On October 20th 1909, P. T. Forsyth delivered an ordination address based on John 17:6,
“I manifested thy name unto the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me.“
The sermon is very short and broken down into three parts, The Property, The Gift, The Use.
We continue with part two….
“Thou Gavest Them to Me.”
Your ordination is an act and gift of God. He is putting His people into your hands. He does not so much give you a position as a trust. He puts His Church in your care.
But it is also true that He entrusts this Church with you. If they treat you ill, it will affect your whole life, and just the same if they treat you well. A Minister is very much what his first Church makes him. But let them remember this, that to treat you well they must treat your Gospel better than you.
Therefore it is not popularity you must think about first. Do not crave morbidly for your people’s love. Craving does not bring it, and often arrests it. Do not beg for sympathy.
Think of your Church from the other point of view, as a trust from God to whom you must be faithful in it. This flock is committed to you by God. You do not simply take each other but, as in true marriage, God has given you to each other. This is really a marriage ceremony. You are being married to the Church.
This will comfort you when you are doubting if you should be at this work. Say to yourself, “Thou hast given them to me, the responsibility is Thine.” Da quod jubes et jube quod vis (“Give what you command, and command what you give,” St Augustine, Confessions 10.29.40). I am not worthy. Yes that is true, but what is that to thee, follow thou Me!
Of course you are not worthy to preach the Gospel; none of us is worthy. But then your people are not worthy to hear it. If it depended on worth, there would be neither preachers nor listeners. The worth is where the power is, in Christ and God, who does not give us according to our deserts.
Lest you be overwhelmed with the greatness of your task, remember no Church is given to any man without the Saviour of the Church and of Him. After all, it is Christ’s Church more than yours. He is the real Pastor of every real Church, and the Bishop of its Minister. You are but His curate.
[Next] the use of gift.
With gratitude to Jason Goroncy in his excellent book containing published and unpublished sermons by Forsyth, the one I am posting (in three parts, part one here) is previously unpublished (p.352-355), and I whole-heartedly commend the book, as I have already done in a previous post, not least for an outstanding introduction (worth the book money alone)!