Project Canterbury

A Discourse of the Pastoral Care
By Gilbert Burnet
Bishop of Salisbury

First edition London, 1692; third edition London, 1712.

Chapter III.
Passages out of the New Testament relating to the Same Matter.

THIS General Consideration receives a vast improvement from the great Example that the Author of our Religion, the great Bishop and Shepherd of our Souls has set us; who went about, ever doing good, to whom it was as his meat and drink, to do the will of his Father that sent him: He was the good Shepherd that knew his Sheep, and laid down his Life for them: And since he set such a value on the Souls of that Flock which he hath redeemed, and purchased with his own Blood; certainly those to whom he has committed that work of reconciliation which stood himself so dear, ought to consider themselves under very strict Obligations, by that charge of which they must give a severe account at the great day, in which the Blood of all those who have perished through their neglect and default, shall be required at their hands. Yet because I will not aggravate this Argument unreasonably, I will make no use of those passages which relate immediately to the Apostles: For their Function being extraordinary, as were also the Assistances that were given them for the discharge of it, I will urge nothing that belongs properly to their Mission and Duty.

In the Character that the Gospel gives of the Priests and Pharisees of that time, we may see a just and true Idea, of the Corruptions into which a bad Clergy is apt to fall; they studied to engross the knowledge of the Law to themselves; and to keep the People in Ignorance, and in a blind dependence upon them: They were zealous in lesser matters, but neglected the great things of the Law: They put on an outward appearance of strictness, but under that there was much rottenness: They studied to make Proselytes to their Religion, but they had so depraved it, that they became thereby worse men than before: They made great shows of Devotion, of Praying, and Fasting much, and giving Alms: But all this was to be seen of men, and by it they devoured the Estates of poor and simple people: They were very strict in observing the Traditions and Customs of their Fathers, and of every thing that contributed to their own Authority or Advantage; but by so doing they made void the Law of God: In a word, they had no true worth in themselves, and hated such as had it: They were proud and spiteful, false and cruel, and made use of the credit they were in with the people, by their complying with them in their Vices, and flattering them with false hopes to set them on to destroy all those who discovered their Corruptions, and whose real and shining worth, made their counterfeit show of it the more conspicuous and odious. In this short view of those enormous Disorders, which then reigned amongst them, we have a full Picture of the corrupt state of bad Priests, in all Ages and Religions, with this only difference, That the Priests in our Saviour's time were more careful and exact in the External and Visible parts of their Conversation, than they have been in other times: in which they have thrown off the very decencies of a grave and sober Deportment.

But now to go on with the Characters and Rules that we find in the New Testament: our Saviour as he compared the Work of the Gospel, in many parables to a Field and Harvest, so he calls those whom his Father was to send the Labourers in that Harvest, and he left a direction to all his Followers to pray to his Father that he would send Labourers into his Harvest. Out of which both the Vocation and Divine Mission of the Clergy, and the Prayers of the Church to God for it, that are among us fixed to the Ember Weeks, have been gathered by many pious Writers. In the warnings that our Saviour gives to prepare for his second coming, we find the Characters of good and bad Clergy-men stated, in opposition to one another, under the Figure of Stewards, the good are both wise and faithful, they wait for his coming, and in the mean while are dividing to every one of their fellow Servants his portion to eat in due Season, that is their proportion both of the Doctrine and Mysteries of the Gospel, according to their several capacities and necessities: but the bad Stewards are those who put the evil day far from them, and say in their heart the Lord declareth his coming, upon which they eat, drink, and are drunken: they indulge their sensual Appetites even to a scandalous excess, and as for their fellow Servants, instead of feeding, of instructing, or watching over them, they beat them: they exercise a Violent and Tyrannical Authority over them. Their state in the next World is represented as different as their behaviour in this was, the one shall be exalted from being a Steward to be a Ruler over the Household, to be a King and a Priest for ever unto God, whereas the other shall be cut asunder, and shall have his portion with Unbelievers.

