SOCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL CHARACTER OF THE CLERGYMAN.
The third topic in Pastoral Theology, to be examined, is the social and professional character of the clergyman. These terms will be employed in a comprehensive sense, and include all that part of clerical character, which has not been considered under the heads of religious, and intellectual. The subject of clerical manners, naturally constitutes the substance of this chapter. These are twofold, and may be discussed, in their reference to the personal conduct of the clergyman towards individuals, and his professional conduct towards his congregation.
1. In respect to the first branch of the subject, it is obvious, that the conduct, and bearing, of a clergyman ought to be appropriate to his profession, and distinguish him, not perhaps from a Christian man generally, but from the world at large. A sanctimonious behavior, so different from that of a Christian gentleman, as to call attention to it, and inspire contempt, is to be carefully avoided. A clergyman ought not to advertise himself beforehand, and, by something exquisite and peculiar, give notice that he is more than a Christian layman; yet, he should always maintain such a port and demeanor, that a stranger, while plainly seeing that he is a Christian, would not be surprised to discover that he is also a clergyman.
The clergyman ought to be of grave manners,— in the phrase of St. Paul, a man of decorum (xocr/uios).1 His behavior in society must be serious. He should make the impression that he is a thoughtful person. These terms, gravity, seriousness, and thoughtfulness, imply that his mind is preoccupied with great and good subjects, so that wherever he goes, and with whomsoever he associates, he cannot stoop to "foolish talking and jesting," to frivolity, gayety, or levity. Gravity, though assumeable for the hour, cannot be permanently simulated. The hypocrisy is sooner or later detected. The innate levity of the mind unconsciously breaks out. A single word betrays the secret, and then there is no recalling. For, men reason correctly, that a really light-minded person can temporarily assume seriousness and gravity, and often has a motive to do so, but a really serious and solemn man cannot, so readily, imitate levity and worldliness, and, what is more, will not, because he has no motive for so doing. Hence, the secret of Christian decorum in social intercourse is, to be really, and at heart, a serious man. Let the clergyman form such a religious, and such an intellectual character, as we have described, and be absorbed in his calling, and he will spontaneously be grave and dignified in manner.
11 Tim. iii. 2.
Secondly, the clergyman should be of affable manners. As the etymology denotes (affari), it must be easy for him to speak to others, and, thus, easy for others to speak to him. He ought to be an accessible person, in social intercourse. Clerical character is apt to run to extremes. On the one hand, gravity becomes false and excessive, so that it repels address. If this be the case, the clergyman's influence is much diminished. The timid are afraid of him, and the suspicious dislike him; and thus, the really good man is avoided by two very large classes of society. By one, he is thought to be stern, and by the other, he is thought to be proud. On the other hand, affability sometimes becomes excessive, so that the clergyman loses
dignity of character, aud weight of .influence. He is too ready to talk. He speaks upon all subjects, with the same ease, and the same apparent interest. He opens his mind to every one he meets, without regard to character, and, unlike his Divine Master, " commits himself" to men.1 There is not sufficient reserve in his manner. He does not study the characters of men, and consequently does not know men. His conversation is not adapted to the individual he is addressing, because it is adapted to every one alike. The consequence is, that affability degenerates into familiarity, and familiarity breeds contempt. The social manners of the clergyman ought, therefore, to be a just mingling of gravity and affability. The one must temper the other, and prevent an extreme, in either direction. The clergyman will then be a dignified and serious man, to that degree which represses frivolity, and inspires respect. And he will be an affable man, to that point which wakens confidence, and wins regard.
1John ii. 24.
2. We pass, now, to consider the professional bearing of the clergyman among the people of his charge. The clergyman sustains more intimate and special relations to his parish, than he does to general society and the world at large. He is a person of more authority and influence in his own church, than elsewhere, and hence the need of further statements and rules, than those that have been given respecting his general social relations.
In the first place, it is the right and the duty of the clergyman, to be a man of decision, in administering the affairs of his parish. The apostle James, addressing a Christian church, gives the admonition, " Be not many masters" (^dcrm/toi),1—indicating, thereby, that the interests of a cc ngregation flourish best under the guidance of a presiding mind. When church members are disposed, each and every one, to be the teacher, nothing but rivalry among themselves, and the destruction of ministerial authority and respect, can possibly result.' The genius of a truly Scriptural ecclesiastical polity is undoubtedly republican. Whenever the monarchical spirit has shaped ecclesiastical government, the Church has speedily declined in spirituality and power, as the history of the Papacy, not to speak of other church organizations, plainly evinces. But, republicanism is not a wild and ungoverned democracy. It supposes, indeed, like democracy, that all power is ultimately lodged in the people, but, unlike democracy, it supposes that some of this power has been freely delegated to an individual, or individuals, who, by virtue of this endowment, possess an authority, which, as ordinary members of the community, they would not have. The people of a republic are not compelled to delegate their sovereignty,—it is a voluntary procedure on their part; and neither are they compelled to bestow power upon any particular man, or class of men. But, when they have once freely made their choice of officers, and have solemnly invested them with authority, and a delegated sovereignty, then they have no option in regard to obeying their rulers. They are bound to respect their own work. They are solemnly obligated to submit themselves to the government which they themselves have established,
1 .Tninos in. 1.
