THE REFORMED PASTOR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  by Richard Baxter (1638-1660)

                                                              www.ccel.org

                                                             Public Domain


 

                      Table of Contents

Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Dedication  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6

Introductory Note. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Chapter 1:  The Oversight of Ourselves. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

               Section 1 -- The Nature of this Oversight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

               Section 2—The Motives to this Oversight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  31

Chapter 2:  The Oversight of the Flock. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

               Section 1 – The Nature of this Oversight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

               Section 2 – The Manner of this Oversight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  63

               Section 3 – Motives to the Oversight of the Flock. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74

Chapter 3:  Application. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81

               Section 1—The Use of Humiliation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81

               Section 2 – The Duty of Personal Catechizing and Instructing the
                              Flock Particularly Recommended . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  113
Part I:  Motives to this Duty. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  114
               Article  I:   Motives from the Benefits of the Work. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  114

               Article 2:  Motives from the Difficulties of the Work. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  130
               Article 3:  Motives from the Necessity of the Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  133
               Article 4:  Application of these Motives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  138

Part II:  Objections to the Duty. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148

Part III:  Directions for this Duty. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  165

               Article 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
               Article 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  171
Indexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  187


 

                                   PREFACE

 

                                      WILLIAM BROWN

 

   Of this work as published by the Author, the following was the title:

   Gildas Salvianus: The Reformed Pastor, showing the nature of the

   Pastoral work; especially in Private Instruction and Catechizing; with

   an open CONFESSION of our too open SINS: Prepared for a Day of

   Humiliation kept at Worcester, December 4, 1655, by the Ministers of

   that County, who subscribed the Agreement for Catechizing and Personal

   Instruction at their entrance upon that work, By their unworthy fellow

   Servant, Richard Baxter, Teacher of the Church at Kederminster.'

 

   Of the excellence of this work, it is scarcely possible to speak in too

   high terms. It is not a directory relative to the various parts of the

   ministerial office, and in this respect it may, by some, be considered

   as defective; but, for powerful, pathetic, pungent, heartpiercing

   address, we know of no work on the pastoral office to be compared with

   it. Could we suppose it to be read by an angel, or by some other being

   possessed of an unfallen nature, the reasonings and expostulations of

   our author would be felt to be altogether irresistible; and hard must

   be the heart of that minister, who can read it without being moved,

   melted, and overwhelmed, under a sense of his own shortcomings; hard

   must be his heart, if he be not mused to greater faithfulness,

   diligence, and activity in winning souls to Christ. It is a work worthy

   of being printed in letters of gold: it deserves, at least, to be

   engraven on the heart of every minister.

 

   But, with all its excellencies, the Reformed Pastor,' as originally

   published by our author, labors under considerable defects, especially

   as regards its usefulness in the present day. With the view of

   remedying the imperfections of the original work, the Rev Samuel

   Palmer, of Hackney, published, in 1766, an Abridgement of it; but

   though it was scarcely possible to present the work in any form,

   without furnishing powerful and impressive appeals to the consciences

   of ministers, he essentially failed in presenting it in an improved

   form. In fact, the work in its original state was, with all its faults,

   greatly to be preferred to Palmer's abridgement of it: if the latter

   was freed from some of its defects, it also lost much of its

   excellence. We may often, with advantage, throw out extraneous matter

   from the writings of Baxter; but there are few men's works which less

   admit of abridgement. This sacrifices their fullness and richness of

   illustration, enervates their energy, and evaporates their power and

   pathos.

 

   The work which is now presented to the public, is not, strictly

   speaking, an abridgement. Though considerably less than the original,

   it has been reduced in size, chiefly by the omission of extraneous and

   controversial matter, which, however useful it might be when the work

   was originally published, is for the most part inapplicable to the

   circumstances of the present age. I have also in some instances changed

   the order of particular parts. The Motives to the Oversight of the

   Flock,' which our author had placed in his Application, I have

   introduced in that part of the discourse to which they refer, just as

   we have Motives to the Oversight of Ourselves,' in the preceding part

   of the treatise. Some of the particulars which he has under the head of

   Motives, I have introduced in other parts of the body of the discourse,

   to which they appeared more naturally to belong. But though I have used

   some freedom in the way of transposition, I have been anxious not to

   sacrifice the force and fullness of our author's illustrations to mere

   logical arrangement. Many of the same topics, for instance, are still

   retained in the Application, which had occurred in the body of the

   discourse, and are there touched with a master's hand, but which would

   have lost much of their appropriateness and energy, had I separated

   them from that particular connection in which they stand, and

   introduced them in a different part of the work. I have also corrected

   the language of our author; but I have been solicitous not to modernise

   it. Though to adopt the phraseology and forms of speech employed by the

   writers of that age, would be a piece of silly affectation in an author

   of the present day, yet there is something simple, venerable, and

   impressive in it, as used by the writers themselves.

 

   While, however, I have made these changes from the original, I trust I

   have not injured, but on the contrary, improved the work; that the

   spirit of its great author is so much preserved, that those who are

   most familiar with his writings would scarcely be sensible of the

   alterations I have made, had I not stated them in this place. Before I

   conclude, I cannot help suggesting to the friends of religion, that

   they could not perhaps do more good at less expense, than by presenting

   copies of this work to the ministers of Christ throughout the country.

   There is no class of the community on whom the prosperity of the church

   of Christ so much depends as on its ministers. If their zeal and

   activity languish, the interests of religion are likely to languish in

   proportion; while, on the other hand, whatever is calculated to

   stimulate their zeal and activity, is likely to promote, in a

   proportional degree, the interests of religion. They are the chief

   instruments through whom good is to be effected in any country. How

   important, then, must it be to stir them up to holy zeal and activity

   in the cause of the Redeemer! A tract given to a poor man may be the

   means of his conversion; but a work such as this, presented to a

   minister, may, through his increased faithfulness and energy, prove the

   conversion of multitudes. Ministers themselves are not perhaps

   sufficiently disposed to purchase works of this kind: they are more

   ready to purchase books which will assist them, than such as will

   stimulate them in their work. If, therefore, any plan could be devised

   for presenting a copy of it to every minister of the various

   denominations throughout the United Kingdom, what incalculable good

   might be effected! There are many individuals to whom it would be no

   great burden to purchase twenty, fifty, or a hundred copies of such a

   work as this, and to send it to ministers in different parts of the

   country; or several individuals might unite together for this purpose.

   I can scarcely conceive any way in which they would be likely to be

   more useful. To the different Missionary Societies, I trust I may be

   allowed to make a similar suggestion. To furnish every missionary, or

   at least every Missionary Station, with a copy of the Reformed Pastor,

   would, I doubt not, be a powerful mean of promoting the grand object of

   Christian Missions. Sure I am of this, there is no work so much

   calculated to stimulate a missionary to holy zeal and activity in his

   evangelistic labors.

 

   Edinburgh

 

   12 March 1829


 

                           DEDICATION

 

   To my bretheren and dearly-beloved brethren, the faithful ministers of

   Christ, in Britain and Ireland, Grace and Peace in Jesus Christ be

   increase

 

  REVEREND BRETHREN

 

   The subject of this treatise so nearly concerneth yourselves, and the

   churches committed to your care, that it emboldeneth me to this

   address, notwithstanding the imperfections in the manner of handling

   it, and the consciousness of my great unworthiness to be your monitor.

 

   Before I come to my principal errand, I shall give you an account of

   the reasons of the following work, and of the freedom of speech I have

   used, which to some may be displeasing. When the Lord had awakened his

   ministers in the county of Worcestershire, and some neighboring parts,

   to a sense of their duty in the work of catechizing, and private

   instruction of all in their parishes who would not obstinately refuse

   their help, and when they had subscribed an agreement, containing their

   resolutions for the future performance of it, they judged it unmeet to

   enter upon the work, without a solemn humbling of their souls before

   the Lord, for their long neglect of so great and necessary a duty; and,

   therefore, they agreed to meet together at Worcester, December 4, 1655,

   and there to join in humiliation and in earnest prayer to God, for the

   pardon of our neglects, and for his special assistance in the work

   which we had undertaken, and for the success of it with the people whom

   we had engaged to instruct; at which time, among others, I was desired

   by them to preach. In compliance with their wishes, I prepared the

   following Discourse; which, though it proved longer than could be

   delivered in one or two sermons, yet I intended to have entered upon it

   at that time, and to have delivered that which was most pertinent to

   the occasion, and to have reserved the rest to another season. But,

   before the meeting, by the increase of my ordinary pain and weakness, I

   was disabled from going thither; to recompense which unwilling

   omission, I easily yielded to the request of divers of the brethren,

   forthwith to publish the things which I had prepared, that they might

   read that which they could not hear. If it be objected, that I should

   not have spoken so plainly and sharply against the sins of the

   ministry, or that I should not have published it to the view of the

   world; or, at least, that I should have done it in another tongue, and

   not in the ears of the vulgar; especially, at such a time, when Quakers

   and Papists are endeavoring to bring the ministry into contempt, and

   the people are too prone to hearken to their suggestions -- I confess I

   thought the objection very considerable; but that it prevailed not to

   alter my resolution, is to be ascribed, among others, to the following

   reasons:

 

   1. It was a proposed solemn humiliation that we agreed on, and that

   this was prepared and intended for. And how should we be humbled

   without a plain confession of our sin? 2. It was principally our own

   sins that the confession did concern; and who can be offended with us

   for confessing our own sins, and taking the blame and shame to

   ourselves, which our consciences told us we ought to do? 3. Having

   necessarily prepared it in the English tongue, I had no spare time to

   translate it into Latin. 4. When the sin is open in the sight of the

   world, it is vain to attempt to hide it; all such attempts will but

   aggravate and increase our shame. 5. A free confession is a condition

   of a full remission; and when the sin is public, the confession should

   also be public.

 

   If the ministers of England had sinned only in Latin, I would have made

   shift to admonish them in Latin, or else have said nothing to them. But

   if they will sin in English, they must hear of it in English.

   Unpardoned sin will never let us rest or prosper, though we be at ever

   so much care and cost to cover it: our sin will surely find us out,

   though we find not it out. The work of confession is purposely to make

   known our sin, and freely to take the shame to ourselves; and if he

   that confesses and forsakes his sins shall have mercy,' no wonder if

   he that covers them shall not prosper.' If we be so tender of

   ourselves, and so loath to confess, God will be the less tender of us,

   and he will indite our confessions for us. He will either force our

   consciences to confession, or his judgments shall proclaim our

   iniquities to the world.

 

   6. Too many who have undertaken the work of the ministry do so

   obstinately proceed in self-seeking, negligence, pride, and other sins,

   that it is become our necessary duty to admonish them. If we saw that

   such would reform without reproof, we would gladly forbear the

   publishing of their faults. But when reproofs themselves prove so

   ineffectual, that they are more offended at the reproof than at the

   sin, and had rather that we should cease reproving than that themselves

   should cease sinning, I think it is time to sharpen the remedy. For

   what else should we do? To give up our brethren as incurable were

   cruelty, as long as there are further means to he used.

 

   We must not hate them, but plainly rebuke them, and not suffer sin upon

   them. To bear with the vices of the ministry is to promote the ruin of

   the Church; for what speedier way is there for the depraving and

   undoing of the people, than the depravity of their guides? And how can

   we more effectually further a reformation, than by endeavoring to

   reform the leaders of the Church? For my part, I have done as I would

   be done by; and it is for the safety of the Church, and in tender love

   to the brethren, whom I venture to reprehend -- not to make them

   contemptible and odious, but to heal the evils that would make them so

   -- that so no enemy may find this matter of reproach among us. But,

   especially, because our faithful endeavors are of so great necessity to

   the welfare of the Church, and the saving of men's souls, that it will

   not consist with a love to either, to be negligent ourselves, or

   silently to connive at negligence in others. If thousands of you were

   in a leaking ship, and those that should pump out the water, and stop

   the leaks, should be sporting or asleep, or even but favoring

   themselves in their labors, to the hazarding of you all, would you not

   awaken them to their work and call on them to labor as for your lives?

