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darkness into light. Which of the promises have been of such help to you? Over what Scriptures have you ever cried out: Oh, how good a thing it is for God to send me His word! Which are the biggest words in all the Bible to you? To what promise did you ever flounce as a horse flounces when he is sticking in the mire? And has any word of God so made God your God that even death itself, since it alone separates you from His presence, is lovely and beautiful in your eyes? Have you a cluster of such keys in your bosom? If you have, take them all out to-night and go over them again with thanksgiving before you sleep.


‘I will give you pastors after Mine own heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.’

The Delectable Mountains rise out of the heart of Immanuel’s Land. This fine range of far-rolling hills falls away on the one side toward the plain of Destruction, and on the other side toward the land of Beulah and the Celestial City, and the way to the Celestial City runs like a bee-line over these well-watered pastures. Standing on a clear day on the highest peak of the Delectable Mountains, if you have good eyes you can see the hill Difficulty in the far-back distance with a perpetual mist clinging to its base and climbing up its sides, which mist the shepherds say to you rises all the year round off the Slough of Despond, while, beyond that again the heavy smoke of the city of Destruction and the town of Stupidity shuts in the whole horizon. And then, when you turn your back on all that, in favourable states of the weather you can see here and there the shimmer of that river over which there is no bridge; and, then again, so high above the river that it seems to be a city standing in heaven rather than upon the earth, you will see the high towers and shining palace roofs and broad battlements of the New Jerusalem itself. The two travellers should have spent the past three days among the sights of the Delectable Mountains; and they would have done so had not the elder traveller misled the younger. But now that they were set free and fairly on the right road again, the way they had spent the past three days and three nights made the gardens and the orchards and the pastures that ran round the bottom and climbed up the sides of the Delectable Mountains delectable beyond all description to them.

Now, there were on the tops of those mountains certain shepherds feeding their flocks, and they stood by the highway side. The two travellers therefore went up to the shepherds, and leaning upon their staves (as is common with weary travellers when they stand to talk with any by the way), they asked: Whose delectable mountains are these? and whose be the sheep that feed upon them? These mountains, replied the shepherds, are Immanuel’s Land, and they are within sight of the city; the sheep also are His, and He laid down His life for them. After some more talk like this by the wayside, the shepherds, being pleased with the pilgrims, looked very lovingly upon them and said: Welcome to the Delectable Mountains. The shepherds then, whose names were Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere, took them by the hand to lead them to their tents, and made them partake of what was ready at present. They said, moreover: We would that you should stay with us a while to be acquainted with us, and yet more to solace yourselves with the cheer of these Delectable Mountains. Then the travellers told them they were content to stay; and so they went to rest that night because it was now very late. The four shepherds lived all summer- time in a lodge of tents well up among their sheep, while their wives and families had their homes all the year round in the land of Beulah. The four men formed a happy fraternity, and they worked among and watched over their Master’s sheep with one united mind. What one of those shepherds could not so well do in the tent or in the fold or out on the hillside, some of the others better did. And what one of them could do to any perfection all the others by one consent left that to him to do. You would have thought that they were made by a perfect miracle to fit into one another, so harmoniously did they live and work together, and such was the bond of brotherly love that held them together. At the same time, there was one of the happy quaternity who, from his years on the hills, and his services in times of trial and danger, and one thing and another, fell always, and with the finest humility too, into the foremost place, and his name, as you have already heard, was Knowledge. Old Mr. Know-all the children in the villages below ran after him and named him as they clustered round his staff and hid in the great folds of his shepherd’s coat.

Now, in all this John Bunyan speaks as a child to children; but, of such children as John Bunyan and his readers is the kingdom of heaven. My very youngest hearer here to-night knows quite well, or, at any rate, shrewdly suspects, that Knowledge was not a shepherd going about with his staff among woolly sheep; nor would the simplest-minded reader of John Bunyan’s book go to seek the Delectable Mountains and Immanuel’s Land in any geographer’s atlas, or on any schoolroom map. Oh, no. I do not need to stop to tell the most guileless of my hearers that old Knowledge was not a shepherd whose sheep were four-footed creatures, but a minister of the gospel, whose sheep are men, women, and children. Nor are the Delectable Mountains any range of hills and valleys of grass and herbs in England or Scotland. The prophet Ezekiel calls them the mountains of Israel; but by that you all know that he had in his mind something far better than any earthly mountain. That prophet of Israel had in his mind the church of God with its synagogues and its sacraments, with all the grace and truth that all these things conveyed from God to the children of Israel. As David also sang in the twenty-third Psalm: ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.’

Knowledge, then, is a minister; but every congregation has not such a minister set over it as Knowledge is. All our college-bred and ordained men are not ministers like Knowledge. This excellent minister takes his excellent name from his great talents and his great attainments. And while all his great talents are his Master’s gift to him, his great attainments are all his own to lay out in his Master’s service. To begin with, his Master had given His highly-favoured servant a good understanding and a good memory, and many good and suitable opportunities. Now, a good understanding is a grand endowment for a minister, and his ministerial office will all his days afford him opportunity for the best understanding he can bring to it. The Christian ministry, first and last, has had a noble roll of men of a strong understanding. The author of the book now open before us was a man of a strong understanding. John Bunyan had a fine imagination, with great gifts of eloquent, tender, and most heart-winning utterance, but in his case also all that was bottomed in a strong English understanding. Then, again, a good memory is indispensable to a minister of knowledge. You must be content to take a second, a third, or even a lower place still if your Master has withheld from you a good memory. Dr. Goodwin has a passage on this point that I have often turned up when I had again forgotten it. ‘Thou mayest have a weak memory, perhaps, yet if it can and doth remember good things as well and better than other things, then it is a sanctified memory, and the defilement of thy memory is healed though the imperfection of it is not; and, though thou art to be humbled for it as a misery, yet thou art not to be discouraged; for God doth not hate thee for it, but pities thee; and the like holds good and may be said as to the want of other like gifts.’ You cannot be a man of a commanding knowledge anywhere, and you must be content to take a very subordinate and second place, even in the ministry, unless you have both a good understanding and a good memory; but then, at the last day your Master will not call you and your congregation to an account for what He has not committed to your stewardship. And on that day that will be something. But not only must ministers of knowledge have a good mind and a good memory; they must also be the most industrious of men. Other men may squander and kill their time as they please, but a minister had as good kill himself at once out of the way of better men unless he is to hoard his hours like gold and jewels. He must read only the best books, and he must read them with the ‘pain of attention.’ He must read nothing that is not the best. He has not the time. And if he is poor and remote and has not many books, he will have Butler, and let him read Butler’s Preface to his Sermons till he has it by heart. The best books are always few, and they must be read over and over again when other men are reading the ‘great number of books and papers of amusement that come daily in their way, and which most perfectly fall in with their idle way of reading and considering things.’ And, then, such a minister must store up what he reads, if not in a good memory, then in some other pigeon-hole that he has made for himself outside of himself, since his Master has not seen fit to furnish him with such a repository within himself. And, then, after all that,–for a good minister is not made yet,–understanding and memory and industry must all be sanctified by secret prayer many times every day, and then laid out every day in the instruction, impression, and comfort of his people. And, then, that privileged people will be as happy in possessing that man for their minister as the sheep of Immanuel’s Land were in having Knowledge set over them for their shepherd. They will never look up without being fed. They will every Sabbath-day be led by green pastures and still waters. And when they sing of the mercies of the Lord to them and to their children, and forget not all His benefits, among the best of their benefits they will not forget to hold up and bless their minister.

