Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), ardent advocate of the parish in modern society, commended his Anglican contemporary, Charles Bridges (1794-1869), as a model of a man dedicated to the cure of souls. “My excellent friend, the Rev. Charles Bridges, of Old Newton, Suffolk, finds, I am sure, most ample occupation among those six hundred people whom he may be said to have domesticated into one parochial family; and, were it not for his still more important services to the Christian church at large, would show, by his incessant labours, how possible it were to make out a most beneficial expenditure of all his strength and all his time amongst them” (Collected Works 18:62). This quote certainly illustrates Chalmers’ high regard for evangelical Anglicanism, the better part of the established Kirk’s English counterpart. But there’s something else here as well.
Those of us today who read and appreciate Bridges’ great classic The Christian Ministry can easily fail to realize that he was not writing as a congregational, but as a parochial minister. Chalmers refers to Bridges precisely for this reason. This fact sheds light on Part V of Bridges’ work, “The Pastoral Work of the Christian Ministry.” In that section, he treats the wide range of individual cases that the pastor must treat in his charge. The first two classes are “The Infidel” and “The Ignorant and Careless.” Not your typical church member – or your typical church attender! But a percentage of the 600 souls under Bridges’ geographic charge.