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healing art, in language the most pure and elegant; suppose you could collect from his lectures that he understood Latin, Greek, Arabic, etc., yet after all, if he could perform no cures, he would not be called a learned physician. Suppose another man could not lecture half so eloquently, and were perfectly ignorant of all languages except his mother-tongue, if he were more successful in practice, he would justly be deemed the wisest doctor. The clergy have the cure of souls, just the same as physicians have the cure of bodies; and as the doctor who can heal no diseases must be an ignorant quack, so the minister who can convert no sinners must be an ignorant divine.
Let us then bring the subject to the proper test. No man can be properly qualified for the ministry, who is not successful in it; and his success is to be estimated by the moral influence of his discourses upon the hearts and lives of his auditors. There may be much fine writing in his sermon; it may be adorned with the most enchanting imagery, and every period may be well turned; there may be some very learned criticisms, and the whole may be delivered in a very gentlemanlike style; but, after all, if no moral good be effected, the end of the minister is not answered, and the preacher has only been taking much pains to demonstrate his own folly. His business is to make his hearers virtuous; and he betrays his ignorance when he loses sight of this, or when his sermons are not best adapted to
It is not even pretended, that zeal for the glory of God, and salvation of men, is the chief motive which actuates most young men who enter into holy orders in the establishment. A youth is sent to school, and afterwards to college, to prepare for the ministry ; not because his mind is crucified to the world; and wholly devoted to God; - not because he burns, with holy ardour, to lead his fellow-men, in the paths of piety and virtue, to eternal glory; but because there is a valuable living in the gift of the family, or he has a promise of the next presentation from some noble patron ; or he
is too simple to gain a livelihood in any other profession. In such a case it signifies nothing if his morals and disposition are both opposed to the ministry; he must qualify for it, and then engage in it. But how does he qualify? By studying the art of training up immortal souls for heaven? Such a thought never once enters into his head! No wonder, therefore, that he does no good. The young men among the dissenters selected for the ministry, are generally persons of good natural parts and undoubted piety; who engage in the sacred employment, not from necessity, but choice : their chief study is to save souls; in this art they soon become proficients; and hence their great success.
To talk about the years spent in preparation for the ministry, and the knowledge acquired in grammar, logic, rhetoric, dead languages, philosophy, and mathematics, is quite beside the point, if the preacher has not learned the art of making men holy, just, and good. Suppose a youth were to spend seven years in learning the art of shoemaking, and when he had done, could not make a pair of shoes; would he not be taken for a blockhead ? How amusing it would be to see this dunce put on all the airs of a learned crispin, and to hear him dilate with professional consequence on his seven years' studies. He heard of some L authors, who had written well upon the art; he determined, therefore, to study Latin, that he might benefit by their labours. To qualify himself to take measure and cut out, he applied himself to geometry. Observing leather to be elastic, he studied philosophy to find out the cause of it; at first he inclined to the Cartesian hypothesis, but, afterwards, saw reason to believe that the elastic force of the air is the principle of elasticity in all other bodies. If this man's parade of learning be ridiculous, because he cannot make a pair of shoes; is it not equally silly to hear a minister boast of his literary acquirements, when he has not learned the only business belonging to his profession, which is to make men virtuous.
In all other employments, he who does his work best, is esteemed the most skilful workman; and it is just as true that he who makes the best christians is the most learned divine. If a tinker convert more sinners from the error of their ways than a bishop, he is more learned, in spite of his dirty face and apron, than the episcopal gentleman with all his robes of sacerdotal importance. “He that winneth souls is wise.”
ON MINISTERIAL QUALIFICATIONS.
When a knowledge of christianity is said to be the only qualification absolutely necessary to a minister of the gospel, the proposition requires explanation. Virtue is as necessary as knowledge, but no wicked man can thoroughly understand the christian religion.
I. Virtue is necessary to a minister of the gospel. One great end of the institution of the ministerial office is to make men virtuous; and no instructions are of any value, any further than as they tend to purify the heart and regulate the conduct. A mere knowledge of duty is not a sufficient inducement to men
to practise it, or there would be no wilful sin
Religion, therefore, must be enforced as well as explained. But no wicked man can press the motives of religion with sufficient earnestness: First. Because he does not feel their force upon his own mind. Secondly. Because conscious guilt must paralyse his exertions. Thirdly. Because his own conduct must destroy their influence upon the minds of his auditors.
“ The carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” This is as true of the clergy as of the laity; and hence, in the nature of things, a carnal priest cannot feel a disposition to convert sinners to piety and virtue; on the contrary, he will do all in his power to prevent it. Our Lord complained of the wicked Jewish teachers,
that they prevented those from entering the kingdom of heaven who were about to enter; (Matt. xxiii. 13;) and the apostle lays it down as a principle, that he who is after the flesh will persecute him who is after the spirit; (Gal. iv. 29 ;) and that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. (2 Tim. iii. 12.) Ungodly priests have always betrayed as strong a disposition as any body of men whatever to persecute the righteous : to suppose, therefore, that they will seriously endeavour to make others virtuous, is as foolish as to expect that Satan will cast out Satan. With them genuine piety is cried down as enthusiasm and fanaticism; and strict morality, as preciseness and fleshly perfection,
There is an established order in the moral world as well as in the natural. The Almighty has no more appointed vice to propagate virtue, than he has appointed the frost of winter to produce vegetation. According to this established order, everything naturally generates its own kind. Vice begets vice; hence the scripture adage : “ Like priest like people.” The vices of a priest are very prolific; they produce some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundred fold. The iniquities of the Jewish nation are traced to its teachers, as their origin : "The leaders of my people have caused them to err.”
God has expressly forbidden wicked men to teach religion. “ Unto the wicked, God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and casteth my words behind thee.” (Psalm i. 16, 17.) Our Saviour has cautioned his followers against them: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matt. vii. 15, 16.) “ By their fruits,” cannot be meant, as some have thought, their doctrines, but their lives. Figurative as the passage is, it indicates, with sufficient clearness, that the false teacher, — the wolf in sheep's clothing,- is a hypocrite ; we cannot, however, infallibly infer the state of a man's mind from his preaching; if his doctrine be bad, he may sincerely believe it, in which case he is not guilty of hypocrisy. Besides, our Saviour goes on to describe the fate of these false prophets at the last day; and in this account their hypocrisy is not supposed to consist in a disagreement between their professions and doctrines, but between their professions and lives. “Not every one which saith unto me, Lord ! Lord ! shall enter into the kingdom heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Their orthodoxy is not disputed; they are allowed to plead, “Lord! Lord ! have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" But the Judge will sternly reply, “I never knew you. Depart from me ye that work iniquity.'
Wicked ministers must do infinite mischief. Hear the apostle's cutting expostulation with an immoral Jewish teacher: “ Thou art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law. Thou, therefore, which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself ? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege ? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law, dishonourest thou God ?” (Rom. ii. 19, 24.) What was the effect of this man's preaching ? “ For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” Such always has been, and always will be, the fruit of such a ministry.
The apostle Peter speaks to the same purpose : “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves