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tional spirit and consistent conduct render them valuable members of your church, and excellent examples to their brethren. You would be grieved to lose them. But if you allow yourself to trust to your readiness as a public speaker; to your genius, or to any other endowment, and omit reading and studying, so as to be obliged to preach half studied sermons; to recur perpetually to the same ideas; to be compelled to fill up half the time with loose declamation, which gratifies none but the ignorant, and is soon forgotten by them, you will assuredly lose hearers who possess intellect. For it cannot be doubted that such persons will regard edification more than denomination. They will perhaps bear it for some time with patience, hoping that it arises out of temporary circumstances. But suffer not their forbearance to mislead you. Certain that you must be conscious 6f the change in your manner of preaching, they will think it useless to mention the subject to you; and, therefore, as they love peace, and will ■wish to remain on good terms with you, probably the first intimation, beyond that of their occasional absence, will be their entire removal to a church in which there is a prospect of edification. Their example will perhaps be speedily followed by others, who were equally dissatisfied, but who felt some hesitation in taking so decided a step till others had led the way; thus will the church, in a few years, be stripped of those, on whose eminent piety, wisdom, scriptural sentiment, and christian temper, you placed the utmost reliance.
The work of the ministry you have no doubt frequently contemplated, as consisting in preaching and teaching, and you would readily admit that it is but imperfectly fulfilled if either be omitted. Preaching the glad tidings of salvation, no man who has just ideas of the Gospel, or any compassion for perishing sinners, is likely to omit; but little preparation is necessary for this; if a man stop here he will only have occasion to bring forward a few of the first principles of Christianity, the connexion of which is obvious to the meanest understanding. A capacity for this may suffice for him who hastens from one dark village to another, to proclaim Jesus as the Saviour of sinners; but there are many other subjects on which the Pastor is bound to instruct his church and congregation; and if he confine himself
to this, I fear, that from the perpetual repetition of the same thing, his hearers growing weary of the sameness, will cease to listen with interest; and that the younger hearers will grow up with indolent intellectual habits, and will prove neither solid nor thinking Christians; they will be equally incapable of improving themselves, of instructing others, or of defending the truth. Upon this plan, the knowledge of the christian world, with the exception of a few individuals, who are determined thinkert, would soon be reduced to the mere elementary truths of Christianity.
If you intend to be permanently useful, you must teach as well as preach. In order to teach, especially as many of your hearers have had good teaching already, you must study. If you preach unstudied sermons, your delivery being impressive, your piety being ascertained, and your seriousness and affection being evident, you will doubtless have auditors, but they will be those, who are gratified by perpetual change; as far as circumstances will permit, they will be new ones; and when this can happen no longer, bear with me if I say, I fear your ministry will be in danger of being deserted, except by those who do not exercise their understandings on religious subjects, but who are satisfied by having their feelings excited.
The men who are accustomed to read the best theological writers of the seventeenth century, and of subsequent periods, will not be contented to hear common-place sermons, or mere general declamation in favour of religion. To this you are ready to reply, that you wish to be perspicuous to persons possessed but of little mind or education, as well as to themore enlightened. Their souls, you justly remark, are equally valuable. But, my young friend, from considerable observation I am convinced, that the common idea, that such people are more benefitted by unstudied declamatoryharangues, than by well studied and well arranged sermons, is a mistake. However, for the especial benefit of such, allow me to recommend to you visible order in the arrangement of your ideas: by visible order I do not mean a certain number of heads and subordinate particulars. There may be a large apparatus of technical phrases; a great deal of machinery, without any real order. I mean such an arrangement of the ideas as is easy for the mind to grasp, with LETTER TO A YOUNG MINISTER.
the additional convenience of making the leading ideas so prominent, either by numbering or restating them, that no tolerably attentive bearer can fail to observe and remember them.
I am well aware that a great genius of the present day has objected to rendering the order visible, because it is likely to weaken the impression by lessening the surprise.* Even supposing this rule were as safe a guide for men of common powers, as for the man whose luminous mind and genuine eloquence enable him to rivet the attention, and to make the most vivid impressions on the miuds uf those who hear him; yet still, we cannot help feeling, even with all these advantages, how transient is the impression. I believe, if hearers in general endeavour to recollect a sermon, in which they had not the advantage of visible order, they are little less perplexed in their attempts, than they would be to retrace their steps through a labyrinth without a clue.
