BY Iohn Mason. A. M.

Take heed to thyself and to thy doctrine.


FROM THE Press OF Thomas Odiorne, EXETER. 1794.



THESE papers were original­ly drawn up for the benefit of a young gentleman, who was a candidate for the sacred min­istry. I conceived that, if they were made more public, they might be of more extensive use, not only to academics, who study with a view to the pasto­ral office, but to those who have lately entered upon it. What the more induced me, to make them so, was, that, though we [Page iv] have many useful treatises on this subject, I do not remember to have seen any thing in our own language, so comprehen­sive of the office of the Student and Pastor, or which represents both in so short a view. Oster­vald de l'Exercise du Ministere, which a learned and valuable friend recommended to me when I was collecting these thoughts, comes the nearest to my plan, both in method and precision, of any thing I have seen. But as that is written in French, and is confined to the duties of the ministerial func­tion, without any directions in the preparatory studies, I thought [Page v] it not sufficient to supercede the prosecution of my design.

The present low state of prac­tical christianity in this nation, from the prevalence of infideli­ty and libertinism on the one hand, and the power of delu­sion and enthusiasm on the oth­er, is never enough to be la­mented by those, who have the religion of the gospel at heart; and though we must expect a divine power to introduce a bet­ter face of things amongst us, yet how far this growing evil may be repelled or diminished, by the awakened zeal, vigilance, and wisdom of pastors and preachers in their respective departments, it becomes those, [Page vi] who have the honour to appear in that sacred character, serious­ly to consider. At least this is a powerful argument to excite their efforts to see what can be done; and to quicken them to greater diligence in the several parts of their holy function, in dependance on the divine bles­sing for the desired success.

Now, reader, if thou art a can­didate for the sacred ministry, or already entered upon it, I would with my sincere prayer for the di­vine blessing, recommend the fol­lowing sheets to thy perusal, not as a mere speculative treatise, but as a practical ENCHIRIDION.

"—Si quid novisti rectius istis,
Candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum."


  • CHAP. I. OF the right distribution and manage­ment of our time. Page. 11
  • CHAP. II. How to read authors to advantage. Page. 19
  • CHAP. III. How to study to advantage. Page. 27
  • CHAP. IV. The method of collecting and improving useful thoughts from conversation. Page. 36
  • CHAP. V. Concerning the improvement of our thoughts when alone. Page. 43
[Page 8]
  • CHAP. I. Of composing of sermons. Page. 49
  • CHAP. II. General rules relating to preaching. Page. 62
  • CHAP. III. Of the duties immediately previous to the work of the pulpit. Page. 74
  • CHAP. IV. Of pulpit elocution. Page. 79
  • CHAP. V. Of prayer. Page. 88
  • CHAP. VI. Concerning the administration of the sacraments. Page. 106
  • CHAP. VII. Of visiting the sick. Page. 118
  • CHAP. VIII, Concerning the minister's conduct tow­ards his people. Page. 128
  • CHAP. IX. Concerning the difficulties a minister must expect to meet with in the execu­tion of his office; and his proper sup­port and encouragement under them. Page. 153


HE that devotes himself to the work of the sacred ministry should be continually intent on two things—the improvement of his own mind, and the mind of others, in the most important and useful knowledge.

This comprehends the whole office of a STUDENT and PASTOR.

The business of a STUDENT is to be so employed, as to be continually making some valuable accessions to his own intel­lectual furniture. To which five things are necessary.

  • [Page 01]1. A proper distribution and manage­ment of his time.
  • 2. A right method of reading to ad­vantage.
  • 3. The order and regulation of his studies.
  • 4. The proper way of collecting and preserving useful sentiments from books and conversation.
  • 5. The improvement of his thoughts when alone.
[Page 11]

CHAP. I. Of the right distribution and management of our time.

A STUDENT should be as frugal of his time, as a miser is of his money; should save it with as much care, and spend it with as much caution. "To [...] careful how we manage and employ our time is one of the first precepts that is taught in the school of wisdom, and one of the last that is learnt. And it is a prodigious thing to consider, that al­though, amongst all the talents which are committed to our stewardship, time, up­on several accounts, is the most precious; yet, there is not any one of which the generality of men are more profuse and regardless. Nay, it is obvious to observe, that even those persons who are frugal and thrifty in every thing else, are yet extremely prodigal of their best revenue, time; 'of which alone,' as Seneca nobly observed, 'it is a virtue to be covetous.' It is amazing to think how much time [Page 12] may be gained by proper economy;" * and how much good literature may be ac­quired, if that gain be rightly applied. To this purpose, let the following rules be observed.—

I. TAKE particular notice of those things which are most apt to rob you of your time. Upon such an inquest, you will probably detect the following thieves.

1. The bed. Never allow yourself above six hours sleep at most. Physicians all tell you that nature demands no more, for the proper recruits of health and spir­its. All beyond this is luxury; no less prejudicial to the animal constitution than intemperate meals; and no less hurtful to the powers of the mind, than to those of the body. It insensibly weakens and relaxes both.

2. Ceremonious and formal visits. They may sometimes be necessary; but, if they cannot be improved to some useful pur­pose, the shorter they are, the better. [Page 13] Much of this time is spent to no purpose; and, it is to be feared, not a little of it, to bad purpose.

3. Indolence is another thief of time; or indulging a slow, heavy, inactive dispo­sition; delaying or deferring, necessa­ry business to a future time, which ought to be set about immediately; idle mus­i [...], or indulging to vain, chimerical imag­inations. — This is very natural to some, and as unnatural to others; and commonly leads to another, and greater waste of time, namely—

4. Sloth and idleness. No man takes more pains than the slothful man. Indo­lence and ease are the rust of the mind. No habit grows faster by indulgence, ex­poses to more temptations, or renders a man more uneasy to himself, or more use­less to others.*

5. Reading useless books;— and those books may be called useless to you, which you either do not understand; or, if you do, afford neither solid improvement, nor suitable entertainment▪ and especially per­nicious [Page 14] books, or such as tend to give the mind a wrong turn, or bad tincture.

6. Much time is often lost by a wrong method of studying, and especially by applying to those branches of learning which have no connexion with the great end you propose. Why should a divine affect the civilian? or dive into the depths of politics? or be ambitious to excel in the obstrusest parts of mathematical science? He has spent much time and labour in these disquisitions, and, at last, gained his point. But, after all his expence, what is he the better preacher, or the better man? In every undertaking, especially when we enter upon a new course of study, we should remember the Cui Bono; and ask ourselves, how far this is like to improve our usefulness, or to add to our reputa­tion, under that character we are about to sustain, and wherein we aim at some de­gree of distinction.

7. Much time is lost by an unnatural bent of the mind to a study, to which it is not disposed, or by which the faculties are already▪ fatigued. It will find great relief by a change of employment. A man who rides post, to save time, would not [Page 15] chuse to be always spurring a jaded horse, but will rather change him for a fresh one, wher [...]by he makes a speedier prog­ress, with more ease to himself. Nil in­vita Minerva. The activity of the mind is so great, that it often finds more relief and refreshment, by turning to a new track of thinking different from that in which it has grown tired, than it does from a total relaxation of thought in mere bod­ily exercise; which shows that it is not labour that tires it, so much as a dull uni­formity of employment; since it is more refreshed by variety than by rest.*

II. LET your most precious time, that wherein your thoughts are most compos­ed and free, be sacred to the most serious and important studies. Give the morn­ing to composition, or to the reading of some valuable author of antiquity, with whom it is worth your while to be well acquainted. The afternoon will suffice for history, chronology, politics, news, travels, geography, and the common run of pamphlets; and let your books of en­tertainment [Page 16] amuse a dull hour, when you are fit for nothing else. To apply your early time or fresh thoughts to these is like drinking wine in the morning; and giving too much of your time and thoughts to them, like drinking the same intoxicat­ing liquor to excess, and will have the same effect on the mind, as that has on the body.

III. REMEMBER to be always before­hand with your business—Post est occasio calva. Whatever must be done, and may be done now, as well as hereafter, for this very reason, had better be done now. This is a prudent maxim in life, applicable to a thousand cases; and of no less ad­vantage to a student, than to a tradesman. Defer nothing to the very last, lest some intervening accident should prevent the execution of an important purpose, or put you into a hurry in the prosecution of it; for what is done with precipitance and has [...]e seldom succeeds so well, or is executed with that accuracy and discre­tion, as what is the effect of more mature and deliberate thought. A traveller, who must reach his home in a given time, would not be thought discreet, if, by loi­tering [Page 17] at the beginning of his journey, he is forced to run himself out of breath at the end.

IV. THAT time is not lost, but improv­ed, which is spent in those exercises which are necessary to invigorate and strengthen the faculties for harder work; or to pre­serve a good state of health and spirits; as eating, drinking, sleeping, physic, bod­ily exercise, recreations, and the like. Because, through a neglect of these, a STU­DENT may contract a bad habit of body, and mind; or so far impair his constitu­tion, as to render him a long time unfit for useful service. But est modus in rebus, and excess of these things defeats their end, and is as prejudicial to health, as a discreet and moderate use of them is con­ducive to it.*

V. ENTER upon nothing but what you are determined to pursue and finish. [Page 18] Much time is often lost in vain attempts, and in leaving useful designs imperfect. For, as he who begins to build a house, and never completes it, must set down to his loss the greatest part of his money thus expended; so a STUDENT, who desists from a work, re infecta, wherein he has taken much pains, is chargeable with as fruitless an expense of his time, as the other is of his money.*

[Page 19]

CHAP. II. How to read Authors to Advantage.

A STUDENT should be as care­ful what books he reads, as what company he keeps. They both leave the same tinc­ture on the mind.

I. Do not read indiscriminately; nor indulge a curiosity of perusing every new book that comes out; nor desire to read it, until, from the known ability of the author, or from the information of some judicious friend, you know it is worth your reading. The curiosity of Vanillus, to be personally acquainted with men and their characters, leads him into all com­pany when he is at Bath; and, when he hears of a stranger, he is uneasy till he knows him, and is able to give others a description of his person, equipage, and family. By this turn of temper, Vanillus loses much time, which would be more agreeably and profitably spent in the con­versation of a few select friends. He [Page 20] knows men, but not human nature. There is a wide difference between a man of reading and a man of learning. One can­not read every thing; and, if he could, he would be never the wiser. The bad would spoil the good, fill the mind with a confused medley of sentiments and de­sires, and the end of reading would be entirely defeated, for want of time and power to improve and practise. A man that eats of every dish at the table over­loads his stomach, is sick, and digests noth­ing. He had better have fasted.*

II. LAY aside the fruitless inclination of reading a trifling author quite through, in hopes of finding something better at the end. You are sure of finding some­thing better in another on the same sub­ject; therefore lose not a certainty for the sake of a mere possibility. Why should you confine yourself to listen to the im­pertinence of one man, when, by only turning your back, you may be enter­tained and improved by the more pleas­ing and instructive conversation of anoth­er.?

[Page 21]III. OBSERVE the characteristical beau­ties of your author. Every good writer has his peculiar felicity▪ his distinguishing excellence. Some excel in style; enter­tain us with easy, natural language; or with an elegance and propriety of expres­sion; or delight us with their florid, smooth, and well turned periods. Some love a figurative, diffuse, and flowing style. Others, quite a plain, rational, discursive one. Each have their excel­lence; but the most elegant is that which is the most natural, proper, and expres­sive. It cannot then be too short and plain, both to delight and instruct; the two great ends of language. A style, overloaded with studied ornaments, grows prolix; and prolixity always weakens or obscures the sentiment it would express. No decorations of well chosen words, or harmony of cadence, can atone for this fault. Such a style is like a lady, who, in adorning her person, spoils a good shape by the tawdry of her dress, and a fine face by paint and patches. Both proceed from the same affectation, in preferring the embellishments of art to those of nature; whose charms are infinitely more power­ful [Page 22] and pleasing. Others excel in senti­ments. Those sent [...]ments strike us with most pleasure, which are strong, or clear, or soft, or sublime, pathetic, just, or un­common. Whatever has the most weight and brevity finds the quickest way to the heart. Others excel in method; in a nat­ural disposition of the subject, and in an easy, free, familiar way of communicating thoughts to the understanding. They af­ford nothing very striking; you approve and are well pleased with your author, and scarce know for what. This resem­bles the Ie ne scay quoy, tout àgreeable, in the very humour, turn, and air of some people we converse with. Others are ve­ry happy in their manner and way of conveying clear, rational, solid arguments and instructions to the mind, which, at once, arrest your attention, command your approbation, and force your assent. You see every thing in broad day; in a fair, strong, and proper light. A per­fect writer has all th [...]se excellencies of style, sentiment, method, and manner, united; and a judicious reader will ob­serve, in which of them his author most excels.

[Page 23]IV. FROM all your authors, chuse one or two for your model, by which to form your style and sentiments; and let them be your Enchiridia, your pocket compan­ions. Consult and imitate them every day, till you are not only master of their style and sentiments, but imbibe their spirit. But be very cautious, both in your choice and imitation, lest, with their ex­cellencies, you adopt their faults, to which an excessive veneration for them makes you blind.*

V. IF your author has an established reputation, and you do not relish him, suspect your own taste and judgment. Perhaps something has biassed your mind against him; find it out, and compare it with those beauties, which charm his other readers, more than all his blemishes of­fend them. Or perhaps you do not understand him, and it is no wonder then [Page 24] you do not admire him. If your judg­ment be good, it is a sure sign your au­thor is so, when the more you read him the more you like him. A good friend and a good book are known by this— They grow in your esteem, as you grow in acquaintance with them.

When you meet with such an author on any subject, stick by him; make your­self master of him. You will discover new beauties in him, every time you read him, and regret not that you are unread in the common rubbish. Some books better deserve to be read through ten times, than others once.*

VI. BEFORE you sit down to a book▪ taste it; that is, examine the title page▪ the preface, the contents, and the index; then turn to the place where some im­portant article is discussed; observe the author's diction, argument, method, and manner of treating it; and if▪ after two or three such trials, you find he is obscure, confused, pedantic, shallow, or trifling, de­pend upon it he is not worth your read­ing.

[Page 25]VII. IF the book be your own, make marks at the margin against those passages where the sentiment is well conceived or expressed, and worth your remembering or retailing; or transfer it into your com­mon place book, under the head your author is treating of; or at least a refer­ence to it. *—In reading an ancient Lat­in or Greek author, it will be a help to the memory to transcribe the passages that struck you most, in the spare leaves at the beginning or end of the book, in English, and by thus skimming off the cream, you will have it always ready for use. If you meet with a happy expr [...]ssion, or even one well chosen word on any subject, which you may have occasion to use, and wish it might occur to you, when you are at a loss for expressions, mark it, and make it your own forever.—Thus you will read [Page 26] with taste and profit, and avoid the cen­sure that falls upon—

A bookish blockhead ignorantly read,
With loads of learned lumber in his head.
[Page 27]

CHAP. III. How to Study to Advantage.

