Almighty God, thou hast set above all things the cross of Jesus Christ thy Son. All things are now changed by that cross—all values, and meanings, and influences. Those things that were princely have become mean; ambitions have been rebuked, powers have been overthrown, and the weakness of God is stronger than the might of men. We now see these truths as we never saw them before, and they make us glad. We have been blind, we have been groping in infinite darkness, not knowing the right hand from the left; but now that we have seen the cross we know how all things lie, where heaven is, where thy throne is set, and we see a great light far away, shining like an infinite welcome. We bless thee for the cross of Christ: it is the way to heaven; it is the mystery of love; it is high above us like a great sky, yet round about us like a living air. We will not glory but in the cross: its shame is greater in glory than is all the pride in creation; its very weakness is almightiness; its condescension is majesty. Thy love is shown in the cross of Jesus; and we need that cross more and more as we see what sin is, and feel how poor and weak we are ourselves. Blessed cross! Tree of death, yet tree of life; an open way for sinners only into heaven’s eternal peace. Precious cross of Christ! The life of the world, the security of the universe; we gather round thee and bless the love that set thee up. We are crucified with Christ: nevertheless we live; yet not we, but Christ liveth in us: and the life which we now live in the flesh we live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us. No man entereth into this wisdom but he who is taught of God. Verily it is folly of all folly to those who serve the flesh and are greedy for the world. How nobly wise, how tenderly beautiful, is the cross of Christ to those who have begun to see that without the cross the world is a deception and life an intolerable lie! We praise thee for what visions we have had of the cross: they have made us glad; we can never forget them; they have given a new setting and tone to our whole life: we are debtors to the cross, and our debt we can never pay. Help us to think upon these things with steadfastness of attention. May we know that these are the deep things of God, that the universe is but a temporary accident, the momentary clothing of God, to be thrown off and forgotten, but at the heart of things lies the eternal fact of sacrifice. Save us from distracted attention; save us from mistaking things for great because they are only near; give us the genius of the heart which sees things as they really are; and give us that true wisdom which knows where to build the altar and to what to offer the tribute of our life. We are here but for a day or two; we are pilgrims and can tarry but for a night; we are on the high road: we cannot see more than one step at a time; the next step may be the grave, or there may be long checkered years yet before us and to be traversed: help us to lay hold of thy hand, O Leading One; to stop where thou dost stop; teach us that to obey is to conquer, that to receive God’s will and live it is to be in God’s heaven: then shall we have no unrest, or disquiet, or cancer of the heart eating out our love and peace; we shall be calm with God’s tranquility and steadfast in God’s almightiness. Regard us as men who need daily light and daily care. Thou didst never put two days into any man’s hand at once. We are not to boast of tomorrow. Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men: the true, the noble, the beautiful, the good are taken away like shadows; those whom we accounted as rocks are overturned, and we shall see their faces no more; the great and the small die. Help us to know that though we too must die, yet whilst we live we may live a doubly energetic or beneficent life. May we work with both hands earnestly, sparing nothing, hiding in our hearts the sweet thought that the Son of man may come today. Blessed are they who shall be found ready when he opens heaven’s door, and comes down to claim the issue of his sacrifice. May he see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied! In that spirit would we wait and toil and hope, not as fools but as wise, seizing time with a strong hand, and filling it to the full with duty and with sacrifice. Heal our broken hearts; dry our penitential tears; subdue our unholy anger, and lead us in the way everlasting. Speak to the old man, and he will be young again; lay thy hand, so gentle because so mighty, on the youngest child and the weakest life, and it shall become dignified and noble. Visit our sick-chambers; we steal up to them, lest the very noise of the footfall should injure those we love; do thou go in with the boldness of love, and heal our sick with the momentary health of the body or with the immortality which comes through faith. Watch us; care for us; be pitiful to us. We are bruised reeds; we are as smoking flax; we are as a flower which cometh for a little time and then passeth away because the wind is cold. We know our prayer shall be heard; for thy mercy reacheth unto the heavens. Amen.
