Tag Archives: Pastoral Ministry

“The greatness of His love” by Thomas Brooks

“I shall now come to some helps and directions that may be useful to keep us humble and low in our own eyes. And the first is this:

[1.] Dwell much upon the greatness of God’s mercy and goodness to you.

Nothing humbles and breaks the heart of a sinner like mercy and love.

Souls that converse much with sin and wrath may be much terrified; but souls that converse much with grace and mercy will be much humbled. Luke 7, the Lord Jesus shews mercy to that notorious sinner, and then she falls down at his feet, and loves much and weeps much.

In the 1 Chron. 17, it was in the heart of David to build God a house. God would not have him to do it, yet the messenger must tell David that God would build him a house, and establish his Son upon the throne for ever.

Look into the verses (1 Chron. 17:15-17), and there you shall find that David lets fall such an humble speech, which he never did before that God had sent him that message of advancement.

‘And David the king came, and sat before the Lord, and said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? And yet this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast also spoken of thy servant’s house for a great while to come,’ (2 Sam. 7:18-19).

And this sweetly and kindly melts him, and humbles him, before the Lord.

Oh, if ever you would have your souls kept low, dwell upon the free grace and love of God to you in Christ.

Dwell upon the firstness of His love, dwell upon the freeness of His love, the greatness of His love, the fulness of His love, the unchangeableness of His love, the everlastingness of His love, and the activity of His love.

If this does not humble thee, there is nothing on earth will do it.

Dwell upon what God hath undertaken for you.

Dwell upon the choice and worthy gifts that He has bestowed on you.

And dwell upon that glory and happiness that He has prepared for you, and then be proud if you can.”

–Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 1: 36-37.

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“A pastor’s life should be vocal” by John Owen

“A pastor’s life should be vocal; sermons must be practised as well as preached.

Though Noah’s workmen built the ark, yet themselves were drowned. God will not accept of the tongue where the devil hath the soul.

Jesus did “do and teach,” (Acts 1:1). If a man teach uprightly and walk crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.

Now, as to the completing of the exemplary life of a minister, it is required that the principle of it be that of the life of Christ in him, (Gal. 2:20), that when he hath taught others he be not himself “a cast-away,” (1 Cor. 9:27); with which he hath a spiritual understanding, and light given him into the counsel of God, which he is to communicate, (1 John 5:20; 1 Cor. 2:12, 16; 2 Cor. 4:6, 7);—and that the course of it be singular, (Matt. 5:46, Luke 6:32); where unto so many eminent qualifications of the person and duties of conversation are required, (1 Tim. 2:2–7, Titus 1:6–9);—and his aim to be exemplar to the glory of God, (1 Tim. 4:12).

So is their general course and the end of their faith to be eyed, (Heb. 13:7).

And their infirmities, whilst really such, and appearing through the manifold temptations whereunto they are in these days exposed, or imposed on them through the zeal of their adversaries that contend against them, [are] to be covered with love, (Gal. 4:13, 14).

And this men will do when they conscientiously consider that even the lives of their teachers are an ordinance of God, for their relief under temptations, and provocation unto holiness, zeal, meekness, and self-denial.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 13: Ministry in Fellowship (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 13: 57-58.

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“The four prime things that should be most studied” by Thomas Brooks

“Beloved in our dearest Lord, Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched.

If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter.

It is my work as a Christian, but much more as I am a Watchman, to do my best to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver.”

–Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 1: 3.

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“Ministers should burn with unquenched love for Christ and the church” by Rudolf Gwalther

“Just as a mother’s love conquers everything and turns sorrow and trouble into joy, sustaining her through the birth process and the education of her children, so ministers should burn with unquenched love for Christ and the church, so that however hard the going may be, nothing will overpower the joy and delight that they get from fulfilling their ministry.”

—Rudolf Gwalther, “Sermons on Galatians,” commenting on Galatians 4:19, Galatians, Ephesians: New Testament, ed. Gerald L. Bray and Scott M. Manetsch, vol. 10, Reformation Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 10: 154.

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“Here is a lesson for all who would be pastors of Christ’s flock” by Charles Spurgeon

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15–17)

“Here is a lesson for all who would be pastors of Christ’s flock.

The first necessity of a true pastor is love to Christ, the second necessity of a true pastor is love to Christ, and the third necessity of a true pastor is love to Christ.

A man who does not love the great Shepherd cannot properly feed either his sheep or lambs.

If his own heart is not right towards the divine Owner of the sheep, he cannot be a true under-shepherd to Christ’s flock.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Following Christ,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 53 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1907), 53: 456.