   And if you used some sharpness and importunity with the slothful, would

   you think that man was in his wits who would take it ill of you, and

   accuse you of pride, selfconceitedness, or unmannerliness, to presume

   to talk so saucily to your fellow-workmen, or that should tell you that

   you wrong them by diminishing their reputation? Would you not say, The

   work must be done, or we are all dead men. Is the ship ready to sink,

   and do you talk of reputation? or had you rather hazard yourself and

   us, than hear of your slothfullness?' This is our case, brethren, The

   work of God must needs be done! Souls must not perish, while you mind

   your worldly business or worldly pleasure, and take your ease, or

   quarrel with your brethren! Nor must we be silent while men are

   hastened by you to perdition, and the Church brought into greater

   danger and confusion, for fear of seeming too uncivil and unmannerly

   with you, or displeasing your impatient souls! Would you be but as

   impatient with your sins as with our reproofs, you should hear no more

   from us, but we should be all agreed! But, neither God nor good men

   will let you alone in such sins. Yet if you had betaken yourselves to

   another calling, and would sin to yourselves only, and would perish

   alone, we should not have so much necessity of molesting you, as now we

   have: but if you will enter into the office of the ministry, which is

   for the necessary preservation of us all, so that by letting you alone

   in your sin, we must give up the Church to loss and hazard, blame us

   not if we talk to you more freely than you would have us to do. If your

   own body were sick, and you will despise the remedy, or if your own

   house were on fire, and you will be singing or quarrelling in the

   streets, I could possibly bear it, and let you alone, (which yet, in

   charity, I should not easily do,) but, if you will undertake to be the

   physician of an hospital, or to a whole town that is infected with the

   plague, or will undertake to quench all the fires that shall be kindled

   in the town, there is no bearing with your remissness, how much soever

   it may displease you. Take it how you will, you must be told of it; and

   if that will not serve, you must be told of it yet more plainly; and,

   if that will not serve, if you be rejected as well as reprehended, you

   may thank yourselves. I speak all this to none but the guilty.

 

   And, thus, I have given you those reasons which forced me to publish,

   in plain English, so much of the sins of the ministry as in the

   following Treatise I have done. And I suppose the more penitent and

   humble any are, and the more desirous of the true reformation of the

   Church, the more easily and fully will they approve such free

   confessions and reprehensions. But I find it will be impossible to

   avoid offending those who are at once guilty and impenitent; for there

   is no way of avoiding this, but by our silence, or their patience: and

   silent we cannot be, because of God's commands; and patient they will

   not be, because of their guilt and impenitence. But plain dealers will

   always be approved in the end; and the time is at hand when you will

   confess that they were your best friends. But my principal business is

   yet behind. I must now take the boldness, brethren, to become your

   monitor, concerning some of the necessary duties, of which I have

   spoken in the ensuing discourse. If any of you should charge me with

   arrogance or immodesty for this attempt, as if hereby I accused you of

   negligence, or judged myself sufficient to admonish you, I crave your

   candid interpretation of my boldness, assuring you that I obey not the

   counsel of my flesh herein, but displease myself as much as some of

   you; and would rather have the ease and peace of silence, if it would

   stand with my duty, and the churches' good. But it is the mere

   necessity of the souls of men, and my desire of their salvation, and of

   the prosperity of the Church, which forces me to this arrogance and

   immodesty, if so it must be called. For who, that has a tongue, can be

   silent, when it is for the honor of God, the welfare of his Church, and

   the everlasting happiness of so many souls?

 

   The first, and main point, which I have to propound to you, is this,

   Whether it be not the unquestionable duty of the generality of

   ministers of these three nations, to set themselves presently to the

   work of catechizing, and instructing individually, all that are

   committed to their care, who will be persuaded to submit thereunto? I

   need not here stand to prove it, having sufficiently done this in the

   following discourse. Can you think that holy wisdom will gainsay it?

   Will zeal for God; will delight in his service, or love to the souls of

   men, gainsay it

 

   1. That people must be taught the principles of religion, and matters

   of greatest necessity to salvation, is past doubt among us.

 

   2. That they must be taught it in the most edifying, advantageous way,

   I hope we are agreed.

 

   3. That personal conference, and examination, and instruction, has

   many excellent advantages for their good, is no less beyond dispute.

 

   4. That personal instruction is recommended to us by Scripture, and by

   the practice of the servants of Christ, and approved by the godly of

   all ages, is, so far as I can find, without contradiction.

 

   5. It is past doubt, that we should perform this great duty to all the

   people, or as many as we can; for our love and care of their souls must

   extend to all. If there are five hundred or a thousand ignorant people

   in your parish or congregation, it is a poor discharge of your duty,

   now and then to speak to some few of them, and to let the rest alone in

   their ignorance, if you are able to afford them help.

 

   6. It is no less certain, that so great a work as this is should take

   up a considerable part of our time. Lastly, it is equally certain that

   all duties should be done in order, as far as may be, and therefore

   should have their appointed times. And if we are agreed to practice,

   according to these commonly acknowledged truths, we need not differ

   upon any doubtful circumstances.

 

   I do now, in the behalf of Christ, and for the sake of his Church, and

   the immortal souls of men, beseech all the faithful ministers of

   Christ, that they will presently and effectually fall upon this work.

   Combine for the unanimous performance of it, that it may more easily

   procure the submission of your people. I must confess, I find, by some

   experience, that this is the work that, through the grace of God, which

   works by means, must reform indeed; that must expel our common

   prevailing ignorance; that must bow the stubborn hearts of sinners;

   that must answer their vain objections, and take off their prejudices;

   that must reconcile their hearts to faithful ministers, and help on the

   success of our public preaching; and make true godliness a commoner

   thing than it has hitherto been. I find that we never took the best

   course for demolishing the kingdom of darkness, till now. I wonder at

   myself, how I was so long kept off from so clear and excellent a duty.

   But the case was with me, as I suppose it is with others. I was long

   convinced of it, but my apprehensions of the difficulties were too

   great, and my apprehensions of the duty too small, and so I was long

   hindered from the performance of it. I imagined the people would scorn

   it, and none but a few, who had least need, would submit to it, and I

   thought my strength would never go through with it, having so great

   burdens on me before; and thus I long delayed it, which I beseech the

   Lord of mercy to forgive. Whereas, upon trial, I find the difficulties

   almost nothing (save only through my extraordinary bodily weakness) to

   that which I imagined; and I find the benefits and comforts of the work

   to be such, that I would not wish I had forborne it, for all the riches

   in the world. We spend Monday and Tuesday, from morning almost to

   night, in the work, taking about fifteen or sixteen families in a week,

   that we may go through the parish, in which there are upwards of eight

   hundred families, in a year; and I cannot say yet that one family has

   refused to come to me, and but few persons excused themselves, and

   shifted it off. And I find more outward signs of success with most that

   do come, than from all my public preaching to them. If you say, It is

   not so in most places, I answer, I wish that the blame of this may not

   lie much with ourselves. If, however, some refuse your help, that will

   not excuse you for not affording it to them that would accept of it. If

   you ask me what course I take for order and expedition, I may here

   mention, that, at the delivery of the Catechisms, I take a catalogue of

   all the persons of understanding in the parish, and the clerk goeth a

   week before, to every family, to tell them what day to come, and at

   what hour, (one family at eight o'clock, the next at nine, and the next

   at ten, etc.) And I am forced by the number to deal with a whole family

   at once; but ordinarily I admit not any of another family to be

   present. Brethren, do I now invite you to this work, without the

   authority of God, without the consent of all antiquity, without the

   consent of the Reformed Divines, or without the conviction of your own

   consciences? See what the Westminster assembly speak occasionally in the

   Directory, about the visitation of the sick: It is the duty of the

   minister not only to teach the people committed to his charge in

   public, but privately, and particularly to admonish, exhort, reprove,

   and comfort them upon all seasonable occasions, so far as his time,

   strength, and personal safety will permit. He is to admonish them in

   time of health to prepare for death. And for that purpose, they are

   often to confer with their minister about the estate of their souls,'

   etc. Read this over again, and consider it. Hearken to God, if you

   would have peace with God. Hearken to conscience, if you would have

   peace of conscience. I am resolved to deal plainly with you, though I

   should displease you. It is an unlikely thing that there should be a

   heart sincerely devoted to God in that man, who, after advertisements

   and exhortations, will not resolve on so clear and great a duty. I

   cannot conceive that he who has one spark of saving grace, and so has

   that love to God, and delight to do his will, which is in all the

   sanctified, could possibly be drawn to oppose or refuse such a work as

   this; except under the power of such a temptation as Peter was, when he

   denied Christ, or when he dissuaded him from suffering, and heard a

   half excommunication, Get you behind me, Satan; you art an offense

   unto me: for you savour not the things that be of God, but those

   that be of men.' You have put your hand to the plough; you are doubly

   devoted to him, as Christians, and as pastors; and dare you, after

   this, draw back, and refuse his work? You see the work of reformation

   at a stand; and you are engaged by many obligations to promote it: and

   dare you now neglect the means by which it must be done? Will you show

   your faces in a Christian congregation, as ministers of the gospel, and

   there pray for a reformation, and for the conversion and salvation of

   your hearers, and for the prosperity of the Church; and when you have

   done, refuse to use the means by which all this must be effected? I

   know carnal wit will never want words and show of reason, to gainsay

   that truth and duty which it abhors. It is easier now to cavil against

   duty than to perform it: but wait the end, before you pass your final

   judgment. Can you make yourselves believe that you will have a

   comfortable review of these neglects, or make a comfortable account of

   them to God? I dare prognosticate, from the knowledge of the nature of

   grace, that all the godly ministers in England will make conscience of

   this duty, and address themselves to it, except those who, by some

   extraordinary accident, are disabled, or who are under such temptations

   as aforesaid. I do not hopelessly persuade you to it, but take it for

   granted that it will be done. And if any lazy, or jealous, or malicious

   hypocrites, do cavil against it, or hold off, the rest will not do so;

   but they will take the opportunity, and not resist the warnings of the

   Lord. And God will uncase the hypocrites ere long, and make them know,

   to their sorrow, what it was to trifle with him. Woe to them, when they

   must account for the blood of souls! The reasons which satisfied them

   here against duty, will not then satisfy them against duty; but will be

   manifested to have been the effects of their folly, and to have

   proceeded radically from their corrupted wills, and carnal interest.

   Nor will their consciences own those reasons at a dying hour, which now

   they seem to own. Then they shall feel to their sorrow, that there is

   not that comfort to be had for a departing soul, in the review of such

   neglected duty, as there is to them that have wholly devoted themselves

   to the service of the Lord. I am sure my arguments for this duty will

   appear strongest at the last when they shall be viewed at the hour of

   death at the day of judgment and, especially, in the light of eternity.

