Abbott, L. – The Christian Ministry

The Christian Ministry

by Lyman Abbott (1835-1922)
Boston and New York
Houghton, Mifflin and Company
Copyright 1905 by Lyman Abbott
All Rights Reserved Published May 1905

Christian Ministry To the Christian Ministers who are attempting to impart that acquaintance with God which is the secret of life this volume is dedicated. Christian Ministry

CONTENTS of Christian Ministry

I. The Fundamental Faiths of the Ministry

Necessity of Fundamental Faiths 1
Religion defined 3
What these Definitions imply 4
Different Types of Religion 7
The Christian Religion defined 9
The Distinctive Feature of Christianity 10
The Hebrews’ Golden Age 13
Christ’s Definition of His Mission 14
The Message of the Apostles 17
Meaning of the Incarnation 19
The Post-Resurrection Life of Christ 20
Christianity a New Theology 22
Christianity a New Life 25
The Christian Ministry a Ministry of Christian Redemption 27
Doubts in Faith 28
Christianity answers the Question of Paganism. 31
The Secret of the Church’s Power 32

Cox A Study on the Trinity
is a short 32-page work on the Trinity with special attention applied towards Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses. Chapters: 1. God is One Monotheism. | 2. Why God is one, but has to be three persons in that one God: Love needs three people. | 3. Other Consideration that God has to be three persons. | 4. God the Father is God | 5. Jesus is God | 6. The Holy Spirit is God. | 7. Unacceptable explanations of the Trinity. | 8 Conclusion. Alternate Download Site:

II. The Function of the Ministry

Is there any Need of the Church? 35
The Answer of the Irreligious 35
Of the Agnostic 36
Of the Skeptic 36
Of the Humanitarian 37
Of the Self-Satisfied 39
Of the Social Reformer 40
The Early Church as an Administrator of Charity 42
Other Organizations have taken its Place… 44
The Inspirational rather than the Institutional Church the Need of our Time 46
The Early Church as a Political Power 47
Three Stages in the Political Development of the Church 48
The Political Function of the Modern Church.. 50
Difference between Minister and Political Reformer 51
The Early Church as an Educator 54
Roman Catholic Testimony respecting Educational Function of the Church 55
Public Schools Preferable to Church Schools.. 57
Defect in our Public Schools 58
Educational Function of Modern Church… 60
The Fundamental Work of the Church…61
The Message of the Church 62
Man’s Desire for Peace 63
Man’s Desire for Power 64
The Church’s Ministry of Peace 67
The Church’s Ministry of Power 68
This Twofold Ministry illustrated by the ‘High Church Movement 70
By the Work of Dwight L. Moody 73
The Church must speak with Authority… 74

III. The Authority of the Ministry

The Authority of the Hebrew Prophets… 76
Not derived from the Bible 77
Nor from the Church 78
Nor from the Reason 78
Nor from Miracles 79
Nor from Fulfillment of Prophecy… 79
Spiritual Authority defined by Canon Liddon.. 79
Analyzed by St. Paul 81
Analyzed by T. H. Huxley 83
The Response of the Soul to Ethical Principles. 84
To Spiritual Truths 85
Illustrated by W. K. Clifford 86
Illustrated by Herbert Spencer… 87
Illustrated by Phillips Brooks 88
Illustrated by Charles Dickens… 89
The Foundation of Religious Authority … 91
The Ecclesiastical Conception of the Authority of the Church 92
The Spiritual Conception of the Authority of the Church 93
The Ecclesiastical Conception of the Authority of the Bible 96
The Spiritual Conception of the Authority of the Bible 99
The Radical Difference between the Two Conceptions 100
The Limits of Biblical Authority 102
The Authority of the Reason 103
Necessity for Clear Definition of the Nature and Limits of Ministerial Authority 105

IV. The Individual Message of the Ministry

The Prophet defined 108
The Minister differs from the Journalist… 109
Preaching on Current Events 110
The Minister differs from the Author… 112
Power of the Sermon is in Preacher’s Personality 113
Attempt to preach Great Sermons a Weakness 114
The Minister differs from the Teacher… 114
In their Respective Objects 115
In the Secret of their Power 117
The Minister differs from the Moral Reformer 118
The Difference defined 119
Henry Ward Beecher on the Preacher as Moral Reformer 120
The Minister differs from the Teacher of Theology 121
The Importance of Creeds 121
Theology is not Religion 122
Sermon not a Lecture on Theology 123
The Use and Abuse of Biblical Criticism in the Pulpit 125
Dealing with Doubts 127
The Function of the Christian Ministry summarized 129

