“Beloved, men who have only a conditional offer of the gospel, will have only a conditional gospel.
The man who has only a conditional gospel knows only conditional grace.
And the man who knows only conditional grace knows only a conditional God.
And the man who has only a conditional God will have a conditional ministry to his fellow men.
And at end of the day, he will only be able to give his heart, and his life, and his time, and his devotion to his people… on condition.
And he will love and master the truth of the great doctrines of grace, but until grace in God Himself masters him, the grace that has mastered him will never flow from him to his people.
And he will become a Jonah in the 20th century, sitting under his tree with a heart that is shut up against sinners in need of grace, because he thinks of God in conditional terms.
And that, you see, was the blight upon the ministry in the Church of Scotland of those days, men who were thoroughly Reformed in their confessional subscription, but whose bowels, whose hearts, were closed up to God’s people and to the lost in all the nations.
Wasn’t it Alexander Whyte of Freesen Georges that used to say there was such a thing as sanctification by vinegar that makes men accurate and hard? And that’s what they were.
When your people come and have been broken by sin, and have been tempted by Satan, and are ashamed to confess the awful mess they have made of their life, it is not a Calvinistic pastor who has been sanctified by vinegar that they need.
It is a pastor who has been mastered by the unconditional grace of God, from whom ironclad orthodoxy has been torn away, and the whole armor of a gracious God has been placed upon his soul — the armor of One who would not break the bruised reed or quench the dimly burning wick: the God of free grace.
It’s the pastor who will say, ‘Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to have you, but I have prayed for you; and when you are converted, strengthen the brethren.’
You see, my friends, as we think together in these days about a godly pastor… What is a godly pastor?
A godly pastor is a pastor who is like God, who has a heart of free grace running after sinners.
The godly pastor is the one who sees the prodigal returning, and runs and falls on his neck and weeps and kisses him; and says, ‘This my son was dead; he was lost and now he is alive and found.’
So that we discover, even in the stretching of our minds over this Marrow Controversy, that the first pastoral lesson we learn is really a question:
What kind of pastor am I to my people? Am I like the Father? Or am I like the elder brother, who would not go in?”
–Sinclair B. Ferguson, “The Marrow Controversy Lecture #1: Historical Details,” p. 13. Consider taking a few minutes to listen to this powerful exhortation from Dr. Ferguson, that I trust will serve your soul.