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his persuasion of them plainly and seriously expressed, in such words as he judges most convenient. And we generally think this a proper and happy medium, between the indolence of acquiescing in a general declaration of believing the christian religion, without declaring what it is apprehended to be, and the severity of demanding a subscription to any set of articles, where if an honest man, who believes all the rest, scruples any one article, phrase, or word, he is as eftectually excluded, as if he rejected the whole.
The pastors, who are to hear their part in the public work, having been thus in their consciences satisfied, that the person offering himself to ordination is duly qualified for the christian ministry, and regularly called to the full exercise of it ; they proceed, at the appointed time and place, to consecrate him to it, and to recommend him to the grace and blessing of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Head of the church, by fasting and prayer, generally accompanied with the imposition of hands; and the public work of the day is usually, so far as I have been witness, carried on in the following order, or something very near it.
It commonly opens with a short prayer, and the reading some select portions of scripture which seem most proper to the occasion: Then a prayer is offered of greater length and compass than the former, in which most of our common concerns as christians are included; which is sometimes, though less frequently, succeeded by another of the same kind. Then follows a sermon, on some suitable subject, such as the institution, importance, difficulty, and excellency of the ministerial work, the character and conduct of the first ministers of the gospel, or the like.
After this introduction of a niore general nature, another minister usually one of the eldest present, who is a kind of moderator for the day, gives the assembly a more particular account of the occasion of its being convened. The call of the church to the candidate is then recognized, either in word or writing, or by lifting up the hand; and his acceptance is also de. clared. He is then desired, for the satisfaction and edification of the as. sembly, to pronounce the confession of faith, which bis brethren have already heard and approved; and pertinent questions are put to him, relating to the views and purposes with which be undertakes the solemn charge, that he may be brought under the most awful engagements to a suitable behaviour in it; and an express renunciation of the errors and superstitions of the Romish church generally makes a part of these answers, as well as a decla. ration of his resolution, by divine grace, never to forsake the ministry, whatever inconveniences and sufferings it may draw after it.
This being dispatched, the presiding minister comes down from the pulpit, and prays over the person to be set apart. There is no particular torm of prayer on this occasion, or on any other among us ; but I have observed, that thre person who officiates is generally led in such a circumstance, to adore the divine wisdom and grace, in the constitution and revelation of the gospel, in the appointment of an evangelical ministry, and in supporting the succession of it throughout all ages of the christian church, as well as in vindicating it from popish corruption and bondage. Some notice is often taken of what may have seemed most remarkable in pro. vidence, with regard to the particular circumstances of the society then to be settled, and the person to be set apart to the ministerial office in it; wbo is then solemnly offered up to the service of God, and recommended to his blessing, in all the several parts of his work, which are distinctly enumerated. And this prayer seldom concludes without fervent intercession with God, for the christian church in general, and all its faithful ministers of every denomination : And as those rising up to succeed in the work are often mentioned bere, so I have had the pleasure frequently to hear the universities of our island, as well as more private seminaries of learned and pious education, affectionately recommended to the divine protection and favour on such occasions, with all the genuine appearances of a truly christian and catholic spirit. When that part of this prayer begins, which immediately relates to the person then to be consecrated to the service of the sanctuary, it is usual for the speaker to lay his hand on his head ; and the other pastors conveniently within reach, frequently to the number of six, eight, or ten, lay on their hands also, at the same time: By which we do not pretend to convey any spiritual gifts, but only use it as a solemn, and expedient, though not absolutely necessary, designation of the person then to be set apart.
When this prayer is over, which often engages a very profound attention, and seems to make a very deep impression both on ministers and people, the charge is given to the newly ordained pastor, who generally receives it standing, as much as may be, in the sight of the whole assembly : And an exhortation to the people is sometimes joined with the charge, or sometimes follows it as a distinct service, unless, which is frequently the case, it is superseded by the sermon, or some other previous address. Another prayer follows; and singing having been intermingled, so as properly to diversify a service necessarily so long, the whole is concluded with a solemn benediction.
I know no method of proceeding on such occasions, more rational, edifying, and scriptural than this : And I hope, few, who believe any thing of christianity, can be so ignorant or abandoned, as to make light of such solemnities But however any of our fellow-servants may judge, I have a calm, steady, and joyful assurance, that transactions like these are registered in heaven with approbation, and receive the sanction and blessing of the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls.
Northampton, Sept. 18th, 1745.
As the want of psalms or hymns, peculiarly suitable to these occasions, has often been regretted on our ordination-days, when we have generally been confined to the 132d or 133d psalms, I was desired by several of my bree thren to publish that which followed this charge; and I accordingly do it without any further apology. The reader will easily perceive, it is a kind of devout paraphrase on Eph. iv. 8. & seq. And it is one of some hundreds lying by me, on a variety of scripture-subjects.
Father of mercies, in thine house, Shire on our homage and our vows! While with a grateful heart we share These pledges of our Saviour's care.