The 10th of St. John is the place which both Fathers, and more modern Writers have chiefly made use of to show the difference between good and bad Pastors. The good Shepherds enter by the Door, and Christ is this Door by whom they must enter; that is from whom they must have their Vocation and Mission: but the Thief and Robber who comes to kill, steal, and destroy, climbeth up some other way: whatever he may do in the ritual way for forms sake, he has in his Heart no regard to Jesus Christ, to the Honour of his Person, the Edification of his Church or the Salvation of Souls; he intends only to raise and enrich himself: and so he compasses that, he cares not how many Souls perish by his means, or thorough his neglect. The good Shepherd knows his Sheep so well, that he can call them by name, and lead them out and they hear his voice: but the Hireling careth not for the Sheep, he is a Stranger to them, they know not his voice and will not follow him. This is urged by all, who have pressed the obligation of Residence, and of the personal Labours of the Clergy, as a plain divine and indispensable precept: and even in the Council of Trent, tho' by the Practices of the Court of Rome, it was diverted from declaring Residence to be of Divine Right, the decree that was made to enforce it, urges this place to show the Obligation to it. The good Shepherd feeds the Flock, and looks for Pasture for them; and is ready to give his Life for the Sheep: but the bad Shepherd is represented as a Hireling that careth not for the Flock; that sees the Wolfe coming, and upon that leaveth the Sheep and flieth. This is, it is true a Figure, and therefore I know it is thought an ill way of reasoning to build too much upon figurative Discourses: yet on the other hand our Saviour having delivered so great a part of his Doctrine in Parables, we ought at least to consider the main Scope of a Parable: and may well build upon that, tho' every particular Circumstance in it cannot bear an Argument.

I shall add but one passage more from the Gospels, which is much made use of, by all that have writ of this master. When our Saviour confirmed St. Peter in his Apostleship, from which he had fallen by his denying of him, as in the Charge which he thrice repeated of feeding his Lambs and his Sheep, he pursues still the Figure of a Shepherd; so the question that he asked preparatory to it, was Simon lovest thou me more than these, from which they justly gather, that the Love of God, a Zeal for his Honour, and a preferring of that to all other things whatsoever, is a necessary and indispensible qualification for that Holy Employment; which distinguishes the true Shepherd from the Hireling: and by which only he can be both animated and fortified, to go through with the labours and difficulties, as well as the dangers and sufferings which may accompany it.

When St. Paul was leaving his last charge with the Bishops that met him at Ephesus, he still makes use of the same Metaphor of Shepherd in those often cited words, Take heed to your selves and to all the Flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you Bishops or Overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own Blood. The words are solemn, and the consideration enforcing them is a mighty one; they import the Obligations of the Clergy, both to an exactness in their own Deportment, and to earnest and constant labours, in imitation of the Apostle, who during the three Years of his stay among them, had been serving God with all humility of mind with many tears and temptations, and had not ceased to warn every one both night and day, with tears: and had taught them both publicly, and from House to House: Upon which he leaves them, calling them all to witness that he was pure from the Blood of all Men. There has been great disputing concerning the Persons to whom these words were addressed; but if all Parties had studied more to follow the Example here proposed, and the Charge that is here given; which are plain and easy to be understood, then to be contending about things that are more doubtful; the good Lives and the faithful Labours of Apostolical Bishops, would have contributed more both to the edifying and healing of the Church, than all their Arguments or Reasonings will ever be able to do.

St. Paul reckoning up to the Romans the several Obligations of Christians, of all ranks to assiduity and diligence, in their callings and labours, among others he numbers these, Ministers let us wait on our ministering, or he that teacheth on teaching, he that ruleth with diligence: In his Epistle to the Corinthians, as he states the Dignity of the Clergy in this, that they ought to be accounted of as the Ministers of Christ, and Stewards of the Mysteries of God. He adds that it is required in Stewards that a Man be found faithful. In that Epistle, he sets down that perpetual Law, which is the Foundation of all the Provision that has been made for the Clergy, That the Lord hath ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. But if upon that, the Laity have looked on themselves as bound to appoint so plentiful a Supply, that the Clergy might have whereon to live at their ease and in abundance; then certainly this was intended that they being freed from the troubles and cares of this World, might attend continually on the Ministry of the Word of God and on Prayer. Those who do that Work negligently, provoke the Laity to repent of their bounty and to defraud them of it. For certainly there are no such Enemies to the Patrimony and Rights of the Church, as those who eat the Fat but do not preach the Gospel, nor feed the Flock. Happy on the other hand are they, to whom that Character, which the Apostle assumes to himself, and to Timothy, does belong; Therefore seeing we have received this ministry, as we have received mercy we faint not: but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the Truth, commending our selves to every man's Conscience in the sight of God. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, we have the ends of the Institution of all the Ranks of Clergy-men set forth in these words. He gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers: for the perfecting of the Saints, for the Work of the Ministry, for the edifying the Body of Christ: till we all come in the Unity of the Faith, and of the Knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. In these words we see something that is so vast and noble, so far above those slight and poor performances, in which the far greater part do too easily satisfy themselves; that in charity to them we ought to suppose that they have not reflected sufficiently on the Importance of them. Otherwise they would have in some sort proportioned their labours to those great designs for which they are ordained; and would remember the Charge given to the Colossians, to say to Archippus, who it seems was remiss in the discharge of his duty, Take heed to the Ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fullfil it.

