Dane K. Jöhannsson
Lead Pastor, Agros Church
Log College Press has done the Church, especially her ministers, a great service in making this 1916 Moderator’s address, by southern Presbyterian Rev. Dr. Cornelius Washington Grafton (1846-1934), available once again. In a day where the important ministries are only thought to be the ones with the largest attendances, biggest budgets, most online views, listens, downloads etc., this pamphlet is a welcome, needed and important antidote to the success and numbers driven ministry models of the modern Church.
Coming in at 24 pages in length (only 20 of which are Dr. Grafton’s address), this volume would be easy to overlook, and in fact I did just that thing when I first saw that it had been released last year. The Lord is always gracious and kind to me and has proven Himself to be so once again by putting this volume before my eyes. Every year I try to read at least 2 or 3 books on preaching, homiletics, pastoral theology or ecclesiology. I have been through 3 so far this year and Dr. Grafton’s address makes 4. Being the pastor of a small Church, I found this volume to be extremely helpful, life-giving, encouraging, corrective and humbling. I highly recommend it to all my fellow ministers and to all Christians.
The pamphlet opens with an introductory word by Reverend David Irving, who paints us a picture of Dr. Grafton in his historical setting. The title of this book, “A Forty-Three Year Pastorate in a Country Church”, is the title Dr. Grafton gave to his Moderator’s address in 1916 while Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. At the time of the address, Dr. Grafton had pastored in the same country church for 43 years. This is astounding in today’s day and age, and it greatly encouraged me to remain faithful to my people.
Dr. Grafton pastored the “Union Church Presbyterian Church” in Jefferson County, Mississippi for 61 years in total. That means that after this address, he continued pastoring that church for roughly another two decades (which itself is longer than many modern Pastors stay at their churches)!
In this address Grafton gives wonderful insights and personal anecdotes from his many years in ministry. The main points he emphasizes in his address are faithfulness to his God and his people, biblical/doctrinal integrity, consistency and taking full advantage of the opportunities to expand the kingdom placed in one’s life by God. He states that “for forty-three years… the staple of the preaching has been mainly doctrinal… the fundamentals of Theology have been proclaimed. To wit: the doctrines of original sin, man’s total depravity, God’s sovereign will, eternal election of a multitude that no man can number, a definite atonement by Jesus Christ the Son of God for His people, irresistible grace in the regeneration of the soul, and the final, certain perseverance of the saints.” (pg.6,7) This was certainly one of the strengths of Grafton’s ministry as can been seen throughout the rest of his address. Grafton encourages the minister of God’s word to never tire of proclaiming the same worn out, tried and tested truths of the Scriptures, because it is to these great truths that the power of salvation and sanctification belong.
Grafton helps us all see that the doctrines of grace, or, “Calvinism”, is the most effectual and life-giving system of theology, and the only one that can truly sustain a minister and his people for over half a century of life together. In response to the accusation, which is still popular today, that this theology is dry and lifeless, Grafton’s response is simply, “our people have not found it so.” (pg.7) He goes on to explain why:
“These doctrines go to the very bottom of human nature and set forth God in His beauty and glory, and country people love these great truths, and it would do you good to hear them discuss these great themes… Calvinism presents God as standing before the sinner, demanding his surrender and offering infinite mercy. These truths make up the conquering gospel.” (pg.7)
As well as doctrinal preaching and its necessity, Grafton points us to the sufficiency and inexhaustibility of the Scriptures themselves. He writes,
“It might seem that in a long pastorate a preacher would find a dearth of themes; but the Bible can never be exhausted, and today the pastures are just as green and the topics are just as numerous and hearers are just as attentive as they were forty years ago. The farther one goes into the King’s garden, the more he sees and wants to see. The Scripture is a deep well and the country preacher has never gotten to the bottom of it.” (pg.7)
This is just a tiny sampling of what Grafton’s address contains and it demonstrates the foundation from which he built his ministry and encourages others to build their own. Grafton goes on to describe some specifics of his long ministry and how he dealt with a multiplicity of issues and took advantage of the many opportunities he was given to glorify God. This address was truly encouraging as a pastor and I will likely turn to it many more times throughout my life. I cannot recommend this little work highly enough and commend it to both ministers and lay-people. Many thanks to Log College Press for making this available to us all.
Tolle lege! Take up and read!
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I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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