« PreviousContinue »
down to visit and confrm the churches, whom they understand by those that labour, namely, to weari. ness, in the laft part of the verse. For the work of the fixed paftor is such a labour too, I Theff. v. 12. Nor yet such as were unfit for preaching, yet administered the facraments, 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, whole work is, as in the text, to govern he church, but not to preach the word; and therefore they are diftinguished from preaching elders, as is plain from the particle especially ; as Phil. iv. 24. All the saints falute you, chiefly they that are of Casar's household. Chiefly is the fame word in the Greek that is here rendered especially; and it plainly implies, that there were some faints at Rome not of Cæsar's household So here are described fome 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 special manner, by the text, double honour is due, i. e. maintenance and respect, forasmuch as their office is greater and more honourable, noc only in ruling of the church, as the others do, but preaching of the gospel besides, Where, by the by, we may fee, that, if Paul's doctrine had place in the world, the preaching parish minister would have more honour than the non-preaching bishop, who contents himself with ruling, but puts not his thoulders to the labour in the word and doctrine. Main, tenance, we fee is, due to both forts of elders, by divine right. But it is no fin for either to quit their right in certain circumstances. And with us the ru. ling elders are allowed no maintenance, but the preaching elders are. The reason of this is the poverty of thie church that cannot bear it; and that our ruling elders are not taken off their secular employments, 28 ministers are,
The doctrine deducible from the text is,
Doct. 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 profecution of the doctrine, shew,
I. 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,
IV. Apply 1. I am to fhew what is the duty of these officers,
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 together ; so, together with the paftor, they are to rule the con. gregation. God setting a minister in a congregation says of him, It is not meet the man should be alone, I will make him an help meet for him. And a fociety. 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. xviij. 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 bath 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 congregation, 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 minister's 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 evil.
And unless elders do so, and communicate their help in that matter to the pastor, he may be long in a con gregation, and yet be a stranger to many under his charge, and so ministerial visitations may be very use. less.
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, i Tim. jji. 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 admonis) 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 neg. ligence, they ought to stir up people to their duty; f. g. those that neglect family.prayer, secret prayer, attending regularly on ordinances, or are negligent of their souls ftate any way, they should drop a word to
(2.) Rebuking of fin. Reproofs of wisdom are as necessary for church-members, as falt is to keep meat from corrupting. It is necefsary to discourage fin and wickedness in the church, which should be a holy fociety. And there wants not occasion enough for this, in swearing, lying, profaning of the fabbath, drunkenness, strife, variance, and whatsoever is contrary to the rules of the gospel.
(3.) Warning such as they see in hazard of fin; 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 Ataggering, and a word then duly put into their mind may, by the blessing of God, keep them from falling
(4.) Comforting those that are cast down, and ftrengthening the weak. It was the practice of holy
stir them up
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 Chrilt's flock; to labour to support them in the Lord.
(5.) Instructing and informing them privately. And indeed rule without instruction is dumb, and not agrecable 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 fin, but by reasoning with them to convince their consciences.
These things are the duty of all church-members, however 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. i Theff.
3. They are to visit the fick, and should be sent for for that eod, Jam. v. 14. 15.
But otherwise difcre. tion and Christian love may engage them to go even when they are not fent for. They ought to pray with them and for them. Apd, 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 cafe 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 paftor in the exercise of discipline, according to the word of God, and the conflitutions of the church agreeable thereto. For minifters 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 canpot be passed with private admonition. And in the pianaging 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 find ing out of the best expedient. Admission to and debarring from the facrament of the Lord's supper, is a weighty piece of this work, belonging to the kirk-felfion, wherein all tenderness, caution, and wisdom thould be used, to separate as far as we can betwixt the precious and the vile, that holy things be not caft 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 inferiors ones, the elders may do it, and must do it, where there are not deacons.
II. I come now to thew what it is to discharge the duties of that office well.
1. It is to discharge it faithfully, 1 Cor. iv. 2. TC is a great trust the Master puts us in, and we must act in it with that faithfulness to our own fouls and the fouls of those who are under our charge, as our conscience may not have wherewith to reproach us.
2. Diligently, Rom. xii. 8. The flothful servant that closeth his eyes, and gives up his watch, will will never be approved of God. Be diligent in your duty, and it will not want its reward.
3. Zealously, Pfal. 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 wickedness, in the congregation and otherwife as we have access, is well becoining church-officers especially,
4. Prudently, Matth. xxiv. 45. Church officers had need to join the wisdom of the serpent with the fimplicity of the dove. And they will find it necessary many a time to sweeten with prudent management the bitter pills they must give, Gal. vi. 1.
III. I proceed to sew what is that lionour that people owe to their ruling elders.