Faithful Shepherd 3A

Originally appearing at Heavenly Worldliness this is a modified version of the first part of Chapter 3 of The Faithful Shepherd

Of the Minister’s wise and godly proceeding in his pastoral charge to teach his people

A Minister must feed his flock
A minister placed over a congregation, as we say, is appointed to it by God, and there he must be content to stay, unless he be lawfully called from there, or some necessity compel him to depart.That flock he must forthwith begin to feed, and not only desire their fleece. Wages are due to the worker. The painstaking labourer should reap the profit and not the idle loiterer.
How to rightly and usefully feed different sorts of people
To rightly feed it is necessary, to weigh what state they stand in and to consider their condition. A counsellor must know the case to give sound advice, the physician must know his patient to administer a wholesome potion and he who will benefit a people must be skillful to understand his hearers.
1. Ignorant and unteachable
If ignorant and unteachable, prepare them to receive the Word and win them from their own ways, adopted customs and superstitious practices; from their supposed good intents, the examples of their blindly-led forefathers; from well liking Popish religion as the best according to carnal reasoning and worldly thinking; from dislike of the truth now taught them; and from the misguided idea that they are in fact happy enough. See these and such like impediments, as rubbish to be removed and aim to lay a foundation by reasoning with them and powerfully convincing them of sin so that they may be pricked in their hearts and see the necessity of your preaching to them. (Acts 17:2, 3:17; 2:36).If this touches them and they become co-operative then deliver gospel teaching more generally at first and, as they change, more particularly. (Acts 17:30, 31). If they remain obstinate and will not receive the Word after sufficient time of trial they deserve to be left (Mt 10:14; Pro 9:8; Mt 7:6; Acts 19:8, 9, 17:33).
2. Ignorant and teachable
If ignorant but willing to be taught, they must be first catechised and taught the grounds and principles of religion – the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Ten Commandments and teaching on the sacraments. With this milk they must be fed or else never expect them to be able to receive strong meat. They cannot understand or judge interpretations without it. (1 Cor 3:1; Heb 5:13; Jn 16:12; 1 Pet 3:21; Lk 1:4). All arts have their principles which must be learned, so has religion.
That people must be catechised and the manner how
Experience shows that little profit comes by preaching where catechising is neglected. Many there are who teach twice or three times in a week and yet see less fruit for many years labour by not also catechising than some reap in one year who perform both together.This sort of catechising is to be performed by propounding questions and the people answering them. This plain and simple kind is the best and will bring the most profit, though it seem childish, and tedious to many.
Children (as all are without knowledge, yes babes at first) must be dealt with as children. Many teach the catechism but in a rambling style. Experience declares that this does not help the more coarse sort at all, which is what most in country congregations are like. Those who will catechise correctly must teach, that is listen as well instructing. Catechising is listening and instructing and one catechised is resounding. In schools masters never help scholars who do not listen, even though they give lectures.Let the people then learn the catechism word for word and answer every question. Do not interrupt beginners with interpretations nor go further with any than he is able to say well. After come to the meaning and ask for an answer then from them, how they understand this or that in one question and another but do not go beyond their own ideas. Wait a while for an answer but not too long. If someone does not know, ask another; if anyone only stammers at it, help him and encourage him by commending his willingness. If no-one can answer a question, explain plainly how they might have understood it and then ask someone again and praise him if he understands it and answers after your telling him.
Note variations in ability and deal with them accordingly. Take a word or a part of an answer from one, while expecting more from another. Teach with a cheerful manner, with familiarity and lovingly. Openly commend those who are keen. Also speak to them heartily in private too. Aim at goodwill. Hardly anyone will learn from one he hates. Feel free to answer anyone asks and gladly take the opportunity to show that you are always willing to teach. Be familiar but beware of contempt. Never permit anyone to laugh at others who fail. It will totally discourage them from coming. Make much of the lowest, esteem the best, as appropriate, to make the rest want to reach the same standard. Rebuke the wilful and obstinate as they deserve, so that their example does not make those easily led careless or the better sort less attentive.
Thus through God’s goodness you may benefit others by catechising. Also draw them into it without compulsion. If you are proud and cannot stoop to their capacity or you are too impatient to hear an ignorant answer or disdain being familiar, few will come to you willingly and none except by force and you will not benefit many. Experience has been my schoolmaster and taught me these things and I find great fruit from it to my comfort.
We must suspect that we have failed in our duty if no-one benefits from our efforts. Perhaps our hearts do not sincerely seek what we seem to profess to seek. We teach as usual, of course, but we do not conscientiously endeavour to save our people.

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