« 前へ次へ »
of the commands of Christ. Be a Christian in private, and also before the world. Live a. Christian's life. Bear about with you wherever you, go, the remembrance of what you are.
Such a course will be of vast advantage to you. It will afford you,
“What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy,
ON THE ORGANIZATION OF CHURCHES, AND THE ADMINIS
TRATION OF THE SUPPER.
I. The form we have presented in another chapter, as the Constitution of a religious society, might also, in the main, be adopted as the Constitution of a Christian church; but as it is necessary in the most of cases, in Massachusetts, to establish a church in distinction from the society, and will be so as long as the present state of societies shall continue, we have judged it best to prepare a Constitution for a Christian church, which we commend to the attention of all our fellow believers throughout the land. In some cases, especially in Boston, it is impossible to guard the society against the admission of members, whatever their religious opinions may be. For what is a religious society in Boston ? It is the proprietors of the meeting-house, the owners of the pews therein. These pews may be transferred from one to another, at the will of the owners; and the purchaser has the full and legal right to attend all proprietors' meetings, and vote in all the concerns of the corporation, whether he be Christian, Jew, Mahometan, or heathen. The whole business is in the hands of the proprietors of pews, and we suppose, of right, ought to be, not excepting the selection and settlement of the pastor. Such a corporation may continually change. At one time a majority of the proprietors may be of a certain faith, at another time, they may be of a faith the very reverse of this. Men very frequently purchase pews without any reference to religious considerations; they may do it for pecuniary profit; they may be obliged to take them in security of a debt ; the pews may descend to them legally on the death of the owner. Under this state of things, it is. not certain, that a body of proprietors will remain professors of the Christian religion. There is no security for this. They have no power to prevent any man from becoming one of their number, whatever his opinions, or whatever his motives may be, if he can obtain the possession of a pew: This state of things exists not only in Boston, but in various other parts of the Commonwealth ; and the same remarks will apply, where the ownership of the meeting-house is lodged, not in the hands of pew-owners, but in the hands of the builders, or in any other way.
II. To preserve, therefore, the Christian institution pure, it is necessary to have connected with each society a body of Christian believers, who shall have the power to admit or exclude members, according as they shall judge their duty, and the directions of the New Testament require. Such an institution we call a Christian church, - a body, or assembly of Christian believ
The New Testament certainly calls on Christians to make a PROFESSION of their faith. What is the meaning of that forcible expression, that the followers of Christ shall have the Father's name written in their FOREHEADS, except, that they are to make the most open and undisguised PROFESSION of their faith? “ And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads." 6. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and the Lamb."
Rev. xiv. 1,
4. The forehead is the most conspicuous part of the human form ; and when it is said, that Christians had the Father's name written in their foreheads, it means, that
they were not ashamed of God and his cause, they made the most public profession of their faith in Him,
wherever they went they bore about with them the fullest evidence of their attachment. This it was their duty to do; and this duty is repeatedly enjoined in the New Testament. Hear the language of the Saviour. “Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels.” Mark viii. 38. The early Christians were required to hold fast the PROFESSION of their faith, Heb. x. 23 ; and Paul commends Timothy for having " professed a good profession before many witnesses," 1 Tim. vi. 12. The early disciples professed their Master in the midst of the greatest trials and persecutions. They knew, that if they named the name of Christ, it was at the peril of their lives. The history of their trials is enough, one would think, to draw tears from eyes that never wept before. Paul says, they “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned ; they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins ; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Heb. xi. 36 – 38. Such is the melancholy picture of their sufferings. But in the midst of these dangers and trials, they " held fast the PROFESSION of their faith.” Shall we, then, in this age,
we who have no persecutions to endure, we who live in a land in which we are protected by the laws, in following the dictates . of our consciences, we who find it an honor rather than shame, to profess our trust in our Master, - shall we hesitate to make a profession of our faith? Why are we indifferent ? Is not Christ as precious to us, as he was to his early disciples ? Did he not die for us as well as for them? Is he not the propitiation for our sins ? Why, then, we ask again, are we indifferent. It
gion ? it
is the duty, the solemn duty, of every believer in the Son of God, to profess his Master before men, as did the early disciples. III. But what do we mean by a profession of reli
be asked. The answer is at hand. We mean an open avowal of your faith in Christ;
· we mean, that you should take rank among the followers of Jesus, – that you should take upon yourself the distinctness of a Christian, - that you should join publicly and formally the Christian church, - and observe the institutions which Jesus recommended to his followers. Such we regard to be a profession of religion, and such it is the duty of every person of suitable age, who believes in the Redeemer, to make. That this is the duty of every person who believes in Christ, will appear still more evident, if we consider what the consequences would be, if this duty were totally neglected by every.
What would become of the cause of religion? It would sink and come to nought. The Lord's Supper would
into disuse. There would be no line of distinction between the believers in Jesus and the world; and soon, we fear, the cause of Christ would die, and be forgotten. The church must be preserved ; and we have the promise, that it shall stand, and that the gates of hades shall not prevail against it. It is the duty of every believer in Christ to come forward and make a public profession of his faith, and unite himself with the visible church of Christ upon the earth. Do not attempt to excuse yourself by saying, that if you do not make a profession of religion, others will, and, therefore, the visible church will be preserved. It is no more the duty of others, than it is your duty ; and if there were any reason by which you might be excused, the same reason would excuse them.
IV. CONSTITUTION OF A CHURCH. Preamble. We, whose names are affixed to this instrument, believing that it is our duty to make a public profession of our religious faith ; and feeling sensible that our happiness, and our growth in virtue and grace, depend, in a great degree, under God, upon our obedience to the divine requisitions, and upon an observance of the institutions of Christ, do hereby unite ourselves into a church, that we may watch over each other in love, and enjoy all the advantages of the visible church of God on the earth : and we adopt the following Profession of Faith and Form of Church Government.
PROFESSION OF FAITH. 1st. We believe in the existence of one God, the Creator of the Universe, the Giver of life and every blessing, who is infinite in wisdom, power, and goodness, and in every possible perfection.
2d. We believe in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the promised Messiah, and the Saviour of the world.
3d. We believe in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as being a revelation from God, as containing rules for the regulation of our conduct in all the relations and circumstances of life, -- as declaring the character and government of God, the rewards of virtue, the punishments of vice; and also revealing the great truth of the final reconciliation of all things to God, so that He at last shall be ALL IN ALL. 1 Cor.
4th. We believe it to be the duty of Christians to meet together on the first day of the week, for public worship; to seek their advancement in knowledge and virtue, by reading the Scriptures, and attending to the means of grace; to abstain from vice of every description, and to imitate, as far as possible, the perfection of God, and the examples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
FORM OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT. ARTICLE 1. The church shall hold an annual meeting, for the purpose of choosing its officers, and transacting such other business as may be brought before it, and deemed necessary to its prosperity, on the of