Okay, so again my desire here is to speak of pastoral ministry … the kind of ministry and pastor I am and want. I don’t hold the Puritans up as “Perfect” … we only had one perfect human and that won’t be repeated again, but they are great men. And when we find great men, women, movements in Church History that share the same loves we share, we ought to want to learn from them. I want to learn from the successes, failures, teachings, and experiences of Gospel-men. These pastors were just that – in love with the Word that unfolds the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, on to the next two characteristics of a Puritan pastor, characteristics which highlight how they approached the Word and the sought to live in the Spirit —
2. Expositors of the Scripture & Educators of the Mind
They had no higher book than the inspired Scriptures and they labored under its teaching. This being the case they studied diligently to mine the riches of the doctrines contained in the Book. Verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book developing a theology that was thoroughly God-saturated. They were simple in their preaching and writing. They would state the doctrine and then apply it to the conscience. For them, truth left “hanging” was as dangerous as error. The Word was given for our teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) and that means we need to KNOW it, so we can APPLY it, so it can TRANSFORM us. Truth must be felt! I love that. That doesn’t mean we base the Christian life on emotions or experiences, it means that Truth produces strong emotions and transforming experiences. Truth doesn’t bypass the mind, it is grasp in the mind before faith and obedience become possible. If Jesus’ answer to the great question of Matthew 22:36 includes loving the Lord your God with all your mind, then we would be well advised to welcome the instruction of the Word to change our thinking so it can change our living. My friends, I love learning, but I love growing more. I love a good book, but I love holiness more. I love listening, but I love obeying more. If we are a good teaching church, that loves the Word exposited, then we will be an obedient, transformed and transforming church as well. It is my job to display the glories of Christ in the Gospel, not my own learning. It is my job (and highest joy) to delight in those glories so you’ll want to also!
3. Men of the Spirit & Men of Sincerity
This is basically to say, “practice what you preach!” And I certainly intend to. Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “pay close attention to yourself (1 Timothy 4:16)” is the call to walk in the Spirit. May it never be that I unsay with my life what I say with my tongue. The Puritan pastor believed he was a dying man preaching to dying men, and his own digestion of the food of the Spirit was what made it powerful (and appetizing) to those under his care. These were men of discipline, men who loved walking with God, men who longed to see the Gospel transform them first, their people second, their culture third. And to that I say a hearty “AMEN!” I will not call you to do something that I am unwilling to do. I will not preach a sermon to you that I have not preached first to myself. I will fight the flesh, to keep in step with the Spirit. I love John Owens word to pastors here, “If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. And I love the forthrightness of good ‘ol John Calvin when he said, “It were better for the preacher to break his neck going up into the pulpit, if he does not take pains to be the first to follow God.” I’ve often prayed that God would take me home before I would do anything to disgrace the name of Christ and disqualify myself from leading His Church.
The Puritans were men, sure they had their faults and misplaced passions, but they were men committed to the Word shaping the mind and transforming the life. Pastors intent on walking in the Spirit, living dependant and sincere lives before God so they would be of great value to men. They are heroes of the faith! And for me, a pastor, their writings and their lives call me to a life lived completely under the Word of God … and that’s why I love them. I hope you’ll learn to love them as well.
A Dying Man Delivered by Grace,