Remember and Repent, Part 5

man-1907204_640Horatius Bonar finishes relaying the 1651 Church of Scotland’s confession of ministerial sins in his Words to Winners of Souls:

“Bitterness, instead of zeal in speaking against malignants, sectarians, and other scandalous persons; and unfaithfulness therein. Not studying to know the particular condition of the souls of the people, that we may speak to them accordingly; nor keeping a particular record thereof, though convinced of the usefulness of this. Not carefully choosing what may be most profitable and edifying; and want of wisdom in application to the several conditions of souls; not so careful to bring home the point by application as to find out the doctrine, nor speaking the same with that reverence which becomes His word and message.

“Choosing texts whereon we have something to say, rather than those suited to the conditions of souls and times, and frequent preaching of the same things, that we may not be put to the pains of new study. Such a way of reading, preaching and prayer as puts us in these duties farther from God. Too soon satisfied in the discharge of duties, and holding off challenges of conscience with excuses. Indulging the body, and wasting much time idly. Too much eyeing our own credit and applause; and being pleased with it when we get it, and unsatisfied when it is wanting. Timorousness in delivering God’s message; letting people die in reigning sins without warning. Studying the discharge of duties rather to free ourselves from censure than to approve ourselves to God.

“Not making all the counsel of God known to His people; and particularly, not giving testimony in times of defection. Not studying to profit by our own doctrine, nor the doctrine of others. For most part, preaching as if we ourselves were not concerned in the message which we carry to the people. Not rejoicing at the conversion of sinners, but content with the unthriving of the Lord’s work amongst His people, as suiting best with our minds; fearing, if they should thrive better, we should be more put to it, and less esteemed of by them—many, in preaching and practice, bearing down the power of godliness. We preach not as before God, but as to men; as doth appear by the different pains in our preparation to speak to our ordinary hearers and to others to whom we would approve ourselves. Not making the ministry a work in earnest, as a thing to be accounted for in every duty; which makes much laziness and unfruitfulness; doing duties because it is merely expected of our office as opposed to the conviction of our consciences (Philippians 1:3-8).”

“Negligent, lazy, and partial visiting of the sick. If they be poor we go once, and only when sent for; if they be rich and of better note, we go oftener and unsent for. Not knowing how to speak with the tongue of the learned a word in season to the weary, and exercised in conscience; nor to such as are under the loss of husband, wife, children, friends, or goods, for the improving of these trials to their spiritual advantage; nor to dying persons. In visiting, wearying or shunning to go to such as we esteem graceless. Not visiting the people from house to house; nor praying with them at fit opportunities (2 Timothy 4:1-5).”

“Lazy and negligent in catechizing. Not preparing our hearts before, nor wrestling with God for a blessing to it, because of the ordinariness and apprehended easiness of it; whereby the Lord’s name is much taken in vain, and the people little profited. Looking on that exercise as a work below us, and not condescending to study a right and profitable way of instructing the Lord’s people. Partial in catechizing, passing by those that are rich and of better quality, though many of such stand ordinarily in great need of instruction. Not waiting upon and following the ignorant but often passionately upbraiding them (Galatians 4:11 -20).”

These are solemn confessions—the confessions of men who knew the nature of that ministry on which they had entered, and who were desirous of approving themselves to Him who had called them, that they might give in their account with joy and not with grief.