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Mutual choice also holds an important place in the formation of this unity. No one acquainted with the philosophy of mind can conceive of unity of mind in any social adventure, without mutual choice and consent. The parties must “receive one another as Chrsit hath received them." There can be no proper spiritual unity of mind in a church where applicants are put in by the will of the rulers, without being received by the people. Such churches are gathered, but not practically united. A church is commanded, “ Him that is weak in the faith” (as all young converts are) “receive ye, but not to doubtful disputation"-Rom. xiv. 1. The church at Jerusalem would not receive Saul of Tarsus till they obtained satisfactory evidence of his conversion. Nor can any church lawfully consent to receive members on other terms. This plan of receiving provides for mutual recogni. tion of christian character, which is the basis of the confidence of love; and, in receiving one another by the right hand of fellowship, there is an open confession of the consummation of unity, which causes a lively feeling of interest in each other, imparting holy and delightful energy to the intercourse of brotherly love.
3. Unity so formed is sustained by great interests, of which the following is an outline :
(1.) Interest in Christ-Gal. iii. 28; Heb. ii. 11 ; and in the Father through him—John xvii. 11, 22, 23 ; 1st Thes. i. 1 ; and in the dispensation of the Spirit-Eph. iv. 3 ; 1st Cor. xii. 11–13.
(2.) Interest in the whole truth of God, making thern “ like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind," Phil. ii. 2.
(3.) Interest in one another. • We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another”. Rom. xii. 5. (4.) Interest of mutual sympathy.
“ God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked : that there should be no schism in body ; but that the members should have the for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it ; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it," 1st Cor. xii. 24–26.
(5.) Interest of mutual dependence. “ The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you,” 1st Cor. xii. 21.
(6.) Interest in all that pertains to the kingdom of God here and hereafter, as
fellow-citizens with the saints, and
me care ono
of the household of God,"_" fellow.heirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel,” Eph. ii. 19-iii. 6.
(7.) Interest in the administration of Christ's kingdom, in the execution of his laws, for purging, gathering, and building up, so as to promote his cause and glory, 1st Cor. V. 3-5, 7, 13. Eph. iv. 16, 16. Rom. xii. 5–8. let Cor. iii. 21--23.
In their common interest in those great and good fruits of the wisdom and love of God, a church feel their “hearts knit together in love," and disposed to abound in the practice of love, consisting in keeping Christ's commandments, for promoting the common good, and his glory, without which all other ties of professed unity would be no better than a rope of sand.
4. The bond of this unity is love, which is called "the bond of perfectness," because it is the very life blood of the body of Christ. Properly speaking, love is unity ; and in order to unity being perfected, love must be of the perfect quality. Now, this love is very different in its nature from mere animal affection. It is more than natural affection improved. It is even more than the exercise of love induced by God's love towards us. It is nothing short of Christ's love to his people, in them, and extended by them, one towards another. As the life of believers consists in “ Christ's living in them” (Gal. ii. 20), and as their joy consists in “ His joy remaining in them” (John xv. 11), so their love consists in His love being in them,-expanding in love one to another,--the whole body in sympathy with the head, in terms of the memorable saying,
“ As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you, continue ye in my love" John xv. 9.
“ If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us"-1st John iv. 12. There is more here than the notion of the love of Christ being the reason and rule of our love one towards another. st is in the love of the Head, taking with it the sympathies of the members of the body, that in loving one another they. shew that they are loved by Christ, and loving one another as he hath loved them. But there is a variety of properties pertaining to this love, which must be well understood in order that it may “ abound more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.'
A brief abstract of the prime qualities of love, is contained in 1st Cor. xiii. 4-7, “ Love suffereth long and is kind ; love envieth not ; love is not rash or precipitate, is not puffed
up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth ; covereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” This requires more than occasional attention. The careful study of it should form a part of the closet exercise of every day, as essential to soul prosperity. But there are other properties of love which must be understood in order to regulate their application.
Disciples must distinguish between the love due to all men, and “
brotherly love,”-the one regarding its objects with that compassion of benevolence which seeks their conversion and salvation ; the other regarding its objects with special interest, as Christ's property,—with esteem as bearing his image,-with confidence for the truth's sake dwelling in them, and “loving them with pure hearts fervently,” as brethren of the same family, as members of the same body, and as “ fellow-heirs of the grace of life.” There are also relative duties of love due to those classes respectively, in confounding of which there is error in judgment and corruption in practice.
There is also a difference between the benevolence and complacency of love ; the one consisting of endeavours to do good to its object, -the other of delight in the object as found worthy of kind regards. Now, many are deceived in supposing that the law of love is fulfilled in their experience of complacency, induced by spiritual qualities in the object, and that they are justified in not loving those whom they hold as not meriting such regards, while the principle and practice of the benevolence of love are wanting. But there can be no pure complacency without benevolence, which, like the love of God, embraces its objects as they are, intent on doing them good, so as, thereby, to find occasion of delight in them. Complacency, without benevolence, is not pure love, but the corrupt offspring of selfishness.
