Page images

floating down with the tide of popular opinion, are lost among the crowd of them that“ regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands."*

The other mistake of the multitude is, that they attend only to the influence or effects which passing scenes have on political society. They look merely to the state of commerce, agriculture, manufactures; in a word to their temporal interests. Amidst their solicitude for these, they forget those which are heavenly and of everlasting importance. Whilst they are regarding the events which occur in the world, that little company—the Church-the body of Christ, is forgotten. In spite of the wo denounced upon those who, being at ease in Zion, " are not grieved at the afflictions of Joseph,” few are concerned for her welfare, or asking what effects passing scenes will have upon her state and prospects.

These two mistakes are inseparably connected together, and both mislead the opinions and feelings of the multitude. To attempt a correction of such ruinous errors, is the duty of every man who fears God and keeps his commandments. . With this view, the attention of our readers is solicited to the relation wbich subsists between the Church and the world. The right understanding of this relation alone can enable us to form a just conclusion, at all times, of the events which we witness.

The Church is composed of those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, together with their children. They constitute the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God; out of wbich there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. The rest of mankind are the world ; without God, and without þopė,; dead in trešpasses and sins. Between these two classes of persons, •jthick divide the whole human family, there is a wide-ä vast difference. The one, regardless of their duty and their interest, “ obey not the Gospel of God," rejecting His offers of pardon through Christ. The other manifest“ obedience to the faith,” accepting the testimony of God, concerning Christ, for salvation. The one are yet in the

*Isa. v. 12.


world which “ lieth in wickedness," subjects of the prince of darkness. The other are gathered from out of the world, and formed into a separate community, of which Christ, the Prince of Peace, is the head. The one are under the power

and demnation of sin, being aliens from the family of God, and enemies of Him through evil works. The other profess to have hope towards God, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. The one, being children of disobedience, walk in darkness themselves, and have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. The other walk in the light, even as God is light, and have fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

Thus they are separated from each other in their temper of mind, in their habits of life, and their prospects for eternity. Yet still, being upon the same theatre of action and responsibility, and being brethren according to the flesh, they mingle together in society; each, however, retaining their distinctive character; the one born after the flesh, and the other after the Spirit. This distinctive character, whilst it prevents them from agreeing together, or forming an alliance, unfolds to us the nature of that relation which the latter sustains to the for. iner; though they are not of the world, they are in it: And constituting the house of God, as built by him, inbabited by his Spirit, and designed to show forth his glory, they hold a station among their fellow-men, to the last degree interesting and important. On their account, the world is preserved from ruin; they afford evidence to the world of the truth as it is in Jesus; and constitute the central point, to which all the events of God's providence do point. The illustration of these three particulars, will explain, with sufficient clearness, the relation wbich the Church sustains to the world.

First. On account of the household of faith, tbe world is preserved from ruin. They constitute “the salt of the earth," and as such, prevent that corruption of it which would neces. sarily terminate in its destruction.

Matt, v. 13,

Reflect for a moment upon its state, as produced by the fall, and you will readily perceive what its fate must have been long before now, without a corrective to prevent that fate. Then men became blinded in their understandings, depraved in their will, polluted in their affections, and disorderly in their lives. They were therefore fitted, by their degraded character, for every act of rebellion against God, and every provocation of his awful displeasure. Nothing could bave prevented their everlasting punishment but the mercy of God bimself. He having from all eternity foreseen the ruins of the fall, provided a remedy, through which these ruins might be again raised; and thus the mischiefs arising from sin, be retrieved. He entered into a covenant with his Son, by which he gave unto him a certain number, to be redeemed and eternally blessed by him. These are they who believe on bis name, being constrained by his grace to honour him before men. They are a certain determinate number, gathered out of all nations, kindreds, and tongues.* Until they are collected in one, the world will be preserved; for out of the midst of the world they must be taken, and made heirs of life.

