A Solemn Warning to Ministers: Let us consider, what it is to take heed to ourselves…

Taken and adapted from, “THE REFORMED PASTOR.” Written by Richard Baxter.

images (2)See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls.

Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others, and be strangers to the effectual working of that gospel which you preach; and lest, while you proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior, your own hearts should neglect him, and you should miss of an interest in him and his saving benefits. Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to take heed of perishing; and lest you famish yourselves while you prepare food for them. Though there is a promise of shining as the stars, to those ‘who turn many to righteousness,’ that is but on supposition that they are first turned to it themselves. Their own sincerity in the faith is the condition of their glory, simply considered, though their great ministerial labors may be a condition of the promise of their greater glory.

Many have warned others that they come not to that place of torment, while yet they hastened to it themselves…

Many a preacher is now in hell, who hath a hundred times called upon his hearers to use the utmost care and diligence to escape it. Can any reasonable man imagine that God should save men for offering salvation to others, while they refuse it themselves; and for telling others those truths which they themselves neglect and abuse? Many a tailor goes in rags, that makes costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he hath dressed for others the most costly dishes. Believe it, brethren, God never saved any man for being a preacher, nor because he was an able preacher; but because he was a justified, sanctified man, and consequently faithful in his Master’s work. Take heed, therefore, to ourselves first, that you he that which you persuade your hearers to be, and believe that which you persuade them to believe, and heartily entertain that Savior whom you offer to them. He that bade you love your neighbors as yourselves, did imply that you should love yourselves, and not hate and destroy yourselves and them.

It is a fearful thing to be an unsanctified professor, but much more to be an unsanctified preacher.

Doth it not make you tremble when you open the Bible, lest you should there read the sentence of your own condemnation? When you pen your sermons, little do you think that you are drawing up indictments against your own souls! When you are arguing against sin, that you are aggravating your own! When you proclaim to your hearers the unsearchable riches of Christ and his grace, that you are publishing your own iniquity in rejecting them, and your unhappiness in being destitute of them! What can you do in persuading men to Christ, in drawing them from the world, in urging them to a life of faith and holiness, but conscience, if it were awake, would tell you, that you speak all this to your own confusion? If you speak of hell, you speak of your own inheritance: if you describe the joys of heaven, you describe your own misery, seeing you have no right to ‘the inheritance of the saints in light.’ What can you say, for the most part, but it will be against your own souls O miserable life! That a man should study and preach against himself, and spend his days in a course of self-condemnation! A graceless, inexperienced preacher is one of the most unhappy creatures upon earth and yet he is ordinarily very insensible of his unhappiness; for he hath so many counters that seem like the gold of saving grace, and so many splendid stones that resemble Christian jewels, that he is seldom troubled with the thoughts of his poverty; but thinks he is ‘rich, and increased in goods, and stands in need of nothing, when he is poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.’ He is acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, he is exercised in holy duties, he lives not in open disgraceful sin, he serves at God’s altar, he reproves other men’s faults, and preaches up holiness both of heart and life; and how can this man choose but be holy?

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! That those ordinances of God should be the occasion of our delusion, which are instituted to be the means of our conviction and salvation! And that while we hold the looking-glass of the gospel to others, to show them the face and aspect of their souls, we should either look on the back part of it ourselves, where we can see nothing, or turn it aside, that it may misrepresent us to ourselves! If such a wretched man would take my counsel, he would make a stand, and call his heart and life to an account, and fall a preaching a while to himself, before he preach any more to others. He would consider, whether food in the mouth, that goes not into the stomach, will nourish; whether he that ‘names the name of Christ should not depart from iniquity,” whether God will hear his prayers, if ‘he regard iniquity in his heart,” whether it will serve the turn at the day of reckoning to say, ‘Lord, Lord, we have prophesied in thy name,’ when he shall hear these awful words, ‘Depart from me, I know you not,” and what comfort it will be to Judas, when he has gone to his own place, to remember that he preached with the other apostles, or that he sat with Christ, and was called by him, ‘Friend.’ When such thoughts as these have entered into their souls, and kindly worked a while upon their consciences, I would advise them to go to their congregation, and preach over Origen’s sermon on Psalm 50. 16, 17. ‘But unto the wicked God says, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou should take my covenant into thy mouth seeing thou hates instruction, and casts my words behind thee.’ And when they have read this text, to sit down, and expound and apply it by their tears; and then to make a full and free confession of their sin, and lament their case before the whole assembly, and desire their earnest prayers to God for pardoning and renewing grace; that hereafter they may preach a Savior whom they know, and may feel what they speak, and may commend the riches of the gospel from their own experience.

