“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” —Revelation 2:5
In the year 1651 the Church of Scotland, feeling in regard to her ministers “how deep their hand was in the transgression, and that ministers had no small accession to the drawing on of the judgments that were upon the land,” drew up what they called a humble acknowledgment of the sins of the ministry. This document is a striking and searching one. It is perhaps one of the fullest, most faithful and most impartial confessions of ministerial sin ever made. A few extracts from it will suitably introduce this chapter on ministerial confession.
It begins with confessing sins before entrance on the ministry:
“Lightness and profanity in conversation, unsuitable to that holy calling which they did intend, not thoroughly repented of. Not studying to be in Christ before they be in the ministry; nor to have the practical knowledge and experience of the mystery of the gospel in themselves before they preach it to others. Neglecting to fit themselves for the work of the ministry, in not improving prayer and fellowship with God, opportunities of a lively ministry, and other means, and not mourning for these neglects. Not studying self-denial, nor resolving to take up the cross of Christ. Negligence to entertain a sight and sense of sin and misery; not wrestling against corruption, nor studying mortification and subduedness of spirit (Romans 7:14, 15).”
Of entrance on the ministry it thus speaks:
“Entering to the ministry without respect to a commission from Jesus Christ, by which it hath come to pass that many have run unsent. Entering to the ministry not from the love of Christ, nor from a desire to honor God in gaining of souls, but for a name and for a livelihood in the world notwithstanding a solemn declaration to the contrary at admission. Too much weighed with inclination to be called to the ministry in a place where we have carnal relations (Romans 1:8-16).”
Of the sins after entrance on the ministry, it thus searchingly enumerates:
“Ignorance of God; want of nearness with Him, and taking up little of God in reading, meditating and speaking of Him. Exceeding great selfishness in all that we do; acting from ourselves, for ourselves and to ourselves. Not caring how unfaithful and negligent others were, so being it might contribute a testimony to our faithfulness and diligence, but being rather content, if not rejoicing, at their faults. Least delight in those things wherein lieth our nearest communion with God; great inconstancy in our walk with God, and neglect of acknowledging Him in all our ways. In going about duties, least careful of those things which are most remote from the eyes of men. Seldom in secret prayer with God, except to fit for public performance; and even that much neglected, or gone about very superficially.
This post is a continuation of Horatius Bonar’s Words to Winners of Souls (see here for book information).