網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

readily for granted. Office-bearers in the church are especially exposed to this temptation. A philosopher, versed in the sciences, is necessarily acquainted with their simple and primary elements; and so a superin

ndent of the church, a judge and guardian of the qualification of its members, can hardly suppose himself devoid of that knowledge which every babe in Christ possesses, and which is supposed in every service which he performs, and every sentence which he utters. Then, all his friends and acquaintances, and christian society, and the community in general, give him credit, as they ought, in charitable construction, for unfeigned godliness; and how hard is it to distrust this concurrent testimony, when it is all in favour of ourselves! It might seem as if the piety of our elders were demonstrated by the very terms on which they hold their office; they serve the church gratui. tously; and what else than sincere and decided religion could prompt and carry on their disinterested labours? The genuineness of piety is not safely inferred from such premises. Ungodly men have crept into spiritual office in every age-not excepting the periods of fiercest persecution. Let none rest, then, in such fallacious evidence, but let all of us give all “diligence to making our calling and election sure.'*

To secure and cherish piety, we must use the means appointed for the end. It is not enough that we come into contact with these means in relation to others; we must frequently engage them expressly for our selves. The word of God should be read daily, with

* 2 Pet. i. 10.

an immediate view to personal profiting. A master in Israel must become as a little child, that he may enter the kingdom, and as a 'new-born babe, desire the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby.'*

The importance of prayer cannot be too highly estimated. In this exercise our Lord spent whole nights. The apostles considered its demands upon their time commensurate with those of preaching, and entitled to be mentioned first: "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and the ministry of the word.'t The constancy of Paul's petitioning is manifest from its particularity: "For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that, without ceasing, I make mention of you always in my prayers.'I 'I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.'S "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.'| Hiş epistles abound with such statements; and it will be well for us, and well for our congregations, if they find an echo in our experience. Some of the Reformers speak of having assigned several hours daily to prayer, though it be difficult to reconcile the averment with their numerous and onerous occupations; and Luther, before being as enlightened in the faith as he afterwards became, was wont to express the assistance which he derived from prayer for other duties by his well-known maximBene precasse est bene studuisse '—to have well

* 1 Pet. ü. 2. I Rom. i. 9.

§ Eph. i. 16.

of Acts vi. 4.

| 1 Thess, i. 2.

frayed is to have well studied.

The following passage on prayer occurs in Fuller's sermon, delivered at the funeral of the Rev. J. Sutcliff: One of the sentences uttered by your deceased pastor, when drawing near his end was, “I wish I had prayed more.” This was one of the weighty sayings which are not unfrequently uttered in the view of the solemn realities of eternity. This wish has often occurred to me since his departure as equally applicable to myself

... . . In reviewing my own life, I wish I had prayed more than I have for the success of the gospel. I have seen enough to furnish me with matter of thanksgiving; but, had I prayed more, I might have seen more. I wish I had prayed more for the salvation of those about me, and who are given me in charge. When the father of the lunatic doubted whether Jesus could do anything for him, he was told in answer that if he could believe, all things were possible. On hearing this, he burst into tears, saying, “ Lord, I believe: help thou mine unbelief.” He seems to have understood our Lord as suggesting that, if the child was not healed, it would not be owing to any want of power in him, but to his own unbelief. This might well cause him to weep and exclaim as he did. The thought of his unbelief causing the death of his child was distressing. The same thought has occurred to me as applicable to the neglect of the prayer of faith. Have I not by this guilty negligence, been accessory to the destruction of some that are dear to me; and were I equally concerned for the souls of my connexions as he was for the life of his child, should I not weep with him? I

wish I had prayed more for my own soul. I might then have enjoyed much more communion with God. The gospel affords the same grounds for spiritual enjoyments as it did to the first christians. I wish I had prayed more than I have in all my undertakings: I might then have had my steps more directed by God, and attended with fewer deviations from his will. There is no intercourse with God without prayer. It is thus that we 6 talk with God, and have our conversation in heaven.") Stimulated by these examples and counsels, let us be 'instant in prayer.' The happy result will show that the prayer of faith' has still power with God, and prevails, that he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.'* In response to our entreaties, he will create in us a clean heart, and renew within us a right spirit-not casting us away from his presence, or taking his Holy Spirit away from us; but restoring unto us the joys of his salvation; and upholding us with his free Spirit. Then shall we teach transgressors his ways; and sinners shall be converted unto

him.'t

CHAPTER III.

KNOWLEDGE:

OLING elders do not pass through a collegiate course in preparation for office, and they are not expected to be deeply learned. They ought, however, to sustain * Ps. cii, 17.

of Ps. li. 10.

and to deserve the cbaracter of being well-informed men. Without a measure of knowledge, both theological and general, surpassing the average attainments of society, they must discharge very imperfectly their important duties. We have seen that they have to comfort the afflicted, to remonstrate with the offending, to instruct the young, to test the knowledge of others; and how shall they do all this, if they are not themselves

well instructed unto the kingdom of God ?' There are other duties belonging to the eldership, for the right fulfilment of which it is still more needful that they give themselves to reading. They sit as members of presbyteries, for example, when discourses, and other exercises of students are judged of; and what a power would the appropriate remarks of such judges possess in recommending to students juster views, or better taste, or a more disciplined accuracy? Even were they not to speak at all on such occasions, of what importance is it for elders to give an enlightened vote on the proficiency of students, and the licensing of probationers ?

Elders should read those works which christians in general read, in consideration of their superior excellence, that has won for them a wide circulation ; and also in order not to be found ignorant where ignorance would be most discreditable. They would be reasonably ashamed if they had to answer, No, when asked whether they had ever read the Pilgrim's Progress, or Boston's Fourfold State, or Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, or James' Anxious Inquirer.

« 上一頁繼續 »