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acting otherwife, must have that weight in the mind of every reasonable man, as to induce him to fteer, wide of the poffibility of it.
In a matter of this effential importance, no gratification of private conceit or prejudice, no attachment to particular fect or opinion, will be fuffered to preponderate against the single confideration of conformity to the revealed, will of God." What is written, how readeft thou?" will be the anfwer which every wife man will be ready to receive and to profit by; confidering that He who opened the gate of everlasting life, must be the fureft 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 falvation of fallen man fo clearly laid before us, that whatever we may in charity hope in the cafe of others, we are at least qualified to form fome decifive conclufions in our own. Were it not fo, it would be for little purpose, it fhould feem, 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 obferved, the body of CHRIST; that body, of which He is the Head and e
Saviour. "CHRIST (fays 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 faid to have purchased with his blood. In confequence of this purchase, the church is confidered 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 fcripture has taught us to form of it, is that fpiritual affociation, 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 fealed with "the holy fpirit of pro. mife, as an earnest of their future inheritance."
Taken in this light, the church on earth may be confidered 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 poffeffion of his heavenly inheritance. In confequence of man's admiffion into this fchool, he is no longer confidered as " a ftranger and foreigner, but as a fellow-citizen with the faints and of the houshold of God."
Thus the Apostle, in conformity with this idea of the church being a school of difcipline, for the pur pose of spiritualizing the fallen creature man, tells us; that "He who afcended up on high, that he might fill all things; gave fome, Apostles; and fome, Prophets; and fome, Evangelifts; and fome, Paftors and Teachers; for the perfecting of the faints, 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 ftature of the fulness of CHRIST." Eph, iv. 11.
After it was determined upon, in the Divine counfels, that JESUS CHRIST fhould lay down his life a facrifice for fin, thereby to render it poffible for man to be faved; the next step taken towards the accomplishment of the great work of falvation was, it should seem, to prepare and qualify man to reap the benefit of it. To this end, GOD gave CHRIST to be head over all things to his church; that a spiritual principle being fet 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, confidered as a "building properly conftructed, and fitly framed
together, according to the plan of its divine Mafterbuilder, might grow into an holy temple in the LORD." Hence we fee the reafon, why thofe who were to be faved 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: fuch as fhould be faved." Acts ii. 47. And in the cafe of the devout CORNELIUS, He vouchfafed a particular revelation, for the purpose of fecuring his admiffion into it; a circumftance which leaves us in no doubt with refpect to the importance of the object in view upon the occafion.
The advantages and difadvantages confequent, then, upon a communion with, or feparation 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 oppofition to, at least in fome degree independent of, the former. The one is putting ourselves under God's training; by becoming difciples in his fchool, conforming to thofe 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,