An Earnest Ministry—the Need of the Times

John Angell James, 1847


This is a most important part of my subject—for however desirable the blessing may be—yet if it cannot be obtained, or if there are no means by which we can obtain it—the discussion and contemplation of it are useless, and even worse, being calculated only to excite a fruitless wish, or what is most injurious of all, a disposition to neglect the means we have. But we are not to entertain so desponding a view. Men there have been, and blessed be God, men there are, and that in no small number, in every section of the Christian church, laboring with intelligence, zeal, and success, both in the metropolis and in the provinces; men of whom their age need not be ashamed, and over whom any age would have rejoiced. Still there are too many of an opposite character; far too many, to render the question impertinent and out of season, "How shall such an earnest ministry be obtained?"

I. It is imperative first of all, to have the truth deeply engraved upon all hearts, that the church is the conservator of the Christian ministry, and that it is her business, and almost her first and most important business, to see that she discharges well her duty in this momentous affair. She has at the present time, not only to provide for her own edification—but also to secure, by all possible vigilance and care, the administrative transmission of our holy religion through following ages, pure, undefiled, and unimpaired in its capacity to confer essential and eternal benefits upon the children of men. But it is obvious that for such a function, the church must be regarded as a purely spiritual body. And it should be deemed a question of no small moment, bearing as it does upon the controversy about church government, what system of polity has the most direct tendency and the greatest power to call out, secure, and perpetuate an evangelical and effective ministry. An ecclesiastical system which of itself has no effectual provision for this, cannot surely be of Divine origin, and that which has the most obvious and direct tendency to this, is most in accordance with the Word of God. A church without such a conservative principle cannot be the church of the New Testament, much less that which includes various and ever active influences against it. Nothing but a spiritual church can provide a spiritual ministry, and any spiritual ministry which a worldly church may have, cannot be so much the result of the system, as of something extraneous to it. Even in spiritual churches, if discipline be relaxed, and worldly-minded people be admitted, the conservative principle, the vital piety of the members, is impaired; and if at the same time there be neglect of discipline, it will be altogether lost, and heretical men come in to fill the places of those who were the preachers of the truth as it is in Jesus.

It is well, therefore, for all our churches to bear in constant recollection, this their high and sacred function as conservators of an evangelical ministry; and to maintain that vital godliness, and that wholesome discipline, in which alone this power of conservation resides. Let the churches consider their high, their glorious commission—let them remember they must be such, that the Christian truth, both as to doctrine and practice, and the calling out and supporting fit men to uphold and preach it, may be safely trusted to their vigilance and care. But let them forget this and corrupt their fellowship by the admission of worldly-minded professors, and "the walls are gone, the fence is broken up, and wolves may enter in, not sparing the flock." "Preserve this spiritual condition of the church, and it is what it was intended it should be, an undying torch, which, while it is the light of the present age, shall safely light successive ages along the only way which leads to happiness and heaven."

II. Let the subject be thoroughly considered, and universally admitted, that this is the ministry we need, and must have. In an age like the present, when so much is said about knowledge, and such high value is attached to it, there is a danger of our being seduced from every other qualification, and taken up with academics. The establishment of the London University, and the incorporation of our Colleges with it, have given our students access to academic degrees and honors—and there is some danger in the new condition of our literary Institutions, lest our young men should have their minds in some measure drawn away from much more important matters, by the hope of having their names graced by the marks of a Bachelor's or a Master's degree. It is a foolish clamor that has been raised against all attention to such matters, and it is a vain and barbarous precaution that would fortify the pastoral devotedness of our students, by restraining them altogether from such distinctions. The studies necessary to enable them to attain this object of their ambition, are a part of their professional education; while the vanity likely to be engendered by success will soon be annihilated by the commonness of the acquisition. When these degrees are so common that almost all ministers possess them, they will no longer be a snare to their possessors. Besides, like every other object of human desire, when once they are possessed, much of the charm that dazzled the eye of hope has vanished. Henry Martyn, when he came from the senate-house at Cambridge, where he had been declared Senior Professor of his year, and had thus won the richest honor the University had to confer, was struck with the vanity of human wishes, and expressed his surprise at the comparative worthlessness of the bauble he had gained, and the shadow he had grasped. It is not by closing the door against such distinctions that we can hope to raise the tone of devotedness in our ministry—but by fostering in the minds of our young men at College, and in the minds of our congregations, and our ministers in general, the conviction that earnestness is just that one thing, to which all other things must be, and can be, made subservient, and without which all other things which education can impart, are as nothing.

Our congregations need perhaps a little instruction on this subject. I am afraid their taste is not quite so pure, correct, and elevated on this matter, as it should be. There is, it is true, a demand for a vivacious and animated manner of preaching, and it is well there should be such; and provided it be intellectual, there is a decided preference for its being evangelical also; but there is reason to fear that in some cases a small modicum of evangelical truth would do, provided there was abundance of talent. Earnestness is demanded—but with some, it is rather the earnestness of the head, than of the heart; the labored and eloquent effusion of the scholar, philosopher, or poet—rather than the gush of hallowed feeling of him who watches for souls, as one that must give account. Dulness, however learned or profound, will not do—but the heartless declamations of the pulpit orator will do for some, though it has little tendency to do anything more than please the intellect or captivate the imagination.

There is in this day an 'idolatry of talent' running through society; and this man-worship has crept into the church, and corrupted its members. It is painful to perceive how far it is carried in many circles, and to see what homage is paid, and what incense is burnt, to their favorite ministers. It is not godliness or holiness that is thus elevated—but genius and knowledge; it is not moral beauty—but intellectual strength, that is lauded to the skies. The loftiest models of goodness receive but scanty offerings at their shrine, compared with the gods of the understanding. It is very evident that in many cases the gospel is loved, if loved at all, for the sake of the talent with which it is preached, and not the talent for the sake of the gospel. Even the village novice begins to talk about intellectual preachers. The fact however is admonitory, and shows that imbeciles, however holy, will not do, even in rural districts, in these days.