HERE we must consider both the subjects and method.

As to the subjects of your study—

Consider what will make you most eminent and useful in your profession;* This kind of study is to be your serious business, and daily and dilligently prose­cuted. In all your reading keep this point in view. A traveller should have his right road and the end of his journey always in his eye, whatever little diversions or excursions he may indulge by the way. [Page 28] You may sometimes be, Nescio quid medi­tans nugarum, but do not be totus in illis. *

To an acquaintance with books join the study of human nature. Your own heart, passions, temper, humour, habits and dispositions, will be the books you have most need to consult on this sub­ject. For human nature, in the main strokes of it, is much the same in all the human species—Next to this, your observations on the ways and characters and tempers of men, will be of great help to you; together with some books where human nature is strongly and finely paint­ed, in its various shapes and appearances.

It is not beneath the Christian philoso­pher to take some pains to be acquainted with the world; or the humours, man­ners, forms, ceremonies▪ characters and customs of men; at least so far, as is ne­cessary to avoid singularity and a disa­greeable awkwardness, and to preserve a decorum, and an easy address in all com­pany.

[Page 29]A STUDENT should not think any thing unworthy his attention and notice, that has a tendency either to make him more agreeable, or more useful to others. Some regard is therefore due to dress, behaviour, the usual forms of civility, and whatever contributes to the art of pleasing. Among these I would particularly recommend a habit of expressing his sentiments freely and properly upon any subject. Let his style and language be studied principally with this view.

As to the method of studying to advan­tage—

Pray for a divine blessing on your stud­ies; that God would guide you into the most useful knowledge and all important truths; direct your subjects, and assist your meditations upon them.

Procure a collection of the best and most approved books, which treat of the sciences you chiefly desire to cultivate, and make yourself master of them in the way before prescribed.

Consult your own genius and inclina­tion in the study you intend to pursue; You will else row against the tide, and make no progress that is either comforta­ble, or creditable to yourself.

[Page 30]Compose your spirits, fix your thoughts, and be wholly intent on the subject in hand. Never pretend to study whilst the mind is not recovered from a hurry of cares, or the perturbations of passion. Such abrupt and violent transitions are a discipline to which it will not easily sub­mit, especially if it has not been well man­aged, and long accustomed to it. Aurora musis amica, necnon vespera: Because the mind is then commonly most free and dis­engaged.

Let the scene of your studies, be a place of silence and solitude; where you may be most free from interruption and avoca­tion.

When you have a mind to improve a single thought, or to be clear [...]n any par­ticular point, do not leave it till you are master of it. View it in every light. Try how many ways you can express it, and which is the shortest and best. Would you enlarge upon it, hunt it down from author to author; some of which will suggest hints concerning it, which per­haps never occurred to you before; and give every circumstance its weight. Thus, by being master of every subject as you [Page 31] proceed, though you make but a small progress in reading, you will make a speedy one in useful knowledge. To leave matters undetermined, and the mind unsatisfied in what we study, is but to multiply half notions, introduce con­fusion, and is the way to make a pedant, but not a scholar.

Go to the fountain head. Read origi­nal authors, rather than those who trans­late or retail their thoughts. It will give you more satisfaction, more certainty, more judgment, and more confidence, when those authors are the subjects of conversation, than you can have by tak­ing your knowledge of them at second hand. It is trusting to translations, quo­tations and epitomies, that makes so many half scholars so impertinently wise.

Finally▪ Be patient of labour. The more you accustom yourself to laborious thinking, the better you will bear it. But take care the mind be not jaded.17

[Page 32]If divinity be your peculiar study, ob­serve the following rules—

1. Be critically expert in the original scriptures of the bible, and read a chap­ter in Hebrew, and another in Greek every day. And especially observe the different senses in which the same origi­nal word is used by the same author. This often throws a great light on his meaning.

2. When you have found what you take to be your author's own sense, keep to that, and admit of no vague, uncertain or conjectural constructions, whatever doctrine they may discountenance or fa­vour.

3. Be sure to make the sacred scripture the scource, standard, and rule of all your theological sentiments. Take them from it, bring them to it, and try them by it.

4. Make yourself master of some short well chosen system of divinity, for the sake of method and memory; but take care, Nullius in verbum jurare magistri, that you be not swayed by the credit of [Page 33] any human names in matters of divine faith. Let r [...]ason, evidence, and argu­ment, be the only authorities to which you submit. Remember it is truth you seek; and seek her, as you would do any thing else, in the place where she is most likely to be found.

5. Divest yourself as much as possible of all prepossession in favour of▪ or preju­dice against, any particular party names and notions. Let the mind be equally balanced, or it will never rightly deter­mine the weight of arguments. Prejudice in one scale will outweigh much solid truth in the other; and under such a prepossession, the mind only observes which balance preponderates, not what it is that turns it.

6. Cultivate a proper sense of the im­becillity of the human mind, and its proneness to errour, both in yourself and others. This will guard you against a dogmatical confidence in defence of your own opin [...]ons, and arm you against the influence of [...]t in others. And, on the contrary▪ endeavour after a meek, hum­ble▪ teachable temper; wh [...]ch, from the highest authority, we are sure, is the best [Page 34] disposition of mind, to seek and receive divine truth.

7. Be not fond of controversy. The­ological altercations have in all ages been the bane of real religion, and the fatal scource of unknown mischief to true christianity. It sours the temper, con­founds the judgment, excites malevolence, foments feuds, and banishes love from the heart: and in fine, is the devil's most successful engine to depreciate and destroy the principals of vital piety.—Let the controversies you read be the most im­portant, viz. those against the Deists and Papists; and read only the best authors upon them. Among whom you will find none to exceed the late bishop of London and Dr. Leland in the former, and Dr. Tillotson and Chillingworth in the lat­ter▪

8. Avoid theological minutenesses. Lay no stress on trifles; as you see many do, either from a wrong education, or a weak turn of mind. Reserve your zeal for the most important subjects, and throw it not away upon little things.

Lastly. Let none but the best writers in divinity be your favourites; and those [Page 35] are the best writers, who at once discover a clear head and a good heart, solid sense and serious piety, where faith and reason, devotion and judgment, go hand in hand.

[Page 36]

CHAP. IV. The method of collecting and preserving use­ful thoughts from conversation.

WHENEVER it can be done without affectation and pedantry, turn the conversation on the subject you have been reading last, if you know it to be suitable to your company; and introduce your maturest observations upon it. This will fix it in your memory, especially if it be­comes matter of debate.* For the mind is never more tenac [...]ous of any principles, than those it has been warmly engaged in the defence of. And in the course of such debate you may perhaps view them in a new light; and be able to form a better judgment of them, and be excited to ex­amine [Page 37] them with more care. Intercourse awakens the powers, whets the mind, and rubs off the rust it is apt to contract by solitary thinking. The pump for want of use grows dry, or keeps its water at the bottom, which will not be fetched up unless more be added.

When you have talked over the subject you have read, think over what you have talked of; and perhaps you will be able to see more weight in the sentiments you opposed, than you were willing to admit in the presence of your antagonist. And if you suspect you was then in errour, you may now retract it without fear of morti­fication. That you may at once improve and please in conversation, remember the following rules.—

I. CHUSE your company, as you do your books; and to the same end. The best company, like the best books, are those, which are at once improving and entertaining.* If you can receive nei­ther pleasure nor profit from your com­pany, endeavour to furnish it for them. If this can not bed one, and especially if [Page 38] there be danger of receiving hurt from them, quit them, as decently as you can.

II. STUDY the humour of your company and their character. If they be your supe­riours, or much inclined to talk, be an at­tentive hearer. If your inferiours, or more disposed to hear, be an instructive speaker.

III. WHEN the conversation drops, revive it with some general topic, by starting a subject on which you have some good things to say, or you know others have. To which end it will not be amiss, to be a little prepared with topics of con­versation suitable to the company you are going into; and the course of your own thoughts in conversation will be more free, than you ordinarily find them to be in silent meditation.

IV. WHEN any thing occurs that is new, or instructive, or that you are willing to make your own, enter it down in your minute or common-place book, if you cannot trust your memory; for in conversation all [...] free-booters; what­ever you lay your hand on that is worth keeping, is lawful prize, but take care that you do not charge either the one or the other with trash.

[Page 39]V. NEVER stand for a cypher in com­pany▪ by a total silence. It will appear boorish and awkward, and give a check to the freedom of others. 'Tis ill manners▪ Better say a trivial thing than nothing at all. Perhaps y [...]u hear a deal of imperti­nence, uttered by some in the company, which you candidly excuse; presume up­on their candour, if you happen to talk in the same manner. You have a right to claim it: You will readily receive it.— Something trite and low uttered with an easy, free, obliging air, will be better re­ceived than entire silence; and indeed than a good sentiment delivered in a stiff, p [...] ­dantick, or assuming manner. And many good things may arise out of a common ob­servation. However, after a dead silence, it will set the conversation a going; and the company, who want to be relieved from it, will be obliged to you. This is a secret that will never fail to please.

VI. JOIN not in the hurry and clamour of the talk, especially when a trifling point is disputed, and several speak at once, but be a patient hearer, till you have made yourself master of the subject and the ar­guments on both sides; and then you may [Page 40] possibly find an opportunity to put in as mediator, with credit to your judgment,

Repeat not a good thing in the same company twice, unless you are sure you are not distinctly heard the first time.

VII. THOUGH you may safely animad­vert upon, yet do no not oppose, much less rally, the foibles or mistakes of any one in the company; unless they be very no­torious, and there be no danger of giving offence. But remember that he himself sees the matter in a different light from what you do, and with other eyes.

VIII. IF detraction or prophaneness mingle with the conversation, discounte­nance it by a severe, or a resolute silence, where reproof would be thought indeli­cate. If this be not sufficient to put a stop to it, make no scruple to withdraw.*

IX. AFFECT not to shine in conversa­tion, especially before those who have a good opinion of their own understanding.

[Page 41]The sure way to please them, is to give them opportunity to show their parts. A monopoly of this kind will scarce ever be endured with patience.*

X. BEAR with the impertinence of con­versation. Something may be learned from them▪ or some opportunity may be given you to put in a sentiment more apropos. Besides, what appears low and flat to you, may not to another.

[Page 42]XI. APPEAR perfectly free, friendly, well pleased, easy, and unreserved. This will make others so; and draw out many a good thought from them. And is much more pleasing than a studied politeness, and all the usual arts of common place ci­vility.*

[Page 43]

CHAP. V. Concerning the improvement of our thoughts when alone.

A STUDENT, like a philosopher, should never be less alone, than when a­lone. Then it is, that, if it be not his own fault, he may enjoy the best of com­pany.

Next to the regulation of the appetites and passions, the most imp [...]rtant branch of self government is the command of our thoughts; which without a strict guard will be as apt to ramble, as the other to rebel. The great difficulty will be to keep them fixed and steadily employed upon your subject. To this end let the mind be calm and dispassionate—View your theme in every light—collect your best thoughts upon it—Clothe those thoughts in words, and consider how Mr. Addison, Mr. Melmoth, or other writer you admire, would express the same.—Cuard against a vagrancy or dissipation of your thoughts [Page 44] —recal them when they are rambling; and observe by what connexion of ideas or images they are enticed away from their work, and refix them more diligently.— If you have a pen and ink at hand, set down your best sentiments on paper.— If your subject be of a r [...]ligious nature, it may not be amiss to recollect some proper text of scripture, as a standard to which you may recal your vagrant forces.

Let the matter of your conversations be something seasonable, important, or en­tertaining. Consult the temper your mind is in, or ought to be in at that time; and let your subject be suitable to it.

Take care that nothing vain, or vicious [...]eal into your mind when alone. Here­by you may make yourself a very bad companion to yourself; and become your own tempter.

If the place or occasion will admit it, think viva voce, or utter your thoughts aloud.

In your evening meditations, go over in your mind, the best things you have read or heard that day, and recollect them the next morning.

[Page 45]The great advantage of being alone is, that you may chuse your company; ei­ther your books, your friend, your God, or yourself. There is another will be ready to intrude, if not resolutely repel­led. By the turn of your thoughts, you may detect his entrance, and by what passage he stole in. You may know him by his cloven foot; and you have the best precept, exemplified by the best prece­dent, how to eject him.

If books be your subject, or what you lately read and laid up in your memory. your mental employment will be recol­lection and judgment. Recollection, to recal to your mind the good things you have read; and judgment, to range them under their proper class; and to consid­er upon what occasion, or in what com­pany it may be proper or useful to pro­duce them.

If you chuse a friend for the compan­ion of your solitude, let it not be merely for your own pleasure; but consider in what way you may improve or entertain him; or what it is you would learn from [Page 46] him; and in what manner you may best behave towards him▪ the next time you come into his company.

When you desire to have the great God for the object of your contemplation, as you should always do in your religious retirements, your mind cannot be too seri­ous, composed, and free. Now it is that the thoughts will be most apt to revolt and ramble; and the utmost efforts must be used to guard and guide them. In this case two things you should never forget.

1. Earnestly implore his help, that you may think not only steadily, but worthily of him.

2. Consider him as present with you; and as witness to all the employment of your mind.

Lastly. If you are your own compan­ion, and self meditation be your business, you have a large field before you. But one thing be sure not to neglect, viz. Sharply and impartially to reprove your­self, in case of any observable failure; and resolve to amend your conduct in that particular, especially when the same circumstances recur.



THE business of a Pastor is to do all he can to promote the eternal in­terest of the souls of men. And to keep his eye continually on this, the great ob­ject of the sacred office, will be a good di­rection to him in the prosecution of it.

He is now to improve, regulate, digest, and apply that stock of knowledge he has taken so much pains to acquire; and ex­amine what part of it will be most help­ful to him in his great design.

The duties of the Pastor's office may be comprised under the six following gen­eral heads.

[Page 48]Preaching. — Praying. — Administring the Seals.—Visiting the sick.—His con­duct towards his people in general.— And towards persons of different cha­racters in particular.

1. Preaching. This may be divided into two parts;

Preparation, and elocution.

1. Preparation, which consists of com­position, and the duties immediately pre­vious to preaching.

[Page 49]

CHAP I. Of composing of sermons.

"BESIDES all the usual ac­ademical preparations, the study of lan­guages, sciences, divinity, &c., there is a particular art of preaching to which if ministers [...] more seriously apply themselves, it would extremely facilitate that service, and make it more easy to themselves, and more profitable to their hearers." For acquiring which art the rules laid down in this and the three fol­lowing chapters may be helpful to those who are entering upon the sacred employ­ment.

