I’m re-reading Richard Baxter’s work Reformed Pastor for my Discipleship and Leadership class. In answering the question of how much study should take place in the pastorate, and those who feel that study must take priority over personal visitation, one-on-one discipleship and counseling, Richard Baxter has some hard and yet true words:
That work which is our great end must be done, whatever be left undone. It is a very desirable thing for a physician to be thoroughly studied in his art; and to be able to see the reason of his practice, and to resolve such difficult controversies as are before him. But if he had the charge of a hospital, or lived in a city where the pestilence was raging, if he would be studying fermentation, the circulation of the blood, blisters, and the like, and such like excellent points, when he should be visiting his patients, and saving men’s lives; if he should even turn them away, and let them perish, and tell them that he has not time to give them advice, because he must follow his own studies, I would consider that man as a most preposterous student, who preferred the remote means before the end itself of his studies: indeed, I would think him but a civil kind of murderer. Men’s souls may be saved without knowing whether God did predetermine the creature in all its acts; whether the understanding necessarily determines the will; whether God works grace in a physical or in a moral way of causation; what freewill is; whether God have scientiam mediam,’ or positive decrees concerning the blame for evil deeds; and a hundred similar questions, which are probably the things you would be studying when you should be saving souls. Get well to heaven, and help your people thither, and you shall know all these things in a moment, and a thousand more, which now, by all your studies, you can never know; and is not this the most expeditious and certain way to knowledge
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor
(Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 213-14.