« VorigeDoorgaan »
the world will desecrate the priest of the Most High God. The secularizing spirit, which has given to learning the first place in the qualifications necessary to a Clergyman, has done infinite mischief in the religious world. Even the eyes of the vulgar are sufficiently keen to detect its absurdity. Common sense pronounces, that in the teacher of piety nothing can supply the want of piety; as in the teacher of science, science must be the primary qualification. We have known attornies and surgeons, who were wholly destitute of classical learning, who were yet in their particular professions, men of worth and of respectable talents. But the possession of the highest classical attainments, without the knowledge of law and anatomy, could never qualify them for even the lowest offices of those professions. He who would not commit the care of his broken bones, to the ignorance of the one, or the defence of his title to his estate to the incompetency of the other, and who yet would entrust bis soul, and all its hopes for eternity, to the tuition and instructions of one who had never made the Scriptures his principal study, or religion bis highest pleasure, would only do it because he set a higher value upon the former than upon the latter. We have known Ministers of Christianity, whose learning and talents were but of the lower order, who yet, by their piety and good sense, were honoured and useful while they lived, and who died lamented by all that knew them. But let not learning be either despised or neglected. Though it is not the first, it is certainly a secondary qualification, and in the present highly cultivated state of society in this country, a considerable degree of it is absolutely necessary to a Minister of Christianity, that he may neither disgrace his office nor himself.
In what soil genuine piety may be found more bealthy and vigorous, than among those Clergymen of the Church, who are justly denominated Evangelical, a considerable acquaintance with religious parties, has not enabled us
We believe they will not suffer by a comparison with any other Ministers of Christianity, in the estimation of those whose opportunities have been most favourable for forming a judgment, and whose penetration and spi. rituality of mind have best enabled them to pronounce it. Though the doctrines by which they are characterized are often described as leading to Antinomianism, yet by many of their fellow Churchmen they are represented as righteous over much. With the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, they associate a strictness of practical religion and morality, that to the man of the world the air in which they live, feels too rarified for his respiration, and he seeks a denser atmosphere to breathe in. Nor do they, in general, bind heavy burthens on other men's shoulders, and refuse to carry them themselves. Follow them to their houses, the lifting up of their hands presents the morning and the evening sacrifice. The perpetual fire burns. Their preparatory studies are often laborious; their incomes small, their duties and their labours multifarious, and their amusements few ; yet, contevted and happy, they suffer privations without murmuring, and from their little board they contrive to spare something for the needy of the flock. Happy in their reward, if the tender plants that employ all their care, which they have endeavoured to meliorate and to water, rise with strength and life, bud, blossom, and bear fruit. Distressed only when the mildew, or some chilling blast threatens to render all their labours vain. The faithful shepherd of his flock, the Evangelical Clergyman, is interested in all their concerns, and alarmed by all their dangers; he enters into, and sympathizes with all their feelings and wants. Like his Divine Master, he learns, in subordination to Him,“ to gather the lambs with his arm, to carry them in his bosom, and gently to lead the nursing ewes.” In health he watches over them with so. licitude. In affliction he visits them with tenderness and compassion. In their prosperity, he is anxious that their hearts be not corrupted with its intoxicating draught; in adversity, that they may not sink under the corrections of Providence, nor faint when they are rebuked of God.
He is in practice every thing which Dr. Gold. smith has so beautifully described in his Deserted Village, the village preacher to have been. Such are many of those Clergymen, and indeed most of them of whom the world has not learned to form a proper value, and whose character is little known beyond the narrow limits of a country parish, in which they shone as lights in the firmament.
“ Of the professional labours," says a respectable author, 6 and consistent conduct of some men of this character, had I not been myself an eye-witness for years together, I should scarcely have believed that Christianity, as we find it in Scripture, was so justly reflected in the lives of any of its professors, in these days of lukewarmness and indifference; or that there were any at this time who made so near approaches to what the Ministers of the Gospel once were, and what they ought at all times to be.
“And yet, tell it not in Gath,' publish it not in the ears of the enemies of the Church, or of religion, such men, and many such there doubtless are at this day, besides those whom I have the happiness to know (classed if not mixed with others, I admit, of a less honourable and consistent deportment; but I speak not here of men who can be justly charged with heterodoxy, irregularity, or enthusiasm)-eren such men are viewed with contempt, and loaded with opprobrious names by many of their brethren and others ;-by those in particular, it is presumed, I will not say, who are the least distinguished by their piety and worth, but rather, who have the misfortune to know them the least.
“ I have, however, no hesitation in saying, that I know of no set of men in any church, sect, or country, who have themselves made higher attainments in religion, or who aim more steadfastly and uniformly to promote the cause of religion in others; and none, of course, who deserve better of their country, and of mankind in general. And, however much any may have vainly attempt ed to obscure the lustre of such characters, I firmly believe, and I believe it on clear Scriptural authority, that not a few of them shall shine hereafter ' as the bright. ness of the firmament—and as stars for ever and ever.'
Besides piety and learning, good sense is a qualifica. tion of the greatest importance to a Clergyman; and without it, both the other two qualifications will often defeat themselves, and be of little avail to secure his aims. Prudence, or a sense of propriety in all his conduct, results from the possession of this faculty, and the want of it deranges and disorders the efforts of genius, the in. vestigations of learning, and even the productions of piety. It cannot be supposed that this excellent talent
• Adam's Religious World Displayed, Vol. 2. Article " United Church * England and Ireland.”
will be the property of every Evangelical Divine. Many Clergymen of that description, however, it is well known, have, at their induction to a parish, met the most determined dislike and opposition, from a general aversion to the doctrines they inculcated, who, afterwards, by their perseverance in the labours of love, and by the consistency and dignity of their conduct, have not only softened the asperities of prejudice, but conciliated, in a high degree, the affections of many, and secured the respect of all their parishioners. Success of this kind is the most honourable testimony that a man can receive of the purity of his life, of the efficacy of his doctrine, and of the prudence which has presided over his conduct. It were easy to give a long list of names to whom this characteristic of good sense was, and is incontrovertibly applicable.
THE CHARGES GENERALLY BROUGHT A
GAINST EVANGELICAL CLERGYMEN.
The first charge is innovation. In those Churches or Chapels, in which the peculiar doctrines of Christianity have either been little adverted to, or thrown into the back ground, by the Ministers of religion in their discourses, and consequently the gospel imperfectly preached ; when those doctrines are made to occupy the first place in the system of Theology, and laid down as the foundation of piety and morality, every man of penetration must perceive, that on the subject of public instruction, VOL. II.