Bo long as it is faithful to the trusts that have been committed to it. The difference between a pure democracy and a republic, consists not in any difference of opinion respecting the ultimate seat of sovereignty. Both, alike, claim that it resides in the people. But, a pure democracy does not put any of this sovereignty out of its own hands. It never delegates authority. As in Athens, the entire population meet iu popular assembly, enact or repeal laws, try causes as a coart, and make peace or declare war. The people, in this instance, are not only the source of authority, but the acting government itself. Republicanism, on the contrary, while adopting the same fundamental principle with democracy, finds it more conducive to a stable and reliable government, to lodge power, for certain specified purposes, in the hands of a few, subject to constitutional checks,—to a recall in case of mal administration, and, in some instances, to a recal] after a certain specified time, even though it has been well used. Most Churches in this country claim, that the Scriptures enjoin a republican form of polity. Very few are disposed to contend for a purely democratic ecclesiastical organization. The dispute between non-prelatical Churches, relates mainly to the grade of republicanism,—that is, tc the amount of authority that shall be delegated, the number of persons to whom, and the time for which.
We assume, therefore, that under existing eccleeiastical arrangements, the pastor is a man to whom the people have intrusted more er less authority. la the Presbyterian Church, they have formally dispossessed themselves of power, to a certain extent, and have made it over to the session, consisting
of the pastor and elders. In the Congregational Church, though they have not formally done this, and though they reserve the "power of the keys" in their own hands, yet, they expect their clergyman to be the presiding mind of the body.
The clergyman, then, standing in this leading attitude in his parish, ought to be a man of decision. But, this implies that his own mind is settled, and established. There is nothing which weakens a leading man, that is, a man who by his position ought to lead, like wavering, and indecision. Doubt and uncertainty are a tacit acknowledgment of unfitness to guide, and preside. The clergyman must, therefore, be positive in his theological opinions. Inasmuch as he is called to the Avork of indoctrination, he ought to be clear in his own mind. It is his vocation, to shape the religious views of an entire community, and, consequently, his own views ought not only to be correct, but firmly established. For, how can he say to his auditory, "This doctrine is false, and fatal to your salvation; but this doctrine is true, and you may rest your eternal welfare upon it,"—how can he say this with any emphasis, unless he knows what he is saying, and is made decided, by his knowledge? The clergyman's communication must not be yea and nay, together. King Lear, in his madness, remarks that, "Ay and no, too, is no good divinity," and there is reason if not method, in his madness.
And so far as the doctrines of Christianity are concerned, why should not the clergyman be a man of decided opinions? If the gospel were a merely human system, there would be ground for hesitation and doubt; but since it is the revelation of an Infallible Mind, what is left for the Christian teacher, but to re-affirm the Divine affirmation, with all the positiveness and decision of the original communication itself? The Scriptures teach but one system of truth, though the ingenuity of the human intellect, under the actuation of particular biases, has succeeded in torturing a variety of conflicting systems out of it, by dislocating its parts, instead of contemplating it as a whole. This one evangelical system has been received by the Christian Church in all ages, and if the clergyman feels the need of aids in getting at it, imbedded as it is in the living, and therefore flexible, substance of the Bible, let him study the creeds of the Christian Church. An examination of the doctrinal statements which the orthodox mind has constructed out of the Bible, to counteract, and refute those which the heterodox mind has also constructed out of the Bible, will do one thing, at least, for the clergyman, if it does nothing more. It will very plainly show him what system of truth the Scriptures contain, in the opinion
of the Church. The Church, it is true, may be mistaken. It is not infallible. Creeds may be erroneous. But after this concession has been made, it still remains true, that the symbols of the Christian Church do very clearly, and fully, display the opinions of the wisest and holiest men, and the closest students of the Scriptures, for sixteen hundred years, in respect to the actual contents of Revelation. The clergyman who adopts the theology embodied in them may possibly be in an error; but if he is, he is in good company, and in a large company. Moreover, that man must have a very exaggerated conception of his own powers, who supposes that he will be more likely to find the real teaching of the Scriptures, upon each and all of the profound subjects respecting which it makes revelations, by shutting himself out of all intercourse with other human minds, who have gone through the same investigation. That the Bible must be studied by each one for himself, and that each individual must, in the end, deliberately exercise his own judgment, and form his own opinion as to the system of truth contained in Revelation, is the fundamental distinction between Protestantism and Romanism. But this does not carry with it, the still further, and really antagonistic position, that the individual should isolate himself from the wise, and the good men who have preceded him, or are his cotemporaries, and do hia utmost to be uninfluenced by those who have studied the Scriptures for themselves, and have, moreover, found themselves coming to the same common result, with thousands and millions of their fellow-men. There is, and can be, but one truth, and therefore all men ought to agree. The position, that, so far as the nature of the case is concerned, there may be as many minds as there are men, and as many beliefs as there are individual judgments, is untenable. We affirm, then, that the clergyman should make a proper use of the studies, and investigations, of his brethren in the Church, not merely of the particular Church to which he belongs, and not merely of the particular Churches of the age and generation in which he lives, but of the Church universal,—the holy catholic Church, not in the Roman sense, but in that, in which the Scripture employs the term, when it denominates the Church "the pillar and ground of the truth." And the result of this study and investigation of the Scriptures, by the general Christian mind, is embodied in the creeds that have formed the doctrinal basis of the various branches of the one body of Christ.
