Thursday, 20 December 2007

More Baxter on preaching and discipleship

Richard Baxter speaks again:

Let them that have taken most pains in public, examine their people, and try whether many of them are not nearly as ignorant and careless as if they had never heard the gospel. For my part, I study to speak as plainly and movingly as I can…and yet I frequently meet with those that have been my hearers eight or ten years, who know not whether Christ be God or man, and wonder when I tell them the history of his birth and life and death as if they had never head it before.

But most of them have an ungrounded trust in Christ, hoping that he will pardon, justify and save them, while the world hath their hearts, and they live to the flesh. And this trust they take for justifying faith. I have found by experience, that some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse in half an hour’s close discourse, than they did from ten years’ public preaching. I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner….’

-Richard Baxter, quoted by J.I. Packer, “Introduction” to The Reformed Pastor p 18

Remember, this is not a man who is against preaching. Rather, he is so much for preaching that he wants the message to reach each one of his hearers with maximum effectiveness.

You can fill bottles (your hearers) by trying to line them up and spray water through a firehose into all of them. Or you can take the same bottles individually, and fill them under the tap. Not a perfect analogy by any means, but helps illustrate why both gospel preaching and one-to-one gospel work are worth attempting.

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