Chapter 3: Of the manner and concomitants of our work.

3.1. It must be done purely for God
3.2. Laboriously and diligently
3.3. Prudently and orderly
3.4. We must insist most on the greatest and most necessary things
3.5. With plainness and evidence
3.6. In a sense of our insufficiency and dependance on Christ
3.7. In humility and condescension
3.8. With a mixture of severity and mildness
3.9. With affectionate seriousness
3.10. Reverently and spiritually
3.11. In tender love to our people
3.12. Patiently
3.13. And with an earnest desire of union among ourselves, and of the unity and peace of the church.

HAVING spoken of the matter of our work, we are next to speak of the manner; not of each part distinctly, but of the whole in general, especially with reference to the principal part.

3.1. It must be done purely for God

The ministerial work must be managed purely for God and the salvation of the people, and not for any private ends of our own. A wrong end mars all the work as from us, how good soever, in itself. It is not serving God, but ourselves, if we do it not for God, but for ourselves. They who set about this as a common work, to make a trade of it for their worldly livelihood, will find that they have chosen a bad trade, though a good employment. Self-denial is of absolute necessity in every Christian, but of a double necessity in a minister, as he has a double sanctification and dedication to God. Without self-denial he cannot do God an hour’s faithful service. Hard studies, much knowledge, and excellent preaching are but more glorious and hypocritical sinning, if the end be not right. The saying of Bernard is commonly known, “There are some who desire to acquire knowledge only for this end, that they may know; and this is base curiosity. Others desire to have it that they may sell it; and this is base gain. Others desire to have it that they themselves may be known; and this is base vanity. But there are others also who desire to have it that they may edify; and this is charity. And there are others who desire it that they may be edified; and this is wisdom.”

3.2. Laboriously and diligently

This work must be managed laboriously and diligently, being of such unspeakable consequence both to others and ourselves. We are seeking to uphold the world, to save it from the curse of God, to perfect the creation, to attain the ends of Christ’s redemption, to save ourselves and others from damnation, to overcome the devil and demolish his kingdom, to set up the kingdom of Christ, and attain and help others to eternal glory. And are these works to be done with a careless mind or a slack hand? O see then that this work be done with all your might! Study hard, for the well is deep and our brains are shallow. But especially be laborious in practice, and in the exercise of your knowledge. Let Paul’s words ring in your ears continually: “Necessity is laid upon me, and wo unto me if I preach not the gospel!” Still think with yourselves what lies upon your hands. If I do not bestir me, Satan may prevail,and the people everlastingly perish, and their blood be required at my hands. By avoiding labour and suffering, I shall draw on me a thousand times more than I avoid: for, as Bernard says, “They who are not engaged in the work of men will surely be engaged in the work of devils;” whereas by present diligence you prepare for future blessedness; and, as Gregory in his morals says, “As many labours as you now manifest for the truth, so many pledges likewise of recompense do you retain with a full expectation.” No man was ever a loser by God.

3.3. Prudently and orderly

This work must be carried on prudently, orderly, and by degrees. Milk must go before strong meat: the foundation must be laid before we build upon it. Children must not be dealt with like adults. Men must be brought into a state of grace before we can expect from them the works of grace. The work of conversion, and repentance from dead works, and faith in Christ, must be first, frequently, and thoroughly taught. The stewards of God’s household must give to each their portion in due season. We must not go beyond the capacities of our people, nor teach them perfection who have not learned the first principles. As Augustine says, “If an infant be nourished according to his strength, it will be able to take in more as it grows; but if it exceed what it is capable to bear, it will decrease rather than increase.” And as Gregory Nyssen says, “As we teach not infants the deep precepts of science, but first letters, and then syllables, so also the guides of the church do first propound to their hearers certain documents, which are as the elements; and so by degrees open to them the more perfect and mysterious matters.” Therefore did the church take so much pains with their catechumens before they baptized them, and would not lay unpolished stones into the building.

