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An Elders Diary.











Presbyterian CcniMiTTEE ok Publication.

C •) F V K I (J H T K Ii

J A S. K H A Z E N, Secri'/ary of Piihlication.
I S96.

Printed hv


Richmond, Va.


The permission to publish the extracts from
an elder's diary contained in this volume was
given by a competent aiithority, at the request
of the present editor, to whom the privilege of
reading the original manuscript had been ac-
corded. The request was made in the hope
that a record of the actual labors, trials and
experiences of one bearing the important office
of ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church,
interspersed with illustrative incidents, might
be serviceable to this branch of the Christian
ministry. Treatises and manuals, proposing to
throw light upon the spirit and manner in which
the functions of the eldership should be dis-
charged, have been numerous of late. The
fact may be indicative of an awakened con-
viction on the part of the teaching ministry
that their worfe needs to be buttressed by an
increased efficiency on the part of these co-


4 Preface.

acljutors taken from the body of a church's
members. The house given to the former to
build is so "exceedingly magnifical" in its
design and proportions that it calls for an
expenditure of talent and toil greater than
any one man can furnish. It has been thought
by the editor that the living picture afforded
by these annals of an elder's attempts 'to do
his duty might be a helpful supplement to
directories of a more definite kind, and hence
they have been given to the public.

It is hardly necessary to add, that in cop}'-
ing these extracts care has been taken to con-
ceal names of persons and places, so as to
avoid the risk of trespassing upon the sanc-
tities of private life. But few changes in the
language have been required in preparing the
manuscript for publication. The facts intro-
duced, I have reason to know, are realities,
not fictions; and the selections from the body
of the diary have been made with the best
judgment the editor could exercise.

J. B. Stratton.

" Sunsft Lodge" \atchez. Miss.



The Struggle,


The Decision, . . . . . . 11


PRErARATION, . . . . . . 17


A Practicai. Problem, ..... 20

A Victory, ....... 25


New Crosses, . . . . . . 32


Peacemaking, . . . . . . 3T

The Presbytery, ...... 44


An Inquirer, ., . . . . . 50


The Sabbath-Sciiool, ..... 59




A IIevival, .




A Pestilence,


The General Assembly,


Pastoral C^hancjes,




Session ^Meetings,









Sociability. ....... 128


Church Discipline, ..... 135


Sovereign Grace, ..... 143


Spiritual Communications, .... 150


£VENTIDE . . . . . . .162





May 18, 1865. — To ni}'- surprise — I might
almost say dismay — I have received notice
to-day of my election at a recent meeting of
our congregation to the office of ruling elder.
The announcement has thrown my mind into a
tumult which has almost amounted to an agony.
I seem to be standing in the presence of a
mountain, with a voice sounding in my ears,
bidding me to lift it. At every glance I take
at the stupendous object, the larger it seems
to grow, and the more my consciousness of
my inability to bear its weight overwhelms
me. My inclinations prompt me at once to
decline the call. My judgment, as far as I can
be said to have any in ftiy present confusion
of mind, sides with my inclinations. I am
averse to positions of prominence or leadership.

8 Extracts from an Elder's Diary.

Mj disposition leads me to shrink from re-
sponsibility and the criticism to which office
exposes one. I have not enjoyed the advan-
tages of literary culture. My training has
been largely of a practical sort. I feel myself
at home in every-day business matters, but in
the higher field of ecclesiastical legislation and
spiritual science I am a novice, needing to be
taught rather than presuming to teach. Be-
sides, I am painfully lacking in self-confidence.
I lose my command of such resources as I may
really possess, when called upon to act in the
eyes of a multitude. My bewilderment is op-
pressive! I fear to take a step in any direc-
tioD, lest it should be a wrong one. Lord,
help me ! Send me light.

Sunday, May 21. — The last three days have
been so absorbed in the consideration of this
great question of duty which has been thrust
upon me that I have had little capacity for
my ordinary employments. My repugnance to
accepting the ofiice proposed to me continues,
perhaps, as decided as ever ; but sometimes the
suspicion steals into my mind that there may,
to some extent, be a carnal bias affecting my
way of looking at the matter; and fearing that
I might be unduly swayed by this, I have tried,
■with the simplicity of a little child, to follow

The Struggle. 9

the counsel of the apostle: "If any man lack
wisdom, let him ask of God."