But, then, there is, nowadays, so much sound knowledge to be gained, not to speak of so many books and papers of mere pastime and amusement, that it may well be asked by a young man who is to be a minister whether he is indeed called to be like that great student who took all knowledge for his province. Yes, indeed, he is. For, if the minister and interpreter of nature is to lay all possible knowledge under contribution, what must not the minister of Jesus Christ and the interpreter of Scripture and providence and experience and the human heart be able to make the sanctified use of? Yes, all kinds and all degrees of knowledge, to be called knowledge, belong by right and obligation to his office who is the minister and interpreter of Him Who made all things, Who is the Heir of all things, and by Whom all things consist. At the same time, since the human mind has its limits, and since human life has its limits, a minister of all men must make up his mind to limit himself to the best knowledge; the knowledge, that is, that chiefly concerns him,–the knowledge of God so far as God has made Himself known, and the knowledge of Christ. He must be a student of his Bible night and day and all his days. If he has not the strength of understanding and memory to read his Bible easily in the original Hebrew and Greek, let him all the more make up for that by reading it the oftener and the deeper in English. Let him not only read his Bible deeply for his sermons and prayers, lectures and addresses, let him do that all day every day of the week, and then read it all night, and every night of the week, for his own soul. Let every minister know his Bible down to the bottom, and with his Bible his own heart. He who so knows his Bible and with it his own heart has almost books enough. All else is but ostentatious apparatus. When a minister has neither understanding nor memory wherewith to feed his flock, let him look deep enough into his Bible and into his own heart, and then begin out of them to write and speak. And, then, for the outside knowledge of the passing day he will read the newspapers, and though he gives up all the morning to the newspapers, and returns to them again in the evening, his conscience will not upbraid him if he reads as Jonathan Edwards read the newsletters of his day,–to see how the kingdom of heaven is prospering in the earth, and to pray for its prosperity. And, then, by that time, and when he has got that length, all other kinds of knowledge will have fallen into its own place, and will have taken its own proper proportion of his time and his thought. He was a man of a great understanding and a great memory and great industry who said that he had taken all knowledge for his province. But he was a far wiser man who said that knowledge is not our proper happiness. Our province, he went on to say, is virtue and religion, life and manners: the science of improving the temper and making the heart better. This is the field assigned us to cultivate: how much it has lain neglected is indeed astonishing.

Now, my brethren, two dangers, two simply terrible dangers, arise to every one of you out of all this matter of your ministers and their knowledge. 1. The first danger is,–to be frank with you on this subject,–that you are yourselves so ignorant on all the matters that a minister has to do with, that you do not know one minister from another, a good minister from one who is really no minister at all. Now, I will put it to you, on what principle and for what reason did you choose your present minister, if, indeed, you did choose him? Was it because you were assured by people you could trust that he was a minister of knowledge and knew his own business? Or was it that when you went to worship with him for yourself you have not been able ever since to tear yourself away from him, nor has any one else been able to tear you away, though some have tried? When you first came to the city, did you give, can you remember, some real anxiety, rising sometimes into prayer, as to who your minister among so many ministers was to be? Or did you choose him and your present seat in his church because of some real or supposed worldly interest of yours you thought you could further by taking your letter of introduction to him? Had you heard while yet at home, had your father and mother talked of such things to you, that rich men, and men of place and power, political men and men high in society, sat in that church and took notice of who attended it and who did not? Do you, down to this day, know one church from another so far as spiritual and soul-saving knowledge is concerned? Do you know that two big buildings, called churches, may stand in the same street, and have men, called ministers, carrying on certain services in them from week to week, and yet, for all the purposes for which Christ came and died and rose again and gave ministers to His church, these two churches and their ministers are farther asunder than the two poles? Do you understand what I am saying? Do you understand what I have been saying all night, or are you one of those of whom the prophet speaks in blame and in pity as being destroyed for lack of knowledge? Well, that is your first danger, that you are so ignorant, and as a consequence, so careless, as not to know one minister from another.

2. And your second danger in connection with your minister is, that you have, and may have long had, a good minister, but that you still remain yourself a bad man. My brethren, be you all sure of it, there is a special and a fearful danger in having a specially good minister. Think twice, and make up your mind well, before you call a specially good minister, or become a communicant, or even an adherent under a specially good minister. If two bad men go down together to the pit, and the one has had a good minister, as, God have mercy on us, sometimes happens, and the other has only had one who had the name of a minister, the evangelised reprobate will lie in a deeper bed in hell, and will spend a more remorseful eternity on it than will the other. No man among you, minister or no minister, good minister or bad, will be able to sin with impunity. But he who sins on and on after good preaching will be beaten with many stripes. ‘Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you.’ ‘Thou that hast knowledge,’ says a powerful old preacher, ‘canst not sin so cheap as another that is ignorant. Places of much knowledge’–he was preaching in the university pulpit of Oxford–‘and plentiful in the means of grace are dear places for a man to sin in. To be drunken or unclean after a powerful sermon, and after the Holy Ghost has enlightened thee, is more than to have so sinned twenty times before. Thou mightest have sinned ten times more and been damned less. For does not Jesus Christ the Judge say to thee, This is thy condemnation, that so much light has come to thee?’ And, taking the then way of execution as a sufficiently awful illustration, the old Oxford Puritan goes on to say that to sin against light is the highest step of the ladder before turning off. And, again, that if there are worms in hell that die not, it is surely gospel light that breeds them.


‘My heart had great experience.’–The Preacher. ‘I will give them pastors after Mine own heart.’

