Brownlow North and Six Short Rules for Christians

Few things will be more important to a successful Old School Presbyterian (OSP) ministry than zeal in all of our duties, and in particular, our preaching. Knox Hyndman notes: “Preachers of the Gospel are dealing with truths which always ought to grip their hearts. They are ministering to people who are of infinite worth. Their purpose is to glorify God. Zeal then is surely essential in every preacher of the Gospel. It was a characteristic of the Saviour Who in His ministry fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, ‘ He wrapped Himself in zeal as a cloak’.” Nothing will make up for the lack of it, and the presence or absence of true zeal in a ministry will be perceptible both to our congregation and those outside. How many people do we expect will be eager to become part of church that seems to be totally lacking in zeal for the very Gospel they proclaim is so important?

I would recommend therefore that OSP pastors and elders read this article by Knox Hyndman entitled Brownlow North: A Zealous Preacher which uses the life and ministry of Scottish evangelist Brownlow North to further unpack the nature of true zeal for the gospel and how it is gained and maintained.

At one point in the article, Hyndman mentions North’s famous Six Short Rules for Christians but does not list them. They are certainly worth taking to heart by every Christian and I would argue that all of these rules are essential for our continuing sanctification (and ZEAL!):

1. Never neglect daily private prayer; and when you pray, remember that God is present, and that He hears your prayers. (Heb. 11:6).


2. Never neglect daily private Bible reading; and when you read remember that God is speaking to you, and that you are to believe and act upon what He says. I believe all backsliding begins with the neglect of these two rules. (John 5:39).


3. Never let a day pass without trying to do something for Jesus. Every night reflect on what Jesus has done for you, and then ask yourself, “What am I doing for Him”? (Matt. 5: 13-16)


4. If you are in doubt as to a thing being right or wrong, go to your room and kneel down and ask God’s blessing on it. (Col. 3:17). If you cannot do this, it is wrong. (Roms. 16:23).


5. Never take your Christianity from Christians, or argue that because such and such people do so and so, therefore, you may. (2 Cor. 10:12). You are to ask yourself, “How would Christ act in my place”? And strive to follow Him (John 10:27)


6. Never believe what you feel, if it contradicts God’s Word. Ask yourself, “Can what I feel be true if God’s Word is true”? And if both cannot be true, believe God and make your own heart the liar. (Roms. 3:4. 1 John 5:10-11).


About Andrew Webb

I was converted out of paganism and the occult in 1993 and while I was initially Charismatic/Arminian in my theology, I became Reformed and Presbyterian through bible study and the influence of ministries like RC Sproul's. After teaching in local bible studies, and taking seminary courses part time, I began to feel called to the ministry in 1997. I was Ordained as an RE at Christ Covenant PCA in Hatboro, PA in 2000 and as a TE by Central Carolina Presbytery in 2001 when I was called to be the Organizing Pastor/Church Planter for Providence PCA Mission, Cross Creek PCA's church plant in Fayetteville, NC (home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Airforce Base). In 2005 when the Providence PCA Particularized I was blessed to be called by the congregation to be their Pastor
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2 Responses to Brownlow North and Six Short Rules for Christians

  1. Baus says:

    Ugh, number 3 seems terribly problematic. If you want to take personal inventory, how about asking yourself if you did/are doing anything that wasn’t/isn’t for Jesus, then repent of it. (Col. 3: 17, 23-24).

  2. Andrew Webb says:

    Dear Baus,

    Personally, I don’t see anything problematic with #3 at all. Christians are above all to be a people who are “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14) we are not simply to be hearers of the word but doers of it as well (James 1:22).

    One of the consistent emphases in the Old School Presbyterianism of the Puritans, Second Reformation Dutch, Scots Worthies, and Southern Presbyterians was that our Calvinism was to be warm, active, and experimental. They consistently emphasized that the Christian faith consisted both of things to be known AND things to be done.

    Unfortunately, within the Reformed faith there are often strains that emphasize “doing” and pour scorn on the importance of “knowing” (forgetting that zeal without knowledge is useless as Romans 10:2 reminds us) and others that do exactly the opposite and make Christianity into an intellectual pursuit and ridicule anyone who shows a zeal to do something for Christ based on their knowledge of his will.

    While I agree with you that we must be constantly examining ourselves to see what sins of commission we have committed and repenting of them, let us not forget that there are sins of ommission as well. To see the wounded traveller and pass by without attempting to help him was condemned by Christ as a grievous sin of ommission. To not be “zealous for Christ” is as the Larger Catechism reminds us (Q.104), also a sin of omission.

    Paul exhorted us never to grow weary or tired of actually doing good works or as he put it: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:9-10)

    Therefore, given the importance of zeal for Christ and good works to the full-orbed Christian life, I see nothing wrong with asking ourselves not only “how have I
    disobeyed Christ” but also “how have I obeyed his calling to a ‘doer of the word’?”

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