Now a minister ought to take heed to his doctrine, that it be according to the scriptures, all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16). True doctrine springs from it, is agreeable to it, and may be confirmed and established by it; therefore if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). He should be careful, that his doctrine has a place in the word of God, that it takes its rise from it, is consonant to it, and capable of being proved by it: To the law, and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isa. 8:20). Whatever doctrines do not spring from these fountains of light and truth, or are disagreeable to them, must be accounted divers and strange doctrines.
Care should also be taken by a minister of the gospel, that his doctrine be the doctrine of Christ; that is, such as Christ himself preached, which he has delivered out by revelation to others, and of which he is the sum and substance. We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness (1 Cor.1:23). This doctrine is most likely to be useful for the conversion of sinners, and comfort of saints; and a man that does not bring this with him is to be discouraged and rejected Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God: He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed (2 John 9,10).
Moreover, a minister should take heed that his doctrine be the same with that of the apostles. It was the glory of the primitive Christians, that they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine; and it must be the excellency of a man’s ministry, that it is agreeable to that faith which was once delivered to the saints. Jesus Christ received his doctrine from his Father, which he delivered to his apostles: I have given unto them says he, the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them (John 17:8); who also were guided by the spirit of truth into all truth, as it is in Jesus; and under the inspiration of the same spirit have left the whole of it in writing to the churches of Christ; which should be the standard of a gospel-ministry throughout all generations. Besides, it becomes a preacher of the Word to be careful that the doctrine he teaches be according to godliness; that it is not contrary to the moral perfections of God, or has a tendency to promote a loose and licentious life; but that it is agreeable to, and may be a means of increasing, both internal and external holiness. Sin, as it is a transgression of the law, so it is contrary to sound doctrine; which sound doctrine is according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim. 1:10, 11).
The gospel no more countenances sin, than the law does; the grace of God, the doctrine of the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, the news of it to sinners, hath appeared to all men, Gentiles as well as Jews; teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Whatever doctrines are subversive of true piety, or strike at the life and power of godliness, are to be rejected: if any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions, and strife of words, whereof cometh envy, strifes, railings, evil furnishings, etc. (1 Tim. 6:3-5). Again, it is highly necessary, that a pastor of a church should be careful that his doctrine be such as makes for the edification of the people; it ought to be solid and substantial, suited to their capacities, and what is food convenient for them; he should nor, therefore, give heed to fables, and endless genealogies; he ought, in his ministry, to shun profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of silence, fairly so called. He should not strive about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers; and should carefully and diligently avoid foolish and unlearned questions, knowing that they do gender strifes (1 Tim. 1:4; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:14, 16, 23).
John Gill, “The Duty of a Pastor to his People.” Preached at the Ordination of the Reverend George Braithwaite, M.A., March 28, 1734.
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