Rev. Joseph Parker
Almighty God, thou art indeed a consuming fire to them that are out of the way, whose hearts are obstinate and whose will has gone wantonly from God. Thou dost fight with fire. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. We come to thee for mercy,—for a gentle rain of mercy, pity, compassion, love. We have done the things we ought not to have done, and all we hold in our hands is a broken law. God be merciful unto us, sinners! Speak to us from the cross: there do thou commune with our hearts, letting us whisper our sin and rather hint at our shame than tell it in plain words. We bless thee for a gospel so many-sided; it is like a thousand doors opening upon the heart of God. The prodigal is welcome: therefore are we here,—not because of our goodness and perfectness, but because our of evil and imperfection. We are here where the cross is and the speaking blood—the sacrifice for the sins of the world: a mystery even greater than our sin, and for the mystery we bless thee. To no argument would we trust, to no wall of words would we come for security and rest, but to an infinite mystery, to that which is above us like a sky, beyond us like the horizon,—something without words, putting all speech to shame and confusion because of its inadequacy to express the infinite compassion of God. Where sin abounds grace doth much more abound. Who can be greater than God? What can be vaster than his love? What can get so deeply into the nature that the all-penetrating blood of Jesus Christ cannot remove it? Wash us, and we shall be clean. Undertake for us when our strength is all gone; when our sorrow is intolerable, do thou find the solace which we need; when we are blind through tears, do thou terminate the weeping by one night’s grief, that in the morning we may see a risen sun and a radiant sky. Amen.
– People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – 1 Samuel 19 – 1 Kings 13: Volume 7.
From Dr. Joseph Parker’s sermon on Matthew 4:18-25
Almighty God, if thou dost answer us out of thy mercy, who then can tell the measure of thy reply to our prayer and our Thanksgiving? Behold, thy love is a sea whose depths have never been searched, and thy mercy is higher than the sky, yea, no man can lay a line upon all the pity and compassion of God. Our life stands in thy goodness; we are surrounded by thy mercy, verily we live and move and have our being in God. Show us that thou art, not a God far off, but a God nigh at hand, yea, within us, nearer than our own breath and our own life, without whom, indeed, we could not live. We bless thee for the house of prayer, the place of silence and of song, the house of inspiration, the sanctuary of defence, the place where prayer is wont to be made, and we bless thee for the wide and open way to thy throne through Jesus Christ our only Saviour. We keep that living way, we are all found in it this very moment, so is the moment the sweetest in our life, and there is in it a brightness above the light of the sun, and it is alive with the most sacred and elevating hope.
Thou dost not disappoint the heart of man; when his soul is lifted up towards thee thou dost bathe it with all the light of heaven’s morning, and when his cry rises from his heart to thy throne, thou dost turn it into a sweet hymn and enrich the heart with all the graciousness of thy love. We have come to thine house today with no small expectancy, our hearts are inflamed into a great desire, our tongue is open before thee with speech, demanding in the name of Christ, and not our own, all the promises to he fulfilled: yea, is ours a violence— we come to take the kingdom of heaven by force. So hast thou allowed us to do, yea, thou hast charged us to seize the gates of thy kingdom and to open them with the violence of importunate love. We bless thee for these heavenly desires, we thank thee for influences that move the heart upwards from the dust and through the stars, and onward to things divine and everlasting. May those noble desires never die, may our life be a continual petition for enlargement and sanctification. We have been content too long to live in the dust and eat its perishing roots; we would now live in the heavens, and sustain our hearts on God.
We bless thee for all thy Bible of love, wide as the heavens and green as the earth in summer-time, and tender as all the songs of love. We bless thee for that inner revelation of the spirit, that sacred ministry which is beyond all words, and too holy for song. O dwell within us, abide with us, soothe us with all the comforting, stimulate us with all the hopefulness which thou dost bring to bear upon the lives of men who are given to thee wholly, body, soul, and spirit. Turn the discipline of thy rod to the advantage of our souls, save us amid the gathering gloom from the last darkness of despair; when every earthly prop and hope is given up, do thou grant unto us the defences and assurances of thy sanctuary and thy presence.
Thou knowest us altogether; the old and the young, the rich and the poor are here, the head hoary with the snows and frosts of many a winter, and the face bright and unwrinkled and young, and the life full of charming hope. Thou knowest those who are in bitterness and sorrow of soul, thou understandest all our life; we therefore come before thee assured that in Christ Jesus all our wants shall be supplied and our poverty shall become the occasion of our wealth.
