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follow him as the captain of our salvation! With what ardent zeal should we heed his admonitions; listen to his instructions; mark his example, and obey his laws; and with what earnest gratitude should we thank God who laid help upon one that was so mighty to save! With what joy should we regard the fulfilment of this prophecy,
For unto us a child is born,
Unto us a son is given,
And the government shall be upon his shoulder,
Counsellor, mighty potentate,
RECIPROCAL DUTIES OF MINISTER AND PEOPLE. PUBLIC INSTRUCTION.
MESSRS EDITORS,-In my present communication, I wish to invite the attention of your readers to those duties which relate to the public instructions of the church. The minister is expected to preach the gospel. But in what manner?
1. I think preaching should be intelligible. Religious instruction can do but little good, unless it is clearly apprehended by the hearers. Now our audiences are commonly composed of persons of all ages and ranks, and of very different degrees of mental cultivation and improvement. In order, therefore, to have our discourses generally useful, they must be adapted to
the comprehension even of children. I know it is difficult to have them so elevated in style and sentiment as to please the best educated, and still so simple as to be understood by the most unlearned. But I believe this possible attainment, is of the first importance, is the perfection of pulpit composition, and is also scriptural. Yes. Jesus spake as man never spake. He addressed the learned scribes as well as the unlettered multitude. Yet his discourses are direct, perspicuous, and intelligible; and at the same time, pure, refined, and sublime. They enable us to give a correct definition of sermonizing. It is nothing more than manly conversation. They also exhibit the most perfect model of dispensing religious truths ever given to the world; a model which has been too much neglected, to the disgrace of the clergy and the injury of their hearers.
Other modes have indeed been more fashionable. Some of our fathers were forever discoursing concerning the secret will of the Almighty, and those dogmas which they pronounced mysterious and unintelligible. Now if God has a secret will, it must be unknown to his dependant children. And if there are any mysterious doctrines, they can constitute no part of revelation; for revelation means the explanation of unknown and mysterious truths. And if any fact is unintelligible, it cannot be believed; for we can neither understand nor believe any farther than we have ideas. Such trifling therefore about things unknown, must be a perversion of the ministerial office. Other modes may also be
easier. It is not very difficult to string together the technicalities of some human formulary of faith; or to ring the changes on a certain circle of sectarian opinions. It is not very difficult to prepare an essay in a general, indefinite, abstract manner; to wander forever in a cloud of mist around the proposed subject without ever approaching it; or to bring up a few common ideas. under a mass of high sounding words and inflated phrases. It may not be very difficult to prepare a dry, abstruse, metaphysical dissertation; or to have both the subject and composition above the understandings of a majority of the congregation.
But none of these methods are adapted to promote the success of the gospel. For they do not come home to the associations, the feelings, and the wants of a mixed assembly. They have injured the cause of Christianity exceedingly; and greatly retarded the progress of pure aud undefiled religion. While some of our preachers have been seeking to attain an elegant and refined style, and to preserve a false dignity of the sacred desk, I fear many of their hearers have been languishing for the plain bread and water of spiritual life; and I believe many more have been drawn away from their unintelligible and uninteresting ministrations by the more earnest, homely, simple conversation of various sectarian ministers. I am fully convinced, from a multitude of facts which have come to my knowledge, that he who would preach the gospel successfully, must render his public instructions intelligible to the great proportion of his hearers.
2. I think preaching should also be explicit. I think the christian minister should state definitely his settled views on the disputed subjects of religion; and give the honest reasons for his peculiar belief. This would indeed be unnecessary, if the christian world was not divided into various denominations. But as the times now are, I believe the cause of truth demands this at our hands. And this can be done without any great labor or inconvenience. For I presume every preacher has some clear notions on all the controverted points of theological discussion. And if you were to ask such questions as the following, I think all might declare very readily on which side of the proposition their faith rested. Do you believe that Christ Jesus is the dependent son of Jehovah? or do you believe he is the self-existent God, or another being in all respects equal to our heavenly Father? Do you believe that the infant is pure and innocent at birth? or do you believe he enters this world with a nature totally depraved? Do you believe we can all secure christian salvation by a proper use of the appointed means? or do you believe that God has elected a definite number to eternal happiness, and consigned the remainder to everlasting misery? I do think the state of our community demands this course to be pursued by the heralds of the gospel.
Now a minister can do all this without introducing any of the evils of controversy, or casting reproach on those who differ from him. With such a practice every man of sense must be pleased; and no individual
VOL. I.-NO. II.
can have the least cause of offence. And is he not bound, by the obligations of his profession, to pursue this only honest and independent course? With his private speculations on unimportant topics, his people have indeed no concern. But with his settled views on all the leading topics of revelation, they have a special interest. For they employ him to preach, not according to himself, or a human creed, but to spend his time in a candid and prayerful study of the scriptures; and, consequently, they have an undoubted right to the result of his investigations.
Now I well know that a minister may observe a guarded silence on all the controverted questions of the day; or he may endeavor to keep his society united by seeming to favor both sides, or neither side, of such subjects; or he may render his observations concerning them so obscure, misty, ambiguous, indefinite, that no one can discover his real meaning, or rather so that each hearer may receive the meaning most agreeable to himself. And in one or the other of these ways he may succeed in preserving the union, and perhaps in retaining the affection of his hearers, during his life-time. But I have observed that the moment such a preacher was taken away, his people generally arranged themselves in two or more hostile parties; while those societies, which had been accustomed to explicit preaching, as generally united in a resettlement. I have also thought that such preachers were no more charitable, and no less sectarian, than those who made an honest and open avowal of their peculiar sentiments. I have