Pastoral Insights from Edwards

Jonathan Edwards preached at Robert Abercrombie’s ordination ceremony in 1744 (Works, Hendricksen, vol. 2, 955-60). Can you imagine having Edwards preach your ordination charge? I feel silly thinking about it. Preaching from John 5.35, his message was entitled “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister.” Ministers, says Edwards, are to be both burning (passionate) and shining (doctrinally clear) lights. At one point he provided this convicting insight:

If a minister has light without heat, and entertains his auditory with learned discourses, without a a savour of the power of godliness, or any appearance of fervency of spirit, and zeal for God and the good of souls, he may gratify itching ears, and fill the heads of his people with empty notions; but it will not be very likely to reach their hearts, or save their souls. And if, on the other hand, he be driven on with a fierce and intemperate zeal, and vehement heat, without light, he will be likely to kindle the like unhallowed flame in his people, and to fire their corrupt passions and affections; but will make them never the better, nor lead them a step towards heaven, but drive them apace the other way.

But if he approves himself in his ministry, as both a burning and a shining light, this will be the way to promote true Christianity amongst his people, and to make them both wise, good, and cause religion to flourish among them in the purity and beauty of it (p958).

At the close of the sermon Edwards addressed the church over whom Abercrombie would have charge. Perhaps the following could help remedy the epidemic firing of pastors (especially in Southern Baptist life):

When your minister shows himself to be a burning light, by burning with a proper zeal against any wickedness that may be breaking out amongst his people, and manifests it by bearing a proper testimony against it in the preaching of the word, or by a faithful exercise of the discipline of God’s house, instead of taking it thankfully, and yielding to him in it, as you ought, does not raise another fire of a contrary nature against it, viz. the fire of your unhallowed passions, reflecting upon and reproaching him for his faithfulness. Herein you will act very unbecoming a christian [sic] people, and show yourselves very ungrateful to your minister, and to Christ, who has bestowed upon you so faithful a minister, and will also, while you fight against him, and against Christ, fight most effectually against your own souls. If Christ gives you a minister that is a burning and shining light, take heed that you do not hate the light . . . but love and rejoice in his light; and that not only for a season, like John the Baptist’s apostatizing hearers: and come to the light (p960).

5 thoughts on “Pastoral Insights from Edwards

  1. Don’t you know that all good preachers bring the heat in the intro. and conclusion? Man, where did you go to seminary?! What’s next, you’re going to tell me that there’s such a thing as a good sermon without alliteration?

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