Chapter V

CHAPTER V.

PASTORAL VISITING.

We have had occasion, in previous chapters, to remark that the clergyman bears two characters, and sustains two different relations. He is an orator, that is, one whose function it is to address public assemblies. The relation which he sustains to society, by virtue of this character, is public and formal. It requires the regularly constructed address, the sacred time, and the sacred place. It calls for the sermon, the Sabbath, and the sanctuary. In this capacity, the clergyman is the minister of a public instruction, and a public worship.

But this is not the whole of a minister's character, and these are not all his functions. He is a pastor, that is, one whose duty it is to go from house to house, and address men privately, and individually, upon the subject of religion. This kind of labor, as necessarily forms a part of the ministerial service, as preaching. A perfect clergyman, if such there were, would combine both the oratorical and the pastoral character, in just propertions, and degrees. The clergyman is liable to "be deficient upon one, or the other, side of this double character. He is a better preacher than he is pastor, or else a better pastor than he is preacher. It should, therefore, be the aim of the clergyman, to' perfect himself in both respects.

It is an error, to suppose that these two offices are totally independent of each other, and that the clergyman can secure the highest eminence in one, by neglecting the other. Some make this mistake. Supposing themselves to be better fitted by nature, to be preachers than pastors, or, what is more commonly the case, having more inclination to address men publicly and in bodies, than privately and individually, they devote their whole time and attention to sermonizing and eloquence, with the expectation of thereby becoming more influential and able preachers.' They are mistaken in this course. They may, indeed, by close study, make themselves popular preachers, while they are neglecting personal intercourse with their hearers, but they would make powerful preachers, if their study and composition were vivified by the experience of the pastor. If, without that knowledge of men which comes from direct intercourse with them, in health and in sickness, in prosperity and in adversity, in joy and in sorrow, they are able to construct attractive sermons, with that knowledge interpenetrating their reading and rhetoric, they might compose, discourses of eminent or pre-eminent excellence. On

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the other hand, it sometimes occurs that the clergyman, being naturally of a social turn, and finding it easier to converse with individuals than to address an audience, turns the main current of his activity into the channel of pastoral work, to the neglect of his pulpit ministrations. In this instance, the same remark holds true, as above. Even if, by this course, he should succeed in becoming a measurably useful pastor (a thing not very likely to occur), by a different course in respect to sermonizing, he would become a highly useful one. The degree of success, in both instances, is much increased, by cultivating a complete clerical talent. The learning and study of the preacher, are needed to enlighten and guide the zeal and earnestness of the pastor; and the vitality and directness of the pastor, are needed to animate and enforce the culture of the preacher. Instead, therefore, of regarding the functions of the preacher and the pastor, as totally independent of each other, and capable of being carried to perfection, each by itself, the clergyman must perform them both, and with equal fidelity. And as he must, from the nature of the case, exert his chief influence as a pastor, by pastoral visiting, we proceed to lay down some rules for the performance of this part of clerical service.

1. First, the clergyman should be systematic, in pastoral visiting, regularly performing a certain amount of this labor every week. There will be extraordinary seasons, when he must visit his people

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for personal religious conversation, with greater frequency. Times of unusual religious interest will compel Mm to abridge his hours of study, and go \ from house to house, that he may guide the inquiring, or awaken the slumbering. "We are not giving a rule for such extraordinary occasions, and we need not, for they will bring their own rule with them. But, in the ordinary state of religion among his congregation, the minister ou<jht to accomplish a certain amount of this parochial work, in each week, not much exceeding or falling short of it.

