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CHAPTER VIII.

MINISTERS-MRS. CROAKEM-MR. GRIMSCRAGG.

THOSE religious Connexions which are under the management of an itinerant ministry are, as to the individual joys or sorrows of particular ministers, very different from a Church of England parish, or Independent, or other separated church and people, confined to and governed by themselves. In these latter, a minister may have his trials

his comforts, or both; but he is more intimately known by his perpetuated location than he could possibly be as a comparative stranger,--and as a good man he will suffer no pecuniary loss on account of being witty. People get thoroughly used to him. Whatever is said about his social converse, is principally confined to his own people and neighbourhood. He may be a little queer and funny; but no importance is attached to this either one way or the other-and it does not diminish the esteem of his people. But in a vast community where churches or societies and congregations are linked together, by the Connexional principle, discipline, and doctrines, in all parts of the world, and whose ministers are required to “be always serious," and by some,“ serious as death and solemn as the grave" everywhere, on all occasions; wo to the minister who is witty! His name, being

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printed in official documents, goes forth literally to the ends of the earth, and through the medium of correspondence and verbal report, his peculiarity goes with it. And no matter for the fact, that years

and cares and sorrows abate, if not annihilate all prominent developments of it. People suppose it to be in him, and as it appears now and then in a very subdued and modified form, it is fancied that he cannot well be trusted. It may break out again, and wherever the opponents of wit are in power, vexation may be expected, as a matter of course. Even the friends of a witty minister, without intending it, do sometimes stand in his way. They speak of his facetiousness, (as I once, in addressing the conference, deliberately asserted,) and of nothing else — taking no notice of his piety or useful labours, or any one thing, by which men might see that, taking him altogether, he is as good as most of his neighbours. It having so happened that Methodism, in its earlier periods, from good motives, though under mistaken notions, was very prominent in the crusade against wit and humour-every witty minister in its enclosure was particularly noted and marked ; and about him rumour would be wonderfully busy. Reports, true and false, would elicit criticism and censure, and Pharisees, as such, have never been, and are not now, very nice and particular in ascertaining to what extent reports may be true, or whether absolutely false. These geniuses never were particular in this respect, and hence from

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rumour, false report, prejudice, and false accusation, our blessed Saviour and holy Stephen were put to death. Are reports remarkable, or wonderful, and detrimental to character? Do they contain strange tales and monstrously distorted accounts unfavourable to ministerial dignity, according to childish notions of it? They will do. There is a luxury for every evil speaker! How piously old Lady Croakem

her hands and eyes, while she hobbles abroad, telling every body to tell nobody about it! She has just heard of a minister letting off a laughable anecdote, at an evening party, and is shocked! The report reached her while she was reading that solemn hymn,

what dying worms we be," and she wonders why all ministers cannot be dying worms every where and on all occasions. She says she is sure that the passage in Ecclesiastes, third chapter and fourth verse, "a time to weep and a time to laugh,' is not rightly translated, and suggests that it should be 'a time to weep and no time to laugh ;' and it afflicts her to think she can get nobody to be of her opinion. She is, as she tries to persuade herself, very tender and delicate in what she says about ministers, knowing that they are but mortal men, and subject like other men to human frailties and temptations. But then this "lightness and trifling" ought never to be tolerated ; she is grieved about it, and, as she thinks, righteously indignant. Yet from her great regard to ministers, and fear of injuring their families, she circulates the report referred to

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only in some ten or twenty families, with her own peculiar comments-piously enjoining secresy. Mr. Grimscragg, a deeply pious man, and a commercial traveller, calls to take tea with her, and after giving her narration, with many godly embellishments, she begs him not to mention it in the many families and commercial houses in the various parts of the kingdom he visits in the way of business; and he, having so much to think of, forgets some things, and among others, Mrs. Croakem's charitable injunction. He lets slip the topics of conversation in commercial houses and railway carriages all over the country -especially among genial friends, but always with religious instructions to people not to mention the thing, lest other people should make a handle of it, and should do the good man an injury! Some persons to whom he opens his budget, laugh at him, and pity him for his scrupulosity. This angers him, and he makes many speeches against eccentricity in ministers, referring in condemnatory terms to the witty minister already introduced, and says he could mention other oddities in this minister, not at all consistent with the conversation of dying worms but he forbears, having always cherished a charitable regard for those who preach the Gospel. He hopes to be excused for his warmth, and that Mrs. Croakem's account will never reach the ears of the ecclesiastical authorities, as the good man might be greatly damaged; and he should be sorry to injure him. Yet he has done it already.

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Now it never occurred to Mrs. Croakem and Mr. Grimscragg, amidst all their pother about the laughable anecdotes, that they were ascertained to comprehend instruction as well as entertainment, and that all who listened to them with discrimination and good sense, were mentally, morally, and religiously improved by their introduction.

Our great grandmothers used to say that some people “hear with their ears, and understand with their elbows." This saying is not remarkable for its elegance, but it is pointed and admonitory as to the truth it conveys, and the caution it suggests to ignorant and fanatical listeners. It

may be asserted that many ministers are witty and incur no censure, because they keep their wit under control. True. And this keeping under control is a very easy task, seeing how little wit there is to manage, and this little is sometimes pre-damaged by formidable introductions, as—" Now I will just relate a curious anecdote. It will perhaps excite a smile—it may make you laugh outright-but you know we can all be merry and wise. I am not in the habit of introducing such things, but to change the subject, and enliven us a little, I will relate it, and if I should unbend a little, and make my own comments, I hope you will not laugh too much," et cetera. The witty tale, and the facetious comments, are introduced ; and the friends seeing nothing worth laughing at, do not laugh at all. Men of this sort are safe, and not likely to get their names either

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