1. The first thing, to be considered, is the choice of the subject. Here you must consult your own genius, taste, and abili­ties; and chuse those subjects which have most impressed your own mind; for on those you are most likely to succeed, and to produce the most mature and useful sentiments. Consult also the temper, [Page 50] taste, and capacities of your audience. For the more suitable your subject, style and sentiments are to them, the more like­ly you will be, both to please, and improve them. And therefore a minister should never fix, nor chuse to preach, amongst a people, whose opinions are widely differ­ent from his own. "Let the most use­ful and pertinent subjects be your most freequent choice Those are the most use­ful, which are the most edifying▪ and those most pertinent, which are most fit­ted to the capacities and necessities of the auditory. To both which you ought to have a special regard." —If you are at aloss for a text, consult the contents of the severel volumes of sermons, you have by you. That a man may form himself to preaching he ought judiciously to take some of the best models, and try what he can do on a text handled by them without reading them▪ and then compare his with theirs. This will more sensibly and without putting him to the blush, model him to imitate, or, if he can, to ex­cel the best authors.—Whatever partic­ular text strikes your mind with more than common force, in the course of your [Page 51] reading or meditating the scriptures, pen it down with some useful strictures that may occur to you, for the foundation of a future work. By this mean, you will have a good supply of suitable texts at hand—A sermon should be made for a text, and not a text found out for a ser­mon. For, to give our discourses weight, it should appear that we are led to them by our text. Such sermons will probably have much more effect than a general discourse to which a text seems only to be added as a decent introduction, but to which no regard is had in the progress of it.—Affect not an obscure, difficult, or barren text, to show your ingenuity in throwing light upon it, or set others a wondering what you can make of it. Discourses from such texts must be either unprofitable or unnatural.*

2. Having chosen your subject; your next care is, to be furnished with a store of useful and pertinent thoughts upon it. [Page 52] Having fixed your spot on which to build, you are now to prepare materials. To this purpose, carefully peruse your text, both in the original and different transla­tions. Attend to its connexions and re­ference; and observe what is the princi­pal subject it points to. Collect from your concordance, or common place book to the bible, or from Mr. Clark's Annota­tions, or from Wilson's Christian Dictiona­ry, and others, all its parallel places, or the several scriptures that have a refer­ence to it. Pen them down on loose pa­per, to be properly interwoven into the discourse under any particular head or branch of it—Consult other authors on the same subject. Use their thoughts, but not their words, unless you quote them expressly; which should never be done, unless your author be a writer of eminence, and of good repute with your audience. And let it be a sentiment so weighty, and well expressed, as deserves to be remembered by them; and then they will remember it the sooner as com­ing from him, than from yourself.

3. Having thus provided materials, form your plan. Let your method, as [Page 53] well as your subject, flow from your text. Let the division be easy and natural, and such as the audience would expect. 'Let it arise from the subject itself; and give a light and just order to the several parts. Such a division, as may easily be remem­bered; and at the same time help to con­nect and retain the whole. In fine, a di­vision that shows at once the extent of the subject, and of all its parts.' —Avoid a tedious multiplication of particulars un­der every general head of your discourse. Let your particlar heads be not only few, but distinct; and affect not to conceal the number and order of them, if they be dis­tinct and natural, as some modern preach­ers do. It is a false delicacy to aim at reducing a sermon to the form of a po­lite harangue. The other method of ex­pressing the number of heads, in their pro­per order, is not only more pleasing to the common sort of hearers, but a help to their understanding and memory; which a preacher should by all means carefully regard.* It will be proper, to [Page 54] draw your method or plan, on a loose piece of paper laid before you, with the several particulars under their respective general heads; and whatever place of scripture, or inferences, &c., you meet with in reading or meditating, pertinent to any particular point you shall speak to, you may then place them under that par­ticular; for all things may not come to your mind at once, and a thought is so quickly gone, let your memory be almost ever so tenacious and retentive, that you will hardly retain it, unless it be in this manner commited to paper. And what­ever▪ place of scripture you make use of, which you do not well understand, con­sult the ablest commentators on that pas­sage for the meaning of it; that you may not apply it to a wrong sense.

4. Having thus provided materials, and formed your plan, begin the super­structure; which will now be raised and adorned with great ease, and be continu­ally improving upon your hands; for no [Page 55] man can talk well on a subject, of which he is not entirely master.*

"In the beginning you must endeav­our to gain the favour of the audience, by a modest introduction, a respectful ad­dress, and the genuine marks of candour and probity." Let your exordium be short, modest, grave, and striking; either by proposing your method, and entering upon your subject directly; or by a few important general observations, which are connected with, or naturally lead to it: Or by some short unexpected remark on the words of the text. In your en­largement on particulars, if you find your thoughts do not run freely on any point, do not urge them too much; this will tire and jade the faculties too soon. But pursue your plan. Better thoughts may occur afterwards, which you may occa­sionally insert.

Let your best sentiments stand in the beginning or end of a paragraph, and the [Page 56] rest in the middle, which will pass very well in good company. And let every head conclude with some striking sen­tence, or pertinent scripture.

As every complete sermon resembles a little book, the method of composing the former, may be the same with what Rin­gelbergius tells us he used in composing the latter.

"My first care, says he, is to form in my mind a perfect plan of the work be­fore me. Then in a large tablet, or sheet of paper, I set down the titles of the chapters, or the several heads I am to dis [...]course on. Then I look over them to see if they have their proper place, connexion and coherence; and alter them as I see occasion. Then whilst my mind is still warm with the subject, I take a brief sketch of what is proper to be said under each head, which I write down on a loose piece of paper; these I afterwards trans­fer into my plan, and in a fair hand transcribe under their proper heads. By these means, I have the whole subject and method of the work under my eye at once. Then I every day transcribe a chapter for the press, and add▪ or ex­punge, [Page 57] as I go along, according as the matter requires. After this, when I see nothing deficient or reduntant in the subject, I apply myself to revise the lan­guage." Let your application be close, fervent, and animated. To which end, get your own heart warmed and penetra­ted with your subject. For however drowsy, or inattentive your hearers may be in the beginning, or middle of a dis­course, they should be always awakened, and warmed at the close. "It is often­times proper at the end of a discourse, to make a short recapitulation, wherein the orator ought to exert all his force and skill, in giving the audience a full, clear, concise view of the chief topics he has en­larged upon." And let the last sentence of the sermon, be either your text, or some pertinent scripture, or some weigh­ty thought well expressed and worth re­membering.

5. Having thus raised your superstruc­ture on the plan proposed, you must put the finishing hand to the work by decent­ly adorning it; which is the business of a revisal, wherein you are to reexamine the method, matter, and style.

[Page 58]1. The method. Here perhaps you may see some small alterations necessary. Example, this head may come in more naturally before that; such a sentiment shine to more advantage at the conclusion of a paragraph; and this particular head is not sufficiently distinct from that, and therefore both had better be wrought into one.

2. With regard to the matter. Such a sentiment is expressed before, therefore strike it out here; too much is said upon this part of the subject, too little upon that; add here, retrench there; if any new thought, or pertinent scripture occur to your mind, search out the proper place where to dispose of it.

3. With regard to your style. This thought is obscurely expressed, explain it; this sentence is equivocal, be more determinate; this is too long, shorten it; here is a jingle, correct it; this disposition of the words is harsh and hard to be pro­nounced, alter it; this expression is too mean and vulgar, substitute a better.*

[Page 59]I shall conclude this chapter with the following general rules relating to the style of the pulpit.

1. Let it be plain, proper, and perspicu­ous; and then the shorter it is, the better. A concise, full, and nervous style is always most striking, therefore most pleasing. To obscure and weaken the sense by a studied ornament or flow of words, is wrong oratory, and nauseous to every one of true taste.

"The words in a sermon must be sim­ple and in common use, not favouring of the schools, or above the understanding of the people. All long periods, such as carry two or three different thoughts in them must be avoided; for few hearers can follow or apprehend these. Niceties of style are lost before a common audi­ence."

2. Let your numbers be full and flow­ing; and carefully avoid all harshness and dissonance in the choice and disposi­tion of your words. This is a part of rhetoric, which though carefully cultva­ted by the antients, is too much neglect­ed by the moderns.* "In reading over [Page 60] a discourse to ourselves, we must observe what words sound harsh, and agree ill to­gether; for there is a music in speaking, as well as in singing, which a man though not otherwise critical in sounds, will soon discover."

3. Observe a medium between a too short and too prolix a style. The sen­tentious style is apt to be defective. A prolix one, if the members of a long sen­tence be not judiciously disposed, and fraught with a weight of sentiment, tedi­ous and disagreeable; and a low creeping style is as unbecoming the dignity of the pulpit, as a high and turgid one. There is a decency to be observed in our lan­guage, as well as our dress:* With re­gard [Page 61] to both a prudent man will consid [...]er, not only what is decent in itself, but what is most so at certain times.*

4. An illustration of your subject by sensible images, and apt similies, will al­ways be agreeable.

Lastly. Let the conclusion of your periods be harmonious, and your con­cluding thoughts the most memorable.

See more on this subject, Part II. C. 4.

[Page 62]

CHAP. II. General rules relating to preaching.

2 IT were adviseable for young preachers to pen down every sentence of their sermons in short hand; and trust nothing to their memories, until they are masters of a free, fluent, and proper style; and have acquired a good command of their spirits, a free utterance, and a ma­turity of sentiments. Then they may venture to leave something to the memo­ry, by writing half sentences, until by degrees they are able to trust to it a good part of the enlargment under every head. This will be no great burden, provided they take care to be thoroughly masters of their notes, before they go up into the pulpit; and will be a great help to a free, decent, and natural elocution.

I would not advise any young minister, though ever so happy in a strength of memory, entirely to lay aside his notes▪ [Page 63] it can answer no valuable end, and the inconveniencies of it are these;—the thoughts may possibly wander; in that case you are bewildered without a guide▪ This reflection will create a confusion and perplexity in the mind, which the hearers will observe with pain; and you will scarce ever be able to recover the right tract in that hurry of spirits with­out many a trip and much trouble. This will throw a tremor, at least a diffidence, on the mind, which will make it difficult to resume your wonted courage. Be­sides, when so much attention is bestow­ed on the memory, you will be apt to pay too little to the judgment and affections. You will not have leisure to observe how much your own heart is affected, or how you may best affect that of your hearers; who are never more pleased, than when they see their preacher composed, free, and deeply impressed with his own suject; and never more disgusted, than when they observe him confused, bewildered▪ or un­attentive to what he himself delivers. Besides, the inaccuracy of diction, the in­elegance, poverty, and lowness of expres­sion, which is commonly observed in ex­temporaneous [Page 64] discourses, will not fail to offend every hearer of good taste.

2. Go to the bottom of your subject; and think of every thing that ought to be said upon it; and consider what points, or parts of it, your hearers would be glad to have cleared up, or most en­larged upon. To skim off only the sur­face, is to put off your audience with froth. The weightiest sentiments often lie at bottom; be at the pains then of div­ing deep to bring them up from thence. On the other hand,—

3. Take care you do not torture your subject, by aiming to exhaust it. Do not endeavour to say every thing that can be said, but every thing that ought to be said upon it. A preacher's excellence is seen, not so much in saying a great deal upon a text, as saying the best things in the best manner.*

4. Do not croud your thoughts too thick. This will but fatigue and perplex the minds of your hearers, who should always [Page 65] have time to follow you. If you pour wa­ter too fast into the funnel, it will run over.

5. Protract not your discourse to an undue length. The best sentiments will not be attended to, whilst your hearers are impatiently waiting and wishing for the conclusion. It were better to offend by the other extreme, provided your mat­ter be solid, well disposed and well digest­ed. Better leave your audience longing than loathing. Abstinence is less hurtful than repletion. I think Mr. Luther says in his table talk, that one necessary qual­ification of a preacher is, to know when to leave off.

6. In practical preaching, which should be your ordinary strain, remember that you preach to christians; and let your chief motives to practice be drawn from chaistian principles. "I is verily a fault in too many of the public teachers of our times, that their sermons are moral ha­rangues generally▪ and Tully's Offices; and Seneca's Epistles serve them instead of the bible. They are furnished with nothing but moral precepts, as if they were preaching at Old Rome or Athens, and their auditors were all infidels."

[Page 66]7. Be sure to consult the capacity and understanding of your hearers. Remem­ber you are not declaiming in the acade­my▪ but preaching to an illiterate con­gregation. Take care then that you be not too learned, or too logical; that you do not shoot over the heads of your hearers, as they call it, either in your doctrine or language. Condescend to their capaci­ties; and let it be your ambition and care whilst you are treating of the highest sub­jects, to be comprehended by the lowest understanding; wherein archbishop Til­lotson, archbishop Sharp, and Dr. Sherlock will be your best patterns.—It is not easy to be conceived how much ignorance of divine things there is in the minds of the greatest part of those you preach to.

It was the observation of a late celebra­ted divine in the church of Rome, ‘That there are always three quarters of an or­dinary congregation, who do not know those first principles of religion, in which the preacher supposes every one to be fully instructed.’ It is to be hoped that matters are somewhat mended in our Prot­estant assemblies; but still there is reason to fear, that they, who compose the major [Page 67] part in our places of worship, are deplor­ably defective in their knowledge of the true doctrines of christianity. And as the subject should not be too deep for their conceptions, so neither should the style be too high for their comprehension; and therefore all scholastic terms, systemati­cal phraises and metaphysical definitions should be for ever banished from the pul­pit.

8. Affect not to show your parts, by entering upon nice and curious disquisi­tions, or by a strong protrait of general characters. This is shooting beside the mark, or at least will but very seldom reach it. The chief end it will produce, and which you will be thought to aim at, is your own applause, and not your peo­ple's profit. ‘Too close a thread of rea­son, too great an abstraction of thought, too sublime and too metaphysical a strain, are suitable to very few auditories, if to any at all.’ * ‘I love a serious preacher, [Page 68] who speaks for my sake, and not for his own, why seeks my salvation, and not his own vain glory. He best deserves to be heard, who uses speech only to clothe his thoughts, and his thoughts only to promote truth and virtue. Nothing is more despicable than a professed de­claimer, who retails his discourses as a quack does his medicines.’

9. Endeavour to affect your own mind with what you deliver; and then you will not fail to affect the minds of your hearers. There must be a life and power in your delivery, to keep up the attention and fix the affection of those who hear you; "for artificial eloquence, without a flame within, is like artificial poetry; all its productions are forced and unnatural, and in a great measure rediculous."—"It is said of Iohn the Baptist, that he was a burning and shining light, ardere prius est, lucere posterius; ardor mentis, est lux doctrinae. It is a hard matter to affect others with what we are not first affected ourselves."