The principle in question should be tested by distinguishing between the emotions and practices of love ; the one consisting of the affections of the heart towards its object,-the other in the performance of the duties of love, by obeying Scripture law. The whole law of God is suspended on love, and intended to regulate its practice, Mat. xxii. 37-40, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Rom. xiii. 10. John xv. 10. The practice of love, therefore, consisteth not in showing kindness as dictated by the natural inclinations of the heart, after the manner of the world, but in performing
overy duty of love, as required by law, for promoting spiritual as well as temporal welfare. Actions apart from holy affection, are “ dead works,” because proceeding from no vital principle, and love without works is also “dead, being alone.”
In order that love may be exercised “in knowledge and in all judgment,” it is necessary to fix the boundaries between the faithfulness and forbearance of love. Love is faithful. “ As many as I love I rebuke and chaster,” Rev. iii. 19. See also Levit. xix. 17. But the forbearance of love claims exemption from rebuke in behalf of its object, in so far as what is objectionable in his conduct is the result of remaining ignorance, &c.
The relation of the confidence and fellowship of love must be also understood, in order to give love a wholesome workingplace in the social circle. The confidence of love rests in having good reason to regard its object as a Christian, having a claim on all that pertains to brotherly love, and the fellowship of love is the interchange of affection and of the duties of love founded on that confidence. Now, the duties of the fellowship of love would be misapplied without that confidence; and an avowal confidence, without fellowship, would be no better than admitting a great debt to be due without any effort to make payment.
5. The unity of a church is manifested by open confession of the truth, as perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment," 1st Cor. i. 10 ;-by expressions of brotherly kindness, shewing that their “hearts are knit together in love," Col. ii. 2 ;- by "striving together for the faith of the gospel,” Phil. i. 27 ;-by sitting together at the Lord's table,— We being many are one bread and one body," 1st Cor. x. 17 ;-and by statedly meeting together in one place for religious services, " All that believed were together," Acts ii. 44.
All the commands to attend to social duties bind believers to meet for the performance of them, according to the precept, “ Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together," Heb. x. 25. The authority of primitive example binds them to meet every Lord's day, Acts xx. 27–1st Cor. xvi. 1 ;and as occasions require, Acts xxi. 22 ;-or daily if expedient and practicable, Acts ii. 46. There is special obligation to observe the sacred day of rest as wholly devoted to religious exercise—not a part, but the whole day called " the Lord's day," and therefore set apart wholly and exclusively for the Lord's service. But there is the same binding obligation of primitive example to meet at other times as occasions require. And as Christ has left bis people to exercise their own judgment in fixing the times of such meetings, their consent to meet at any given time, is an engagement to meet with him, binding them to fulfil that engagement. And shortcoming in attendance at the time fixed for the commencement of worship, without cause, is a violation of that engagement with Christ, and of scripture order, and of the law of love, and causes grief to others from their being annoyed by late entry, diverting attention during the solemn exercises of worship, and causing the offering of a torn, lame, or unmeaning sacrifice, which may provoke God to withhold his blessing.
6. The advantages afforded by connexion with a church scripturally and fitly framed together, are :-Freedom from human bondage in all things pertaining to God, Gal. ii. 4, 5 ;-enjoyment of the perfect "liberty wherewith Christ bath made us free,” Gal. v. 1; access to all the ordinances intended for working out our salvation, 1st Cor. xi. 2 ;-rest of soul in bearing the yoke of Christ, Mat. xi. 29;-soul satisfaction in finding proper provision and accommodation for serving Christ, Eph. ii. 19 ;-the comfort of love in dwelling together with brethren, Pbil. ii. 1, 2 ;--great and inestimable benefits arising from the watchful care, sympa thies, prayers, and kind offices of the love of brethren, Eph. iv. 15, 16 ; the rejoicing of a good conscience in walking, by Bible truth, so as to please God, 2nd Cor. i. 12 ;
-great blessedness in the enjoyment of the promised presence and blessing of Christ while doing his commandments, Rev. xxii. 14 ;-- great joy in the success of the truth, Acts, xv. 3 ;and the blessed prospect, in being faithful unto the death, of obtaining the crown of life, Rev. ii. 10. But those advantages are found in the practice of ohristian fellowship.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
The fellowship of a church consists of the intercourse of its members with Christ and one another, in the use of the privileges, and performance of the duties of their association, whether stated or occasional, for promoting their own spiritual benefit, the salvation of a lost world, and the glory of God. It is called “ fellowship in the gospel,” as promoted by gospel influence, and affording enjoyment of gospel blessings. Phil i. 6,-_-" the fellowship of the Spirit,” as maintain . ed by the dispensation of the Spirit. Phil. ii. 1,- and “the fellowship of God's Son,” as sustained by his glorious per