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the circumstances and spiritual wants of the people ; the errors that prevail; the vices that abound; the destitution of the scriptures and other religious books in those wide regions; the manner in which the sabbath is regarded, the progress of temperance, or intemperance; the state and prospects of popular education; and in a word, about everything which has either a more immediate, or remote bearing upon the temporal and spiritual interests, of the rapidly increasing population of the field in which you labor, or the regions through which you pass. Thus your eye and your ear will affect your heart, and whether you return to settle in New England, or remain and spend your days in the “Great Valley," you will have laid the foundation for more extensive influence and usefulness than if you had always staid by the graves of the Pilgrims.
Very affectionately, &c.
MY DEAR E.
Of the four plans, or courses, which I proposed for your consideration when you left the Seminary, you chose the last. You went out under the patronage of the Home Missionary Society. You have now been absent more than two years from New England. You have seen something of the Great West, and have heard more than you have seen. We have been expecting your return for some time, and have, I honestly confess, been secretly hoping that
your Master might call you to some field of usefulness in our own State. But
inform that having declined other invitations, you are now solicited to go and preach as a candidate for settlement in L- From my general knowledge of the place, and from your account of the condition and prospects of the congregation, I have no doubt the vacancy is a very important one; and if you are the man to fill it, you may do great good there—perhaps as much as anywhere. Should the invitation be repeated, I dare not object to your giving the people an opportunity to hear you.
But, my dear son, if you go, I have several things to say to you, which I am quite sure you will take into serious consideration.
In the first place, should you consent to preach as a candidate in L
, or any other place, take time
enough. I do not like these hasty settlements. What is done in a hurry, is very apt to be undone in the same manner. You ought to give the people ample time, whether they wish it or not, to become acquainted with you in the pulpit and out of the pulpit, in the lecture room, in the prayer meeting, and, by familiar social intercourse. And you ought to give yourself opportunity to get acquainted with them, to see most of their families, to find out the condition of the church, and the character and standing of leading members, both of the church and of the congregation. I know this is not the popular doctrine. Everybody is now in a hurry. Everything must go by steam, and the greater the pressure upon the square inch, the better, let who will, be blown
in the race. Three or four sabbaths, is thought a very long probation-so protracted and tedious, that some candidates, though they have never been settled and are perfect strangers in the place, are unwilling to submit to it. And the people are just about as much in a hurry, as the candidates. Two or three weeks, they think, will do very well; and if they like the young man, they want to do up the work at once, that they may have it over and go about something else. Some congregations will even take up with one sabbath, if they can get no more, and make out their papers upon a couple of sermons, which may have cost the writer three months labor.
Now you know, my son, that I am not only an old man, but an old fashioned man. I am afraid of steam, especially with raw engineers and weak boil
When I was a candidate for settlement, it was customary, at least in New England, to preach three or four months on probation. I preached three months myself, and always had reason to be glad of it. It afforded me advantages in my subsequent connection with the people, which I could not have gained in any other way. Were I to be young, and go over the same ground again, I would lengthen, rather than shorten the term. It is alarming to see how ministers in this age of innovation, are hurried into the pulpit and hurried out of it; and I have no doubt at all, that these frequent changes are owing in a great degree, to this, that congregations do not give themselves time enough to find out whether they like the candidate, as a preacher and a man, or not, and candidates, by shortening the term of probation, go upon equal uncertainties. Take time enough, I say, as a probationer, before you settle anywhere.
In the next place, beware not to begin on a higher key than you can hold out—not to create expectations which you cannot come up to. bad policy to strike twelve the first time. Allowing that you could always keep it up, it would be only twelve, twelve--no increase, no advance, till many would he quite sure, that they must have miscounted; that you really never did strike twelve, as they had supposed : or at any rate, that if the count was right, the strokes are all the while growing feebler. A young candidate cannot err in judgment more egregiously, than by taking along with him the half dozen sermons, which he wrote with great care and labor in the seminary, delivering them one after another, in
It is always his very best style, and making them the sole basis of a call to settle. Woe to the man who gets a call in this way. What will he do when two sermons a week are demanded, besides all his other labors ? Where are they to come from? He has sold out his stock, or at any rate the best of it, before commencing business. He has a fine parish and a pleasant location, to be sure, and perhaps a great many well educated and highly respectable hearers; but when they come to listen to such discourses as he can prepare from sabbath to sabbath, they are disappointed. They are sure, he preached better before they settled him, and they soon become convinced that he is not the first rate man they took him to be. They are dissatisfied, they whisper to one another, that they have been taken in, and very soon put him as much below his proper level, as he had put himself above, in his first sermons.
Or if he is a man of real talents, perceiving how disastrous it must be for him, as a settled pastor, to fall below himself, as a candidate, he can hardly help feeling constrained to make efforts quite beyond his strength; and it is a wonder, if he does not in a few months break himself entirely down. He may be conscious that he is wearing upon the naked thread of life, and may see his mistake, in exciting expectations, which it is extremely hazardous for him to attempt to meet; but the die is cast, he cannot disappoint and mortify his friends. He presses on, till the thread snaps, and the tears of a mourning people testify how much they loved him.
Now you know very well, my dear son, that I