[Page 69]10. When you are called to touch up­on controversy, which you should avoid as much as possible in the pulpit, be can­did, clear, short, and convictive. Be sure that your arguments are solid, clear, and strong; and your answers at least as clear as the objections; for, if these be plain, and those perplexed, you will but con­firm the errour [...] mean to confute. Avoid all needless censures, especially of persons by name. When a censorious spirit is kindled by the preacher, nothing will sooner be catched by the hearers; and that unhallwed flame will quickly be propigated far and wide. Dark de­bates in divinity are like rocks, not only steep and craggy, but barren and fruit­less, and not worth the pains of climbing to the top; and what influence they have on the spirits of men, is commonly a bad one. It is scarce to be imagined what harm these theological subtili [...]s do us. As spirits extracted from bodies, are al­ways hot, heady, and inflamatory. So di­vine truths subtilized and too much sub­limated, heat, intoxicate, and discompose the minds of men▪ fire their tempers, and kindle very hurtful and unruly passions, [Page 70] to the disturbance of their own peace and that of others.

11. Let your great aim in every ser­mon be to please God and profit your peo­ple, to do them good rather than gain their applause. Do not covet a reputation for eloquence; it will turn you off from higher views. Besides an excessive desire of popularity and fame will subject you to many secret vexations. As well may you expect the sea to be undisturbed, as the mind of an ambitious man to be long free from disquietude.

Lastly. Endeavour to get the great prin­ciples of christianity wrought into your own heart; and let them shine in your temper and conversation. ‘Ministers have one great advantage beyond all the rest of the world in this respect, that whereas the particular callings of other men prove to them great distractions, and lay many temptations in their way to divert them from minding their high and holy calling of being christians, it is quite otherwise with the clergy; the more they follow their proper callings, they do the more certainly advance their general one; the better priests they are, [Page 71] they become also the better christians. Every part of their calling, when well performed, raises good thoughts, and brings good ideas into their minds, and tends both to increase their knowledge and quicken their sense of divine matters.’ Cicero, Quintilian, and Horace, all made virtue a necessary qualification in a com­plete orator.* I am sure it is so in a christian preacher. It is required of a presbyter that he be blameless. When a preacher has the great doctrines which he teaches wrought into h [...]s temper, and he feels the influence of them on his own spirit, he will reap from thence these three great advantages in his public ministra­tions—He will then speak from his own experience—He will with great confidence and assurance direct and counsel others— He will more readily gain belief to what he says. Without this experimental sense [Page 72] of religion in the heart, and a steady practice of it in the life, all the learning in the world will not make a person, either a wise man, a good christian, or a faithful minister.* And to induce him to a wise circumspection in his conduct, he should often consider the influence his own ex­ample will have upon his people, for whom he must live, as well as for himself; and who will think themselves very justifiable if they indulge to no other liberties than such as they see their minister take himself.

Before I close this chapter, let me add one thing more, namely— That a min­ister, both with regard to his conduct and preaching, should take care not to be too much affected with common fame. Though he is not to be absolutely indif­ferent to the applauses and censures of others, yet he should arm himself against the bad influene of both. He must ex­pect to pass through good report and evil [Page 73] report; and both are apt to make hurtful impressions on weak, unstable minds— As to evil report a stoic will tell you, that, in confidence of your innocence, you ought absolutely to despise both it and its author.

I think Chrysostom's advice is more suit­ed to the character of a christian minister. "As for groundless and unreasonable ac­cusations, says he, for such a christian bish­op must expect to meet with, it is not right either excessively to fear them▪ or ab­solutely despise them. He should rather endeavour to stifle them, though they be ever so false, and the author of them ever so despicable; for both a good and bad report is greatly increased by passing through the hands of the multitude, who are not accustomed to examine, but to blab out every thing they hear, whether true or false. Therefore we are not to de­spise them, but to nip those evil surmises in the bud, speak friendly to those who raise them; be their characters ever so bad, and omit nothing that may remove their wrong impressions of us. And if after all they persist to defame us, we may then de­spise them."

[Page 74]

CHAP. III. Of the duties immediately previous to the work of the pulpit.

TO prepare you for this service, the following directions may be useful.

I. Before you enter on the public wor­ship of God in his house, be sure to apply yourself to the throne of grace, for a di­vine blessing on your labours. It was a usual saying of Mr. Luther▪ Bene orasse, est bene studuisse. * And, in these your pre­vious devotions, see that your heart be ve­ry sincere and fervent. You must pray for yourself, and pray for your people.

1. You must pray for yourself—that God would help you to bring your own spirit into a frame suitable to the work [Page 75] you are about to undertake—that the word you deliver may affect your own heart, or that you may first feel the holy flame you would communicate to others— that a door of utterance may be opened to you, and that you may speak as becomes the oracles of God—that he would direct you to speak to the consciences and parti­cular cases of your hearers, or that what you deliver, may be a word in season —and that he would especially assist you in prayer, and give you the spir­it of grace and supplication.

2. You are to pray for your people— that their attentions may be engaged both to the evidence and importance of the things they are to hear—that God would open their hearts to give them a fair and candid reception, and that no bad preju­dice may prevent the good effect of the word—that the grace of God may co­operate with his appointed means, to set home divine truths with power on their consciences—that they be able to retain the good seed that is sown—that it may bring forth its proper fruit in their future lives—and finally, that their prayers for you, and behaviour towards you, may [Page 76] strengthen your hands, and make you more serviceable to their souls.

II. Let your mind and countenance be very composed and serious▪ and your ges­ture grave and decent. To this end, en­deavour to bring your spirit into a reli­gious and devout frame, before you come into the house of God. Attend to the re­al importance of the work you are called to, both when you are the mouth of God to the people, and when you are the mouth of the people to God. Avoid those ob­jects, and avert those thoughts, which tend to discompose your mind, or indispose it for the sacred service you are going to en­gage in. Clear your heart of all vain and worldly cares, and especially of all vexa­tious and disturbing thoughts before you enter on the public service of God. En­deavour to attain a spiritual, holy, and heavenly frame of mind by previous pray­er, reading, and devout meditation. It will render your sacred work both more agreeable and easy to yourself, and more beneficial to your hearers, if you endea­vour to carry into the house of God that serious temper of mind, which you desire they should carry out of it.

[Page 77]III. Before you enter on your work, take time to premeditate and recollect some of the most weighty, pertinent, and im­portant sentiments and expressions you may have occasion for either in prayer or preaching. This will be especially ne­cessary, if you give any thing in charge to the memory; that you may not be at a loss for those sentiments when they are to be produced in their proper place. The mind should be well seasoned with the discourse before it be delivered. It is not enough to be master of your notes, but you must enter into the spirit of your sub­ject. Call in every thing that is proper to improve it, and to raise and animate your mind in the contemplation of it.

IV. Affect your mind with the consid­eration of the solemnity and importance of the business you are going about; and how much may depend on a faithful exe­cution of it. Few men had ever more natural courage than Mr. Luther, and yet he was often heard to say, that even to the latest part of his life, he never could con­quer his fear when he mounted the pul­pit. And St. Chrysostom used to say, that that scripture, They watch for your souls, a [...] [Page 78] those that must give an account. Heb. xiii.17. struck his mind with constant awe.

Lastly. Keep up a self command, and a becoming presence of mind; and get a­bove a low servile fear of men. If you are master of your subject, and come well fur­nished with suitable materials for their re­ligious improvement, and produce plain scripture and reason for what you advance, you have no cause to fear either the critic or the censor; but may with modesty con­clude, that you are at least as good a judge of the subject you have taken so much pains to understand and digest, as they are who perhaps never gave it so precise or extensive a consideration.

[Page 79]

CHAP. IV. Of pulpit elocution.

UNDER this phrase, I comprise the language, pronunciation, and action that are most becoming the pulpit.

I. The language. This must be plain, proper, pure, concise and nervous.

1. Let your language be plain or per­spicuous.* It is a nauseous affectation to be fond of hard words, or to introduce terms of art and learning into a discourse addressed to a mixed assembly of plain, il­literate christians. The ridicule of it will appear, by supposing you were to talk to them in that manner in common conversa­tion. They who do not understand you, will dislike you; and they who do, will see the affectation, and despise you.

[Page 80]2. Let your words be well chosen, proper, and expressive; such as your hear­ers not only understand, but such as are most fit to convey the sentiments you mean.

3. Aim at a purity of language. To this end, diversity your style, as far as it is consistent with perspicuity and pro­priety; and avoid the frequent and near repetition of the same word, unless it be very emphatical, and the reiteration rhe­torical —Shun all harsh and jingling sounds—Have an eye to an easy cadence at the close of your periods, and conclude as often as you can with an emphatical word—Avoid dubious and equivocal ex­pressions, or such as leave the sense inde­terminate—and all low, vulgar, and bar­barous words—Let your phrase be like your dress; decent, unaffected, and free from gaudy and studied ornaments—and, in fine, let all your art be, to imitate na­ture.

4. A concise style very well becomes the pulpit; because long periods convey not the sense either with so much ease, or force; especially to uncultivated minds; but affect not to speak in proverbs. A [Page 81] short sententious style, if it be expressive, full, and clear, will be always strong and universally agreeable.

5. Aim at a striking, nervous style, ra­ther than a diffuse, flowing one; and let the most emphatical words convey the sublimest thoughts; and if there be a glow in the sentiment, it will seldom fail to shine in the expression.

II. The pronunciation.

1. Let this be quite free, natural and easy. "The whole art of good oratory consists in observing what nature does, when unconstrained. You should ad­dress yourself to an audience, in such a modest, respectful, and engaging manner, that each of them should think you are speaking to him in particular." Every sort of affected tone is to be carefully a­voided. Suppose your whole auditory to be but one person, and that you were speaking to him in your own parlour. And let the nature of your subject direct the modulation of your voice. Be cool in the rational, easy in the familiar, earnest in the persuasive, and warm in the pathet­ical part of your discourse. Every pas­sion requires a pronunciation proper to itself.

[Page 82]2. Let the voice be always distinct and deliberate; and give every word its full sound. Attend to your own voice. If it be not strong, full, and clear to your­self, you may be sure it is not so to many of the audience. And to help your voice, address yourself chiefly to the remotest part of the assembly, and then they who are nearer will hear plainly enough—Let your pronunciation be very deliberate. You will be in little danger of speaking too slow, provided your voice and action and the weight of the sentiment keep up your hearers' attention.

3. Affect not to move the passions by a loud, clamorous voice. This is not powerful preaching; and argues no ex­cellence in the preacher, bu [...] the strengh of his lungs. It is unseemly in a chris­tian minister to imitate the priests of Del­phos, who delivered their oracles with rage and foaming. This noisy, blustering manner shocks a delicate hearer, and de­grades the dignity of the pulpit. To be a Boanerges, it is not necessary to become a Stentor. However,

4. Let your voice be always lively and awakening; though at sometimes it should be more animated than at others.

[Page 83]5. Now and then a sudden change from a higher to a lower key, when some­thing remarkable occurs, will wonderfully catch the attention. This is what Quintil­ian calls Ars variand, which, when well timed, is not only graceful in itself, but pleasing to the ear, and gives no small re­lief to the preacher *.

6. Repeat sometimes the most remark­able sentences with a free, decent, easy manner.

7. Make a pause after some important thought. These pauses, especially near the close of a discourse, will have a very good effect; not only as they render the service more solemn, but give both your­self and your hearers time to compose and recollect; and mightily awaken their attention to what follows: which should therefore be always something worthy of it. "There are some occasions, where an orator might best express his thoughts by silence; for if being full of some great sentiment he continue immoveable for a moment, this surprising pause will keep [Page 84] the minds of the audience in suspense, and exp [...]ess [...]n [...]motion too big for words to utter." —In a word, as Quintilian ob­serves, the great art of elocution, is no more than a proper and natural modula­tion and variation of the voice, according to the nature [...]f the subject.*

III. The action▪ This must always be adapted to the pronunciation, as that to the passions. Here two extremes are to be avoided, viz. too much, and two little action.

1. Let not your action be too much. "We have some at home that outdo the French, and invent new ways of an apish and uncouth deportment. One is ready every moment to throw himself out of the pulpit, and the people that sit below him are in continual fear that he will be in good earnest. Another reckons up all the heads and particulars on the tips of his fingers, which he exposes to the gazing people. Others by odd and fantastic ges­tures of the like nature delight to give the auditors diversion, and make good the primitive use of the word pulpit, which [Page 85] was the higher part of the stage where the players and comedians acted. But our serious preacher abhors all of this kind, and never affects to be theatrical."—

To be more particular—Your action should not be perpetual. The body or any part of it must not be in constant mo­tion. As the preacher should not be, like the trunk of a tree, always immovable; so neither, like the boughs of it, in con­tinual agitation.—Nor must the motion of the body be uniform and unvaried. A steady vibrative swing of the body from the right to the left, like the pendulum of a clock, is very unnatural and faulty. "As there is a monotony in the voice; so there is a uniformity in the gesture, that is no less nauseous and unnatural, and equally contrary to the good effect that one might expect from decent action." —Again, your action should not be mimical. The hands should seldom stir, unless when some passion is to be expres­sed, or some weighty sentiment pointed out.—Nor too violent; as when it exceeds the force of the expression, and the dignity of the sentiment. A fault we often see in company among persons of a [Page 86] warm, impetuous temper.—Nor theatri­cal, pompous, and affected. This be­comes neither the dignity of the pulpit, nor the solemnity of the work. The chief action should be 1. in the eyes; which should be commanding, quick, and pierc­ing; not confined to your notes, but gent­ly turning to every part of your audi­ence, with a modest, graceful respect. 2. The head; which should always regular­ly turn with the eyes. 3. The hands. The right hand should have almost all the action; at least the left hand is never to be used alone. 4. The upper part of the body; it should always correspond with the motion of the eyes, head, and hands; and should be for the most part erect. Avoid a lazy lolling on the cushing, on which your elbows should rarely rest, and when they do, that is, when you make a considerable pause, let it be with an easy, graceful attitude. In a word, let all your pulpit actions be natural, free, decent, and easy; which, by frequent practice and a careful observation of these rules, will be soon attained.

