Pastoral Wisdom from Abraham Booth

boothAbraham Booth (1734-1806) was a longtime London pastor and leader among the British Particular Baptists in the 18th century. Among his most famous books were The Reign of GraceThe Death of Legal Hope, and An Apology for the Baptists. You can find these works (and most of Booth’s writings) in the three-volume Select Works of Abraham Booth, which can be purchased at a very affordable price through Reformation Heritage Books. (Unfortunately, this edition is published as flimsy paperbacks.) Particular Baptist Press is issuing a new hardback multi-volume collection of Booth’s works, which is edited by Michael Haykin. Volume I has already been published.

In 1784, Booth preached an ordination sermon for a young pastor named Thomas Hopkins. The title was “Pastoral Cautions” and the text was 1 Timothy 4:16: “Take heed to thyself.” The sermon was soon printed and circulated among Baptists all over England. Among the pastors who were positively influenced by the printed sermon were Andrew Fuller, William Carey, John Sutcliff, and John Ryland Jr. These men were the key leaders in the evangelical renewal of Particular Baptists and the launching of the modern mission movement in the English-speaking world.

In the sermon, Booth outlined ten pastoral cautions that are just as applicable to our contemporary context as they were 200 years ago.

  1. “Take heed to yourself, then, with regard to the reality of true godliness, and the state of religion in your own soul”
  2. “Take heed to yourself, lest you mistake an increase of gifts for a growth in grace”
  3. “Take heed that your pastoral office prove not a snare to your soul, lifting you up with pride and self-importance”
  4. “Take heed to yourself, respecting your temper and conduct in general”
  5. “I will now adopt the words of our Lord, and say, Take heed and beware of covetousness”
  6. “Take heed, I will venture to ask, take heed to your Second-Self in the person of your wife”
  7. “Take heed to yourself, with regard to the diligent improvement of your talents and opportunities, in the whole course of your ministry”
  8. “Take heed to yourself, respecting the motives by which you are influenced in all your endeavours to obtain useful knowledge”
  9. “Take heed of yourself, with regard to that success, and those discouragements, which may attend your ministry”
  10. “Once more: Take heed that you pay an habitual regard to divine influence; as that without which you cannot either enjoy a holy liberty in your work, or have any reason to expect success”

I would heartily recommend that every pastor, seminarian, and missionary read the full text of this sermon, which is available in Michael & Alison Haykin, eds., The Works of Abraham Booth, Volume 1: Confession of Faith & Sermons (Particular Baptist Press, 2006), pp. 57-84.

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