Christian Fellowship

By John Angell James, 1822


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.