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Philip Doddridge, D.D., in Lectures on Preaching and the Several Branches of the Ministerial Office, 1808, Boston. The lectures were not published until after Doddridge had died. A short biography may be found here. Dr. Doddridge begins his lectures with 13 general comments about how one can make himself ready for the work of a minister:

See to it that there be a foundation of sincere piety in yourselves, or else there is but little prospect of your being useful or acceptable to others. — Be therefore firmly resolved to devote yourselves to God, and do so solemnly.


Piety is an old-fashioned concept, but it lies at the heart of being a Christian. A pastor is one who undertakes to care for the souls of others, to lead them to Christ and to help shelter them from spiritual harm. To understand the word “piety” here and its importance, it would be useful to see it in the context of Calvin’s use in the Institutes, for instance:

Now, the knowledge of God, as I understand it, is that by which we not only conceive that there is a God but also grasp what befits us and is proper to his glory, in fine, what is to our advantage to know of him. Indeed, we shall not say that, properly speaking, God is known where there is no religion or piety

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 39. In a footnote to this section, Battles writes,

It is a favorite emphasis in Calvin that pietas, piety, in which reverence and love of God are joined, is prerequisite to any true knowledge of God. Cf. I. iv. 4. The brief characterization of pietas that follows here may be compared with his words written in 1537: “The gist of true piety does not consist in a fear which would gladly flee the judgment of God, but … rather in a pure and true zeal which loves God altogether as Father, and reveres him truly as Lord, embraces his justice and dreads to offend him more than to die”; Instruction in Faith (1537), tr. P. T. Fuhrmann, pp. 18 f. (original in OS I. 379). For an examination of “pietas literata” with reference to Erasmus, John Sturm, Melanchthon, and Cordier, see P. R. Bolgar, The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries, pp. 329–356. (In many contexts pietas is translated “godliness” in the present work.)

We would not hire a plumber or doctor, lawyer or gardener who did not exhibit skill and interest in that particular subject. Yet many pastors seem more fit for entertainer than a fit guide in godliness. In any event, Doddridge is right. Here are a couple of questions for self-examination on the question of piety.

Meditation: What do I read? Is my reading affective — does what I read (if it is profitable) something which stirs my heart or changes my conduct? Do I ponder and consider what I read? How is my reading of Scripture? Is it perfunctory or diligent and delightful? Do I read, meditate, change?

Prayer: Do I pray — and not just as a matter of course before meals? Do I pray for holiness? Do I pray for others. (Here is a place to start: http://www.icommittopray.com).

Time: How do I spend my time? Take one week, and track your time in 15 minute intervals? What does it show?

Service: Does you life of faith flow out as love to your neighbor?

Holiness: Would someone who spent much time with you think that this characterizes your life? Is there a growth in holiness?

Resolution: Have you — and if not do so — resolve to God that your will demonstrate this piety.