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in opposition to those that travelled up and down to visit and confirm the churches, whom they understand by those that labour, namely, to weariness, in the last part of the verge, For the work of the fixed pastor is such a labour too, i Thess. V. 12. Nor yet such as were unfit for preaching yet administered the sacraments, prayed with the church, and privately admonished the unruly. But such an officer, I am sure, is unknown to the Bible. It remains, then, that they are those whom we call ruling elders, whose work is, as in the text, to govern the church, but not to preach the word; and therefore they are distinguished from preaching elders, as is plain from the particle especially; as Phil. iv. 24. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Cæsar's household.' Chiefly is the same word in the Greek that is here rendered especially; and it plainly implies, that there were some saints at Rome not of Caæsar's household. 80 here are described some elders that rule well, and do not labour in word and doctrine:
2. Preaching elders: Their work is to preach the gospel to labour in the word and doctrine. To them in a spesial manner, by the text, double honour is due, i, e. maintenance and respect, forasmuch as their office is greater and more honourable, not only in ruling of the church, as the others do, but preaching of the gospel besides. Where, by the by we may see, that if Paul's doctrine had place in the world, the preaching parish-minister would have more honour thak the non-preaching bishop, who contents himself with ruling but puts not his shoulders to the labour in the word and doctrine. Maintenance, we see, is due to both sort of elders, by divine right. But it is no sin for either to quit their rfght in certain circumstances. And with us the ruling elders are allowed no maintenance, but the preaching elders are. The reason of this is the poverty of the church that cannot bear its and that our ruling elders are not taken off their secular employments, as ministers are.
The doctrine deducible from the text is,
Dott. Ruling elders rightly discharging their duty, are worthy of abundant honour.'
Having sufficiently cleared the divine institution of ruling elders from the text, which is clear also from Rom. xii. 8, 1 Cor. xii. 28. I shall, in prosecution of the doctrine, shew, 1. What is the duty of these officers. II. What it is to discharge the duties of that office well.
III. What is the honour that people owe to their ruling elders.
The apostle tells us in the general, that their work as ruling elders is to rule the church. The keys of jurisdiction and government are not given to one, but to the unity of church-officers acting togethers so, together with the pastor, they are to rule the congregation. God setting a minister in a congregation, says to him, It is not meet the man should be alone, I will make him an help meet for him.. And a society of diligent and faithful elders are a meet help indeed. And without that the weight of a congregation is too heavy for the shoulders of one, as Exod. xviii. 18. But more particularly,
1. They are to be careful overseers of the manners of the people. Hence the apostle says to the elders of Ephesus, Acts xx. 28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God.' And as ministers are a mouth to the church, so they are to be instead of eyes: And therefore it is necessary, for the good of a congrega. tion, that there be of them in every corner. For they are truly watchmen, whom the Holy Ghost has set over the flock, as well as ininisters are. And they ought to acquaint themselves with the way of the people, that so they may encourage those that do well, and warn those that do evii. And unless elders do so, and communicate their help in that matter to the pastor, he may be long in a congregation, and yet be a stranger to many under his charge; and so ministerial visitations may be very useless.
2. Though they are not to preach the word, yet they are to apply the word privately to people by virtue of their office. They are to have a mouth to speak, as well as eyes to take heed to the flock of God, 1 Tim. ii. 2. Apt to teach." There is a word pat to this purpose, 1 Thess. v. 12.- Are over you, and admonish you.' . It is the same word in our text. The word admonish there used, is far from expressing the full meaning of the word the Holy Ghost useth here, used also, Eph. vi. 4. It properly signifies to put into the mind.' And so it implies a fivefold duty.
(1.) Exciting people to their duty. Observing negligence, they ought to stir up people to their duty; e. g. those that neglect family-prayer, secret prayer, attending
regularly on ordinances, or are negligent of their souls state any way, they should drop a word to stir them up.
(2) Rebuking of sin. Reproofs of wisdom are as necessary for church-members as salt is to keep meat from corrupting. It is necessary to discourage sin and wicked, ness in the church, which should be a holy society. And there wants not occasion enough for this, in swearing, lying, profaning of the Sabbath, drunkenness, strife, varjance, and whatsoever is contrary to the rules of the gospel.
(3.) Warning such as they see in hazard of sin; to tell them of the snare, their hazard and danger, and so to prevent people's falling into it, as far as lies in their power. Sometimes people may be discerned staggering, and a word then duly put into their mind may, by the blesssing of God, keep them from falling.
(4.) Comforting those that are cast down, and strengthening the weak. It was the practice of holy Job, chap. iv. 4.
