Andrew Fuller Friday: On Ministerial Character

Spiritual light and holy love are necessary in your whole demeanour through life. May you, my brother, shine in holy wisdom, and burn with ardent love. You will need them, wherever you go—in whatever you engage—that you may walk as one of the children of light.

Allow me to point out a few things which I have found of use, to conduce to these ends:—

1. Read the lives of good men—the lives of such men as God has distinguished for gifts, and graces, and usefulness. Example has a great influence. The Scriptures abound with such examples. And, blessed be God, we have some now.

2. Study the word of God, above all other books, and pray over it.—It is this will set our hearts on fire. There are no such motives exhibited any where as there—no such exhibitions of wisdom and love.

3. Read men, as well as books, and your own heart, in order that you may read others.—Copyists, you know, are generally bunglers. There is nothing that equals what is taken immediately from the life. We need always be making our observations, wherever we are, or wherever we go. If we get a system of human nature, or experience, or any thing else, from books, rather than from our own knowledge, it will be liable to two disadvantages. First, It is not likely to be so near the truth; for systems which go through several hands are like successive copies of a painting, every copy of the preceding one is more unlike the original—or like the telling of a tale, the circumstances of which you do not know of your own personal knowledge: every time it is repeated there is some variation, and thus it becomes further removed from the truth. Thus Agrippa showed his wisdom, when, instead of depending on the testimony of others, he determined to hear Paul himself. Secondly, If it be correct, still it will not be so serviceable to you as if it were a system of your own working. Saul’s armour might be better than David’s sling; but not to him, seeing he had not proved it.

4. Live the life of a Christian, as well as of a minister.—Read as one, preach as one, converse as one—to be profited, as well as to profit others. One of the greatest temptations of a ministerial life is to handle Divine truth as ministers, rather than as Christians—for others, rather than for ourselves. But the word will not profit them that preach it, any more than it will them that hear it, unless it be “mixed with faith.” If we study the Scriptures as Christians, the more familiar we are with them, the more we shall feel their importance; but if our object be only to find out something to say to others, our familiarity with them will prove a snare. It will resemble that of soldiers, and doctors, and undertakers with death; the more familiar we are with them, the less we shall feel their importance. See Prov. 22:17, 18; Psal. 1:2, 3.

5. Commune with God in private.—Walking with God in the closet is a grand means, with his blessing, of illuminating our minds and warming our hearts. When Moses came down from the mount, his face shone bright, and his heart burned with zeal for the honour of God and the good of his people. Alas! alas! for want of this.… See Jer. 10:21.

6. Hold forth the word of life, not only by precept, but by a holy practice.—“Let your light so shine before men, that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Without this, in vain will be all our pretensions to being “burning and shining lights.”


Excerpt from: “Spiritual Knowledge and Love Necessary for the Ministry,” a charge delivered by a young minister at his ordination.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 481–482). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

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