The Pastor’s Life: Practical Wisdom from the Puritans, Matthew D. Haste and Shane W. Parker, Fearn: Christian Focus, 2019.

In fourteen short chapters, Haste and Parker deal with different aspects of the life of the pastor as exemplified by the Puritans. John Bunyan saw this work in exalted terms: ‘Eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth written on his lips, the world behind his back; he stood as if he pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over his head.’ Yet when Bunyan and his wife were married, they were so poor that they lacked a dish and spoon between them.

The key areas in a pastor’s life are covered – his call, his Bible, his doctrine, piety, prayer, preaching, affections, shepherding, evangelism and leadership. There is even an unusual, but most worthwhile chapter on the pastor’s failures, using Jonathan Edwards as the example. This covers his slave owning, his timing in renouncing the Halfway Covenant, the medical book fiasco,  and the dispute over his salary.

A potent use of quotations helps to drive home the message of each chapter. Both the doctrinal and the practical aspects of the pastor’s work receive their due. According to William Perkins: ‘The Word of God alone is to be preached, in its perfection and inner consistency. Scripture is the exclusive subject of preaching, the only field in which the preacher is to labour.’ To which we might add Lewis Bayly’s call in The Practice of Piety: ‘There can be no true piety without the knowledge of God; nor any good practice without the knowledge of a man’s own self.’

John Owen is as insightful as always: ‘Truth may be lost by weakness as well as wickedness.’ William Perkins warned: ‘But our expressions of hatred for sin must always be accompanied by an obvious love for the person who has sinned.’ But Richard Sibbes comforted: ‘There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.’ And Thomas Brooks sets it all in perspective: ‘it is only the faithfulness of a minister in his ministerial work that pleases God’. This is a short manual which will be of considerable help to any pastor seeking to make known the gospel of Christ in a needy world.

– Peter Barnes