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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 wickedness 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, variance, 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 have upholden him that was falling, and thou 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 deal, ing with people, we must not think it enough to tell them their duty or their sin, but by reasoning with them to convince 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 christian 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 superior 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-officers 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 too.
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, &c. 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
their work may be marred in their hands, religion despised, and sinners hardened.
Use 1. As to you that are already in this honourable office, and you that are now to be ordained to it, I exhort you to labour rightly to discharge your duty. To press this exhortation, I offer the following motives,
Mot. 1. Consider it is a sacred office in the house of God, to which God has called you; and therefore let us together take that exhortation, Acts xx. 28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. The office is honourable in itself, however the world esteem of it. David though a king, would have thought it no disparage. ment to him, when he said, A day in thy courts is better than a thousand: I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness,' Psal, lxxxiv. 10. But it has work annexed to it; and being sacred, it is not to play with. Labour to approve yourselves to your Lord and master.
Mat. 2. Ye have thereby a fair occasion to be serviceable to God and to advance Christ's kingdom, and suppress that of the devil, in the congregation, And O what should we not do to do good to souls? Jam. v, 20. Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.' I think that now, of a considerable time, I and my brethren of the eldership might have said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish, so that we are not able to build the wall? Neh. iv. 10; and it has gone near to the sinking of some of our spirits. But now that God has inclined the hearts of so many to come over and help us; if we take courage in our Master's work, to ply it faithfully, diligently, zealously. and prudently, and the Lord bless us with unity among our. selves, and real zeal for his honour, to put to our shoulders jointly to the work, we may hope, by the blessing of God, to see a more promising face on this congregation, sin more discouraged, and piety more increased.
Mot, ult. You and I must give an account to our great Master, how we have carried ourselves in his work, Heb. xiii. 17. If we be faithful we shall not want our reward from VOL. III. E
the chief Shepherd, who will give us a crown of life. If we be unfaithful, woe will be unto us for betraying our
I give you a few advices.
1. Remember always that it is God whom ye have to do with. This will make you little to regard men's feud or favour, if ye do your work agreeable to God's will.
2. Study to act in dependence on the Lord; for he sends none a-warfare on his own charges. Eye his promised assistance, when ye set about your work.
3. Labour to believe, that the way of uprightness and faithfulness is the sure way. When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him,' Prov. xvi. 7. 'He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth him,' Prov. xxviii. 23. Let men's corruptions say what they will, their consciences will speak in favour of faithful dealing.
4. Watch over your own persons, that in your personal walk ye be blameless and exemplary, 1 Tim. iii. 1, 2, 3. If ye be untender in your walk, ye will do more hurt than ye can do good. Being honoured to be governors in the house of a holy God, ye must be holy as the master is holy; tender in your words, circumspect in your actions, and therefore watchful over your hearts.
5. Watch over your families. Every one that has a family is obliged to this, and you in a special manner, 1 Tim. iii. 4, 5. The sinful practices of those of your family will reflect a peculiar dishonour on you, and by you on your Lord and Master. Therefore your families should be a church wherein God is to be duly worshipped morning and evening; and good discipline kept up by admonition, reproof, and watchfulness.
6. Ye must watch over one another, each over his fellow-elders, knowing, that any thing scandalous in one of the society reflects a dishonour on the whole, and by them on the Lord himself. And if ye be not careful on that side, there will be little good of your watching over the flock. And therefore strict discipline among yourselves is absolutely
USE II. As to you the people, I would exhort you to make conscience of your duty towards your officers. Alas! for the little conscience that is made of that among us. I