2. The other extreme, to be avoided, is too little action. To stand like a statue, [Page 87] stiff and motionless, when you are speak­ing to your people of the most momen­tous and affecting things, is as unnatural and disagreeable, as a set, uniform tone in pronunciation; and looks as if you were not in earnest yourself, and cared not whether your people were so. How singularly would this appear, if you were talking to a friend in private on any par­ticular affair, that very much concerned him, and to which you desire to excite his most earnest attention. How will your hearers be able to keep from sleeping, if they see you are scarce [...] yourself? Into this extreme the English preachers are most apt to fall, as the French into the former. But after all let it be remem­bered, that the end of a decent, just, and lively pronunciation and action, is only to excite and fix the attention of your hearers. Let your chief care be still di­rected to the propriety and importance of your sentiment, and the dignity of your subject; for it will never [...]ail to disgust your hearers, if you rouse their attention by a solemnity of voice and action, and then put them off with something low, trite, or unaffecting.

[Page 88]

CHAP V. Of Prayer.

2. THE next most considerable part of the pastoral office is prayer; which is commonly divided into the Grace and Gift of prayer.

I. The grace, or the spirit of prayer. This signifies either 1. praying with the heart and spirit, with the intent engage­ment of all the mental powers, under­standing, will, and affections. Or 2. with the exercise of those christian graces which are proper to enkindle a devout fervour of mind in that part of worship; such as humility, self abasement, faith, love, delight, desire, trust in God, hope and heavenly mindedness. Or 3. un­der the particular aid and influence of the Holy Spirit who helps our infirmities, and teaches us to pray. So says the apos­tle, We know not what to pray for as we [Page 89] ought, but the spirit helpeth our informities, Rom. viii.26. by composing our spirits, giving us a greater abstraction from the w [...]rld, and a greater elevation of heart, and calling into lively exercise the grace [...] before mentioned.—And this spiritual prayer may be entirely mental, without the use of words; and it is this spirituali­ty which gives to our prayers all their ef­fect and power; and without it no prayer, though ever so properly composed or de­cently delivered, will be acceptable to God, or available to ourselves; which therefore we should frequently and earn­estly ask at the throne of divine grace.— But it is the other kind of prayer which I am at present more particularly to consid­er, viz.

II. The gift of prayer; or an ability to perform this duty extempore, in a decent and devout manner, publicly. And to this purpose three things are required. 1. An enlargement of the mind. 2. A regulation or a [...]rangement of our thoughts. 3. A freedom of expression, or ready ut­terance. These will take in the matter, method, and manner of prayer.

I. An enlargement of the mind▪ which [Page 90] takes in the matter of prayer. Whatever we want, or desire, or know we ought to desire, should be the subject matter of our prayers. In order to an enlargement of mind in prayer, and a suitable supply of matter,

We must [...] be well acquainted with the state of our souls▪ and attend to our spiritual wants and weaknesses. The christian's own heart is his best [...] book. The more we converse with that, the better shall we converse with God▪ It may not be amiss to commit to writing those defects and blemishes▪ we chiefly observe in our characters, the mercie [...] we have received, especially any particular mercies we ha [...]e received by prayer, either deliverance from evil, direction in difficul­ties, or the accomplishment of a desired end▪ each of which will be a proper sub­ject either of petition, confession, or thanksgiving.—2. When you address yourself to the sacred work, see that the mind be free, composed, and serious. Its conceptions and apprehensions will then be more ready, and proper thoughts will more freely occur.—3. Possess your mind with an awful reverence of the Di­vine [Page 91] Majesty, whom you address as the heart searching God.—4. Let your ex­pressions be very deliberate and solemn, that the mind may have time not only to conceive, but to regulate and contemplate its conceptions.—5. Daily study the word of God, with this [...] particular, that you may be the better supplied with materials for devotion.—6. Endeavou [...] after a comprehensive view of things. Let the mind take a wide scope; and let it freely run on those subjects that most af­fect it.—7. Let practical divinity, and a right disposition of heart towards God, be your principal care and study.— 8. Take some time to premeditate and rec­ollect the chief topics of prayer, and commit some few well chosen expressions and sentences to memory.—Lastly. Let the subject you have preached upon, and especially those you have found your mind most warmly affected with, and some of the most striking sentiments and ex­pressions in them, be wrought into the composition of your future prayers, rang­ed under their proper heads. This in time will greatly enrich your magazine of materials for prayer; and lead you to [Page 92] proper thoughts and words on the most important occasions.

II. We should not only aim at a com­prehension, but observe a method, in prayer. The usual method is 1. Invoca­tion; wherein we are to make a solemn mention of some of the divine attri­butes. Nor should this be always confined to the beginning of prayer. It may very properly be repeated by way of preface to some of the principal petitions we put up to God; which, when pronounced with seriousness and reverence, will have a good effect to awaken the devotion of the heart. But always remember to invoke the Almighty under those at­tributes ahd perfections, which are most suitable to the blessings you ask of him▪ that is, when we pray for an accession of divine knowledge and wisdom, the ad­dress may be in this form— ‘O Father and Fountain of light, in whom there is no darkness at all, who givest to man the wisdom he asketh of thee, we beseech thee to disperse the darkness of our minds, shine into our hearts, and liberally bestow upon us that wisdom which thou knowest we want.’ 2. Confession of sin. [Page 93] The transi [...]ion of this part of prayer will be natural and easy, by taking particular notice of those moral perfections of the divine nature, in which we ourselves are most defective; for example—The right­eousness and holiness of God, as thus— ‘O holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almigh­ty, who art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity wherewith shall we, thine unholy creatures presume to appear before thee, or lift up our eyes or thoughts to heav­en which our iniquities have reached be­fore them!’ In public prayer, let these confessions be general. In private▪ par­ticularize as your own consciousness of guilt suggests. 3. Petition. The connex­ion here may be properly made by the mention of the divine mercies, or the re­membrance of Christ's mediatorship, and the promise of pardon and grace to peni­tent sinners; and most properly begins with petition for pardon; then, for a more perfect renovation; after which pro­ceed to beg for other spiritual blessings; as more light and knowledge, more love to God, more faith and hope, more strength against temptation and sin, more purity and heavenly mindedness, more indiffer­ence [Page 94] to the world, &c. Then proceed to temporal blessings. 4. Particular inter­cessions. These it will be best to precom­pose; and commit to memory the expres­sions and phrases that are most proper to be used on particular occasions. But let the phrase and subject be often varied, that it may not appear to be a form; and in all your prayers, on any particular or special occasions there is great need of much premeditation. Lastly—Thanks­giving. The subjects of these are either general or particular; and as various as our mercies.

This part of prayer may perhaps come in more properly after invocation; and the transition, from thence to confession may be made by the mention of our un­worthiness of divine blessings.

Besides this general method, it would be proper to preserve in your mind a par­ticular method of the several blessings you are to pray for, the sins you confess, and the mercies you commemorate. Let these be laid up in the mind, in order to be pro­duced in their proper places.—But do not tie yourself down to the invariable use of any method, whether general or par­ticular; [Page 95] for a too close application of the mind to the method or expression of pray­er is apt to obstruct the devout employ­ment of the heart. Besides this will make the prayer appear too formal, artificial, and studied, and bring a drowsiness on the minds of those, whose devotion you are called to excite and lead; who are never more pleased and edified in this part of worship, than when they observe us to be affected with our own prayers. A heart inspired with warm devotion will not be confined to exact method; and a lively turn of thought, and a strong, sur­prising sentiment, uttered in its due place, will strike the minds of our fellow wor­shipers so strongly, that they will not at­tend to the want of method, or if they do, will readily excuse it. Enlarge mostly on that part of prayer, with which you find your own mind most affected; and let not any occasional deviations from your proposed method interrupt the fer­vent workings of your spirit. It is good however to be master of a regular system of materials, and of pertinent expressions under each head, which may serve instead of a form, but still to be uttered in the [Page 96] most solemn and reverend manner, when the powers of the mind happen to be heavy, inactive, or oppressed by the pres­ence of others, at a time we are called to the performance of this duty.

3. Next to the matter and method, we should have a regard to the manner of prayer. This respects 1. the gesture of the body; which should be always decent, grave, and humble, and expressive of the reverence of the heart; as folding the hands, or putting the open palms togeth­er, sometimes erect, sometimes declining with the body; sometimes lifted up with the eyes, according as the pious or hum­ble motions of the heart direct. Let the eyes be mostly closed, or if open, steadily fixed; for nothing is more indecent than for the eyes to wander in the performance of this duty. —2. The pronunciation. Let this be slow, solemn, grave, distinct, and serious.—Let not your words flow faster than your thoughts; that the latter may have time to be maturely conceived and well expressed; by which means, one thought will more naturally rise out of another, and be in readiness to be produ­ced whilst the other is uttering. And [Page 97] when the conceptions are thus before hand with the expressions, the mind will be free, composed and serious; and have time to feel the weight of its own thoughts; which will be a great help to the true spirit of prayer. "Due and proper [...] and stops will give the hearer time to conceive and reflect on what you speak, and [...] heartily to join with you; as well as gi [...]e you leave to breathe, and make the [...] more easy and pleasant to yourself. [...] sides, when persons run on heedless with an incessant flow of words, [...] as it were in a violent stream▪ [...] or pauses, they are in danger of uttering things rashly before God; giving no time at all to their own meditation but indulg­ing their tongue to run sometimes too fast for their own thoughts, as well as for the affections of such as are present with them. All this arises from the hurry of the tongue into the middle of a sentence, before the mind has conceived the full and complete sense of it."

Avoid the extremes of a too low and muttering voice, which some use; and a clamorous, strong, noisy tone, which oth­ers affect; as if they expected to b [...] [...] [Page 98] for their loud speaking; or as if the de­votion of the heart consisted in a strength of the lungs. This is improperly called powerful praying, and will be very dis­gustful to many.—3. The expression. Here let the following rules be observed.

1. Let your language be plain, but proper. Avoid all low, vulgar, and ob­solete phrases, but affect not an elegant or [...]hetorical style; much less an obscure and mystical one; for how can the mind feel the weight of that sentiment it does not understand?

2. Scriptural expressions, if happily chosen, are very ornamental in prayer.— "It would be of excellent use to improve us in the gift of prayer, if in our daily reading of the word of God, we did ob­serve what expressions were suited to the several parts of this duty; adoration, confession, petition, or thanksgiving; and let them be wrought into our addresses to God that day." —And to be furnished with a Copia of scriptural expressions to be used in prayer, read Henry's Method of Prayer, Bishop Wilkin's discourse on the Gift of Prayer; or Closet Devotions.

But here let the two following cautions be observed.

[Page 99]1. Let not your prayer be all in scrip­ture words. Some conceive a prayer of nothing but texts of scripture put togeth­er; which prevents the mind from taking a proper scope, and leaves no room for the invention, or the utterance of pious thoughts.

2. Avoid the dark, mystical expressions of scripture; which you have reason to believe the greatest part of your hearers do not comprehend the sense of.— "If we indulge the use of such dark sentences in our speaking to God, we might as well pray in an unknown tongue, which was so much disapproved of by the apostle, 1 Cor. xiv.9. Let not the pomp and [...]ound of any hard Hebrew names, or ob­scure phrase in scripture, allure us to be fond of them in social prayer, even though we ourselves should know the meaning of them, lest we confound the thoughts of our fellow worshipers."

3. If you have not the faculty of cloth­ing your own ideas in proper and perti­nent words▪ borrow the phrases and ex­pressions of others upon the same subject. Make a collection of them from the best authors, but remember to pick out those [Page 100] which come nearest to your own phrase­ology, or such as you best approve, and would wish to have in readiness when you are speaking on that particular subject. And when you are furnished with a store of such well chosen expressions, turn them into the form of a prayer, and commit them to memory; which expedient will not only facilitate your expression, but give room for farther invention.— "It is usual for young students to be very careful in gathering common place books. It would be a much greater advantage, if they were as diligent to collect, under proper refer­ences, any such particular matter, or expressions in prayer, wherewith at any time they find themselves to be more es­pecially affected."

4. It is very proper and requisite that your prayer, after sermon, be formed on the subject you have been treating of; wherein you may go over all the heads of your discourse, and touch upon the most important sentiments, and repeat the most striking expressions in it. But as the mind will be then sometimes fatigued, and the powers exhausted and unfit to be put on the new labour of invention, it may not [Page 101] be amiss to pen down the short concluding prayer verbatim, to be repeated memoriter; but without confining yourself either to the precise expressions, or method you had before conceived, if the mind be able or disposed to enlarge.

5. Avoid those phrases and modes of expression which you know to be disagree­able or disgustful to your hearers; and prefer those that will give the least offence to any party or denomination of chris­tians.

6. Throw your prayer out of a form as much as you can, by varying both me­thod and phrase, and by a fresh supply of sentiments and expressions; which will be a great help both to your own devotion, and theirs, who join with you in this part of worship.

7. Let your prayers as well as your ser­mons, be rather too short than too long.

8. Avoid preaching prayers. "Some persons, who affect long prayers, are great­ly faulty in this respect; they are speaking to the people and teaching them the doc­trines of religion, and the mind and will of God, rather than speaking to God the desires of their mind. They wander away [Page 102] from God to speak to men. But this is quite contrary to the nature of prayer.

Lastly. Be not too fond of a nice uni­formity of words, nor of perpetual diver­sity of expression in prayer. "We should seek indeed to be furnished with a rich variety of holy language, that our prayers may always have something new and en­tertaining in them; and not tie ourselves to express one thing always in one set of words, lest this make us grow formal and dull, and indifferent in those petitions.— But on the other hand, if we are guilty of a perpetual affectation of new words, which we never before used, we shall some­times miss our own best and most spiritual meaning, and many times be driven to great impropri [...] of speech; and at best our prayers by this mean will look like the fruit of our fancy, and invention, and the labour of the head▪ more than the breathings of the heart."

I shall conclude this chapter with a few general directions how to attain and im­prove this useful gift.

1. Accustom yourself to a serious, de­vout, and decent discharge of this duty ev­ery day in private; whereby a readiness [Page 103] of conception and expression will be soon­er acquired.

2. Spare no pains to gain so excellent a talent; for it is not to be had, especially by some, without much application; but it is worth it all. And there are few things on which the labour of one, who is a stu­dent for the sacred ministry, can be more usefully employed.

3. Often pray for this gift of prayer.

4. Endeavour to get your spirit deeply impressed with the great things of religion, and let those sentiments which most affect­ed you in your most serious frames, be wrought into your prayers.

5. Maintain a manly presence of mind, and use all proper means to conquer that bashfulness and timidity of spirit, which young persons are subject to, and is a great hindrance to a decent discharge of this duty.

6. Take every opportunity you can to hear others pray, and imitate them in eve­ry thing you observe to be decent, grace­ful, and excellent.

Lastly. Vary your concluding doxolo­gies; and that you may herein give no offence to any, it may be proper to con­fine [Page 104] yourself to those of scripture, which are very various, and such as follow.

Heb. xiii.21.—Through Iesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Rom. xvi.25, 27.—Now to him that is of power to establish you according to the gos­pel of Iesus Christ. To God only wise, be glory through Iesus Christ for ever. Amen.

