« PredošláPokračovať »
never apprehended before. I retire to my study with new themes and thoughts for sermons, such as the suffering, the tempted and the desponding need. I learn in that room of affliction what cannot be found in the best furnished library. Let no pastor, for the sake of the good of his own soul, be a stranger to his people, especially to the poor, the sick, the aged and the afflicted. By no study can be make amends for this neglect.
II.-In regard to pastoral visitation I proceed to mention some of the things which endanger the faithful performance of this duty.
1. The demands of the times upon the pulpit. Ministers are not free from the weakness of human nature, which determines the mind to extremes. There is danger, it is thought, of an extreme devotion to the study preparations for the pulpit. There is a strong tendency to this thing. It grows out of the imperative demands which are now made upon the pulpit. These demands increase continually, and we are glad to have it so. It indicates religious and social improvement, progress, and right feeling in reference to the duty and functions of the Christian ministry. And the pulpit must meet these demands; it must lead the public mind, and mould the age, and make the gospel mighty to regenerate and elevate the world. But if, on the contrary, in the “ human and intellectual,” the pulpit makes no advance, it will fall behind, and lose its forming and controlling power over the great mind and heart of humanity; for it cannot, if it would, hold back the age. If the pulpit attempts to keep the mode of thought and expression confined to the model of the past, it will find little sympathy with, and lose its hold upon the people.
To keep up with the advancement of the age, we need not change our doctrines. These are as old as eternity, and will ever be, as they ever have been, the rudimental truths of Christianity. These we need not change, we cannot, and preserve the system; but we do need, that these doctrines of old should be brought out, as fresh waters from a living fountain.
The different ages of the church have all received the same truths, but they were not taught in the same manner, nor even through the same media ; now, in the symbols of prophecy and Judean worship—then in the “lucid narrative and inspired epistle.” The teachers of the “half-hundred generations” who followed have unfolded the same doctrines in the manner which served their day. And in obedience to the same law of change, the times in which we live demand a conformity to its peculiar mode of thought and expression. These same " old doctrines " must now be presented in a manner which is adapted to "the active mind of the most actively-thinking age that ever lived."
The demands on the pulpit are rightfully and powerfully pressed. They are imperative, and cannot be set aside. We have created this demand by a higher and more general education of the people. We have not only the moderately but the well educated to be instructed, the “masters of logic and science," the disciplined, the judges of good composition, correct reasoning and proper delivery. We have the inquisitive, the prejudiced, the skeptical, and the avowed atheist. These are to be addressed, interested, and convinced. They are all to be met on their own grounds, and met manfully. But this can be done by those only who are themselves “masters of logic and science.” “And although, on the whole, it were better that sermons be suited to the wants of the commonly educated, yet these, occasionally at least, should be made to feel the sublimity of truths which demand the homage of the greatest intellects, and bring low the stoutest hearts.”
Let us not be understood as expressing any regrets that much is said and done to elevate the standard of qualification for the pulpit. My object is to call attention to the danger that pastors, in attempting to answer these demands, will devote themselves too exclusively to study. True, they must study much and thoroughly. A minister in these times must needs be a scholar and a student, in order to be influential and successful in the ministry. As there can be no substitute for pastoral visitation, so there can be none for intellectual discipline and scholarship. He must toil early and late, patiently and prayerfully, in his study; but then again, no amount of study can make up for the neglect of visitation. If he watch for souls in the study, he must also out of it, or many a good impression will be lost, and many a convinced soul left to perish. If the age demand more thought in the pulpit, it also calls for more vigilance out of it. If the people de mand a high order of talent at the altar, so do they need more watching away from it. If the education of the popular mind be more finished, so are the influences which drown men's souls in perdition.
2. In addition to the demands on the pulpit for higher mental qualifications, the pastor is subjected to a powerful temptation, which grows out of the influence of study upon his habits and feelings. For the more a man studies, the more he feels the need of it. Study also induces and strengthens the love and the habit of study. This tendency is natural, and often very strong. The studious pastor must needs watch against it, or he will soon find himself exclusively devoted to his pulpit preparations, to the neglect of the out-door work of a pastor. It requires no little self-denial to break away from
the quiet study, and go forth into the field of active service. But it will be found that he who yields to the love of study, at the expense of other pastoral duties, though his sermons be better prepared, they will not, as a general fact, be as useful or as satisfactory. His flock will feel a consciousness of neglect, if deprived of the shepherd's visits.
3. The increasing facilities for intellectual study and improvement offer a strong temptation to neglect pastoral visitation. Books and periodicals of value and interest are multiplying immensely; and if the student indulge his natural feeling and taste, but little time will be left to watch for souls. Besides, it is a matter of no little self-denial to lay aside a favorite author, to engage in pastoral visits from house to house. “A minister of a literary taste is in danger of becoming an idolater of books.” Dr. Porter, in his Letters on Revivals, instances a case of this kind. “He was so fond of reading, especially works of genius and popular literature, that the spirituality of his heart was gradually impaired : he laid down his favorite author with reluctance, to attend a prayer meeting; went to fulfill an engagement with little pastoral feeling: and returning to his study, became absorbed in his intellectual pursuits instead of his appropriate work, as one appointed to watch for souls.' Rare instances of conversion, but no revivals, occurred under his ministry.”
4. The inadequate support of the ministry is a hinderance to pastoral visitation. This stinted policy very seriously interferes with the labors of a pastor. There must be system in labor, in order to accomplish much. If a studious pastor get time to visit, he must have something like a system of study. But the poor cannot control their time. Necessity cannot be put off. The minister can no more resist its demands than can the day-laborer. He studies when he can, for study he must at some rate, if he would sustain his influence ; the visiting is done if it can be, but to any purpose, it is nearly impossible.
