BLTC Press Titles

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Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

An essay on the warrant, nature, and duties of the office of the ruling elder, in the Presbyterian church

by Samuel Miller





Reverend And Respected Brethren,

The substance of the following essay was delivered, from the pulpit, in the form of a sermon, more than twenty years ago, and subsequently published. In consequence of repeated solicitation, from some individuals of your number, I have thought proper to alter its form, to enlarge its limits, and to adapt it, according to my best judgment, to more general utility. It has long appeared to me that a more ample discussion of this subject than I have hitherto seen, is really needed. And if the present volume should be considered as, in any tolerable degree, answering the desired purpose, I shall feel myself richly rewarded for the labour which has attended its preparation.

Such as it is, my venerated friends, 1 inscribe it, most respectfully, to you. My first prayer in regard to it is, that it may be the means of doing some good: my next, that it may be received by those whom I have so much reason to respect and love, as a well intended effort to benefit the Church of God.

I am aware that some of my brethren do not concur with me in maintaining the Divine authority of the office of the Ruling Elder; and, probably, in several other opinions respecting this office advanced in the following pages. In reference to these points, I can only say, that, as the original publication, of which this is an enlargement, was made without the remotest thought of controversy, and even without adverting, in my own mind, to the fact, that I differed materially from any of my brethren; so nothing is more foreign from my wishes, in the republication, than to assail the opinions or feelings of any brother. I have carefully re-examined the whole subject. And, although, in doing this, I have been led to modify some of my former opinions, in relation to a few minor points ; yet in reference to the Divine warrant and the great importance of the office for which 1 plead, my convictions have become


stronger than ever. The following sheets exhibit those views, and that testimony in support of them, which at present, satisfy my own mind, and which I feel confident may be firmly sustained. How far, however, the considerations which have satisfied me, may impress more impartial judges, I cannot venture to foretell. All that I dare to ask in their behalf is, that they may be seriously and candidly weighed.

But there is one point in regard to which I anticipate no diversity of opinion. If the statement given in the following essay, concerning the duties incumbent on Ruling Elders, be correct, it is certain that very inadequate views of those duties, have been too often taken, both by those who conferred, and those who sustained the office; and that there is a manifest and loud call for an attempt to raise the standard of public sentiment in reference to the whole subject. That we make so little of this office, compared with what we might do, and ought to do, does really appear to me one of the deepest deficiencies of our beloved Church. That a reform in this respect is desirable, is to express but half the truth. It is necessary; it is vital. It has pleased the sovereign Disposer, to cast our lot in a period of mighty plans, and of high moral effort, for the benefit of the world. In the subject of this volume, I am inclined to think, is wrapped up one of those means which are destined, under His blessing, to be richly productive of moral energy in the enterprises of Christian benevolence, which appear to be every day gathering strength. When the rulers of the Church shall, in the genuine spirit of the humble, faithful, and laborious Paul, " magnify their office ;" when they shall be found cordially and diligently co-operating with those who " labour in the word and doctrine," in inspecting, counselling, and watching over the " flocks" respectively committed to their " oversight in the Lord;" and when they shall be suitably honoured and employed, in their various appropriate functions, both by pastors and people; this change will, I believe, be, at once, one of the surest precursors, and one of the most efficient means, of the introduction of brighter days in the Church of God.

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