I have now gone over all that seemed to me most important upon this Head, of the Pastoral Care, with as much Shortness and Clearness as I could: so now I am to conclude. The Discourse may justly seem imperfect, since I say nothing concerning the Duties incumbent on Bishops. But I will upon this occasion say very little on that Head. The Post I am in, gives me a Right to teach Priests and Deacons their Duty; therefore I thought, that without any great Presumption, I might venture on it: but I have been too few Years in the higher Order, to take upon me to teach them, from whom I shall ever be ready to learn. This is certain, that since, as was formerly said, the Inferior Orders subsist in the Superior, Bishops must still be under all the Obligations of Priests: They are then, take the Matter at lowest, bound to live, to labour, and to preach as well as they. But why are they raised to a higher Rank of Dignity and Order, an increase of Authority, and an Extent of Cure? And why have Christian Princes and States, given them great Revenues, and an Accession of Secular Honours? All this must certainly import their Obligation to labour more eminently, and to lay themselves out more entirely in the Work of the Gospel: in which, if the greatest Encouragements and Assistances, the highest Dignities and Privileges, belong to them, then according to our Saviour's Example and Decision, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and who declared, that he who is first shall be last, and he who is the greatest must be the Servant of all; then I say, the higher that any are raised in this Ministry, they ought to lay themselves out the more entirely in it, and labour the more abundantly. And as our Obligations to Christ and his Church, tie us to a greater Zeal and Diligence, and to a more constant Application of our Care and Thoughts; so the Secular Supports of our Honours and Revenues were given us to enable us to go through with that extent of Care and Jurisdiction that lies upon us. We are not only Watchmen to watch over the Flock, but likewise over the Watchmen themselves. We keep the Door of the Sanctuary, and will have much to answer for, if through our Remissness or feeble Easiness, if by trusting the Examination of those we ordain to others, and yielding to Intercession and Importunity, we bring any into the Service of the Church, who are not duly qualified for it. In this, we must harden our selves, and become inexorable, if we will not partake in other men's Sins, and in the Mischiefs that these may bring upon the Church. It is a false Pity, and a cruel Compassion, if we suffer any Considerations to prevail upon us in this Matter, but those which the Gospel directs. The longer that we know them before we ordain them, the more that we sift them, and the greater variety of Trials, through which we make them pass, we do thereby both secure the Quiet of our own Consciences the more, as well as the Dignity of holy Things, and the true Interest of Religion and the Church: for these two Interests must never be separated; they are but one and the same in themselves; and what God has joined together, we must never set asunder.
We must be setting constantly before our Clergy, their Obligations to the several Parts of their Duty; we must lay these upon them, when we institute or collate them to Churches, in the solemnest Manner, and with the weightiest Words we can find. We must then lay the Importance of the Care of Souls before them, and adjure them, as they will answer to God in the great Day, in which we must appear to witness against them, that they will seriously consider and observe their Ordination-Vows, and that they will apply themselves wholly to that one Thing. We must keep an Eye upon them continually; and be applying Reproofs, Exhortations, and Encouragements, as occasion offers: We must enter into all their Concerns, and espouse every Interest of that Part of the Church that is assigned to their Care: We must see them as oft as we can, and encourage them to come frequently to us; and must live in all things with them, as a Father with his Children. And that every thing we say to stir them up to their Duty, may have its due weight, we must take care so to order our selves, that they may evidently see, that we are careful to do our own. We must enter into all the Parts of the Worship of God with them; not thinking our selves too good for any piece of Service that may be done; visiting the Sick, admitting poor and indigent Persons, or such as are troubled in mind, to come to us; Preaching oft, Catechising and Confirming frequently; and living in all things like Men that study to fulfil their Ministry, and to do the Work of Evangelists.
There has been an Opinion of late, much favoured by some great Men in our Church; that the Bishop is the sole Pastor of his whole Diocese; that the Care of all the Souls is singly in him, and that all the Incumbents, in Churches, are only his Curates in the different parts of his Parish, which was the Ancient Designation of his Diocese. I know there are a great many Passages brought from Antiquity to favour this: I will not enter into the Question, no not so far as to give my own Opinion of it. This is certain, that such as are persuaded of it, ought thereby to consider themselves as under very great and strict Obligations, to constant Labour and Diligence; otherwise, it will be thought, that they only favour this Opinion, because it increases their Authority, without considering that necessary Consequence that follows upon it.
