11 January 2008

"The Reformed Pastor"--Take your calling seriously

It is so disheartening to hear people say, "Well, yeah, I like such-and-such a preacher. He doesn't preach a whole lot, but he tells some funny stories!" Oh, my bad. I thought the purpose of the preacher was to impart wisdom to the hearer from the Word of God, not keep you entertained on a Sunday morning. Why, if you need your ears tickled, why come into the Lord's house? There are many and sundry ways to do that right from the comfort of your living room sofa.

If this sounds like your preacher, I would urge you to find a new one, for he is doing you no favors by tickling your ears with fanciful tales, distracting you all the while from the fact that he is (almost) totally devoid of knowledge of God's word:
11. All our work must be managed reverently, as beseemeth them that believe the presence of God, and use not holy things as if they were common. Reverence is that affection of the soul which proceedeth from deep apprehensions of God and indicateth a mind that is much conversant with him. To manifest irreverence in the things of God is to manifest hypocrisy, and that the heart agreeth not with the tongue. I know not how it is with others, but the most reverent preacher, that speaks as if he saw the face of God, doth more affect my heart, though with common words, than an irreverent man with the most exquisite preparations. Yea, though he bawl it out with never so much seeming earnestness, if reverence be not answerable to fervency, it worketh but little. Of all preaching in the world, (that speaks not stark lies) I hate that preaching which tends to make the hearers laugh, or to move their minds with tickling levity, and affect them as stage-plays used to do, instead of affecting them with a holy reverence of the name of God. Jerome says, ‘Teach in thy church, not to get the applause of the people, but to set in motion the groan; the tears of the hearers are thy praises.’ The more of God appeareth in our duties, the more authority will they have with men. We should, as it were, suppose we saw the throne of God, and the millions of glorious angels attending him, that we may be awed with his majesty when we draw near him in holy things, lest we profane them and take his name in vain.

14. Our whole work must be carried on under a deep sense of our own insufficiency, and of our entire dependence on Christ. We must go for light, and life, and strength to him who sends us on the work. And when we feel our own faith weak, and our hearts dull, and unsuitable to so great a work as 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 plead with sinners about everlasting life and everlasting death, and have no more belief or feeling of these weighty things myself? O send me not naked and unprovided to the work; but, as thou commandest me to do it, furnish me with a spirit suitable thereto.’ Prayer must carry on our work as well as preaching: he preacheth not heartily to his people, that prayeth not earnestly for them. If we prevail not with God to give them faith and repentance, we shall never prevail with them to believe and repent. When our own hearts are so far out of order, and theirs so far out of order, if we prevail not with God to mend and help them, we are like to make but unsuccessful work.

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