Waiting and Longing to Hear God’s Word
|Image from William Guthrie - CCEL|
Posted at Reformation Scotland:
We’re so used to hearing sermons that it becomes ordinary and routine for us. Yet it is meant to be a life-changing and world-changing activity. Christ has sent someone to declare His Word to us in a special way. No words outside of Scripture are more significant than those we hear from the pulpit. The Spirit of God makes “the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation” (Shorter Catechism, Q89). We should therefore be longing and waiting for the sermons we hear.
In what follows we will hear the heart-cry of a flock to a shepherd to come and feed them with God’s Word. This was a congregation who would experience one of Scotland’s most richly blessed ministries – ever. The parish of Fenwick, Ayrshire were calling a young man called William Guthrie. Writing a call to a pastor can seem to some like a procedural technicality or in some cases a fairly casual approach but in this case the document breathes spiritual earnestness.
The congregation write to Guthrie as “Reverend and well-beloved” recalling first of all their struggles to get a church building newly erected. They mention “how (after many prayers and difficulties) by the great mercy and good hand of God upon” them, they had a church building “erected to the honour of His name and for [their] edification”. They describe themselves as a “hungry people” full of spiritual needs.
They are “bound in conscience and pressed in spirit to make use of so fair a mercy by begging from God and looking out (in the ordinary way) one who may break the Bread of Life” to them and “watch
for [their] souls”.
It has pleased the Lord to incline all our hearts as one man towards you as the man of God sent unto us and kept for us by special providence
They urge Guthrie through the compassion of Jesus (the great and chief shepherd), beseeching and charging him in His name” to accept their call to ministry in that place.
You are the first after whom the eyes and hearts of us all have been carried with a holy violence and this is the first call that ever came from this place, we rest assured that you neither dare nor will refuse the burden
So they seek that he will “refresh the hearts of a waiting longing and languishing people by a ready condescendence”. They close the call describing themselves as those who are resolved to be “your very affectionate friends and flock”. It was dated 27 September 1643. The original call is displayed on the wall of Fenwick Parish Church.