網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

sure of other engagements, and the magnitude of his charge, are so widely separated. But if an elder have a small district, he can, without undue effort, see all whom it comprises in a shorter time, and therefore more frequently. It is also prejudicial to the status of elders, that they be never seen unless in attendance with the minister, as if their presence were only subsidiary and accessory, and too unimportant to be valued by itself. To all this it may be added, that an elder may say much in the minister's absence, which could not be so well said in his presence. There may be an opportunity of removing false impressions about his ministrations which obstruct their success, and especially of enforcing attendance on his bible classes, or other means of improvement, without any appearance of personal compliment.

In every view, then, it is desirable that an elder visit his district apart. To promote the performance of this service, the ultimatum of time allowed for it should be defined, and a regulation should be adopted, that every elder see all the members in his appropriated section at least every six months. A day, also, should be fixed for receiving from every elder a report, written or oral, of his half-yearly visitation. Is it objected that the proposal requires too much! Not, it may be answered, if the district be small; and especially not too much, if, in ordinary circumstances, the elder simply look in upon the family, and ask how it fares with them, Persons who have other ends in view—who are prosecuting, for example, a political canvass, can ransack hundreds of abodes in a

[ocr errors]

few days or hours; and can an elder not see twenty or thirty families, to whom he stands most sacredly related, in the course of six months ? But the mere seeing of them, it may be objected, could do little good; and, unless they are to be exhorted and prayed with, the visit may as well be dispensed with. The objection is not valid. A flying visit, where nothing more is practicable, will suffice to preserve acquaintance with the people, and to keep all matters of registration in thorough order. But these are minor benefits, and come far short of exhausting the happy results of an elder's stated attentions, however transient. The elder misconceives his position, who makes so little account of his own calls. He does not know how kindly they are taken-how they endear him to abodes familiar with his accents, and every way aug. ment his influence with the flock of which he is an overseer. Let him try the plan; let him give it a fair and full trial. It will commend. itself; it will present opportunities of doing good which he never thought of, and which could not be foreseen. Let him not defer his visits till the last month of the allotted six, and then be driven from them by some untoward casualty. Let him accomplish them the first month, and if he can introduce another visit into the remaining five, so much the better. But whatever may be thought of times and modes, let the service be performed. With all the urgency compatible with respect, I do say—visit the people. I have other suggestions to give, other duties to dwell upon, but they all suppose and require a frequent communica ,

tion between members of the church and their chosen superintendents. Suspend this intercourse, and all effort relaxes, all interest ceases. The electric chain is broken, and the current of celestial fire is arrested and lost.

An elder should attend to all in his district, and to - all impartially; but even a perfect impartiality does

not suppose a literal equality in his attentions. There are some who require more of his oversight than others. I notice three classes of these : the sick, the backsliding, and the young.

Sect. 4.-An elder is expected, and bound to be specially attentive to the sick. In a time of trouble, his friendly offices are most prized, and are likely to be most useful. He may sometimes have it in his power to benefit the afflicted in temporal respects, as well as by spiritual consolation. When the sufferers are poor, he can bring their case under the attention of those who are able to relieve them; and they are hard-hearted, indeed, who might relieve sore calamily, and refuse to do so on an elder's representation. Many will be glad to help the straitened, having such unequivocal testimony that they can do it with effect —that the persons pleaded for are truly necessitous, and will turn the aid administered to good account. Where a sick person is injured by the officious thronging of visitants into the sick chamber, and the relatives in attendance have not the discretion or courage to check the impropriety, an elder may sometimes interpose his counsel in a gentle, inoffensive, and yet

efficacious manner. But while these matters have their importance, and indicate a species of humane attentions very becoming in a spiritual functionary, there can be no doubt that an elder enters the house of mourning chiefly in the character of a religious adviser. Happy is the office-bearer who understands and performs this duty well; to excel in this province is not the attainment of all rulers, or all teachers, nor is it given even to every master in Israel. There is a certain tact, a certain delicacy, in aptly handling the bruised reed, and fostering the smoking flax, that can neither be written in rules nor learned from them. Yet some hints derived from experience may not be altogether useless.

The sick should be visited promptly; for an elder will be stung to hear that such an one has died in his district, whom he might have seen, and did not, during illness: and he will poorly satisfy his own mind by saying--I had no idea the illness was of that violent character: had I supposed that any immediate danger was apprehended, I would have gone with all speed. It is unspeakably better to act in these cases with a celerity which leaves no delay to be explained or palliated. The members of the congregation ought to inform the elder when there is any affliction in their families. But, if they do not, he should not reckon such information, when he learns the fact otherwise, an indispensable pre-requisite to his visit. It is an excellent rule, never to take offence at real or supposed slights in connection with illnesses or bereavements; for people are not themselves at such

times, and it is cruel to measure their acts by a rigid criticism. At all events, the sending or not sending for an elder, often lies more with the relatives than with the immediate sufferer, and he should not be punished for their inadvertency. Invited, then, or not, the elder, in all ordinary circumstances, should lose no time in visiting the house of mourning. How desirable is it that he come early, if he is to come in • the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ !'

It is not necessary, and, unless in unusual circumstances, it is not proper that he stay long. The suffering and enfeebled frame is easily exhausted, and therefore the words spoken in such cases should be few and well chosen.

Exhortations and prayers should both be brief, and we should be on our guard not to prolong them. It were well that all who visit the sick adopted the suggestion, for there is no just idea of the mischief done by sitting for half hours at a sick bed, and thus taxing unduly the attention of a patient. Besides, if an elder's visits are short, he can make them the more frequent; and if he soon leave and soon return, he will find this distribution of his time assigned for such duty at once the most acceptable and the most edifying.

It is reasonable to suppose that sick persons and their friends will be often desirous to elicit an elder's opinion of the nature of a malady, or its probable danger. He should not, however, affect medical skill if it be not possessed by him, and should be slow to shake confidence in professional advisers. In so far as he remarks on the complaint, he must beware of

« 上一頁繼續 »