Six features of an attentive minister
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
11 Apr, 2024

The work of the ministry requires constant care and attention. Yet there are plenty reasons why a pastor might lose heart in the work of the ministry, since discouragements are many, and personal corruptions are active. The Covenanting minister William Veitch (1640–1722) was aware of these burdens. He identified Archippus as a minister who seems to have flagged and even become lazy in the work. Paul sends Archippus a brief word of exhortation in his letter to the Colossians: “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:17). Veitch, speaking as a minister to fellow ministers, deduces that great attentiveness is required in ministers if they are to carry out their ministerial responsibilities rightly. In the following updated extract, Veitch gives six features of the attentiveness which Paul urged Archippus to show in his work.

Wisdom

The first thing necessary to enable a minister take heed to his ministry is wisdom and knowledge, not only in the doctrinal but also the practical part of religion. I think both of these are needful to make a minister “apt to teach,” or else his ministry will be more art-work than heart-work. The ministers of Christ must be men of knowledge, for they are watchmen, and watchmen must have eyes in their head. They are to point out to the people their way, their danger, and their duty. If they are blind, what hurt comes to the church! “The leaders of this people cause them to err, and they that are led of them are destroyed” (Isaiah 9:16).

Ignorance causes error, and error destruction. That is why the apostle said to the elders of Ephesus, “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost made you overseers, to feed them,” i.e., with knowledge and understanding, so that they may be soundly principled and right in the faith. The reason is, “for grievous wolves will enter in among you, speaking perverse things to corrupt your people, and to draw disciples after them” (Acts 20:28–30).

Ministers should be like the creatures around Christ’s throne, full of eyes within and without, before and behind. Within, looking to the frame and constitution of their own hearts. Without, to the duties they ought to perform and the snares and dangers they must beware of in following their duty. Before them to God, for counsel and direction. Behind them, to the flocks which they lead. “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge,” says Malachi, and so every minister is (as it were) the treasurer of the place where he is. If ministers lack this treasury of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, they will not be able to distinguish rightly between truth and error, sin and duty. They cannot instruct the ignorant, resolve doubts, quiet the troubled conscience, feed the hungry, and comfort the discouraged. Let Antichrist have blind and ignorant watchmen: our Lord Jesus Christ should have ministers who are thoroughly furnished for every good work.

Diligence

For a minister to discharge his office rightly, he needs painstaking diligence. Knowledge must flow into action . Ministers are called “angels,” and angels are not only full of eyes, but also full of hands and wings (Eze. 1:5). Therefore, “they rest not day nor night” (Rev. 4:8). They know much, therefore they act much.

The heathen could tell us that unpractical knowledge signifies nothing. The Egyptians painted a tongue with a hand under it, to show that knowledge was good when practiced. The blessing is not promised to the bare knowledge of commanded duties, but to the practice of them. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if you do them” (John 13:17). “Blessed are they that do his commandments , that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates unto the city” (Rev. 22:14). Ministers are spiritual harvesters, and the crop is very precious. If it is lost by our sloth, we will pay dear for it.

Faithfulness

How much we need to take heed that we do our ministerial work faithfully! Faithfulness is a proportioning of our obedience to the command, or being impartial in all the ministrations of the house of God. See what a charge the Apostle Paul gives Timothy. “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing of partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). We see that the one who is partial cannot be faithful. An unfaithful minister is perfidious both to God and man. It says in Zephaniah 3:4, “their prophets are light and treacherous persons,” and “treacherous persons” means prevaricating persons who violate the trust due to God and the people alike. It is the highest treachery that can be, to be false to God and rob Him of people’s souls. What is recorded in Ezekiel 3:20 is worthy of our attention. “Because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, but his blood shall I require at thine hand.” If a minister may perish for not warning sinners, much more for encouraging them to sin, by corrupt doctrine, and a lewd life, for if there is death in an omission, much more must it be things that are positively evil.

Let me add one word more on this point. A faithful minister must be a fearless minister. He must not be afraid of the faces of men, when he is to deliver the truths of God. Four times in one verse, the Lord forbids the prophet to fear: “Son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briars and thorns be with thee , and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house” (Eze. 2:6).

Prudence

If we are to “take heed to our ministry,” we also need prudence. This is necessary to direct us in the dexterous management of all the parts of our work, and especially as to the methods by which, and the times in which our work may be done to the best advantage. Of all the parts of our ministerial work, none requires more prudence in order to handle it rightly than reproof, i.e., to do it so as it may be accepted as a kindness by the person reproved, and as an excellent oil that will not break the head, as the Psalmist expresses it (Ps. 141:5). For while faithfulness and wisdom ponder the necessity of the duty, prudence considers the fittest time, and the best manner of application with respect to the person. See in 2 Samuel 12 the prudence and dexterity with which Nathan prepared David in the parable, from verse 1 to verse 6, before he comes to touch him in the quick with “Thou art the man!” in verse 7.

Earnestness

We must be sincere and serious (Eccles. 9:10). It is not likely that we will seriously press gospel truths and holiness home on others, until we know the sweetness and good of them ourselves. The apostle tells us that sincerity in our work and walk will be no small ground of our rejoicing, when our consciences within, and observers without, can testify that we endeavoured sincerely and carefully to manage this trust committed to us (2 Cor. 1:12).

Ministers need to take heed to this, since their work has to do with spiritual things, and so they are more apt to be deceived by hypocrisies creeping in both to their hearts and their duties. Many a time the frequency of these duties almost takes away the fervency of them. Ministers should therefore often think of what Paul said, to keep themselves diligent at their work, “Lest when I preach the gospel to others, I myself be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27).

Perseverance

This “take heed” includes constancy and perseverance. We must not imagine we can do this work by fits and starts, nor be like these foolish Galatians, who began in the spirit, and ended in the flesh. We must not put our hand to the plough and look back, for you know what Christ says of those who do so, “They are not fit for the kingdom of God.” They are not fit for managing His kingdom aright in this world, and if they don’t do that, they may have reason to fear being shut out of His kingdom in the next world.

 

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