The Epistles to Timothy and Titus are the Foundation of all the Canons of the Church, in these we have the Characters of Bishops, and Deacons, as well as the duties belonging to those Functions, so particularly set forth that from thence alone every one who will weigh them well, may find sufficient Instruction, how he ought to behave himself in the House of God. In these we see what patterns those of the Clergy ought to be in Word (or Doctrine) in Conversation, in Charity, in Spirit, in Faith, and in Purity, they ought to give attendance to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine, that is both to the instructing and exhorting of their People. They ought not to neglect that gift that was given to them, by the laying on of hands, they ought to meditate on these things, to give themselves wholly to them, that so their profiting may appear unto all: and to take heed to themselves and their Doctrine; and to continue in them: for in so doing they shall both save themselves and those that hear them. Those that govern the Church are more particularly charged, before God, the Lord Jesus and the Holy Angels, that they observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality, by Domestic regards, the considerations of Friendship, Intercession, or Importunity: and above all that they lay hand suddenly on no man; to which are added words of great terror, neither be thou partaker of other men's sins: keep thy self pure. Which ought to make great Impression, on all those with whom the Power of Ordination is lodged: since they do plainly import, that such as do ordain any rashly without due enquiry, and a strict examination, entitle themselves to all the scandal they give; and become partners of their guilt, which if well considered, must needs make all such, as are not past feeling, use great care and caution in this sacred Trust. Bishops are the Depositaries of the Faith, which they are to keep pure; and to hand down faithfully according to these words, And the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who may be able to teach others also: upon this he prepares the Bishop for difficulties to endure hardness as a good Soldier of Jesus Christ. And according to that Figure, since those that go to war, do not carry unnecessary burdens with them, which may encumber and retard their march, he adds, no man that warreth entangleth himself with the Affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him for a Soldier; upon this it is that all those Canons, which have been made in so many Ages of the Church, against Church-men's meddling with secular Affairs, have been founded; than which we find nothing more frequently provided against, both in the Apostolical Canons, in those of Antioch, in those made by the General Council of Chalcedon, and in divers of the Councils of Carthage: but this abuse had too deep a root in the nature of man, to be easily cured. St. Paul does also in this place carry on the Metaphor to express the earnestness and indefatigableness of Clergymen's Zeal, that as Officers in an Army were satisfied with nothing under Victory, which brought them the Honours of a Triumph, so we ought to fight, not only so as to earn our pay, but for Mastery to spoil and overcome the Powers of darkness; yet even this must be done lawfully, not by deceiving the People with pious frauds, hoping that our good Intentions will atone for our taking bad methods: War has its Laws as well as Peace, and those who manage this Spiritual warfare, ought to keep themselves within the Instructions and Commands that are given them. Then the Apostle changing the Figure from the Soldier to the Workman and Steward, says, study to show thy self approved unto God (not to seek the vain applauses of men, but to prefer to all other things the witness of a good Conscience, and that in simplicity and godly sincerity, he may walk and labour as in the sight of God) a Workman that needeth not to be ashamed; rightly dividing the word of Truth: This is according to the Figure of a Steward, giving every one his due portion; and a little after comes a noble Admonition, relating to the meekness of the Clergy towards those that divide from them: The Servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if peradventure God will give them repentance, to the acknowledging the Truth. This is the Passage that was chiefly urged by our Reformers against the Persecution that the Roman Clergy did every where set on against them: The extent of it ought to be well considered, that so it may not be said, that we are only against persecution when it lies on our selves; for if it is a good defence to some, it is as good to others; unless we own that we do not govern our selves by that rule of doing to others that which we would have others do to us. In the next Chapter, we find the right Education of this Bishop, and that which furnishes a Clergy man, to perform all the duties incumbent on him: From a Child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto Salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus: That is the Old Testament well studied, by one that believed Jesus to be the Messiah, and that was led into it by that Faith, did discover to a Man the great Oeconomy of God in the Progress of the Light, which he made shine upon the World by degrees, unto the perfect day of the appearing of the Sun of Righteousness) and to this he adds a noble Character of the inspired Writings: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for Doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instructing in righteousness, that the Man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. The Apostle goes on and gives Timothy the most solemn Charge that can be set out in words; which if understood, as belonging to all Bishops, as the whole Church of God has ever done, must be read by them with trembling. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and dead at his appearing, and his Kingdom, preach the Word, be Instant in Season out of Season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine (that is with great gentleness in the manner, and clearness and strength in the matter of their Instructions) and a little after, watch thou in all things, endure affliction, do the work of an Evangelist: make full proof of (or fulfill) thy Ministry: And as a consideration to enforce this the more, he tells what a noble and agreeable prospect he had in the View of his approaching dissolution: The time of his departing drew nigh, he was ready to be offered up, as a Sacrifice for that Faith which he had so zealously and so successfully preached: and here we have his two great preparatives for Martyrdom: The one was in looking on his past life and labours: I have fought a good Fight, I have finished my Course, I have kept the Faith. The other was in looking forward to the Reward that Crown of Righteousness which was laid up for him, which the Lord the Righteous Judge would give him at that day: and not only to him, but also to all those that loved his appearing, and certainly more especially to those who not only loved it themselves, but who laboured so as to dispose others also to love it. To all these considerations, though nothing needed to have been added, to one upon whom they made so strange an impression, as they did upon Timothy, yet one comes after all, which ought to teach us to work out our Salvation with fear and trembling since St. Paul tells Timothy that Demas, one of the Companions of his labours, had forsaken him, and that which prevailed over him was the Love of this present World.

