Ministerial Confessions

By Horatius Bonar (1808 – 1889)

We have been carnal and unspiritual. The tone of our life has been low and earthly. Associating too much and too intimately with the world, we have in a great measure become accustomed to its ways. Hence our spiritual tastes have been vitiated, our consciences blunted, and that sensitive tenderness of feeling has worn off and given place to an amount of callousness of which we once, in fresher days, believed ourselves incapable.

We have been selfish. We have shrunk from toil, difficulty and endurance. We have counted only our lives, and our temporal ease and comfort dear unto us. We have sought to please ourselves. We have been worldly and covetous. We have not presented ourselves unto God as “living sacrifices,” laying ourselves, our lives, our substance, our time, our strength, our faculties, our all, upon His altar. We seem altogether to have lost sight of this self sacrificing principle on which even as Christians, but much more as ministers, we are called upon to act. We have had little idea of anything like sacrifice at all. Up to the point where a sacrifice was demanded, we may have been willing to go, but there we stood; counting it unnecessary, perhaps calling it imprudent and unadvised, to proceed further. Yet ought not the life of every Christian, especially of every minister, to be a life of self sacrifice and self denial throughout, even as was the life of Him who “pleased not himself”?

We have been slothful. We have been sparing of our toil. We have not endured hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We have not sought to gather up the fragments of our time, that not a moment might be thrown idly or unprofitably away. Precious hours and days have been wasted in sloth, in idle company, in pleasure, in idle or worthless reading, that might have been devoted to the closet, the study, the pulpit or the meeting! Indolence, self indulgence, fickleness, flesh pleasing, have eaten like a canker into our ministry, arresting the blessing and marring our success. We have manifested but little of the unwearied, self denying love with which, as shepherds, we ought to have watched over the flocks committed to our care. We have fed ourselves, and not the flock. We have dealt deceitfully with God, whose servants we profess to be.

We have been cold. Even when diligent, how little warmth and glow! The whole soul is not poured into the duty, and hence it wears too often the repulsive air of ‘routine’ and ‘form’. We do not speak and act like men in earnest. Our words are feeble, even when sound and true; our looks are careless, even when our words are weighty; and our tones betray the apathy which both words and looks disguise. Love is lacking, deep love, love strong as death, love such as made Jeremiah weep in secret places. In preaching and visiting, in counselling and reproving, what formality, what coldness, how little tenderness and affection!

We have been timid. Fear has often led us to smooth down or generalize truths which if broadly stated must have brought hatred and reproach upon us. We have thus often failed to declare to our people the whole counsel of God. We have shrunk from reproving, rebuking and exhorting with all patience and doctrine. We have feared to alienate friends, or to awaken the wrath of enemies.

We have been lacking in solemnity. How deeply ought we to be abased at our levity, frivolity, flippancy, vain mirth, foolish talking and jesting, by which grievous injury has been done to souls, the progress of the saints retarded, and the world countenanced in its wretched vanities.

We have preached ourselves, not Christ. We have sought applause, courted honour, been avaricious of fame and jealous of our reputation. We have preached too often so as to exalt ourselves instead of magnifying Christ, so as to draw men’s eyes to ourselves instead of fixing them on Him and His cross. Have we not often preached Christ for the very purpose of getting honour to ourselves? Christ, in the sufferings of His first coming and the glory of His second, has not been the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, of all our sermons.

We have not duly studied and honoured the Word of God. We have given a greater prominence to man’s writings, man’s opinions, man’s systems in our studies than to the Word. We have drunk more out of human cisterns than divine. We have held more communion with man than God. Hence the mold and fashion of our spirits, our lives, our words, have been derived more from man than God. We must study the Bible more. We must steep our souls in it. We must not only lay it up within us, but transfuse it through the whole texture of the soul. The study of truth in its academic more than in its devotional form has robbed it of its freshness and power, engendering formality and coldness.

