Page images

from seven to eight every Tuesday morning, for the solemn seeking of God, each one in his closet, in this so critical a juncture."

The voice of Watts was not heard in the discussions that arose on the question that affected his

friend, Sir Thomas Abney, and others in a

similar position. His silence is accounted for in some degree by the serious indisposition that compelled him to withdraw from active ministerial service, as we learn from the following letter :

Silence of

“To the Church of Christ meeting in Bury Street, of which the

Holy Spirit hath made me overseer. “Dearly beloved in our Lord, -Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied to you from Gud our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

“It has been a very sore aggravation of my long sorrows that I have not been able to encourage your Christian visits, to converse with you singly, to receive your consolations, and relate my own experience. Nor have I been capable to express my constant concern for your welfare by writing to you together as a Church, as I often designed. But you are upon my heart more than ever, whilst God chastises my former want of zeal by silencing me for a season. I bow to his wisdom and holiness, and am learning obedience by the things that I suffer, and many lessons of righteousness and grace, which I hope hereafter to publish amongst you; as I have been long pleading with Him for pardon for my negligence, so I ask you also to forgive. Long afflictions are soul-searching providences, and discover the secret of the heart and omission of duties, that were unobserved in the day of grace. May the blessed Spirit reveal to each of us why He continues to contend with us! I cannot reckon


my obligations to you for your kind support of me under my tedious and expensive sicknesses, and for your continued and constant prayers for my recovery, which gave me the first ground of hope that I should be restored, which hope and expectation still remain with me, and I think are supported by the Word and Spirit of

God. It seems at present more needful for you that I abide in the flesh (Phil. i. 24–26), and I trust I shall yet abide for your furtherance and joy of faith, that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Christ Jesus for me, by my coming to you again. And whilst I am confined as the prisoner of God, I request the continuance of your supplications for patience and sanctification as well as health. I rejoice also to hear of your union, your love, and your attendance on the worship of the Church. This has been a great comfort to my thoughts in the time of my affliction and absence; yet I am in pain for your edification, because you have no one among you to administer the spiritual and seal. ing ordinances ; and since it is your earnest desire to know my opinion on that affair that lies before you, I have at several seasons been enabled to write it under these heads :-1. That there were in the primitive Churches several preaching elders, bishops, or overseers. 2. That where their gifts were different, some were called pastors, or elders for exhortation, to feed the flock, and to exhort the saints; and others were called teachers, or elders for doctrine, to instruct the hearers in the principles of Christianity, chiefly the younger Christians, and to bring in new converts. 3. The Scripture does not determine when, or how often, one or other should preach or administer holy ordinances ; and yet it is necessary there should be some rule to decide it, lest ambition or controversy should arise among the elders in this matter. 4. The Scripture makes no distinction, nor subordination of power, betwixt them in the Church, but seems to give all elders an equality of power. 5. Therefore I believe the Church (to which the light of nature and Scripture hath given all power in things indifferent, that are necessary to be determined) has power to appoint the times, seasons, and places of their ministrations. 6. It is for the certain advantage of a Church to have more elders than one in it, that they may more frequently visit the Church, more fully take care of them, and regularly administer all holy ordinances; if one or other be sick or absent, may also better keep the Church together, and encourage young converts to join themselves to it. 7. That it is for the advantage of a Church to have such an elder chosen, whose gifts have been tried and approved in the Church, and been owned and blessed of God for the good of souls. Such a one may most likely please and profit.

“Now with regard to our Church in particular-1. It is my opinion that, whether I live or die, if such an elder be chosen by the universal desire and voice of the Church, it will be much for their advantage, in all probability. 2. Whether I live or die, if another elder be chosen with the desire of a few persons, and the opposition of a few, and the bare, cold assent of the major part, it will not be for the advantage of the Church ; and I am sure my worthy brother, Mr. Sam. Price, on whom your thoughts are set, hath too tender a sense of your spiritual interests, and too wise a sense of his own, to accept of such an imperfect call to fixed office in the Church. 3. If another elder be chosen, with pretty general desire of the Church (though not universal), it will be for the advantage of the Church if I live, and am restored to your service; and I shall rejoice to have you supplied with all