There can be no surer mark of man's moral apostacy, his lapse from the innocence which he had when he came from the hands of his Creator perfect and in the moral image of God, than this disposition to exalt genius above piety. What an inversion is it of the right order of things, since it must be allowed that man's intellect is not the highest part of his nature. It is by his capacity for virtue and godliness that he is removed to the greatest distance from the brute creation, is placed in most direct opposition to fallen spirits, makes his nearest approach to the angels of God, and in any degree resembles the Holy and Eternal One.

The God of the Bible is not merely a Divine Intellect, though his understanding is infinite; nor is Omniscience his only attribute, though it is one of his glorious perfections; but God is Love; and when the seraphim select for the subject of their anthem that view of his nature which calls forth their loftiest praise, they contemplate him as the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. Infinite goodness, and not merely infinite greatness, is the Deity we are called by the inspired writers to worship. And the most sublime descriptions of God, not based upon his goodness, are but the inventions of men, and no true copies of God's representations of his own nature. The prevailing disposition, therefore, to do such homage to 'talent', rather than to 'moral excellence', is only another species of idolatry, more refined and subtle than the worship of stocks and stones—but scarcely less guilty.

That some respect must be paid to talent, even in the ministry of the word, is admitted. A disposition to prize talent and learning, is inseparable from human nature, and is a part of the design of God in forming men with varying powers of the understanding—a fine intellect is to be admired as well as an elegant form or a beautiful flower; and so much the more, as that which is mental is superior to that which is corporeal. But when the Christian public is so enamored of talent, as to admire it more than the message which it is employed to set forth; when no preacher can be heard with pleasure or even endurance, however sound his doctrine, clear his statements, impressive his manner, or earnest his address, unless his discourse is radiant with the light of genius, and gay with the flowers of rhetoric; when truth itself is unpalatable unless it is sweetened with the honey of human eloquence; when the hearer of a sermon turns from it with disgust, because it fails to regale his fancy by the brilliancy of its images, or to lull his ear by the smoothness and harmony of its statements—when this is the state of the public taste, and it is to be feared that to a great extent it is the state of it now, surely it is time to call the attention of our congregations to something higher and better.

No one who is attentive to the distinguishing features of the age, can doubt that much is now going on which has an obvious, though of course an undesigned, tendency to corrupt in some degree the simplicity of the public taste, with reference to preachers and their sermons. The pulpit has some reason to be jealous of the platform, and the sermon of the speech. If the modern practice of endless speechifying had only done something to break down the stiffness and formality of sermonic speaking, and to introduce a more easy, fluent, and energetic method of address on the part of the preacher—and a corresponding taste for a more vivacious method of instruction on the part of the people, it would have conferred a substantial benefit! But with it has come perhaps the opposite evil of making the preacher too oratorical, and the people too fastidious; and of destroying somewhat of the solemnity and spirituality of both. No doubt some degree of earnestness will still be observed; but it may be the earnestness which is anxious to please—rather than that which is desirous to convert; which aims to gratify the imagination—rather than to save the soul.

It is in vain then to hope for such a ministry as that which it is the object of this work to describe and to recommend, until our congregations are brought to see its vast importance, and to supplicate that it may be given them. In this case, as in every other, the demand will bring the supply, as well as the supply create the demand. When the churches shall be brought up to that state of piety, that deep solicitude about salvation, that intenseness of pursuit of eternal life, which shall make them anxious to have ministers who will aid them in the momentous business; and when they shall say to the tutors and committees of our colleges, "You must not only send us learned men—but earnest men," then will the minds of our excellent professors be still more fixed on the most essential qualifications of the Christian ministry, and still more anxiously endeavor to meet this demand. And when our destitute congregations shall let it be distinctly known that it is not merely a Master of Arts, nor a merely eloquent speaker, nor even a good divine that they want—but one who shall watch for their souls, and feed the flock of God, then the attention of our young ministers will be still more turned to the end of their ministry, and the qualifications necessary for the just discharge of its functions. Let the church therefore only be rightly instructed on this subject, and fix properly its standard; let it be brought up to the conviction, that only men intent upon saving souls, will be useful—and such men will come at its bidding.

III. There should be much prayer presented to God for a supply of earnest ministers. It must never be forgotten that ministers are called, qualified, and blessed, by the Lord, the Spirit. Hence the promise of God to the Jews, "I will give you pastors according to my own heart; who shall feed you with knowledge and with understanding." And hence also the language of the apostle, "He gave some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." It was a special injunction of Christ to his disciples—but intended to apply to his people in every age—to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the field. From these passages, as well as from the general principle that every good gift is from the Lord, we learn that a faithful ministry is one of God's gifts, and a precious one it is; and were the church in a high spiritual state, it would constitute one of the chief subjects of its prayers. Perhaps we are not brought to feel with sufficient depth of conviction our dependence upon God for this great blessing, for there is little doubt that the church's prayers and the church's possessions would bear in this particular, some tolerable proportion to each other. We cannot conceive of any case in which the promise, "Ask, and you shall receive," would be so abundantly fulfilled, as in reference to this.

It has not been enough considered—what kind of men are needed at all times, and especially in these, for the ministry of reconciliation. That in fact we need men formed exactly and in all respects, except inspiration and the power to work miracles—upon the apostolic model. Much the same work is now to be done as was done by them, and we must have men as full of the power of God, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, to do it. Let it be seen what ministers have to contend with in this day; not indeed the spirit of persecution, not blood-shedding laws, not the amphitheater, the axe, or the stake; but obstacles in some respects more formidable; for the trials I have just mentioned, if they lessened the number of professors, raised those who stood firm, into the devotion of seraphs, the courage of heroes, and the loyalty of martyrs. But our obstacles are the debilitating influences of ease and prosperity; the insidious snares of wealth, extravagance and fashion; the engrossing power of business and secular ambition! Consider this, and then let it be judged what kind of preachers and pastors we need for such an age!

