Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

many studies are generally requisite which would otherwise be scarcely worthy of attention. In these respects, likewise, the general rule of the apostle ought to be referred to. But let these hints suffice for particular illustration. The apostle does not confine his exhortation to the more prominent concerns of life: he considers nothing as of trivial consequence. The manner of spending our time or our money; the purchasing or putting on of our apparel; the furnishing of our houses and our tables; the very guests whom we invite, and the conversation in which we engage; with ten thousand things, too generally very little noticed, are included in the general and universal rule, " Whatsoever

Whatsoever ye do, “in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord “ Jesus.” This one rule, duly attended to, would at once convince numbers, that by far the greater part of their daily conduct must be relinquished, if they would at all be thought to comply with it. It would at once resolve many questions about the innocency or criminality of various employments and recreations.“ Do all to the glory of “ God;"

” “Do all heartily, as to the Lord;” “Re“ deem the time;" “ Be not conformed to this

" Do all in the name of the Lord " Jesus." Fashions and dissipations change so in the world from age to age, and vary so in different parts of the world, that all the particulars could not be described, except by very prolix enumeration, and indeed not without direct prophecy. But these general canons are of universal application, and are quite sufficient to the upright in heart. These hints, indeed, are vastly inade

“ world;

quate to so important a subject; but the writer hopes that they will stir up some other person to enter more into particulars; and especially to add to the instances adduced by way of illustration.

T. S.

3.

MAY, 1810.

ON THE QUESTION, WHETHER THE FAULTS AND

DEFECTS OF MINISTERS, ALLOWEDLY UPRIGHT, FORM A PROPER SUBJECT FOR PUBLIC ANIMADVERSION OR INVESTIGATION ?

A question has lately been brought before the public, especially before those who avow themselves the decided friends of vital Christianity, by means of certain books and papers in periodical publications, which does not appear (to me at least;) to have received any adequate solution; for it is undoubtedly a question of the highest importance to the best interests of mankind, and should be correctly and impartially determined.

I refer to the general question, Whether the faults and defects of Ministers, allowedly upright even by the verdict of their accusers, form a proper subject of public animadversion or investigation? By parity of reason, the failures of upright Christians, though not in the ministry, may be included in the inquiry.

I confine this statement of the question to the case of persons of undisputed integrity, though the prosecution of the subject will bear in many respects on the case of others : because I

apprehend that allowedly upright characters have cause to complain in the present day, especially against the great censors of the age,' of not being precisely distinguished from such persons as maintain several of the same opinions with them, but are by no means entitled to be considered as exempt from suspicion with respect to their integrity. Thus a large proportion of the accusations brought against a company of men, supposed, without due discrimination, to form one body, involves in the public estimation, not only the persons really criminal, but those likewise who do all in their power to counteract the evils complained of.

In reading the various papers on each side of this disputed question, I cannot but observe that the censurers, sometimes rather triumphantly, assume that we (for I certainly wish to be considered as one of the company,) claim the privilege of exemption from public animadversion; and thus all our complaints of unfounded, partial, unreasonably severe criminations, are resolved into this : You are, in truth, a privileged body; and, however you may prejudice and disgust others by your improper conduct, no one must venture publicly to expose your faults, otherwise he will incur the penalty of being treated as an enemy to evangelical religion.'

I can by no means' suspect that my fellow Christians, the zealous friends of evangelical doctrine,' or my brethren in the ministry, wish to

1

Evangelical Clergymen. Have we thus denominated our.. selves? or have others thus distinguished us?--I do not know.

claim such a privilege: yet I must acknowledge, that there has appeared a sort of shyness and embarrassment on the question, which I cannot regard as either creditable, manly, or christian. I must, however, impute a large proportion of it to the confusing effects of that astonishment which has been excited by the numerous, groundless, partial, aggravated, and indiscriminating charges, which have been brought against us ; not by open enemies, but by those whom te regarded as friends, and from whom we were very far indeed from expecting such an attack. Et tu, Brute!

But I trust we shall ere long recover ourselves from this temporary consternation, (I had almost said stupefaction,) and fairly meet the question.

In this confidence I now send you a few thoughts, the substance of which I first wrote in a private letter to a near relative, in answer to his request that I would give him my opinion on the subject. I am far from thinking that the hints, which I am about to transmit, form an adequate determination of an inquiry of the greatest imaginable importance to the present generation, and to generations yet unborn. But, should they call the attention of my brethren to the subject, and make way for a calm and full discussion of it, my labour will not be in vain.

I am then very far from thinking that the real

[ocr errors]

I never gave myself, or my brethren, this title: but, instead of shrinking, I glory in the distinction'; which is grounded on principles capable of exact discrimination : and, even if assumed by us, it is at least as modest as that of Orthodox, assumed by numbers of our opposers.

[merged small][ocr errors]

faults of any individuals, or any body of men, especially men bearing a public character, or in any way distinguished as “ a city set on a hill,” should be screened from public animadversion and censure. It appears to me that such an exemption would be highly injurious to them, and extremely prejudicial to mankind at large. Above all, I shall be the last to claim such an exemption for the ministers of religion, or for that distinct company to which I have the honour to belong : for, as their conduct is more likely than that of

any

other body of men to have an extensive and permanent effect on the best interests of mankind, it becomes proportionably important that it should be correct; but nothing (except the special grace of God,) tends to render the conduct of any company correct, so much as liableness to public animadversion.

In my view, he was right, who, when about to publish a treatise on the pastoral duty and the faults of the clergy, being advised to compose it in Latin, that the laity in general might be unable to read it, answered, “If the Clergy will sin in Latin, I will write in Latin ; but if they sin in plain English, so that every one can read their crimes, I must animadvert on them in plain English.' But surely the conduct of the clergy, as well as that of senators and ministers of state, should be investigated with equity, impartiality, and candour, and judged of by some acknowledged criteria ; and; if any distinct body is brought forward for public animadversion, their conduct should be treated with the same equity, and judged of by the same rules, as that of other

« PreviousContinue »