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THE PASTORAL DUTY.
This Sermon, at the request of the Right Reverend Frederick, Lord Bishop of Cloyne, was to have been preached at his Consecration, but the Author's illness prevented it.
TITUS II. 15.
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.
In the former part of this epistle, St. Paul reminds Titus, that he had left him in Crete, to set in order the things that were wanting, particularly in every city, to ordain elders, qualified as the apostle directs, and careful, not only to discharge the duties by him inculcated, but also to avoid the errors in conduct, to which they might be tempted among a people of such a temper and character, as are there ascribed to the Cretans, by one of their own writers, and confirmed by the apostle,
From hence he proceeds to instruct Titus, as a bishop, in the particulars of his own duty; how, for instance, he should cause the elderly, and young people, of both sexes, to behave themselves; and how the servants, under his spiritual government, ought to carry towards their masters. In order to the right discharge of his episcopal duty, as to these and the like effects, Titus, in the same place, is charged to speak the things which become sound doctrine, in all things to shew himself a pattern of good works, in teaching to shew uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that he who is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of him.'
By way of general, but powerful enforcement of these matters on the conscience of Titus, and the conduct of his flock, the apostle urges, that the grace of God which
bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men; teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.'
The grace of God, the redemption of mankind, and a final judgment, the summary and leading lines of the gospel, are all employed, we perceive, as so many divine engines, to work first on Titus, and then, through his ministry, on the inferior clergy, nay, and on every soul committed to his and their charge, a lively faith in sound doctrine, a perfect purity of manners, and a vigorous zeal in the performance of good works. Here the gospel of Christ is applied with force irresistible, at least on a rational and well-disposed mind, to its own true and genuine purpose. And whereas the duty of Titus, and all other bishops, consists, not only in faithfully teaching the doctrines of the gospel, but also in warmly pressing them on the heart of every hearer, and in case of stubborness and contumacy, in sharply reproving the heretic or sinner, with a majesty becoming the messenger of Almighty God; our blessed apostle, in the words of my text, charges the bishop of Crete to 'speak these things, to exhort, and to rebuke with all authority,' adding, in the close, let no man despise thee.'
First, speak these things, these which are peculiarly applicable to the church of Crete. Now had St. Paul been to give directions to the bishop of some other church, differently circumstanced, he would probably have given the like general, but a different set of particular instructions, though under the sanction of the same grace,' the same redemption,' and the same 'judgment to come.' He would have said, speak these, or these things, as occasion shall require.
Were he, for instance, at this day, to instruct an Irish bishop, he would say indeed, as then, shew thyself a pattern of good works,' for the more degenerate and dissolute mankind become, the less disposed they will be to wink at imperfection in a bishop. 'Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine, in uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,'
for these are every where and always applicable; surely nowhere more applicable than here, at no time more necessary than now. The more apt mankind are through arrogance and self-sufficiency to corrupt the faith, and warp the Scriptures to their vices, the more necessary, no doubt it is, that a bishop should inculcate the sound and genuine doctrines of Christianity. The more impiously they run into levity and ridicule on sacred subjects, the greater call there is for a venerable solemnity in the episcopal chair. The more deceitfully they equivocate on fundamentals; the more impudently they declare for one thing, and argue for the contrary; the more artfully and disingenuously they undermine Christianity, while they pretend only to reduce it to its primitive purity, the greater danger there is of a general apostacy from both truth and virtue, if their bishop does not in all parts of his doctrine demonstrate an inviolable integrity and sincerity.