I have felt, at the close of this holy day, in
which I seem to have been unusually conscious
of the nearness of that divine inspirer, that
the aspect of the harassing problem has some-
what changed, and that some of the factors in
it which at first appalled me have been with-
drawn, and others wiiich I had failed to appre-
ciate have come into view.

I think I am indebted, in part, for the com-
parative composure I enjoy to-night to some
thoughts uttered by our pastor in his sermon
this morning. Speaking of our Lord's remark
to his disciples, in Matthew x. 20, "It is not
ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father
which speaketh in you," he explained that
^'speaking," here, might be understood as in-
cluding all forms of testimony by which men
may bear witness to Christ, or render service
in the propagating of his religion ; and, while
admitting that the immediate reference of the
saying was to the supernatural aid his disciples
might expect in their controversies with their
opponents, he argued that all believers are au-
thorized to expect from their heavenly Father
the help of the Holy Spirit in fitting them for
duty, more confidently even than children are

10 Extracts from an Elder's Diary.

to expect bread from the baud of a natural
parent. (Luke xi. 13.) "As the presence of
the Holy Spirit," he continued, "implies the
exercise of his power in some way, there is
valid ground for the expectation that this
power will be exercised in behalf of every
sincere Christian who is striving, whether by
speech or work, to bring men to the knowledge
of the truth as it is in Jesus."

In revolving these thoughts, I find that an
estimate of the efficiency I might bring into
the office set before me is not to be limited by
the paucity of my personal endowments, but
that the declaration, "It is not ye that speak,
but the Spirit of your Father," carries me out
of my feeble self, and shows me a reserve of
force lying behind or above me, whose resources
are available for me simply upon the asking.

The train of my reflections has been, in some
measure, assuring ; and I go to my rest repeat-
ing the words of Moses (Exodus xxxiii. 15):
"If thy presence go not with me, carry us not
up hence," but venturing to add, with a hesi-
tating confidence, "If that presence will go
with me, Lord, I will lean upon thy strength
and go lip."



Sunday, June 4. — I review the events of
this day with peculiar solemnity. It seems as
if the vows of consecration, which I made ten
years ago when I was admitted to the com-
munion of the church, had been repeated
with a special emphasis and a special preci-
sion of aim and purpose. If I said then, with
an earnest heart, "Lord, what wilt thou have
me to do?" I have with tenfold earnestness
renewed the appeal to-day.

My assent to the call having been given in
the previous week, it was arranged that the
ordination should take place this morning, in
connection with the administration of the Lord's
supper, for which this was the regular season.
It was a happy conjunction. It was a good
position, in the presence of the symbols of the
Saviour's service for his people, for an honest
disciple to get a view of the measure of service
due to him. It was impossible not to respond
to the import of the sacred festival in the terms
of the apostle's confession, "To me to live is


12 Extracts from an Elder's Diary.

The opportunity was a good one, too, in
which to realize that my investiture with office
was a fact as well as a form ; for it gave me the
privilege, as a minister in the Lord's house, of
presenting to my fellow-believers the emblem-
atic bread and cup, which, by his own ordi-
nance, were to attest the redemption wrought
through his death till he should come again.

While the series of thoughts or convictions
by which the result just consummated has been
reached is fresh in m}' mind, I wish to record
them deliberately, thinking that a recollection
of them may be useful to me in coming time.

