The Kind of Man God Uses: Early Baptist Voices

Founders Journal · Summer 2004 · pp. 2-14

The Kind of Man God Uses:
Early Baptist Voices

William G. Moore

What is the kind of man God uses in the gospel ministry? Few issues should concern both pulpit and pew as much. That our church culture views the role of pastors as essential for growing churches is evidenced by the innumerable books, magazines, videos, and seminars promising to reveal the secrets of effective leadership. Must a man be an administrative expert to be used by God? Some seminaries in the U.S. now offer combination Master of Divinity/MBA degrees. Must a man have a certain physiological profile? Don’t laugh—a Baptist church sent a request to a Southern Baptist seminary requesting candidates who had flat stomachs so that the new pastor could keep up with the church’s youth! One Baptist evangelist promises other pastors that they will double the size of their church in two years or less if they purchase and follow his biblical principles of church growth found in his Leadership Training Institute video series. [1]

To our church culture immersed in pragmatism, Baptists from the early seventeenth century through the mid-nineteenth century provide a much-needed perspective. Early Baptists were concerned with neither the superficial nor methodological. Believing that God gave success, they searched the Scriptures to determine the kind of man God uses.

Men Who Manifest Biblical Qualifications

Whether General Baptist or Particular, the written witness of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British Baptists reveals a desire to exercise biblical fidelity in all aspects of the gospel ministry. While their views were not always in agreement even on some ecclesiological issues, [2] British Baptists consistently pointed to the Scriptures to support their position. Because they believed that a regenerate church membership was required by the Scriptures, they maintained that ministers possessed the responsibility of caring for the souls of those members. Consequently, ministers were to be men who were themselves of the highest personal character: men who both believed what the Bible revealed, lived what the Bible commanded and demonstrated biblical gifts. [3]

Conversion and Genuine Spirituality

Regeneration necessarily preceded any other qualification for the eldership. Isaac Backus, who became a leader among New England Baptists in the First Great Awakening, preaching at the ordination of Asa Hunt, reminded the congregation that “it is God that makes able ministers.” Backus insisted that ministers themselves must be converted by God into “new creatures,” because such conversion “is so essential to the very nature of their work, and so plainly revealed in the scripture.” The reason for their being converted was that “a principal part of their work is to labour to reconcile sinners to God; and to imagine any one to be fit for that work, who is not truly reconciled himself, is one of the firstborn of absurdities.” Backus asked, “The nature of their work is spiritual, and how can carnal men perform it?”

Backus noted that “ministers are to comfort others by the comfort wherewith they themselves are comforted of God, 2 Cor. 1. 4. They are to lead others in a way they are acquainted with, and ought to be able to say, We speak that we know, and testify that we have seen.” Backus further supported his contention by noting that a man cannot act in a truly selfless manner “until he is born from above . . . . This [conversion], and this only can and doth give them to act from more noble principles, than self-seeking and self-righteousness: It enables them to preach by faith, and in their conduct to look to things unseen, which are eternal, 2 Cor. 4.5, 6.13.18.” In addition, because of the difficulty of the minister’s work, “divine help” is needed. Backus asked, “But how can that be without union with him [Christ], even as the branch has with the vine?” [4]

Biblically Tried, Spirit-endowed

Because Baptists allowed only for each congregation to choose its own ministers, it was vital that congregations call biblically qualified candidates—men whose lives revealed a pattern of godliness as delineated in the Scriptures. Thomas Helwys, father of the General Baptists, wrote in The English Declaration at Amsterdam, including several citations of Scripture, that ministers must be “qualified according to the rules in Christs Testament” and that their election and approval is of “that Church or congregation whereoff they are members.” Fasting, prayer and laying on of hands accompanies their selection. [5] Likewise, Particular Baptists, in their Confession of 1644, recognized that “every Church has power given them from Christ for their better well-being, to choose to themselves meet persons” as their ministers, “and that none other have power to impose them, either these or any other.” [6]

Early British Baptists consistently maintained the church’s duty to test and give official recognition to its ministers. Benjamin Keach, in his discussion of an orderly church, insisted that they be qualified “in some competent manner” according to the standards delineated in the Pastoral Epistles. [8]

