Page images

that is praise-worthy, he must be an example to his flock. The pious poor must have access in their extremity, both to his table and his store-room. As long as he has a loaf to divide with his way-faring brother, he cannot withhold it: and why should he? Or why forget to entertain strangers, especially when they are engaged in the furtherance of important christian enterprises ?

I know it may be objected, that this is laying a heavy tax upon the ministry, and opening a wide door for imposition. Drones, it may be said, there are and will be among preachers, as well as other classes of men ;-candidates who can never obtain a settlement, and who will be sure to tax the hospitality of ministers beyond all reasonable endurance. This, I am sorry to say, I cannot deny ; nor that in obtaining subscriptions for their own emolument, the publishers of religious books, and their agents, sometimes think themselves too long welcome in the families of poor clergymen. But we must not make too much of cases like these, lest it should have the appearance of covetousness. The very men who complain, of their pastor, and say that he impoverishes his own family, by keeping a great ministerial tavern, would, perhaps, be the last to commend him for shutting his doors and contracting the dimensions of his table. For who that has the slightest claim to enlargement of mind, does not after all, love to see his minister liberal; and how injurious to the cause of religion, would be the influence of a contrary example ?

A similar train of thought naturally suggests itself, in reference to those great and expensive systems of charity, which are the glory of the present age. The example of the sacred profession, in contributing according to the ability which God giveth,' for the support of these

institutions, is no less essential than earnest and eloquent appeals to the public in their behalf. Only let the case be doubtful enough to furnish a plausible pretext for the question, 'Does the preacher ever give any thing himself, or any thing proportionate to bis ability,' and who will regard his eloquence or his arguments ? So true is the household aphorism everywhere, that example goes farther than precept.

And so true is it, that to be in the highest degree useful, a pastor must be an example to his flock in everything that is disinterested, liberal, self-denying, and public-spirited ;-in self-government, beavenly-mindedness and reverence for the holy precepts and institutions of the gospel ; in conversation, in faith, in love to Christ, and the church, and in the conscientious discharge of all relative duties. It is thus, that the good pastor goes on before his flock, and at every step sheds the light of his own example upon the way to heaven ; while the hireling' stands at best, a mere guide-post at the entrance, to be left behind by those who climb the narrow way. It now remains for me,

III. To specify some of the more active and important duties of the pastoral office. This I shall be obliged to do in a very summary manner.

One of the first duties of a pastor, is to acquaint himself with the state of his flock. For till this is done, how can he know their particular wants, characters, trials, dangers, and necessities ? And how can be, in his public ministrations, 'give to every one his portion in due season.' I will venture to say, that half the interest of preaching, and more than half the profit, depends upon its being adapted to the ever varying circumstances of the audience. A discourse may be heard with intense interest at one time, and produce a powerful effect upon

a whole congregation, which would have passed off as merely decent, a month or even a week before. Hence the vast importance of giving a pastoral complexion to all your preaching, especially in your own pulpits. Hence, also, the common fact, that those pastors, who successfully aim at this, preach better at home than abroad ;-a most desirable excellence, and a sure pledge of great usefulness !

But the skill of making every sermon appropriate, can never be acquired by a minister in his study. It is gained only by frequent and familiar intercourse with his people. Many a fine sermon is thrown away upon a drowsy congregation, simply because it is unseasonable ; and it is upseasonable because the preacher is ignorant of the state of his flock, and wrote it without any specific aim, or object. In order to make the most of your preaching then, brethren, you must be active pastors. You must learn from week to week, by personal intercourse with your people, what they most need at the time; what their spiritual health and safety immediately require.

Nor is this all. It is by pastoral intercourse ; by free and affectionate conversation with individuals, in regard to their spiritual interests, that a minister often does more good than he can in the desk. A parishioner easily escapes in a crowd, and hears for others rather than himself; but when he is personally addressed, he cannot help feeling that every word is intended for him. Indeed, it is affectionate pastoral intercourse, more than anything else, which, by gaining the hearts of the people, fills the sanctuary on the Lord's day, and prepares them to receive with meekness the ingrafted word which is able to save their souls.?

In regard to the mode of conducting pastoral visits, permit me to suggest, that something like a plan or system has many advantages. If you content yourself with forming a general resolution to visit your people whenever it shall be convenient, you will make little progress. The convenient season will rarely come. Nor, judging from my own experience, will you find it easy in all cases to introduce the subject of religion, without letting it be known beforehand, that this will be the sole object of your visit. Otherwise, some will have so many kind inquiries to make about your health, and your family, and your garden, and your last journey ; and so much to say about the heat, or the cold, the debating and fighting in Congress, or the last news from Greece, or South America, that the hour will pass away, and the main object of the visit will be entirely frustrated.

Now I will not say, that a minister may never converse with his people upon the ordinary concerns of life, or the current topics of the day--but only, that this kind of intercourse is not pastoral, in the proper sense of the word; and that some other mode must be adopted to carry religion into all the families of your charge. They must in some way be informed, that you intend to devote certain days in the week to this great object, so as to have it understood that no other topic is to be introduced. Or you may privately make your appointments for particular districts, or neighborhoods. Or you may on the sabbath publicly announce your

intention to visit certain families on given days of the ensuing week. This last method has been often adopted with good success; and it has the advantage of convincing a congregation, where they hear the appointments made from week to week, and month to month, that it is no trifling task to visit every family in a parish.

These remarks are intended chiefly for the younger class of my brethren in the ministry; and with this explanation, I hope I shall be indulged in more freedom and familiarity of remark, than it would be proper for me to use in addressing my seniors in age and office.

I scarcely need remind you, my dear young brethren, that Sabbath Schools and Bible Classes will claim your very particular pastoral regards. Who can estimate the amount of good, which a minister may do to the children and youth of his congregation, by devoting a part of his time to these blessed institutions ? But if I may be permitted to lay any stress upon my own experience, you will find a great advantage, in occasionally varying your plans, and methods of teaching, so as to keep alive that interest, which in young minds is apt to flag, under any uniform system however excellent. And though both sexes may be taught at the same time, and in the same class, there are obvious advantages in meeting them separately, each requiring much appropriate instruction and advice, which cannot be given with perfect freedom and propriety in presence of the other. Indeed, I am in favor of carrying the system of pastoral instruction by classes, much farther than it has been generally attempted. For while mankind inherit one common nature, and have many common wants, trials, dangers, and temptations, in many other respects, their circumstances are widely dissimilar; and of all these, a pastor may avail himself, to the abundant increase of his usefulness, by taking the several classes as he finds them in his congregation :-the aged, the young, the fathers, the mothers, the men in active and prosperous business, old professors, and young christians. I have, for example, known the best effects from a separate meeting for the old and gray-headed, of

« PreviousContinue »