Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Isaac Watts' Questions for Ministers, pt. 1

The warnings in the Scripture to take heed to ourselves and beware of being deceived--either by others or through self-deceit--need to be taken to heart by ministers of the Gospel. None of us is immune to disqualifying himself from pastoral ministry. It is wise and profitable for a pastor to stop and examine himself periodically, in light of what the Bible calls him to be and do.

Isaac Watts drew up a list of questions designed to help young ministers do exactly that. These questions are useful for more than young ministers. Any pastor can benefit from them. Watts divided the questions into 5 sections. Today I am posting the first two of those. I will follow up the the last three in the next post. The full title is "Questions Proper for Young Ministers Frequently to Put to Themselves, Chiefly borrowed from the Epistles to Timothy and Titus."

Section I.
Of Faithfulness in the Ministry
  1. Do I sincerely give myself "to the ministry of the word;" Acts vi. 4. and do I design to make it the chief business of my life to serve Christ in his Gospel, in order to the salvation of men?
  2. Do I resolve, through the aids of divine grace, "to be faithful to him who hath put me into the ministry," and "to take heed to the ministry which I have received in the Lord that I may fulfil it?" 1 Tim. i. 12. Col. iv. 17.
  3. Do I honestly and faithfully endeavour by study and prayer to know "the truth as it is in Jesus?" Eph. ix. 21. and do I seek my instructions chiefly from the "holy scriptures which are able to make me wise unto salvation, through the faith that is in Christ, that I may be thoroughly furnished unto every good word and work?" 2 Tim. iii. 14. 17.
  4. Do "I hold fast the form of sound words," as far as I have learned them of Christ and his apostles? 2 Tim. i. 13. That I "may by sound doctrine exhort and convince gainsayers;" Tit. i. 9. and do I determine to "continue in the things which I have learned, knowing from whom I have learned them?" 2 Tim. iii. 14.
  5. Do I resolve to give the people the true meaning of Christ in his word, so far as I can understand it, and "not to handle the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commend myself to every man's conscience in the sight of God?" 2 Cor. iv. 2.
  6. Am I watchful to "avoid profane and vain babblings?" 1 Tim. vi. 20. and do I take care to "shun foolish questions, which do gender strife, and disputing about words, which are to no profit, but the subversion of the hearers?" 2 Tim. ii. 14, 23.
  7. Do I study to show myself approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth; 2 Tim. ii. 15. giving to every one, viz. to saints and sinners, their proper portion?
  8. Do I make it my business to "testify to all men, whether Jews or Greeks, the necessity of repentance towards God, and faith in Christ Jesus;" and that "there is no other name under heaven given whereby we may be saved;" making this gospel of Christ the subject of my ministry? Acts xx. 21. Acts iv. 12.
  9. Do I constantly affirm that "those who have believed in Christ Jesus should maintain good works, and follow after holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord?" Titus iii. 8. Heb. xii. 14.
  10. Do I teach those that hear me to "observe all that Christ hath commanded us, nor shun to declare to them at proper seasons the whole counsel of God? Mat. xxviii. 20. Acts xx. 27.
  11. Do I preach to the people, "not myself, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and myself as their servant for Christ's sake?" 2 Cor. iv. 5.
  12. Do I, in my study and my preaching, "take heed to my doctrine and my exhortations, so that I may save myself and them that hear me?" 1 Tim. iv. 16.
  13. Do I "watch over the souls of men as one that must give an account, being solicitous that I may do it with joy, and not with grief?" Heb. xiii. 17.

Section II

Of Diligence in the Ministry
  1. Do I "give attendance to reading," meditation and study? Do I read a due portion of scripture daily, especially in the New Testament, and that in the Greek original, that I may be better acquainted with the meaning of the word of God? 1 Tim. iv. 13.
  2. Do I apply myself to these things, and give myself wholly to them, that my profiting may appear to all? 1 Tim. iv. 15.
  3. Do I live, constantly, as under the eye of the great Shepherd, who is my master and my final judge; and so spend my hours as to be able to give up a good account of them at last to him?
  4. Do I not "neglect to stir up any of those gifts, which God has given me, for the edification of the church? 1 Tim. iv. 14. and 2 Tim. i. 6.
  5. Do I seek, as far as possible, to know the state and the wants of my auditory, that I "may speak a word in season?" Is. i. 4.
  6. Is it my chief design, in choosing my subject, and composing my sermon, to edify the souls of men?
  7. Am I determined to take all proper opportunities to preach the word in season and out of season, that is, in the parlour or the kitchen, or the workhouse, as well as in the pulpit; and seek opportunities to speak a word for Christ, and help forward the salvation of souls? 2 Tim. iv. 2.
  8. Do I labour to show my love to our Lord Jesus, by "feeding the sheep and the lambs of his flock?" John xxi. 16, 17.
  9. Am I duly solicitous for the success of my ministry? and do I take all proper methods to inquire what effects my ministry has had on the souls of those who hear me?
  10. Where I find or hope the work of grace is begun on the soul, am I zealous and diligent to promote it?


Brian Hamrick said...

Great stuff, Tom. Printing it now. I was surprised I could not find the whole text online anywhere through Google.

Any flooding in Cape Coral this morning?

jmattingly said...


This must be some strange providential occurrence- this section was just brought to my attention last night when a good friend brought John Brown's "Christian Pastor's Manual" over to my house.

He took the book home with him, so I couldn't finish reading this section. So, you've done me a great service!

This is all very convicting. For one who has not yet labored in the office, and knowing my own weaknesses, I can say that these questions are quite overwhelming.

Thanks for urging me on to holiness this morning.


Tom said...


Cape Coral is dry this morning. All the schools, colleges and many businesses shut down in anticipation of severe weather. But the Lord has spared us. Man proposes but God disposes.

Watts' questions are found in The Christian Pastor's Manual A Selection of Tracts on the Duties, Difficulties, and Encouragements of the Christian Ministry, a book edited by Rev. John Brown and first published in 1826. Soli Deo Glori republished it in 1991.

Jeremy, that really is an unusual providence! Be encouraged!

Will McKay said...

Many thanks for this timely post. May we each pray through these for days to come.


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol,

Thank you for continuing to post this high-quality, challenging material. These are very powerful questions. I hope I have the nerve to ask them of myself.

Love in Christ,


GUNNY said...

Great spiritual gut check ... reminds me of Holy Club self-exam questions (of Whitefield & Wesley et al) as well as Edwards' resolutions.

Thanks, Tom.