« السابقةمتابعة »
acting otherwise, must have that weight in the mind of every reasonable
man, as to induce him to steer wide of the possibility of it.
In a matter of this essential importance, no grati. fication of private conceit or prejudice, no attachment to particular feet or opinion, will be suffered to preponderate against the single consideration of conformity to the revealed, will of God. " What is written, how readest thou?" will be the answer which every wise man will be ready to receive and to profit by; considering that He who opened the gate of everlasting life, must be the surest guide to conduct man into it.
Upon an appeal to this revealed will, as delivered to us in the facred writings, we have the plan of Divine wisdom in the salvation of fallen man so clearly laid before us, that whatever we may in charity hope in the case of others, we are at least qualified to form fome decisive conclusions in our
Were it not so, it would be for little purpose, it should seem, that the facred records have been put into our hands.
Upon an appeal to these records, we find the church called, as hath been above observed, the body of CHRIST; that body, of which He is the Head and
Saviour. “ CHRIST (says the Apostle) is the Head of the church, and He is the Saviour of the body." ! Eph. V. 23. And we no where read of him in the character of a Saviour, but with reference to that church, which he is said to have purchased with his blood. In consequence of this purchase, the church is considered to be the peculiar property of CHRIST; every member of it, therefore, must have a peculiar interest in him. The church, then, according to the idea which the scripture has taught us to form of it, is that spiritual association, which draws as it were the line of distinction between those who are living without God, and confequently without hope, and those who are formally admitted into covenant with Him, and sealed with “ the holy fpirit of pro. mise, as an earnest of their future inheritance." "Taken in this light, the church on earth may
be considered as a preparatory stage in the road to man's future happiness; it being a school of discipline established by Christ, for the purpose of making every member of it meet for the possession of his heavenly inheritance. In consequence of man's admiflion into this school, he is no longer considered as a stranger and foreigner, but as a fellow-citizen with the faints, and of the houdhold of God."
Thus the Apostle, in conformity with this idea of the church being a school of discipline, for the pur. pose of spiritualizing the fallen creature man, tells us; that “ He who ascended up on high, that he might fill all things; gave some, Apostles; and some, Pro. phets; and some, Evangelists; and fome, Pastors and Teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work. of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of CHRIST.” Eph. iv. 11.
After it was determined upon, in the Divine counsels, that Jesus CHRIST should lay down his life a sacrifice for fin, thereby to render it possible for man to be saved; the next step taken towards the accomplishment of the great work of salvation was, it should seem, to prepare and qualify man to reap the benefit of it. To this end, God gave CHRIST tð be head over all things to his church; that a spiritual principle being set at work, for the purpose of counteracting the effects of that evil principle by which the world had been destroyed, all men might not perish; but that the church, at least, considered as a “ building properly constructed, and fitly framed together, according to the plan of its divine Master. builder, might grow into an holy temple in the LORD."
: -Hence we see the reason, why those who were to be saved were first to be made members of the church; the church being, according to the Divine plan, the ordinary road through which they were to travel from this world to the next. “ The LORD,” we read, " added daily to the church such as should be faved.” Acts ii. 47. And in the case of the devout CORNELIUS, He vouclısafed a particular revelation, for the purpose of securing his admission into it; a circumstance which leaves us in no doubt with respect to the importance of the object in view upon the occasion. * The advantages and disadvantages consequent, then, upon a communion with, or separation from, the church, may here begin to be estimated. Communion with the church is conformity to the Divine plan for our falvation; separation from it is fetting up a plan of our own, if not in opposition to, at least in fome degree independent of, the former. The one is putting ourselves under God's training; by becoming disciples in his school, conforming to those rules, and making use of those means, which have been appointed by Him for the advancement of our spiritual concerns. The other is, in a degree at
least, taking the work of salvation into our own hands; by setting up a system of Christian education for ourfelves. In the one case, we submit, as in humility we ought, to the wisdom of God; in the other we make ourselves wiser than God, by an at tempt to travel to heaven in a road different from that which He has graciously marked out for us: a conduct which leads to something like the following impious conclusion--that, in the great work of redemption, God was not the best judge of the manner in which it was to be carried into the most compleat effect.
But, alas! there always hath been in man a strong propensity to be the carver and contriver of his own happiness; in other words, to be an independent being. Adam, through the persuasion of the tempter, would be wiser than God; and his fall was the confequence of his folly. The happiness of man must depend upon his obedience to the will of his Maker. But this is a truth nat so generally acted upon, as it is acknowledged. The unregenerate man, feels at all times the same disposition that ADAM did, to follow a will of his own, in contradiction to the Divine will; and to govern himself, rather than be governed by Gon. To this end he sets out with doubting,