Experience, the excellent shepherd of the Delectable Mountains, had a brother in the army, and he was an equally excellent soldier. The two brothers–they were twin-brothers–had been brought up together till they were grown-up men in the same town of Mansoul. All the Experience family, indeed, had from time immemorial hailed from that populous and important town, and their family tree ran away back beyond the oldest extant history. The two brothers, while in all other things as like as two twin-brothers could be, at the same time very early in life began to exhibit very different talents and tastes and dispositions; till, when we meet with them in their full manhood, the one is a soldier in the army and the other a shepherd on the Delectable Mountains. The soldier-brother is thus described in one of the military histories of his day: ‘A man of conduct and of valour, and a person prudent in matters. A comely person, moreover, well-spoken in negotiations, and very successful in undertakings. His colours were the white colours of Mansoul and his scutcheon was the dead lion and the dead bear.’

The shepherd-brother, on the other hand, is thus pictured out to us by one who has seen him. A traveller who has visited the Delectable Mountains, and has met and talked with the shepherds, thus describes Experience in his excellent itinerary: ‘Knowledge,’ he says, ‘I found to be the sage of the company, spare in build, high of forehead, worn in age, and his tranquil gait touched with abstractedness. While Experience was more firmly knit in form and face, with a shrewd kindly eye and a happy readiness in his bearing, and all his hard-earned wisdom evidently on foot within him as a capability for work and for control.’ This, then, was the second of the four shepherds, who fed Immanuel’s sheep on the Delectable Mountains.

But here again to-night, and in the case of Experience, just as last Sabbath night and in the case of Knowledge, in all this John Bunyan speaks to children,–only the children here are the children of the kingdom of heaven. The veriest child who reads the Delectable Mountains begins to suspect before he is done that Knowledge and Experience are not after all two real and true shepherds going their rounds with their staves and their wallets and their wheeling dogs. Yes, though the little fellow cannot put his suspicions into proper words for you, all the same he has his suspicions that he is being deceived by you and your Sabbath book; and, ten to one, from that sceptical day he will not read much more of John Bunyan till in after-life he takes up John Bunyan never for a single Sabbath again to lay him down. Yes, let the truth be told at once, Experience is simply a minister, and not a real shepherd at all; a minister of the gospel, a preacher, and a pastor; but, then, he is a preacher and a pastor of no ordinary kind, but of the selectest and very best kind.

1. Now, my brethren, to plunge at once out of the parable and into the interpretation, I observe, in the first place, that pastors who are indeed to be pastors after God’s own heart have all to pass into their pastorate through the school of experience. Preaching after God’s own heart, and pastoral work of the same divine pattern, cannot be taught in any other school than the school of experience. Poets may be born and not made, but not pastors nor preachers. Nay, do not all our best poets first learn in their sufferings what afterwards they teach us in their songs? At any rate, that is certainly the case with preachers and pastors. As my own old minister once said to me in a conversation on this very subject, ‘Even God Himself cannot inspire an experience.’ No. For if He could He would surely have done so in the case of His own Son, to Whom in the gift of the Holy Ghost He gave all that He could give and all that His Son could receive. But an experience cannot in the very nature of things be either bestowed on the one hand or received and appropriated on the other. An experience in the unalterable nature of the thing itself must be undergone. The Holy Ghost Himself after He has been bestowed and received has to be experimented upon, and taken into this and that need, trial, cross, and care of life. He is not sent to spare us our experiences, but to carry us through them. And thus it is (to keep for a moment in sight of the highest illustration we have of this law of experience), thus it is, I say, that the apostle has it in his Epistle to the Hebrews that though Christ Himself were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things that He suffered. And being by experience made perfect He then went on to do such and such things for us. Why, for instance, for one thing, why do you think was our Lord able to speak with such extraordinary point, impressiveness, and assurance about prayer; about the absolute necessity and certainty of secret, importunate, persevering prayer having, sooner or later, in one shape or other, and in the best possible shape, its answer? Why but because of His own experience? Why but because His own closet, hilltop, all-night, and up-before- the-day prayers had all been at last heard and better heard than He had been able to ask? We can quite well read between the lines in all our Lord’s parables and in all the passages of His sermons about prayer. The unmistakable traces of otherwise untold enterprises and successes, agonies and victories of prayer, are to be seen in every such sermon of His. And so, in like manner, in all that He says to His disciples about the sweetness of submission, resignation, and self-denial, as also about the nourishment for His soul that He got out of every hard act of obedience,–and so on. There is running through all our Lord’s doctrinal and homiletical teaching that note of reality and of certitude that can only come to any teaching out of the long and deep and intense experience of the teacher. And as the Master was, so are all His ministers. When I read, for instance, what William Law says about the heart-searching and heart-cleansing efficacy of intercessory prayer in the case of him who continues all his life so to pray, and carries such prayer through all the experiences and all the relationships of life, I do not need you to tell me where that great man of God made that great discovery. I know that he made it in his own closet, and on his own knees, and in his own evil heart. And so, also, when I come nearer home. Whenever I hear a single unconventional, immediate, penetrating, overawing petition or confession in a minister’s pulpit prayer or in his family worship, I do not need to be told out of what prayer-book he took that. I know without his telling me that my minister has been, all unknown to me till now, at that same school of prayer to which his Master was put in the days of His flesh, and out of which He brought the experiences that He afterwards put into the Friend at midnight, and the Importunate widow, as also into the Egg and the scorpion, the Bread and the stone, the Knocking and the opening, the Seeking and the finding.

His children thus most dear to Him,
Their heavenly Father trains,
Through all the hard experience led Of sorrows and of pains.

And if His children, then ten times more the tutors and governors of His children,–the pastors and the preachers He prepares for His people.

2. Again, though I will not put those two collegiate shepherds against one another, yet, in order to bring out the whole truth on this matter, I will risk so far as to say that where we cannot have both Knowledge and Experience, by all means let us have Experience. Yes, I declare to you that if I were choosing a minister for myself, and could not have both the book-knowledge and the experience of the Christian life in one and the same man; and could not have two ministers, one with all the talents and another with all the experiences; I would say that, much as I like an able and learned sermon from an able and learned man, I would rather have less learning and more experience. And, then, no wonder that such pastors and preachers are few. For how costly must a thoroughly good minister’s experience be to him! What a quantity and what a quality of experience is needed to take a raw, light-minded, ignorant, and self-satisfied youth and transform him into the pastor, the tried and trusted friend of the tempted, the sorrow- laden, and the shipwrecked hearts and lives in his congregation! What years and years of the selectest experiences are needed to teach the average divinity student to know himself, to track out and run to earth his own heart, and thus to lay open and read other men’s hearts to their self-deceived owners in the light of his own. A matter, moreover, that he gets not one word of help toward in all his college curriculum. David was able to say in his old age that he fed the flock of God in Israel according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands. But what years and years of shortcoming and failure in private and in public life lie behind that fine word ‘integrity’! as also what stumbles and what blunders behind that other fine word ‘skilfulness’! But, then, how a lightest touch of a preacher’s own dear-bought experience skilfully let fall brightens up an obscure scripture! How it sends a thrill through a prayer! How it wings an arrow to the conscience! How it sheds abroad balm upon the heart! Let no minister, then, lose heart when he is sent back to the school of experience. He knows in theory that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, but it is not theory, but experience, that makes a minister after God’s own heart. I sometimes wish that I may live to see a chair of Experimental Religion set up in all our colleges. I fear it is a dream, and that it must have been pronounced impracticable long ago by our wisest heads. Still, all the same, that does not prevent me from again and again indulging my dream. I indulge my fond dream again as often as I look back on my own tremendous mistakes in the management of my own personal and ministerial life, as well as sometimes see some signs of the same mistakes in some other ministers. In my dream for the Church of the future I see the programme of lectures in the Experimental Class and the accompanying examinations. I see the class library, and I envy the students. I am present at the weekly book-day, and at the periodical addresses delivered to the class by those town and country ministers who have been most skilful in their pastorate and most successful in the conversion and in the character of their people. And, unless I wholly deceive myself, I see, not all the class–that will never be till the millennium–but here and there twos and threes, and more men than that, who will throw their whole hearts into the work of such a class till they come out of the hall in experimental religion like Sir Proteus in the play:

