About a year ago a good friend pointed me to Horatius Bonar’s Words to Winners of Souls. It’s available for free both in print and mp3. My printed edition is 31 pages, so for several months I read a page a day. It’s a great challenge and blessing that I decided to share each day of this month.
“How much more would a few good and fervent men effect in the ministry than a multitude of lukewarm ones!” said Oecolampadius, the Swiss Reformer — a man who had been taught by experience, and who has recorded that experience for the benefit of other churches and other days.
The mere multiplying of men calling themselves ministers of Christ will avail little. They may be but “cumberers of the ground.” They may be like Achan, troubling the camp; or perhaps Jonah, raising the tempest. Even when sound in the faith, through unbelief, lukewarmness and slothful formality, they may do irreparable injury to the cause of Christ, freezing and withering up all spiritual life around them. The lukewarm
ministry of one who is theoretically orthodox is often more extensively and fatally ruinous to souls than that of one grossly inconsistent or flagrantly heretical. “What man on earth is so pernicious a drone as an idle minister?” said Cecil. And Fletcher remarked well that “lukewarm pastors made careless Christians.” Can the multiplication of such ministers, to whatever amount, be counted a blessing to a people? The fathers of the Scottish Church, acting upon this principle, preferred keeping a parish vacant to appointing over it an unsuitable pastor.
And when the church of Christ, in all her denominations, returns to primitive example, and walking in apostolical footsteps seeks to be conformed more closely to inspired models, allowing nothing that pertains to earth to come between her and her living Head, then will she give more careful heed to see that the men to whom she entrusts the care of souls, however learned and able, should be yet more distinguished by their spirituality, zeal, faith and love.
In comparing Baxter and Orton, the biographer of the former remarks that “Baxter would have set the world on fire while Orton was lighting a match.” How true! Yet not true alone of Baxter or of Orton. These two individuals are representatives of two classes in the church of Christ in every age and of every denomination. The latter class are far the more numerous: the Ortons you may count by hundreds, the Baxters by tens; yet who would not prefer a solitary specimen of the one to a thousand of the other?