Unless they can in a tolerable degree recover it, it cannot become a subject of meditation, and it is in this way, principally, that it may be expected to establish the mind and form the principles. It should be one great object of teaching, to enable persons to teach themtelves, i. e. to set them thinking, and to furnish materials for thought. Such was the effect of your earlier sermons, and if you wish to administer instruction to minds already informed, you must again read or study; or, if I may be allowed the expression, they will out read and out think you; and as a natural consequence, go elsewhere to hear well studied sermons.
Some time after your settlement, having become popular, you received invitations to speak at the public meetings of many religious and benevolent societies; you complied with them; these engagements led first to occasional, and afterwards to more frequent invitations to preach from home, which must have very much' lessened your time for reading and study; and did they not also, in a degree, dissipate your mind, and break in upon your habits? and may not making speeches in public assemblies, where what is showy is frequently more applauded than what is solid, accustom a man to a sort of offhand mode of speaking, but ill adapted to the pulpit?
Will it not assist you in the investigation, if you compare the effect of your late ministrations with those of your former? I am more earnest on this subject, because I think you will, at the present period, be perpetually in danger from the same cause, unless your popularity should be eclipsed by that of some other preacher; by which time, your good habits will be so far lost, as to require an effort to recover them; which you will not have resolution, nor, probably, encouragement to make; for those who would have approved the change will be irrevocably gone, and their places will be occupied by persons of a different description. I wish some of the ministers of the present day may not have reason to regret, in the latter part of life, having pursued a similar line of conduct. You will probably feel countenanced in the plan of preaching half your time from home, by the authority of a writer, whose ardent zeal for the dissemination of Christianity, is likely to give his opinion great weight. It cannot I c doubted that Mr. Ward is correct when he asserts, "that Gospel blessings are to be expected much more in active engagements, than in the care only for personal enjoyment;" but when he represents a minister, who has confined himself principally to instructing his own congregation, to the neglect of preaching among the unconverted, as having " spent all his energies in pleasing his people, and " the people as selfish, in requiring his constant services," he gives, I think, a distorted view of the subject.
A man who enters fully into the spirit of the Gospel, cannot omit preaching (publishing the good news of salvation), though he may, I think, justifiably spend the greater part of his time in teaching, there being so many more topics to be discussed in the latter case, than in the former.
Mr. Ward, in his letter on the cause of the neglect of the commission of Christ, remarks, " In the same spirit of selfishness a society, say of three hundred members, maintain a man to gratify them by a religious exhibition every Sabbath day, without any reference to the state of the unconverted, or at least with a very partial one ;"f adds, " Surely every Christian society should consider that they are united together not for themselves, but for the extension of the kingdom of Christ. Without depending on the labours of the Evangelist whom they maintain, the Saviour has made ample provision in the holy Scriptures for the edification of his church, in the gifts of church members, and the privileges of a church state, in the multitude of excellent works on every doctrinal and practical subject,*'' &c. &c. "Let a Christian minister lend his principal attention to preaching the Gospel, that is, instructing the world to which he is sent."-f
* Hall oil the niicoiirateinents of the Christian Ministry. t Ward's Farewell Letters, p. 23.
These statements appear to me to be objectionable on several grounds.
The commission given by our Lord Jesus Christ, at the time he instituted Christian baptism, " Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the. Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and to, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the rcorld,"\ certainly implies, that those who have been taught the , Christian Religion, who have believed in Christ,§ and have been baptized, were to be further taught.
