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DUTIES OF ELDERS.
DUTIES COMMON TO THEM WITH OTHERS- DEPORTMENT IN SECULAR AFFAIRS, GOVERNMENT OF THEIR OWN FAMILIES.
ELDERS have duties common to them with others, which do not immediately respect their office, but of which the performance or neglect very seriously affects their official standing. Here I will remark on their deportment in secular affairs, and on the government of their own families.
SECT. 1.-Most of our elders are engaged in business; no small proportion of them are tradesmen, and have to say, with an apostle, 'These hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.' It is of great importance that christians, and especially christian elders, should so deport themselves in worldly transactions, as not to convey the impression of being worldly characters. Of course
* Acts xx. 34.
it is not meant that they should be remiss in their temporal callings, or place themselves at the mercy of any extortioners who would practise on their simplicity. Consideration, and diligence, and frugality, in prosecuting their secular vocations, are not only allowable, but positively incumbent, that they may walk honestly towards them that are without, that they may provide for their own families, and that they may have to give to him that needeth. Pecuniary embarrassments in any circumstances,-and, above all, when resulting from culpable indiscretion, -form a decided obstruction to an elder's usefulness. A due regard, however, to such considerations, is perfectly compatible with an estimable deportment in business communications. It is undesirable that an elder be characteristically a hard man,-that he pass in the commercial circle for what is there termed a Jew. A noted greed of gain, a keenness above common, in looking to self-interest,-these are not traits which recommend his ecclesiastical position. Nor is it certain that his outward circumstances themselves will be thus benefited. Generally speaking, there is little gained by that gait and bearing which evince avarice. A man whom it is difficult to deal with, is not, therefore, in all cases or most cases, the more prosperous in his dealings. To beset, and importune, and flatter, in driving a good bargain,-to hesitate, and stickle, and argue, on the last item of contested terms, while a reluctance is manifested to cede advantage equalling the eagerness to take advantage,all this may occasionally succeed, but the success is
limited, and is commonly neutralised by injurious tendencies. How much better is it to shun the semblance of a sordid cupidity to evince a still greater dread of wronging than of being wronged-and ever to maintain, broad and wide, the distinction between a reasonable industry and insatiable covetousness! In such praiseworthy conduct there may be nothing of positive piety-no exhibition whatever of religious truth; but there is a beautiful harmony with religious profession and, to act otherwise, and exhibit an unfavourable contrast with many secular men in their own province the only province in which numbers of them meet with christians at all—is dishonouring to our holy faith, and brings religious principle under obloquy and doubt. Let our elders, then, as business men, walk circumspectly. Let them remember in the market-place their relation to the sanctuary, and do nothing for gain derogatory to godliness. By all means, let them be diligent in business; yet so as to be 'fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.'*
SECT. 2.-Most of our elders are heads of families; and there is no requisite to efficient rule in the church, on which the apostle Paul insists more particularly than the proper government of one's own house: 'A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection, with all gravity; for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall
Rom. xii. 11.
he take care of the church of God?'* These statements are strong and explicit on the subject to which they have respect, and we need not be surprised at the consequence which they assign to domestic superintendence. A man's family are so identified with himself, that their good or ill behaviour must reflect honour or dishonour on his own head. When members of the church know that he commands little respect at home, and that all is insubordination and anarchy under his own roof, they cannot be much disposed, by acquaintance with such facts, to yield him, where his claims are weaker, a willing subjection in the Lord. Besides, as the passages quoted above suggest, much the same qualifications are necessary to efficiency in both situations; and a proved incapacity in the one, is therefore a valid ground of exclusion from the other. Both require a happy combination of kindness and firmness; in both, a measi re of system, and constancy in adhering to it, are quite indispensable; and if the family suffer from the absence of such attributes in the regulation of its interests, how shall the church prosper under the identical disqualifications?
Such observations may, indeed, be over-extended. A wise father may have a foolish son; and every elder is not to be denuded of his office whose parental hopes have been miserably blasted by filial misconduct. Certainly not; or Aaron must have lost the priesthood, when Nadab and Abihu offered strange
* 1 Tim. iii. 2, etc.
fire before the Lord;'* and the rebellion of Absalom would have been its own justification, showing, by the fact of its existence, that David was not competent to be king of Israel; and, in a word, our own church would have been deprived, by this test, of some of the best men who have ever adorned its official stations. I might easily give examples, in confirmation of the last statement, but I refrain from citing these honoured names in a connexion so painful. All such modifications and exceptions, however, being admitted, the apostolic rule is clear in its import, and searching in its application. When a child of many pious prayers and counsels turns out ill, the excessive odiousness of the result causes it to be observed and mentioned, and hence the cases appear numerous, from being all known. The dispensations of Providence bear out, as a general truth, the statement— 'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.' † On the whole, the better class of society have sprung from the better class of society; and does not this show that the children of God's servants continue, and that their seed is established before him?' It must be farther remembered, that all good men have their failings, and that, if their besetting sin should happen to be parental remissness, the mere fact of their being good men will not make that sin less heinous in itself, or less ruinous in its consequences. Eli was a good man, but he was an erring father; and hence the judgment
* Lev. x. 1.
+ Prov. xxii. 6.
Ps. cii. 28.