« AnteriorContinuar »
No. 29. SEPTEMBER, 1812. [No. 9. vol.xi.
– nort- - * * * : * * - - - == TTTTTTT ... " " RELIGIOUS COMMUNICATIONS. . .
* - * * * * 1 - . . - - * ***
, account or the are of the tes. . . . . . . HENRY scougal. .. ' ' ' ' (Continued from p. 486.)
'N his lectures on the o: I duties of the clerical office, , fessor Scougal was full and copious on, the subject of preaching. It has been already observed, that be revived the practice of lecturing", as ...it is termed in Scotland; or, to use this own words, long terts and short sermons; a most useful and edifying exercise both to the minister and his , hearers, and which he strongly recommended by precept as well as example. His counsels to the students respecting the matter and manner of their sermons are thus summed up by Dr. Gairden 1–". He *. 1t should be a minister's care to choose seasonable and useful subjects, such as might instruct the minds of the people and better their lives, not to entertain them with debates and strifes of words;–that he should express himself in the most plain and affectionate manner, not in airy fanciful words, nor in words too big with sense and having a great many thoughts crowded together, which the people's understandings cannot reach ; nor in philosophical terms and expressions, which are not familiar to vulgar understandings; nor in making use of an unusual word, where there could be found one more plain and ordinary to express , the , thought as fully. He looked Mupon it as a most useful help for composing sermons, to make , Sunday's sermon the subject of our
* "That is, commenting upon a whole chapter or large portion of Scripture. . . .
Christ. Obseny, No. 129.
and enlightening ...' int
the he of the honour
meditation and mental prayer for the foregoing week, that it may there: ... by sink deep into our spirits, and affect our own '. which would inake us more capable of teaching others. He thought it a fit expe. dient for composing us to a serious and o: preaching, to propose to ourselves, in the meditation of it, purely the glor of God and the good of men's souls, and to haye this always in our eye; and, in our preaching, to make frequent recallections of the Divine presence, and short, jaculations towards Heaven, thereby to preserve us in that humble temper, that seriousness and gravity, that becomes us in the presence of God, and as the ambassadors of Christ. And ho conform#. was his practice to i. rules! How did the Holy Spirit by him enlighten our minds and affict, our hearts! There are some kinds of words and expressions, some tones and ways of utterance, which will raise the passions and affections of predisposed tempers, w thout at all s, even as music, does; and there are others capable of laying open *...*. and the reason of things, ut in so dry a manner that they float merely upon our understanding as matter of speculation and talk, and do not sink into our hearts. ... But, sure, I may appeal to all that heard him, whether his discourses and his manner of uttering them, did not serve at once both to enlighten their minds and warm their o: An d". tender was w y o due to the preaching of the ( ospel, that as he was careful, on the one hand, to express himself in the most plain, * * *
so also, on the other, to avoid all childish metaphors, apish gestures, jests, and big words, and other such indecencies as did not become the gravity of the function, and were apt to occasion the smiles and laughter of the profane, rather than the piety of the serious. And, I dare say, the most profane scoffers of the nation were never tempted to turn
his expressions or gestures into ri
dicule. , Nay, many of avowed profligate lives have been extremely affected with his sermons, which pricked them at their hearts; he laid them so open to themselves, and made them so sensible of their brutishness and danger, as they themselves have acknowledged.”—To this quotation I subjoin a passage on the same subject from Scougal's sermon before the Synod of Aberdeen. “We are not to entertain our people with subtile speculations, metaphysical niceties, perplexed notions, and foolish questions which gender strife; but let us speak the things which become sound doctrine. Let us frequently inculcate the great and uncontroverted truths of our religion, and trouble our people no further with controversy than necessity doth require. Let us study to acquaint them with the tenor of the Gospel covenant, and what they must do to be saved; and to inform them of the particular duties they owe both to God and man. But it is not enough to speak these things, to tell men what is incumbent on them; we must besides endeavour to excite and stir them up by the most powerful and effectual persuasions. The judgment being informed, we must do all to influence the affections; and this is the proper use of our preaching; which, though it be over-valued by those who place all religion in hearing, yet certainly it is of excellent use, and ought to be managed with a great deal of care. Let the matter be weighty and grave, the method plain and clear, the expression neither soaring on the one hand, nor too familiar on the other. Some good
men are not aware what contempt they draw on religion by their coarse and homely allusions, and the silly and trivial proverbs, they make use of *. Nor should our expressions be too soft and effeminate, nor our pronunciation affected and childish. Religion is a rational and manly thing, and we should strive to recommend it with the greatest advantage. But, above all, let us study such a zeal and fervour, as, flowing from the deep sense of the thing we speak, and being regulated with prudence and decency, may be fittest to reach the hearts of the hearers. The vulgar that sit under the pulpit (as the excellent Herbert speaks) are commonly as hard and dead as the seats they sit on, and need a mountain of fire to kindle them. The best way is to preach the things first to ourselves, and then frequently to recollect in whose presence we are, and whose business we are doing.” Professor Scougal had a high sense of the importance of true eloquence, which he regarded as the most valuable accomplishment that a clergyman could possess; and for which, he used to say, he would readily exchange all the other human learning of which he was master. By eloquence he meant not merely the graces of style and delivery, according to the rules laid down by the masters of rhetoric (objects not unworthy the attention of students in divinity), but the art of persuasion; including, in that term, the power at once to enlighten and convince the understanding, and to warm and captivate the heart. No preacher of his day had attained to greater enlinence in this art than Scougal himself; and his pupils had the singular advantage of seeing their master exemplify in the pulpit the rules of eloquence which he delivered er cathedra. He considered that there were two prime requisites to constitute a pulpit orator: the one * A home thrust at the practice of too many of the Presbyterian clergy of that day.