Now, the clergyman will be likely to be positive in his doctrinal opinions, in proportion as he perceives that his own views of the meaning, and contents of Scripture, are corroborated by those of the wise and good of all ages. If, on the contrary, he finds himself unable to agree with his predecessors, and cotemporaries, in the ministry, we do not see how he can be a decided man, in the proper sense of this term. He may be a presumptuous, self
conceited, arrogant man, setting up his individual judgment in opposition to that of the great majority of individual judgments. He may be a kind of private pope, first throwing himself out of the line of historical Christianity, and then, calling upon the Church universal to unlearn all that it knows, and forget all that it has learned, insisting that it bend
O 7 O
the neck and bow the knee to the new infallibility that has appeared,—he may be all this in spirit, if not in form, and still be very far from being established in his own mind. The first serious opposition to him, would probably unsettle his views. Yet, even if his convictions should take on a fanatical temper, and carry him like Servetus to the stake, he knows nothing of the true martyr-spirit.
Th£ clergyman, again, is obliged to form opinions upon other subjects than doctrinal, and to give expression to them. The social, economical, and political questions of the day, will be put to him.by society, or else he will feel urged up to an expression of opinion, by the condition and wants of his people. He should not, by .any means, seek for opportunities of this sort. Blessed is the clergyman, who is permitted by community, and his own conscience, to devote his whole thinking, and utterance, to strictly religious themes. Blessed is that parish which seeks first the truth as it is in Jesus, takes most interest in the conviction and conversion of sinners, and the edification of Christians, and desirea to see the evils of society removed, by additions to the Church, of such as shall be saved. Still, the clergyman will not be permitted to be entirely silent during his whole ministry, respecting those semireligious subjects, which underlie the various reforms of the age. He should, therefore, be a decided man, in this sphere, as well as that of theology. Let him not be in haste to discuss these themes; let him wait for the sober second thought upon his own part, and especially upon the part of the people, before he gives his opinion. "In reference to the exciting subjects of the day and the hour," said a wise and judicious minister, " do as the sportsman does: never fire when the flock is directly over your head; but fire when it has passed a little beyond you, that your shot may be raking." When, however, the time has evidently come, to speak upon these semi-religious themes, the clergyman should do so with decision. Let him make up his mind fully, and when he sees that the interests of his people require it, let him speak out his mind, without doubting or wavering.
But, in order that the clergyman may be a decided man, in respect to such themes as these, he needs to pursue the same course, as in reference to strictly religious opinions. He should take counsel of history, and of the wisest men of his own generation. If he isolates himself from them, and sets up for a reformer, or associates with those who are so doing, he cannot be a truly determined man. He will bo blown about, by the popular breeze that is blowing for the hour, and which changes every hour. He will be carried headlong by designing men, who cloak the worst aims under a religious garb. In the present condition of society, there is great need of a power, in the clergy, to stem currents,—of a decision, and determination, that is rooted in intelligence, in reason, and in wisdom. But such a settled and constant mental firmness, can proceed only from a historic spirit, or, what is the same thing, out of a truly conservative temper. For, conservatism, properly defined, is the disposition to be historical, to attach one's self to those opinions which have stood the test of time, and experience, rather than to throw them away, and invent or adopt new ones. A conservative theologian, for example, is inclined to that system of doctrine which has been slowly forming from age to age, ever since the Christian Mind began a scientific construction of revealed truth, and is unwilling to make any radical changes in it. He concedes the possibility of a further expansion of existing materials, but is opposed to the addition of new, as well as the subtraction of old matter. He does not believe that there are any new dogmas, lying concealed, in the Scriptures, having utterly escaped the notice of the theologians of the .past. Christianity, for him, is a completed religion. The number of fundamental truths necessary to human salvation, is full. The Church of the past needed the same truths, in order to its sanctification and perfection, that the Church of the present needs; and it possessed each and everyone of them. There can be no essential addition, therefore, to the body of Christian doctrine, until another and new revelation is bestowed from God.
