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that our heavenly Master will overlook that neglect in his public mes. sengers, which would appear in the conduct of a private domestic so justly condemnable ? . (8.) What advantage has accrued to the Church, by renouncing the apostolic method of publishing the Gospel? We have indolence and artifice, in the place of sincerity and vigilance. Those public discourses, which were anciently the effects of conviction and zeal, are now become the weekly exercises of learning and art. “We believe and therefore speak,” 2 Cor. iv, 13, is an expression that has grown entirely obsolete among modern pastors. But nothing is more common among us than to say, As we have sermons prepared upon a variety of subjects, we are ready to deliver them as opportunity offers.
(9.) Many inconveniences arise from that method of preaching, which is generally adopted in the present day. While the physician of souls is labouring to compose a learned dissertation upon some plain passage of Scripture, he has but little leisure to visit those languishing patients who need his immediate assistance. He thinks it sufficient to attend upon them every Sabbath day, in the place appointed for public duty. But he recollects not, that those to whom his counsel is peculiarly neces. sary, are the very persons who refuse to meet him there. His unprofitable employments at home leave him no opportunity to go in pursuit of his wandering sheep. He meets with them, it is true, at stated periods, in the common fold: but it is equally true, that during every successive interval, he discovers the coldest indifference with respect to their spiritual welfare. From this unbecoming conduct of many a minister, one would naturally imagine that the flock were rather called to seek out their indolent pastor, than that he was purposely hired to pursue every straying sheep.
(10.) The most powerful nerve of the sacred ministry is ecclesiastical discipline. But this nerve is absolutely cut asunder by the method of which we now speak. When a pastor withdraws fatigued from his study, imagining that he has honourably acquitted himself with regard to his people, he is too apt to neglect that vigilant inspection into families, upon which the discipline of the Church depends. Such a spiritual instructer may justly be compared to a vain-glorious pedagogue, who, after draw. mg up a copy, and adorning it, for several days together, with all the embellishments of his art, should yet imagine that he admirably per. formed his part, in preparing it, at length, for his scholars, without any visible defects. And what could reasonably be expected from the pupils of such a teacher, but that, fearing neither scholastic discipline, nor par. ticular inspection, they should neglect to transcribe what their master, with so much unprofitable toil, had produced ?
(11.) Since the orator's art has taken place of the energy of faith, what happy effect has it produced upon the minds of men ? Have we discovered more frequent conversions among us? Are formal professors more generally seized with a religious fear? Are libertines more uni. versally constrained to cry out, “ Men and brethren, what shall we do ?” Acts ii, 37. Do the wicked depart from the Church to bewail their transgressions in private ; and believers to visit the mourners in their affliction? Is it not rather to be lamented, that we are at this day equally distant from Christian charity and primitive simplicity ?
(12.) Reading over a variety of approved sermons is generally supposed to be preaching the Gospel. If this were really so, we need but look out some school boy of a tolerable capacity, and after instructing him to read over, with proper emphasis and gesture, the sermons of Til. lotson, Sherlock, or Saurin, we shall have made him an excellent minister of the word of God. But if preaching the Gospel is to publish among sinners that repentance and salvation which we have experienced in our. selves; if it is to imitate a penitent slave, who, freed from misery and iron, returns to the companions of his former slavery, declaring the generosity of their prince, and persuading them to sue for mercy ;-if this is to publish the Gospel of peace, then it is evident that experience and sympathy are more necessary to the due performance of this work, than all the accuracy and elocution that can possibly be acquired.
(13.) When this sacred experience and this generous sympathy began to lose their prevalence in the Church, their place was gradually supplied by the trifling substitutes of study and affectation. Carnal prudence has now for many ages solicitously endeavoured to adapt itself to the taste of the wise and the learned. But while « the offence of the cross” is avoided, Gal. v, 11, neither the wise nor the ignorant are effectually converted. The Gospel is abundantly better suited to the “poor in spirit," than to those who value themselves as men of sagacity and science. “ I thank thee, O Father,” said the lowly Jesus, “that thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes,” Matt. xi, 25. These babes, however, in the language of Christ, are the very persons who have been usually neglected by us, for the mere gratification of reputed sages. Alas! how many thousand proofs do we require to convince us, that the wisdom of this world will continue to trample under foot the pearl of the Gospel, though, in order to secure its reception, it should be presented among the artificial pearls of a vain philosophy ? .
