Every well regulated church will have its solemn and
stated meetings for conducting the business necessarily connected with its
existence and progress. Many ministers have imbibed a prejudice against
these meetings, and, like Charles the First, who, not finding the parliament
as suppliant as he could wish, determined to govern without parliaments
altogether--they have resolved to rule without calling the church
together, except, at least, on extraordinary emergencies. I admit that
church meetings have been abusedóbut this has been more frequently the
fault of the pastor, than the people. They have sometimes exhibited
scenes of confusion, little recommendatory of the democratic form of church
government. This, however, is not the error of the systemóbut the improper
way in which it is administered. When ignorance or imprudence is elevated to
the chair, order and decorum cannot be looked for in the assembly.
It would conduce to the order of church meetings, if it
were much inculcated by the pastor, and generally understood by the people,
that they were meetings for devotion, and not for debate.
They should ever be attended with the usual services of a prayer meeting,
that is, with singing, supplication, and ministerial exhortation. If
business is to be done, it should be thus introduced, and transacted in the
spirit, and amid the services of devotion. These times of assembling should
be periodical; for when they are only occasional, they lose the
character of devotional seasons, and assume the form of business meetings,
to which the members come prepared for protracted and general discussion.
The admonition of the apostle is always in seasonóbut
never more so than in reference to the times of the assembling of the
saints, "Let every man be slow to speak." And when any one does
deliver his opinion, it should not be in a prating, dogmatic manneróbut in
few words, modestly spoken. Not only the pastoróbut the people themselves,
should discourage those forward, obtrusive spirits, to whom no music or
melody is so pleasant as the sound of their own voice. Talking
assemblies soon become disorderly ones. A wise and prudent minister
will set his face against them; and a wise and prudent church will support
him in this conduct.
It is, of course, no less the interest than the duty of
the church, to support, at all its meetings, the just and scriptural
authority of the pastor. He should ever be addressed in the most
courteous and respectful manner, and every expression of rudeness should be
marked with the disapprobation of the members present.