網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

does not decide the question. Is God as feeble as yourself? Is his grace a phantom? Are his promises illusory? Can he not put his treasure in you, an earthen vessel as you are, and there keep it safely, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of men ? God can do all this. If he be trusted for it, he will do all; and the conduct which says that he cannot, and will not, has only the fair semblance of humility, and the dark reality of unbelief. "Be strong, and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed."

Deut. xxxi. 7, &

CONCLUSION.

were

PERHAPS more than enough has been already said, yet I cannot bring myself to conclude without a few closing paragraphs of appeal. There is an important movement at present on the part of elders, and it must have great effects, good or bad. If the result a confirmed indifference, even that effect would be vast and eventful on the side of calamity. But we are not disposed to indulge these gloomy prognostications. It is a delightful token for good, that elders themselves are the principal agents in devising and propelling measures for the fuller commendation of their office. The subject has been long and seriously pondered by many of them; and when action is the result of deliberate and prayerful reflection, we look the more confidently for its prosperous issue. The cause must not be relinquished by them. In the exercise of that faith which worketh by love, they must advance with a growing energy, and neither fail nor be discouraged, till they have secured for this divine ordinance all its scriptural elevation and soulsaving efficiency.

It is not meant that teaching elders should stand

[ocr errors]

aside, while ruling elders are aiming at sessional improvement. The ministers of the word must do all that in them lies to second the praiseworthy endeavours of their brethren in office. There has been a lamentable remissness in this respect hitherto. Incalculably much has been done to advance the proficiency of ministers and students, and also of private christians. Books and addresses, without number, have been written, which present in every possible aspect the obligations and privileges of all these classes. But our sessions have been nearly overlooked, and a passing notice of their appointment in the more general defences of presbytery, exhibits most of the attention with which they have been honoured. Up to this hour there are hundreds of them who, in relation to their office, know not what treatises to consult for their own satisfaction and guidance. The progress in this work has been one of declension ; for in older times each presbytery maintained a constant communication with the sessions in its bounds, and strictly inquired into their condition and faithfulness. The like instru. mentality should be instituted afresh. There is no class in our churches so accessible as elders ; none so capable of profiting by wise and friendly suggestions, and none whom it is so important to benefit, for the edifiration of others. In every view, then, it is of high consequence that presbyteries and synods open up a correspondence with sessions, and strengthen their hands in the effort now making for the augmentation of their usefulness. The presbyteries of the Church of Scotland, in their parochial visitations, were wont

to put such questions as these to the minister of the parish, regarding his elders and deacons :

• 1. Is your session rightly constitute, and all the elders and deacons duly admitted according to the acts of the Assembly? 2. Do they all attend gospel ordinances and the diets of the session ? 3. Are they grave, pious, and exemplary in their lives and conversation? Do they worship God in their families ? Is any of your elders an ignorant man, a drinker of healths, a tippler, a drinker excessively to drunkenness, a swearer, an observer of Yule-days, etc. ? Is he one that observes not the Sabbath? Is he careful to keep his oath of admission taken before God in face of the congregation, not to delate or censure, but as edification requires ? Do any of them work on solemn fast or thanksgiving days? Is any of them a mocker of piety? 4. Are they diligent, careful, and impartial in the exercise of their offices? Do the elders visit the families within the quarter and bounds assigned to each of them? Are they careful to have the worship of God set up in the families of their bounds? Are they careful in calling for testimonials from persons who come to reside in the parish? Do the elders take all discipline upon themselres without the minister? Or do they labour to carry things factiously, or by plurality of voices, contrary to God's word, and the laudable acts of the presbytery, provincial or General Assemblies? 5. Have the elders subscribed the Confession of Faith? And are they well affected to the government, worship, and discipline of this church? 6. Have the elders and deacons their distinct bounds

assigned them for their particular inspection! 7. Does your session always appoint a ruling elder to attend presbyteries and synods ? 8. Are the deacons faithful in their office, in collecting and distributing all the kirk-goods, and in having a care of the sick poor ? After all these queries are over, the minister and elders are to be severally encouraged and admonished as the presbytery sees need.'* The foregoing list of queries contains some which would now be reckoned of doubtful propriety, and omits others of great and obvious consequence to be proposed. But such as it is, we may recognise in it a plan of operation which we would do well to re-adopt in its essential provisions while we carefully denude it of collateral abuses. This return to former usage is in fact commenced. Different presbyteries have set on foot a profitable correspondence with their respective sessions, and it is to be hoped that these initiatory steps will terminatè in a matured and well-digested scheme for directing and stimulating the devotedness of the eldership from one extremity of the land to the other.

It is an excellent arrangement which has been lately introduced of inviting all the elders in a presbytery to some of its meetings, that they may join in its devotional exercises, hear a word of exhortation on their proper duties, and confer together on matters of practical and general interest.

The great apostle of the Gentiles, who addressed the Ephesian elders convened by him at Meletus, would

Collections by Steuart of Pardovan, Book i. Tit. xiii. pp. 51, 52.

« 上一頁繼續 »