The Reformed Pastor: Co-blogging Richard Baxter’s work

This post will explore Baxter’s writing in chapter one of the Reformed Pastor, The Oversight of Ourselves, part two, entitled, “The Motives to This Oversight“.  Having already explained The Nature of This Oversight, Baxter speaks to the things that should “awaken [us] to this duty”.

I would like to lay them out numerically, as Richard Baxter does, in his text:

  1. Take heed to yourselves, for you have a heaven to win or lose, and souls that must be happy or miserable for ever; and therefore it concerneth you to begin at home, and to take heed to yourselves as well as to others.
  2. Take heed to yourselves, for you have a depraved nature, and sinful inclinations, as well as others.
  3. Take heed to yourselves, because the tempter will more ply you with his temptations than other men.
  4. Take heed to yourselves, because there are many eyes upon you, and there will be many to observe your falls.
  5. Take heed to yourselves, for your sins have more heinous aggravations than other men’s.
  6. Take heed to yourselves, because such great works as ours require greater grace than other men’s.
  7. Take heed to yourselves, for the honour of your Lord and Master, and of his holy truth and ways, doth lie more on you than on other men.
  8. Lastly, take heed to yourselves, for the success of all your labours doth very much depend upon this.  If the work of the Lord be not soundly done upon your hearts, how can you expect that he will bless your labours for effecting it in others?

Some thoughts on these “motives to this oversight“: (these bullets will follow the order above)

  • I, again, appreciate the “finger to the chest” to the reader that Baxter provides.  It has given me pause to consider that I, or other pastors, might be desirous to proclaim the wonders of the Gospel and fail to have it realized in our own lives.  I enjoyed Baxter’s comment on the fact that God is not partial to anyone, “…he saveth not men for their coats or callings; a holy calling will not save an unholy man…”  What to do with such admonition?  2 Corinthians 13:5 – Test yourself.  I spent time examining my own life determining if the Gospel had penetrated further than the brain…and made it to my heart.
  • It is easy as a minister of the Gospel to be tempted to think that we are somehow “superior” to our flock in the areas of temptation.  How deceptive Satan is!  We begin to believe that we are spiritually stronger and fail to live in dependence on the Spirit and the Word.  I am currently studying the life of Christ and am “stuck” in Matthew 4 spending time meditating and musing over the temptation of Christ and how that relates to my own life.  How silly for me, as a pastor, to think that I would be superior in resistance than my Savior!  This point has driven me to my knees in realization of my own prideful heart and it’s dealing with temptation.
  • Being on the “front lines” in spiritual warfare does allow for more “heat” it seems.  Satan is a determined foe as he attempts to cause leaders to fall, attempting to destroy the Church.  This is all the more reason to renew the call for pastors to be vigilant in every area of life!  “…You shall see neither hook nor line, much less the subtle angler himself, while he is offering you his bait…”  Laziness, unfaithfulness, coveting, these are a few of the areas that Baxter calls out for ministers to pay heed to.
  • We, as pastors, live in glass houses, don’t we?  And that is a good thing.  I think of generations past that have sought to cover and hide both struggles and sins – to the detriment of their self, families and flocks.  But this fact should spur us on to understand the necessity of living pure lives.  When we sin, we give credence to the temptation, permission – as it were – to those in our congregations watching us.
  • The very fact that we are placed in positions of biblical knowledge and understanding lead us to understand the “heinous aggravations” we commit as compared to others.  How can we trample underfoot the grace that has been extended to us?  We speak weekly, if not daily, to our flock about the dangers of yielding to temptation – how much more “odious and damnable” our own sins are as we selfishly choose evil over holiness.  Brothers, engage the enemy!
  • Watching over men’s souls, as it were, is not a task to be undertaken lightly or with careless thought.  For this reason we should doubly be aware of our “weak areas”, places where the defenses need shored up.  We will wade into the cesspool of men’s sin, and as the Apostle writes, we would be wise to “look to [ourself], lest [we] too be tempted”.
  • O take heed, brethern, of every word you speak and of every step you tread, for you bear the ark of the Lord – you are entrusted with his honour!“~Baxter.  All sin devastates and destroys, brings about death.  When pastors are weak and not giving heed to their own spirituality, thus falling into sin, it can wreak havoc in the flock – both personally and corporately.  How easy it is to discourage young believers.  How simple it is to crush the forward progress of fellow laborers.  I am challenged to live a life of repentance…daily repentance.
  • God can use anything to accomplish His will.  Of this, I am sure.  He used Balaam’s ass, and in His grace He has seen fit to use me – a broken and (very) simple vessel for His glory.  I struggle with the fact that God can even use some ministers and pastors that are not yielded to Him, that are self-seeking and self-serving, using the pulpit to command personal gain and personal glory.  I do not want to be that man.  I want the Lord to bless my efforts because they are in line with His desires for our congregation.  I want to be a open and free conduit of Truth, both in word and in practice to those God has entrusted to me.  “…Do you think it is a likely thing, that he will fight against Satan with all his might, who is himself a servant to Satan?”  God, make me thorns in the eyes of the enemy!  Keep me sensitive to temptation and sin in my own life, that I may live yielded to You – and thereby be used of You in ways that will make a difference to those whom I minister to!

You may read more of this effort in co-blogging through The Reformed Pastor at:

One thought on “The Reformed Pastor: Co-blogging Richard Baxter’s work

  1. Mark,
    I have a little love/hate with this section. As you mentioned, Baxter really stresses the need for pastors to examine themselves, understanding the consequence of moral failure to their message and ministry. I spoke to a young man today who seemed somewhat disillusioned by the hypocrisies of pastors he had perceived to the point where he turned from the ministry himself. That conversation will still continue, God willing.

    I appreciate the reminder that I am obligated to live out my messages. Until they become beautiful and live-changing to me, I had better beware before I proclaim them to others. We become machines of doctrine– churning out various discussions and syllogisms but remaining untouched by what we teach.

    On the other hand, I don’t think that Baxter ever envisioned a day when we could divorce our testimony from our teaching so much due to technology, transportation and geography. We can teach, and not be forced to expose our real selves to our church members. It is so incredibly easy in this age. It also doesn’t help that we live in a market driven society where the market is not incredibly worried as to the consistency of the messenger, as much as how entertaining he is.

    Paul also mentions that God glorifies Himself through people who minister for the wrong reasons. It is a curious tension.

    Self-examination is so much more important now-a-days as public visibility disappears.

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