Sunday, June 14, 2009

Richard Baxter on Teaching

I am currently reading through Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor. There has been discussion amongst my friends of late on whether there is need for additional teaching beyond the normal Lord's Day morning message. Certainly Baxter agrees that there is. He lists four categories of believers to whom a pastor must teach.

They are:
1) Those who are young and weak.
2) Those who labour under some particular corruption.
3) Those who are declining, or backsliding Christians.
4) Those Christians who are strong.

So, you see that whichever place you are in your Christian walk, you need to be built up with the teaching of the Word.

In today's post I'm going to give you his reasoning for that first group of Christians, Those who are young and weak. I'd love to give them all to you, and perhaps I will in a future post. But there's enough content to chew on and ponder here that should make Baxter's point very clear.

From The Reformed Pastor pages 97-98:
There are many of our flock that are young and weak, who, though they are of long standing, are yet of small proficiency or strength. This, indeed, is the most common condition of the godly. Most of them content themselves with low degrees of grace, and it is no easy matter to get them higher. To bring them to higher and stricter opinions is easy, that is, to bring them from the truth into error, on the right hand as well as on the left; but to increase their knowledge and gifts is not easy, and to increase their graces is the hardest of all. It is a very sad thing for Christians to be weak: it exposeth us to dangers; it abateth our consolations and delight in God, and taketh off the sweetness of wisdom's ways; it maketh us less serviceable to God and man, to bring less honour to our Master, and to do less good to all about us. We get small benefit in the use of the means of grace. We too easily play with the serpent's baits, and are ensnared by his wiles. A seducer will easily shake us, and evil may be made to appear to us as good, truth as falsehood, sin as duty; and so on the contrary. We are less able to resist and stand in an encounter; we sooner fall; we hardlier rise; and are apter to prove a scandal and reproach to our profession. We less know ourselves, and are more apt to be mistaken as to our own estate, not observing corruptions when they have got advantage of us. We are dishonourable to the gospel by our very weakness, and little useful to any about us. In a word, though we live to less profit to ourselves or others, yet are we unwilling and too unready to die.

Now, seeing the case of weakness in the converted is so sad, how diligent should we be to cherish and increase their grace! The strength of Christians is the honour of the Church. When they are inflamed with the love of God, and live by a lively working faith, and set light by the profits and honours of the world, and love one another with a pure heart fervently, and can bear and heartily forgive a worng, and suffer joyfully for the cause of Christ, and study to do good, and welk inoffensively and harmlessly in the world, are ready to be servants to all men for their good, becoming all things to all men in order to to win them to Christ, and yet abstaining from the appearance of evil, and seasoning all their actions with a sweet mixture of prudence, humility, zeal, and heavenly mindedness -- oh, what an honour are such to their profession! What an ornament to the Church; and how serviceable to God and man! Men would sooner believe that the gospel is from heaven, if they saw more such effects of it upon the hearts and lives of those who profess it. The world is better able to read the nature of religion in a man's life than in the Bible. 'They that obey not the word, may be won by the conversation' of such as are thus eminent for godliness. It is, therefore, a most important part of our work, to labour more in the polishing and perfecting of the saints, that they may be strong in the Lord, and fitted for their Master's service.

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