Holiness– A Minister of the Gospel’s Greatest Need
Revival and Revivalism, Chapter 2
The aftermath of the Great Awakening plus the explosive growth of the American colonies created a desperate need for training ministers of the Gospel. This, the original intent for the founding of Princeton, evoked ardent support for the founding of the college by all the evangelical leaders of the Great Awakening. From 1761 to 1776, the population of America grew from under one million to 2.5 million. Additionally, a westward movement into the frontier after the conclusion of the French and Indian War created a larger geographical area in need of faithful ministers.
In the midst of this great need, the faculty at Princeton showed a great resolve to maintain focus on the greatest need of a minister of the Gospel—an experiential knowledge of God that leads to a holy life. Though high academic standards were established, they recognized that “unsanctified learning—that is scholarship detached from religion—was a danger and not an acquisition to be admired” (p. 43). Murray repeats this theme through the chapter by quoting many of the presidents and faculty during the first decades of the school’s existence. Notice the flow of thought which produced their focus on the personal holiness of the preacher.
1) The success of the Gospel is completely dependent on God. Realizing your dependence upon God should lead you to a life of prayer.
2) Because God is controlling the success of the Gospel, we are called to be faithful to what God calls us. For the faculty of Princeton, that meant producing a well-equipped minister of the Gospel. It was not a hurried process. Instead, they deliberately developed men both intellectually and spiritually to be able to handle the Word of God and live it out in front of their congregations.
As Davies stated, “It is an easy thing to make a noise in the world, to flourish and harangue, to dazzle the crowd and set them all agape; but deeply to imbibe the Spirit of Christianity, to maintain a secret walk with God, to be holy , as He is holy—this is the labour, this is the work” (p.45).
3) Holiness is the greatest need for the minister of the Gospel.
President Witherspoon said it like this, “True religion in the heart is of far greater importance to the success and efficacy of the ministry than eminence or gifts” (p. 45). In his “Lecture on Eloquence,” piety was at the top of his list of “qualities of most importance for the preaching of the Gospel.” At the end of this lecture, he stated, “Observe, as the conclusion of the whole, that one devoted to the service of the gospel should be really, visibly, and eminently holy” (p. 46).
Is it any wonder under the leadership of men like this, that the early years of Princeton were characterized by repeated and sustained revivals among the student body? And that upon graduation, these students continued to see revivals among the congregations to whom they ministered?
I wonder, in our churches today, are pastors focused on living in a way that is really, visibly, and eminently holy? Or is the focus more on meetings, programs, crafting the “worship experience,” or polishing the perfect sermon? On the mission field, are we focused more on missiological trends, contextualization, or on holy living? Instead of rushing to embrace every philosophy and practice in the world around us, we must realize that God has called us to stand apart from it—to be holy!