MINISTERS NOT TO BE DISCOURAGED BY WANT OF SUCCESS
To the Rev. John Venn.
Yelling, Sept. 2nd 1783.
My Dear Son,
You have no cause to be discouraged, that you yet see no fruit. How little, in comparison, have the ablest, brightest ministers ever seen – in comparison, I say, of what they might expect! Hear what the Good Shepherd, and the only infallible Preacher, says: “All day long have I stretched forth my hands to a gainsaying and disobedient people.” When He opened the eyes of the blind in vast numbers, a very small part, even of them, beheld His glory’! When He cleansed at once ten lepers, one only gave God thanks! When He made the lame, by thousands, to walk, scarcely any of them would follow Him! Shall, then, the servant wonder when his word is treated as was his Lord’s? “Yet,” says He, “though Israel be not gathered, I shall be glorious.” So each of His pastors may say: Though, after many prayers and tears, and much crying unto God, and setting plainly before the people the Way of life in Christ crucified, I find scarcely any one that will receive my testimony – whilst I, in my own example, do honour the Gospel – shall I conclude I am not sent of the Lord? shall I be disquieted and miserable? By no means! The purposes of God will be surely answered: and not the minister who has most success in his preaching shall stand highest in the day of the Lord; but the minister whose eye has been single; whose prayers have been fervent; whose bowels of mercies have been yearning over the ignorant, and those who are out of the way; and who has most readily sacrificed his own will and temporal interest. Such are conformable to Christ; and upon such He will put the greatest honour.
Further, we are not proper judges of the good that is done by us. Very often we are not to know it: it would puff us up. Even here, at Yelling, where many think there is little good done, I hear from one and another of glad tidings. This last week I have visited Mr. Heading, of Little Paxton, who is dying in the peace of God, and inquires most affectionately after you; Mrs. Brichard, of whose life also there is no hope; and Mrs. Ivitt, who is at the point to die; – each of them looking unto Jesus. You have been only six months in October – and what are six months? Only read, and pray, and watch; and take no denial. If you see no success, you are not to be cast down; but with more vehemence plead, and claim the promises made to those who speak His word faithfully. Think how Mr. Joseph Alleine of Taunton waited from year to year for those who set at nought the word; yet, at length, he was the instrument in the hand of Christ of bringing them to heaven.
I cannot but approve your taking pupils; but this must not be lightly determined upon. You must have well considered and digested your plans, that you may do full justice to them in their education. I think it will be no hindrance to the discharge of your ministry. But ask counsel, in all this matter, of the Lord; beseeching Him to direct you, and to set aside every intention of your own, if it will not be right in his eyes. All send their love. From your affectionate father,
Copied from Life and Letters of Henry Venn, MA, (1835) pp. 372-374.