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SON IN THE MINISTRY.
MY DEAR E.
Your letter of the 24th came safely to hand, and the perusal of it has awakened in my mind and that of your dear Mother the most tender and grateful recollections. It was our earnest prayer, when we received you from the Lord, that he would early renew and sanctify you by his spirit, and prepare you to preach the everlasting Gospel. In the indulgence of this hope, we sent you to College, and in your Junior year we were, to our great joy, permitted to witness your reception into the church, and to sit down with you at the table of the Lord. This great change in your views and relations, soon fixed your
, choice of a profession. The law and political distinctions no longer fired your youthful bosom with a feverish and perilous ambition ; but we trust you was enabled, by the grace of God, to “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ,”
and to aspire to the honor of becoming an "ambassador for Christ,” that you might “beseech sinners in his stead to be reconciled to God.”
With this view you went to the Theological Seminary of A—, where you spent three years, under the instruction of eminent professors, and in the enjoyment of every advantage for acquiring a thorough biblical and theological education. are past. You have, as you inform me, just presented your credentials and been examined and licensed to preach the Gospel. Can it be, that you have so soon grown to manhood; gone through all the regular stages of education, and are now about to appear in the sanctuary, as one of the sons of Levi, and to engage in preparatory services, for consecration to the christian priesthood ? It seems to us more like a dream, than a momentous reality.
The step, my dear son, which you have now taken, is one of the most important that a young man, entering upon the duties of life, can take. “You have opened your mouth unto the Lord, and cannot go back.” You are still, it is true, a private member of the church, just as you was before. Your license to preach for a limited time, does not invest you with the sacred office, nor would it, if it were unlimited. But you are now duly authorized to take a position, for the trial and improvement of your gifts, in which no one can rightfully place himself, without the consent and approbation of those, who “are set for the defence of the Gospel.” Though you are not a pastor, and not a minister, in the technical and ecclesiastical sense of the term ; although you can
not administer the sacraments of the New Testament, baptism and the Lord's supper, you will be received by the churches as an accredited and regular preacher; and if your sermons are able, instructive, evangelical and well delivered, you will be listened to with interest and profit, as a messenger of the living God. Your message will be just the same, as if you had already passed under the consecrating hands of the presbytery. There is not one gospel for the licentiate to preach, and another for the ordained minister. A sermon which it would not be suitable for you to deliver, were you a pastor, it cannot be suitable for you to preach, as a candidate. You may take no more liberties in the pulpit,or out of it now,than at any future time, should God “count you worthy, putting you into the ministry.” Every doctrine which will be true then, is true now; and every duty must always, under like circumstances be the same.
I do not say, that as great responsibility rests upon the licentiate, as upon the settled pastor. Far from it. The two positions hardly admit of a comparison. But so far as preaching is concerned, I cannot see that there is any essential difference. As I have already remarked, the Gospel is ever the same. appeared before the body that licensed you, you virtually promised to preach, as God might give you opportunity, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, according to your best understanding of the scriptures. Had there been any essential doctrine, on which you had not made up your mind, it would have been your duty to say so, before you took your license, and as clearly the duty of your examin
ers, also, to withhold it, till you should make up your mind. This rushing into the battle, before one's armor is half on, is miserable trifling and temerity.
The grand object of your first sermon, of your second sermon,
third and of every sermon you preach before your settlement, as well as afterwards, ought to be to do good, to edify the church, to awaken sinners, or in some way to further directly the great ends of preaching the gospel. With this view, every one of your early discourses ought to be prepared as under the eye of Jesus Christ, and to be preceded and followed by fervent prayer for his blessing. Remember, my son, that though you should never be ordained and become a pastor, you must stand“ before the judgment seat of Christ,” and give an account of your preaching, under the license which you have just received. It will be in vain for you to plead, that you was only a candidate and was not aware of your responsibility. It must be your own fault if you was not. How infinitely important, then, so to preach, should it be for only a single sabbath, as to receive the reward of a good and faithful servant. I could name to you many pious and distinguished pastors, whose labours were eminently blessed almost as soon as they entered the pulpit, and before they were settled or ordained. How would it rejoice my heart to hear, that the Lord is with you wherever you go, and that your “ speech and your preaching, is not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and with power.”
I shall hope ere long, to see and hear you in the pulpit; but not just yet.
I know by experience, how trying it is to preach, for the first time, before parents, friends, neighbours and old acquaintances. You will do better to begin among strangers; and when you have become a little accustomed to speaking before a congregation, you will be more at ease, and do yourself and the great cause which you have espoused more justice at home.
It is not the place to go, as fully as I may wish hereafter, into the subject of manner in the pulpit. But I deem it proper to throw out a few hints, which may be of use to you. Hardly anything prejudices the most serious and enlightened members of a congregation against a young candidate so much, as to see him skip like a stage player up the pulpit stairs and take up the Bible as irreverently as a school boy does his lexicon; and then to see him, after giving out the psalm, carefully adjusting his cravat and every lock of hair, and gazing round upon the audience as if more curious to know who is present to hear him, than mindful of his high commission, or conscious of his own nothingness. O how painful and disgusting, to see a mere novice, before the ink is fairly dry upon his license, flourishing his fine cambrick handkerchief, and showing off his pretty hand, where an angel would tremble to appear, and with an air of self complacency throwing himself into attitudes, and grappling at once with the most knotty points in theology, as if he was “the man, and wisdom would die with him."
These are faults, my son, which I am sure your good sense, to say nothing of your religion, will teach you