(14.) In consequence of the same error, the ornaments of theatrical eloquence have been sought after with a shameful solicitude. And what has been the fruit of so much useless toil ? Preachers, after all, have played their part with much less applause than comedians; and their curious auditors are still running from the pulpit to the stage, for the pleasure of hearing fables repeated with a degree of sensibility which the messengers of truth can neither feel nor feign.
Notwithstanding the above remarks have been expressed in the most pointed manner, we mean not to insinuate that the errors already exposed are the only mistakes to be guarded against. Extremes of every kind are to be avoided with equal care. We condemn the carnal prudence of Christian orators; but we as sincerely reprobate the conduct of those enthusiasts who, under pretence that Christ has promised to continue with his disciples to the end of the world, exhibit the reveries of a heated imagination for the truths of the Gospel. Too many of these deluded fanatics are found, who, taking their slothfulness and presumption for the effects of a lively faith, and an apostolical confidence, repeatedly affront the Almighty, and justly offend those candid hearers who are least disposed to take offence. Offences will undoubtedly come; but it be. hooves us to make a just distinction between the real offence of the cross, and that which is given by an unlicensed presumption on our own part.
If we are honoured with the pastoral office, let us consider the Holy Scriptures as an inexhaustible mine of sacred treasures. In the law of the Lord let us meditate day and night. Before we attempt to deliver evangelical truths in public, let it be our first care to penetrate our hearts in private with an adequate sense of those truths. Let us arrange them in the most suitable order; let us adduce and compare the several pas. sages of Sacred Writ, which appear to support or explain the particular doctrines we mean to insist upon. But, above all, joining faith and prayer to calm meditation, after becoming masters of our subject, let us humbly ask of God that wappnoia, that lively and forcible elocution, which flows from the unction of grace.
And here, instead of resting contented with barely requesting, we should labour to acquire what we seek, by frequently stirring up the gift that is in us. Let us embrace every opportunity of exhorting both be. lievers and catechumens. Let us carry, with unwearied constancy, instruction to the ignorant, and consolation to the afflicted. Let us be faithful in reproving sinners of every class, and diligent in training up the children of our parish.
It is necessary indeed to be scrupulously cautious, lest we abuse the liberty of preaching from meditation, by becoming followers of those who are more worthy of censure than imitation. There are pastors of this kind who, having acquired a good degree of spiritual knowledge, and a wonderful facility of expression, unhappily begin to pique themselves upon appearing before a numerous assembly without any previous study. Conscious of their own ability, these self-sufficient preachers make little or no preparation for one of the most solemn duties that can possibly be discharged. They hasten to a crowded auditory without any apparent concern, and coming down from the pulpit with an air of the same easy confidence with which they ascended it, contentedly return to that habitual listlessness, which had been interrupted by the external performance of a necessary work. Alas! if these presuming pastors could be prevailed upon to write over their sermons, to how much better purpose might they thus employ their hours, than by heedlessly trifling them away in frivolous conversation and shameful inactivity!
It is not to imitate examples of this nature that we solicit the ministers of Christ to recover those hours which are usually employed in composing their weekly discourses. How many are the important occupations of which the faithful pastor has his daily choice! The wicked are to be reclaimed, and the righteous established. Hope must be administered to the fearful, and courage to the tempted. The weak are to be strengthcned, and the strong to be exercised. The sick must be supported, and the dying prepared for dissolution. By frequent pastoral visits to hamlets, schools, and private houses, the indefatigable minister should continually be moving through the several parts of his parish ; discovering the condition of those intrusted to his care, and regularly supplying the neces. sities of his flock; diffusing all around instruction and reproof, exhortation and comfort. To sum up his duties in a single sentence, he should cause the light that is in him to shine out in every possible direction, before the ignorant and the learned, the rich and the poor; making the salvation of mankind his principal pursuit, and the glory of God his ultimate aim.
Thus, after having faithfully performed the work of an evangelist, when he is about to be removed from his charge by death, or by any other providential appointment, he may take an affectionate leave of his people, and say, “Remember, my children, that while I have sojourned among you, I have not ceased to warn every one of you,* night and day; and if my word has not always been accompanied with tears, Acts xx, 31, yet it has constantly flowed from the truest sincerity and affection.”
A reply to the fifth and last objection, which may be urged against “ the
Portrait of St. Paul.” THOSE persons who have already so earnestly resisted the truths for which we contend, will not fail to exclaim in the last place, by way of an unanswerable argument, “ What you require of pastors is unreason. able in the highest degree. If they are indeed called to labour for the salvation of souls, with the zeal and assiduity of St. Paul, the holy ministry must be regarded as the most painful of all professions, and, of conse. quence, our pulpits will be shortly unoccupied.”
