Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

wearisome. When they do attend, it is rather a matter of form. The preacher is too frequently a stranger to them, seems to overlook them, has no word of address directed to them. Being without interest in the services, they sometimes imbibe, not only toward the sanctuary, but often also toward the Sabbath, an aversion which tinges and influences their whole lives. But if children feel that the preacher is their friend; if he has a kind word for them when he visits the family; if he speaks to them by name when he meets them in the street; if he takes an interest in their studies and gives them a word of encouragement; then they will love to attend the church services, delighted to meet him. Their presence will also be an inspiration to him. As he looks into their bright eyes and expectant countenances, and remembers what an influence they may exert for Christ, he will be anxious to speak some word that shall draw them early to the loving Saviour. He will think of them in his study when he is preparing his sermon; he will think of them when he bends his knees in prayer and implores a blessing on his congregation. While he prepares to feed the sheep, he will think also of the little lambs. His sermons will be more simple in their style, more brief and pointed in their sentences, and some incident will be interwoven which will touch the hearts of the children. That simplicity, that illustration, will also touch the hearts of those who are older. Indeed, there is no way by which the good will of mothers can be gained so readily as by acquaintance with their children, and especially that acquaintance which manifests a deep interest for their mental and moral excellence. Fathers, also, will unite in this good will. The preacher who wins the heart of childhood finds the parents drawn to his church and listening with profit to his ministry. The story of Themistocles is well known. He said once of his little boy: “ This child is greater than any man in Greece. For the Athenians command Greece; I command the Athenians; his mother commands me; and he commands · his mother.'"

But, notwithstarding the manifest benefits resulting from pastoral work, there are preachers who have a great distaste for its duties. They think they need the time for their studies.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

They are timid about visiting families, and they think the associations in many instances would be both unpleasant and unprofitable. Such preachers are greatly mistaken as to the elements that they especially need. Pastoral visiting furnishes just that supplement to the library which the successful preacher absolutely requires. In his books he gains a knowledge of subjects which require abstract thought. He dwells in an intellectual realm of unchanging beauty. He has around him the best productions of the grandest minds which have graced our earth. No wonder is it that he desires to spend the larger portion of his time in such fellowship and communion. But he needs not only great thoughts; but to learn how to apply them to humanity in all the walks of life. He lives in an intellectual life; his thoughts are of the past; his visions of the future. He does not come into contact with the harrassing cares and thoughts which agitate the bosom of the working man. As Christ came down from Heaven and walked among men, so must the minister come out of his study, away from the communion with almost angelic minds, and walk in the common paths of life. This is not only a duty, but it is an essential requisite to the highest ministerial

He must be a man among men, to gain their affections, and to share their sympathies. He must walk with them side by side; he must take their hands in his; he must take, to some extent, on his heart their burdens and sorrows and cares. His ministry will be thus improved and enlarged. He will speak with a sympathy, tenderness, and love unknown before. The deep feeling which he acquires in talking with his people will tinge the very tones of his voice and make them sympathetic, and the poorest in his congregation will feel that his words of sympathy and encouragement were meant for them.

Nor should he hesitate to visit because he is timid. That very timidity gives a crowning grace to his work. His people will feel that he comes to see them not because he delights in the work of visiting, but because he wishes to do them good. He comes as a messenger from God, and he brings a divine message. His spirit will be one of tenderness and love; his conversation pure and instructive ; his movements in the family

success.

pofte

bezhine

[blocks in formation]

kind and elevated ; his manner free from low familiarity and haughty reserve; his conversation will tend toward the point for which he came. He will, indeed, speak kindly, and sympathize with their afflictions, and share in their cares; but he comes to represent his Saviour, and to drop some word which shall stimulate to duty, and which shall inspire to a higher life. In the spirit of his Master, he will be in an atmosphere of prayer. He has visited because it was his duty; he has the promise that his. Master will be with him to bless his labours; and so the words which he utters and the spirit which he manifests become a benediction to the family-yes, a benediction to himself, for he leaves such a place more like Christ than when he entered it.

