« הקודםהמשך »
tand in need of nothing for the fimple convenience or at least necessities of this transitory life. They want but little, and that little they ought to have. This also implies, that if his colleague be married, he should take care that neither he nor his family stand in need of any of the necessaries of life. For his performance of this duty, as well as all the rest, he is bounden to God, as well as to the church of which he is a member.
“ Jesus called theni [the twelve) unto him, and said, ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great, exercise authority upon thenı. But it shall not be fo among you: but whosoever will be great anong you, let him be your minister ; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant : Even as the Son of Man came not be be ministered unto, but to minister,” Matt. XX. 25-28.
2. He is to deliver tickets quarterly to each member of the fociety, with a portion of the word of God printed on them. This is of no small monient for the preservation of our discipline and the purity of our church. To admit frequently unawakened perfons to our society-meetings and love-feasts, would be to throw a damp on those profitable affemblies, and cramp, if not entirely destroy that liberty of speech, which is always made a peculiar blesfing to earnest believers and sincere seekers of salvation. Besides, this regulation affords the preacher who holds the office now under consideration, an opportunity of speaking closely to every person under his care on the state of their fouls. I know thy works,” says our Lord, “and thy labour, and thy patience, and bow thou canst not bear them which are evil :- and hast borne, and haft patience, and for my name's fake haft laboured, and hast not fainted," Rev. ii. 2, 3.' The other duty of regulating the bands is also of great consequence, as will appear when we come to enlarge on the 3d section of the ad chapter.
3. He is to watch over the stewards and leaders of his circuit. He should meet them weekly, when in the towns, and as often as may be in the country. He is to recommend to the ftewards the poor of their focieties, to lay before them, if necessary, the wants of his colleagues, and to stir them up to fidelity and activity, in their ofice: but above all, he is to exhort the leaders, to instruct them in the best mode of addressing their classes, and to fet before them the inestimable value of the precious souls respectively intrusted to their care. His whole foul should say, “ Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them !” Numb. xi. 29.
4. As he is the least likely to be influenced by the various circumstances arising from neighbourhood, long acquaintance, affection, consanguinity, or any other motives distinct from oti
cial talents, he is to appoint the stewards. And as he is, or should be, the best judge of the gifts and experience of the members of fociety, he also is to select the men, from time to time, who are to fill up the weighty office of leader. And again, as he is the only pe:fon in the circuit, who is responsible to the yearly conference for the decline of the work of God in his circuit, and the only one the conference can make responsible, he has the authority invested in him of changing leaders, when they have lost the life of God, or are incapacitated for or negligent of their duty. But if he ever use this power in a capricious or tyranical manner, the people may lay their grievances before the bishops or presiding elders, who have authority to suspend him for ill conduct; or, before the yearly conference, which may proceed even to his expulfion, if he grossly offend against that wisdom which is from above, " and which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without bypocrisy,” Jam. iii. 17.
5. He is also to receive members upon trial, and into society, aceording to the form of discipline. If this authority were invested in the society, or any part of it, the great work of revival would foon be at an end. A very remarkable proof of this was given several years ago, by a society in Europe. Many of the leading members of that fociety, were exceedingly importunate to have the whole government of their society invested in a meeting composed of the principal preacher, and a number of lay elders and lay deacons, as they termed them. At last, the preacher who had the oversight of the circuit, was prevailed upon, through their incessant impcrtunity, to comply with their request. He accordingly nominated all the leaders and sewards, as lay elders and lay deacons with the desired powers. But alas! What was the consequence? The great revival which was then in that society and congregation, was soon extinguished. Poor sinners, newly awakened, were flocking into the church of God as doves to their windows. But now, the wisdoni and prudence of the new court kept them at a distance, till they had given full proof of their repentance : “ if their convictions be fincere,” said they, “they will not withdraw themselves from the preaching of the word on account of our caution ; they themselves will see the propriety of our conduct.” Thus, whilst the fervent preacher was one hour declaring the willingness of Christ immediately to receive the returning finners, the wisdom of the lay ciders and lay deacons would the next hour reject thenı even from being received upon trial, unless they had been before painted Jepulchres, inwardly fill of derd men's bones and rottennefs. The preacher who had the charge of the circuit nearly broke his heart, to see the precious souls which God had given hin, kept at a distance from him, and thrown back again upon
wide world by the prudent lay
elders and deacons. However, at his earnest entreaty, he was removed into another circuit by the conference, under whose controul he acted, to enjoy the blessings of the Methodist economy. The revival of the work of God was soon extinguilhed; and the society, from being one of the most lively, became one of the most languid in Europe.
Glory be to God, all our societies throughout the world, now amounting to upwards of 160,000 have been raised, under grace, by our ministers and preachers. They, and they only, are their fpiritual fathers under God; and none others can feel for them as they do. It is true, that on great revivals, the spiritually halt, and blind; and Jame, will press in crowds into the church of God; and they are welcome to all that we can do for their invaluable fouls, till they prove unfaithful to convincing or converting grace. And we will not throw back their souls on the wicked world, whilst groaning under the burden of fin, because many on the trial quench their convictions, or perhaps were hypocritical from. the beginning. We would sooner go again into the highways and hedges, and form new societies as at first, than we would give up a privilege fo essential to the ministerial office and to the revival of the work of God.