General Baptist Thomas Grantham insists that the local church take great care in recognizing those who would be gospel ministers. He outlined a logical pattern: a man must be a baptized believer, he must attend the means of spiritual growth and attain some degree of spiritual maturity, he must give evidence of being gifted for the task, and he must be approved by the church to teach both within and without so that his gift may be tried. Those men who give evidence of a calling by God during this period of testing would therefore be chosen and ordained with due gravity for the gospel ministry. [9]

Men of Orthodox Doctrine Biblically Defended

Throughout their early history Baptists were castigated for having an improperly trained ministry. [10] Their supposed lack of education often was a gross misperception on the part of their opponents. Though self-schooled, they often were well-schooled in Scripture knowledge and confessional theology. Training in the arts was not a priority of many Baptists; the understanding of doctrine was. Grantham spoke for many Baptists with his rejection of the emphases of the “approved” schools and his counter-argument that the formally educated often had insufficient knowledge of the right sort for gospel ministry.

But all such as come not first, to repent of their sins, believe on the Lord Jesus, and so Baptized in his Name, for Remission of sins: But are only brought up in the Schools of humane Learning, to the attaining humane Arts, and variety of Languages, with many vain curiosities of speech: Seeking rather the gain of large revenues then the gain of souls to God, such we utterly deny, for that they have need rather to be taught themselves, then fit to teach others. [11]

The examination of the candidate’s beliefs was of grave importance. In answer to the query “But what are the marks of those true Ministers that wee may know them,” Edward Drapes answered, “The onely true ground of a visible judging or discerning them, is by their doctrine: therefore John saith, Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits: Hereby know yee the spirit of God; Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: that is to say, by trying the doctrines brought unto you, you shall be able to judge from whence the Preachers come.” [12]

Baptists were also warned not to allow a potential candidate’s spiritual enthusiasm or notable abilities lead them to ordain an unworthy man. Putting such a man into the ministry could do incalculable harm. T. Blundell of Northampton, writing an associational circular letter in 1796, explained that a man “under the influence of the former [enthusiasm] has supposed himself to be divinely inspired; and that every impression of a text of scripture upon his mind must be the true meaning of it, taught him by the Holy Spirit himself. Hence he neglects to consult the genuine meaning of scripture, and utters for God’s word his own wild and indigested conceits.” Unfortunately, too many congregations, Blundell lamented, were all to ready to be led by “such characters.”

A similarly “pernicious” situation was “the substitution of talents in the place of principle.” The reliance upon natural talent instead of searching holy writ, Blundell observed, “is an evil of magnitude in the present age.” He explained, “The more talents any man possesseth, whose leading views are at variance with the oracles of God, the greater mischief he is likely to accomplish; and all who any way encourage such preaching assist in planting a battery against the City of God, and partake of the guilt of destroying souls.” Propagating such views was no mere difference of interpretation among godly men: “The dark soul of a publick teacher has even been the chosen habitation of the father of lies; because from thence he can propagate error with the least suspicion, and consequently to the greatest advantage.” [13]

Baptists in America also viewed a man’s piety and doctrinal soundness as the chief criteria for qualification. Neither a man’s station in life nor his educational attainments were matters of preeminent concern. The Summary of Church-Discipline of the Charleston Baptist Association asserted that, because ministers “have the charge of souls and are leaders in the house of God, churches cannot be too careful in chusing men to the ministerial function.” Consequently, “they ought to be men fearing God, being born again of the Spirit, sound in the faith, and of blameless lives and conversations, as is becoming to the gospel of Christ, having fervent desires to glorify God, and save souls (John 3. 10; 2 Tim. 1. 13; 1 Tim. 3. 2; Rom. 9. 3. chap. 10. 1).” [14]

Francis Wayland, president of Brown University from 1827-1855, examined 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9 and maintained, “It would seem . . . that any disciple of Christ, of blameless character, meek, forbearing, temperate, sober, just, holy, thoroughly attached to the doctrines of the gospel, having a natural gift for teaching, and having had some experience in the Christian life—not a novice—has the qualifications for the ministry which the New Testament requires.” [15] By using the phrase “any disciple of Christ” Wayland did not diminish the note of divine call and preparation, but dismissed any merely human standards of qualification.

