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STRANGE TEST.S. 19
brethren in the ministry, more in former than in later years, have been cruelly harassed by these governments, that should have been helps, also, in the Church of God. Some, in our sessions, have—in a few special instances—been like growling lions there, in spite of the better wisdom and the official influence of the pastor, to frighten and scare away the newborn lambs of Christ, and make it an ordeal of fire in the very threshold of the Church, which the young convert could not attempt or succeed to cross, on account of their searching questions, their technical tests, their revolting and shameful paradoxes. “Have you any disinterested benevolence 2 Is it self that you love? Are you willing to be damned for the glory of God? Do you believe that God does all things 2 Is this the best possible system : When were you converted, how, by what means, and are you sure you are converted ? Have you any unconditional submission to God o Do you love his sovereignty supremely 2 Have you thought what it means ‘to have a holy willingness to sin '' Suppose you are one of the non-elect 2 If God were to cast you into hell, would you still love him 2 Have you renounced all selfishness and all self-love 2 Did you ever read Emmons 2 Or, do you think you will ever understand any thing till you do? Or, are you opposed to metaphysics' Or, do you think there ever will be any millennium, unless they value more and read that great divine !” These are given as real specimens—that have occurred, I know ; not all at once, perhaps, yet in their turns and degrees, with most exasperating and most culpable reiteration and habituation, in some places. You perceive that not one word is said in them about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, or coming to him for life, or his offices, his mercy, his kingdom, his condescension, his meekness and gentleness, his of fers and his promises, his glory, his service, his people, his salvation, or his BIBLE. No question such as our doctrinal and noble stanDARDs would approve, and no allusion to those
20 CHRIST THE HEAD.
standards; none to creed, catechism, government, discipline, or directory ! What right have any of us, his officers, to alter the terms, or embarrass the access of his communion, in the Church of Christ 2 to require of his disciples what he does not require 3 or to reject or harass even him that is weak in the faith, when Christ says, receive him 2 Just as much right as had the exscinders for their enacted wickedness in the house of God. Just as much right as has the undone hierarchy of Rome, with the papal monstrosity enthroned there, to metamorphose the Church of God into the congregation of the devil, and to show Christianity in stupendous caricature, as something infinitely dissimilar, and infinitely other than what it is, as God made it. There is no authority, no jurisdiction, no headship, rightly in the Church on earth, but that of Christ alone; which his true ministers and his faithful officers learn that they must declare and administer in his name, as the unaltered will and way of heaven. The Church is Christ's own, and HE alone has the right to make laws in it; nor is there possibly a principle in the polity of the Church of more fundamental gravity and grandeur than this. We, who rule, ought to know, and digest, and maintain it, in alto relievo, on every tablet or façade of the house of God. It ought to be graven on our hearts' A departure from this principle, a violation of it, is a growing virus in the Church; and all history develops it as the pre-eminent mischief of the apostasy of ages, oriental, occidental, and almost ecumenical, in all Christendom. It is the very germ of the mystery of finiquity—against which, with due intelligence, we should watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation. Every officer of the Church of Christ ought to feel, and digest, and honor it. There is a senatus-consultum of heaven respecting it, somewhat analogous to that of old republican Rome, that so charged the consul to guard the state, at all events, against all detriment — consul vidERET UT NIL DETRIMENTI REs.