was, an accurate knowledge of human nature; and the other, a character of genuine goodness: the former being necessary to lead his hearers to the acquisition of self. knowledge; the latter to enable him to find his way to their hearts, and to inspire them with a love of holiness: and thus, per vian plane regiam, he guided the students to the temple of eloquence. The light in which Professor Scougal viewed the art of persuasion as connected with the pulpit, will apF." by the following quotation from r. Garden. “ He was sensible of the little knowledge we had in the ars voluntais; how little we understood of the nature of men's passions and inclinations, and what things were unost capable of bending their wills, and prevailing upon their minds, according to their different tempers: and accordingly, he judged there were two essential desects in our best kind of eloquence. The one was, that, in the meditating our discourses, we rather merely considered the issues of our reason, and the nature of the thing we were thinking of; and did not so much reflect upon the temper of the persons we were to speak to, and what kind of reasonings, words, and exPressions would make the best impression upon their minds; and therefore it was nothing strange, that words let fly at random touched them so little. The other, that our hearts were not thoroughly endued with those dispositions we would work on others by our words; and therefore it was no wonder all we said made so little impression on them *.” - - Scougal's counsels, respecting the private duties of the pastoral office,
* Students in divinity would do well to peruse what Bishop Burnet says concerning preaching, in the 9th chapter of his Pastoral Care, wherein are many excellent reflections on the eloquence of the pulpit in the true spirit of Scougal. There are many useful hiuts on the same topic in Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and telles Lettres, and in Dr. Hill's Theological Institutes.
are truly valuable. He considered it to be the bounden duty of a clergyman to cultivate a personal acquaintance with his people; to instruct, admonish, and exhort them in private as well as in public; in short, to be instant in season and out of season; otherwise, how could he sustain the title given in Scripture to those who minister in holy things, namely, watchmen over the house of Israel f * The sum of his counsels on this head was that a clergyman should consider his self as the father of his flock; as their instructor, adviser, and guide in their most important concerns; and that, in imilation of St. Paul, he should make conscience of going from house to house, in order to communicate knowledge to the ignorant; to solve the doubts of the weak and scrupulous; to build up the household of faith; to administer consolation to the afflicted ; and to smooth the bed of death. “And though” (to use his own words), “the laurentable vastness of some of our charges makes it impossible to do all we could wish, yet must we not fail to do what we can.” To which he subjoins: “It is an excellent practice of some I have the happiness to be acquainted with, who seldom miss a day wherein they do not apply themselves to some or other of their people, and treat about the affails of their souls.” An important and delicate branch of une private duties of a parish priest is admoniuon and reproof. In order to the successful discharge of this duty, a clergyman ought to possess tervent zeal, tempered by prudence and discretion; courage and firmness, softened down by a spirit of meekness and love; selfknowledge, aided by some acquaintance with the world; together with
* Bishop Burnet, in the first chapter of his Pastoral Care, beautifully illustrates the various titles given to ministers in Holy Writ; namely, shepherds, stewards, ambassadors, angels, rulers, watchuen, builders, labourers, and soldiers,
that delicate address which knows how to consult the mollia tempora Jandi, and to speak a word in due season. This short sketch at once delineates the character of Professor Scougal, and contains the substance of the maxims which he delivered on the subject of clerical reproof. He shewed how incumbent it was upon a minister, in administering reproof, to maintain the rule over his own spirit; to rebuke, as an Apostle enjoins, with all long-suffering; and to guard against any infusion of the bitter and unhallowed leaven of pride, malice, and revenge, either in enforcing the discipline of the church, or censuring the faults of his hearers in private. The following extract may serve as a specimen of his counsels on this head. “The greatest and most difficult work of a minister, is in applying himself particularly to the several persons under his charge; to acquaint himself with their behaviour and the temper of their souls; to redress what is amiss, and prevent their future miscarriages. Without this private work, his other endeavours will do little good. Interest and self-love will blind the eyes and stop the ears of men, and make them shift off from themselves those admonitions from the pulpit that are displeasing; and therefore we are commanded not only to teach and erhort, but also to rebuke with all authority; and this must be done
with a great deal of courage and .
zeal, of prudence and discretion, of meekness and love. More knowing and ingenious persons may be dealt with sometimes by secret insinuations, and oblique reflections on the vices they are guilty of; and we may sometimes seek a way to reprove their failings, by regretting and cotidemning our own. But that artifice is not necessary for the vulgar: having protested our love and good intentions, it will be best to fall roundly to the matter".”
