« ÎnapoiContinuă »
nity to inculcate a single impressive sentiment. They part, never perhaps to behold each other again in this life, yet that holy thought may find a resting place in the mind of him with whom he spake-and through the blessing of the good spirit of God, may have an effect which he may never know, till he learns it with joy and surprise in the developments of the future world. The lives of exemplary clergymen afford many edifying instances of the manner in which the good minister may mingle with the world. We are told of that noble Christian missionary, Henry Martyn, that when he was leaving for ever" the dear abode of his youth," he did not permit his depression of spirits to make him forgetful of duty. "At such a moment," says his biographer-"he would have been glad to have been left to uninterrupted meditation; but many young students happened to accompany him on his journey, and he thought it his duty to enter into religious conversation with them, for their benefit." It was a rule adopted by the celebrated Cotton Mather" Never to enter into any conversation without endeavoring to say something for the spiritual welfare of those with whom he talked."
When the minister of Christ has a proper opportunity of speaking to any one of his fellow men for his religious good, who can tell but it may be for the last time! Before another meeting, that soul may be removed from his influence, to bear witness to his unfaithfulness at the bar of God! In such a case, who can realize his feelings! What would he not then give, to be able to make the triumphant assertion of St. Paul"I am pure from the blood of all men?" There is an affecting incident in point, which is said to have occurred to a celebrated living minister, (Dr. Chalmers.) Unrivalled in conversation, he had one evening been the delight of a circle of listening friends. The subject was pauperism, its causes, and cure. Among the company was a venerable gentleman, who kept his eyes fastened on Dr. Chalmers, and listened with intense interest to his communications. The conversation was kept up till a late hour, but scarcely had the company retired to their rooms, when that aged man was suddenly striken with death. In a moment in the twinkling of an eye-without time to utter even a dying prayer, his soul was called away. Among the company who, attracted by the noise, had rushed to his relief, and now gathered around in speechless horror, stood Dr. Chalmers, in silence, with both hands stretched out over the deceased, the very picture of distress. He was the first to break silence. "Never in my life," said he, in a tremulous
VOL. I.-NO. I.
voice, "did I ever see-or did I ever feel, before this moment, the meaning of that text, 'Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.' Had I known that my venerable friend was within a few minutes reach of eternity, I would not have dwelt. on that subject which formed the topic of this evening's conversation. I would have addressed myself earnestly to him. I would have preached unto him and unto you, Christ Jesus and him crucified.' I would have urged him and you, with all the earnestness befitting the subject, to prepare for eternity. You would have thought it-you would have pronounced it out of season.' But oh! it would have been 'in season'--both as it respected him, and as it respects you."
But we ought to speak of the advantage which must result to serious Christians, from pastoral conversation. By using well his opportunities of religious intercourse, he who has the care of their souls, will be enabled greatly to promote their spiritual good. Around the devoted Christian, there seems to linger a holy charm which cannot but influence all who approach him. If then the cold-hearted, or wavering believer should be found among those who observe his consistent conversation, what effect will be produced upon him? The view of his own deficiencies may humble and quicken him. It is a beautiful picture which Bishop Hail has given of his mother: "So had she profited," says he, "in the school of Christ, that it was hard for any friend to come from her discourse, no whit holier."* There is something in the mutual exchange of devout and godly sentiments, which cannot but warm the heart.
It is no easy work, under any circumstances, to run the race of godliness. We contend with spiritual enemies, whose snares are found at every step, and who watch for our falling. While all the powers of darkness are thus banded against our souls, should we not cling to the hand of Christian fellowship to support our steps? While clouds and darkness are resting upon our path, how necessary is it that hourly the voice of exhortation should be heard telling us, "Take heed to thy ways." There is a power in the sympathy and exhortations of the Christian, which may uphold his brother in the hour of weakness. The Christian minister should avail himself of this power. He should remember, that it is given for a noble purpose. He should not, as he mingles with the people of his charge, merge the pastor in the polished man of the
* Bishop Hall's Life, p. 19.
world, until they forget that he has any interest in their spiritual welfare.
We have thus endeavored to suggest some hints, as to the manner in which the clergyman should "go in and out" among the members of his flock. We fear that the duty of pastoral visiting is by many too little appreciated. Yet experience has proved its utility, until it has become almost a proverb, that "as much good is done out of the pulpit, as in it." There is, indeed, much wisdom in those remarks of a bishop of our church"Though you speak with the tongues of angels,' if you do not follow up the lessons of the pulpit, from house to house,' among your people, your labor will too often be in vain. You must add to the authority of the teacher, the influence of the friend. You must watch for opportunity, lay wait for souls, and take them with a holy guile. If you would have access to a man's heart,' said that shrewd observer, Richard Cecil, you must go into his house."' And it is so. You take him by the hand. You sit by his hearth. You are a partaker at his board. You are at home with him, and you enable him to feel at home with you. You gain his confidence. You touch the electric chain of sympathy. You possess yourself of his affections. You draw him with the cords of a man.'"*
In thus attempting to exhibit the spirit by which a pastor should be guided, that when thrown into the company of his people, it may be for their edification, it will be perceived we have carefully abstained from saying how much he should visit. This is an entirely different question, and one which each individual must be left to settle according to the peculiar circumstances in which he is placed. Every conscientious clergyman will however admit, we doubt not, that the only rule which he can lay down is, that he shall visit as much as possible, consistently with his other duties. There are always those, to whom his company would be acceptable and profitable. There are the sick, whose minds are awakened by fear lest life may be drawing to its close-the seriously inquiring anxious for spiritual guidance-and those whose hearts have been softened by affliction, who have learned from melancholy experience, the instability of all that this world can offer, and would gladly seek the enduring comforts of our faith. These he may gently lead into the right way, and if he neglects to do so, he is faithless to his high and solemn vows. But in all such matters, he must regulate his labors by that rule which Christ prescribed, as the measure of obedience, when he said of one who had
• Bishop Doane's Charge, 1836.