Rom. ix.5.—Through Iesus Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Gal. i.4, 5.—Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Ephes. iii.20, 21.—Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Iesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

1 Tim. i.17.—Now unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be hon­our and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Pet. iv.11.—Through Iesus Christ to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ev­er. Amen.

[Page 105]2 Pet. iii.18.—Through our Lord and Saviour Iesus Christ, to whom be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Jude ver. 24, 25.—Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to pres [...]nt us faultless b [...]fore the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Rev. i.5, 6.—Unto him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests to God even his Father: To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Rev. v.1 [...].—Blessing and honour, and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

[Page 106]

CHAP. VI. Concerning the administration of the sacra­ments.

I. OF Baptism.

"A minister ought to instruct his peo­ple frequently in the nature of baptism, that they may not go about it merely as a ceremony, as it is too visible the greater part do, but that they may consider it as the dedicating their children to God, the offering them to Christ, and the holding them thereafter as his; directing their chief care about them to the breeding them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.—In the administration of this ordinance it is best to keep to the o­riginal institution as your rule and guide. —The most natural method to be used in the celebration of it, seems to be this:

1. Recite the express words of the in­stitution. Matt. xxviii.28. Then▪

2. It would not be amiss to say some­thing in vindication of those two positive [Page 107] institutions of christianity, Baptism and the Lord's Supper; and to show the excel­lency of the christian dispensation from its simplicity, and that it is not encumber­ed with those numerous external ceremo­nies, which the Jewish dispensation was.

3. Make a short discourse on the ordi­nance as a sacrament of the christian church; wherein you may offer some use­ful remarks on the practice of infant pab­tism; then add some proper observations relating to the mode and manner in which the ordinance is to be celebrated; laying this down as an undisputed principle, that in the manner of performing divine wor­ship it is always best and safest to keep close the divine rule; so as neither to go beyond▪ nor fall short of it; for in the former case▪ we know not whether human and arbitrary additions will be approved of God▪ but this we are sure of, he will never condemn us for not doing what he never commanded; and therefor the sign of t [...]e cross m [...]y be safely om [...]t [...]ed, as no where [...]njoined by God himself, a [...]d as to the latter case, that is, neglecting [...] pa [...]t of our rule, or those instructions [...] hath given us for the directory of our [...], [Page 108] this must certainly be criminal, and derogatory to the honour of the divine in­stitutor. But where the circumstance or mode of any religious action is left unde­termined in the form and words of the institution that which is most decent and convenient is to be preferred. Hence sprinkling or washing the face of the bap­tized person gently with the hand, is to be preferred to plunging the body all over in water; because the former is more safe and decent, and the latter no where com­manded as the standing universal mode of baptizing.

4. Be more particular in explaining the nature, end, and design of this ordi­nance▪ and [...]n opening the typical part of it. Here you may bring in the doctrine of sanctification, and the purifying influ­ences of the holy Spirit figured by the water in baptism, and the relation this christian inst [...]tution has to the baptizing of proselyte [...] ▪ and to the Jewish ordinance of circumcision.

5. You may th [...]n briefly open the na­ture of the present duty of the parents; in giving up their child to God, and what is implied therein, viz. their desire that [Page 109] it should be received into the church of Christ, and brought up in the christian faith. And be very particular in your address to the parents of the infant which is to be baptized; pressing upon them the importance of their charge, and the care they are to take in the education of their child; especially in reference to its spirit­ual and eternal concerns. But this may be either before, or after the ceremonial part of the ordinance is performed.

6. Proceed then to ask a blessing upon the ordinance; and pray for the infant in particular.

7. Then take the infant, and washing it gently with water, baptize it in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Then, lastly, if the exhortation to the parents do not come in here, but was ad­dressed to them before, conclude with the thanksgiving prayer and the benediction.

II. Of the sacrament of the Lord's supper.

1. Of the method of performing it.

2. Of taking in communicants.

I. Of the method of performing it.— The most regular method seems to be this [Page 110] 1. Make a short preparatory discourse, tending to open the nature and design of this sacrament, and the necessity and im­portance of its intention; or to excite some devout affections in the minds of the communicants, especially relating to the love of Christ, the design of his death and sufferings, and the necessity of a frequent commemoration thereof in this sacred in­stitution. But let the address be very se­rious, and very solemn.—Then 2. read distinctly the words of the institution.— Then 3. solemnly pray for the divine blessing and presence; give thanks to God for the institution of the visible symbols to affect your mind, and assist your faith; and earnestly pray that the great end of this sacred solemnity may be visibly an­swered in every one of the communicants, and be manifested in their growing love to the Redeemer, and more steady attach­ment to his gospel, as their only rule of faith and life.—Then 4. break the sacra­mental bread, and distribute either per­sonally, or by the hands of the deacons. To assist the devotion of the communi­cants, it is the custom of some ministers to pronounce now and then some serious and [Page 111] weighty sentences relative to the love and sufferings of Christ, or the benefits of his death. But this is disused by others un­der an apprehension that, instead of quick­ening the devotion of our fellow worship­ers, it may interrupt it, by diverting the course of their own meditations.—5. Af­ter the distribution of the bread, make a short prayer to beg the continuance of the divine presence and blessing, and that God would graciously forgive the infirmities of our worship; and give thanks for the ele­ment you are about to p [...]ake of, and pray that it may answer the design in­tended by it; which is all that protestants me [...]n by the consecration of the elements. But it is the custom with some to pray for a blessing on both the elements, in one single prayer.—6. Then follows the dis­tribution of the cup in the manner be­fore mentioned. In some churches it is the custom for the minister to partake of the elements last, and in others first; speaking, with an audible voice, these or some such words, "In obedience to Christ's com­mand, and in remembrance of him, I take and eat this bread, as the memorial of his body which was broken for sin." And so [Page 112] in partaking of the cup, "I take and drink this cup, &c." —After the distribu­tion of the elements, the minister some­times makes a short exhortation to the people, relating to the nature of their sa­cramental obligations, and exhorting them to be faithful thereunto.—After which a collection is made for the poor by the dea­con from pew to pew, or at the door when the congregation breaks up.—7. Then follows a suitable hymn or psalm.—Lastly. Conclude with a short thanksgiving pray­er.—In order to furnish your mind with suitable matter for your sacramental ex­hortations, and prayers, it is requisite to read some proper devotional treatise on this ordinance, before you enter on the celebration of it.

II. The method of admitting commu­nicants to the Lord's table. This is dif­ferent in different churches. For direction in this affair these general rules may be of service.

1. As every particular church is a select religious society, every member of it has a right to be satisfied of the character and qualification of every new member that is admitted into it. This is plain from the [Page 113] very nature and design of such a society▪ and necessary to preserve the purity and discipline of the church.

2. That the qualifications required in the candidates, should be no other than what we have plain warrant from scrip­ture to demand, and such as are necessary to preserve purity and discipline; for herein, as well as in other parts of Chris­tian discipline and church government, we are strictly to adhere to scripture as our rule, so far as it affords us any direc­tion in this matter. And therefore to re­quire that the spiritual experiences of the candidate be publicly declared by himself, or read by another, in the presence of the church, before he is suffered to commu­nicate with them, which is the practice in some protestant dissenting congregations, is not only unnecessary, but unwarranta­ble, and often attended with very bad ef­fects; it is unnecessary, because it is found not to answer the end principally designed, the greater purity of the church; it is un­warrantable, because we have no shadow of a precept or precedent for it in scrip­ture, or primitive antiquity; and the bad consequences of it, are 1. It bars the way [Page 114] to this ordinance, discourages meek, hum­ble, and modest persons from proposing themselves to the communion whilst it is easily accessible to men of bold, forward, and confident tempers. 2. It is a temp­tation to the candidates to declare more than they have really experienced, lest the church should reject them; or to describe the animal passions as divine influences, and the workings of the imagination as the operations of the Spirit, which young and unexperienced Christians are too apt to do. 3. It supposes and countenances some very mistaken principles, viz. that none have a right to this ordinance b [...]t those whose hearts are really converted, nor even they, until they are sensible of this, and are able to make others sensible of it, by describing the time, means, man­ner and effects of that conversion. 4. It attributes a power to the church, which they have no right to, viz. of judging the hearts of others; and that by a very pre­carious rule, viz. from what they say of themselves. For if they judge by the ge­neral character, life, and conversation of the candidate, which is a much better rule, there is no necessity for a public declara­tion [Page 115] of his experience. It likewise implies a power in the church of excluding from this ordinance all that cannot produce such evidence of their real conversion as will satisfy every member of the church. Upon what foundation so extraordinary a claim is built it is hard to say. Lastly. This practice tends to [...]ake the members thus admitted, too careless and confident after their admission; for when they have the testimony of the whole church con­curring with their own strong imagination that they are true converted christians, and look upon the sins they commit after this only as the weaknesses of God's children, they are in great danger of being betray­ed into a false and fatal peace. Therefore,

3. A creditable profession, and un­blemished character and conversation may be deemed as a necessary and sufficient qualification for▪ the holy communion. This is necessary, in order to keep up the discipline, and preserve the purity of the church; and it is sufficient, because we do not find that our sacred rule requires any thing farther. And

4. As soon as the members of the church are satisfied of this general quali­fication [Page 116] of the candidate, they have no right to refuse their assent to his admission.

5. Provided they have this satisfaction, it is not material by what means they re­ceive it. Sometimes the elders of the church are deputed to confer privately with the candidate, and inquire into his knowledge of the design and nature of this ordinance; and whether his views and ends in desiring to join in it be sincere and right.—Sometimes this is left en­tirely to the minister, whose business it more properly is; who, if he be satisfied in those points, acquaints the church of it at the next ensuing sacrament; and there­upon declares, that if any of the mem­bers present do not signify to him, before the next sacrament, any objections against the candidate's admission, he will then, by their consent, be admitted to the ordi­nance, as a member of that church. In other churches, members are admitted by the minister only, without any notice giv­en to the church, till the very time of their admission; nor even then are they apprized of it any other way, than by a few petitions in the minister's prayer par­ticularly, in behalf of the new admitted member.

[Page 117]Lastly. The church has an undoubted right to expel irregular and unworthy members. This is generally done at first by suspension; when the minister inti­mates his desire, and that of the church, to the delinquent member, that he would refrain from coming to the sacrament, till he hears farther from him; which is generally sufficient, without the solemni­ty of a formal and public expulsion.

[Page 118]

CHAP. VII. Of visiting the sick.

THIS is a very arduous and del­icate office, and especially in some cir­cumstances; and a different method of ad­dress and conduct is requisite according to the different characters of the persons you visit.

It will therefore be proper,

I. To lay down some general rules to be observed, in order to a right execution of this part of your duty.

II. To specify some particular cases.

I. To lay down some general rules to be observed, in order to a right execution of this part of your duty.

1. A previous preparation for it is very proper; by considering what kind of ad­dress will be most necessary and suitable to the person you visit. It is something strange, as a late judicious divine well ob­serves, that ministers who take so much [Page 119] pains to prepare for the work of the pul­pit, should generally take so little, to pre­pare for this, which is one of the most dif­ficult, and most important offices in the ministry.

2. It would be adviseable to have in readiness a good store of scripture expres­sions, adapted to the support and comfort of the afflicted; which may be easily col­lected from the common place book to the bible; and, out of these, chuse such as are most applicable to the case of your friend.

3. Adapt yourself to his taste and un­derstanding, as well as to the circumstan­ces of his case▪ by making such observa­tions, and using such expressions as you know are most familiar and agreeable to him: But take care to explain the phrases you make use of, if you have reason to think he does not understand them.

4. Let your deportment and address be very free, friendly, close, tender, and com­passionate.

5. Place yourself in the condition of the person before you, and consider in what manner you wish a minister or friend to behave to you in those circumstances.

[Page 120]6. Whilst you are tender, be sure to be faithful; and have respect to the ap­probation of your conscience afterwards. Remember that you are a minister of the gospel, and must not sacrifice the cause of truth and godliness to a false shame or tenderness.

Lastly. Let your prayer for the sick person be short, but very serious and sol­emn, and adapted as much as may be to the state of his soul, and the danger of his disease. In all which offices there is great need of much piety, fidelity, and wisdom.

II. Let us now consider how a minis­ter ought to behave in his visitation of the sick, under some particular circumstances. And,

I. If you have reason to believe that the afflicted person you visit is a real good christian, your work will not be very dif­ficul [...]; it may be pleasant and useful; and you may possibly receive more advantage from him, than he does from you. For a christian's graces are at such a time com­monly most lively, and [...] tongue very faithful to the s [...]ntimen [...] [...] the heart; so that you will presently [...] it is that [Page 121] lies most upon his mind. And as your present business will be to administer con­solation and solve his doubts,

Your topics of consolation may be taken 1. From his past experience. Direct him to look back to the goodness of God to him, and the sensible experience he has had of the divine love and presence. Bid him think of what God has done for his soul, and thence draw David's conclusion, Because the Lord has been my help, &c.— 2. Refer his thoughts to the paternal char­acter. And bid him think of the com­passions of a father to a weak and help­less child.—3. Open the inexhaustible stores of the divine mercy in the gospel. —4. Insist on the mighty efficacy of the Redeemer's blood.—5. The genuine marks of a true faith and sincere repentance.— Lastly. Endeavour to affect his mind with a lively apprehension of the heavenly glo­ry, to which he will shortly be received.

And as to his doubts, tell him, 1. That he is not a proper judge in his own case, under the present weakness of his powers; that the lowness of his animal spirits caus­es him to look too much upon the dark side, and to see every thing through a wrong medium; that he has no reason to [Page 122] suspect [...]s case to be worse now than it was when he [...]ad better hopes concerning it.— 2. That t [...]e best of men have had their doubts, that if it be the sign of a weak faith, it is however the sign of some true faith.— 3. That it is much safer to be doubtful than over confident.—4. That however variable be our frame, God's regards for his own children are unchangeable.—5. Bid him examine his doubts to the bot [...]om, and trace them up to the true source; and per­haps they may appear to arise from the a­gency of Satan, who delights to disturb the tranquility of those he cannot destroy.— 6. Ask him, if he has any hopes, and whether he would part with the little hope he has, for the greatest treasures on earth. Bid him examine the foundation of those hopes, as well as that of his fears; for he can never judge aright 'till he looks on both sides. And often times a chris­tian's weak hope has a better foundation than his strongest fears. But,

II. Is the character of the sick person you visit doubtful? your business is more diffi­cult, your address must be [...] cautious.