Thus they are the salt of the earth, in God's design of mercy. They are also, in the regard which God has to the work of his hands. He puts honour upon them in preserving them, and in making them the occasions of preserving others. Thus, we are assured, had there been ten righteous men in Sodom, God would have spared the city.f In the same spirit it is said, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much; viz. to avert judgment, and to draw down the blessing of God. Indeed, the interest which real believers have with God, and the influence which they consequently possess in preventing evils and warding off judgments, can hardly be conceived, though it is deemed little by the multitude. On them, under God, the safety of a society or people depends, because on them the security of the world rests.

* John xvii. 2. compared with Rev. v. 9. of Gen. xviii, 32.

| James v. 16.

This view of their importance, is as true as it is honourable to them. And the reason for it is to be drawn only from the fact, that they belong to the family of God. They constitute the sheet-anchor of a nation-of the universe.

Secondly, The household of faith afford evidence to the world of the truth as it is in Jesus in all its parts. They constitute “the light of the world,»* being themselves enlightened by the Spirit of God, and witnesses for God to others. To them God has made known his will in all those matters which pertain to the present life, and that which is to come. He has given them his word, which relates to things temporal as well as spiritual ; in which he teaches them their duty in all the relations of life, civil as well as religious, public as well as domestic. This word is intended, and calculated, to regulate the whole of human conduct, in every department of life. It was at first made known to Adam and Eve, in its substance, when they had sinDed; and afterwards more fully explained to the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, for the benefit of the world.

All the useful information which we find among the heathen, on subjects pertaining to our duty and happiness, they derived from a divine revelation. In that revelation, the essential part, the centre, the sum, the root, is redemption from sin and its punishment by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Of this sacrifice, the sacrifices under the law, and previous to the giving of the law, were typical. The sacrifices of the heathen were corruptions of the institution of God. And yet, though corruptions, so far as they retained any trace of their great design, they operated to the instruction and benefit of men ; for they testified of sin, and likewise of deliverance from sin, by sacrifice.

This doctrine of sacrifice, as necessary for the remission of sin, is calculated directly for the evolution of the faculties—for the formation of habits, and for the confirmation of a “hope which maketh not ashamed.”+ It approves itself to our understanding, enlists the affections in its favour, and quiets the conscience, that faithful witness for God in the soul. They, therefore, who embrace this truth, with all its connexions, are à light in the world. They show forth God's mercy, and man's duty, in reference to that mercy. They are living witnesses for God, testifying in their own case to the following truths, of vital importance to the hope of eternal life.

* Matt. v. 14.

+ Rom. v. 5.

1. The corruption of human nature, in soul and body, affecting all the faculties, intellectual and moral, of the first, and the powers of the last, so as to require the regenerating and sanctifying influences of the Spirit, to enable a sinner to use them aright.

2. The necessity of a full justification of our persons, from the charges of the divine law, including an acquittal from the guilt of sin, and an adjudication to eternal life, upon principles which that law approves.

3. The only evidence of justification is sanctification ; by which we mean, the renewal of the whole man after the image of God. It is a dying unto sin, and a living unto God, by the mortification of the former, and the quickening of our obedience to the latter.

4. The medium through which both justification and sanctification are procured, is the death and obedience of God's own Son, as a propitiation for our sins, which is called, the righteousness of Christ.

5. The means, by which sinful men becoine interested in the propitiatory sacrifice of Chirst are believing on his name and repenting of their sins.

These doctrines not only lie at the foundation of individual, or personal happiness : a belief of them, and their influence on the heart, is necessary for social and political well-being. The salvation of sinners, and the order, as well as prosperity of societies, equally depend upon the redemption that there is in Christ. Men need his light, as much for the discharge of their duties in the political, as well as the ecclesiastical community. Civil government is his ordinance, as well as baptism, and the Lord's supper.

The magistrate is bis minister for good, and therefore must be just; ruling in the fear of God

« PreviousContinue »