Ministers Faithful to Biblical Duties

Baptists throughout this period viewed the ministry as a work, a labor to which a man diligently gave himself. Consequently, the kind of man God uses would be a man who faithfully carried out the duties delineated in Scripture. Baptists believed that the practices of ministry modeled and delineated in Scripture were sufficient to occupy the time and energy of a God-called man. He need invent no contrivances of his own.

Consistent in Labor

The apostles considered that their calling required thorough application of time and energy to certain tasks. They must bypass other necessary things and leave them to those that did not have the spiritual demands of the ministry placed on them (Acts 6: 1ff). Following this pattern, Baptists believed that the ministry involved zealous labor. Few would have disagreed with this mid-eighteenth century explanation by John Gill:

The ministry of the word is a work; it is called “the work of the ministry”, Ephesians 4:13[;] it is a ministering work, a service, and not a dominion; such who are employed in it have not the dominion, neither over the faith nor over the practice of men, no further than enjoined by the word of God: the ministry is a service, as the word imports, and not a “sinecure”; there is business to be done, and a great deal of it; enough to employ all the time and talents of ministers, and no room nor leisure to indulge to sleepiness, to laziness, and slothfulness: and it is a laborious work; the ministers of the gospel are not to be loiterers, but labourers in Christ’s vineyard; they labour in the word and doctrine, which requires much reading of the scriptures, frequent prayer, and constant meditation and “study”, in preparing for their work, which is a great “weariness to the flesh”; and much “zeal”, fervour, and affection in the performance of it, which is attended with much fatigue, and an expense of the physical spirits; to which the apostle may have some respect, 2 Corinthians 12:15 and the ministers of the gospel are not only fellow labourers with one another, but with the Lord himself in his church; the manuring, cultivation, planting, and watering his vineyard, and the building up of his people in a church state, are laborious services; so that if the Lord did not go forth working with them, it would be to no purpose; “Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth”, which are both parts of the gospel ministry, but “God that giveth the increase”, success to their ministrations; “And except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it”, 1 Corinthians 3:7,9. [16]

The ministry was not for men looking for an easy occupation. The ministry was a wearying work, and one about which one could not be assured of outward success. Indeed, as Gill noted, it was “God that giveth the increase.”

Benjamin Beddome also noted “the precariousness and uncertainty of success,” and yet such uncertainty was not to diminish the intensity of the labor. Beddome wrote, “‘We have toiled all the night,’ say the disciples, ‘and caught nothing;’ and thus may ministers do, nay, many nights and days; but one happy draught, at last, will be a sufficient recompense for all their labour.” Beddome noted that “sometimes the gospel makes astonishing progress,” but such a harvest is not usual. “In general, ministers fish as with an angling rod, and it is but now and then that they win a soul to Christ.” He maintained that “the most faithful and zealous, the most skilful and industrious, are not always the most useful.” Continuing the fishing analogy, he illustrated, “The net or hook sometimes breaks, and the fish which seemed to be caught makes its escape; and thus it is in fishing for souls.” He applied the illustration to contemporary ministry: “Convictions are lost, and impressions wear off, hopeful prospects vanish, and those who seemed to have escaped the pollutions that are in the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, return like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” [17] Ministers were required to exercise faithfulness: God would take care of the outward success.

Soul Care for the Sheep of God

Succinctly put, the duty of ministers to their congregations was to watch after the souls of their members. Helwys wrote that elders “by their office do especially feed the flock concerning their soules, Act. 20.28.” [18] The London Confession of 1644 stated that “the Ministers aforesaid, lawfully called by the Church, where they are to minister, ought to continue in their calling, according to Gods Ordinance, and carefully to feed the flock of Christ committed to them, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” [20]

Hanserd Knollys observed that “the Office of a Pastor, Bishop, and Presbyter, or Elder in the Church of God, is to take the Charge, Oversight, and Care of those Souls which the Lord Jesus Christ hath committed to them.” He is to “feed the flock of God, to watch for their Souls, to Rule, Guide and Govern them.” He does not do this on the basis of personal authority or an officious spirit but “by virtue of their Commission, and Authority received from Christ, Mat. 28.18, 19, 20. & Titus 2.15.” [21]

American Baptists also viewed the ministry as a weighty responsibility with eternal implications. Ministers, after all, provided care for persons’ souls. In his charge to Asa Hunt, Isaac Backus remarked, “I doubt not but the charge of souls has sometimes appeared to you an insupportable weight; it is indeed too heavy for men or angels to go through of themselves.” [22] The Philadelphia Confession provided this summary of the work of pastors: “The Work of Pastors being constantly to attend the Service of Christ, in his Churches, in the Ministry of the Word, and Prayer, with Watching for their Souls, as they that must give an Account to him.” [23] The eternal implications of pastoral care for souls could not be over-emphasized.

