Page images

the minister has the power in him, who doubts that in some way it will work out? And again I always have some fear of obstructing free activities by my ways and means. We are wonderfully unlike in our aptitudes; and, in a large sense, every one works best in his own methods. And now, in doing this work which you have assigned me, I am not to give you my ways and means ; certainly not with any injunction, that you make my ways your ways. I hope you are all head-springs, and can make better ways for yourselves than mine would be.

This holding you in the subject of pastoral influence, and making you think of it in its various lights, may do you good.

requires, are underrated. The pulpit is conspicuous and exacting, and takes the best of our time and strength. I think it should be so. The pulpit must be filled with power, or it will not be surrounded by appreciative hearers. The pulpit is the minister's throne; and yet some of the most successful ministers have done more out of the pulpit than in it. They have organized great spiritual forces in the homes of their parishes, and in society all

about them. They are stronger as men and Christian · workers than as preachers. It is certain that no man can preach in the best way, until, as the pastor, he takes the pulpit. In the homes and hearts of his parish, the minister gets inspiration to preach. The earnest pastor writes with his people before him; and, when in the pulpit, the heart of the congregation touches his; deep calleth unto deep. Theological lectures, philosophical disquisitions, may be written and read by a minister who has not learned the roads and paths about his parish; but sermons out of the heart and soul, and reaching heart and soul, generally grow out of love, sympathy, and anxious solicitude for parishioners, Said a wise minister, “What shall I do for sermons to preach abroad? Mine are full of my own parishioners.” No minister can preach as well as he ought, unless he has the pastoral care of his hearers.

What is the pastoral care of a parish? It is all that various service that will give unity to the parish, and organic life, and promote the spiritual welfare of all its members. The parish, comprising all the varieties of human nature, must be one system, centring about the great Christian truths with a hearty esprit de corps. This unity must be an organized wholeness. There is unity in a mass of earth, in a flock of sheep, in a herd of cattle. A parish must be a unity of free, independent persons, all held in place, and moved in harmonious activities, by love to God and man, —- a Christian commonwealth. The pastor must be everywhere in the parish, - his eye upon all the parts, — making it sure that all are touched by the religious attractions, and keep step to the grand life-march of duty. The pastor needs a quick eye, a sound discretion, a cunning hand.

And now a thought about ways and means. No one needs go over the sea to Germany, nor to the depths of speculation at his wits' ends, to be told just how the pastor should work and what he should do. Of course, he must get acquainted with his parish, with families and individuals. They are all to be his family. It is a touching thing in the Catholic Church to hear all the ministers called fathers. Protestantism has no name so significant as this. And the timid young minister would soon be able to bear it; and it might make him as venerable as gray hairs.

It might be a good plan for a minister to keep a parishrecord, - if he had a place where no eye but his would see it, - in which every family and person should be journalized. Such a record would insure careful observation of characters, and thorough knowledge of persons ; and there would be leaves of such a record full of interest. Some pastors have too much book-keeping about their work. They make a record of every parochial visit ; go round their parishes once or twice a year, as regularly as the minute-hand goes round the dial of a watch, and almost as mechanically. The pastor must have methods; but let him be master of them, not they masters of him. He must avoid favoritism and partialities. He should have a heart too large and Christian for fastidious, dainty friendship. Christ sat at meat with publicans and sinners, said the ceremonial Jews. His charity took all humanity into its arms. Alas for the minister who is so dapper in his tastes as not to see a good heart, if under a coarse dress or behind awkward manners!

With thorough acquaintance with his parishioners, the minister will see cases that need treatment. Here is a young man playing with temptation ; putting a serpent into his bosom. There is a business-man digging his grave, and about to bury himself in his worldliness. There is a woman so cumbered with much serving, so overwhelmed with factitious necessities, that her soul's life is almost worried out. Such cases, all about him, the pastor sees : and he may take them, one after another, into special treatment; always having one or more, and following up his efforts persistently, as long as there is hope.

Here is a leaf from a pastor's record :

“ In the year 1838, there moved into my village parish a young physician. He came from a neighboring town, where he had been in practice a few years. I had often heard of him, a young man of fine ability, good manners, and considerable culture; very sure to be eminent in his profession. But he was sceptical. With much pride of opinion, he loved to talk about Christianity, and bring objections to it, and hold arguments with those who would stand up its advocates. I felt concerned for my parish. I saw that such a man might do great injury to the young men, and, through them, to a whole generation. His winning address, quick wit, withering sarcasm, made him dangerous, - a wolf in my fold. And yet I would not meet him as a wolf, but as a gifted young man, whose early influences had hurt his vision. I sought his acquaintance; made my way to his heart; won his respect and confidence. I made time to meet him as often as I could find opportunity. I avoided controversy and argument about religion, lest he should brace and fortify himself against me. I hoped he might come to

length, one Monday morning, passing his office, I saw him sitting alone, and called upon him. Looking up from his thoughtful mood, said he, “You are the very man I want to see. Yesterday you gave the best argument for the reality of religion that I ever met. Sit down, and tell me just how these things bear upon your soul.' I did not know what he meant. I said, “Why, I made no argument yesterday!' — Yes,' said he, 'you did. In the close of your morning sermon, in your appeal to us to live more religiously, you looked as if you should die if we did not do better. That look touched me as no argument ever did before. That look was an argument. Now tell me about your foundations and experience. The door was open to me into his soul. I entered in, and led him to points of view that were new to him. I helped him to see religion, Christianity, Christ, God, immortality, duty, in new lights. He became interested ; was a new creature in a new life, his old scepticisms gone ; and grand, vital beliefs strengthened his soul. He became a member of our Christian communion, and a helper to his pastor in all good works.”

The pastor goes to the sick and the dying to tell them of the soul that can live in its immortality, despite the body's ills and dissolution. He goes with words of Jesus,


[ocr errors]

with hymn and psalm; and he must go with his soul in his eyes, and his heart on his lips, and each hand a good Samaritan.

A father and son were ministers in distant parishes. The son made a record of best thoughts, that he might bave them to help him in last moments, when too weak to think, and get above the body's anguish. At length, the son was summoned to the father's death-bed. He found the old man sinking away. The father grasped his son's strong hand, and said, “Oh! give me a great thought to sustain me in this agony !” — and the son read from the record he had made, “ Best thoughts for last moments.” The pastor must go to the sick, the weary, the sinking ones, with great thoughts, every one of them a shining angel to help and cheer. That beseeching cry,“ Give me a great thought to sustain me,” indicates a want in hours of sickness and decline which a pastor must strive to meet. He must seek ways and means to lift up the sinking soul, fettered and weighed down by the sick body. He must go with the dying through the valley, helping them to see lights all along and up beyond ; so that it is no longer the dark valley of the shadow of death.

The pastor should be a man among men. He should have a pilot's eye upon the ocean of life, and be enough acquainted with business, politics, statesmanship, to know where truth and right lie, and be ready to speak for them, or, if need be, give up his parish, his living, in their ser

But pastors may meddle unwisely, and stir up strife and bitterness. Alas for those who love to live in a storm, - who go about seeking a martyr's crown! But then, on the other hand, what temptations, in these times, to dodge and hide and lie and keep peace by giving up truth and right to be crucified! Our Scylla and Charyb

« PreviousContinue »