 

   And now, brethren, I earnestly beseech you, in the name of God, and for

   the sake of your people's souls, that you will not slightly slubber

   over this work, but do it vigorously, and with all your might; and make

   it your great and serious business. Much judgment is required for the

   managing of it. Study, therefore, beforehand, how to do it, as you

   study for your sermons. I remember how earnest I was with some of the

   last parliament, that they would settle catechists in our assemblies;

   but truly I am not sorry that it took not effect, unless for a few of

   the larger congregations. For I perceive, that all the life of the

   work, under God, doth lie in the prudent effectual management of it, in

   searching men's hearts, and setting home the truth to their

   consciences; and the ablest minister is weak enough for this, and few

   of inferior parts would be found competent to it. For I fear nothing

   more, than that many ministers, who preach well, will be found but

   imperfectly qualified for this work, especially to manage it with old,

   ignorant, dead-hearted sinners. And, indeed, if the ministers be not

   reverenced by the people, they will rather slight them, and contest

   with them, than humbly learn and submit to them: how much more would

   they do so by inferior men? Seeing, then, the work is cast upon us, and

   it is we that must do it, or else it must be undone, let us be up and

   doing with all our might. When you are speaking to your people, do it

   with the greatest prudence and seriousness, and be as earnest with them

   as for life or death; and follow it as closely as you do your public

   exhortations in the pulpit. I profess again, it is to me the most

   comfortable work, except public preaching, (for there I speak to more,

   though yet with less advantage to each individual,) that ever I yet did

   set my hand to. And I doubt not but you will find it so too, if you

   only perform it faithfully.

 

   My second request to the ministers in these kingdoms, is, that they

   would at last, without any more delay, unanimously set themselves to

   the practice of those parts of Church discipline which are

   unquestionably necessary, and part of their work. It is a sad case,

   that good men should settle themselves so long in the constant neglect

   of so great a duty. The common cry is, Our people are not ready for it;

   they will not bear it.' But is not the fact rather, that you will not

   bear the trouble and hatred which it will occasion? If indeed, you

   proclaim our churches incapable of the order and government of Christ,

   what do you but give up the cause to them that withdraw from us, and

   encourage men to look out for better societies, where that discipline

   may be had For though preaching and sacraments may be omitted in some

   cases, till a fitter season, and accordingly so may discipline; yet it

   is a hard case to settle in a constant neglect, for so many years

   together, as we have done, unless there were an absolute impossibility

   of the work. And if it were so, because of our incapable materials, it

   would plainly call us to alter our constitution, that the matter may be

   capable. I have spoken plainly afterwards of this, which I hope you

   will conscientiously consider of. I now only beseech you, if you would

   give a comfortable account to the chief Shepherd, and would not be

   found unfaithful in the house of God, that you do not willfully or

   negligently delay it, as if it were a needless thing; nor shrink from

   it, because of the trouble to the flesh that doth attend it; for as

   that is a sad sign of hypocrisy, so the costliest duties are usually

   the most comfortable; and you may be sure that Christ will bear the

   cost.

 

   My last request is, that all the faithful ministers of Christ would,

   without any more delay, unite and associate for the furtherance of each

   other in the work of the Lord, and the maintaining of unity and concord

   in his churches. And that they would not neglect their brotherly

   meetings to those ends, nor yet spend them unprofitably, but improve

   them to their edification, and the effectual carrying on the work. Read

   that excellent letter of Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury to

   Queen Elizabeth, for ministerial meetings and exercises. You will find

   it in Fuller's History of the Church of England.

 

   Brethren, I crave your pardon for the infirmities of this address; and

   earnestly longing for the success of your labors, I shall daily beg of

   God, that he would persuade you to those duties which I have here

   recommended to you, and would preserve and prosper you therein, against

   all the serpentine subtlety and rage that are now engaged to oppose and

   hinder you.

 

   15 April 1656

 

   Your unworthy fellow -servant

 

   RICHARD BAXTER


 

                    INTRODUCTORY NOTE

 

   Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the

   which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of

   God, which he has purchased with his own blood. Acts 20.28

 

   Though some think that Paul's exhortation to these elders doth prove

   him their ruler, we who are this day to speak to you from the Lord,

   hope that we may freely do the like, without any jealousies of such a

   conclusion. Though we teach our people, as officers set over them in

   the Lord, yet may we teach one another, as brethren in office, as well

   as in faith. If the people of our charge must teach and admonish and

   exhort each other daily,' no doubt teachers may do it to one another,

   without any super-eminency of power or degree. We have the same sins to

   mortify, and the same graces to be quickened and strengthened, as our

   people have: we have greater works to do than they have, and greater

   difficulties to overcome, and therefore we have need to be warned and

   awakened, if not to be instructed, as well as they. So that I confess I

   think such meetings together should be more frequent, if we had nothing

   else to do but this. And we should deal as plainly and closely with one

   another, as the most serious among us do with our flocks, lest if they

   only have sharp admonitions and reproofs, they only should be sound and

   lively in the faith. That this was Paul's judgment, I need no other

   proof, than this rousing, heart-melting exhortation to the Ephesian

   elders. A short sermon, but not soon learned! Had the bishops and

   teachers of the Church but thoroughly learned this short exhortation,

   though to the neglect of many a volume which has taken up their time,

   and helped them to greater applause in the world, how happy had it been

   for the Church, and for themselves! In further discoursing on this

   text, I propose to pursue the following method:

     * First, To consider what it is to take heed to ourselves.

     * Secondly, To show why we must take heed to ourselves.

     * Thirdly, To inquire what it is to take heed to all the flock.

     * Fourthly, To illustrate the manner in which we must take heed to

       all the flock.

     * Fifthly, To state some motives why we should take heed to all the

       flock.

     * Lastly, To make some application of the whole.


 

                        CHAPTER 1

 

     THE OVERSIGHT OF OURSELVES

 

 

  SECTION 1 -- THE NATURE OF THIS OVERSIGHT

 

   Let us consider, what it is to take heed to ourselves.

 

   1. See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own

   souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace

   of God which you offer to others, and be strangers to the effectual

   working of that gospel which you preach; and lest, while you proclaim

   to the world the necessity of a Savior, your own hearts should neglect

   him, and you should miss of an interest in him and his saving benefits.

   Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to

   take heed of perishing; and lest you famish yourselves while you

   prepare food for them. Though there is a promise of shining as the

   stars, to those who turn many to righteousness,' that is but on

   supposition that they are first turned to it themselves. Their own

   sincerity in the faith is the condition of their glory, simply

   considered, though their great ministerial labors may be a condition of

   the promise of their greater glory. Many have warned others that they

   come not to that place of torment, while yet they hastened to it

   themselves: many a preacher is now in hell, who has a hundred times

   called upon his hearers to use the utmost care and diligence to escape

   it. Can any reasonable man imagine that God should save men for

   offering salvation to others, while they refuse it themselves; and for

   telling others those truths which they themselves neglect and abuse?

   Many a tailor goes in rags, that makes costly clothes for others; and

   many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he has dressed for others

   the most costly dishes. Believe it, brethren, God never saved any man

   for being a preacher, nor because he was an able preacher; but because

   he was a justified, sanctified man, and consequently faithful in his

   Master's work. Take heed, therefore, to ourselves first, that you be

   that which you persuade your hearers to be, and believe that which you

   persuade them to believe, and heartily entertain that Savior whom you

   offer to them. He that bade you love your neighbors as yourselves, did

   imply that you should love yourselves, and not hate and destroy

   yourselves and them.

 

   It is a fearful thing to be an unsanctified professor, but much more to

   be an unsanctified preacher. Doth it not make you tremble when you open

   the Bible, lest you should there read the sentence of your own

   condemnation? When you pen your sermons, little do you think that you

   are drawing up indictments against your own souls! When you are arguing

   against sin, that you are aggravating your own! When you proclaim to

   your hearers the unsearchable riches of Christ and his grace, that you

   are publishing your own iniquity in rejecting them, and your

   unhappiness in being destitute of them! What can you do in persuading

   men to Christ, in drawing them from the world, in urging them to a life

   of faith and holiness, but conscience, if it were awake, would tell

   you, that you speak all this to your own confusion? If you speak of

   hell, you speak of your own inheritance: if you describe the joys of

   heaven, you describe your own misery, seeing you have no right to the

   inheritance of the saints in light.' What can you say, for the most

   part, but it will be against your own souls? O miserable life! that a

   man should study and preach against himself, and spend his days in a

   course of self-condemnation! A graceless, inexperienced preacher is one

   of the most unhappy creatures upon earth and yet he is ordinarily very

   insensible of his unhappiness; for he has so many counters that seem

   like the gold of saving grace, and so many splendid stones that

   resemble Christian jewels, that he is seldom troubled with the thoughts

   of his poverty; but thinks he is rich, and increased in goods, and

   stands in need of nothing, when he is poor, and miserable, and blind,

   and naked.' He is acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, he is exercised

   in holy duties, he lives not in open disgraceful sin, he serves at

   God's altar, he reproves other men's faults, and preaches up holiness

   both of heart and life; and how can this man choose but be holy? Oh

   what aggravated misery is this, to perish in the midst of plenty! - to

   famish with the bread of life in our hands, while we offer it to

   others, and urge it on them! That those ordinances of God should be the

   occasion of our delusion, which are instituted to be the means of our

   conviction and salvation! and that while we hold the looking-glass of

   the gospel to others, to show them the face and aspect of their souls,

   we should either look on the back part of it ourselves, where we can

   see nothing, or turn it aside, that it may misrepresent us to

   ourselves! If such a wretched man would take my counsel, he would make

   a stand, and call his heart and life to an account, and fall a

   preaching a while to himself, before he preach any more to others. He

   would consider, whether food in the mouth, that goes not into the

   stomach, will nourish; whether he that names the name of Christ should

   not depart from iniquity," whether God will hear his prayers, if he

   regard iniquity in his heart," whether it will serve the turn at the

   day of reckoning to say, Lord, Lord, we have prophesied in your name,'

   when he shall hear these awful words, Depart from me, I know you not,'

   and what comfort it will be to Judas, when he has gone to his own

   place, to remember that he preached with the other apostles, or that he

   sat with Christ, and was called by him, Friend.' When such thoughts as

   these have entered into their souls, and kindly worked a while upon

   their consciences, I would advise them to go to their congregation, and

   preach over Origen's sermon on Psalm 50.16-17. But unto the wicked God

   saith, What hast you to do to declare my statutes, or that you

   should take my covenant into your mouth seeing you hate

   instruction, and cast my words behind you.' And when they have read

   this text, to sit down, and expound and apply it by their tears; and

   then to make a full and free confession of their sin, and lament their

   case before the whole assembly, and desire their earnest prayers to God

   for pardoning and renewing grace; that hereafter they may preach a

   Savior whom they know, and may feel what they speak, and may commend

   the riches of the gospel from their own experience. Alas! it is the

   common danger and calamity of the Church, to have unregenerate and

   inexperienced pastors, and to have so many men become preachers before

   they are Christians; who are sanctified by dedication to the altar as

   the priests of God, before they are sanctified by hearty dedication as

   the disciples of Christ; and so to worship an unknown God, and to

   preach an unknown Christ, to pray through an unknown Spirit, to

   recommend a state of holiness and communion with God, and a glory and a

   happiness which are all unknown, and like to be unknown to them for

   ever. He is like to be but a heartless preacher, that has not the

   Christ and grace that he preaches, in his heart. O that all our

   students in our universities would well consider this! What a poor

   business is it to themselves, to spend their time in acquiring some

   little knowledge of the works of God, and of some of those names which

   the divided tongues of the nations have imposed on them, and not to

   know God himself, nor exalt him in their hearts, nor to be acquainted

   with that one renewing work that should make them happy! They do but

   walk in a vain show,' and spend their lives like dreaming men, while

   they busy their wits and tongue about abundance of names and notions,

   and are strangers to God and the life of saints. If ever God awaken

   them by his saving grace, they will have cogitations and employments so

   much more serious than their unsanctified studies and disputations,

   that they will confess they did but dream before. A world of business

   they make themselves about nothing, while they are willful strangers to

   the primitive, independent, necessary Being, who is all in all. Nothing

   can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well

   managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know

   little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the

   Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than

   nonsense. He who overlooks him who is the Alpha and Omega, the

   beginning and the ending,' and sees not him in all who is the All of

   all, doth see nothing at all. All creatures, as such, are broken

   syllables; they signify nothing as separated from God. Were they

   separated actually, they would cease to be, and the separation would be

   an annihilation; and when we separate them in our fancies, we make

   nothing of them to ourselves. It is one thing to know the creatures as

   Aristotle, and another thing to know them as a Christian. None but a

   Christian can read one line of his Physics so as to understand it

   rightly. It is a high and excellent study, and of greater use than many

   apprehend; but it is the smallest part of it that Aristotle can teach

   us.

