« הקודםהמשך »
THE CHARACTERS AND QUALIFICATIONS OF
THE EVANGELICAL CLERGY.
In every Church, and in every party in every Church, learning is an object of high importance. In the first Christian Church, inspiration supplied, in many of her Ministers, the want of learning. What they had not deri. ved from human culture and study, God miraculously communicated. But even in that early period of the Church, he who had taken care that Moses should be instructed in all the learning of the Egyptians, preparatory to the important office in which he had destined him to act, also prepared the Apostle Paul, by sending him not only to the schools of the Prophets, but also by providing that he should be well imbued with the learning of the Gentile world, who was afterwards to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. To the labours of this learned Apostle, more, perhaps, than to those of all the others united, is the Christian Church indebted. In our times, where learning is wanting, there is no such thing as inspiration to supply its place. The Ministers of Christianity are therefore obliged to seek, in the ordinary way of discipline and study, that information which is necessary to the proper discharge of their office. Indeed, with respect to all the Apostles, it is a certain fact that they were well skilled in languages; the only difference between them and learned men of these times is, in the manner of acquiring that knowledge. Many of the Evangelical Clergy have been, and many of them still are, men
of deep and general learning, and well known both for the correctness and elegance of their literature. The Dames of Dr. Milner and Dr. Jowett, the last of whom was what the other continues to be, an honour to that body, are well known, and are only two out of many that might be mentioned. In one of the Universities particularly, many students of Evangelical principles have stood among the first, and have often carried away the highest honours. With respect to genius and transcendent abilities, they are flowers that blossom but rarely, even in the ample field of the world, and are sometimes so wild and so luxurious in their growth, that they refuse to submit to those retrenchments, which the culture of religion requires. But even of these, Evangelical Religion has no reason to complain that she has wanted her share. Men of moderate accomplishments, in religion as well as in civil society, are the persons to whom the offices of religion, as well as the management of business must chiefly be committed, and of these the Evangelical Clergy are chiefly composed. Among them too, some persons of weak intellects and contracted sentiments may be found, whose minds are too flimsy to admit of a high polish ; but in no greater proportion to their numbers, than the state of other parties, political or religious, exhibits.
Of the qualifications of a Clergyman, unfeigned piety is certainly the primary one, and is indispensably necessary, both to his own fitness for the work, and to his hopes of success in it. If a Clergyman is not pious, he is among the worst of men. If his love to God and to the souls of men is not ardent, his official employment must render his whole life one scene of disgusting hypocrisy. It is impossible for a man always to act under a mask. The cover will sometimes drop, and the man of
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 healthy 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 spirituality 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, contented 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 bis bosom, and gently to lead the nursing ewes.” In health he watches over them with solicitude. 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. Goldsmith 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, “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