If we had nothing more to do, and were contented to do no more, than to keep religion up to the low level which it now maintains, ministers of a common stamp might suffice. But to keep in check all the enemies of vital godliness which threaten the devastation of the church; to resist, by the potency of personal example and the energy of the pulpit, the worldly spirit which threatens to eat out the very core of vital piety; to keep up the evangelizing zeal which is awakened, and to blend with it a sanctity and a spirituality which shall make it as effective as it is busy; to do battle with all the forms of error by which our common faith is likely to be assailed; and to do this not only by the force of intellect—but by being strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. To achieve all this, we need men of the same spirit as those who under the direct commission of Christ, preached the word of salvation with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. Have we many such men in the field? If not, why not? Must not the church of God blame herself, for not having sought such men by all the wrestling power of believing prayer? Had she felt the need of such men, and had she lifted up, not her hands and her voice merely—but all the energies of her renewed nature, in beseeching supplications to Him who is ascended to bestow this very gift—she would have obtained all she asked or needed. Let the church only set her heart upon such a blessing as this, let her faith be equal to the expectation of it, and her prayer be as her faith—and she will have it.

Why should she not expect it? What is there in the nature of the blessing that forbids her to look for it? Does it contradict a single promise, or contravene a single arrangement, of her Divine Head? Does it compromise his honor, or require his unordinary interposition? Does it involve any stepping out of his ordinary course of action? Why then should it be thought incredible that she should obtain a more, a far more devoted and successful ministry, than she now possesses? Does the gospel of God's grace, either at home or abroad, prevail as it could be wished and might be expected? Does the work of conversion go forward extensively, and Christ's Kingdom make fresh encroachments on the empire of darkness as might be looked for? Who will venture to answer in the affirmative? Does love to Christ and souls beat in any man's heart, with so feeble a pulsation that he must be satisfied with what is now being done—and be contented that things should always go on as they do? Is there nothing to be done, no way to accelerate the work of redeeming mercy, no method to pour the principles of spiritual fertility more rapidly and more diffusively through the moral wilderness of our barren world? Yes! One way is yet open, and that is for Zion to awake and bestir herself, and lay hold of God's strength, saying, "Send us more laborers into the field." We have forgotten to pray for ministers of a right stamp. The subject has never occupied, in our private, family, and social devotions, the place which its importance demands. It has been occasionally and coldly alluded to—but has not been lifted up to heaven with importunity by men who felt that they could not do without it.

"Truly if ever there was a period when the whole Christian world should be down upon their faces before the throne of mercy, imploring with all the importunity, and boldness, and perseverance of faith—for a race of ministers, each full of the Holy Spirit, as was Barnabas or Paul—that period is passing over us. Not from one place or another—but from all quarters of the earth, testimony multiplies daily that amid the greatest possible facilities for converting the world, a greatly increased and more devoted ministry is indispensable. This testimony comes to us, not indeed as the Macedonian cry came to the apostle in a supernatural vision; but in a manner not less affecting or decisive as to its signification. It is a real sound which flies round the land and rings in our ears all the day long. 'Send us godly preachers!' is the universal, ceaseless demand, at home and abroad. It comes from more than a thousand of our destitute churches; it comes from the cities, from the wilderness, from the islands, from the uttermost parts of the sea, from tracts until lately unknown to civilized man. This cry which sounds so loudly and so complainingly in our ears, should by general consent be turned into prayer and sent up to heaven.

"And shall we longer refrain to do this? Shall we stand and hear that unusual cry and feel no inclination to direct it to the ear of Him from whom help alone can come? Is it not a mysterious species of infatuation to refrain to lift up our cry to the Lord of the harvest? Why do we not, if this be the case, renounce the very religion of Jesus, and abandon ourselves, as well as the heathen, and the whole race of man—to despair? Why should not a reform forthwith commence, and the place of prayer have more attractions than the eloquence of any mortal, or any angel's tongue? Why then will not every true Christian make a covenant with himself to change his life in this particular, and from henceforth make it one of his chief subjects of wrestling supplication, that God would give us a more faithful, earnest, and laborious ministry?

"Why will we not call to mind how Abraham, and Moses, and Elijah, and Daniel, and Paul, and above all how the blessed Jesus labored in prayer, and resolve in God's strength to pray in the same manner? Oh, what an amount of beneficent power would such prayers exert upon the eternal destinies of our world! What wonders of grace would be witnessed in our churches, what accessions would be made to the sacred ministry, what an impulse would be given to the cause of missions, what brightness would be shed on all the prospects of the church!" ("Religion of the Bible" by Dr. Skinner)

I echo these beautiful sentiments, and earnestly implore for them the attention they demand. They touch us at the right point, and they speak to us at the proper season. We have multiplied and extended, of late, our collegiate institutions, and greatly improved our systems of pastoral education. We can speak of colleges whose architecture* would not disgrace Oxford or Cambridge, and of professors whose attainments in Biblical literature would not be surpassed by many teachers in national seats of learning. But as if to teach us our dependence upon God, few of them are at the present moment filled with students; and as to those who are coming forth from them, how great is our concern lest they should not prove such eminent and earnest men as we could wish to see them! The same remark will apply to the evangelical party of the Church of England, and all other denominations. I would be the last man to speak lightly of education—but I would be the first to caution the church of Christ against the sin and the folly of making it our supreme dependence. Teachers can impart a knowledge of Latin, Greek, and philosophy—but God alone can bestow the physical and spiritual gifts which constitute the chief qualifications for the work of the ministry. It is a fact which must have struck every attentive observer, that of those who are employed in the ministry of the word, whether in the Established Church or out of it, comparatively few are very eminent. The brightest flowers of humanity are not laid upon the altar of the Lord in great numbers. The majority of ministers are of a common order of intellect, and, as in the skies of heaven, only here and there a star attracts attention by its magnitude and brightness. Let it not be said that God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. This appertained to apostles, who, as they were clothed with the power of God by their gifts and miracles, could dispense with all other potency. But it is not the case with us, who without appropriate qualifications of native talent and education, can never expect the blessing of God.