But over and above the doctrines, so generally requisite to be insisted on, were the apostle now here to lay down rules for a bishop to regulate his sermons or charges, it is hardly to be supposed, he would not direct every man, advanced to that order, to preach up the duty of a natural plainness in dress, in attendance, in diet, when the world is running mad after artificial refinements. Would he not, think ye, charge it home on every bishop to preach often, and warmly, on the institution of the sabbath, when the leaders of fashion are celebrating that solemnity to chance, the god of Atheists, and to avarice, the god of sharpers, at a gaming table? Would he not, can we imagine, command every bishop to insist, that all his clergy should perpetually urge the necessity of constantly, and the danger of unworthily, communicating in the Eucharist, at a time when by far the greater part of their hearers absent themselves from it, or come to it, twice a year only, in compliment to a great festival, or to qualify for a lucrative employment? Would he not, knowing that the bulk of the common people are as totally ignorant of the plainest principles in religion, as the Patagons or the Hottentots, make it the first duty of a bishop to send his clergy with the milk at least of God's word into the dwellings of these babes in knowledge, but adepts in all the dishonest arts? What would he order to be
said by the bishop to his clergy, when the spirit of piety is almost totally extinguished, and that of religious disputation flames out in all the fury of its old party rage, so that no religious warmth is felt in that polemic fire which consumes the church? when the hair of controversy is pulled from the head, only to be split and thrown away? When the bone of contention hath not a particle of flesh without, nor of marrow in it, even they being judges who fight about it? When it is become impossible so much as to guess at a man's faith, at a clergyman's faith, concerning the doctrine into which we were all baptized, by his every day repeating the creeds in church, or by his continually offering up his public devotions to two persons, whom he therein expressly calls God, though he believes them to be but creatures, and, as such, wholly unworthy of prayer and adoration? When it is cried out against universally, as a breach of Christian charity to give the name of dishonesty or insincerity to prevarication, so grossly impious? When the people through indifference suffer this to pass as a trifle, or through corruption court it as consonant to their own duplicity of heart? When they say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things; speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits?' When the deceived, and the deceiver, so vaunt themselves to belong to God, as if they thought he abhorred sincerity?
It were easy to multiply such questions almost without end, and to shew, that corruption in principle leads directly to corruption of manners; that, on the other hand, bad practices make loose principles necessary; that they mutually generate each other; and that St. Paul, not only saw this source of error and infidelity in human nature, but foresaw it too in fact, when he predicted the 'falling away, and the revelation of the man of sin, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.' And 'for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.'
It is true, a bishop can prescribe no new doctrine. Nor is there any occasion for new doctrines. The man of God
is thoroughly furnished' in the inspired Scripture' unto all good works, whether of doctrine, or reproof, or correction, or instruction.' In this arsenal he finds all the weapons of his warfare ready prepared to his hand. These he may use as the exigency of times shall require, and so point the artillery of his inferior clergy against the prevailing corruptions, whether in principle or practice, as to clear the field for a successful attack on an infamous band, who, conscious of their own treachery, fight the battle of infidelity and wickedness only in masquerade. In this kingdom the inferior clergy depend so very much on their bishop, that nothing can be easier for him, than to speak to his whole diocess through their mouths, and to prescribe even their degree of diligence in the work assigned, if diligence is followed by favour. Why then sleep we till noon, and give the enemy so long an opportunity to sow his tares,' not only 'in the night,' as at first, but now in the face of the day?
In the second place, it is the duty of a bishop, to exhort, which signifies something more than to advise, or even persuade; it signifies to encourage, to rouse, to stimulate. It is indeed shocking to a Christian eye, to see a pastor nodding over his flock, while the wolf is howling, and the lion roaring round it; while the old serpent winds himself through it, and hisses at the head; a flock of immortal souls, which 'God hath purchased with his blood,' and committed to the keeping of this slumberer, with a large salary in hand for his pains, and with eternal glory in reversion, if he is found vigilant and faithful.
All this, notwithstanding, a bishop, if he will but look about him, shall not unfrequently see one of his clergy loitering, or at least but slowing walking, in the race he ought to run. Nay, he shall see here one, and there another, fast asleep, while Christ is sold by a wakeful traitor to enemies who sleep not, except they have done mischief.' Whence this lethargy on the side of truth and goodness? whence that alertness on the part of error, heresy, schism, superstition, and wickedness? Why is God so miserably, and the infernal fiend, so zealously, so strenuously, served? what infatuation on both sides! with what impudence does he call himself a labourer in God's vineyard, who never labours! who never even works! who does nothing, but eat, drink,