תמונות בעמוד

had opportunity for private endeavors to reclaim an erring brother, first to move the appointment of a committee, in public churchmeeting, for that purpose. In most instances, offenses in their incipient forms are known only to a few. The injunction on those who have cognizance of them, to go, and in the spirit of meekness restore the erring brother, is express; and it is a primary object of the church covenant to secure a prompt and faithful persormance of this duty. Then is the time for the successful performance of it, and this is the way. And if private measures, faithfully and patiently employed, fail of recovering him, and persuading him to remove the dishonor done to the gospel, it only remains that reference be had to the church for that purpose; and why should not this be done by a complaint in due form, rather than by a motion to the church, who are not supposed to know collectively whether there is cause for complaint, to appoint a committee to do this? The rule, in the 18th chapter of Matthew, was no doubt intended especially for cases of personal trespass; but that it is to be limited in its application to these, we have never seen sufficient reasons to conclude. Wisdom and kindness would suggest the observation of it substantially in the treatment of every erring disciple ; and the obligations of mutual watchfulness require it. There is too commonly a disposition among professed christians to evade their obligations of this nature ; but for this very reason we would not formally transfer them to the church, but would, by all possible means, press them constantly and heavily upon the consciences of all, till there should be a ready, prompt, and general observance of them. It is in its nature a most healthsul and salutary exercise of christian principle; and one for which no merely official act, whether of session, bishop, or committee, can be a proper substitute. Often has it proved the first waking up of a slumbering church to the life of godliness, and been blessed of God as the precursor of life eternal to those who had been dead around it. One affecting instance is mentioned by Mr. Mitchell, and the annals of our churches might furnish a multitude of a similar chạr


"A venerable minister related the following. He was the pastor of a small country parish in Connecticut. Six of the male members, persons of influence, became guilty of heinous offenses at one time. He began, with a heavy heart, to take such steps as the case required ; when some of the brethren besought him to desist, at least for a time, thinking, in consideration of the standing of these persons in society, and that of their families, that to subject them to discipline would prove the destruction of the church. To this timid policy he yielded; and “from that time," bis language was, "the church visibly went down, down, down, till it scarcely existed, and seemed threatened with a total extinction. I perceived my error and awoke to my duty; and going to such of the Vol. VII.


members as I could most confide in, whom I found by this time to be of my mind, I said to them, We must go forward and execute the laws of Christ's house.' We did so; and in one day cut off the six.

I had appointed a meeting that evening at a private house, by desire of a poor sick woman, whom illness had long detained from our public assemblies. I went expecting a few neighbors only, when, to my great surprise, the house was filled. The Spirit of God was there, and for those six the Lord gave us sixty.

p. 101.

Other passages, on various subjects, we miglit give, but hoping that the volume will be extensively read, we subjoin only the following specimens :

• The pastoral office is, by divine appointment, a permanent office in every church ; its duties are permanent; the necessities of the church and community are such as at all times to demand its exercise. Hence the new testament churches had their permanent pastors. “They ordained them elders in every city.” And hence the explicit and careful instructions which are given respecting the qualifications and duties which pertain to this office, and the duty of the people in regard to it.

A church, or society, that has no settled minister, has no pastor. It may have a series of occasional supplies, or a succession of evangelists

, missionaries, or traveling preachers, but the man that fills its pulpit is not its pastor. He has not the relations, and consequently has not the sympathies, nor the responsibilities and cares, which are peculiar to that office.

The benefits of a settled ministry are very great. The relation is an endearing one both to minister and people. He dwells among them as a shepherd among his flock, whose voice they know. He is not a stranger held loosely to them by a temporary connection ; but has his home and his children's home among them.

He is acquainted with every family. He knows their history, their character, their circumstances, their joys, griefs, sicknesses. He is with them at their marriages, and at their funerals ; and on many occasions of anxiety, of delicacy, of embarrassment and distress, such as the stranger intermedleth not with, is their tried friend, counselor, and comforter.

