תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

exact and just balances, and proportion the degree of punishment exactly to the criminality or ill-desert of each one, by ordering every circumstance perfectly agreeable to it.-From Christ the judge, “Every one shall receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.?"* Agreeable to this, Christ says, it shall be more tolerable at the day of judgment, for Sodom and Gonorrah, than for those who reject the gospel, preached by him, or his disciples.

" And that servant who knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”+

IMPROVEMENT.

I. From the brief and imperfect view which has now been given of death, a separate state, judgment, heaven and hell, we may reasonably be led to reflect upon the infinitely grand, important, and interesting scenes that are before us, in which every one of the human race will have a part. A realizing view of these will make all the things and concerns of time and sense, which are temporal, and relate to this state only, appear in their true littleness and vanity ; and to be of no worth and importance, any farther than they relate to these future scenes, and may put us under advantage to be prepared for them. How reasonable and important is it that we should, with the apostles, and primitive christians, constantly look, aim at, and pursue the things which are not seen, and are eternal !

II. How infinitely dreadful is the end of the wicked! In what an unspeakably dangerous state is he in this world ? His feet stand on slippery places, exposed to fall every moment into endless destruction, into which he will soon plunge, if he continue impenitent while in the body:

“ After bis hard and impenitent heart, he is treasuring up unto himself in this life, wrath, • 2 Cor, v. 10.

† Luke xii. 47, 48. # 2 Cor. iv, 18.

against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God."*

How great is the deliverance when any one sinner is plucked as a brand from this eternal, infinitely dreadful fire ! This gives joy in heaven. How happy is he who is the instrument of turning any from sin to righteousness ; of saving immortal souls from endless burnings ! What can be more desirable and pleasing to a benevo. lent mind! He shall have an unspeakable reward, and shine as the stars forever and ever. III.

How great, how glorious and happy is the Redeemer in being able to save, and actually saving multitudes of sinners from such infinite misery, and raising them to such high and endless happiness and glory! How worthy is he to be trusted, loved and honoured. The inhabitants of heaven will be eternally sensible of this, and say, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation ; and hast made us unto our God, kings and priests.”+

What infinite' wickedness and folly is that of which they are guilty, who reject him, or cast the least slight upon him, and do not fly to him, without delay, as a refuge from the wrath to come ; and for eternal happi ness! Blessed are all they who trust in him. Surely he is infinitely precious to all them who believe.

CHAP. V.

ON THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.

SECTION 1.

General Observations concerning the Church of Christ.

THE word in the original, kuxnaria, generally translated church, is found above an hundred times in the New Testament ; and signifies an assembly of men, • Rom. ii. 5.

| Rev. v. 9, 10, 12.

called and collected together, for some special purpose. It is used in the scripture, except in a few instances, in an appropriated sense for believers in Christ, or the redeenied, as a collective body, or society, united in, or under him as their head.

By the church of Christ is sometimes meant the re. deemed : all who have been, or shall be saved by Christ, who shall at last be collected into one general assembly, society and kingdom. This is called the invisible church, being at present hid, and out of our sight, as those in heaven are not seen by us while in this life, and true believers, who are on earth, cannot be cer. tainly distinguished from others who are not such.

The church of Christ on earth consists of those who are united together as professed friends to Christ, and believers in him, and are under explicit engagements to serve him, and attend upon all his institutions and ordi. nances, and to watch over, and assist each other; including both parents and their children. This is called the visible church of Christ, as it is a society erected in the view of man,' and consists of members, who are visibly, or in appearance, among the number of the saved, and real friends to Christ, though many of them may not be really such.

This church is considered as one common catholic society, comprehending all visible christians in the world, composed of numerous particular societies, or assemblies of christians, in different places ; and which, by a succession of members, will continue the same society or church, to the end of the world. This is meant by the church, when Christ says to Peter, “ And I say un. to thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."* And the word is used in this sense, in many other places. But every distinct society of visible believers, agreeing and united together to attend on the worship and ordinances of Christ, is called a church. As the church at Antioch; the church at Ephesus; the churches in Judea ; the churches of Galatia ; all the churches, &c.

• Matt. xyi. 18.

[ocr errors]

Wherever a number of persons voluntarily unite to. gether, under the profession of believers in Christ, and friends to him, to attend upon his institutions and ordinances, according to his directions and commands, they are a visible church of Christ, so long, and so far, as they appear to embrace and maintain the great and essential truths of christianity; and to live in some good measure agreeable to them.

Concerning the church of Christ in general, his visible .church in this world, and such a particular church, the following things may be observed, in order to give a more clear idea of the subject, and to show the reason and importance of it.

1. It is reasonable and important, that the friends of the Redeemer should be his professed friends; and that they should unite in a profession of faith in him, and publicly espouse his cause and interest in the world, and in assisting each other, as his servants, and in attending upon

his institutions, and obeying his commands; here. by distinguishing themselves from the rest of mankind. Accordingly, Christ has enjoined upon his friends and disciples, to confess him before men, and to form them. selves into a public society, or particular societies, by which they shall be as a city, that is set on a hill, which cannot be hid ; the light of the world, to shine before all mev.*

2. The church of Christ is a free, voluntary society, in opposition to any force or compulsion used to oblige the members of it to join and come into it, contrary to their consent and free choice. All are invited to be members of it, and none are to be rejected, who appear to be willing to come and to conform to the rules which Christ has given ; and none who have been received, are to be rejected and cast out, who choose to continue members, unless they behave disorderly, and refuse to obey the laws of Christ.

3. Jesus Christ is the sole legislator and ruler in his church. No particular church, or the church in gene. ral has any authority or right to make any laws or rules in order to govern or regulate the church, or individual members of it ; but are commanded to attend to those

• Matt. 2. 3. . 14, 15, 16.

which Christ has given, and obey and execute them only.

The church is not a worldly society; and is not to be ruled or regulated by civil laws, or rulers of political

, worldly societies ; such rulers have no more authority in the church, than any other member of it. The visible church is called in scripture, “ The kingdom of heaven ; the kingdoin of God, and of Christ,” who said, “ My kingdom is not of this world.” It is a distinct, and entirely different society and kingdom, from civil, worldly societies or kingdoms, and cannot be connected with them, so as to be in any respect or degree, dependent on them, or have any alliance with them. The church wants no support from civil authority, and ought not to be governed or controlled in any respect, by the civil magistrate. When he attempts this, and to make laws to govern or regulate the church of Christ, he invades the rights of Christ, and usurps the authority which belongs only to the Head of the church, who is the sole ruler in it.

The church when it is regulated by the laws of Christ, and obedient to him, is friendly to human, civil society ; and Christ commands his subjects, the members of his church, to obey magistrates, and seek to promote the peace and greatest good of such societies ! And all they expect or desire from the civil magistrate, is to be protected in the enjoyment of their civil rights, and their religion, so long as they are not injurious to their neighbours, and live quiet and peaceable lives.

4. Every member of the church has a right to judge for himself what are the laws of Christ, and what is his duty, being accountable to none but Christ for his judgment and conduct; and none have a right or authority to dictate to him, or control him in these matters. In matters wherein the church as a body, are to decide, and act, they must be determined by the voice of the major part, or the greatest number of the members, as is done in other societies ; this being considered as the voice and determination of the church. And if they be not unanimous in any thing to be determined by the church, they who dissent from the judgment of the majority, must submit and conform to them ; unless

« הקודםהמשך »