ordinances in my absence by a man that I can most entirely con· fide in ; and, on my return, shall rejoice to be assisted in all

services to the Church by one whom I love and esteem highly; and I write as much with an eye to your future benefit as to your present want. 4. If God, for my sins, shall refuse to employ me again (for I have justly deserved it), and if He shall deny the long and importunato requests of his people (for He is a great Sovereign), I trust He will direct and incline your hearts to choose and establish one or more elders among you, who

may give universal satisfaction, and especially to such as may now be less satisfied, and may be for your future edification and increase. 5. If my beloved brother Price be chosen as one elder among you, I hope your diligent and sincere attendance on his instructions will give you more abundant sense of his true worth, of the exactness of his discourses, of the seriousness of his spirit, and of the constant blessing of God with him-all which I have observed with much pleasure.

“Now I have fully delivered my sentiments in this affair, and you see how sincere and hearty I am in it. Yet I will give you two reasons why I do not think it fit to propose it to the Church—1. Because it is the proper business of the Church to seek afler elders and officers of itself, from a sight and sense of their own spiritual interests, both as Christians and as a united body; especially considering the elder you propose to choose is not to be my deputy or servant, but your minister and overseer in the Lord. 2. Because I never would have anything of such impor

tance done in the Church by the influence of my desire, without your own due sense and prospect of your own edification and establishment as a Church of Christ. Nor would I influence you in this affair, unless the judgment of your minds concur with mine; for as I never had any interest divided from the interest of the Church, so I hope I never shall.

“And now, brethren, dearly beloved, I intreat you, by the love of Christ to you, and by the love you bear to Christ, our common Lord, that there


be no contentions among you. I should be glad to find every affair that belongs to the Church determined by as many voices as, I trust, I have hearts and affections among you.

However, with freedom let every one speak his sentiments as under the eye of Christ, the great Shepherd, without bias or resentment, and with zeal for the Church's interest. Let everything that is debated be with great calmness, and so much the more in my absence, each of you believing concerning one another that you sincerely seek the honour of Christ, and the union and peace of the Church, as I believe concerning you all. Let eacb of you be ready to lay aside his own former opinions or resolutions, as you shall see reason arise, for the common welfare. If there should be quarrels and wranglings, reflections and hard speeches, it would be a grief too heavy for me to bear, and the most effectual way to overwhelm my spirit, and delay my return to you; and as I know you have the utmost tenderness of my peace, you ought to be as tender of each other's spiritual advantage, and the union and peace of the body, and to indulge no secret whispers or backbitings that inay hinder the edification of your brethren by the ministrations of the Church. But I will not give myself leave to entertain such suspicion concerning you, who have so many years walked together in constant love. I pray heartily that the all-wise God and Jesus Christ our Lord may preside in your consultations, direct your hearts, and deter. mine all things for you, that you may be established and edified, and be a joy and blessing to each other, as you have been, and I trust will be, to your most affectionate and afflicted pastor, Nov. 4, 1713.


* London Ciristian Instructor, vol. iii., p. 359, et seq.


POLITICAL changes in Europe brought to the Colonies of the New World an interval of rest and continuous growth. The war between England and France terminated in the Peace of Utrecht in 1713. New England, freed from predatory expeditions on its coasts, extended its borders. Twenty-four Congre. gational Churches were formed in Massachusetts from 1714 to 1720. In some places there was greater spiritual prosperity, and new workers were called into the field. THOMAS PRINCE, the founder of the Congregational Library in Boston, commenced his ministry in the Old South Church on the 25th of August, 1717. After an absence of several years in Europe, he landed in Boston (July 21st, 1717), on the Sabbath, “ about a quarter of an hour after the meeting had begun." Five hundred people came down to the wharf at noon to see him ; “but,” he says, " I silently went up to the Old South Meeting, and none there knew me but Mr. Sewall, then in the pulpit, Mr. Levers praying and preaching at that time with them.” Joseph Sewall, to whom this reference is made (the father of Judge Sewall), continued pastor of the Old South Church till he had survived three colleagues, and nearly attained the age of 81.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »