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things were created. It is, however, most powerfully adapted to promote it.
God is glorified by that voluntary act which brings the members of the church of Christ together; for it is an act of obedience to his commands, and to his commands exclusively. Their withdrawment from the world, their confederacy with each other, their existence as a religious body, are practical and visible demonstrations of subjection to Divine authority. Their separate and peculiar state does honour to the sovereign rule of God, as their peculiar character displays and glorifies his omnipotent power and grace.
God is glorified, further, by all those acts of worship which are rendered to him publicly in the church, and by the church, as well as by all the religious services in which its associated members engage.
In the prayers of the church, God's all-sufficiency, his power to impart every "good thing," and his readiness to bestow it for the sake of Christ, are honoured. In the praises of the church, God's goodness and grace, in the actual communication of innumerable blessings, are acknowledged and honoured. In the reading of the Scriptures, and in the preaching of the word, God's rightful authority over the understanding, and conscience, and heart, is acknowledged and honoured for the tendency and aim of both is, to make the memhers of the body think as God thinks, and feel as God feels, and act as God acts. In the discipline of the church, presiding, as she does, at the door of entrance, to preserve it from the intrusion of false brethren, and watching over the conduct of all, to cast out such if any such should have gained admission, God's essential and infinite purity is acknowledged; for nothing but a holy temple can be a fit habitation of God through the Spirit.
Now, as Christian fellowship thus tends to promote the Divine glory, all who seek admission to it should keep this object in view. While their own comfort and edification may be the proximate, this should be their
ultimate, and, I will add, their supreme object. Every thing ought to be subordinated to this : even progressive sanctification itself. Our aim in seeking eminent piety should be that we may more effectually promote the Divine glory. Far more clearly does it appear that God's glory, and not our personal comfort, should be the paramount object to be kept in view. It is to be feared that, in this respect, there is a defect in the views and aims of certain persons who stand in church-fellowship with us. They seek comfort, and they attend the religious services of the church to secure this desirable object. Seemingly, they do not much care whether the glory of God be promoted, provided they obtain comfort. Now if this be refined, it is nevertheless pure selfishness ; it is moreover useless selfishness ; for, generally speaking, these comfort seekers seldom find it. They adopt not the right method of obtaining it. If they would think more of the glory of God, and engage in public worship with a more simple and exclusive desire to promote that glory, they would be far happier than they now are, or deserve to be. If
take care of the glory of God,” said the late excellent Andrew Fuller," he will take care of your comfort;” and, it may be added, of your sanctification also.
The final object of Christian fellowship is the support, preservation, and diffusion of the truth, as it is in Jesus. That truth has been committed to the church; its custody devolves upon its members generally, and they are responsible for the manner in which they discharge their trust. Hence the apostle Paul calls the church “the pillar and ground of the truth,” its stay and support, designed to preserve it from sinking and being trodden under foot, as mere systems of human invention deserve to be. And the church has been found sufficient, in point of fact, to secure this object. The world has never had cause to bewail the total extinction of Divine truth. By the church has its blessed and holy light been sustained. She will continue to minister to its support and
diffusion ; her Master is with her to supply the sacred oil; and his promise, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world,” is a sufficient ground for our confidence, that the light of truth will continue to burn brighter and brighter, till all nations rejoice, and walk in the brightness thereof. Further remarks on this point will be made when we exhibit the duties which the church owes to the world. Regard to brevity prevents greater enlargement here.
Now, as the church has been constituted by God“the pillar and ground of the truth,” every person in joining a church ought to have a conscientious regard to this object. He should think of himself as entering into an army designed to effect the moral subjugation of the world. He should remember that he pledges himself to bear his part in the conflict. He puts on the armour that he may wear the crown of victory. How can a Christian, then, keep aloof from Christian fellowship? Refusing or neglecting to join the holy band, how can he share in the conqueror's reward?
It ought to be observed, before we pass to the next subject of inquiry, that, from the the foregoing statements of the design of Christian fellowship, it follows that a church of Christ is fitted in itself to exist under any form of civil government. Despotism, indeed, often bids it away from its domains ; but it would thrive under despotism, were it permitted to fix itself in the soil; and, in point of fact, it grew more satisfactorily, and vigorously, under the ban than under the smiles of the Roman emperors. Still, a free government, and liberal institutions, more congruous as they are with itself, are greatly more favourable to its growth.
We would add, as a second remark, that it may without fear be permitted to exist under any
Liberal government, because it cannot possibly inflict injury upon that government. It is, indeed, a kingdom, but not of this world. Its aim is not to make men politicians, but to make them holy; to sanctify and prepare them for heaven ; and therefore Cæsar has nothing to fear from it. In its direct commands, and in its spirit and tendency, Christianity is decidedly friendly to all free governments. I dare not make the same assertion in regard to despotism ; for, though it enjoins us to be subject to the powers that be, not for wrath, but for conscience' sake, I am not prepared to deny, I do not wish to deny, that its general spirit and tendency are adverse to despotic power. I own I should not love it as I do if it were not so. It is the glory of Christianity that where it prevails despotism withers, as the deadly night-shade cannot live upon pure oxygen.
It makes no direct assault upon the monster; it would not soil its fingers by actual, though hostile, contact with it. But it silently, though securely works, and, impregnating the soil with an element on which despotism starves and dies, it thus obtains a bloodless and undefiling victory.
THE DUTIES WHICH ARE INCUMBENT UPON THE
MEMBERS OF A CHURCH.
All the relations which rational and accountable beings can sustain, either to God or to each other, connect with them peculiar obligations. There are certain feelings and actions which correspond with those relations, and which we are bound to possess and perform on that very account. New relations, accordingly, bring with them ne duties, and bind us to their performance. He who enters into Christian fellowship invests himself with fresh relations, and he cannot contract the relations without assuming their responsibilities and obligations. The duties to which they oblige may be, and indeed too frequently are, partially neglected or forgotten ; but they cannot be annihilated. It is of inconceivable importance that these statements should be pressed upon the attention of all who seek, or at present enjoy, fellowship with us. Is there not, on this point, much of mistake and ignorance? Are there not persons who enter our churches, merely to gain access to the table of the Lord ?—not considering, or not sufficiently considering, that, by the act of joining the body, they take upon themselves a class of additional duties which cannot be habitually neglected without incurring the risk of damnation. Are there not ministers who content themselves with preaching the Gospel, without enforcing with sufficient distinctness and earnestness, the special obligations of the associated body to their Lord, to each other, to the world at large? It is to be feared there are ; and it is