Church History Teasers (Part 10): Richard Baxter’s ‘The Reformed Pastor’
Brief Outline of ‘The Reformed Pastor’
Chapter 1: The Oversight of Ourselves
a. The Nature of this Oversight
b. The Motives behind this Oversight
Chapter 2: The Oversight of the Flock
a. The Nature of this Oversight
b. The Manner of this Oversight
c. The Motives behind this Oversight
Chapter 3: Application
a. The Use of Humiliation
b. The Duty of Personal Catechizing and Instructing the Flock (a particular recommendation)
Part 1: Motives behind this Duty
a. Article 1: The benefits of the Work
b. Article 2: The Difficulties of the Work
c. Article 3: The Necessity of the Work
d. Article 4: The Application of these Motives
Part 2: Objections to this Duty
Part 3: Directions for this Duty
a. Article 1: On Bringing your people to submit to Instruction
b. Article 2: On Being Effective
Reason for Writing: “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 maketh costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he hath 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 he 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.”
‘The Reformed Pastor‘
Baxter charges that too many men have taken up the work of the ministry with self seeking motives and pride which leads to negligence and other sins, these things must be ‘plainly rebuked’. Ministers must set themselves to the work of catechizing and instructing all devoted individuals who are committed to their care. These committed individuals must be vigorously taught the principles of religion in the most edifying way, so that personal conference, examination, and instruction will be to the church’s advantage. Baxter contends that these ministerial duties are outlined in scripture and to be done in order. Failing to perform these necessary duties proves a poor discharge of the pastor’s ministry and leads to ignorance among the flock.
Baxter argues that ministers should, “take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine…and be the greatest hinderers of the success of your own labors.” Therefore, ministers should abound in good works of charity and benevolence. For Baxter there is weakness in negligence and ministers above all others should labor vigorously. Baxter argued that ministers must take into account their weaknesses of their depraved nature and the temptations of the prince of darkness, for many eyes are upon them. Rightly so, for God uses fit men to do great works. God has assigned each pastor to each flock of believers, beyond that Baxter reminds pastors of the duty to labor for the unconverted. Ministers are to labor in order to give sound advice and wisdom in order to build up all in the knowledge of Christ. The goal is to embrace every opportunity to build up the strength and understanding of all who inquire, even if it requires church discipline.
The salvation of souls is the hopeful end of all diligent labors, the most necessary of all truths. Baxter then rightly reminds ministers that “our work must be carried with great humility”, as men possessed with the Holy Spirit of God. For this is the honor of being an ambassador of God, and there are many excellent privileges in caring for the Church that God, which was purchased with His own blood. With that said, Baxter reminds the reader that it is necessary that one earnestly implore God for assistance in the oversight of His children. Seeking God’s guidance is a sure guard against pride. Even those who are overseers should avoid the trap of self-denial and even confess of their own sins; Baxter contends that it is his desire to deal closely with his heart and others. Baxter earnestly longs that pastors seek Christ with humility, and study God’s word devotedly. The necessity of informing ones understanding as to speak with clarity is further encouraged by Baxter’s reminder that “the everlasting life or everlasting death of our fellow men is involved in it.” Baxter then reminds ministers of a greatly neglected aspect of church life, discipline, which if gone unpracticed can bring disadvantage and corruption to the cause of Christ.
Lastly, Baxter expounds upon the personal catechizing and instructing the flock, which is the “most hopeful means of the conversion of souls.” This duty informs the judgment on the essential principles which changes the will by the efficiency of the truth. The orderly building up of the flock is the chief means of reforming the church. Though this work is difficult, it is necessary, for “every Christian is obliged to do all he can for the salvation of others.” Baxter calls ministers to rouse up themselves to the work before them. In conclusion, Baxter argues that the whole of the ministers duty consists of believing Christ, and using external means of grace in avoiding former sins. Ministers should take special pains with their own hearts to excite belief in the Gospel, prepare themselves with prayer, and extend charity to all people.