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"the great salvation;" it will fly from hearts that are gross and terrene, and will abide only in those bosoms which cultivate a close acquaintance with the Saviour, whom, “having not seen, they love, and in whom, though now they see him not, yet believing, they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
FURTHER REMARKS ON THE PASTORAL DUTY OF
VISITING FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE. TO THE EDITOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL MAGAZINE. Dear Sir, It is not from any wish to prolong controversy, but from a desire to correct a little misconception of my meaning, to explain it more fully, and to supply additional evidence in its favour, that I beg your indulgence to a few more remarks on the pastoral duty of visiting from house to house.
In alluding to the Christian duty of domiciliary visitation, my only object was to exbibit the inconsistency of those individuals who are forward to complain of pastoral neglect, while they are guilty of similar remissness, in relation to those who have similar claims on themselves. The extent of such obligation must be regulated by the amount of adaptation and opportunity in each case. It is not, of course, on this general ground that the duty of pastoral visiting, as such, depends. The pastoral obligation rests upon principles peculiar to itself, while it is not weakened by others that apply to Christians generally.
The whole of the scriptural argument on this subject is inferential, and not direct. T. C. A. misunderstood me in supposing that I intimated a doubt of this circumstance. It is equally true that I failed, through oversight, to pay due attention to his admission in his first letter, that “some duties are plainly implied, which are not clearly enjoined ; that some things are sustained by analogy, which are not expressly commanded.”
Your truly respected correspondent has supplied us with a statement of the extent of his views in relation to pastoral visitation. He says, p. 103, “ Having a watchful eye over the whole, he,” the pastor, “will soon discern, or soon be made acquainted with the particular cases that require more spiritual attention, and these he will visit at their own abodes. The afflicted, who cannot come to Divine ordinances; the bereaved, and such as may be under any peculiar trial, needing special sympathy and aid; and such also as appear to be wandering from the flock, being seen but little amongst them; these, with some other cases as they arise, will call for pastoral visits, and should be attended to as their different cases and circumstances may appear to need.” I may add, that I scarcely plead for more than this. The N. S. VOL. V.
words which I have marked almost express the extent of my meaning. At any rate, if we differ, we differ mainly in degree. It is my conviction, that in all the families to which we may have pastoral access, during the period of every two or three months, certain cases will arise, of which we are not likely to hear of without a visit, and which will be of sufficient importance to require one; it is this conviction that induces me to contend for what is called pastoral visiting from house to house, If nothing of the kind has arisen during that period, nothing which it would be impossible to turn to sufficient practical account, the vist can be proportionably short, and thus a longer time may be saved for the next household which, in respect to some of its inmates at least, may have been placed in very different circumstances. The evil of neglecting an opportunity of reclaiming an individual on the eve of fatal declension ; of removing doubts that have been secretly, but most seriously, undermining a Christian's peace and usefulness; of helping forward an incipient state of spiritual solicitude ; the evil, I say, of neg lecting such cases, which none but an actual visit could discover, is greater than the evil of walking to the house, making the inquiry, and finding (rare discovery indeed !) that there is nothing to do. My conviction, therefore, is, that in order to attend properly to "those cases that may arise,” a pastor must visit from house to house.
And yet, in contending for this practice, it is necessary to be understood with certain limitations. The mere visiting of a pastor, thong! not altogether without advantage, is not in itself of sufficient importance to counterbalance the time and energy which it consumes. Moreover, some of our flocks may be so circumstanced in certain households, as to render their ordinary place of residence the most unsuitable place of meeting them. Hence, I am willing to admit that the expression, pastoral visiting from house to house, fails to convey a correct impression of the thing itself, for which it is important to plead. The terms, pastoral intercourse with every member of the flock, are decidedly preferable. My meaning is fully expressed in the following words of Dr. Campbell, in his recent publication on the subject—“Give us intercourse, and we shall not care how, when, or where; only give us discreet, devout, religious intercourse.” Pastoral visiting is, as he says, only a means to an end. The end is personal intercourse. If that end can be better gained by any other plan than domiciliary visitation, let it be so gained, and let the plan I advocate be given up. Much may be done by district meetings, Bible and inquiry classes, to facilitate this private intercourse, and to supersede in some few cases the necessity of a personal visit. But such arrangements will always fall very far short of the end to be accomplished. Nearly every accessible household contains certain members who will not, or cannot, avail themselves of such opportunities of pastoral intercourse. The only way to get at such persons is to go to them; and that pastor who cannot so arrange
his plans as to meet this necessity, must be content to fail in one essential department of ministerial duty; he must be content to preach to a large portion of the congregation, with whose state of character it is impossible for him to be sufficiently acquainted, and whose suspicion that they are neglected will considerably unfit them to receive his message with that self-application and lively interest which pastoral visitation, in connexion with pastoral address, uniformly promotes. To be efficient preachers, we must have personal intercourse with our hearers ; to gain efficient intercourse, we must visit them in private.
In appealing to the word of God to decide the question before us, very much will depend on the views which may have been previously formed. This is necessarily the case with all questions that are to be determined by inference. To one entertaining my views, the deduction may seem very obvious in favour of pastoral domiciliary visitation ; to one agreeing with T. C. A., the opposite inference may seem equally clear. Hence I made but little allusion to Scripture in my last ; and hence I shall but sparingly refer to it in my present letter. .
