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ultimate, and, I will add, their supreme object. Every thing ought to be subordinated to this : even progressive sanctification itself, Our aim in seeking eminent piety should be that we may more effectually promote the Divine glory. Far more clearly does it appear that God's glory, and not our personal comfort, should be the paramount object to be kept in view. It is to be feared that, in this respect, there is a defect in the views and aims of certain persons who stand in church-fellowship with us. They seek comfort, and they attend the religious services of the church to secure this desirable object. Seemingly, they do not much care whether the glory of God be promoted, provided they obtain comfort. Now if this be refined, it is nevertheless pure selfishness; it is moreover useless selfishness ; for, generally speaking, these comfort seekers seldom find it. They adopt not the right method of obtaining it. If they would think more of the glory of God, and engage in public worship with a more simple and exclusive desire to promote that glory, they would be far happier than they now are, or deserve to be. “If you take care. of the glory of God,” said the late excellent Andrew Fuller, “he will take care of your comfort;” and, it may be added, of your sanctification also.
The final object of Christian fellowship is the support, preservation, and diffusion of the truth, as it is in Jesus. That truth has been committed to the church; its custody devolves upon its members generally, and they are responsible for the manner in which they discharge their trust. Hence the apostle Paul calls the church “the pillar and ground of the truth,” its stay and support, designed to preserve it from sinking and being trodden under foot, as mere systems of human invention deserve to be. And the church has been found sufficient, in point of fact, to secure this object. The world has never had cause to bewail the total extinction of Divine truth. By the church has its blessed and holy light been sus.' tained. She will continue to minister to its support and
diffusion ; her Master is with her to supply the sacred oil; and his promise, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world,” is a sufficient ground for our confidence, that the light of truth will continue to burn brighter and brighter, till all nations rejoice, and walk in the brightness thereof. Further remarks on this point will be made when we exhibit the duties which the church owes to the world. Regard to brevity prevents greater enlargement here.
Now, as the church has been constituted by God “the pillar and ground of the truth,” every person in joining a church ought to have a conscientious regard to this object. He should think of himself as entering into an army designed to effect the moral subjugation of the world. He should remember that he pledges himself to bear his part in the conflict. He puts on the armour that he may wear the crown of victory. How can a Christian, then, keep aloof from Christian fellowship? Refusing or neglecting to join the holy band, how can he share in the conqueror's reward ?
It ought to be observed, before we pass to the next subject of inquiry, that, from the the foregoing statements of the design of Christian fellowship, it follows that a church of Christ is fitted in itself to exist under any form of civil government. Despotism, indeed, often bids it away from its domains; but it would thrive under despotism, were it permitted to fix itself in the soil; and, in point of fact, it grew more satisfactorily, and vigorously, under the ban than under the smiles of the Roman emperors. Still, a free government, and liberal institutions, more congruous as they are with itself, are greatly more favourable to its growth.
We would add, as a second remark, that it may without fear be permitted to exist under any liberal government, because it cannot possibly inflict injury upon that government. It is, indeed, a kingdom, but not of this world. Its aim is not to make men politicians, but to make them holy; to sanctify and prepare them for heaven ; and therefore Cæsar has nothing to fear from it. In its direct commands, and in its spirit and tendency, Christianity is decidedly friendly to all free governments. I dare not make the same assertion in regard to despotism ; for, though it enjoins us to be subject to the powers that be, not for wrath, but for conscience' sake, I am not prepared to deny, I do not wish to deny, that its general spirit and tendency are adverse to despotic power. I own I should not love it as I do if it were not so. It is the glory of Christianity that where it prevails despotism withers, as the deadly night-shade cannot live upon pure oxygen. It makes no direct assault upon the monster; it would not soil its fingers by actual, though hostile, contact with it. But it silently, though securely works, and, impregnating the soil with an element on which despotism starves and dies, it thus obtains a bloodless and undefiling victory.
THE DUTIES WHICH ARE INCUMBENT UPON THE
MEMBERS OF A CHURCH.
All the relations which rational and accountable beings can sustain, either to God or to each other, connect with them peculiar obligations. There are certain feelings and actions which correspond with those relations, and which we are bound to possess and perform on that very account. New relations, accordingly, bring with them new duties, and bind us to their performance. He who enters into Christian fellowship invests himself with fresh relations, and he cannot contract the relations without assuming their responsibilities and obligations. The duties to which they oblige may be, and indeed too frequently are, partially neglected or forgotten ; but they cannot be annihilated. It is of inconceivable importance that these statements should be pressed upon the attention of all who seek, or at present enjoy, fellowship with us. Is there not, on this point, much of mistake and ignorance? Are there not persons who enter our churches, merely to gain access to the table of the Lord ?-not considering, or not sufficiently considering, that, by the act of joining the body, they take upon themselves a class of additional duties which cannot be habitually neglected without incurring the risk of damnation. Are there not ministers who content themselves with preaching the Gospel, without enforcing with sufficient distinctness and earnestness, the special obligations of the associated body to their Lord, to each other, to the world at large? It is to be feared there are ; and it is not wonderful that they meet with little or no success. How can the Master be expected to be present with a body which neglects to do all things whatsoever he has commanded them?
1. There are special duties which the members of a church owe to Christ, the exalted King in Zion. “He is the head of his body, the church ;” its exclusive head, to the utter subversion of the claim of any pretended vicegerent, or visible head, in heaven, or on earth. The church, then, owes to him,
First: A steady refusal, at whatever cost, to yield submission, on strictly religious subjects, to any authority but His; whether it be civil or ecclesiastical authority; whether it be that of pope or emperor, or cardinal or bishop; whether that of Presbyterian synods, or Methodist Conferences, or Congregational Unions, or churches or pastors, (for it will be afterwards seen that the authority of a Christian pastor is not distinct from that of Christ,) it has no moral right to coerce conscience, or to enforce obedience. Proceed from what source it may, if it attempt to do this, it should be firmly resisted as involving an infringement upon the privilege of the great Head of the church.
Secondly. The deepest reverence for His authority, manifested by implicit obedience to His commands. If others have not authority, his is supreme, for his right to rule is perfect. His qualifications for ruling are, in degree, infinite; and therefore his government is what it should be, pure spiritual despotism; the best and most perfect form of government when, as here, boundless wisdom, inviolable truth, inflexible justice, and infinite goodness, preside at the helm. The church owes unquestioning, universal obedience to Him ; and its language should ever be, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
Thirdly. A diligent study of Divine revelation, for the purpose of obtaining a full and complete understanding of all its statements in reference to the constitution,