Monsieur Ostervald, who foresaw this objection, has completely an. swered it in his Third Source of the Corruption which reigns among Christians. “It will not fail to be objected," says this venerable author, “ that if none were to be admitted to holy orders, except those who are possessed of every necessary qualification, there could not possibly be procured a sufficient number of pastors for the supply of our churches. To which I answer, that it would be abundantly better to expose ourselves to this inconvenience, than to violate the express laws of the written word. A small number of chosen pastors is preferable to a multitude of unqualified teachers. [One Elijah was more powerful than all the prophets of Baal.] At all hazards we must adhere to the command of God, and leave the event to Providence. But, in reality, this dearth of pas. tors is not so generally to be apprehended. To reject those candidates for holy orders whose labours in the Church would be altogether fruitless, is undoubtedly a work of piety; and such alone would be repulsed by the apprehension of a severe scrutiny, and an exact discipline. Others, on the contrary, who are in a condition to fulfil the duties of the sacred office, would take encouragement from this exactness and severity ; and the ministry.would every day be rendered more respectable in the world." Behold an answer truly worthy an apostolical man!
If it still be objected by the generality of pastors, that what we require is as unreasonable as it is unusual : permit me to ask you, my lukewarm brethren, whether it be not necessary that you should use the same dili
* It is highly reasonable that pastors should give evening instructions to those who have been engaged, through the course of the day, in their different callings. This season, whether it be in the most dreary or the more pleasing part of the year, is peculiarly suited to works of devotion. Such a custom might, at least, prevent many young persons from mixing with that kind of company, and fre. quenting those places, which would tend to alienate their minds from religion and virtue.
gence in your sacred profession with which your neighbours are accustomed to labour in their worldly vocations and pursuits ?
The fisherman prepares a variety of lines, hooks, and baits; he knows the places, the seasons, and even the hours that are most favourable to his employment; nor will he refuse to throw his line several hundred times in a day. If he be disappointed in one place, he cheerfully betakes himself to another; and if his ill success be of any long continuance, he will associate with those who are greater masters of his art. Tell me, then, ye pastors, who make the business of a fisherman the amusement of many an idle hour, do ye really imagine that less ardour and perseverance are necessary to prepare souls for heaven, than to catch trout for your table? The huntsman rejoices in expectation of the promised chase. He denies himself some hours of usual repose, that he may hasten abroad in pursuit of his game. He seeks it with unwearied attention, and follows it from field to field with increasing ardour. He labours up the mountain : he rushes down the precipice: he penetrates the thickest woods, and overleaps the most threatening obstacles. He practises the wildest gestures, and makes use of the most extravagant language; endeavouring, by every possible means, to animate both dogs and men in the furious pursuit. He counts the fatigues of the chase among the number of its pleasures: and through the whole insignificant business of the day he acts with as much resolution and fervour as though he had undertaken one of the noblest enterprises in the world.
The fowler with equal eagerness pursues his different game. From stubble to stubble, and from cover to cover, he urges his way. He pushes through the stubborn brake, and takes his way along the pathless dingle. He traverses the gloomy mountain, or wanders devious over the barren heath : and, after carrying arms all day, if a few trifling birds reward his toil, he returns rejoicing home.
Come, ye fishers of men who, notwithstanding your consecration to God, are frequently seen to partake of these contemptible diversions ; come, and answer, by your conduct, to the following questions :-Is the flock committed to your charge less estimable than the fowl which you so laboriously pursue? Or are you less interested in the salvation of your people, than in the destruction of those unhappy quadrupeds which give you so much silly fatigue, and afford you so much brutal pleasure ?
Permit me still farther to carry on my argument. Was the panting animal which usually accompanies your steps in the last mentioned exercise incautiously to plunge into a dangerous pit; though faint with the labours of the day, and now on your return, would you carelessly leave him to perish ? Would you not rather use every effort to extri. cate him from apparent death ? Could you even sleep or eat till you had afforded him every possible assistance? And yet you eat, you sleep, you visit ; nay, it may be you dance, you hunt, you shoot, and that without the least inquietude, while your flocks are rushing on from sin to sin, and falling from precipice to precipice. Ah! if a thousand souls are but comparable to the vilest animal, and if these are heedlessly straying through the ways of perdition, may we not reasonably exhort you to use every effort in preserving them from the most alarming danger, and in securing them from the horrors of everlasting death?
But, passing by those amusements which so generally engage your