FOR THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY: A Manual of Homiletical and Pastoral Theology
I don't remember where I first heard or read about For the Work of the Ministry, by William G. Blaikie, but I was sufficiently impressed by what I had learned of it that it was toward the top of my list of used books to try to secure during a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan (the Mecca for used Reformed books!) some 20 years ago. I was not disappointed in my search, and I was not disappointed as I worked through the book with pencil in hand in the days ahead. I have recommended that young ministers secure reprints or photocopies of this rich volume, and I also recommend it in the pastoral theology classes that I teach for both Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the Ministerial Training Institute of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It is only because the book has been so difficult to acquire that I have refrained from making it required reading. Hence, I was delighted to hear that Solid Ground Christian Books would be reprinting it; and I am honored to be asked to write its Introduction. To all of my future students: Be forewarned that this will now be required reading! I assure you, though, that your duty will be a richly rewarding delight!
William Garden Blaikie (1820-1899) was one of the founding ministers of the Free Church of Scotland. Having studied at Edinburgh University (where he came under the commanding influence of Thomas Chalmers) he was ordained to the Christian ministry and served as a pastor for a quarter of a century before accepting a call (in 1868) to serve as Professor of Apologetics and Ecclesiastical and Pastoral Theology at New College, Edinburgh--the theological school of the Free Church of Scotland. Blaikie was seen at his best in teaching Pastoral Theology, drawing together "his wide experience, a compre-hensive grasp of the facts, abounding sympathy, an extensive knowledge of man, and a great capacity for teaching." The marrow of all of this is found in the volume which follows this Introduction, For the Work of the Ministry: A Manual of Homiletical and Pastoral Theology. It is not the work of a seminary professor who has had little or no experience "in the trenches" of real pastoral work. Such volumes of "pastoral theology" by theoreticians and arm-chair theologians are gene-rally worthless. This is the work of a true "pastor theologian."
Blaikie begins on exactly the right note: The Christian minister is always a minister of the word of God! For our day in which there is much muddled thinking about the character of a call to the Christian ministry, Blaikie gives a typically compact but thorough digest of the timeless counsel on this all-important subject. Following that, nearly half of the book considers various aspects of preaching, i.e. homiletics. This puts the emphasis where it should: Ministers must constantly remind themselves that the great engine of their pastoral work is the preaching of the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of the living God.
Having recently completed the teaching of another class on homiletics, I was struck by the relevance of Blaikie's material. Men still must cultivate a "pulpit style" as a distinct species of public speaking. Blaikie addresses this in both a challenging and satisfying manner. Likewise, his treatments of sermon construction (including the necessary work on introductions, conclusions, and divisions of the sermon) and sermon delivery are a fine refresher for all preachers as well as a mini-homiletics course for those beginning to develop their skills. I especially commend to you his excellent treatment of tender-ness and love in preaching. How I wish that I had read this and taken it to heart before I ever entered a pulpit to preach!
The "pastoral instruction" that follows touches every aspect of the varied work of the ministry in any age. The transition from preaching to pastoral work is, rightly, leadership in worship, and Blaikie gives a succinct digest of instruction for the minister as he leads God's people in the highest calling of the church, the worship of God. He even offers some helps to improve congregational singing. Given how well our Scottish brethren sing the Psalms, those of us who also sing hymns can learn some lessons, too!
One of the greatest strengths of the volume you are about to read is that an evangelistic zeal and a catholic spirit permeate the entire treatment of pastoral work and his thoughtful remarks on revivals. Blaikie welcomed Dwight L. Moody to Scotland on his first evangelistic campaign in that land, and Moody housed with Blaikie for that trip. Without any compromise of the author's staunch Calvinistic and Presbyterian convictions, Blaikie welcomes what was good about the 19th century revival of zeal for evangelism and missions, and offers careful advice to help pastors wed earnest and practical zeal for the lost with the proclamation and inculcation of Reformed orthodoxy. How we need that blend today, as Blaikie did in his day. The author, also, had no sympathy for those who made the ministerial office virtually the only office for service in the church. His chapter on "Organization of the Work" is quite simply a primer on pastoral administration. It is a fine blend of the historic Protestant view of the church wed to the pastoral work of training and utilizing others to do what the minister alone neither can do, nor is meant to do.
Here, too, is invaluable counsel to the minister in his various public capacities (not least in the character he is to sustain in gatherings with other ministers!). Inexplicably, his chapter on the minister's character is at the end of the body of the book. Perhaps the author wanted that to be the final impression on those who read it. Whatever the reason, this magnificent section is full of weighty words and a multitude of necessary reminders for the one who must always remember that "the life of the minister is the life of his ministry."
I hope this is enough to whet your appetite for the feast that follows! My fellow ministers: Read this book to re-kindle your devotion to the highest calling that God gives to any male: the work of the ministry! Ministerial students: Read this book to get a huge picture window on what preaching and pastoral work are really meant to be! Men aspiring to the ministry: This book will help you "desire the work" with holy realism rather than with romantic unrealism. Thank you, Solid Ground Christian Books, for making the pastoral wisdom of William Blaikie available to another generation!
William Shishko, pastor