No private duty of the pastoral office is attended with greater disficulties, or proves a source of greater distress to a delicate and conscientious mind, than the visitation of the sick. So Scougal felt it; and in enumerating the Gifficulties of the ministerial function, he exclaims, on this head, “O what a hard mater it is to deal with people that are ready to leave the world, and step in upon eternity; when their souls do, as it were, hang on their lips, and they have one foot (as we use to say) already in the grave!” Some we find in this awful situation, like the foolish virgins, without oil in their lamps, and others with their lamps untrimmed; some resting satisfied with vague and general confessions of sin, without any satisfactory evidence of a broken and contrite heart, and others confidently relying upon the merits and righteousness of Christ, without any signs of genuine repentance or lively faith; some plunged into the deepest distress, and others viewing death with an apathy which is quite shocking; while there are but few, comparatively speaking, whom we find strong in faith, lively in hope, and fervent in love. Scougal lamented the tardiness of the generality in sending for the minister, whose attendance was seldom called for till medical skill had proved fruitless, “and then" (to borrow his own words) “they beg the minister to dress their souls for seaven, when their winding-sheet is preparing, and their friends are almost o, to dress the body for the funeral.” He counsels ministers, in such cases, to open the nature of evangelical repentance and faith, and cautions them against allowing any expressions to drop from them, which might lead the sick person, on the one hand, to despair of muercy, or sooth the by-standers, on the other hand, in their impenitence and procrastination. Professor Scougal did not confine himself to the ordinary routine of academical duty. In full term he annually delivered to the students in
divinity, a serious and aljeetionate charge, in English”, bn the weight and importance of the Christian ministry; on the temper, conversation, and deportment, becoming candidates for holy orders, and the course of private study which they ought to pursue. Instead of that proud and supercilious distance which too frequently characterises the higher ranks of academics, his conduct towards his pupils, both in public and private, was marked by affability, gentleness, and kind condescension. He encouraged the students to regard him as their friend and father; anxiously concerned for their true happiness, and always ready freely to give them his best advice; with which view his house was open to them at all times; and under his roof they might be said to find themselves at home. “It was his great care,” says Dr. Gairden, “ to make his private conversation with them as useful as his public; and by this, indeed, he hoped to do most good.” He
took great pleasure in directing
the course of their reading; and his private conversation with thern was happily calculated at once to open and enlarge their intellectual faculties, and to captivate their hearts with the beauty of holiness. He used to caution the young men against spending too much time in the mere exercise of reading, which, when carried on incessantly without judgment and discrimination, tended only to blunt the edge of genius, and to weaken the energies of the mind. He recommended to them rather to digest well a few good books, than to indulge a taste for
* Academical lectures, in those days, were given in Latin, and, indeed, at a much later period. And the writer of these pages is free to confess, that he is one of those who regret that the practice has been discontinued in our universities. There was a time when no one presumed inter silvas Academi quarere verum, who was incapable of understanding a Latin prelection. We may next expect to hear of vernacular disputations in the public schools.
voluminous and extensive reading r" and to embrace all opportunities of profiting by literary conversation. Such had been his own uniform practice, as we leafu from the following: passage in Dr. Gairden's sermon. “He had not spent his whole time in reading, being sensible that it often served to dull, confuse, and prejudicate mem's understandings, and make them of imperious and dictating tempers; and therefore he made a prudent mixture, of a moderate reading a choice of useful books, and consulting the living as well as the dead, having a singular art of benefiting both himself and others by conversation and discourse: and he digested and improved all by retired meditations and fervent devotion, so that his learning seemed rather the issues of his own mind, and the inspiration of the Almighty, which teactieth knowledge. He loved more to study things than words. He did not so much read books, as think them ; and, by a transient view, would quickly comprehend the design and manner of them.” Instead of poring over the ponderous tomes of expositors and commentators, he recominended to theological students to be assiduous and diligent in the perusal of the sacred oracles, to make the Bible its own interpreter, and to accompany the reading of it with Ineditation and prayer.
Next to the sacred oracles, the books in which he most delighted, and which he most warmly recommended, were the fathers of the four first centuries, particularly Jerome, Ambrose, Basil, Chrysostom, and Gregory Nanzianzen. He had no relish, as we have already observed, for controversial writings. He aimed to inspire the students with a taste for books of practical and experimental piety. In his private intercourses with his pupils, “he was careful” (to borrow the words of Dr. Gairden) “to take them off as much as possible, from the disputing humour, and an itch of wrangling pro and con, about any thing; and many