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to the office which the Head of the church hatb appointed him. Nor do I speak now of instituted offices in the house of God merely, but of the offices in the body of Christ, which are divided among his members ;-to one, the lips of the eloquent; listen to him to be aroused from your lethargy;to another, the tongue of the learned ; listen to him, to be instructed in knowledge ;-to another, the mind which hath wisdom; resort to him for counsel ;—to another, the eye of observation, to discover God's wonderful ways, and dealings in providence; hear him discourse of history and occurrences ;-to another, the hand of liberality; observe his bounty ;-to another, the gift of interpretation; let him speak to you out of the oracles of God.
This is what I mean, the right appropriation of the living church, in the midst of which we live. For, rest assured, dear brethren, that the Spirit is in the living creatures, more than in the dead book, which is the food to nourish their life; that life which I now entreat you to observe, and mingle with, and profit by. It is thus that you shall know the fruits of the word, and the life of God in the soul. Every faculty of life will receive its proper impulse and direction, every propensity to love and esteem our kind will receive its proper outlet. And be assured, that God will speak to your souls every day; yea, many times a-day by his living church; for his church is the pillar and the ground of the truth. Now I can bear my testimony, that God has taught me more truth through the discourse of his living members, in all ranks, from the servant upwards, and in all classes of men, than by all other means whatever. 1 seldom meet with any of you who hear me, but I am taught some important lesson from your lips, which I afterwards teach to the whole congregation : and from the ministers of the Gospel, especially those who are not busy with outward visible works, for all such I find to be scourged completely out of the capacity either of receiving seed or of imparting it; but from those who are diligent in meditation, and study, and prayer, and the other works proper to our vocation of teachers and instructors,- from such I have found the greatest profit in hearing them preach and in hearing them speak. Not that I would have you to rest any thing upon the authority of a man, but that you should honour the Holy Ghost in his living church; for when any matter of thought has been originated, and a train of meditation begun, we should then betake ourselves to the holy Scriptures, in order to deliver us from the imperfection of man's teaching, and direct us into the perfection of the teaching of the Holy Ghost. I would, brethren, that there did exist such a reverence among the members of Christ, one towards another, and that we did expect one to speak unto another as the oracles of God; then am I sure, there would be such a circulation of Divine knowledge and wisdom amongst us, as at present we can hardly form a notion of. And without such a habitual feeling of the holiness of Christ's church, and diligent observation of his members, and patient attention to what He speaks by their lips, I am convinced there will be little reading of the Holy Scriptures, and still less profit from reading them.-Witness who they are that know the laws and rules of merchandize; are they not those who are practising traffic? Who are they that know the laws of the excise, or customs, or war? are they not they who are busy all the day in these vocations? So they, who know the doctrines and precepts of the Holy Scriptures, are those who, during the day, are conversing, and observing, and listening, and acting, as the members of Christ's church, and with a view to his glory. Besides, what avail principles, or what profit is there of knowledge, which lieth slumbering in the heart, and speaks not, hears not, judges not? The light which God hath lighted is not to be put under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house. If we do not look for the fruits of the Gospel in one another, neither wait for the coming forth of the inward life of Christ, into the outward demonstrations of a wise, good, upright, and holy life; we do either silently accuse each other of hypocrisy, acting upon it as if we were not what we professed to be, or we do willingly countenance each other in error, and abet each other in most blame-worthy indifference to the honour and glory of God. For it is the commandment of Christ, that our speech should always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that we may know how we ought to answer every
And again : “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom ; teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; singing with grace in
your hearts unto the Lord.” In one word, my dear brethren, if we would observe that constant regard to truth, which the Spirit of truth imparts and sustains; if in our dealings we would preserve that scrupulous regard to honesty which the law of God requireth, in the least as in the greatest of our actions; if in our feelings we would preserve
that habitual regard to charity and love, which is the bond of perfectness; you cannot conceive what salutary effects would be wrought amongst us, how the soil would be enriched, and the capacity for receiving the seed of the word would be enlarged. And the young growing up under the influence of such an atmosphere of holiness, and wisdom, and purity, would indeed be well prepared for the preaching of the Gospel, and the blessed fruits of all the ordinances of the Gospel. I do entreat you to give heed to what I say, especially in your domestic, fire-side, and street conversations, because there it is that Satan doth commonly steal a march upon our unguardedness, and work his wily way into our hearts, in order to prejudice them by his malice, for the receiving of the word of God, which is preached unto you from Sabbath to Sabbath. But if you would give all diligence to withstand him on these week-day and trivial occasions, if ye would “ watch and pray always lest you fall into temptation,” then am I assured, that the ministry of the word, and the observance of the Divine ordinances on the Sabbath-day, concerning which I now come to speak, would be attended with a ten-fold, yea, with a hundred-fold, advantage.
3. Concerning the public ordinances of religion, which we hold from Sabbath to Sabbath, I would now speak, as another of the provisions of God for preparing a soil in which the incorruptible seed may quicken and bear fruit. For of the visible church it may be said in a far higher degree than we have affirmed of the ordinances of human life, that it is a great and universal provision of God, for training up the sense and reason of man in such a sort, as that it shall be apt for the work of the quickening Spirit. I say apt, because the parable entitles me to say so; not apt by nature, which is all-averse and alien from the life of God; but rendered apt against nature, by the influence and operation of those institutions of the word and Spirit of God, which have been by them constituted and preserved for the express purpose of restraining the wickedness of nature, and opening the eye of the heart, that it might be able to see God, when it should please him to present himself for an object of sight: according as it is written, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The ordinances of the church, I say, though intended primarily for “the church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven,” are yet of such a diffusive and blessed influence, that like the ordinances of heat and cold, light, and health, and fruitfulness, they extend with a Divine generosity their good effects, even unto those who are not under their saving influence; and in them do prepare a soil, are continually preparing and renewing the soil, which doth produce unto God the peaceable fruits of righteousness. The worship of the living and the true God is so acceptable, in the midst of this world's idolatry, that the nation which setteth it up never faileth to grow great and prosperous, and to dwell safely in the face of all its enemies. They talk like fools, and enemies of their country, who talk as if it were not the duty of the government of a country to intermeddle with religion: I