He is the baptizer of their children ; and with a concern inferior only to that of the parents, and often surpassing that, he watches over their advancing childhood and youth.

He is the judicious friend of education, and of all which pertains to the good of the community; in which he has the threefold interest of a pastor, a citizen, and a father. He is identified with his people in all that concerns their welfare.

His home is the well known place of resort and entertainment for clergymen and other religious strangers who visit the place.

Being a permanent resident, he is more concerned for the results of his ministry, than he naturally would be, were his stay but temporary. He cannot, like those whose stay is short, light fires in his boldness or

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imprudence, and then go off by the light of them, and leave them to burn, or be quenched by others.

The settled pastor feels a growing interest in his flock. The longer he is with them, the more he labors and cares for them, the oftener be is called to sympathize with them, weeping with those that weep, and rejoicing with those that rejoice, and the more he experiences of their kindness towards himself, the deeper does his affectionate concern for them naturally become. I know of no affection more sacred and unquenchable than that of a long-settled pastor for his people.

The settled pastor is acquainted with the spiritual condition of his people, as a stranger cannot be, and knows what is needful for them, from time to time, in the way of instruction, reproof, or consolation. Directed by this knowledge, and compelled too by the permanency of his ministry and his unchanging auditory, he of necessity takes a wider compass in his preaching, and his hearers receive in the end a greater variety and amount of instruction than would, or perhaps could be given by a succession of transient preachers. The itinerant preacher, with an audience always new, needs but a few discourses, in memory or manuscript, to answer his calls. He is not obliged to be very diversified in his ministrations, nor is it probable that he will be. He naturally selects a few topics, and those commonly which are the most exciting, and the most obvious and familiar; and with these begins and finishes his temporary work. Another follows, and then another, much in the same strain. The consequence is, that the people, though abundantly and fervidly exhorted upon a few topics, acquire but a defective knowledge of truth.

It is not so with the settled pastor. It depends on him, and he feels it to be his duty, as one set apart for the instruction of a particular people, to acquaint them with the whole counsel of God. They look to him chiefly for the bread of life, and to him the injunction comes emphatically and solemnly, “ Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the fock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made

you overseers, to feed the church of God.” The church cannot be fed as the pastor is required to feed them, they cannot be instructed generally and fully in the knowledge of religious truth and duty, in a few random discourses, however elaborately prepared or fervidly delivered.

While I honor the zeal, and I trust, duly appreciate the useful labors of evangelists, and other itinerant preachers, I am clearly satisfied that an itinerant ministry can never be substituted for a settled one, without great detriment to the interests of religion. And this I think is a growing conviction in the land. It is a conviction not diminished, but rather increased, by our recent increased experience of the results and tendencies of itinerant labors.

It was formerly the practice of our churches to settle their ministers for life. The same is the practice now to some extent; but the times are given to change. The practice of dismissing a minister, “ for every cause,” is one of the sins of the times. It is an evil to all concerned, but more to the people than to the minister. Its tendency is to unsettle the habits, and, in various ways, to diminish the prosperity of our churches. Every instance of dismissing one minister and settling another, causes some to be dissatisfied, if it do not produce division and defection. It has an effect, too, to multiply itching ears, and to induce a habit of curious and speculative hearing, rather than of sober profiting by the word. It will be found by observation, that those societies are most prosperous which are least addicted to a frequent change of ministers.' pp. 117–121.

But as a

• It has been the policy of many societies to secure the support of the gospel by means of a fund. Funds may be well in certain cases, and to a certain extent: I will not say they are never well. general thing, they are of doubtful expediency. To societies able to do without them, they are a positive evil: especially where the fund is sufficient, or nearly sufficient for all expenses.