Preach and Pray the Word

Viewing the care of souls as the over-arching responsibility of pastors, Baptists saw preaching as the foremost duty of the gospel ministry. In listing the duties “of the work of a Pastor, Bishop or Overseer,” Benjamin Keach maintained that “the work of a pastor is to preach the word of christ [sic], or to feed the flock, and to administer all the ordinances of the gospel which belong to his sacred office, and to be faithful and laborious therein, studying to shew himself approved unto God, ‘a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.’” Such a task could not be left in the hands of the inept: “He is a steward of the mysteries of God, therefore ought to be a man of good understanding and experience, being sound in the faith, and one that is acquainted with the mysteries of the gospel: Because he is ‘to feed the people with knowledge and understanding.’” Such a work required the minister to “be faithful and skilful to declare the mind of God, and diligent therein, also to ‘preach in season and out of season;’ God having committed unto him the ministry of reconciliation, a most choice and sacred trust.” Showing the primacy of this work, Keach asked rhetorically, “What interest hath God greater in the world which he hath committed unto men than this?” [24]

Nehemiah Cox also held to the primacy of preaching, combining the task with pastoral praying. Maintaining that the duty of the elder is “to stand in some respects, and to act in some things, as a middle Person betwixt God and the People,” Cox held that the preacher is to give himself to prayer—“the Mouth of the People unto God”—and to preaching—“the Mouth of God to the People.” Cox enjoined preachers to “1. Let your Care be, to deal with the Souls and Confessions of Men, as knowing that it is the Salvation of Souls which you are to labour after, a Care of Souls that is committed to you, and an account of them that you must make to God,” “2. That being accomplished, Be Sure that you speak as the Oracles of God, and deliver that doctrine to the People which is drawn from the pure Fountain of God’s Word,” and “3. Remember that the Duty of your Place is, Not to preach your selves but Christ Jesus the Lord; His Glory must be the Mark aimed at by all your Labours, and his Grace the principal Subject of all your Discourses; It is not a Philosophic Harangue that will save the Souls of Men, but the preaching of Christ Crucified.” [25]

Drapes provided four principles for “the manner” in which preaching must be done. First, no room could be given for the wavering, changing opinion of men. Preaching must be done with a sense of the infallibility and certainty of the message. A preacher cannot equivocate with “Yea and Nay, but Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus: they must preach the words of God, the words of truth.” No room was given for the opinion of man—only that which communicates the Word of God is true. Second, preaching must be “in the name of God: They must not goe forth in their own authority, but in Christs: Therefore are they called Ambassadors of Christ.” No preacher preaches on his own accord. He is sent by God with the good news of Christ. Third, the preaching is to be performed “plainly; Not in the entising words of mans wisedome, but in demonstration of spirit and power; in words easy to be understood.” Fourth, “it [the Bible] must be preached fully; The word of the Gospell must be declared fully, not onely for conversion, but for building up in the things of God; whoever believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; teaching them to observe all the commands of Christ.” [26]

