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be due from them individually, the same principles will regulate satisfactorily their united and judicial purgation of scandal. Let not, however, a hasty dismissal of this subject impair the conviction of its importance. Iniquity cannot be winked at in the church, and the presence of God simultaneously enjoyed; for evil cannot dwell with him, neither can fools stand in his sight. As the Jews ejected all leaven from their houses before the fifteenth day of the month Nisan, that none might be found with them after the killing of the paschal lamb during the days of unleavened bread, so let us 'purge out the old leaven' (the leaven that is of impure fellowship) from the house of God, still more sacred than our own dwellings, that we 'may be a new lump as we are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.'* It was one of the encomiums bestowed on the Ephesian church—' Thou canst not bear them which are evil.'† Let us read our obligation in its commendation, and 'he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.'
SECT. 6. The session have to consider any proposals submitted to it by its own members, or by the members of the church, for the improvement, in regard to times and forms, of public worship. Here medium must be preserved between inflexible prejudice and restless innovation. Those who are for no changes, and those who befriend all changes, are equally unreasonable and antiscriptural in their con* 1 Cor. v. 7. † Rev. ii. 2.
duct. The duty incumbent on individuals, is no less binding on church courts: To prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.' A session must also learn to respect the will of the congregation, strongly entertained and legitimately expressed, without quailing and succumbing, to the utter loss of character and influence, before every breath of opposition pleading congregational authority.
SECT. 7.-Even those institutions which are not necessarily or exclusively under the charge of the session, should always be in its view, and enjoy its countenance. A congregation is bound, as persons singly are, to do good to all men as there is opportunity, If it can have, it ought to have, its day school and Sabbath schools, for poor outcast children-its home and foreign missionary associations-its christian instruction agencies, for visiting wretched and neglected neighbourhoods-its clothing societies, and other instrumentalities of beneficence. Let it not be imagined that these operations will drain away the resources of a congregation from its own pecuniary liabilities. The principle of benevolence, brought into action for one good object, will be found available for other good objects; and they who are mindful of missionaries, will not be niggardly to ministers. Besides, God has promised to compensate a hundredfold, even in this life, the sacrifices made in his cause; and are we, in disbelief and contempt of these promises, to hazard nothing for the promotion of his glory? This much is certain, that our self-saving
congregations are in general our straitened and decaying congregations; while flourishing churches have in many instances to date their prosperity from the day they devised liberal things. Let a session smile, then, on all these enterprises of faith; and if they have not their origin and direction, let them find their spring, their fulcrum, their associating centre, in sessional approbation.
CONCLUSION.-I conclude these remarks on the duties of elders collectively, with two general counsels. 1. In sessional deliberations, let all things be done with charity.'* Members of session should not only be at peace among themselves, but should regard and treat each other as personal friends. Any feud in a session is most ruinous. A silly quarrel between two elders, settling down into habitual enmity, may do incalculable mischief; it vitiates the spirit of sessional discussion, and other elders are drawn into the misunderstanding, and become as keen as the original disputants. A quarrel in the session readily extends to the congregation, where each of the parties bids for favour and support; and thus the strife diffuses and prolongs itself; and, where strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.'t But what can I do? a contentious elder will say. Am I to sacrifice truth to peace, and lay down my privileges to be trampled on by insolence? Certainly not: but where alienations are formed and perpetuated, this is rarely a fair statement of the case. There are
* 1 Cor. xvi. 14.
† James iii. 16.
commonly great faults on both sides; and supposing all the wrong to be on one side, though the aggrieved party should not sin, in order to conciliate, he should seize opportunities of pacifying where principle is not imperilled, and seek the noblest of all victories, in overcoming evil with good. If any one set his heart on the portion of the peace-maker, it is amazing how he will be brought, sooner or later, in one way or another, to the possession of the inheritance.
2. Elders should observe a general silence out of doors about their sessional proceedings. It is true that sessions are open courts; equally so as presbyteries : and I often feel desirous that all the world looked upon them; for presbytery is nowhere seen to so much advantage as in these lowliest of its judicatories. There we behold men of christian worth making large sacrifice of time and pains in order to do good. Their remarks may want elocution, but they have the higher attributes of sound sense and upright principle. The time is spent not in talking but in working; and one is surprised, when so little is said, to see so much transacted. The wisdom, the candour, the kindness manifested on these occasions, have often filled me with admiration, and deepened the conviction, that a system so benignant in its character must be divine in its origin. There are exceptions, no doubt, to such commendatory allusions; but all my experience warrants me in saying, that if presbytery be its own witness anywhere, it commends itself in its sessions.
These sessions are open courts. Yet they must have the right of all courts to sit, when they think
proper, with shut doors; and as cases which are local, and which affect private character, are often adjudicated on by them, they must, in mercy, exercise this right with unusual frequency. Besides, the unostentatious efficiency of sessions may result partly from the absence of all temptations to display; and modest operatives may express their opinions freely to brethren, who would be completely silenced by the presence of the public. Such considerations, in the absence of all interdicts, have indisposed our congregations to intrude on sessional meetings; and it were well that the same consideration and delicacy prevented members of session from unnecessarily noising about their own communings and enactments. When elders, without any distinct call of duty to divulge their proceedings, must be telling here and there what has been passing among them-what such an one said, and how such another voted-they stir up contention where none existed, they create illicit tribunals to overrule their own, and follow a course of which the whole tendency is to weaken their official influence, and bring their office itself into contempt. It would be better for the session to court a direct and staring publicity, than have its acts reported and canvassed in this discreditable manner. If I remark strongly on this indiscretion, the evil which I know it to have done to some congregations may be pleaded as an apology for apparent vehemence.