These are the Rules and Charges given by St. Paul to Timothy, and in him to all the Bishops and Pastors that were to come after him in the Church. Some of these are again repeated in his Epistle to Titus, where we have the Characters set out; by which he was to prepare and examine those Elders or Bishops, who were to rule the House of God: that those being well chosen, they might be able by sound Doctrine both to exhort and convince the Gainsayers, and that he might do his duty with the more advantage; he charges him to show himself in all things a pattern of good Works: in Doctrine, shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity; and using such sound Speech as could not be condemned: that so those who were of the contrary Party (the Judaizers who were studying to corrupt the Christian Religion by making a medley of it and Judaism) might have no evil thing to say of him; and after a glorious but short Abstract of the design of their holy Religion; he concludes that part of the Epistle in these words, These things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority: to which he adds a Charge, that may seem more proper to be addressed to others, then to himself, let no man despise thee: The same is likewise in his Epistle to Timothy, with this Addition, let no man despise thy youth: but these words do import that it is in a Bishop's own Power, to procure due Esteem to himself; at least to prevent contempt; since a holy and exemplary Deportment, and faithful and constant labours never fail to do that. In the Conclusion of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we find both the Characters of those who had laboured among them, and had ruled them but who were then dead; and also of such as were yet alive. Remember them who had the rule over you; who have spoken to you the Word of God, whose Faith follow, considering the end of their conversation: they had both lived and died, as well as laboured in such a manner, that the Remembering of what had appeared in them, was an effectual means of persuading the Hebrews to be steady in the Christian Religion: for certainly, though while a man lives let him be ever so eminent, there is still room for ill-nature and jealousy to misrepresent things, and to suspect that something lies hid under the fairest appearances; which may show it self in due time; all that goes off, when one has finished his course, so that all appears to be of a piece, and that he has died as he had lived. Then the Argument from his conversation appears in its full strength, without any diminution. But the charge given with relation to those who then had the rule over them is no less remarkable, Obey them that have the rule over you; and submit your selves, for they watch for your Souls; as they that must give account: that they may do it with joy and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you: Here Obedience and Submission is enjoined, upon the account of their Rulers watching over them, and for them: and therefore those who do not watch like Men that know that they must give account of that Trust, have no reason to expect these from their People: Of a piece with this is St. Paul's charge to the Thessalonians, we beseech you to know (or to acknowledge,) them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love, for their works sake: Here both the Submission and Esteem, as well as the acknowledgment that is due to the Clergy, is said to be for their works sake: And therefore such as do not the work and that do not labour and admonish their People, have no just claim to them. There is another expression in the 2d Epistle to the Thessalonians, that is much urged by those who have writ on this Head, That if any will not work he should not eat, which if it is a Rule binding all Men, seems to lie much heavier on the Clergy.

