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Evaluation of "Pastoral Theology" by Thomas Murphy - by C. Matthew McMahon

An Excellent Work on the Pastoral Ministry

A Wonderful Work on Ministry and Preaching


This being one of my favorite works on the pastoral office, I have little criticisms of the work, though some improvement could be made in certain areas that I’ll point out as I give an evaluation. However, one over-arching failure of the work is not its content, but its proof. Murphy spends a great deal of the work without citing specific Scriptural passages that prove his every point. He assumes, instead, the minister reading the work is familiar with the passages  he is thinking about in relation to the work. I would have wished he cited and proved more by Scripture than running on assumption.

Also, the chapter summaries will be more lengthy than most books evaluated because Murphy divides his work into chapters, but then into sections. These sections could be chapters in and of themselves. So evaluating the works in each chapter takes more considerable time.



Chapter 1: The Nature and Importance of Pastoral Theology

Murphy defines pastoral theology as, “that department of study whose object is to assist the Christian minister in applying the truths of the gospel to the hearts and lives of men.” He says it is theology because it has chiefly to do with the things of God and his word, and it is pastoral because it treats of those divine things in relation to the office of pastor.[1] The main body of evidence for pastoral theology is the word of God, in which the Christian minister is described in many places. His duties may be seen in 1 Tim. 4:12-16, 2 Tim. 2:22-25, and in Titus 2. The minister is to preach the word, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine, take heed to himself, and take heed of the flock which he is made overseer.[2] Consideration of his office may be seen in relation to his understanding of the word of God, the accumulated experience of other workers in the same office, the customs of his denomination, and the circumstances of the times.[3] It is not an office which can be regarded lightly.[4] Murphy says, “A very high appreciation of his office is one of the first qualifications for him who would be an efficient pastor.”[5] Rightly, Murphy explains that amid the keen rivalries and activities of the age he must know how to work, and how to keep up with the rapid currents of human life.[6] There is much to consider concerning his office, thus, everything of a practical nature that can tend to make the minister of the gospel a more perfect workman should find its place in a system of pastoral theology.[7] This means that only such plans of work, rules for study and principles of ministerial life as have been well studied and proved wise should be inculcated.[8] And everything that the minister learns ought to be as precise as possible.[9] What the minister learns ought not only to be precise concerning the word of God, but practicable.[10]

Murphy says, “Ministers, especially younger ones, should regard the acquisition of knowledge as to the duties of their office as one of their most important pursuits.”[11] How will a minister be able to oversee or lead the flock without the knowledge to do so?[12] It is not only an ordering of what is to be learned or known, but what must be daily put into practice. Pastoral theology, then, has as its whole aim the active work of the life of the minister.


Chapter 2: The Pastor in the Closet

Personal piety is absolutely indispensable for the success of a minister outside his closet.[13]  Murphy says, “It is beyond all question that this eminent piety is before everything else in preparation for the duties of the sacred office.”[14] This is where the minister first assesses how he may maintain and advance the highest degree of holiness in his personal walk, before he takes on advancing holiness in the life of the congregation through his duties.[15]

The pastor is called a shepherd, and ambassador, steward, lights, teacher and witness.[16] If I might expand this somewhat, preachers are called Ambassadors For Christ, (2 Cor. 5:20); Angels of the Church, (Rev. 1:20; 2:1); Defenders of the Faith, (Phil. 1:7); Elders, (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:1); Laborers, (Matt. 9:38, with Philem. 1); Lights, (John 5:35); Messengers of the Church, ( 2 Cor. 8:23); Messengers of the Lord, (Mal. 2:7); Ministers of God, (Isa. 61:6; 2 Cor. 6:4); Ministers of the Lord, (Joel 2:17); Ministers of Christ, (Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 4:1); Ministers of the Word, (Luke 1:2); Ministers of Righteousness, (2 Cor. 11:15); Overseers of the souls of God’s people, (Acts 20:28); Pastors, (Jer. 3:15; John 21:16–18; Eph. 4:11); Preachers, (Rom. 10:14; 1 Tim. 2:7); Preachers of Righteousness, (2 Pet. 2:5), Stewards of God, (Titus 1:7) and a variety of other important designations. They have a specific calling,[17] certain qualifications,[18] are charged by God to fulfill their ministry,[19] have certain duties to fulfill,[20] specifically to the church,[21] are to be ordained to their office and tested,[22] are to be prayed for to fulfill their God-given duties,[23] and are to be zealous for God’s word and for Jesus Christ.[24]

The work to which a minister is called is to speak to their fellow-men in the name of God.[25] Is there a higher calling than this? They are, in fact, saving instruments in the hands of God for “saving their fellow-man.”[26] Murphy says, “The work of the minister is the grandest and most important work in the world….the more we reflect upon it the more we must feel that we have neither thoughts to imagine nor words to express its greatness.”[27]

The minister will only be able to fulfill his office as much as he is enflamed with zeal which is sparked by the power of the Holy Spirit.[28] In the past, this holy zeal through the Spirit is called unction. If there is a devotion to God in the heart of the minister, in the outward performance of his life and communication of the word of God will be seen a devoted godliness. Such a “devoted piety” will make all the work of the pastoral office easy and pleasant.[29] Here the minister focuses on the love of Christ in his personal piety, and in his communication of the word of God to the people.[30] Unless he has a devoted personal piety, he will never be able to be an example to the flock.[31] Ministers are to be, “the light of the world,” (Matt. 5:14). Murphy makes note of some choice quotes, “An eminent man of God has said, “Be assured of this, brethren, there is no preaching like the preaching of ministerial sanctity.” Hooker used to say that, “the life of a pious clergyman is visible rhetoric;” and Herbert, that, “the virtuous life of a clergyman is the most powerful eloquence.””[32]

