Matthew Henry: Serious Self-Examination before Ordination (3)

Mark Minnick

Part OnePart Two ♦ This is 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?” and Part Two dealt with the questions, “What Have I Done?” and “From What Principles Do I Act in This Undertaking?”

What Are the Ends That I Aim at in This Great Undertaking?

It is a common saying, that the end specifies the action. Therefore it is of great consequence to fix that right that the eye may be single, for otherwise it is an evil eye. A base end will certainly spoil the acceptableness of the best actions that can be performed.

Now what is the mark I aim at in this great turn of my life? Let conscience be faithful herein, and let the Searcher of hearts make me known to myself.

1. I think I can say with confidence, that I do not design to take up the ministry as a trade to live by or to enrich myself by out of the greediness of filthy lucre. No! I hope I aim at nothing but souls; and if I gain those, though I should lose all my worldly comforts by it, I shall reckon myself to have made a good bargain.

2. I think I can say with as much assurance that my design is not to get myself a name amongst men, or to be talked of in the world as one that makes somewhat of a figure. No; that is a poor business. —If I have but a good name with God I think I have enough, though among men I be reviled and have my name trampled upon as mire in the streets. I prefer the good word of my Master far before the good word of my fellow-servants.

3. I can appeal to God, that I have no design in the least to maintain a party or to keep up any schismatical faction. My heart rises against the thoughts of it. I hate dividing principles and practices. Whatever others are, I am for peace and healing. If my blood would be sufficient balsam, I would gladly part with the last drop of it for the closing up of the bleeding wounds of differences that are amonst true Chrsitians. Peace is such a precious jewel that I would give anything for it but truth. Those who are hot and bitter in their contendings for or against little things and zealous in keeping up names of division and maintaining parties are of a spirit which I understand not. Let not my soul come into their secret.

My ends then are according to my principles, and I humbly appeal to God concerning the integrity of my heart in them.

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. That I deliberately place the glory of God as my highest and ultimate end. If I can be but any ways instrumental to promote that I shall gain my end and have my desire. I do not design to preach myself, but as a faithful friend of the bridegroom to preach Christ Jesus my Lord, as the standardbearer among ten thousands. And if I can but bring people better to know and love and honor Christ, I have what I design.

c. That in order to the glory of God I do sincerely aim at the good of precious souls. God is glorified when souls are benefited. Gladly would I be instrumental in that blessed work. I would not be a barren tree in a vineyard, cumbering the ground; but by God’s help, I would do some good in the world. I know no greater good I can be capable of than doing good to souls. I desire to be an instrument in God’s hand of softening hard hearts, quickening dead hearts, humbling proud hearts, comforting sorrowful hearts; and if I may be enabled to do this, I have what I would have. If God denies me this, and suffers me to labor in vain (though I should get hundreds a year by my labor) it would be the constant grief and trouble of my soul; and if I do not gain souls, I shall enjoy all my other gains with very little satisfaction. Though even in that case it would be some comfort that the reward is not according to the success but according to the faithfulness. But I seriously profess it, if I could foresee that my ministry would be wholly unprofitable, and that I should be no instrument of good to souls, though in other respects I might get enough by it, I would rather beg my bread from door to door, than undertake this great work.

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.)