Andrew Fuller Friday: On Churches as the Light of the Gospel

You may consider yourselves, therefore, brethren, as instruments in holding forth the light of the gospel to a benighted world. This is the thought I propose to dwell upon, and this only.

The end of your existence, as a church of Christ, is to “hold forth the word of life.” There are two ways of doing this, to both which I hope you will religiously attend: First, by supporting the preaching of the gospel: and, secondly, By recommending it in your spirit and practice.

I. By supporting the preaching of the gospel.—I scarcely need inform you that to do this you must support him that preaches it: and now give me your attention while I mention a few different ways in which it is your duty, interest, and honour to support your pastor:—

1. By a diligent and constant attendance on his ministry—if possible, at all the services of the sabbath, and in the week. And those who live in neighbouring places may support the cause essentially by receiving them minister at their houses, for the purpose of village preaching.

2. By a free and affectionate carriage towards him.—Treat him as a friend and a brother. If in his preaching he should occasionally make a mistake, do not magnify it. Do not make him an offender for a word. You are as likely to mistake in judging as he is in advancing a sentiment. If you perceive faults in his deportment, do not whisper them about, but kindly mention them to him. Do not give ear to every report concerning him. He has a right to expect this as a brother, but especially as an elder. “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father.” That is, an elder in office; and though your pastor may be your junior in years, he is your elder in office, and as such has an especial claim on your forbearance and protection. Ministers are the objects of envy, and if every report against them were encouraged, they would be unable to stand their ground. Under trials and afflictions, especially, you should manifest great tenderness towards them. God often afflicts ministers for the good of the people—that they may be able to comfort those who are afflicted; surely then it becomes the people to be very affectionate towards them under their trials.… You that are officers in the church should especially be concerned to bear up his hands, as Aaron and Hur stayed the hands of Moses.

3. By treating him with becoming respect, and teaching your children and servants to do the same.—This will conduce to your own advantage. So long as he deserves your respect, you ought to show it; and no longer ought he to continue to be your pastor.

4. By acknowledging his instrumentality in your edification.—There is great danger of extremes here. Some are always feeding a minister’s vanity by telling him how well he preached at this time and that; and, by the by, at the same time displaying their own vanity, by wishing him to consider what good judges they are of an ingenious discourse! Others, to avoid this extreme, will never speak to him in the language of encouragement. Surely there is a way of acknowledging ourselves to have been edified and profited, which does not tend to feed a minister’s vanity, but to encourage him in his work.

5. By giving him a place in your prayers.—Think much on the greatness of his work It is to enlighten a benighted world. Pray that he himself may be enlightened. It is to “feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Pray that he himself may be fed. It is to stand between God and men. Pray that he may be kept humble. It is to disturb the carnal security of men. Pray that he himself may be kept awake. It is to break the hard heart. Pray that he may be tender-hearted. It is to rouse the listless soul to action. Pray that he may be alive himself. It is to trace the windings of the human heart, and to describe the genuine operations of grace in the true believer. Pray that he himself may increase in Christian experience. From what your pastor has this day heard, methinks I hear him sigh and say to himself—“Who is sufficient for these things?” Think of this, my brethren, and you will not forget him in your near addresses to God.

6. By not hindering, but helping him, in the exercises of his pastoral office.—Be not of a touchy temper, so as to prevent him from freely giving you advice and caution, and even reproof. It would be to his dishonour to deal in personal reflections in the pulpit; but out of it, it will be to your dishonour to be offended with plain and close dealing. If you are of such a temper that you cannot bear to be told of your faults, you will hinder him in the discharge of his office. Be at the same time also willing to take your share in the exercise of discipline. In cases of personal offence, it may be well for your pastor in some instances to be excused, lest the parties contract a prejudice against him, and so prevent the success of his ministrations. But where he cannot be excused, be you always ready to join him, to stand by him, to sanction and encourage him in the execution of the laws of Christ; even though the offenders be among your relatives and acquaintance. Let the deacons in particular stand by him; and never let a church censure have so much as the appearance of being passed by the influence of the minister. The address of the elders of Israel to Ezra, in a most painful case of discipline, will furnish you with a good example: “Arise, for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.”

7. By liberally contributing to the support of his family.—It is to the honour of Protestant Dissenters that what they contribute to their ministers they contribute freely, without constraint; but it is greater honour still, if they contribute liberally. Consider your minister’s salary, not as a gift, but as a debt; and not as done to him, but to Christ. Give liberally, or you will lose the liberal reward. Give it as due to the cause of Christ, or Christ will take no favourable notice of it. 

Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Churches Should Exhibit the Light of the Gospel.” Sermon LXXXII. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 532–533). Sprinkle Publications.

By |July 5th, 2024|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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