The Limits Of Ministerial Responsibility -- By: Edward N. Packard

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 046:181 (Jan 1889)
Article: The Limits Of Ministerial Responsibility
Author: Edward N. Packard

The Limits Of Ministerial Responsibility

Rev. Edward N. Packard

That there is an increased pressure of responsibility coming upon the ministry of the present day grows more and more painfully evident. Respecting this pressure two diverse tendencies are manifest: on the one hand, there is less to favor the ministry in the social and intellectual life of the world; while, on the other, there is more thrust upon it inside the church. Men in general rely less upon their spiritual fathers and teachers for guidance, while they exact more of them as managers of religious business. The minister fills too small a place in the whole life of man and too large a place in the church. This has come about gradually through many complex causes, but chiefly through the departure from the primitive pattern of church organization, and the refusal or the inability of the laity to do their share of the work. There are certain simple duties in the Christian life that are its unchanging mold. Religion is the dress of faith. Its place is in the outward duties such as Christ performed as our pattern. No division of labor in the church can release the members, as a whole and individually, from these duties; yet they are constantly neglected by the church at large or done through substitutes. It is not an exaggeration to say that not a few seem to regard the pastor and the women of the churches as alone responsible for the care of the sick, the comfort of the sorrowful, for carrying sympathy to the downcast and outcast, showing social attention to strangers, for the nurture of the young, and restraint upon the law-breaking classes. For this, so some

imagine, the minister is hired as the coachman is,—using the word with no intentional indignity, but with the same underlying conception of his office. He is a substitute in Christian warfare. He is a paid overseer of a religious concern,It may not be most convenient for him or the people that he should be made the settled pastor; and anon the sheep are without care because the hireling fleeth. The laymen are not idle, but busy, too busy and too heavily weighted with business cares to have strength and leisure, as they believe, to visit the fatherless and the widows, to converse with persons on religion, to know the stranger in his home and family, and to have a real share in the oversight of the church.

It is not intended to imply that this comes from lay ambition, or covetousness, or strife for place and consideration amongst men. All are on a common level of consecration and of worldliness, of success and failure. The real causes are deep. They are ultimately moral and they affect insensibly the whole world. Christian life to-day may be as good and wholesome as at any period since the...

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