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men and they reject it; or, stranger still, they say that they receive it, while in fact they are all the while rejecting it. This is a pain which all ministers of Christ must feel, but yet it cannot be doubted that, in proportion to the closeness of the relation between the several members of any particular church or congregation, this pain becomes greater. In a large parish, where a man scarcely knows all his parishioners by sight; where his intercourse even with those whom he knows best, is confined to occasional visits; so many influences are at work on their minds over which he can have no control, that if the truths which he sets before them are less powerful than the workings of evil, he may grieve, but he can scarcely wonder, and he can hardly think that any greater exertion of his could have made the result different. here I need not tell you how we are situated with regard to each other; so that when we feel but too sure in any case, that the gospel is hidden, what we feel is not only a more personal grief, but also something, I do not say of wonder, for experience may have made wonder impossible, but of earnest questioning with ourselves, mixed with shame. I have never wished to speak with exaggeration; it seems to me as unwise as it is wrong to do so. I think that what holds true of each of us as individuals, holds true of us also as a body, namely, that it is quite right to observe what is
hopeful in ourselves, as well as what is threatening; that general confessions of unmixed evil are deceiving and hardening rather than arousing; that our evil never looks really so dark as when we contrast it with any thing which there may be in us of good. I am very thankful for a great deal of good which I see or fully believe to exist among us; I have no reason to think that it is become less in any way, in proportion to the evil amongst us, than it was in times past; I believe, on the contrary, that it is greater; speaking only, of course, of the time within my own experience. But still what is very startling is this; that not only do we find, still as formerly, painful cases of individual badness recurring from time to time, which we might less wonder at; but that there are still existing certain influences for evil in our society itself of the same sort as formerly; so that there is something amongst us not unfavourable to the growth of individual evil, but rather in some degree encouraging to it. It is this which you can understand to be very painful. If out of the greatest number of persons who come to us every year there were a certain proportion bad, it would be no more than what we might ascribe to the common condition of human nature; and the evil which was brought here would be one for which we could not be responsible. But we cannot flatter ourselves that this is so: we cannot pretend
that our evil is all of it brought to us from without, that our fault is no more than that we have failed to correct it. Some undoubtedly grows and is fostered here, and it happens sometimes that they who came without it have here contracted it. And this continuing, I do not at all say increasing, but still continuing to exist among us, cannot but fill the mind with many painful thoughts, with anxieties, with doubts, and with difficulties, such as it were of little use to dwell upon any further now.
Thus much, however, of the point which especially causes anxiety, I may and ought perhaps to notice. It is that our good seems to want a principle of stability; to depend so much upon individuals. When every thing in past years has been most promising, I have seen a great change suddenly produced after a single vacation; and what we might have hoped had been the real improvement of the school, was proved to have been no more than the present effect produced by a number of individuals. And thus, whenever things have been going on fairly amongst us, I have a natural dread of the change which may follow the end of a half year, and which may shew, as before, that the influences of the place in itself are not such as we could wish them to be. And if these alternations are for. ever to continue, one asks what good can be ascribed to the system itself; for there seems to be no sure improvement in it, but that it is at the
best a passive thing, presenting a good aspect when the individuals who belong to it happen to be good, but being in itself without any power to make them good or to keep them so.
What we are most tempted to do in this case is, on every occasion like the present, to put this strongly before you; to conjure those who will be coming forward to fill the places left vacant by others, that they consider how much is thus made to depend on them. But then we feel as the Apostle felt, that there are some to whom Christ's gospel is hidden; we know but too well how small is the virtue of mere words; that it is easy to call, but not so easy to make the call effectual. We know that the same word of God set before different minds in the very same manner, is powerful with some, utterly powerless upon others. So that again we seem as it were paralyzed; the danger is before us manifest; what would be the remedy is no less plain, but if we proceed to offer it, we know that from causes utterly beyond our power to deal with, some will accept it, some, and must we not say many, will refuse it.
What remains then, but that we should, all of us of every age who have any serious thoughts about this matter, any interest in the real welfare of the school, that we should commit it earnestly to God in our prayers, beseeching Him to do what man cannot, to "turn the hearts of the disobedient
to the wisdom of the just," to grant that they to whom Christ's gospel is hidden, shall at any rate not be the majority.
But surely, while committing the event to Him wholly in whose hand are the hearts of us all, we yet should pray no less that He would dispose us to be His instruments; that He would give us a hearty zeal, and also a wisdom to guide our zeal, and a perseverance which will not let us be weary in well doing; that He would keep alive in our minds our Lord's words, that while offences must come, yet it is woe to him by whom they come; that so we who really seek to follow Christ, whether we be old or young, may be clear from the blood of all men, that whatever evil shall continue to exist among us, it may not be through our fault, whether by neglect or by actual encouragement of it. Least of all should we forget, whether young or old, that our Lord, when purposing to commit to Peter a high charge in His church, told him that He had first prayed for himself that his own faith should not fail, and then He added, "being converted, strengthen thy brethren." And so let us all be sure, that the first and best way by which we can strengthen others, is to be converted ourselves; that every pains bestowed with God's help upon our own hearts and lives, is sure to tell upon those of others, most effectually to them, and by far most blessedly to us. We can have no hope, nay, there