As much as I do not want to quote too extensively in a summary of this work, there is an important exhortation that may be helpful to others that I quote at length here. Murphy is speaking about those who ought not enter into the ministry because their lives are scandalous. What reproach is brought on the ministry in such instances! He says:


Who can estimate the injury which such an unholy minister does? His crime will be noised abroad from east to west. It will be told of beyond the seas. Its history will be translated into other languages. It will be gloated over by the enemy through Western settlements. Its disgusting details will be read by wondering girls in the log cabins of Canada. And nowhere will it be repeated without causing pain or injury. It will grieve the pious, harden the impenitent, furnish argument for the opposer, blight the spirit of devotion, encourage others to sin, and cause nameless mischiefs that nothing but the omnipotent Spirit of God can counteract. Oh that those who hold the ministerial office, or are looking forward to it, would duly consider this! Oh that those who have no heart for its becoming spirituality would leave it! Oh that all would study well their tremendous responsibility! Oh that they would get very, very near to Christ, and cling to him with the full conviction that only by his side are they safe! Oh that they were willing to deny themselves many things which might seem right enough in themselves, but which might easily be misunderstood and tend to the dishonor of the cause! Oh that they would all strive for a godliness of the most elevated character, which would keep them far above reproach or even the suspicion of wrong![33]


One can see the importance, then, of the transcendent importance of deep-toned piety in pastors.[34] For in everything the pastor accomplishes, it is to be done for the eminence of the glory of God alone.

How can such piety be cultivated? First, by constant prayer.[35] But every degree of piety in the heart must be the work of the Holy Spirit.[36] We refer to this as the motioning of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, or minister in this case. Andrew Fuller said, “I wish I had prayed more for the assistance of the Holy Spirit in studying and preaching my sermons.”[37] Such prayer ought to be the foundation of every sermon.  And such devotion should be that which begins the day in morning devotions and study.[38] Secondly, there are three legs to the stool of devotion: prayer, bible study, and godly meditation.[39] Murphy says, not simply would prayers be answered, but a tone of spirituality would spring out from these devotions and pervade the entire day of the minister.[40] Such piety is daily increased by the reading of Scripture, so that the minister’s soul is constantly in direct contact with the word of the Lord.[41]

Another aspect of cultivating personal piety is the minister preaching to himself. “In your preparations for the pulpit endeavor to derive from the subject on which you are about to preach that spiritual benefit you wish your hearers to receive.”[42] If the minister is not transformed by the preaching of the word, the word he is to deliver in its various means, how will the people he is charged to shepherd be changed?

There are certain hindrances to ministerial piety. First, there is the appearance of looking ministerial or pious because it is part of his profession.[43] Second, the pastor must be watchful, or soon he will find that all his studying of the Bible is intended for others.[44] Thirdly, he is liable to take it for granted that all is well with his own soul, without giving that question the constant attention which its awful importance demands.[45] The pastor is also to be aware of special temptations that abound towards his particular office.  He is also forced to consider that he many times has no counselor of his own, and so, his own sins may remain covered and his spiritual sores may foster.[46]

How may personal piety be helped to be motioned forward? From the nature of their office and studies ministers must have the dearest knowledge of the way in which eminent piety may be reached.[47] As I continually say, they must be scholars before they can be pastors. They are to be motivated to cultivate the things of the Spirit because they know the truest way,[48] and such holiness and cultivation ought to be constant.[49] He is to be constantly engaged in spiritual things, and this should press him to be more and more spiritual, and continually fresh in his motivation.[50] He should also consider that the people under his charge are constantly praying for him, and that ought to be a bolter to his encouragement.[51]


Chapter 3: The Pastor in the Study

After holiness in the closet is effective, the minister must be a scholar in the study. Murphy says, “In his study, away from the eye of man, the pastor is to furnish his mind and train its powers so that he may go forth and do efficient service in the great work of the Master.”[52] Study is indispensable for the minister. It does not matter if a man is a genius or intellectually blessed. He must take time to study and dive into the depth of the infinite word. It should be firmly settled by every pastor that close study is to be one great business of his whole life.[53]  Vinet says, “We must study to excite and enrich our own mind by means of other men’s. Those who do not study find their talents enfeebled and their minds become decrepit before the time…a faithful pastor always studies to a certain extent; besides the Bible he constantly reads the book of human nature, which is always open before him; but this unscientific study does not suffice. Without incessant application we may make sermons, even good sermons, but they will all more and more resemble each other. A preacher, on the contrary, who pursues a course of solid thinking, who nourishes his mind by various reading, will always be interesting.”[54] Thus, the minister should fix some time of every day for study and reading.[55] A pastor will lose his influence over the congregation if he is not studied.[56]

Murphy gives the model for the minister, “We would venture to suggest as a rule about five hours a day, or from eight o’clock in the morning until two, with a recess of an hour. Our program, then, for the ordinary day’s work would be — one hour of devotion before breakfast; five hours of study; two hours and a half of visiting; and in the evening one hour and a half for reading and correspondence — ten hours a day for these various duties of the office.”[57] Seldom have I personally seen a minister take up this charge in this manner, which is certainly part of the deficiency of the office today. Jonathan Edwards found himself 13 hours a day in study, among all his other duties, and look what kind of preacher he was.