American Baptists likewise maintained the primacy of preaching in the care of souls. The Charleston Baptist Association’s Summary of Church-Discipline described the eternal implications for such work: “Persons thus commissioned, are to attend to their work with all possible engagedness, as it becomes those who have the charge of souls.” Consequently, this preaching of the Word required great diligence: “They must give themselves up to study, prayer and meditation, 1 Tim. 4. 14, 15, 16. that they may be workmen who need not to be ashamed, 2 Tim. 2. 15. They must be instant in season and out of season, preaching the pure doctrines of the gospel, 2 Tim. 1. 13. chap. 4. 2.” Pastors were to preach with godly motives, not for carnal gain: “They are to feed the Lord’s flock with spiritual bread, Acts 20. 28. to preach with the view of bringing souls to Christ, and not for the sake of honor or filthy lucre.” Pastors were to acknowledge that theirs was not the role of a demagogue but a shepherd caring for and protecting the flock: “They are not to lord it over God’s heritage, but to be patient and tenderhearted, 2 Tim. 2. 25. They are to watch over the flock, to comfort the feeble-minded, 1 Thess. 5. 14. to sound the alarm to the wicked and obstinate, Ezek. 3. 17, 18. and to set their faces like flint against prophaneness, and every vice.” [27]

Noted nineteenth-century pastor T. G. Jones unequivocally declared, “The great duty of the pastor is to preach the Gospel. Jones noted that this preaching was unrestricted to place, time, circumstance, or audience:

It must be preached publicly and privately—in season and out of season—preached from the pulpit to ‘the great congregation”—preached from house to house, and by the wayside—preached in the hovels of the poor, in the halls of wealth and fashion, and gaiety and sin—preached in the abodes of health, and at the bedside of the sick and dying—preached in word and in deed.

Of course, such preaching required the pastor himself not only know the truth but also live the truth. Jones explained, “It is taken for granted that the pastor is himself in possession of the truth—and that it is not only in his head, and on his tongue, but in his heart, enshrined on the highest and holiest altars—otherwise he will be a ‘blind leader of the blind.’” [28]

Popular preaching designed to appeal to the unregenerate or the spiritually immature did more harm than good. One mid-nineteenth century Kentucky Baptist wrote, “We have at times heard the opinion expressed that the people would no longer endure doctrinal preaching; that the prevailing taste required sermons of a practical character, fitted to move the feelings and fire the soul with ardent desires.” The writer maintained that a lack of doctrinal preaching leads to spiritual starvation, while “a faithful, affectionate, and intelligent exhibition of the cardinal truths of the Bible is essential both to the edification of believers and the conversion of sinners . . . . Doctrinal preaching has never been popular. Never yet has the unbelieving heart shown any relish for the doctrines of grace.” [29]

Oliver Hart, almost a century earlier, clearly employed the doctrines of grace as food for the sheep and essential truth for the lost. Richard Furman described the preaching of Oliver Hart in terms that marked Baptists throughout this period. “In his religious principles,” Furman noted, “he was a fixed Calvinist, and a consistent, liberal Baptist. The doctrines of free, efficacious grace, were precious to him; Christ Jesus, and him crucified, in the perfection of his righteousness, the merit of his death, the prevalence of his intercession, and the efficacy of his grace, was the foundation of his hope, the source of his joy, and the delightful theme of his preaching.” Furman observed that Hart’s “sermons were peculiarly serious, containing a happy assemblage of doctrinal and practical truths, set in an engaging light, and enforced with convincing arguments.” Hart was particularly concerned that his hearers understood the teachings of Scripture, utilizing extensive preparation to make certain of his own understanding of those teachings. Furman explained, “For the discussion of doctrinal truths, he was especially eminent, to which also he was prepared by an intimate acquaintance with the sacred scriptures, and an extensive reading of the most valuable, both ancient and modern authors.” Hart’s preaching was not particularly entertaining, but it was clear: “His eloquence, at least in the middle stages of life, was not of the most popular kind, but perspicuous, manly and flowing, such as afforded pleasure to persons of true taste, and edification to the serious hearers.” [30]

I Know My Sheep and They Know Me

Preaching, of course, was not the only duty of ministers in watching over the souls of their members. Individual nurture and loving discipline promoted the eternal interests of the church. Only those who were with their members could know the spiritual condition of their flock. Benjamin Keach wrote, “A pastor is to visit his flock, to know their state, and to watch over them, to support the weak, and to strengthen the feeble-minded, and succour the tempted, and to reprove them that are unruly. [31]

Some pastors, however, refused to perform pastoral visitation and often encouraged candidates for ordination not to do it and for churches not to expect it. Francis Wayland gave their argument:

If he [the minister] does not visit them, they must take it for granted that he is on his knees, studying the word of God, and holding communion with his Saviour on their behalf. He is so much engaged in this holy work that they must not disturb him even by calling upon him. I have heard it triumphantly asked, How can they expect their minister to compose sermons like Massillon’s, if he do [sic] not consume his whole time in solitary study?

