« PreviousContinue »
that they may be so enlightened, aided, sanctified, counselled and controlled in every thing; may be so guarded from the influence of erroneous views, and from the ebullitions of unhallowed feeling that “all things may be done decently and in order,” and may issue in the advancement of the great cause of truth and righteousness. If every member of ecclesiastical judicatories attended their meetings, re. spectively, under that kind of influence which such exercises, faithfully conducted, would be likely to inspire, how different would be their aspect and their results, from those which we frequently witness !
4. Not only engage in these exercises before the judicatory assembles; but ENDEAVOUR EVERY DAY, THROUGH THE WHOLE OF ITS SESSIONS, TO NOURISH YOUR CONSCIENTIOUSNESS IN REFERENCE TO THIS MATTER. Ponder much and frequently, more especially on the introduction of each new article of business, on the nature and importance of the duties devolving on the body. Labour and pray without ceasing, that a deep sense of the majesty and glory of Zion's King; of the unspeakably interesting character of his kingdom ; and of the solemnity of every step which has a bearing on that kingdom, may dwell upon your own mind, and the minds of others, in every partof the business in which you engage. If you desire to be constantly watchful, constantly wise, constantly directed and aided in the best manner, you must daily and hourly ask for it. I know of no situation in which you will more urgently need the constant supplies of heavenly grace, than when standing among the representatives of the church, to consult respecting her delicate and dearest interests.
5. When you take your seat in an ecclesiastical assembly, DO NOT EXPECT TOO MUCH OP THE PLEASING AND EDIFYING KIND. I have known some young ministers, who, the first time they attended such an assembly, were greatly disappointed, and even disgusted. They had formed to their own minds a picture of ideal excellence, which can never be realized in this imperfect world. It seemed not to have occurred to them, that diversity of opinion, and an ardent manner of expressing opinions, on both sides, would be likely, in any case, to mark the proceedings of ecclesiastical men. They forgot that even in the Synod of Jerusalem, made up as it was of venerable Apostles and Elders, there was much disputing.” They forgot that Paul “withstood Peter to the face,” because he thought that she was to be blamed,” on a certain matter of ecclesiastical business, to which, probably, the inspiration of neither extended. If things of this kind occurred then, how much more may we expect them to occur now? Besides, it ought to be recollected, that, even when an assembly of pious men are entirely agreed respecting the general propriety of a certain measure, they may differ greatly, and not without reason, as to the best means of accomplishing it; and it were hard, indeed, to deprive them of the privilege of discussing, and, even at considerable length, the probable tendency of the alternate means proposed. Every one acquainted with ecclesiastical bodies, knows, that, not unfrequently, those who were most warmly in favour of a projected plan, and, in the outset, most impatient of opposition to it, have, after half a day's or a day's discussion of the subject, seen difficulties in the plan which they had not discerned before, and become quite as willing to abandon it as any persons present. Who can tell but that such a discussion, irksome as it sometimes is, may be the instrument of more good to the Church of God than half a dozen common sermons ?' That this may be, and, indeed, often has been the case, I think there can be no reasonable doubt.
I know that some excellent men, of a querulous or fastidious turn of mind, frequently have in their mouths the complaint of the famous Gregory Nazianzen, who said that “he never saw any good resulting from Synods or Coun
cils." This is the sentiment of a narrow or a cynical mind. Did no good result from the Synod whose meeting and decrees” are recorded in Acts xy.? Did no good result from the Council of Carthage, in 253; from that of Nice, in 325; from the Synod of Dort, in 1618,or from the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, in 1643 ? My dear young friend, do not indulge in this querulous temper. Make allowance for the imperfections of men. If you see any thing wrong in a church court, you are not bound to approve it. Nay, in most cases, you are bound freely and openly to bear testimony against it. But to indulge a disposition to condemn all church courts in the gross, because we occasionally see what is undesirable in their proceedings, is just as unreasonable as to condemn all civil courts of justice, as useless or pernicious, because we now and then witness a revolting scene, arising from the want of skill or of fidelity in those who conduct them. Let the government of the church be administered under what form it may, human frailty will attend the administration. While you mourn over this, let it not tempt you to become disaffected to the regular support of ecclesiastical government and discipline. See that as little as may be of this frailty be found with yourself; and, for the rest, pray without ceasing that it may be restrained, removed, or overruled for good.
6. When you have taken your seat in any Judicatory, BE CONSCIENTIOUSLY PUNCTUAL IN ATTENDING ON ALL ITS SESSIONS. GIVE YOURSELF WUOLLY TO THE BUSINESS OF THE BODY.
There is a fault, in this respect, which is indulged so frequently, and to such an extent, as lo produce an amount of evil truly formidable. It is well known, that a number of those who attend on the higher Judicatories of the church, when they convene in large cities ; and especially of those who are commissioned to sit in the General Assembly, at Philadelphia, employ only a part, and sometimes a very small part of their time, after taking their seats, in attending to the duties which devolve upon them as members. They make no scruple of engage ing in parties of pleasure, and in plans of secular business, which take them aivay, time after time, for a number of hours, or, perhaps, for a day together from the body which they professedly came to attend ; and for which, perhaps, they receive a compensation. And, even when they in a sort attend, they are scarcely ever punctually present at the hour of meeting ; but generally from half an hour to an hour behind the time. The consequence is, that, when in