Arthur Pink, 1939
"But we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children." 1 Thess. 2:7
What a delightful figure did the Apostle here employ, and how blessedly it depicts the duties of the minister's office in connection with one section of those who are committed to his charge. Unto those who are but babes in Christ he sustains the relationship of a nursing mother. What wisdom, what tenderness, what patience this calls for. His infantile charges are to be fed with the pure milk of the Word. Care has to be taken that they get plenty of rest, and not pressed into "service" for which they are utterly unfit. How beautifully this is brought out in Isaiah 40:11, where we behold the Good Shepherd carrying the "lambs" in His arms. "He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." What a lesson is there pointed for all His under-shepherds to deal with the little ones as such, nourishing and tending to them.
But there comes a time when we outgrow the need for nurses, and it is just as harmful for those reaching the age of adolescence to be treated as though they were still in the nursery, as it would be if infants were forced to attempt tasks suited only to adults. We never tire of calling attention to some of the many ways in which the natural sketches the spiritual, for simple and obvious though this is—yet it is surprising how often the lessons to be learned therefrom are overlooked. During the first few months of our earthly existence we were entirely dependent upon the ministrations of others, being quite incapable of doing anything for ourselves. Even when learning to walk—other hands had to support us. But would it not be pathetic if such were the case with us now?
It is lamentable when a boy in his teens is still tied to his mother's apron strings. Yet is it not equally deplorable for those who have been Christians many years to be tied to their minister's apron strings? Yet how often we witness this very thing. There is a certain class who seem to be afraid, or at any rate unwilling, to think for themselves—to search the Scriptures for themselves, and act accordingly—and we suspect that in many cases the preacher is as much to be blamed as they are. It is true that he is their teacher, and as such he should possess a wider and deeper knowledge of spiritual things than they have. Yet is it not his duty to instruct them—to familiarize themselves with God's Word, and thus become qualified to "Test all things—hold fast that which is good"? (1 Thess. 5:21). In other words, the preacher is not to be a nurse unto them all their lives.
It has long been our conviction that the preacher who is really of greatest service to his people—is the one who makes them most independent of creature help, and casts them back directly upon God Himself. For souls to run to their pastor every time they are in trouble, or look to him to solve all their spiritual problems, is virtually to give him the same place in their lives as the deluded Papists accord their "priests." This is not only to rob God of His glory—but also retards their spiritual progress. It is with God Himself, that I most need to deal, and any man who comes between me and the Lord is really a hindrance, no matter how good his intentions may be. Moreover, the preacher is human, and therefore liable to err—but God is omniscient and never misdirects. "If any of you lacks wisdom—let him ask of God." (James 1:5).
Some time ago we had a letter from one of our readers to say she was much perturbed over the matter of baptism, and asking us to communicate our own views thereon. We answered by saying that while we rejoiced to learn she was exercised upon this important ordinance—yet we were disappointed that our opinion had been asked for. We stated that if we gave it, it could not be of any real value to her: that she had the same Bible to consult that we had, and urged her to prayerfully study the New Testament and act thereon—taking no man's word or advice. We knew that what we had said would be a real test, and that if she belonged to that hyper-sensitive class which is so numerous today, she would be offended. But committing the matter to the Lord, we counted upon Him to be so overruling that He would be glorified and she satisfied.
Our inquirer thanked us for our letter, saying, "I absolutely concur with you that it would not help me for you to answer my question regarding immersion. I must search the Word prayerfully, and be entirely obedient to that light God gives me . . . You must agree it is hard for a young Christian to know what the Word teaches (humanly speaking) when one spiritual man of God teaches that it says one thing, and another apparently equally spiritually-minded man teaches from the Word the opposite." To which we replied, "Yes, my dear friend, I freely grant that it is far from easy to ascertain what God's Word teaches while we practically shut ourselves up to hearing or reading what is now being given out by those claiming to be 'Bible Teachers'; yes, I go so far as to say that it is impossible—nothing but confusion can be the result."
Sooner or later there comes a time in the lives of most real Christians when those words, "Stop trusting in man" (Isaiah 2:22) are applied to their hearts in Divine power. This will not mean that they now refuse to hear God's servants or read their writings—but that they will no longer place the same blind confidence in their teachers as the Papists do in their priests. Instead, they will emulate the Bereans, who did not mechanically accept what they heard even from the lips of the Apostles—but "examined the Scriptures every day—to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11). This is what our young friend did, and in her last letter she was able to tell us that the Lord had made clear her duty and she had been Scripturally baptized. How happy she was that her faith stood not "in the wisdom of men—but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:5). She added, "I can perceive well how the man who throws me back upon the Lord Himself helps me the most." Spiritual nurses have their place—but they become a snare when we fail to outgrow their need.