Their years but young, but their experience old, Their heads unmellowed, but their judgment ripe.

It is quite true, that, as my old minister shrewdly said to me, even the Holy Ghost cannot inspire an experience. No. But a class of genuine experimental divinity would surely help to foster and develop an experience. And, till the class is established, any student who has the heart for it may lay in the best of the class library for a few shillings. Mr. Thin will tell you that there is no literature that is such a drug in the market as the best books of Experimental Divinity. No wonder, then, that we make such slow and short way in the skilfulness, success, and acceptance of our preaching and our pastorate.

3. But, at the same time, my brethren, all your ministers’ experience of personal religion will be lost upon you unless you are yourselves attending the same school. The salvation of the soul, you must understand, is not offered to ministers only. Ministers are not the only men who are, to begin with, dead in trespasses and sins. The Son of God did not die for ministers only. The Holy Ghost is not offered to ministers only. A clean, humble, holy heart is not to be the pursuit of ministers only. It is not to His ministers only that our Lord says, Take up My yoke and learn of Me. The daily cross is not the opportunity of ministers only. It is not to ministers only that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope. It was to all who had obtained like precious faith with their ministers that Peter issued this exhortation that they were to give all diligence to add to their faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience,–and so on. Now, my brethren, unless all that is on foot in yourselves, as well as in your ministers, then their progress in Christian experience will only every new Sabbath-day separate you and your ministers further and further away from one another. When a minister is really making progress himself in the life of religion that progress must come out, and ought to come out, both in his preaching and in his prayers. And, then, two results of all that will immediately begin to manifest themselves among his people. Some of his people will visibly, and still more will invisibly, make corresponding progress with their minister; while some others, alas! will fall off in interest, in understanding, and in sympathy till at last they drop off from his ministry altogether. That is an old law in the Church of God: ‘like people like priest,’ and ‘like priest like people.’ And while there are various influences at work retarding and perplexing the immediate operation of that law, at the same time, he who has eyes to see such things in a congregation and in a community will easily see Hosea’s great law of congregational selection in operation every day. Like people gradually gravitate to like preachers. You will see, if you have the eyes, congregations gradually dissolving and gradually being consolidated again under that great law. You will see friendships and families even breaking up and flying into pieces; and, again, new families and new friendships being built up on that very same law. If you were to study the session books of our city congregations in the light of that law, you would get instruction. If you just studied who lifted their lines, and why; and, again, what other people came and left their lines, and why, you would get instruction. The shepherds in Israel did not need to hunt up and herd their flocks like the shepherds in Scotland. A shepherd on the mountains of Israel had nothing more to do than himself pass up into the pasture lands and then begin to sing a psalm or offer a prayer, when, in an instant, his proper sheep were all round about him. The sheep knew their own shepherd’s voice, and they fled from the voice of a stranger. And so it is with a true preacher,–a preacher of experience, that is. His own people know no voice like his voice. He does not need to bribe and flatter and run after his people. He may have, he usually has, but few people as people go in our day, and the better the preacher sometimes the smaller the flock. It was so in our Master’s case. The multitude followed after the loaves but they fled from the feeding doctrines, till He first tasted that dejection and that sense of defeat which so many of His best servants are fed on in this world. Still, as our Lord did not tune His pulpit to the taste of the loungers of Galilee, no more will a minister worth the name do anything else but press deeper and deeper into the depths of truth and life, till, as was the case with his Master, his followers, though few, will be all the more worth having. The Delectable Mountains are wide and roomy. They roll far away both before and behind. Immanuel’s Land is a large place, and there are many other shepherds among those hills and valleys besides Knowledge and Experience and Watchful and Sincere. And each several shepherd has, on the whole, his own sheep. Knowledge has his; Experience has his; Watchful has his; and Sincere has his; and all the other here unnamed shepherds have all theirs also. For, always, like shepherd like sheep. Yes. Hosea must have been something in Israel somewhat analogous to a session-clerk among ourselves. ‘Like priest like people’ is certainly a digest of some such experience. Let some inquisitive beginner in Hebrew this winter search out the prophet upon that matter, consulting Mr. Hutcheson and Dr. Pusey, and he will let me hear the result.

4. Now, my brethren, in closing, we must all keep it clearly before our minds, and that too every day we live, that God orders and overrules this whole world, and, indeed, keeps it going very much just that He may by means of it make unceasing experiment upon His people. Experiment, you know, results in experience. There is no other way by which any man can attain to a religious experience but by undergoing temptation, trial, tribulation:- experiment. And it gives a divine dignity to all things, great and small, good and bad, when we see them all taken up into God’s hand, in order that by means of them He may make for Himself an experienced people. Human life on this earth, when viewed under this aspect, is one vast workshop. And all the shafts and wheels and pulleys; all the crushing hammers, and all the whirling knives; all the furnaces and smelting-pots; all the graving tools and smoothing irons, are all so many divinely-designed and divinely-worked instruments all directed in upon this one result,–our being deeply experienced in the ways of God till we are for ever fashioned into His nature and likeness. Our faith in the unseen world and in our unseen God and Saviour is at one time put to the experiment. At another time it is our love to Him; the reality of it, and the strength of it. At another time it is our submission and our resignation to His will. At another time it is our humility, or our meekness, or our capacity for self-denial, or our will and ability to forgive an injury, or our perseverance in still unanswered prayer; and so on the ever-shifting but never-ceasing experiment goes. I do beseech you, my brethren, take that true view of life home with you again this night. This true view of life, namely, that experience in the divine life can only come to you through your being much experimented upon. Meet all your trials and tribulations and temptations, then, under this assurance, that all things will work together for good to you also if you are only rightly exercised by means of them. Nothing else but this growing experience and this settling assurance will be able to support you under the sudden ills of life; but this will do it. This, when you begin by experience to see that all this life, and all the good and all the ill of this life, are all under this splendid divine law,–that your tribulations also are indeed working within you a patience, and your patience an experience, and your experience a hope that maketh not ashamed.


