« 上一頁繼續 »
thought he mistakes his undertaking. He must regulate his reading with a view to their benefit, and, so often as other engagements will permit bim, should prepare particularly for each particular meeting with them. The ever-recurring secret of success is thus seen to be labour. If any desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work; and ruling elders are bishops in the nomenclature of scripture. Miraculous gifts have been withdrawn; and, though that undefinable quality genius were as prevalent as it is rare, it would not supply the place of diligence. Indeed, inspiration itself did not release its subjects from exertion, but rather stimulated them to surpassing effort; for the apostle of the Gentiles, as he excelled others in preternatural endowments, also laboured more abundantly than they all.'*
Classes of the kind now under consideration are commonly superintended by the minister. Where this is the case, they are best held on a week-day evening; for the minister is then in better mood for conducting them vigorously, than after being fatigued by his pulpit services; and whoever may be the teacher, it is well to have the week's worldliness relieved by intermediate devotions, and the maxim practically inculcated, that religion is not the business of the Sabbath exclusively, but generally of life. Let not impossibility be hastily pleaded. There are flourishing week-day classes of this nature both in country districts and in towns, and if others in similar localities be declining or extinct, the cause may be circumstan
* 1 Cor. xv. 10.
tial and not essential. Let the mode be doubted of, and once and again altered in order to be amended, before suspecting or changing the day, at the expense of resigning six days to unbroken secularity, and crowding all such labours into the day of rest.
In some cases, the minister, from age and infirmity, or other causes, cannot hold these classes, and then the charge of them devolves on the elders. They may be often conducted advantageously by both; but abandoned by both they should never be. In the history of my own congregation, these classes, as formerly conducted by elders, have proved a signal blessing. One who experienced their benefit, thus speaks of them in our last year's congregational report:-Several of the elders had classes in their respective proportions—a practice, the advantages of which cannot easily be estimated. During the last four
years of Dr Dick's life, a class was conducted in the session-house by Messrs James Sommerville and David Anderson. Of those who attended this class during the last two years of its existence, several females have become instructors of the ignorant, and all the male scholars, without exception, have been employed as Sabbath school teachers.'
Let all our congregations, then, have their senior as well as junior classes. In regulating youth, we are regulating manhood and womanhood; for, in all ordinary cases, the one period of life fixes the character of the other. A special difficulty is sometimes complained of, in securing the attendance of young men. But the end is too important to be hastily relinquished.
Much should be done to gain their presence and sustain their interest. We thus influence their views and habits at the only time when modelling agency can be applied with any degree of facility, or any likelihood of success.
Soon, very soon, the affairs of the world will be entrusted to them ; soon, very soon, the interests of Christ's church itself will pass subordinately into their hands; and to initiate and ground them in a well-informed, and sober-minded, and vitally-energetic piety, is doing the noblest service that can be done to secure and expedite the glory of the latter days.
There is another species of attentions to the young, which it is of great consequence they should receive. It is well known that every year brings a large influx of youth into our commercial cities. Some of these young persons conduct themselves with propriety, and become the ornament and strength of churches to which they attach themselves. But the dangers to which the inexperienced are exposed in our large towns are very great; and it is melancholy to think how
many of them are seduced into “the paths of the destroyer.' * We have our bills of mortality, and they are gloomy records; but still more affecting would be the recorded wrecks of juvenile promise and parental anticipation.
In so far as these youthful entrants into cities can be induced to attend classes for religious instruction, a great object is accomplished. But not a few of them are debarred, by circumstances, from making
* Ps. xvii. 4.
use of such means of improvement. Are they to be neglected, then, or merely receive a stated visit with other members and adherents of the congregation ? Their case requires more consideration and sympathy. Very possibly their new pastor has received a letter of introduction with them—a letter from their parents breathing all the solicitude of parental affection; or, from their former pastor, testifying that hitherto they have deported themselves commendably, and soliciting a watchful eye on their future behaviour. A minister has little of the spirit of his office who does not feel interested in the charge so committed to him: but he cannot do all that he would; and, when he has done his utmost in these instances, he is painfully impressed with the insufficiency of his services. The elders can come to his help. Each member of session can give attention to some of these youths; and, by showing them a little domestic kindness, may augment the effect of official counsels. Elders may also introduce them to church members of respectable standing and beneficent disposition; and thus the pensive and unprotected stranger may speedily find himself at home, and fenced about by all the influences of christian friendship from the perilous snares on which he was stumbling.
Sect. 7.—There are some engagements which have not regard exclusively to any class of persons, but which, as being conducted by elders individually, naturally fall under this division of my subject. Of these I shall notice only-district prayer meetings.
Many passages of scripture point to the duty and advantage of such assemblings for-supplication: Again I say unto you,' declares our Lord emphatically, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.'* We find some of the most remarkable manifestations of God's presence and goodness recorded in scripture as being made to companies of disciples who were thus occupied: 'And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.'t Is it asked in what they all accorded? The explanation is furnished in the preceding context: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.' Peter and John, on their release from imprisonment, 'went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul.' When Herod stretched forth his hand to vex certain of the church, Peter, by his orders was kept in prison; but prayer was made without
* Matt. xviii. 19.
+ Acts ii. 1, 2. & Acts iv, 23.
| Acts i. 14.