Andrew Fuller Friday: Ministerial and Christian Comfort

“That I may be comforted with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”—Rom. 1:12.

The communion of saints was thought of such importance among the early Christians as to become an article of faith; and where the spirit of it is preserved, it is a charming part of the Christian religion. The text gives us a brief description of it. Paul longed to see the Roman Christians, of whom as yet he had only heard, that he might impart to them some spiritual gift, that they might be established. His faith would comfort them, and theirs would comfort him.

We are here naturally led to inquire what there is in the faith of a minister to comfort Christians—what there is in the faith of private Christians to comfort ministers—and what there is in the common faith of both to comfort each other.

Let us then inquire,

I. What there is in the faith of ministers to comfort private Christians.—For when Christians see their ministers, they naturally expect to hear something concerning the faith; and Paul seems to take this for granted. There are three things in the faith of a minister calculated to comfort private Christians:—

1. Its being Scriptural and decided.—If antiscriptural, we might comfort the sinner and the hypocrite; if speculative, we might amuse a few ingenious minds; but we could not comfort the Christian. Nor must we be undecided. To see a minister who is decided, on Scriptural grounds, is to see a guide who is well acquainted with his map, and who knows his way; or a pilot well acquainted with his chart. The reverse will be stumbling and most distressing. If a guide now tells you this is the way, then that, and is at a loss which to choose, it must occasion fear and distrust, instead of comfort.

2. Its being considered, not for themselves only, but as a public trust to be imparted.—Paul considered himself a debtor to others; an almoner, possessing the unsearchable riches; “as poor, yet making many rich.” In fact, the very afflictions of ministers, as well as their consolations, are sent to produce this effect, 2 Cor. 1:6.

3. Its being a living principle in their own souls, 1 Tim. 4:6. Without this, whatever be our attainments, our ministrations will not ordinarily edify Christians. We must preach from the heart, or we shall seldom, if ever, produce any good in the hearts of our hearers.

II. What there is in the faith of private Christians to comfort ministers.—Ministers must receive, as well as impart; and should be concerned to do so, in every visit, and in all their intercourse with their people. Now the faith of Christians contributes to the comfort of ministers, in its being, its growth, and its fruits.

1. It furnishes them with sentiments and feelings in their preaching which nothing else will.—A believing, spiritual, attentive, affectionate audience, whose souls glisten in their eyes, will produce thoughts in the pulpit which would never have occurred in the study. On the other hand, if a minister perceive in his hearers, and especially in those of whom he should expect better things, unbelief, worldliness, carelessness, or conceit, he is like a ship locked up near the pole.

2. In the faith of Christians, ministers see the travail of the Redeemer’s soul.—And this, if they love him, will be a high source of comfort to them.

3. In the faith of Christians, ministers often see the fruit of their own labours.—They often pray for their people, of whom they “travail in birth” until Christ be formed in them. Such fruit, therefore, of their anxiety and their labour, is very encouraging.

4. The faith of Christians is a pledge of their future salvation.—A Christian minister must love his people, and in proportion as he loves them he will feel concerned for their eternal happiness. Well, here is a pledge of it, and this cheers him. Your minister looks around, and feels tenderly attached to you as friends, and as the children of dear friends now with God; and sometimes he enters into the spirit of the apostle, who wished himself accursed, after the manner of Christ, for his brethren, his kinsmen after the flesh. Your faith therefore, as a pledge of eternal glory, must needs comfort him.

III. What there is, in the common faith of both, to comfort each other.—Common blessings are best. Let us not desire great things—the wreath of honour, or a crown. Amidst all this, the sweet singer of Israel desired and sought after “one thing,” and that was a common blessing, Psal. 27:4. Extensive attainments, even mental acquisitions, are comparatively poor. An apostle would sacrifice them all for a common blessing—the knowledge of Christ, Phil. 3:8. These blessings are common to the meanest Christian.

1. Its unity.—Those who have never seen each other, men of different nations and manners, when they come to converse on Christ and the gospel, presently feel their faith to be one, and love one another; and this is a source of great delight. As a Hindoo said of some of the missionaries, newly arrived, “They cannot talk our language; but we see all our hearts are one: we are united in the death of Christ.”

2. The interesting nature of the truths believed.—“Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”—“God manifest in the flesh.”—“There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”—“He that believeth on him is not condemned.” Christ is come; atonement is made; the way of access to God is opened; our sins are remembered no more; we are no more strangers and foreigners; we live in hope of eternal life. These are things which, if we be in ignorance and unbelief, will have no effect upon us; or if we be in doubt and darkness, like the two disciples going to Emmaus, we shall commune and be sad; but if our faith be in lively exercise, our hearts will burn within us, and time will glide sweetly on.

Learn, from the whole,

1. The necessity of faith to Christian communion.—Unbelievers, or, which is the same thing, merely nominal Christians, are non-conductors. Neither ministers, nor others, can receive or impart without faith.

2. The necessity of the communicatiom of faith to profitable visits.—We may not always be able to maintain Christian conversation. We are men, and must sometimes converse as such. But Christian visits will be of this kind. It is delightful, when they are of this description; and, to promote this, we should avoid large, promiscuous parties.

3. What will heavenly communion be!—No darkness—no discord—no carnality—no pride—no imperfection!

Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Ministerial and Christian Comfort,” Sermon LXXXVIII in The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 545–547). Sprinkle Publications.

By |June 2nd, 2023|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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