« AnteriorContinuar »
notice of their children. See that they attend the schools of the parish, as well as the Sabbath School and Bible Class; and afford all the aid in your power to bring them up in habits of industry and sobriety; and above all in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.'
In your intercourse with the rich, be on your guard, for you will always be in danger from their kindness. Go not often to their feasts. By so doing, many have been spared and taken.' It will, moreover, swallow up too much of your precious time. What other laborer can afford to sit two hours over a single meal; and who has less time to spare for these ceremonies, than a minister of the gospel ? Receive the friendly tokens of your parishioners with gratitude; but beware that their gifts do not bribe you to neglect their spiritual interests. O how hard is it for a pastor, to deal as faithfully in a magnificent drawing-room, as-in a humble cottage. Especially how difficult to tell your greatest benefactor, that he is an enemy to God, and that without repentance, faith, and holiness, he must perish! I have often thought, that this is one reason, why it is so hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. His wealth, his influence, and his largesses, encompass him about with a kind of triple wall, which a pastor too rarely has the courage to break through, that he may carry to his conscience the unwelcome topics of death and eternity.
Gird yourselves up then, my young brethren, to this difficult, this self-denying part of your work. Make no compromises. Accept no man's person. Requite not the kindness of your affluent friends with the cruel neglect of their souls. But the more they minister to you in carnal things, the more do you minister to them in spiritual things.' The more they study your present
comfort, the more earnestly do you seek their future and eternal welfare. When
friends praise your fine sermons, as they often will, whether they are really fine sermons or not, remember that the impartial may form a very different judgment; and that whatever your fellow worms may think, there is much imperfection in your best perform
I would give more for the criticism of one sagacious enemy, than for those of a score of admirers. When all is peace and quietness in your parish, then is your time to be up and doing. Then fortify every weak and assailable point. Then throw around your people as many of the silken cords of love as you can.
If you have opposers in your parish, and they are men of influence, inquire in the first place, whether you may not have given reason for dissatisfaction. And if you find that you owe them an explanation, or an apology, make it frankly-make it promptly. It will do more to gain or disarm them, than any other course you can possibly take. If you have enemies who are secretly plotting against you, never seem to know but that they are your friends. If they speak against you, have no ear and no memory for it. If you want any little favor, go to them for it. They will rarely resuse you, and no man can long be the enemy of one whom he is in the habit of obliging. Ask their advice in matters pertaining to their . profession or line of business, and follow it whenever you can. If a parishioner becomes dissatisfied and avoids you, take no notice of it. If, when you meet him, he passes by without seeing you, greet him as usual. The next time you meet, take him by the hand, if he will give it, and if not, when another convenient opportunity preşents, offer himn the same token of kindness, In the
mean time, if he is in affliction, comfort him, if he is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him drink.'
The opposite course, of assaulting him with your new ropes and green withes,' will never succeed; for the weapons
of our warfare are not carnal.' It will never do for a minister to keep his check-book, and mark off one after another, as enemies, the moment he discerns any indications of hostility, or dislike. No minister, however popular at first, or however great his talents may be, can hold his place comfortably five years, if when he sees a known, or suspected opposer coming, he either meets him with a kind of perpendicular defiance, or to avoid him, passes over to the other side of the street.
In the discharge of parochial duties, the sick and the afflicted will bave the strongest claims upon your tirne and attention. Let these claims always be held sacred. Wait not to be sent for. Hasten to them as soon as you know that they are in distress.
And while on your way to the sick chamber, or the house of mourning, lift up your soul in prayer to God, that he will put thoughts into your heart and words into your mouth; that he will enable you to be faithful and bless your visit. If the sickness be severe, let your remarks be few and direct, and your prayers commonly short ; but let your calls be frequent.
When there is imminent danger in the case, study not to conceal it; but urge upon the sick man the infinite importance of immediate preparation for death. If it is one of the sheep, or one of the lambs of Christ's flock, who is about to be called home, and is rejoicing in the prospect, talk of heaven, of deliverance from sin, of the excellencies of Christ, of the glory of God, and of the songs of the redeemed. If it is the dying bed of an impenitent sinner to which you are called, and he is stupid ; O, if it be possible, sound a note of alarm so deep, that it shall awake his slumbering conscience; and at the same time so affectionate, that he shall thank and love you for your faithfulness. Hold no fellowship with that cruel affection which conceals from a dying friend his danger, or which *cries peace, peace, when there is no peace. If the dying sinner is alarmed, and his transgressions are at last set in order before bim, beware that you do not comfort him too soon. Many I fear have been destroyed in this way. The law was doing its work, and would have brought them to the cross of Christ, but for the pains which were prematurely taken to convince them that their sins were forgiven, and that all was safe. Rejoice in it, if you have good evidence that a sinner has been plucked as a brand from the burning at the very close of life ; but in your preaching and conversation lay very little stress upon a death-bed repentance. I fear that it is seldom genuine; and however it may be, why should you in this way encourage others to put off repentance to the last extremity, when there is so little probability that they will even be awakened at the close of life?
Be cautious how you give characters for the gratification of surviving friends. There are cases, no doubt, in which the emirent piety of the deceased should be mentioned to the glory of divine grace; but by saying every thing you can of the deceased at funerals, whether they have left evidence of piety or not, you will soon find yourselves in trouble, either with your people or your conscience, or both.
In reference to the duty of visiting the afflicted, I can only suggest how important it is, that a pastor should give them as much of his time as his other duties will
permit, and that he should avail himself of those tender seasons when the world looks empty and desolate, to withdraw their hopes and affections from it; and point them to the cross and the throne of the Lamb,—to that heaven which the holy alone can enter, and where all tears shall be wiped from their eyes.
There is another class of pastoral duties which I must not pass over in silence, though I can only glance at them in the conclusion of this discourse. Never forget, my dear young brethren, that while you have the spiritual oversight of all who belong to your congregations, you are in a peculiar sense the pastors of the churches.
And surely you never can forget, how solemnly you were charged on this head, when you were invested with the sacred office. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over whom the holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble ininded, support the weak, edify the body of Christ.' While
you invite all to come to him as the chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls, state explicitly the conditions of faith and repentance, on which alone he will receive them. Strictly guard the entrance to the visible fold. Admit : the holy communion such only as profess and appear to be regenerated and experimental christians. In exercising gospel discipline, be affectionate, be impartial, be firm, and when you begin, always carry it through. Take
up each case by itself and in season. No where are delays more dangerous. Discipline has been entirely prostrated in many a church, by the timid remissness of the pastor. Scandalous inembers who might easily have been reclaimed or removed, one by one, have been