‘Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel.’–The word of the Lord to Ezekiel.

‘They watch for your souls.’–The Apostle to the Hebrews.

There were four shepherds who had the care of Immanuel’s sheep on the Delectable Mountains, and their names were Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere. Now, in that very beautiful episode of his great allegory, John Bunyan is doing his very utmost to impress upon all his ministerial readers how much there is that goes to the making of a good minister, and how much every good minister has to do. Each several minister must do all that in him lies, from the day of his ordination to the day of his death, to be all to his people that those four shepherds were to Immanuel’s sheep. He is to labour, in season and out of season, to be a minister of the ripest possible knowledge, the deepest and widest possible experience, the most sleepless watchfulness, and the most absolute and scrupulous sincerity. Now, enough has perhaps been said already about a minister’s knowledge and his experience; enough, certainly, and more than enough for some of us to hope half to carry out; and, therefore, I shall at once go on to take up Watchful, and to supply, so far as I am able, the plainest possible interpretation of this part of Bunyan’s parable.

1. Every true minister, then, watches, in the words of the apostle, for the souls of his people. An ordinary minister’s everyday work embraces many duties and offers many opportunities, but through all his duties and through all his opportunities there runs this high and distinctive duty of watching for the souls of his people. A minister may be a great scholar, he may have taken all sacred learning for his province, he may be a profound and a scientific theologian, he may be an able church leader, he may be a universally consulted authority on ecclesiastical law, he may be a skilful and successful debater in church courts, he may even be a great pulpit orator, holding thousands entranced by his impassioned eloquence; but a true successor of the prophets of the Old Testament and of the apostles of the New Testament he is not, unless he watches for the souls of men. All these endowments, and all these occupations, right and necessary as, in their own places, they all are,–great talents, great learning, great publicity, great popularity,–all tend, unless they are taken great care of, to lead their possessors away from all time for, and from all sympathy with, the watchfulness of the New Testament minister. Watching over a flock brings to you none of the exhilaration of authority and influence, none of the intoxication of publicity and applause. Your experiences are the quite opposite of all these things when you are watching over your flock. Your work among your flock is all done in distant and lonely places, on hillsides, among woods and thickets, and in cloudy and dark days. You spend your strength among sick and dying and wandering sheep, among wolves and weasels, and what not, of that verminous kind. At the same time, all good pastors are not so obscure and forgotten as all that. Some exceptionally able and exceptionally devoted and self- forgetful men manage to combine both extremes of a minister’s duties and opportunities in themselves. Our own Sir Henry Moncreiff was a pattern pastor. There was no better pastor in Edinburgh in his day than dear Sir Henry was; and yet, at the same time, everybody knows what an incomparable ecclesiastical casuist Sir Henry was. Mr. Moody, again, is a great preacher, preaching to tens of thousands of hearers at a time; but, at the same time, Mr. Moody is one of the most skilful and attentive pastors that ever took individual souls in hand and kept them over many years in mind. But these are completely exceptional men, and what I want to say to commonplace and limited and everyday men like myself is this, that watching for the souls of our people, one by one, day in and day out,–that, above everything else, that, and nothing else,- -makes any man a pastor of the apostolic type. An able man may know all about the history, the habitat, the various species, the breeds, the diseases, and the prices of sheep, and yet be nothing at all of a true shepherd. And so may a minister.

2. Pastoral visitation, combined with personal dealing, is by far the best way of watching for souls. I well remember when I first began my ministry in this congregation, how much I was impressed with what one of the ablest and best of our then ministers was reported to have testified on his deathbed. Calling back to his bedside a young minister who had come to see him, the dying man said: ‘Prepare for the pulpit; above everything else you do, prepare for the pulpit. Let me again repeat it, should it at any time stand with you between visiting a death-bed and preparing for the pulpit, prepare for the pulpit.’ I was immensely impressed with that dying injunction when it was repeated to me, but I have lived,–I do not say to put my preparation for the pulpit, such as it is, second to my more pastoral work in my week’s thoughts, but– to put my visiting in the very front rank and beside my pulpit. ‘We never were accustomed to much visiting,’ said my elders to me in their solicitude for their young minister when he was first left alone with this whole charge; ‘only appear in your own pulpit twice on Sabbath: keep as much at home as possible: we were never used to much visiting, and we do not look for it.’ Well, that was most kindly intended; but it was much more kind than wise. For I have lived to learn that no congregation will continue to prosper, or, if other more consolidated and less exacting congregations, at any rate not this congregation, without constant pastoral attention. And remember, I do not complain of that. Far, far from that. For I am as sure as I am of anything connected with a minister’s life, that a minister’s own soul will prosper largely in the measure that the souls of his people prosper through his pastoral work. No preaching, even if it were as good preaching as the apostle’s itself, can be left to make up for the neglect of pastoral visitation and personal intercourse. ‘I taught you from house to house,’ says Paul himself, when he was resigning the charge of the church of Ephesus into the hands of the elders of Ephesus. What would we ministers not give for a descriptive report of an afternoon’s house-to-house visitation by the Apostle Paul! Now in a workshop, now at a sickbed, now with a Greek, now with a Jew, and, in every case, not discussing politics and cursing the weather, not living his holidays over again and hearing of all the approaching marriages, but testifying to all men in his own incomparably winning and commanding way repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. We city ministers call out and complain that we have no time to visit our people in their own houses; but that is all subterfuge. If the whole truth were told about the busiest of us, it is not so much want of time as want of intention; it is want of set and indomitable purpose to do it; it is want of method and of regularity such as all business men must have; and it is want, above all, of laying out every hour of every day under the Great Taskmaster’s eye. Many country ministers again,–we, miserable men that we are, are never happy or well placed,–complain continually that their people are so few, and so scattered, and so ignorant, and so uninteresting, and so unresponsive, that it is not worth their toil to go up and down in remote places seeking after them. It takes a whole day among bad roads and wet bogs to visit a shepherd’s wife and children, and two or three bothies and pauper’s hovels on the way home. ‘On the morrow,’ so runs many an entry in Thomas Boston’s Memoirs, ‘I visited the sick, and spent the afternoon in visiting others, and found gross ignorance prevailing. Nothing but stupidity prevailed; till I saw that I had enough to do among my handful. I had another diet of catechising on Wednesday afternoon, and the discovery I made of the ignorance of God and of themselves made me the more satisfied with the smallness of my charge . . . Twice a year I catechised the parish, and once a year I visited their families. My method of visitation was this. I made a particular application of my doctrine in the pulpit to the family, exhorted them all to lay all these things to heart, exhorted them also to secret prayer, supposing they kept family worship, urged their relative duties upon them,’ etc. etc. And then at his leaving Ettrick, he writes: ‘Thus I parted with a people whose hearts were knit to me and mine to them. The last three or four years had been much blessed, and had been made very comfortable to me, not in respect of my own handful only, but others of the countryside also.’ Jonathan Edwards called Thomas Boston ‘that truly great divine.’ I am not such a judge of divinity as Jonathan Edwards was, but I always call Boston to myself that truly great pastor. But my lazy and deceitful heart says to me: No praise to Boston, for he lived and did his work in the quiet Forest of Ettrick. True, so he did. Well, then, look at the populous and busy town of Kidderminster. And let me keep continually before my abashed conscience that hard- working corpse Richard Baxter. Absolutely on the same page on which that dying man enters diseases and medicines enough to fill a doctor’s diary after a whole day in an incurable hospital, that noble soul goes on to say: ‘I preached before the wars twice each Lord’s Day, but after the wars but once, and once every Thursday, besides occasional sermons. Every Thursday evening my neighbours that were most desirous, and had opportunity, met at my house. Two days every week my assistant and I myself took fourteen families between us for private catechising and conference; he going through the parish, and the town coming to me. I first heard them recite the words of the Catechism, and then examined them about the sense, and lastly urged them, with all possible engaging reason and vehemency, to answerable affection and practice. If any of them were stalled through ignorance or bashfulness, I forbore to press them, but made them hearers, and turned all into instruction and exhortation. I spent about an hour with a family, and admitted no others to be present, lest bashfulness should make it burdensome, or any should talk of the weakness of others.’ And then he tells how his people’s necessity made him practise physic among them, till he would have twenty at his door at once. ‘All these my employments were but my recreations, and, as it were, the work of my spare hours. For my writings were my chiefest daily labour. And blessed be the God of mercies that brought me from the grave and gave me, after wars and sickness, fourteen years’ liberty in such sweet employment!’ Let all ministers who would sit at home over a pipe and a newspaper with a quiet conscience keep Boston’s Memoirs and Baxter’s Reliquiae at arm’s-length.

