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ger is approaching; to estimate its nature and magnitude, and to give warning accordingly :—the man, in a word, who is preparing to go forth into the church, and the world, as an adviser, a guide, and a helper in all that is good; as a centre of light, and counsel, and instruction, and consolation, and holy activity to thousands ;-surely such a man ought to have many qualifications which do not belong, and are not necessary, to common christians. What various, and extensive knowledge; especially, what familiar acquaintance with scripture; what deep and ardent piety; what prudence; what knowledge of the world and of the human heart; what command of his own spirit ; what zeal; what patience; what capacity for labour; what diligence; what perseverance, are indispensable here! That no man without UNFEIGNED AND EVEN ARDENT PIETY ought to engage in the duties of this office, is conceded, even by those who have no piety themselves. But there may be truly pious men, who are, nevertheless, totally unqualified for the ministerial work. No ignorant man; no strikingly weak man; no imprudent man ; no habitually indolent man; no rash, headstrong, turbulent, contentious man, is fit to be a minister, even if we could suppose him to have the piety of an angel.
3. From the representation which has been given, we may infer, that candidates for the holy ministry OUGHT TO BE IN NO HASTE TO TERMINATE THEIR PREPARATORY STUDIES, AND TO ENTER ON THE ACTIVE DUTIES OF THE SACRED OFFICE.
When we reflect on the various attainments and qualifications
which are indispensable to the able and faithful discharge of ministerial duties; how much digested knowledge, sacred and profane; how much christian experience; how much familiarity with christian casuistry; how much self command ; and what long and unwearied labour is to be gone through, not only in storing the mind and the heart with all requisite ministerial furniture; but also in forming such habits and manners as shall be adapted to promote official usefulness. When we reflect on this, it appears equally wonderful and humiliating, that any candidate for the sacred office should imagine that he can be prepared for the pulpit, and the pastoral charge, in a few brief months after commencing his professional studies! It is difficult to conceive of more deep delusion. Does not the apostle expressly prohibit laying hands on a “novice ?" And what is a “novice," but one who labours under that deficiency in knowledge and practical experience which usually characterizes a recent convert ?--It is impossible for any man, whatever may be his talents, to acquire, in so short a time, the requisite amount of various knowledge. But even if he could do this, still he ought to be deterred from contenting himself with so hasty and compendious a course. For hic has much to gain besides mere knowledge, and much that requires time, toil, and conflict. He is called to study his own heart; to ascertain his own defects and foibles ; to discipline his own feelings and habits; to study clerical character, under its various aspects, as it is, and as it ought to be ; to become acquainted with the state, and the wants of
the church ; and, in a word, to lay a deep and broad foundation for every superstructure of intellectual, moral, and spiritual attainment, which it is his duty to raise.
You, no doubt, remember, that the Priests, under the Old Testament dispensation, were not permitted to enter on the publick duties of their office, until they had reached the age of thirty years. I will not say, that, under the New Testament economy, we ought to be rigidly governed by the same rule. But I can by no means regard with approbation the conduct of some modern candidates for the sacred office, who have prematurely pressed into the pulpit, at the age of twenty, or twenty-one, after an extremely hurried and imperfect course of study. I will only say, that, in ordinary cases, nothing can justify such presumptuous haste. No young man, unless his circumstances be very peculiar, ought ever to be licensed to preach the gospel under twenty-four, or twenty-five years of age; or to be ordained to the work of the ministry under twenty-six, or twenty-eight. Men seldom have, at an earlier age, that deep, steady, enlightened piety; that amount of christian experience; that maturity of judgment; that established gravity and prudence; that acquaintance with men and manners, and those stores of practical wisdom, which are so desirable, even in the first acts of evangelical and pastoral duty. Many a juvenile candidate for the sacred office has entered on his publick duties so strikingly deficient in knowledge, in maturity of judgment, and in practical experience, as to draw a heavy cloud, not only over the outset,
but also over the whole course of his professional life. To this source, I have no doubt, we may trace many of those personal indiscretions and theological and ecclesiastical vagaries, which have destroyed the usefulness of many a young minister. To this source, also, we may trace the early decline of popularity, and the disreputable dismission of many a promising young pastor, who, with all his sprightliness and confidence, never had a stock of knowledge adequate to the demands of the stated ministry Το this we must ascribe the poor, jejune, and unprofitable preaching of hundreds, who maintain their places, and wear the clerical garb. And to this, among other things, we may refer the rashness, and the melancholy triumph of zeal, over knowledge and wisdom, in undertaking to guide the interests of religion, in times of extraordinary awakening and revival. The naratives of the unscriptual devices, and unskilful management of ministers, pious, indeed, but totally lacking in information, experience, and mature wisdom, form some of the most melancholy pages in the history of the church.
4. If the doctrine on which I have been insisting be correct, then, How GREAT IS THE GUILT OF UNFAITHFUL MINISTERS! He who has taken on himself the vows, and all the tremendous responsibilities of this office; and yet, from indolence, or from spiritual indifference, neglects the souls committed to his charge :-or, from a desire to please, flatters and deceives them in the great concerns of salvation ;
daubing with untempered mortar," and crying, "peace, peace, when there is no peace;"-incurs a
degree of guilt which it is impossible to express or
We speak of the thief, the murderer, and the perjured person, in civil life, with abhorrence ; but what is their guilt, when compared, in the light of God's word, with that of the unfaithful minister? The one robs his fellow men of a portion of perishing wealth ;—the other robs them of all that is precious in the hopes of the soul. The one “kills the body, and after that, has no more that he can do : but under the murderous hand of the other, the immortal spirit dies, and is plunged into the abyss of the damned. The one tramples on a solemn appeal to God about some temporal trifle ;-the other daily violates oaths and vows which have for their object the " Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,” and all the mighty interests of thousands throughout an unwasting eternity. A wicked minister is the most wicked of all men. His sins are more extensively and permanently mischievous than those of other men. He sins against greater light, and stronger obligations, and more solemn engagements than other men. And, therefore, it appears to me highly probable, that the lowest depths in the prison of eternal despair, are occupied by unprincipled, unfaithful ministers. And, let me askIs not this peculiar guilt likely to rest with especial weight on such unprincipled and unfaithful ministers as hold an orthodox creed, and go down to perdition from orthodox churches ? Surely those whose theory is most spiritual ; whose profession is most strict; and whose excitements to fidelity are most solemn, incur a proportional degree of guilt in setting them