3.4. We must insist most on the greatest and most necessary things

Through the whole course of our ministry we must insist most upon the greatest, most certain, and necessary things, and be more seldom and sparing upon the rest. If we can but teach Christ to our people, we teach them all. Get them well to heaven, and they will have knowledge enough. The great and commonly acknowledged truths are those that men must live upon, and are the great instruments of raising the heart to God, and destroying men’s sins; and therefore we must still have our people’s necessities in our eyes. It will make us disregard needless ornaments and unprofitable controversies to remember that one thing is necessary. Other things are desirable to be known; but these things must be known, or else our people are undone for ever. I confess I think necessity should be a great disposer of a minister’s course of study and labour. If we were sufficient for every thing, we might fall upon every thing, and take in order the whole encyclopædia: but life is short, and we are dull; eternal things are necessary, and the souls that depend on our teaching are precious. I confess necessity has been the conductor of my studies and life: it chooses what book I shall read, and tells when and how long; it chooses my text, and makes my sermon for matter and manner. Though I know the constant expectation of death has been a great cause of this, yet I know no reason why the most healthy man should not make sure of the necessaries first, considering the uncertainty and shortness of all men’s lives. Xenophon thought “there was no better teacher than necessity, which teaches all things most diligently.” Curtius says, “Necessity is more effectual than any art.” Who can in study, preaching, or life, be doing other matters, if he do but know that this must be done? Who can trifle or delay, that feels the spurs of hasty necessity? As the soldier says, “We must not stand long disputing; but immediately and courageously fight when necessity requires it.” So much more must we, as our
business is more important. And doubtless this is the best way to redeem time, and see that we lose not an hour, when we spend it only on necessary things: it is also the way to be most profitable to others, though not always to be most pleasing and applauded. Hence it is that a preacher must be often upon the same things, because the matters of necessity are few. We must not either feign necessaries, nor dwell much upon unnecessaries, to satisfy those who are fond of novelties; though we must clothe the same necessaries with a grateful variety in the manner of our delivery. The great volumes and tedious controversies that so much trouble us, and waste our time, are usually made up more of opinion than necessary truths. Necessaries are common and obvious: they are superfluities for which we waste our time and labour, and complain that we attain them not. Ministers therefore must carefully observe the state of their flocks, that they may know what is most necessary for them, both for matter and for manner: and matter is usually first to be regarded, as being of more importance than the manner. If you are to choose what authors to read yourselves, will you not rather take those that tell you what you know not, and speak needful truth most evidently, though it should be in uncouth language, than those who most learnedly and elegantly tell you what is false or vain, and, after much ado, say nothing? I purpose to follow Austin’s counsel, “in preferring sentiment to words, as the mind is preferred to the body. Hence it is that I would rather have speeches which are true, than those which contain nice distinctions, as I would rather have my friends wise than handsome.” And surely as I do in my studies, for my own edification, I should do in my teaching for that of other men. It is commonly empty and ignorant men, who want the matter and substance of true learning, that are over-curious and solicitous about words and ornaments, when the aged, experienced, and most learned men abound in substantial truths delivered in
the plainest dress.

3.5. With plainness and evidence

All our teaching must be as plain and evident as we can make it; for this best suits a teacher’s design. He that would be understood must speak to the capacity of his hearers, and make it his business to make himself understood. Truth loves the light, and is most beautiful when most naked. It is a sign of an envious enemy to hide the truth; and a sign of a hypocrite to do this under pretence of revealing it: and therefore painted obscure sermons, like the painted glass in the windows that keeps out the light, are too often the marks of painted hypocrites. If you do not wish to teach men, what business have you in the pulpit? If you do, why do you not speak so as to be understood? I know the height of the matter may prevent a man from being understood, though he have studied to make it as plain as he can; but to cloud the matter in strange words, and hide his mind from the people whom he pretends to instruct, is the way to make fools admire his profound learning, and wise men his folly, pride, and hypocrisy. And usually it is a suspicious sign of some false doctrine that needs such a cloak, and must walk thus masked in the open day. Thus did the followers of Basilides, and Valentinus, and others among the old heretics; and thus do the Behmenists and other Paracelsians now, who, when they have spoken in such a way that few understand them, lest they expose their errors to open view, they pretend a necessity for it, because of men’s prejudices, and the unpreparedness of common understandings for the truth. But truth overcomes prejudice by mere light of evidence; and there is no better way to make a good cause prevail, than to make it as plain and thoroughly known as we can; and this light most effectually disposes unprepared minds for receiving the truth. At best it is a sign that he has not well digested the matter himself, who is not able to deliver it plainly to another. I mean as plainly as the nature of the matter will admit, in regard to capacities prepared for it by prerequisite truths. For I
know that some men cannot at present understand some truths, though you speak them as plainly as words can express them: as the easiest rules in grammar, most plainly taught, cannot be understood by a child that is but learning his alphabet.

