Page images
PDF
EPUB

A CHARGE:

GENTLEMEN, Such is the nature, and such are the purposes of that solemnity, for the discharge of which, by Divine permission ! we shall be assembled to-morrow; that even slight reflection will be sufficient to convince us we ought not to engage in it without previous consideration.

The Ministry, to which you intend devoting the principal part of your lives, is of apostolical institution. The duties of it are many, important, sacred. In consequence of ordination, you will be commissioned to take the lead in public prayer ; to expound the Scriptures; to instruct the ignorant; to remind the better informed; to admit disciples by baptism ; to prepare them for ratifying the baptismal vow by the primitive and holy rite of confirmation; to visit the sick; and, if you are priests, you will have authority to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper ; to declare the conditions ofGardon to the sincerely penitent, and thus comfort the souls of the afflicted. And that you may fulfil these duties in a manner more complete, and with effect more forcible, you will be required by principle and practice to resist vice; by precept and by example to encourage virtue.

A solemnity at which you will be created ministers for executing offices of such description, on account of very serious object proposed in its appointment, demands of us antecedent preparation of thought and heart.

It has been with the view of rendering us more earnest in our meditation on subjects connected with the occasion, that we have now read together some passages from the services of ordination.

The compilers of our Liturgy were men of unaffected and amiable simplicity ; men of sincere and fervent piety. They possessed a thorough knowledge of Holy Writ; and they formed just conceptions of Christian truths. The happy effects of these their excellencies and these their attainments appear in every page of our ritual : but perhaps no where more conspicuously than in the services of ordination. Every question proposed to the candidates ; every exhortation directed to them; the selection of sentences and of larger portions from the Scriptures; and the especial injunction that the Litany should be introduced, and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper be administered at all seasons of imparting authority for the exercise of sacerdotal functions ; these instances of judicious precaution and devout provision mark the character of those who settled our established formularies, and they all claim our serious and earnest attention.

For the respective ordination of deacons and priests are prepared two distinct formularies. This two-fold appointment of various services was suited to that diversity of ministration, which formerly belonged to the inferior and more limited employment of deacons, on- the one hand; and to the superior and amplified powers of priests, on the other.

From change of times, circumstances, and other causes, it hath arisen, that deacons should now perform several duties, which were reserved originally for the office of priesthood. This enlargement of their competency conduces much to public convenience, and has therefore been sanctioned by long usage.

Deacons, however, should thence infer, that as they are more assimilated in extent of authority, so they are more bound to observe the instructions, which in the service of ordination are given to priests ; and they should consider many particulars, which were once enforced on priests only, as now equally applicable to deacons also.

In consequence of the similarity under which deacons and priests are now comprehended, with regard to official employment and clerical obligation ; whether you are candidates for the one or the other order of the ministry, to all of you alike may be recommended some few remarks on three points of exhortation contained in the blended services.

The three points are these :

1. You are exhorted, “ neither yourselves to offend, “ nor be the occasion that others should offend."

2. “ To be diligent in prayer ; in reading the Holy “ Scriptures ; and such studies as shall help to the “ knowledge of them.”

3. “ To apply your endeavours to frame and fashion “ yourselves and your families according to the doctrine “ of Christ.”

On each of these admonitory topics, brought, indeed, to your minds in the form of questions, but really intended as subjects of pressing advice, some observations shall now be offered.

1. To imagine that any of you will give offence, either by language or by actions of gross turpitude, were a supposition so disrespectful to your sense and principles of morality, that it ought not even for a

[ocr errors]

cies, to which we are all exposed, and against which we cannot be too much guarded.

In the concerns of life, many things might be mentioned, which if they could possibly be taken in the abstract, and were totally unconnected with all dependencies of persons and effects, would be in themselves indifferent. If, however, they are considered, as they must be considered, with reference to collateral circumstances, and according to the influence with which they may operate either in a smaller or a larger circle of the community, they become, from their relation and tendency, matters of importance.

In the article of dress, for instance, we know that the outward garb can make man internally neither better nor worse. Taken therefore in the abstract, dress is a thing indifferent. But living, as we do, in society, and in the view of others, we are not at liberty to be guided merely by the refinements of abstract reasoning. We are bound to consider what is required of us by that society, in which we are situated ; and we are expected to bear it in our recollection, that even our outward appearance will have its weight, either to beneficial or injurious ends. If to a certain kind of dress, society has by long (and, if you please, fanciful) prejudice, annexed an idea of that gravity, which is suitable to persons engaged in the sacred ministry, every prudent man will yield to that prejudice, and adopt what the public opinion has sanctioned. For that minister offends society, brings disrespect on bis order, and thereby weakens the general cause he has undertaken to support, who appears habited in apparel, which through usage is thought improper, and which occasions him to be censured as light, vain, and conceited.

From dress, let us pass on to amusements,

There are many amusements, which, if they could be followed without danger of being made precedents for misapplication of them, would in themselves be innocent. But we know there are some, who, through pravity, avail themselves of the slightest encouragement for their own improprieties. Others there are, who, in their imprudence, cannot discriminate between times and places. Whenever our example, either through the misinterpretation of the corrupt, may be pleaded as an excuse for culpable excess, or, through want of judgment in the undiscerning, may be the cause of unsuitable and unseasonable conduct, the innocency of our amusements, producing effects thus injurious to morals, becomes questionable, and it is highly expedient to desist from them.

But far more questionable will become their innocency, and much greater will be the expediency of relinquishing our amusements, if we are assured the pursuit of them disgusts persons of tender conscience. It behoves every minister to be circumspect, and to be thoroughly acquainted with the sentiments and disposition of those among whom he is placed. If he perceives worthy and pious people disturbed, that their minister is engaged in diversions which correspond not with their opinions of the decent demeanour required in him who is to be an example of regular and quiet deportment, he will show his good sense, his value for reputation, his regard for the credit of his order, and, above all, his Christian charity, by sacrificing his diversions to the higher consideration of not giving offence.

From a heathen moralist we may derive instruction ; from an inspired Apostle we receive command. The remarks which have been made on dress and amusements, may properly be supported by the sentiments of Tully, and the precepts of St. Paul.

" That we

« PreviousContinue »