Imágenes de páginas

offend ; and thus, while the frank manifestation and the full flow of brotherly kindness would have imparted life, and energy, and activity, to the entire community, the opposite feeling and practice have brought upon it stagnation and spiritual death.

“The poor,” said our Lord, “ye have always with you ;” and the sick, it may be added, generally so. Christian sympathy and Christian aid, the pitying heart and the helping hand, surely befit the relation which binds the members of a Christian church together. “Pure religion and undefiled, before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” &c. James i. 27. “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?” ii. 15, 16. “ And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you,” said our Lord, “he shall not lose his reward,” Matt. x. 42; what tenderness of affection to the disciples do these words display!-and“ if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” How powerfully, again, does the language of the Judge, in the account of the proceedings of the last day, display his love to his people ; and how strikingly does it prove that all the churches must abound in the work of faith and labour of love, to the poor and sick of their number, so tenderly beloved by him, to secure his approbation ; “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me :"-"Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me?” Matt. xxv. 40, 45. It is worthy of inquiry, whether it be consistent with love to Christ, to permit one of his disciples to die in the poor-house, or to receive parish relief ?

III. There are duties which the members of a Christian church owe to the world.

• D 2

The amount of those duties may be comprised in the following statement. They owe to the world wise, persevering, and unwearied efforts to promote its salvation. They must not be satisfied with seeking edification from their pastors, nor with adopting means to edify one another. It is to be feared that this important sentiment has not always been remembered. Certain churches, chiefly those that approach towards Sandemanian principles, have aimed to secure, by church-fellowship, nothing more than their own spiritual improvement. The ungodly, either at a distance, or in the vicinity, might die and be finally lost, for any practical care of theirs ; while they have regarded themselves, at the same time, as branches of that church to whose custody the Gospel was committed, that by its members it might be diffused throughout the world. But how can we admit their claim to be churches of Christ? How can the spirit of the Gospel exist, where desire and effort for its extension exist not? I cannot think that the members of such churches have a legitimate aim. They may seek intellectual improvement—a more correct and critical acquaintance with the meaning of certain parts of Divine revelation-but not real spiritual edification, which consists mainly in progressive conformity to the Divine image, and devotion to the Divine glory. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. It has to preserve it in existence. The church is the appointed instrument for diffusing the truth. It first absorbs, for its own benefit, the light and heat which proceed from the Sun of Righteousness; and then it radiates them back again upon a dark and frozen world, that its dreary and desert wastes may be transformed into fields of vernal freshness, may in due season pour forth abundantly their rich autumnal fruit, and become full of the abodes of pleasantness and peace. The Church preserves and diffuses the truth, which, be it remembered, is the appointed instrument for the salvation of the world.

First. By holding up to the world the light of a holy and consistent example. The church is compared to a city; the injunction is, to set it upon a hill ; it is a candle, which is not to be put under a bushel, but on a candlestick, so that it may give light to all that are in the house. The light, then, of the church's example must be a holy and consistent light, or it will not promote the glory of God. “Let your light,” therefore, said our Lord, “ so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matt. v. 16. Such a light was held up to the inhabitants of Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, by the churches in those regions, who “walked in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost ;” and the historian adds, “ they were multiplied.” Many were turned to the Lord and added to the Church; for this light, we may perhaps venture to add, is never exhibited totally in vain. It tends to secure the efficiency of the ministry of the word; and that ministry is indeed seldom, successful without it. Hence, even the apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians, exhorts them to “hold forth the word of life,” “that I may rejoice,” he adds, “in the day of the Lord, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” Phil. ii. 16. By thus exhibiting the light of a holy example, the private members of our churches, together with their ministers, may strive “together for the faith of the Gospel.”

Secondly. By employing effectual measures to secure amongst them an efficient administration of Divine ordinances. The stated worship of a Christian church, the public prayers which are presented to God, the praises which are offered, the administration of discipline, the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and preeminently the preaching of the Gospel, are all adapted to promote the salvation of the world. They are all designed, not merely to edify the church, but to enlarge its boundaries, by bringing in them that are without. The church is, accordingly, bound to provide every thing essential to the existence and action of all this moral machinery ; to

look out for men to take the oversight of them in the Lord, who are thoroughly qualified for the discharge of every part of pastoral duty; men full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, apt to teach, able to rule well the church of God. It is bound to see that there be no departure from the faith in the pulpit, for such departures have frequently, not to say generally, originated there. The proclamation of the truth is, as we have seen, a part of the instrumentality employed by the church to promote the salvation of the world ; its members ought, consequently, to be especially concerned that it be adapted to secure this important end. They are bound to see that no part of the pastoral work be neglected, or negli. gently performed ; for the church at Colosse were instructed to say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” Col. iv. 17. They are further bound to provide for the supply of the pastor's temporal necessities; and the provision is to be made not grudgingly, but with a willing mind. It is to be made affectionately and generously; not as a gratuity, disgraceful to the one party, and in. sulting to the other; but as the discharge of a debt, or rather an acknowledgment of obligations, which never can be fully discharged. “Let him," says Paul, “that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.Gal. vi. 6; and again, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple ? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?, Even so, hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” 1 Cor. ix. 11--14. It should be remembered, that this obligation to support the pastor, to support him efficiently, so that he may be without carefulness, without need of seeking supplies from other sources, rests upon the same ground with the duty of supporting the pastoral office itself. It is not so much on account of the pastor, personally considered—merely for his accommodation and comfort—though these points can never be overlooked by a pious and affectionate people; but the church is bound thus to support him, that he may be able to discharge efficiently the duties of his office, by giving his whole time, and the undivided and unbroken energy of his mind, to his ministry; neither of which can be done, if he be left in want, or obliged to pursue some other employ. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” 2 Tim. ii, 4. Let it never be forgotten that, as the ministry of the pastor is theinstrumentality which the church employs, and is bound to employ, to secure the salvation of the world, its members lie under the same kind of obligation to keep him free from care, and secular employment, as to see that he does not depart from the faith and purity of the Gospel.

Finally. On this point, let it be observed, that the church is bound to secure a suitable building, in which the main, or, at any rate, the more public efforts of the pastor to promote the salvation of the world may be put forth. It is not, by this statement, meant merely that the obligation under which the members of the church lie to seek their own edification should lead them to provide a building for the purposes of public worship; nor, further, that that building should not be inconvenient and uncomfortable; though it may be well for those whose private abodes are spacious, and even elegant, to ask, where is consistency and conscience, if they allow the house of God to lie in dust and dilapidation ? But we take higher ground even than this. We mean that the duty they lie under to the world will not allow of their neglecting to do this. The Church is to extend, as we have seen, the knowledge of the truth, and thus promote the salvation of the world, by securing an efficient administration of the regular ordinances of Divine worship. The preaching of the Gospel is preeminently adapted to secure this end,

« AnteriorContinuar »