3.6. In a sense of our insufficiency and dependance on Christ

Our whole work must be carried on in a sense of our insufficiency, and in a pious, believing dependance upon Christ. We must go to him for light, and life, and strength, who has called us to the work: and when we feel our faith weak, and our hearts dull, and unsuitable to the great work we have to do, we must have recourse to him, and say, “Lord, wilt thou send me with such an unbelieving heart to persuade others to believe? Must I daily and earnestly plead with sinners about everlasting life and death, and have no more belief and feeling of these weighty things myself? O send me not naked and unprovided for the work; but, as thou commandest me to do it, furnish me with a spirit suitable thereto.” As Austin says, “A preacher must labour to be heard understandingly, willingly, and obediently; and let him not doubt but he will effect this more by pious prayers than by the power of oratory; so that by praying for himself and others whom he is about to address, he may be a petitioner before he is a teacher: and at the very time when he is coming, before he goes out, let him raise his voice to God, and lift his soul with fervent desire.” Prayer must carry on our work, as well as preaching. He does not preach heartily to his people who does not pray for them. If we do not prevail with God to give them repentance and faith, we are not likely to prevail with them to repent and believe. Paul gives us frequently his example of praying night and day for his hearers. When our own hearts are out of order and theirs too, if we do not prevail with God to mend and help them, we are likely to be very unsuccessful in our work.

3.7. In humility and condescension

Our work must also be managed with great humility. We must carry ourselves meekly and condescendingly to all; and so teach others as to be ready to learn of any who can teach us, and thereby both teach and learn at once: not proudly venting our own conceits, and disdaining all that any way contradict them, as if we had attained to the top of knowledge, and were destined for the chair, and other men only to sit at our feet. Pride is a vice that ill becomes them who must lead men in such an humble way to heaven. They must also take heed, lest, when they have brought others thither, the gate should prove too strait for themselves. For, as Hugo says, “Pride was produced in heaven: but, as it had forgot the way by which it fell from thence, it can never return thither again.” God, who thrust out a proud angel, will not entertain a proud preacher. Methinks we should remember at least the title of a minister, which, though the popish priests disdain, yet we do not. It is indeed this pride at the root that feeds all the rest of our sins. Hence the envy, the contention, and unpeaceableness of ministers, and hence the hinderances in all reformation. All want to lead, and few will follow or concur. Yea, hence are the schisms and apostacies, as have been former persecutions, arrogant usurpations and impositions. And the same may be said of other vices, which often revive when they seemed dead, because pride was unmortified, which virtually contains them all. Hence also the non-proficiency of too many ministers, because they are too proud to learn. But I may say of ministers as Augustine to Jerome,—even the aged of them: “Although it is more fit that old men should teach than learn, yet it is more fit that they should learn than be ignorant.” Humility would teach them another lesson; as Hugo says, “Willingly learn of all what you are ignorant of, because humility will make that common to you which nature has made peculiar to every one. You will be wiser than all, if you are willing to learn from all. They who receive
from all become richer than all.”

3.8. With a mixture of severity and mildness

There must be a prudent mixture of severity and mildness, both in our preaching and discipline: each must be predominant according to the quality of the person or matter that we have in hand. If there be no severity, there will be contempt of our reproofs. If all severity, we shall be taken as usurpers of dominion, rather than persuaders of the minds of men to the truth.

3.9. With affectionate seriousness

We must be sincerely affectionate, serious, and zealous, in all our public and private exhortations. The weight of our matter condemns coldness and sleepy dulness. We should see that we be well awake ourselves, and our spirits in such a state as may make us fit to awaken others. As Gregory says, “We should be like the cock, who, when he is preparing to crow, first wisely claps his wings, and by striking his side renders himself more vigilant. So preachers, when they are about to deliver the word in public, should first employ themselves in holy exercises.” If our words be not sharpened, and pierce as nails, they will hardly be felt by stony hearts. To speak coldly and slightly of heavenly things, is much the same as to say nothing of them.

3.10. Reverently and spiritually

All our work must be managed reverently, as becomes them who are conscious of the presence of God, and use not holy things as if they were common. The more of God that appears in our duties, the more authority will they have with men: and reverence is that affection of the soul which proceeds from deep apprehensions of God, and manifests a mind that is conversant with him. To manifest irreverence in the things of God, is so far to manifest hypocrisy, and that the heart does not agree with the tongue. I know not what others may feel; but the most reverend preacher, who speaks as if he saw the face of God affects my heart more, even with common words, than an irreverend man with the most exquisite preparations. Yea, suppose he bawl it out with ever so much seeming earnestness, if reverence be not answerable to fervency, it has but little effect. Of all preaching in the world, that speaks not absolute falsehood, I hate that preaching which tends to make the hearers laugh, or to move their minds with levity, and affect them as stage plays do, instead of affecting them with a holy reverence of the name of God. Jerome, in his epistle to Nepotian, says, “When you are teaching in the church, let not a shout be excited in the people, but a groan. The tears of your hearers will tend to your praise.” We should, as it were, suppose we saw the throne of God, and millions of glorious angels attending him, that we might be awed with his majesty when we draw near to him in holy things, lest we profane them, and take his name in vain.

