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the profit of many, that they may be saved."* What we must seek is the happiness of others, of relatives, of friends, of the church, of the world; and while theirs is sought, our own will come unsought, and take us by agreeable surprise. To impose a rein on presumptuous sin, to guide the step of anxious inquiry, to rear the olive branch orer subdued contentions, to shed a ray of hope on the realms of despair, or insinuate a healing balm into wounded spirits—that is wealth, that is victory, that is bliss; and that is the daily service of a sincere and strenuous eldership."
From the divine appointment of this office it follows—
3. That they who fill it in dependence on God's grace, are secured of all needful assistance in discharging ils duties. God can give them aid of an external and visible character. He can make them strong in their pastor. A minister owes much to the eldership. He should always treat thern with personal respect; he should be always consulting them in his official measures; he should delight in vindicating them from reproaches, and cheering their constancy by just commendations; and elders who are on this footing with their minister will find, in his standing and influence, their own walls and bulwarks. Indeed, the efficiency of a minister is, of itself, an invaluable help to godly elders. Their minds are set on the prosperity of the congregation; and when after a time perhaps of decay and trouble, they see jarring elements harmonised, and languishing interests renovated by the impulsive hand of high pastoral fidelity, how
* 1 Cor. x. 31.
can they but hail the benign dispensation, and be emboldened, in the contemplation of it, to thank God and take courage! Must it not rejoice their hearts to have a man after God's own heart for their chosen teacher and official fellow-labourer?
God can make an elder strong in the other members of session. He can bring into the office men • full of faith and power;'* and an elder who quailed when he was alone, and when he thought only of himself, may be ashamed of his timidity, and inspired with new vigcur in the assembly of his brethren.
God can encourage elders through the church superintended by them. The church may do incalculably much to inspirit its office-bearers. It is a great encouragement to them to be, first of all, called by the Lord's people to the Lord's work. On this ground it is deeply to be lamented that, even where the elec. tion of elders is perfectly free, the number who vote is often so limited. This narrow exercise of the suffrage is injurious in many ways. It brings discredit on christian liberty as of no value in the estimation of them who have it; and it enables any knot of individuals to bring into the session a favourite of their own, who may be little qualified for the trust, and very obnoxious to the congregation generally. But what I chiefly remark upon now is, the discouraging effect of such fractional voting on the elders elect. They might recognise the voice of God in the vote of the church ; but can they recognise the vote of the church in some twenty or thirty uplifted bands amid
* Acts vi. 8.
hundreds of church members ? On the other hand, a well-supported choice is equally efficacious for good. It carries power in its appeal, and is remembered with a soothing and sustaining delight by elders, so chosen, to the last day of their life. If, then, the church would encourage its overseers, let them be borne into office on the full and flowing tide of a congregational invitation. The church may greatly encourage its elders after they have been invested with office. It can support them in the firm administration of discipline, instead of seconding the resistance of wounded and impenitent pride. It can favourably entertain the measures which they set on foot for its own immediate benefit, or the evengelisation of the world through its instrumentality; it can defray, cheerfully and liberally, the expense incurred by them in representing its interests at presbyteries and synods; and it might place in their hands a small but select library specifically adapted for their official necessities and accountabilities. Labour becomes light, when performed for a congregation thus 'knowing them who are over it in the Lord, and esteeming them very highly in lore for their work's sake.' *
God can encourage elders through the visible fruits of their labours. They may learn of cases where persons, in attending their prayer meetings, have become devotional. The children whom they have trained in the way in which they should go, as they become old, may not be departing from it; and they may have to tell of those who have passed from their
* 1 Thess. v. 12, 13..
youthful classes to the superintendence of the young, to the secretaryships and treasurerships of religious associations, to the work of the ministry at home, or the far off fields of missionary enterprise abroad. They may know of sighs, through God's blessing or their words of comfort, transformed into songs; or may meet in the streets the patterns of sobriety whom their timely remonstrance had snatched from dissipation. These are seals of office which sparkle with light from heaven, and lift the heart to the Father of lights, whose image is reflected in his own credentials!
But, suppose that all these encouragements should fail; suppose that elders should be weak in their minister, impeded and opposed in brethren, disappointed and griered in the congregation, and unacquainted with any fruits of righteousness produced by their labours; even on this extreme supposition, God can still uphold them by his own Spirit working in them mightily.'* If they object faint-heartedly, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child,' he can reply, “Say not, I am a child : for thou shalt
to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee, thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.'t He can make the language of David theirs: 'I will praise thy name for thy loving-kindness, and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. In the day when I cried, thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.'1 If they have to relate with
* Col. i. 29. † Jer. i. 6-8. | Ps. cxxxviii. 2, 3.
Paul-No man stood with me, but all men forsook me,' they may be enabled with him to subjoin‘Notwithstanding the Lord stood withme, and strengthened me; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever.
Amen.'* To be shut out from earthly help is doubtless awing; but if it prove a shutting up to heavenly succours, the gain is greater than the loss. Indeed, the divine faithfulness cannot be fully appreciated till it is trusted alone, and yet trusted absolutely; and many a time has God demolished other reliances, that he might vindicate the sufficiency of his unaided arm. To trust in God only, and in God wholly; to look away even from his works, and find a perfect, infinite, and eternal inheritance in himself,—this is the victory of faith and the reign of grace; and happy are they who mourn if they are to be thus comforted.
From the divine appointment of this office, it follows,
4. That all who have filled it, in its own spirit, have borne testimony to its desirableness. The true servants of Jehovah have ever found him a kind Master; and there hath not failed ought of any good thing which the Lord hath spoken unto the house of Israel.'t That elders find themselves happy in the discharge of their functions is in many ways evinced. Though numbers of them have great difficulty in accepting * 2 Tim. iv. 16-18.
of Josh. xxi. 45.