The pastor, in his studied and ordered ideas for weekly sermons should keep ahead with his work. The habit of being beforehand with one’s work prevents the necessity of hurry, with all its evil effects.[58] Haste is not good. I’ve personally never understood the pastor who throws together a sermon at the 11th hour so that his “job” of pulpit supply is completed for the week and he’s “met” all his obligations. If he is the mouthpiece of God, how could he treat the office of speaking for God in such a manner? Murphy makes note that it is incessant study of the Bible that will give sermon preparation its victory; and he quotes a number of Reformed ministers and their habits as examples, such as Edwards.[59] Edwards is quoted, “I find that it would be very much to our advantage to be thoroughly acquainted with the Scriptures. When I am reading doctrinal books or books of controversy, I can proceed with abundantly more confidence and can see upon what foundation I stand.”[60]

There are some practical suggestions the minster can use for studying the scripture in light of sermonizing. First, when any text is selected for a sermon or lecture, its whole context should be carefully studied out.[61] Second, the location of a few prominent places, comprehending the body of biblical geography, should be fixed distinctly in the memory.[62] This aids in speaking about the text in its context and place in time. Thirdly, prominent epochs of time should be known, such as the Antediluvian Period, Noachian Period, Patriarchal Period, Egyptian Period, Wilderness Period, Period of the Judges, Period of United Monarchy, Period of Divided Monarchy, Period of the Captivity and the Period of the World-powers.[63] In this light Scripture should be studied with the use of the best commentaries and books that will aid the preacher in his studies.[64] Next, Scripture should be compared with Scripture in order that the mind of the Spirit may be more fully reached.[65] An important note is made by Murphy, and a most beneficial one, is to read the entire book which the text of Scripture to be preached on is taken.[66]

Further aids to study are the memorization of Scripture,[67] and the use of biblical languages.[68]  It is no doubt important to furnish the mind with a constant barrage of biblical passages and to commit them to memory to be used in due course. It is equally important that the minister knows what those passages actual mean and their intent, which is why biblical language tools are a must. In my own study, I’m partial to using Bibleworks to compare and contrast original language problems, definitions and for translation purposes.

The minister should aim at doing the very best in each sermon.[69] Murphy says, “As a motive to this it should be remembered that preaching is the minister’s first and greatest duty.”[70] The sermon which a minister prepares carefully will always afford him far more pleasure.[71] And keep this in mind, When a minister does his best in preparing his sermons they will be worthy of being preserved for future use or reference.[72]

Then, the minister should consider reading well. This is not reading the Scriptures well, which should be apparent, but the well-reading of good books.[73] A minister told me once that he hated reading but loved to study the bible. Murphy says of this, “Reading is a duty so important for the ministry that there is a special charge concerning it given by the Holy Ghost. “Till I come give attendance to reading,” was the precept enjoined on the young minister Timothy, and through him upon all ministers.” The Rev. Dr. Shedd has presented this subject impressively. Speaking of the intellectual character of the clergyman and his studies, he says, “These may all be reduced to one — namely, the daily, nightly and everlasting study of standard authors.”[74] To interject, the young minister, or the untrained minister, ought therefore to choose a well-trained scholar to ask advice and direction of those best and most well-loved works to read and study. Murphy divides these kinds of books into the following categories: Books of general reference, Interpretation of Scripture, Commentaries, Theology, church history, Church Government and the Sacraments, sermons, Practical Piety, Christian biography, Great Puritan Writers and On Sabbath-school Work.[75]


Chapter 4: The Pastor in the Pulpit

Though Murphy expresses the importance of the sacred science of preaching,[76] he knows his work is not to consist in an entire volume on the subject, but offers only some thoughtful attention. The minister’s chief calling is preaching.[77] Nothing else is of paramount importance than this activity. The ministry itself was chiefly appointed for the purpose of preaching. The office of pastor stands as it is in Scripture for the purpose of sound biblical preaching. It is to herald the word on behalf of God. Murphy says, “To preach is to deliver God’s messages of mercy and love and instruction to men.”[78] Here all his energies should be focused.

What should the minister preach? He should preach the word of God. Many ministers preach with the attitude of “this is what I think,” instead of preaching “thus says the Lord.” Murphy says, “Every sermon should be carefully wrought out from the text; every point advanced should be proved by a “thus saith the Lord.”[79] Why? It is because the preached word is God’s ordained instrumentality for the conversion of souls and the sanctification of believers.[80] All experience proves that it is the preaching of the word which accomplishes this change.[81] Nicholas Murray said, “Spiritual religion is best promoted by the preaching of the truth.”[82] Could such be accomplished in any other way? Why then would ministers take leave to preach on anything other than the word? Three poems and prayer won’t work for the edification of the saints and the conversion of souls. Murphy says, “The rule should be adopted, and adhered to rigidly, that nothing but God’s own truth as found in his written word should be introduced into the pulpit.”[83]

Christ ought to be the sum and substance of all preaching.[84] This does not mean that the name of Jesus must be part of every sentence given. Jeremiah Burroughs, for example, preached on Leviticus 10:3, which was eminently about worship to Christ, but did not mention Christ by name. This does not detract from true preaching, but all true preaching has Christ in mind either explicitly stated or implicitly implied. Vinet says, “In every sermon we must either start from Christ or come to him.”[85] Murphy says that Christ, and him crucified, was the one theme for the preaching of which the ministry was appointed.[86] But Murray also reinforces the point I made earlier when he says, “It is not meant that the death of Jesus in the place of sinful men should be the announced subject of every sermon, nor even that his name should be in every point that is handled; this might not always be possible, nor would it always be best. But what is meant is, that the salvation of Christ should be the drift, the center, the substance, the aim — should give tone and direction and impulse to every discourse.”[87] Christ ought not to disinterest the hearer by solely repeating him every Lord’s Day, as many preachers preach evangelistically.[88]

