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It is highly desirable that friendly intercourse be kept up amongst the clergy of the neighbourhood; and for the attainment of this object, monthly or quarterly meetings of the clergy have been found eminently successful.
The discussion of religious subjects in mutual conference, and in the spirit of Christian forbearance and love, tends to expand the views, correct the misconceptions, and enable ministers to dispense to their people a more intelligent system of divine truth ; while the kind interchange of thoughts, and the mutual communication of ministerial difficulties, and pastoral plans, tend to unite their hearts in brotherly love, and strengthen their hands in their most important work.*
Every meeting should be opened and closed with prayer. A chapter from the epistles of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus having been read, and friendly conversational remarks having been made upon
the several verses, any question relating to the proper discharge of parochial duties might be discussed.
The time and place of meeting should be fixed according to the circumstances of the several localities.
Perhaps meeting at tea at each other's houses in rotation is the best time, as least interfering with ministerial duties. The clergyman, at whose house the meeting is held, should open it with a prayer, and having read the portion of Scripture, request his brethren in rotation to offer any remarks upon
the chapter. A secretary should be appointed, and a book for the insertion of the minutes of each meeting provided. On announcing to the members the time and place of the meeting, the secretary should give notice of the passage of Scripture to be read, and the subject to be discussed, that all may be prepared, and each should feel bound to give to these matters his prayerful and careful attention. The following rules and form of prayer may be adopted or modified.
Rules of a Clerical Meeting. 1. That the meeting commence at o'clock in the - of the first Monday in every month.
2. That in order to insure the attendance at the hour appointed, tea be provided at — o'clock.
3. That the object of the meeting be, the glory of God in the spiritual welfare of our respective flocks, and the progressive improvement of our own souls.
4. That the meeting be opened with prayer, after which some passage of Scripture relative to the ministerial office shall be read and considered, then shall follow the consideration of such practical or doctrinal subjects as shall be appointed at the preceding meeting.
Bridges's Christian Ministry, p. 587,
5. That the meeting be closed at
6. That each member consider his attendance at these meetings paramount to every other consideration, and endeavour to order his parochial engagements so as not to interfere with his attendance.
7. That the meetings be held at
8. That the concluding prayer be conducted by the members according to their standing in the ministry.
9. That the members, on their admission, signify their consent to the rules, by subscribing their names in the minute book.
10. That each member be provided with a copy of these rules.
11. That in the consideration of the subject, each person be allowed to deliver his sentiments without interruption.
12. That the next meeting be held on at
13. That the subjects for consideration at the next meeting be 1 Timothy, iii., and the duty of catechizing, and the best means of performing it.
A Prayer. Almighty and most merciful Father, by whose kind providence we are permitted to meet together, pour out upon us, we beseech thee, for the sake of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, the influences of thy Holy Spirit, that we may worship thee, serve thee and obey thee as we ought to do. Thou hast graciously promised that wherever two or three are met together in thy name, thou wilt be in the midst of them. Be thou, O Lord, in the midst of us this day. Grant thy blessing to those who are here present, and give us a single eye to thy glory in all that we say and do. Make us able ministers of the New Testament, workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving to every one his portion in due season. Let not thy word which we preach, return unto thee void, but let it accomplish that which thou pleasest, and prosper in the thing whereto thou sendest it : may it become the power of God to the salvation of many souls. O Lord, mercifully vouchsafe to qualify us more and more for that great work, whereunto thou hast called us. O Lord, bless the congregations over which we severally preside. Give them the hearing ear, and the understanding heart, that they may receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save their souls, that they may be doers of thy word and not hearers only, deceiving their own souls. And now,
And now, O gracious God, we beseech thee to bless us in the purposes of our present inter
Open our understandings, that we may understand the Scriptures. Over-rule the important subjects on which we may have to speak, to our growth in grace, and increasing usefulness to others. May the good effects of our Christian communion be manifested in our life and conduct, personal and ministerial, that we may be epistles of Christ known and read of all men. Pardon, O God, our ministerial and personal sins; clothe us with the robe of Christ's righteousness ; sanctify us by his blessed Spirit, and make us altogether accepted in Jesus thy beloved Son. These, and all other mercies, we humbly ask in the name and for the sake of our blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ thy Son. Amen.