There are two advantages, in this systematic regulation. In the first place, if the pastor is more inclined to address men individually, and in social intercourse, than he is to address them collectively, and in the regularly constructed sermon, this fixedness of the amount of pastoral visiting will prevent him from neglecting his sermons. Having performed the labor in the homes of the people, he will return to his study and his books. In the second place, if his tendency is in the opposite direction, he will be very much helped, by systematizing that part of clerical duty to which he is most disinclined. There is no way so sure, to overcome the indisposition of a reserved, or a studious man towards direct personal conversation with individuals, as working! according to a plan. He may enter upon the discharge of the unwelcome service, from a sense of duty, but, before long, he begins to work with spontaneity and enjoyment. There is no fact in the

Christian experience better established, than that the faithful performance of labor, from conscience, ends in its being performed with relish and pleasure. Conscience is finally wrought into the will, in a vital synthesis. Law, in the end, becomes an impulse, instead of a commandment.

In systematizing this part of his work, the clergyman should fix a day for its performance. Let it uniformly be done on the same day of the week, and in the same part of the day. Again, he should pass around his entire parish within a certain time This will make it necessary to visit his people by districts, or neighborhoods; and, unless there be a special reason for it, he should not visit in the same locality again, until he has come round to it in his full circuit. This course will compel the parishioner, should there be need of a special visit, as in case of sickness, religious anxiety, or affliction, to send for him, in obedience to the apostolic direction, "la any sick among you, let him call for the elders of the church."

In regard to the day of the week, to be selected by the pastor, for this work, the nearer it is to the middle of it, the better. This is the time when his own physical strength is most recruited, from the labors of the Sabbath, and when he will be most inclined to leave his study, to mingle with his people. It is, also, the time when the congregation most need to have their attention recalled to spiritualities, as the mid-point between two Sabbaths, With regard to the length of time to "be spent, much depends upon the extent of the parish, and the number of the people. la a parish of ordinary size, one afternoon every week, especially if the evening ensuing be devoted to preaching in the district or neighborhood, is sufficient,—provided, the pastor makes his visits in the manner which we shall describe under another head. This may seem a short time to devote to parochial visiting; but, if it be systematically and regularly devoted, it is longer than it looks. As, in a previous chapter, we remarked that even five hours of severe, close study, will accomplish a great deal in the way of intellectual culture and sermonizing, in the course of years, so we shall find that a half.day in each week, will accomplish much in the way of parochial labor, in the lapse of time* The clergyman, like every other man, needs to pay special attention to the particulars, of system, and uniformity, in action. Small spaces of time become ample and great, by being regularly and faithfully employed. It is because time is wasted so regularly and uniformly, and not because it is wasted in such large amounts at once, that so much of human life runs to waste. Every one is familiar with the story of the author \vho composed a voluminous work, in the course of his life, by merely devoting to it the five or ten minutes, which he found he must uniformly wait for his dinner, after having 'been called.

Besides these advantages upon the side of the Jergyman, in systematic visiting, there are otbera upon the side of the congregation. They will be pleased with their pastor's business.like method. They will copy his example, and become a more punctual and systematic people, both secularly and religiously. They will notice that their pastor is a man who lays out his work, and, what is more, does it, and, what is still more, does it thoroughly. They will respect him for it. They will not crowd him, and urge him, as they will a minister who haa no system, and who is therefore always lagging in his work. They will not volunteer advice to him,.for they will perceive that he does not need any. And, if a parishioner, with more self-confidence than selfknowledge, should take the clergyman to task, and suggest that more pastoral visits would be acceptable, or that fewer would suffice, the systematic pastor can say to him, "The work is laid out for the year; the campaign is begun, and going on."