The Whole word of God is to be preached, with all its doctrines. These doctrines comprise the heart of the Gospel. What is the Gospel but a “vast system of doctrines which have been communicated to the world by the great Teacher?”[89] They comprise such teachings as: the attributes of God, the mysteries of the Trinity, the covenant of God, the fall of our race, the incarnation, life, death and ascension of Christ, salvation by his blood, faith, conversion, the Church, the resurrection, judgment, heaven and hell. Consider also the sovereignty of God, his eternal decrees, justification by faith, and the perseverance of the saints. All these comprise aspects of the Gospel. Murphy says, “Now, it is manifest that the minister must absolutely close his mouth if he does not preach these. He must preach the doctrines if he preaches at all. He must preach the whole scope of the doctrines if he would keep up any variety and fullness in his ministrations in the pulpit.”[90] These are clearly presented in the bible, are vastly important, and they are used to affect the heart of the believer and the unbeliever.[91] The heart is affected through understanding, so the preacher must preach with that aim. Murphy says, “Each great doctrine is linked in with every other one, and there must be some knowledge of all in order to have an intelligent comprehension of the whole system. The clear understanding of any one point will throw some light over the whole round of truth and confirm confidence in it all.”[92]

The course of sermons over the life of the preacher should cover the entire field of doctrine in his life of preaching.[93] Such a life-long series will in turn bring up all manner of doctrine, and will have a good variety in the content of sermons; this will in turn have a ready subject for preaching every week.[94] Murphy then takes some time to give the preacher a well-rounded view in terms of a schedule, but says there is no “set” schedule that one ought to follow, excepting that all topics should be covered.[95]

The manner of preaching should be one of earnestness.[96] There is no other kind of preaching other than being earnest and zealous. Murphy says, “How is it possible to preach of the awful realities of heaven and hell, of the soul and the everlasting ages, and of the death of Christ for the salvation of the lost, without the deepest emotion?”[97] Preaching in this way demonstrates the heart. He mimics Richard Baxter in saying, “In each sermon we ought to deliver the message of God as if it were the last time we were to preach.”[98] At the same time preaching should be earnest, it should also be tender.[99] God chose men to be heralds to fellow-men, not angels. The minister should put himself in the place of those to whom he preaches and get his heart to beat in unison with theirs, and thus influence them by the motives of the gospel.[100] Murphy says, “If ministers cared more for their people and less for their own sermons, they would be more useful.”[101] The minister should be thinking, How shall I reach and overcome the great difficulties that stand in the way of perishing souls? How shall I make the truth so clear that those who need it most must see it? How shall I place the offers of salvation in such a form that they will be accepted by those who must receive them now or be lost for ever?[102]

Among the duties of the minister publically is prayer.[103] Public prayer should receive its tone and spirit from a sense of the divine presence, should be comprehensive,[104] should be as specific as possible,[105] should be direct in aim and simple in language,[106] brief as needed,[107] thoroughly saturated with scriptural thought and expression,[108]  and should be an echo of the deep earnestness which he has learned in the closet.[109]

Before entering the pulpit, the mind of the minister should be prepared.[110] He should keep his mind as free as possible, not taking into considerations things that will hinder his work in the pulpit.[111] In this one should consider, very early on in the preaching ministry, whether one will more likely write out sermons or outlines, and preach extemporaneously after study.[112] Writing out the sermon makes it more accurate,[113] and makes it ready to further refine, after the fact, in order to have it in a publishable form.[114]


Chapter 5: The Pastor in His Personal Parochial Work

Preaching is the chief duty in the office of a minister, but it is not his only duty.[115] Murphy says of pastoral visitation, “A prominent part of the pastor’s work is to go from house to house and see all the families of his congregation at home. It is expected of him, and justly, that he should occasionally enter into every household, carrying with him the spirit and the message of the gospel.”[116] No faithful pastor can or will neglect the duty of pastoral visitation. How often should this occur? A schedule should be made, which in turn gives him the ability to reach every family at least three times a year. This is taking into consideration that he has a large enough flock for the stated schedule. If there are less in the flock, more time can be given.[117] There should be as little formality as possible in the visit,[118] and should leave with some good impression with them once the visit is completed.[119] He is also to take into account visiting the sick.[120] To those sick he should be brief,[121] tenderness should be used in dealing with those who suffer,[122] they should be seen alone,[123] the Scriptures should be quoted in these visits that would be best determinative of the situation.[124] It may even be beneficial with those who are sick often to preach short sermons with them in a conversational manner.[125] The minister in these situations may have some materials he can leave (such as tracts or short books) and can also be useful in speaking with those family members or friends who are visiting, especially if they are unconverted.[126] In his visitations, the minister will come into contact with the unbeliever, the sorrowful, the aged, awakened souls but not converted, and in these varied situations ought to have Scripture ready to be useful in each circumstance.[127]

Another public ministry that the pastor has is to administer the sacraments.[128] This concerns both the Lord’s Supper and of baptism, both to adults and infants.[129] He must have a full knowledge of the sacraments, and be able to speak about them in their administration readily and precisely.[130]

The minister will also be useful in the service of a funeral.[131] This is a time when people are specifically thinking about death, and the opportunity ought to be used for the advancement of the kingdom of God. The preacher should make a sermonizing address, at a proper length.[132] He should not give too much eulogium, and a focus should be on the Gospel and the salvation.[133]

Murphy makes note[134] on circulating the best literature available to those who need to read books or tracts. The minister, being in connection with so many people, and in his visitation and public preaching, should take opportunity to hand out or make known the best literature that will increase the kingdom of God in the lives of the people.