 

   When man was made perfect, and placed in a perfect world, where all

   things were in perfect order, the whole creation was then man's book,

   in which he was to read the nature and will of his great Creator. Every

   creature had the name of God so legibly engraven on it, that man might

   run and read it. He could not open his eyes, but he might see some

   image of God; but nowhere so fully and lively as in himself. It was,

   therefore, his work to study the whole volume of nature, but first and

   most to study himself. And if man had held on in this course, he would

   have continued and increased in the knowledge of God and himself; but

   when he would needs know and love the creature and himself in a way of

   separation from God, he lost the knowledge both of the creature and of

   the Creator, so far as it could beatify and was worth the name of

   knowledge; and instead of it, he has got the unhappy knowledge which

   he affected, even the empty notions and fantastic knowledge of the

   creature and himself, as thus separated. And thus, he that lived to the

   Creator, and upon him, doth now live to and upon the other creatures,

   and on himself; and thus, Every man at his best estate' (the learned as

   well as the illiterate) is altogether vanity. Surely every man walks

   in a vain show; surely they are disquieted in vain.' And it must be

   well observed, that as God laid not aside the relation of a Creator by

   becoming our Redeemer, relation, but the work of redemption stands,

   in some respect, in subordination to that of creation, and the law of

   the Redeemer to the law of the Creator; so also the duties which we

   owed to God as Creator have not ceased, but the duties that we owe to

   the Redeemer, as such, are subordinate thereto. It is the work of

   Christ to bring us back to God, and to restore us to the perfection of

   holiness and obedience; and as he is the way to the Father, so faith in

   him is the way to our former employment and enjoyment of God. I hope

   you perceive what I aim at in all this, namely, that to see God in his

   creatures, and to love him, and converse with him, was the employment

   of man in his upright state; that this is so far from ceasing to be our

   duty, that it is the work of Christ to bring us, by faith, back to it;

   and therefore the most holy men are the most excellent students of

   God's works, and none but the holy can rightly study them or know them.

   His works are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure

   therein,' but not for themselves, but for him that made them. Your

   study of physics and other sciences is not worth a rush, if it be not

   God that you seek after in them. To see and admire, to reverence and

   adore, to love and delight in God, as exhibited in his works - this is

   the true and only philosophy; the contrary is mere foolery, and is so

   called again and again by God himself. This is the sanctification of

   your studies, when they are devoted to God, and when he is the end, the

   object, and the life of them all.

 

   And, therefore, I shall presume to tell you, by the way, that it is a

   grand error, and of dangerous consequence in Christian academies,

   (pardon the censure from one so unfit to pass it, seeing the necessity

   of the case commands it,) that they study the creature before the

   Redeemer, and set themselves to physics, and metaphysics, and

   mathematics, before they set themselves to theology; whereas, no man

   that has not the vitals of theology, is capable of going beyond a fool

   in philosophy. Theology must lay the foundation, and lead the way of

   all our studies. If God must be searched after, in our search of the

   creature, (and we must affect no separated knowledge of them) then

   tutors must read God to their pupils in all; and divinity must be the

   beginning, the middle, the end, the life, the all, of their studies.

   Our physics and metaphysics must be reduced to theology; and nature

   must be read as one of God's books, which is purposely written for the

   revelation of himself. The Holy Scripture is the easier book: when you

   have first learned from it God, and his will, as to the most necessary

   things, address yourselves to the study of his works, and read every

   creature as a Christian and a divine. If you see not yourselves, and

   all things, as living, and moving, and having being in God, you see

   nothing, whatever you think you see. If you perceive not, in your study

   of the creatures, that God is all, and in all, and that of him, and

   through him, and to him, are all things,' you may think, perhaps, that

   you know something; but you know nothing as you ought to know.' Think

   not so basely of your physics, and of the works of God, as that they

   are only preparatory studies for boys. It is a most high and noble part

   of holiness, to search after, behold admire, and love the great Creator

   in all his works. How much have the saints of God been employed in this

   high and holy exercise! The book of Job, and the Psalms, may show us

   that our physics are not so little kin to theology as some suppose.

 

   I do, therefore, in zeal for the good of the Church, and their own

   success in their most necessary labors, propound it for the

   consideration of all pious tutors, whether they should not as timely,

   and as diligently, read to their pupils, or cause them to read, the

   chief parts of practical divinity (and there is no other), as any of

   the sciences; and whether they should not go together from the very

   first? It is well that they hear sermons; but that is not enough. If

   tutors would make it their principal business to acquaint their pupils

   with the doctrine of salvation, and labor to set it home upon their

   hearts, that all might be received according to its weight, and read to

   their hearts as well as to their heads, and so carry on the rest of

   their instructions, that it may appear they make them but subservient

   unto this, and that their pupils may feel what they aim at in them all;

   and so that they would teach all their philosophy in habitu theologico,

   - this might be a happy means to make a happy Church and a happy

   country. But, when languages and philosophy have almost all their time

   and diligence, and, instead of reading philosophy like divines, they

   read divinity like philosophers, as if it were a thing of no more

   moment than a lesson of music, or arithmetic, and not the doctrine of

   everlasting life; - this it is that blasts so many in the bud, and

   pesters the Church with unsanctified teachers! Hence it is, that we

   have so many worldlings to preach of the invisible felicity, and so

   many carnal men to declare the mysteries of the Spirit; and I would I

   might not say, so many infidels to preach Christ, or so many atheists

   to preach the living God: and when they are taught philosophy before or

   without religion, what wonder if their philosophy be all or most of

   their religion!

 

   Again, therefore, I address myself to all who have the charge of the

   education of youth, especially in order to preparation for the

   ministry. You, that are schoolmasters and tutors, begin and end with

   the things of God. Speak daily to the hearts of your scholars those

   things that must be wrought into their hearts, or else they are undone.

   Let some piercing words fall frequently from your mouths, of God, and

   the state of their souls, and the life to come. Do not say, they are

   too young to understand and entertain them. You little know what

   impressions they may make. Not only the soul of the boy, but many souls

   may have cause to bless God, for your zeal and diligence, yea, for one

   such seasonable word. You have a great advantage above others to do

   them good; you have them before they are grown to maturity, and they

   will hear you when they will not hear another. If they are destined to

   the ministry, you are preparing them for the special service of God,

   and must they not first have the knowledge of him whom they have to

   serve? Oh think with yourselves, what a sad thing it will be to their

   own souls, and what a wrong to the Church of God, if they come out from

   you with common and carnal hearts, to so great and holy and spiritual a

   work! Of a hundred students in one of our colleges, how many may there

   be that are serious, experienced, godly young men! If you should send

   one half of them on a work which they are unfit for, what cruel work

   will they make in the Church or country! Whereas, if you be the means

   of their conversion and sanctification, how many souls may bless you,

   and what greater good can you do the Church? When once their hearts are

   savingly affected with the doctrine which they study and preach, they

   will study it more heartily, and preach it more heartily: their own

   experience will direct them to the fittest subjects, and will furnish

   them with matter, and quicken them to set it home to the conscience of

   their hearers. See, therefore, that you make not work for the groans

   and lamentation of the Church, nor for the great tormentor of the

   murderers of souls.

 

   2. Content not yourselves with being in a state of grace, but be also

   careful that your graces are kept in vigorous and lively exercise, and

   that you preach to yourselves the sermons which you study, before you

   preach them to others. If you did this for your own sakes, it would not

   be lost labor; but I am speaking to you upon the public account, that

   you would do it for the sake of the Church. When your minds are in a

   holy, heavenly frame, your people are likely to partake of the fruits

   of it. Your prayers, and praises, and doctrine will be sweet and

   heavenly to them. They will likely feel when you have been much with

   God: that which is most on your hearts, is like to be most in their

   ears. I confess I must speak it by lamentable experience, that I

   publish to my flock the distempers of my own soul. When I let my heart

   grow cold, my preaching is cold; and when it is confused, my preaching

   is confused; and so I can oft observe also in the best of my hearers,

   that when I have grown cold in preaching, they have grown cold too; and

   the next prayers which I have heard from them have been too like my

   preaching. We are the nurses of Christ's little ones. If we forbear

   taking food ourselves, we shall famish them; it will soon be visible in

   their leanness, and dull discharge of their several duties. If we let

   our love decline, we are not like to raise up theirs. If we abate our

   holy care and fear, it will appear in our preaching: if the matter show

   it not, the manner will. If we feed on unwholesome food, either errors

   or fruitless controversies, our hearers are like to fare the worse for

   it. Whereas, if we abound in faith, and love, and zeal, how would it

   overflow to the refreshing of our congregations, and how would it

   appear in the increase of the same graces in them! O brethren, watch

   therefore over your own hearts: keep out lusts and passions, and

   worldly inclinations; keep up the life of faith, and love, and zeal: be

   much at home, and be much with God. If it be not your daily business to

   study your own hearts, and to subdue corruption, and to walk with God -

   if you make not this a work to which you constantly attend, all will go

   wrong, and you will starve your hearers; or, if you have an affected

   fervency, you cannot expect a blessing to attend it from on high. Above

   all, be much in secret prayer and meditation. Thence you must fetch the

   heavenly fire that must kindle your sacrifices: remember, you cannot

   decline and neglect your duty, to your own hurt alone; many will be

   losers by it as well as you. For your people's sakes, therefore, look

   to your hearts. If a pang of spiritual pride should overtake you, and

   you should fall into any dangerous error, and vent your own inventions

   to draw away disciples after you, what a wound may this prove to the

   Church, of which you have the oversight; and you may become a plague to

   them instead of a blessing, and they may wish they had never seen your

   faces. Oh, therefore, take heed to your own judgments and affections.

   Vanity and error will slyly insinuate, and seldom come without fair

   pretences: great distempers and apostasies have usually small

   beginnings. The prince of darkness doth frequently personate an angel

   of light, to draw the children of light again into darkness. How easily

   also will distempers creep in upon our affections and our first love,

   and fear and care abate! Watch, therefore, for the sake of yourselves

   and others.

 

   But, besides this general course of watchfulness, methinks a minister

   should take some special pains with his heart, before he is to go to

   the congregation: if it be then cold, how is he likely to warm the

   hearts of his hearers? Therefore, go then specially to God for life:

   read some rousing, awakening book, or meditate on the weight of the

   subject of which you are to speak, and on the great necessity of your

   people's souls, that you may go in the zeal of the Lord into his house.

   Maintain, in this manner, the life of grace in yourselves, that it may

   appear in all your sermons from the pulpit, - that everyone who comes

   cold to the assembly, may have some warmth imparted to him before he

   depart.

