January 17, 2018

Matthew Henry: Serious Self-Examination before Ordination (4)

Mark Minnick

Part OnePart TwoPart Three ♦ This is 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?” Part Three answered the question, “What Are the Ends That I Aim at in This Great Undertaking?”

What Do I Want?

And what special things am I now to desire of God, the God of all grace? When I know whither to go for supplies. I am concerned to enquire what my necessities are. The requests I have to put to God are such as these.

1. That he would fix and confirm and establish my heart in my dedication of myself to the work of the ministry. My carnal heart is sometimes ready to suggest to me that I had better take some other way of living that would be less toilsome and perilous, and more pleasant and gainful. The Devil joins issue with my heart and sets before me the profits and preferments I might possibly have in another way, and the trouble and reproach I am likely to meet with in this way. Now, O that my God would restrain the tempter, and satisfy me in my choice and furnish me with suitable considerations with which to answer such suggestions; and in order thereunto, give me believing views of eternity; having deliberately devoted myself to the work of the Lord, keep it always in the imagination of the thoughts of my heart, and establish my way before him.

2. That he would in a special manner be present with me in the ordinance of dedication, filling my heart with such an experimental sense of the excellency of Christ, and the comforts of the Holy Ghost, as that I may have cause to remember it, by a good token, as long as I live; that he would manifest himself to me, mark me for himself, and leave some sign behind him in my soul, that may make it evident God was there of a truth; that he would give me a comfortable earnest of the success of my ministry, by a signal owning of me in my entrance upon it.

3. That he would fit and qualify me for this great work to which he is calling me. When Saul was anointed king, God gave him another heart, an heart fit for kingship. I would fain have another heart, a heart fit for ministerial work, filled with ministerial gifts and graces.

a. Ministerial gifts. Every good gift comes from above, and therefore I look upwards for gifts of knowledge in the mysteries of religion; gifts of utterance to explain and apply myself to others and to speak the Word with boldness. I have also need of prudence and discretion to order the affairs of my ministry.

b. Ministerial graces. Faith, love to God and souls, zeal for God’s glory, and souls’ good; patience to do, to suffer, and to wait; an inward sense of the weight of the things I speak of. Two graces I do more especially beg of God,

i. Sincerity. That I may be really as good as I seem to be; that inward impressions may always be answerable to outward expressions in all my ministrations; that my eye may be single, my heart upright; and my ends fixed; that I may not cast the least glance at any low, base end.

ii. Humility. That God would hide pride from me and clothe me with humility, that I may see that I have nothing (except my sins) but what I have received; that I may never please myself with the praises of men, but hand up all the praise to God; that the least workings of pride and conceitedness may be checked in me.

4. That God would open a door of opportunity to me, and make my way plain before me, that the call I have to my work may be clear and satisfying, and that God would bless and succeed my endeavors for the good of souls.

What Are My Purposes and Resolutions for the Future?

This is also a requisite enquiry, when I am to put on a new character, and one so honorable. What shall I do that I may walk worthy of the vocation wherewith I am called?

1. I purpose and resolve by the grace of God that I will have no more to do with the unfruitful works of darkness, seeing it will not only be my duty as a Christian, but my office as a minister to reprove them rather. Pride, passion, worldliness, wantonness, vanity, are things the man of God must flee (I Tim. 6:11). What have I to do anymore with idols? What have I to do anymore with sin? By the grace of God it shall not have dominion over me. The ministerial character will add a great aggravation to every sin; and therefore, O my soul! stand in awe and sin not.

2. I purpose and resolve that, by the grace of God, I will abound more than ever in all manner of gospel obedience; that I will strive to be more humble, serious, and watchful, and self-denying, and live more above the world and the things of it; that I will pray with more life, and read the scriptures with more care, and not be slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; that I will abound in good discourse, as I have ability and opportunity with prudence; endeavoring as much as I can to adorn the doctrine of God my Savior in all things.

3. In particular, I resolve in the strength, spirit and grace of Jesus Christ my Lord, to consider well and perform my ordination vows; to hold fast the form of sound words which I have heard and received in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus; and never to let go any truth, whatever it cost me; ever owning the scripture as the only rule of faith and practice.

a. That I will wholly give up myself to the work, and employ all my talents in the service of God and souls, with seriousness and sedulity: that I will not only preach, but to the utmost of my power defend, the truths of God against all opposers, and do all I can to convince or silence gainsayers.

b. That I will endeavor to maintain not only truth, but peace and unity in the church of God; that I will patiently bear and thankfully accept of the admonitions of my brethren, and esteem such smitings as an excellent oil that shall not break my head.

c. That if ever God shall call me to the charge of a family, I will walk before my house in a perfect way, with an upright heart, not doubting but that then God will come unto me; my house shall be a Bethel; wherever I have a tent, God shall have an altar; and Joshua’s resolution shall be mine, Whatever others do, I and my house will serve the Lord.

d. That if ever God calls me to the charge of a flock I resolve, by his grace, with all possible diligence to lay out myself for the spiritual good of those over whom God shall set me; and that in conversation I will endeavor to be an example to the flock going before them in the way to heaven, and will improve all the interest I have, and all the authority I may have, for the honor of God, the good of souls, and the edifying of the mystical body of Christ.

Whatever opposition I may meet with in my work, by the grace of God I will not be terrified with it, nor frightened by the winds and clouds from sowing and reaping, but in the strength of my God, go in the midst of discouragements; and if God shall call me to sufferings, which I promise to expect and count upon, I will, by the grace of God, suffer cheerfully and courageously for the truths and ways of Christ, choosing rather, with Moses, to suffer afflictions with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season; and I will esteem not only the crown of Christ, but the reproach of Christ, greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, having respect to the recompence of reward.

This is the substance of what I promise in the strength of the Spirit in the grace of Christ, and having sworn by his strength, I will perform it, that I will keep his righteous judgments, and the Lord keep it always in the imagination of the thoughts of my heart, and establish my way before him.

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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