The pastor as a public figure should identify himself with his people.[135] He should not speak about his people in derogatory terms, and instead include himself with them in his preaching and teaching. Murphy quotes Baxter saying, “The whole of our ministry must be carried on in a tender love to our people. We must let them see that nothing pleases us but what profits them — that what does them good does us good, and that nothing troubles us more than their hurt. “[136]


Chapter 6: the Pastor in the Activities of the Church

The pastor alone cannot possibly do all the work which is needed in an active church.[137] It will inevitably consume too much of the time and too much of the energy of the pastor if he takes on himself the great burden of the Church’s work.[138] But there should be an “energetic effort” in working for Christ and his kingdom.[139] This is where the pastor must train the people to be workers for the church.[140] Every member should be a worker in the blessed cause of Christ’s kingdom, is the rule which the minister should strive with all his might to have adopted by his whole congregation.[141] The minister should seek out the gifts of the church, and put to work the people who have those gifts and grace for the good of the people.[142]

The pastor is to officiate the prayer meeting.[143] The prayer-meeting should be regarded as an index of the piety of the Church.[144] If the prayer meeting is interesting, it will be attended, and it should cultivate a spirit of fellowship and friendliness.[145] It should not be the cause of grumbling or fault-finding.[146] Requests should be given and recorded, and the meeting should be as brief as necessary.[147] Generally, there should be some short bible-exercise given to place the tenor of the meeting in perspective.[148] The prayer meeting should also include psalm singing, possibly at the beginning or at the end.[149]


Chapter 7: The Pastor in the Progress of the Church

In the exercise of the pastor’s ministry, everything should aim at furthering gospel-work.[150] The Gospel should increase more and more until the work of the Gospel is complete and the consummation of the ages is final. Progress is essential in the life of the church. Such is the case when God enacts revival in the midst of the church.[151] They will generally be connected with success of the ministry, and should be improved when they begin.[152]

Certain reforming outcomes should be pursued when revivals occur. First, the pastor should do most of the preaching at this time to continue the course of revival.[153] He should have meetings with inquirers,[154] he should be informed to those who are awakened sinners for purposes of counseling,[155] and he should take time to visit these people, knowing their conversion could spark other conversions in their household.[156] When a time of revival is over, there is often a time of indifference which ensues.[157]

A special note must be made of caring for young converts. Until they become well established in the faith and practice of the gospel, there ought to be more care bestowed on them than on any other class of members in the church.[158] The minister should engage them to be interested in the study of the bible. They should be given special attention and the pastor should take time to spend with groups of them to press them into having a greater awareness of God and Scripture.[159] If there are enough elders in the church, and enough young converts, certain elders should be assigned to them for follow up.[160] If they become converted, they ought to take up an interest in all aspects of church life, and should be “made busy” in the work of the Lord.[161] And, conversions in the church should be expected by the pastor at all times.[162]


Chapter 8: The Pastor in the Sabbath School

Although the Sunday School is a more recent invention, Murphy explains this can be useful to the minister in training people for the work of the church.[163] Murphy says, “No pastor can afford to neglect the special religious training of the young of his congregation. To do so would be to be unmindful of the larger part of the charge which God has committed to his care.”[164] The Sabbath School is specially designed for this and the minister should take time to prepare lessons to teach them and catechize them. Also, the Sunday school also overflows into the family and vice versa. The family should be encouraged by the pastor to reinforce what is being taught.[165] If the family is engaged in instructing the children, they will be more apt to deal with Sunday school in a proper expansion or forming of biblical material.[166] If the Sunday school is created and enforced in the church, it should have its oversight by the pastor and the session. One elder could be designated to oversee the entire curriculum and schedule.[167] Such a Sunday school curriculum exists to assist in the religious training of the Church’s own children and youth. It is merely to assist in this, not to take it out of the hands of either parents or pastor.[168] Great stress is to be laid on catechizing. Murphy says, “Very great stress should be laid upon catechetical instruction as a part of Sabbath-school work. The Catechism for Young Children should be used in the primary or infant department, and the Westminster Catechism in all the rest of the school.”[169] The value of this memorization of divine truth has been abundantly demonstrated by the experience of ages, by the testimony of piety and by the deep foundations of righteousness it has helped to lay in many a highly favored community.[170]

One of the chief reasons Murphy spends so much time on Sunday school is the cultivation of the young. They are to be taught benevolence with one another, and for the good of the church. This, he says, is one of the great reasons to have Sunday school, for the piety of the young and the further guidance they need as future members of the church.[171]

The pastor is not only to initiate the Sunday School, but to be involved in it.[172] He should not simply hand over the reins of the Sunday School to a superintendent and be done. He should give regular attendance,[173] have a general supervision in order to select good teachers,[174] and he should preach expressly to the children at stated periods, which seems, in our day, to be admitted as an essential duty of his sacred office.[175] Murphy exhorts the minister, “We would say to every pastor, with all earnestness, remember that the Sabbath-school is a most important part of your pastoral charge;  remember that what is now done for the children will tell upon the Church in a very few years; remember that their most impressible and hopeful days are fast passing away. Oh, give yourself no rest, give your praying people no rest, give God no rest, until they are all brought into the fold of the Great Shepherd.”[176]