 

   3. Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine,

   and lest you lay such stumbling-blocks before the blind, as may be the

   occasion of their ruin; lest you unsay with your lives, what you say

   with your tongues; and be the greatest hinderers of the success of your

   own labors. It much hinders our work, when other men are all the week

   long contradicting to poor people in private, that which we have been

   speaking to them from the Word of God in public, because we cannot be

   at hand to expose their folly; but it will much more hinder your work,

   if you contradict yourselves, and if your actions give your tongue the

   lie, and if you build up an hour or two with your mouths, and all the

   week after pull down with your hands! This is the way to make men think

   that the Word of God is but an idle tale, and to make preaching seem no

   better than prating. He that means as he speaks, will surely do as he

   speaks. One proud, surly, lordly word, one needless contention, one

   covetous action, may cut the throat of many a sermon, and blast the

   fruit of all that you have been doing. Tell me, brethren, in the fear

   of God, do you regard the success of your labors, or do you not? Do you

   long to see it upon the souls of your hearers? If you do not, what do

   you preach for; what do you study for; and what do you call yourselves

   the ministers of Christ for? But if you do, then surely you cannot find

   in your heart to mar your work for a thing of nought. What! do you

   regard the success of your labors, and yet will not part with a little

   to the poor, nor put up with an injury, or a foul word, nor stoop to

   the meanest, nor forbear your passionate or lordly carriage, - no, not

   for the winning of souls, and attaining the end of all your labors! You

   little value success, indeed, that will sell it at so cheap a rate, or

   will not do so small a matter to attain it. It is a palpable error of

   some ministers, who make such a disproportion between their preaching

   and their living; who study hard to preach exactly, and study little or

   not at all to live exactly. All the week long is little enough, to

   study how to speak two hours; and yet one hour seems too much to study

   how to live all the week. They are loath to misplace a word in their

   sermons, or to be guilty of any notable infirmity, (and I blame them

   not, for the matter is holy and weighty,) but they make nothing of

   misplacing affections, words, and actions, in the course of their

   lives. Oh how curiously have I heard some men preach; and how

   carelessly have I seen them live! They have been so accurate as to the

   preparation of their sermons, that seldom preaching seemed to them a

   virtue, that their language might be the more polite, and all the

   rhetorical writers they could meet with were pressed to serve them for

   the adorning of their style, (and gauds were oft their chief

   ornaments.) They were so nice in hearing others, that no man pleased

   them that spoke as he thought, or that drowned not affections, or

   dulled not, or distempered not the heart by the predominant strains of

   a fantastic wit. And yet, when it came to matter of practice, and they

   were once out of church, how incurious were the men, and how little did

   they regard what they said or did, so it were not so palpably gross as

   to dishonor them! They that preach precisely, would not live precisely!

   What a difference was there between their pulpit speeches and their

   familiar discourse? They that were most impatient of barbarisms,

   solecisms, and paralogisms in a sermon, could easily tolerate them in

   their life and conversation.

 

   Certainly, brethren, we have very great cause to take heed what we do,

   as well as what we say: if we will be the servants of Christ indeed, we

   must not be tongue servants only, but must serve him with our deeds,

   and be doers of the work, that we may be blessed in our deed.' As our

   people must be doers of the word, and not hearers only,' so we must be

   doers and not speakers only, lest we deceive our own selves.' A

   practical doctrine must be practically preached. We must study as hard

   how to live well, as how to preach well. We must think and think again,

   how to compose our lives, as may most tend to men's salvation, as well

   as our sermons.

 

   When you are studying what to say to your people, if you have any

   concern for their souls, you will oft be thinking with yourself, How

   shall I get within them? and what shall I say, that is most likely to

   convince them, and convert them, and promote their salvation!' And

   should you not as diligently think with yourself, How shall I live, and

   what shall I do, and how shall I dispose of all that I have, as may

   most tend to the saving of men's souls?' Brethen, if the saving of

   souls be your end, you will certainly intend it out of the pulpit as

   well as in it! If it be your end, you will live for it, and contribute

   all your endeavors to attain it. You will ask concerning the money in

   your purse, as well as concerning the word of your mouth, In what way

   shall I lay it out for the greatest good, especially to men's souls?'

   Oh that this were your daily study, how to use your wealth, your

   friends, and all you have for God, as well as your tongues! Then should

   we see that fruit of your labors, which is never else like to be seen.

   If you intend the end of the ministry in the pulpit only, it would seem

   you take yourselves for ministers no longer than you are there. And, if

   so, I think you are unworthy to be esteemed ministers at all.

 

   Let me then entreat you, brethren, to do well, as well as say well. Be

   zealous of good works.' Spare not for any cost, if it may promote your

   Master's work.

 

   (1) Maintain your innocency, and walk without offense. Let your lives

   condemn sin, and persuade men to duty. Would you have your people more

   careful of their souls, than you are of yours? If you would have them

   redeem their time, do not you mis-spend yours. If you would not have

   them vain in their conference, see that you speak yourselves the things

   which may edify, and tend to minister grace to the hearers.' Order your

   own families well, if you would have them do so by theirs. Be not proud

   and lordly, if you would have them to be lowly. There are no virtues

   wherein your example will do more, at least to abate men's prejudice,

   than humility and meekness and self-denial. Forgive injuries; and be

   not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.' Do as our Lord,

   who, when he was reviled, reviled not again.' If sinners be stubborn

   and stout and contemptuous, flesh and blood will persuade you to take

   up their weapons, and to master them by their carnal means: but that is

   not the way, (further than necessary self-preservation or public good

   may require,) but overcome them with kindness and patience and

   gentleness. The former may show that you have more worldly power than

   they (wherein yet they are ordinarily too hard for the faithful); but

   it is the latter only that will tell them that you excel them in

   spiritual excellency. If you believe that Christ is more worthy of

   imitation than Caesar or Alexander, and that it is more glory to be a

   Christian than to be a conqueror, yea to be a man than a beast - which

   often exceed us in strength - contend with charity, and not with

   violence; set meekness and love and patience against force, and not

   force against force. Remember, you are obliged to be the servants of

   all. Condescend to men of low estate.' Be not strange to the poor of

   your flock; they are apt to take your strangeness for contempt.

   Familiarity, improved to holy ends, may do abundance of good. Speak not

   stoutly or disrespectfully to any one; but be courteous to the meanest,

   as to your equal in Christ. A kind and winning carriage is a cheap way

   of doing men good.

 

   (2) Let me entreat you to abound in works of charity and benevolence.

   Go to the poor, and see what they want, and show your compassion at

   once to their soul and body. Buy them a catechism, and other small

   books that are likely to do them good, and make them promise to read

   them with care and attention. Stretch your purse to the utmost, and do

   all the good you can. Think not of being rich; seek not great things

   for yourselves or your posterity. What if you do impoverish yourselves

   to do a greater good; will this be loss or gain? If you believe that

   God is the safest purse-bearer, and that to expend in his service is

   the greatest usury, show them that you do believe it. I know that flesh

   and blood will cavil before it will lose its prey, and will never want

   somewhat to say against this duty that is against its interest; but

   mark what I say (and the Lord set it home upon your hearts), that man

   who has any thing in the world so dear to him, that he cannot spare it

   for Christ, if he call for it, is no true Christian. And because a

   carnal heart will not believe that Christ calls for it when he cannot

   spare it, and, therefore, makes that his self-deceiving shift, I say

   further, that the man who will not be persuaded that duty is duty,

   because he cannot spare that for Christ which is therein to be

   expended, is no true Christian; for a false heart corrupts the

   understanding, and that again increases the delusions of the heart. Do

   not take it, therefore, as an undoing, to make friends of the mammon of

   unrighteousness and to lay up treasure in heaven, though you leave

   yourselves but little on earth. You lose no great advantage for heaven,

   by becoming poor: In pursuing one's way, the lighter one travels the

   better.'

 

   I know, where the heart is carnal and covetous, words will not wring

   men's money out of their hands; they can say all this, and more to

   others; but saying is one thing, and believing is another. But with

   those that are true believers, methinks such considerations should

   prevail. O what abundance of good might ministers do, if they would but

   live in contempt of the world, and the riches and glory thereof, and

   expend all they have in their Master's service, and pinch their flesh,

   that they may have wherewith to do good! This would unlock more hearts

   to the reception of their doctrine, than all their oratory; and,

   without this, singularity in religion will seem but hypocrisy; and it

   is likely that it is so. He who practises disinterestedness prays to

   the Lord; he who snatches a man from peril offers a rich sacrifice;

   these are our sacrifices; these are holy to God. Thus he who is more

   devout among us is he who is more self-effacing,' saith Minucius Felix.

   Though we need not do as the papists, who betake themselves to

   monasteries, and cast away property, yet we must have nothing but what

   we have for God.

 

   4. Take heed to yourselves, lest you live in those sins which you

   preach against in others, and lest you be guilty of that which daily

   you condemn. Will you make it your work to magnify God, and, when you

   have done, dishonor him as much as others? Will you proclaim Christ's

   governing power, and yet contemn it, and rebel yourselves? Will you

   preach his laws, and willfully break them? If sin be evil, why do you

   live in it? If it be not, why do you dissuade men from it? If it be

   dangerous, how dare you venture on it? if it be not, why do you tell

   men so? If God's threatenings be true, why do you not fear them? if

   they be false, why do you needlessly trouble men with them, and put

   them into such frights without a cause? Do you know the judgment of

   God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death,' and yet

   will you do them? You that teach another, teach you not

   yourself? You that say a man should not commit adultery,' or be

   drunk, or covetous, art you such yourself? You that make your boast

   of the law, through breaking the law dishonor you God?' What! shall

   the same tongue speak evil that speak against evil? Shall those lips

   censure, and slander, and backbite your neighbor, that cry down these

   and the like things in others? Take heed to yourselves, lest you cry

   down sin, and yet do not overcome it; lest, while you seek to bring it

   down in others, you bow to it, and become its slaves yourselves: For of

   whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.' To

   whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom

   ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto

   righteousness.' O brethren! it is easier to chide at sin, than to

   overcome it.

 

   Lastly, take heed to yourselves, that you want not the qualifications

   necessary for your work. He must not be himself a babe in knowledge,

   that will teach men all those mysterious things which must be known in

   order to salvation. O what qualifications are necessary for a man who

   has such a charge upon him as we have! How many difficulties in

   divinity to be solved! and these, too, about the fundamental principles

   of religion! How many obscure texts of Scripture to be expounded! How

   many duties to be performed, wherein ourselves and others may miscarry,

   if in the matter, and manner, and end, we be not well informed! How

   many sins to be avoided, which, without understanding and foresight

   cannot be done! What a number of sly and subtle temptations must we

   open to our people's eyes, that they may escape them! How many weighty

   and yet intricate cases of conscience have we almost daily to resolve!

   And can so much work, and such work as this, be done by raw,

   unqualified men? O what strong holds have we to batter, and how many of

   them! What subtle and obstinate resistance must we expect from every

   heart we deal with! Prejudice has so blocked up our way, that we can

   scarcely procure a patient hearing. We cannot make a breach in their

   groundless hopes and carnal peace, but they have twenty shifts and

   seeming reasons to make it up again; and twenty enemies, that are

   seeming friends, are ready to help them. We dispute not with them upon

   equal terms. We have children to reason with, that cannot understand

   us. We have distracted men (in spirituals) to argue with, that will

   bawl us down with raging nonsense. We have willful, unreasonable people

   to deal with, who, when they are silenced, are never the more

   convinced, and who, when they can give you no reason, will give you

   their resolution; like the man that Salvian had to deal with, who,

   being resolved to devour a poor man's substance, and being entreated by

   him to forbear, replied, He could not grant his request, for he had

   made a vow to take it,' so that the preacher, by reason of this most

   religious evil deed, was fain to depart. We dispute the case against

   men's wills and passions, as much as against their understandings; and

   these have neither reason nor ears. Their best arguments are, I will

   not believe you, nor all the preachers in the world, in such things. I

   will not change my mind, or life; I will not leave my sins; I will

   never be so precise, come of it what will.' We have not one, but

   multitudes of raging passions, and contradicting enemies, to dispute

   against at once, whenever we go about the conversion of a sinner; as if

   a man were to dispute in a fair or a tumult, or in the midst of a crowd

   of violent scolds. What equal dealing, and what success, could here be

   expected? Yet such is our work; and it is a work that must be done.