So far as a Christian minister can learn his duty from the Old Testament, and, to a certain extent, he safely can, it cannot be doubted that the duty of pastoral visitation is enjoined in the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah and the 34th of Ezekiel. The charge brought against the careless ministers of those days was, “ Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them.”—Jer. xxiii. 2. It is worthy of remark, that the general application of these portions of the Old Testament to the Christian ministry is of very ancient standing. Cyprian, in one of his letters, says, Quid est enim major aut melior carâ præpositorum, quam diligenti solicitudine et medelå salubri fovendis et conservendis ovibus providere? cum Dominus loquatur et dicat-Ezek. xxxiv. 4.
In the New Testament we are supplied with general representations, with precepts and examples, from which, in my judgment, it is most natural to infer the duty of pastoral visitation from house to house.
The ministerial office is represented under emblems which involve an obligation not merely to instruct, to rule, to labour, but to conduct these duties with such ardent love, such tender solicitude, such minute attention, such ready adaptation to circumstances, such excessive selfdenial, that to separate from the pastor's duty the acquirement of an intimate acquaintance with each member of the flock, and the constant application of the most appropriate counsels at the most seasonable opportunities, is to leave the copy sadly unlike the original.
A man may be entitled to the name of preacher, who avoids the intercourse for which I plead; but it is truly difficult to conceive him acting up to the duties of an office, which is exhibited to us in Scripture under the combined representation of steward, watchman, workman, overseer, minister, shepherd, father.
The precepts to which I have alluded are such as the following: the pastor is required "rightly to divide the word of truth.” This division relates to the just appropriation of certain portions to certain cases. Can this be exactly done without a private interview? We are commanded to be “instant in season and out of season.” Does not this precepdt exten to every possible opportunity of conveying religious instruction? Can it be obeyed without individual application as well as public exhortation? Timothy was required to make full proof of his ministry. That “proof" appears to me to fall short of being “full,” till we have sought out our hearers in their retirement, and directed to them alone the appeals which we may faithfully administer to the mixed assembly. But the charge of the apostle Paul to the elders of the church at Ephesus contains, in my humble opinion, the most conclusive proof of the Divine approbation of pastoral visiting. “Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God.” This taking heed is equally applied to the elders themselves and to the flock. It is certainly personal in the first instance, why not in the second? And this personal attention is to extend not to a few but to all. Baxter's remark on this passage must commend itself to every unprejudiced mind. “It is presupposed necessary,” says he, “ that we should know every person that belongeth to our charge ; for how can we take heed to them if we do not know them.”
What can we infer from the examples recorded in the New Testament? It is worthy of remark, that the brief narratives of our Saviour's ministry record more than thirty distinct instances of private visits paid by him. The whole character of the ministry of the apostle Paul
-especially as it is exhibited in his tender love to his hearers-his individual salutations—his anxiety to know the state of the flock-his evident acquaintance with that state and his own acknowledged practice-supplies a strong evidence in favour of the pastoral visitation for which I plead. The last instance that I mention is recorded in the following words :-“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach, and preach Jesus Christ.”—Acts v. 42.
Much of all this may be admitted as furnishing an inferential argument in favour of my position, but the questions of practicability and proportionate utility again return.
The only tribunal to which we can refer these inquiries is that of experience. If it be asked-can it be done? I reply, has it been tried ? No one, I am persuaded, is competent to pronounce a just oplnion on this or any similar question, till by a personal and fair effort he has ascertained the amount of his own adaptation, and the actual results which he himself may reasonably anticipate. I know of do answer, to all who doubt the practicability of diligent pastoral visiting, so suitable as-try. Let those who will make the effort be encouraged
by the opiniou of Calamy, who said, “I never knew ministers who prudently and diligently took that course” (pastoral visiting) “to be unprosperous in their work, but by them, that have wisely and faithfully used it, I have known that done that before seemed incredible.”
I fully agree with T. C. A. in denouncing temporary advantages at the expense of scriptural authority.-Scriptural authority, I think, we have. As to “temporary advantages,” surely the fact, that diligent pastoral visiting was advocated by Cyprian, Ignatius, and Gregory, in the early ages of the Christian dispensation—that it was evidently practised among the churches of the Waldenses and Albigensesthat at the period of the reformation it received the decided recommendation of Calvin—that Archbishop Leighton, Alleine, Cotton Mather, George Herbert, Dr. Witherspoon, Dr. Dwight, Dr. Watts, Dr. Doddridge, Dr. Dick, even Dr. M‘All, and others as eminent for profound learning and pulpit eloquence as for personal piety, strongly advocated this department of ministerial duty-surely these facts confute the notion that diligent pastoral visiting is a temporary expedient. Had you space, I could quote the exact words of most of the individuals whose names I have just mentioned. Let the following expressions of Dr. Doddridge suffice: “ I now resolve to take a more particular account of the souls committed to my care ; 2nd. to visit as soon as possible the whole congregation, to learn more particularly the circumstances of them, their children, and servants; 3rd. will make as exact a list as I can of those that I have reason to believe are unconverted, awakened, converted, fit for communion, or already in it. ....0 my soul, thy account is great ; it is high time that it be got into better order. Lord, I hope thou knowest I am desirous of approving myself a faithful servant of thee and of souls. O watch over me that I may watch over them; and then all will be well.”
I remain, dear Sir, yours very truly, April, 17th 1841.
J. C. G.
FRAGMENTS OF PURITAN HISTORY.
No. VIII. (Resumed from page 738 of the last Volume.) The denomination of Christians, called Brownists, were great sufferers in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. They were sound in doctrine, but rigid in their views of church government; yet they avowed unshaken loyalty to the queen, and manifested superior piety towards God. Their stedfast adherence to their principles was sufficiently attested in the most trying circumstances. Multitudes were cast into filthy and noisome prisons, where they remained without trial in close and miserable confinement for several years ; and from the long train of sufferings which they endured, great numbers languished and died.