Chapter 9: The Pastor in the Benevolent Work of the Church

Christian benevolence is part of the commission Christ gave his apostles in Matthew 28:19-20.[177] The benevolent work of the church is blessed by God in releasing people from darkness and bringing them into the light.[178] The field is now open for Christian activity all over the world. Murphy explains that through the use of money, every Christian can be part of the work of the ministry in this way.[179] Such liberal giving to Christian enterprises is both the cause and the effect of deeper piety in the Church. When believers love much, they give much, and when they honor God with their substance, he blesses them in their own souls.[180] In all this the pastor should keep himself well informed of the work of the church at large.[181] Prayers and success should be communicated to the congregation.[182] Special benevolent monies should be taken up for special causes in the church to involve the church in its mission.[183] Murphy explains that in order for this to have success, there ought to be some plan according to which Christians would lay aside the amounts which it is their intention to put into the treasury of the Lord, some rule to guide them in determining what these amounts shall be.[184]


Chapter 10: The Pastor in the Session

The management of the spiritual affairs of the church is in the hands of the session. The presiding officer of the session and leader is the pastor in its counsels and activities. This demands his earnest attention, for on their faithful discharge depends very much of the character and usefulness of the church.[185] This would mean that the pastors have special oversight of the pastors and elders in their charge, so that no elder or pastor is not in touch with the mission, spiritual well-being and activities of the church as a whole. The elders ought to be leaders in all that is undertaken for the edification of believers, for the progress of the church, and for the promotion of objects of benevolence.[186]

The work among these men should be divided so that the pastor does not take on too much work himself at the neglect of preaching and praying.[187] Murphy seems to think it is important to create “committees” for each area of the church – one for benevolence, prayer, the poor, the Sunday School, the work among strangers, etc.[188] There is also the importance of the oversight of families, which if there are many, elders should divide among themselves as seems best.[189] The session should meet monthly,[190] and should consider the following as a plan for scheduled meetings: 1. Twenty minutes in devotional exercises; 2. Reading the minutes of last meeting; 3. Excuses for absence from last meeting; 4. Reports of special committees; 5. Reports of standing committees; 6. Free conversation about the interests of the cause in the various districts; 7. New business; 8. Adjournment with prayer.[191]

The session is also responsible for discipline,[192] taking care of church strife,[193] and any difficulties arising from the personal life or need of the pastor.[194] The session should also oversee the finances of the church, and the pastor, as Murphy says, should have as little to do with that as possible.[195]


Chapter 11: The Pastor in the Higher Courts of the Church

The minister has other important relations besides those which belong to him as pastor of a particular congregation. Murphy says, “These relations impose on him duties which require very close and persevering attention. He is a member of presbytery and synod, or of General Assembly, conference, association or convention, and as such has a part to take in conducting the general interests of the kingdom of Christ.”[196]  In this matter the first duty which rests on the minister is to attend promptly on every ecclesiastical meeting of which he is a member, and take part in its duties and responsibilities. He should attend his presbytery and synod at each of their meetings, and the General Assembly when appointed so to do. The rule of regular attendance should be laid down as inviolable.[197] In such a responsible role, Murphy says, “It is a responsibility which extends to the adjudication of questions of discipline, to the admission of candidates into the ministry, to the appointment of representatives to the General Assembly, to the conducting of schemes for the promotion of the cause of Christ at home and abroad — to every thing for which the higher courts of the Church exist.”[198]

In being part of the higher courts of the church, the minister is part of the Presbytery in which he lives. Murphy says, “Pastors ought not to consider that their ministrations in the gospel are to be confined exclusively to their own congregations. There is an important sense in which the field to which they are appointed is the whole world.”[199]

Ministers will sometimes be called on to speak or teach in ecclesiastical meetings.[200] Great prudence is needed to know when to speak, as well as what to say; and to have this prudence is the secret of success in addresses before deliberative bodies.[201] Christian affection ought to distinguish those who are so closely united to Christ and to each other, and so in all this brotherly kindness should be cultivated.[202]


Chapter 12: The Pastor in his Relations to Other Denominations

The minister should be able to have friendly contact with other ministers in other denominations.[203] Sometimes pulpit supply may come to be needed. Such times should be made with ministers of one’s own denomination, but it would be wise to arrange them sometimes with others also. They are to be made only with ministers who are reliable and evangelical in their views, as Murphy says, “for we have no right to impose, even for one service, upon our congregation a person who might preach erroneous doctrines or by word or act awaken discord.”[204] We are not out to proselytize, but to share the Gospel as it is needed and in its most common form when dealing with others.

[1] Murphy, Thomas. Pastoral Theology, (Audubon, NJ: Old Paths Publications, 1996) 13.

[2] Page 18.

[3] Pages 20-22.

[4] Page 24.

[5] Page 27.

[6] Page 29.

[7] Page 30.

[8] Ibid.

[9] See my article Where Oh Where has the Precisionist Gone? at

[10] Page 32.

[11] Page 34.

[12] See my article The Life of the Preacher at

[13] Page 37.

[14] Page 38.

[15] Pages 38-39.

[16] Page 40. Part of my critique of Murphy would not be that what he says is wrong, but that a great amount of those things which he does say that are right need to be cited by sufficient scriptural references, which he often takes for granted.

[17] Exod. 28:1; Num. 3:5–13; 1 Sam. 3:4–10; 1 Kings 19:16, 19; 1 Chr. 23:13; Isa. 6:8–10; Jer. 1:5; Amos 2:11; Jonah 1:1-2, Jonah 3:1-2. Matt. 4:18–22; Mark 1:17–20; Matt. 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 10:1-2; John 1:43; Acts 13:2-3; Acts 20:24; Acts 22:12–15; Acts 26:14–18; Rom. 1:1; Rom. 10:14-15; 1 Cor. 1:1; [2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1.] 1 Cor. 1:27-28; 1 Cor. 9:16–19; 2 Cor. 5:18–20; Gal. 1:15-16; Eph. 3:7-8; Eph. 4:11-12; Col. 1:25–29; Col. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:12–14; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11; Tit. 1:3; Heb. 5:4.

