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THE Rev. JOHN HUNT prefaced the questions he was about to propose with the following remarks :
In the numerous and varied engagements which occupy the attention of a Christian Church, none are more deeply interesting or more important than the settlement of the Pastor who, alone, or in conjunction with another, is to conduct the solemnities of its worship, to administer its ordinances, and to expound and illustrate the great doctrines and precepts of the inspired volume. On the right discharge of these duties will depend, under God, the stability, the happiness, and the extension of the Church. These are the interests which stand connected with the engagements of this evening, and they are such as eternity alone can fully develope; involving, as they do, the glory of God, the honour of Christ, and the salvation of immortal souls. Nothing on earth can surpass in importance the appointment and provision of a faithful, laborious, persevering, and efficient Ministry.
Such a Ministry, next to the presence of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, is the greatest blessing which the Church on earth can enjoy.
Promises of such a Ministry, and of grace to those
who sustain it, are graciously and abundantly given us in the sacred Scriptures; and amidst the difficulties of the Ministry, they are like the fruits of Paradise in the wilderness, refreshing the heart, and cheering on the spirit to persevering and more vigorous effort.
“ I will give you pastors," said the Lord, by the prophet Jeremiah, “according to mine heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” And the Church, exulting in such a promise, breaks forth into singing: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth !”
We assemble this evening to participate in the holy pleasure which such promises, in their accomplishment, are calculated to produce.
What are the permanent offices in the Church, according to the law of Christ, we learn from the beginning of the Epistle to the Philippians: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” The qualifications essential to these offices are fully given in Paul's instructions to Timothy.
It is evident that, in the Church at Philippi, as also at Ephesus, there was a plurality of Bishops or Pastors. Among ourselves, also, we cannot doubt, there are Churches in which more than one Pastor must be exceedingly desirable, if not even necessary to full prosperity. That Church, therefore, acts wisely which willingly yields to that desirableness or that necessity. In a numerous Church, spread over a wide district as to residence, two Pastors, labouring in harmonious co-operation, may be expected to carry out more efficiently, as well as more pleasurably, the great design of the Christian ministry. This arrangement becomes, of course, still more desirable
and important, when one who has long been sole Pastor is advanced in age.
You, my respected friends, and your beloved Pastor, are acting, therefore, we think, in perfect harmony with the principles of the New Testament, and in a manner highly calculated to promote the great end of your Christian fellowship. We have no dominion over your faith, but we would be the helpers of your joy. May I, therefore, be permitted to ask if some one of the officers of the Church will favour us with a statement of the circumstances which have led to the invitation of the Rev. George Thomson to become Co-Pastor in this Church with our much-respected brother, Dr. Burder ?
Mr. DENNIS, a Senior Deacon of the Church, then gave the following statement :
Before I reply, my dear sir, on behalf of the Church, to the question you have asked, I may be permitted to state a few circumstances connected with its previous history.
It had its origin about the year 1672, when the Nonconformists were permitted, for a time, to open places for public worship. Its first Minister was the justly celebrated Dr. Bates, who, about the year 1684, had his goods seized and confiscated. He was succeeded by Mr. Billio, in 1699. Matthew Henry, whose praise is in all our Churches, commenced his short ministry here in 1712. He was succeeded by Mr. Barker, who resigned his charge in 1738, and was succeeded by Mr. Hunt. Mr. Palmer commenced his ministry in the year 1764, and continued to sustain the pastoral office during the long period of half a century.
At the commencement of the ministry of the Rev. Henry Forster Burder, the state of religion in this Church
was at a very low ebb; but, by the blessing of God on the faithful exhibition of the truths of the Gospel by him, his unwearied diligence, and consistent deportment, a new order of things arose, which gradually expanded into a purer state of doctrine, Church order, development of Christian character, and consequent interest in the spread of the Gospel throughout the world.
Of the Ministers who engaged in the Ordination Service of the Rev. H. F. Burder, which was thirty-four years ago this very day, two only survive-the Rev. Dr. Smith and the Rev. John Burder. The other revered servants of Christ, Dr. Winter, Dr. Simpson, the Rev. George Burder, the Rev. George Collison, and the Rev. John Hooper, have entered into their rest; and their names, their characters, and their eminent services, have left a fragrance behind them.
At the time of Dr. Burder's entering on the pastorate, there were 80 members, of whom 4 only now survive. Since that period, 962 have been added to the Church, of whom upwards of 400 are now in fellowship with us.
I may be permitted to add, that as a further consequence
of the blessing of God, not only has great pros. perity attended the labours of our highly esteemed Pastor, but an eminent degree of uninterrupted peace and harmony has prevailed through the whole period of his pastorate.
For some years past, it has been the impression of the Deacons, and of many other attached friends of our Pastor, that the pressure of the pastoral charge over so large a Church, together with the labours of the Pulpit and of Bible Class instructions, must soon become too heavy to be sustained, without the danger of serious injury to his health. He himself was not disinclined to receive the aid of a colleague, whenever it should please the Head of the Church to provide one after his own heart, for the office of Co-Pastor, and give him favour with the Church at large. To such a Minister we believe we have been directed by guidance from above.
The Rev. George Thomson was first introduced to our Pastor by his beloved and honoured friend, the Rev. Dr. Wardlaw; and the recommendation was expressed in terms which could not fail to produce on the Church a favourable impression.
Hearing that he was about to leave Aberdeen, he was engaged by Dr. Burder to pay us a visit. Having been favoured with his pulpit services for four successive Sabbaths, a meeting of the Church was convened, at which, on the recommendation of the Pastor and the Deacons, (of whom there are now eleven,) it was resolved, without one dissentient vote, that Mr. Thomson's acceptable services should be requested for two additional Sabbaths, and that a Church meeting should then be held, to ascertain, by ballot, whether the Church were prepared to unite in giving Mr. Thomson an invitation to accept the office of Co-Pastor. The ballot was accordingly taken; and, with the exception of two negative votes and a few who remained neutral, the Church united in giving an earnest and cordial invitation to Mr. Thomson to enter on the co-pastorate. In resolving on this invitation, it was no small increase of pleasure to the Church, and of gratitude to God, that they received from their Pastor the expression of his entire satisfaction in their choice, and the assurance that he cherished towards Mr. Thomson the most affectionate esteem and confidence.
It now only remains for me to entreat, in the name of the Pastor, the Deacons, and the Church, the earnest prayers of the Ministers and Christian brethren now present, that the unction of the Holy One may richly descend on both the Pastors, and on the entire Church and Congregation; and that the ministration of the truth of the