Thomas Boston was an evangelical pastor in Ettrick, Scotland in the early 1700s. As an abounding author in the Puritan tradition, Boston declared the importance of not compromising the preaching of doctrine and truth in exchange for a user-friendly, pragmatic approach to ministry (although the word pragmatic would not even exist for another two centuries). It is ironic that this Puritan was warning against a “consumer-driven” approach to ministry 300 years ago that would be the norm in evangelical Christianity today.
From A Soliloquy on the Art of Man-Fishing by Thomas Boston:
Our Lord’s command “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” implies a renouncing of our own wisdom. Human wisdom cannot be our guide; we must deny ourselves. Paul refused to preach with wisdom of words (1 Cor. 1:17) – nor did he follow the rules of carnal wisdom. Therefore, oh my soul, renounce your own wisdom. Seek the wisdom that is from above; seek to preach the words of the living God, and not your own. When you determine to take this direction, praying that you might not preach according to your own wisdom and natural reason, you receive God’s signal blessing.
Do not take the way of natural reason or follow the rules of carnal wisdom. Its language will always be, “Spare yourself. Guard your honor and your reputation among men. If you speak freely, they will call you a railer and call your preaching reactionary. Every church will be frightened of you as a monster that would preach them all to hell; and so you shall never be settled. Such and such a man, who has a great influence in the church, will never like you. After all, direct preaching is not the way to win people; it unnerves them from the very beginning. Instead, you should bring them on little by little, being somewhat smooth – at least at first. For this generation is not able to abide such doctrine as what you preach.”
But hear and follow the rules of the wisdom that is from above: “The wisdom of this world is folly with God.” (1 Cor. 3:19) That which is in high esteem among men is nothing in God’s sight. The wisdom that is from above tells us we must deny ourselves. We cannot seek honor, reputation, acclaim, the applause of men, or other such earthly enticements. God’s wisdom will show you rules quite contrary to those of carnal wisdom.
Thus you see, oh my soul, how carnal wisdom – although it speaks convincingly and with a good deal of seeming reason – is quite contrary to the wisdom that is from above. It promises great advantages to those who follow it, but its promises are not always performed. It threatens great calamity for those who defy it, but neither do its threatenings always come to pass. It makes molehills mountains, and mountains molehills. Therefore reject the wisdom of the world, for it is foolishness with God.