The Lord help us to do every good work with earnestness, the Lord work in us a holy dislike and detestation of all evil things, and the Lord grant unto us such answers in the course of his providence to our best desires and holiest vows as shall assure us that the voice of the heart does not fall to the ground.
We would read thy word attentively, we would listen to every tone of thy revelation, as if our soul’s best interests depended upon hearing it. Whilst thus we attend thou wilt not withhold the illuminating and confirming spirit, but thou wilt pour out upon us all that we need as zealous and adorning students of thy holy book.
Bless us altogether, those of us who are old friends and old fellow-students of thy word, well known to one another as common suppliants at thy throne, and bless the stranger within our gates, who joins our worship today for the first and only time: destroy all feeling of distance and strangeness and exile, and fill his soul with all the light and love of heaven, and thus in the unity of the spirit, with common and un-distracted fellowship, may we wait upon God to our soul’s profiting.
The Lord speak to the indifferent man and awake him to attention, the Lord rebuke the worldly man whose heart is at this moment far away from thy house though his body is here, and the Lord grant great rich answers of peace and assurance, pardon and love, to those whose best desire is to know the Lord more fully, and to serve him with increasing earnestness and delight. Amen.”
- Parker, Joseph (2015-09-03). Matthew: The Inner Life of Christ (The People’s Bible Book 21) (Kindle Locations 2804-2841). Chariot Ebooks. Kindle Edition.
As a pastor’s son and pastor now of local Baptist churches for twenty years I’m always fascinated by how a pastor operates – especially the pulpit heroes of the past. I can attest, from personal experience, that the call to a new ministry is one of the most heart-wrenching and soul-stirring times in a pastor’s life. That’s why I found Rev. Parker’s acceptance letter to the Cavendish Chapel in Manchester so interesting. There is a lot here that resonates with my spirit and some things that I’ve had to look behind the words to grasp their meaning and Rev. Parker’s intent. Whether you agree with his approach or not, I believe you’ll find this letter intriguing nonetheless. Enjoy!
To the Deacons and Members of the Church assembling in Cavendish Chapel, Manchester :
Before replying to your invitation I deem it right to acquaint you with my views in relation to the ministerial, pastoral, and diaconal offices, so that in the event of our union, no misunderstanding may ever arise.
As a minister I claim the most perfect freedom of action. With regard to my conduct in the pulpit, I must be the sole human arbiter. Under a profound sense of my accountability to the great Head of the Church, I must adopt such modes of appealing to the people as may appear to my own judgment and conscience best adapted to promote the interests of truth. I promise no deference to usages or precedent; what appears to me right I shall do, and what appears to me wrong or insufficient I shall unequivocally reject.
As a minister I must judge for myself what course I shall pursue out of the pulpit. I cannot promise to do as others do. What my labours may be through the press or on the platform, I must determine by circumstances, it being understood that I hold every engagement subordinate to my ministerial responsibilities.
As a pastor I cannot visit for the sake of visiting. At all times I am glad to obey the calls of the sick and the dying, or to guide the truth seeker; but in continuous rounds of so-called pastoral visitations I do not believe, and such I cannot promise. In connection with this point it may be well to mention that I have been advised by a London physician to select a residence outside Manchester, in order to preserve, as far as possible, the health of Mrs. Parker. Under these circumstances domiciliary visitations would involve an immense sacrifice of time.
I believe the office of deacon is purely secular that is, that the deacons business is to “serve tables.” With secular duties the deacons office begins and ends. Believing this to be a scriptural view, I hold it most tenaciously.
As a minister I claim an annual vacation of one clear month; the particular month I determine from year to year. During this vacation the pastor is to provide the supplies, and the church to remunerate them.
Such are my views. I solemnly assure you that with these views alone could I enter upon any scene of labour. I make no great promises. If you are prepared to abide by your invitation now that you know my principles, I shall, with strong trust in the Divine blessing, accept the same, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
25 West Bar Street,
Banbury, Oxon., June 10th, 1858.