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could not guard the purity of your own religious principles, nor secure from error those who should receive from you the pure light of the gospel—that its possession is required in order to obedience to those commands which enforce esteem and love to your pastors, and entire departure from those who bring another gospel-that apostolic churches, as shown in the early history of Christianity, possessed and exercised this right. On these points we must not dwell, but we cannot forbear to remind you of the high advantage which this privilege confers upon you. And first, it is manifest that your own spiritual profit is most effectually secured by exercising the right of electing your own pastors. There must obviously be an adaptation in the public ministrations of the pastor to the minds and attainments, to the degree of knowledge and of faith, and to the general circumstances of the body over which he is placed, or his labours cannot but be comparatively useless. And who, brethren, can judge whether there exists this adaptation but yourselves ? Who but you can decide whether be speaks to edification, whether your knowledge, faith, and spiritual affections are expanded and invigorated under his ministry ? Surely none. Great then is the privilege of influence in the election of the men, who by God's blessing are to train you up for glory, honour, and immortality. Secondly, it is not less manifest that the spiritual benefit of others is best secured in this way. The salvation of those who are as yet without the church, depends mainly upon the preservation of an evangelical ministry within it. The great practical question then is, what is the most effectual mode of securing and perpetuating such a ministry ? We answer, the divinely appointed one of committing the power of electing to the pastoral office to those who themselves understand, believe, and love evangelical truth. This is, brethren, the true, and the only effectual, preservative principle. Other denominations have erected human barriers against error in the pulpit; they have framed their articles, and their confessions of faith ; but how large a part of their clergy are anti-evangelical ! We have followed the revealed mode; we have admitted to our fellowship those only who give credible evidence of their conversion to God; we have restricted the right of choosing the pastor to them; and with the blessing of God, the happy result is, that from one end of the country to the other, our pastors speak substantially the same thing.
We feel, beloved brethren, growing confidence that the door into the pastoral oversight of the flock, can only be safely opened by the members of that flock. Political and worldly motives may be expected to influence others, but love to the truth, and the Saviour, and the souls of men will influence you. You know and love the voice of the true Shepherd. You will not open the door to a stranger, for his voice you know not. Yet we must remind you, brethren, that to secure the full benefit of your principles, it will be necessary to exercise strict vigilance in preserving the purity of your communion. Should ungodly men creep in amongst you, or be permitted to remain, after all doubt in reference to their character has been removed, and thus obtain influence in the election of the pastor, one of the great conservative barriers against error will be, at least, partially destroyed. Guard then, brethren, most vigilantly the door of admission to your fellowship. Receive none but those of whom you have evidence that the Lord has received them, and let there be a constant and careful inspection of the flock within the sacred inclosure. “ Watch over one another in love." “ Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." Bear not “ them that are evil.” “ Purge out the old leaven," and " keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
We must add also, brethren, preserve the power of election in your own hands. To extend it to others generally, would break down another of the conservative barriers against error. The choice of pastors cannot be safely confided to irreligious men, though they should form part of your congregations. Should there be religious men in a congregation they ought to be in the church; and they have no right to complain of being made to suffer the consequences of the unscriptural position in which, with great peril, they permit themselves to remain. Besides, the election of which we speak is to the pastoral office. The relation into which it brings a minister is a special relation to the church, none but members of the church can consequently have the power to elect. At the same time we admit that it will be expedient to consult the opinions of the more pious members of the congregation. Yet when this is done, let especial care be taken not to convey the notion that, as a church, you can for a moment sanction the anomalous position in which they stand.
III. We pass on to remind you, beloved brethren, of the very solemn responsibilities which are inseparable from this privilege. Never forget, we conjure you, that to God you must answer, for the choice you make of the pastor who is to instruct, to direct, and govern you ;- for all the measures you take with a view to his election; for the principles and spirit which guided those measures; —for the preservation of peace and love during a crisis always trying, sometimes fatal ;-for your cordial reception of your newly elected pastor ;-for the vigour with which you hold up his hands, and your cheerful adoption of those measures which are best adapted to promote the comfort and usefulness of the pastor, the prosperity of the church, and the extension of the Saviour's kingdom. For all this, you, brethren, are personally responsible to God. Every individual must answer for the whole of his conduct in relation to the election of the pastor, and should that election fall upon one who is not blameless, not sound in the faith, not apt to teach, fearful indeed must be the account of every party to such election, who acted with criminal negligence, or civil motives, in the day when God will render to every man according to his deeds.
