must, therefore, preach some powerful convincing sermons about the importance of individual instruction. “For by the time you should be teachers, you still need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; you have turned into those who need milk, instead of meat.” This verse provides us many points to preach on: (a) That God’s curriculum must be a man’s lessons. (b) Ministers must teach this agenda, and people must learn them from it.
(c) The oracles of God have fundamental principles, which all must know to be saved. (d) These principles must be learned in the right order. (e) The longer they are properly instructed, it is expected that people should thrive in knowing Christ. If they do not, it is their great sin. (f) If anyone has been going to church a long time and having been taught well, are still ignorant of these basic principles, they must be taught again, no matter how old they are. All of this is plain from the above verse in Hebrews. Make them understand that it is not your idea to begin instructing them this way, but that the job is laid upon us; and that if we do not hold every member of the flock accountable according to our ability, they may perish in their iniquity-but their blood will be required at our hand. Show them that it is God, and not we, who imposes this work, so they should blame God more than us in doing it. C) When we have taught on how important personal instruction is, it will be necessary that we give a “catechism” to every family in the parish, whether rich or poor. This catechism should include the basic instructions of the church; salvation, the person of Jesus, etc. If you leave it up to the people to buy them, half of them will not do it. When they have copies put into their hands, however, it will perhaps motivate them to get involved. The best way is for the minister first to give notice in the congregation, that they will be delivered to their houses, and then to go himself from house to house and deliver them. As to the expense of the catechisms, if the minister is able, he is better off paying for them himself. If not able to, the richer should bear it among them; or, in preparation for the work, let the collection for the poor be used in buying catechisms, and tell the people be to be more liberal than ordinary. As to the order of proceeding, we should take the people family by family, six weeks after the delivery of the catechisms, so that they will have had time to read and learn them. Because they received them as a group, they will be more willing to participate, and the rebellious will be ashamed to keep away. D)Be sure you are gentle with them, and get rid of all discouragements the best you can. (a) Tell them publicly that if they have learned any other catechism already, you will not make them learn this one unless they want to; for all reliable catechisms are of the same substance; if any of them would rather learn some other catechism, let them have their choice. (b) As for the old people who are not likely to live long and who can’t remember the words; tell them that you do not expect them to bother their minds about it, but you do want them to hear it often, and make sure they understand it.
(c) Be so gentle, convincing, and winning, that it may be an encouragement for others to come. E) Lastly, if there are still some people who won’t join in, do not cast them off, but go to them and find out why. Convince them of the sinfulness and danger of their neglecting the help that is offered.
2) Once they are involved and submit to your instructions, let’s go over how you can be the most effective in this work. I think it is much easier to compose and preach a good sermon, than to correctly teach an ignorant man the essential principles of religion. A) When your people come to you, start with something short to take off all unwillingness or discouragement, and to prepare them for receiving your instructions. All of our business in this world is to get people into heaven; and God has appointed us to be guides to get his people safely there. B) Take them one by one and deal with them as much as you can in private, out of the hearing of the rest, for some cannot speak freely before others. People will talk about their sin, and misery more when you have them alone, than they will around others. In order to avoid scandal, we must speak to the women only in presence of other women. C) Begin your work by going over what they have learned in the catechism. If they have barely learned any of it, see if they can memorize the creed and the ten commandments. D) Choose some of the weightiest points and questions. How well did they understand them? Be careful of the following things: (a) Begin with the points which they say concern them the most. For example: “What do you think happens to men when they die? What will happen to us after the end of the world? Do you believe that you have any sin; or that you were born with sin? What does every sin deserve? What is the remedy for our sin?” And so on. (b) Don’t ask them needless or very difficult questions, stick to the questions which should concern them the most. If you ask them a question like, “What is God,” you must first come up with a defective answer yourself! If you ask, “What is repentance, what is faith, or what is forgiveness of sin”, how can you expect your person to answer if ministers still haven’t come to an agreement on it themselves for thousands of years. Questions like these indicate a vain, conceited overseer. Now I do not absolutely forbid you to ask such questions, but do it cautiously, possibly if you notice some kind of major ignorance with the person you’re meeting with. (c) Ask your questions so they understand what you’re looking for; that it is not a nice definition, but simply a solution, that you expect. Ask simple yes and no questions to help
out: “What is God? Is he made of flesh and blood, as we are; or is he an invisible Spirit? Is he a man, or is he not? Had he any beginning? Can he die? What is faith? Is it a believing all the Word of God? What is it to believe in Christ? What is repentance? Is it only to be sorry for sin or is it the change the mind from sin to God, and forsaking of it? Does it include both?” (d) When you perceive that they do not understand the meaning of your question, you must draw out their answer by another question; or, if that will not do, you must frame their answer into a yes or no. Many men have knowledge that they just don’t know how to express, we need to find out if they understand it or not. (e) If you find them unable to answer your questions, do not push them too hard or too long, so that they don’t get embarrassed; step in yourself, take the burden off them, and answer the question yourself. Do it thoroughly and plainly, so they can understand it before you leave them. E) Once you are coming to the close of your session, review what you have gone over and teach a little extra on the areas you think he is lacking in. If you think they still don’t understand you, go over it again and try to fix it in their memories. F) If you suspect them to be unconverted, ask some specific questions, find out and address it. The best and least offensive way of doing this will be to prepare them by saying something that may calm their minds and convince them of the necessity of your questions. Ask them sincerely and honestly if they’ve ever experienced the baptism of the Spirit- has their heart been changed by God himself? If he tells you that he thinks he is saved, tell him what some of the plainest marks of true conversion are. If he’s still not sure, ask him these three questions (a) Can you truly say that all your sins have grieved you, that you felt you were lost, and that you happily accepted the news of a Savior; and your soul upon Christ alone, for pardon by his blood? (b) Can you truly say that your heart is so far turned from sin, that you hate the sins which you once loved, and that you do not now live in the willful practice of any known sin? (c) Can you truly say, that you have let go all that you had in the world, and that your one desire is to please God, and to enjoy him for ever? G) After these questions, if you think that the person is unconverted, use all your skill to bring his heart to a sense of his condition. For example: “Truly, I don’t want to make things worse than they already are, but I suppose, you would call me an enemy, and not a faithful minister, if I should flatter you, and not tell you the truth. I fear that you are a stranger to the Christian life. For if you we’re a Christian indeed, and truly converted, your very heart would be set on God and the life to come.”
