Dear James,

It is time for me to go. As David said to Jonathan, so I say to you, “There is but a step between me and death” (1 Sam. 20:3). I must shortly give an account of my own stewardship (Heb. 13:7), just as you, dear James, must one day give account of your own. I feel coming near what Asahel Nettleton described as that “solemn hour of exchanging of worlds.”[1] As such, this may be my last letter. The tender words and kind expressions in the note I just received from you mean a great deal to me. I see now, more clearly than ever before, the weightiness of words. Be no miser of good words, dear James. “A word in season, how good it is!” (Prov. 15:23).

Knowing my time is at hand, I have just a couple final thoughts to share with you on the work and calling of a ruling elder. The first one is this: to the degree our Lord allows and enables you, be a presbyter. Involve yourself, in some capacity, in the work of the presbytery. I had a mentor, when I began my first significant leadership position at the hospital, say to me, “Look up and out!” I was a bit too focused on the department and was missing opportunities in the organization. Ruling elders also need to look up and out.

Far too often the responsibilities of the presbytery, not to mention the work of the denomination, have fallen mostly on the shoulders of our ministers. Some of this cannot be avoided. But the Word calls us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2), and this includes presbytery burdens. Those who do will generally find by experience that the Lord helps them and that Christ’s words are true, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).

When attending a presbytery meeting, make it a point to get to know some of the other ministers and elders. Listen for prayer requests and needs, add them to your prayer list, and then check in with these men from time to time. Join a committee if you can. I always enjoyed talking to some of the retired ministers at these meetings. Ask them questions. Listen. Those who approach presbytery with brotherly kindness and love in their hearts will keep themselves “from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord” (2 Pet. 1:8).

James, the great calling of the eldership is to love the church, protect the church, serve the church. That begins in your own flock, but our care must grow according to the measure of Christ’s own love. Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). He loved them too, and so must you. Love the church. Love the presbytery. Love the denomination. Love Christ’s sheep wherever they are found. As Paul said to the Ephesian elders, so I say to you, “care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). He serves Christ best, who loves him most.

Isn’t the church lovely, James? Can you not see beyond her spots and wrinkles (Eph. 5:27)? She becomes more glorious every day (2 Cor. 4:16). The bridegroom is coming. Oh, let us love what he loves (Eph 5:25)! There is so much to love about the church! Her gospel is beautiful, isn’t it? There is no message like it on earth; it beautifies the preacher and the hearer (Rom. 10:15). I love to hear of that grace that saved a wretch like me! Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and his love.[2]

And the church’s worship is lovely too, isn’t it? Consider whom we worship: our God is an awesome God. Look, look at the beauty of the Lord (Ps. 27:4)! Oh, how our Triune God is worthy of our praises! “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness” (Ps. 96:9). And the singing of the church is beautiful . . . glorious! Listen to her hymns, her Psalms! Hear the music. Breathe out the lyrics from your soul.

Chosen not for good in me,
Waked from coming wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Savior’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified—
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show.
By my love how much I owe.[3]

I can hear singing now—somewhere, softly in the distance . . . a triumphant song. Are those angel voices? I cannot quite make out the tune, I think it is new! It is! It’s a new song! Heaven sings, James, heaven sings!

Dear James, this is Aunt Bonnie. When I came in to check on your uncle this afternoon, he had, according to the perfect timing of our Lord, passed into the presence of that Jesus whom he loved. He is there now. I can almost hear him singing, I think. This letter was the last thing he appears to have been working on before our Lord called him home. I know he would have wanted you to have it.


[1] https://www.gracegems.org/33/asahel_nettleton.htm

[2] “Tell Me, the Old, Old Story,” Trinity Hymnal (revised ed.) (Atlanta: Great Commission Publications, 1990), #625.

[3] “When This Passing World Is Done,” Trinity Hymnal (revised ed.) (Atlanta: Great Commission Publications, 1990), #545.

Ordained Servant Online, December, 2023.

Publication Information

Contact the Editor: Gregory Edward Reynolds

Editorial address: Dr. Gregory Edward Reynolds,
827 Chestnut St.
Manchester, NH 03104-2522
Telephone: 603-668-3069

Electronic mail: reynolds.1@opc.org

Submissions, Style Guide, and Citations


Editorial Policies

Copyright information

Ordained Servant: December 2023

Remembering G. I. Williamson

Also in this issue

Elf on the Shelf or Christ on the Cross?

G. I. Williamson: Encounters with the Life of a Faithful Servant of God

G. I. Williamson’s Farewell Sermon

The Case for the Majority Greek New Testament Text

The Case for the Eclectic Greek New Testament Text

Theological Daylighting: Retrieving J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism

The Voice of the Good Shepherd: Trumpeter of God: Fulfill Your Office,[1] Chapter 9

Neo-Calvinism: A Theological Introduction by Cory C. Brock and N. Gray Sutanto

An Ode of the Birth of Our Saviour

Download PDFDownload ePubArchive


+1 215 830 0900

Contact Form

Find a Church