It is a general objection to them, that they are at variance with an important principle of human nature. There is a disposition in human nature to value that which is obtained at some expense or sacrifice. That which cost nothing is nothing valued. God has implanted this feeling in our minds, and himself acts with reference to it. He has so ordered our circumstances, that all which we enjoy, and heaven itself, is attained with effort and self-denial. The bounties of his providence are obtained by labor; and are enjoyed the more because of the labor. The sleep of a laboring man is sweet. He has regarded the same principle in religion. He made the religion of the Jews an expensive religion. It had its tithes and offerings, and sabbaths, and feast days, involving sacrifices of substance and of time : and as long as the people were willing to make these sacrifices for it, it retained its hold on their minds; but when they sought to get rid of them, and began to rob God in tithes and offerings, declension ensued, and religion gradually perished. The same principle is regarded in the christian system; its author having ordained that it should be supported by those who enjoy its privileges.

But funds overlook this principle. By making religion cheap, they make it to be cheaply prized. A fund is all the while teaching the lesson, and making the impression, that sacrifices are not to be made for the gospel, at least not habitually; and out of this ere long grows the impression that it is not worth such sacrifices: and if it be not worth the pecuniary sacrifices, it will not long be worth the time and attention which it requires

I do not doubt that parish funds have been often raised and given from very pious motives, and that the pious dead are now reaping the rewards of such acts of beneficence and proofs of love to the cause of Christ. But in too many instances I fear the motives are rather those of selfishness and impatience of religious burthens, than those of enlightened piety. The support of religion is a tax which the people are willing to get rid of. It is to be permanently provided for, if possible, by means of some pious bequest, a spirited subscription entered into once for all, a lottery, or some other expedient. A feeling is betrayed like that of an old colored domestic, who being impatient of family prayers, used to say, “ Come, let us go in to prayers and have it over and done with."

A people released by a fund from giving for the support of religion, soon become confirmed in the habit of not giving, and such a habit is poverty itself. As an example of this, I am acquainted with a society which was formerly able to erect an expensive meeting-house, and to support its minister with a handsome salary, and which is as populous now and as abundant in means as it then was, and probably more so; but having been blest with a fund for some fifteen or twenty years, it has become so poor as to have voted, that “ the fund money,” which is less than the minister's salary, is all they can raise. Alas! what would become of them if their fund should fail? Of course, a missionary agent, “begging for money," can hardly be welcomed there ; for how can they do for others, who cannot do for themselves ?

A fund, when adequate to all the wants of the society, dispenses with the action of the people. Where there is no fund, the question is, whether to have the gospel or not. It comes up to every mind. It is a topic of conversation. It calls the society together for joint counsel and co-operation. This is of great benefit. It keeps alive the interest. Its effect is specially good on the young men, who as they successively come forward to manhood, are called on to act in the counsels and sustain the interests of the endeared community to which they belong.

A fund naturally abates the mutual interest of minister and people. This may be said without impeachment of the feelings or motives of either party. Such is our nature. When a minister sees his people making efforts from year to sustain him, it is a different thing to his feelings from receiving the cold avails of a fund. It is a different thing to the people. They love him more and profit more by his labors, while they are actively concerned for his welfare, and can feel that they thus entitle themselves to his affectionate regard.

And this is among the reasons for a people supporting their minister; and should stand for an argument on that head. It is desirable that they should, duty out of the question. It is sometimes advanced that the church alone ought to support the gospel, without calling upon the unconverted. It ought, if it must. But so long as the unconverted are willing to contribute to the object, they ought to be called on, as one of the best means of interesting them in it. That it is their duty to contribute cannot be questioned ; and if it be their privilege also, as it certainly is, it is not expedient, if it be morally right, to withhold it from them. There is a moral influence connected with giving for religious objects, which appears to me to entitle it to an essential place among the means of bringing men to Christ.

A fund is liable to be lost. Then discouragement ensues. The society, like a rich heir made poor, comes to the ground without its accustomed means, and without the habit of supporting itself. It cannot dig: to beg it is ashamed.

However such a catastrophe commonly proves to be more startling than ruinous. I do not doubt that the loss of their funds would be the best thing that could happen to many churches. Instead of indolently reposing upon their much goods laid up for many years, they would then place their reliance, as they ought, upon God and their own exertions; and would begin to know a prosperity, which they had not known for years. Instead of lying securely and supinely, like soldiers

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