Page images

gine all this to exist, close alongside of every one of those steeples, and you will at once say to yourself, 'Hurricanes or earthquakes must destroy this island, before that Church can be overset.' And when you add to all this, that this gentleman, besides the example of good manners, of mildness, and of justice, that his life and conversation are constantly keeping before the eyes of his parishioners— when you add to all this, that one day in every week he has them assembled together, to sit in silence, to receive his advice, his admonitions, his [interpretations of the will of God as applicable to their conduct and affairs, and that, too, in an edifice rendered sacred to their eyes, from their knowing that their forefathers assembled there in ages long past, and from its being surrounded by the graves of their kindred; when this is added, and when it is also recollected that the children pass through his hands at their baptism; that it is he who celebrates the marriages, and performs the last sad service over the graves of the dead; when you think of all this, it is too much to believe it possible that such a Church can fall."

The homes of our clergy are hallowed places, for in them exist the blessed relations of domestic life. Rome, esteeming herself wiser than God, enacts celibacy for her religious men and women. She does this, professedly, with a view to make them better, and she leaves them infinitely the worse. I look on my wife and child, and I rejoice in hearing my Church's voice,* that "it is lawful for her ministers, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness." In our Parsonages, accordingly, exists wedded love, a fragment of Paradise that has survived the fall. Within their walls parental affection, in its unselfish devotedness, is found. There, grow up together lovely bands of brothers and sisters of all ages; and thence go forth unitedly, for the work

* In the thirty-second Article.

of the parish, the different members of a Christian household. The Minister, softened in his nature by having children of his own, can the more readily sympathize with the families entrusted to his care. He can understand their struggles. He can share their sorrows. He can identify himself with their several positions. And by many a sick bed, and particularly by those of her own sex, comes the minister's wife, and her soft tread when perceived brings an audible blessing from the lips of the sufferer. With a woman's exquisite tenderness, the pillow is smoothed; kind inquiries are made; words of comfort are spoken; alleviating drinks are administered. And then, best of all, by a practised hand the Book of books is opened. Under eyes familiar with its sacred contents, "things fitly spoken" are speedily found. A kind voice wisely applies them, and makes them "acceptable words." A low prayer commends the Sick One to Him who kills and makes alive, who wounds and heals, who bringeth low and lifteth up. If scenes like these be unsuitable to the minister's children, he does not suffer them, on that account, to be idle. He delights in making them his almoners. On many an errand of mercy, to the village street or the peasant's rural cot, are they sent, carrying their tiny but well-filled baskets. And, as years fly onward, the daily school finds in them visitors; the Sunday-school draws from them teachers; the Dorcas Society enrols them among its most untiring supporters; and in the work of the Lord are ever-abounding the inmates of the Parsonage.

[blocks in formation]

In many, if not in all, ministers' houses, there is one apartment, belonging in a particular manner to the minister himself. It forms his place of retirement for study and prayer-his sanctum, (if I dare to employ such a word,) where he is often alone with God. In no other room of a Parsonage do I feel solemnized as I do here. In this chamber I seem to stand on the confines of the visible and invisible world. If angels take a deep interest in the Church militant here in earth, they do not pass over unnoticed the clergyman's private apartment. If there be "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," or if Satan yet be occupied "going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it,” neither can regard this chamber unmoved. Hither continually comes the servant to give in his account to his Master, and to receive from Him fresh commands. The Word of God is here prayerfully investigated, in order that out of it the will of God may be clearly understood. The Pastor here realises the unspeakable responsibility of his office, and gathers strength for its duties in communion with Him who is invisible. His parish, his work, his family, his own soul, are daily brought before God in earnest prayer. Such a "prophet's chamber," far away from where I now write, starts up to my memory. It fronted the busy street of a large town. Just beneath, incessantly, went on the stir, the tramp, the tread of life. Like an endless panorama, there passed evermore the sons and daughters of Adam. The careless, the fashionable, the dle swept by; and little knew they what wrestlings

of soul were endured for them within those walls, and how often their names and their cases were brought by their minister before the Throne of Grace!





One thought more about such dwellings. They are continually changing their occupants. Death enters into these houses, equally with all others. If we think of Parsonages with which we are acquainted, we all remember in them people different from the present owners. We bring to mind ministers who have entered into rest, and ministers' families now broken up and scattered over the earth. It would be hard to visit an old dwelling of this kind, and not find the imagination calling up an array of past-andgone clergymen. We picture them sojourning within those walls, thence issuing on their daily ministrations; and, when they had served their own generation by the will of God, there falling on sleep. And seldom has a clergyman upreared a new parsonage, without straightway a stirring within him of sobered thought that he had completed it for others. He feels, like the good minister of two centuries ago, who carved over his newly-finished rectory,* " Non tam sibi, quam successoribus suis hoc ædificium extruxit;" and he finds himself often repeating the quaint distich

"Nunc mea, mox hujus,

Sed postea nescio cujus."

* Inscription over Swinburn Rectory, Northumberland, A.D. 1666.

Izaak Walton tells us that holy George Herbert, when he built the rectory of Bemerton, Wilts, remembered his own mortality, and desired to leave a word of counsel to the minister who would come after him. Over the chimney-piece in the hall he set up this inscription—

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Yet a little while, and our dwelling will receive a new master. All our arrangements within doors, all our plans without, will be set aside. Our favourite trees will be cut down; our cherished flower-knot entirely abolished. With faltering steps, with weary hearts our dear Ones will have turned from the roof

tree they once called "home." Never more may they sojourn beneath it. Another will have taken our office. Zealous, and kind, and earnest though he be, his ways and thoughts will be different from ours. He will alter, as he has a right to alter, that he may satisfy his own taste and effect his own purposes. We, in other days all-powerful, shall be wholly supplanted. Our names ere long will be locally consigned to oblivion. Our place will know us

no more.

Blessed are the ministers who lay these things to heart, and who in consequence turn to their work with the greater diligence, knowing that "the time is

« PreviousContinue »