3. Our young communicants’ classes, and still more, those private interviews that precede and finish up our young communicants’ classes, are by far our best opportunities as pastors. I remember Dr. Moody Stuart telling me long ago that he had found his young communicants’ classes to be the most fruitful opportunities of all his ministry; as, also, next to them, times of baptism in families. And every minister who tries to be a minister at all after Dr. Moody Stuart’s pattern, will tell you something of the same thing. They get at the opening history of their young people’s hearts before their first communion. They make shorthand entries and secret memoranda at such a season like this: ‘A. a rebuke to me. He had for long been astonished at me that I did not speak to him about his soul. B. traced his conversion to the singing of ‘The sands of time are sinking’ in this church last summer. C. was spoken to by a room-mate. D. was to be married, and she died. Of E. I have great hope. F., were she anywhere but at home, I would have great hopes of her,’–and so on. But, then, when a minister takes boldness to turn over the pages of his young communicants’ roll for half a lifetime–ah me, ah me! What was I doing to let that so promising communicant go so far astray, and I never to go after him? And that other. And that other. And that other. Till we can read no more. O God of mercy, when Thou inquirest after blood, let me be hidden in the cleft of that Rock so deeply cleft for unwatchful ministers!

4. And then, as Dr. Joseph Parker says, who says everything so plainly and so powerfully: ‘There is pastoral preaching as well as pastoral visitation. There is pastoral preaching; rich revelation of divine truth; high, elevating treatment of the Christian mysteries; and he is the pastor to me who does not come to my house to drink and smoke and gossip and show his littleness, but who, out of a rich experience, meets me with God’s word at every turn of my life, and speaks the something to me that I just at that moment want.’ Let us not have less pastoral visitation in the time to come, but let us have more and more of such pastoral preaching.

5. But, my brethren, it is time for you, as John said to the elect lady and her children, to look to yourselves. The salvation of your soul is precious, and its salvation is such a task, such a battle, such a danger, and such a risk, that it will take all that your most watchful minister can do, and all that you can do yourself, and all that God can do for you, and yet your soul will scarcely be saved after all. You do not know what salvation is nor what it costs. You will not be saved in your sleep. You will not waken up at the last day and find yourself saved by the grace of God and you not know it. You will know it to your bitter cost before your soul is saved from sin and death. You and your minister too. And therefore it is that He Who is to judge your soul at last says to you, as much as He says it to any of His ministers, Watch! What I say unto one I say unto all, Watch. Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. Look to yourself, then, sinner. In Christ’s name, look to yourself and watch yourself. You have no enemy to fear but yourself. No one can hurt a hair of your head but yourself. Have you found that out? Have you found yourself out? Do you ever look in the direction of your own heart? Have you begun to watch what goes on in your own heart? What is it to you what goes on in the world around you compared with what goes on in the world within you? Look, then, to yourself. Watch, above all watching, yourself. Watch what it is that moves you to do this or that. Stop sometimes and ask yourself why you do such and such a thing. Did you ever hear of such a thing as a motive in a human heart? And did your minister, watching for your soul, ever tell you that your soul will be lost or saved, condemned or justified at the last day according to your motives? You never knew that! You were never told that by your minister! Miserable pair! What does he take up his Sabbaths with? And what leads you to waste your Sabbaths and your soul on such a stupid minister? But, shepherd or no shepherd, minister or no minister, look to yourself. Look to yourself when you lie down and when you rise up; when you go out and when you come in; when you are in the society of men and when you are alone with your own heart. Look to yourself when men praise you, and look to yourself when men blame you. Look to yourself when you sit down to eat and drink, and still more when you sit and speak about your absent brother. Look to yourself when you meet your enemy or your rival in the street, when you pass his house, or hear or read his name. Yes, you may well say so. At that rate a man’s life would be all watching. So it would. And so it must. And more than that, so it is with some men not far from you who never told you how much you have made them watch. Did you never know all that till now? Were you never told that every Christian man, I do not mean every communicant, but every truly and sincerely and genuinely Christian man watches himself in that way? For as the one essential and distinguishing mark of a New Testament minister is not that he is an able man, or a studious man, or an eloquent man, but that he is a pastor and watches for souls, so it is the chiefest and the best mark, and to himself the only safe and infallible mark, that any man is a sincere and true Christian man, that he watches himself always and in all things looks first and last to himself.