Nor must these visits be confined to the wealthy and educated. The

poor and the uneducated need more help than those who are prosperous. If there be poor-houses, prisons, or hospitals within your sphere, neglect them not. The Great Head of the Church puts Himself in the place of His weakest followers, and gays to those who fail to perform this duty: “I was sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not.And when the wondering heart asks how or when, He replies: "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.” But, if the visit. is made; if the hunger and thirst be assuaged; if the naked are clothed, and the stranger cared for; how sweet the accents : “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." I shall never forget how vividly this passage came to my mind, as an illustration of human feeling, when once I was travelling in Eastern lands. I was in feeble health, and thought it doubtful whether I should ever see my family again. One day I received a letter narrating an act. of kindness which had been performed for my youngest child by a friend. In a moment my heart leaped across the sea, and in grateful recognition of the favour I said in my thoughts to my friend : “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me." It was to me more precious. when done in my absence to my little child than had it been done when present for myself. A sweet charm has rested in my mind on these words ever since. It seems to me that Jesus is

150

Encouragement for the Timid.

66

Parach

er

better pleased with a cup of cold water given in the name of a
disciple” than He was when the woman of Samaria gave to His
weary lips a draught from Jacob's well.
If
any

of you are troubled with timidity, and think you cannot visit because you are timid, let me say for your encouragement that I think I was as timid as you can possibly be. When coming to the years of a young man, it was a positive pain for me to visit the houses even of friends. Many a time I walked by the door of a neighbour's house, waiting five or ten minutes for some one to come out of the door, rather than knock and enter in. So bashful was I that many a time I walked around the square rather than meet a young lady whom I saw coming toward me on the street. I had much of this timidity when I entered the ministry. The palms of my hands sometimes burned at the very thought of going out to visit. But I felt I must go; the Church bade me go; I had promised God I would go; and as the soldier in the army walks forward timidly, yet determinedly, into the thickest of the fight, so I went in my Master's name. If I could, I took with me some experienced Christian friend. I spoke to the people kindly; drew out of them their religious condition and experience; found many a wandering one, and tried to comfort many a sorrowing heart. Such visits made me better, taught me to feel for the people, and to break for them the bread of life with more fitness. In a revival which followed, out of nearly three hundred who came to the altar for prayer there were very few with whom I had not previously conversed ; and I knew how to enter into their sympathies, and to point them to the Lamb of God.

Nor will this visiting, if properly performed, interfere with the minister's time for study. After the morning has been devoted to study, the minister needs a change of occupation which will give him exercise and recreation. His going to and fro in his pastoral visiting, his climbing stairways to reach the needy, his walking in the suburbs of cities or in country villages, will furnish him with an exercise as invigorating to health as the amusements in which so many spend their leisure hours. Indeed, so far from being at a loss intellectually,

[blocks in formation]

the opportunity to unfold some passage of Scripture on which we have dwelt' makes us see more clearly the truth which we wish to portray, and in this way be better prepared for the sermon on the coming Sabbath. The true teacher is often more benefited than his scholars by the lesson he imparts.

It does not fall into my province to enter into the modes in which this work may be performed; nor do I wish to dwell upon them. But I may say that all coarseness, vulgarity, and low expression should be strictly avoided. There should be cheerfulness and kindness, but no undue familiarity. We enter the houses of friends because we are endorsed by the Church. The office of the minister gains for us invitation where we are personally but little known. We go in the character of Christian gentlemen and of holy men of God. If we do not so conduct ourselves, we violate propriety, disappoint our friends, and bring reproach upon the ministry of the Church. Every family should feel, when we leave, that a servant of the Lord Jesus has been among them; and some influence should remain which will make religion appear more beautiful and heavenly.

It is, however, in its reflex infuence upon the pulpit that we consider this subject. Without such visiting, sermons will be likely to become mere essays full of thought and learning, perhaps, but not specially directed to the audience. The minister must be a student of human nature. He needs to mingle with society in all its forms and to understand its various necessities. He must also mingle among his own congregation, and learn their experiences of sorrow and joy, of hope or fear, as they tread the daily walks of life. It is true, he may get glimpses of human nature from the writings of such skilful delineators as Shakespeare, and he may know the workings of the human mind as taught in mental philosophy; but such knowledge will be of little benefit to him compared with that derived from actual observation. What the congregation needs is the pouring forth of a heart which is filled with sympathy for their peculiar necessities and in their peculiar circumstances.

« AnteriorContinua »