On the Duty of a Christian Church Towards Those of its Members Who Appear to Have Ministerial Gifts

This brief anonymous article is from the November 1810 issue of the Baptist Magazine and is lightly edited.

On the duty of a Christian Church towards those of its members who appear to have ministerial Gifts

Mr. Editor,

I have been much edified by reading a sermon, lately published, entitled, The Qualifications and the Work of a Christian Pastor, by the Rev. W. Newman, of Bromley, Middlesex; addressed to the Members of the Baptist Academical Institution at Stepney, [now Regent’s Park College, Oxford] near London. May this Society, and all other Academies for the education of pious young men, who hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, be abundantly succeeded. It is highly gratifying that those of our denomination already established, at Bristol, at Bradford, and at Olney, have Preceptors who are admirably qualified to instruct the students into the way of God more perfectly. May the New Institution at Stepney be supplied with Tutors of a like spirit with a ʀʏʟᴀɴᴅ, a sᴛᴇᴀᴅᴍᴀɴ, and a sᴜᴛᴄʟɪғғᴇ! But after all that human exertions can effect, prosperity must come from the great Head of the church, who hath given gifts to men for the work of the ministry; and from whom only Pastors and teachers can be derived. Surely then it is the duty of all our churches to pray the Lord of the Harvest that he would ᴛʜʀᴜsᴛ forth labourers into the Harvest. And not only so, but to do as Moses charged the Israelites concerning Joshua, when they have a brother of suitable gifts who wishes to devote himself to this work of God, viz. ᴇɴᴄᴏᴜʀᴀɢᴇ ʜɪᴍ. This applies to all the members of the churches, and especially to the Pastors; who should recollect the charge delivered by Paul to Timothy; The things that thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. That the attention of all our churches may be directed towards this very important subject, will you publish for the information of your readers an extract from the excellent sermon above referred to, and will you oblige your friend and brother:

“Here a question rises of considerable magnitude, “What is the duty of a Christian church towards those of its members who appear to have ministerial gifts?” As many of you are members of one or other of our churches, in the metropolis [i.e. London] and its vicinity, it may not be unseasonable to say a few words in answer to this question.

It is to be assumed, then, as an indispensable prerequisite, that they are genuine disciples of Christ. No character on earth is so shocking as that of the man who preaches repentance towards God, himself being impenitent; invites sinners to believe on Jesus, while he himself continues in unbelief; enforces the necessity of regeneration, while he is not renewed in the spirit of his own mind; and recommends the way of holiness, though he refuses to walk in it. Paul would not have encouraged Timothy to preach, merely because his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois were believers. Having mentioned their “unfeigned faith,” he adds, “and I am persuaded that in thee also” unfeigned faith is found. 2 Tim. i,5. Jesus did not say to Peter, “feed my sheep, feed my lambs,” till he had put that pungent question to him, “Lovest thou me?”

Let it be well ascertained that they have an ardent, unquenchable desire for the work. This desire the Apostle mentions at the head of a catalogue of qualifications which you may see in the third chapter of his first Epistle to Timothy. “This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” This desire will be such as to make him unhappy in any other employment that is inconsistent with the work of the ministry. It will burn as in the heart of Jeremiah, “like a fire in the bones.” If in any man this be wanting, he had better turn his attention to trade, or merchandise, or any other secular employment. For so many and so great are the difficulties, the dangers, the disappointments, and the various exercises of self-denial, accompanying the Christian ministry, that he who feels not strongly this desire, will not continue therein, so as to “save himself and them that hear him.” After having put his hand to the plough, he will soon look back, and show that he is not fit for the kingdom of God. As the scholar, the painter, or the poet must feel an interest in the object he pursues, including a most decided preference, and a most fervent attachment, without which there is no prospect of rising to eminence; so the Christian minister must “seek that he may excel to the edifying of the church.” He must give himself wholly to the things of God, or as the Apostle’s phrase is, be in them. No heights of piety, no exactness in moral conduct, no amiable tempers, no metaphysical acumen, no splendor of genius, no depth of learning, will compensate, in any case, for the want of this desire. It was proved to you, at the last meeting, by one of our brethren, that Hezekiah prospered in the work of the Lord’s house, because he did it with all his heart. 2 Chron. xxxi, 21.

Young men of talent cannot continue long unnoticed. They will naturally open their hearts to their Pastors, who, like Timothy, will “naturally care for their state.” Phil. ii, 20. Or, if not from themselves, it will soon be communicated through the medium of others to whom they have confidentially imparted their secret. The Pastor, having been in a similar situation himself, will enter more readily into their feelings than others can. He will tenderly sympathize with them in all their mingled emotions of hope and fear. He will take frequent opportunities of examining them in all that relates to faith, hope, and love; exhorting, admonishing, and encouraging, as the case may require. He will point out the operations of self-love, the deceitful devices of Satan, and the corrupt mixture of the motives which are likely to agitate the soul at such a time. He will enjoin on the young men, the necessary task of self-examination, accompanied with prayers and supplications to God for his illuminating Spirit, and the favourable openings of his providence. He will relate his own experience, as far as he prudently can, when it may be for the relief of a distressed mind.

The Pastor, being satisfied himself, will inform the church, that such and such brethren have a desire to be employed in the vineyard of Christ. The church will then, probably, request the young men to relate their experience freely, with respect to this great concern, stating circumstantially the rise and progress of the desire they profess to feel. If this statement be satisfactory, what then, you will say, has the church to do further in the business? I answer, the church will not say, ‘You shall be preachers,’ for that might seem to invade the rights of conscience; nor on the contrary, ‘You shall not be preachers,’ for that would seem the invade the prerogative of the great King of Zion. The church will request them to speak repeatedly—hear them patiently and affectionately—judge with candor—and encourage or discourage, in the fear of God, in weight and in measure. Young men who see that their seniors are serious in earnest in this matter, will be more likely to be so themselves. Such young men, my dear brethren, we desire to see in the Lecture-room at Stepney, who shall come out of the churches to which they belong, bedewed with the tears, and loaded with the benedictions of the elders, who have known and loved them, and will never cease to pray for them that their studies may be eminently prosperous.”