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QUALIFICATIONS OF ELDERS.
The word elder' points to age, and supposes, even in its official use, that the functionaries so designated are old enough to have some experience. This remark, however, must not be overstrained. We know that attainments are not always in the ratio of years; and, if a young man be otherwise qualified for the eldership, he ought not to be held disqualified from the mere circumstance of his youth. Timothy was, perhaps, the youngest of Paul's coadjutors; and yet he appears to have been the most efficient of them all. We need the fervour of youth; and if this quality has been well directed, and a career, though brief, has been usefully occupied, the church may freely elect such of its members to office, on the principle that they have lived longest who have done most.
In alliance with this qualification for the elder's office, I may notice the importance of having some time at one's disposal to devote to its duties. A writer
who has in various ways done good service to presbytery, says on this subject — An indispensable requisite to the discharge of all duty is time, and, we may add, residence. At the same time, let not any entertain exaggerated ideas on the point. Let it not be imagined that the duties of the elder are such as seriously to encroach on one's leisure. Where the districts or proportions are small, and this can be secured only by the multiplication of elders, a few hours steadily devoted every week to the parochial duty of the elder, I have been informed by those who have made successful trial, are sufficient, in ordinary circumstances, to meet the leading moral and religious wants of the district.' *
I might multiply observations on such qualifications for the eldership; but I think it better to speak of others which are less circumstantial, and more spiritual in their character.
The highest of all requisites to the right discharge of the duties of an elder, is piety. This will do much alone: all things else, without this, are nothing. If I viewed the subject in the light of argument, I would
* Eldership of the Church of Scotland, by the Rev. Dr Lorimer, p. 78.
pass from this qualification after naming it; for what need is there to prove that religion is necessary to a religious office-bearer? That is an axiomatic proposition; and commends itself to acquiescence by its selfevident reasonableness. But the subject is now viewed practically; and moral truth, to be duly estimated, must not only be heard and owned, but dwelt upon. I feel, too, that I now touch the central mechanism, or rather the very source of all vital action; and that, failing here, I should fail wholly in this solemn and responsible service. I am desirous, therefore, to dilate a little on this topic, if I may thereby deepen the conviction, that elders should not only be pious, but eminently and devotedly pious, and should aspire at new and unprecedented attainments in the life of faith.
True godliness is the one thing needful to all; and there is no escape from its claims in shunning sacred office. Some, indeed, who pay little attention to religion themselves, remark very solemnly on the responsibility of spiritual guides, as if it were a comą mendation of themselves to think thus awfully of duties of which the performance is devolved upon others, and as if it were a palliation, amounting almost to exculpation of their heedlessness, that they had not attempted to occupy these high places. This, however, is poor consolation. Have these persons, in truth, estimated their merited perdition, and, finding it quite moderate and endurable, reconciled themselves to the prospect? There is no scriptural delineation of future and eternal retribution which
would warrant in any worker of evil such placid expectation of its approach. Hell will be to all inheriting it the blackness of darkness, an abode of torment, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. If comfort may be, in any instance, derived from minor accountability and desert of punishment, surely it belongs not to privileged Britons. A clearer and fuller revelation of divine truth has been imparted to us than was possessed by Chorazin or Bethsaida ; and are not all who abuse higher opportunities proportionally exposed to the denunciation—It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, at the judgment, than for you?'* Still, they who are set over the house of God are under very special obligations to be themselves religious. They have had many talents committed to them; and,
unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.'t
At present, however, I speak of piety as qualifying men for office, and if the statement be strong, it is not extreme, that the simplest and most childlike piety is the best of all qualifications, even for the loftiest official engagements. All the duties of an elder have indissoluble relation to piety, and are so dependent on its stimulus and succours, that they must fade or flourish with it. Individual godliness here enters so much into official fitness, that it is often impossible to discriminate them. The remark applies to teaching as well as to ruling elders. It might not scem, at * Luke x. 14.
+ Luke xii. 48.
first sight, as if goodness and oratory had a very intimate connection; and yet the close alliance, and almost absolute identification, of moral excellence and true eloquence has been asserted by the Roman author Quintilian, in language very remarkable to have been spoken by a heathen. Let our orator, then,' he says, be such as Marcus Cato has defined him-a good man, expert in speaking; but that which he has placed first, is, in the nature of the case, the more excellent and important requisite-the being a truly good man.'* Again, he remarks, still more explicitly, in the same connexion-Nor do I contend only that an orator should be a good man; but that without being a good man he cannot be an orator.'t I have cited this opinion of the influence exerted by moral frame on public efficiency, to strengthen the persuasion of it where it is still more obvious. Well may we assert, not only that the guardians of the church should be good men, but that without being good men they cannot be its guardians. Their rarest exploits eren, must chiefly result from possessing, in rich abundance, the commonest graces. Advert to those great spiritual benefactors through whom God blessed the world in their respective ages, and to what is their signal usefulness most remarkably traceable ?
* Sit ergo nobis orator, quem instituimus, is qui a M. Catone finitur, vir bonus, dicendi peritus. Verum id puod ille posuit prius,, . etiam ipsa natura potius ac majus est, utique vir bonus.'-De Inst. Ora. Lib. 12. cap. 1.
† Neque enim tantum id dico, eum qui sit orator, virum bonum esse oportere; sed ne suturum quidein oratorem, nisi virum bonum.'