In the 19th century David Dickson was an ordained elder in Scotland and served as clerk of his session for thirty-three years. He wrote this volume to highlight the seriousness of the office, his abiding love for the office, and the importance of the office for the advancement of God’s Kingdom through the local church. The editors have made this work much more attractive and useful by updating spelling, making helpful notes, and adding questions for reflection after each chapter.
Early in his work Dickson looks at the qualifications of an elder. Herein, he emphasizes the importance of the spiritual life of the officer and the impact his daily walk with the Lord will have on the flock.
Subsequent chapters focus on the duties of the elder to visit those under his care, whether in homes or hospitals, and to encourage members in developing family worship and in practicing their Christian faith in the world.
The author gives attention to the need for church discipline. He also provides practical cautions as to how it is to be applied. A chapter is devoted to the relationship between ruling elders and teaching elders (pastors) as they co-labor for the advancement of the Gospel.
Dickson uses many illustrations from his labors as an elder. He provides wise counsel regarding how the Lord blessed his labors, as well as mistakes he made that serve as teaching tools. He stresses the need to be always ready to evangelize and to pass along selected books to those with questions or needs. His love for this office enables him to write with great compassion, humility, and scriptural focus.
The study questions at the end of the chapters enable the reader to focus on the chapter’s contents and also on application to the elder and to the session as a whole. Some questions direct attention to the input of an elder’s wife. Thought-provoking questions such as these are found throughout the “Study Questions” sections: “Evaluate your use of time. Are you faithfully fulfilling the demands of your calling? How can you organize your schedule to become a more effective servant of the church? This is a good topic to discuss with a friend or colleague (and also your wife, if you are married).” and “How effectively does your church welcome visitors? What is the role of the elder in showing hospitality to strangers?”
I highly recommend this volume for elders or for those who believe they may be called to that office to read and to apply. It is also an excellent book for sessions to study and discuss. Because of the author’s and the editors’ desire for the spiritual health of the local church, a joint discussion of the questions should provide better oversight and ministry to the local flock. Laity will also benefit by gaining an appreciation for the work of their elders.