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The following passage comes from the Memoirs of James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698). In it, we hear the heartbeat of a true fisher of men, a pastor-evangelist that all pastors should strive to be. Also, note that he urged the duty of the minister going beyond the four walls of the church into the “highways and hedges” to speak to the lost.  This is the good old parish way – ministerial house to house evangelistic labor in a fixed, geographical district. Would to God it may be recovered! (Italics in quote below mine.)

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God did not fend me to baptise, but to preach. But that which I was called to was, to testify for God, to hold forth his name and ways to the dark world, and to deliver poor captives of Satan, and bring them to the glorious liberty of the sons of God: this was I to make: my only employment, to give myself to, and therein to be diligent, taking all occasions ; and to be plain, full and free in this charge. I was called to enter in hot war with the world and sinners, to fight by my testimony against them for God ….

He is [in addition to public preaching] to execute his commission by exhortation, private and occasional instruction, whether for reproof, comfort, or in formation and direction. And this is it which I suppose I was moſt called unto, viz. to take all occasions with all persons in private discourse, to make the name of Christ known, and to do them good, and to do this as my only work; and to do it boldly, and faithfully and fully: and this to do is very hard in a right and effectual manner; to do this is harder than to preach publickly; and, to be strengthened, directed and encouraged in this, is that for which I ought to live near in a dependence on Christ, without whom we can do nothing, and of whom is all our sufficiency. In preaching there are a great many whom we can not reach, and there are many to whom we have no occasion to preach publickly; we may thus preach always, and speak more succesfully than in publick, where the greatest part of hearers do not understand the minister tho’ he speak never so plainly. This likewise we are called unto this day, seeing we are by force incapacitate: but oh how is this neglected! were ministers faithful in this, we should quickly fee a change in affairs; but, alas, with grief of heart I speak it, it is in this thing that I challenge myself most of any, it is in this that I have most come ſhort, and I suppose it may be so with others too. The Apostles went from house to house.

download“And, I am sure, it is not much for our safety, that national and provincial fasts are so much neglected, when Providence so loudly calls us to the work of humiliation and prayer; when sin is arriving to so great a height, when clouds of wrath are gathering so fast; when all Europe is threatened with blood and confusion, and when destructive divisions and schisms are ready to break out among us at home; and O, do not these frightful appearances proclaim it to be a proper season for us to meet, and fast, and mourn, and see is we can weep our hearts into one lump, and, by our united prayers, prevail with God, for Christ’s sake, to ‘spare his people, and not give his heritage to reproach;’ or else, that he will prepare us to meet him, when coming in the way of his judgments? And, if judgment begin at the house of God, what shall be the end of these that obey not the gospel? O that God, in his mercy, may awaken us in time to think on these things!”

-John Willison of Dundee (1680-1750)

 

Here is a delightful vignette of old parish ‘missions,’ if you will, in 17th century Presbyterian Scotland.  The minister, William Guthrie (1620-1665), labored to be all things to all men, that he might gain some.

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After William Guthrie came to Fenwick, many of the people were so rude and barbarous, that they never attended upon divine worship, and knew not so much as the face of their pastor. To such, everything that respected religion was disagreeable; many refused to be visited or catechised by him; they would not even admit him into their houses. To such he sometimes went in the evening disguised in the character of a traveller, and sought lodging, which he could not even obtain without much entreaty, but, having obtained it, he would engage in some general amusing conversation at first, and then ask them how they liked their minister. When they told him that they did not go to church, he engaged them to go and take a trial; others he hired with money to go. When the time of family worship came, he desired to know if they made any, and if not, what reasons they had for it.

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“Is the end and effect of the work of the ecclesiastical ministry only the confirmation of those who are already converted and true church members, so that ministers of churches are not more obliged by virtue of their ecclesiastical function to convert the straying souls of such as live in the world and in sin out of church communion, than are all other believers endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit by the common duty of Christian love? Do they never convert any by virtue of their ecclesiastical ministry except by chance? …

“The end and effect of the work of the ecclesiastical ministry is not only the confirmation and edification of those who are already converted and are true church members, but by virtue of their ecclesiastical function ministers of churches are obliged to convert the straying souls of such as live in the world and in sin out of church communion. Their obligation to do so is far greater than that of any of the rest of the faithful endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and bound by the common duty of Christian love. And when by virtue of their ecclesiastical ministry (divine grace cooperating) they make converts, the conversion is an effect of their ecclesiastical ministry as such and is not by chance.”

-John Norton (1606-1663)

downloadThe following is a quote from David Calderwood’s (1575-1650) introduction to the First and Second Books of Discipline of the Church of Scotland (1560 and 1578 respectively).  Here, we have a find statement of sound, Christian historiography.  It really goes to the heart of unbelief as applied to the doing of history in our modern, secular age.  “Let God arise, and His enemies be scattered!”

