« السابقةمتابعة »
"God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ."
It depends upon our reliance on Christ's atonement. The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” All who are of the true circumcision rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. They have seen the evil of sin in so strong a light, that nothing can satisfy them of the possibility of its being pardoned, but a view of the Lamb of God, as satisfying divine justice by the sacrifice of himself. And while his blood, which speaketh better things than that of Abel, pacifies their consciences, it also purifies their hearts; it embitters sin, still more than the dread of personal punishment; and causes them carefully to depart from all iniquity.
It depends also on the hope of eternal life. True saints all place the essence of future bliss in the everlasting enjoyment of God. They are willing to receive heaven as a free gift to them, to which they are entitled only through Christ, and for which they are made meet by the renewing of the Holy Spirit. They have such present foretastes of it, as excite them to become strangers and pilgrims upon earth; so that they are not of the world, even as their Lord was not of the world; but have set their affections on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. They now have fellowship with the Father, rejoicing that he is glorified in their salvation. As he, in the economy of redemption, appears as the assertor of the rights of Deity, justice has met together with mercy, and grace reigns through righteousness. They have fellowship with the Son, who is the way and the truth and the life. The life they live in the flesh, they live by the faith of the Son of God; by whose cross they overcome the world, and are crucified to it, and it is crucified to them. And they are all joint partakers of the Holy Spirit, enjoying communion with him, as the sanctifier, monitor, and comforter, by whom they are bound in one body, and sealed to the day of redemption.
SECONDLY: Wherein does this fellowship consist? and
how should we show that we believe the communion of saints?
Brethren! my present object is not so much to persuade you that there may be good men found among different denominations of Christians, (for I should think that man had very little knowledge of the essence of Christianity who could dare to deny it,) as it is to deepen your conviction that all good men, who are going the same way (for there is but one way) to the same heaven, ought to have fellowshipcordial and intimate fellowship-one with another. True, we cannot certainly ascertain all the members of the invisible church; we cannot search the heart: we may even be required, from appearances, to treat some as saints, who will sooner or later be found not to have been really sanctified; and we may have room to suspect others, whose sincerity will at last be cleared up. We cannot have personal acquaintance with the greater part of those who are true believers, even in our own neighbourhood; and we may be well satisfied of the existence of many saints to whom we have no opportunity of rendering service, except by our prayers. But so far as we can obtain evidence of godly sincerity, and a cordial union with Christ, we ought to take pleasure in the communion of faith, by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in our brethren toward Christ Jesus readily admitting that to be evidence in favor of them, which we dare adduce as evidence in our own Observe, I am not pleading for mere compassion, and disinterested benevolence, such as ought to be shown to all men; and which our Lord shows, by the parable of the good Samaritan, ought to be extended to ignorant sectaries and heretics, who worship they know not what. But
I plead for cordial esteem, for that love of complacency which is due to all who wear the image of Christ. Whether men follow with us, or not, we should rejoice that they follow Christ, and that they are owned by him in advancing his kingdom, and promoting the salvation of souls. Yes, even though we should seem to be eclipsed, or though we suspect some injury to our party may result from their success. The temporary injury resulting from the mistakes of
good men cannot be so hurtful, as the gathering of souls to Christ is beneficial. We should diligently and impartially search the scriptures for ourselves, and adhere conscientiously to what appears to us most agreeable to the word of God: but, though we must apprehend others to be mistaken wherein they differ from our judgment (or else we should turn to them,) yet the greater articles of faith on which we agree, should have more influence to unite us, than any smaller points on which good men can disagree, should have to divide us. If you are in the right in these cases, you need not fear that God will let any scriptural truth be finally discarded while it is certainly the likeliest way to remove prejudice from the mind of good men, to cultivate a spirit of cordial affection and brotherly intercourse. Labor to exceed others in generous zeal for the truths in which you are agreed, and you will gradually lessen their prejudices, and prepare the way for their examining more impartially the things in which we differ. Whereunto we have attained already, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing; and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Let each, then, press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us pray for the days to hasten, when Judah shall not vex Ephraim, nor Ephraim envy Judah; when the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun sevenfold, as the light of seven days in one. Then our mistakes shall be rectified; the watchmen see eye to eye; primitive order be restored; and gospel truth clearly understood.
