Has your MP kept a vineyard?

Yesterday ‘s post on art, virtue and knowledge in public speaking applies as much to members of parliament as to ministers in the church. MPs fall when virtue is absent. So here’s some more food for thought for any prospective MP. This extract comes from C.H. Spurgeon’s sermon on Song of Solomon 1:6 “they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!” What do I look for in an MP? I’ll vote for anyone who has kept his own vineyard before attempting to keep the vineyards, especially education and social policy, for others.

We know many people who are always doing a great deal, and yet do nothing; fussy people, people to the front in every movement, people who could set the whole world right, but are not right themselves. Just before a general election there is a manifestation of most remarkable men generally people who know everything, and a few things besides, who, if they could but be sent to Parliament, would turn the whole world upside down, and put even Pandemonium to rights. They would pay the National Debt within six months, and do any other trifle that might occur to them. Very eminent men are these! I have come across impossibly great men. None could be so great as these feel themselves to be. They are an order of very superior people: reformers, or philosophers, who know what nobody else knows, only, happily, they have not patented the secret, but are prepared to tell it out to others, and thereby illuminate us all.

I suggest to our highly-gifted friends that it is possible to be looking after a great many things, and yet to be neglecting your own vineyard. There is a vineyard that a great many neglect, and that is “their own heart”. It is well to have talent; it is well to have influence; but it is better to be right within yourself. It is well for a man to see to his cattle, and look well to his flocks and to his herds; but let him not forget to cultivate that little patch of ground that lies in the centre of his being.

Let him educate his head, and intermeddle with all knowledge; but let him not forget that there is another plot of ground called the heart, the character, which is more important still. Right principles are spiritual gold, and he that has them, and is ruled by them, is the man who truly lives. He has not life, whatever else he has, who has not his heart cultivated, and made right and pure.

Have you ever thought about your heart yet? Oh, I do not mean whether you have palpitations! I am no doctor. I am speaking now about the heart in its moral and spiritual aspect. What is your character, and do you seek to cultivate it? Do you ever use the hoe upon those weeds which are so plentiful in us all? Do you water those tiny plants of goodness which have begun to grow? Do you watch them to keep away the little foxes which would destroy them? Are you hopeful that yet there may be a harvest in your character which God may look upon with approval? I pray that we may all look to our hearts. “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Pray daily, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me;” for if not, you will go up and down in the world, and do a great deal, and when it comes to the end you will have neglected your noblest nature, and your poor starved soul will die that second death, which is the more dreadful because it is everlasting death. How terrible for a soul to die of ‘neglect’!

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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4 Responses to Has your MP kept a vineyard?

  1. andrewgsu says:

    It’s not just the vineyard of the heart that I think needs care, but also the other areas of our lives which are expressions of our hears. It is well to point a finger at the heart of MP’s, for example, but what about our own? I am increasingly concerned for the number of hours that ministers put into their ministry, and that is across the board whether anglican, catholic, or free. I have asked many, and on average they work 70+ hours. and laugh when I say that i will refuse to do the same (40-45 will be my max) Why? For some it is character; for others they feel guilt if they don’t. All seem to find some theological rationale, but dig deeper and many are unconvinced, but don’t know what to do about it. Certainly as I interview their congregation no one actually thinks they should do that much, and worry that their minister is over doing it. But no one says anything. Our vineyard isn’t just our heart, though that is important. Perhaps the leaves of the vineyard are the micro-cosm of our family and friends. They are the first to suffer from our lack of attention. And yet it is in the privacy of our homes that we establish our honest character and, dare I say, our heart. So, ministers and vicars alike, which vineyard are we neglecting?

  2. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Andy, if you follow the link at the start of the post to the full sermon, Spurgeon has lots to say about Christians and ministers.

    Like you, I keep a time sheet, and limit myself to around 50 hours a week. More than that and I begin to lose it, physically, emotionally and spiritually.


  3. andrewgsu says:

    Cool. Just as a question, do you feel that in 50 hours you get everything done?

  4. neilrobbie says:

    There’s always more I can do. As long as the essentials are covered, pray, preach, evangelise, structure, strategise, train, visit, I’ve done my work.

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