Ministers make themselves partakers in the sins of their people when those sins are occasioned by their own negligence, by their example, or by unfaithfulness in the discharge of their official duties. But, why do I mention this to you? Not because you are in danger of partaking, in this way, of other men’s sins, but because my subject naturally leads to this remark, because I am willing to preach to myself as well as to you, and because this remark suggests a sufficient excuse, if excuse be necessary, for the pointed observations which I may be called upon to make in the progress of my discourse for, from this remark, it follows that, if you are in danger of sharing in the guilt of other men’s sins, it is my duty, as a minister of Christ, to warn you plainly of that danger and to point out the way in which you may avoid it and, should I neglect thus to warn you, I should myself share in the guilt of all your sins and of all the sins of which you make yourselves partakers. Now this I can, by no means, consent to do. I am willing to participate in all your sorrows and afflictions, but I am not willing to share in your sins. I have enough – and more than enough – of my own to answer for, without participating in yours. Let this be my apology if, in this, as well as in my other discourses, I use great plainness of speech.
From: “Participation in Other Men’s Sins,” a sermon on 1 Timothy 5.22, preached by Edward Payson.
Edward Payson (1783-1827) was Pastor of Second Congregational Church in Portland, Maine, from 1811 until his death. This sermon appears among the three volumes of Payson’s sermons that appeared not long after his death.