BROTHER [OR BRETHREN,]
WHEN I entered on the work of ordaining to the ministery, it was not without a sense of the responsibility referred to in the saying of the Apostle St. Paul--"Lay hands suddenly on no man." Notwithstanding the induced caution, there arose temptations to laxity, from pressing exigences of our destitute congregations over the whole of the United States, our ministry having become almost annihilated, during the war of the Revolution.
After a while, there opened on me two sources of sorrow, from the ordinations which had taken place. One the one hand, there had been admitted to the ministry some men, whose succeeding conduct proclaimed them to be strangers to the influence of the truths, to the teaching of which they had pretended to devote their time and their talents. Although this was the result of false professions, and in many instances of deceitful recommendations; and although it had been an object in the preceding intercourse, and especially in the examinations, to intimate the views which should govern in the contemplated undertaking; yet, the thought at last occurred, that the doing of this, in discourses framed for the purpose of guarding against an unwary taking, on the tongue of promises not harmonizing with inward cast of character, might, in some instances, cause a reconsideration of the subject, and thus restrain from great sin.
The other cause of regret, was, in some ministers, deviations from the clear senses of those answers in the services, which give the pledge of adherence to our liturgy; and of submission to an authority recognized by our system of ecclesiastical government, and by the canons. It is impossible, that this conduct can be vindicated by any professions of piety, supposing them to be sincere; but I must declare the opinion, that it has been chiefly owing either to vanity, or, under the most favourable circumstances, of views of the dispensation of grace, differing from those sustained in the Church of England, and in this Church. The most favourable interpretation to be put on such cases, is that the parties, perhaps insensibly to themselves, have no preference of our ministry, otherwise than as a door to our Churches, not otherwise to be entered.
The candidate [or candidates] is [or are] possessed of the motives, to the commentary now presented. For some few years after its being prepared, it was read during the examinations: but subsequent refecltion suggested, that if read in retirement, with meditation and prayer, the intended effect would be thus the most likely to be accomplished. With this view, it was printed in a periodical Magazine, as were also the two other commentaries in this book; and some copies were struck off, to be given to succeeding candidates. The copes are reduced to two: which imposes on me the necessity of delivering, to each candidate, a copy to be read and to be returned by him.