And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,  to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, 4:11-16)
We must be sensible how needful this is to the prosperity of the whole, the strengthening of our common cause, the good of the particular members of our flock, and the further enlargement of the kingdom of Christ.Therefore, ministers must smart when the Church is wounded, and be so far from being the leaders in divisions, that they should take it as a principal part of their work to prevent and heal them. Day and night should they bend their studies to find out means to close such breaches. interpreter-2They must not only hearken to motions for unity, but propound them and prosecute them; not only entertain an offered peace, but even follow it when it flies from them. They must, therefore, keep close to the ancient simplicity of the Christian faith, and the foundation and center of catholic unity. They must abhor the arrogance of them that frame new engines to rack and tear the Church of Christ under pretense of obviating errors and maintaining the truth.

The Scripture sufficiency must be maintained, and nothing beyond it imposed on others; and if others call to us for the standard and rule of our religion, it is the Bible that we must show them, rather than any confessions of churches, or writings of men. We must distinguish between certainties and uncertainties, catholic verities and private opinions; and to lay the stress of the Church’s peace upon the former, not upon the latter. We must avoid the common confusion of speaking of those who make no difference between verbal and real errors, and hate that “madness formerly among theologians,” who tear their brethren as heretics, before they understand them. And we must learn to see the true state of controversies, and reduce them to the very point where the difference lies, and not make them seem greater than they are.

Instead of quarreling with our brethren, we must combine against the common adversaries; and all ministers must associate and hold communion, and correspondence, and constant meetings to these ends; and smaller differences of judgment are not to interrupt them. They must do as much of the work of God, in unity and concord, as they can, which is the use of synods; not to rule over one another, and make laws, but to avoid misunderstandings, and consult for mutual edification, maintain love and communion, and go on unanimously in the work that God has already commanded us.

Had the ministers of the gospel been men of peace, and of catholic, rather than factious spirits, the Church of Christ had not been in the case it now is. The nations of Lutherans and Calvinists abroad, and the differing parties here at home, would not have been plotting the subversion of one another, remain at that distance, and in that uncharitable bitterness, nor strengthen the common enemy, and hinder the building and prosperity of the Church.

( from THE REFORMED PASTOR) by Richard Baxter (1656) 





2 Responses to “Exhortation to Ministers of the Gospel”

  1. e4unity Says:

    Is it not abundantly clear what Richard Baxter discerned from Ephesians 4 was that “endeavoring to maintain the Unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace” was to be the top priority of the churches, and that those that were called to be Ministers of the Gospel and Shepherds of the People of God were charged with the responsibility of making it so.

  2. Toddy2 Says:

    2011 Update:

    Baxter’s book is my own ‘gold standard’ of the function of Pastor/Minister in the churches. He called it “Reformed” not because it was created during the Reformation, but rather because he believed it was in fact the model found in Scripture itself- in Christ, first & foremost as the Great Shepherd, then in the Johnnine & Pauline writings.
    It was only ‘uncovered’ at the time of the Reformation as the Church began in earnest to bring its practices under the judgement of Scripture & the Lord of the Church.

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