First, then, I cannot entertain a doubt that
the congregating of Christians in the form of a
church, as practiced by the apostles, included
in it the appointing of a certain class of per-
sons to be teachers and rulers in each particular
body. The economy, or hoiise-lcno of the new
family, called necessarily for such a class. Ac-
cordingly, when a band of disciples had been
gathered together, in several cities in Asia Minor,
by Paul and Barnabas (Acts xiv. 23), and a
permanent organization had to be introduced,
under which their corporate life might be pro-
tected and cultivated, they, that is, Paul, an
inspired ambassador of Christ, and Barnabas,
his chosen associate, "ordained them" elders

The Decision. 1'^

(or presbyters) in every city; and, then, "hav-
ing prayed with fasting and commended them
to the Lord on whom they believed," left the in
under the sole charge of these officers. Simi-
larly, I find that the apostle commissioned
Titus his deputy to " ordain elders in every
city" in Crete. (Titus i. 5.) Uniformly, I
may say, wherever I see a church referred to
in apostolic writings, I see the " elders " con-
joined with it as a constituent and representative
element. (See Acts xi. 30; xx. 17; Jas. v. 14;
1 Pet. V. 1.) I am sure, therefore, that the
office that I have consented to accept has the
authentic warrant of an institution of the head
of the church.

Second, It is clear to me, from the tenor of
the Scrjpture allusions and the probabilities of
the case, that there was, ordinarily at least, a
plurality of these elders in each church ; and,
if so, "diversities of gifts," which led to a
diversity of function, such as now distinguishes
the "teaching" from the "ruling" elder in the
Presbyterian Church. I am satisfied, there-
fore, that the office with which I have been
invested has a place in the divine plan, and
needs to be filled, in order to perfect the
organization of a church. It strikes me that
this multiplied way of exercising the oversight


of the flock is eminently the result of the wis-
dom of the Holy Ghost.

Third, I am constrained to conclude that,
owing to the incompetency caused by the old
age or confirmed ill-health of some of the
members of the eldership in this church, there
is, at this time, a patent necessity for an addi-
tion to their number. It is clearly the duty of
some individual or individuals in the male con-
stituency of the church, in this exigency, to
lend their services, however diffident they may
be as to their worthiness, to this branch of the
Lord's work. The appeal addresses itself to
me, as well as to others. It is enforced by the
voice of my brethren. If it is I whom the
Master needs, I must not refuse to obey.

Fourth, I see that many who, like Moses
and Jeremiah, have had a clear vocation from
God to do service in his kingdom, and have
shrunk from the mission assigned them through
conscious unfitness, have, nevertheless, when
obediently taking up their l>urden, "out of
weakness been made strong " ; and by their
history I am admonished to be distrustful of
those self -distrusting scruples which led me, at
first view, to object to a proposed work for God.

Fifth, I find a growing attractiveness in the
work I am invited to take up, from the couvic-

The Decision. 15

tion that it will uot only add to my opportuni-
ties for doing good, but will contribute largely
to my growth in personal piety. I am sure the
"one thing" I have set before me as the su-
preme end of my present life is, "to press to-
ward the mark for the prize of the high calling
of God in Christ Jesus," I persuade myself
that in obeying this call of the church I shall
realize more sensibly the force of this " high
calling." I shall be brought into more con-
scious sympathy and fellowship with Christ.
In "losing" my life for his sake, in giving my
thoughts and cares to the interests of his cause,
I may hope to experience the blessed result of
"saving" it, in the sense of quickening and
maturing the spiritual principle within me. I
may find myself growing richer in grace in
proportion as I abridge my schemes of self-
seeking (which is the name for worldly busi-
ness), and consecrate my energies to the ad-
vancement of Christ's kingdom. There is an
inspiration in this idea which gives me courage,
and which I cannot but think comes from above.
The peace it has brought me is peculiar. May
I not regard it as the " perfect peace " promised
to those "whose minds are stayed on God"?

Sixth, I have been confirmed in the conclu-
sion to which I have come, by an exalted view

16 Extracts from an Eldeu's Diary.

of the nature of that faith wliich I am exercis-
ing. It appears to me it is a sort of transmu-
tation — a putting of him in whom I trust in
the place of myself, or a transfer of my poor
personality to that of my Chief, who has said
to his messenger, " Go, and I will be with
thee ! " The work I am to do must be done by
a human instrument, by human methods; but
the Being who has allowed me to link myself
with him can give a potency to my efforts be-
yond what they inherently possess. I will
measure my possible efficiency by that which I
know belongs to the Master with whom I am
identified. This seems to be the view of faith
which St. Paul expresses when he says (Gal.
ii. 20), " I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in
me"; and (Phil. iv. 13) "I can do all things
through Christ which strengtheneth me." Here,
too, in the confidence that in the sincere en-
deavor to do the work proposed to me I shall
be acting under an inspiration and an invigora-
tion derived from fellowship with Christ, I
find a ground of comfort as I contemplate the
grave responsibilities I am about to assume.
" We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that
the excellency of the power may be of God,
and not of us." (2 Cor. iv. 7.)



