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In 1837, a premium of one hundred pounds was offered by a gentleman of Manchester, for the best original essay on the scriptural character, duties, and claims of the “Pastoral Office;" with a special reference to the manner in which that office is defined and exercised in the Wesleyan Methodist connexion.
Eight Essays were received, “ several of which” the adjudicators considered to “possess considerable merit.” The present Essay was one of the eight.
The Prize was offered, no doubt, with a design to excite the attention of the preachers, and the connexion in general, to investigate the subject; believing that a right understanding of it would have a tendency to promote peace and stability in the societies which have been, and still may be, agitated, in reference to the rights and exercises of the “ Pastoral Office."
Only one of the Essays having yet been printed, the end for which the Premium was offered would not have been fully answered; for there are a variety of minds, tastes, talents, and circumstances, which could only be met by a variety of Essays coming forth on the same subject; and several would like to see a variety of minds and talents exerted on the same subject. I therefore waited for some time hoping to hear of another coming forth; but being disappointed, I ventured with unfeigned diffidence to give this publicity.
While engaged in writing this Essay I was interrupted for several months by personal affliction; and since it has been in the press I have had my mind painfully afflicted by the loss of two of my beloved children-so that I could not give it that time and attention which I desired, and it needed.
As to the manner in which the work is accomplished, I need say but little, the public will decide. I may however be permitted to say—considering my feeble qualifications, little leisure, and many and great interruptions_“I have done what I could.”
The “Pastoral Office” has been thought a subject of sufficient interest and importance for the Press, ever since the invention of Printing. Among the Fathers, St. Chrysostom wrote on the priesthood. Since the Reformation, the subject has been one of the great points of controversy. Zuinglius Ulricus, Bishop of Zurich, wrote a work on this subject, which was translated and printed by Vernon in 1550, entitled :-- “The ymage of bothe Pastoures, a most fruitful and necessary boke, to be had and redde in all churches therwyth to enarm all symple and ignorant folks agaynst the raveninge wolves and false prophets.” Gilbert Burnet of the church of England published his Pastoral care: and a long list of others wrote on the same subject.
The non-conformists also considered this a vital subject. Baxter published his Gildas Silvianus, or Reformed Pastor; and after him several others. “On the people's need of a living pastor asserted and explained.” “Or on the pains of painful pastors,” &c.
And now after existing a hundred years we are called to prove that in the truest and best sense, we have succeeded to the doctrines, spirit, work and successes of the apostles. And though our ministry by many is considered irregular and supplementary; we would reply, so was St. Paul's; he was an irregular apostle and supplementary, for he was the thirteenth apostle.
The Prize Essay is an elegant and lengthened work; but my plan and materials differ so much from it, that they may be both needed. This Essay however, being so much less in size and price may at least suit those, who have but little time, and as little money. May the blessing of the Great Head of the church attend it.
GRANTHAM, Feb. 29th, 1840.