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“what is the cheapest possible rate at which this office can be made permanent ?" A consequence of this is a feeling, that the office is as subordinate in its character, as it is in its prospects of remuneration, to him who shall think of entering upon it. Here, I believe, lies the principal difficulty of obtaining the services of those in this field of labor, who shall be at once disposed to its duties, and most thoroughly fitted to perform them. Permit me to speak freely on this subject, for I ask no additional compensation for myself. But I am most solicitous, that the service shall be begun in a manner, which will secure its continuance as long as there shall be poor in our city to require it.
The office of a minister at large, for the service of the poor, is viewed by many, as they have learned to view the office of a missionary to the heathen. All, it is thought, which is required in either, is, a deep piety, a benevolent heart, and an earnest desire to do good ; qualities, indeed, which are of the first importance in men who are engaged in either of these employments, but by no means alone sufficient for the duties of either. I do not mean to imply, that there have not been learned and sensible men, who were qualified by their talents and attainments for any station in the church, who, with a spirit of self-sacrifice worthy of the best days of our religion, have gone out as missionaries; and, after having lived in the greatest denials and endurances, have died martyrs to the cause they have espoused. Each of the continents, and many of the great islands of our globe, contain the dust of many of these worthy followers of him who died for man. But they consecrated their lives as well to personal poverty, as to the work of
seeking and saving them that were lost. Our talented and powerful men, it is thought, are wanted for the warfare that is to be maintained against error in the high places at home. And in the city, above all places, the importance and dignity of employments and offices, will be graduated, in the public estimation, by the compensation which they command. The proposition, therefore, to allow six, or even eight hundred dollars a year, as the salary of a minister at large, has been met, as it might have been anticipated that it would have been met, with the sentiment, that this is the work of an inferior order of the clergy; and that a character and talents are required for it, of a very subordinate class to those which are required for our pulpits, and for the more improved circles of our society. This, however, I think to be a great mistake. The office, in my view of it, inadequately as its duties are now performed, will give full scope for the energies of the best mind that can be obtained for it; and the good to be done in it, I am persuaded, is not to be exceeded in any other department of ministerial labor.
In the first place, allow me to say a few words respecting the character of the religious and moral instruction which is to be dispensed to the poor. What should this instruction be, and what is the character of the mind that is qualified to give it ?
There is indeed, among the poor, great ignorance of moral and religious subjects; and in many, an obtuseness, and even an obduracy, which are greatly discouraging to a mind that is impatient for immediate success. And there are those who are not only indisposed to receive
nstruction, but who utterly reject it; whose improvement is yet to be sought, and may often be obtained. But are
such as these to be found only among the poor? Or, is it thought that there are none others than such as these among the poor? I have not found, indeed, among those of this class whom I visit, the high order of intellect, which exists in our religious congregations. But I have found those, who are not only serious, but sensible, and inquisitive. And I have found, too, sceptics, and infidels, who have thought themselves able to defend their doubts, and their unbelief. There is often, also, much error,--I mean practical error, and of a most dangerous character, in the minds of those who have been partially instructed, which requires at least some enlargement of mind, and some acquaintance with human nature, as well as benevolence and zeal, for their correction. Looking then only at this part of the service, I would ask, how much less of ministerial talent,--of ability to teach, of knowledge, judgment, moral power and moral character, are required for this department of the duty of a minister at large, than in the service of a minister in one of our congregations ? Nay, I would inquire of any minister of our congregations, who is faithful to the poor of his flock,-solicitous to “feed them with knowledge and understanding,". whether he often finds an opportunity for a better use of his attainments and his skill as a minister, among the intelligent and the rich, than is to be found among the poor of his charge? Others may not be affected by this view of the subject, as I am. But let them become bet. ter acquainted with the poor, and set themselves seriously * to the work of their christian instruction, with a view to their largest possible comprehension of christian principles, and their greatest attainable improvement as disciples of Christ, and I will then consent to abide by their decision.
I would not, however, have a minister at large to be separated from his brethren around him in the ministry. I am not myself able to preach more than once on Sunday; nor could I even perform my evening service, if I were not assisted by the gentlemen who take a part in it with
But I should be grateful to see this office taken into the charge of our religious congregations, and a minister at large ordained as an adjunct laborer with three or four other ministers, by whose societies he would be supported, and in whose pulpits he would preach successively half a day of every Sunday; his second service being in the evening, for the particular benefit of those of the poor who cannot attend public worship in the day. Let him have no other connexion with these societies, than that of an associate preacher, whose pastoral duties are to be wholly among those, who would otherwise have no pastor; and to these societies let him give his quarterly or semiannual reports, which may be printed in whole, or in part, or kept in manuscript for future use, as circumstances may require. This division of the expense required for the support of such a minister, would make the burden to be light, very light, when compared with the magnitude of the benefits that would result from his ministry. This connexion with ministers at large would give an important relief to the clergy of our congregations, who often suffer greatly, and even lose their health, from the demands that are made upon them. It would do much to keep alive, and wisely to direct, the sympathy of our religious societies, in the wants and sufferings of
And it would do more, I think, than could otherwise be done, to secure for the poor the services of pastors, whose labors would be at once a blessing to them, and to the city..
In the second place, if you will look at those departments of duty in this service, to one or more of which the attention of a minister at large may every day be called, which are not indeed wholly spiritual, but which are intimately connected with the best moral interests, both of the individual and of society, I think it will be perceived, that a Christian minister of very good gifts and acquisitions would not be wasting his mind in this employment of it.
The occasions are of very frequent occurrence, in which advice and assistance,- I do not here mean pecuniary assistance, -are wanted by the poor, in their secular affairs. This, it will be said, requires a man who knows the world, and who connected with the world around him. And such I would have a minister at large to be. Not a man, indeed, who is engaged in trade, or merchandise ; but one who will know how to avail himself of the facilities, which men in business can give him, of obtaining employment for the poor, of extricating them from temporary difficulties, and of bringing them into the way of self-support. There are cases, also, of great vice, and of great difficulty, in which a minister at large, whose character and station will command respect, may sometimes exert an influence, which is beyond the reach of the civil laws. He will become acquainted with many, who have suffered the penalties of law; and he may save some from these penalties, who would otherwise inevitably incur them. He will visit also in the families of those, who are confined for crime, and of those whose crimes, although they have not brought them to prison, are exposing those around them to the greatest dangers, and actually bringing upon them the greatest wretchedness.