5. Another hindering cause is the vast amount of extra labor which is thrown upon the ministry of this day. There are burdens laid upon the ministry of this age, of which former times knew nothing. Were ministers so disposed, they cannot perform that amount of pastoral labor which is desirable. Benevolent and reformatory objects are multiplying greatly. Their claims are pressing and imperative. They all look to the clergy for support, and this is right. The responsibility of their existence and support rests mainly on them. Conventions and anniversaries call for their attendance and aid. Every good enterprise levies heavy taxes upon the time and mental capital of the ministry: and it is well that they are able and willing to meet the demand. But these contributions draw largely from their great and special work of watching for souls.
6. A low state of religious feeling endangers the faithful discharge of this duty. This, though one of the most urgent reasons for this kind of labor, is one of the most powerful influences which operate to prevent it. It is hard work and self-denying, to make pastoral visits, where there is no religious interest to invite them and render the duty agreeable. “Like priest, like people,” is an old proverb, and generally a true one; and the converse of the saying may be just as truthful, Like people, like priest. Does not the pastor feel the influence upon his heart of a cold and worldly people? Is it easy to keep the glow of devotion upon his altar, when all around him is frozen? Must he not inhale the air in which he lives? He may go among his flock from the warm communings of his study, but if he find no sympathy, no warm and responsive hearts among them, will not his ardor cool? Will he love to break away from the genial temperature of his study, and go forth to be chilled in the damp cold atmosphere without? In such circumstances, how is human nature likely to act? The pastor finds but little to encourage him to such toil, and less to compensate him for the loss of time, which he could spend, so much to his pleasure and profit, in his study. This may not be right, but it is the logic of human nature.
This hindering cause may not be in the people alone. No pastor will watch for souls, who does not possess, in some good measure, the spirit of Christ. Doubtless one of the principal reasons why there is so little truly pastoral labor is, that there is so little real love for perishing souls. Brethren, if the salvation of souls be our end, we shall certainly intend it out of the pulpit as well as in it." Do our pastors really “watch for souls as those who must give account ?"
I conclude by saying : The power of the pulpit for good is fully conceded : the faithful preaching of the cross is God's own chosen means of saving the world, and ministers in these times cannot study too hard or too much, and they must seek an increasingly high standard of qualification as public teachers of the Word. But while this is obviously true, it is none the less true that pastoral labor is indispensable to the highest efficiency and usefulness of the pulpit. No matter what strength of intellect, or brilliancy of genius, or power of eloquence, may be exhibited in the preacher, if he is wanting as a pastor in sympathy, or watchfulness, or tender care and solicitude for his flock, his ministry will not be eminently successful in winning souls to Christ. The sowing of the seed is far from being the whole of the labor of the spiritual husbandman; the ground must first be broken up and prepared; and there must be constant watching with great anxiety and much prayer for the springing up of the seed and its growth to maturity. The work of preaching, though first in importance and never to be neglected or poorly performed, is but half the work of the Christian ministry. This may be done, and done well, and yet but meager results follow. The pastor may be useful and his visits blessed to the salvation of the soul, when the preacher has failed to awaken, and his best sermons been as water poured forth.—May God endow his ministers with wisdom and power as preachers of the everlasting gospel, and impart to them all the grace and virtues needful to a faithful discharge of all their pastoral duties, that they may “watch for souls as they who must give account.'
FEELING IN RELIGION.
BY THE EDITOR.
The religion of Jesus Christ is more than a doctrinal belief more than an intellectual exercise : to be a Christian is to be any thing but a stoic. It has to do primarily and continually with the moral feelings, the sensibilities and affections of our nature. It appeals as really and as earnestly to all that feels as to all that thinks in man. Depravity is a terrible state as well as a doctrinal error ;-an alienation of the affections and passions from their true and proper object, as well as the perversion and blight of the mental faculties; and a religion that would recover man from his apostasy must, while it enlightens and corrects his understanding, lay a Divine hand upon his heart, as the seat of emotion, and invoke its sensibilities, and through it electrify and quicken the soul, and pour into it the tide of life everlasting.
We have no sympathy with those who make religion all feeling and no doctrine-a passion only or natural excitement, instead of an inward and all-pervading life. Still we hold, that religion demands and justifies, and is adapted to produce feeling the most intense and profound that ever glowed in the heart of man, or seraph, or found expression in language or life. No man, we think, can know what religion is as a Divine Doctrine and Life in the soul, and not be moved to the very depths of his intellectual and moral being.
Men feel enough on every subject but that of religion. In the pursuit of wealth, fame, power and pleasure--any of the objects of earthly desire and love, their whole being is alive ; their passions blaze; earnestness looks out in every feature ; decision, intense interest, all-absorbing devotion, mark all their conduct. They feel intensely; they show it in their manner and life: and who calls them mad? The world justifies their intensest feeling, in the pursuit and enjoyment of its transient good. Must a man show feeling on every subject, save religion? Has the world such power to fascinate, electrify, energize its votaries in every line of thought, pursuit and experience; and yet religion, with its infinite range of incomparable objects and worlds of truth and fact, must awaken or elicit no emotion ?
Religion is preëminently adapted to produce feeling. As a Doctrine, it stands out before the mind as a grand, living, sublime embodiment of Jehovah, in the perfections of His being, and the enactments of His law, and the wonders of His
It heralds the awful realities of the future; it is the voice of immortality speaking to all the hopes and aspirations of the immortal within. It fastens on the soul the idea of an all-perfect and everywhere