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“He taught and exemplified for me the grace of God in the gospel of Christ” by Sinclair Ferguson

“’Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen in Israel this day?’ (2 Samuel 3:38)

David’s poignant words on the death of Abner will have come instinctively to the minds of many Christians throughout the world on hearing of the death, on 30 July 1997, of William Still, minister of Gilcomston South Church, Aberdeen.

Ill-health in the last two years had increasingly limited Mr. Still’s ministry to preaching on Sundays, and on 8 May 1997, the date of his eighty-sixth birthday, he demitted the pastoral church of the congregation he had served with unstinting devotion for fifty-two years.

The fruit of his ministry in the university city of Aberdeen has spread, both in personal influence and in prayer, to the ends of the earth in the multitude of spiritual sons and daughters who constitute his true children (he remained single throughout his life).

His example of biblical ministry has been a beacon to guide and encourage countless gospel ministers; his deep pastoral love for his own congregation, his commitment to shaping a truly Christian fellowship, his investment of profound personal care and prayer in the lives of countless people– students who sat under his ministry while at college, as well as many others– and, in addition, the penetrating insights of his writings– these constitute his spiritual legacy.

Mr. Still believed that, in some senses, his one lengthly ministry was really several ministries. Certainly it passed through various stages. In the post-war years there were bright and busy evangelistic meetings with large numbers of converts ‘falling into the Lord’s hands like plums,’ as he put it.

Then came the first revolution: he ‘stumbled’ on expository preaching as on successive Sundays he found himself, as if by accident, preaching consecutively through a portion of Romans. As he began to see the effect of such preaching he sensed that here was a wiser, richer, more fruitful and more lasting way in which true Christian character would be built; now he must go deeper.

The extravagances came to an end; extensive corporate prayer on Saturday nights became the order of the day– and would remain so throughout the years. The apostolic model: ‘prayer and the ministry of the word’ (Acts 6:4) became the staple diet of congregational life.

He continued to find the light of Scripture breaking into and reshaping his thinking– and as he did so, he drew the congregation through the experience with him!– until his theology became increasingly moulded by Scripture and distinctively Reformed in character.

He preached (and wrote) his way through the entire Bible several times. And it is doubtful if any living minister has so lovingly and enthusiastically read the chapters of the Westminster Assembly’s Confession of Faith to his congregation the way Mr. Still frequently did.

Certainly few others will have read with such enthusiasm so much of John Owen’s writings (as well as portions of John Murray’s commentary on Romans) to the teenagers and students who at various times and in different places sat under his ministry!

In this covenant theology Mr. Still found a doctrinal resting-place and focus for his growing convictions on the nature of the life of the church.

Those who knew Mr. Still well personally will recognize that these paragraphs do not begin adequately to express the many-sidedness of his life and work, or what it was like actually to sit under his ministry and to be cared for and pastored by him.

Perhaps, therefore, a few words of a more personal nature may be added without intruding into this brief tribute.

I first came to hear Mr. Still preach when I was seventeen. For three decades thereafter he taught and exemplified for me the grace of God in the gospel of Christ and, for all the age gap, made me his friend.

He invested loving care, prayer and time in my life in a manner and to a depth which would be impossible to describe. He was, at various times, counsellor, encourager, comforter and cautioner.

He cared for and loved my family; he sorrowed with us in our griefs and rejoiced in our joys; he seemed to take more delight than we ourselves did in any hint of fruitfulness, success or honour we experienced.

And he always sought to think the best of us.

Perhaps the most touching thing of all for me personally was to witness the way his being seemed to melt with a mixture of humble incredulity and thankful gratitude to the Lord whenever we tried to express to him what his life and ministry had meant to us.

What was especially remarkable about all this is how the same quality of love could have been showered on so many others.

Yet it was; we knew it, as did they. It would grieve him, I know, if I did not immediately add that this was all of grace. But it was also very evidently of grace.

He had clearly learned from the Lord Jesus how to love many with the same love which was simultaneously completely individualised.

Perhaps I can say nothing more telling about Mr. Still than that since his death every time I have thought of how he now contemplates the face of the Lord Jesus Christ a further thought has immediately and instinctively followed: How glorious that Saviour must be who can and does recreate His grace so lovingly in such frail humanity!

William Still was a burning and a shining light. Those who knew him best will inevitably feel that they will not see his like again, and sense an unrepayable debt for the privilege of receiving his ministry and the Christ-centred affection of his pastoral care.

He walked with God and has entered into his rest in the Saviour whom he trusted and loved; his works will follow him.

He was, indeed, a prince and a great man (2 Samuel 3:38).”