Alas! it is the common danger and calamity of the Church, to have unregenerate and inexperienced pastors…

…and to have so many men become preachers before they are Christians; who are sanctified by dedication to the altar as the priests of God, before they are sanctified by hearty dedication as the disciples of Christ; and so to worship an unknown God, and to preach an unknown Christ, to pray through an unknown Spirit, to recommend a state of holiness and communion with God, and a glory and a happiness which are all unknown, and like to be unknown to them forever. He is like to be but a heartless preacher, that hath not the Christ and grace that he preaches, in his heart. O that all our students in our universities would well consider this! What a poor business is it to themselves, to spend their time in acquiring some little knowledge of the works of God, and of some of those names which the divided tongues of the nations have imposed on them, and not to know God himself, nor exalt him in their hearts, nor to be acquainted with that one renewing work that should make them happy!

They do but ‘walk in a vain show’

…and spend their lives like dreaming men, while they busy their wits and tongue about abundance of names and notions, and are strangers to God and the life of saints. If ever God awaken them by his saving grace, they will have cogitations and employments so much more serious than their unsanctified studies and disputations, that they will confess they did but dream before. A world of business they make themselves about nothing, while they are wilful strangers to the primitive, independent, necessary Being, who is all in all. Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than nonsense. He who overlooks him who is the ‘Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,’ and sees not him in all who is the All of all, doth see nothing at all. All creatures, as such, are broken syllables; they signify nothing as separated from God.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Richard Baxter (12 November 1615 – 8 December 1691) was an English Puritan church leader, poet, hymn-writer, theologian, and controversialist. Dean Stanley called him “the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen”. After some false starts, he made his reputation by his ministry at Kidderminster, and at around the same time began a long and prolific career as theological writer. After the Restoration he refused preferment, while retaining a non-separatist Presbyterian approach, and became one of the most influential leaders of the nonconformists, spending time in prison.

Righteousness by the Law ?

Written by Robert Trail.
Adapted from  6 Sermons on Galatians 
Edited for thought and sense.

tenCommandmentsB“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.   But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—…”  Romans 3:19-21 ESV

He that seeks righteousness by the law, is a man that never saw his need of grace…

…and you may be well assured that man will frustrate the grace of God, who never saw his utter need of it. He was never so far emptied, but he expects and imagines that he shall be able to work out a righteousness for himself, and so is not brought under any conviction of his utter need of the grace of God; whereas he that is for the grace of God in Christ alone, is a man that hath a great need of the grace of God, and sees himself undone without it.

This self-righteous man sees no glory in the grace of God shining through the righteousness of Christ…

…there is no excellency in it to him. Every natural man is in this mind; he sees a great deal of glory in his own doings: in a beautiful conversation, in brave gifts, and in a shining walk before men; he sees a great deal of beauty and glory here. Every natural man thinks there is a great deal of glory in his own performances. The self-righteous Pharisee came boasting in his own performances; “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican: I fast twice a week, and I give tithes of all that I possess,” (Luke 18:11, 12). These were great things in the man’s esteem, and so they are in the eyes of every natural man. But for that righteousness that is lodged in Christ, that is wrought out by a man without him, by one that came down from heaven, and is gone up thither again; that hath all this righteousness seated in him, and gives it forth to us by mere grace; no natural man thinks any thing of this. But the believer is a man that hath a high esteem of the righteousness of Christ. How doth the apostle Paul speak of this? “I count all things but dung, that I may win Christ; and be found in him, not having on mine own righteousness,” (Phil. 3:8, 9).

Every natural man is averse from the grace of God…

…and therefore he must needs frustrate the grace of God. He is averse from it: but every believer is just of another mind. Sirs, if all men’s hearts were known to us, as they are to God, here is one thing that would determine every man’s state, What way do you best like to go to heaven in? “I would gladly be very holy,” saith the poor man, “that I may be very happy when I die.” Saith the believer, “I would gladly be clothed with Christ’s righteousness, and get eternal life as the gift of his grace; and I know that by being in Christ I shall be sanctified.”

