“Love is the grand distinctive mark of our office. It exhibits salvation flowing from the bosom of Divine mercy.
We set forth a most tender Father, a bleeding Saviour, and a faithful Comforter. The spirit of every discourse should be: ‘God is love.’ (1 John 4:8)
Therefore, we should so cast ourselves into the mould of our commission, that we may infuse its very life and character throughout our ministry.
‘Speaking the truth in love’ (Eph. 4:15) is perhaps, in a few words, the most complete description of our office. Love should pervade the whole tone of our Ministry.
Tender seriousness commends our office as Ambassadors of a God of love. A scolding Minister only proves he does not understand his errand. No man was ever yet scolded out of his sins.
The Apostles were used to address their people with language expressive of earnest endearment. The extant epistles of the primitive Fathers, the most earnest discourses of Cyprian and Augustine, and the homilies of Chrysostom, are strongly imbued with this character.
The amiable Fenelon observes: ‘I would have every Minister of the Gospel address his hearers with the zeal of a friend, with the generous energy of a father, and with the exuberant affection of a mother.’
This spirit of love must deeply imbue even the language of reproof. We must ‘exhort,’ but ‘with all long-suffering.’ (2 Tim. 4:2)
Meekness, gentleness, and patience must stamp our instruction of the opponents of the Gospel. (2 Tim. 2:24-25) We must wound their consciences as sinners, not their feelings as men.
Trembling, faltering, lips– the index of a heart touched with the melting sympathies of Christ– best become us, as guilty sinners speaking to our fellow-men, not more guilty than ourselves.
We are not arguing, however, for that sensitive delicacy, which refrains to wound, when the patient shrinks. The compulsion of love is the mighty lever of operation.
Love is the life, power, soul, and spirit of pulpit eloquence. Entreating rather than denouncing is the character of our office.
And it is the delivery of our Master’s message with the looks and language of His own manifested tenderness that attracts and triumphs over the hearts of a willing people.
We wonder not at the Apostle’s success, when we read, that at Ephesus he ‘ceased not for three years to warn everyone of them night and day with tears.’ (Acts 20:31)
The Christian pastor, of all men in the world, should have an affectionate heart.
When he preaches, it is the shepherd in search of the strayed sheep, and the father in pursuit of its lost child.
‘The love of Christ will constrain us’ (2 Cor. 5:14) all to some clear evidence of our tender love to His flock.
Love, continual, universal, ardent love is the soul of all the labour of a Minister.”
–Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry, with an Inquiry into the Causes of Its Inefficiency (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1830/2020), 356, 357, 358, 359-362.