January 17, 2018

Matthew Henry: Serious Self-Examination before Ordination (2)

Mark Minnick

Part One ♦ This is Part Two ♦ Part Three Part Four

Pastor Minnick offers us Matthew Henry’s thorough meditation of self-examination on the occasion of his ordination. Part One dealt with the question, “What Am I?”

What Have I Done?

This is also a needful question in order that searching and examining what hath been amiss, I may repent of it and make even reckonings in the blood of Christ, that I may not come loaded with old guilt to put on a new character, especially such a character as this. Aaron and his sons must offer a sin-offering to make atonement before they were consecrated (Lev. 8:34). For he that comes near to God under guilt of sin unrepented of, comes at his peril, and the nearer the more dangerous.

And therefore, O my soul, what have I done? My soul cannot but answer, “I have sinned. I have perverted that which is right and it hath not profited me.” And in a serious reflection I cannot but observe,

1. What a great deal of precious time I have trifled away and misspent in folly and vanity and things that do not profit. Time is a precious talent which my Master hath entrusted me with and yet how long hath it been buried and how much hath it run waste?

2. How many precious opportunities (which are the cream of time) have I lost and not improved through my own carelessness. Golden seasons of grace which I have enjoyed but have let them slip and been little bettered by them; sabbaths, sermons, sacraments that have come and gone and left me as they found me. My fruit hath not been answerable to the soil I have been planted in. How often have I been ignorant under enlightening means; hard and cold under softening and warming ordinances; trifling and careless when I have been dealing with God about the concerns of my soul and eternity?

3. How often have I broken my covenants with God, broken my engagements, promises, and resolutions of new and better obedience, resolved against this and that sin, and yet fallen into it again; many a time returning to folly after God hath spoken peace to me and after I have spoken promises to God. Presently after a sacrament, how often have I returned to former vanity, folly, sensuality, frothiness, to former pride, passion, and worldliness; so soon have I forgotten the vows of God!

4. How unprofitable have I been in my converse with others; how few have been the better for me; how many the worse for me; how little good have I done; how little light have I cast in the sphere wherein God hath placed me; how little have I been concerned for the souls of others; and how little useful have I been to them. How vain and light have I been many times in my words and carriage, going down the stream of folly with others when my seriousness might have stemmed the tide. How seldom has my speech been with grace, but how often with corruption; not seasoned with salt?

5. In general, how forgetful have I been of God and his Word, of myself and my duty, and of the great concernments for my soul and eternity, living too much as if I had no God to serve and never a soul to save!

I might mention many particular miscarriages which I have been guilty of in heart and life and which are known to God and my own heart. Yet after all, — Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me, O God, from my secret sins; have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness, and according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out all my transgressions for the sake of the Lord my righteousness.

From What Principles Do I Act in This Undertaking?

This is also a very material enquiry in every action, to ask whence it comes, especially in so great a turn of life as this.

1. I hope I can say that it is of faith; and I am concerned it should be so, for whatever is not of faith is sin. It is good for every man that he be fully persuaded in his own mind. Now,

a. I am fully persuaded that Jesus Christ, as King of the church, hath appointed and established the office of the ministry to continue in a constant succession to the end of time for the edification of the church, and has promised to be with ministers always to the end of the world. The office of the ministry, therefore, is no human invention, but a divine institution.

b. I am fully persuaded that no man ought to thrust himself upon the work of the ministry without a clear call from God to it. Not that we are to expect such extraordinary calls as the apostles had, but the ordinary call by the mediation of ministers, who, as such, are authorized by Christ to try the abilities of those who offer themselves to the ministry. — And if they find them fit, then to set them apart to that work, in a solemn manner, by the imposition of hands, with fasting and prayer— and that the laying on of the hands of the presbytery is the most regular way of ordination and most agreeable to scripture.

c. I bless God that I am pretty well satisfied with the clearness of my call to the work, though I cannot but be sensible of great weakness and insufficiency for these things; yet I find that what abilities God has been pleased to give me, (and let him have all the glory) do evidently look towards this work, so that if I be in any measure qualified for any service, it is for this. I find also mine own inclination strongly bent towards it, and that it hath been so ever since I knew any thing, and especially I consider that I have been much excited and encouraged to it by divers (both ministers and others) able, skillful, and faithful, fit to judge, by whom my purposes have been much confirmed. All which goes a great way towards the clearing of my call.

2. I hope I can say I act herein from a principle of true zeal for the glory of God; that this great thing I do, as I should do everything to the glory of God, that my light may shine, that Christ’s kingdom may be advanced, the power of godliness kept up, the Word of life held forth; by all which God is glorified. The desire of my soul is that whether I live I may live to the Lord, or whether I did I may die to the Lord, and that living and dying I may be the Lord’s.

3. I hope I can say, that I act herein from a principle of real love to precious souls, for the good of which I would gladly spend and be spent. Methinks I love the precious souls of men so well that I would fain be an instrument of convincing the unconvinced, converting the unconverted, and building up saints in holiness and comfort. I hope I know so much of the worth of souls that I should think it a greater happiness to gain one soul to the Lord Jesus Christ than to gain mountains of silver and gold to myself.

To be continued…

Dr. Mark Minnick is the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and serves as adjunct professor of preaching and exposition at Bob Jones Seminary.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 2003. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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