« 上一頁繼續 »
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
In the former Editions of this Volume, I discussed with some comprehensiveness the subject of ecclesiastical polity. In the present Edition that part is omitted, because I design to merge the substance of it in a Reply to the Recent Defences of Independerlcy by Drs Wardlaw and Davidson. * I have been the more willing to follow this course, that I have had counsels from various quarters to make this Treatise more thoroughly practical in its character, and hence more apprehensible and acceptable to the majority of readers.
In place of the general disquisition on church government, I have introduced here a short statement of the proof for the particular office of which I delineate the duties.
For the sake of brevity, I omit former Prefaces and all extraneous matter-making all considerations bend to the one object of furnishing a very cheap and very portable directory for Elders.
* Congregational Independency, in contradistinction to Episcopacy and Presbyterianism, the Church Polity of the New Testament. By Ralph Wardlaw, D.D. Glasgow, 1848.
“The Ecclesiastical Polity of the New Testament unfolded, and its points of coincidence or disagreement with prevailing systems indicated.' By Samuel Davidson, LL.D., Professor of Biblical Literature in the Lancashire Independent College. London, 1848.
It may suffice to state here that this work originated in an appointment which I received to deliver an Address on the Duties and Encouragements of Elders, at a meeting of the United Associate Presbytery of Glasgow, held in June, 1844. The officebearers then assembled, consisting of the Members of Presbytery and a large body of Elders, requested me to publish the Address, and a wish at the same time was pretty generally expressed that I would extend my remarks, and discuss the subject of the Ruling Eldership in all its more important relations and bearings.
The Second Edition appeared in 1846, and the practical part, as then published, is now retained with very little alteration.
The Appendix, most kindly prepared for this Edition by my esteemed friend, James Peddie, Esq., W.S., will be found to be of great value in aiding our churches to regulate discipline, so as to avoid collision with the law of the land.
It is due to the publishers to state, that, with their wonted liberality, they have undertakers, for the benefit of Elders, to bring out this Treatise at a price which excludes all idea of profit, and entails a likelihood of considerable sacrifice, unless the sale should prove very extensive.
GLASGOW, March, 1851.
THE RULING ELDERSHIP.
SCOTLAND is deeply indebted to the Ruling Elders of its Presbyterian denominations. A large portion of them have sustained a character becoming their oflice, and by their disinterested labours have done very much to build up the congregations with which they were more immediately connected, and to promote, in a wider range, the general interests of a common christianity. Their lives, if intimately known and faithfully recorded, would furnish, in many instances, most genuine additions to christian biography. It would be found that numbers of them were led in early life to consider the things which belonged to their peace. Possibly they were distracted for a season by doubts and fears, and much occupied in anxious reading, reflection, and prayer; but ultimately they were rescued from these perplexities, and being justified by 'faith, had peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Their personal piety commended itself in its fruits, and more and more
developed itself in a diffusive usefulness. Yet their attainments and services becoming so appreciable by others, may have been very lowly esteemed by themselves. The consciousness of much deficiency and sinfulness may have often distressed them almost to deapair-often clouded their interest in Christ, and, to their own view, brought its very existence under suspicion. So that, when they were chosen by the church to take an oversight of its interests, they may have shrunk from the proffered appointment, as only rebuking the defects and faults which unfitted them for its duties. Pressed, however, by influences which they were bound to respect, they did enter, possibly with trembling step, into sacred office. Its duties, even at the first, did not prove to a willing mind so formidable as had been dreaded. Ere long they became congenial and pleasing to beneficent habits; and thus the faithful servant grew in affection and adaptation for his calling, till He who assigned the service exchanged it for rest, and an entrance was ministered abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.'* Such, with due allowance for that diversity which prevails in the spiritual, as well as natural creation_such is an epitome of the career, steadfastly prosecuted and triumphantly concluded, by many who have held in our churches that honourable trust of which I have to treat. And we might lament that so little justice is done to their memory, were we not assured that their works, and labours, and patience
2 Peter i. 11.