The Reformed Pastor
Perhaps the best and most famous Puritan work on the pastoral ministry, by a man who was a powerful instrument in the hand of God to transform his city of Kidderminster for the cause of Christ.
The Reformed Pastor is the result of a lecture Baxter was to deliver to a group of pastors. As it turn out, his health prevented him from attending, but he sent his manuscript to be read to the men. The biblical basis for his call of reform is Acts 20:28. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
Baxter easily divides his work into two parts, taking heed to ourselves and taking heed of the flock. For pastors, Baxter first calls on us to make sure we have the faith that we preach to others! And that we live that faith. For the flock, Baxter calls for a return to biblical church discipline and the careful, personal instruction of people in their homes from the catechism. As stated earlier, Baxter modeled this pattern. He preached two one-hour sermons each week and spent two whole days each week going from home to home catechizing his members. He argues that it is in this personal, home teaching that one can really find out what his parishioners know, if they are truly in the faith, and instruct them more fully in the core doctrines of the faith.
The full table of contents is vast, covering several pages. One important portion is detailed below, as a sampling of how thorough Baxter is. This is the portion about:
The Ministerial Work Must Be Carried On:
- Purely for God, and the salvation of souls
- Diligently and laboriously
- Prudently and orderly
- Insisting chiefly on the greatest and most necessary things
- With plainness and simplicity
- With humility
- A mixture of severity and mildness
- Seriousness, earnestness, and zeal
- With tender love to our people
- With earnest desires and expectations of success
- Under a deep sense of our own insufficiency, and of our dependence on Christ
- In unity with other ministers
Book review by Pastor Will Owens of Search and See Ministries
“One of Puritanisms most remarkable pastors, Baxter left an invaluable treasure for other pastors through the ages with Reformed Pastor. By “Reformed” he does not mean the system of doctrine otherwise known as Calvinism, but he means reformed in its purest form, “changed.” Baxter is calling on pastors to reform, to change, to be the kind of pastors the Bible calls us to be. Baxter himself modeled the reform he called for, so much so that 82 years after his ministry the famous evangelist George Whitefield remarked that “good Mr. Baxter’s doctrine, works, and discipline remained to this day.”
The Reformed Pastor is a giant of a book and every pastor truly should read it.
Favorite Quotes from The Reformed Pastor:
1. Oh what aggravated misery is this, to perish in the midst of plenty! – to famish with the bread of life in our hands, while we offer it to others, and urge it on them!
2. To see and admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God, as exhibited in his works – this is the true and only philosophy.
3. Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine…lest you unsay with your lives, what you say with your tongues.
4. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be guilty of that which you daily condemn.
5. a holy calling will not save an unholy man
6. Take heed to all the flock implies that flocks be no greater than we are capable of overseeing
7. We are attracted to novelties rather than to great things (Seneca)
8. I hate that preaching which tends to make hearers laugh, or to move their minds with tickling levity, and affect them as stage-plays used to do, instead of affecting them with a holy reverence of the name of God.
9. For if the holy and unholy are all permitted to be sheep of the same fold, without any means being used to separate them, we defame the Redeemer, as if he were guilty of it, and as if this were the nature of his people.
10. Mere sloth will tie the hands of many