Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oliver Bowles Treatise on the Evangelical Pastor

Oliver Bowles, Westminster Divine, wrote a famous but much-neglected treatise on the pastoral office in Latin entitled De Pastore Evangelico Tractatus (1649). The Westminster Assembly Project, which has undertaken a translation of the work, although it is currently on hold, says that it:

deserves to be known as one of the best books ever written on pastoral ministry in the Puritan tradition. The 400-page treatise represents the life work of Oliver Bowles, the Cambridge tutor and local pastor who served the Westminster Assembly as its oldest member and delivered the first fast sermon before parliament during the Westminster Assembly. Bowles divided his book into three sections: one on the minister’s spiritual and intellectual preparation for the pastoral office; one on the public and private ministry of God’s Word; and one on the administration of the sacraments (including church discipline) and the conduct of pastoral prayer. De Pastore Evangelico Tractatus is distinguished by its careful attention to the theology of pastoral ministry, its reliance on Patristic and Catholic as well as Reformed source material, and its wealth of practical insights into the daily work of the pastor. Though rarely studied, it is perhaps the best resource for understanding the Westminster view of gospel ministry.

Philip Ryken provides a biographical sketch of this divine in The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century, Vol. 2. Selections from the translation work by Jonathan Rockey and edited by Philip Ryken may be found in one chapter of the recently-published Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church: Essays in Honor of Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (2008), ed. Lane G. Tipton and Jeffrey C. Waddington. For those who wish to read the work in Latin, a 1667 edition is available online here at Google Books. It is to be hoped that the full English translation will be forthcoming.


  1. Howdy, Josh! It's nice to see you "here." Hope you are doing well, brother!