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The Church is Christ's Bride, adorned with all the sweetness and loveliness of heaven. To him she is the fairest among ten thousand, the one altogether lovely. Listen to his words of warm, glowing affection for her. “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold thou art very fair.” “O my dove, thou art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. Thou art beautiful, o my love, as Tirzah-comely as Jerusalem. Thou hast ravished my heart, my spouse, in whom is all my delight.”. “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to his banqueting house, and his banner over me was love."
The voice that speaks these affectionate words, is the voice of Jesus, the heavenly bridegroom, and the address is made to his dearly-purchased Church-or to individual souls affianced and wedded to him in faith. Sweeter than milk and honey are the words which here flow from the lips of Jesus; and when the Bride, that is, the Church, afterwards so joyously exclaims : “My lips, O my spouse, drop as the honey-comb; honey and milk are under thy tongue;" she does so, undoubtedly, in the blissful recollection of this address of her bridegroom.
There is nothing in all the universe, that is so lovely in the eyes of Jesus, as his blood-purchased Church. Upon her he lavishes the affections of his infinitely glorious nature, and is every thing to her that she could desire. In his own Gospel, he is called Shepherd, Husband, Friend; her Prophet, Priest and King, as well as her Lord, her life, her way, her end, and is constantly represented as being her all and in all. The Church is Christ's travail, his care, his joy, his treasure, his reward. For her he humbled himself, and took the form of a servant. For her he consented to be born in a stable and cradled in a trough out of which the beasts of the field were fed. For her, he became a man of sorrow and suffered the sneers and scoffs and persecutions of the worst of men. For her, he sweat drops of blood and prayed in an agony. For her, he endured the cross, despised the shame, and suffered the malicious rage of both earth and hell. Nay more, for her he was forsaken by his Father when he hung on the cross, and a loss of whose presence caused him to exclaim in all the bitter anguish of his soul, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" The Church is the travail of Christ's holy soul, and we may not wonder therefore that she is the object of his supreme love and regard. What he has done for her has proved the depth and strength of his affection for her. The Church is engraven upon the palms of the Saviour's hands, and upon the tablet of his heart. Nothing can separate him from her, and he will be her light, her defence, her salvation, and all her great glory too, ever through eternal ages. “O, then, if I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy !"
The Christian loves the Church, because it is the place of his spiritual birth.
In the Bible, men are represented as being dead in sin, and averse to everything that is good. With their whole heart they hate God and love wickedness. In this is seen the necessity of conversion. As man is naturally unfit to enjoy God, either in this world or the next, he must be made a new creature, if he would be saved. The love of sin in his heart must be destroyed, and the implantation of the principle of holiness in his soul must be effected. He must be raised up from a state of sin and death to a state of righteousness and life. He must experience a complete renovation throughout his entire moral being. His views, desires, feelings, purposes, must all be changed and freed from the corruptions of sin. The very fountain of thought and desire must be purified; and from first to last, from beginning to end, there must be a radical moral change. Old things must pass away, and all things must become new.
This is what is called in the Scriptures regeneration, conversion, circumcision of the heart, being born again, being made alive unto God and dead unto the world. Wherever this change is wrought, we have the new creature, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
This is a most wonderful and glorious change, and can only be effected by the spirit and word of God. It is the spirit that quickeneth. Except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot see the kingdom of God. Our souls are purified in obeying the truth through the spirit, and we are saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost only by his truth can renew and save the sinner.
And now where is it, that all this great blessedness is enjoyed by the penitent believer? Where can it be, but in the Church, where the means necessary to effect the great change are alone found. Hath not God placed salvation in Zion ? Where but in the Church are found the light, and truth, and spirit of God, the means and agent for the conversion and sal
vation of the soul? It is in the Church, and by the Church, under God, that men are enlightened, renewed, sanctified, and finally glorified in heaven. The means of conversion and salvation God has committed to his Church, and there it is that men are born into his kingdom and made new creatures in Christ Jesus. The water and bread of life are found in the Church, and if men, enlightened by the gospel, would drink and live, they must enter within the gates of Zion.
And has not this been the happy experience of him who now enjoys pardon of sin and a good hope of eternal life? Listen to him, dear reader, as he relates to you his experience, touching the dealings of God with his soul. "Once,” he says, “I was a wanderer from God in the paths of sin. I was ignorant, foolish, cold, unbelieving, prayerless, Christless, hopeless. I was dead in sin and lost to happiness and God. But the word, the sweet word of God, fell upon my ear and touched my heart. It opened my blind eyes; it unstopped my deaf ears; it softened my hard heart; it warmed and won my cold affections; it overcame my stubborn will, and renewed and saved my soul. There it was, in the Church, and among the people of God, by the use of the divinely appointed means, and under the influences of the Holy Ghost, that the scales fell from my eyes, and that I was brought out of the darkness and wretchedness of sin, into the glorious light and liberty of the Gospe!. There it was that the spirit first revealed Christ to me and formed him in me the hope of glory. There it was in the Church, that I first saw my Saviour by the eye of faith, and breathed out my soul in praise and rapture, while I leaned upon his breast, and felt the gushings of his loving heart for me, a poor wanderer from his fold, and one just brought back, through grace, to his sweet embrace. There, within the gates of Zion, I first drew the breath of prayer, and felt the beginnings of those joys which shall never, never have an end. And if I do not remember thee, O Jerusalem, my Church, the place where I was awakened from my long sleep of death, and born into the kingdom of God's dear Son-if I do not remember thee and love thee, let my right hand forget its cunning, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy."
