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more advantage by staying at home after the second service, and making the most of what they have heard, than they could by going out to hear a third sermon, of even the highest order. On this subject, there has been a very great change in the views and habits of American christians, within my own remembrance. Formerly, it was the custom of religious parents, to carry as much of the two sermons home with them as they could, and to spend a part, at least, of every sabbath evening in questioning their children about what they had heard, and in this way, fixing as much of the truth as possible in their minds. I often ask myself, will those days of meditation and family instruction ever return? Till they return, it may be best, perhaps, to hold meetings for prayer and religious conference on sabbath evenings, to be conducted chiefly, if not exclusively, by the officers and brethren of the church.
The question how many lectures, if any, you ought ordinarily to preach on week days, need not detain us long. No definite rule, so far as I know, can be
I given. That there should be preaching, in every congregation, “out of season, as well as in season," I am fully convinced. The interval is too long, between sabbath and sabbath. And there are likely to be considerable numbers of persons, nominally belonging to your charge, whom you can never reach, unless you carry the gospel nearer to them, than your place of public worship, and in a form somewhat more colloquial than comports with the dignity of the pulpit.
I hope, my son, that you will have health and
strength to preach once, at least, near the middle of the week, for your own advantage, as well as that of your people. Sometimes you may omit this service, when there is no special interest, or when other duties press hard ; while, on the other hand, it may often be your duty to preach more than once, in different neighborhoods. But as I shall have occasion to recur to this topic, when I come to speak of revivals, I will not enlarge at present. May he who has called you to the ministry, give you grace and strength to preach as often and as faithfully, as the spiritual interests of your church and congregation require.
I am affectionately, &c.
MY DEAR E.
My last letter was taken up with such advice and remarks, as occurred to me, respecting the amount of labor, which as a preacher you ought to undertake, especially on the Lord's day. As it is a matter of vastly greater importance how and what you preach, than how often, I shall now proceed, in compliance with your wishes, to this main branch of the subject. Perhaps, as you have enjoyed such excellent opportunities for instruction on this topic in the seminary, I might be excused for passing it over with a few very general remarks. But the love I bear you, and the hope that my own experience may enable me to suggest some thoughts which will be for your advantage, prompt me to proceed in a more minute and methodical way. I write with all the confidence and familiarity of a father to a son, who, I know, will give more heed to my suggestions, than could reasonably be expected from a stranger. Preaching, in order to answer its great and good design, must embrace all the fundamental doctrines of the gospel. You are not at liberty to select such topics as you think will please your hearers best, and leave out those which are most obnoxious to men of perverse and reprobate minds.” This would be setting up your own judgment above the authority of the Bible. Remem
ber, my son, that you are not the law-maker, but merely the expounder. You are not answerable for what the scriptures teach, but for your own fidelity in “ declaring all the counsel of God.” I can testify from experience, how trying it is, to preach doctrines which are unpopular, and which you know some of your best personal friends, and most influential parishioners dislike to hear. But you have no more right to with-hold any clearly revealed Bible truth, on this account, than a Commissioner, sent by an earthly potentate to propose terms of pardon to a rebellious province, would have, to alter or leave out some of the essential conditions, for fear of further exasperating the rebels. What has the minister to do with the conditions, but to state them fully, as the only ground on which his Master will be reconciled to those whom he finds in a state of rebellion ? Should any of your church or congregation complain under your preaching, “ These are hard sayings who can hear them ?”. -as it is more than possible they may, let your answer be, “ Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” " Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” If you were to preach most of the doctrines of the gospel ever so faithfully and ably, and to pass over others, because they are mysterious, or because they are unpopular; or if you were to preach all but one of them with the zeal and power of an Apostle, and purposely leave
out that one from fear or favor, you would not be a “good and faithful servant.” A preacher has no more right to “keep back” one clearly revealed truth, than he has another than he has two or three or any greater number. The system of divine truth, contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is one connected whole. Nothing can be taken from it, as nothing can be added to it, without destroying its symmetry, and marring its beauty. I do not say, that the preaching and belief of every doctrine is equally essential to salvation ; because some doctrines are made much more prominent than others in the Bible; but all are important, or they would not have been revealed; and the preacher who should omit but one, on account of its being peculiarly obnoxious to a portion of his hearers, would be quite as likely to leave out the key-stone of the arch, as any other.
The first duty, then, for him who aspires to the office of a religious teacher is, to take the scriptures, and by careful study, accompanied with fervent prayer, to ascertain what “the Holy Ghost teacheth." This done, he has a perfectly plain path before him -a path marked out by “the finger of God” himself, and let him not turn to the right hand nor to the left. I am sure you will not, my son, as some others do, first determine with yourself, what a divine revelation ought to contain, and then make it bend to your wishes; but go to the Bible to learn what it does contain, with a fixed resolution to bring out the whole truth according to your best understanding and ability. I do not mean, that you are bound to preach