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solemn obligations; towards which, I should think, it would be a notable help, if you would take the pains to cast the whole form, especially the Bishop's charge, and our own promises, into short questions and answers, to be ready at hand on occasion : though, on a second view, I find most of them are so already.
II. The second head was of your conversation and demeanour, as well personal as relative, towards your parishioners, or others. And this I choose to mention before your studies, before your oral preaching, or any other part of your office; because I verily believe, that your own pious example, and prudent and religious behaviour, will conduce more to the success of your ministry than any of the others; though you had all knowledge, though you could speak with the tongue of men and angels, though you could work the brightest miracles.
The truth is, the idea I have always formed to myself of the life and manners of a Clergyman, how we ought to behave ourselves in that most important trust, is almost as far beyond my abilities to express it, as God knows it has been beyond my own practice, which has fallen very short of it.
We meet with some expressions on this head, which are even terrible, amongst the zealous ancient Fathers. That of St. Chrysostom is very famous, and has been often quoted on this occasion. Whenever he read that to the Hebrews, “They watch for your souls, as they that must give an account,” &c., (chap xiii. 17,) it shook his very soul, and he thereupon broke out into that passionate hyperbole : “ It is a wonder if any ruler in the church should be saved !" Thereby intimating, as the learned and venerable Bishop Bull has observed, his deep sense and apprehension of the extreme difficulty and danger of the pastoral office.
None, surely, can look upon those questions which the Bishop proposes, both to the Priest and Deacon at their ordination, to be words of course only, but as the most weighty and important things in the world : “ Will you apply all your diligence to frame and fashion your own lives, and the lives of your families, (on supposition God should entrust us with any,) according to the doctrine of Christ; and to make yourself and them, as much as in you lies, wholesome examples to the flock of Christ, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh ?” To which we have all answered, “I will do so, the Lord being my helper;" whose help we shall as surely have, if we call for it at all times, by humble and diligent prayer, together with our own honest care and constant endeavours, as it is impossible to have it, and unreasonable to expect it, without them.
And therefore the Bishop prays, both for Priests and Deacons, in the next Collect after the Communion,
6* that God and me,
would so replenish them with the truth of his doctrine, and adorn them with innocency of life, that both by word and good example they may faithfully serve in that office, to the glory of his name." And it is required, even in a Deacon, by God's Holy Spirit, “ that he be of honest report, not covetous, grave, temperate, of a pure conscience, and that he be found blameless." So St. Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, sect. v., and St. Ignatius, in section ii. of his Epistle to the Trallians, advise the Deacons to avoid al} offences as they would avoid fire.
Accordingly our seventy-fifth Canon is very strict, as were the apostolical Canons; several of which it comprises together, in requiring sober conversation in Ministers. “That, unless for their honest necessities, they resort not to any tavern or alehouse ; nor give themselves to drinking or riot, or spend their time idly by day or night, in gaming, &c., always remembering they ought to excel others in purity of life, and should be examples to the people to live well and Christianly.” And this, " under pain of ecclesiastical censures, to be inflicted with severity,” which, though very terrible, when just, are yet comparatively but a small thing to that dreadful account which we must give for such miscarriages to our great Lord and Master, from whom may we all, in that day, find mercy!
One thing or two more I think proper to add on this head, of sober conversation. The first, that if the parish business should happen to call you to a public-house, as it sometimes may, though the more you avoid it whenever you can handsomely, I am sure the better; you will, I hope, be strictly careful not to stay long there, but to be exactly temperate; because I know you will have strong solicitations to the contrary, in both instances, from those who will be the first to ridicule and reproach you, if they can but so much as once prevail against you. The second is, that there is need of the same caution, and for the same reason, when you make a visit, or are invited, to private houses, unless it be amongst the poor, where there is little danger. The like caution can do you no harm when you are in gentlemen's houses round about you ; for you can hardly miss having observed, that temperance is not the reigning virtue of the north (any more than, I am afraid, it is of the south) of England. For these and the like reasons, you will likewise keep as clear as possibly you can from receiving, or at least desiring, any considerable personal obligations ; for all men are not generous, and you may hear of them again, not at all to your satisfaction, a great while after.
I do not yet know how to leave this subject, because it is of the last concern to you
and the success of our ministry does almost entirely depend upon it. I hardly know whether is the more fatal
error in a Clergyman, cauponizing the word of God, and smoothing over virtues and vices; or incurring the imminent danger of damning ourselves on pretence of hope, through any criminal compliance, to save others by staying too long, and thereby running too often with them into the same excess of riot. O fly the siren Pleasure ! and the sweeter she sings, stop your ears the closer against her; though one would think she does not sing very sweetly here; or, however, that the charms of ale and mundungus, the top of a country parish, are not exceedingly preferable to those of temperance and innocence. To be plain, what I am most afraid of is, the goodness of your temper; and if you cannot learn to say no, and to run away a little before you think there is any need of it, you will follow the worst steps of some that have been before you, and will be in a fair way to ruin. As on the other side, if you turn your eyes to your brother, you will have a living homily to direct you; for I verily think he has not once drank one glass more than he ought since he came into the country; and, if you can, find, or at least make, another like him.
