« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
times, they appear to have their minds bent on the object of their mission, so that it would be difficult to divert their attention from the work in hand. When they have staid a sufficient time at a town or village, they depart. One or more guides are appointed by the particular meeting, belonging to it, to show them the way to the next place where they purpose to labour, and to convey them free of expense, and to conduct them to the house of some member there. From this house, when their work is finished, they are conveyed and conducted by new guides to another, and so on, till they return to their respective homes.
But the religious views of the ministers are not always confined even within the boundaries of the kingdom.
Many of them believe it to be their duty to travel into foreign parts. These, as their journey is now extensive, must lay their concern not only before their own monthly meeting, but before their own quarterly meeting, and before the meeting of ministers and elders in London also. On receiving their certificates they depart. Some of them visit the continent of Europe, but most of
them the churches in America, where they diligently labour in the vineyard, probably for a year or two, at a distance from their families and friends. And here it
be observed that, while ministers from England are thus visiting America on a religious errand, ministers from America, impelled by the same influence, are engaging in apostolical missions to England. These foreign visits, on both sides, are not undertaken by such ministers only as are men.
Women engage in them also. They cross the Atlantic, and labour in the vineyard in the same manner. It
be mentioned here, that though it is a principle in the society, that no minister of the Gospel ought to be paid for his religious labours, yet the expense of the voyages, on such occasions, is allowed to be defrayed out of the fund which is denominated by the Quakers their 6 National Stock."
Elders-Their appointment--one part of their
office to watch over the doctrines and conduct of ministers account of their origin--another part of their office to meet the ministers of the church, and to confer and exhort for religious good—none of them to meddle at these con. ferences with the government of the church. I mentioned in the preceding chapter, as the reader must have observed, that certain persons, called Elders, watched over those, who came forward in the ministry, with a view of ascertaining if they had received a proper qualification or call; I shall now state who the elders are, as well as more particularly the nature of their office.
To every particular meeting certain elders, both men and women, sometimes more in number and sometimes less, according as persons can be found qualified, are appointed. These are nominated by a committee appointed by the monthly meeting, in conjunction with a committee appointed by the 8',
quarterly meeting. And as the office annexed to the name of elder is considered peculiarly important by the Society, particular care is taken that persons of clear discernment, and such as excel in the spiritual ear, and such as are blameless in their lives, are appointed to it. It is recommended, that neither wealth nor age be allowed to operate as inducements in the choice of them. Indeed, so much care is required to be taken with respect to the filling up of this office, that, if persons perfectly suitable are not to be found, the meetings are to be left without them.
It is one part of the duty of the elders, when appointed, to watch over the spiritual authority and doctrine of young ministers, and also to watch over the doctrine and conduct of ministers generally, and tenderly to advise with such as appear to them to be deficient in
any of the qualifications, which belong to their high calling.
When we consider that every religious society attaches a more than common respectability to the person, who performs the sacerdotal office, there will be no difficulty in supposing, whenever a minister may be thought to err, that many of those, who are aware of his error, will want the courage to point it out to him, and that others will excuse themselves from doing it, by saying that interference on this occasion does not belong more immediately to them than to others. This institution therefore of elders fixes the office on individuals. It makes it their duty to watch and advise. It makes them responsible for communications not spiritually authorized, for unsound doctrine, and the bad conduct, of their ministers. And this responsibility is considered as likely to give persons that courage, in watching over the ministry, which they might otherwise want. Hence, if a minister in the Quaker-church were to preach without
proper spiritual authority, or unsoundly, or to act inconsistently with his calling, he would be generally sure of being privately spoken to by one or more of the elders.
This office of elders, as far as it is concerned in advising ministers of the Gospel, had its foundation laid by George Fox. Many persons, who engaged in the ministry in his time, are described by him as “ having run into imaginations, or as having gone beyond their measure ;” and in these cases, whenever they should happen, he re