 

   O brethren! what men should we be in skill, resolution, and unwearied

   diligence, who have all this to do? Did Paul cry out, Who is sufficient

   for these things?' And shall we be proud, or careless, or lazy, as if

   we were sufficient? As Peter saith to every Christian, in consideration

   of our great approaching change, What manner of persons ought we to be

   in all holy conversation and godliness!' so may I say to every

   minister, Seeing all these things lie upon our hands, what manner of

   persons ought we to be in all holy endeavors and resolutions for our

   work!' This is not a burden for the shoulders of a child. What skill

   doth every part of our work require! - and of how much moment is every

   part! To preach a sermon, I think, is not the hardest part; and yet

   what skill is necessary to make the truth plain; to convince the

   hearers, to let irresistible light in to their consciences, and to keep

   it there, and drive all home; to screw the truth into their minds, and

   work Christ into their affections; to meet every objection, and clearly

   to resolve it; to drive sinners to a stand, and make them see that

   there is no hope, but that they must unavoidably either be converted or

   condemned - and to do all this, as regards language and manner, as

   beseems our work, and yet as is most suitable to the capacities of our

   hearers. This, and a great deal more that should be done in every

   sermon, must surely require a great deal of holy skill. So great a God,

   whose message we deliver, should be honored by our delivery of it. It

   is a lamentable case, that in a message from the God of heaven, of

   everlasting moment to the souls of men, we should behave ourselves so

   weakly, so unhandsomely, so imprudently, or so slightly, that the whole

   business should miscarry in our hands, and God should be dishonored,

   and his work disgraced, and sinners rather hardened than converted; and

   all this through our weakness or neglect! How often have carnal hearers

   gone home jeering at the palpable and dishonorable failings of the

   preacher! How many sleep under us, because our hearts and tongues are

   sleepy, and we bring not with us so much skill and zeal as to awake

   them! Moreover, what skill is necessary to defend the truth against

   gainsayers, and to deal with disputing cavillers, according to their

   several modes and case! And if we fail through weakness, how will they

   exult over us! Yet that is the smallest matter: but who knows how many

   weak ones may thereby be perverted, to their own undoing, and to the

   trouble of the Church? What skill is necessary to deal in private with

   one poor ignorant soul for his conversion! O brethren! do you not

   shrink and tremble under the sense of all this work? Will a common

   measure of holy skill and ability, of prudence and other

   qualifications, serve for such a task as this? I know necessity may

   cause the Church to tolerate the weak; but woe to us, if we tolerate

   and indulge our own weakness! Do not reason and conscience tell you,

   that if you dare venture on so high a work as this, you should spare no

   pains to be qualified for the performance of it? It is not now and then

   an idle snatch or taste of studies that will serve to make an able and

   sound divine. I know that laziness has learned to allege the vanity of

   all our studies, and how entirely the Spirit must qualify us for, and

   assist us in our work; as if God commanded us the use of means, and

   then warranted us to neglect them; as if it were his way to cause us to

   thrive in a course of idleness, and to bring us to knowledge by dreams

   when we are asleep, or to take us up into heaven, and show us his

   counsels, while we think of no such matter, but are idling away our

   time on earth! O that men should dare, by their laziness, to quench the

   Spirit,' and then pretend the Spirit for the doing of it! O outrageous,

   shameful and unnatural deed!' God has required us, that we be not

   slothful in business,' but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.' Such

   we must provoke our hearers to be, and such we must be ourselves. O,

   therefore, brethren, lose no time! Study, and pray, and confer, and

   practice; for in these four ways your abilities must be increased. Take

   heed to yourselves, lest you are weak through your own negligence, and

   lest you mar the work of God by your weakness.


 

  SECTION 2 THE MOTIVES TO THIS OVERSIGHT

 

   Having showed you what it is to take heed to ourselves, I shall next

   lay before you some motives to awaken you to this duty.

 

   1. Take heed to yourselves, for you have a heaven to win or lose, and

   souls that must be happy or miserable for ever; and therefore it

   concerneth you to begin at home, and to take heed to yourselves as well

   as to others. Preaching well may succeed to the salvation of others,

   without the holiness of your own hearts and lives; it is, at least,

   possible, though less usual; but it is impossible it should save

   yourselves. Many will say in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not

   prophesied in your name?' to whom he will answer, I never knew you;

   depart from me, ye that work iniquity.' O sirs, how many men have

   preached Christ, and yet have perished for want of a saving interest in

   him! How many, who are now in hell, have told their people of the

   torments of hell, and warned them to escape from it! How many have

   preached of the wrath of God against sinners, who are now enduring it!

   O what sadder case can there be in the world, than for a man, who made

   it his very trade and calling to proclaim salvation, and to help others

   to heaven, yet after all to be himself shut out! Alas! that we should

   have so many books in our libraries which tell us the way to heaven;

   that we should spend so many years in reading these books, and studying

   the doctrine of eternal life, and after all this to miss it! -- that we

   should study so many sermons of salvation, and yet fall short of it! --

   that we should preach so many sermons of damnation, and yet fall into

   it? And all because we preached so many sermons of Christ, while we

   neglected him; of the Spirit, while we resisted him; of faith, while we

   did not ourselves believe; of repentance and conversion, while we

   continued in an impenitent and unconverted state; and of a heavenly

   life, while we remained carnal and earthly ourselves. If we will be

   divines only in tongue and title, and have not the Divine image upon

   our souls, nor give up ourselves to the Divine honor and will, no

   wonder if we be separated from the Divine presence, and denied the

   fruition of God for ever. Believe it, sirs, God is no respecter of

   persons: he saves not men for their coats or callings; a holy calling

   will not save an unholy man. If you stand at the door of the kingdom of

   grace, to light others in, and will not go in yourselves, you shall

   knock in vain at the gates of glory, that would not enter at the door

   of grace. You shall then find that your lamps should have had the oil

   of grace, as well as of ministerial gifts -- of holiness, as well as of

   doctrine -- if you would have had a part in the glory which you

   preached. Do I need to tell you, that preachers of the gospel must be

   judged by the gospel; and stand at the same bar, and be sentenced on

   the same terms, and dealt with as severely, as any other men? Can you

   think to be saved, then, by your clergy; and to come off by a He passed

   for a clergyman,' when there is wanting the He believed and lived as a

   Christian.' Alas, it will not be! You know it will not be. Take heed

   therefore to yourselves, for your own sakes; seeing you have souls to

   save or lose, as well as others.

 

   2. Take heed to yourselves, for you have a depraved nature, and sinful

   inclinations, as well as others. If innocent Adam had need of heed, and

   lost himself and us for want of it, how much more need have such as we!

   Sin dwells in us, when we have preached ever so much against it; and

   one degree prepares the heart for another, and one sin inclines the

   mind to more. If one thief be in the house, he will let in the rest;

   because they have the same disposition and design. A spark is the

   beginning of a flame; and a small disease may cause a greater. A man

   who knows himself to be purblind, should take heed to his feet. Alas!

   in our hearts, as well as in our hearers, there is an averseness to

   God, a strangeness to him, unreasonable and almost unruly passions! In

   us there are, at the best, the remnants of pride, unbelief,

   self-seeking, hypocrisy, and all the most hateful, deadly sins. And

   doth it not then concern us to take heed to ourselves? Is so much of

   the fire of hell yet unextinguished, that was at first kindled in us?

   Are there so many traitors in our very hearts, and is it not necessary

   for us to take heed? You will scarcely let your little children go

   themselves while they are weak, without calling upon them to take heed

   of falling. And, alas! how weak are those of us that seem strongest!

   How apt to stumble at a very straw! How small a matter will cast us

   down, by enticing us to folly; or kindling our passions and inordinate

   desires, by perverting our judgments, weakening our resolutions,

   cooling our zeal, and abating our diligence! Ministers are not only

   sons of Adam, but sinners against the grace of Christ, as well as

   others; and so have increased their radical sin. These treacherous

   hearts of yours will, one time or other, deceive you, if you take not

   heed. Those sins that seem now to lie dead will revive: your pride, and

   worldliness, and many a noisome vice, will spring up, that you thought

   had been weeded out by the roots. It is most necessary, therefore, that

   men of so much infirmity should take heed to themselves, and be careful

   in the oversight of their own souls.

 

   3. Take heed to yourselves, because the tempter will more ply you with

   his temptations than other men. If you will be the leaders against the

   prince of darkness, he will spare you no further than God restrains

   him. He bears the greatest malice to those that are engaged to do him

   the greatest mischief. As he hates Christ more than any of us, because

   he is the General of the field, the Captain of our salvation, and doth

   more than all the world besides against his kingdom; so doth he hate

   the leaders under him, more than the common soldiers: he knows what a

   rout he may make among them, if the leaders fall before their eyes. He

   has long tried that way of fighting, neither against great nor small

   comparatively, but of smiting the shepherds, that he may scatter the

   flock: and so great has been his success this way, that he will

   continue to follow it as far as he is able. Take heed, therefore,

   brethren, for the enemy has a special eye upon you. You shall have his

   most subtle insinuations, and incessant solicitations, and violent

   assaults. As wise and learned as you are, take heed to yourselves, lest

   he outwit you. The devil is a greater scholar than you, and a nimbler

   disputant; he can transform himself into an angel of light to deceive:

   he will get within you, and trip up your heels before you are aware: he

   will play the juggler with you undiscerned, and cheat you of your faith

   or innocency, and you shall not know that you have lost it; nay, he

   will make you believe it is multiplied or increased, when it is lost.

   You shall see neither hook nor line, much less the subtle angler

   himself, while he is offering you his bait. And his bait shall be so

   fitted to your temper and disposition, that he will be sure to find

   advantages within you, and make your own principles and inclinations

   betray you; and whenever he ruins you, he will make you the

   instruments of ruin to others. O what a conquest will he think he has

   got, if he can make a minister lazy and unfaithful, if he can tempt a

   minister into covetousness or scandal! He will glory against the

   Church, and say, These are your holy preachers! See what their

   preciseness is, and whither it brings them.' He will glory against

   Jesus Christ himself, and say, These are your champions! I can make your

   chief servants abuse you; I can make the stewards of your house

   unfaithful.' If he did so insult God upon a false surmise, and tell him

   he could make Job curse him to his face, what will he do if he should

   prevail against you? And at last he will insult as much over you, that

   he could draw you to be false to your great trust, and to blemish your

   holy profession, and to do so much service to him that was your enemy.

   O, do not so far gratify Satan; do not make him so much sport; suffer

   him not to use you as the Philistines did Samson, first to deprive you

   of your strength, and then to put out your eyes, and so to make you the

   matter of his triumph and derision.

 

   4. Take heed to yourselves, because there are many eyes upon you, and

   there will be many to observe your falls. You cannot miscarry but the

   world will ring of it. The eclipses of the sun by day are seldom

   without witnesses. As you take yourselves for the lights of the

   churches, you may expect that men's eyes will be upon you. If other men

   may sin without observation, so cannot you. And you should thankfully

   consider how great a mercy this is, that you have so many eyes to watch

   over you, and so many ready to tell you of your faults; and thus have

   greater helps than others, at least for restraining you from sin.