In thus recommending to all saints, fellowship one with another, I make no direct reference to their communing together at the Lord's table. My sentiments and practice on that head are not unknown. That communion might be practised without the existence of this "fellowship;" and this may exist without that. But there may be some real saints, (though I think them much mistaken,) who are not convinced that the Lord's supper is a standing ordinance. Others again could not unite with some of their brethren, without uniting at the same time (contrary
to their consciences,) with those who do not so much as pretend to experimental religion. While they who do not think it necessary to confine that ordinance to them that make an explicit profession of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, could not unite with us without offending those to whom they think it right to yield ecclesiastical obedience. Let no one, on either side, be urged to violate his conscience; nor let either judge another man's servant: to his own master he standeth or falleth. Let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind; and act according to the spirit inculcated by Paul, in Rom. xiv. 8, &c.
But let this be remembered by us all—that no man can be sound in the Apostles' Creed, whether he be in the habit of repeating it or not, who does not feel a warm attachment to the holy universal church, to which every saint in Christ Jesus belongs; or who does not highly value the communion of saints, and love to maintain fellowship with those on earth whom he verily expects to dwell with in heaven. Surely, they who have fellowship with the Father and with his Son; who were loved with the same everlasting love, bought with the same precious blood; who are led by the same Spirit, and inhabited by him as his temple; who are engaged in the same holy war, hated by the same inveterate enemies; who walk by the same rule, aim at the same mark, long for the same prize, belong to the same family, and are heirs of the same inheritance; must have fellowship one with another. If the enemies of the cross of Christ, who dislike experimental, evangelical, practical godliness, could suppress one class of its friends, they would not long spare others, who were really convinced of the same important doctrines of revelation, and concerned to show their practical influence. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but if you are really not of the world, but Christ has chosen you out of the world, you must expect the world to hate you. Nor will zeal for a religious establishment on the one hand, nor for religious liberty on the other, reconcile those who have not the Spirit of Christ, to them that truly possess it. The followers of the Son of David
may say justly to each other, as David said to Abiathar-He that seeketh thy life, seeketh mine also. While no human polity, no worldly establishment, no sectarian regulations, nor even an external agreement with the most scriptural mode of church government, can form so noble a bond of union, as the powerful influence of the same sanctifying Spirit. Ah! if we partook of this in a higher degree, how should we be taught, as by a divine instinct, to love one another! What would be so likely, as this spirit of love, to draw us gradually nearer and nearer to each other, even as to external ordinances, and opinions on the subordinate parts of evangelical religion and so long as our differences did remain, this spirit would lead us, either to waive controversy, or to conduct our discussions in so gentle, so tender, so amiable a manner, as to force our common enemies to exclaim, See how these Christians love one another! They profess to know but in part; but though they cannot agree on every theological subject, yet they can agree to forbear with one another!'
Let us show, my brethren, that we are all the followers of one Captain, if we wear not all the same regimentals. Let us show that we agree in loving Christ, in opposing sin, in separating from the world, in laboring to spread scriptural knowledge, in bearing one another's burdens, praying for each other's prosperity, and provoking one another to love and to good works.
That must indeed be a sectarian spirit, let it be found where it may, which would lead us, from a regard to some party connexion, to treat those whom we cannot hope (without an essential change should take place) to meet with in a better world, as if they were more nearly related to us than others, in whose favor our own consciences testify, doubtless these are the children of God, the members of Christ's mystical body, with whom we expect to live together, as friends and fellow-citizens of the New Jerusalem, to all eternity.
Brethren! I pray we may all prove
ourselves sound be
lievers in the communion of saints. And if some party spirit will cleave to us, turn it into this channel; for the honor of your party (as well as for the honor of the more