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are fully and ineffaceably written in the Lamb's book of life.
The usefulness of our elders has often been prolonged in their families. Many of their children, enjoying the best examples and training, have done credit to their parentage in their own good behaviour and success. As respects the church, more especially, it might create surprise to learn how many of its elders are the sons of elders, and to what a large extent the roll of our ministry has derived its supplies from the same source. Such remarks dispose us for commendation rather than for counsel, and fill us with gratitude to Him who hath so cared for his church, in providing it with office-bearers after his own heart.
We must not, however, extend our eulogies beyond due limits. So far they may have the sanction of the King and Head of the church, while he has too abundant cause for subjoining the complaint, Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee.' There are few Sessions in which some members are not comparatively inefficient; even the best have need of improvement; and the instances are not rare where the eldership of a congregation are generally remiss in the discharyo of important obligations, to be afterwards considered. Happily these evils are nowhere more felt and lamented than among the class to whom they attach; and a movement has lately commenced among themselves to elevate the standard of their own proficiency. This spontaneous effort at reform is of very high consequence. Any amelioration appearing in our churches
would be questionable in its character, and epaemeral in its duration, if it did not include the session; and if it should originate in the session, and there strike deep its roots, and fortify its upright stem with goodly branches, the consequent benefit would be illimitablethe leaves of such a tree would be for the healing of the nations. The ministry would be stimulated on the one hand, and the people on the other; classes, schools, missionary societies, all beneficent institutions, would feel the impress of a new energy, the glow of a new life, and many a tongue would uplift the ejacula.tion, “The time to favour Zion is come; the time which God hath set!'
Even a single elder may be greatly influential. The statement has two aspects; for he may do great harm, or great good. One elder may do much injury. It is not necessary to this that he be a liar, or swearer, or drunkard; for such a man would bring himself under discipline, and could neither become nor remain an elder in any of our churches. It is enough to make him worse than useless, that he be an impracticable and troublesome individual. If such a character is rarely to be found, yet, to complete a sketch, he may at least be supposed. We naturally depict a person of this sort as possessing a very good opinion of himself. He may not entertain the same favourable estimate of others, or his very respect for them may secure them a measure of his jealousy and ill-will. Being of a soured disposition, he may have a morbid discontent with existing arrangements and regulations, and speak as if all things were amiss for want of his
mending. In sessional deliberations he may have many cases to bring forward, and motions to submit, and speeches to make, and become very wrathful and intractable, if any impatience be manifested under his inflictions. In forwarding his views, he may communicate much with those elders whom he is most likely to influence; and thus form something like a party in the session, and then talk of opposite sides. If poorly supported by his brethren in the eldership, he may set to work in the congregation, and by ex parte representations of what is passing: stir up dissatisfaction there, and then plead a 'pressure from without' in apology for his earnestness. By no means deficient in the love of power, he may feel as if power were most espressively shown in opposition: to aid another, might rather seem to him to be weakness. When good proposals, therefore, are made, and do not emanate from himself, it may be his frequent course first to doubt of them, and then labour to defeat them. He may be commendably devoted to the cause of civil liberty; and, transferring his notions of political abuses to ecclesiastical administration, and thinking that the extravagances of the state have all crept into a presbyterian church, however spare may be its finances and economical its outlay, he may suppose that he acts the patriot and reformer, in calling for indiscriminate retrenchment, and frowning on every kind and generous suggestion. Yet this elder may not be without traits of excellence; or, as some would say, redeeming qualities. He may be versed in scripture - he may be diligent in a good work when it meets
his mind; and no one would feel entitled to pronounce him positively a bad man. But, if an office-bearer in the church hare the cast of mind which has just been indicated, or anything resembling or approaching it, he may not only be prevented by his temper from accomplishing much in Christ's cause himself, but become a fearful hinderance alike to sessional and congregational reformation.
On the other hand, a single elder may do great good. It is not necessary to this that he be a man of extraordinary powers, or of immense wealth ; nor must we depict him, to account for his successful services, as a paragon of moral excellence. He has his failings, but he knows them himself, and an humbling consciousness of them sheds a sobriety over his bearing, and inclines him to be respectful in his communications with others. That abuses exist, he sees and deplores; and he applies himself, but with the meekness of wisdom, to effect the correction of them; and reckons it better, in accomplishing his object, to avoid a battle than to gain a victory. He throws his soul into beneficent enterprises, and it takes the mould of them, expands to their capaciousness, rises to their altitude, and recedes to their immeasurable distance from meanness and vice. In prosecuting the cause of Christ, he is drawn more into fellowship with Christ, imbibes more of the spirit of Christ, and hence becomes more thoroughly christian in all his views, feelings, and engagements. One can mark a discernible progress in his piety. There is a ripening aversion to evil, a deepening delight in true goodness, wherever found,
and a growing readiness for every good work. Even his friendship, always sincere and trustworthy, evinces more of a mellowing kindliness, a purer tone of sacredness in its sympathy, more of that exquisite tenderheartedness which rejoices with them that rejoice, and weeps with them that weep.' How valuable is such a man to all with whom the providence of God allies him! What a treasure is he to a minister! what a treasure to a session !—what a treasure to a congregation! While he lives, he does far more good than is ever suspected by himself, or shall be known to others, till the day shall declare it;' and when he dies, good men carry him to his grave, and make great lamentation over him. If, then, a single elder may be so influential, so perniciously or profitably influential, what importance should we not attach to a movement beginning with elders themselves to advance the well-working of their entire order!
My aim, in what follows, is humbly to contribute to this result; and happy shall I esteem myself if I am enabled in any measure, however small, to facilitate and expedite so desirable a consummation.
The design of this Treatise is wholly practical. It may
be proper, however, to begin with a statement of proof, since appeals have little force when they are not based on conviction,