   Though they may do it with a malicious mind, yet you have the advantage

   of it. God forbid that we should prove so impudent as to do evil in the

   public view of all, and to sin willfully while the world is gazing on

   us! They that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are

   drunken in the night.' Why, consider that you are ever in the open

   light: even the light of your own doctrine will expose your evil

   doings. While you are as lights set upon a hill, think not to lie hid.

   Take heed therefore to yourselves, and do your work as those that

   remember that the world looks on them, and that with the quick-sighted

   eye of malice, ready to make the worst of all, to find the smallest

   fault where it is, to aggravate it where they find it, to divulge it

   and to take advantage of it to their own designs, and to make faults

   where they cannot find them. How cautiously, then, should we walk

   before so many ill-minded observers!

 

   5. Take heed to yourselves, for your sins have more heinous

   aggravations than other men's. It was a saying of king Alphonsus, that

   a great man cannot commit a small sin,' much more may we say, that a

   learned man, or a teacher of others, cannot commit a small sin; or, at

   least, that the sin is great as committed by him, which is smaller as

   committed by another.

 

   (1) You are more likely than others to sin against knowledge, because

   you have more than they; at least, you sin against more light, or means

   of knowledge. What! do you not know that covetousness and pride are

   sins? do you not know what it is to be unfaithful to your trust, and,

   by negligence or self-seeking, to betray men's souls? You know your

   Master's will; and, if you do it not, you shall be beaten with many

   stripes.' There must needs be the more willfulness, by how much there is

   the more knowledge.

 

   (2) Your sins have more hypocrisy in them than other men's, by how much

   the more you have spoken against them. O what a heinous thing is it in

   us, to study how to disgrace sin to the utmost, and make it as odious

   in the eyes of our people as we can, and when we have done, to live in

   it, and secretly cherish that which we publicly disgrace! What vile

   hypocrisy is it, to make it our daily work to cry it down, and yet to

   keep to it; to call it publicly all naught, and privately to make it

   our bed-fellow and companion; to bind heavy burdens on others, and not

   to touch them ourselves with a finger! What can you say to this in

   judgment? Did you think as ill of sin as you spoke, or did you not? If

   you did not, why would you dissemblingly speak against it? If you did,

   why would you keep it and commit it? O bear not that badge of a

   hypocritical Pharisee, They say, but do not.' Many a minister of the

   gospel will be confounded, and not be able to look up, by reason of

   this heavy charge of hypocrisy.

 

   (3) Your sins have more perfidiousness in them than other men's, by how

   much the more you have engaged yourselves against them. Besides all

   your common engagements as Christians, you have many more as ministers.

   How oft have you proclaimed the evil and danger of sin, and called

   sinners from it? How oft have you denounced against it the terrors of

   the Lord? All this surely implied that you renounced it yourselves.

   Every sermon that you preached against it, every exhortation, every

   confession of it in the congregation, did lay an engagement upon you to

   forsake it. Every child that you baptized, and every administration of

   the supper of the Lord, did import your own renouncing of the world and

   the flesh, and your engagement to Christ. How oft, and how openly, have

   you borne witness to the odiousness and damnable nature of sin? and yet

   will you entertain it, notwithstanding all these professions and

   testimonies of your own? O what treachery is it to make such a stir

   against it in the pulpit, and, after all, to entertain it in your heart,

   and give it the room that is due to God, and even prefer it before the

   glory of the saints!

 

   6. Take heed to yourselves, because such great works as ours require

   greater grace than other men's. Weaker gifts and graces may carry a man

   through in a more even course of life, that is not liable to so great

   trials. Smaller strength may serve for lighter works and burdens. But

   if you will venture on the great undertakings of the ministry; if you

   will lead on the troops of Christ against Satan and his followers; if

   you will engage yourselves against principalities and powers, and

   spiritual wickednesses in high places; if you will undertake to rescue

   captive sinners out of the devil's paws; do not think that a heedless,

   careless course will accomplish so great a work as this. You must look

   to come off with greater shame and deeper wounds of conscience, than if

   you had lived a common life, if you think to go through such momentous

   things as these with a careless soul. It is not only the work that

   calls for heed, but the workman also, that he may be fit for business

   of such weight. We have seen many men who lived as private Christians,

   in good reputation for parts and piety, when they took upon them either

   the magistracy or military employment, where the work was above their

   gifts, and temptations did overmatch their strength, they proved

   scandalous disgraced men. And we have seen some private Christians of

   good esteem, who, having thought too highly of their parts, and thrust

   themselves into the ministerial office, have proved weak and empty men,

   and have become greater burdens to the Church than some whom we

   endeavored to cast out. They might have done God more service in the

   higher rank of private men, than they do among the lowest of the

   ministry. If, then, you will venture into the midst of enemies, and

   bear the burden and heat of the day, take heed to yourselves.

 

   7. Take heed to yourselves, for the honor of your Lord and Master, and

   of his holy truth and ways, doth lie more on you than on other men. As

   you may render him more service, so you may do him more disservice than

   others. The nearer men stand to God, the greater dishonor has he by

   their miscarriages; and the more will they be imputed by foolish men to

   God himself. The heavy judgments executed on Eli and on his house were

   because they kicked at his sacrifice and offering: Therefore was the

   sin of the young men very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the

   offering of the Lord.' It was that great aggravation, of causing the

   enemies of the Lord to blaspheme,' which provoked God to deal more

   sharply with David, than he would otherwise have done. If you be indeed

   Christians, the glory of God will be dearer to you than your lives.

   Take heed therefore what you do against it, as you would take heed what

   you do against your lives. Would it not wound you to the heart to hear

   the name and truth of God reproached for your sakes; to see men point

   to you, and say, There goes a covetous priest, a secret tippler, a

   scandalous man; these are they that preach for strictness, while they

   themselves can live as loose as others; they condemn us by their

   sermons, and condemn themselves by their lives; notwithstanding all

   their talk, they are as bad as we.' O brethren, could your hearts

   endure to hear men cast the dung of your iniquities in the face of the

   holy God, and in the face of the gospel, and of all that desire to fear

   the Lord? Would it not break your hearts to think that all the godly

   Christians about you should suffer reproach for your misdoings? Why, if

   one of you that is a leader of the flock, should be ensnared but once

   into some scandalous crime, there is scarcely a man or woman that

   seeketh diligently after their salvation, within the hearing of it,

   but, besides the grief of their hearts for your sin, are likely to have

   it cast in their teeth by the ungodly about them, however much they may

   detest it, and lament it. The ungodly husband will tell his wife, and

   the ungodly parents will tell their children, and ungodly neighbors and

   fellow-servants will be telling one another of it, saying, These are

   your godly preachers! See what comes of all your stir. What better are

   you than others? You are even all alike.' Such words as these must all

   the godly in the country hear for your sakes. It must needs be that

   offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!' O take

   heed, brethren, of every word you speak, and of every step you tread,

   for you bear the ark of the Lord, -- you are entrusted with his honor!

   If you that know his will, and approve the things that are more

   excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that ye

   yourselves are guides of the blind, and lights to them that are in

   darkness, instructors of the foolish, teachers of babes,' -- if you, I

   say, should live contrary to your doctrine, and by breaking the law

   should dishonor God, the name of God will be blasphemed' among the

   ignorant and ungodly through you.' And you are not unacquainted with

   that standing decree of heaven, Them that honor me I will honor; and

   they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.' Never did man dishonor

   God, but it proved the greatest dishonor to himself. God will find out

   ways enough to wipe off any stain that is cast upon him; but you will

   not so easily remove the shame and sorrow from yourselves.

 

   8. Lastly, Take heed to yourselves, for the success of all your labors

   doth very much depend upon this. God uses to fit men for great works,

   before he employs them as his instruments in accomplishing them. Now,

   if the work of the Lord be not soundly done upon your own hearts, how

   can you expect that he will bless your labors for effecting it in

   others? He may do it, if he please, but you have much cause to doubt

   whether he will. I shall here mention some reasons which may satisfy

   you, that he who would be a means of saving others, must take heed to

   himself, and that God doth more seldom prosper the labors of

   unsanctified men.

 

   (1) Can it be expected that God will bless that man's labors, (I mean

   comparatively, as to other ministers) who works not for God, but for

   himself? Now, this is the case with every unsanctified man. None but

   converted men do make God their chief end, and do all or any thing

   heartily for his honor; others make the ministry but a trade to live

   by. They choose it rather than another calling, because their parents

   did destine them to it, or because it affords them a competent

   maintenance; because it is a life wherein they have more opportunity to

   furnish their intellects with all kind of science; or because it is not

   so toilsome to the body, to those that have a mind to favor their

   flesh; because it is accompanied with some reverence and respect from

   men, and because they think it a fine thing to be leaders and teachers,

   and have others receive the law at their mouth.' For such ends as these

   are they ministers, and for these do they preach; and, were it not for

   these, or similar objects, they would soon give over. And can it be

   expected, that God should much bless the labors of such men as these?

   It is not for him they preach, but themselves, and their own reputation

   or gain. It is not him, but themselves, that they seek and serve; and,

   therefore, no wonder if he leave them to themselves for the success,

   and if their labors have no greater a blessing than themselves can

   give, and if the word reach no further than their own strength can make

   it reach.

 

   (2) Can you think that he is likely to be as successful as others, who

   deals not heartily and faithfully in his work, who believeth not what

   he saith, and is not truly serious when he seems to be most diligent?

   And can you think that any unsanctified man can be hearty and serious

   in the ministerial work? A kind of seriousness indeed he may have, such

   as proceeds from a common faith or opinion, that the Word is true; or

   he may be actuated by a natural fervor, or by selfish ends: but the

   seriousness and fidelity of a sound believer, who ultimately intends

   God's glory, and men's salvation, this he has not. O sirs, all your

   preaching and persuading of others, will be but dreaming and vile

   hypocrisy, till the work be thoroughly done upon your own hearts. How

   can you set yourselves, day and night, to a work that your carnal

   hearts are averse to? How can you call, with serious fervor, upon poor

   sinners to repent and return to God, that never repented or returned

   yourselves? How can you heartily follow poor sinners, with importunate

   solicitations to take heed of sin, and to lead a holy life, that never

   felt yourselves the evil of sin, or the worth of holiness?

 

   These things are never well known till they are felt, nor well felt

   till they are possessed; and he that feels them not himself, is not

   likely to speak feelingly of them to others, nor to help others to the

   feeling of them. How can you follow sinners, with compassion in your

   hearts and tears in your eyes, and beseech them, in the name of the

   Lord, to stop their course, and return and live, and never had so much

   compassion on your own soul, as to do this much for yourselves? What!

   can you love other men better than yourselves? Can you have pity on

   them, who have no pity upon yourselves? Sirs, do you think they will be

   heartily diligent to save men from hell, that be not heartily persuaded

   that there is a hell? Or to bring men to heaven, that do not truly

   believe that there is a heaven? As Calvin saith on my text; For never

   will the man take diligent care for the salvation of others who

   neglects his own salvation.' He that has not so strong a belief of the

   Word of God, and of the life to come, as will withdraw his own heart

   from the vanities of this world, and excite him to holy diligence for

   salvation, cannot be expected to be faithful in seeking the salvation

   of other men. Surely he that dare damn himself, dare let others alone

   in the way to damnation; he that, like Judas, will sell his Master for

   silver, will not stick to make merchandise of the flock; he that will

   let go his hopes of heaven, rather than leave his worldly and fleshly

   delights, will hardly leave them for the saving of others. We may

   naturally conceive, that he will have no pity on others, that is

   willfully cruel to himself; that he is not to be trusted with other

   men's souls, who is unfaithful to his own, and will sell it to the

   devil for the short pleasures of sin. I confess that man shall never

   have my consent to have the charge of other men's souls and to oversee

   them in order to their salvation that takes not heed to himself but is

   careless of his own, except it were in case of absolute necessity, that

   no better could be had.

