THE GIFT OF PASTORS
Mr. G. Rose
Hope Chapel, Rochdale
22nd October, 1938
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” Hebrews 13.7.
Occasions like the present do not occur often. In a period of over 125 years in the history of this chapel, there have been but few pastors, but they have been men of God. This has been a mercy to this church, past and present, and as each successive pastor takes over the pastorate, the occasion loses nothing of its solemnity. The word of God, The gospel of God, and the truth of God can never lose their importance. It needs nothing added to it, and nothing can be taken away from it. In the word of God there is nothing superfluous, there is nothing lacking.
In the few minutes that I have to speak I shall only be able to make a very few remarks on each point. There are no superfluous words in the text. If we see nothing in them, it is for our want of sight. Every word is full, pregnant with meaning, applicable to the church, and in some sense to the congregation, because it is the word of God.
“Remember them which have the rule over you.” I want to begin at the bottom. Remember that your pastor is a man. He is not superhuman. He is but a man. When Cornelius had a vision, he was instructed to send for a man by whom he should hear words, by which he and his house should be saved. When Peter went in, Cornelius fell at his feet, which action Peter would not allow. The Pope expects people to fall at his feet, since he claims to be recognised as Peter’s successor. Peter said “Stand up, I myself also am a man” (Acts 10, 26).
Remember your pastor is a man, and therefore he has his limitations. He has not a strong body, so don’t expect more than he is able to do, even from a physical standpoint. Only a pastor knows how much labour there is in a pastorate. To the superficial observer it may appear that when he sits down on a Sunday night, he has nothing more to do till the next time he has to stand up again in the Lord’s name. If there is no private work between God and your minister, if there is no soul labour, there will be no spiritual life. Every true pastor is a labourer, and that takes its toll of his physical strength. The exercises of mind, and the weight of souls, is trying to the body even physically. I want you to remember also
that your pastor must live, and provide things honest in the sight of all men. The church has given him a call, and that call demands all his time. The apostle says: “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things” (1 Cor. 9, 11). God has ordained that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel, and that church and people who expect spiritual things, with a pastor’s prayerful care of their souls, should, as enabled, relieve him from the burden of his temporal circumstances. This the church should willingly undertake, and as he ministers in love, so he should be supported in love.
Remember him in prayer. The prayers of the people are, next to the Lord’s help, the greatest support that a pastor has. If he has a praying people, those are his friends, real friends. They are real friends who pray. Remember this, when you come to hear, have you prayed for your pastor, and have you prayed for the listening ear, also for a receiving and understanding heart? Where there is no appetite. God will never give food. But if you come with an appetite, and you come with prayer. God will feed you. I do hope you may remember your pastor in prayer before God. I think I can say this, the more spiritual prayer in secret, the more manifest blessing will be seen outwardly and openly. A prayerless Christian is not a healthy Christian. Prayer in an individual is an indication of his spiritual health and state before God. We are exhorted to pray without ceasing as it affects every phase of our life. It is a mighty weapon in the Christian’s armour.
Remember this, the pastor needs time alone with God. I think possibly that this is not sufficiently recognised. The minister requires time in secret before God, to lay his case and to lay your case before the Lord. The more time your minister spends in secret before the Lord in prayer, the more his ministry will be renewed by the gracious operation of the power and Spirit of God resting on his word. Remember that the word of the Lord must have free course, there must be nothing in you to hinder this. There must be nothing prejudicial in you to hinder the free course of the preaching of the gospel. And remember how much your conduct affects him. You expect him to walk uprightly and consistently with his profession, this is his desire, and mine also. May it be your desire not to grieve his heart by an inconsistent walk at variance with your profession.