I shall conclude all that I intend to bring out of the Scripture upon this Argument, with St. Peter's charge to the Elders of the Churches, to which he writ; which is indeed so full, that though in the Course of the New Testament, it had not lain last, it deserved by the Rules of Method, to be kept last; for the closing and enforcing all that has gone before, and for giving it its full weight. St. Peter descends 1 Epistle 5 ch. 1 ver. to a level with them, calling himself no better than a fellow Elder and a Witness of the suffering of Christ: And also a Partaker of the Glory which was to be revealed. Feed the Flock of God (says he) which is among you, (these words will bear another rendering as much as lieth in you) taking the oversight thereof not by constraint (as forced to it by Rules, Canons, or Laws) but willingly not for filthy lucre (for though God has ordained that such as preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel; yet those who propose that to themselves as the chief Motive in entering into Holy Orders, are hereby severely condemned) but of a ready mind, neither as being Lords over God's Heritage (or not using a despotic Authority over their several lots or divisions) but being examples to the Flock, not tyrannizing it over their People: But acquiring their Authority chiefly by their own exemplary conversation. The conclusion of the Charge, is suitable to the solemnity of it in these words: And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall likewise receive a Crown of Glory that fadeth not away.

With this I make an end of Citations from Scripture: I think it is as plain as words can make any thing, that such as are dedicated to the service of God and of his Church, ought to labour constantly and faithfully: And that in their own Persons. For it is not possible to express a personal Obligation, in terms that are both more strict and more solemn then these are which have been cited, and all the returns of obedience and submission, of esteem and support, being declared to be due to them on the account of their watching over and feeding the Flock of God, those who pretend to these, without considering themselves as under the other Obligations, are guilty of the worst sort of Sacrilege, in devouring the things that are Sacred, without doing those duties for which these are due, and what right soever the Law of the Land may give them to them, yet certainly according to the Divine Law those who do not wait at the Altar, ought not to be partakers with the Altar: Those who do not minister about holy things, ought not to live of the things of the Temple: Nor ought those who do not preach the Gospel, live of the Gospel. If I had a mind to make a great show of reading, or to Triumph in my Argument with the Pomp of Quotations, it were very easy to bring a Cloud of Witnesses, to confirm the Application that I have made of these passages of Scripture: Indeed all those who have either writ Commentaries on the Scriptures, ancient and modern, or have left Homilies on these subjects, have pressed this matter so much, that every one that has made any progress in Ecclesiastical learning, must know that one might soon stuff a great many Pages with abundance of Quotations out of the Authors, both of the best, and of the worst Ages of the Church: not only the Fathers, but even the Schoolmen, and which is more the Canonist have carried this matter very high, and have even delivered it as a Maxim, that all dispensations that are procured upon undue Pretences, the chief of which they reckon the giving a Man, an easy and large subsistence, are null and void of themselves: And conclude that how strong soever they may be in Law, yet they are nothing in Conscience: And that they do not free a Man from his Obligations to Residence and Labour: And they do generally conclude that he who upon a Dispensation, which has been obtained upon Carnal accounts, such as Birth, Rank or great Abilities, (and qualifications are not yet so good, as these) does not Reside, is bound in Conscience to restore the Fruits of a Benefice which he has thus enjoyed with a bad Conscience without performing the duty belonging to it, in his own Person. But though it were very easy to bring out a great deal to this purpose, I will go no further at present upon this Head: The words of God, seem to be so express and positive; that such as do not yield to so undisputable an Authority, will be little moved by all that can be brought out of Authors of a lower Form, against whom it will be easy to muster up many exceptions, if they will not be determined by so many of the Oracles of the living God.

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