Again, by this method, the clergyman will avoid all appearance of partiality. One prolific source of difficulty between pastor and people, in this age and country, lies in the suspiciousness of a portion of the people. All men are free and equal, but some are more tormented by the consciousness, than others. This part of society are afraid that their merits are not sufficiently recognized, and are constantly watching to see if others are not esteemed more highly than themselves. A true republican feeling is dignified and unsuspicious; but vulgar democracy impliedly acknowledges its desert of neglect, by continually apprehending that it is neglected. This spirit leads to rivalries and jealousies among a people, and the pastor needs great tact and judgment in managing it. There is no better way of dealing with this temper, if it exists, than to visit a parish systematically. Each family then takes its turn. No person is neglected, and no person can claim more than the pre-arranged and predetermined amount of attention, except for special reasons. The pastor, upon this plan, moves around among his whole people, a faithful, systematic, and impartial man. He is no respecter of persons. He goes to converse with the members of his flock, upon the concerns of their soul, each in his turn. He sees no difference between them, except moral and spiritual difference. If he takes a deeper interest, for the time being, in one of his parishioners, than he does in the rest of them, it is only because the one sinner that repents causes more joy, than the ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance. The spiritual condition of this person distinguishes him from the thoughtless and indifferent mass, and the pastor would rejoice, if his whole parish might become an object of equally distinguished attention, for the same reason.

2. Secondly, the clergyman should visit his congregation professionally. The term is employed here, in its technical signification. When he performs strictly parochial labor, let him visit as a clergyman, and go into a house upon a purely and wholly religious errand. Much time is wasted by the pastor, in merely secular, social intercourse, even when going the rounds of his parish. Ostensibly, he is about the business of his profession, the care of souls; but really,he is merely acting the part ol a courteous and polite gentleman. Even if he give? the subject of religion some attention, it is only at the close of his interview, after secular topics have been discussed. It may be, that he shrinks from a direct address to an individual, upon the concerns of his soul, and therefore, as he thinks, prepares the way, that he may broach the difficult subject indirectly. He enters into a general and miscellaneous conversation, and if he comes to the subject of religion at all, it is only late, and after the energy and briskness of the conversation have flashed. More

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over, the person to be addressed, is quick to detect this shrinking upon the part of his pastor, and, if really unwilling to be spoken to upon the subject of religion, will adroitly lead the conversation away into other directions. The man who is averse to religious conversation, and who, therefore, specially needs to be directly and plainly addressed, is the last person to be surprised into such a conversation. His eyes are wide open, and the only true way for the pastor, when the proper time for it has come, and the pastoral visit is made, is to look him in the eye, and speak directly and affectionately upon the most momentous of all subjects.

That he may visit in this professional manner, the pastor should have an understanding, to this effect, with his people. In the very opening of his ministry, let him preach a sermon upon the subject of parochial labor, explaining the nature and purpose of this part of the clergyman's duty, and preparing the minds of his people, for a strictly professional performance of it. Then, they will expect nothing but religious conversation, when a pastoral visit is made, and will be ready for it. Appreciating the fidelity of their minister, they will be at pains to meet him at their homes. A clergyman who is thus systematic and faithful, soon accustoms his congregation to his own good way of performing duty, so that they not only adjust themselves to his exact and thorough methods, but come to like them.

This is by far the most successful mode of reaching the individual conscience, in direct religious conversation. We have already alluded to the fact, that the endeavor to introduce the subject of religion indirectly, and imperceptibly, commonly fails, because of the adroitness of the unwilling person addressed. He is quick to detect the shrinking of the clergyman, from the performance of the most difficult part of ministerial duty, and though it may, or may not, result from a sensitive nature, he is very apt to impute it to a false shame. The consequence is, that the clergyman loses much of his v.-'::c'lif ('•" authority anrl '."•. 'notice, 1:1 th<> eyes of the parishioner, and never gains the ascendency over Lira, to which he is entitled by his profession and calling, because he does not act up to its privileges and prerogatives.

