Charles Bridges (1794-1869) in The Christian Ministry: With an Inquiry into the Causes of its Inefficiency (Banner of Truth) offers insights in the work of pastoral ministry that warm the heart and stir the soul. So much of Bridges’ attitude and advice about the ministry is completely out of step with the popular notions of the pastorate today, but his words are so thoroughly grounded in God’s word that they ring with an umistakable conviction and nobility. Useful quotes abound from these pages, but this one on the necessity of personal oversight is enough to humble me for the rest of the week. While discussing difficulties in the ministry, he notes that “after all, the greatest difficulties derive their origin and power from ourselves.” He continues to describe the ditch that exists on either side of the road for ministers, pride and despondence. To borrow an illustration from pro wrestling (not usually reccomended), these two sins can form a wicked tag-team against any minister.
A course of opposition also to our message may stir up a selfish, unhumbled spirit. Popularity is yet more dangerous: the few, who escape its influence unhurt, have been exercised in painful conflicts, such as have shown their deliverance form this fiery trial to have been nearly miraculous. Symptoms of success, unless tempered with personal abasement and habitual watchfulness, excite to self-confidence. The want of these tokens on the other hand, is too often accompanied with impatience or despondency; so that – assaulted at the extreme points from opposite directions – we need ‘ the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.’ (2 Cor 6:7) (15)
How often have these two sins “tag-teamed” me relentlessly, puffing me up with arrogance one day, then plunging me into despair the next! In both cases, I am taking my eyes off the sufficiency of Christ crucified and risen for me, my only boast. I suspect, from Bridges’ words, that this is no new development. May the Chief Shepherd deliver us from the wiles of the evil one, and may all of Christ’s shepherds keep a close watch over our own souls.