[18] Lev. 10:3–11; Lev. 21:6; 2 Chr. 29:11; Num. 16:9-10; Deut. 32:1–3; 1 Sam. 2:35; 1 Sam. 12:7; 2 Chr. 6:41; Ezra 7:10; Psa. 68:11; Prov. 11:30; Isa. 6:5–8; Isa. 32:20; Isa. 52:11; Jer. 1:7-8; Jer. 3:15; Jer. 20:9; Ezek. 34:2 Vs. 1–31.; Mal. 2:6-7; Matt. 10:16–20, 22–24; Matt. 11:25; Matt. 11:26; Matt. 13:51-52; Matt. 20:25–28; Luke 22:27; John 13:14-15; Matt. 23:8–11; Luke 6:39; Luke 12:42–44; Matt. 24:45. Luke 24:49; John 3:27, 34; John 4:36–38; John 10:2–5, 11–15; John 13:13–17; John 15:20-21; John 17:16–18, 20; Acts 1:8; Acts 4:8, 31; Acts 6:3-4; Acts 20:22–24; Rom. 2:21–23; 1 Cor. 1:23, 27–30; 1 Cor. 2:2; 1 Cor. 3:7–10; 1 Cor. 4:10–13; 1 Cor. 9:16–23, 27; 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 2:15–17; 2 Cor. 3:6–10; 2 Cor. 4:1–10; 2 Cor. 5:11, 18–20; 2 Cor. 6:3–7; 2 Cor. 10:1-2, 8; 2 Cor. 13:10; Gal. 2:8; Gal. 6:17; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 2:3–12; 1 Tim. 3:1–13, 15; 1 Tim. 5:17, 21; 1 Tim. 6:11, 13-14, 20-21; 2 Tim. 1:6–8, 13-14; 2 Tim. 2:1–7, 14–16, 20–26; 2 Tim. 3:14, 16-17; Tit. 1:5–9, 13- 14; Tit. 2:1, 7-8, 15; Tit. 3:1-2, 8-9; Heb. 5:1–3, 12–14; Heb. 13:6-7, 9, 17; James. 3:1, 13, 16–18; 1 Pet. 4:10-11.

[19] Num. 18:1–7; Num. 27:18–23; Deut. 31:7-8; Deut. 31:14–23; Josh. 1:1–9; Ezek. 3:4; Matt. 10:5–15; Matt. 10:16–42; Luke 10:1–16; 1 Tim. 1:18–20; 1 Tim. 2:1–15; 1 Tim. 3:1–16; 1 Tim. 4:1–16; 1 Tim. 5:1–22; 1 Tim. 6:1–21; 2 Tim. 1:6–13; 2 Tim. 2:1–26; 2 Tim. 3:1–17; 2 Tim. 4:1–8.

[20] Exod. 4:12; Lev. 10:11 vs. 8–11.; Josh. 1:8; 2 Kings 17:27-28; 2 Chr. 29:11; Isa. 40:1–3, 9; Isa. 40:11; Isa. 52:11; Isa. 57:14; Isa. 58:1; Isa. 62:6-7; Jer. 1:7-8, 17–19; Jer. 15:20-21; Jer. 4:15; Jer. 6:27; Jer. 15:19; Jer. 23:4, 22, 28; Jer. 26:2; Ezek. 2:6–8; Ezek. 3:8–10, 17–21, 27; Ezek. 6:11; Ezek. 33:1–9; Ezek. 34:2–31; Ezek. 44:23; Joel 1:13–15; Joel 2:17; Jonah 1:2; Hab. 2:2; Mal. 2:7; Matt. 7:6; Matt. 10:7-8, 11–13, 16, 25, 27-28; Matt. 18:5; Matt. 18:6, 18; Matt. 16:19; Matt. 20:25–28 Mark 10:43–45; Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 22:32; Luke 24:48; John 3:34; John 4:35–38; John 15:27; John 20:23; John 21:15–17; Acts 1:21-22; Acts 5:20; Acts 6:2, 4; Acts 10:42; Acts 16:4; Acts 18:9-10; Acts 20:28; Acts 22:15; Acts 26:16–18; Rom. 1:14-15; Rom. 12:6–8 Vs. 3–5.; 1 Cor. 1:16; 1 Cor. 4:1-2, 21; 1 Cor. 9:16-17; 2 Cor. 1:24; 2 Cor. 4:1-2, 5; 2 Cor. 5:14, 18, 20; 2 Cor. 6:3–10; 2 Cor. 7:4–9, 12, 15; 2 Cor. 8:23; 2 Cor. 10:8; 2 Cor. 12:15, 19; 2 Cor. 13:2, 10; Gal. 1:10; Eph. 3:8–10; Eph. 4:11-12; Eph. 6:20; Col. 4:17; 1 Thess. 2:4–8, 10–12; 1 Thess. 3:2; 1 Thess. 5:12; 2 Thess. 3:4; 1 Tim. 1:3-4, 11, 18, 19; 1 Tim. 2:7; 1 Tim. 4:6-7, 12–16; 1 Tim. 5:1–3, 7–11, 19–22; 1 Tim. 6:3-4, 10–14, 17–21; 2 Tim. 1:6–8; 2 Tim. 2:2–7, 14–16, 23–25; 2 Tim. 4:1-2, 5; 1 Pet. 5:1–4; 2 Pet. 1:12–16.

