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church. Upon the authority of these writings, we have described the church to be, not a creature of the imagination, or a fociety of human establishinent; but a visible body of people called out of the world by GoD, and placed by Him under a particular form of government and discipline, calculated to promote the great object for which they are brought together. By direct evidence from the fame fountain of knowledge, we have maintained, that the Head of the church originally committed the care of it to his Apostles, investing them with power to manage the concerns of it; and that the Apostles did actually. exercise that power, by appointing divers orders in the church, and establishing the plan upon which it was in future to be conducted. In correfpondence with this arrangement, we have reprefented the unity of the church to confift in the conformity of its members to this Divine plan; whereby they become joined together in that brotherly communion and fellowship, neceffary to the promotion of that charity, which is "the bond of perfectnefs," and the characteristic mark of the difciples of the bleffed JESUS.
It now remains that the reader examine this matter for himself. With his Bible in his hand, and prejudice laid afide, let the fubject then be brought to
an impartial hearing. And if he find, as we are perfuaded will be the case, that thofe parts of the facred records, to which an appeal has been made in the foregoing discourses, will not, upon fair conftruction, admit a fenfe different from what has been annexed to them; if he would maintain the character of an honest man, he will be led to the following obvious conclufion: that a fancied independence on fpiritual authority, upon the mistaken idea, that every man is at liberty to make his own church; or to join himself to any fociety of Christians who may affume that name, with the view of offering up a more fpiritual service than, in their judgment, is offered to GOD in any other way, the plaufible ground upon which all modern feparations from the church are built; whilst it renders the Apoftolic writings destitute of all force and meaning, tends at the fame time to the diffolution of that order, which CHRIST, for wife reasons, faw neceffary to be established.
In handling this fubject, we have laid down two general pofitions; which, it is prefumed, are not to be controverted. The firft is, that the Author of man's falvation was beft qualified to determine the plan calculated to carry it into effect. The second, that as the falvation of fallen man is the work of
free and undeferved grace, man must be thankful to accept it on the conditions upon which it is offered. The conclufion to which thefe pofitions lead, feems to be this: that no man, in the ordinary way of falvation, can hope to attain the end of his Christian calling, who neglects to use the means appointed by GOD to lead him to it.
Such is the ground upon which the argument for conformity to the church is built. The confideration that a certain plan has been fet on foot, and certain means of grace appointed by the Head of the church, for the purpose of securing the falvation of its members, tends to render that argument conclufive. For, as it has been already obferved, though perhaps in different words, the fpiritual life of man must depend upon his fpiritual connection with CHRIST. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine." But the only revealed way that CHRIST has appointed for man's obtaining this fpiritual connection with him, is by becoming a member of his body, the church. By one fpirit (fays the Apof tle) we are all baptized into one body;" by one and the fame fpirit, communicated to us at baptifm, we are united into one fpiritual fociety, the church; and "have been all made to drink into one fpirit:" our
fpiritual life, as members of CHRIST's body, being preserved to us by our communication with the head of it, JESUS CHRIST; in the use of those means of grace appointed by Him for that purpofe; upon the principle laid down by our SAVIOUR himfelf in this short though comprehensive axiom, " that without Him we can do nothing."
Hence we have been led to point out the apparent danger of feparating from the unity of the church. For, if we reason from analogy, as, from the figure under which ST. PAUL has defcribed the church, we are obviously led to do, we fhall reason thus: that by feparating from the body of which CHRIST is the head, we feparate from that spirit which animates it. And if we become partakers of CHRIST'S fpirit, in confequence of being admitted members of his church, which the scripture has given us to understand, (Acts ii. 38) the continuance of that fpirit with us muft, it should feem, depend upon our remaining in that connection with Him, which first qualified us for its reception.
We read but of one body and one spirit, Ephef. iv. 4. From whence we are led to conclude, that the spirit of CHRIST is confined to that body of which he is the head; and that body is the church. A
feparation from the church confequently, according to the meaning defigned to be conveyed by the Apostle, must be regarded as a kind of spiritual death.
From what has been faid at large upon this fubject, our object has been to enable the reader to underftand the figurative language of the Apostle, confidered as defcriptive of the mystical body of CHRIST; the members of which are joined together, and animated by the fame fpirit, derived to them from their participation in those life-giving facraments, which CHRIST appointed as the means of forming and preferving to himself a church upon earth. The Apoftolic language thus interpreted furnishes a clear and diftin&t notion of the Chriftian church in its original and perfect form; of which the joint communion of its component members conftitutes an effential characteristic. If we have been tediously particular on this point, it has been from a conviction, that a want of proper information upon it has been the caufe of many well-meaning people going out of the church, who might otherwise have gladly remained in it. For their fakes, therefore, I still feel difpofed to fay fome few words on a fubject, which, from its connection with that in which we are immediately engaged, feems to claim fome attention.