The previous post on this book may be found here.
Book 1, chapter 2
In chapter Book 1, chapter 2, Gregory states that a pastor’s life should match the pastor’s doctrine. This is a statement which has been repeated many times throughout the history of the church.
Gregory writes, “There are some also who investigate spiritual precepts with cunning care, but what they penetrate with their understanding they trample on in their lives: all at once they teach the things which not by practice but by study they have learned; and what in words they preach by their manners they impugn.”
He then lists out the effects of this incongruence. First, rather than protecting the flock, the flock is ruined, “the shepherd walks through steep places, the flock follows to the precipice.” While put in a different manner, one of my students made the observation that a pastor can lead or hinder the flock. The pastor can limit the spiritual health of the congregation.
Second, the pastor’s unholy life damages the doctrine he preach. The image here is taken from sheep drinking at a stream. I found this image quite effective in showing the way in which the pastor’s conduct can hinder doctrine. The pastor drinks from a pure stream but then “foul the same water with their feet is to corrupt the studies of holy meditation by evil living. And verily the sheep drink the water fouled by their feet.”
Third, this wrong is rarely stopped, because the position of the pastor protects the pastor from criticism. “For him, when he transgresses, no one presumes to take to task; and the offense spreads forcibly for example, when out of reverence to his rank the sinner is honoured.” Having just finished Kruger’s Bully Pulpit, I can see the parallel to abusive pastor who uses his position to protect him from criticism.
Fourth, the incongruence is a danger to the pastor, because he incurs greater judgment: “Whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea Matthew 18:6. By the millstone is expressed the round and labour of worldly life, and by the depth of the sea is denoted final damnation. Whosoever, then, having come to bear the outward show of sanctity, either by word or example destroys others, it had indeed been better for him that earthly deeds in open guise should press him down to death than that sacred offices should point him out to others as imitable in his wrong-doing; because, surely, if he fell alone, the pains of hell would torment him in more tolerable degree.” Obviously James 3:1 would apply, “we who teach will be judge with greater strictness.”
A comment from McCheyne’s Memoirs made from the perspective of the pastor is fitting here:
“We speak much against unfaithful ministers, while we ourselves are awfully unfaithful! Are we never afraid that the cries of souls whom we have betrayed to perdition through our want of personal holiness, and our defective preaching of Christ crucified, may ring in our ears for ever? Our Lord is at the door. In the twinkling of an eye our work will be done. “Awake, awake, O arm of the Lord, awake as in the ancient days,” till every one of thy pastors be willing to impart to the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made him overseer, not the gospel of God only, but also his own soul. And oh that each one were able, as he stands in the pastures feeding thy sheep and lambs, to look up and appeal to Thee: “Lord, Thou knowest all things! Thou knowest that I love Thee!” Robert Murray McCheyne and Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 169–170.