When, therefore, a parochial call is made, let the pastor plunge in medias sacras res. Let him not atttempt to bridge over the chasm between secularities and spiritualities, but let him leap over. He has a right to do so, because it is understood between the parties, what particular subject it is that has brought him into the household. He courteously concedes a few words to ordinary interests, but when this concession is made, he proceeds to the proper business of the occasion. This method brings the subject of the soul, and its needs, before the mind of a parishioner, with a formal authority, that causes him to realize that it is no merely passing and secondary topic. The clergyman does not admit that religion may be introduced side-wise, to his attention. He has come upon purpose, to direct his thoughts to this great concern. And this method relieves both parties from embarrassment, or constraint. For, the parishioner is entirely free in the •natter. He is not compelled to be a party to the arrangement which brings the clergyman upon a purely religious errand, to himself, and to his household. But if he does voluntarily admit him to personal conversation, in the capacity of a spiritual adviser, then he is obligated to let him do his work faithfully, and well. And even the worldly man ia better pleased with this thorough professional deal ing, than might be supposed at first sight. Even if, owing to the hardness of the heart and the intensity of the worldliness, the pastor makes no other impression, he will show, beyond dispute, that he is an earnest and sincere watcher for souls, and fisher of men. The parishioner will say to himself: "My pastor understands his work, and performs it with fidelity; it will not be his fault, if I continue irreligious."1 It is certain, that this spiritual earnestness and love for the human soul, when thus organized into a regular plan of operations, and systematized into regular uniformity, will produce results. Thoughtless men, finding their pastor upon their trail, coming into their families, and to themselves personally, with a plain and affectionate address upon the subject of religion, and nothing else, once in every year or half year, will begin to think of what it all means. They will find themselves in a net.work. They will see that they are caught in a process. Their pastor has laid out his work ahead, for many long years, and, if he lives, and they live, they know that the regular motion of the globe will bring him around to them, once in so often. They will come to some conclusion. They will either submit, and subject themselves to these uniform and persistent influences, or else they will get clear of them altogether. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, they will do the former thing, and thus the pastor will be instrumental, by his determined parochial fidelity, in bringing into the church, a.great number who would otherwise go through life almost Christians, and die unregenerate.

We have advised a systematic visitation of the parish, by districts or neighborhoods. In case the clergyman is settled among an agricultural population, widely scattered, he will find this much the easiest, and surest way to communicate with the whole body of his people. His parish is his diocese, and he is its bishop. Let him make his visitations through the whole length and breadth of it, with the same system and regularity, with which the prelatical bishop makes his annual visi-. tation. The pastor should also imitate the method of the prelate, in another respect, and preach in these districts, in connection with his pastoral calls. If he is settled in a city or town, where the main body of the congregation are within a short distance of the church edifice, his public discourses must be in one place. But, if his lot has been cast among an agricultural people, who are scattered (and this is the kind of parish, in which the majority of clergymen are appointed to labor), he should preach a free, extemporaneous discourse, in the evening of the day of his visitation. Having gone from house to house, in the manner that has been described, let him wind up the earnest work of pastoral visiting, for the week, with a plain and glowing address to the, families rf the district, assembled at an appointed place. He will find it a

most genial and exhilarating service, upon his own part, and a most interesting and profitable one, upon the part of the people. Enforcing, in a common assemblage, all that he has said in the families, and to the individuals, he will clinch the nails which he has been driving.

Pastoral visiting, conducted in xthe manner described, is a very efficient aid to the public preaching of the Sabbath and the sanctuary. The parochial call, combined with the free, extemporaneous lecture, corroborates the sermon. The pastor of this true stamp is the complement of the preacher. He supplies, and fills out, what is lacking, in the strictly public character and functions of the sacred orator. Having, upon the Sabbath, and in the Christian temple, logically and elaborately enunciated the principles of the oracles of God, he comes down from the pulpit, and on the week day goes into the private house, and applies the truth to the individual. The clergyman, is in this way, a complete man, and does a complete work. He is both a preacher and a pastor.