* The age is past when the taunt could with truth be thrown at Dissenters, that theirs is the religion of barns; and if it were not, this would be no reproach to those whose Lord was born in a stable, and cradled in a manger. The danger lies in sacrificing too much to beauty of architecture. Splendid men, as pastors and preachers, will do more for us than splendid buildings; not that they are incompatible—but they are by no means inseparable. Many a dolt has obtained his degree from our most magnificent College buildings.

IV. A revived state of the Church would produce a ministry such as that which has been described in the foregoing pages. In the natural order of things it would seem that the church cannot be revived without a previous revival of the ministry; and yet, as the ministry are the children of the church, they can hardly be expected to rise above the level of the community out of which they spring. There is a kind of average piety of almost every age and every church, and our young men rarely come with more than this to our colleges—and therefore, although we do not dispute the fact that little expectation can be indulged of an increased piety in the churches, without an augmentation of pastoral devotedness, yet at the same time, the latter can almost as little be looked for, without the former. Revivals have sometimes begun with the people, who have drawn the ministry up to their own level. A lively church could not long endure a dull and lukewarm pastor, if he partook not of the prevailing excitement, he would feel himself soon obliged to leave his situation. If, therefore, the ministry cannot revive themselves and each other, it were an unspeakable mercy if they should receive an impulse from the people.

As we have already seen, many things in the present age are of a most auspicious character, and give it a lofty pre-eminence above some that have preceded it. Who can witness its busy activity, its generous liberality, its exhaustless ingenuity for the conversion of the world, without admiration and gratitude—but these are not all the elements of true piety, and it may be apprehended that, in innumerable cases, they are only the substitutes for the essential work of regeneration and sanctification. It may be feared that Satan is taking advantage of them to blind the judgment, and to delude the souls, of many. Men of keen observation, who can penetrate the surface, and see what lies below it, are of opinion that underneath this external covering of liberality and zeal, there lies a lack of vital godliness; that much of what we see in our multiplied public institutions is but as flowers blooming in a shallow and sandy soil. They who are best acquainted with the state of our churches, express a doubt whether there is not a deplorable lack of that separation from the world in its spirit and customs, which the Christian profession implies. While this is the case, the ministers who come out from such a state of things are likely to rise no higher than their source. Hence it becomes our churches to consider the urgent necessity of their rising to a higher tone of piety, and joining heartily in any efforts that are made to bring about so desirable a state of things. Even those who have themselves drunk deepest into the spirit of the world, will sometimes lament the lack of intenseness and spirituality on the part of their ministers—but do they not remember that their own worldly-mindedness is exerting an influence over their pastor, and producing that very state of mind in him which is the subject of their remark and censure? He was perhaps a more holy and heavenly man, when he came to them from college, young and flexible, and was at first surprised and grieved to witness the prevalence of lukewarmness among them. But after striving, in vain, to produce a better state of things among the members of his church, he was gradually drawn down to that low level from which he found it impracticable to raise them. Thus while I admit there is little hope of a revived church which does not rest on the previous revival of the ministry, I am tempted almost to argue in a circle, and to say there is little hope of the revival of the ministry which does not rest on the previous revival of the church.

Let us then, both ministers and churches, set about in good earnest the revival of godliness. We act and re-act upon each other. We help or hinder one another. We both need more godliness; let the ministry seek it for the sake of the people, and the people for the sake of the ministry. If the ministers will not lead the people, let the people lead the ministers. If the blessing cannot descend from the pulpit to the pew, let it ascend from the pew to the pulpit. Let the church of the living God arise, put on her robe of righteousness, her garment of salvation, shake off the dust from her apparel, and shine forth in the beauties of holiness. We need a better church to make a better world; and a better church would most assuredly make a better world; and we also need a better ministry to make a better church. But if we cannot have them in the one order, may we have them in the other, and find that a better church is making a better ministry. If the rain of heaven does not collect upon the hills to pour down its streams upon the valleys, may the vapor of the valleys rise to revive and refresh the tops of the hills.

V. We should, as pastors of the churches, look round our respective flocks, and see what devoted youths of ardent piety and competent abilities likely to be useful as ministers of Christ we have within our circles—and call them out to the work, without waiting for the first impulses of devotion to it to come from themselves. A radical mistake has been committed through our whole denomination, in supposing it is necessary in all cases for the desire after the sacred office to rise up first of all, and spontaneously, in the bosom of the aspirant. In consequence of this, many have thrust themselves forward who were altogether unfit for the work; while many eminently qualified for it, have been kept back by modesty. Does it not seem to be the work of the pastors and the churches, to call out from among themselves the most gifted and godly of their members for this object? Is not this the working out of the principle we have already considered, that the church is the conservator of an effective ministry? Are not they the best judges of talent and other prerequisites? Should this matter be left to the inflation of self-conceit, the prompting of vanity, or the impulse, it may be of a sincere—but unenlightened zeal? Nothing can be more erroneous than that this call of the church would be an officious intermeddling with the work of the Spirit in calling the ministry; for it may surely be conceived to be quite as rational a notion to suppose that the Spirit calls a person through the medium of the church and its pastor, as to imagine that the commission from above comes direct to the heart of the individual, especially as the church and the pastor, or at any rate the latter, is usually applied to, as a judge of the candidate's fitness for the work; and thus after all, the power and right of pronouncing a judgment upon the alleged call of the Divine Agent, are vested with the pastor and the church.

