Images de page
[ocr errors]

English Lecture or exposition of a portion of scripture, and the popular sermon are chiefly intended for trying the candidate's abilities in instructing and persuading, and consequently of his fitness for the pulpit. But this belongs to the practical part of our subject, which comes now to be considered.

The duties of a christian pastor may all be comprised under these two heads, instructing and governing. The first of these, from the different ways in which the people may be instructed, admits a subdivision into two, example and teaching. With regard to the first, the duties, in private life, of every christian are materially the same with those of the minister, Love to God and man constitutes the sum of duty in both. For this reason one at first would imagine, that this part of the subject, teaching by example, could admit nothing particular, on account of the precepts as well as of the doctrines of religion be. ing comprehended under the third branch of the former head, the christian system. But as the consideration of the design of the ministerial office affords an additional and strong obligation to the observance of every christian duty, it also in several instances renders a certain delicacy and circumspection necessary in the minister of religion, which as in others it is not expected, so the want of it in others is scarcely attended to or blamed. Every office too, and that of the ministry among the rest, hath, in respect of moral conduct, its advantages and its temptations. To improve the former, and to guard against the latter, are matters of considerable importance in every station ; and will infallibly secure the așsiduous regards of that man, who is ambitious to acquit himself honourably

and uprightly of the trust reposed in him. And if this holds in general of all offices, we may, on many accounts, justly say, that these are objects, which demand a more special attention from those, whose purpose it is to enter into the sacred function. This branch of my subject I shall call, propriety of character; and it is the first thing which claims our notice in what regards the pastoral care.

More of our success depends on the observance of it, than the

generality of men are aware of. Under this also, we may comprehend private teaching, as occasion offers, in the way of conversation, in visiting sick persons, and others; and in general, all that regards his conduct in the world as a man, in the church as a christian, and in his parish as pastor.

The other method of instructing or edifying his people is by the proper discharge of the public duties of his office, especially catechising, preaching, public worship, and the administration of the sacraments. It must be owned, that by the two particulars last mentioned, a great deal more may be said to be answered, than barely the purpose of instruction.

of instruction. They are also of considerable importance in what concerns the government and discipline of the church. But as I would avoid an over-nice distinction into parts too minute, I choose to comprise them under this head, and to style that talent which is of the utmost consequence for the useful discharge of all the duties above mentioned, christian eloquence, which is the second particular to be attended to, in what belongs to the ministerial function.

As to what concerns church government, which is another important branch of the duty of a pastor, es

may most

pecially in a constitution like ours, wherein not only the removing of scandals is committed to the care of ecclesiastical judicatories, but wherein they are also intrusted with the licensing of preachers, the only legal candidates for the ministry, the ordination of ministers, and, when necessary, the suspension also and deprivation of preachers and ministers, and (at least in what regards the executive part) the supplying of vacant parishes, beside the share they have in ecclesi. astical legislation ; this comprehensive article naturally be divided, from the consideration of the object, purity of manners, and a succession of useful pastors, into these two branches, church discipline, and ordination. Under the last of these, I comprehend not only what is strictly included under that term, but also whatever is preparatory thereto, in the trying and licensing of probationers.

Thus the four particulars that are principally necessary to be understood by us, that we may be qualified for the right discharge of the ministerial office, are, propriety of character, pulpit eloquence, church discipline, and ordination.

Beside these, there is indeed a part of the office of a minister in this country, that is purely of a civil nature, derived from the law of the land, and quite extraneous to the business of a pastor, which in strictness is only what is called the cure of souls. By this secular branch, I mean, the power with which presbyteries are vested by the legislature, in giving decrees, after proper inquiry, against the land-holders concern. ed, or heritors as we more commonly term them, for the repairing or the rebuilding of churches, manses, and parochial schools, in the taking trial and the admitting of schoolmasters, in the allotting of glebes, and perhaps some other things of a similar nature. That the presbytery in these matters does not act as an ecclesiastical court is evident, not only from the nature of the thing, but from this further consideration, its not being in these, at least in what relates to churches, manses and glebes, as in all other matters, under the correction of its ecclesiastical superiors, the provincial synod and the national assembly, but under the review of the highest civil judicatory in this country, the Court of Session.

Another kind of civil power committed to presbyteries, is the power of presenting (as some under. stand the law) to vacant parishes, upon the devolution of the right, by the patron's neglecting to exercise it for six months after the commencement of the vacancy. In this however, our ecclesiastical ideas and our political so much interfere, that the power of issuing out a presentation has never yet, as far as I know, been exerted by any presbytery, in the manner in which it is commonly exerted by lay-patrons, or in the manner in which it was formerly exerted by bishops in this country in the times of episcopacy, or in which it is at present exerted by bishops in Ireland, as well as in the southern part of the island. Presbyteries do commonly, I think, on such occasions, consult the parish, and regulate their conduct in the same manner, as though patronages were not in force by law. I should perhaps add to the aforesaid list of particulars not properly ecclesiastical, the concern which the pastor must take along with the heritors and elders of the parish in the management and disposal of the public charities, also the power of church-judicatories in appointing contributions for pious uses to be made throughout the churches within their jurisdiction.

The conduct of a minister in regard to the few cases, which in strictness are without the sphere of his spiritual vocation, is, it must be owned, extremely delicate, and not the less so, that in some of the particulars enumerated, as in what regards manses and glebes, he will naturally be considered as a party, from the similarity of situation in which they all are placed, in the very

cause in which he must act in the character of ajudge. Whether it is a real advantage to us to possess this kind of secular authority, is a question foreign to my present purpose. For my own part I am strongly inclined to think, that if the legislature had made proper provision for supplying parishes and ministers in sufficient churches and manses, by means of the civil magistrate only, it had not been the worse for us. the one hand, we should have been freed from temptations to partiality, which will no doubt sometimes influence our judgment as well as that of other men, so on the other hand, we should have been freed from the suspicion and reproach of it, from which the strictest regard to equity and right will not always be sufficient to protect us. And in a character on the

purity whereof so much depends, I must say it is of no small consequence, not only that it be unbiassed by any partial regards, but even that it be beyond the remotest suspicion of such a bias.

As the trust however is devolved upon us by the constitution, the most pertinent question is, in what manner it ought to be discharged. The point is not considerable enough to be regarded here as a separate


As on

« PrécédentContinuer »