Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Lessons in Ministry from Thomas Scott

John Newton is famous as the slave trader who was converted to Christ, gave up the slave trade and penned the famous Amazing Grace. Newton spent many years as a parish minister and part of that time he was in the neighbouring parish to a man named Thomas Scott. Scott was actually not a Christian when he went into the ministry. In his autobiography he mentions three reasons why he became a minister. First, he thought it would be an easier life than working on his father’s farm; second he thought the life of the ministry would give him time to read – the great passion of his life; and thirdly, he thought that being a minister would give him the chance to distinguish himself as a literary man – as ‘he felt within himself the capacity for success’. Now, thankfully Scott was converted to a genuine faith in Christ and became a very effective minister.

This is an account from Scott’s diary that illustrates how poor view of ministry was:

In January 1774 two of my parishioners, a man and his wife, lay at the point of death. I had heard of the circumstances, but according to my general custom, not being sent for, I took no notice of it; till one evening, the woman being now dead, and the man dying, I heard that [ the neighbouring minister] my neighbour Mr Newton had been several times to visit them. {so even though these people were not in Newton’s parish – he had made the effort to see them} Scott continues: Immediately my conscience reproached me with being shamefully negligent, in sitting at home within a few doors of dying persons […] and never going to visit them…This reflection affected me so much, that without delay, and very earnestly, yea, with tears, I besought the Lord to forgive my past neglect. {from Thomas Scott, The Force of Truth (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1984 [1779])}

Contrast this to that of Paul in 1 Thess 2:7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

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