‘In all things showing sincerity.’–Paul to Titus.

Charles Bennett has a delightful drawing of Sincere in Charles Kingsley’s beautiful edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress. You feel that you could look all day into those clear eyes. Your eyes would begin to quail before you had looked long into the fourth shepherd’s deep eyes; but those eyes of his have no cause to quail under yours. This man has nothing to hide from you. He never had. He loves you, and his love to you is wholly without dissimulation. He absolutely and unreservedly means and intends by you and yours all that he has ever said to you and yours, and much more than he has ever been able to say. The owner of those deep blue eyes is as true to you when he is among your enemies as he is true to the truth itself when he is among your friends. Mark also the unobtrusive strength of his mouth, all suffused over as it is with a most winning and reassuring sweetness. The fourth shepherd of the Delectable Mountains is one of the very best of Bennett’s excellent portraits. But Mr. Kerr Bain’s pen-and-ink portrait of Sincere in his People of the Pilgrimage is even better than Bennett’s excellent drawing. ‘Sincere is softer in outline and feature than Watchful. His eye is full-open and lucid, with a face of mingled expressiveness and strength–a lovable, lowly, pure- spirited man–candid, considerate, willing, cheerful–not speaking many words, and never any but true words.’ Happy sheep that have such a shepherd! Happy people! if only any people in the Church of Christ could have such a pastor.

It is surely too late, too late or too early, to begin to put tests to a minister’s sincerity after he has been licensed and called and is now standing in the presence of his presbytery and surrounded with his congregation. It is a tremendous enough question to put to any man at any time: ‘Are not zeal for the honour of God, love to Jesus Christ, and desire of saving souls your great motives and chief inducement to enter into the function of the holy ministry?’ A man who does not understand what it is you are saying to him will just make the same bow to these awful words that he makes to all your other conventional questions. But the older he grows in his ministry, and the more he comes to discover the incurable plague of his own heart, and with that the whole meaning and full weight of your overwhelming words, the more will he shrink back from having such questions addressed to him. Fools will rush in where Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Peter and Paul feared to set their foot. Paul was to be satisfied if only he was let do the work of a minister all his days and then was not at the end made a castaway. And yet, writing to the same church, Paul says that his sincerity among them had been such that he could hold up his ministerial life like spotless linen between the eye of his conscience and the sun. But all that was written and is to be read and understood as Paul’s ideal that he had honestly laboured after, rather than as an actual attainment he had arrived at. Great as Paul’s attainments were in humility, in purity of intention, and in simplicity and sincerity of heart, yet the mind of Christ was not so given even to His most gifted apostle, that he could seriously say that he had attained to such utter ingenuity, simplicity, disengagement from himself, and surrender to Christ, as to be able to face the sun with a spotless ministry. All he ever says at his boldest and best on that great matter is to be read in the light of his universal law of personal and apostolic imperfection–Not that I have attained, either am already perfect; but I follow after. And blessed be God that this is all that He looks for in any of His ministers, that they follow all their days after a more and more godly sincerity. It was the apostle’s love of absolute sincerity,–and, especially, it was his bitter hatred of all the remaining dregs of insincerity that he from time to time detected in his own heart,–it was this that gave him his good conscience before a God of pity and compassion, truth and grace. And with something of the same love of perfect sincerity, accompanied with something of the same hatred of insincerity and of ourselves on account of it, we, too, toward this same God of pity and compassion, will hold up a conscience that would fain be a good conscience. And till it is a good conscience we shall hold up with it a broken heart. And that genuine love of all sincerity, and that equally genuine hatred of all remaining insincerity, will make all our ministerial work, as it made all Paul’s apostolic work, not only acceptable, but will also make its very defects and defeats both acceptable and fruitful in the estimation and result of God. It so happens that I am reading for my own private purposes at this moment an old book of 1641, Drexilius On a Right Intention, and I cannot do better at this point than share with you the page I am just reading. ‘Not to be too much troubled or daunted at any cross event,’ he says, ‘is the happy state of his mind who has entered on any enterprise with a pure and pious intention. That great apostle James gained no more than eight persons in all Spain when he was called to lay down his head under Herod’s sword. And was not God ready to give the same reward to James as to those who converted kings and whole kingdoms? Surely He was. For God does not give His ministers a charge as to what they shall effect, but only as to what they shall intend to effect. Wherefore, when his art faileth a servant of God, when nothing goes forward, when everything turneth to his ruin, even when his hope is utterly void, he is scarce one whit troubled; for this, saith he to himself, is not in my power, but in God’s power alone. I have done what I could. I have done what was fit for me to do. Fair and foul is all of God’s disposing.’

And, then, this simplicity and purity of intention gives a minister that fine combination of candour and considerateness which we saw to exist together so harmoniously in the character of Sincere. Such a minister is not tongue-tied with sinister and selfish intentions. His sincerity toward God gives him a masterful position among his people. His words of rebuke and warning go straight to his people’s consciences because they come straight out of his own conscience. His words are their own witness that he is neither fearing his people nor fawning upon his people in speaking to them. And, then, such candour prepares the way for the utmost considerateness when the proper time comes for considerateness. Such a minister is patient with the stupid, and even with the wicked and the injurious, because in all their stupidity and wickedness and injuriousness they have only injured and impoverished themselves. And if God is full of patience and pity for the ignorant and the evil and the out of the way, then His sincere-hearted minister is of all men the very man to carry the divine message of forgiveness and instruction to such sinners. Yes, Mr. Bain must have seen Sincere closely and in a clear light when he took down this fine feature of his character, that he is at once candid and considerate–with a whole face of mingled expressiveness and strength.

Writing about sincerity and a right intention in young ministers, old Drexilius says: ‘When I turn to clergymen, I would have sighs and groans to speak for me. For, alas! I am afraid that there be found some which come into the ministry, not that they may obtain a holy office in which to spend their life, but for worse ends. To enter the ministry with a naughty intention is to come straight to destruction. Let no minister think at any time of a better living, but only at all times of a holier life. Wherefore, O ministers and spiritual men, consider and take heed. There can be no safe guide to your office but a right, sincere, pure intention. Whosoever cometh to it with any other conduct or companion must either return to his former state of life, or here he shall certainly perish . . . What is more commendable in a religious man than to be always in action and to be exercised one while in teaching the ignorant, another while in comforting such as are troubled in mind, sometimes in making sermons, and sometimes in admonishing the sick? But with what secret malignity doth a wrong intention insinuate itself into these very actions that are the most religious! For ofttimes we desire nothing else but to be doing. We desire to become public, not that we may profit many, but because we have not learned how to be private. We seek for divers employments, not that we may avoid idleness, but that we may come into people’s knowledge. We despise a small number of hearers, and such as are poor, simple, and rustical, and let fly our endeavours at more eminent chairs, though not in apparent pursuit; all which is the plain argument of a corrupt intention. O ye that wait upon religion, O ministers of God, this is to sell most transcendent wares at a very low rate– nay, this is to cast them, and yourselves too, into the fire.’

