Ministerial Individuality

I Corinthians 12:1,8

Now there are differences of gifts, but the same Spirit…For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): What qualifies men for the work of the ministry is a gift from God: it is not of nature, nor is it mere natural abilities and capacity; nor is it any thing acquired, it is not human learning, or the knowledge of languages, arts, and sciences; nor is it special saving grace; for a man may have all these, and yet not be apt to teach, or fit for the ministry; but it is a peculiar and distinct gift, it is a gift of interpreting the Scriptures, and of dispensing the mysteries of grace to the edification of others.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Different persons have different gifts and graces.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): In the measure of their ministerial abilities, and in the peculiar turn of their preaching, there is a great variety…Some are more happy in alarming the careless, others in administering consolation to the wounded conscience. Some are set more especially for the establishment and confirmation of the Gospel doctrines; others are skillful in solving casuastical points; others more excellent in enforcing practical godliness; and others again, having been led through depths of temptation and spiritual distress, are best acquainted with the various workings of the heart, and know best how to speak a word in season to weary and exercised souls…

In my imagination, I sometimes fancy I could make a perfect minister. I take the eloquence of Mr. A, the knowledge of Mr. B, the zeal of Mr. C, and the pastoral meekness, tenderness, and piety of Mr. D: then, putting them all together into one man, I say to myself, “This would be a perfect minister.” Now there is One, who, if He chose it, could actually do this; but He never did. He has seen fit to do otherwise…The servants of Christ all preach the same truths; but the Holy Spirit, who furnishes them all for the work He appoints them to, distributes to each one severally, according to His own will.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Look at the flowers. No two are identical. It is in the variety within the fundamental unity that God displays the wonders of His ways. And it is exactly the same in the Christian Church. We are all different, our temperaments are different.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): There is not a greater, or more pleasant variety of qualities, smells, and colours, among the herbs and flowers with which the earth is variegated and decked for the delight and service of men, than there is in the gifts and abilities of ministers for the use and service of the church. One hath quickness of parts, but not so deep and solid a judgment. Another is grave and solid, but not so ready and [spontaneous]. One is wary and reserved, another open and plain. One is melancholy and timorous, another cheerful and courageous.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): One can wield the sledge hammer but could not heal a broken heart. If he were to attempt it, you would be reminded of an elephant trying to thread a needle. Such a man can reprove, but he cannot apply oil and wine to a bruised conscience. Why? Because God hath not given to him the gift.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Some are called to awaken, others to establish and build up.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): There are some Boanerges, sons of thunder, alarming and thundering preachers; some Barnabases, sons of consolation, sweetly comforting preachers.

J. HALL (circa 1861): Look at Melancthon and Luther. Melancthon said the scriptures imparted to the soul a holy and marvellous delight, it was the heavenly ambrosia.  Now, Luther said, the Word of the Lord was a sword, it was a war, it was a destruction, and it leaped upon the children of Ephraim like lions of the forest.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils.  I must remove stumps and stones, cut away thistles and thorns, and clear the wild forest―I am rough, boisterous, stormy and altogether warlike…but Master Philip Melancthon comes softly and gently, sowing and watering with joy.

J. HALL: Look at the history of George Whitefield and of Jonathan Edwards.  Why, the ministry of Edwards burst upon the people as alarming as the trump of doom, terrible as the kindling of the last fires, while the preaching Whitefield came down upon the ears of the people like rain upon the new-mown grass. Depend upon it, Whitefield could never have preached that sermon, “Sinners in the hand of an angry God.” He would have been compelled to stop a hundred times in the course of the sermon to preach the love of Christ to sinners, and to shed tears over souls in peril of the wrath to come.

HOWEL HARRIS (1714-1773): I think I never saw the like of George Whitefield in some things; such as strong faith, brokenness of spirit, Catholic love, and true sympathy. Indeed, his tongue is like the pen of a ready writer to call sinners to Christ. And none are like the brethren John and Charles Wesley to press after holiness. I see every day that each has his peculiar gifts and talents in the work.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): A writer in the North British Review has well and forcibly described the difference between the two great English evangelists of the [18th] century: “Whitefield was soul, and Wesley was system. Whitefield was the summer cloud which burst at morning a fragrant exhalation over an ample trace, and took the rest of the day to gather again; Wesley was the polished conduit in the midst of the garden, through which the living water glided in pearly brightness and perennial music, the same vivid stream from day to day. All force and impetus, Whitefield was the powder-blast in the quarry, and by one explosive sermon would shake a district, and detach materials for other men’s long work; deft, neat, and painstaking, Wesley loved to split and trim each fragment into uniform polished stones. Whitefield was the bargeman or the wagoner who brought the timber of the house and Wesley was the architect who set it up. Whitefield had no patience for ecclesiastical polity, no aptitude for pastoral details; Wesley, with a leader-like propensity for building, was always constructing societies, and with a king-like craft of ruling, was most at home when presiding over a class or a conference.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): How wise is God in giving different preachers different talents!

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Some have popular gifts fit for large auditories, others move best in a more contracted sphere, and may be exceedingly useful in the private societies.

JOHN LIVINGSTON (1603-1672): My gift was rather suited to simple common people, than to the learned and judicious auditors.

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): I used to mourn because I couldn’t be an orator. I thought, ‘Oh, if I could only have the gift of speech like some men!’―I know perfectly well that, wherever I go and preach, there are many better preachers than I am―all that I can say is that the Lord uses me.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The answer to this is simply―Be yourself! You are never meant to be anything but yourself…You are an individual made by God. These things are not accidental. There is great value in individuality.

C. H. SPURGEON: There is Divine Sovereignty in all this, and we must learn to recognize and admire it.


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