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That is an unhappy situation which permits one to rust out his powers in sloth and indifference. He is to be pitied, whatever his employment, who does not find something in it to urge him to do with his might whatsoever his band findeth to do. A minister of the Gospel in these times has no right to be idle and negligent, and he ought not to be suffered to be
He has no right to pass off, the dull, desultory, common place production of an indolent hour, when the faithful labor of a week is needed and called for, and he ought not to be suffered to do so. He has no right so to spend his time, and employ his faculties, and exercise his function, that year after year shall go by, and he remain the same stationary piece of intellect, unimproved and unimproving, and he ought not to be suffered to do so.
We would not say these things presumptuously, as if no indulgence were needed by the clergy, and justly due to them. Much indulgence is needed constantly, kindly, and most charitably. A people must regulate their claims and expectations by many circumstances. They must not expect in the young the intellectual fruits of age. They cannot expect to see in all, the rare powers of the few great ones. They must expect inequalties in the same individual at different times and under different circumstances. They cannot expect the same things in sickness and health, in prosperity and in adversity. They cannot claim that more than one duty be done at once. They cannot forbid all relaxation. They cannot expect that all the weekly productions of a minister shall bear comparison
with the one or two choice ones, picked from a thousand, which the stranger brings to them. These things they cannot demand or expect. But they may and ought to demand reasonable evidence of constant industry, faithful effort and devotedness. This they may justly require, and for the sake of the clergy, if for no other reason, for the sake of their own self-improvement, self-satisfaction, and true happiness, we hope they always will require il, and rigidly insist upon it. We care not how far we commit the clergy on this point. We care not how high we place the standard of their duties, or how publicly we do it, or how long our words are remembered. We are aware that we have been stating and justifying principles that if strictly followed would make the clerical office a very perilous one, not to be lightly entered upon or easily discharged. It is such, and it ought to he so regarded. It is is no sinecure, and he who enters it as such, is not fit for it, and cannot adequately sustain it. It demands courage and enterprize. That soldier is not fit for the field who sees nothing inviting in the foremost post of of peril; and he is no fit soldier of the cross who covets a light armor and an easy service, who looks repiningly on hardship, and shrinks from hazardous responsibilities.
But while we admit the justice of these high claims upon the pulpit, and call on the clergy to acknowledge and answer them, we must add a word of caution. We rejoice in the advantages of such a state of things, but we are not blind to some dangerous tendencies that necessarily grow out of it. There are dangers in urging, and laboring to comply with, such claims. There
is danger that the demand for intellectual merit in sermons will interfere with the simplicity and directness that are the first and highest requisites in the preaching of the gospel. There is danger that sermons shall become orations, preaching a pageant, the preacher an exhibiter, and the gospel a mere motto-book. There is danger that liberality in religion and preaching, shall become licentiousness. The popular mind in its progress of refinement, is very liable to grow fastidious. The popular ear grows delicate, and religion is almost too rude for it. This vice must not be spoken ill of because it is fashionable, and grows out of the state of society. That gross sin must not be condemned, because there are some about who have been suspected of it. Some particular virtues must not be much insisted on, because the place is not very remarkable for those virtues. The preacher must not be over earnest in the cause of religion, lest he should seem to be fanatical, and some truths must not be much urged because they have grown homely, old fashioned and tame. There is danger that the strong and solemn words of truth and soberness be sacrificed to graces of style and newness of imagery. There is danger that the fervors of a holy religion be quenched in the cold dews of Castalia, and the inspiration of the muses, instead of the spirit of God, be invoked on the minister of religion and the altar of the sanctuary, and so the pulpit shut out its master and utter the oracles of false gods; the pulpit, that should be the unbiased expounder of the christian faith, the fearless and unyielding champion of an unqualified purity, a fervent piety, and a lofty and uncompromising morality, yield up the liberty of Christ, bend and
truckle to the changes of fashion, and cater to the public taste.
We have spoken of these dangers as being such as are naturally and unavoidably incident to the intellectual and religious state of the times. Whether, or how far they are realized by facts, or whether there is a probability that they will be so, we will not pretend to say. We speak of them as tendencies. Every state of society, has its peculiar dangerous tendencies, and those which we have spoken of seem to be the most obvious ones of the present time. We therefore deem it a duty to caution ourselves and others against them. We have an undoubted right to change the church into a play-house, or place of declamation, but call it no longer the temple of the Most High, the sanctuary, the gate of heaven. Mingle not the sacredness of prayer with its exhibitions ; call not its ministers the minisof Jesus of Nazareth, call not the sabbath a sabbath to the Lord.
We have not spoken thus in order to justify a barren, narrow, exclusive sort of preaching, as if there must be no images or allusions, or trains of thought, that are not borrowed from the Bible, or cannot be dressed in phrases of scripture. That is a bigoted and indolent reverence for the Bible, which leaves no liberty to the powers
and resources of the mind. The waters of pure religion that flow forth from the throne of God to enrich and sanctify and save the world, come in no single channel. The Bible, the revelation of Christ is one, and a most full and glorious one, but not the only. Nature, the holy works of God, with all that is beautiful and grand, gentle and solemn in thein ; history with its instructions, warnings and encouragements; Providence with its awakening and directing dealings ; the pure spontaneous sentiments of our own bosoms—all these, equally divine and heavenly, lend their streams to quicken and nurture within us a spirit that makes us religious, and leads us to God and felicity. Let him that would be a faithful and effective minister of religion, as far as in him lies, seek power and beauty and interest from all the sources that God has opened to the eye of a free mind ; from the heavens and the earth, from within, from the past, the passing and the future ; we only say let the gospel of Christ, with the spirit that breathes and the truths that speak from its pages, overshadow and possess him and be to him as an ark of the Lord, to guide and concentrate and hallow the whole. Let this be done, and then let the intellectual taste of the age be regarded and gratified. Let its wants, so far as they can be, be satisfied. Thus shall the purposes of the ministry be best accomplished, and the progress of the Redeemer's kingdom be identified with the progress of knowledge and refinement