“Remember them that have the rule over you.” There is one right kind of rule in the church of God, and that is the authority of the unction of the Holy Spirit. The authority of God’s Spirit, the authority of the ministry, is not arbitrary. It is a gracious authority. The rule of the gospel is always for the good of those who are under it. In the margin it reads thus: “Who are your guides.” The Lord never sends a man to preach who does not know the way to heaven, or who does not know the dangers and the blessedness of the way to heaven. “Go through the gates, prepare ye the way of the people . . . cast up the highway, gather out the stones, lift up
a standard for the people” (Isa. 62 10); that is the pastor’s Divine commission. Your pastor, by Divine teaching, knows the folly of sin. If he did not know it, he would not be fit to be here. Your pastor knows the solemnity and spirituality of the law of God, he knows that by his own experiences. Your pastor knows the meaning of mercy and the need of it in its application; and he knows the meaning of pardon and peace in the conscience. He knows the power of temptation, he knows its force, and what it is to struggle against it. No pastor can be a guide to others unless he is in the way himself. A guide has no need to enquire the way; he does two things: he leads and instructs. The one object before him is, that the people who are his care, and for whom he is responsible, shall be guided in a way so attended with dangers on every hand. He must be, like Bunyan’s Mr. Greatheart, a man of courage, who could meet a lion, or a giant. He must be able to discuss with them and instruct them, on any point of truth or doctrine they may propound.
There is one thing I would stress before you, that is, don’t go to your pastor with all sorts of frivolous questions, and profitless speculations about the Bible, which have nothing to do with salvation, and think that he is a man not fit for his position, unless he can answer any question that your curiosity might prompt you to ask him. It reminds me of what the coachman said to Mr. Jay of London on his way from London to Bath. Mr. Jay was sitting outside, next to the driver, and he asked the coachman, who lived here, and who lived there, as they passed houses on either side of the road. For the most part the coachman said: “Sir, I cannot tell you.” Mr. Jay remarked: “What do you know?” The coachman rejoined, “Sir, I know how to drive the coach from London to Bath, that is my business.” Now the business of your pastor is this, he is the means in the Lord’s hands of warning the ungodly; encouraging the spiritual seeker, or reclaiming the wanderer; of visiting those who are spiritually diseased, such as are driven out, to bring them back; to feed the strong and healthy, and the lambs in the fold, who are in his care; so as to present those who are given to him as a chaste virgin unto Christ. “Remember them that have the rule over you.”
There are those who may ask: “Where does the authority come from?” Let me say it does not come from you. If you received it rightly it comes to you, not from you. The authority of the ministry is from God. A pastor is not the servant of the church, to be at their disposal. The pastor is the servant of God for the church, as Paul says: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1, 1), and Peter says: “A servant of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1, 1), Also Paul says: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1, 11-12). Speaking personally, I never received anything from the written life of any man, or from the works of any man concerning
the ministry. It was what the Lord revealed from His word to my soul, between Him and myself. The authority of any prophet or apostle is his commission from God. Paul says: “An apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)” (Gal. 1, 1). You might say: “Did not we give our pastor a call to the ministry?” The point is, did you give that call without reference to the Lord’s mind, because, if you did, it was not right. Did you give that call without seeking the Lord’s will, without reference to His leading? Had you not asked of the Lord to send you a pastor after His own heart? Well then, my friends, it has come through the means of your invitation, but it has not come from your invitation merely, it has come from the Lord. Then again, what caused your pastor to take the pastorate here, which is so important, so solemn, and such a heavy responsibility. No man in his right mind would ever assume this office. As Paul saith, “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Heb. 5, 4). And I believe, my friends, your pastor has felt this, in accepting the invitation to take the pastorate over you. Mark this, over you, not under you. But it is not man’s authority over you, neither is it tyrannical, but a gracious, beneficial blessed authority. It was, as he was convinced in his own mind that it was, the Lord’s will; and as you were led by the Lord, he was constrained by the Lord to do this. That is why he has accepted your invitation. May it be abundantly manifest that this union of heart and purpose is from the Lord.
“That have spoken unto you the word of God.” Now, my friends, I hope you will never ask for anything more, and never be satisfied with anything less, than the word of God. The prophets and the apostles never announced anything but the word of the Lord. Jesus never preached anything but the word of God. He went into the synagogues of Galilee and Judea preaching the word of God, and saying, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” It is what your pastor has received from the Lord, not that which he has conceived in his natural mind, which will be owned of God. It is only the preaching of the word by the Spirit of God that will be blessed. It is not telling anecdotes and things like that. Illustrations are useful in their place, but illustrations should be in a subordinate place in the ministry of the gospel. It must be the word of God spoken unto you. John said: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled of the word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us”) (1 John I, 1 and 2). I believe that your pastor desires that you may experience the word of God like he has, in the measure that you have need of it, and that it may be to you indeed the Word of God and not the word of man. May the Lord grant that it shall be so.