To affirm that an individual cannot be supposed to have a very great fitness for the office, unless his love of souls has been strong enough to prompt him to desire the work of the ministry, and that he is not likely to be very earnest in it, if he be sent, instead of his going of his own accord, is assuming too much; for in the plan here recommended, it is supposed that the individual who attracts the attention of the pastor is one who, in addition to true piety and competent abilities, has manifested an active zeal in the way of doing good. It is only on such a one that his eye would light, or to whom he would venture to make the suggestion. In all the official appointments recorded in the New Testament, from an apostle down to a deacon, the people were requested to look out for suitable men, and not to wait until they presented themselves. Let us then give our serious attention to this subject, and look out for the most godly, the most intelligent, and the most ardent of our young men, not forgetting at the same time to ascertain their physical qualifications of voice and constitution.

It is not studious youths only that will do for this work, mere book-worms who will devour knowledge and make no repayment for it. But such as will unite a thirst for knowledge with an intense desire to employ every acquisition for saving souls. We must be inquisitive after such; and if they are youths in the more respectable classes of society, young men who have known something of good society, and acquired the manners and habits of gentlemen; who have had something to do with business, and have acquired such a proper degree of self-confidence, as will give them weight and influence of character, all the better. Low men, with coarse vulgar manners, may by the power of great talents rise above their origin, and be of value, as diamonds uncut and unpolished; yet how much would the value of those spiritual diamonds be increased by the removal of all that is coarse in them, and the polishing of all that is rough and dim. When vulgarity is associated with slender talents, it is as flint set in lead. There is nothing in gentlemanly manners that deteriorates piety; and much, very much, that adds not only to the gracefulness—but to the usefulness, of the pastoral character. The graces, when baptized at the font of evangelical piety, arrayed in the robe of righteousness, and wearing the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, are useful handmaids to the Christian pastor, and procure favor for him in the solemn duties of his office. If we may judge from the specimens left on record in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul united the manners of a courtier with the fidelity of a prophet, and threw over the stern courage of a martyr, the mantle of a gentle courteousness. What could be more polished, yet what more faithful, than his address to Festus and Agrippa? And we can imagine that even his denunciation against the High Priest, who had commanded him to be smitten on the mouth, was all the more intense because of the dignified severity with which it was uttered. Earnestness, then, is not incompatible with refinement—but is rendered more effective by it, and hence the importance of our sending our better educated youths to the sacred office.

Occasionally we may find in our churches some people possessed of extraordinary talents for speaking and for active duty, who are too far advanced in manhood to go through a college curriculum—but who, notwithstanding, would make admirable preachers, and attain to considerable usefulness, as well as respectability. A man of natural genius, of strong intelligence, of eminent piety, and of pulpit power, is not to be rejected because he has not passed through the schools. Those who remember William Thorp, and especially that great theologian, Andrew Fuller, will not deny that He who called his apostles, not from the philosophers of Greece, or from the orators of Rome, or from the Rabbis of Jerusalem—but from the fishermen of Galilee, may sometimes select a servant, even in our days, from those classes which have been debarred the privileges of a classical or a philosophical education. Among the prophets of antiquity was Amos, the herdsman of Tekoa. These, however, are the exceptions, not the rule. Even the bishops of our ecclesiastical establishment are lowering their standard of qualifications, as necessary in all cases, for the pastoral functions, and are accommodating their system to the needs of the people, by ordaining men to the sacred office, whom their predecessors an age ago, would have unquestionably refused. Several of them have lately determined to ordain as deacons, men who have had no classical education, provided they have good preaching abilities. Latin and Greek are in such cases to be dispensed with.

We must not pretend to more fastidiousness than they, nor be horror-struck at the idea of introducing to the pastorate, men, who, though they are neither scholars nor philosophers, are likely to be powerful and useful preachers of the gospel. A collegiate education must be our general rule, which it may be hoped we shall never abandon. But it is a rule from which we must make exceptions in the case of those strong-minded, warm-hearted, earnest men, whose tough broad-sword will do more execution than many a weapon whose blade has received the highest polish that are can give it, and whose hilt sparkles with diamonds.

VI. This is a subject which demands the close and serious attention of ministers themselves. The whole present generation of our preachers from the oldest to the youngest must give their attention to the matter. I have known men of a past age, whose names are dear, and whose memory is fragrant, who to the last retained the ardor of their zeal, and whose labors, like the flame of the volcano rising from beneath the snow-covered surface of the mountain top, were carried on in association with their hoary hairs—and some such, though they are very few, still linger among us. Even they, and we who come next to them, and are verging on old age, must all do something more and something better than we have done for Christ and souls. Our sun is declining, and our shadows lengthen on the plain—but our day's work is not done; and instead of relaxing our diligence, we must work the harder, because the time of working is nearly over. As long as we have strength to grasp the sickle, or light to bind a sheaf, let us work on. Harvest-home will soon be here, and it is time enough for enjoyment when that arrives, and we shall meet our Master and our fellow-servants. To us the admonition comes with solemn emphasis, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, in the grave where you go."

For the sake of our younger brothers, let us be diligent. They look upon us as patterns; and let us therefore set them an example which shall come to them with the correctness of a good model, and the power of an ardent inspiration. Let there be no running from our posts as if we were weary of our service, and were panting for retirement. Let it be seen that the earnestness of our minds imparts vigor to our bodies, keeps off the infirmities of our declining years, and enables us to renew our youth like the eagle's. It is a spectacle which the admirer of military glory loves to witness, to behold the veteran soldier, on whose countenance the suns of innumerable campaigns and the swords of his foes have left their visible marks, outstripping in courage, in feats of arms, and in swiftness of foot, all the younger warriors who fight at his side, and to see him rallying their fainting hearts by the strength of his own. Veterans in the hosts of Emanuel, see then your duty! On you it devolves to train the young recruits, and form their character; let them feel that they are by the side of heroes, and catch the inspiration of your heroism. Cast over them your shadow while you live, and they will then be anxious to find your mantle when your spirit has dropped it in her flight to the skies. Let them see you intent upon the conversion of sinners, given up to your work of saving souls—and let them hear in your conversation how much your heart is set upon this work. Show them by the manner in which you are finishing your course, how they ought to begin and carry forward theirs. Correct their mistakes, elevate their aims and inflame their zeal. Do all you can by your private communion with them to form their character aright for the service of the Lord. Talk to them modestly of your own success in the ministry, and how you succeeded in this high and glorious achievement. What kind of men ought you to be, by whom the ardor of others will be kindled—or extinguished? May God's grace be sufficient for you!