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“Is the Lord changed, because he changes the manner of his working? God forbid. For although he declares not in our times who belongs to him by miraculous fire sent from heaven, as in the days of Elijah; the earth opens not her mouth, as in the days of Korah; he rains not showers of brimstone upon the Sodomites of this age; he turns not such as look back into pillars of salt to season others; neither is his favour manifested towards his own secret ones in earthly and visible blessings, so wonderfully as of old; yet the God of Israel is our God, and the God of the old testament is the God of the new, and better testament, having still a secret and equivalent providence most wisely disposed, and framed for the weal of his kirk, according to the diversity of the ages succeeding one after another. So that no wise heart perceiving the course thereof could wish another than the present, howsoever the folly of infidelity blinds men to affect the miracles, ease, and outward prosperity of former generations, and if these fail, to cast themselves headlong in desperation, defection, or atheism. Yea, because he works not as before, in their haste they conclude that he works not at all.”

parsonct

A PARSON of a certain township who
Was poor, but rich in holy thought and work.
He also was a learned man, a clerk;
The Christian gospel he would truly preach,
Devoutly his parishioners to teach.
Benign he was, in diligence a wonder,
And patient in adversity, as under
Such he’d proven many times. And loath
He was to get his tithes by threatening oath;
For he would rather give, without a doubt,
To all the poor parishioners about
From his own substance and the offerings.
Sufficiency he found in little things.
His parish wide, with houses wide asunder,
He’d never fail in either rain or thunder,
Though sick or vexed, to make his visitations
With those remote, regardless of their stations.
On foot he traveled, in his hand a stave.
This fine example to his sheep he gave:
He always did good works before he taught them.
His words were from the gospel as he caught them,
And this good saying he would add thereto:
“If gold should rust, then what will iron do?”
For if a priest be foul in whom we trust,
No wonder that the ignorant goes to rust.
And it’s a shame (as every priest should keep
In mind), a dirty shepherd and clean sheep.
For every priest should an example give,
By his own cleanness, how his sheep should live.
He never set his benefice for hire,
To leave his sheep encumbered in the mire
While he ran off to London and Saint Paul’s
To seek a chantry, singing in the stalls,
Or be supported by a guild. Instead
He dwelt at home, and he securely led
His fold, so that the wolf might never harry.
He was a shepherd and no mercenary.
A holy, virtuous man he was, and right
In showing to the sinner no despite.
His speech was never haughty or indignant,
He was a teacher modest and benignant;
To draw folks heavenward to life forever,
By good example, was his great endeavor.
But if some person were too obstinate,
Whether he be of high or low estate,
He would be sharply chided on the spot.
A better priest, I wager, there is not.
He didn’t look for pomp or reverence
Nor feign a too self-righteous moral sense;
What Christ and his apostles had to tell
He taught, and he would follow it as well.

Root and branch

john_knox_statue_haddingtonThis is an extract from the First Book of Discipline of Scotland (1560). John Knox was one of the principal authors.  In these opening words, these godly reformers advocate total support of a godly preaching ministry throughout the realm and the total suppression of any preaching and worship not arising from the clear commandment of God.  While harsh to the modern ear, we must recall that God is a jealous God, prizing His instituted worship and passionately opposing all false religion.  Reformation must labor to cultivate pure worship root and branch and remove all false worship root and branch.  Or to use the imagery from the Books of the Kings, we must also take down the “high places,” the last holdouts and remnants of idolatry.

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The first head of docrtine.

Seeing that Christ Iesus is he whom God the Father hath commanded onely to bee heard and followed of his sheepe, wee judge it necessary that his Gospell be truely and openly preached in every Church and Assembly of this realme, and that all doctrine repugnant to the same, be utterly repressed, as damnable to mans salvation.

The explication of the first head.

Lest that upon this generalitie ungodly men take occasion to cavill, this we adde for explication. By preaching of the Gospel we understand not onely the Scriptures of the new Testament, but also of the old, to wit, the Law, Prophets, & Histories, in which Christ Iesus is no lesse contained in figure, then we have him now expressed in veritie. And therefore with the Apostle we affirme, that all Scripture inspired of God is profitable to instruct, to reprove, and to exhort. In which bookes of old and new Testaments, we affirme that all thing necessary for the instruction of the Church, and to make the man of God perfect, is contained and sufficiently expressed.

By the contrary doctrine we understand whatsoever men by lawes, counsells, or constitutions, have imposed upon the consciences of men, without the expressed commandement of Gods word, such as be the vowes to chastitie, forswearing of marriage, binding of men and women to several and disguised apparrells, to the superstitious observation of fasting dayes, difference of meat for conscience sake, prayer for the dead, and keeping of holy dayes of certaine Saints commanded by man, such as be all those that the Papists have invented, as the feasts (as they terme them) of the Apostles, Martyrs, Virgines, of Christmasse, Circumcision, Epiphanie, Purification, and other fond [foolish] feastes of our Ladie: which things because in Gods Scriptures they neither have commandement nor assurance, we judge them utterly to be abolished from this Realme: affirming farther that the obstinate maintainers and teachers of such abhominations ought not to escape the punishment of the civill Magistrate.