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But I am fully convinced that many of our youth who have the ministry in contemplation, and not a few of their friends and patrons take a limited and partial view of this great subject. They seem to think, that the earlier a man enters the spiritual field, the longer time he will have to labour ; and that the amount of good done must be exactly proportional to the time employed in doing it. But I conceive it is by no means certain, that a young man who takes the oversight of a church and congregation at the age of twenty one or two, will labour more years in the vineyard, than another who is ordained at twenty eight, or even later ; or than he himself would, had he waited a few years longer. On the contrary, I am strongly inclined to think, that upon an average, those ministers who are settled near the
age of thirty, actually preach as many years as those who commence eight, or ten years earlier. And there are obvious reasons why it should be so. The work of the ministry is a great work. The duties of a pastor are extremely arduous, especially at first. They require much physical as well as intellectual vigor. But the constitution is not ordinarily consolidated much under the age of thirty. From twenty to twenty five it is yet in its greenness, and of course incapable of sustaining that constant pressure of care and toil, which is inseparable from the pastoral office. Hence, chiefly, so many invalids in the sacred profession. Hence so many blighted hopes, bereaved churches and early graves. Let our youthful Levites then, who are chiding the sluggish years
that keep them away from the altar, repress their premature aspirations, and rather esteem themselves happy in being allowed ample time for preparation. They will find it quite another thing to have the care of one or two thousand souls, from what they are apt to anticipate ; and after a year's experience will be much more likely to wish they had waited longer, than to regret that they did not settle
But supposing it morally certain, that the minister who enters the desk at twenty, will labour ten years longer than if he had waited till thirty, it by no means follows that he will do more good. The usefulness of a minister, for any given time, must depend upon his christian experience, his theological attainments, the maturity of his judgement, the weight of his personal character, and his acquaintance with men and things. And it cannot surely be doubted, that other things being equal, the man of thirty has a sounder judgement, and more general knowledge, and greater weight of character, and in short, is in most respects better qualified for the pastoral office than the youth of twenty one. Of course, the former enters the sacred profession under far better advantages than the latter, and with the same degree of zeal and faithfulness can do more good in the same time.
I appeal to you my brethren, whether you have not known young preachers of fine talents and great promise, exceedingly deficient in pastoral qualifications; and of course, extremely embarrassed in dis
charging the ordinary duties of the ministry ? Has not the usefulness of some been greatly circumscribed by rashness, by timidity, or by palpable errors in judgment, which the ripening of a few more years might have prevented ? For my own part, I cannot but think, that many of the difficulties which ultimately end in dismission, originate in the want of
age and experience at first; and that from the same causes, not a few are led in the commencement of their ministry, to sacrifice their own judgement and independence, so as never to gain that influence, either at home or abroad, which might have been established and turned to the very best account.
Indeed, when we turn our attention for one moment to the responsibilities of the pastoral office; when we think of its ever varying, and continually pressing and arduous duties; when we consider what maturity of christian experience, what wisdom, what prudence, what meekness, what forbearance are required ;-how can a youth just passing from his minority, a child almost, be adequate to such a station ? especially, how can he grow up to his full stature under all the pressure of weekly preparations for the desk, of hourly hindrances and exhausting parochial duties, in a great and popular congrega tion? Will you insist upon age and experience in your representative at a foreign court, or in any station of great civil responsibility at home, and at the same time, count these qualifications unimportant in the ambassador of Christ, in one to whom are committed the eternal interests of thousands ? .
I confess it weighs much with me, that under the Jewish ceremonial law no man could be invested with the priests' office till he was thirty years of age ;-for although this law is not binding upon us as it was upon the sons of Aaron, still there must have been a reason for it. Infinite wisdom decided that it was inexpedient for them to exercise the sacred function at an earlier age, and surely it cannot be supposed, that the office of a christian minister is less arduous, or less responsible, than that of the priests' was in the tabernacle, or the temple.
An additional remark under this head is, that even maturity of age and judgement is not sufficient to qualify a man for the pastoral office, without a considerable acquaintance with the world and knowledge of human nature. When a youth who has had little previous intercourse with mankind, passes at once from the Academy to the College, thence to the Theological Seminary, and from that to an important parish, how can he be fitted for his station ? He
be extremely well read in his profession, may be deeply versed in sacred criticism and controversial theology, and may preach with great ability, and at the same time, be a mere novice, every where out of his study and pulpit.
Now will you put such a candidate at once into the ministry ? Will you commit to him all the momentous interests of a church and society ? Is it kindly done ? Is it right thus to overlook his inexperience, and jeopardize the prosperity of a religious community ? Let him rather be advised to acquaint
himself first, with the elementary chapters at least, in the great volume of human nature. And that he may benefit others, while he is thus qualifying himself for a pastoral charge, let him inquire what he can do in Sabbath Schools and Bible Classes ;-wbat, to instruct the ignorant, to reclaim the vicious, and to better the condition of the poor and desponding. Or, let him when he has finished his studies and taken licence, devote himself, for a year or two at least, to the missionary service. There is no such preparatory school as this for instruction in pastoral duties and trials. And I cannot but regard it as auspicious to our churches at home, as well as to the scattered population of the west and south, that God is inclining the hearts of so many to seek for ultimate settlement through a course of missionary trials and labours. May he incline many more to adopt the same course.
FIFTHLY ; The christian pastor should be a man of prudence. By prudence, however, I do not mean that time-serving, man-fearing, earth-born policy, which in the desk keeps out of sight what are called the hard doctrines, and never has the rudeness to disquiet the sinner's conscience, and is so very polite and civil as never to utter the word hell without a humble apology, or to name the prince of darkness without turning him into a harmless eastern metaphor! Nor by ministerial prudence do I mean that cringing spirit, which never dares to look tiltted wickedness in the face--that asper timidity