If there be no apparent danger of death, 1. Endeavour to give him just notions of a particular providence; that though men [Page 123] do not so often attend to it as they ought, yet most certain it is, both from scripture and reason, that whatever befals every in­dividual man on earth is under the im­mediate direction of providence. And as to this affliction in particular persuade him to regard and consider it as the hand of God.—Then 2. discourse on the wis­dom and goodness of God in sending these occasional rebukes of his providence; which, whatever we think, are sent for the best ends. Afflictions are the physic of the soul, designed to purify and purge it. —3. Under this view of things press up­on him the exercise of patience, submis­sion, and a total resignation to the divine will; and direct him to look upon the present dispensation, though grievous, as sent in mercy to him, and as what may hereafter produce the most excellent ef­fects— 4. Tell him, that in the best of men there are sins and follies sufficient to jus­tify the severest dispensations of God's providence▪ that many good christians have suffered worse; and what reason he has to be thankful that his case is not more calamitous.—5. Remind him of the many mercies mixed with the present af­fliction.— 6. If it should please God to [Page 124] restore him, exhort him faithfully to con­cur with the design of this visitation, by his constant endeavour to amend what his conscience now smites him for.

But if there be apparent symptoms of approaching death, exhort him 1. serious­ly to review his past life, to call to mind the most remarkable transgressions of it, for which he should now greatly humble his soul before God, and sincerely renew his repentance.—And that his repentance may be sincere and unfeigned, 2. Endea­vour to make him sensible of the evil and guilt of sin from its contrariety to the ho­ly nature of God, and the inevitable ruin it exposes the soul unto.—3. When he is thus humble and penitent, revive him with the consalations of the gospel; the amazing compassion and goodness of God to a world of sinners, in sending his Son to redeem them by his death; and the merits of the Redeemer's sufferings, whose blood cleanses from all sin.—Then 4. o­pen to him in a plain and easy manner the gospel method of salvation by Jesus Christ, and the only terms of pardon there pro­posed, viz. Repentance, faith, and a holy life. And tell him particularly, that sav­ing faith in Christ does not consist in a [Page 125] confident persuasion, that he died for him in particular, but in the lively exercise of love to him, a desire to serve and please him, and a humble dependance on his me­rits for justification and pardon.—5. In a deep self abhorrence for his sins, and in such a lively faith in Christ. Advise him to call upon the Father of mercies for par­don through Jesus Christ his Son.—6. Re­mind him to settle his affairs in this world, as well as he can; and then think no more of it for ever. And lastly, Leave with him some suitable text of scripture which you apprehend most applicable to the state of his soul. But,

III. If the sick man you visit has been notoriously wicked, and appears ignorant, insensible, and hardened, your business then is the most difficult of all.

To make any right impression on such a one, you must 1. Pray to God before­hand that you may be enabled to say some­thing that is suitable to his case, which may be a mean of awakening him to a proper sense of his danger—And then 2. When you come into his room, ap­pear deeply affected with his case. Let him see that you are more concerned for him, than he is for himself; that you are [Page 126] more sensible of his danger than he is of his own—Then 3. In order to bring him to a proper sense of his state and danger, put some close questions to him relating to the holy and righteous nature of God; his infinite hatred of sin; the absolute im­possibility of being happy hereafter but in his favour; the certainty of a future judgment, when God will render to every one according to his works; and the unspeak­able importance of the soul's being safe for eternity.—Then 4. Beg of him not to deceive himself with vain hopes; but be willing to see the truth of his case, as it is represented to him in the unerring word of God, however dangerous or dreadful it may appear to him; for whilst he shuts his eyes against the danger, there is no pos­sibility of escaping it.—5. If his distem­per is like to be fatal, let him know it; and that all that can be done to escape everlasting misery, must immediately be done; that there is as yet some hope though it be but small, that this possibly may be done; that on this moment de­pends his future condition for ever: And beg him not to lose this last and only cast he has for eternity.—6. If his con­science by these means be awakened, and [Page 127] you observe some genuine relentings of heart, take that occasion to assist its work­ings, to enforce its reproofs and urge its convictions, until you see something like a true penitential remorse—Then 7. Earnestly pray with him, and for him; that God would continue to give him a just sense of his sin and danger, and that his grace and spirit may carry on those convictions until they issue in a real change of heart.—Then 8. Take your leave of him in a tender and affectionate manner, not without giving him some hope that if the same sensible and penitent frame con­tinue, there may be mercy in reserve for him. But beg of him whilst he has the use of his reason not to omit any opportunity of crying mightily to God for mercy through the merits of Jesus Christ his Son.—9. In your next visit, which should be soon after this, if you find him penitent, exhort him to glorify God by making an ample confession of his sins in private, with all their heinous aggrava­tions, and not to be afraid to see the worst of himself; and if he has in any matter in­jured or defrauded others, you must insist upon it, as a mark of true repentance, that he immediately make restitution or satis­faction, [Page 128] if it be in his power.—Lastly. If his penitential sorrow still continue, and you have reason to believe him sincere, you may begin to administer the conso­lations of the gospel, and address him as you have been directed in the case of the person before mentioned under the like circumstances.

CHAP. VIII. Concerning the minister's conduct towards his people.

HERE it will be proper, 1. to lay down some general rules to be observed at all times. And, 2. some particular rules applicable to extraordinary occasions.

I. To lay down some general rules to be observed at all times.

Previous to these, I would desire you to observe these two things—1. Arm your­self with resolution, and prepare to meet with difficulties and contempt. The na­ture of your office implies the first▪ and all the dignity of it will not secure you from the last. But if you behave prudently and faithfully in it, you will meet with con­tempt [Page 129] from none but those who deserve it, and whose esteem would be no honour. 2. Study the true nature of christian hu­mility; and let your mind be cloathed with it as its greatest ornament. But dis­tinguish between that dastardly meanness and pusillanimity which makes you a­shamed to look in the face, and speak in the presence of your superiours, and may tempt you to an abject compliance with all their humours, and that humility which arises from a reverence of God, a con­sciousness of your defects, the difficulty of your work, and the knowledge of your character. This will teach you to bear contempt with dignity, and applause with decency; the latter perhaps you will find not less difficult than the former. L [...]t the knowledge of yourself be your guard a­gainst that vanity of mind which will be apt to steal into it when you hear the ap­probations or commendations of man.— Thus armed with resolution and humility, let your principal care be,

1. To be faithful to God and conscience▪ and take care that nothing betray you into such a behaviour upon any occasion, for which your own mind will reproach you in secret. And a steady regard to this [Page 130] rule will lead you to decline the most usual and dangerous temptations.

2. Let your conduct to all be inoffen­sive, beneficent and obliging. Make it your practice, and it will be your pleas­ure, to do some kind office to every one to whom you have a power and opportu­nity of doing it with prudence. And let the Emperor Titus's rule of conduct be yours, Not to let one day pass, if possible, without doing some good to one person or other.

3. Visit your people in a kind and friendly manner, as often as it suits with your convenience and theirs. This is the business of the afternoon; for the whole morning▪ and as much time as you can re­deem at night, should be devoted to study. Where your visits are most pleasant and profitable, and most expected and desired, pay them most frequently. But where there is any prospect of doing good to any in your flock, there you should sometimes pay your visits, though it be to the poorest persons, and especially when they are in trouble. In all your visits take some opportunity of making moral remarks▪ or dropping some useful instructions, or leaving some good rule or religious observation for their ben­efit. [Page 131] But this must be done not with a magisterial authority or ministerial air, but with all the freedom and ease imagin­able, en passant, and when it rises natural­ly out of the subject of the conversation.

4. Throw off all affectation, parade, stiffness, morose conceit, reserve, and self sufficiency. Let your ambition be, to be distinguished by nothing but real holiness, wisdom, and benevolence. Be courteous, free, condescending, affable, open, unre­served, and friendly to all. But amidst all your freedoms forget not the dignity and decorum of your character.

5. Circumspectly avoid every thing that may give them unnessary offence, whether by word or conduct, though it be in mat­ters of indifference. You may possibly in point of fidelity be obliged to give them offence in some important things; in all others therefore you should endeavour to conciliate their esteem and respect. It shows much weakness and little prudence and candour to be obstinate and tenacious of little things, whether modes, customs, or phrases offensive to others. It is not walking charitably, nor following things that make for peace▪ and is a viol [...]t [...]n of the apostle's rule of becoming all thin [...]s to [Page 132] all men; but see that your charitable con­formity transgress not the laws of sincerity.

6. Above all, let your character be a fair copy of the virtues you preach▪ let the documents of the pulpit be exemplified in the conduct of your life. [...] minister should abstain from the appearance of evil; not only from things criminal, but from those which may be interpreted to his dishonour, and reported to his disadvantage.

Lastly. Be much in prayer for wisdom, strength, prudence, and capacity equal to your work and difficulties. This you will find as necessary as your most important studies. But take care that your private transactions with God be very serious, solemn, and sincere; and let your endea­vours go along with your prayers.

II. To lay down some particular rules applicable upon extraordinary occasions; or proper to regulate your conduct tow­ards p [...]rsons of different characters.

1. What is a right conduct towards those from whom you have received abuse, contempt, or just cause of offence?

1. Your first care must be to guard your passions. Keep your temper, and banish all vindictive resentment. If possible, never think of it; but be sure not to har­bour [Page 133] the tho'ts of it, which will but chaff and corrode the mind to no purpose. Be sat­isfied with a consciousness of your inno­cence, and consider the injurious person as an object of your pity rather than in­dignation. 2. As you must endeavour to forget the offence; you must not only cease to think, but forbear to talk of it, unless it be with an intimate friend to ask his advice. 3. You may lawfully decline the company of the person who has thus in­jured you, and break off a familiar com­merce with him, as you cannot look upon him as your friend. But take every op­portunity of doing him good that lies in your power. 4. Embrace the first op­portunity and overture of reestablishing a good understanding and renewing your former amity. And, lastly, in all cases of this nature, let it be remembered that the misconduct of others towards you, will not justify yours towards them, that you are still under the same obligations to walk by the rules of that wisdom which is from abov [...] ▪ which is first pure, then peaceable, &c.

II. What is a right conduct towards nar­row▪ bigotted, censorious christians, who are fond of their orthodoxy, and zealously attached to party notions?

[Page 134]1. These persons must by no means be disputed with or opposed, because whilst they have much more zeal than knowledge, they are very apt to be warm and angry at any argument that is levelled against their favourite sentiments; and much more if they cannot answer it. And whilst big­otry blinds their minds, they are not ca­pable of seeing the force of an argument; much less of being convinced by it; they should therefore be treated like froward children, or persons in a passion.—2. Take every opportunity of secretly undermining their false notions, especially if they be dangerous, by hinting at their bad conse­quences; or by setting the opposite doc­trine of truth in a strong light from scrip­ture. But dwell not long upon it, lest they apprehend themselves particularly aimed at, which they will not fail to resent. —3. Treat them with the utmost marks of freedom, tenderness, and friendship, to convince them that your sentiments of doctrine, though opposite to theirs, create in you no disaffection to them; however theirs may render them disaffected to you. —4. Endeavour to make them sensible of the much greater importance of those things in which you agree with them, and [Page 135] press them powerfully on their conscienc­es; and when they once come to feel the weight and force of these, they will grad­ually abate of their zeal for lesser things. And this is the only, at least, the best and safest way to convince them, that these things on which they have misplaced their zeal are to be reckoned amongst the minu­tiae of divinity; for nothing is more natu­ral and common, than for the mind to raise the importance of a subject, in proportion to the zeal it expresses for it. Otherwise it would lie under the constant self re­proach of being governed by a blind irre­gular zeal. And as their zeal for any par­ticular doctrine has fixed the importance of it, before their understanding has pre­cisely weighed it, to go about to argue against that importance would be to argue against their zeal, that is, their passions; which is a very unequal encounter, and al­together vain.—5. Take occasion often to expose the effects of bigotry in other in­stances to their view, whereby they may possibly become sensible of their own, but let the instances be so distant▪ or, if near, so artfully situated, that they may not be sensible of your design.—6. Come as near to their sentiments as you possibly can, when, your subject leads you that way, [Page 136] and show them the plain reason why you cannot come nearer—Lastly, Refer all to plain scripture, and resolve to adhere to that, both for the confirmation of doc­trine, and the confutation of errour; and by removing their mistaken sense of scrip­ture, open to them the first source of the errours they have imbibed.

III. What is a right conduct towards those that are inclined to infidelity?

1. As these are but bigots of another rank, they must be treated with the same tenderness, caution, and prudence. The latitudinarian and narrow bigot will be equally enflamed by a violent opposition; for they both lay an equal claim to supe­riour wisdom, and eagerly demand what, if you would keep them in humour you must not be backward to pay, some com­pliment to their own understanding— But 2. as these are the great champions of reason, and will admit of no other wea­pon in the hand of their antagonist, be sure to be expert at that, and insist upon it that your adversary uses no other; that is, that he do not put you off with sophistry, paralogism, illusion, equivocation, ridi­cule, buffoonery, clamour, confidence, passion, or grimace, instead of solid argu­ment [Page 137] and plain reason. Keep him to his point. Admit nothing but what you understand; and nothing but what he understands himself: And take care he do not entangle you in a wood of words, or blind your eyes with dust, or prevent your seeing distinctly the point in hand by holding a cloud before it; or lead you from it by diverting to another subject, when he is pinched and piqued by an ar­gument he cannot answer. 3. If your adversary be a person of sense, learning, and ingenuity, the most effectual method to draw him to your opinion, is by a strong appeal to those good qualities, whereby he will conceive himself. 4. If his self conceit be unsufferable, and his ig­norance ridiculous, it may not be amiss sometimes to mortify the former by expos­ing the latter. 5. Insist upon it, that if his regard and esteem for natural religion be sincere, that will engage him to think favourably of the christian institution, which has refined and exalted morality to its utmost perfection; that there is no hon­est deist, whatever he believes, but would heartily wish christianity to be true. Lastly. If you observe him capable of serious im­pressions, urge him to consider seriously [Page 138] the dreadful risk he runs while he pawns his immortal soul upon it, that christianity is only an imphsture; and how unavoida­ble his ruin, whilst he continues wilfully to neglect it; because, if christianity be true, the sentence of condemnation denounced against him, by the great Author of it, for resolving not to believe it, must be also true.

IV. How should we conduct ourselves as faithful and judicious ministers towards melancholy, dejected, and doubting christi­ans; as this is a frequent case and often attended with no small difficulty, I shall consider it more particularty.

The 1. thing to be considered is the true source and original of this melancholy gloom and dejection of mind; whether it arises from bodily disorder,; worldly losses and afflictions; some grievous sin com­mitted; or from an extensive apprehen­siveness and timidity of spirit. Perhaps the person himself may impute it to none of these, but either to the divine desertion, or the buffitings of Satan. But these must carefully be distinguished and ex­plained, because they are frequently mis­taken; and then, according to the true source of their spiritual trouble, must be your advice and address to them.