given him a token of affection-" she hath done what she could."
We intended to dismiss the subject here, having already protracted this article to a greater length than we anticipated. But looking back on what we have written, and perceiving that our views may be supposed to have reference to the duty of the clergy alone, we cannot resist the temptation of saying a few words, with regard to the laity.
We are well aware that many a layman who has run his eye over the previous part of this article, may say to himself" this is right; this is the beau ideal of a pastor, thus mingling with his people for their spiritual benefit." And many a one perhaps will think, "Why does not my minister spend more of his time in visiting his congregation, when the benefit is so apparent?" Now, fully as we are aware of the advantages of pastoral visits, and the duty of making them as frequent as possible, yet we cannot but believe, that in this respect the clergy are often unjustly censured. We will give therefore a few of the reasons which often prevent them, at the present day, from performing this duty as fully as might be wished; and we do so, that the laity may decide whether they themselves do not often place these difficulties in the way.
One obstacle is, the multiplication of public services. In former days, the clergyman had, at the utmost, only to prepare his two sermons for Sunday, and when they were finished, his labors for the week were ended. The consequence was, he had time to mix with his people. He was often found at their fireside and their table. He became intimate with them in all their domestic relations-rejoiced in their happiness, and sympathized in their griefs. And many now, who remember these good old days, look back to them with regret, and inquire, Why cannot our clergyman now be, as formerly, our associate and friend? Why does he so seldom cross our threshold, that our children grow up with scarcely a personal acquaintance with him?”
But look how times have altered! Instead of simply the two services of Sunday, the number and variety is multiplied, until all the energy and intellect of the pastor is kept in incessant employment to fulfill the demand. There is a sad degree of truth in the remark of one of the Congregationalist ministers; and their application should not be confined to his own denomination. "Their pastor's souls are kept in an almost constant stretch of thought, in order to get food, intellectual and spiritual, for their flocks, that else would starve for lack of knowledge. Many think their lives easy, and their labor well
rewarded, if they are just kept out of want:* but these know little of mental travail; which, in our case, while it is all for the profit of others, greatly endangers our own spiritual state. We have to think so much for them, that often we have hardly time for prayer; unless we think and pray at once."+ Observations, similar to these, we have heard from the lips of clergymen of our own church.
Now, in addition to what was expected in former days, the Sunday school is to be overseen, and attended to; together with its teacher's meetings, and other calls on the time to which it necessarily gives rise. Then follow the weekly lecture; the Bible class; and, perhaps at stated times, the confirmation lectures, &c., in endless variety. The preparation for all these requires study and investigation, often long and severe. should not do for a minister of the gospel to stand up in the pulpit, and deliver before an enlightened audience, merely a few crude, common-place, or ill-digested remarks. "'The priest's lips should keep knowledge," or else remain closed, lest religion be injured. Neither must he come before his Bible class, but half prepared, with his own opinions perhaps on a controverted passage evidently wavering and unsettled. He must throw light on every thing he pretends to touch, or his hearers will think but lightly of their spiritual guide, and his influence depart. His public services must give evidence that he has not been idle in his study, or he might better have staid at home. He must "bring forth from his treasury, things old and new ;" and this, month after month, and year after year, with scarcely time to stop and breathe, or to let his mind rest from its arduous labors.
* We cannot forbear throwing in a remark as to the truth of this observation. The country clergy, particularly, are often "just kept out of want." In this particular, the world seems determined, that they shall be forced to wal in the footsteps of the apostles. No matter who else is rolling in wealth, they demand of the clergy-" You, at least, shall give us illustrations of apostolic simplicity and poverty." It appears, therefore, to be with them a matter of conscience, most scrupulously observed, to place no temptation in their pastor's way, to induce them to mar the beauty of these examples. We, ourselves, have witnessed instances of men, actually enduring privation and suffering, yet too proud to complain; while around them were parishoners, the very superfluity of whose abundance would have made them comfortable. The same individual, who, when his passions are excited, will fee a lawyer with one hundred dollars to commence a suit against his adversary, if asked to contribute half as much, per annum, towards the support of him who is laboring day and night for his spiritual welfare, will often reject the demand as most exorbitant and outrageous. In their zeal for apostolic example, they seem to forget that there is also an apostolic precept; "if we have sown unto your spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your worldly things?" (1 Cor. ix., 11)
+ Dr. Skinner, National Preacher, vol. i. p. 26.