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lead into too wide a field. It is our happiness, and to that part of the subject our prefent attention is confined, that we live in that stage of the church, which may be considered as the completion of every former dispensation. Jesus Christ, the head of the church, by purging it from the corruptions which it had contracted, and restoring its worship to that spiritual standard in which its perfection consists; has, as it were, put his finishing hand to the establishment of it, upon the plan best calculated to secure the purpose he had in view. ; It is a matter therefore of importance, that we fhould be particular in our observations upon this point; because a deviation from Christ's plan, by an attempt to alter the constiution of his church, may make it a very different thing from what it was designed to be; and though, in this case, a man may fatisfy himself, by calling the creature of his own imagination the church of Christ, it certainly does not follow that it really is such; and it may be the most dangerous piece of self-imposition thus to consider it.
To understand the nature and design of the Christian church, we must consider the world at large as lying in wickedness; and consequently in a state of condemnation before God. Out of this wicked society, of which all are by nature. born members, God has been pleased to call men into another society, very different from it; the object of which is to minister to their falvation, by so purifying them from the corruptions of a fallen world, that they may not be condemned with it. This society, sometimes called the Church of Christ, because, Christ purchased it with his blood; sometimes his kingdom, because he is the king and governor of it; was set up in oppofition to that kingdom of this world, which has Satan for its prince. Into this society, or kingdom, persons are admitted by baptism; which is the seal conveying to them an assurance of their future inheritance: by the regular application of which, they are fanctified or set apart from the rest of the world, as the peculiar property of the Holy Spirit. Having then, in consequence of their being born anew of the Holy Spirit in baptism, professedly withdrawn themselves from the service of the prince of this world, and entered into that of the living God; they become entitled to those privileges, which the King, into whose service they are entered, has purchased for his subjects.
Whilst therefore those who, in their natural con, dition, " are strangers from the covenant of promise; living without hope and without God in the world;'
those who have been translated from the world into the church, may thereby be considered as delivered from the powers of darkness, and become heirs with CHRIST of an eternal kingdom.
The privileges to which the members of the church are entitled, namely, pardon of fin, and eternal life, having been purchased by Jesus Christ,; the church must of necessity be a society of his forming. For no man can take upon himself to form a church; in other words, to call men out of the world, and by incorporating them into a certain society, thereby to invest them with Gospel privileges; for this plain reafon, because no man can ensure to the members of a fociety of his own framing those privileges which he has it not in his power to confer. Every thing, therefore, in this matter, must be done in the name, and by commiffion from CHRIST; because CHRIST is the fulfiller of that divine engagement, by which alone man is delivered from condemnation with the world, and placed in a state of acceptance with God.
nothing can be more obvious to common sense, than that no man can engage for what he is not in a condition to perform, unless particular circumstances authorise him fo to do. On the other hand, an engagement entered into on the behalf of another can be binding only upon the party, by virtue of a commiffion received for that purpose. The application of these two self-evident positions fufficiently point out the difference between those who have received a commission from the Head of the church, to administer the affairs of his spiritual kingdom, and those who have not.
If it be admitted, then, that the church is a so. ciety; as such, it must be poffeffed of power necessary to its own preservation. It must have its rules and orders; and consequently its governors, to carry thofe rules and orders into effect. Without such a provifion for order and government, no society can fubfift,
That such a power was left with the church by its Divine Founder, is to be proved from the commission, by which the governors of it received authority to admit members into the church, and to exclude them from it, according to the qualification or disqualification of the respective parties. And that this power comprehended under it every exertion of authority necessary to the regulation of the fociety committed to their
management, we conclude (to avoid multiplying proof upon a subject that speaks for itself) from St. Paul's charge to his disciples, that they should“ obey them that had the rule over them, and fubmit themselves;" from the consideration, that their spiritual governors “ watched for their souls." Heb. xiii. 172
Moreover, as there are differences of administra. tions, and diversities of operations to be performed in the church, there must be persons regularly appointed to the discharge of the several offices, necessary to the well-being of the society to which they belong. But a regular appointment of offices presupposes a power lodged some where, to determine upon the qualification of the undertaking parties; for if individuals are left to settle this matter for themselves, the society will not only be worse served for the time being; (the most self-sufficient men being, generally speaking, the least qualified to discharge the office they undertake;) but what is a still further consideration, the disorder consequent upon an indiscriminate exercise of public functions, must ultimately terminate in the diffolution of that fociety, where such confusion prevails.
But the church being a society, of which CHRIST is the head, from whom alone all the benefits belonging to it are derived; the appointment of the governors, together with the rules and orders by which this society is to be managed and directed, must ori