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Miscellaneous Counsels-Punctuality to engagements--Importance
of decision of character -- Utility of early rising-Methods sug-
gested for the preservation of health — Importance of attending
Ministers should be ever ready to perform the appro-
CLERICAL MANNERS, &c.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways. — Haggai i. 5.
MY DEAR YOUNG FRIEND:-You are soon, with the permission of Providence, to enter the pulpit, and to engage in the active duties of that profession, which, however undervalued by the worldly and the unbelieving, cannot fail of being regarded by every friend of Christ, as the most truly honourable and important under heaven. For this profession I trust you have the most essential of all qualifications; I mean unfeigned, vital piety. If I had any serious doubt as to this point, much as I respect your other endowments, and favourably as I augur of your capacity for the work of public instruction, I could not in conscience encourage you to take another step in your present pursuit.
But there is one qualification for the sacred office, in which, allow me with paternal freedom to say, you have always appeared to me to be defective. Whatever pleasure your friends may have felt in contem
plating your respectable talents, your theological acquirements, and your laudable zeal for the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom, they have been often pained to observe that, in what is called knowledge of the world, and in conformity to those habits of propriety and delicacy which are commonly established in cultivated society, you manifest a deficiency rather remarkable:-a deficiency which has often excited surprise in many who are acquainted with your good qualities; and which, if allowed to continue, will undoubtedly interfere in no small degree with your ministerial usefulness. Of this fact you are probably not sensible; for if you were, such is my impression of your conscientious desire to be useful, that I doubt not you would apply yourself with immediate and exemplary diligence to remedy the evil. Nay perhaps you may be unwilling to believe that the fact is so, even when assured of it. But let not self-flattery blind you to the truth, however mortifying. There is real need of your directing particular attention to this point. It is not a mere ideal deficiency of which I speak. What your most partial friends generally agree in noticing, must have some reality. Recollect, too, that this is a subject on which none but very intimate friends will ever venture to address you.
If you were to make a blunder in conversation, as to a point of grammar, or of history, any common friend might be expected to give you some hint of your delinquency. But if you were every day to fall into some offence against the delicacy of polished manners, there is not one friend in a hundred that would take the liberty to intimate it to you. There is something so unpardonably offen
sive to most people in suggesting to them that they are deficient in good breeding, that very few will venture on the friendly office, even with their most intimate friends. It is no proof then that the imputation of which I speak is groundless, because you may not have heard it spoken of by those around you. If those who know you best, and love you most, are not respectfully listened to on such a subject, you cannot expect, from its very nature, to hear of it from any other quarter. I have known, in the course of my life, several excellent men, whose manners were, in various respects, so extremely faulty, and even disgusting, that they were objects of ridicule, and, in some instances, almost of scorn, wherever they went. Their good qualities, though many and striking, were absolutely lost sight of, on account of the prominence of two or three ridiculous foibles. By means of these their usefulness was not only impeded, but in a great measure destroyed. And all this, because they were unconscious of the evil themselves, or at least, of the extent of it: and their friends had not been faithful enough to apprize them of that which all who conversed with them saw and deplored, and which a little attention and resolution, especially if applied in early life, might have effectually corrected.
I am aware that many very worthy men entertain strong prejudices against all formal precepts or exhortations on the subject of manners, and are ready to consider them as worse than useless. dices arise from various sources.
In some they are the result of ignorance. Many pious, conscientious men, and even some clergymen,