Calvin, “It is Not Enough to Preach”

A common theme at this site is the importance of extra-pulpit ministry. While upholding the crucial importance of preaching, we also need to uphold the crucial importance of direct, individual ministry to our people. I have pointed to various historical examples who have made this point, and recently I came across a great comment on this point from John Calvin, from his sermon on 1 Timothy 5:1.

we who have charge to teach the people must not only see what is profitable for them all in general, but we must also deal with everyone according to his age.

But we must mark also therewithal, that it is not enough for a man who is a shepherd in the Church of God, to preach, and cast abroad the word into the air, we must have private admonitions also. And this is a point that many deceive themselves in. For they think that the order of the Church was made for no other end and purpose but that they should come to Church one hour in the week, or certain days, and there hear a man speak, and when he has come out of the pulpit, he should hold his peace. Those who think so, show themselves sufficiently, that they never knew, either what Christianity, or God’s order, meant.

For as we see in this passage, and it has been shown us already before, when he who has preached the word has taught the people, he must have an eye to those who have need to be warned of their faults privately. As we see also, that in Ezekiel it is not only said that God has set the Shepherd to lead his flock out to feeding, but his office is to help the weak, and to heal the sick, and to remedy all infirmities that are among them (Ez. 34:4). And therefore, if we want to do our duty toward God, and to those who are committed to our charge, it is not enough for us to offer them the doctrine generally, but when we see any of them go astray, we must labor to bring him to the right way, when we see another in grief and sorrow, we must go about to comfort him, when we see anyone who is dull of the spirit, we must prick him and spur him, as his nature will bear.

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