Our Father, &c.
SERMONS AND EXPOSITIONS.
The public ministry of the word is the most important, the most responsible part of our work; the most extensive engine of ministerial operation ; acting, not like parochial visitations, upon individual cases, but with equal power of application to large numbers at the same moment,
Preaching is God's grand ordinance for the salvation of immortal souls,t and, under ordinary circumstances, no substitute whatever can be found equally efficacious. Preparation for the pulpit requires earnest prayer for divine guidance and assistance, and an entire reliance on the blessing of God the Holy Ghost on the best efforts which a minister can make, to render his addresses beneficial to his hearers. In no case should those declarations be more deeply impressed upon our minds, “It is not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (Zech. iv. 6.) “Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God alone can give the increase.” (1 Cor. iii. 6.) Unless a minister begin, continue, and end his sermons, in humble expectation of the outpouring of this blessed spirit upon his hearers, he will preach, we might almost say, in vain. It is also well for a minister publicly to declare to his people, from the pulpit, that his only and alone dependence is on the Holy Spirit. “Those that honour me, I will honour.” (1 Sam. ii. 30.) The following hints may not be altogether useless.
The TEXT, or subject matter of the discourse, or exposition, is the first point to be determined. Every minister should pray earnestly to God to direct his choice of a subject, and his method of treating it. We preach for eternity. We know not the hearts of our people. If we are ignorant of their disease how shall we apply the suitable remedy? God will direct us to both. He never fails them that seek him. The portions of Scripture appointed for the Sunday services will afford a suitable text. But every opportunity afforded by local circumstances should be duly improved, as sudden death, accidents, &c. &c. These are God's texts for our people.
SKELETON. Having, after earnest prayer, determined on the text, the next thing is to draw out a full skeleton of the subject. In doing this imitate nobody. Write naturally. God distributes to every man severally as he will. And every man is peculiarly fitted for that situation in which God places him.
In drawing out a skeleton, the manner of treating a subject should be varied, sometimes it should be discussed by regular divisions, sometimes by observations. For beginners, expositions of large portions of Scripture are the best. Let God speak for himself. Treat doctrines practically, and practical duties doctrinally. Prove all your assertions by appeals to Scripture; give the book, chapter, and verse, that the people's faith and hope may be not in man but in God. Put down
Bridges's Christian Ministry, p. 245.
+ Rom. x. 12--15.
your own meditations on the passage, such as occur in your private devotions, as if preaching to yourself. What comes from the heart will find its way to the heart. Your own heart is an epitome of your parish. You will find every evil there. This will be a kind of rehearsal, you will see how far your reasoning, proofs, &c. affect yourself. Do not think that that will touch others which does not move you.
“As face answers to face in a glass, so does the heart of man to man.” (Prov. xxvii. 9.) PREACH CHRIST. Never give occasion to any who attend your ministry to say, They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” (John. xx. 13.) You are ministers of Christ, ambassadors of CHRIST : Christ must be “all in all.” (Col. iii. 11.) What you think of Christ, your people will soon find out, by hearing what you preach of Christ. If Christ be precious to your souls, you cannot help ardently desiring that he may become so to all your hearers. Mind how you preach Christ. Never let it be said of your discourses that a Socinian might preach them. The mere mention of the name, offices, &c. of Christ is not preaching Christ. Preach Christ in the dignity of his person, fulness of his grace, extent of his atonement, sufficiency of his righteousness, prevalence of his intercession, the freeness and completeness of his salvation. Christ the sufficient, the all sufficient, the only sufficient Saviour.
