« السابقةمتابعة »
You are to view the Christian, this morning,
In the CHURCH. I to
In this state Timothy was when Paul addressed him in the words which we have chosen for our 'motto—« Thou that mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the Church of the living God.”—Him, it is true, he addressed as a minister; and his official station demanded a line of conduct becoming it. But every christian has a place to fill, and a part to act, in the church of God; and he needs to be informed and admonished concerning it.-Let us,
I. Explain the CONDITION OUR SUBJECT SUPPOSES. II. The OBLIGATIONS WE ARE UNDER TO ENTER IT. III. The DUTIES WHICH ARISE OUT OF IT.
1. The CONDITION OUR SUBJECT SUPPOSES.'s
Now when we speak of the christian's being in the Church, it is necessary to observe two acceptations of the word in the Scripture, as well as in common discourse.
It is sometimes used to comprise all the redeemed and sanctified people of God. These, in every age, in every country, under every dispensation, whether Patriarchal, Jewish, or Evangelical; all these, whether residing in earth, or in heaven; all these constitute one church. And of this we read, when it is said, “The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” “ We are come to the church of the first-born.” 6 Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.” “ That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having
spot; or wrinkle, or any such thing." However distinguished from each other, all real christians, “ who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh," belong to this church; and to be found in it, is an unspeakable privilege, and constitutes what we mean by 6 the communion of saints” in the Apostle's Creed-a mutual participation in all their work, honour, and blessedness. But it is not of this we now speak. This is the church universal; and in this we are necessarily found, as soon as ever we are chosen and called out of the world.
But the word much more frequently means a particular community, or company of believers associated together for religious purposes. This coincides with the language of the nineteenth Article—"A Church is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ's ordinance in all things that of necessity are requisite to the same." In conformity with this, we read of " the messengers," not of the Church—but " of the Churches :' not of the Church—but " the Churches which were in Christ.” And thus we read of "the seven Churches which are in Asia :" of " the Churches which were in Galatia ;' and of 6 the Churches throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria :" and what they were may be inferred from their 6 walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost, and being multiplied." Thus, too, we read of the Church at Philippi," and “ the Church at Colosse," and so of the rest.
In advancing further, nothing would be more easy than to furnish matter for dispute. My object,
however, is not controversial, but practical. It does not require me to undertake the task of attempting to determine the particular form of a Christian Church, or the precise mode of administering divine ordinances in it; but only to show, that it is the duty of a Christian to be found in a Church-State ; giving up himself not only to the Lord, but to his people by the will of God; and walking with those who profess to continue steadfastly in the Apostle's doctrine, and in fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer.
Yet there are some who have here, we will not call them their arguments, but their excuses. To such union, they prefer rambling, or at least detachment. They fix no where, or at least commune no where. No church is wide enough, or strict enough, or pure enough, or sound enough, for them: no one is completely modified to their taste. Constantine said to such a self-conceited Christian, 6 Take a ladder, and climb to heaven by thyself.” If all were like-minded with some, there would be no such thing as a Church on earth.
I am aware of what I shall incur from certain quarters; but I shall deliver myself with the firmness of conviction. It is not necessary that we should approve of every opinion or usage among those with whom we connect ourselves. It is far better in lesser matters, if we have faith, to have it to ourselves before God; and to exercise forbearance and self-denial, rather than for the sake of some trifling difference, to endeavour to originate a new party, or remain destitute of the benefits, and violating the obligations of social Christianity. We should guard against an undue attachment to any par
ticular scheme of Church policy, when, though the abettors profess to be governed by the Scripture only, and consider every iota of their system as perfectly clear and binding; others, more numerous than themselves, and equally wise and good, and entitled to the leading of the Spirit of Truth, draw a very different conclusion from the same premises. Mr. Newton, speaking of the several systems under which, as so many banners, the different denominations of Christians are ranged, observes, " That there is usually something left out, which ought to have been taken in, and something admitted of supposed advantage, unauthorised by the Scripture standard. A Bible-Christian, therefore, will see much to approve in a variety of forms and parties : the providence of God may lead and fix him in a more immediate connexion with some one of them; but his spirit and affection will not be confined within these narrow enclosures. He insensibly borrows and unites that which is excellent in each, perhaps without knowing how far he agrees with them, because he finds all in the written word.” With regard to myself, though I have a preference, and attach comparative importance to the things wherein pious men differ, yet there is no body of Christians, holding the Head, with whom I could not hold communion; and to whom I would not join myself, if circumstances withheld me from my own denomination, rather than remain a religious solitaire.
It will be, I presume, committing an unpardonable sin with bigots, when I express my persuasion, after all I have read of the claims, whether Episcopalian, or Presbyterian, or Independent, to the only scriptural standard, that there is no very definite
plan of Church Government laid down in the New Testament; so that while one mode is canonized, every other is absolutely wrong. Deviation from prescribed orders is sinful; but where there is no law, there is no transgression. “As oft," says the Apostle, “ as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come:" now had he told us how often we are to do this, we must observe such times only, or oppose the will of God. Is it so now the thing is left undecided ? May there not be a difference in the frequency of its observance, without sin? It is otherwise with the recurrence of the Sabbath : this is determined both by command and example. It would have been criminal in Moses not to have made the snuffers of pure gold; or the holy oil of a mixture of certain ingredients; or the priest's robe of such a quality, such a colour, and such a length: for he had express instructions to do so, and the pattern of every thing was shewn him in the Mount. But in what mount has our model of circumstantial regulation been exhibited ? What Moses received it ? Where do we find a particularity of detail in the Gospels of the Evangelists; or in the Acts, and Epistles of the Apostles ? Where do we find many of the materials of angry debate and exclusiveness which have occupied so much time, and spoiled so much temper, in the system of Christianity ?-A system designed for every nation, and people, and kindred, and tongue-a system too sublime in its aim to lose itself in minuteness—too anxious to unite its followers in great matters, to magnify little ones—too truly noble, not to be condescending—too tender, not to be tolerant—too impartial, not to say to its subjects, receive one another as