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need of examples: you will supply them with one, at once instructive to their minds, and attractive of their affections, by so examining your past life, as to enable you to fulfil your ministry with advantage to your several flocks.
I. The duties of our calling are so holy, and require suth pious dispositions, that the most exemplary and godly Ministers cannot always exercise them with fervour of zeal, and purity of mind, without which, oblations are vain, and incense an abomination. We may be, frequently, in this state, without, almost, being conscious of it, and may, by such inattention and negligence, lose those gifts which give dignity to the ministry, and efficacy to its labours. How often do harshness and impatience take the place of "zeal and of charity! How often do indolence, disgust, secret antipathies, sometimes personal dislikes, induce us to refuse that assistance to our flock, which their necessities, and our engagements, demand of us! How often, through the apprehension of being thought troublesome, and esteemed ridiculous, do we approve, perhaps.imitate, the faults and errors we condemn, and forget, in a cer-* tain degree, the decorum, and the sanctity of our ministry!
Notwithstanding, the regular discharge of our duty conceals, even from our own minds, this part of our character, so humiliating to ourselves, and so injurious to our vocation, and does not leave us leisure to examine its rise, and contemplate its deformity. By being so inattentive to our deportment in our holy calling, we collect a treasure of wrath, unknown to ourselves; and, as ignorance of our state is the just punishment of our want of self-examination, the more regardless we are of our professional conduct, the greater is our consequent indifference; because the lights which were designed to warn us, and to open our eyes, go out, unperceived by us. And this, my Reverend Brethren, is a principal cause of the irregularity, and very culpable negligence, of many who take upon them the sacred profession. We are the light of the world; the smallest mist obscures this splendour; our faults become like eclipses, which intercept the bright beams of grace in the hearts of Christians, and leave in darkness, that part of the Church, which we were commanded to enlighten.
By examining ourselves with minute attention, by bringing before our eyes every part of our past conduct, by going through the whole course of our ministry, we shall discover the places, the occasions, the cicumstances, in which we acted improperly; we shall perceive that, notwithstanding the opinion of men, and the many encomiums they may pass on the external regularity of our behaviour, it is well, if we be holy, and faithful, Ministers,' worthy to dispense the mysteries of God. The distance betwixt what we are, and what we ought to be, greatly humbles, and strikingly alarms us. We
lament over our past miscarriages; we form many holy resolutions, many projects of a life more serious, more diligent more professional; we enter within ourselves, in order to ascertain the source of the evil, and to discover the secret propensities which have betrayed our vigilance, and facilitated our fall; we prepare, at a distance, previous precautions, and necessary measures, to prevent a fresh surprize: thus, we enter into our obligations fortified with new arms; we enter with less of that confidence, which always goes before a fall; but, at the same time, with greater security. The pilot, escaped from shipwreck, is more cautious in future; and warned, by the misfortunes which have befallen him, of the rocks on which he struck; apprehensive of the danger, and trembling for his 'safety, he is, in proportion, active and anxious to avoid them. "Bring your ways only to remem"brance ; see only how oft," in the discharge of your professional duties, "you have offended;" and you will perceive, not without surprize and sorrow,that the errors you discover in yourselves are too common among those, who are called to the holy ministry; and that the regret, and the change, produced by a frequent and serious examination, are not, alas! the general, and distinguishing, characteristics of the sacred profession. The greater part of those, to whom this examination is indispensable, finish their course as they had begun it. We have sometimes the consolation of seeing men, who, from beingnotorious sinners, become an example of regularity and piety, to their neigh
bourhood; but this is not so frequent among the clergy; what they once are, they are almost always.
II. But, although we should have been so happy as to fulfil our ministry in such a way as to edify the hearts, and improve the morals, of our several flocks, do we not feel within ourselves, that, by being constantly engaged in the service of the Church, the first fervor which devoted us to the ministry grows cool, that the holiness of our duties makes upon us, every day, still slighter impressions; and that we do but walk, with a feeble step, in the paths in which we at first ran, with a zeal so honourable to ourselves, and. a celerity so beneficial to mankind?
This decrease of piety and fervor, observable in those who make the fullest proof of their ministry, is as a secret malady which undermines us, and which, by little and little, leads to decay. It is an evil, which, not shewing itself by visible and striking symptons, and, nevertheless, daily weakening our strength, is seldom opposed by any remedies sufficiently powerful to arrest its progress. Here skill has no other resource than to remove the patient into a purer air. Now it is, in withdrawing from the world, in retiring within ourselves, that we discover when our piety is languishing—when our zeal is growing cool—when our whole inward frame, being disordered, threatens us with decay. The longer we defer this self-examination, the more the evil gains ground; every thing around us encreases and exasperates it; the very observance of our sacred calling, far from rousing us from our supineness, is no other than a worn-out refuge, to which we have recourse, which, alas, instead of healing, aggravates the wound. A situation this beset with dangers; and it is still greater, because it does not impress terror, or awaken apprehension; we think the day of death at a distance; we comfort ourselves with certain desires of a more holy life, which sometimes overcome our lethargy, and leave us again to fall into it a moment afterwards. We think of ourselves what the disciples thought of Lazarus:—" Lord, if he sleep"eth he shall do well:" but our Lord, who sees us such as we really are, judges of us, perhaps, very differently. "Then said Jesus, unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." They are not heinous offences which we have the most to fear: a foundation of Religion, a virtuous education, an established reputation of uniform conduct, veneration for the holiness of our ministry, may all conduce to preserve us from them: what we have most to guard against is, that the spirit of piety, so essential to our sacred calling, may not become extinct: that we may not go to sleep, in a state insensible to the joys of Heaven, accompanied with apparent regularity, and devoid of genuine religion. We do not perceive in our life any notorious sin; and we do not, at the same time, perceive, that a life which is not founded in piety, is itselA sinful, in the eyes of God. In the hurry of the N world, we see irregularities, from which we are