The amount and solemnity of this responsibility is of course proportioned to the magnitude of the results which depend upon a wise exercise of this privilege of election. Observe then,
First, beloved brethren, that the choice of the pastor inust exert a most important influence upon the spiritual condition of the church to which you belong ;-on the sentiments of its members; -on their piety, their devotion, their zeal, their activity, and their efficient
labours; -and, by necessary consequence, upon the enlargement, and even continued existence of the church itself. There is an old adage, equally true and important, “like priest like people.” A reciprocal influence, indeed, exists here,—the people form the pastor and the pastor forms the people. Brethren, let the recollection of this important fact augment your desire to keep the church pure and the pulpit pure; for as, on the one hand, error cannot well find its way into the pulpit while the electors' seats are filled with holy men; so, on the other, radical error is not likely to find its way to those seats when there are found in the pulpit sound doctrine and ardent piety, and a heart panting with zeal for the promotion of God's glory and the world's salvation.
Great responsibility then rests upon you, brethren, in the choice of pastors, on account of the commanding influence of the pulpit over the sentiments, and feelings, and conduct of those to whom the addresses of the pulpit are habitually directed; influence for good or evil, for salvation or damnation. When your election falls on a man of God, sound in the faith, of practical wisdom, of ardent zeal, of great affection and holy love, a man of faith and prayer, a prudent, laborious, and persevering man, a man of gentleness and meekness, and altogether like his Lord,- then, unless there be some radical defect or neglect among yourselves, will be found great prosperity. The church will be like a watered garden which the Lord God hath planted. The north wind will awake, and the south wind come and blow upon the garden, and the spices thereof shall flow out, and the Beloved will come into his garden and eat bis pleasant fruit. With your churches thus happily situated, the knowledge of your members will rapidly advance, your faith will grow exceedingly, your love to one another and to all the Israel of God will abound, your comfort and joy in the Holy Ghost will be steadfast, your labours in the cause of Christ will be active, incessant, successful. In fine, the church will be the holy city, the new Jerusalem come down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. But let your election fall on one who is not sound in the faith, a man who possesses no personal religion or very defective piety, and the scene will be reversed. The mere lack of life-giving and life-sustaining truth in the pulpit, without positive error, operates upon a church like a drought upon the herbage in summer. No plants of righteousness will long be found in such a field, for the Lord of the vineyard will command the clouds to rain no rain upon it. No living members can be retained in such a body, no living members introduced. Should it preserve its existence, which is not always the case, it becomes useless to the church and to the world, to God and man. Within it can be found no proofs of the divine origin and power of Christianity, -no leaven to leaven the unholy lump around, -no sacrifices for the sake of Christ, no holy love, nor zeal, nor enterprize. Like a barren rock, such a church will stand in the midst, it may be, of surrounding fertility-like a ship in the midst of a tempest while the mariners are all asleep ;-like a blind man leading a number of others equally blind, groping and stumbling, until at length all together fall into the ditch.
Secondly, the choice of the pastor must exert important influence beyond the boundaries of the church, and hence your responsibility, beloved brethren, in relation to this point must be great.
On the congregation assembling with you this influence will be considerable. An evangelical, practical, earnest, faithful, affectionate and pungent ministry will be like life from the dead. We question much whether such a ministry was ever long perpetuated in any place without spiritual fruit, and considerable fruit, in awakened enquiry on the part of the ignorant and careless, in repentance and conversion to God, in the augmentation of the numbers and spiritual resources of the church, and its power to operate with effect upon the masses of spiritual death by which it is surrounded. And consequently the choice of the pastor must exert considerable influence in the vicinity of the church, for an able and devoted pastor will not permit his people to fold up their arms in sleep while multitudes around are perishing for lack of knowledge. He will lift up his voice like a trumpet, and if he cannot arouse, he will leave them to the more powerfully awakening tones of another. It will have also an indirect infinence upon other churches and upon other ministers, rousing and stimulating them when the choice of the pastor is widely made, and thus improving the tone of the ministry in general. It will give life and energy to the various benevolent and religious societies which are under the immediate direction of the church, or within its vicinity, and thus augment that sacred stream of holy beneficence which we trust will ere long overflow and bless the whole world.