[21] Deut. 1:38; Deut. 3:28; Deut. 12:19; Deut. 31:7; 1 Cor. 11:1-2; 1 Cor. 16:15-16; Phil. 3:17; Col. 4:10; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:7, 17-18.

[22] Acts 1:26; Acts 6:5-6; Acts 13:3; 1 Tim. 4:14.

[23] Matt. 9:37-38; Luke 10:2; Rom. 15:30–32; 2 Cor. 1:11; Eph. 6:18–20; Phil. 1:19; Col. 4:2–4; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1-2; Philem. 22; Heb. 13:18-19.

[24] 2 Cor. 8:16-17; Phil. 2:25–30; Col. 4:12- 13; Col. 4:7; Rev. 5:4-5.

[25] Page 43.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Page 45 and Page 47.

[28] Page 49.

[29] Page 54.

[30] Page 55.

[31] Page 57.

[32] Page 59.

[33] Page 61.

[34] Page 63.

[35] Page 64.

[36] Page 65.

[37] Page 69.

[38] Page 71.

[39] Page 72.

[40] Page 74.

[41] Page 77.

[42] Page 79.

[43] Page 82.

[44] Page 83.

[45] Page 84.

[46] Page 85.

[47] Page 86.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Page 87.

[50] Ibid. Also page 89.

[51] Page 90.

[52] Page 91.

[53] Page 92.

[54] Page 93.

[55] Page 94.

[56] Page 98.

[57] Page 103.

[58] Page 108.

[59] Pages 109-114.

[60] Page 114.

[61] Pages 115-116.

[62] Page 116.

[63] Page 119.

[64] Page 120.

[65] Page 121.

[66] Page 123.

[67] Page 127.

[68] Page 129.

[69] Page 135.

[70] Page 136.

[71] Page 139.

[72] Page 140.

[73] Page 141.

[74] Page 143.

[75] Page 145.

[76] Page 151.

[77] Page 152.

[78] Page 154.

[79] Page 157.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Page 160.

[82] Page 162.

[83] Page 164.

[84] Page 167.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Page 168.

[87] Page 169.

[88] Page 172.

[89] Page 175.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Page 177.

[92] Page 178.

[93] Page 180.

[94] Page 182.

[95] See Pages 184-188.

[96] Page 188.

[97] Page 191.

[98] Page 192.

[99] Page 195.

[100] Page 199.

[101] Page 200.

[102] Page 204.

[103] Page 208.

[104] Page 209.

[105] Page 210.

[106] Page 211.

[107] Page 212.

[108] Page 213.

[109] Page 214.

[110] Page 215.

[111] Page 217.

[112] Page 219.

[113] More precise.

[114] Pages 220-221.

[115] Page 223.

[116] Page 224.

[117] Page 231.

[118] Page 235.

[119] Page 236.

[120] Page 237.

[121] Page 239.

[122] Page 240.

[123] Page 241. This may prove uncordial if the patient is a single woman, or is married. The pastor ought never to place himself in a position where he is ever alone with a woman other than with his wife or mother.

[124] Page 242.

[125] Page 243.

[126] Pages 246-247.

[127] Pages 250-256.

[128] Page 256.

[129] Pages 256-257.

[130] Page 257.

[131] Page 260.

[132] Page 261.

[133] Page 262.

[134] Pages 263-268.

[135] Page 269.

[136] Page 272.

[137] Page 274.

[138] Page 275.

[139] Page 278.

[140] Page 281.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Page 284. See also pages 285-302 where Murphy gives various examples of different kinds of work that people could take up, such as work for women, work in visiting the sick, etc.

[143] Page 302.

[144] Page 304.

[145] Page 305.

[146] Page 306.

[147] Page 310.

[148] Page 311.

[149] Pages 312-313. On pages 316-319 Murphy gives the advice that there should also be “cottage prayer meetings” in home throughout the week. This is helpful to the people, but should not be overdone.

[150] Page 327.

[151] Page 330.

[152] Ibid. Murphy gives some examples of revival in various times in history.

[153] Page 337.

[154] Page 338.

[155] Page 339.

[156] Page 340.

[157] Page 344. I would like to see that process take shape, seeing the church in America needs revival now.

[158] Page 347.

[159] Page 349.

[160] Page 351.

[161] Page 352.

[162] Page 354. Too many times pastors neglect this idea.

[163] Page 361.

[164] Page 365.

[165] Page 367.

[166] Page 371.

[167] Page 377.

[168] Page 380.

[169] Page 391.

[170] Page 395.

[171] Pages 397-406.

[172] Page 414.

[173] Page 415.

[174] Page 417.

[175] Page 421.

[176] Page 426.

[177] Page 427.

[178] Page 429.

[179] Ibid.

[180] Page 430.

[181] Page 432.

[182] Page 435.

[183] Page 435.

[184] Page 442. At this particular point Murphy explains a number of possible joint ventures across a denomination as a whole in raising awareness and funding for missionary endeavors and outreach. This would include monthly concerts and Women Missionary Associations which may not be applicable to every denomination.

[185] Page 450.

[186] Page 454.

[187] Page 455.

[188] Pages 456-457.

[189] Page 458.

[190] Ibid.

[191] Page 459.

[192] Page 463.

[193] Page 464.

[194] Page 468.

[195] Page 469.

[196] Page 471.

[197] Page 472. This should be made exceedingly plain and with great earnestness when a minister is ordained and confirmed in his position.

[198] Page 476.

[199] Page 478.

[200] Page 483.

[201] Page 484.

[202] Ibid. See Murphy’s treatment of this on page 485, which I find important.

[203] Page 492.

[204] Page 493.

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