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Separation from the church originates, it is to be feared, for the most part, in pride; although it is, generally speaking, attempted to be juftified by the imaginary plea of fuperior advantage, derivable from an attendance upon religious worship in fome other place. Should I be thought wanting in charity in this cafe, I must take shelter, under the authority of a most judicious writer of the last century,* whose remark upon this fubject poffeffes that sterling value, which must give it currency in every age. "What harm foever" (fays he) "in private families there groweth, by difobedience of children, stubbornness in fervants, untractableness in them who, although they otherwise may rule, yet fhould, in confideration of the imparity of their fex, be alfo fubject; whatsoever by ftrife among men combined in greater focieties, by tyranny of potentates, ambition of nobles, rebellion of fubjects in civil ftates; by herefies, schisins, and divifions in the church; naming pride, we name the mother that brought them forth, and the only nurfe that feedeth them. Give me the hearts of all men humbled, and what is there that can overthrow or disturb the peace of the world, where many things are the caufe of much evil, but pride of all?" With
HOOKER'S Sermon on Pride.
out, however, particularly insisting on the cause of feparation from the church, (as we would always, ignorant as we are of the human heart, fpeak with diffidence, when we argue from the appearance of an external act, to the existence of an internal principle;) it will be more to our purpose to attend to the confequences derivable from it. And under this head, we cannot help remarking the unfound ground, upon which a prevailing idea refpecting the Divine affift. ance is commonly built.
In the church, we look for the ordinary affiftance of the Holy Spirit in the regular and fincere ufe of the means of grace appointed to convey it. The Divine promise encourages us fo to do. Provided, therefore, we do not deceive ourselves in this matter, we certainly fhall not be disappointed in our expectation. Separatifts from the church, are frequently taught to expect the extraordinary affiftance of the fame Divine spirit, independent of all appointed means whatever. For the fupport of this expectation there is no authority, either from fcripture or reafon, to be produced. We are not furprised, therefore, that to minds engroffed with fuch an idea, all stated fervices of religion fhould appear in the light of useless forms, and beggarly elements; beneath the attention
of those who are favoured with a more immediate communication from the Divine Fountain. But to prove the abfurdity of this idea, confidered as eftablishing the ground for a general pofition, and at the fame time to fet afide all pretenfions to fuch extraordinary affistance, it requires only to be remarked, for what purpose that affiftance was originally granted, and to what end it was employed.
"I will pray the Father," said CHRIST to his difciples, a little before his departure from them, as we read in ST. JOHN'S Gofpel, "and he fhall fend you another comforter,* that he may abide with you for ever, even the fpirit of truth." In another part of his writings the fame Apoftle tells us, that "if we fin, we have an advocate with the Father, JESUS CHRIST the righteous." From the Apoftle's application of the fame word to the Holy Ghoft in the former text, which he has applied to our SAVIOUR in the latter; and fince the word thus applied to our SAVIOUR must be tranflated as it is, to make good the Apostle's meaning upon the occafion, it is to be concluded, that by this common ufe of the fame term, the Apostle intended thereby to convey an idea of
* The original word, tranflated Comforter and Advocate, in these two different parts of ST. JOHN's writings, is the fame.
fome fimilarity existing between the office of the respective parties; confequently, that both these Divine perfons were, in fome fenfe, to be confidered advocates for mankind.
Now the office of an advocate is, to fupport or defend a caufe; to appear in behalf of another, to plead for him, or manage his concerns. Whilft, therefore, we have an advocate, JESUS CHRIST the righteous, who appears in our caufe before the Father in Heaven; we have also another advocate on earth, who undertakes the cause of the church against its fpiritual enemies; providing the members of it, from time to time, with fuch affistance, as may enable them to carry on their warfare against them with fuccefs. To the care and management of this powerful advocate, our bleffed SAVIOUR, when he left the world, committed his church; that he might continue with it, as its patron and fupport, to the end of time. The method adopted by this Divine Advocate, in the management of his great concern, at the commencement of his office, is, what is now meant to be pointed out to immediate attention.
At the first establishment of the Christian church, a great and important reformation, both in principles and practices, was to be effected. The caufe of
JESUS CHRIST was to be justified; the prince of this world was to be judged; the idols of heathenish fuperftition was to be thrown down; and the religion of a crucified SAVIOUR propagated. The inftruments pitched upon by Divine wisdom for carrying this great work into effect, were men, for the most part, of the loweft order and meaneft endowments;
and confequently men, humanly fpeaking, the leaft qualified for the undertaking; especially when it is confidered, that on the other fide all the powers of earth and hell were combined against them.
Thefe extraordinary circumftances, under which the church of CHRIST first appeared in the world, required extraordinary affiftance from heaven, for the
fupport of a cause in itself fo apparently weak. To
furnish this affiftance, by diftributing thofe gifts
which JESUS CHRIST, when he afcended up on high,
had received for men, Pf. lxviii. 18, was the pecu
liar office of the Holy Ghoft. The manner in which that office was difcharged, according to the exigence of the occafion, the Apostle has particularly defcribed in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians; where he gives a detail of the feveral gifts and powers, which were conferred on the first Christians, to give weight and credibility to their