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on which Friends have at all times delighted to dwell. Often have they been led to call to mind the glowing words of the prophet—“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God;" 7—often have they found occasion to recur to the doctrine of the apostle, that God hath put “all things” under the feet of Jesus, and "given him to be Head over all things to the church.” 8
What then is the agency by which Christ conducts his reign, and orders the affairs of his universal people? Scripture and experience alike declare that it is the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is by his Spirit that he brings his children into subjection to his will, qualifies them for their respective offices in the body, and guides them individually and collectively, in their course of duty.
The second point to which I was anxious to allude is this, the belief of Friends, that a manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal ; and that the living members of the church, in their endeavours to promote the religious welfare of others, will not fail to receive, as they humbly seek it, his gracious aid and guidance. Whether in such endeavours, we act as private individuals, or in the official character of overseers of the flock, it is still in dependence on our Divine Master, and in obedience to the government of his Spirit, that our duties ought to be performed. We believe that it is thus,
and thus only, that we can with confidence offer up the
prayer of the Psalmist, “ Establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea the work of our hands establish thou it." 9 But further—when Christians meet in their
corporate capacity, for the purpose of regulating the affairs of the church, and of promoting the cause of religion, Christ is their rightful president. And it is our firm belief, that as they reverently wait upon him, they will find him present to assist their deliberations, to prompt their efforts, and to direct their decisions.
That such was the happy experience of the primitive believers has already been shown from Scripture; and there is surely no good reason why Christians, in the present day, did they fully rely on God, should not enjoy a sufficient measure of the same blessed privilege.
We, therefore, consider it to be our duty to conduct all our meetings for discipline, with immediate reference to the government of Christ and to the guidance of his Spirit. Whether we are engaged in appointing officers ; in acknowledging ministers; in deliberating on their prospects of service; in admitting members; in dealing with delinquents; in extending advice to subordinate meetings; or in discussing propositions made with a view to the welfare of the body—whatever subject, indeed, connected with religion and morality may occupy our attention—we believe it to be right, humbly to wait for divine direction, and to yield to that judgment, on the subject before us, which appears to be most consistent with the mind of Christ.
9 Ps, xc, 17.
On the general maxim, that of every question which can arise in the church, there must be some right conclusion, and in the further belief, that as they diligently seek his counsel, Christ will lead his dependent followers into that conclusion, we admit, in our meetings for discipline, of no division of members—of no settlement of any point by majority. Neither have these assemblies, any more than our meetings for worship, a human president. The clerk collects and records the judgment of his brethren, and it is his duty, during the course of every discussion, to take care that proper order be preserved. But he has no personal authority over the assembly-no power to put any subject to the vote-no casting vote of his
That this is a principle worthy of our Christian profession, and eminently conducive to the welfare of the church, cannot with any reason be denied; and although its full effect may often be prevented by the infirmity of our nature, we are bound to acknowledge that it works well in practice. I am not aware that a single instance has occurred in this country, of the settlement of any question in a meeting for discipline -monthly, quarterly, or yearly—by the division of its members. Have we not then much cause for thankfulness to Him who raised up our forefathers by his power, that he still condescends to preserve us, as a people, in some degree of practical dependence on his own authority; that he still brings ns, from time to time, into the same judgment; that he still enables
us, when our opinions differ, to condescend one to another in love?
Certain it is, that the more we are weaned from the eagerness of the carnal mind, and brought to wait patiently on the Lord, the better we shall be prepared to receive and follow his counsel; the more eminently we shall enjoy the UNITY OF THE SPIRIT, IN THE BOND OF PEACE.