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THE RULE OF THE SACRED WORD.
REVELATION IX. 1.
And there was given me a reed.
The word of God is sometimes compared to a sword, because it cuts, wounds, and kills (Rev. xix. 21); sometimes to a hammer, which breaks the finty heart of the sinner in pieces; and to a fire, which either inflames in mercy, or consumes in wrath. But here it is represented by a reed, and that like a rod; for (Psalm cx. 2) it is called “
a rod," and “the rod of God's strength," being powerful and effectual for all the purposes to which he has appointed it. Now, the word of God is not a "bruised reed,” by which the weak graces of the saints are exhibited,—" a broken reed,” by which the vain confidence of sinners is represented; but firm and stable, durable and lasting; a reed, though often shaken, yet not injured, much less destroyed; always executing its commission, and finally victorious over all opposition. Its being called a reed may lead us to consider it,
1. As an instrument, and, though suitable and necessary, yet as only an instrument. As a reed or rod can do nothing without a hand to guide and manage it, so neither can the word, if unattended with the energy of the Divine Spirit. It is powerful and mighty for the conversion of sinners, and the sanctification and edification of saints; but it is only so through God.
I line:" it is the rule by which we are to wais. ind judge Contourselies ini bers, both ct persons 201 actions. Gia strech his line over every mi, od every man sini srets it crer bire. Vocher 1:ority is binka upon the consciences ct me: "To the law and the testimony: If they speak not according to this word, it is beda ise there is no light in them.“ Tais reei was given by Christ, the King of saints, the Head of the church, and the fantain trim whici al ctice and power are derired, here called an angel, of whom we hire a mest splendid description Rev. 3. 1-jand i: wis ren to the apostle, that be red disciple who had lened on his bosom, had been present at his crucitixion, ani indulced by him with peculiar privile-es: ani it might be given to him because tie was the cnly surviving apostle, and to show that the business to be done by it, though in a measure incumbent upon ail, yet is peculiarly suited to the ministry. And what is this business? Why, as it is expressed, Ezek. xliii. 10, to measure the pattern; or, as it is more fully set forth in my text, “ to measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein." Of each of these topics I shall treat a little in their proper order. With this reed the apostle was to measure,
1. The temple of God, by which we are certainly to understand the gospel church; either the church in general, or distinct christian societies, both which are thus represented in Scripture. This temple, typitied by that stately one of Solomon, is built by Christ, and upon him. It is composed of " lively stones," set apart for the service of God, and inhabited by him. Now, this temple is to be measured, and the reed, or rule, by which this is to be done, is the word of God. This is to be applied,
1. To the form and constitution of a gospel church. By this I do not mean the whole invisible or catholic church, partly militant upon earth, and partly triumphant in heaven, and consisting of those', aind none but those, who are redeemed by the blood of Christ, ind are the objects of God's everlasting love; but any particular society of Christians separating themselves from the world, incorporated according to the rules laid down in the divine word, meeting together in one place, and “ walking in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Such a society, according to the Scriptures, is a church, and not any national establishment, or building consisting of stones and timber, or any extensive diocese under the government of a lord bishop. Thus, we read of the church at Rome, Corinth, and other places; and it is said, that “there were added to the church daily such as should be saved."
2. To the doctrine of the church. The primitive Christians were commended for continuing stedfast in the apostles' doctrine. It was fully proved to be the truth of God, and therefore they embraced, and having embraced, retained it. In all controverted points, the holy Scripture is to be our rule, and the decrees of synods and councils, or the opinions of the best and greatest of men, however eminent for learning and religion, are to have no weight with us any further than they are consonant with the divine word. Hence it is spoken of to the honour of the Bereans, that they “ were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
3. To the discipline of the church, and the appointment of its officers, who are to be out of itself, and by the voluntary choice of the community: “ Look ye out among you,” says the apostle, “ seven men of honest report," at the first installation of deacons. The same rule is applicable to the reception of church members, who ought to profess the same faith, partake of the same grace, hold the same head, and walk in the same way, lest the children's bread should be given unto dogs, or the house of God become a den of thieves; and to this I may add, the exclusion of those who walk disorderly, and with respect to whom private admonitions have been ineffectual. (1 Cor. v.
INII O! TEI SACEID FORD.
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