In each sermon keep distinctly before the people the several parts in the economy of grace of each person in the ever blessed Trinity, the work of the Father, the work of the Son, the work of the Holy Ghost.
AIDS. Answers to the questions, who, what, where, when, and why, will elicit an abundance of matter from any text. Variation of emphasis will do so too. In providing matter, consult the best commentators, do not read sermons on the text. Perhaps, on the whole, Matthew Henry's commentary is the most devotional. A sermon got up” in a mere perfunctory manner, will have no “unction.” Burkitt, Doddridge, Gillies, and Guyse, on the New Testament; Henry, Orton, Poole, and Scott, on the Old ; Horne's Introduction, Harmer's Observations, Calmet's Dictionary, the Scripture Treasury, and Cruden's Concordance, with the original text, Hebrew and Greek, will afford all the extrinsical aid that can be desired. Simeon's works are very valuable, for those who can afford to purchase them, but few curates can give nine or ten guineas for one work.
SKELETONS of sermons and SERMONETTES are often found very useful, especially to such as have more than one sermon weekly to prepare. There are various publications of this nature. We may mention Jowett's fifty-two sermons, Simeon's Skeletons, Beddome's, Hawker's Morning and Evening Portions, Mason's Spiritual Treasury, Jay's Morning and Evening Exercises, &c. &c.
EXPOSITIONS, or CATECHETICAL LECTURES, are best suited for afternoon congregations. The various expositions of Adams, Lawson, Manton, Mayer, Trail, Wardlaw, Robinson's Scripture Characters, Bishop of Chester on the Gospels and Acts, &c. &c. will afford much interesting matter.
Begin your sermons early in the week, and always have them ready not later than Friday evening. Make this a point of conscience. You will find the benefit of adhering to this rule to be incalculable.
DELIVERY. In preaching let every thing be natural. Avoid all affectation in voice, manner, attitude, &c. So speak that all may hear, and understand. Let your enunciation be clear and distinct, that every word, and every syllable may be heard. Do not shout. Do not drawl. Avoid all monotony. Do not attempt “fine” preaching. Preach from the heart, that whatever may be thought of you in other respects, your hearers may feel fully convinced that you believe all you say, and are really anxious that they should too. Be in earnest. “Si vis me flere, flendum est tibi," affords a good hint. A careless preacher makes careless hearers.
LENGTH. Avoid long sermons. You have to preach to human beings not to angels. The spirit is often willing when the flesh is weak. Our services are already long enough. Never exceed forty minutes. Twenty-five minutes is quite long enough for a morning's discourse. Remember that there are children, aged persons, and many
infirm among the congregation.
EXTEMPORE sermons. There are, or, at least, there ought to be, no such sermons.
No minister should preach who has not thought much and prayed fervently on his subject. But this is not to preach extempore. It is not however necessary that every word, or even sentence, should be written in full. Perhaps LONG NOTES are the best, affording all the advantages of mature thought, and much prayer, as well as an easy mode of address. The MEMORITER system is terrible. It is in fact hypocritical, preaching under false colours. Such persons enter the pulpit and act a lie ; and how can they look for God's blessing, simulation and dissimulation are equally wrong, especially in a minister.
In every parish there are many, who, from bodily infirmity or from other causes, are prevented attending the public services of the church, and who need merely general or individual conversations upon spiritual subjects, but distinct expositions of the word of God. Indeed such a plan will be found exceedingly useful to the poor generally. Familiar reading and exposition of a course of Scripture, (perhaps preferable to unconnected portions), commenced and concluded with a hymn and prayer, will furnish the plan, and fill up the outlines.
The time for holding them should be fixed with every possible consideration of convenience, and form an engagement of regular occurrence, and of paramount obligation. The evenings only allow the attendance of the men upon these meetings. Women, except in manufacturing districts, may be collected during the day.* The time occupied on these occasions should never exceed an hour. Punctuality is at all times desirable.