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punctual attendance of elders on the meetings of session is so important, and a contrary practice so pernicious and disheartening, that if an elder cannot or will not appear in his place, to promote with other office-bearers the interests of the church, he incurs a dreadful responsibility in retaining functions which he is failing to fulfil. It is not denied that an elder may be necessarily absent at times from the meetings of session, but let him beware of creating the necessity, and of allowing occasional instances of non-attendance to degenerate into a culpable and destructive habit.
SECT. 2.-The acts of session ought to be regularly minuted. It is of much consequence that the minutes be carefully kept-that they be expressed with tolerable accuracy, and written in a fair legible hand. If possible, they should be completed, read, and approved of, at the meeting of which they record the transactions, as this removes all danger of interpolation, and all suspicion of misstatement. Should the suggestion be found impracticable, pretty full notes, at least, should be taken at the time, and the first business, after the session is constituted, should always be to hear and pass the minutes of the meeting preceding.
SECT. 3.-Mention has been already made of district roll-books. Out of these a congregational roll should be formed by the session, and every care should be exercised to keep it in an accurate condition. Admissions and disjunctions of members should be entered into the record immediately on their
occurrence, that omissions may not happen through procrastination and forgetfulness. A roll of the congregation should be kept by the minister, as well as by the session, and both can be derived and corrected from the same data. As each elder is not only responsible for his own district, but has a general accountability for the state of the congregation, it belongs to all of them to make sure that every one of their number is active and faithful in his particular province. If any portion of the flock be really slighted, while nominally inspected, the evil should. be ascertained, and a remedy applied. The elder who is remiss may plead want of time, or bad health, or the magnitude of his district; and in such a case some new arrangement can be made to relieve him. But on no account should a section of the congregation be left to inquire month by month, and one-half year after another, who its elder is, without seeing any of his own doings to indicate the answer.
It is a first duty of the session, then, to provide that the congregation be well apportioned among its members, and that the arrangements for each district be in good working order.
SECT. 4.-It belongs to the session to admit applicants into the fellowship of the church. In the discharge of this duty, they do well to cherish a deep sense of its importance. What is all other congregational prosperity worth, if our congregations be not composed of genuine believers-if the principle of selection be not at least acknowledged, and with some
fidelity acted on, in our ecclesiastical administration? We may have numerous, intelligent, affluent, and influential audiences; but if no discrimination have been made between the chaff and the wheat-the living and the dead-these audiences, however respectable, are not entitled to be considered christian churches at all. It is only when reasonable evidence of saintship is insisted on, that a stimulus is given to acquire the indispensable qualifications,—it is then only that persons of the same views and spirit, being separated from others, and brought into fellowship, favourably affect each other by reciprocal sympathy, it is only then the society becomes a spiritual Israel, and can expect to have fulfilled in its behalf the glorious things which are spoken of Zion. It is no valid objection, that we deal harshly with people in denying them church privileges. The cruelty consists in fostering their delusion, and seconding their self-destruction; and the truest of all friendship is tendered them in restraining their presumption, exhibiting to them their danger, and pointing out to them the only path by which saving privilege can be reached, and its external manifestations consistently observed. Equally futile is the objection that we are imperfect judges of character, and should not usurp functions which we are incompetent to wield. Our comparative ignorance and liability to err furnish adequate grounds for caution, and gentleness, and charitable interpretation, but not for levelling the land-marks which the hand of God has erected, and which his word clearly defines. Is no distinction to be made? If infidels or profli
gates choose to make a sport of the Lord's Supper, and call for the cup of blessing, as Belshazzar did for the sacred vessels of the temple, are we to accede to their demand? Or, suppose only that persons are, to our certain knowledge, absolutely ignorant of the first principles of christianity, are we to encourage them in transforming a significant service into a meaningless ceremony, when it is morally impossible they can profit by the engagement? It will be said, these are extreme cases. But, however extreme, they establish a principle-the principle of discrimination; and when once that principle has been admitted, where shall we stay its application ?-where, with any approach to consistency, or semblance of respect for scripture, or any practical effect, if not in requiring such elements of character and behaviour as constitute a credible profession of faith in Christ?
What then is to be done for the protection of the church's purity in the admission of members? Care must be taken to ascertain that the persons applying have a competent knowledge of divine truth-that they are acquainted with those cardinal principles which are essential to the christian scheme, and of which the faith is therefore indispensable to salvation; above all, they must have clear apprehension of the facts, that by nature and practice we are condemned and depraved, and to be delivered from this complicated ruin, must be justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the Spirit of our God. What renders justification necessary?-What is the nature of the privilege so expressed ?—In what sense
are we justified through Christ?—In what sense are we justified by faith?-Where, or in what words, is justification spoken of in scripture?-What is to be understood by being sanctified?-Who is it that sanctifies?Wherein does sanctification differ from justification?— What proofs can be adduced from scripture in behalf of these views? If such questions, kindly put, and in a variety of lights, and with auxiliary suggestions, cannot be answered, the gospel is not understood. How, then, can it be believed? And if such persons were admitted into the church, to what would their admission amount, or what communion could there be between enlightened godliness and practical heathenism? To ascertain the knowledge of applicants for church privileges is, in the opinion of many, the prerogative of the minister; but there is no reason why it should devolve on him exclusively. There are many reasons why the duty and responsibility should be shared by other members of session. Where a teaching and a ruling elder differ in their estimate of a person's knowledge, there is ground to pause, and to institute farther examination; where the examiners agree, such agreement confirms the judgment of each, and establishes the confidence of the whole session in the representations given to them.
Where persons are kept back on account of deficient knowledge, it is a pity that the delay should wear the aspect of harsh rejection, or be in any way so conducted as unnecessarily to wound feeling and discourage renewed application. Satisfaction should be expressed that they are giving their minds to the