 

   (3) Do you think it is a likely thing, that he will fight against Satan

   with all his might, who is himself a servant to Satan? Will he do any

   great harm to the kingdom of the devil, who is himself a member and a

   subject of that kingdom? Will he be true to Christ who is in covenant

   with his enemy? Now, this is the case of all unsanctified men, of

   whatsoever rank or profession they be. They are the servants of Satan,

   and the subjects of his kingdom; it is he that rules in their hearts;

   and are they like to be true to Christ that are ruled by the devil?

   What prince will choose the friends and servants of his enemy to lead

   his armies in war against him? This is it that has made so many

   preachers of the gospel to be enemies to the work of the gospel which

   they preach. No wonder if such deride the holy obedience of the

   faithful; and if while they take on them to preach a holy life, they

   cast reproaches on them that practice it! O how many such traitors have

   been in the Church of Christ in all ages, who have done more against

   him, under his colors, than they could have done in the open field!

   They speak well of Christ and of godliness in the general, and yet

   slyly do what they can to bring them into disgrace, and make men

   believe that those who set themselves to seek God with all their hearts

   are a company of enthusiasts or hypocrites. And when they cannot for

   shame speak that way in the pulpit, they will do it in private among

   their acquaintance. Alas! how many such wolves have been set over the

   sheep! If there was a traitor among the twelve in Christ's family, no

   wonder if there be many now. It cannot be expected that a slave of

   Satan, whose god is his belly, and who minds earthly things,' should

   be any better than an enemy to the cross of Christ.' What though he

   live civilly, and preach plausibly, and maintain outwardly a profession

   of religion? He may be as fast in the devil's snares, by worldliness,

   pride, a secret distaste of diligent godliness, or by an unsound heart

   that is not rooted in the faith, nor unreservedly devoted to Christ, as

   others are by drunkenness, uncleanness, and similar disgraceful sins.

   Publicans and harlots do sooner enter heaven than Pharisees, because

   they are sooner convinced of their sin and misery.

 

   And, though many of these men may seem excellent preachers, and may cry

   down sin as loudly as others, yet it is all but an affected fervency,

   and too commonly but a mere useless bawling; for he who cherishes sin

   in his own heart doth never fall upon it in good earnest in others. I

   know, indeed, that a wicked man may be more willing of the reformation

   of others than of his own, and hence may show a kind of earnestness in

   dissuading them from their evil ways; because he can preach against sin

   at an easier rate than he can forsake it, and another man's reformation

   may consist with his own enjoyment of his lusts. And, therefore, many a

   wicked minister or parent may be earnest with their people or children

   to amend, because they lose not their own sinful profits or pleasures

   by another's reformation, nor doth it call them to that self-denial

   which their own doth. But yet for all this, there is none of that zeal,

   resolution, and diligence, which are found in all that are true to

   Christ. They set not against sin as the enemy of Christ, and as that

   which endangers their people's souls. A traitorous commander, that

   shoots nothing against the enemy but powder, may cause his guns to

   make as great a sound or report as those that are loaded with bullets;

   but he doth no hurt to the enemy. So one of these men may speak as

   loudly, and mouth it with an affected fervency, but he seldom doth any

   great execution against sin and Satan. No man can fight well, but where

   he hates, or is very angry; much less against them whom he loves, and

   loves above all. Every unrenewed man is so far from hating sin to

   purpose, that it is his dearest treasure. Hence you may see, that an

   unsanctified man, who loves the enemy, is very unfit to be a leader in

   Christ's army; and to draw others to renounce the world and the flesh,

   seeing he cleaves to them himself as his chief good.

 

   (4) It is not likely that the people will much regard the doctrine of

   such men, when they see that they do not live as they preach. They will

   think that he doth not mean as he speaks, if he do not live as he

   speaks. They will hardly believe a man that seems not to believe

   himself. If one bid you run for your lives, because a bear, or an enemy

   is at your backs, and yet do not mend his own pace, you will be tempted

   to think that he is but in jest, and that there is really no such

   danger as he alleges. When preachers tell people of the necessity of

   holiness, and that without it no man shall see the Lord, and yet remain

   unholy themselves, the people will think that they do but talk to pass

   away the hour, and because they must say somewhat for their money, and

   that all these are but words of course. Long enough may you lift up

   your voice against sin, before men will believe that there is any such

   evil or danger in it as you talk of, while they see the same man that

   reproaches it, cherishing it in his bosom, and making it his delight.

   You rather tempt them to think that there is some special good in it,

   and that you dispraise it as gluttons do a dish which they love, that

   they may have it all to themselves. As long as men have eyes as well as

   ears, they will think they see your meaning as well as hear it; and

   they are apter to believe their sight than their hearing, as being the

   more perfect sense of the two. All that a minister doth, is a kind of

   preaching; and if you live a covetous or a careless life, you preach

   these sins to your people by your practice. If you drink, or game, or

   trifle away your time in vain discourse, they take it as if you said to

   them, Neighbours, this is the life you should all live; on this course

   you may venture without any danger.' If you are ungodly, and teach not

   your families the fear of God, nor contradict the sins of the company

   you are in, nor turn the stream of their vain talking, nor deal with

   them plainly about their salvation, they will take it as if you

   preached to them that such things are needless, and that they may

   boldly do so as well as you. Nay, you do worse than all this, for you

   teach them to think evil of others that are better than yourselves. How

   many a faithful minister, and private Christian, is hated and

   reproached for the sake of such as you! What say the people to them?

   You are so precise, and tell us so much of sin, and duty, and make such

   a stir about these matters, while such or such a minister, that is as

   great a scholar as you, and as good a preacher, will be merry and jest

   with us, and let us alone, and never trouble himself or us with such

   discourse. You can never be quiet, but make more ado than needs; and

   love to frighten men with talk of damnation, when sober, learned,

   peaceable divines are quiet, and live with us like other men.' Such are

   the thoughts and talk of people, which your negligence doth occasion.

   They will give you leave to preach against their sins, and to talk as

   much as you will for godliness in the pulpit, if you will but let them

   alone afterwards, and be friendly and merry with them when you have

   done, and talk as they do, and live as they, and be indifferent with

   them in your conversation. For they take the pulpit to be but a stage;

   a place where preachers must show themselves, and play their parts;

   where you have liberty for an hour to say what you list; and what you

   say they regard not, if you show them not, by saying it personally to

   their faces, that you were in good earnest, and did indeed mean them,

   Is that man then likely to do much good, or fit to be a minister of

   Christ, that will speak for him an hour on the Sabbath, and, by his

   life, will preach against him all the week besides, yea, and give his

   public words the lie?

 

   And if any of the people be wiser than to follow the examples of such

   men, yet the loathsomeness of their lives will make their doctrine the

   less effectual. Though you know the meat to be good and wholesome, yet

   it may make a weak stomach rise against it, if the cook or the servant

   that carrieth it have leprous or even dirty hands. Take heed therefore

   to yourselves, if ever you mean to do good to others.

 

   Lastly, Consider whether the success of your labors depends not on the

   assistance and blessing of the Lord. And where has he made any promise

   of his assistance and blessing to ungodly men? If he do promise his

   Church a blessing even by such, yet doth he not promise them any

   blessing. To his faithful servants he has promised that he will be

   with them, that he will put his Spirit upon them, and his word into

   their mouths, and that Satan shall fall before them as lightning from

   heaven. But where is there any such promise to ungodly ministers? Nay,

   do you not, by your hypocrisy and your abuse of God, provoke him to

   forsake you, and to blast all your endeavors, at least as to

   yourselves,' though he may bless them to his chosen? For I do not deny

   but that God may do good to his Church by wicked men; yet doth he it

   not so ordinarily, nor so eminently, as by his own servants. And what I

   have said of the wicked themselves, doth hold in part of the godly,

   while they are scandalous and backsliding, in proportion to the measure

   of their sin.


 

                          CHAPTER 2

 

      THE OVERSIGHT OF THE FLOCK

 

 

  SECTION 1 -- THE NATURE OF THIS OVERSIGHT

 

   Having showed you, What it is to take heed to ourselves, I am to show

   you, next, What it is to take heed to all the flock.

 

   It was first necessary to take into consideration, what we must be, and

   what we must do for our own souls, before we come to that which must be

   done for others: He cannot succeed in healing the wounds of others who

   is himself unhealed by reason of neglecting himself. He neither

   benefits his neighbors nor himself. He does not raise up others, but

   himself falls.' Yea, lest all his labors come to naught, because his

   heart and life are naught that doth perform them. For some persons

   there are who, though expert in spiritual ministry, go about it in a

   headstrong manner, and while acting intelligently, tread underfoot any

   good they do. They teach too hurriedly what can only be rendered holy

   by meditation; and what they proclaim in public they impugn by their

   conduct. Whence it is that as pastors they walk in paths too rugged for

   the flock to follow.' When we have led them to the living waters, if we

   muddy it by our filthy lives, we may lose our labor, and they be never

   the better. Before we speak of the work itself, we shall notice

   somewhat that is pre-supposed in the words before us.

 

   1. It is here implied, that every flock should have its own pastor, and

   every pastor his own flock. As every troop or company in a regiment of

   soldiers must have its own captain and other officers, and every

   soldier knows his own commander and colors; so it is the will of God,

   that every church should have its own pastor, and that all Christ's

   disciples should know their teachers that are over them in the Lord.'

   Though a minister is an officer in the Church universal, yet is he in a

   special manner the overseer of that particular church which is

   committed to his charge. When we are ordained ministers without a

   special charge, we are licensed and commanded to do our best for all,

   as we shall have opportunity for the exercise of our gifts: but when we

   have undertaken a particular charge, we have restrained the exercise of

   our gifts so specially to that congregation, that we must allow others

   no more than it can spare of our time and help, except where the public

   good requires it, which must, no doubt, be first regarded. From this

   relation of pastor and flock, arise all the duties which they mutually

   owe to each other.

 

   2. When we are commanded to take heed to all the flock, it is plainly

   implied, that flocks must ordinarily be no greater than we are capable

   of overseeing, or taking heed to.' God will not lay upon us natural

   impossibilities: he will not bind men to leap up to the moon, to touch

   the stars, or to number the sands of the sea. If the pastoral office

   consists in overseeing all the flock, then surely the number of souls

   under the care of each pastor must not be greater than he is able to

   take such heed to as is here required. Will God require one bishop to

   take the charge of a whole county, or of so many parishes or thousands

   of souls, as he is not able to know or to oversee? Yea, and to take the

   sole government of them, while the particular teachers of them are free

   from that undertaking? Will God require the blood of so many parishes

   at one man's hands, if he do not that which ten, or twenty, or a

   hundred, or three hundred men can no more do, than I can move a

   mountain Then woe to poor prelates! Is it not, then, a most doleful

   case, that learned, sober men should plead for this as a desirable

   privilege; that they should willfully draw on themselves such a burden;

   and that they do not rather tremble at the thoughts of so great an

   undertaking? O, happy had it been for the Church, and happy for the

   bishops themselves, if this measure, that is intimated by the apostle

   here, had still been observed: that the diocese had been no greater