I own your worthy predecessor, Mr. who had served this cure about twenty years, when I consulted him of the best way to gain my parishioners, advised me to a well-managed familiarity with them : this I endeavoured, but missed it ; you may be happier, and hit it: but then you must have a care of every step, and will need almost the wisdom of an angel of God; all intellect, no passion, no appetite, or none at least but what you have under the exactest regimen ; which you will ask of Him who is alone able to give it. Steer clear! beware of men ! conquer yourself, and you conquer all the world! Moroseness and too much compliance are both dangerous; but the latter I repent more than the former. I look upon it to have been very well becoming the wisdom of Pericles, that he would so rarely be present at feasts and public entertainments, and stay so little a while at them ; since without this precaution, as Plutarch well observes in his Life, it had been next to impossible for him to have preserved the dignity of his character, and that high veneration which he had acquired among the people. For the merry Greeks were generally wags, and great gibers, especially in their wine, to which that may very properly be applied, Quos inquinat, æquat, as well as to any other vice or wickedness. And he thought it more eligible of the two, to be accounted proud, than to be really despicable.
And yet I must own, the more conversant you are with the middle and meaner sort, which are everywhere by far the greater number, you are likely to do much the more good among them. But this would be the most effectually done by a regular visiting of
your whole parish from house to house, with the fore-mentioned cautions, as Ignatius advises Polycarp; and that even the men and maid servants.* For a good shepherd “knows his sheep by name,” which is the way for them to follow him. And if
take the name and age of every person, housekeepers, children, &c., you will by degrees become acquainted with them and witb their circumstances; who can read ; who can say their
and Catechisms; who have been confirmed; who have received the communion; who are of age to do it ; who have prayers in their families ; (I doubt, but very few ;) which, though it will be a work of some time and pains, yet will be of vast advantage to you, if
have but the constancy and happiness to accomplish it: one not inconsiderable advantage whereof will be, that you will hereby much sooner know who are in want, that you may plead for them on occasion, to me or the officers, and the best of the parish. This method I began myself twice or thrice ; but was so diverted that I could never go quite through with it since the last fire; and the families, in a dozen years, must be much altered. But to what I have of that nature by me, you are welcome, which may
be guide and ease to you, in bringing the notitia of your parish to greater perfection.
There is still one sort of visiting remaining, which I hope will never be omitted whenever there is occasion, and that is, your visiting the sick; for which the Church has provided so complete and excellent an office in general, and yet leaves some particulars to the discretion of the Curate, as in the Rubrics. I doubt you will find too many who will be inexcusably careless in this matter, and the first notice you will have that they have been sick will be their passing-bell; and yet, which I must confess is somewhat provoking, their relations will frequently exclaim against us for not having visited them. It is true I do not find the Rubric requires us to go to the sick person's house till we have notice of it; (as, indeed, how should we ?) and it requires, “ that this notice should be given us :" but people are generally so stupidly negligent in those cases, and so terribly afraid of dying, if either the Minister or the Physician be sent for, (before they are speechless,) that charity, I think, obliges us, where we are not morally sure it will be casting pearls, &c., to go, even though we are not sent for, to sick persons, as soon as we have any knowledge, whatever way we come by it, of their dangerous illness. And thus much I take to be fairly implied in that question, “ Will you visit the sick, as need shall require, or as occasion offers ?” to which you know the answer. And hereunto you will have a
* Epist. ad Polycarp. sect. iv.
notable help by your former visiting them from house to house, and serious discourse there with them; whereby you will be in great measure let into their circumstances and manner of life.
And now I am so near, a word or two of their funerals; wherein if you could bring them to any regularity of time, as I think your brother has done, it would be a mighty convenience both to yourself and parishioners. However, I do entirely disapprove their burying by candle-light, (a new custom they are lately running into,) unless on necessary and extraordinary occasions. The affidavits for burying in woollen must be kept up, as the law requires, and as I have hitherto done in all my parishes.
III. The third head was, your reading Prayers, which I doubt not but you will do constantly, as it has been done formerly, on every holiday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the Second Service at the altar. And I should be pleased if it were likewise done, as is required, on the eves of holidays.
“But who cannot read Prayers ?" I am clearly of another mind, and think that there are but few who can or do perform it as it ought to be done. I fancy I have not heard many in my life that have done it in perfection, out of college-chapels and cathedrals; and truly not over many there neither; though those are likely to be the best schools, if one could be so happy as to light on a right master. I know not but I may have heard an hundred who have preached well, to one who has read Prayers so; and it is well if one main reason for it be not that they may have preached better sermons than their own, though they cannot read Prayers with a better voice and better sense than their own. I have known persons of the soun dest judgment, who would give a very near guess at a man's capacity, by his way of reading the Prayers ; though that criterion may not be infallible, because some persons of sense may be got into an ill manner of reading, or may have so unfortunate an ear or pipe, that they may be masters neither of their own cadency nor pronunciation. Yet I know not but it may hold true, that no man without good parts, or, at least, tolerable ones, assisted with great observation and application, can read Prayers as they ought to be read, especially in a public congregation. I am of opinion, that the Prayers, even when they are not chanted, and even the Lessons, might be pricked, as are the Psalms and anthems, to be sung, so as to be read properly and musically, as the others are sung or chanted: for there is but time and tune for it, that is, high and low, short and long, in one any more than the other. But since this is not to be expected, or might not of every one be understood ; and without this it is hardly possible to give exact or intelligent rules for every cadence and pronunciation; what remains but that we should