It is evident the Apostles so understood their Lord, Acts xv. So. xxviii. 30, 31. In both these passages the distinction between preaching and teaching is recognized, and the Apostles Paul and Barnabas are represented as doing both. In the epistles of the former to two young Bishops, he does not tell them that they were to leave the instruction of the church to the private members, and to devote themselves wholly to preaching; but, on the contrary, the Apostle enumerates aptness to teach, among the qualifications essential to a Bishop, and particularlizes many subjects on which they were to teach, doctrines, duties, &c. 1 Tim. vi. 1. The object of teaching was to promote the growth of Christians, that they might be continually advancing in the knowledge of the truth, and in experimental and practical godliness. St. Paul, describing the apostolic ministry, says, "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus," Colos. i. 98. 1 Cor. iv. 17. Provision is made for teaching being
extended and continued in the church, in 2 Tim. ii. 2. where the Apostle says, "The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
1 think there can be no hesitation, that it is the duty of Christians to endeavour to evangelize the dark parts of their native country; but can it not be done without interfering with the edification of the Christian church? Churches or societies may, and I think should, send out Itinerants or Evangelists; the name is a matter of secondary consideration; and settled Pastors may occasionally contribute their aid, on a plan which has been long acted on, by which many of them have done, and are still doing good in their respective neighbourhoods, and by now and then making an itinerating journey. In large towns the same plan might be adopted, which has proved successful in Boston and other places in America.|| Missionaries or preachers (the name is immaterial) might be maintained, whose employment should be to carry the Gospel to the poor, to preach in cellars and in garrets. All this may be done without interfering with the-regular habits or engagements of Pastors; but I perceive that in general the men who leave home most on preaching excursions, go not into the darkest parts of the kingdom, where there are few, if any, who make a profession of religion, but into populous towns, where the means of instruction are comparatively plentiful, and where Christian congregations are already numerous. If Mr. Ward's plan should be generally acted on, I am persuaded we shall, in a few years, have reason to deplore, that our English converts are "du-arfs in religion." Whether the hearers of those men, who are perpetually attending public or committee meetings, or preaching from home, are so now, I will leave you to ascertain at your leisure.
From the engagements in which you have involved yourself, and the habits you have formed, you are in no small danger of putting your hearers off with half studied sermons; and you will, I fear, be often tempted to adopt some 133
• Ward's Farewell Letters, 11. 95. + Ibid, p 8G. f Matt, xxviii. IS—SO. JMiitid.ll.
|| " There aro institutions existing? In America which I have not heard of in any olher conntviy : at Boston, and in othi-r place*, a Missionary for the town and neighbourhood is maintained and employed• l«ii work is to carry the tSospel to. the poor, to preach in cellars and garret", amongst those, who by thrir poverty, or their peculiar circumstances, or their inclinations, are excluded from the meapsof grace. — Ward's Ihrcuuti Lctttri, p. »l»t.
LETTER TO A YOUNG MINISTER.
wmmon--place expedient, for which your talents and education leave no apology.
A good parallel, especially if it have any claim to originality, will be of use in fixing the attention, and aiding the memory; but a common-place parallel, with which the mind is familiar, will not answer these ends. Of this description is the parallel between the journey of Israel through the wilderness, and that of the Christian through the present world; yet some preachers compel their hearers to accompany the children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, till they are as weary of the journey as ever the Israelites were.
Another most convenient method of doing without study, and which therefore proves a snare to some men, is, to take some popular word as a leading idea—the word covenant for instance; this word has been remarkably convenient to some ministers, who have used it as a sort of peg, on which they have, year after year, hung a vast number of common-place remarks. It has served for the foundation of many a sermon, that contained but few ideas, and those in no way connected.
You probably satisfy yourself by imagining, that you are becoming more evangelical and more experimental in your preaching, because you introduce more frequently a few peculiar terms; but rest assured, it is not echoing from one year's end to another, " By grace are ye saved," that will thoroughly establish the Christian, or furnish him for the performance of every good work.
It is necessary to insist on the duty of making progress in religion—such a progress as leaves no doubt whether a man has been sleeping or pursuing his course. Tliere remaineth yet very much land to be possessed; urge your hearers to gird themselves for the journey; point out the road distinctly, and speak to them that they go forward. Who can say how much remains in religion to be known and enjoyed beyond what any of us have yet attained.
Do not therefore content yourself with describing the conflicts of the Christian life—with stating the vast influence which the world has over the soul, even of the Christian, but reprobate it as an unhallowed influence. Shew the tendency of divine truth to detach Christians from the world, and to enable them to obtain a victory over it. Contrast the perishing nature of all sublunary enjoy
ments with the substantial and never failing pleasures of religion. Explain how our efforts ought to be exerted to obtain dominion over our feelings, our passions, and our temptations; and how our prayers should be associated with our efforts. A mere contemplation of indwelling sin and external temptation will do nothing, or worse than nothing for us, either as passengers through this world or expectants of a better. It requires habitual watchfulness, resolute self-denial, dependance on divine aid, and the sedulous cultivation of a lung train of christian virtues, to enable us to fight the good fight of faith, and come off more than conquerors.