Thy words haye upholden him that was falling, and thoy hast strengthened the feeble knees.' And church-rulers ought always to have a special eye upon those that are the weak and distressed in Christ's flock, to labour to support them in the Lord.
(5.) Instructing and informing them privately. And in, deed rule without instruction is dumb, and not agreeable to the way of our Lord's governing his house; and excitations, rebukes, &c. can never be rightly managed without information of the mind. For if we would gain our end in dealing with people, we must not think it enough to tell them their duty or their sin, but by reasoning with them to con: vince their consciences,
These things are the duty of all church-members, how, ever little it is laid to heart. Only what others are bound to by the common band of Christianity, we are bound to by our office, Lev. xix. 17. 1 Thess. v. 14.
3. They are to visit the sick, and should be sent for, for that end, Jam. v. 14, 15. But otherwise discretion and chris, tian love may engage them to go even when they are not sent for. They ought to pray with them and for them. And, by the same reason, they are to counsel, instruct, and comfort them, according to the grace bestowed on them, and as they see the party's case does require. This would be a means to render the office more esteemed than, alas! it is with many. And it needs not hinder the pastor's visits.
4. They are to concur with the pastor in the exercise of discipline, according to the word of God, and the constitutions of the church agreeable thereto. For ministers and elders make up that church, having the power of censures, Matth. xviii. 17. And thus they are to delate scandalous persons to the judicatory, either when their private admonitions will not do, or where the offence is in its own nature public, and cannot be passed with private admonition. And in the managing of matters in the judicatory, they are not only to give their opinion and vote according to their light, but to reason the matter calmly, for the finding out of the best expedient. Admission to, and debarring from, the sacrament of the Lord's supper, is a weighty piece of this work, belonging to the kirk-session, wherein all tenderness, caution, and wisdom should be used, to separate as far as we can betwixt the precious and the vile, that holy things be not cast to dogs.
As for the collecting and distributing of the church's money, it is so far from being the main work of ruling elders, that it is no part of their work as elders at all
, but belongs to the deacons, which is an inferior office. But the supe. rior offices of the church including the inferior ones, the elders may do it, and must do it, where there are not deacons.
II. I come now to shew, what it is to discharge the duties of that office well.
1. It is to discharge it faithfully, 1 Cor. iv. 2. It is a great trust the master puts us in, and we must act in it with that faithfulness to our own souls, and the souls of those who are under our charge, as our conscience may not have wherewith to reproach us.
2. Diligently, Rom. xii. 8. The slothful servant that closeth his eyes, and gives up his watch, will never be approved of God. Be diligent in your duty, and it will not want its reward.
3. Zealously, Psal. Ixix. 9. Zeal for the master's honour, and advancing the kingdom of Christ in real holiness, and suppressing the devil's kingdom in sin and wickedness, in the congregation, and otherwise as we have access, is well becoming church-oflicers especially,
4. Prudently, Matth. xxiv. 45. Church-officers had need to join the wisdom of the serpent with the simplicity of the dove. And they will find it necessary inany a time to sweeten with prudent management the bitter pills they must give, Gal. vi. 1,
III. I proceed to shew, what is that honour that people owe to their ruling elders.
1. They ought to esteem and respect them for their work's sake, 1 Thess, v. 12, 13. Their work is honourable, their Master whom they serve in that work is great, and the advantage of their work redounds to the church. People's esteem of them is but a necessary encouragement to them in the work they have undertaken, without any prospect of worldly advantage. And if people esteemed the Lord's work, they would even esteem the workers top.
2. Obedience and submission to them in their doing the work of their office, Heb. xiii. 17. If it be their duty to watch over you, excite and admonish you, &e. ye ought not to account them meddling in what belongs not to them, when they inquire into your way. Ye ought to fall in with the duties they excite you to; meekly to receive their rebukes, admonitions, and warnings ; honourably to receive their consolations, as those that have a commission from the Lord; and heartily to receive their good admonition and counsel; and subjecting yourselves as Christ's subjects to the discipline of his house.
3. They ought to pray to God for them, 1 Thess. v. 15. It is a great work we have in hand, and your interest is concerned in our right discharge of it; which therefore should make you to give us a share in your prayers,
4. Shutting your ears against reproaches cast on them, and being backward to receive ill reports of them, staving them off, unless there be sufficient evidence, 1 Tim, v. 19. Churchofficers are those whom Satan mainly aims to discredit, and therefore stirs up rotten-hearted hypocrites, false brethren, and a profane generation, to cast dirt upon them, that so