–Sinclair Ferguson, “William Still (1911-1997), Minister of Gilcomston South Church, Aberdeen, 1945-1997,” The Banner of Truth Magazine, No. 409 (Oct. 1997): 6-10.

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“It seems that Christians read and understand their Bibles less today” by Sinclair Ferguson

“There are so many Bible translations and editions. I personally use the English Standard Version of the Bible. I love it and I recommend it.

Over the years I have seem to amassed multiple copies: a Study Bible, a Large Print Bible, a Compact Bible, a Wide Margin Bible, A Reference Bible, a Pew Bible, and a Classic Thinline Bible, a Minister’s Bible, and yes, I also have a Red Letter Version (although I dislike the idea that Jesus’ words should somehow be distinguished in this way. Plus, publishers should know that red letters are more difficult to read as one’s eyesight gets poorer!).

And then I have other translations as well. The Geneva Bible (I am privileged to have been given a copy published in 1610!); The Authorised (King James) Version, The American Revised Version, The New American Standard Version, The New King James Version, J. N. Darbys Translation, Moffatt’s Translation, The New English Bible, The Amplified Bible, The Message, The Living Bible, The New Living Bible, and so on.

In addition, at one time I used to receive a Bible Catalogue every four months which offered for sale an even longer list of Bibles I don’t have. The Orthodox Study Bible, The Archaeology Study Bible, The Power of a Praying Woman Bible, The Rainbow Bible, Bibles for children, teens, girls, fellows, youth, sportsmen, soldiers, etc.

Yet, despite all these translations in all the variety of packaging in which they come, it seems that Christians read and understand their Bibles less today than their forefathers did.

Are you one of them?

In some countries the Bible is a banned book. Government agents hunt Bibles down and confiscate them.

Imagine for a moment that this happened to your favourite Bible—and in order to prosecute you your Bible was handed over to a CSI Unit (‘Crime Scene Investigation’)—the kind of law enforcement unit you have probably seen on TV–Would there be enough recent fingerprint and DNA evidence on your Bible to bring charges against you of being a Christian?

And would there be enough evidence of a transformed life to secure a conviction against you?

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God’s Church: Core Values for Christian Fellowship (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2020), 97-98.

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“It is my business, as best I can, to kill dragons, and cut off giants’ heads, and lead on the timid and trembling” by Charles Spurgeon

“I am occupied, in my small way, as Mr. Great-heart was employed in Bunyan’s day. I do not compare myself with that champion, but I am in the same line of business.

I am engaged in personally-conducted tours to Heaven; and I have with me, at the present time, dear Old Father Honest: I am glad he is still alive and active.

And there is Christiana, and there are her children.

It is my business, as best I can, to kill dragons, and cut off giants’ heads, and lead on the timid and trembling.

I am often afraid of losing some of the weaklings. I have the heart-ache for them; but, by God’s grace, and your kind and generous help in looking after one another, I hope we shall all travel safely to the river’s edge.

Oh, how many have I had to part with there! I have stood on the brink, and I have heard them singing in the midst of the stream, and I have almost seen the shining ones lead them up the hill, and through the gates, into the Celestial City.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary, 1854–1860 (vol. 2; Chicago; New York; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1899), 2: 131.

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“Will you have a page or two of good George Herbert?” by Susannah Spurgeon

“It is the Sabbath, and the day’s work is done. The dear preacher has had a light repast, and now rests in his easy chair by a bright fire, while, on a low cushion at his feet, sits his wife, eager to minister in some way to her beloved’s comfort.

‘Shall I read to you tonight, dear?’ she says; for the excitement and labour of the Sabbath services sorely try him, and his mind needs some calm and soothing influence to set it at rest.

‘Will you have a page or two of good George Herbert?’

‘Yes, that will be very refreshing, wifey; I shall like that.’

So the book is procured, and he chooses a portion which I read slowly and with many pauses, that he may interpret to me the sweet mysteries hidden within the gracious words.

Perhaps his enjoyment of the book is all the greater that he has thus to explain and open out to me the precious truths enwrapped in Herbert’s quaint verse;—anyhow, the time is delightfully spent.

I read on and on for an hour or more, till the peace of Heaven flows into our souls, and the tired servant of the King of kings loses his sense of fatigue, and rejoices after his toil.”

–Susannah Spurgeon, as quoted in Charles H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary, 1854–1860 (vol. 2; Chicago; New York; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1899), 2: 185–186.

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“The four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched” by Thomas Brooks

“Beloved in our dearest Lord, Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched.

If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter.

It is my work as a Christian, but much more as I am a Watchman, to do my best to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver.”

–Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 3.

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