Sunday, July 2. — I have been occupied dur-
ing the past montli in studying, as I have had
opportunity, the nature of the office of ruling
elder, and the form of practical work which it
includes. For this purpose I have gone, first,
to the apostolic writings, and sought to get
from this source a definite idea of what the
infallible founders of the Christian church in-
tended that the presbyters whom they ordained
should be and do. This idea, I think, is care-
fully and correctly reproduced in the section
touching the ruling elder in Chapter IV. of
the Form of Government of our church. In
addition, I have consulted such of the pub-
lished treatises and hand-books upon the sub-
ject as were within my reach. The efifect has
been a helpful one. I feel that I have a pre-
cise and intelligent conception, at least as to
the main points, of what is required of me by
conscience and the body which has called me
to be its overseer ; and my hope is that I shall
be able, in my manner of executing my office,
to bear with me a fixed consciousness of its obli-
2 17

18 Extracts from ax Elder's Diary.

gatioDS, and not leave them to be suggested by
casual impulses or merely ceremonial demands.
Always, and everywhere, I want to remember
my ministry and to "make full proof of it."

It lias seemed to me, knowing as I do, and as
everybody does, what is expected of the pastor
of a church, and recognizing the ruling elder as
a connecting link between him and his flock,
touching both parties in his relations and func-
tions, that the duty of the eider may be com-
prehended in this one statement — that he is to
endeavor in all things except those which be-
long specially to the pastoral office to make the
pastor's work his own. Through his labors
the pastor's efficiency is to be ramified. He
is to be the arm which moves in accord with
the will of the head. What the pastor preaches
in the way of doctrine and precept he is to re-
produce as a "living epistle," which may be
read of all men, in his character and deport-
ment; and what the pastor enjoins as a Chris-
tian duty he is to endorse by his consistent
example. He is to be the reflector by which the
force of the pulpit is to be conveyed to the peo-
ple ; and the reporter by whom the needs of
the people are to be disclosed to the pastor.
St. Paul seems to have regarded Timothy as
standing somewhat in this relation to himself,.

Preparation. 19

when he wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor. iv. 17) :
" For this cause have I sent unto you Timo-
theus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in
the Lord, who shall hriny you into remenihrance
of my %oays^\^\c\\ be in Christ, <is I teach every-
where in every church."

I intend to keep this general idea in my mind
as a convenient summary of particular duties.
I fancy that it will give a play and scope to the
sensibilities in my work, which, perhaps, a mere
attention to a routine or a schedule might fail
to supply. I fully appreciate the necessity for
order as a condition of success in any under-
taking, and I will try to observe it; but my
disposition leads to chafe under the strict ap-
plication of lines and angles in religious ser-
vices. With the regularity of Ezekiel's wheel,
I like to see the free motion of the "Spirit"
which is in it.



Sunday, July 23. — As happens in most
cases with those who bear the office of ruling
elder, I am embarrassed by the absorbing de-
mands of secular avocations. My time, for the
greater part of each week-day, belongs to my
employers. I am religiously bound to show
myself a just steward. I have a wife and three
children, whom, by careful management, I can
support comfortably on my salary. My solici-
tvide for them naturally reaches beyond the
present moment, and calls for forethought and
scheming in order to protect them against the
possible needs of tlie future. The obligation
to provide for those of one's own house, which
St. Paul so forcibly urges, is one which I
keenly and constantly feel. How to make this
consistent with the business of my Father's
house is the problem wdth which I am con-
fronted. I must exercise the same patient de-
liberation in this matter that I am accustomed
to use in adjusting the apparently conflicting
accounts which baffle me in my book-keeping.
Fidelity to God and fidelity to man are both

A Practicax Problem. 21

right, and, when properly conceived and de-
fined, cannot be at variance with each other.
A few points, at least, seem to me clear now.

