Edwards on the Ministry (3)
But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Ephesians 5.13
Light for knowing Christ
Why do shepherds, entrusted with the Word of God, preach and teach that Word? Is it to impart sound doctrine? To impress their hearers and students? To make them feel better about who they are in the Lord?
Or is it to shine the light of truth into the souls and upon the paths of those they are called to shepherd?
Jonathan Edwards insisted on this last: “Ministers are set to be lights to the souls of men in this respect, as they are to be the means of imparting divine truth to them, and bringing into their view the most glorious and excellent objects, and of leading them to and assisting them in the contemplation of those things that angels desire to look into…by which they may know God and Jesus Christ, whom to know is life eternal.”
In his sermon on John the Baptist, “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister”, Edwards explained that John was great because he pointed people to Jesus. He lit up their souls with painful truth and the balm of precious promises, all the while leading them to look for Him Who was coming after him.
The preaching and teaching of the Word of God, Edwards explained, should enable the people of God to see more clearly into any lingering areas of darkness in their souls. It should lift their minds to heavenly matters and tune their hearts to desire the beauties and excellencies of the unseen realm. Preaching fulfills its unique role in the church as it lifts and enlarges the soul, focusing it on God and Christ and inviting it to drink more deeply of the fountain of salvation and eternal life. Preaching that fulfills the true purpose of preaching is like the preaching of John the Baptist: It connects people with Jesus.
Resources for Shepherds
William Cowper, that great 18th century poet and hymn-writer, faulted the preaching of his day precisely because it did not do what Edwards taught. His reflections on preaching, within the body of his great epic poem The Task, can help us in reflecting on our own work of preaching and teaching. If you missed our “Essay on Preaching”, which develops Cowper’s thought for our reflection, here are links to the five installments from our InVerse Theology Project:
An Essay on Preaching Part 1
An Essay on Preaching Part 2
An Essay on Preaching Part 3
An Essay on Preaching Part 4
An Essay on Preaching Part 5
From the Celtic Revival
Here is another excerpt from the writings of Patrick, another truly excellent Gospel minister, which is featured in yesterday’s issue of Crosfigell. Crosfigell comes out every Tuesday and Thursday. In our current series, we’re reading our way through the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) using excerpts from the writings of those, like Patrick, who were instrumental in that great movement of God’s Spirit. Use the pop-up at the website to update your subscriptions and add Crosfigell to your list:
My family rejoiced at my return,
and when my tribulations they had learned,
they begged me, as a son, to stay with them
and never leave our happy home again.
And so, no doubt, I would have been content
to do, but God was pleased I should be spent
in other ways; for while I tarried there
amid my leisure, He worked to prepare
me for a larger task. There came to me
one night a vision. From across the sea
a man appeared; Victoricus was his name.
He had in his possession as he came
so many letters, and he gave me one
of them. The heading on it left me numb:
“The Voice of the Irish,” it proclaimed. As I
began to read the letter, deep in my
imagination in that moment I
could hear the voices of the people by
the wood of Foclut, which is near the sea
in western Ireland, and it seemed to me
that they were crying out, as with one voice,
“O holy servant boy, we would rejoice
for you to come and walk among us.”
- Patrick, Confession (late 5th century)
Read more from the leaders of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) in recent issues of Crosfigell by clicking here.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.