John Gill was pastor of New Park Street Baptist Church for 51 years. However, great men are not always wise and because of his stern repudiation of any division of his authority, and his refusal to bring in a younger minister to assist him, the young people quit attending and the church which numbered over a thousand in attendance barely numbered one hundred fifty members. The mighty commentator having been followed to his grave by his grieving people and a great company of ministers, his church began to look for a successor, There was trouble in store, for there was division of opinion. Some, no doubt, as true Gillites, looked for an older preacher, sound in doctrine, who would supply the older members with spiritual food, while another party had an eye to the growth of the church and the younger members of their families. John Rippon was recommended to them. He was only twenty years old but they agreed to hear him on probation. The older members judged him to be too young, and too flighty; they even accused him of having gone up the pulpit stairs two steps at a time on some occasion when he was in a hurry - a grave offense for which the condemnation could hardly be too severe. He was only a young man and came from an academy, and this alone was enough to make the sounder and older members afraid of him. He preached for some months on probation, and finally forty members left the church because they could not agree to call John Rippon to be their pastor.
Rippon modestly expressed his amazement and wonder that even more people had not been dissatisfied. He said his great surprise was that so large a number had agreed to call him to the pastorate. In the spirit of love and forbearance John Rippon proposed to the church that, as these friends had left the church for conscience sake, and intended to form themselves into another church, they should be lovingly dismissed with prayer and Godspeed, and that, as a token of brotherly love, the church should assist them in building a meeting-house of their own. A vote was taken and the sum of three-hundred pounds was given to the departing members who rejected Mr. Rippon's ministry and left the church. The new group set-out to find a pastor and finally called Mr. William Burton, who was nineteen years of age - two years younger than John Rippon. Who do you suppose took part in the ordination and installation service for the very young pastor and his new congregation John Rippon!
John Rippon remained as pastor of New Park Street for sixty-three years and Mr. Burton labored among the new church for over forty years. The two churches fellowshipped, labored together in love for the glory of Christ, and supported both pastors in the common bond of grace. Why should this not be our practice today? I do not find this spirit very often and neither do you. If a church divides over some matter of opinion, conscience, or practice, the division usually remains deep; brothers and sisters do not speak, no longer pray for one another, cannot worship together, accusations and charges are hurled - even questioning one another's salvation!
Paul wrote in Phil. 1:15, "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: what then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." We need to be concerned when the one strong evidence of discipleship given by our Lord is the area where we are the weakest. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
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