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will not be likely to be much employed in watching and praying against that influence.
I must say, that there appears to me much need of attention to this subject. It has seldom been my lot to witness the proceedings of any of the higher Judicatories of the Church, either as a member or spectator, without having occasion, as I thought, to lament that correct views and habits, in relation to this matter, were not more prevalent. I have seen excellent men expose themselves, give pain to others, and even embarrass ecclesiastical business, by mere inad. vertence And I should certainly have esteemed it a happy circumstance for myself, if I had been put on my guard, in early life, against many of those mistakes and faults into which I fell, from want of suitable instruction and train. ing, on a point so deeply interesting to all who wish to see dignity, order, wisdom, brotherly love and piety marking the proceedings of eve: ry ecclesiastical body.
It will readily occur to you that there is an importance attached to this subject which is altogether peculiar, In State Legislatures, ie Congress, and in most of the secular deliberative Assemblies which convene, the time which may be spent in their sessions is not rigidly limited. If the debates be protracted, and they cannot complete their business in three or four weeks, they may take, if they see proper, dori
ble or treble that period. And if a high degree of heat, disorder, or even violence should unfortunately mark their proceedings, decent people may deplore it, but the great interests of Religion may not be materially compromited, inasmuch as they are not religious bodies. But it is otherwise with our ecclesiastical judi. catories. For various reasons, they cannot possibly continue to sit beyond a very few days. Every moment, therefore, is to them doubly precious. Of course, every moment's interruption, and every unnecessary, worthless, speech, become serious evils ; evils to the cause of Christ: and whenever heat, disorder or violence occur among the Ministers and Elders of the church, religion bleeds at every pore. As ecclesiastical judicatories are purely religious bodies, so THEY OUGHT TO BEAR A RELIGIOUS (HARACTER, in all their delibera tions, and in every movement. Surely, then, this is a concern in which all our wisdom as men, and all our piety and prudence as christians, are most solemnly put in requisition. · This subject is so extensive that I cannot undertake to consider it in its minute details Permit me, however, to suggest a few GENERAL COUNSELS; and to accompany each, as I proceed, with some brief explanatory or corroborative remarks. And
1. My first counsel is, THAT
CHURCH IN WHICH IT IS YOUR DUTY TO BE PRE
This is a duty of far more deep and vital importa! ce than most ministers appear to imagine. The faithful discharge of it bears relations, and exerts an influence which, unless I am deceived, are seldom duly considered. Among the many reasons which might be urged in favour of this opinion, the following are certainly entitled 10 your serious regard.
(1.) Your ordination vows, will demand constant attention to this duly. In that solemn hour, when you kneel before God, and, surrounded by the church and her ministry, receive the imposition of " the hands of the Presbytery,” you will promise to be " subject to your brethren in the Lord,” and to be faithful and diligent in the discharge of all the PUBLICK, as well as the private duties of your office." Now, there is scarcely any publick duiy more important than that for which I am pleading. Of course, he who neglects it, violates his solemn engagements. Nur is this all. These judicatories form an essential feature of Presbyterian church government. To abolish them, would be to abolish Presbyterianism. Conse quently he who allows himself habitually and unnecessarily to neglect attendance on them is
unfaithful to his solemn profession-is no presbyterian in fact, whatever he may be in
(2.) If these ecclesiastical assemblies ought to be maintained, then it is plain that all who are properly members, ought to be punctual in their attendance, on the principles both of equity and benevolence.
He who neglects them, thereby refuses to render his share of service to the church, and throws an additional and unequal burden on those of his brethren who make conscience of attending. Is this consistent with good morals, to say nothing higher considerations? It is, certainly, not doing to others, as we would that they, in like circumstances, should do to us.
(3.) A punctual attendance on the ecclesiastical judicatories to which a minister belongs, is indispensable to his attaining a high and desirable standing among his brethren, and enjoying their affectionate confidence. It is the remark of one of the wisest and most venerated ministers of the Presbyterian church now living, that "he has never known a minister, in our connexion, who was either very useful, or very respectable, that did not give his presence at Presbytery, Synod, and Assembly, whenever that duty became incumbent."*
* Rev. Dr. GREEN. Charge, at the Ordination of Messrs. J. B. Linn, &c.
The reasons are many and obvious. The minister who seldom appears among his brethren, in their ecclesiastical meetings, has, commonly, but little intercourse with them, as ministers, at all. He is, consequently, but little known to them Of course, he cannot possibly enjoy much of their confidence, or have much influence among them. They see little of him in person ; but they habitually witness his degli gence and deficiencies. Will these be likely to command either their respect or their love? The minister, then, who unnecessarily absents himself from the judicatories of the church, does a complicated injury to the cause of Christ; but he injures his own character, standing, and influence in the sacred office, quite as much, if not more than any other interest.
(4.) A punctual attendance on the ecclesiastical assemblies under consideration, is the best school in the world in which to study Church Government I know that you have read books, and heard lectures on this department of theological study. But the knowledge derived from books and lectures, is apt to be theoretical, and to make but a slight impression on the mind. When you come to occupy your seat, and act your part in ecclesiastical judicatories, you see the great principles of church government, as it were, embodied and exhibited in actual cases. And being called upon