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numerous the invitations which you may receive, never, as a habit, accept of more than one in a fortnight, or even three weeks. By this means your health will be better; your head clearer; your feelings more in harmony with your profession; and the impression left on the minds of those who invite you, more respectful and salutary.
8. Be careful, also, that your conversation and deportment at dining parties, be exemplary and even edifying. It would be on many occasions, indeed, quite unseasonable to make at the dinner table a formal address on any point of theology or of practical religion. How far, or in what cases, the subject may be directly introduced at all, where the company is mixed, must be decided by good sense, and a knowledge of the world, under the guidance of a prevailing taste for spiritual things. I have known quite as much mischief arise, on some occasions, from an ill-judged and ill-managed introduction of this subject, as, on other occasions, from a palpable and improper neglect of it. Wisdom is profitable to direct. Humbly scek direction in each case, and you will be led, substantially, in the right way. But there are rules which a minister of the gospel, when seated with a dining party, may and ought to observe, in all cases, and which can never give the smallest offence, when the company is, as we may reasonably take for granted it always will be when he is present, a decent one. Allow me to hint at a few of them. Some of those which I shall mention, have been partly brought into view before; but I choose to present them in a group in this place.
Never indulge, at the dining table, in loud talking
or boisterous mirth. This is, in most cases, a mark of vulgarity, or of something worse. And if it occur toward the close of dinner, it may excite a suspicion in those who have not observed your strictly temperate drinking, that you are animated by wine.
Do not allow yourself to talk much of the excellence of particular articles of food or kinds of cookery, or of the qualities of different wines. It is unworthy of a minister of the gospel to manifest, or to feel, a disposition to attend to matters of this kind. Do not even praise, in a pointed or conspicuous way, any article before you on the table. Give no occasion to any one to remark, as has often been sarcastically done, that “the parson is very fond of good eating and drinking.” If you enjoy an article of food or drink, do it pretty much in silence; or if a strong commendation of what you are eating, be pointedly addressed to you by another, assent to it moderately, if you can consistently with candour; but not with that warmth and repetition which evince particular engagement of mind.
While you forbear to converse in a style which savours of the epicure and the wine-bibber, be careful to embrace every opportunity to throw out good sentiments and pious hints. If you see no favourable opening to speak directly on the most precious of all subjects, there are many others, which you may introduce to all companies, without offence, and with much utility. Such, for example, as literature, education, new books, humane and benevolent institutions, plans of usefulness, striking anecdotes, adapted to impress good and seasonable sentiments, in short, any thing which may tend to benefit those around you,
and to show that your own mind is running on something better than mere animal indulgence.
Do not harangue at dinner tables. It is unpleasant to hear a minister of the gospel, especially a young one, address those around a convivial board, in a preaching, authoritative manner. It is unsuitable to a festive occasion, and revolting to delicate minds. Converse in a low, modest, respectful tone, with those who are seated near you, and seldom elevate your voice so as to be heard by the whole company, unless you are questioned, or otherwise addressed, by some one at a remote end of the table; and, even then, let your manner be studiously mild, unostentatious, and remote from dogmatism.
Avoid with special care all controversy, especially religious controversy, on such occasions. It is peculiarly inappropriate at convivial meetings. You must be very hard pushed indeed, not to be able, with a very small measure of address and delicacy, to put aside every thing of this kind, without giving offence.
Instead of eating more than usual at table where there is a great variety of delicacies, rather eat less. Eating, even a little, of various attractive dishes, is more burdensome to most stomachs than an equal quantity of a single plain dish. A person of studious habits can rarely go far in indulgences of this kind with impunity, and ought, of course, where there is much temptation, to set a double guard on his appetite. Besides, it has a much better appearance for one who is known, in common, to live plainly (as most clergymen do, and as all ought to do) to manifest no par
ticular disposition for extra indulgence when many delicacies are before him.
Be careful always, at dining parties, to set an example of abstinence from all intoxicating drinks. I sincerely hope you will be disposed, after what has been said in a former letter, to enlist, without hesitation, among the pledged advocates of total abstinence from all that can intoxicate.” But, even if you do not deem it your duty to go thus far; even if you allow yourself to “take a little wine” (which, if you do, in these days of temperance movement, I shall regret), set a double guard on this point at the convivial table. Never allow yourself, on any occasion, to take more than a single glass, that you may bear pointed testimony against every approach to excess. When I have heard ministers of the gospel at dining parties, join with emphasis in the praises of “exquisite wine," and have seen them swallow a number of successive glasses with apparently peculiar relish, I have been filled with regret at a scene adapted to depreciate the ministerial character, even in the estimation of worldly men.
Never sit long at the dinner table, after the cloth is removed; not only because a clergyman is to be supposed not to have time to waste in this manner; but also for the purpose of bearing a practical testimony against the habit of “ tarrying long at the wine” after dinner.
9. In all your visits, as far as possible, avoid giving trouble. Against this rule perhaps none are more apt to offend than inexperienced young men, who have no families of their own, and whose attention has never been practically drawn to the different ways
and degrees in which a single troublesome visitor may break in on the order, and impair the comfort, of a family.
While you consult your own comfort, then, to a reasonable extent, wherever you go, remember that the comfort of others is to be quite as carefully consulted. This is to be done by making as few demands on their time and attention as may be; by encroaching as little as you can on the ordinary routine of their movements; by having as few wants and peculiarities as possible; by never calling upon them, unless in case of necessity, to prepare a meal for you at an unseasonable time, and after their own is completed; by eating and drinking whatever is set before you, without exciting the suspicion that you are not suited; and by endeavouring, in every variety of method, incapable of being specified, to accommodate yourself to the habits and comforts of those whom
Every one knows that, when he goes to a tavern, the more good things he calls for, and the more fully he puts in requisition all the luxuries, resources and servants of the house, the more pleasure he gives. But you will never, I trust, feel yourself at liberty to act upon this principle, even in a tavern, much less when you avail yourself of the hospitality of
When you are an inmate, then, in a friend's family for a single day or longer, be careful, as far as possible, to conform, in every minute particular, to the stated order of the family. Allow no part of it to be set aside for your sake. Ascertain the usual hours for taking their several meals, and never detain them