Saturday, 27 November 2010

Spurgeon's advice to his students

I have lost some of my enthusiasm for the Masters in Theology degree that I am studying for.  The last essay was on the nature of the pastor's self-care and I looked at three lectures Spurgeon gave to his students that have relevance to this issue.  Here are a couple of cuttings from it.

As his text [of the lecture 'The Minister's Self-Watch] Spurgeon takes the words ‘Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine’ (1 Timothy ).  He claims that ‘we shall be likely to accomplish most when we are in the best spiritual condition; or in other words, we shall usually do our Lord’s work best when our gifts and graces are in good order, and we shall do worst when they are most out of trim.’ While he focuses on the gifts that people have his major emphasis is on the spiritual faculties and the inner life.  He approvingly quotes M’Cheyne who wrote that it ‘is not great talents that God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus.’
... Continuing his emphasis on fruitfulness he declares, ‘All that a college course can do for a student is coarse and external compared with the spiritual and delicate refinement obtained by communion with God … All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our closets.’ This is not to suggest that Spurgeon was against scholarship as can be seen by his indirect endorsement of biblical commentaries.
... With regards to the formation of a sermon he says that the ‘best and holiest men have ever made prayer the most important part of pulpit preparation.’ ‘Your prayers will be your ablest assistants while your discourses are yet upon the anvil. Spurgeon sees an ongoing revelatory work of the Holy Spirit as the minister has the passage opened up for them through prayer.  This revelatory work of the Holy Spirit may continue as the preacher delivers the message.
... Spurgeon saw infirmity of either body or mind being the lot of the majority of people and believed that ministers may especially expect depressions, ‘that they may sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people.’ This belief in the value of such depression is also seen in the fact that he states that it helps keep those who are honoured in public humble. These infirmities ‘may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness; they may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his particular course of service.’  He tells his students to ‘honour those who, being faint, are yet pursuing.’

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