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First place, To point out some of the more obvious sources from which disregard and contempt of the clergy usually proceedo.
II. I shall endeavour to point out, what I take to be the most probable means of escaping treatment of this kind.
1. I begin with pointing out some of the more obvious sources from which disregard and contempt of the clergy usually proceed: and here, what must necessarily occupy the
First place, is immorality. Vice in any character is odious, but in a clergyman it is detestable, it is monstrous. It raises the indignation and contempt of mankind in general, to observe men of immoral lives putting on appearances, and assuming stations and offices, which infer strictness and sanctity—the professed libertine in the common estimation is not so despicable as the unholy devotee. There is one consideration which merits our regard—the world is much more watchful over our conduct than over that of any other class of men; errors and miscarriages in us make a deep impression, especially if they are unexpected. The detection of an impostor always produces a degree of satisfaction, of malici
ous pleasure, which is ever accompanied with disdain, with abhorrence: men give no quarter to such a character, they make no allowance for it. And is not an immoral clergyman the worst, the vilest of impostors, who veils or supports vice, by the most respectable of names, the most honourable of professions? Is it possible for a person of this character to be in the smallest degree useful as a minister? How oddly will lessons of virtue and religion sound in the mouth of such an one! With what contempt will the most ordinary hearer be filled, when reproof, or exhortation to duty, is administered to him by one who evidently has no sense of his own, either as a christian or as a minister.
Would to God, it were improper to suppose a Minister of Jesus should be grossly immoral! Perhaps at present it is improper. I shall only add, therefore, that wherever such a character may appear, the world, bad as it is, will give its
testimony against the offender ; for even they who love vice themselves, commonly express the utmost contempt of those, whose station and profession are supposed to imply decency, dignity, and purity of manners, if they shall venture to take their share in the prevailing follies and vices of the age.
A second and a plentiful source of contempt, and nearly allied to the former, is imprudenceby which I mean, negligence of character, going out of it, and using improper freedoms with the world. The greatest care and circumspection are necessary, in order to preserve that blamelessness of character which is so essential to our of fice. If a minister's good name is once blown upon, all is over-error is magnified into vice, inconsiderateness into design, oversight into obstinacy. We read of a noble Roman who repudiated his wife upon a slight surmise--because, as he alleged, the wife of Cesar should not be so much as suspected. The obligation upon ministers to be jealous of their reputation, is, I apprehend, equally binding: they have the very same reason to avoid cause even of suspicion, to abstain not only from evil, but from the very appearance of it; because, as in the case now mentioned, to be suspected, is to be guilty.
I would further observe under this head, that there is, unhappily for people of our profession, a set of men in the world, of the higher stations in life, no friends to the cause of religion and virtue, who affect the company and conversation of clergymen, and caress them highly for qualities that have no sort of connection with their office.
By which marks of deceitful favour they are unwarily betrayed to go lengths highly unbecoming their profession, and indeed unbecoming any character, any profession. Hence it comes to pass, that their tempters are hardened in their own levity and wickedness; religion is brought into disrepute; the serious and good are offended --and the unhappy victims themselves are not seldom rewarded in the end with slight and ridicule from their betrayers, after they have lost, long before, the love and esteem of the sober and wise. This surely should teach us to be on our guard against the smiles, the allurements of such flatterers, to spurn with indignation their praises, their caresses.
A mortal weapon lurks under them. To accept of sordid incense even for clerical good qualities, is unworthy a minister of the gospel, how much more for qualities of which a minister ought to be ashamed. It is impossible to conceive a readier way to be despised, than such a conduct, to be despised at all handswould we avoid such a requital, let us boldly stand out at the beginning.-“ Resist the devil, “ and he will flee from you,” is the advice of inspired apostle--in like manner let us refuse compliance with wicked men, and they will soon cease their solicitations.—I join together under one head, a
Triad furth source of contempt, as from tre catre they are in ored togetcer-and these are, Serity in courting popular trour, ania s karahtiness in causing tre people. Notting can be more contemptible than either c: these extremes—He that endeavours to please Eery bois is a fool; Le that resolves to please coody is something worse: usefulness, the grand cject, is deieated both ways. Whoever has the apeciation of the multitude for his only, or for his principal end, must submit to ten thousand unbecoming meannesses, and after all will fail of attaising it. But I would not, upon this occasion, treat the lower orders of our fellow christians and subjects with that supercilious scurrility and abuse which is so frequently and so liberally thrown upon them: they by no means deserve it. The reproachful terms of mob, and populace, and such like, seem to come with strange impropriety from a minister's mouth. Were it not for them, our ministrations, generally speaking, would be to little purpose : it is among them, poor and despised as they are, that the spirit of christianits, and the practice of it too, though indeed with many corruptions and alsuses, are chietly to be found. By studiousness of popular farour, then, I do not understand that attention and regard which every minister ought to, and which every