But no believer seeks sanctification as his righteousness, and title to glory…

…it is a preparation for glory, and the way that leads to glory, to all them that are saved according to that blessed method, “Whom he justified, them he also glorified,” (Rom. 8:30); and by glorification there, both sanctification and eternal life are well understood by most.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Robert Trail (1642–1716), Presbyterian divine, was born at Elie in Fifeshire in 1642. His father, Robert (1603–1678), was son of Colonel James Trail of Killcleary in Ireland, and grandson of Trail of Blebo in Fifeshire. He became chaplain to Archibald Campbell, first marquis of Argyll [q.v.], and in 1639 was presented to Elie. He was translated to the Greyfriars church, Edinburgh, in 1648, and became a zealous Covenanter. In 1644 he was a chaplain with the Scottish army in England, and was present at the battle of Marston Moor. He was one of the ministers who visited the Marquis of Montrose in prison and attended him on the scaffold. He afterwards joined the protesters, and was one of the party who reminded Charles II at the Restoration of his obligation to keep the covenants, for which he was banished for life. He sailed for Holland in March 1662–3, but returned to Edinburgh, where he died on 12 July 1678. A portrait of him is given in Smith’s ‘Iconographia Scoticana’ (Hew Scott, Fasti, i. 40–1, and authorities there cited). He left an autobiography in manuscript. He married, on 23 Dec. 1639, Jean Annand, daughter of the laird of Auctor-Ellon, Aberdeenshire. She was imprisoned in June 1665 for corresponding with her exiled husband.
Robert Trail’s early education was carefully superintended by his father, and at the university of Edinburgh he distinguished himself both in the literary and theological classes. At the age of nineteen he stood beside James Guthrie, his father’s friend, on the scaffold. He was for some time tutor or chaplain in the family of Scot of Scotstarvet, and was afterwards much with John Welch, the minister of Irongray, who was the first to hold ‘armed conventicles.’ In a proclamation of 1667 he was denounced as a ‘Pentland rebel’ and excepted from the act of indemnity. It is uncertain whether he was present at that engagement or not; but he fled to Holland, where he joined his father and other Scottish exiles. There he continued his theological studies, and assisted Nethenius, professor at Utrecht, in preparing for the press S. Rutherford’s ‘Examen Arminianismi.’ In 1669 he was in London, and in 1670 was ordained to a presbyterian charge at Cranbrook in Kent. He visited Edinburgh in 1677, when he was arrested by the privy council and charged with breaking the law. He admitted that he had preached in private houses, but, refusing to purge himself by oath from the charge of taking part in holding conventicles, he was sent as a prisoner to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. Having given a promise which satisfied the government, he was liberated a few months afterwards and returned to his charge in Kent. He afterwards migrated to a Scots church in London, where he spent the rest of his life.
In 1682 he published a sermon, ‘By what means can ministers best win souls?’ and in 1692 a letter to a minister in the country—supposed to be his eldest brother, William (1640–1714), minister of Borthwick, Midlothian—entitled ‘A Vindication of the Protestant Doctrine concerning Justification and of its Preachers and Professors from the unjust Charge of Antinomianism.’ This ‘angry letter,’ as Dr. Calamy calls it, was occasioned by the violent controversy which broke out among the dissenting ministers of London after the republication in 1690 of the works of Dr. Tobias Crisp. Charges of Antinomianism were made on the one side and of Arminianism on the other, and Trail was distinguished for his zeal against Arminianism. A somewhat similar controversy followed in Scotland, and as Boston of Ettrick and others took the same side as Trail, his works became very popular among them and their adherents. He afterwards published ‘Sermons on the Throne of Grace from Heb. 4:16Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)’ (3rd edit. 1731), and ‘Sermons on the Prayer of Our Saviour, John 17:24Open in Logos Bible Software (if available).’ These works were devout, plain, and edifying, and were in great favour with those who were attached to evangelical religion.
Trail died unmarried on 16 May 1716 at the age of seventy-four. His brother William, the minister of Borthwick, has had many clerical descendants of note, both in the church of Scotland and in the church of Ireland—among the latter James, bishop of Down and Connor (Hew Scott, Fasti, i. 266).

Character excerpts from Wikipedia