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Some Pastoral Wisdom from Andrew Fuller

Many a pastor, denominational leader, and seminarian has noted how difficult it can be to maintain personal piety while being a "professional" student and/or practitioner of Christianity. Indeed, it is scary–and a testimony to the power of sin–how easy it is for the sermons we listen to and the books we read to become nothing more than a mere exercise in outward devotion, while all the while our soul slowly atrophies due to spiritual neglect. The following is from a sermon preached by Andrew Fuller, longtime pastor of the Baptist church in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England. Fuller, who was arguably the most influential British Baptist of his era, was also a tireless advocate for foreign mission, a defender of Baptist principles, and an imminent theologian. The title of this sermon is "Preaching Christ," and these words are just as applicable in the modern SBC as they were to turn of the 19th century British Baptists.

A REMARK which I once heard from the lips of that great and good man, the late Mr. Abraham Booth, has often recurred to my recollection. "I fear," said he, "there will be found a larger proportion of wicked ministers than of any other order of professing Christians!" It did not appear to me at the time, nor has it ever appeared since, that this remark proceeded from a want of charity, but rather from a deep knowledge of the nature of Christianity, and an impartial observation of men and things. It behoves us, not only as professing Christians, but as ministers, to "examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith." It certainly is possible, after we have preached to others, that we ourselves should be cast away! I believe it is very common for the personal religion of a minister to be taken for granted; and this may prove a temptation to him to take it for granted too. Ministers, being wholly devoted to the service of God, are supposed to have considerable advantages for spiritual improvement. These they certainly have; and if their minds be spiritual, they may be expected to make greater proficiency in the Divine life than their brethren. But it should be remembered, that if they are not spiritual, those things which would otherwise be a help would prove a hinderance. If we study Divine subjects merely as ministers, they will produce no salutary effect. We may converse with the most impressive truths, as soldiers and surgeons do with blood, till they cease to make any impression upon us. We must meditate on these things as Christians, first feeding our own souls upon them, and then imparting that which we have believed and felt to others; or, whatever good we may do to them, we shall receive none ourselves. Unless we mix faith with what we preach, as well as with what we hear, the word will not profit us. It may be on these accounts that ministers, while employed in watching over others, are so solemnly warned against neglecting themselves: "Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock," &c. "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee."

I find this passage very convicting; perhaps many of you do as well. This is just one more example of how Baptist history has wisdom to bear on our contemporary context.