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pend his care, for å season, of particular, of less momentous distresses.
In these THREE respects, then, I propose illustrate and enforce the comparison of the Text, without any apprehension of being thought to do violence to it.
1. The knowledge of a well-instructed Scribe must be directed tò the edification of his charge, and not at all to the gratification of his own vanity.
This conclusion results immediately from the subject of the comparison. For the Christian Scribe is not compared to a prince, who is allowed, and even expected, to consult his own state and magnificence; or, to one of those popular magistrates in ancient times, whose office it was to exhibit splendid shews, and furnish expensive entertainments, to their fellowcitizens : but to a plain Jewish householder, who had nothing to regard beyond the necessary, or, at most, decent accommodation of his family.
And the comparison is aptly made, as we shall see if we consider, either the end of a preacher's office, or the decorum of his cha
His OFFICE obliges him to intend the most essential interests of mankind, the reformation of their lives, and the salvation of their souls. And when the object of his care is so important, what wonder if all inferior considerations fall before it ?
Besides, the Christian preacher has a commission to discharge, a divine message to deliver. And in such a case, men look not for ingenuity, but fidelity. An ancient, or a modern sophist may make what excursions he thinks fit into the wide fields of science; and may entertain us with his learning, or his wit, as he finds himself able. He this ; for he has only to recommend himself to our esteem, and to acquire a little popular reputation. But we have a dispensation committed to us, a form of sound words, from which we must not depart, a doctrine, which we are to deliver with uncorruptness,, gravity, sincerity b. We please not men, but God; or if men, to their good, only, to edification c.
b Tit. ii. 7.
c Rom. XV. 2.
The DECORUM of our character requires, too, that we be superior to all the arts of vanity and ostentation. Even in secular professions, it is expected that this rule of propriety be observed. A Physician would be ridiculous, that was more curious in penning a prescription, than in weighing the matter of it: and the Advocate would be little esteemed, that should be more solicitous to display himself, than to serve his client. How much more then
may it be expected from a preacher of righteousness, that he should forget his own personal importance amid the high concerns of his profession!
And such was indeed the conduct of our best guides, in the ministry. The ancient Fathers were, many of them, richly furnished with all the endowments, that might be required to set themselves off to the utmost advantage. Yet we find them, in their homilies and discourses to the people, inattentive to every thing but their main end; delivering themselves, with an energy indeed, but a plainness and even negligence of expression 4,
d They did this with design, and on principle; as appears from St. Austin's discourse de Doctrina Christiana, in which he instructs the Christian preacher to employ, on
that tempts frivolous readers, sometimes, to make a doubt of their real, and, from other monuments of their skill and pains, unquestioned abilities.
And, in this contempt of secular fame, they did but copy the example of St. Paul himself, the great Apostle of the Gentiles ; who, though distinguished by the sublimest parts, though profound in his knowledge of the Law, and not unacquainted with Gentile learning, affected no display either of his natural or acquired talents, but, as he tells us himself and his writings attest the truth of his declaration), determined to know nothing, among the faithful, save Jesus Christ, and him crucifiede.
Not that what abilities we have, are always to lie concealed. There are occasions, no doubt, when they may properly, that is, usefully, be exerted. But the minister of the Gospel does not go in quest of such occasions : he only adapts himself to them, when they come in his way ; and then pursues them no farther than the end, he has in view, the edification of others, not his own credit, demands from him.
some occasions, inelegant and even barbarous terms and expressions, the better to suit himself to the apprehensions of his less informed hearers. non curante illo, qui docet, quantâ eloquentia doceat, sed quantå evidentiâ. Cujus evidentiæ diligens appetitus aliquando negligit verba cultiora, nec curat quid benè sonet, sed quid benè indicet atque intimet quod ostendere intendit - and what follows. L. iv. P: 74. Ed. Erasm. t. ii.
e 1 Cor. ii. 2.
By this rule, the preachers of the word are to conduct themselves. By the same rule, it will, therefore, be but just to estimate their charitable labours; and, when we see nothing to adınire in them, to conclude, That this plainness of character may not be always owing to incapacity, but sometimes, at least, to discretion and the higher regards of duty.
And this candour, as liable as it is to misinterpretation, will not be thought excessive, if you reflect, that, as, in general, they are bound to consult the good of their charge, and to deliver nothing to their auditors, but what they foresee, or presume at least, will be useful to them: So
II. In the next place, The degree of that utility must be regarded by the prudent dispenser of God's word, and can only be estimated