But of what momentous consequence is it that our younger ministers and students should give to this subject its due attention! You have advantages which some who have gone before you never enjoyed, and which at times make them almost envy your privileges. But if this be all you seek; if it be the best and the highest object you aspire to, you have mistaken your way in going to the pulpit, and had better, whatever of education you may acquire, have drudged out life in one of the darkest of its recesses, or the humblest of its occupations, than to have entered the Christian ministry! Oh, what scenes attract your attention, and ought to engage your energies! There around you are immortal souls perishing in their sins, each one of more value than the whole material universe, each capable of being saved by your ministrations, and sure to acquire, by neglecting them, a deeper guilt and a heavier condemnation—there, in sight of your faith, is the Son of God, bleeding upon the cross for their redemption; there beneath you is the pit of hell, opening wide its mouth to receive them if they die in unbelief; there above you is heaven, throwing back its everlasting portals to receive them, if they are saved; there before you is the bar of judgment, at which you must soon meet them, to account for your ministry in reference to them; and there, beyond all, is eternity with its ever rolling ages, which are to be spent by them and you—in rapture—or in woe! Is this true? Is it fiction, or is it fact? If these things are not so, you are found false witnesses for Christ, for they are the common topics and the first principles of your discourses. But if they are all realities, then with what state of mind and heart should they be handled?

Begin your ministry, beloved young brethren, with a clear understanding of its nature, and a deep impression of its importance. Do you covet usefulness? Earnestness is essential to it. You cannot do good in any extensive degree without it. Listen to those who have gone before you; their testimony is founded both upon experience and observation. All, all will unite in this exhortation, "Be in earnest!" as well the very men who have had the least, as those who have exhibited the most, of this quality of character, and mode of action. Without this you cannot even be popular, to say nothing of usefulness. The public will hear an earnest minister, and will not hear any other. You may call this, if you will, bad taste, and wonder they will not listen to your highly intellectual and philosophical discourses, and be ready to withdraw in resentment the elaborate preparations they so little value, and retire from the pulpit. Whether they or you are wrong, this is the fact. He is an unwise tradesman, who, because he thinks the public taste is bad, and ought to be corrected, will exhibit in his window, and place upon his shelves, no other goods than those the public will not buy. In this case the taste of the public may be wrong, and that of the tradesman right—but in the case of preaching, if the people demand an earnest exhibition of gospel truth, and their minister, instead of this, will give them nothing but dull, dry, abstract sermons, it is they who are right, and he is wrong. They, better than he does, know not only what they want—but what he was appointed by God to furnish them!

Do not then mistake and determine to try to be useful in some other way than that which the God of nature and of grace has prescribed. Do not resolve to try the experiment of opening a new road to usefulness for yourself; another way than that which apostles, martyrs, and reformers have trod, and which the ministers and missionaries of every age and every country have found to be the power of God unto salvation, even the doctrine of the cross; another way which you may deem more befitting your powers and your scholarship, and the enlightenment of the age. You will inevitably go wrong if you do so, and close your career, lamenting your folly, and confessing that your pastoral life has been a lost adventure—a melancholy confession, and one that is not infrequently made. God gives man only one life, and affords him no opportunity to live through another term of existence, in which to profit by his own experience. But he gives him abundant opportunity to avail himself of the knowledge gained by his own trials as they go on, and by observation of others.

You have known enough and seen enough already of what will, and what will not, answer the end of your office, and save souls. You have only to look back, and to look around, to find evidence to guide you. You cannot mistake your means easily, if you do not mistake your object. Settle with yourselves what the latter is, that it is to save sinners by leading them to repent of sin, to believe on Christ, and to lead a holy life; and then you can scarcely fail to perceive that this never has been accomplished, and ordinarily never can be—but by beseeching them, and praying them, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God.

We who are growing grey in the service of Christ, feel somewhat anxious about those who are to succeed us. We see with gratitude and wonder what God has wrought by us; and we know how, as instruments, we have done it. We see how souls have been converted, churches have risen up, and believers have lived and died in the faith, and know full well that it was by the testimony of the gospel, plainly but energetically stated. In looking back, we often feel regret that the activity required by the age took from us the opportunity to make greater attainments in elegant literature and general knowledge. But no regret that we have made the great theme of Christ crucified the subject of our ministry, and the salvation of souls the object of our lives. We feel, amid the gathering shadows of evening, a calm and sweet satisfaction that in that we made a right choice, mingled with a profound humiliation that we have not followed it with more intensity of devotion. We see many things in the review of the past that we would alter—but we would make no alteration in that; we see much that we could improve—but only in the manner by which we could more successfully accomplish that object. And if it were permitted us to live our existence over again, or to speak more correctly, to spend another lifetime, and set out afresh, it would be our high resolve to get more of what the men of science and of literature admire—only to enable us to preach with greater power the doctrine of the cross, and to be better qualified to seek with more ardor, and with better hopes of success, the end of our ministry.

The love of applause, and we have all too much of it, is we hope dying in our hearts, or at any rate it appears to be more and more worthless—and the approval of our great Master more and more intensely to be desired. Whether we look back upon the past, consider our feelings for the present, or look at the prospects and anticipate the disclosures of the future, we know of no arguments convincing enough, no language sufficiently expressive, to enforce upon our younger brethren in the ministry, in reference to the purpose of their lives, the important admonition, "Be earnest!"

