Faithful Shepherd 2

Originally appearing at Heavenly Worldliness, this is a modified version of Chapter 2 of Bernard's Faithful Shepherd of 1607.
Of the lawful entrance of a Minister into the Ministry and also into his charge and place
We see that it is no disgrace for anyone to be a minister of the gospel. It is a calling worthy of any qualified in the excellent manner. However not everyone is worthy of it or suitable for it but only such as are called and sent by God, being provided with gifts to some extent and so able to discharge the office of a teacher and stirred up with a godly affection to want the office.
A minister must be called by God and sent by the Church. Thus being sent by God, the church, or they to whom the authority of the church is committed, must conduct an examination. They must test you and approve you by discovering whether you have been equipped with such gifts as are necessary for a minister. They must then call and institute one lawfully presented to a pastoral charge to take care over the flock. We may not take it on us before we are called. If any run before the Lord call, as many do for profit, ease and honour, they may condemn themselves by haste and go without expectation of good speed (Lk 24, Ac 1). God appoints only those he prepares beforehand, giving them gifts to perform their duty. Jerome says that if a priest is ignorant of the Law of the Lord then he is shown not to be priest of the Lord, after all. In the same way, an unfit man who is ignorant and vain may be man’s minister but he is not Christ’s messenger.
Motives to the Ministry
Again, if we run without the authority of the church it is presumption, contempt of authority, breach of order, the nurse of confusion, the mother of schism and the bane of churches’ peace. If we begin well we are more likely to end well. First let us take our warrant, then proceed in the commission and aim at a right end. Let true zeal move you for God’s glory, the advancing of Christ’s kingdom, the conversion of sinners and to build the body of Christ. Seek to open the eyes of the blind, to turn them from darkness to light, from Satan to God, to edify the body of Christ and to overthrow the power of darkness. Do not enter for profit, for fear of poverty or for ease, because you do not want a menial job. Nor simply to be held in high esteem. Let the chief ends of the ministry be what you aim at. Seek God not yourself, lest with Judas you find your desire being for the bag and so losing God’s blessing. There is a proper end for everything. The Lord shows why he has appointed pastors for his church. If we surreptitiously seek anything else, hoping to gain from it something God’s appointment does not aim at, it is a hypocritical abuse of holy things by a deceitful heart, as Jezebel did when she called a fast for Naboth’s vineyard. Such hearts reveal themselves eventually in idleness, covetousness or proud aspiring.
The Minister’s gifts must fit his place
When God has equipped and the church approved, because God’s gifts come freely so we must endeavour to purchase a place by simony. Nor should you choose it because you are eager for the best post, but according to your gifts. Look for the place where your gifts are most likely to profit a people.A man may be a fit minister of Christ yet not be suited to every congregation. Few are as well suited to a meek company as a mild and soft spirit; to a small group as one with a quiet voice (otherwise only some will hear while the rest must stand and gaze); to stubborn people as an undauntable mind - a hard knot requires a hard wedge; to a great assembly as one with a loud voice; to a more learned church a good student and to a less educated sort as one with less understanding. Join like to like, that pastor and flock may fit together, for their best good.The congregation reaps small benefit where the preacher’s gifts do not suit the place. Therefore, as we must have conscience to enter into the ministry rightly so we must be very particular to settle ourselves ourselves with the right people. That is the best way to make it easy for ourselves and to edify them.

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