« PreviousContinue »
it: and if we find preserving our innocence difficult, let us meddle the less with these matters : for indeed being overy-busy about them is not very suitable to our function. But while we are strict with ourselves, let us be very mild in regard to others, whom we think to have done amiss : we may blame them without cause; or if we do not, it is easy to err; and we, amongst others, are sadly liable to faults. But let us be especially mild towards our own brethren. For why should we diminish our little remaining strength by intestine dissensions, and teach yet more persons to think ill or meanly of us, than do already? Surely the common cause of religion and virtue, which we are jointly intrusted to support, should have infinitely greater force to unite us, than any thing else to divide us.
Next to yourselves, you will study to preserve as many of your parishioners as possible, from the sins that so easily beset them at these seasons of epidemical unreasonableness and licentiousness. Those, who are of your own side, you may counsel and reprove more freely. With the rest you must be extremely calm and patient : take the most favourable opportunities, and use the most persuasive methods of speaking: but in some way or other, private or public, all, who need it, should be told, whether they will bear, or whether they will forbear, that the great Christian laws of dutifulness to superiors, mutual goodwill, forbearance, forgiveness, equity, veracity, moderation, sobriety, lose not the least of their obligation during the continuance of these disputes : that all virtues are to be chiefly exercised, when they are chiefly tried : and that therefore now more particularly, you, as the Apostle directs, must put them in mind, and they must keep in mind, to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men *, I end this long discourse in the words of the same Apostle: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are venerable (for so the word is rightly translated in the margin), whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of and do these things : and the God of peace shall be with you t. * Tit. iii. 1, 2.
DELIVERED TO THE
CLERGY OF THE DIOCESE OF CANTERBURY,
IN THE YEAR 1758.
The Disposer of all things having permitted his Majesty, by the advice of his faithful servants, to nominate me for your bishop: though I saw many reasons to dread this promotion, arising from the difficulties of the office and of the times, from the great qualities of my predecessors, and my own increasing weaknesses; yet I thought myself bound to obey his commands, and with the same gratitude for his favourable opinion, as if I had wished to receive them : determining, through God's grace, to perform the duties of my station as well as I could; and hoping for the candour, the assistance, and the prayers of good people. To make some amends by diligence for my deficiencies in other respects, I resolved immediately to visit my diocese : for which purpose we are here assembled.
These meetings were designed, partly to give the clergy opportunities of conferring with each other, and consulting their superiors, on matters relating to their profession; and I am very desirous, that you should render them as beneficial in this way, as possible: but principally, to give bishops opportunities of exhorting and cautioning their clergy, either on such general subjects as are always useful, or on such particular occasions as the circumstances of things, or the inquiries, made at or against these times, point out; and of interposing their authority, if there be need; which amongst you, I am persuaded, there will not. To provide more fully for your instruction, I have ordered a charge to be sent you, which I delivered to the clergy of Oxfordshire, and printed at their request, about twenty years ago. Would to God it were become unseasonable now. But as unhappily it is not, I earnestly recommend the contents of it to your most serious thoughts : and would have you look on what I shall at persent say further, as supplemental to it.
Counsels and admonitions to parochial ministers presuppose their residence. The founders of parishes provided them with glebes, and built houses for them, purposely that they might reside. The laws of the church have from the beginning, and do still require, as indeed common equity doth, that this valuable consideration, for which these endowments were given, should be faithfully paid. And going over and performing the service from time to time, or engaging some other clergyman to take care of it, or of the occasional part of it, seldom answers the original intention. Your people will not so readily, and cannot so conveniently, apply to the minister of another parish: and when they do, his assistance, for the most part, will be less early, or less constant, than
it should : though doubtless they, who have undertaken to supply their neighbours' absence, ought to do it very conscientiously. But besides even the Sunday duty, when the incumbent unnecessarily comes from a distant place to do it, will be considered as accompanied with something like a breach of the Sunday, will not always be kept to the stated hours, will often be hurried over indecently: the catechism will either not be taught or not expounded, if the distance be at all considerable ; nor probably will the sermon be well adapted to the audience. For it is only living amongst your people, and knowing them thoroughly, that can shew you, what is level to their capacities, and suited to their circumstances ; what will reform their faults, and improve their hearts in true goodness. Yet this is your business with them: and unless you perform it, every thing else is nothing. Further, such as want your help most may not come to your sermons, or may not apply them to their own case, or may need to have them enforced by considerations peculiar to themselves, and unfit to be specified in public. Speaking to them separately, and agreeably to their several states of mind and life, may have unforeseen influence. And being always at hand, to order the disorderly, and countenance the well-behaved, to advise and comfort the diseased and afflicted, to relieve or procure relief for the necessitous, to compose little differences, and discourage wrong customs in the beginning, to promote friendly offices, and keep up an edifying and entertaining conversation in a neighbourhood, must add incredible weight to public instruction.
Indeed your congregations expect these things from you, and have a right to expect them. The nature of your office requires them : you have all at