In this week’s series on Google Book’s resource for the Christian apologist, I thought it would be appropriate ter’so balance out the apologetics with also the pastoral ministry, since most of the grass level engagement of apologetics occur among those who are in some capacity as Pastors.
Richard Baxter’s “Reformed Pastor” is available online on Google Books for viewing here. This book can also be downloaded as a PDF file.
Here is my review of the book:
First published in 1656, Richard Baxter’s “The Reformed Pastor” remains a classic even today. The reasons why it is still read is because the truths that Baxter communicates is still relevant today. I will highlight some of these points here.
The book has much to say about the pastor’s duties. Due to the nature of the book, Baxter also addresses regularly the laziness of the minister. I enjoyed how the book tells us the duties of the pastor (and what’s required of that duty) and also cover the motives for fulfilling those duties. This was helpful, as the reason why we do ministry is also just as important as what we do in ministry.
The book is very conscious of the Christian’s duty of sharing the gospel. As an extension of this, Baxter believes the pastor’s duty to share the gospel is even greater: “Every Christian is obliged to do all he can for the salvation of others; but every minister is doubly obliged, because he is separated to the gospel of Christ, and is to give up himself wholly to that work” (196). In fact, the purpose of evangelism serves as a constant motive for Baxter to do the full work of a pastor.
As a result of this evangelistic outlook, Baxter is adamant that a pastor’s responsibility goes beyond just “preaching.” In fact, if Pastors were not obedient to the duty of evangelistic visitations of one’s congregation, Baxter found it unacceptable of one who “tell them of such a glory, and scarcely speak a word to them personally, to them to it…” (207). Throughout the book, Baxter has observed of how private meeting and conversation with one’s congregation has proven to be more fruitful than public preaching alone. This observation is still a true description of the ministry today. The contemporary application is obvious: Pastors are to visit members of the church today, for the purpose of effectively sharing God’s Word and the gospel in private meetings.
In considering the motivation for the work of doing the ministry in terms of sharing the gospel to the lost, Baxter soberly warns us, “Oh what a dreadful thing is it to answer for the neglect of such a charge! And what sin more heinous than that betraying of souls? Doth no that threatening make you tremble…” (199). There is an urgency in Baxter’s writing of the need to do the work of sharing the gospel for the salvation of sinners from the fate of Hell. I found it moving when Baxter wrote, “One would think that the very sight of your miserable neighbours would be motive sufficient to draw out your most compassionate endeavours for their relief” (202-203).
The objections and answer format towards the end of the book was great. It allowed for an organized and easy to follow format for readers to track with the author—something that seems to be typically hard for many puritans writers to accomplish, given their love of having sub-points to the various main-points format in their writing. This portion of the book was refreshing, as much of the objections given against biblical pastoral ministry today was also given back in Baxter’s time.
Furthermore, the book overall was quite helpful in the application of what was taught. These practical principles are useful today and the wise pastor will put them into practice. As a side note, I was delighted to find the book discussing about the importance of exercise, especially in an era before our contemporary fad with health and fitness. Baxter was quite balance, seeing exercise as good for the health. Moreover, there is a spiritual dimension that he pointed out, of how exercising is a form of mortification of sin by practicing Godly discipline.