Monday, March 27, 2017

Customs of Primitive Churches, election of a minister, continued

PROP. VIII. Of the election of a minister, continued

9. Here follows a narrative of proceedings at two church meetings; the one was to move a person to a trial of his supposed gifts; the other to choose him to be a minister. At the first, the church met fasting, according to previous notice; public service being over and the rest of the congregation dismissed the minister addressed them in words to this effect.
10. “We are come together in the name and with the power of the Lord Jesus; and that fasting, according to notice. The design of the meeting (as many of you know) is, to consult and determine something on the case of our brother _______, who is inclined to the ministry from a consciousness of an inward call thereto. The external call is the business of the church, which you are bound to give, or deny him, according as you know and believe him to be, or not to be fitted of God for the office. He is no novice; for you know the man and his communications. If you know him to be given to wine; to be a striker; or covetous; or greedy of filthy lucre; or a brawler; or accused of riot; or unruly; or a polygamist; or self-willed; or apt to be soon angry; or have an ill report of them that are without; or is defective in understanding, or utterance; or if ye believe on good grounds, that he has not aptness to teach; or has not the spirit of prayer; or is not skilled in the mysteries of the gospel; ye are forbid all aiding and abetting towards introducing him to the ministry. But if, on the other hand, ye know him to be blameless; (the husband of one wife;) vigilent; sober; of good behavior; given to hospitality; patient; (ruling well his own house;) a lover of good men; just; holy; temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught; able by sound doctrine to exhort and convince gainsayers; having a good report of them that are without; and especially if ye have reason to believe he has aptness to teach; has the spirit of prayer; and is skilled in the word of righteousness ye are bound to give your suffrage in his favour; for by endowing him with those qualifications God marks him out as a proper object of your choice. Wherefore let us ask help of God to act the wise and faithful part in this matter.
11. “The kingdom of the Lord are we! and with us are the keys of his kingdom! But we are what we are by thy sovereign grace! and have what we possess by thy unmerited bounty; for thine is the kingdom, and thine is the power! Will it please the king of saints to be in the midst of us now? and at this time reign over us in a special manner? that with the presence and power of the Lord Jesus we may do the thing that pleaseth him on earth, and may obtain the concurrence and {ratification} of heaven! Is he whom the Lord hath designed for the ministry before him? Is our brother _______ the man? Is he really fitted for the ministry, who appeareth to us so to be? Is his disposition to the sacred office the effect of a touch which thy finger hath given to his conscience, or is it owing to some other cause? Shall we encourage him to a probation in the ministry, or shall we forbear? Thou Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show us these things! Even so Lord Jesus, Amen.”
12. After prayer the minister desired the brethren to speak their minds freely touching the thing that had been moved to them. Much was said, and all in favour of the motion. Then the minister put the matter to the vote, saying,
13. “You who think it your duty to encourage our brother _______ to a proof of the ministerial qualifications which you know, or believe him to have, show it by the lifting of your hand.”
Hands were lifted up. Then he put the negative to them, in words to this effect,
14. “You who {hold} yourselves bound to oppose the motion, show it by like sign.”
No hands were lifted up. Then the person was called in whom the minister bespoke thus.
15. “You are, sir, by the unanimous suffrage of your church moved to the exercise of the gifts which they believe you have; we would know whether you will accept the call?”
He signified willingness to comply. Then was informed of the set time when he was to give specimens of his ministerial abilities; and the church required to attend. After that the minister prayed in words to this effect.
16. “Let the thing which we have now done please the, O Lord! for thou knowest that doing thee a pleasure has been our end; and that a sense of duty, exited by indications of thy will, was our motive. Thou hast taught us to pray that many labourers may be sent to the harvest! We have done as thou hast commanded! And no sooner hath one stood up among us, professing a mission from thee and rendering credible the profession by an appearance of ministerial qualifications, than we have hasted to be workers together with God! If we rightly interpret these things, confirm us more and more therein by what we may further see in thy servant, and hear from him, so as not to leave a doubt behind! Help him, good Lord, to make a full proof of his ministry and mission! Help us to judge truly and impartially; for we would not dare abase the power we have because it is thy power, delegated to us as an accountable trust; If we err, will our dear Lord convince us of the error, and forgive; even so, Lord Jesus, Amen.

Then were sung the following lines. The music by Mr. Arne.

                        He, bounteous still, bids others rise,
In lieu of each that fails, or dies;
Nor shall the order cease;
And when he sends by whom he’ll send.
He makes the means attain the end,
By adding the increase.

Let each that hears the preached word,
Admire this goodness of their Lord,
And in his praise agree;
For ministers, their work, and call,
Their shining gifts, their use, and all
Are fruites of his decree.

Then the minister dismissed the church with the usual benediction. See the manner, Prop. iv. ver. 40.

Customs of Primitive Churches, Morgan Edwards, pages 19-21

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