Thirdly, the choice of a pastor has an important influence on the promotion of the Saviour's glory. It must suffice as to say on this point, that the honour of the chief Shepherd is deeply interested in the personal character, and eminent holiness, of the pastor you choose; in his correct exhibition of the doctrines, in his faithful exhibition of the laws, and his correct and impartial and vigorous administration of the discipline of the Saviour's kingdom. The weight of responsibility resting upon you, brethren, in the election of your pastors, must then be great-fearfully great. May the Lord grant wisdom and grace and purity of aim, that we may at length render our account with joy, and find acceptance with Him.
IV. We would now respectfully lay before you a few miscellaneons suggestions in reference to the manner and spirit in which this most important transaction should be conducted.
Our first remark relates to the qualifications which should be pre-eminently desired in those whom you invite to take the oversight of you in the Lord. Our long-cherished thoughts on this point may be expressed in a word, “ Look for goodness rather than greatness ;"
-for high spiritnal endowments rather than splendid and profound erudition. You cannot suppose that we undervalue mind and the stores of mind, or that we think a competent measure of either can be dispensed with in the present day; but we are sure that eminent piety contributes more powerfully to the promotion of the great ends of the christian ministry than eminent ability. Still, we are disposed to say, beloved brethren, secure as much mind as possible, but be
very sure that the man whom you place in the pastoral office is an eminently holy man; a man mighty in the Scriptures, devout, patient, gentle, meek, forbearing, and courteous; a man of great affection, for it is love, not intellect, that conquers the human heart: a prudent man, possessed of profound knowledge of human nature, and considerable skill in guiding the opinions and decisions of others, for how else shall he rule well the church of God? These are the talents, (if we may thus use the term) which you should supremely desire in your pastors. Should you, on the other hand, permit yourselves to be captivated by glitter, by volubility, and sprightliness of fancy, or even by vigour of intellect in the pulpit, while the tone of spiritual feeling is relaxed and feeble, there may be mental excitement, but there will be no conversions to God.
Secondly, when the pulpit becomes vacant, we conjure you to take no step to supply the vacancy without earnest, solemn, and united prayer to Him who has promised to give pastors according to his heart, that shall feed the flock with knowledge and understanding. It may be doubted whether in any case the pastoral relation has proved a blessing to both parties, when in forming that relation, the divine direction was not anxiously implored. Certain, however, it is, that you have no right to expect that a pastor will bring with him a blessing, who does not come in answer to prayer.
And further, beloved brethren, we would enforce the duty of prayer on account of its collateral as well as its direct benefit. Prayer is adapted to produce a deeper sense of the responsibility which rests upon you in the election of your pastor; it places vividly before you the qualifications needed in the pastor ; it is likely to secure unanimity, and when it does not entirely effect this, it cannot fail to prevent a rupture of confidence and affection. When a church, in a spirit of dependance and faith, and holy importunity, has sought direction of the chief Shepherd, its members have seldom had to bewail the results of election to the pastoral office. Unhappy elections are prayerless ones.
Thirdly, we earnestly recommend, brethren, that the pastoral relation be not too hastily formed. Let sufficient time be given for securing that degree of mutual knowledge which may supply a solid basis for permanent confidence and affection. It is impossible, indeed, to regulate by any fixed rule, the direction of the probationary period (as it is usually called); yet we incline to think that it should generally be a little more protracted than is sometimes the case. When indeed your eyes are directed to a man of established character, of tried prudence, and practical wisdom, (he having the requisite knowledge of you) the union may at once be formed. But when the minister in view is a young, and consequently an untried man, or when the parties have had few means of mutual acquaintance, it cannot surely be thought that the brief and imperfect intercourse of a week or two will justify the formation of a connexion which is to both parties pregnant with most momentous consequences. We have departed, brethren, in this point, from the practice of our ancestors, and as might have been expected, we have