Such reasoning received more than a hint of sarcasm from Wayland’s pen: “All this is solemnly said, by grave and reverend divines, as if there were really any danger that the candidate would ever preach like Massillon, and as if the people would not know whether their minister had time enough for general reading and social visiting, though he had none to employ in testifying from house to house repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” [32]

This pastoral visitation, as Wayland intimated, was no mere social call. Indeed, it was seen as a type of preaching, in this case “from house to house” instead of from a pulpit. Inquiries were to be made concerning “the subject of personal religion.” If possible, each member of family was to be visited individually, but when this was not possible, the “duty of repentance and faith in Christ” was to be presented before them all. Not only could the impenitent be converted as a result of such visitation, but believers could be encouraged and strengthened. The bereaved could be comforted, the tempted could be warned and strengthened, and the young Christians could be discipled. Pastoral visitation, however, was not restricted to the homes. Men could be found at their places of business and a few words could be shared with them there. [33]

Discipline necessarily complemented pastoral soul care. Nehemiah Cox wrote, “the due exercise of Discipline in the Church, and the right ordering of all things pertaining to the Government thereof.” Watching over souls required the pastor to remember that “he is the Overseer of God’s House, and is to rule therein, not in a despotical or lordly way, but by the Testament of Christ, as becomes a Minister, and as one set over the Lord’s Heritage who are a voluntary People, and to be governed not with force and rigor, but with their own consent.” [34] Grantham similarly explained, “The Government of Christ of the Church of God, is committed to the Bishops and Elders, they are therefore to exhort, reprove, rebuke with all authority, to bind and loose in conjunction with the Church of God, as those that sin against God are found to be penitent or obdurate respectively, John 20.23. 1 Cor. 5.3, 4, 5.” [35] An elder who refused to be engaged in necessary discipline would have been considered unworthy of leading the church of God. [36]

Ministers were to approach their duties with a single-minded focus. Nehemiah Cox provided these sobering words for elders: “Consider, That it is the Care and Charge of Souls that is committed to you; not the Temporal Concerns of this Life, but the Affairs of Eternal Life are the Business of your Stewardship: Now one Soul is of more worth than all the World, because immortal, and made for an Eternal State.” Matters such as increasing personal wealth, growing in societal status, or attaining civic reformation were not matters of concern for the pastor of a church of Christ. The pastor must be consumed with the state of the souls under his care. Cox recognized the gravity of such a responsibility: “The influence that the Ministry of the Word hath into the future state of Men, made Paul say, as in an extasie, Who is sufficient for these Things!”

The magnitude of such a responsibility should make men quake at the prospect of taking the office of elder. Cox meditated upon the value of those souls: “They are the souls of Men that God thought it worth the giving of his own Son to redeem, and Christ thought not much to shed his precious Blood for; the Church is a Society of Men which God hath purchased to himself by his own blood, and now committed to your Care, and appointed you to watch for their Souls.” Cox concluded with this warning: “Therefore take heed to your selves, and to your Flock; for if any of them perish in an evil way thro’ your neglect of Duty towards them, They die in their sins, but God will require their Blood at your hand.” [37]

Being used of the Lord, however, did not always mean visible success in terms of conversions, baptisms, and attendance. For instance, Horatio Gates Jones noted the baptism record of the Lower Dublin, or Pennepek, church of Philadelphia: “The increase in membership by baptism was at first very gradual. Prior to the year 1800, the highest number baptized in one year, judging from the records, was six. From 1798 to 1804—a period of six years—there were no baptisms, but the services of the sanctuary were faithfully kept up under the pastoral care of Dr. Samuel Jones.” Lean years still called for faithful ministry. Before Samuel Jones died, though, he saw visible fruit. Horatio Jones explained: “In the latter year, a glorious work of grace manifested itself and a revival commenced, continuing until the venerable man of God was removed from the Church militant to the Church triumphant. In 1804, twenty-two were baptized; in 1805, twenty-four; in 1806, ten; in 1807, seventeen; in 1808, twenty-five; and in 1812, seventeen.” Jones commented, “This precious ingathering of souls seemed a fitting close to the faithful and laborious pastorate of over half a century.” [38]