[Page 139]If you have reason to believe that the troubled state of their mind is owing prin­cipally to a bodily disorder, or some ob­struction, or dyscrasy of the animal fluids, you should recommend to them a physician or prescribe them physic, the cold bath, con­stant employment, or exercise in the air.

If their sorrow or settled melancholy of mind be the effect of some worldly losses and afflictions, you must endeavour all you can to aleviate it, by showing them how many ways God can, if he pleases, make up them the loss they have sustained; how many wise and kind ends may be answer­ed by it; that the scenes of life are varia­ble; after night comes the day. Beseech them to put their hope and trust in God, as a gracious and indulgent Father; and urge every topic of consolation proper to be used in a time of worldly adversity.

If the disconsolate state of their mind be the effect of a melancholy constitution, the case is still more difficult, and belongs rather to the physicians department, than that of the minister. The latter can have but small hope of administering any prop­er relief, because the person is not capable of reasoning or thinking justly, and there is something within him that obstructs the [Page 140] avenues to his heart, which must first be removed before comfort can find its way to it. All that can be done in this case, is to persuade him if you can, of what he will find it very hard to believe, that he sees every thing in a wrong light, and is not at present a competent judge in his own case; therefore ought not to believe his thoughts. Ask him if he never judged more favourably of his spiritual state here­tofore than he does now; and whether he was not a more capable judge of his case then, than he is now.

If the trouble of his mind arise from the reproaches of conscience for some grievous sin committed, your way is then more direct and plain. If you have rea­son to believe this sorrow of heart is the effect of a true penitential remorse, you are then to lay before him every proper topic of consolation the gospel admits, viz. the riches of the divine mercy, the merits of the blood of Christ, the extent and efficacy of free grace, the precious promises of the gospel, and the examples of God's mercy and wonderful compassion to humble penitents; and conclude all with an earnest exhortation to trust his soul in the hands of Christ, and to rely on [Page 141] the mercy of God in the way of a steady conscientious obedience.

If it arises from an excessive apprehen­siveness and timidity of spirit, and you have cause to believe the person's state is much better than he fears, you are then to fortify and encourage his heart, by refer­ring him to his own past experience of what God has done for his soul; the vari­ous tokens of his favour to him in the former scenes of life, and in the several methods of his grace and providence. Urge upon him the exercise of a lively faith encouraged by the grace of the gos­pel; and convince him, that it is no less wrong and prejudicial for a person to think too ill than to think too well of himself; that as he is in no danger at all, of the latter, advise him for the honour of God, the credit of religion, and his own peace and comfort, to guard against the former, where his greatest danger lies. Again, If the melancholy and dejected soul have a pious turn, and imputes his present darkness to what he calls divine dereliction, or the hidings of God's face, explain that affair to him; and tell him, that his want of that spiritual joy and comfort he once found in his soul may be [Page 142] owing to other causes; the present low state of his spirits, a distemperature of the animal frame, the influence of external objects and accidents, or a concurrence of all these; that nothing is more variable than the frame of the human mind; that we are not to think that God's regards to his own children vary with that; this is a great mistake, and a mistake that is great­ly dishonourable to him; that whilst he sees them upright, sincere, humble, obe­dient, and dependant, his regards to them are always the same, whatever they may think of him; that God never hides his face from his people, till they withdraw their hearts from him; that unless they forsake him he will never depart from them; that the hidings of God's countenance, which the Psalmist so often complains of, generaly if not always refer to the ex­ternal dispensations of God, or outward providential afflictions, not inward spirit­ual desertions; when the distress of his circumstances was so great that God might seem to have forgotten and forsaken him, and his enemies might be ready to put that construction upon it.

Lastly, If the person imputes the trou­ble of his mind to the buffetings of Satan, [Page 143] explain that affair to him. Let him know, that though in some cases that evil spirit may have an agency in creating some spiritual troubles, yet he has no more power over the mind than what it pleases God to give him; that his influence, be it what it will, is controled and limited; that the most he can do is, to suggest sin­ful and troublesome thoughts, which we may and ought to repel; that the Holy Spirit has a counter agency to inspire good and holy affections; that by indulging to excessive grief and gloomy apprehensions, we give the devil the advantage over us, and even invite his temptations; and fi­nally we ought to take special care to dis­tinguish between the agency of Satan and the operation of natural causes; and not impute those to the devil, which are owing to our own [...]olly and weakness, or are the physical effects of external objects.

V. What is a right conduct towards the licentious and profane?

1. Whilst you behave towards them with civility and discretion, it will be ad­viseable to decline a particular intercourse with them. A minister's behaviour towards men should in a good degree be regulat­ed by their moral characters—2. In [Page 144] case they seek your more intimate friend­ship and benevolent offices, so that grati­tude and good manners will not permit you to forbear your visits, you will then have a fair opportunity of insinuating some necessary and gentle admonitions; either by way of story, simile, repartee, railery, or reproof suitable to the subject of the discourse or the temper they may be in; which, if it take effect, will prepare your way for a more free and close re­monstrance—3. Always open a way to the heart on that side where you find the easiest access. Some are most touched with a sense of honour, and a regard to their reputation; others with a view to their interest; others must be allured by an easy, gentle, rational address; and others will yield to nothing but close and warm reproof; but take particular care to know the ruling passion of the person you address, and, if possible, to bring that over to your side. 4. Beg of them to erect their hopes, and extend their views as rational beings designed for an immortal existence, and not forget their connexion with anoth­er world▪ for to provide only for the pres­ent, and live from hand to mouth, is to act far below the dignity and design of human [Page 145] nature. 5. If they have any taste for read­ing, put into their hands such books as are most suited to their capacity, taste, and char­acter.—Lastly, you should frequently address them from the pulpit. But your public address while it is strong and animated, must be general, and have noth­ing in it that is distinguished or appro­priative; that the audience may have no room to think that any one person is par­ticularly intended in the animadversion▪ for tho' they will bear to be preached to, yet no man loves to be preached at.

VI. How are we to behave towards the grossy ignorant and careless?

1. Endeavour to rouse them to a sense of religion and their dependance on God, by a seasonable improvement of some awakening providences;—their own sick­ness, or worldly disappointments; the death of a friend, or some public calam­ity—2. Represent to them the most im­portant and affecting subjects of religion, in the strongest light and plainest lan­guage:—the shortness of time; the aw­fulness of eternity; the certainty and near approach of death; and the terrours of the final judgment—3. If you find that your conversation is agreeable to them▪ [Page 146] frequently visit them in a a free and friend­ly manner; and take care that there be nothing dogmatical▪ or authoritative in the advice you give them; but let all appear to proceed from a compassionate concern you have for the interest of their souls—4. As they are but children in understanding, they must be dealt with as such. Put the plainest and most affecting books into their hands; and take care you do not feed them with strong meat, when they stand in need of milk—5. It will not be amiss in some part of your sermon es­pecially, in the application, to adapt your­self in particular to their capacity and condition, that they may not only under­stand, but feel what you say; for these sort of hearers, both amongst the high and low, perhaps make a much larger part of our audience than we imagine.

VII. What is a proper behaviour towards those who are superiour to us in rank and fortune?

1. Readily pay them the respect due to their distinction and character. If their temper and conduct be not altogether such as you could wish, yet that will not excuse you from a civil, decent, and ob­liging behaviour towards them. You must [Page 147] remember your duty to others, however they may be deficient in theirs to you. But if they treat you with kindness, friendship and affection, they claim your gratitude, honour, and esteem; which will prompt your endeavours to oblige and serve them every way you can—But 2. be free, open, conversable, and discreetly unreserved before them. Absence of mind, distance of behaviour, formality of address, stiffness of manner, or affected si­lence is always ungenteel and disgustful; and especially in the presence of superiours —3. Preserve a generosity and manliness of temper and address; and show noth­ing of a mean, low, timid, servile spirit; that is not only dishonourable to your own character, but infers a bad compli­ment on theirs. They are not tyrants; no [...], if they were, must you submit to be their slaves. And remember, that if they are sensible and genteel, wise and good, they will consider their superiority to you in one respect, as balanced by that of yours to them, in another▪ theirs may be most showy, but perhaps yours may be most valuable—4. Forget not the dig­nity and decorum of your character. There is something you owe to that, as [Page 148] well as to the distinction and opulence of your friends. And while this is your guard against incidental levities and a compliance with sinful customs, it is by no means inconsistent with pure wit, inno­cent humour, and seasonable cheerful­ness; which, if attended with good sense and an obliging natural behaviour, will be no less agreeable in the company of your superiours, than in that of your equals. —5. Do and say all the obliging and agreeable things you can, consistent with truth and conscience and the honour of your function. And then 6.—Take every opportunity of insinuating some­thing conformable to the duty of your of­fice, which may be serviceable to their spiritual interest, and helpful to their moral character—Lastly, make a pru­dent and seasonable use of your interest in them, for the relief of your poor neigh­bours; whose distresses may be better known to you, than they are to them.

VIII. What is the proper behaviour of a minister towards the poor of his con­gregation.

This must be regulated by their moral character. 1. If their character be im­moral or profane, as they will not be very [Page 149] fond of your company, they will take no offence if you forbear to visit them; but they should not be wholly neglected. Genteel, kind, and candid reproof, pru­dently and seasonably given, may have a good effect when they come to reflect upon it coolly; and a seasonable relief to them in their distress will add weight to your admonitions, and will give them such impressions of your charity, as will better dispose them to receive your instructions. —But 2. if they be serious and well-inclined, and you find yourself agreeable to them, you should frequently call upon them; and though your visits be short, they should be free, friendly, condescending and courteous; and always leave with them some spiritual, moral, or religiou [...] instruction, suited to their taste, under­standing, and circumstances. Be ready to advise and help them in every thing you can. If you see a good heart at bot­tom, and especially a humble spirit, make the greatest allowance for their ignorance, prepossession, or infelicity of temper; and when th [...]re is need of reproof, let it be preceded by the sincerest expressions of love, and by real acts of friendship. If they are willing to open the state of their [Page 150] souls to you, attend to it with patience and care, that you may administer the most suitable advice and comfort.—Have a particular regard to their capacity in your public exhortations. To the poor the gos­pel was preached. And as these sometimes make up the bulk of a congregation, and their souls stand as much in need of spir­itual nourishment, as those of greater knowledge and comprehension, they should be always fed with food convenient for them.

Lastly. In what manner ought a min­ister to behave towards those who have fallen into notorious sins?

This must be regulated by the disposi­tion, character, and temper of the offen­der. The sensible and penitent must be treated one way the obstinate and impen­itent another. The following method in general will perhaps be found to be the most prudent and effectual.

1. Previous to all, reproof should be a circumstantial knowledge of the fact you reprove. 2. Be sure that it be criminal or indiscreet, and that the person guilty, is or ought to be sensible of it; for if you reprove him for what he is not guilty of, or what he is not sensible there is any harm [Page 151] in, he will probably retort upon you the charge of censoriousness. If there be guilt and indiscretion in his conduct, and he not sensible of it, your business then is to convince him of it; and how much injury he may do his character by inadvertently allowing those things as fit and innocent, which are not so in him. And let your arguments in proof of the guilt be taken from the circumstances of the fact; the character and relation he bears in life; the opinion of wise and judicious men; the nature of things; and the testimony of scripture. And then 3. See that your reproofs be not too severe. I do not mean more severe than the offender would chuse, but more severe than the nature and circumstances of the case require; or more severe than is necessary for the justi­fication of your fidelity, and the reforma­tion of the sinner.

Too great severity towards tender minds does more harm than good. "Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou al­so be tempted." 4. Take care [...]est, through a fear of offendnig your brother, you do not offend God by a want of faithfulness. [Page 152] "Faith [...] are the wounds of a friend." It is the greatest piece of friendship you can do him, and if he is wise he will think it so, and more highly esteem you for it.— "Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness." 5. Let your reproof appear to flow from your love to him, and be ad­ministered with the utmost tenderness and wisdom. Lastly. Leave not your offend­ing brother without proper directions for a better conduct.

[Page 153]

CHAP. IX. Concerning the difficulties a minister must expect to meet with in the execution of his office; and his proper support and encour­agement under them.

SOME of these may arise,

1. From your own natural temper, which may render you indisposed or un­apt to some particular parts of the minis­terial office. But the most difficult du­ties, by becoming a habit, become easy.

2. No small difficulty may arise from the resolution and labour requisite to put some of the before mentioned rules into execution. But this difficulty will in like manner diminish as this course becomes habitual. "In all other professions, those who follow them, labour in them all the year long; and are heard at their business every day of the week; and shall ours only, that is the noblest of all others, make the labouring in our business an objection against any part of our duty?" And in [Page 154] proportion as our heart is engaged in the work, the difficulty of it will grow less, and our delight in it greater.

3. Another discouragement may arise from the seeming singularity of this char­acter; and the general neglect which min­isters of all denominations discover of the duties belonging to the sacred function; what you do out of conscience they may impute to affectation; which instead of procuring their esteem, may create their envy. But it is a small matter to be con­demned in the day that man judgeth you, since you will be acquitted another day, when he that judgeth you will be the Lord; which is the proper import of that passage.

4. From the little success you meet with, notwithstanding all your most earnest en­deavours to promote the spiritual interest, and eternal happiness of mankind. But your future acceptance and reward will not be in proportion to the success, but the sincerity of your endeavours.

5. Your own weakness and infirmities both of body and mind, may throw fresh discouragements in your way. But these will be graciously allowed for; and God requires of none more than they have re­ceived. [Page 155] If we have received but one tal­ent, he does not expect so much from us, as those on whom he has bestowed ten.

6. The ministerial character itself may subject you to the contempt of some pro­fane men. But if you adorn it by the useful, upright conversation before describ­ed, it is great odds but you secure their esteem and respect; if not, their continu­ed contempt is your real honour.

7. From the different tempers, tastes, dispositions, and opinions of the people. But how you are to behave with regard to th [...]se has been shown before; and no small degree of prudence is required in this case.

In a word every view of the nature, dif­ficulty, and dignity of your office, may furnish you with a proper motive and di­rection to a right behaviour in [...]t. No valuable end can be pursued without some obstruction, nor obtained without some difficulty. Your employment is truly honourable and important; and your en­couragement, advantage, and assistance, more than equal to the labour it requires. If you be faithful you shall not fail of a distinguished recompence, from the boun­tiful [Page 156] hand of that good master in whose service you are engaged. And a careful observation and practice of those rules of pastoral conduct before laid down, will, by the blessing of God, at once adorn your character, increase your honour, ex­alt your present joy, and enhance your future reward.


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