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first time to be partaker of the communion. The Rubric requires, that all persons, whenever they intend to receive, shall signify their names beforehand to the minister; which, if it be not insisted upon in all cases, ought absolutely to be insisted upon for the first time. Now, this even lays it in your way to discourse with them in private upon the nature and benefits of this sacrament, and enforce upon them the importance and necessity of religion. However, I do not mean to put this upon the same foot with catechising youth, and preparing them for confirmation; these being indispensable obligations, and expressly commanded by our canons. This private intercourse with your parishioners, preparatory to their first communion, let it, if you please, be considered as a voluntary service to religion on your part, and a voluntary instance of docility on theirs. I will only add, as to this practice, that it is regularly kept up by some persons, and particularly by one, whose exemplary behaviour in every part of the pastoral office is enforced upon you by his station of authority and influence in (this part* especially of) the diocese.
I am very sensible, my brethren, that some of these things, in places where they are greatly wanted, are impracticable, from the largeness of parishes, suppose. And where there is no impediment of this sort, yet the performance of them will depend upon others, as well as upon you. People cannot be admonished or instructed in private, unless they will permit it. And little will you be able to do in forming the minds of children to a sense of religion, if their parents will not assist you in it; and yet much less, if they will frustrate your endeavors, by their bad example, and giving encouragement to their children to be dissolute. The like is to be said also of your influence in reforming the common people in general, in proportion as their superiors act in like manner to such parents; and whilst they, the lower people I mean,
* The Archdeaconry of Northumberland.
must have such numerous temptations to drunkenness and riot every where placed in their way. And it is cruel usage we often meet with, in being censured for not doing what we cannot do, without what we cannot have, the concurrence of our censurers. Doubtless, very much. reproach which now lights upon the clergy, would be found to fall elsewhere, if due allowances were made for things of this kind. But then we, my brethren, must take care and not make more than due allowances for them. If others deal uncharitably with us, we must deal impartially with ourselves, as in a matter of conscience, in determining what good is in our power to do; and not let indolence keep us from setting about what really is in our power; nor any heat of temper create obstacles in the prosecution of it, or render insuperable such as we find, when perhaps gentleness and patience would prevent, or overcome them.
Indeed, all this diligence to which I have been exhorting you and myself, for God forbid I should not consider myself as included in all the general admonitions you receive from me; all this diligence in these things does indeed suppose, that we give ourselves wholly to them. It supposes, not only that we have a real sense of religion upon our own minds, but also, that to promote the practice of it in others is habitually uppermost in our thought and intention, as the business of our lives. And this, my brethren, is the business of our lives, in every sense and upon every account. It is the general business of all Christians as they have opportunity; it is our particular business. It is so, as we have devoted ourselves to it by the most solemn engagements; as according to our Lord's appointment, we "live of the Gospel ;" and as the preservation and advancement of religion, in such and such districts, are, in some respects, our appropriated trust.
By being faithful in the discharge of this our trust, by thus "taking heed to the ministry we have received in
* 1 Cor. ix. 14.
the Lord that we fulfil it,"* we shall do our part toward reviving a practical sense of religion amongst the people committed to our care. And this will be the securest barrier against the efforts of infidelity; a great source of which plainly is, the endeavor to get rid of religious restraints. But whatever be our success with regard to others, we shall have the approbation of our consciences, and may rest assured, that as to ourselves at least, labor is not in vain in the Lord."+
* Col. iv. 17.
† 1 Cor. xv. 58.