V. The Social Message of the Ministry

The Kingdom of God 132
Three Ideas respecting the Kingdom of God.. 134
The Return to Christ’s Teaching concerning the Kingdom 136
Social Meaning of Theological Terms… 137
Social Revelation 137
Social Redemption 141
Social Regeneration 143
Social Atonement 148
Social Sacrifice 153
Importance of Social Message in our Time.. 155
That Importance emphasized by our National History 158
The Duty of the Christian Church concerning Social Problems 159
Bible Instruction concerning the Laws of Social Life 164

VI. The Minister as Priest

Priests and Prophets: Their Different Functions 166
Importance of Devotional Meetings 169
Their Distinctive Character 170
The Lord’s Supper: Its Threefold Character. 174
The Devotional Element in Church Services.. 176
The Devotional Reading of Scripture…178
The Musical Service 179
Preparation for Public Prayer 186
Relative Advantages of Liturgical and Non-Liturgical Services 188
Testimony of Dr. Bainsford… 190
Of Canon Liddon 190
Of Henry Ward Beecher 193
Intercessory Prayer 194

VII. Qualifications for the Ministry

The Minister must possess Spiritual Life… 198
And Power to express it 201
Therefore a Definite Purpose 201
The Absorbing Passion of His Life 204
The Power of His Personality 205
Object more Important than Subject in Sermon 208
Mr. Gladstone’s Testimony 208
Difference between Sermon and Essay… 210
Length of Sermon 213
Necessity for Careful Preparation 215
Mr. Gladstone’s Method 216
Phillips Brooks’s Method 217
Candor and Courage 219
Respect for the Opinions of Others 220
Difficulties to be overcome 221
Hopefulness and Patience 223
Ministerial Studies: Human Nature… 226
The Bible.. 227
Acquaintance with God 228
Value of Meditation 229

VIII. Some Ministers of the Olden Time

The Hebrew Prophets 231
They claimed to speak for God 233
But do not claim Superiority to Others… 236
How their Visions came to them 237
Not Mere Messengers 240
Individuality of their Messages 242
The Source of their Power 243
Both Idealists and Practical Men 245
Dramatic Character of their teachings… 248
Forthtellers and Foretellers 251
Hopefulness and Courage 251
Every True Minister a Successor of the Prophets 252

IX. The Ministry of Jesus Christ: His Methods

The Testimony of Ernest Renan and Goldwin Smith 254
The Interpretation of Jesus Christ necessarily Inadequate 255
Christ’s Power not Dependent on Dramatic Effects 257
Nor on Oratorical Splendor 258
Nor on Dialectical Skill 259
Christ’s Teaching generally Conversational.. 260
Dealt with Great Problems 260
Was Systematic 262
Abounds in Seed Thoughts 266
Aphoristic Style 267
Christ’s Industry 268
His Unconventional Methods 269
His Message Expression of His Life… 270
Therefore exemplified by His Life 271
His Heroism 272
His Hours of Devotion 273

X. The Ministry of Jesus Christ: The Substance of His Teaching

Early Formulation of Christ’s Teaching…275
His Teaching Vital and Practical 276
Sensuality of Roman Empire 277
First Century Reformers 278
Modern Parallels 279
Christ’s Use of the World 280
Christ’s Indifference to the World 282
Things for Men, not Men for Things… 284
Three Conceptions respecting our Relation to the World 286
Fundamental Teaching of Hebrew Prophets Respecting Righteousness 288
Christ’s Teaching respecting Righteousness.. 289
Christ’s Example respecting Righteousness.. 291
Christ’s Doctrine of Brotherhood 292
Standard of Honesty 293
Doctrine of Property 295
Doctrine of Service 297
Principle of Reform 298
His New Commandment 299
Different Conceptions concerning our Relations to God 300
The Hebrew Conception 302
Jesus Christ’s Acquaintance with the Father.. 303
His Teaching concerning our Acquaintance with the Father 303
Hopefulness of Christ’s Teaching 307
The Kingdom of Heaven has come 308
Obstacles to the Kingdom of God 310
Seeming Absence of God 313
Personal Immortality 315
The Necessary Endowment of a Christian Minister 316


Ministers in their conventions often discuss the question why people do not go to church. It would be well if sometimes they would consider the question, Why do any people ever go to church? for the phenomenon of church-going is a remarkable one.