VII. Considerable care and caution are requisite, and much more than have been exercised hitherto, in the introduction and reception of young men into our colleges. Incompetent ministers are the burden of the church. Worldly ministers have been the dishonor of the church, and the hindrance of the progress of the gospel in the world.

In hearing incompetent ministers, one is ready to wonder how it ever entered into their hearts to conceive they had been called of God to a work for which they seem to possess scarcely a single qualification beyond their piety; and the wonder is doubled to account for any minister recommending them, or any committee receiving them—without intellect, without heart, and equally without voice, they seem sent into the ministry only to keep out others more competent for the work. How many have been permitted to escape from the pursuits of business, in which they might have done well, to endure the greatest privations, and to submit to the most humiliating mortifications, in an office, for the functions of which they were deplorably unfit! How many of them have passed through life in the misery of being amid a discontented people, or in wandering from place to place, without remaining with any church long! Such cases have been found in every age, and in every denomination—but they were never so numerous as they now are. A spirit of preciseness has crept over churches, and unsettledness over pastors.

How great then is the responsibility of recommending a young man to enter the ministry! It is an act drawing after it consequences of a most momentous nature, and should never be done without the utmost care and caution. It would be well if ministers would call in others to bear the burden with them, and to share the responsibility. It may in some cases expose a pastor to some risk of giving offence, if in the exercise of his fidelity he should discourage the aspirations of an unsuitable candidate. But it is an evil from which he would be sheltered, at least in part, by referring the case to the consideration of two or three of his brethren in his vicinity.

It is not, however, pastors only who should be cautioned against recommending unsuitable candidates—but the committees of our colleges should be no less careful about receiving them. It is extremely difficult by a first examination, or even by a probationary term, to judge of eligibility and fitness, as great excellence in some cases lies hidden under a very uncouth and unpromising exterior, and in others is very slow to develop itself; while on the contrary, a showy exterior over a shallow substratum is so deceptive, that not only months—but even years, must roll on, before the necessary qualifications can be determined upon. But a false delicacy has sometimes led our committees to retain young men in the colleges, of whose unfitness there remained no question, rather than put them and their friends to the pain of recommending them to discontinue their studies, and return to a secular trade. And it should be recollected that to carry on the education of a young man without any rational probability that he will ever attain to usefulness of any kind, either as an author, tutor, or preacher—is on the part of the committee a betrayal of their trust, and a misapplication of the funds entrusted to their care.

Let there be, then, a far greater degree of care and discrimination exercised in the initiative by our pastors than there has been—ten earnest men are better, and will do more for us, than a hundred incompetent ones! It would be better that churches should remain longer without pastors, than gain unsuitable ones; just as it is a far more endurable evil for a man who wishes for marital felicity, to endure the privations of celibacy any length of time, than to hurry from them into the miseries of an unhappy marriage. We must be more careful in the selection, the reception, and the retention of our students—than we have been. Since it is so difficult to find an agreeable withdrawal for those who are once in the ministry, it is highly incumbent upon us to watch with greater vigilance the door of entrance to it.

VIII. There is no class of men to whom we can look so naturally, or with so much entreaty for their aid, in furnishing us with devoted ministers, as our Professors. If the college be the mold in which the preacher and pastor are cast, the tutor is the man who shapes the mold, and pours the metal into it. How much then depends upon these beloved and honored brethren! What a trust is reposed with them, how solemn—how responsible! If it be a momentous thing for a pastor to have the care of a single church, how much more so, for a tutor to have the care of twenty or thirty youthful minds, each of which is looking forward to the pastorate; and to have them replaced by others every five years. Such an occupation is enough to make the stoutest heart tremble under an oppressive sense of its responsibilities. The strength of our churches lies in our ministry; of our ministry in our colleges; and of our colleges in their tutors. There is nothing about which we ought to be more concerned, than about this part of our system.

Happily to whatever department of pastoral education we look, whether to the philological, mathematical, or philosophical; whether to hermeneutical or dogmatic theology, we find in our various academic institutions, professors of whom we are not ashamed. If we need improvement anywhere, it is in the homiletic and pastoral department. We can scarcely wonder that in such an age as this, our professors should be anxious to push forward their alumni as far as possible into the regions of literature and science; or that now that the London University gives Nonconformists an opportunity of obtaining academic degrees and honors, they should feel solicitude to give full proof of their official assiduity by their students obtaining those distinctions. But it is well for them to remember that one popular, earnest, and successful preacher will bring more real credit to their college, and give it more favor with the public, than a dozen Bachelors of Arts, and half-a-dozen Masters to boot! The occasional exhibition, and it can be but occasional, of the letters denoting a degree affixed to a man's name, will not often excite the inquiry, "Where was he educated?" but the constant exhibition and effect of his power as a preacher will be a public and permanent recommendation of the institution where he was trained to such efficiency.

It is true that natural preaching talent will grow in almost any soil, and under almost any culture. But it may be carried to a higher degree of perfection in one place, and by one hand, than another. There is also such a thing as colleges gaining a special and permanent character, one for turning out better scholars, a second for teaching philosophy better, and a third for carrying on a superior theological training. But that, in the long run, will be the most useful, and the most deservedly popular, which succeeds in sending forth the greatest number of earnest and successful preachers.

All earnestness has a tinge of enthusiasm about it, and as no man can kindle this in the soul of another who has none of it himself—our tutors should have this mental fire, with judgment to keep it in its proper place, to do its proper work; and however they may value classical, scientific, and philosophical studies, their heart should be set on the formation of popular, powerful, and useful preachers. Those who know how much there is to do even in the way of preliminary training, with many young men that enter our seats of learning, and how much of necessity students' time and attention must be divided among the various objects of study, will confess that it is no easy matter to give that prominence to homiletics which their supreme importance demands. But, notwithstanding this, opportunities will continually present themselves, to an anxious and observant professor, for inculcating upon his students that all that he is teaching them will be useless, if they do not make it subservient to their great business of preaching the gospel and converting sinners.