Encouraging church members not only to submit to the biblical teaching of their pastor but also with gratitude to realize that his duty was not to placate his hearers but to propagate truth, Samuel Pearce wrote what should be the cry of each church member:

Give me the preacher who opens the folds of my heart; who accuses me, convicts me, and condemns me before God; who loves my soul too well to suffer me to go on in sin, unreproved, through fear of giving me offence; who draws the line with accuracy, between the delusions of fancy, and the impressions of grace; who pursues me from one hiding place to another, until I am driven from every refuge of lies; who gives me no rest until he sees me, with unfeigned penitence, trembling at the feet of Jesus; and then, and not till then, sooths my anguish, wipes away my tears, and comforts me with the cordials of grace. Give me the preacher ‘who constantly affirms that they who have believed, be careful to maintain good works;’ who insists, that a life of peace and communion with God, is utterly abhorrent to the practice of iniquity; and faithfully reminds me, that ‘if I sin, that grace may abound, my damnation is just.’ Give me the preacher who pants not for my safety only, but also for my increase in grace; who cautions me, ‘reproves me, rebukes me, exhorts me with all longsuffering and doctrine;’ who charges me ‘to give all diligence to add to my faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.’ Brethren, if Christ have given you such a man as this, receive him as an angel from heaven; and prize such a pastor as one of the most valuable gifts that can be imparted to the church. [39]

Such a man, a man of personal godliness holding to biblical doctrine while faithfully fulfilling his scriptural duties, would be the kind of man God uses.


1 David Wood, [On-line]; accessed 18 May 2004; available from; Internet.

2 For instance, General Baptists believed in a pastoral office that superceded the elders of local churches—the office of messenger. See J. F. V. Nicholson, “The Office of ‘Messenger’ amongst British Baptists in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” The Baptist Quarterly 17 (1957–58): 206–25.

3 Baptists were conscious not to allow the abuses which they viewed as all too prevalent in the national church. In addition to the unscriptural offices of the Church of England, the ungodliness of the established church’s ministers provoked great consternation among Baptists, particularly the profanation of the Lord’s Day promoted by a Booke of Sports. See Roger Hayden, ed., The Records of a Church of Christ in Bristol, 1640–1687 (Bristol: Bristol Record Society, 1974), 82.

4 Isaac Backus, Evangelical Ministers described, and distinguished from Legalists. A Sermon, The Substance of which was delivered October 30. 1771, at the Ordination of Mr. Asa Hunt, To the Pastoral Charge of the Third Baptist-Church in Middleborough (Boston: Philip Freeman, 1772), 7–11.

5 Thomas Helwys, A Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam in Holland, in Baptist Confessions of Faith, rev. ed., ed. William L. Lumpkin (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1969), 122.

6 The Confession of Faith, Of those Churches which are commonly (though falsly) called Anabaptists, in Baptist Confessions of Faith, rev. ed., ed. William L. Lumpkin (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1969), 166.

7 Benjamin Keach, Glory of a True Church, And its Discipline display’d (London: John Robinson, 1668), 6.

8 Nehemiah Cox, A Sermon Preached at the Ordinatoin [sic] of an Elder and Deacons in a Baptized Congregation In London (London: Tho. Fabian, 1681), 21.

9 Thomas Grantham, “Christianismus Primitivus”: or, The Ancient Christian Religion (London: Francis Smith, 1678), 64.

10 See Gordon Kingsley, “Opposition to Early Baptists,” Baptist History and Heritage 4, no. 1 (1969): 23–24.

11 Grantham, Christianismus Primitivus, Book 2: 64.

12 Edward Drapes, Gospel-Glory proclaimed before the Sonnes of Men, In the Visible and Invisible Worship of God (London: n.p., 1649), 93. White writes: “Edward Drapes was one of the first Calvinistic Baptists to attempt to expound their ecclesiology in any detailed way in his Gospel-Glory proclaimed before the Sonnes of Men.” B. R. White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century, rev. ed. (London: The Baptist Historical Society, 1996), 145.

