Imatges de pàgina
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free from deserved infamy; except when it is found in scandalous company. But if its forerunner and its associates be pride, laziness, a fondness for good living, a want of economy, and the contracting of debts without a probability of paying them; it deserves detestation, and merits contempt—is inconsistent with virtuous conduct, and must gradually sink the character of any minister. If, on the contrary, it be found closely connected with humility and patience, with diligence, frugality, and integrity--such integrity as impels, for instance, to wear a thread-bare coat, rather than run into debt for a new one; to live on the meanest wholesome food, or to go with half a meal, rather than contract a debt which is not likely to be discharged; such penury will never disgrace, either the minister himself, or the cause of Jesus Christ. Not the minister himself. Because, in the purest state of Christianity, the most eminent servants of our divine Lord were sometimes distressed with want of both decent apparel and necessary food.* Not the cause of Jesus Christ. For his kingdom not being of this world, but of a spiritual nature; it cannot be either adorned by riches, or disgraced by poverty. Besides, the ministers of evangelical truth must be poor indeed, if in humbler circumstances than Jesus himself was, when proclaiming the glad tidings of his kingdom. It must, however, be acknowledged, that, so far as a faithful pastor is reduced to the embarrassments of poverty, merely by his people withholding those voluntary supplies which they were well able to have afforded, and to which, in common justice, equally as by the appointment of Christ, he had an undoubted right; the best of causes is disgraced, and the offenders are exposed to severe censure.

2 Cor. xi. 27. Acts iii. 6.

非 *

Were a pastor driven to the painful alternative, of either entering into some lawful secular employment; or of continuing his pastoral relation and stated ministrations, in a course of embarrassment by debts which he could not pay; the former would become his duty. Not only because we ought never to do evil that good may come; but also because it is much more evident, that he ought to owe no man. any thing; than it is, that the Lord ever called him to the ministry, or qualified him for it. But, if necessity do not impel, the following passage seems to have the force of a negative precept, respecting the christian pastor: No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. A pastor should be very cautious, not only of entering, unnecessarily, into stated secular employment; but also of accepting any trust, though apparently advantageous, in which the preservation and the management of property are confided to his integrity and prudence. For so critically observed is the conduct of a man that has the management of another's pecuniary affairs, and so delicate is a minister's character; that he is in peculiar danger of exposing himself to censure, and of injuring his public usefulness, by such engagements.

Take heed, I will venture to add, take heed to your second-self, in the person of your wife.. As it is of high importance for a young minister in single life, to behave with the utmost delicacy in all his intercourse with female friends, treating with peculiar caution those of them that are unmarried; and as it behoves him to pay the most conscientious regard to religious character, when choosing a companion for life; so, when in the conjugal state, his tenderest attention is due to the domestic happiness and the spiritual interests of his wife. This obligation, my Brother, manifestly devolves upon you; as being already a husband and a father. Next after your own soul, therefore, your wife and your children evidently claim the most affectionate, conscientious, and pious care.

* 1 Cor. xi. 1.

Nor can it be reasonably doubted, that many a devout and amiable woman has given her hand to a minister of the gospel, in preference to a private Christian, though otherwise equally deserving, in sanguine expectation, by so doing, of enjoying peculiar spiritual advantages in the matrimonial relation. But, alas! there is much reason to apprehend, that not a few individuals among those worthy females, have often reflected to the follow. ing effect:

'I have, indeed, married a preacher of the gospel ; but I do not find in him the affectionate domestic instructor, for either myself, or my chil. dren. My husband is much esteemed among his religious acquaintance, as a respectable christian character; but his example at home is far from being delightful. Affable, condescending, and pleas-, ing, in the parlours of religious friends; but, frequently, either trifling and unsavoury, or imperious and unsocial, in his own family. Preferring the opportunity of being entertained at a plenti

ful table, and of conversing with the wealthy, the polite, and the sprightly; to the homely fare of his own family, and the company of his wife and children; he often spends his afternoons and evenings from home, until so late an hour, that domestic worship is either omitted, or performed in a hasty and slovenly manner, with scarcely the appearance of devotion. - Little caring for my soul, or for the management of our growing offspring; he seems concerned for hardly any thing more, than keeping fair with his people: relative to which, I have often calmly remonstrated, and subinissively entreated, but all in vain. Surrounded with little ones, and attended with straits ; destitute of the sympathies, the instructions, the consolations, which might have been expected from the affectionate heart of a pious husband, connected with the gifts of an evangelical minister; I pour out my soul to God, and mourn in secret.' Such, there is ground of apprehension, has been the sorrowful soliloquy of mány a minister's pious, dutiful, and prudent wife. Take heed, then, to the best interests of your Second-Self.

To this end, except on extraordinary occasions, when impelled by duty, spend your evenings at home. Yes, and at an early hour in the evening, let your family and your study receive their demands on your presence, in the lively performance of social and secret devotion. Thus there will be reason to hope, that domestic order and sociability, the improvement of your own understanding, and communion with God, will all be promoted.

Guard, habitually, against every appearance of imprudent intercourse, and every indelicate fami

liarity, with the most virtuous and pious of your female friends. Be particularly cautious of paying frequent visits to any single woman who lives alone: otherwise, your conduct may soon fall under the suspicion of your neighbours, and also of your own wife, so as to become her daily tormentor; even while she believes you innocent of the great transgression. — In cases of this kind, it is not sufficient that conscience bears witness to the purity of your conduct, and the piety of your motives : for, in matters of such a delicate nature, there should not be the least shadow of a ground, either to support suspicion, or to excite surmise. There is need for us, my Brother, to watch and pray against the greatest sins--even against those to which, perhaps, we never perceived ourselves to be much inclined. For, alas! we have sometimes heard of apparently pious and evangelical ministers falling into such enormous crimes, as not only disgrace religion, but degrade humanity.

Of late, I have been much affected with the following reflection : Though, if not greatly deceived, I have had some degree of experimental acquaintance with Jesus Christ for almost forty years; though I have borne the ministerial character for upwards of twenty-five years ;* though I have been, perhaps, of some little use in the church of God; and though I have had a greater share of esteem among religious people than I had any reason to expect; yet, after all, it is possible for me, in one single hour of temptation, to blast my

character—to ruin my public usefulness-and to ren

Forty years--Twenty-five years, These dates were given July 13, 1785.

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