Advices to Ministers & Elders

I’m posting here (because I don’t see it elsewhere beside scanned public domain books) this collection of advices for Quaker ministers and elders published by London Yearly Meeting (now Britain Yearly Meeting) in the early 19th century. Most of it concerns speaking in meeting for worship and how to do it rightly, although some of it touches on traveling in the ministry and personal conduct generally. It’s dated in some places (there’s even a version of the Billy Graham rule!), but I find that a lot of it makes sense and even has opened my eyes in some ways to what Quaker worship can be. For example, the advice to not make a big deal out of being divinely inspired to speak, because all that matters is that the words spoken have a “baptizing” effect on the listener, has been encouraging to me in speaking during worship. Likewise, the advice against prophesying “in their own spirits against any nation, town, people, or person” is something a lot of us need to hear when it comes to political topics being brought up in meetings. In any case, I hope you find this similarly useful.

Advices to Ministers and Elders to be read at least once in the year in the quarterly and monthly meetings of Ministers and Elders.

Let ministers and elders be constant in their endeavours to live under the government of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let ministers and elders be frequent in reading the Holy Scriptures, diligent in meditating upon them, and careful not to misquote or misapply them.

In preaching, writing, or conversing about the things of God, let them keep to the form of sound words or to Scripture terms.

Let all be careful faithfully to occupy the spiritual gifts entrusted to them to the honour of God.

Let all be careful, in the exercise of their gifts in the ministry, to wait for the renewed putting forth of the Holy Spirit; and be earnestly concerned that they proceed and conclude in the life and power of the Gospel; and they are advised to be careful on all occasions not to exceed the measure of their gift.

Let them be cautious of laying too great stress on the authority of their ministry by too positively asserting a divine motion, the baptizing power of the Spirit of Truth accompanying the words being the true evidence.

Let ministers be careful how they enter upon disputed points in their testimony, or make such objections as they do not clearly answer, or give repeated expectations of coming to a conclusion.

Let all be cautious of using unnecessary preambles, or hurting meetings by additions towards the conclusion, when the meeting was left well before.

Let ministers and elders be especially careful, whilst diligent when engaged in business, not to become entangled with the cares of this world; let them guard against the snare of accumulating wealth and be examples of Christian moderation and contentment in all things.

Let ministers at all times be tender of each other’s reputation, and let them be watchful not to hurt each other’s service in religious meetings, but let everyone have a tender regard for others.

Let nothing be done or offered with a view to popularity, but in humility and in the fear of the Lord.

Let ministers avoid all unbecoming tones, sounds, gestures, and all affectation, these not being agreeable to Christian gravity.

Let them be careful, when they travel in the service of truth, not to make their visits burdensome or the Gospel chargeable. Men and women are cautioned against travelling together as companions in the work of the ministry to avoid all occasions of offence.

Let none presume to prophesy in their own spirits against any nation, town, people, or person.

Let all beware of too much familiarity, which, biasing the judgment and producing an undue attachment, tends to hurt.

Let ministers and elders be careful to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, keeping their whole conversation unspotted and being examples of meekness, temperance, patience, and charity.

Let the elders cherish a deep religious interest on behalf of those who are called to the ministry. Let them watch especially over the young and inexperienced with tender Christian concern, encouraging them in the right way of the Lord.

And, lastly, as prayer and thanksgiving are an especial part of worship, they must be performed in spirit and in truth with a right understanding, seasoned with grace. Therefore, let ministers be careful how and what they offer in prayer, avoiding many words and repetitions; and let all be cautious of too often repeating the high and holy name of God, or his attributes, by a long conclusion; neither let prayer be in a formal and customary way to conclude a meeting, nor without an awful sense of Divine influence. (1775, 1792, 1833)


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