This historic and conservative spirit is not lifeless and formal, as is frequently charged. It does not tend to petrifaction. For, it keeps the individual in communication, not only with the whole long series of individual minds, but, with the very best results to which they have come. Conservatism is dead and deadening, only upon the hypothesis, that the universal history of man is the realm of death. There was just as much vitality in the past generations, as there is in the present, which is soon to become a thing of the past. Furthermore, the steady and strong endeavor to become master of the past, stimulates and kindles in the highest degree. For, this knowledge does not flow into the individual as a matter of course. It must be toiled after, and the more the student becomes acquainted with the past workings of the human mind, the more conscious is he of his own ignorance as an individual. He finds that there is much more in the past with which he is unacquainted, than there is in the present. lie discovers that sixty centuries are longer than three-score years and ten. Where one subject has been thoroughly discussed by a cotemporary, one hundred have been by preceding minds. The whole past thus presents an unlimited expanse, over which the choicest intellects have careered, and instead of his being well acquainted with their investigations and conclusions, he finds that life itself is too short, for the mastery of all this tried and historic knowledge. The old, therefore, is the new to the individual mind, and, as such, is as stimulating as the novel product of the day, and more likely to be nutritious and strengthening, because it has stood the test of ages and generations.
By the conservative, rather than the radical method, then, the clergyman should render himself a decided man in his opinions and measures. His mind will then be made up in company with others, and he will not be compelled to stand alone, as an isolated atom, or, at most, in connection with a clique, or a clan, or a school, that has nothing of historic permanence in it, and which must vanish away with the thousands of similar associations, and never be even heard of in human history, because history preserves only the tried and the true for all time.
In the second place, the clergyman ought to be a judicious man. As it was necessary to mingle affability with gravity, in order to an excellent manner for the clergyman in general society, so, decision must be mingled with judgment, in order to an excellent manner for him in his parish. Judiciousness teaches when to modify, and temper, the resolute and settled determination.of the soul. Some subjects are more important than others. Some opinions and measures are vital to the prosperity of religion, and others are not. The clergyman must be able to distinguish fundamentals from non-fundamentals, so that he may proceed accordingly. It is absurd to be equally decided upon all points. A conservatism that conserves every thing with equal care, insisting that one thing is just as valuable as another, is blind, and therefore false. It is this spurious species which has brought the true into disrepute; or, rather, has furnished the enemies of historic views, and a historic spirit, with their strongest weapons.
When a fundamental truth is menaced, or a fundamentally wrong measure is proposed, the clergyman must be immovable. In the phrase of Ignatius, he should " stand like an anvil." If he does so, he will in the end spoil the face of the hammers, and wear out the strength of the hammerers. But when the matter in controversy is not of this vital nature, even though it have great importance, judiciousness in the clergyman would dictate more or less of yielding. If the clergyman can bring his parish over to his own views, upon every subject, he ought to do so; but if he cannot, then he must accomplish the most he can. In case the congregation are restless, and disposed to experiments, he will be more likely to prevent radical and dangerous steps, in primary matters and measures, if he yields his individual judgment to them, in secondary matters. His people will perceive that he haa
made a sacrifice, in regard to subjects which he deems to be important, though not fundamental, and will feel obligated and inclined to make one in retiTrn, when, with a serious tone, and a solemn manner, he insists that there be no yielding, upon either their part, or his own, in matters that are absolutely vital tc the interests of Christ's kingdom.
By thus mingling decision with judiciousness, the clergyman will be able to maintain himself ag the presiding mind in his parish. It is his duty to be such. He cannot be useful, unless he is. We do not hesitate to say, that if, after fair trial of a congregation, a minister discovers that he cannot secure that ascendency, in the guidance and management of their religious affairs, to which he is enti'tled, his prospects for permanent influence, are too slight to warrant much hope. But, a due mingling of intelligent decision, and wise judgment, generally does, as matter of fact, secure that professional authority and influence in the parish, which is inseparably connected with the prosperity of religion. Under the voluntary system, the clergyman is not much aided by ecclesiastical institutions, or arrangements, and the republicanism of the people strips off from the clerical office, as it does from all other offices, the prestige of mere position. The American clergyman, unlike the member of an establishment, derives no authority from the mere fact that he is a clergyman. It is well, that it is so. For now he must rely upon solid excellences, upon learning
and piety, ipon decision and gcJod judgment,in the administration of his office. And if he possesses these qualities, he will be a more truly authoritative and influential man, than the member of an establishment can be; because, all the authority he has, is fairly earned upon his side, and voluntarily conceded upon the people's side.