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of Popery, than a century ago, Geneva was near to Unitarianism and Neology. It has been stated publicly, and without contradiction, by one of the most devout and cautious among the ministers of London, at a public meeting recently held in that metropolis, that of the eighteen thousand clergy of various orders connected with the Church of England, not more than three thousand could be found willing to subscribe any declaration whatever against the new phase of Popery, designated Puseyism. Yes, the enemy is sowing tares over all the British soil, the most unfit of all seasons, assuredly, for men to sleep.'*
There are other qualifications for the eldership which might have been introduced and discussed with great propriety. But I have already given a sample sufficiently large, perhaps, to appear formidable; and of a nature so fundamental and comprehensive, that they cannot be dutifully pondered without suggesting all the rest.
After showing how much elders have to do, and how much they have to learn, it is time to direct their attention to more encouraging views of their office.
State of Religion in Geneva and Belgium.
ELDERS have many and great encouragements in executing their office. All of them centre in the fact that it is of divine appointment. It has been impressively said of the ministry, and may with equal truth be affirmed of the eldership-This subordinate rule is all derived from Christ. It is the Lord who makes them rulers in his household. In that family none has authority, in the strictest sense of the term, but HE. No king, no parliament, no man, no body of men, has any right to constitute men stewards over the family of God. That belongs to Him who is Jehovah, “set as his King on the holy hill of Zion," to Him who is set as "a Son over his own house." All church power comes forth from Him. The steward or overseer, though chosen, if such be the appointment of the Master, by his fellow-servants, is to be guided in managing the household not by their will, but by the will of their common Lord.'*
Hence it follows,
1. That the office is honourable in itself. They who would not be the servants of subjects, are yet proud
* Discourse on the death of the Rev. Robert Balmer, D.D., by the Rev. John Brown, D.D., Edinburgh, p. 25.
to be in the service of a sovereign; and the greater and more illustrious a sovereign is, the more eager are the ambitious to fill places around the throne. Shall it be reckoned no distinction, then, no gratifying and animating distinction, to hold a public trust from the King of kings, and Lord of lords—from Him who is God orer all, blessed for ever? Elders may have temporal callings, and spend much of their time even in manual labours; but all this held true of Paul, without invalidating the authority and dignity of a higher vocation. They may be called lay elders, as if to divest them of all ecclesiastical ståtås; but human appellations cannot annul or modify a divine institution; and an elder, entering his ecclesiastical functions in a scriptural manner, and cherishing the spirit while performing the duties of his post, is as truly an office-bearer in the church as were the prophets and priests under a former economy, or the apostles and evangelists under a newer and better dispensation. He is the servant of the most high God! What a power is there! what an impulse in that single consideration! If his heart misgive him, at any time, in struggling with official difficulties; if he be tempted to be ashamed or dismayed under the odium and sneers to which fidelity may sometimes subject him, he
well be reassured and emboldened on looking at his commission, his divine commission, and seeing it subscribed by the King's own hand, and sealed with the King's own signet !
From the fact that the office is of divine appointment, it follows,
2. That all its engagements are of a beneficent character. They must be worthy of that God who assigns them ; and we know that 'the Lord is good; that his mercy is everlasting; and that his truth endureth to all generations.'* It is true, indeed, that God may punish transgressors by the instrumentality of his serrants. We find angels not unfrequently employed in destroying his enemies; and the civil magistrate is 'the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.'t Even in these cases the honoured agents of Jehovah have ample assurance that their commission is not malevolent—that in doing what is commanded, they do what is right in itself, and will prove blissful in its tendencies—and that when the end and the effect are fully developed, these will warrant, and from all pure intelligences elicit, the ejaculation, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints! Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy, for all nations shall come and worship before thee, for thy judgments are made manifest!
But the work assigned to elders is not of this avenging nature. Their office finds its place in a great scheme of mercy, and ranks with the institutions of that gospel which brings glad tidings of great joy to all people. They have to be with’ Christ, and to gather with's him, when he comes in his providence as he has come in person, to seek and to save
* Psalm c. 5.
| Rev. xv. 3, 4.
Rom. xii. 4. 8 Matt. xii. 3.
that which is lost. It is theirs, more especially, to act under the Great Shepherd, when he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.'*
They are a gift from Christ to his church; and as we may be sure that so munificent a Lord will not make paltry and unprofitable presents, we are informed that he hath given these and like functionaries for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.'t To elders it belongs to tend the sheep for whom the Good Shepherd laid down his life; to inspirit them when they are obedient; to reclaim them when they are erring; to screen and protect them when they are in danger. Is there no happiness in doing all this good to those whom Christ loves so tenderly? The privilege, it must be owned, is poorly appreciated by multitudes. * All,' says an apostle, 'seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's ;'1 and the averment made of that generation is too-applicable to the present. To seek, however, is not to secure one's own. Satisfaction is too noble a prize to be won by selfishness. They who seek their own may so far succeed ; they may acquire their own gain, their own fame, their own power—but not their own happiness. When all the means are apparently grasped, the end still eludes them. If we would reach true joy, we must cherish a true philanthropy, 'not seeking our own profit, but * John x. 3.
† Eph. iv. 12, 13. | Phil. ü. 21.