But I will go no further on this Subject, at this time, having said so much only, that I may not seem to fall under that heavy Censure of our Saviour's, with relation to the Scribes and Pharisees, That they did bind heavy Burdens, and grievous to be born, upon others; and laid them upon Men's Shoulders, when they themselves would not move them with one of their Fingers. I must leave the whole Matter with my Readers. I have now laid together with great Simplicity what has been the chief Subject of my Thoughts for above thirty Years. I was formed to them by a Bishop that had the greatest Elevation of Soul, the largest compass of Knowledge, the most mortified and most heavenly Disposition, that I ever yet saw in Mortal; that had the greatest Parts as well as Virtues, with the perfectest Humility that I ever saw in Man; and had a sublime Strain in Preaching, with so grave a Gesture, and such a Majesty both of Thought, of Language, and of Pronunciation, that I never once saw a wandering Eye where he preached; and have seen whole Assemblies often melt in Tears before him; and of whom, I can say with great truth, that in a free and frequent Conversation with him, for above two and twenty Years, I never knew him say an idle Word, that had not a direct Tendency to Edification: and I never once saw him in any other Temper, but that which I wished to be in, in the last Minutes of my Life. For that Pattern which I saw in him, and for that Conversation which I had with him, I know how much I have to answer to God: and though my reflecting on that which I knew in him, gives me just cause of being deeply humbled in my self, and before God; yet I feel no more sensible Pleasure in any thing, than in going over in my Thoughts all that I saw and observed in him.
I have also another Reason, that has determined me at this time, to prepare this Discourse, and to offer it to the Public; from the present posture of our Affairs. We are now brought very near the greatest Crisis that ever Church or Nation had. And as on the one Hand, if God should so far punish us for our Sins, for our Contempt of his Gospel, and Neglect of our Duties, as to deliver us over to the Rage of our Enemies; we have nothing to look for, but a Persecution more dreadful than any is in History: So if God hears our Prayers, and gives us a happy Issue out of all those Dangers, with which the Malice of our Enemies threaten us; we have in view the greatest Prospect of a blessed and lasting Settlement, that even our Wishes can propose to us. Now nothing can so certainly avert the one, or prepare us to glorify God in it, if he in his Justice and Wisdom should call us to a Fiery Trial of our Faith, and Patience; as the serious minding of our Functions, of our Duties and Obligations, the confessing of our Sins, and the correcting of our Errors. We shall be very unfit to suffer for our Religion, much less to die for it, and very little able to endure the hardships of Persecution, if our Consciences are reproaching us all the while, that we have procured these Things to our selves; and that by the ill use of our Prosperity, and other Advantages, we have kindled a Fire to consume us. But as we have good Reason from the present State of Affairs, as well as from the many eminent Deliverances, and happy Providences, which have of late, in so signal a manner, watched over and protected us, to hope that God according to the Riches of his Mercy, and for the Glory of his Great Name, will hear the Prayers that many good Souls offer up, rather than the Cry of those Abominations that are still among us: So nothing can so certainly hasten on the fixing of our Tranquility, and the completing our Happiness, as our lying often between the Porch and the Altar, and interceding with God for our People; and our giving our selves wholly to the Ministry of the Word of God, and to Prayer. These being then the surest Means, both to procure and to establish to us, all those great and glorious Things that we pray and hope for; this seemed to me a very proper Time to publish a Discourse of this Nature.
But that which made it an Act of Obedience, as well as Zeal, was the Authority of my Most Reverend Metropolitan; who, I have reason to believe, employs his Time and Thoughts, chiefly to consider what may yet be wanting to give our Church a greater Beauty and Perfection; and what are the most proper Means both of purifying and uniting us. To which I thought nothing could so well prepare the way, as the offering to the Public a plain and full Discourse of the Pastoral Care, and of every Thing relating to it. His Grace approved of this, and desired me to set about it: Upon these Motives I writ it, with all the Simplicity and Freedom that I thought the Subject required, and sent it to him; by whose particular Approbation I publish it, as I writ it at his Direction.
There is indeed one of my Motives that I have not yet mentioned, and on which I cannot enlarge so fully as I well might. But while we have such an invaluable and unexampled Blessing, in the Persons of those Princes whom God hath set over us; if all the Considerations which arise out of the Deliverances that God has given us by their Means, of the Protection we enjoy under them, and of the great hopes we have of them: If, I say, all this does not oblige us, to set about the reforming of every Thing that may be amiss or defective among us, to study much, and to labour hard; to lead strict and exemplary Lives, and so to stop the Mouths, and overcome the Prejudices, of all that divide from us; this will make us look like a Nation cast off and forsaken of God, which is nigh unto cursing, and whose end is burning. We have reason to conclude, that our present Blessings are the last Essays of God's Goodness to us, and that if we bring forth no Fruit under these, the next Sentence shall be, Cut it down, why cumbreth it the Ground? These Things lie heavy on my Thoughts continually, and have all concurred to draw this Treatise from me; which I have writ with all the sincerity of Heart, and purity of Intention, that I should have had, if I had known that I had been to die at the Conclusion of it, and to answer for it to God.
To him I humbly offer it up, together with my most earnest Prayers, That the Design here so imperfectly offered at, may become truly effectual, and have its full Progress and Accomplishment; which whensoever I shall see, I shall then with Joy, say, Nunc Dimittis, &c.