First, I take it that for all that I am really
required to do in the way of spiritual work
there must be, somewhere, an opportunity.
If, after proper inquiry and experiment, none
can be found for any particular act or service,
I may make myself easy in the conclusion that
that is not required of me.

Second, Through the beneficent arrangement
of the divine law, I have secured to me one-
' seventh of my time, through the recurrence of
the weekly Sabbath. A judicious use of this
season may be made to yield an abundant
opportunity for Christian labor, without divert-
ing it from its appointed end as a season of
sacred resting. The Sabbath, in enjoining rest,
does not proscribe activity. It recognizes the
fact that rest is not sluggishness, but the sensa-
tion of relief which one feels in passing from
one wholesome form of activity to another.
The mere shifting from the mind the burden of
weekly cares and responsibilities brings with
it a sensible infusion of freedom and exhilara-
tion to a jaded spirit. The hours devoted to
public and private worship are eminently rest-
ful in their influence. Tlie atmosphere of

22 Extracts from an Elder's Diary.

home-life is a delightful substitute for the
bustle and strife of the market and the factory.
And then the portion of the day which may
be given to out-door labor of a religious sort,
by its throwing the energy of mind and body
into new and interesting channels, may be made
to minister refreshment through what appears
to be toil. My Sabbaths, I am determined,
shall be harvest days. I see golden fruitage in

And, third, I will "gather up the fragments,"
husband the odd moments of my time. I will
pluck ears of grain as I plod on my daily er-
rands through the cornfields. A little incident
which befell me yesterday, trifling as the shak-
ing of a leaf on a mulberry tree, has taught me
that by vigilance and celerity an occasion may
be found for thrusting a good deed into those
interstices of time which are usiially so minute
as to be deemed incapable of being turned to
any useful account.

As I was leisurely returning from my dinner,

I met on street a little girl whom I knew

as a Sunday-school scholar. I stopped to take
her by the hand and ask after her family, when,
with the eagerness to tell news which is char-
acteristic of children, she said: "Mrs. S ,

in there," pointing to an adjoining house, "is

A Practical Problem. 23

very sick." Mrs. S was known to me as

a worthy widow woman who depended upon
her labor for the support of herself and two
young children. I looked at my watch, and
found that I had ten minutes to spare before I
was due at my office. I knocked at the door,
and, in answer to a feeble response, went in.
A moment's glance and a few inquiries were
enough to satisfy me thai the poor woman was^
indeed, very sick, and that her needs were nu-
merous and urgent. I cheered her with a few
comforting words, and promised to send some
one to her relief. I hastened on my way, and
fortunately meeting a good lady, who, I knew,
was a member of one of our church associa-
tions, I reported the case to her, and arranged
for the immediate supply of all the sufferer's
wants. To-day, on my way to church, I called
and found a nurse at her bedside, a physician
in attendance, and an ample stock of provisions
in the house. I thought to myself, that little
blank of ten minutes was well filled up ; and
the sweepings of a man's time, as well as those
of the United States' mint, may be found to
contain particles of gold.

With the exercise of watchfulness in detect-
ing opportunities, and promptness in using
them, I am convinced many forms of Chris-

24 Extracts from an Elder's Diary.

tian work can be inserted into the stern routine
of the busiest life. Tlie eagerness with which
these cabmen, whom I see daily on the streets,
keep their eyes glancing from side to side, in
order to pick up a passenger, has often sug-
gested to me the reflection that, if we laborers
for God were half as zealous in our endeavors
to attract souls into his kingdom, we should be
able more frequently at the day's end to make
report to our Master of palpable proofs of our
fidelity in our calling.

O Lord, help me to be as careful in my
service of thee as I am in my efforts to fulfil
my obligations to my earthly employer!



August 16. — I feel to-night like making a
special record of my gratitude to God for the
aid he has given me in the performance of a
duty which, at first, was contemplated by me
with serious misgivings. I refer to the matter
of prayer in public. I cannot but regard the
degree to which I have overcome my reluctance

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