“ The master of the house (God) -said to his servant, Go out quickiy into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hiiher the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.” He obeys his God, without aking permis. fion of any society, whether he should obey him or not.
" And the Lord laid unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel thein to coine in, that my boufe may be filled,” Luke xiv. 21-23. The servant answers not to his God, I will comply with thy command as far as my society, or my leaders and Itewards will permit me. Again, the Lord says to Ezekiel, ch. xxxiv. [~-10, " Son of man, prophefy against the shepherds of Ifrael, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus faith the Lord God unto the shepherds, Wo be to the shepherds of Israel the difeased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye broug’t again, that which was driven away, neither have ye fought that which was loja. - And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. - Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, faith the Lord God, furely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my fiock-Therefore, o ye thepherds, hear the word of the Lord, Thus faith the Lord Gon, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I WILL REQUIRE MY
FLOCK AT THEIR HAND, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock,” &c. Now, what pastors, called and owned of God, would take upon themselves this awful responsibility, if others could refuse to their fpiritual children the grand external privilege of the gospel, or admit among them the most improper persons to mix with and corrupt them. Truly, whatever the pastors of other churches may do, we trust that ours will never put themselves under so dreadful a bondage. It is in vain to Tay, that others may be az tender and cautious as the pastors : for the pastors are the persons responsible to God, and, therefore, should by no means he thus fettered in their pastoral care. And those who are desirous to wrest out of the hands of mirlifters this important part of their duty, should rather go out themselves to the highways and hedges, and preach the everlasting gospel, or be contented with their present providential situation.
Befidcs, the command of cur Lord, Matt. xxviii. 19. “Go ye, and teach ail nations, baptizing them,” &c. is addressed to pafors only,----to his disciples, and through them to all his miniffring servants to the end of the world. But if ministers are to be the judges of the proper subjects of baptism, which is the grand initiatory ordinance into the visible church, how much more Mould they have a right to determine, whom they will take under their own care, or whom God has given them out of the world by the preaching of his word. For minifers to spend their strength, their tears, their prayers, their lives for the salvation of fouls, and to have both themselves and THEIRS under the con
troul of those who never travailed in birth for them, and, thereI fore, can never feel for them as their fpiritual parents do, is a
burden we cannot bear. Thus it is evident, that both reason and scripture do, in the clearest manner, make the privilege or power now under confideration effential to the gospel-ministry.
The other duty, mentioned under this article, of regulating the band-fociety, is of great consequence, as will appear when we come to enlarge upon the 3d fection of the ad chapter.
6. As the Lord is a God of order, and not of confusion, it is highly neceffary that one perfon should be invested with the regulation of the watch-nights and love-feasts: and who would be so proper, in the absence of the presiding elder, as the preacher who has the oversight of the circuit ? As to watch-nights, we may observe, Did our Lord spend whole nights in prayer ? Matt. xiv. 23_-25. Mark vi. 46-48. Luke vi. 12. “And it came to país in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” Did St. Paul alfo employ whole nights in instructing and praying with the church of God? Acts xx. 7-11, “When he (Paul) had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.” And thall not the ministers and people of God in tbefe
days imitate such great examples ? Shall the dissipated and profane revel and watch, night after night, in the service of Satan, and shall we think it too much to watch and pray fometimes for a few hours together ?
Our venerable leader, Mr. Wesley, was in this, as in most of his rules, lead on by divine Providence. When informed, about the year 1740, that the congregation at Kingswood, near Bristol, frequently continued in exhortation and prayer till midnight, he had thoughts of suppressing such meetings : but when, after sufficient inquiry, he found that the power of God was remarkably present on those occasions, and that many were awakened, justified, or sanctified, he bowed under the hand of God, and not only permitted the continuance of thein in Kingswood, but introduced them through the connection, and was, to his dying hour, fully convinced of their blessed effects.
In respect to our love-feasts, we shall fpeak of them in our notes on the 4th section of the 2d chapter.
7. Though the presiding elder is far more proper to preside at the quarterly meetings than any other who regularly attends, yet the preacher, who has the oversight of the circuit is, next to him, the most likely to be impartial.* It is on this principle, that the twelve judges of England make it a rule, that no one of them shall take that circuit which includes the place where he was born. Besides, every thing is finally determined by a majority of votes. On those extraordinary occafions, therefore, when through fickness, or any other unavoidable hindrance, the presiding elder is absent, the next to him in office must be the moderator of the meeting. See the notes on the 5th fection of this chapter. Let us all be willing to submit to that due subjection, which is necessary to the good order of the whole,“ yea, all of you be subject one to another; 1 Pet. v. 5.
8. Next to the preaching of the gospel, the spreading of religious knowledge by the press, is of the greatest moment to the people. The foul, whilst united to the body, must be daily fed with pious ideas, otherwise it will lose ground in the divine life. Though the Lord is wonderfully kind to those of his children who are so unfortunate as not to be able to read, yet we are to
* We do not mean that he is likely to have more grace or more integrity than the otber members of the quarterly meeting, but only that he is not so much exposed to the temptations of prejudging a cause through confanguiniiy, affection, or a variety of other interests, as the other memi
We have a bigh eftcem for all our official members, and would not intentionally offend thein on any account.