In 1651 ministers in Scotland were moved to publish an acknowledgement of the sins of the ministry. They'd determined that through neglect of their own Christian lives and ministries they were partly to blame for the problems of Scotland at the time. Bonar's Words to Winners of Souls includes the confession. Today, a section labeled "Trusting in Our Own Ability" really stirred my heart.
Trusting in Our Own Ability
The ministers confessed to...
"Not entertaining that edge of spirit in ministerial duties which we found at the first entry to the ministry. Great neglect of reading, and other preparation; or preparation merely literal and bookish, making an idol of a book, which hindereth communion with God; or presuming on bygone assistance, and praying little. Trusting to gifts, talents, and pains taken for preparation, whereby God is provoked to blast good matter, well ordered and worded. Careless in employing Christ, and drawing virtue out of Him, for enabling us to preach in the Spirit and in power. In praying for assistance we pray more for assistance to the messenger than to the message which we carry, not caring what becomes of the Word, if we be with some measure of assistance carried on in the duty. The matter we bring forth is not seriously recommended to God by prayer, to be quickened to His people. Neglect of prayer after the Word is preached.
"Neglect to warn, in preaching, of snares and sins in public affairs by some; and too much, too frequent, and unnecessary speaking by others of public business and transactions. Exceeding great neglect and unskillfulness to set forth the excellences and usefulness of (and the necessity of and interest in) Jesus Christ, and the new covenant, which ought to be the great subject of a minister's study and preaching. Speaking of Christ more by hearsay than from knowledge and experience, or any real impression of Him upon the heart. The way of most ministers' preaching too legal. Want of sobriety in preaching the gospel; not savoring anything but what is new; so that the substantials of religion bear but little bulk.
"Not preaching Christ in the simplicity of the gospel, nor ourselves the people's servants, for Christ's sake. Preaching of Christ, not that the people may know Him, but that they may think we know much of Him. Preaching about Christ's leaving of the world without brokenness of heart, or stirring up ourselves to take hold of Him. Not preaching with bowels of compassion to them that are in hazard to perish. Preaching against public sins, neither in such a way, nor for such an end, as we ought--for the gaining of souls and drawing men out of their sins; but rather because it is to our advantage to say something of these evils."
In Horatius Bonar, Words to Winners of Souls (Philipsburg, N.J.: P&R), pp. 30-32.
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