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Feed My Sheep!

Several years ago on this day, January 11th, our post concerned the pastoral charge brought by the Rev. John Mathews in 1818, at the ordination and installation of the Rev. Wells Andrews as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, Virginia. In particular, we focused on the concluding exhortation to the congregation to pray for their new pastor.

We return to that pastoral charge today, but now look at another section of this sermon, where Rev. Mathews examines, by way of contrast, the several types of pastors who are in reality wolves feeding on the sheep. In his charge to the pastor, Rev. Mathews begins with a quick summary of some of the chief requisites of one who would enter the ministry. He must of course be able to speak, and to speak well; he must exhibit sound judgment and common sense; must be one who has the benefit of learning and particularly must be acquainted with theology. All these are requisite, but Mathews concludes that above all, piety is the chief requisite, and it is here that he then brings out the contrasting patterns of false shepherds—those who in reality feed themselves, not the sheep—and so Mathews provides us with a useful set of categories or types of that error. This section of the sermon concludes with a brief portrait of the true under-shepherd of the Lord’s people :—

The chief qualification, however, for usefulness, in the pastoral office, is piety; genuine, fervent. The powers of darkness never wielded, against the cause of Christ, a more dangerous weapon than an irreligious clergyman; especially if the garb of morality conceals from public view the base infidelity of his heart. His learning and talents only render him the more dangerous. His ministrations can only increase the torpor of spiritual death among the flock committed to his charge.

In him the love of religion can have no place; he must, therefore, be influenced by some selfish and mercenary motive. Perhaps the revenue of the church, his yearly salary, is all the reward he desires. Or if ambition should be his ruling passion; if he thirst for literary fame, then he will permit his hearers to sink quietly down to perdition, provided they depart with the language of adulation to his vanity on their lips. Or perhaps he claims to be distinguished as a man of zeal; then no sacrifices, not even compassing sea and land, will be too great to gain proselytes. His learning and talents will be employed in biting and devouring those on whom his efforts prove ineffectual. But if he can succeed in teaching the shibboleth of his party, and drill his followers in all the routine of external forms, then his work is accomplished, and he expects his reward.

From such a scourge, may the Lord, in mercy, preserve His Church! and send her pastors after His own heart, who shall feed her children with knowledge and understanding, whose experimental acquaintance with religion will qualify them to guide others in their passage from death unto life; whose temptations, and sorrows, and trials will qualify them to sympathize with their people when tempted, afflicted and distressed; whose acquaintance with the Saviour, whose hope in His mercy, will dispose them, in the most inviting terms, to recommend him to others as a willing and all sufficient Saviour; whose closets will often witness with fervor and humble importunity of their private devotions for the success of their ministry; whose people, though they perish in unbelief, will yet be constrained to confess that they were solemnly and repeatedly warned! to flee from the wrath to come!

Words to Live By:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?—Ezekiel 34:1-2

Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord have spoken.—Ezekiel 34:23-24

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . . I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.—John 10:11, 14-15, KJV.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.—John 21:17, KJV.

For Further Study:
The full pastoral charge can be accessed here:—
The duties of the pastoral office : a sermon, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, at the ordination of Wells Andrews, January 11, 1818, before the Presbytery of Winchester.

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