Results tagged “Thomas Foxcroft” from Reformation21 Blog

Preaching Christ

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A last snippet, for now, from Thomas Foxcroft's The Gospel Ministry once more, fairly early on in his sermon, exhorting himself and other ministers to preach Jesus in every sense:
Ministers then must study to feed their flocks with a continual feast on the glorious fullness there is in Christ; they must gather fruits from the branch of righteousness, from the tree of life for those who hunger, not feeding them with the meat which perishes, but with that which endures to everlasting life. They must open this fountain of living waters, the great mystery of godliness, into which all the doctrines of the gospel that are branched forth into so great a variety do, as so many rivulets or streams making glad the city of God, flow and concenter.

They must endeavor to set forth Christ in the dignity of His Person, as the brightness of His Father's glory, God manifest in the flesh; in the reality, necessity, nature, and exercise of His threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King, in both His state of humiliation and exaltation; in the glorious benefits of His redemption, the justification of them who believe, the adoption of sons, sanctification, and an inheritance that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for the saints; in the wonderful methods and means in and by which we are called into the fellowship of the Son our Lord, and made partakers of the redemption by Christ; in the nature, and significance, the excellency and worth, of all the ordinances and institutions of Christ, with the obligations on all to attend upon them.

Whatever subject ministers are upon, it must somehow point to Christ. All sin must be witnessed against and preached down as opposed to the holy nature, the wise and gracious designs, and the just government of Christ. So all duty must be persuaded to and preached up with due regard unto Christ; to His authority commanding and to His Spirit of grace assisting, as well as to the merit of His blood commending - and this to dash the vain presumption that decoys so many into ruin, who will securely hang the weight of their hopes upon the horns of the altar without paying expected homage to the scepter of Christ. All the arrows of sharp rebuke are to be steeped in the blood of Christ; and this to prevent those desponding fears and frights of guilt which sometimes awfully work to a fatal issue. Dark and ignorant sinners are to be directed to Christ as the Sun of righteousness; convinced sinners are to be led to Christ as the Great Atonement and the only City of Refuge. Christ is to be lifted up on high for the wounded in spirit to look to, as the bitten Israelites looked to the brazen serpent of old. The sick, the lame, and the diseased are to be carried to Christ as the great Physician, the Lord our Healer; the disconsolate and timorous are to be guided to Christ as the Consolation of Israel, and in us the hope of glory. Every comfort administered is to be sweetened with pure water from this Well of salvation, which only can quench the fiery darts of the evil one. The promises of the gospel are to be applied as being in Christ "yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us" (2 Cor. 1:20). So the threatenings of the law are to light and flash in the eyes of sinners as the terrors of the Lord and sparks of the holy resentment of an incensed Savior, which hover now over the children of disobedience and will one day unite and fall heavy upon them. The love of Christ for us is to be held forth as the great constraining motive to religion, and the life of Christ as the bright, engaging pattern of it. Progress and increase in holiness are to be represented under the notion of abiding in Christ and growing up into Him who is the Head, even Christ. Perfection in grace is the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, and eternal life is a being forever with the Lord where He is, beholding His glory and dwelling in our Master's joy.

Thus, in imitation of the apostolic way of preaching, there must be a beautiful texture of references to Christ, a golden thread twisted into every discourse to leaven and perfume it so as to make it express a savor of the knowledge of Christ. Thus every mite cast into the treasure of the temple must bear this inscription upon it which was once the humble language of a pious martyr in the flames, "None but Christ, none but Christ," so that everyone, beholding in the Word preached as in a glass the glory of the Lord, may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory.

The gospel ministry

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The following quote is from Benjamin Wadsworth's introduction to The Gospel Ministry by Thomas Foxcroft:
The right performance of this work [of gospel ministry] is attended with many and great difficulties, partly from the various, frequent, furious assaults of Satan; partly from the lusts of men, variously discouraging or opposing it; and partly from the weaknesses and remaining corruptions of even the best of those who engage in it. Yet it is a work that is very honorable in itself, and of vast weight and importance. It must be thought so if we rightly consider that it is the infinitely great, glorious, holy and heart-searching God who (in His providence) calls and commissions men to this work; that the main scope of the work is to batter down Satan's kingdom, to pull down the strongholds of lust in the hearts of men, to promote the glory of divine grace through Christ in saving men's precious, immortal souls, one of which is more worth than a world; and that those who engage in this work must give a strict account of their management to that God who employs them, who can't be deceived and won't be mocked, and who will require at their hands the blood of those souls who perish through their neglect, as well as graciously and abundantly reward them if they are faithful.
What fearful and wonderful labour this is! Does the weight of your work press upon you, in the best and right sense? May God spare us from making shipwreck of our own faith, and being mere sirens to call other men on to the rocks of eternal destruction, and may we prove faithful and fruitful in the discharge of all our duties.