H. Conclude with a practical exhortation, which must contain two parts; first, the duty of believing in Christ; and secondly, of using God’s grace for being delivered from sinning. Tell him these things: (a) Since you can’t make this change upon your heart happen yourself, pray daily to God and beg earnestly that he will pardon all your sins, and change your heart. Follow God day and night with these requests. (b) Fly from temptations and forsake your former evil company; join yourself to those that fear God. (c) Be sure to spend the Lord’s day seeking him.
Get them to commit to doing the above things, because these are within their reach, and they may do them while waiting for that change that has not yet happened in them. I) When you dismiss them, do these two things: (a) Soothe their minds again by a few words, removing anything like offense. For example: “I hope you are not upset that I have put you to this trouble, or dealt so freely with you. It is as little pleasure to me as to you. If I did not think that these things were true and necessary, I would have spared both of us. (b) Since you may not be able to meet them individually any time soon, tell the master of each family to have his family repeat, every Lord’s day, what they have learned of the catechism; and to continue this until they have all learned it perfectly. When they have done so, continue to hear them regularly recite it, so they don’t forget it. J) Have the names of all your parishioners with you in a book; and when they come and repeat the catechism, note in your book who came, and who didn’t. Keep track of who is unfit for the Lord’s supper and other holy communions as well. As you perceive the needs of each, deal with them as you see fit. To those that are utterly obstinate and will not come to you nor be instructed by you in regards to sealing and confirming ordinances, avoid them, and do not to hold holy or familiar communion with them in the Lord’s supper or other ordinances. K) Through your whole meeting with them, make sure that the way, as well as what you did, is suited to the end. Concerning the way to conduct your instruction, observe these particulars: (a) Be all things to all persons. To the youthful, focus on lust, and show them how to overcome it. To the young, you must be freer; to superiors and elders, more reverend. To the rich, you must show the vanity of this world and the nature and necessity of selfdenial; and the damnableness of preferring the present state to the next; together with the
necessity of improving their talents in doing good to others. To the poor, you must show the great riches of glory which are offered to them in the gospel. (b) Be as condescending, familiar, and plain as possible, with those that are of weaker capacity. (c) Give them Scripture in everything you say, so they know that it is not you only, but God who speaks to them. (d) Be as serious as you can in the whole exercise. I fear nothing less, than that some careless ministers will turn this work into a mere formality; putting a few cold questions to their people, and giving them two or three cold words of advice, without any life and passion in themselves, and not likely to produce any feeling in the hearers. (e) It is very necessary that we take special care of our own hearts, to excite and strengthen our belief of the truth of the gospel, and of the invisible glory and miseries to come. (f) We need to prepare ourselves by secret prayer; and, if time allows and many are together, we should begin and end with a short prayer with our people. (g) Carry out everything with clear demonstrations of love to their souls, and make them feel that you want nothing but their salvation. Avoid all harsh, discouraging language. (h) If you don’t have time to deal fully with every one exactly like I’m telling you here, then stick to the most necessary parts. If it helps, take several friends who can keep their mouths shut about each other’s weaknesses, and do your instruction as a small group. L) Lastly, If God enables you, extend your charity to the poorest, before they leave your meeting. Give them something for their relief, and for the time that you have taken them from their labors, to encourage them. As for the rest, promise them the same after they have learned the catechism. I know you cannot give what you don’t have, but I am speaking to those that can. And now, brethren, I am done with my advice, and leave you to the practice of it. I do not doubt that God will use it to the awakening of many of his servants to their duty, and promoting a reformation. Amen