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and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, are important parts of Divine worship, the whole of which, with the exception of singing, are to be performed by the pastor, and even over that he is to exercise a superintending control.
The sacraments, we think, should be administered publicly, and in the presence of the whole congregation, especially that of the Lord's Supper, which is a means of grace no less than the preaching of the word, and is designed to show forth the Lord's death till he come ;-a design which is partially frustrated in many churches, by improperly dismissing the congregation, and thus encouraging all to retire but the communicants, when this interesting ordinance is about to be celebrated.
The exercise of singing, also, is a part of public worship in which all the congregation should be taught to feel that they have an immediate concern, and, as far as practicable, should unite in its perfor
Promiscuous singing, in worshipping assemblies, it has appeared to me, is more conformable to primitive usage than the restriction of this service to a select choir, and is more effectual in exciting the feelings of devotion.
With respect to the exercise of prayer, and reading the scriptures, I am disposed to believe that we are not sufficiently careful in endeavouring to inculcate upon our congregations an idea of their relative importance as parts of public worship. The sermon is the exercise to which they are accustomed to look for their chief entertainment, and all the accompanying parts of divine service are regarded only as the prologue to the drama, which they wish to be as few
and as hastily disposed of as possible. As ministers, we are too apt to comply with these mistaken views, and, I may say, sinful inclinations of our hearers, particularly in either entirely omitting to read the scriptures, or in reading but a very inconsiderable portion of them. Other denominations, in this respect, we are constrained to acknowledge, are distinguished for a practice decidedly superiour to our own. What, it may be asked, is worthy of the attention of a worshiping assembly, if it be not the Word of the Living God! It is this Word, it should be remembered, when read, as well as preached, that proves as a fire and a hammer,—and is able to make men wise unto salvation. And it is still further deserving of notice, that a very large proportion of those who constitute our religious assemblies scarcely ever read the holy scriptures, or hear them read, except they are constrained to listen to them in the house of God.
In this place it may not be improper to advert to a practice, which has recently been introduced into some of the churches of our own denomination, of occasionally spending a portion of the time allotted to public worship in, what has been called, silent prayer. No such seasons or exercises, if we are not greatly mistaken, were ever observed by any religious assemblies of whose proceedings we have any account in the scriptures. The practice which seems to us to bear to it the nearest resemblance of any of which intimation is given in the Bible, is that of praying in an unknown tongue, which, inasmuch as it was not to edification, the Apostle proscribes among other disorderly practices that prevailed in the Corinthian church. But if praying in an unknown tongue is unlawful, because not to edification,
praying in no tongue-which can hardly be thought to be less edifying—for the same reason, must be equally unlawful ;-and, therefore, should be discountenanced as an unwarrantable innovation, however much of an aspect of solemnity it may seem, in the opinion of some, to throw over an assembly. Let, then, the declaration of the Apostle be deeply engraven on our memory-In the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Every thing in the public, or social worship of God that aims at the production of stage-effect, as setting apart a season for silent prayer, or calling on individuals who suppose themselves to be “friendly to Christ,” to signify it by rising from their seats—which will not unfrequently be done, where such usages are tolerated, by some, who, if they had more of modesty and wisdom, would sit still,—should be studiously avoided and resolutely resisted.
Pastoral visitations form the only remaining duty of ministers which I shall include in this branch of my discourse : And, perhaps, there is no part of their professional services that is discharged so little to the satisfaction of their people generally as this. More of this species of service is always required of them by some individuals in almost every congregation, than can possibly be performed in consistency with their other numerous and weighty avocations. In going through a large congregation, if his visits be impartially distributed, as he should aim as much as possible to have them, it will be likely to seem to each individual or household, that their pastor visits them but seldom. They are surprised, and not un
frequently grieved, that they do not see him oftener. They wish him, it is true, to be able to instruct and entertain them on the Lord's day, but they cannot very distinctly perceive why he cannot do this, and yet have leisure to be more in their society. They are attached both to his person and office-esteem it a privilege to have frequent intercourse with him, and ascribe it, perhaps, to haughtiness, or indifference towards them, that he is not at greater pains to cultivate a more intimate acquaintance with them. Now the error with these persons is, they expect too much. The occupation of a minister is much more laborious than they imagine, and in complying with their wishes it is obvious that he must pursue that course to which his own enlightened judgment shall prompt, and which his conscience and the word of God shall approve. It is certainly desirable that a minister of the gospel should be familiar with the people of his charge, and as far as consistent and practicable, that he mingle with them in their sinless social pleasures, that he freely converse with them on all topics of usefulness and interest, and manifest to them that he is a man of like passions with themselves. While religion is to be the theme on which he is principally delighted to dwell, and which he is to embrace every favourable opportunity to recommend, we can perceive no propriety in the sentiment which some adopt, that he is never to open his lips on any other subject. By assuming an excess of official sanctity, he will create around him a repulsive atmosphere, which few will venture to approach but with dread. In inspiring awe he may be successful, but in gaining the affections he will utterly fail. This, if we mistake not, is a material point in which some of the vene
rable and worthy fathers of former ages have egregiously errod, who, by their ministerial costume and demeanour, seemed so much to resemble the inhabitants of another world, as almost to destroy the belief that in them the treasure of the gospel was committed to earthen vessels. People at the present day may fear their ministers less, but it can hardly be questioned that they love them more.
At the domestic fire side the faithful and affectionate pastor will often obtain his most desirable information and communicate some of his most useful and impressive instructions. It is here that he may be pointed, personal, and powerful in his address. To the impenitent and the backsliding he may say, in a manner that shall prevent them from parrying his reproofs,—thou art the man. To the tempted and inquiring he may give the appropriate directions, and into the bosom of the afflicted and timorous believer he may pour the consolations of the gospel.
A very important and interesting part of pastoral visitations are those which are made to the sick. When called, as he often is, to the bed of the languid and dying sufferer, how responsible and trying is sometimes the situation of the pastor! I allude not now to the closing scene of a believer in the Lord; for it is often cheering and instructive to be present at such a time, to mark the perfect man, and to behold the upright, whose end is peace ;—to witness with what calm serenity he anticipates his departure from a world of sin and sorrow, and with what firm and unwavering confidence he clings to the hope which is as an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail. At such times, the employment of the pastor