In 1743 the Philadelphia Baptist Association adopted as a statement of their discipline Benjamin Griffith’s treatise, “Concerning a True and Orderly Gospel Church.” In this treatise is the following description of the duty of pastors (emphasis added, and reformatted):
The minister being thus put upon his work, proceeds
(1.) to preach the word of God unto them, thereby to feed the flock, and therein ought to be faithful and laborious, studying to show himself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, as he is a steward of God in the mysteries of the gospel, and therefore ought to be a man of good understanding and experience, being sound in the faith, not a novice, or a double-minded, unstable man, nor such as is light-spirited or of a shallow understanding, but one that is learned in the mysteries of the kingdom, because he is to feed the people with knowledge and understanding. He must be faithful in declaring the whole council of God. He is to instruct them in all practical godliness, laying before them their manifold duties, and to urge them upon their consciences.
(2.) He must watch over them, as one that must give an account to God. Such must have an eye upon every member to see how they behave in the house of God, where the presence of the Lord is more eminently, and where also the angels do always attend; and also their behaviour in the families they belong to, and their conversation abroad; according to their capacities, they are not to sleep under their charge.
(3.) He is to visit his flock to know their state, in order to minister suitable doctrinal relief unto them, and that he may know what disorders there may be among them, that the unruly may be reproved.
(4.) He is to administer all the ordinances of Christ, amongst them: as Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, and herein he must be careful to follow the primitive pattern, thereby to hold forth the great end, wherefore they were ordained.
(5.) He must be instant with God, in his prayers for and with them, as opportunity may serve.
(6.) He must show them a good example in all respects, in conversation, sobriety, charity, faith, and purity, behaving himself impartial unto all, not preferring the rich before the poor, nor lording it over God’s heritage, nor assume greater power than God hath given him.
This is a great description worthy of reflection various accounts. I bolded a few comments. First, these brothers made it clear they expected thoughtful preaching, explicitly barring “light-spirited” men. I appreciate humor, but too much preaching today, rather than being seasoned by humor, is swamped with a levity which belies the serious truths which are handled. Some glory in their shallowness and glibness. This ought not be so.
Secondly, note the strong emphasis on oversight and personal knowledge of every member. This sort of pastoral care- the burden of this blog- is not a novel or strange idea. It was the standard in days past and our current age is the one out of step.
[The treatise contains scriptural references which are not reproduced here due to formatting difficulties]