« 上一頁繼續 »
association would rather commend a beaten track. What a comfort were it to these aged servants of Christ, to see this revival of his cause both begun and prospering in their hands—to see the sun rising on Zion when their own sun is going down to see not ouly their children's children, but peace upon
Israel! The youthful among our elders may not say, 'It were presumptuous in us to stir in these matters.' We vindicate the appointment of such to the office, on the principle that the church needs not only the wisdom which years teach, but the valour and enterprise which youth inspires. That the argument is sound, it lies with them to demonstrate to prove, not by words, but by deeds, by infusing a freshness of fervency into all our operations. The apostles, when chosen to the apostleship, were almost all young men. Consider what they did, and be followers of Christ, as ye have them for examples !
There is not a little to discourage us in present prospects. The decline of Protestantism, and return to Papal error, in England, is particularly appalling. But show us that Presbytery reforms itself, while Episcopacy matures and multiplies its corruptions, and we shall not fear the aggressions either of prelatical or papistical intolerance. Give us an eldership succeeding to the spirit and to the labours, as they do to the plainness of the apostles, and we cede all that remains of apostolic succession to the eulogists of its virtue.
What, then, is to be done? I have answered the question already; and I would have all whom I ad
dress to answer it now for themselves. Let each take counsel in his own soul, and earnestly and prayerfully deliberate with himself what he might do which he is leaving undone for the bringing again of Zion. Let elders take up the subject in session assembled. Let session communicate with session, and those in one presbytery with those in another, till all our eldership be as one man in elevating christian practice to scriptural principle. Begin such measures and suspend them not till something good, till something great emerge from this movement, till God overrule it for establishing Jerusalem, and making her la praise in the earth,
. Is. Isi. 7.
ON THE LIABILITY OF
ELDERS AND OTHER ECCLESIASTICAL
ACTIONS FOR DAMAGES FOR THEIR OFFICIAL ACTS
" Actions of slander are of two kinds,- either the defender has, or he has not a right to speak of the pursuer. If he has not, he " is liable in damages, if the accusation is false. If he has the “ right, then he is protected, unless he maliciously makes the ac"cusation. In the first case, it is not necessary to state malice, as as it is sufficient if falsehood and injury is proved; but in the second " case, malice must be stated and proved, as it is the ground of '" the action.”—Lord Chief Commissioner Adam,
In the exercise of their official duties, elders are called upon to inquire into, and pronounce judgment on the character and conduct of the members of the church. If a member be charged, either by common report or otherwise, with immorality, it becomes the duty of the elder, either with or without sessional authority, to investigate into the truth of the matter, and with this view to apply to parties supposed capable of affording information, and when he has done so, to report to his brethren in session the result of his inquiries. Sometimes, too, an elder may be called on to act the part of a prosecutor, either before the session or presbytery, and in that character
to make a formal charge against an individual, and bring forward evidence in support of it. As a session, also, elders are called on to deal with offenders, or persons accused of immoralities—to state their opinions in regard to the guilt of such persons; and, if satisfied of the proof before them, to pass and record a sentence of adequate censure, rebuking the party, suspending him from church privileges, or, it may be, expelling him from the communion of the body. Now, the law does not, in the case of general society, permit such interference on the part of one man with the character and conduct of another, as all this plainly implies; and were any man to attempt it with regard to his neighbour, he would subject himself in damages, if he could not plead such a privilege to do so as the courts of law will sanction ;and seeing that the duty of elders, according to the Presbyterian constitution, requires such a procedure, it becomes an important question, whether, in dissenting communities especially, elders or other ecclesiastical office-bearers have the right referred to in the quotation prefixed to this paper, and how far they may deal with the characters of those under their inspection, without subjecting themselves to actions for slander and defamation ; for, if the law makes no exception in their case, it is obvious that their duties cannot be safely discharged.
I have no hesitation in saying, however, that the law of the land does make an exception in their favour—that it will protect sessions and other church courts collectively, and the members of them individually, so long as they act according to and keep within the rules and usages of the denomination to which they belong. And I found this assertion on these three maxims: 1st, Internal government is essential to the existence of every established or tolerated religious society; 21, The connection which