We have not been men of prayer. The spirit of prayer has slumbered among us. The closet has been too little frequented and delighted in. We have allowed business, study or active labor to interfere with our closet hours. A feverish atmosphere has found its way into our closet, disturbing the sweet calm of its blessed solitude. Sleep, company, idle visiting, foolish talking and jesting, idle reading, unprofitable occupations, engross time that might have been redeemed for prayer. Why is there so little concern to get time to pray? Why is there so much speaking, yet so little prayer? Why is there so much running to and fro, yet so little prayer? Why so much bustle and business, yet so little prayer? Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God? Why so little being alone, so little thirsting of the soul for the calm, sweet hours of unbroken solitude, when God and His child hold fellowship together as if they could never part? It is the lack of these solitary hours that not only injures our own growth in grace, but makes us such unprofitable members of the church of Christ, and that renders our lives useless. In order to grow in grace, we must be much alone with God. It is not in society, even Christian society that the soul grows most rapidly and vigorously. In one single quiet hour of prayer it will often make more progress than in whole days of company with others. It is in the ‘desert’ that the dew falls freshest and the air is purest. So with the soul. It is when none but God is near; when His presence alone, like the desert air in which there is mingled no noxious breath of man, surrounds and pervades the soul; it is then that the eye gets the clearest, simplest view of eternal certainties; it is then that the soul gathers in wondrous refreshment and power and energy. Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labours so unsuccessful, our sermons so meagre, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.

We have not honoured the Holy Spirit. We have not sought His teaching or His anointing. “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” (1 John 2:20). Neither in the study of the Word nor the preaching of it to others, have we duly acknowledged His office as the Enlightener of the understanding, the Revealer of the truth, the Testifier and Glorifier of Christ. We have grieved Him by the slight put upon Him as the Teacher, the Convincer, the Comforter, the Sanctifier. Hence He has almost departed from us, and left us to reap the fruit of our own perversity and unbelief. Besides, we have grieved Him by our inconsistent walk, by our lack of circumspection, by our worldly mindedness, by our unholiness, by our prayerlessness, by our unfaithfulness, by our lack of solemnity, by a life and conversation so little in conformity with the character of a disciple or the office of ambassador.

We have had little of the mind of Christ. We have come far short of the example of the Master. We have had little of the grace, the compassion, the meekness, the lowliness, the love of Jesus. His weeping over Jerusalem is a feeling in which we have but little heartfelt sympathy. His seeking of the lost is little imitated by us. His unwearied teaching of the multitudes we shrink from as too much for flesh and blood. His days of fasting, His nights of watchfulness and prayer, are not fully realized as models for us to copy. His counting not His own life dear unto Him that He might glorify the Father and finish the work given Him to do, is but little remembered by us as the principle on which we are to act. Yet surely we are to follow His steps; the servant is to walk where his Master has led the way; the under shepherd is to be what the Chief Shepherd was. We must not seek rest or ease in a world where He whom we love had none.

We have been unbelieving. It is unbelief that makes us so cold in our preaching, so slothful in visiting, and so remiss in all our sacred duties. It is unbelief that chills our life and straitens our heart. It is unbelief that makes us handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes us ascend with so light a step into the pulpit to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.

We have not been sincere in our preaching. If we were, could we be so cold, so prayerless, so inconsistent, so slothful, so worldly, so unlike men whose business is all about eternity? We must be more in earnest if we would win souls. We must be more in earnest if we would walk in the footsteps of our beloved Lord, or if we would fulfil the vows that are upon us. We must be more in earnest if we would be less than hypocrites. We must be more in earnest if we would finish our course with joy, and obtain the crown at the Master’s coming. We must work while it is day; the night comes when no man can work.

We have been unfaithful. The fear of man and the love of his applause have often made us afraid. We have been unfaithful to our own souls, to our flocks, and to our brethren; unfaithful in the pulpit, in visiting, in discipline in the church. In the discharge of every one of the duties of our stewardship there has been grievous unfaithfulness. Instead of the special particularization of the sin reproved, there has been the vague allusion. Instead of the bold reproof, there has been the timid hint. Instead of the uncompromising condemnation, there has been the feeble disapproval. Instead of the unswerving consistency of a holy life whose uniform tenor should be a protest against the world and a rebuke of sin, there has been such an amount of unfaithfulness in our walk and conversation, in our daily deportment and talking with others, that any degree of faithfulness we have been enabled to manifest on the Lord’s Day is almost neutralized by the lack of circumspection which our weekday life exhibits.

We need men that will spend and be spent, that will labour and pray, that will watch and weep for souls!

A Holy Priesthood

By David Smithers

Through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Church has been called out and anointed to be a kingdom of priests. This royal priesthood is much more than merely a religious title. Through the blood of Jesus the believer has not only been forgiven, he has also been given God’s unmerited power to live in holiness. As a royal priesthood the Church has been especially set apart and equipped to love and worship Jesus with a pure heart.