To this I annex, that all our work must be done spiritually, as men possessed of the Holy Ghost, and actuated by him, and men who savour the things of the Spirit. There is in some men’s preaching a spiritual strain, which spiritual hearers can discern and relish: and in others this sacred tincture is so evidently wanting, that even when they speak of spiritual things, the manner is such as if they were common matters. Our evidence and ornaments also must be spiritual, rather from the Holy Scripture, with a cautious use of the fathers and other writers, than from Aristotle, or the authorities of men. The wisdom of the world must not be magnified above nor equalled with the wisdom of God. Philosophy must be taught to stoop and serve, while faith bears the sway: and great scholars in Aristotle’s school must take heed of too much glorying in their master, and despismg those who are below them, lest they themselves prove lower in the school of Christ, and least in the kingdom of God, while they would be great in the eyes of men. As wise a man as any of them would glory in nothing but the cross of Christ, and desired to know nothing but him crucified. They who are so confident that Aristotle is in hell, should not too much take him for their guide in the way to heaven. It is an excellent memorandum of Gregory’s, “God first collected the unlearned, philosophers afterwards; and he did not teach fishermen by orators, but overcame orators by fishermen.” The most learned men should think of this.

Let all writers have their due esteem, but compare none of them with the word of God. We will not refuse their service, but we must abhor them as competitors. It is a sign of a distempered heart to lose our relish for Scripture excellence; for there is a connaturality in a spiritual heart with the word of God, because that word is the seed which regenerated it. The word is that seal that made all the holy impressions which are in the hearts of true believers, and stamped the image of God upon them; and, therefore, they must needs be like that word, and highly esteem it as long as they live. Austin tells us, “A certain Platonist said that the beginning of the holy gospel by John ought to be written in letters of gold, and fixed up in the most conspicuous places in all churches.” If he could so value that which suited with his Platonism, how should we value the whole, which is suitable to the Christian nature and interest! God is the best teacher of his own nature and will.

3.11. In tender love to our people

The whole course 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 which does them good does us good, and that nothing distresses us more than their hurt. We must remember, as Hierom says, that bishops are not lords, but fathers, and therefore must be affected to their people as their children; yea, the tenderest love of a mother should not surpass theirs; We must even “travail in birth for them, till Christ be formed in them.” They should see that we care for no outward thing; no, not money, nor liberty, nor credit, nor life, in comparison of their salvation; but could even be content, with Moses, to have our name wiped out of the book of life, i.e., to be removed è numero viventium, rather than they should perish, and not be found in the Lamb’s book of life, in numero salvandorum. Thus should we, as John says, be ready to lay down our lives for the brethren; and with Paul, not to count our lives dear to us, so we may but finish our course with joy, in doing the work of God for their salvation. When the people see that you unfeignedly love them, they will hear any thing, and bear any thing, and follow you the more easily. As Austin says, Dilige et dic quicquid voles. We take all things well ourselves from one we know does entirely love us. We will put up with a blow that is given us in love, sooner than a harsh word that is spoken to us in anger or malice. Most men judge of the counsel as they judge of the affection of him who gives it, at least so far as to give it a fair hearing. O therefore see that you feel a tender love to your people in your breasts, and let them feel it in your speeches, and see it in your dealings. Let them see that you spend and are spent for their sakes; and that all you do is for them, and not for any ends of your own. To this end the works of charity are necessary, as far as your estate will reach; for bare words will hardly convince men
that you have any great love to them. “Friendship arises from giving and receiving.” But when you are not able to give, show that you are willing to give if you had it, and do that sort of good that you can. But be sure that your love prove not carnal, flowing from pride, as one that is a suitor for himself rather than for Christ, and therefore loves because he is loved, or, that he may be, pretends it. Therefore take heed that you do not connive at their sins under pretence of love, for that were to act contrary to the nature and end of love. “If you suffer the vices of your friend, you make them your own.” Friendship must be cemented by piety. “First show yourself good, and then seek one like yourself.” A wicked man can be no true friend; and if you befriend their wickedness, you show that you are such yourselves. Pretend not to love them, if you favour their sins, and seek not their salvation. By favouring their sin you will show your enmity to God, and then how can you love your brother? “He cannot be a friend to man who is an enemy to God.” If you be their best friends, help them against their worst enemies. Amicus anime custus. And think not all sharpness inconsistent with love: parents correct their children; and God himself chastens every son that he loves. Melius est cum severitate diligere, quam cum lenitate decipere. Besides this, the nature of love is to excite men to do good, and to do it speedily, diligently, and as extensively as they can.