13 T. S. H. Elwyn, “Particular Baptists of the Northamptonshire Baptist Association as Reflected in the Circular Letters 1765–1820,” The Baptist Quarterly 36 (1996): 374.

14 Baptist Association of Charleston, A Summary of Church-Discipline. Shewing the Qualifications and Duties, of the Officers and Members, of a Gospel-Church, 2nd ed. (Charleston, SC: Markland, McIver, & Co., 1794), 8.

15 Francis Wayland, Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches (New York: Sheldon, Blakeman, & Co., 1857), 50.

16 John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity; or a System of Evangelical Truths, Deduced from the Sacred Scriptures [CD-ROM] (Paris, AR: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1999), 1844.

17 Benjamin Beddome, Sermons Printed from the Manuscripts of the Late Rev. Benjamin Beddome, A.M. of Bouton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire (London: William Ball, 1885), 305. Similarly, in a charge delivered in 1796 at the ordination of W. Belsher in Worcester, John Ryland maintained, “We cannot ensure the fruit of our labors, but he can do it infallibly; and he will accept, and reward, those whom he makes faithful, whether their success equal their expectations, or not.” John Ryland and S. Pearce, The Duty of Ministers to be nursing Fathers to the Church; and the Duty of Churches to regard Ministers as the Gift of Christ (n.p., 1797), 33.

18 Helwys, Declaration of Faith, 121.

19 The Confession of Faith, Of those Churches which are commonly (though falsly) called Anabaptists, 166.

20 Confession of Faith Put forth by the Elders and Brethren Of many Congregations of Christians (baptized upon Profession of their Faith) in London and the Country, in Baptist Confessions of Faith, ed. W. J. McGlothlin (1677; reprint, Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1911), 266.

21 Hanserd Knollys, The World that Now is; and the World that is to Come: Or the First and Second Coming of Jesus Christ (London: Tho. Snowden, 1681), 56–57. For the consistency of their view of the nature of gospel ministry see T. S. H. Elwyn, “Particular Baptists of the Northamptonshire Baptist Association as Reflected in the Circular Letters 1765–1820,” The Baptist Quarterly 37 (1997): 9.

22 Backus, Evangelical Ministers described, 28–29 (emphasis added).

23 James L. Clark, “. . . To Set Them in Order;” Some Influences of the Philadelphia Baptist Association Upon Baptists of American to 1814 (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 2001), 242.

24 Benjamin Keach, Glory of a True Church, 6.

25 Nehemiah Cox, A Sermon Preached at the Ordinatoin [sic], 22–26.

26 Drapes, Gospel-Glory proclaimed before the Sonnes of Men, 97–98.

27 Baptist Association of Charleston, Summary of Church-Discipline, 10.

28 Tiberius Gracchus Jones, Duties of a Pastor to His Church (Charleston, SC: Southern Baptist Publication Society; Richmond, VA: Virginia Baptist S. S. and Publication Society, 1853), 10–11.

29 “Doctrinal Preaching,” Western Recorder, 15 November 1854, 2.

30 Richard Furman, Rewards of Grace Conferred on Christ’s Faithful People: A Sermon, Occasioned by the Decease of the Rev. Oliver Hart, A. M. (Charleston, SC: J. McIver, 1796), 24.

31 Benjamin Keach, Glory of a True Church, 6.

32 Francis Wayland, Letters on the Ministry of the Gospel (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1864), 140. See also Baptist Association of Charleston, Summary of Church-Discipline, 10, and T. G. Jones, Duties of a Pastor to His Church, 60–61.

33 Wayland, Letters on the Ministry of the Gospel, 145–48.

34 Nehemiah Cox, A Sermon Preached at the Ordinatoin [sic], 27.

35 Grantham, Christianismus Primitivus, Book 2: 123.

36 For an examination of a discipline case of candidate for ministry, see G. Reid Doster, “Discipline and Ordination at Berkhamsted General Baptist Church, 1712–1718,” The Baptist Quarterly 27 (1977–78): 138.

37 Nehemiah Cox, A Sermon Preached at the Ordinatoin [sic], 31–32.

38 Clark, “. . . To Set Them in Order,” 387.

39 Ryland and Pearce, The Duty of Ministers and the Duty of Churches, 56.