Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

which having long been dormant,. are either prone to subside into habitual apathy, or to grow irregular in their struggies into life; and in this, the proper, the peculiar sphere of the clergy'seems to lie. If the parish is large, and the minister's time much occupied, it is almost necessary to invite the assistance of others; and it seems desirable that dis: trict visitors, or even neighbours of approved piety, should be charged with the office of reading appointed parts of Scripture, or devotional works selected by the minister, and of praying with the sick ; while he reserves for himself, and for the subject of his own visits, the discussion of those points which seem to be of a more delicate and specific kind; and prayer more peculiarly adapted to the case of the individual.*

In small parishes the minister's visits will naturally be more frequent; but it is probable, that in those which are large, his absence may be well supplied by the agency above named; and that, if his visits are rare, they will be more valued and more impressive from that very circumstance. In a service which than any other requires that union of faithfulness and delicacy, which is the result of deep piety and long experience; where either extreme is to be avoided ; where equal care is to be taken that the broken reed be not bruised, nor the smoking flax quenched, it is hardly possible to derive much assistance from books. The few pages given to it by Mr. Bridges are eminently useful. An old book called “ The Sick Man Vi. sited,” by Spinckes, may supply a young man with some idea of the manner to be pursued; but otherwise he must be left to the guidance of his own heart and feelings; a guidance which is not likely to deceive him, if he does but add to natural sympathy for those whom he ad

* See, on this point, “ Lay Helpers,” by the Rev. Thomas Sims.

more

dresses, a sense of the incalculable value of the soul.* Under these impressions he will soon find, that the sick room is the place of study and spiritual observation; the place where he is to watch the 'workings of the conscience and the mind, and from whence he is to draw the most affecting and experimental parts of his knowledge.

* At this point, and indeed at other parts of this, essay, it might have seemed natural to refer to a work lately published, under the title of Death-bed Scenes. The ability with which some of the dialogues are drawn up would have justified the reference, if there had not been graver reasons for refusing to recommend to the notice of the younger clergy a work which is open to many objections on the ground of doctrinal statements, and which exhibits a very unfortunate picture of ministerial activity. Without dwelling on the general spirit of the book, the views of the author on the subject of justification can hardly be reconciled with those of the Church of England ; and the manner in which the administration of the Sacrament is described, seems replete with danger for an incautious imitator.

280

CONCLUSION.

Thus far an attempt has been made to sketch, however briefly and imperfectly, a plan of theological study and ministerial duty which seems capable of general adoption. Far from aiming at a portrait of all that might be wished for, or all that might be expected in a clergyman, the present essay must rather be regarded as a sketch of that average of attainments, and that average of exertion, to which every one may aspire, and below which no one should be contented to sink. Other works, which include a wider scope of study, or which take a more enlarged view of the subject, may be regarded as tracing the character of the accomplished divine; of the man who is to stand forth as the champion of truth, and who is to meet and to stem the torrent of general irreligion or prevailing error. The object of this essay is merely to state the qualifications of one who is to carry on the work in the limited sphere of a parish; who is to be one of the many ranged on the side of God; and it is in consequence adapted to the means which are now possessed for clerical education, rather than to those which might be desired. It is the representation of what we feel may be done, rather than that of which we wish might be done. There are unquestionably other branches of knowledge, other attainments, on which it might have been desirable to insist; other features of character on which it might have been gratifying to dwell; but these are either to be found amply stated in books to which reference has been made, or will present themselves in the

« ForrigeFortsett »