/ Lee Hutchings

Better to be Faithful than Famous

Recently, I finished reading a re-publication of a ministerial biography from 1860 entitled, “The Pastor of Kilsyth: The Life and Times of the Rev. W.H. Burns D.D.” (Banner of Truth) Written by his son, the Rev. Islay Burns, it is easy to see why Iain Murray called it “one of the best Scottish ministerial biographies”. I had never heard of W.H. Burns, and apparently neither have many other people. But that’s what is so compelling about this work. It is a great encouragement and blessing, not only to those who labor and serve as Pastors, but for all Christians. The Apostle Paul commands us “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

There is much to commend in the life and diary of Burns. I want to share a good portion from the publisher’s introduction (which is also found on the Banner website), it alone is worth the price of the book, for it encouraged me to read this valuable work, and I pray it may encourage someone else to learn how God continues to use faithful and ordinary Christians for His extraordinary service. 

What we have here then is the life of an ‘ordinary’ faithful pastor. He held no prestigious pulpit, he held no important professorship in theology. He founded no institution. He simply labored in relative obscurity, but did so faithfully and with perseverance. Yes, he ultimately saw great revival. But along the way there were spiritually discouraging days in the nation, there was personal hardship (for example, the early death of children) and sacrifice (for example, in supporting the founding of the Free Church of Scotland he gave up his manse and church building) and years of no great visible fruit. 

In our celebrity-driven age (from which the evangelical church is far from exempt) this is exactly the kind of life we need to study. We need to be reminded of the beauty, dignity, and ultimately the glory of humble obscure Christian service (Matt. 10:42) Yes, we need the towering leaders of men like John Calvin and John Knox. However, the great work of the church is ultimately carried forward by those who receive little earthly reward and recognition (but great is their reward in heaven!) (Donald McLean, p.viii, 2019)

William Hamilton Burns was such a faithful man. I hope you’ll take the time to sit at his feet. You won’t regret it. 

Lee Hutchings

Lee Hutchings

Child of God. Husband to Diane. Father of Harper. Walker and feeder of Teddy (our chocolate Lab). Grateful to be Pastor of Trinity Church PCA in North Canton, Ohio. Ordained PCA Pastor since 2012.

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