Durham on the Ministry

James Durham had strong views on the snares and difficulties of the Pastoral ministry.  Here are some of his insights:

Of all men in the world, Ministers are most obnoxious to this temptation of vanity, and seeking approbation from others; because, most of their appearances are in public before others, and that in the exercise of some Gift of the mind, which is supposed to hold forth the inward worth of a person more than any other thing. Now, when this meeteth with applause, it holdeth out a people’s estimation of such a person’s worth, which has a great subtlety in pleasing and tickling of him, and so is ready to incline him to rest satisfied therein.

In anything it is difficult to remain humble but according to Durham it is especially difficult in the ministry.  Accordingly Durham notes:

Hence we see, That as often the most tender Christian is under the cross, so it is the most lively Minister who laboureth most under the sense of his own insufficiency and shortcomings in Gifts … who meeteth with most disrespect, and many disappointments amongst the people and such like; these are often blessed of God to keep such a person lively … O but Ministers that have a name, and some seeming countenance in the exercise of their Gifts, great applause and acceptation amongst the people, had need to be humble and watchful, lest they be liable to this charge, Thou hast a name that thou livest, but are dead!

On a note more related to my thesis:

Many Ministers are not travailing in birth to beget souls, and to have success as to the Salvation of many, as well as outward fruits; but are at best studying to exonerate themselves as having being diligent in their duty.

Alas, that Durham’s words are probably as true today as when he wrote them.

Oftentimes Ministers take more pains in external duties of their Ministry that are obvious to the view of others, that they do in the inward secret duties of Christianity upon their own hearts, such as self-examination, that making of their own calling and election sure, the keeping of themselves in the love of God, the exercising of Faith, Repentance etc.

No doubt this is true of us all.  It is so easy for all outwardly to appear well while our inward spiritual life is withering away.

Durham criticises those who bring “forth of high notions and great words … yet in the meantime there was no care how to provide food … for hungry … souls.

So he says:

…that is truly a learned Pastor, who can make Spiritual mysterious Truths most plain and palatable to the simplest hearer…

Again in line with my thesis:

The great shot of all Preaching would be driven constantly, both in public and in private, to wit, the edification and salvation of the people, and the forming of Christ in them by travailing, as it were, in birth for that effect.

Finally Durham gives advice which should be a watchword for ever ministry:

…it is not Gifts that commendeth a Minister to Christ, but faithfulness in improving the measure which he hath…

2 Responses to “Durham on the Ministry”

  1. Caleb Says:


    Wonderful quotes – thanks for posting them. Just curious, what is the name of the book that these quotes are from?


  2. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Hi Caleb

    Yes it would have been useful to include that information 🙂 I was quoting from A Commentarie Upon the Book of the Revelation (Reprint. Willow Street: Old Paths Publications, 2000). The publishers link is here:


    Every blessing
    Donald John

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