Pastoral courage

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As promised, a first snippet from Thomas Foxcroft, who advises us as to the correct and necessary balance and relationship between public and private ministerial responsibility. He gives this specific counsel:
Private inspection or pastoral visitation is of necessity to the same purpose as the public administrations. Hence we have ministers described in Song of Solomon 3:3 as watchmen who go about the city; and it is observable what follows: They "found me," says the spouse. They found her, not she them, plainly intimating that the ministers of the gospel must diligently seek out and look up the wandering and the straying, and maintain a watchful inspection over their flocks, even as the Good Shepherd looks after His sheep, going about and taking particular notice of all. The husbandman walks about in his garden and fields to observe the growth and decay of things, and makes all needful and suitable applications. So ministers must arm themselves with a becoming courage and resolution, and shake off that false modesty, that tame and vicious dread of offending men, which too often wretchedly prevails to the entire omission or sorry performance of this necessary and important duty; and apply themselves with all fidelity and holy boldness hereunto. But they must take heed to manage all with utmost prudent caution and discretion, careful not to use the instruments of a foolish shepherd, but in all points to concert such measures and improve such means as are best adapted to answer the end, so that their work may succeed.

Thomas Foxcroft, The Gospel Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Soli Deo Gloria, 2008), 40-41.

Review: "The Gospel Ministry"

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The Gospel Ministry
Thomas Foxcroft
Soli Deo Gloria (RHB), 87pp, hbk
ISBN 978-1-56769-061-3


This unusual but highly profitable little volume is a preacher's own ordination sermon. It was preached in 1717 by Thomas Foxcroft as he set out to demonstrate to the congregation which he was to serve the minister that he ought to be, to impress upon himself and others the standard which he ought to be pursuing and which the church ought to be demanding.

Taking Colossians 1.28 as his starting point - though ranging far and wide through the Scriptures - Foxcroft sets out four key doctrines: that Christ is the one grand subject which the ministers of the gospel should mainly insist upon in their preaching; that the ministers of the gospel need to be very wise and prudent in all their administrations; that laborious diligence, fervour, and indefatigable application should be the character of every gospel minister; and that, in all their ministerial labours, pastors should make the conversion and edification of men in Christ their governing view and sovereign aim.

Even taking into account that this portrait of a pastor takes a few minutes to delineate and a lifetime to cultivate, happy indeed the congregation whose young preacher set out this model at the beginning of his ministry as his goal, in dependence on God's Spirit!

The book is full of that earnest, earthy pastoral theology that is so much bypassed in our day. It is written by a man who intends to know, love and serve Christ's people with a Christlike spirit and through a Christ-soaked ministry. There are high points of insight and fervour throughout the work (look out for a couple of nuggets in coming days), and a thoroughly evangelical tone permeates the whole. The author determines to put Christ at the centre of his work by putting him at the centre of his life. Christ is not only the topic of the minister, but the source of all his power. The congregation is enjoined to earnest prayer for those who seek so to serve them.

Pastors will find this a short, sharp shock, and yet also eminently sweet: a powerful, brief reminder of what we are about, of whom we serve and how we serve. The teaching is mainly positive, and so the rebukes are incidental, and yet they hit home as we see how far short we fall of the standard of diligent godliness and sincere and outworked care that the Scriptures establish. At the same time, there is encouragement, both with regard to the first things of pastoral ministry and its development over time, with instruction along the way.

Congregations will also find here an outline of the kind of ministry that they should pursue and expect. The standard is not impossibly high, but the goal is distinct and the flavour clear. Not only will this book be helpful in that respect, but it is also a call to intelligent prayer for the gospel ministers who already serve the churches, and for more men of this stamp to be raised up and thrust out by the Lord of the harvest.