Another ground of the believer's attachment to the Church is, that it has ever been to him the place of divine manifestations.
After a poor sinner has experienced the great gospel change, and has been admitted to membership in the family of God, he is made the constant recipient of the Saviour's richest benedictions. There is now no spiritual good that he may not freely and fully enjoy. The satisfactions of the glorious gospel are all his, and he has no need that is not supplied. Without stint or measure, he now joyfully appropriates to himself all the good things of his Father's house. He takes his seat at the banqueting feast, and fully satisfies all the longings of his immortal nature.
He says, “often God has met me in his Church. In perplexity, in sorrow, in bereavements, in distress, in weaknesses, he has visited me in his house and blest my soul. By his preached word; by the prayers of his ministers ; by the sweet, heavenly inspiring songs of praise which have swelled upon my ear; by the memorials of his love and the pledges of his neverfailing faithfulness, he has assuaged my grief; dried up the fountains of my sorrow; comforted me in my bereavements and afflictious ; strengthened me in my weaknesses, and turned my night into day, my sorrow into joy, and my mourning into rejoicing. Sadness and sighing have fled away, have fled away because He whom my soul loved, revealed himself to me in his Church, and caused my peace to flow like a river. It is the Church, with her ordinances and worship, that has been to me the place of banqueting, of rejoicing, of holy visions, of heavenly raptures. It is in the Church
With her ten thousand harps and voices,
Sounding aloud the Saviour's praise, that I have caught a glimpse of the heavenly choirs, and heard the song of joy and triumph bursting from the lips of ten thousand times ten thousand redeemed and happy worshippers. It is from the Church, as from Mount Pisgah, that I have looked across the Jordan, and viewed the goodly land with all its soulsatisfying delights, and have longed for wings that I might fly away and be at rest. And I expect, moreover, to be comforted in the Church and by the Church, when the cold waters of death begin to break in upon me, and warn me that my time to die has come. Then, oh then, I expect through the Church's aid, and by my Saviour's presence, to be able to welcome death, and to sing with heavenly ecstacy, Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come. Let me go, let me go, that I may pass away to my Beloved, and enjoy those high and endless satisfactions which his love prepared for me before the foundation of the world.
Jerusalem, my glorious home,
Name ever dear to me,
In joy and peace with thee.
How, O how can I forget the Church, the place of such sweet delights, of such rapturous ecstacies, of such glorious anticipations. Oh Jerusalem, if I do forget thee, let my right hand forget its cunning; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy."
Who, now, does not see the importance and blessedness of being in the Church. Happy the condition of bim who has been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and who has thereby become connected with Zion. Such an one is placed in circumstances most favorable to salvation-he is in the way of being saved. The sacrament of holy baptism is of immense importance, as it introduces us, among other things, to the store-house of the bread of life, and brings us directly to the well-springs of salvation. It initiates us into the Church, where Christian nurture is enjoyed, and where we are blessed with those means, and surrounded by those influences which are so necessary to a proper training for heaven. The condition of all such is greatly to be coveted, as it secures to them privileges and blessings which are unspeakably precious and important. Thrice happy is the state of him who is a member of Zion, and who is therefore a rightful expectant of all the benefits of salvation, both in this world and that in which is to
Dear unbaptized reader, neglect a union with the church no longer. There is inexpressible force and meaning in the sacrament of holy baptism, and in the divinely-constituted Church, into which men are introduced by the baptism of water. Neglect no longer this sacred and important ordinance. Exercising repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, receive this blessed sacrament at once, and commence a life of obedience to Him who has commanded us to fulfil all righteousness. Think of the glorious prospects which will then open to your view. Think of the bread of heaven, of the water of life, of the presence and enjoyment of Jesus, of the communion of saints, of the feasts of love, of the banquetings, the rejoicings, the heavenly anticipations and possessions. Think of the triumphs in death, of the glorious resurrection of the body, of the smile of approval at the judgment, of the opening of the everlasting doors, of the joyful entrance, and of the saints' everlasting rest in heaven. Think of these things, and then weigh well the importance of a connection with the Church, the place where believers in Jesus are educated for the skies, and nourished for eternal life.