It is the duty of my pastor to “preach the Word”—to “watch for souls as they that must give account”—to “feed the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made him an overseer”—to “warn, reprove, and rebuke, with all long-suffering and doctrine”—to comfort the afflicted, support the weak, and be “all things to all men that he may win some” to Christ. But it is not my object to specify all the duties which devolve upon him in his relation as a Minister of the Gospel, and as the Shepherd of a flock. These duties are delineated on the sacred pages in scattered fragments, and may be collected at leisure by every diligent student of the Bible. They are laid down for the most part in general terms, and relate to the care which he is to take of his own heart, “lest after having preached the Gospel to others he himself should be a castaway.”—to the improvement of his own mind, so that his “lips should keep knowledge,” and impart it to others—to his own temper and spirit, that he may prove “an example to the flock—and to the Church in particular and society at large, that he may “edify the body of Christ,” and bring in to the fold those who are wandering from the great Shepherd of Israel. From this hasty and very imperfect sketch it will be seen that his calling has a responsibility which no mere mortal man can adequately perform. Like every redeemed sinner, he must throw himself upon the grace of God, and there must be his reliance.
And now I have a word to say as to myself. I have been one of those who have demanded that my Pastor should exhibit a perfect character. And my standard of perfection has been drawn more from my own state of feeling than from the Word of God. If he did not preach to suit me I felt a disposition to complain. If he reproved, I thought him personal. If in his public performances he exhorted to a duty, I inwardly said that I would act my own pleasure about it. If he did not visit me as often as I thought he might, I looked upon him as neglecting his charge.—And when he did visit me I was not in a suitable frame of mind to be profited by the interview. I talked about him and against him to others, and thus sowed the seeds of dissatisfaction among the members of the Church. But was I right in this course? Can I justify it? Is it consistent with my covenant vows? And how can I answer for it when he and I shall meet at the judgment bar? These and similar reflections begin to give me serious concern. If a pastor has duties to perform, there are correspondent duties that belong to his people, and I am free to acknowledge that mine have not been done, and I too must, if I am to be forgiven, take sanctuary in the grace and mercy of God.
[The author here takes the Latin word for “I confess” as his pseudonymn]
[excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, 12.15 (14 April 1838) 58, col. 6.]