Thursday, October 05, 2006

Teaser: Martyn's Biographer on His "Ministerial Tenderness"

Journals and Letters of the Rev. Henry Martyn, B.D.:

"Great too was his ministerial tenderness. His holy condemnation of sin was never mingled with any of the harshness of invective. When compelled to wield the sword of the Spirit for the conviction of sinners, it was 'even weeping' that he taught them what it was "to be the enemies of the cross of Christ." He could scarcely speak of the concerns of immortal souls without tears; often have I heard the voice which was telling of the return of some repentant prodigal falter with suppressed emotion, and seen the eye which by faith contemplated the realities of eternity, fill with the tear of grateful joy. None ever came to heal the wounds of souls, who possessed a softer touch, a more exquisite sensibility of spirit; he was the chosen comforter of sorrow, the "son of consolation" to wounded hearts. Though he always spoke out in condemning sin; though he dared not hide the holiness of God under a meretricious representation of his mercy, yet it was his especial delight to be in his master's hands, the means of gently kindling to a flame the smoking flax, or raising tenderly the bruised reed. Indeed it might have been said, that this was the peculiar feature of his ministerial character, if there had not been another in which all the rest seemed to be merged. The grace of God had wrought in an unusual degree within his soul, that which was the distinguishing character of Herbert's 'Pastor.' "Holiness to the Lord" was imprinted upon all his conduct. He could not bear sin; he viewed it with holy indignation. Its struggles in himself, and its frequent prevalence in his people, were the causes of his deepest sorrow. All attempts to make light of its defilement, to lower down the standard of God to the debased conceptions of fallen man, excited within him a vehement indignation, and a holy zeal for God, which might have been deemed by those who witnessed them alone, as almost incompatible with that deep and abiding tenderness which had been breathed over his soul. It was indeed the union of these two qualities, which distinguished his ministerial character, which reached the conscience of the careless, which detected the disguises of the false professor, which comforted the broken-hearted, and encouraged the believer in new and increasing endeavours after conformity with God. The influence of his character extended beyond the limits of his own parish. Many were the brother presbyters whose hands he strengthened, whose hearts he animated, whose knowledge he increased. It was a sad, though a soothing sight, to witness on the day when the earth closed over his beloved remains, the mournful train of neighbouring pastors, who with entire submission to the master of the shepherds, wept over their own loss, saying from the heart, "Alas, my father! alas, my brother." (emphasis mine)