WISDOM AND TENDERNESS. 21
PUBLICA CAPERET. Let us all here be vigilant and emergetic, glorifying, as we ought, the ubiquity of Christ, our King, in his own Church ; feeling by faith his ever-presence, as JESUS CHRIST, THE SAME YESTERDAY, AND To-DAY, AND FortEvER ; the great God and Savior” of us, without successor, rival, equal, or substitute ; eternally our Head, our Commander, our glory, and our salvation. Let others worship the rusty, rotten, ridiculous chain of “succession,” and galvanize it, till it shakes in all manner of wild contortions, like a floundering corpse on the table of an anatomical theatre— they will get as much life from the one as the other. We repudiate this heathenism that adores relics, and deifies dead men's bones and all uncleanness, while it vacates the glory of the living Church, by practically denying the HEADSHIP of the Son of God, and substituting ultimately their own LAwN-RIGGED AND MITRED SELVEs Matt. 18 : 20. Nor know I of any part of the ruling or consular function in the Church, pertaining to your high and honorable office, brethren, that requires more wisdom, more tenderness, more sympathy, more prayer, or more simple faith in the teaching of the Spirit, than that in which, as coassessors with the pastor, the primitive apostolic bishop of the congregation, you examine or admit the candidates that come before the session, as applicants for the privileges of the Church. In fact, it is primely the business of the pastor, who is by office required and qualified, better than others, to know both the persons that apply and the questions suitable to address to them. One great duty of the elders is to know their social character; to ascertain their reputation in the relations of life; and to report to the pastor if there be any known scandal, or let, or hinderance, to their matriculation as members of the Church. The great tests of character, as proposed by the system of Emmons, are mainly all ultra-evangelical, and can be stood * So we render, ad literam, the original of Tit. 2: 13.
22 HARD CHARACTERS.
and endured only by the partisan and the self-deceived. No man on earth has a right to enact or to propose them. God has not required them at our hands. They are inconsistent with what he does require. When men talk of willingness to be damned, in any category or hypothesis, they are, at best, each a prating theological Fool ; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. God requires us To BE willing To BE SAVED, cordially willing, by the grace of God, according to the Gospel; saved from sin and the wrath to come, to his own glory in Jesus Christ. The great mischief of the world, in their impenitence, their folly, their blindness, is, that, PRACTICALLY, THEY ARE ALL so willING To BE Lost ' Any thing for them, any thing but the salvation of God. One of Webster's very proper definitions of disinterestedness is, indifference a quality in which the world, it is to be hoped, excels infinitely the Church. Reprobates are eternally disinterested in the salvation of Christ, and their indifference or antagony induces it all. The doctrine of damnation is indeed a divine and a solemn reality; and, as such, fearful, tremendous, and to be viewed only with religious awe and deprecation. Some speculatists talk of it only as theological triflers, hardening their own hearts with the awful truth—and some, without skill, or consideration, or wisdom, and with no tenderness or reverence, dogmatizing their own speculations, most destructively, to the feelings, and the impressions, and the hopes of the inquiring, the recent, and the immature. Such hardhearted smatterers would ridicule us as old women, and so forth, if our practice among them were to exemplify the words of the sublime apostle, who said, We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children; so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to impart to you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear to us. This is piety, and this the way to propagate it, which those hardened and frigid
THE ROAD TO HONOR. 23
partisans neither love nor know. Oh how desirable, how necessary, how blessed it is, when the session, that is, the pastor and all the ruling elders, act and feel together as one, imbued in common with the wisdom of the Master, and loving tenderly all the flock for the great Shepherd's sake; all striving together for the faith of the Gospel / It is not in the spirit of complaint at all, as personal to myself, that this is written; but more or wholly in fraternal sympathy for others. It is my happiness, as a Christian pastor, to be associated with colleagues united and intelligent, and who would abhor the temptation, which has captured some weak and vain ones, to make themselves important by making distinguished and protracted perplexity and trouble for others. One elder of the latter description, like a pestilential sheep in the flock, can do more mischief than all the others can ordinarily repair—as self-willed, inflated with his own ideas, inconsiderate of the wisdom of his peers, disrespectful to his pastor, vaunting his own importance, commanding his own precedence, and stealthily usurping power. Humility is dignity, the fruit and the evidence of wisdom, the way to real esteem and honor; and it confers the best epaulets of office in the Church. Let us, therefore, follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men. The office you sustain in the Church, dear brethren, with such honor and acceptance, is yet to be better understood, and the faces of elders more honored, in our Church and in our country. We may not write it that the elders have ceased from the gate; yet we hope to record, in our coming history, that there they were increasingly more frequent and more useful, as well as more honorable, in their counsel for the welfare of Jerusalem. In many churches, often the fault of the pastors' dico aperte, nos consules desumus! the office is confused with that of deacons; both offices are virtually