Annual Election of Pastors
For the Tennessee Baptist, 1849
In the 10th number of your useful paper, my attention was drawn to a few pithy remarks on the subject of the annual election of Pastors, in our churches, over the signature of ASAPH, asking whether you or your correspondent can tell how or when this practice originated? And whether they can show a "Thus saith the Lord for the practice?" Or whether it is a human device grafted upon the churches?
Though not a correspondent, I am a reader, and subscriber, and an admirer of the faithful, and unblenching manner, in which the true doctrine of Christianity is defended in the pages of the Tennessee Baptist.
I am an old Baptist of 43 years pilgrimage, 35 of it spent in the ministry, and have cognizance of the usages of the church for many years: was ordained in a church which was constituted before the Revolutionary war: and am prepared to say that the practice alluded to is of modern and human origin; no "thus saith the Lord" for it; and yet it is difficult to tell exactly when or how it originated. But let it be when or how it might, I hold it to be wrong, involving all the evils enumerated, by bro. Asaph and many more.
It is secular in its nature and tendency, and is thus far being "conformed to this world." What minister possessing a just sense of the dignity and importance of his office as a Pastor of a church, (Bishop if you please,) but must revolt at the attempt of having his name put up for an election to a holy office, as is done for a constable or other district officer! Who would not himself withdraw his name from such a worldlike contest? And what church "having the mind of Christ" can consent thus to trifle with, and expose him who watches for their souls? My name cannot be used in any such manner.
I advise the brethren of my church, that they be careful in such cases, to act in reference to the glory of God, the good of the church, and the extension of the Redeemer's Kingdom on earth: and that when they and I, deem a charge in the ministry necessary, I am with them, hand and heart.
The practice in question, has to some extent, grown out of the stipulated salary system, which some pursue: and were some ministers are found quoting the words of Judas, "What will ye give me," before they will suffer their names put up as candidates; (ministers ought always to receive a competency, but never make the ministry a sinecure,) and hence the fault is sometimes in ministers, as well as those churches "who heap to themselves teachers having itching ears."
"The tie that binds" a church and her Pastor is dear and tender." 'Tis not a cause of small import.The Pastor not only watches over his flock: but feeds it, prays for it, contemplates its welfare, adapts his sermons to the wants and condition of the church and community, associates with the fruits of his labors: his sons and daughters in the Lord; feeds them, "as new born babes, with the sincere milk of the word;" consults with the Deacons, and they with him, with regard to what is best in any given case; cultivate and promote harmony, peace and love, among the brethren; and so they keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
The Pastor's care demands.
But what might fill an angels heart.
And fill'd a Saviour's hands.
They watch for souls for which the Lord,
Did heavenly bliss forego.
For souls which must forever live.
In raptures or in woe."
While [the] church in her place, loves her Pastor, looks to him for instruction, and to minister the bread of life; regards his feelings, his honor, and his necessities; and suffers none of these to be neglected: upholds him in her prayers, and defends - his reputation, and his rights, and the Lord mutually blesses them.
How cautious, how careful, how guarded then, ought we to be in maintaining this happy state of things, this prosperous condition of "the Church of Jesus Christ, which he has purchased with his own blood." Let no malcontent rise up, and presume an attempt to change the ancient and gospel order of things, divide the church, mar her peace, check her prosperity and fill her with bitterness and groans; corrupt the ministry, generate strife between ministers and people, causing ministers to "handle the word of God deceitfully," the true ones to be repudiated, and left to seek a new field for their labors of love.
Let no minister of the New Testament be found encouraging or giving the least countenance to such a practice, but let us rather unite as "workers together" in our good and glorious cause, in frowning down every thing calculated to cause divisions, or corrupt the work." And we entreat the Deacons, and the churches to unite with us, and put a stop to the innovation.
Let churches hold on to their Pastors until they are sure that it will be for the glory of God, and the good of the church to change, and let not useless or unsound ministers be found "standing where they ought not," to the exclusion of sound and useful ones; but resign on the first proper indication of the propriety of so doing; and seek usefulness, soundness, and another field of ministerial labor.
Middle Mississippi, December 10, 1849.
[From The Tennessee Baptist, 1850.]
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