« PreviousContinue »
pensable as experience and life. The Trinity, truly re-. ceived, would harmonize science, faith, and vital piety. The Trinity, as it now stands in the belief of Christendom, at once confuses the mind, and leaves it empty. It feeds us with chaff, with empty phrases and forms, with no real inflowing convictions. It seems to lie like a vessel on the shore, of no use where it is, yet difficult to remove and get afloat; but when the tide rises, and the vessel floats, it will be able to bear to and fro the knowledge of mankind, and unite various convictions in living harmony. It is there for something. It is providentially allowed to remain in the creeds of the Church for something. It has in itself the seed of a grand future; and, though utterly false and empty as it is taught and defended, it is kept by the deeper instinct of the Christian consciousness, like the Christ in his tomb, waiting for the resurrection.
To the Ministers of the Western Conference, on the Relations
of the Minister to his people.
[Delivered at Toledo, Ohio, June 19, 1863; and published by request
of the Conference.]
BY G. W. HOSMER, D.D. One of the brightest ministers among us has said, “We want no lectures upon the pastoral care: they are an impertinence, an intervention to be deprecated.” There are books upon the subject, and methods of treating it, that have made me think so sometimes. Sciences, languages, schools of literature, histories, interpretation. of
the Scriptures, must be taught. There must be books and lectures to aid the student. Things unknown must be sought out. But the pastoral care all lies in open daylight. It is the friendly help a man may give his neighbors, touching their spiritual wants and needs, in prosperity and adversity, joy and sorrow; and a man of good common sense, with Christ in his heart, loving God, and loving his neighbor, can hardly go wrong. The pastor, to be successful, must be a warm-hearted, whole-souled, religious man. He must have force of will, that he may be strength to those who are weak; he must be well poised in his life, that he may be a balance-wheel in his parish; he must have resources, depth and breadth of capacity and attainment, above the average about him. The pastor needs to be a man of worth, significance, and power.
There is an idea that there is no sphere for power in pastoral duty; that the pulpit requires strength, but that the pastoral work may be done by any active, sympathetic, good-natured man of pleasant manners. And such a one may render valuable service in many ways; but the greatest pastoral efficiency requires the highest qualities of character. An ordinary man may be a very good preacher; may have learning and eloquence, and thrill great assemblies: but the ordinary man cannot go into an afflicted family, and stand face to face with the soul in its anguish, without showing his weakness. The ordinary man cannot stand up in his parish in great moral emergencies, and be the load-star of principle, and the preponderating will for right. The ordinary man cannot go to the individuals of his parish needing conversion and quickening, and put the power of his own spirit into their souls.
Said a leading man in one of the Eastern States to me, when he was afraid his minister would remove to another
parish, “I know not what I should do. I have had doubts and distrust about religion and about ministers ; but this man I can trust. I know him. He is reliable. He can lead me along. Others could preach as well, — better than he, – but he has come close to me; and I know he is true, honest, genuine.” Now, an ordinary, poorly furnished, unbalanced man could never have made
think of preaching to such men as John Adams, with his grand rationality; and to Thomas Jefferson, with his fine mind warped with Calvinistic dogmas: but many might do very well preaching to such men, who would be utterly
The pastor can do without genius, or any extraordinary compass of powers : but he must have sense and judgment; he must be profoundly religious; he must be able to meet his people on the higher planes of their experience. The farmer, the mechanic, the lawyer, the physician, will be more readily drawn to a minister who is not ignorant of things in their spheres. But especially the pastor needs to have a genuine manliness. He is to come close to people, - meet them face to face, and eye to eye. Canting insincerity will not do. He must be earnest, and have a large, generous heart in his bosom, full of sympathies from those great head-springs, — love to God, and love to man. No matter how much genius, learning, science, the more the better; but sense, judgment, and Christian manliness, there must be, and profound and vivid religious convictions and feeling.
What need of lecturing on pastoral duty ? I am ready sometimes to say. Put a really Christian man into a parish, - a man with Christ in his heart, — and he would go to work and do the right things, and do them in the right way. The waters of the mountain-spring need no lectures how to flow, nor which way; they must flow, and will make channels; and verdure and beauty will tell of their onward course from the mountain to the sea. So the pastor, brimming full of consecrated humanity, will live and move and bless his parish every day. But we want the mountain-springs. Influence, like water, cannot rise higher than its head. We are slow to accept this. Only think of the ways devised to make streams of influence run up hill! What burdens of hypocrisy and falsehood and pretension! What a laying-hold of degrees, certificates, letters of recommendation, official names, garments, insignia ! But nothing will do. A weak, insignificant man cannot be a mountain-spring, do what you will with him. You may lecture him till you and he are gray; you may ordain him, give him prefix and suffix for his name; you may put a mitre on his head, and crosier in his band, and cover him with holy garments ; and yet you cannot make his influence rise and stay one inch above his head. In our Protestant and Liberal churches this is especially true. Counterfeits are soon detected. Shams cannot stand a month. The demand for genuineness is imperative. The fear of being imposed upon among us is morbid ; and some of our young men are made afraid to say that they are Christians or believe in God.
We want ministers to be mountain-springs, especially in their pastoral labors. Reservoirs and cisterns will not do so well. A sermon written out of a reservoir, however well filled, is not promising. But reservoir-sermons will do better than reservoir pastoral visits. The pastor needs to be a strong, full, quickening man, so charged with electric vitality, that influence is felt on merely touching the hem of his garment. A clear-headed, discerning man once told me, that the only time he ever met Dr. Chan
ning, and heard him speak, was in the house of one of the doctor's parishioners, just after a member of the household had ceased to breathe. “And,” said he, “I saw how great he was; not from what he said, so much as from what he did not say. No commonplace words; not much talk about the scene of departure; but a few grand expressions, with the coloring and emphasis of his rich soul, carried them all into the depths of immortality. He seemed like a man at home there."
To do a pastor's work most effectually, we must have this superior tone and quality. We must carry about a heavenly presence; living simply in great truths and principles, and in great love. My brothers, if we can only have the life in us, it will have power, and quicken all around us. Think of Christ moving about Nazareth, Galilee, Judæa. What pastoral labors ! and how their influence was felt! His words in the temple were grand and inspiring. There, as a preacher, he rose to the great occasion. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and
It is a pastoral visit. Behold the Master!— his superior influence like clear, sweet water from a mountain-spring; and the thoughtful Mary sat at his feet, and heard his words. What a great thing it was to have such a visitor! and what a privilege to be able to make such visits !
The truths and principles that were in Christ, so full of spirit and life, may be in every minister, - must be, brothers, in you and me, before we can be effectual pastors.
I always shrink somewhat uneasily as I begin to talk to young men about the ways and means of pastoral work. If the ministers are not mountain-springs, if the power is not in them, it will do little good to talk to them about ways and means. Alas the busy minister of myriad methods, with no soul to put into them! And then, if