And then we have to notice very briefly, not only that the
word of God is spoken, but how spoken. The apostle says: “Speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4, 15). A ministry that is not in love cannot be for the welfare of those who hear it. I believe this, my friends, that your pastor and every gospel minister believes: “Speak my words unto them, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear” (Eze. 2, 7). The man that fears your face, and because of the fear of you, and the consequences to himself, if he speaks but part of the truth, and fails to declare unto you the whole counsel of God, that man is not your friend. He is not God’s servant either. I believe this, that when a man preaches God’s denunciations against sin and sinners, warning the ungodly, he will tremble when he preaches it, because he knows it is only grace that has brought him from under the curse. No man when he preaches the word of God will preach in a hard spirit, unless he stands on his own pedestal. He speaks as a sinner to his fellow-sinners. God will bless him in this way. He has not sent angels to preach the gospel, they have no experience of sin and salvation. Everything that a man preaches rightly, he preaches as he knows it for himself, and he speaks the truth in love with a desire that it may be a means of convincing the ungodly of their sins, and bringing them from the evil of their ways.
I shall never forget Mr. Greenwood, of Halifax, preaching on “The Judgment Day,” when the arrow of God’s conviction entered into my soul. I believe that he preached the truth in love. Also Mr. Eddison, when he was your pastor, was the means of healing my wounded spirit with the balm of the blood of Jesus Christ. The apostle says: “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God, wherefore I take you to record this day that I am pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20, 27 and 26). May God give your pastor clean hands towards you and His word, and a clear conscience before his God. May He grant that there shall be everything in your pastor’s ministry that is needed by you. The work of a pastor is a great work, and a pastor needs to be spiritually fitted for the position. May he know how to preach the gospel, in which there shall be milk for babes, strong meat for them that are of a full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern between good and evil. You will be a favoured people if the Lord will so bless your pastor with every gift and grace. May you find that every gracious soul will have in your pastor a friend and a teacher, leading them to a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord grant that it may be so.
It is essential in a pastor, that he himself should hold the truth in love and the faith of God’s elect in his own soul, and in his personal and private experience. You see, a pastor to be right is a man that is the same all the way through as it were. When he has given to you his testimony, you may go to him to ask him about his own private experience, and how things are between God and his own soul. A minister is not like an actor in a play, assuming a part. I hope you may be able to follow his faith by the fruits of it in his
own life, in his walk, and in his conversation. “Whose faith follow.” The apostle said to Timothy: “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4, 12). That means, don’t lift yourselves above him, don’t forget that. A servant of God is true to God. “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (Psm. 105, 15). May you be favoured to be in fellowship with him, experiencing the same grace and faith. The word conversation is an old English word which means walk, it means life, it does not only mean talk. “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” Now what is the end of their conversation? Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, and today, and for ever. Now what is the blessedness of a pastor? It is to know Christ for himself, it is to be found in Him and clothed with His righteousness; also it is the end and aim of a pastor that he should be a guide over the church, for their instruction, admonition, encouragement and belief in the truth. I have said sometimes that when you pay the minister’s salary, you do not pay him, you pay his expenses, but when the Lord blesses you through his ministry that will be his reward. There is just one thing I would say before I sit down: If the Lord has given your pastor to you, receive him as God’s gift. Paul says: “Receive him therefore with all gladness, and hold such in reputation” (Phil. 2, 29). May the Lord enable you to regard your pastor as from Himself, and may He give you to him. May there be many here who shall be his spiritual children, seals to his ministry and souls for his hire, so that he knows that he is not labouring in vain, that many in this place shall be his crown of rejoicing in the Lord. When Rutherford was in banishment these words were written of him, quoted from his own writings:
“Fair Anwoth by the Solway,
To me thou still art dear,
E’en from the verge of heaven
I drop for thee a tear,
And if one soul from Anwoth
Meet me at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens,
In Emmanuel’s land.”