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Christian Ministry Hardcover – October 1, 1958
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About the Author
Charles Bridges (1794-1869) was one of the leaders of the Evangelical party in the Church of England in the nineteenth century. He was the vicar of Old Newton, Suffolk, from 1823 to 1849, and later of Weymouth and Hinton Martell in Dorset.
Educated at Queen's College, Cambridge, Bridges was ordained in 1817. As a preacher he was called upon for such important occasions as the Clerical Conference at Weston-super-Mare in 1858 (when he preached along with J. C. Ryle) and the consecration of the Bishop of Carlisle in York Minster in l860.
Renowned though he was in his own day for his pulpit ministry, his subsequent fame rests in the books which came from his pen An Exposition of Psalm CXIX (1827), Forty-eight Scriptural Studies (5th ed. 1833), Fifty-four Scriptural Studies (1837), An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs (1846), a Manual for the Young (1849), and An Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes (1860). His The Christian Ministry went through nine editions within 20 years of its appearance in 1829 and has probably remained unequalled in its field. These works earned high commendation from many, including C. H. Spurgeon, who described all Bridge s writings as 'very suggestive to ministers.'
After his death a small selection of his correspondence was published in book form in 1870 and it reveals a man of deep Christian piety. 'I never remember anyone,' says the writer of the Foreword to The Christian Ministry, 'in whose presence it was more difficult to be irreligious, or even frivolous.'
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I. In part one, Bridges covers the origin, institution, dignity, use, necessity, trials, difficulties, comforts, encouragements, and qualifications of the Christian ministry, along with four steps of preparation for the ministry: habits of general study, special study of the Scriptures, habits of special prayer, and employment in the cure of souls.
II-III. Parts two and three deal with five general reasons and ten personal reasons why ministers are often ineffective. The general reasons include:
1. the withholding of divine influence
2. the enmity of the natural heart of man
3. the power of Satan
4. local hindrances
5. and the lack of a Divine call to ministry
The personal reasons (i.e. causes of ministerial inefficiency connected with our personal character) are:
1. want of entire devotedness of heart
2. conformity to the world
3. the fear of man
4. the want of Christian self-denial
5. the Spirit of covetousness
6. neglect of retirement (time alone with God)
7. the influence of spiritual pride
8. the absence or defect of personal religion
9. the defect of family relgion; and the want of connection of the Minister's family with his work
10. lack of faith
I can scarcely describe how heart-searching these chapters were. When I was working through these some months back, I felt very deep apprehension and fear over my personal accountability to God for the souls in my charge. I needed (still need) to feel that and Bridges pressed it into my heart like probably no author ever has. Those of you who know me best will readily see how much work yet needs to be done in my life regard to these ten things. Pray for me.
IV. Part four of the book details the public work of the Christian Ministry. Much space is given to the task of preaching, including the institution and importance of preaching, and preparation for the pulpit. The last sections of the book I actually read were those detailing the Scriptural mode of preaching the Law and the Scriptural mode of preaching the Gopsel. I suppose I put these off, because I didn't think I would agree with Bridges on his view of the Law, but I actually benefited immensely. I just underlined and underlined and underlined. It is so rich. Then there are also chapters on the mode of preaching (addressing both topical and expository preaching and extempore and written sermons) and the "Spirit of Scriptural preaching" (broken down into seven qualities: boldness, wisdom, plainness, fervency, diligence, singleness, and love).
V. Finally, part five deals with the Pastoral Work of the Christian Ministry, addressing first, the nature and importance of the pastoral work, and second how to treat specific cases in pastoral work (i.e. the infidel, the ignorant and careless, the self-righteous, the false professor, natural and spiritual convictions, the young Christian, the backslider, the unestablished Christian, and the confirmed and consistent Christian.) This was an especially helpful section, giving much encouragement to me in the midst of some challenging pastoral responsibilities, and also supplying much insight in how to apply the Word to specific kinds of people.
It is impossible for me to do justice to the helpfulness of this book. I really know of nothing else quite like it, except maybe Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students. But I think this is even better than that - because of its focus not just on preaching, but on pastoral work. Brdiges is eloquent and full of the Gospel. Like Spurgeon said of Bunyan, he just bleeds Bible - prick him anywhere and his blood is bibline. He was also very well-read in the Patristics, the Reformers, and the Puritans, and quotes from their works often. There are lots of gems scattered throughout that it would be almost impossible for anyone to find elsewhere, unless they pursued a PhD in church history. Perhaps the best thing I can say is that the book has weight - gravity. It is a serious book, but serious in a joy-giving and helpful sort of way. If you are a pastor or elder (or want to be), I highly recommend that you read it.
This book gets marked down for the above shortcomings, but it is nonetheless a quality book for those in church leadership. I was specifically challenged in the areas of preaching, intercessory prayer, and personal interaction with the members of the church. You will likely skim through a few portions that are not pertinent to you, but the rest you will find richly encouraging as you seek to grow in the leadership of God's people.
This book has to be read at least twice to get a sense of what true, authentic Christian ministry actually is -- in these times we have too much frivolity. There will be much that will be highlighted, underlined and re-read. Do yourself a favour and get this book if you are being called into the ministry -- it's absolutely invaluable and a solid reference book.
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Charles Bridges. The Christian Ministry: with An Inquiry into the Causes of its Inefficiency. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1830. 390 pp. $32.00.Read more