But it is of especial importance that our tutors should be upon the alert when their students begin to preach, that in their first pulpit labors they should select the true object of all preaching, pursue it in a right course, and seek it with due vigor. What a student is in his first public services, that he is likely to be through life; and if he has no earnestness then, he is likely to have little afterwards. It happens that as all excellences are rarely combined in one man, many of our professors, though highly gifted as regards talent and acquirement, are not themselves much distinguished as preachers, and therefore cannot present in themselves living models of what pulpit power, as to manner, really is. Still, they who cannot illustrate it by example, can teach it by precept. May they see the importance of the subject, and labor to the utmost to inculcate it upon the youths looking up to them for instruction, and make it their chief aim to kindle in their bosoms, the ardor of pulpit enthusiasm!

We can easily imagine with what delight they must sometimes witness the advance by their pupils in extensive and accurate scholarship, in analytical power, in logical acuteness, in philosophical subtlety; and that in some rare cases they may felicitate themselves on such results of their labor, though they can foresee they will never be associated with pulpit efficiency. But as a general rule, nothing with reference to their students, should gratify, much less satisfy them, short of adaptation to popular effect. The demand preferred by our country upon the military schools is, "Give us soldiers!" upon our medical colleges, "Give us surgeons and physicians!" upon our Inns of Court, "Give us lawyers!" The cry sent up to our pastoral colleges is, "Give us powerful preachers, devoted pastors!" And it will not do to meet this demand, any more than it would the others just quoted, by replying, "We will send you Bachelors and Masters of Arts!" Much less will it do to send men who will feed the churches with a dry and sapless verbal exegesis of German theology, instead of the sweet and succulent expositions of our Scotts, our Henrys, our Wardlaws, and our Barneses.

Ministers may study the profoundest criticisms for their own improvement and carry on a course of exegetic exposition in the pulpit. But it must be of a character that shall combine impression with instruction; and let our tutors aim to train preachers, who shall make their sermons expository, their expositions sermonic, and both instinct with life and essentially popular. Let them give us in the men they send into our churches, as much as they can of everything which can polish the taste, inform, even adorn the intellect, and give weight and influence to the character in general society; the more of all these acquirements the better. But let them never forget that what is always needed for the momentous subject of religion, and what is especially needed in these times of intense earnestness, is a race of ministers as earnest as the times in which they live. May God help them to train such ministers for us!

IX. If it be the duty of the churches to call out ministers, it must of course be no less their duty to provide means for their education. Among all the objects of Christian benevolence, there is not one which has a prior or a stronger claim than our collegiate institutions, and yet it is too true that they are the last whose demands are properly regarded. Among Protestant Dissenters especially, the main pivot of their whole system is the ministry; upon this, everything, under God, must turn. As this is strong, everything else among them will be strong; and as this is weak, everything else will be weak. The springs which supply the reservoirs of our evangelizing societies, both at home and abroad, are to be traced back to our colleges—and yet the churches, if we may judge from their conduct, do not seem to be duly aware of this fact. Colleges are not however to be considered as 'charity institutions', where a race of literary paupers are sustained by the alms of the affluent; for it is becoming increasingly the practice for our students to pay for their own board—but beyond this, we have the invaluable services of our professors to pay, and many other expenses to defray. This outlay must be borne by the churches in all cases where there is no endowment, or none adequate to the entire support of the institution. And how can property be better applied? or what expenditure produces a quicker or more abundant return? A good education for our ministry is cheaply obtained at any price—and every shilling we expend in this way tells at once and before our eyes upon the object for which it is intended. And yet strange to say, there is no object for which we find it more difficult to maintain a regular and adequate supply of means. Foreign and home missions have an annual collection from almost every church in our denomination, and yet how few are there of our churches who grant an annual collection for any college, and what multitudes who never grant such a collection at all? The platform is the stage of modern activity—but our colleges can make no exhibition there—we can employ no succession of orators to advocate our cause by speeches in support of resolutions; can exhibit no foreigners; can produce no excitement by tales of horror, of pathos, or of adventure; yet where would the platform be but for the pulpit, and what is the pulpit without the college?

We ought not, it is true, to do less for our other organizations—but we ought to do far more for our educational system. We must bestir ourselves, and not allow this on which everything depends, to fall into the rear, or be thrown into the shadow of one or two deservedly popular societies. If a larger part of the zeal manifested in arguing for the 'voluntary principle' were employed in a more liberal support of our denominational institutions, they would be in a far better state than they now are, and the power of that principle more clearly seen, and more successfully advocated. With all our ardor in the cause of Nonconformity, it is easier to raise large funds for other objects of benevolence than for this. The London Missionary Society, which is chiefly supported by the Congregational body, has an income of nearly eighty thousand pounds a year; while that same body does not raise by voluntary contributions more perhaps than eight or nine thousand for our seats of learning; and even this is not so economically expended as it might be, by a consolidation of our colleges. It is high time the whole system were looked into.

It is however somewhat cheering to know that this subject is beginning to be understood by our churches, and a more just appreciation of the value of an educated ministry, to be made by the intelligence of the age; and as a natural consequence there is springing up a more general disposition to support the expense thereby incurred. Many instances have occurred of late, of the owners of property apportioning a large share of it, either in the way of founding colleges, or establishing scholarships, for the education of young men for the ministry. An individual who founds one of these scholarships, may, if he gives his property at the age of thirty-five, and lives to be seventy, have, during his lifetime, and ever afterwards, six or seven ministers, educated by his means, preaching the gospel at the same time—and when he has reached his heavenly home, may welcome to glory through a long succession of ages souls that have been saved by the labors of those ministers for whose education he had set apart his property. How laudable and how noble an object of honorable ambition does such a proposal present to those who have at once the wish and the means to do good! Let the churches collectively, and their wealthy members individually, well consider then the obligation laid upon them to provide all that may be necessary to ensure the education of a ministry adapted to the circumstances of this extraordinary age!