Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Do It For Posterity - An Excerpt From The Reformed Pastor
The Reformed Pastor, one of Richard Baxter's more famous works, has had a great influence on my Christian life. I highly recommend it to all Christians.
J.I. Packer describes how the book came about in the introduction to a Study Guide which can be found at The Banner of Truth:
"To upgrade the practice of personal catechizing from a preliminary discipline for children to a permanent ingredient in pastoral care for all ages was Baxter's main contribution to the development of Puritan ideals for the ministry; and it was his concern for catechizing that brought The Reformed Pastor to birth."
Baxter was concerned about private instruction and catechizing and he wrote the book as an address to the ministers of Worcester County who were gathered for a "Day of Humiliation" on December 4, 1655. Baxter originally meant to deliver the work as and address to the gathered ministers, but due to illness he sent a copy of the material with friends to be read aloud. Thus The Reformed Pastor was born.
One short excerpt from the book struck me as especially poignant for Christians today. The excerpt is found in Chapter 3, Section 2, Article 1: Motives From the Benefits of the Work. Work being the duty of personally catechizing and instructing the members of the church.
"10. It will exceedingly facilitate the ministerial work in succeeding generations. Custom, as I said before, is the thing that sways much with the multitude; and they who first break a destructive custom, must bear the brunt of their indignation. Now, somebody must do this. If we do it not, it will lie upon our successors; and how can we expect that they will be more hardy, and resolute, and faithful than we? It is we that have seen the heavy judgments of the Lord, and heard him pleading by fire and sword with the land. It is we that have been ourselves in the furnace, and should be the most refined. It is we that are most deeply obliged by oaths and covenants, by wonderful deliverances, experiences, and mercies of all sorts. And if we yet flinch and turn our backs, and prove false-hearted, why should we expect better from them, that have not been driven by such scourges as we, nor drawn by such cords? But, if they do prove better than we, the same odium and opposition must befall them which we avoid, and that with some increase, because of our neglect; for the people will tell them that we, their predecessors did no such things. But if we would now break the ice for them that follow us, their souls will bless us, and our names will be dear to them, and they will feel the happy fruits of our labor every day of their ministry; when the people shall willingly submit to their private instructions and examinations, yea, and to discipline too, because we have acquainted them with it, and removed the prejudice, and broken the evil custom which our predecessors had been the cause of. Thus we may do much to the saving of many thousand souls, in all ages to come, as well as in the present age in which we live."
We, as Christians, need to decide what we should do. Should we allow historic Christianity to erode due to expediency? Will we wilt due to criticism we face when defending basic Christian doctrine? If we do cower down to criticism from within and from without the church how much worse are we making it for the next generation of Christians? If the next generation of Christians prove to be more up to the task than we how much better will it be if we have already broken the ice for them? The next generation will feel the joyous fruits of our labor when people willingly listen to sound doctrine, because we have acquainted them with it.
“Thus we may do much to the saving of many souls, in all ages to come, as well as in the present age in which we live.”
I say we should accept the challenge and redouble our efforts to discern and disseminate Biblical Truth to the ends of the earth.
May God bless our efforts.