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all at naught. If this suggestion be well founded, there are, probably, no men on earth, at this hour, whose situation is more responsible, and who are called upon more deeply to ponder it in their hearts, than the ministers, and candidates for the ministry, of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.
5. In the light of this subject we may see why it is, THAT THE CLERGY HAVE BEEN SO MUCH DESPISED,
AND MADE THE OBJECIS OF SO MUCH CONTEMPTUOUS
SNEER, IN ALL AGES, BY INFIDELS AND WORLDLY MEN That assailing, and endeavouring to depreciate the character of ministers, has long been a favourite method of attacking christianity itself, both on the part of some who professed to believe it, as well as of open infidels, is well known. The unfairness of this method of attack is, indeed, manifest. The Bible is our rule of faith and practice ; not the character of those who undertake to expound and publish it. Still, however plain, and however reasonable this distinction, it is often entirely overlooked. Religion always has been, and ever will be, to a great extent, judged of by her ministers. And, alas! that they have, in so many instances, given occasion to the enemy to “speak reproachfully!" Among the many millions of ministers who have officiated in the sanctuary since the establishment of a visible church on earth, how large a number, with the language of holy exhortation on their lips, have been grossly immoral! How many more, while directing the attention of others to a better world, have manifested that they were selfish, worldly minded, and supremely devoted to the ambitious pursuits of
the present life! O how small has been the proportion in any age or country, who have preached and lived as if they really believed the great things which they professed to be desirous of inculcating on those around them! The truth is, THE GREAT BODY OF THE CLERGY HAVE NEVER ACTED IN CHARACTER ; AND, THEREFORE, NO WONDER THEY HAVE BEEN TREATED WITH CONTEMPT AND RIDICULE.
It is not in the nature of things that men so inconsistent, should be really respected in their official character. Worldly men sometimes, indeed, honour ministers, who have little apparent piety, for their talents, their learning, or their attractive social qualities: but they seldom fail to discern their official defects, and, no doubt, are often hardened by them in unbelief and impiety. I freely grant, indeed, that if ministers were heavenly purity itself embodied, infidels and worldly men would dislike and malign them. When Infinite Purity was “manifest in the flesh," they did cry out, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Still, however, there is such a thing as the apostle speaks of, when he exhorts Timothy, by well doing to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
Blessed be God! it has been often done; and we may hope, that, through his grace, it will be still more frequently done hereafter. If the ministerial character were presented under its genuine, scriptural, and primitive aspect, it would xtort a reluctant homage, even from the most abandoned votaries of sin. Only let ministers lay aside all worldly policy and habits ; let them demonstrate by their conduct that their reasures are in heaven ; let them show, by their
simple scriptural piety, their zeal, humility, purity, weckness, self-denial, and deadness to the world, that the imitation of Christ is their habitual study, and doing good their “ ruling passion;" and we shall soon cease to hear of the charge of “ priestcraft,” and the sneer, that “ the clergy of all religions are alike.” Too much “alike," a great majority of them have, indeed, becn, in selfishness, indolence, and unfaithfulness to their trust! But the purity of the Divine Word, and the glorious beauty of the Spirit of Christ, by which they professed to be guided, have been cver the same. A sufficient number, too, have been really guided by them, to show that, amidst a multitude of counterfeits, there has been much true coin. And the time is coming when the clerical character shall be, every where, so much in harmony with the spirit of the Bible, as to redeem itself from every reproach, and to be universally acknowledged as a blessing to the world.
6. We may sec, from this sulject, WHY THERE IS SO LITTLE TRULY GOOD AND PROFITABLE PREACH
An anonymous writer, in a late number of a listinguished foreign journal, remarks, that “the eloquence of the pulpit, generally speaking, turns very peculiar advantages to a very moderate account.” Although I have no doubt that my estimate of true excellence in gospel preaching, would be found to differ greatly from that of the writer in question; yet the remark just quoted, however humiliating, is, doubtless, founded in fact. Considering the amount of preaching; and considering, too, the scope, the subjects, the opportunities of leisurely
preparation, the excitements, and the almost unlimited field of usefulness, furnished to the christian preacher, I do think the examples of high excellence, and of extensive benefit, in this department of exertion, are wonderfully few and small, compared with what might be reasonably expected. It is by no means a sufficient answer to this complaint, to say, that great talents are extremely rare; and that a very high grade of eloquence, in any profession, is still more rare. This is, no doubt, true. And if distinguished genius, and first-rate eloquence, measured by the precepts of Cicero, Longinus, or Quintilian, were necessary to form a good preacher ; the great majority of clerical men might hold themselves guiltless in being very inferior preachers. But these, however desirable and useful in their place, are far from being necessary, to great excellence, and eminent usefulness in gospel preaching A man of enlightened, fervent piety, medium talents, and mature biblical and theological furniture, may preach well ;--sufficiently well to be a rich blessing to any community. There is not one of you, my young friends, who, if his heart were warmed and elevated as it ought to be, with livng, active piety, and if he took suitable pains to store his mind with appropriate knowledge, might not be a preacher of great excellence, and of extensive usefulness. The fire of zeal would supply the lack of artificial refinements, and pour forth a constant stream of eloquence, irregular, perhaps, and plain, but truly sanctified, feeling, and, therefore,
impressive in its character. The true reason, then, why we have so little good and profitable preaching, is, that, among those who attempt to perform this service, there is so little deep, warn, heart-felt piety; and so little of that patient, indefatigable labour, to store the mind with knowledge, and to attain an easy, natural, forcible method of communicating it, which are within the reach of most ordinary minds, supremely intent on doing good. Some of the most useful preachers that ever entered the pulpit, have been men not at all distinguished either for great genius, profound learning, or striking elocution. But they never failed to be distinguished for good sense, christian prudence, fervent love for their Master's cause, and for immortal souls, and untiring perseverance in holy labour. And, rely upon it, whoever will steadfastly exhibit these, in any church or country, will attain high excellence, and great acceptance and usefulness as a gospel preacher.
7. From what has been said, it is evident, that, while we greatly need a much larger number of ministers; WE STILL MORE URGENTLY NEED AN INCREASE IN MINISTERIAL PIETY, ZEAL, AND FIDELITY. That there is a real, nay, a most distressing deficiency in the number of labourers employed in the “great harvest,” in almost every part of our country, every well-informed person knows to be a fact. Taking into view the missionary, as well as the pastoral service, it is probably safe to affirm, that if we had a thousand able and faithful men, added, at once, to our present number of ministers, they