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proceeds this alarming evil ? Whence originates this general source of vice among mankind ? Whence is it, that villages are not, as formerly, the abode of innocence and simplicity ? Let us appeal to our own hearts. Is it, or is it not, to the negligence, to the dissipation, to the want of exertion, in the Pastors, who preside over them? This is an awful question. You complain, that degeneracy of morals is prevalent throughout your par. ishes: bnt examine yourselves, and see, whether the most dreadful complaints may not be one day made by your several parishes against yourselves ? And whether, at the same time, we perceive people living without religion, without the fear of God, without any limits to their profligacy, except in parishes where the priest is as negligent as the people are wicked?
Again: were it true, that you had the unhappi. ness to superintend a parish, which was pervaded by a public and general relaxation of morals, your soul ought to be possessed with the assurance, that the almighty hath chosen, and sent you to that sinful people, for the express purpose of reclaiming their conduct, and amending their hearts. For why are we called “the salt of the earth, and the “light of the world,” but to prevent corruption, and enlighten darkness? Because our professional duties are multiplied by the encrease of sinners, are we authorised to live in the utter neglect of them? Did Moses restrain his zeal, and suppress his solicitude, when he saw the Israelites given to
idolatry, and worshipping the golden calf which their own hands had made ? The whole earth was sunk in corruption, when the first teachers of Christianity received their commission, “to go and “preach the Gospel to every creature:” Did they deliberate, whether they should go to extirpate those passions, the indulgence of which, habit had sanctioned ? In that general corruption, they felt and acknowledged the divinity, and the necessity, of their mission: they considered themselves as Ministers, and instruments of salvation, sent through the mercy of God, and the love of Christ, to the whole race of men, sullied with guilt, and abandoned to profligacy. Have we not succeeded to their mission and ministry? Do we think, then, that the Almighty would destroy all the sinners to whom he sends us ? that his mercy, in sending us, does not design to offer to them instruments and Ministers of salvation ? And can we imagine, that he approves of our unfeeling tranquillity, in delaying our interposition, whilst he pours upon them his judgments of wrath and indignation ? We should not, in such circumstances be sent to them as their pastors, and their fathers, but as those melancholy officers of human justice towards condemned criminals, in order to witness and approve their punishment; and our ministry, far from being a ministry of life and salvation, would be no other than a dreadful ministry of condemnation and death.
· Now, if from this multitude of sinners, of whom we complain, we should bring back but one soul to Christ, would not that precious gain be a sufficient reward for the labours and troubles of a whole life? Should we not be sufficiently recompensed, by being enabled to present that happy being to the Redeemer and Judge of the world, and to hear that soul, throughout the duration of ages, acknowledging its obligations to us in the holy Jerusalem, in the presence of all the saints and angels? Why should we doubt the power of grace over the most hardened sinners? “ Is God's arm short«6 ened that it cannot save,” and the riches of his mercy withdrawn from them whom he hath redeemed? You might, indeed, be discouraged at the sight of the transgressions of your people, if you had no other reliance than on your own powers: but it is not of ourselves; Christ worketh in us, and by us; the weakest instruments are those : by whom he is often pleased to perform the mightiest acts : fulfil your ministry ; this is all which he requires of you ;-leave we the rest to him.
And, indeed, my Reverend Brethren, we talk much of the vices of mankind, as though men were. too obstinate to be convinced, too stubborn to be subdued, and too rebellious to be reclaimed; as though the power of Religion itself were weak and ineffectual. To him belongeth judgment, as well as vengeance; and why should we condemn, as irretrievably lost, those whom the Lord may
absolve from all their sins? We hope well of oura selves,—that the Almighty will one day change our lukewarmness into zeal; and we despair of salvation, and regard as incapable of happiness, a great part of society, whom ignorance, and the misfortune of a bad education, more than a want of moral principle, and of Religion, plunge into criminal excesses. Do we think, that they who lead a miserable laborious life on earth, are to endure misery, without end, after death ? God forbid ! It is towards these, principally, that the Almighty will not exercise the severity of his justice : to them liis bowels of compassion are always open ; “ He shall save the poor and needy, and preserve “ alive the souls of the poor.”
But you will say, perhaps, that these are not the motives which have restrained you, and which have hitherto prevented the exercise of your ministry, in order to correct the errors, and reclaim the vices, which are too generally prevalent in every parish: you are afraid, you allege, of not being esteemed; of passing for a violent and imprudent Pastor, and of not producing any other fruit from your zeal, than the hatred of your parishioners.
There is, I allow, a zeal, proceeding from temper or constitution, which borders nearly on imprudence. But the zeal which proceeds from love, is mild and patient; it does not provoke, it does not enflame; it hates the sin, but it loves the sin
ner; it opposes patience to insensibility ; it reck, ons not its troubles and its solicitude; it feels, indeed, the most pungent grief-not for its useless labour, but for the danger of those, whose unto. wardness is the sole cause of disappointment and mortification; it returns with greater fervour, and more abundant love, after having been often resist. ed by perverseness, and withstood by insensibility : it tries every thing, prayers, entreaties, holy indignation, in order to bring back the sheep that have strayed. No! my brethren, "let us not substitute humour for zeal: let us display towards those committed to our charge, more of love than of authority ; let us endeavour to persuade, rather than to subdue, them : let us not mingle the passions and the severity of the man, with the zeal and forbearance of the Minister: let us not undertake too much at once, lest we fail in every thing: let not self-love induce us to urge too importunately a work, which patience, directed by judgment, may at length, happily, accomplish: let us oppose to the obstacles we may meet with, zeal, suggested by mildness, and tempered by love. .
• Suffer me, in conclusion, to exhort you to cul
tivate in your breasts, the Christian graces of zeal, love, patience, vigilance, labour. And enforce your labours by your prayers. Speak more frequently to God, of the irregularities of the souls for whom you are to give account, than to themselves : complain more frequently to him, of the obstacles which your lukewarmness throws in the