Blest Saviour! when to heaven he rose
III. Hence sprung th' apostles honour'd name, Sacred, beyond heroic fame: Hence dictates the prophetic sage; And hence the evangelic page.
IV. In lowlier forms, to bless'our eyes, Pastors from hence and teachers rise; Who, though with feebler rays they shine, Still gild a long extended line.
From Christ their varied gifts derive,
So shall the bright succession run
VII. Jesus our Lord their hearts shall know, The spring whence all these blessings flow: Pastors and people shout his praise Through the long round of endless days!
THE EVIL AND DANGER
NEGLECTING THE SOULS OF MEN,
PLAINLY AND SERIOUSLY REPRESENTED : A Sermor preached at a Meeting of Ministers, at Kettering, in Northamptonshire,
October 15, 1741.
June the 30th, 1741.
GENTLEMEN, My Reverend Fathers and Brethren, and much esteemed Friends, The condescending respect, and endeared affection, with which you were pleased to receive me, in my late visit to your parts, and the very great satisfaction which I found in your company at Denton, and elsewhere, have left a very delightful memorial on my heart, and have impressed those unfeigned sentiments of gratitude and esteem, which it would be painful to suppress. Most gladly therefore do I take this method, in a few words, publicly to avow them: and I sincerely congratulate the happy societies, respectively under your care, who statedly enjoy the benefit of those valuable labours, à little taste of which gave me an exquisite pleasure, beyond what it is possible for me fully to express.
Nevertheless, desirous as I am oferecting some little monument of thankful friendship, I should not have attempted it by inscribing this plain sermon to you; unless the subject of it had been such, as peculiarly suited your perusal; and, if I may be permitted to say it, amidst all its imperfections, your patronage too.
No doubt, many of you, gentlemen, remember, that after the public worship at Denton was over, on that memorable day, which I shall always number among the most delightful of my whole life, you were pleased, toward the evening, to indulge me in the liberty of a private conference, in which I laid before you some hints of a scheme, which I was then forming for the revival of religion in our parts; a scheme, which you were pleased, in the general, to approve, and, in several particulars, to ripen, by your prudent and valuable counsels. VOL. III.
Greatly encouraged by the sanction which your concurrence gave to the plan; and also by that which it received from the approbation of some of the most eminent of the London ministers, of different denominations, to whom I had an opportunity of communicating it on my return home; I proposed it in general to my reverend and worthy brethren in these parts, at a meeting of ministers; which was held here at Northampton, about the middle of August. The proposals were, in the general, very well received; and it was agreed to take them into a more particular consideration in a conference, at our next assembly, to be held at Kettering, on Thursday, the 15th of October.
To that conference, Gentlemen, the sermon with which I now present you, was introductory; and the result of it was, that the heads of the scheme I had concerted with you at Denton, with a few other particulars which had not then occurred to my thoughts, were unanimously approved; and we are taking proper measures for carrying them into execution. And, as this discourse may fall into the hands of some, who may be curious to know what the particulars were; and as I bore them so frequently in my thoughts, through many passages of my sermon, I shall take the freedom here to give an account of them, though, I doubt not, but the most material of them are fresh in your memories.
It seemed most agreeable to the deference due to the reverend assembly, to propose the scheme in the form of queries; on which the following resolutions were formed, nemine contradicente.
I. That it may tend to the advancement of religion, that the ministers of this association, if they have not very lately done it, should agree to preach one Lord's day on family religion, and another on secret prayer; and that the time should be fixed, in humble hope that concurrent labours, connected with concurrent petitions to the throne of grace, might produce some happy effect.
II. That it is proper, that pastoral visiting should be more solemnly attended to; and that greater care should be taken in personal inspection, than has generally been used. And that it may conduce to this good end, that each minister should take an exact survey of his flock, and note down the names of the heads of families, the children, the servants, and other single persons in his auditory, in order to keep proper memorandums concerning each; that he may judge the better of the particulars of his duty with regard to every one, and may observe how his visits, exhortations, and admonitions, correspond to their respective characters and circumstances.
III. That consequent on this survey, it will be proper as soon as possible, and henceforward at least once a year, to visit, if it be practicable, every head of a family under our ministerial care, with a solemn charge to attend to the business of religion, in their hearts, and houses, watching over their domestics in the fear of the Lord, we, at the same time, professing our readiness to give them all proper assistances for this purpose.
IV. That it will be highly expedient, immediately, or as soon as may be, to set up the work of catechising in one form or another, and to keep to it statedly for one half of the year at least: and that it is probable, future counsels may ripen some scheme for carrying on this work, in a manner which may tend greatly to the propagation of real, vital, catholic christianity, in the rising generation.
V. That there is reason to apprehend, there are, in all our congrega. tions, some pious and valuable persons, who live in a culpable neglect of the Lord's supper; and that it is our duty, particularly to inform ourselves who