There are some outstanding temptations to insincerity in some ministers that must be pointed out here. (1) Ministers with a warm rhetorical temperament are beset continually with the temptation to pile up false fire on the altar; to dilate, that is, both in their prayers and in their sermons, upon certain topics in a style that is full of insincerity. Ministers who have no real hold of divine things in themselves will yet fill their pulpit hour with the most florid and affecting pictures of sacred and even of evangelical things. This is what our shrewd and satirical people mean when they say of us that So-and-so has a great SOUGH of the gospel in his preaching, but the SOUGH only. (2) Another kindred temptation to even the best and truest of ministers is to make pulpit appeals about the evil of sin and the necessity of a holy life that they themselves do not feel and do not attempt to live up to. Butler has a terrible passage on the heart-hardening effects of making pictures of virtue and never trying to put those pictures into practice. And readers of Newman will remember his powerful application of this same temptation to literary men in his fine sermon on Unreal Words. (3) Another temptation is to affect an interest in our people and a sympathy with them that we do not in reality feel. All human life is full of this temptation to double- dealing and hypocrisy; but, then, it is large part of a minister’s office to feel with and for his people, and to give the tenderest and the most sacred expression to that feeling. And, unless he is a man of a scrupulously sincere, true, and tender heart, his daily duties will soon develop him into a solemn hypocrite. And if he feels only for his own people, and for them only when they become and as long as they remain his own people, then his insincerity and imposture is only the more abominable in the sight of God. (4) Archbishop Whately, with that strong English common sense and that cultivated clear-headedness that almost make him a writer of genius, points out a view of sincerity that it behoves ministers especially to cultivate in themselves. He tells us not only to act always according to our convictions, but also to see that our convictions are true and unbiassed convictions. It is a very superficial sincerity even when we actually believe what we profess to believe. But that is a far deeper and a far nobler sincerity which watches with a strict and severe jealousy over the formation of our beliefs and convictions. Ministers must, first for themselves and then for their people, live far deeper down than other men. They must be at home among the roots, not of actions only, but much more of convictions. We may act honestly enough out of our present convictions and principles, while, all the time, our convictions and our principles are vitiated at bottom by the selfish ground they ultimately stand in. Let ministers, then, to begin with, live deep down among the roots of their opinions and their beliefs. Let them not only flee from being consciously insincere and hypocritical men; let them keep their eye like the eye of God continually on that deep ground of the soul where so many men unknown to themselves deceive themselves. And, thus exercised, they shall be able out of a deep and clean heart to rise far above that trimming and hedging and self-seeking and self- sheltering in disputed and unpopular questions which is such a temptation to all men, and is such a shame and scandal in a minister.

Now, my good friends, we have kept all this time to the fourth shepherd and to his noble name, but let us look in closing at some of his sheep,–that is to say, at ourselves. For is it not said in the prophet: Ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God. All, therefore, that has been said about the sincerity and insincerity of ministers is to be said equally of their people also in all their special and peculiar walks of life. Sincerity is as noble a virtue, and insincerity is as detestable a vice, in a doctor, or a lawyer, or a schoolmaster, or a merchant,–almost, if not altogether, as much so as in a minister. Your insincerity and hypocrisy in your daily intercourse with your friends and neighbours is a miserable enough state of mind, but at the root of all that there lies your radical insincerity toward God and your own soul. In his Christian Perfection William Law introduces his readers to a character called Julius, who goes regularly to prayers, and there confesses himself to be a miserable sinner who has no health in him; and yet that same Julius cannot bear to be informed of any imperfection or suspected to be wanting in any kind or degree of virtue. Now, Law asks, can there be a stronger proof that Julius is wanting in the sincerity of his devotions? Is it not as plain as anything can be that that man’s confessions of sin are only words of course, a certain civility of sacred speech in which his heart has not a single atom of share? Julius confesses himself to be in great weakness, corruption, disorder, and infirmity, and yet he is mortally angry with you if at any time you remotely and tenderly hint that he may be just a shade wrong in his opinions, or one hair’s-breadth off what is square and correct in his actions. Look to yourself, Julius, and to your insincere heart. Look to yourself at all times, but above all other times at the times and in the places of your devotions. Ten to one, my hearer of to-night, you may never have thought of that before. And what would you think if you were told that this Sincere shepherd was appointed us for this evening’s discourse, and that you were led up to this house, just that you might have your attention turned to your many miserable insincerities of all kinds, but especially to your so Julius-like devotions? ‘And Nathan said unto David, Thou art the man. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.’

What, then, my truly miserable fellow-sinner and fellow-worshipper, what are we to do? Am I to give up preaching altogether because I am continually carried on under the impulse of the pulpit far beyond both my attainments and my intentions? Am I to cease from public prayer altogether because when engaged in it I am compelled to utter words of contrition and confession and supplication that little agree with the everyday temper and sensibility of my soul? And am I wholly to eschew pastoral work because my heart is not so absolutely clean and simple and sincere toward all my own people and toward other ministers’ people as it ought to be? No! Never! Never! Let me rather keep my heart of such earth and slag in the hottest place of temptation, and then, such humiliating discoveries as are there continually being made to me of myself will surely at last empty me of all self-righteousness and self-sufficiency, and make me at the end of my ministry, if not till then, the penitent pastor of a penitent people. And when thus penitent, then surely, also somewhat more sincere in my designs and intentions, if not even then in my attainments and performances.

‘O Eternal God, Who hast made all things for man, and man for Thy glory, sanctify my body and my soul, my thoughts and my intentions, my words and my actions, that whatsoever I shall think or speak or do may be by me designed to the glory of Thy name. O God, turn my necessities into virtue, and the works of nature into the works of grace, by making them orderly, regular, temperate, subordinate, and profitable to ends beyond their own proper efficacy. And let no pride or self-seeking, no covetousness or revenge, no impure mixtures or unhandsome purposes, no little ends and low imaginations, pollute my spirit or unhallow any of my words or actions. But let my body be the servant of my spirit, and both soul and body servants of my Lord, that, doing all things for Thy glory here, I may be made a partaker of Thy glory hereafter; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.’


{1} Delivered on the Sabbath before Communion.

{2} Delivered June 26th, 1892, on the eve of a general election.