In this last week’s reading from Gurnall (Week 7), he had quite a lot of good stuff to say from Eph 6:12b about how we fight “against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” In fact, he had 28 pages just discussing that phrase!
One particular part that stood out to me came during his second doctrinal point, which was that Ignorance above other sins enslaves a soul to Satan. He made many great points during this section concerning the role that our ignorance plays in opening the door wider and wider for Satan to enslave the soul of a sinner. After discussing the doctrinal portion of it, he moved to the “Uses” or Application. And it is his second application that I want to focus on, where he speaks to the ministers of the Gospel. Speaking to ministers, he says: “But woe to those that are accessory to their people’s ignorance” (167).
He then goes on to give 4 ways that a minister may be an accessory to the ignorance of his people.
1. By His Own Ignorance
Knowledge is so fundamental for the Christian minister that he cannot afford to be without it. Sadly, there has been a trend in American Evangelicalism for quite some time now that downplays the need and necessity for the pastor to be adequately trained. As long as you have a heart for the people and a love for Jesus, some say, you are ready for the pastorate. I think that this is far from the truth, and Gurnall would agree:
“The want of knowledge in a minister is such a defect, as cannot be supplied by anything else. Be he never so meek, patient, bountiful, unblamable, if he hath not skill to divide the word aright, he is not cut out for a minister. Everything is good, as it is good for the end it is appointed to. A knife, though it had a haft of diamonds, yet if it will not cut, it is not a knife. A bell, if not sound, is no bell. The great work of a minister is to teach others, his lips are to preserve knowledge, he should be as conversant in the things of God as others in their particular trades” (167).
That last phrase is convicting to me. But it is oh so true! The minister should have a certain level of knowledge in order to first be considered a minister, but he should never stop learning and growing in his knowledge throughout his whole life!
2. By His Negligence
It does the people of God no good if their minister is, in fact, in possession of such knowledge, but does not dispense it to them. The minister is not only to posses the necessary knowledge, but work intentionally and diligently at teaching this knowledge to his people so that they would not fall into the ignorance that binds men to Satan.
“There is a woe to the idle shepherd (Zec 11:17); such as have mouths, but speak not; lips, but not to feed the people with knowledge. It shall be the people’s sin, if they feed not when bread is before them, but woe to us if we give them not meat in due season. O sirs, what shall we say to our Lord that trusts us, if those abilities which he hath given us as market-money to buy bread for our people, be found wrapped up in a napkin of sloth? If that time wherein we should have been teaching and instructing them, shall appear to be wasted in our pleasures, or employed about our carnal profits?” (168).
3. By His Unedifying Preaching
Oh how sad it is to think about how much of this unedifying preaching we have in our churches today! He gives several examples, such as men that preach unsound doctrine, men whose preaching is “frothy and flashy,” men whose “discourses are high flown,” and men who preach “only truths that are for the higher form of professors” (168). It is sad that I have seen multiple examples of each of these. It only takes a quick glance around popular “Evangelical” preaching today to see preaching filled with false doctrine or done in a “flashy” manner. On the flip side, one of the pitfalls I have seen many seminary students fall into is the latter type of preaching that Gurnall speaks of, preaching whose truths are only for the “higher form of professors.” This is that high, academic style of preaching that is only edifying to maybe one or two of the 100 person congregation. Gurnall comments on this type of preaching:
“To preach truths and notions above the hearer’s capacity, is like a nurse that should go to feed the child with a spoon to big to go into its mouth” (168).
It is of the utmost importance that ministers deeply know their congregations and the different types of people that they are preaching to, and preach in such a way that is understandable and edifying to the whole group. Gurnall has some wise advice when he says:
“He, sure, is an unwise builder that makes a scaffold as high as Paul’s steeple, when his work is at the bottom, and he is to lay the foundation, whereas the scaffold should rise as the building goes up … Let the wise have their portion, but let them be patient to see the weaker in the family served also” (168).
4. When Through The Scandal Of His Life He Prejudiceth His Doctrine
Paul tells Timothy to keep a close watch, not only on his doctrine, but also on his life (1 Tim 4:16). The minister must be very careful to keep a close watch on his life, so that by an immoral life he is not giving discredit to the correct doctrine that he may be preaching. Gurnall says that this would be like a cook with nasty, foul fingers cooking a delicious looking meal. It does not matter how good the food looks to us; we will not eat it if we see such nasty hands preparing it. Gurnall gives another illustration to end this point:
“He that will do any good in the minister’s calling, must be as careful as the fisher, that he doth nothing to scare souls away from him, but all to allure and invite, that they may be [drawn] within the compass of his net” (168).
With so much good stuff in our reading from this last week, you very well may see some additional posts this week with some more quotes and such.
How about you? Is there anything in particular that stands out that you’d like to share? If so, comment below.