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THE pertisal of Massillon's Synodal Discourses, or Ecclesiastical Charges, having sometimes refreshed my mind with comfort, and sometimes filled me with reproof; I was induced to translate such of them as are more immediately applicable to the ministry of the Church of England; after which, thinking that other men might, like myself} be quickened to greater diligence, and more active exertions, in the prosecution of their holy calling) by reading them in our own language, I at length determined to commit them to the press. I have an additional encouragement to do this, in the persuasion, that young men designed for holy orders may—-if they condescend, as I trust they will, to read them—be enabled to form, perhaps, a more exact judgment of the awful obligations the ministry imposes on them; and may, at the same time, be stimulated to discharge those obligations, as soon as they undertake them, with more credit to themselves, advantage to the Church, and glory to Almighty God, than might otherwise be,, invariably, the case.
Massillon is an author, who cannot be read With pleasure, nor even endured, in a literal translation: he multiplies words with such abundant profusion, that an English reader, not perceiving— it being impossible to preserve—the graces of his style, would be fatigued, and even disgusted, by the same idea so often, with, scarcely, a change of words, presented to his mind. I was, therefore, reduced to this delimma—either to abridge and translate the author—and of consequence, sometimes unavoidably, to weaken his sense, and retain, to a certain degree, the * idiom of his language—or to express his sentiments in my own style ;—and had I preferred the latter—and had «ven succeeded—I should have offered to the reader, at best, but an imperfect imitation.
I am aware that one objection will be made to these Discourses—independent of the want of elegance and ornament, which may, I fear, be justly attributed to the translation—viz. that the same thoughts, even in this abridgment, more especially in the first eight Charges, too frequently occur. I could not, however, prevail with myself to reduce them to a smaller compass; the sentiments being so exceedingly important, that they cannot, in my judgment, be too often inculcated nor too earnestly impressed. The last five are termed Conferences, denoting a plain and familiar manner of address: the others are called Synodal Discourses, or Ecclesiastical Charges; the tendency, indeed, of them all, is the same—to illus, trate the nature, and enforce the duties, of the Clerical character.
* Whilst the reader is perusing the following Charges, should he be disposed to censure me, I must request him to bear in mind, as my apology, the observation of the first of critics and the best of men, Dr. Johnson, that—''No book was ever turned from one language into another, without imparting something of its native idiom."
"As the duties," says the Editor, "of the ecclesiastical profession, are very different from those prescribed to the rest of Christians, this part of the works of Father Massillon, in which he confines himself to the instructions of the Clergy, may not, perhaps, appear so interesting as his Practical Discourses; we may, notwithstanding, justly assert, that the public, in general, may derive from them the highest advantage. For all men may now know, what sort of labourers they ought to supplicate of the Almighty, for the cultivation of his Vineyard. Taught by these Exhortations, the solemn obligations imposed on the Christian Ministry, all men may see, that nothing is so deplorable as the blindness of parents, in bringing up their children to the Church, who have not Talent and Dispositions adapted to the calling, thereby becoming the destroyers of the souls of their offspring, as also of an infinite number of Christians, lost by the unpardonable negligence of those Ministers, who, unqualified as to talent, and indisposed as to principle, obtrude themselves as labourers in the Gos* pel-field.
'< The species of eloquence which prevails throughout these discourses, is not that of Sermons. Energy and warmth become the pulpit; the tone of the Charge in general, and especially, that of Ecclesiastical Charges, should be more mild and gentle. This is what Father Massillon strictly regards: he addresses his Clergy, as men acquainted with their duty, in the observance of which, he labors to establish himself, and to the conscientious fulfilling of which, he expresses the utmost solicitude to recal the Shepherds of the flock: he does not urge those strong and forcible remonstrances, which are sometimes delivered from the pulpit, to awaken men from their insensibility; but he represents, in the most feeling and pathetic manner, the melancholy and dreadful consequences, which arise, not merely from the profligacy, but even from the indifference, or the ignorance, of the Clergy; that .the Preachers of the Gospel cannot bring ruin on themselves alone j but that, with their own, they involve the destruction of a number of souls, for whose redemption the Son of God vouchsafed to shed his most precious blood."
"The Charges, which I denominate Episcopal, because they were composed during the Prelacy of the author, are in that style in which a Bishop should address his Clergy. He varies his voice in a thousand different ways; but it is always to voice of a father, or rather of a brother, who ad. dresses his fellow laborers in the ministry; he descends to the most minute and simple details, which he ennobles and renders interesting, by the turn he gives them, and the expressions in which the
This amiable Prelate discovers a thorough knowledge of the human heart. The most conscientious Clergyman, may, after perusing these Charges, be surprised to find, that, in many instances, in which he had, as he might think, discharged his duty, comparatively well, he has been seduced by indif. ference, or diverted by inattention, to the neglect of some parts of his vocation, which have a powerful effect in deterring the profligate from vice, disturbing the lukewarm in indifference, and confirming the religious in piety.
When Massillon delivered these discourses, the Clergy of France, were rapidly declining from the professional diligence and exemplary demeanor, by which they had formerly adorned a Church, whose doctrines are inconsistent with truth, and whose ceremonies are repugnant to reason. The reader will perceive the good Father’s solicitude to restrain them from the paths which led to national evil, and individual ruin—which subjected their religion to censure and reproach, and themselves to scorn and derision. He does not exercise their understandings, by profound argu