3.12. Patiently

Another necessary concomitant of our work is patience. We must bear with many abuses and injuries from those to whom we are doing good. When we have studied for them, prayed for them, and besought and exhorted them with all condescension; when we have spent ourselves for them, and given them what we are able, and dealt with them as if they had been our children, we must expect that many will requite us with hatred and contempt, and cast our kindness in our faces with disdain, and take us for their enemies, because we tell them the truth; and that the more we love the less we shall be beloved. All this must be patiently endured, and still we must unweariedly hold on in doing good; in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance. If they unthankfully scorn and reject our teaching, and bid us look to ourselves and care not for them, yet still must we hold on. We have to deal as with distracted men who will fly in the face of their physician, but we must not therefore forsake the cure. He is unworthy to be a physician who will be driven away from a frantic patient by foul words. If we tell them that natural men savour not the things of the Spirit, and are beside themselves in matters of salvation, we must measure our expectations accordingly, and not look that fools should make us as grateful a return as wise men. These are things that all of us can say; but when we come to the practical part with sinners who reproach and slander us for our love, and are more ready to spit in our faces than to give us thanks for our advice, what heart-risings will there be, and how will the remains of the old Adam, pride and passion, struggle against the meekness and patience of the new man! And how sadly do many ministers come short in this part of their trial!

3.13. And with an earnest desire of union among ourselves, and of the unity and peace of the church.

Having given you these twelve concomitants of our ministerial labour, as singly to be performed by every minister, let me conclude with one that is necessary to us as we are conjoined and fellow-labourers in the work; and it is this: We must be very studious of union and communion among ourselves, and of the unity and peace of the churches that we oversee. We cannot but be sensible how needful this is to the prosperity of the whole, the strengthening of our common cause, the good of the particular members of our flock, and the farther enlargement of the kingdom of Christ. Ministers must smart when the church is wounded, and be so far from being the leaders in divisions, that they should take it as a principal part of their work to prevent and heal them. Day and night should they bend their studies to find out means to close such breaches. They must not only hearken to motions for unity, but propound and prosecute them. Not only entertain an offered peace, but even follow it when it flies from them. They must therefore keep close to the ancient simplicity of the Christian faith, and the foundation and centre of catholic unity. They must abhor the arrogance of those who frame new engines to harass and tear in pieces the church of God, under pretence of obviating errors, and maintaining the truth. The Scripture sufficiency must be maintained, and nothing beyond it imposed on others; and if papists or others call to us for the standard and rule of our religion, it is the Bible that we must show them, rather than any confession of churches, or writings of men. We must learn to distinguish between certainties and uncertainties, necessaries and unnecessaries, catholic verities and private opinions; and to lay the stress of the church’s peace upon the former, and not upon the latter. We must therefore understand the doctrine of antiquity, that we may know what way men have gone to heaven in former ages; and also know the writings of later divines, that we may partake of the benefit of their clearer methods and explications; but neither of them must be made the rule of our faith or charity. We must avoid the common confusion of speaking for those who do not distinguish between verbal and real errors, and hate that rabies quorundam theologorum, who tear their brethren as heretics before they understand them. And we must learn to see the true state of controversies, and reduce them to the very point where the difference lies, and not to make them seem greater than they are. Instead of quarrel1ing with our brethren, we must combine against the common adversaries. Ministers must associate and hold communion, correspondence, and constant meetings, for those ends; and smaller differences of judgment must not interrupt them. They must do as much of the work of God in unity and concord as they can. It is the use of synods not to rule over one another, and make laws; but to avoid misunderstandings, consult for mutual edification, maintain love and communion, and go on unanimously in the work which God has already commanded us. Had the ministers of the gospel been men of peace, and of catholic rather than factious spirits, the church of Christ had not been in such a situation as it is now. The Lutherans and Calvinists abroad, and the differing parties here at home, would not have been plotting the subversion of one another, nor have remained at such a distance, and in such uncharitable bitterness, nor strengthened the common enemy, and hindered the building and prosperity of the church as they have done.

Chapter 2 CONTENTS Chapter 4

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