Results tagged “Samuel Pearce” from Reformation21 Blog

Sweet simplicity

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It has been rather disconcerting to see the British (and, from what I can tell, the world) media fawning over the pomp and pageantry of papal pursuits. The most incisive discussion I heard as the vote was going on was a gentle altercation over whether you wanted to call it 'thrilling theatre' or 'rich ritual.' 'Extravagant superstition' did not seem to be an option.

All rather different to the events reflected in a slim volume dating from 1796, entitled The Duty of Ministers to be nursing Fathers to the Church; and the Duty of Churches to regard  Ministers as the Gift of Christ, a collection of addresses from the ordination of one W. Belsher to the pastorate of the Baptist church meeting in Silver-Street, Worcester. The Rev. G. Osborn gave the opening address, followed by Belsher's confession of faith (it was rather the done thing among Dissenters at the time for the incoming minister to draw up and declare his own personal confession of faith), and then a charge was given to the minister by John Ryland Jr. and a sermon delivered to the church by Samuel Pearce.

I shall give you a snippet of Ryland toward the end, and perhaps a little from Pearce on another date, but what struck me first and forcibly was the sweet simplicity of the process, as outlined by the little-known G. Osborn, outlining what was and was not happening. Osborn had been asked "to introduce this solemn service, and to assign our reasons, as Protestant Dissenters, for such an observance" (5). Disavowing and rejecting "the imposing dominion of any Lord-bishop, or of any Lord-brother, in the prescription of our faith and worship" (5), he explained that the church was seeking to follow Scriptural example and apostolic practice.

Working from Acts 13.3, he dealt first with the essential character and necessary qualifications of Christian ministers, highlighting their moral goodness (knowing and feeling in themselves the evidences and truths of the gospel), spiritual gifts (neither miraculous nor equal in all, but necessary for the work), and disinterested zeal (for the glory of God, the edification of the church, and the good of all mankind). Then he turned to those who separate such to the work of the gospel, a work carried out by the direction and leading of providence, by the free choice of the people themselves, and by solemn acts of devotion, suggesting that simple fasting and prayer would be appropriate on such an occasion, with the laying on of hands as the mark of concurrence in designating the appointed brother a minister and a mode of entreating divine blessing on a particular person. Such, said Osborn, are our views of evangelical ordination: "we only desire to follow Scripture direction and examples" (9).

No smoke, bands, drums, processions, robes, incense, nothing but God's people identifying God's man, equipped and sent by the Spirit of God to preach the Word of God. Here is a sweet simplicity and purposeful purity that puts first things front and centre.

I understand the contention that the Roman Catholic communion does what it does well: call it theatre, call it ritual, in recent days we have seen it raised to the apogee of extravagant emptiness. But in the battle for souls we should not be sucked into trying to compete with such performances, as if - could we only do it as well or better ourselves - we might obtain the same sort of attention and applause. Rather, in Scripture, the men who turned the world upside down (Acts 17.6) did not come with all the childish trappings of worldly glory, but with the gospel of Jesus Christ as Saviour and as Lord. Perhaps we would do better not to try and forge carnal weapons with which to compete with ungodly systems, but rather to strip away a little more of the accretions of performance and showiness, and allow the gospel blade to do its cutting unencumbered by the gaudy and ineffectual trappings of human wisdom and power. I doubt Ryland had il Papa in mind as a counterpoint to the paternal model he was urging upon the new minister in Silver-Street, but his charge points us in a rather different direction for true spiritual fatherliness:
The great essentials of religion, the doctrine of salvation by the blood of the Lamb, and by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, are like daily bread, which must never be forgotten; but the whole system of faith and duty must be brought more and more to light if we would edify the souls of men. I persuade myself, brother, that you will neither affect unscriptural novelties, nor yet confine your whole ministry to four or five favourite points, to the neglect of all the truths in the Bible besides. But all you say, will, I trust, have an ultimate reference to our glorious Redeemer; to shew the need, the suitableness, the glory, the tendency of his great salvation. Him you must preach, as dwelling in his people's hearts, and being the hope of glory: like Paul, warning every man, and teaching every man, in all wisdom; that you may present every one of your hearers perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end you must labor, as long as you can find an unbelieving sinner, or an imperfect saint, striving, according to his working, who worketh in you mightily. Every one of your auditors possesses a soul of inestimable worth, which nothing but the blood of Jesus could have ransomed from eternal burnings. Every one of them demands your pity, your prayer, and your earnest endeavours to subserve his salvation. The rich, who cannot enter into the kingdom of God, but with extreme difficulty; the poor, who must be so wretched in both worlds, if not made heirs of the kingdom; the aged, who stand on the brink of hell, and must fall in, if not very soon converted; the young, who may be so very useful, if called by times, and who are the chief objects of our hope for the continuance of the church, after we are silent in the dust: All the classes into which we can divide our congregations, demands our exertions; and how should it rouse us to think, every time we preach, that some of our hearers are, probably, hearing the last message we can deliver to them from God. (20-21)