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But there are persons, whom a Minister should more than encourage to animadvert on him. He should employ them. He should explain himself to them. He does not merely want an account of his sermon, but he employs them on business. To such sensible persons, he will say—“ What serious judgment do you form of my preaching? Do tell me what sort of man I am."
A Minister has to treat with another sort of hearers-uncandid men, and yet men of capacity: a sort of men, who are not now pleased, and then displeased. They spy a blot every where. He is likely to make a mistake with regard to such men :-“What signifies the opinion of that man? That man can never be pleased.” True! that man cannot be pleased, but it does not follow that he tells you no truth. In treating with such a man, he should say—“ His edge may be too keen, for candour and sound judgment; yet, if it lays open to me what I could not otherwise see, let me improve by its keenness. What hurt can he do me? He may damp or irritate others, by talking thus to them; but, let me learn what is to be learnt from him.” Such a man lifts a Minister from his standing, where he settles down too easily and firmly. If I know a man to be of this class, I will distinguish: « This is the man: but that is myself!” If I would write a book to stand the fire, let me find out the severest censor. My friend is but half the man: there is a consentaneousness VOL. III.
of sentiment between us: we have fallen in together, till we scarcely know how to differ from each other.' Let the man come who says—“Here I can discover you to yourself; and there!” The best hints perhaps are obtained from snarling people. Medicaments make the patient smart, but they heal.
Yet a Minister must not take this in the gross. He is not to invite rude men round his door. If he suffer his hearers to treat him irreverently-if he allow them to dispute with him on every occasion-he will bring ruin on the Church. The Priests lips must keep knowledge. If a parent allow his children to question every thing, so that nothing is to be settled without a hundred proofs, they will soon despise their teacher, for they will think themselves able to teach him. The Minister must have decided superiority and authority, or he will want one of the principal qualities of his ministry. This is not inconsistent with receiving hints. He may mistake in some things: but he should mark the complexion of his congregation in deciding how far they are to be heard on his mistakes. If the people are heady, forward, confident in their own sense, they are never to be encouraged. They are gone too far.
ON THE LIMITS,
WHICH A MINISTER SHOULD PUT TO THE
INDULGENCE OF HIS CURIOSITY,
WITH REGARD TO
An extreme is to be avoided. Some persons would condemn even rational curiosity. But the works of the Lord are great; sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. I would not object, therefore, to visit the Museum; or to go to see the rare natural productions often exhibited. I would enlarge, too, my views of man and the world, by frequenting the Panoramas of Cities. And, though I would not run after every sight, yet I would use my liberty in selecting.
But some are in an opposite extreme. They are found every where. But he, who sústains the character of a scribe of the kingdom of heaven, ought not to be found every where. The man, who is seeking a heavenly country, will shew the spirit of one whose conversation is there.
There is something in religion, when rightly apprehended, that is masculine and grand. It removes those little desires, which are “ the constant hectic of a fool.”
Every thing of the drama, and whatever is so distinctly the course of this world, must be shunned. If a Minister' take one step into the world, his hearers will take two. Much may be learnt from the sentiments of men of the world. If a man of this character who heard me preach, should meet me where he would say, “ Why I did not expect to see you here!”--then he ought not to have seen me there.
There must be measure and proportion in our attention to Arts and Sciences. These were the very
idols of the heathen world: and what are THEY, who now follow them with an idolatrous eagerness, but like children, who are charmed with the sparkling of a rocket, and yet see nothing in the sun?
Yet I would not indulge a cynical temper. If I go through a gentleman's Gallery of Pictures,
“ This is an admirable Claude!" but I would take occasion to drop a hint of something higher and better, and to make it felt that I fell in with these things rather incidentally than purposely. But all this must be done with tenderness and humility: “ I tread on the pride of Plato,” said Diogenes, as he walked over Plato's carpet: “ Yes—and with more pride,” said Plato.
I would say,
“ They pass best over the world,” said Queen Elizabeth, “who trip over it quickly; for it is but a bog. If we stop, we sink.”
I would not make it my criterion—" Christ would not come hither!" I must take a lower standard in these things. I am a poor creature, and must be contented to learn in many places and by many scenes, which Christ need not to have frequented.