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you are conveying the dead to the “house appointed for all living,” your subjects of discourse, your countenance, and your tones of voice, ought to be of that grave, thoughtful, and subdued character, which is in harmony with the scene.
20. Sometimes when a brother occupies your place in the pulpit, you may be called upon to make a prayer, either before or after sermon. Whenever this is the case, carefully avoid making the prayer a vehicle of flattery to him who has just preached, or who is about to perform that service. This is frequently done; and yet it is obviously, in a high degree, both criminal and contemptible. We may, indeed, sometimes, almost apply to it the language of an inspired apostle, on another occasion, and call it “ lying to the Holy Ghost.” Let no such impious sycophancy ever pollute those prayers in which a whole assembly are expected to join. Let me also put you on your guard against flattering a brother, who has just laboured for you, in a manner less impious, but still worthy of being totally condemned. I refer to the manner in which many ministers are in the habit of making their grateful acknowledgments to their brethren, for the official help afforded them; too frequently in the style of flattery, sometimes in that of a very gross kind; lauding their sermons in strong terms; and addressing them in a way which, if it do not minister to their vanity, it is because it is too fulsome to be mischievous. Shun every approach to this sin. To thank a brother for his services, if they be really valuable, is, in common, quite enough. If there be, in any case, a call to go further, and to expre a favourable opinion of a sermon, let it be done
with studied moderation, and always rather fall below the truth than transcend it.
21. When you appear in the sanctuary as an ordinary hearer, let your deportment ever exemplify those rules of serious, meek, and respectful attention which you inculcate on others. It has been remarked, that some clergymen are among the most inattentive and irreverent hearers that enter the house of God. Perhaps one of the infelicities of their profession is, that they are too apt to hear as critics; to be constantly measuring the discourses of others, by those canons of composition which they have been in the habit of regarding as obligatory; and when these are palpably violated, to manifest by their looks and manners the disrespectful feelings which occupy their minds. Hence, they turn away from the preacher, as if desirous of escaping from the sound of his voice, gaze about the house, or lean down their heads, as if endeavouring to compose themselves to sleep. I have also known ministers who were in the constant habit of placing themselves, during public prayer conducted by others, in such postures, and to indulge in such employments, as have, to say the least, very little of the appearance of devotion. Some clergymen, during public prayer, are frequently, if not generally, employed in looking round the church, in adjusting their dress, in fixing their hair, and in constantly changing their posture, as if impatient of the continuance of the exercise. All this is indecorous in any one; but especially in a minister of the gospel. If he allow himself thus to act, what can be expected from the mass of hearers, who always look to those who sustain the sacred office to go before them in devotion, purity, and every thing that is ornamental in Christian deportment?
To this point allow me to direct your particular attention. Let none have occasion to say, that your devotion is official, not personal; and that, when you are out of the pulpit, you can be as remote from the solemnity which becomes the house of God, as any of your neighbours. On the contrary, let your serious countenance, your wakeful, erect, fixed attention, your meek, respectful air, your universally devout manner, even when you are seated among others, as a common worshipper, manifest that you are yourself really engaged in those things which, from the pulpit, you recommend to others. Remember that, if your performances in the pulpit, from Sabbath to Sabbath, put to the test your ministerial gifts; your manner of attending on the service of the sanctuary, as a common worshipper, puts to an equally decisive test your Christian graces. When you join, then, in the devotions led by another, and listen to instruction from a brother's lips, endeavour to lay aside the feelings of the minister, and to sit, an humble, candid learner at the feet of the Saviour's servant; recollecting that, if you are saved, it must be by the same rich grace; and if edified and comforted, it must be by the same simple, precious, humbling truths and promises which you recommend to the most illiterate of your hearers.
In a word, I am persuaded that ministers, by their , exemplary manner of attending on the ministrations
of others, may, and often do, preach as solemnly, and impress those around them as powerfully, as by the best services which they ever perform in the sacred desk.
22. Avoid much exposure to cold air immediately after leaving the pulpit. You ought to be aware that cold air received into your lungs, or striking on your body, while you are warm with speaking, is peculiarly dangerous, and may be productive of fatal mischief. Carefully avoid such exposure, especially in very damp or piercing weather. When you leave the church, in such weather, throw around your person a warm cloak. Hold it up in such a manner as completely to cover your mouth and nostrils ; and take care to inhale none but the air which is enclosed, and the temperature of which is moderated, by your cloak. And, let me add, take all these precautions at night with very particular care. Some preachers, after having addressed crowded assemblies, in very cold weather, in the evening, do not scruple to ride home, several miles, at a late hour. This is always dangerous, and ought never to be done without wrapping up with peculiar care, and using every precaution to guard your body and lungs against the night air.
23. When you have been a hearer, do not quit the church criticising the sermon, and especially in an audible voice. This is not unfrequently done; not always in the happiest manner; and sometimes, unfortunately, within the hearing of the preacher. The character of a criticising hearer of sermons, is not a very good one at best. He is not likely to obtain much practical benefit from hearing. And when he proclaims his criticisms, at the very door of the sanctuary, or on his way from it, he perhaps extends an injury to others. Always be a candid hearer of other men's sermons. When you can speak favourably of them, do it; but not noisily or publicly. When you
are constrained, if you say any thing, to censure, give utterance to your sentiments as gently and as privately as possible, consistently with Christian integrity.
24. Finally, as I advised you to go from your knees to the pulpit, so I would, with equal earnestness, advise that you go from the pulpit to your knees. If you are faithful, you will often exhort your hearers to retire from the church to their closets, to meditate, and implore the divine blessing on what they have heard. And why is it not equally the privilege and duty of ministers to meditate and implore a blessing on what they have said ? Nay, has not the spiritual guide more numerous and more solemn reasons for following all his efforts with his prayers, than any other person? It was well remarked by an old divine, that “the minister who is more before his people in public, than he is before God for them in private, has little reason to expect a blessing on his labours.”