صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

a

fulfilling of the law; and it is the great requirement of the gospel. Especially is what is called brotherly love, which is so much extolled by the Apostle John, an evidence of piety. For this love consists in a holy delight and fellowship with the saints. Loving the holy brethren, because they are holy, is the same thing, or the same kind of affection, which is exercised in loving the Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly, “ If any man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen ?"

3. The sum total of the evidence of grace, consists in discovering those things, in which true religion consists; and in complying with all its requirements. This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and bis commandments are not grievous.” Instead of considering the commandments of the Lord as a grief and a burden, we must be able to say, with Paul, “ I delight in the law of the Lord, after the inner man." But to avail ourselves of this evidence of piety it is required of us, that we be very strict, constant, and candid in our attention, to find out, and understand all those things, in which true religion consists. For if we mistake the nature of religion, we shall mistake its requirements; and our practice will be as corrupt as our principles. Having a correct view of the commandments of Christ, and finding our hearts and practice in conformity to them, we have clear and satisfactory evidence of vital piety. This is abundantly confirmed, by the beloved Apostle: “ He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” “ But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. Hereby know we, that we are in him."

What then are the commandments of Christ ? To notice only his leading commandments, we may observe, that the first of all is repentance. Since the coming of Christ, as the light of the world, God now commandeth all men, every where to repent." This was the first command, proclaimed in the ears of all the people, by John the Baptist. When Christ also sent out his disci. ples, and seventy others, to preach and work miracles

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in his name, his charge was, " Preach, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” The same was the doctrine on the day of pentecost. Repentance was enjoined as the first, and the indispensable duty of the convicted multitude. And the repentance required, was something more than a selfish sorrow and regret, that they had exposed themselves to misery. It was a sorrow of heart for sin, on account of its odious and hateful nature; and its fatal consequences. It was a repentance which prepared the hearts of men to receive Jesus Christ, and to relish the blessings of his kingdom. Such a repentance, realized and cherished in the heart, is one of the best evidences of true religion.

Another commandinent of Christ is, that we believe on him, and receive his testimonies. This, as well as repentance, was taught by the forerunner of Christ, who was a burning and shining light. He taught his numerous:followers not to embrace him as the Saviour; but to believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Christ. Christ himself very strenuously required the people to believe on him. 6 He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” And the faith which Christ requires is more than a cold assent to the truths of the gospel : it is a faith which works by love-which purifies the

heart, and prepares the soul for heavenly enjoyments. It is a cordial assent to the gospel, and implies supreme love to God, and a cheerful obedience to the commandments and ordinances of Christ. This faith is productive of inexpressible joy in Jesus Christ. 66 Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice, with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.” Surely, they who realize such a faith as this, have, in their own minds, a good and comfortable evidence of real piety. This is the faith of God's elect.

We observe further, that humility, meekness, and -submission, self-denial, and compassionate love to our enemies, are not only required of us; but required as the evidence of religion. We are to love our enemies, do

[ocr errors]

wilt."

good to them that hate us, and in all things, demean ourselves, as the meek and humble followers of Jesus Christ, that we may be the children of our Father who is in heaven. « Take my yoke upon you,” said the Saviour, 6 and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and

ye shall find rest to your souls.” Ye shall enjoy the evidence of religion. Absolute resignation, and unconditional submission to God, choosing that his counsel should stånd, and that he should do all his pleasure ; is a bright evidence of

grace.

66 Not as I will, but as thou “ Father, glorify thy name.” 66 If we are in the likeness of Christ's death, we shall be also, in the likeness of his resurrection. 66 He that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

Many things more might be suggested, as evidences of piety; but the substance of the whole would be the same, that the evidence of religion arises from a discovery and approbation of those things in which religion consists. Would any give diligence to make their calling and election sure ? let them 5 add to their faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge ; and to knowledge, temperance ; and to temperance, patience, and to patience, godliness; and

; to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.” These are such evidences of piety, as are satisfactory, and such as are incontestable.

ESSAY XXIX.

The Christian Church.

HAVING, in the preceding Essay, considered the evidences of piety; it is proper, in the next place, to attend to the institution of the church of Christ ; and the proper qualifications of its members. The word church, is abundantly used in the scriptures; and used in various

It sometimes means the whole family of saints,

senses.

66

in earth and in heaven; together with all the elect, who are yet to be born, and to become the subjects of divine grace,

down to the end of the world. This universal body of saints constitutes what is called the invisible church. To this church the Apostle has reference, when he speaks of Christ as being the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Also, when he speaks of the manifold wisdom of God, which is made known by the church; he uses the word in this most extensive sense. When Christ is said to be the head of the church, and to love the church, and give himself for it, as an offering and sacrifice to God; reference is had to the invisible, spiritual, and universal body of Christ; including all the real saints. The general assembly and church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven, spoken of by the Apostle, can have reference, only to the invisible and universal church.

Again; The term church, is often, and more appropriately used, to mean the whole body of visible Christians, in all the various parts of the world, wherever there is a profession of the Christian religion. This is called the visible church, though, perhaps, not in the strictest sense. For when we contemplate the church as consisting of individuals, or even of corporate bodies of Christians, scattered over a great part of the earth; and in many jarring denominations; we find but little that is visibly pure and holy. Yet it is a fact, that the whole body, professing the Christian faith, is considered as the visible, though a very imperfect church. To this general idea of the church, the Saviour had reference, when he said to Peter, " Upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it:" By the whole church, in any city or province, is meant all the individual bodies, of the various Christian denomi. nations.

We observe once more; that the term church, in its most common and appropriate sense, means a number of professed believers and followers of Christ, male and female, united voluntarily, in solemn covenant with God,

66

and with one another to walk together in holy worship and ordinances; to watch over, encourage, and aid one another, in the divine life ; and, as occasions may require, to exhort, admonish and reprove one another; and faithfully to maintain the holy discipline which the gospel requires. This is a general definition of the church of Christ, as it exists at the present day. Distinct churches are organ. ized, consisting of as inany professed believers as are conveniently situated to meet for religious worship and ordinances. All these are so many branches of the whole body, of which Christ is the head. But it is to be considered, that each of these Christian churches, like all other bodies corporate, stands in need of guides and leaders. And without any leaders no church is to be considered as being well organized to transact those important concerns which frequently occur. The admission of members, and more especially, the discipline and exclusion of offenders, requires the wisdom, not only of the body of the church; but also of presiding elders. Hence the Apostles were careful to ordain elders in every city and church; plainly implying that elders are essential to the proper and complete organization of churches.

Respecting the proper officers of the church, and their several duties, we may observe, that since the death of the Apostles, who had no successors in office; it appears from the New Testament, that there is but one order of ministers remaining in the Christian church; and that all their various naines and titles and duties, belong to one and the same office. Elder and Presbyter, are words of the same meaning, and from the saine original. So are Bishop and Overseer. It is also evident from scripture, that the office of an elder and bishop is the same. We read, that Paul in his journeying near to Ephesus, sent and called for the elders of the church ; and in his charge to thein, he said, " Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, or bishops.' And, that the same elders, or bishops, were also called pastors, is evident from the next words, in the same charge. “ Feed the church of

« السابقةمتابعة »