In the fall of 1903 a careful census was taken of the attendance upon church services in the Borough of Manhattan, in the city of New York. The Borough was divided into four districts, and the numbers in actual attendance upon the churches, liberal and conservative, Protestant and Catholic, were carefully counted. Fortunately the four Sundays devoted to this census were pleasant Sundays, so that the conditions were favorable to a good attendance. The census was taken with care and the results tabulated. They showed that about one half the adult population of the island of Manhattan were in the churches on those Sundays. No estimate was made of the children in attendance upon the Sunday-schools. In considering the significance of this census, it must be remembered, on the one hand, that every person in attendance upon very service was counted, so that any person who attended church twice on that day was counted as two persons; on the other hand, that those accustomed to attend church who were absent on the day the count was made, those who do business in New York and live in the suburbs, and the Jews, of whom there are six hundred thousand resident in the island of Manhattan, were not included in the census. Making due allowance for these facts, it is probably fair to say that, approximately, half the population of the island, above school age, are accustomed to take part in some form of religious service every week. A little subsequently, a more careful census of church attendance was made in the city of London. A careful estimate of those who attended two services was included in this census. The result showed that, making allowance for those too old, too young, too sick, and too busy, – that is, in unavoidable occupations, – and not counting twice those who attended twice, one third of the population who can attend public worship in London on Sunday do attend. These facts are typical. In all ages of the world, among all races of mankind, attendance upon some form of religious service is customary. It would be difficult to mention any other custom so general.

What is the motive that brings so large a proportion of the human race for a certain allotted time every week into their various temples, synagogues, and churches? The city of New York maybe not inaptly termed the Corinth of America.

Both its virtues and its vices are those of a commercial metropolis. Its inhabitants through six days in the week are eager in their pursuit of wealth. They jostle one another in the cars and upon the sidewalk; they travel wearisomely an hour or two every day from their homes to their places of business and back again; they work often in dingy rooms and under disagreeable conditions; they sacrifice for this pursuit pleasure, education, domestic affection, health, and life itself; and yet once a week stores and offices are closed, the process of money-getting halts, the throngs lay aside for a day their commercial pursuits, and something like one half of them assemble in their churches. For what purpose? It is idle to say that this is a fashion. How came the fashion to be set? Or that it is a habit. What has caused the habit? They are not attracted by the music: they can get better music in the concert-rooms; nor by the oratory: for few of the preachers are orators; nor by the social advantages: for the city church is rarely a social club, and never a successful one.

The object of this book is to furnish some answer to this question; to indicate to priests and preachers what it is which induces half the population of New York city to lay aside their commercial pursuits and gather in their churches every seventh day; to interpret to themselves the men and women who form these congregations, and explain to them what it is that they are often unconsciously seeking; and to indicate to those who rarely or never do go to church the advantage which they might secure if they were in this respect to conform to the custom, not only of their fellow countrymen in America, but of their fellow men throughout the world.

The Christian minister fulfills a fourfold function: he is pastor, administrator, priest, and prophet or preacher. As pastor, he is the personal friend and counselor of his people; as administrator, the executive head of his church, which should be his force as well as his field. These two aspects of his work are not considered in this volume; it is devoted exclusively to a consideration of the minister as priest and prophet.

In the fall of 1903 I gave the Lyman Beecher course of lectures before the Yale Theological Sem


inary, at New Haven, and in March, 1904, the Earl course of lectures before the Pacific Theological Seminary, at Berkeley, California. While this book is not a reproduction of either course of lectures, both of which were given extemporaneously, the material of which those lectures was composed has been freely used in, the composition of this volume, as has also some other material contributed by me at different times to periodical publications or used in public and published addresses.
Lyman Abbott.
December, 1904.

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bs44 The Blessing of God’s Presence
The Blessing of God’s Presence looks at how God's special presence brings great blessings to us, and how lost people in hell are lacking this. Topics: God is Omnipresent | The Presence of the Omnipresent God and the Actual Presence of God | Hell is to not sense any of the special presence of God | There are Great Blessing in the Presence of God | God is Love | Conclusion
See the Tract: bs44 The Blessing of God’s Presence

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