A Reasonable Sacrifice

1 Peter 2:5,9[i] outlines the Christian’s priestly calling. “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ . . . But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, His own special people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” It has been said that were there is no sacrifice, there is no priesthood. Verse five refers to God’s holy priests offering an acceptable sacrifice. What is this acceptable sacrifice? Romans 12:1,2[ii] tells us. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” A consecrated life set apart for Christ’s sake through faith, is the sacrifice God desires and accepts.

Notice that the scripture declares that this sacrifice is reasonable. The sacrifice of a holy life is never to be a esteemed as harsh and unreasonable. Such a life is the only natural response to the unfailing love of Jesus. A sacrificial life of obedience is what every true follower of Jesus longs for and desires. Sad to say, this is not the case in many of our most popular churches. Many who claim to be devoted followers of Christ cannot bear to even be reminded of God’s command, to be holy. Among others the message of holiness, at best, seems only to be tolerated. I’m afraid there are many who desire priestly power and position and yet shun priestly purity. It is impossible to have the one without the other, they are two different sides of the same divine coin. Without the imprint of purity, one is left deceived, cheated and impoverished. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14)[iii].

The Crown of Holiness

In Exodus 28 is found a list of the garments the high priest was commanded to wear. Each one of these priestly garments are full of types and metaphors that can instruct the New Testament believer in his holy calling. From head to toe the high priest was clothed in the finest linens, jewels and gold. Chief among all of his royal garments was his crown of mitre. The mitre was a turban to which a gold plate was attached by blue cords. On this plate or crown of gold was engraved the words, “Holiness unto the Lord.” (Exodus 28:36-38)[iv]. This mitre was to continually rest on the forehead of the high priest. Like the high priest of old, the new covenant priesthood needs to continually have holiness engraved on the forefront of their thoughts. A true priest never grows weary of hearing the Father’s call to holiness. “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, Be holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)[v].

Another metaphor of the believers need to continually be reminded of holiness is found in Deuteronomy 11:18[vi] “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” In this passage God commanded the children of Israel to continually lay up His law in their hearts. As a sign to remind them of this they were to tie small leather compartments to their foreheads and hands. These small compartments contained portions of God’s holy and eternal law. Again the symbolism is clear, God’s people should always be reminded of the Father’s heart cry for holiness. Holiness should always be before our eyes. Who can argue that in these days of perversion and lawlessness that the standard of holiness needs to be continually raised? Why then do so many professing believers still regard holiness as something unpleasant and offensive?

The Beauty of Holiness

The Scripture declares that holiness is beautiful. (Psalm 96:9). Exodus 28:2 states that the priest’s garments were made “for glory and for beauty.” Yes even the crown of holiness was to be regarded as glorious and beautiful. To despise the beauty of holiness is to despise the beauty of Jesus Christ. If you do not consider perfect holiness as something beautiful and desirable, then you have either confused TRUE holiness with the doctrines and traditions of men, or you have become deceived by your own rebellious heart! Holiness is not merely a list of external duties; no, holiness first and foremost is a heart issue. To be holy is to be exclusively reserved and set apart for the love of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. It means being separated from the world, pure and chaste as a betrothed virgin. The Church has been called to be a secret garden, sealed and prepared for the Saviour’s delight (Song of Solomon 4:12-15). Jesus desires the Church to be pure for His own sake. Is it unreasonable that Christ should expect as much from the Church as any husband would from his loving bride?

The State of The Church

Brethren the modern Church is not suffering today because She is too holy and strict. No, the Church is suffering because She has opened Her doors to unclean and deceiving spirits. From the pulpit to the pew, many of our modern churches have brought grief and shame to the heart of Jesus. Not since the Dark Ages has the Church suffered so much because of Her own ungodliness. In times past newspapers reported the victories of the Church’s most anointed evangelists. Today the newspapers report the perversions of the Church’s most popular preachers. It is time to once again welcome the preaching of holiness in our pulpits. Jesus is waiting for us to yield to His heart’s desire. All the provision has been made through the cross of Christ. Through faith in Jesus Christ we can abundantly enjoy the daily experience of holiness in bridal love. By God’s GRACE we can be, and must be HOLY. “For the GRACE of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous for GOOD WORKS” (Titus 2:11-14)[vii].

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Preferred King James Bible verses added.

[i] 1 Peter 2:5,9

5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. . . . 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

[ii] Romans 12:1,2

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

[iii] Hebrews 12:14

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

[iv] Exodus 28:36-38

36 And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
37 And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be.
38 And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.

[v] 1 Peter 1:13-16

13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

[vi] Deuteronomy 11:18

18 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.

[vii] Titus 2:11-14

11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

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