Pastors, Physicians of Souls

There is a striking analogy between the office of a pastor and that of a physician They both have respect to the welfare of men and while the one seeks to heal the diseases of the body the other aims at restoring to health the disordered souls of men. It belongs to each not only to cure but to prevent diseases and to soothe and comfort such patients as it may be found impossible to cure As the physician cannot safely follow his profession without an accurate knowledge of the human frame so the pastor ought to be well acquainted with the constitution of the mind and with all its faculties susceptibilities and passions And as the body and mind are intimately but mysteriously united, it appertains to both these professions to be acquainted with the effects of this union in their reciprocal influence on the constituent parts of our nature; therefore the knowledge of physiology is important to both. I have often been struck with admiration at the ardour and self-denial manifested by the students of medicine in acquiring the requisite knowledge of the anatomy of the human body and in making themselves acquainted with the pathology of the most loathsome diseases. They learn to enter cheerfully into the wards of hospitals almshouses and asylums for the insane that they may become acquainted with the symptoms of all classes of disease to which the human frame is liable, and they spare no pains in making experiments and ascertaining the efficacy of particular remedies and modes of treatment. And I have desired to witness something of the same diligence and self-denial in candidates for the holy ministry that they might become better qualified to deal with the moral diseases of those souls which are committed to their care. Every pastor should study to become a skilful casuist for if he is a faithful shepherd he will meet with a great number and variety of cases of conscience which will call for both his tenderest compassion and spiritual skill in the treatment.

–          Archibald Alexander, found in Princeton and the Work of Christian Ministry, 191-92

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