Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

kingdom, the glorious prospects of saints and dreadful prospects of sinners, should urge ministers of the gospel and students of divinity, with unwearied exertions to improve their voice, and attain an interesting manner in the delivery of their publick discourses. If a man be eloquent, he has the power of being extensively useful; for he will collect, or obtain a large congregation, and have opportunity of preaching to many saints and sinners. Moreover, it is a fact that many worthy ministers in these United States, have but a few attend their ministry, and scarcely receive a scanty support; because they have not the gift of an interesting delivery in the pulpit. How many more respectable congregations might soon be collected, and ministers comfortably and promisingly settled, if there were a supply of those who are truly eloquent. But the days of youth are far the most favourable for acquiring the talent of a natural and interesting delivery of a discourse ; and if young men who hope to become ministers of the gospel, do not zealously and perseveringly improve this golden period with a view to this very important attainment, they will have lasting and painful regret and repentance for their presumptuous and criminal negligence. If a most impressive, most animating, or most alarming sermon be delivered without an easy and interesting address, eternal realities are made to appear at a great distance : But if divine truths be gracefully and forcibly exhibited, a holy God, a heaven and hell seem near at hand. How great the effect of ministerial eloquence to inake men believe and realize the varied and inte. resting truths of divine revelation! And what minister of the gospel, that prays for eminent usefulness, must not ardently pant for eloquence. Thousands of arguments relating to this particular, begin to crowd upon my mind ; but I must forbear. Surely the few things suggested willserve to show the encouragement,

and how highly important it is for ministers of the gospel to attain an interesting manner in the delivery of their publick discourses.

3d. We may see that it is highly important for ministers of the gospel to be men of profound erudition, and of study. Unless their information be

, extensive, and they give all diligence for higher attainments in useful knowledge, they will be unable to bring forth things new and old, so as to exhibit an interesting variety as a prominent trait in their publiek discourses. It is generally granted that they should be men of eminent piety, whose souls and lives should be devoted to the work of the ministry; but the same arguments that would show that their Christian experience should be extensive and their walk exemplary, would make it evident that other extraordinary gifts and acquirements would be highly important. How can a ininister instruct and edify his hearers, unless he shall have made greater proficiency, and have superiour skill in those things which do particularly relate to his profession? He should not only study to have a conscience void of offence in the sight of God, but he should be enabled to perform his ministerial services as one whose qualifications would recommend him to a people as their teacher. In accordance with this sentiment the apostle Paul addresses Timothy, Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Thus Timothy was enjoined studiously to endeavour to approve himself in the sight of God in his conduct and ministrations, and to exhibit himself by his performances as a skilful workman, who understood his business, and who would not be put to shame by having his work examined. Moreover, a large number of the inspired penmen do exhibit indubitable evidence not only of their being devoted to the service of the Most High, but also of their being men, who had acquired a rich fund of varied and useful knowledge both human and divine; and whose souls panted for more extensive acquirements, and more enlarged views in regard to the wonderful scenes of creation, providence, and redemption.

And if ministers of the gospel in the present age, have not a good foundation laid for mental and theological improvement, and if they be not men of study, their people must be fed with old provision; nor will they be refreshed by him with running and living streams: but they must hunger and thirst for the rich dainties of the gospel through his deficiency and negligence.

How lamentable for a gospel minister to trust to his former attainments as an inexhaustible fund, from which to derive constant supplies. Instead of giving himself wholly to his work, he may be said not to give himself to it at all. His illustrations will begeneral and vague; and the people of his charge, for new things must hear a continued repetition of old; and instead of experiencing the varied blessings of an interesting variety of publick discourses, and a corresponding style, they will participate the contrary effects, the judgements of a barren and unfaithful minister. Although the ways and means of improvement are manifold and the objects unbounded, still with assiduity must a man improve them, in order to replenish his own mind and to be capable of instructing others. If the education, the reading, and the contemplations of a divine be superficial, his instructions will be but chaff instead of wheat. What man upon earth does it become to be diligent in his vocation more than a minister of the gospel ? Who sustains a station more elevated than he ? or has a more important trust committed to his charge? How important for him, then, profound erudition and close application to study.

4th. This subject should be improved by Christians and by all men, as an excitement to a spirit of ļiberality, of candour, and of accuracy, in the judgeing of the opinions and actions of men, and of the divine procedure and operations. And that they may derive much light to see how important it is to be thus influenced, permit me to close this discourse with remarks on the subject from the Christian Phi. losopher. Who is the most candid and liberal Being in the universe? God. And why is God to be considered as the most liberal intelligence, that exists? Because he embraces a minute, a full and comprehensive view of all the circumstances, connexions, relations, habits, motives, temptations, modes of thinking, educational biases, physical affections, and other causes that may influence the sentiments or the conduct of any of his creatures.

Who among created intelligences may be viewed as endued with these qualities in the next degree? The loftiest seraph that God has created, who has winged his way to numerous worlds, and taken the most extensive survey of the dispensations of the Almighty, and of his creatures and events.

Who among the sons of men, is the most illiberal and inaccurate in the judgeing of opinions, of persons, and of things? The man who has lived all his days, within the confines of his native village; who has never looked beyond the range of his own religious party; whose thoughts have always run in one narrow track; whose reading has been confined to two or three volumes; who cares for nothing either in the heave is or the earth, but in so far as it ministers to his convenience, bis avarice,or his sensual enjoyment; who will adinit no sentiment to be true, but what he may have heard from his own parson; and whose conversation seldom rises beyond the slanderous remarks which are circulated among his neighbours. Persons of such a character are entirely unqualified for forming a correct judgement, either of the sentiments and actions of men, or of the works and the ways of God; for they are devoid of that information and those principles, which are requisite to form

a rational decision in relation to either of these subjects.

It may be admitted as a kind of axiom in our estimate of human character, that in proportion to the ignorance and narrow range of view which characterize

any individual, in a similar proportion will be his want of candour, and his unfitness for passing a sound judgement on any subject that is laid before him. Moreover, the man who has taken excursions through the widest range of thouglit, accompanied with a corresponding improvement of his moral powers, will be the most liberal and candid in bis decisions on the moral and intellectual qualities of others. To these maxims, few exceptions will generally be found. In forming an enlightened judgement in regard to any action or object, it is essentially requisite that we contemplate it in all its different features and aspects, and in all its minute circumstances, bearings, and relations. On the same principle, it must be admitted that he who has viewed religion in all its aspects and bearings, who has taken the most extensive survey of the manifestations of God and of the habits and relations of men, is the best qualified to pronounce a candid and accurate decision on all the intellectual and moral cases that may come before him. And if the spirit of these sentiments be founded on fact, it will follow that the more we resemble God in the amplitude of our intellectual views and benevolent affections, the more candid, and liberal, and accurate will our judgements be in reference to all the actions, ohjects, and relations we contemplate.

On the other hand, the man who is confined to a narrow range of thought and prospect, is continually erring in the estimates he forms, both in respect to physical facts, to general principles, and to moral actions. He forms a premature and uncharitable opinion on every slander and report against his neighbour. He condemns without hesitation, and

,

« PreviousContinue »