If there were space, it would be natura], here, to enlarge upon the reciprocal relations and influences of these two clerical functions, particularly with reference to sermonizing. It is obvious, that such a regular, and systematic intercourse with his congregation, will fill the mind of the clergyman with subjects for sermons, with plans, and methods of treating them, and with trains of reflection. Nothing so kindles and enriches the orator's* mind, as living intercourse with individual persons. A preacher who is in the habit of conversing with all grades of society, and becomes acquainted with the great varieties in the Christian experience, and the sinful experience, will be an exuberant and overflowing sermonizer. Full of matter, and full of animation, he will vitalize every subject he discusses, no matter how trite it may have become in the minds of others. Passing through the parched valley of Baca, he will make it a well. He will rain upon the driest tract, and the rain will fill the pools.

The systematic, and professional manner of visiting his congregation recommends itself to the clergyman, upon the ground of its great practical usefulness. It is a very sure means of producing conversions and revivals. So far as human agency is concerned, it seems to be the divinely appointed method, of bringing the experience of individuals to that crisis which results in actual conversion. The public preaching of the Sabbath and the sanctuary is formal, logical, and oratorical. It ought to be so. Its general purpose, like that of all eloquence, is to instruct the mind, with a view to move the affections, and actuate the will. But, this practical effect of sacred eloquence does not, commonly, occur immediately, and at the close of the discourse. It is indeed true, that the sermon is sometimes instrumental in conversion, upon the spot, in the house of God. But this is a rare case. While the secular orator, the jurist, or the statesman, sees the effect of his eloquence in the verdict or the vote given immediately, the sacred orator does not ordinarily see1 the practical effect of his eloquence, until after many days, it may be months or years. Hence, the need of following up the sermon with the pastoral visit. Hence, the pastor must tread close upon the heels of the preacher.

Preaching upon the Sabbath, if it is plain and powerful, produces an impression, which, if it could only be perpetuated, would result in a change of character and conduct. But, occurring at intervals of a week, the efl'ect of sermons is too often evanescent, unless it is seconded by other agencies. Hence, the disposition, in some periods and localities, to protracted sermonizing, to a series of public addresses to the popular mind,—a method which, if judiciously employed by the pastor, aided by his ministerial brethren rather than by an evangelist, is often productive of great and good results. Without in the least disparaging this mode of promoting conversions and revivals, and believing that it is perfectly legitimate and safe to employ it, whenever i the craving for additional preaching, upon the part of the people, renders it necessary, we yet insist, that systematic pastoral visiting is the principal means to be relied upon, by the. ministry, in order to bring individual men to a crisis, and a decision. Whenever it has been faithfully employed, this part of the clergyman's service has been rich in fruits; and it is an evil day for the Church, when it is neglected, and more public and mechanical means are adopted in the place of it. Addressing parishioners in person, inquiring into their state of mind, telling them plainly and affectionately what their prospects for eternity really are, and what they need in order to salvation, entreating them not to stifle convictions, urging home the truths that have impressed them upon the Sabbath,—doing this work, is the surest way to bring matters to an issue, with ,the impenitent. If the clergyman would see what may be accomplished by pastoral work, let him read Baxter's account of his labors at Kidderminster. Few ministers have so large a charge as he had, and few are called to do so much of this service. But the same proportionate laboriousness will produce the same proportionate results. When Baxter first went to Kidderminster, he says, "there was about one family in a street that worshipped God, and called on his name; and when he came away, there were some streets, where there was not more than one family on the side of a street that did not do so, .ind that did not, in professing serious godliness, give him hopes of their sincerity." From his own account, this was, in a great measure, the consequence of following his people to their homes, and there enforcing the lessons of the Sabbath and the sanctuary, catechising the families, and conversing with individuals. The pastor can do nothing more serviceable to his own ministerial power, and influence, than to study that account which Baxter gives of his labors as a pastor,1 to set up Baxter's zeal and earnestness as a model, to adjust Baxter's plan and method of operations to the state of modern society, and then to make full proof of this part of his ministry.

1 Compare, also, the very in- gow. Ha.nna: Life of Chalmers, teresting narrative given of Ohal- Vol. II., oh. vi. mera's parochial work, at Olas