We may indeed fancy we hold dialogues with evil spirits, that we hear their solicitations to evil, and think we have gained a decisive victory when we have given them a sharp rebuke; that is, I doubt not, the case with some of your
hearers at , but such persons should
be taught, that the victory required is the destruction of the love of that sin, which laid them open to the temptation. If Satan, when he came, found nothing in us, no worldly motive, no unhallowed feeling, nothing that rendered the temptations suitable to our inclination, it is probable he would make but little impression. The text does not run, rebuke, but resist the Devil, and he will flee from thee. The most fluent in such cases are not always the most vigilant, they talk where they should act; a cheap expedient this : it requires neither mental exertion, nor self-denial, nor holy resolution—indeed it seems in some cases compatible with the indulgence of unlawful gratifications, and in others of unchristian tempers. Sweep away, therefore, with an unsparing hand, the cobweb pretensions of those who hold the truth in unrighteousness.
Let me entreat you, henceforward, to pay particular attention to the edification of your young people; to communicate to them, both in public and in private, such instruction as will he likely to make them enlightened and solid Christians. You will, of course, teach them to consider the Bible as the source of religious knowledge, and the standard of truth; but your own better information will prevent you from endeavouring to confine their reading to the Bible, as is the practice of some of those with whom you have recently connected yourself; for, whatever those who are themselves uninformed may suppose, you must be aware that many persons, all who think as well as read well selected religious books, understand their Bibles much better than they would otherwise. Some who have read but little themselves, seem determined their congregations shall read still less; but these patrons of ignorance have come into the world too late. If they were Mahometans, one might suppose in thus prohibiting the acquisition of general knowledge, they took for their model Omai, the commander of the faithful, who ordered the large and valuable royal library at Alexandria to be destroyed, assigning as his reason, that "if those books contained the same doctrine with the Koran they would be of no use, since the Koran contained all necessary truths; but if they contained any thing contrary to that book, they ought not to be suffered.''
If you wish your young people to think, you must induce then) to read. Some of them indeed need not any persuasion; for, in consequence of the habits formed by their parents and their late minister, they will read, whether they have the benefit of your advice and example, or not. But there are some whose habits are not of the same cast; shew such the imperative duty, the vast importance of acquiring knowledge, and exercising their understandings. Endeavour to convince them, that unless they think, they will be but ill qualified to understand the inspired volume; and that by remaining in ignorance, they are incompetent to decide for themselves on many interesting topics, in consequence of which they will doubtless be governed by the opinion of others. Shew them the ignominy of remaining in such mental bondage; for surely the man who allows another to think for him, and to direct the decisions of his mind, instead of investigating and deciding for himself, is in a more humiliating situation than the vanquished warrior, who is dragged at the chariot wheels of his triumphant conqueror. Is it not desirable to give hearers in general, and the young especially, such full information of the arguments in proof of the truth of Revelation, and of the sentiments you inculcate, that they may know the certainty of those things wherein they have been instructed? Not that I wish to induce you to preach controver
sially. In the hands of a controversial preacher, texts that ought to hush every jarring feeling to repose, that ought to produce the most affectionate feeling3 towards Christian brethren who differ in their views of religious truth, are little better than weapons of annoyance. If you preach thus, may not your hearers be ready to say with a divine of former times,* "who will deliver us from this quarrelsome theology." Establish truth, and, in general, error will fall of itself; fill the measure with" wheat, and there will be no room for tares.
One of the most objectionable descriptions of controversial preaching is, that which consists of attacks on the sentiments of others. They who thus attack the sentiments of those from whom they differ, frequently, from misconceiving those sentiments, state them so inaccurately, that their opponents would not acknowledge them. Some preachers remind one of the conduct of the Inquisitors at an Auto, da f<§, they dress up in habits at once fantastic and terrible the persons whom they designate heretics.
Should any peculiar circumstance render necessary the introduction of the sentiments of others, would it not be the fairest plan to quote them from one of their best writers. If you cannot answer the arguments of their best writers, or calmly expose their sophistry (if they have descended to sophistry) would if not be better to defer the attempt, till, by reading, and study, and self-discipline, you are qualified to do this. You may thus render an essential service to the cause of truth by an argumentative sermon, in which such objections as come fairly in your way are satisfactorily answered; by being an injudicious advocate, you will prove a dangerous friend. But do not imagine that 1 wish you to cultivate the understanding, only foryour people; this will be done to little purpose if you do not endeavour also to cultivate in them a devotional spirit; and by what means can this be more effectually done, than by promoting their attendance at prayer meetings f But, to secure this end, two things appear to me to be necessary; that you should by your undeviating attendance manifest your sense of the importance of such meetings; anil that you should take care that they be so conducted as to render them interesting and edifying. Have your recent engage