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EPHESIANS, IV. 11.
AND HE GAVE SOME........ PASTORS AND TEACHERS.
Next to the divine art of preaching, which was the impressive theme of discourse at our last annual meeting, the pastoral duties and relations of a minister, claim, if I mistake not, the highest regard of this Association. I shall therefore offer no apology, my
fathers and brethren, for taking the word pastor in its more limited and popular sense, and calling your attention to the qualifications, duties, and high responsibilities which plainly belong to this sacred office. And though it would become me better to sit at the feet of age and experience, than to offer my own sentiments, I shall, in discharging the duty which you have assigned me, speak freely, as I know you will hear me patiently and candidly.
I. Of pastoral qualifications. Without promising a complete enumeration under this head, and much less a finished portrait of the good pastor,
1 shall submit the following hasty sketch.
First; he is a man of deep and unfeigned piety. However men of evangelical views and principles may differ on some other points, they can have but one opinion here. Piety is the life and soul of pastoral fidelity. Without it every thing must be forced and heavy, if not positively irksome. For how can a pastor form any just estimate of the worth of the souls committed to his charge, if he has never learned the value of his own? How can he realize the weight of his responsibility till he sees it in the light of eternity, and how can he see it in this light if his own eyes have never been opened? If the love of Christ does not constrain him, what can bear him on through evil as well as good report, in the discharge of duty ? What shall sustain him under the trials and discouragements of the ministry; What shall rouse him to action when neither honour, nor pleasure, nor profit invites; but when all worldly motives conspire to discourage and impede him? If piety has found no lodgement in his bosom, if the love of souls is not there, what shall counteract the sluggishness of his own fallen nature, and induce him to follow his very enemies with prayers and entreaties, to the mouth of the pit into which they are plunging ?
Every pastor must be with his flock in times of trouble and danger. He must see them when flesh and heart are failing ; when earth is receding, and the awful portals of eternity are opening. He must accompany them to the entrance of the dark valley, and as it were dip his own feet in Jordan, as they
cling to him, till torn away they sink in its cold flood. And how, if he has never • tasted that the Lord is gracious,” shall he talk to them of those “joys with which no stranger intermeddleth.” How shall he recommend to them a Saviour whom he has never loved, and point out the way to heaven which he has never learned ? How poorly, how miserably qualified must an unconverted pastor be, to “ visit the widows and the fatherless in their affliction; to comfort mourners in Zion,” to bind
up the wounds of his flock, or indeed to discharge any other ministerial duty !
SECONDLY; the christian pastor should be a man of good natural abilities. I will not say, that great talents are ordinarily indispensable in the mind istry: I do not believe they are. But I do not see on the other hand, how a weak man successfully discharge all the critical and arduous duties of the pastoral office, even in a small parish, He may deserve all possible credit for good intentions ; he may be loved and even rerered for his piety ; but how can his judgement be confided in-who shall go to him for counsel in the trying emergency-or how is it possible for him ever to gain that general influence which is so essential to much usefulness ? To say nothing of public instruction, how can a man of feeble intellect preside in the church, refute error, take the lead in difficult cases of discipline, instruct the ignorant, reclaim the wandering and convince gainsayers ? Surely it is not enough that a man have fervent piety and an earnest desire to
be“ put into the priests office!” His talents must be respectable—he must have at least an ordinary share of good common sense.
And this leads me to say, that not even every highly gifted and cultivated and pious mind is formed for usefulness in the pastoral office. A man may grasp the spheres with Newton, or soar above all created heights with Milton, or trace the mysterious operations of mind with Locke and Edwards--he may possess all that is brilliant in genius or profound in talents and yet lack what we term common sense. . And so sure as he lacks this he can never be a useful pastor. He must first come down, or come up, and live and commune and think with common men.
THIRDLY ; the christian pastor should be a man of education. That a good share of human learning is requisite in a public teacher, is now so generally admitted, as to require no argument. But the friends of religion are not, perhaps, so well united on the point just specified. Some may suppose that men can succeed better as pastors without much knowledge than as preachers. But I am not aware, that palpable ignorance appears to any better advantage out of the desk than in ; and appear it often will, in the intercourse of a pastor with his flock, when his education is materially deficient. He cannot choose his own positions when exposed to attack, or hide his own weakness; but must go forth daily to meet all classes of men upon their own ground. How extremely embarrassing, without armour, to encoun
ter talent and knowledge, enlisted as they too often are on the side of error and the world ? How can a pastor of small attainments enlighten and instruct the ignorant of his flock, and how much less can he secure the respect and confidence of the enlightened ? In here and there an instance, the fervent piety and plain good sense of an unlettered minister, combined with other rare qualifications may give him influence and respectability, but how seldom will this be the case; and when it is the case, how much more good might he do, had he enjoyed early and ample advantages for the cultivation of his own mind.
FOURthly; maturity of age and judgement and a considerable acquaintance with mankind, are essential qualifications for the pastoral office. I have long thought that ministers are apt to settle too early in life, and every year's observation goes to strengthen and confirm this opinion.
When a young man of sanguine temperament and glowing piety, looks abroad upon a world lying in wickedness, and hears the daily call for more labourers, he is not unfrequently so impatient to be in the field, that every month of preparation seems a year. How can he linger in College, or remain in a Theological Seminary, when souls are perishing, and he might be preaching the everlasting Gospel to them and perhaps saving many from going down to the pit? Thus he plausibly reasons, and the benevolence of his motives I shall not question.