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of seeing some of those many evils consequent upon a deviation from God's plan in the establishment of his Church upon earth; I should do less than my duty, did I not take occasion to speak plainly on this: subject; trusting that what, from a motive of pure charity to all, may be faid upon it, will be received charitably by all; without, if it be possible, any mixu ture of that prejudice, which is able in a manner to convert truth into error, when the mind of the party, to whom it is addreffed, feels indispofed to receive itb
The object in view on this occafion is two-fold; to qualify, in the first place, the members of the Church to give a reafort for their communion-avith it; and thereby prevent their being carried about from one place of public 'worship to another; upon the mistaken idea, that it is a matter of indifference where the word of GoD is preached, or by whom: and in the second place, to open the eyes of those, who, with perhaps the best intention, may, through ignorance; have separated from the Church; and who, were they better informed; might not scruple to preferits sober and edifying worship to that in which they are -ae present engaged.
He must be little' acquainted with the world who does not know, that' religious prejudices leave thic
moft powerful impression upon the human mind; and that till these are removed, it is impossible to form a fair judgment upon a subject of this. nature. Those .who have taken their religion upon trust, or have received it as a sort of hereditary possession from their forefathers, seldom give themselves the trouble to form any judgment upon it. Whilst others, who, jo the choice of their religion, consult the gratification of passion, interest, or the promotion of some particular object;, are, for the most part not in a condition to bring this matter to a fair discussion. The only hope of success therefore in this case must be, from an appeal to the honest and well-disposed; those who seek the truth in fincerity, and are resolved to follow wherever it may lead.
Such are doubtless to be found in all congregations of Christian people; some of whom, in consequence . only of their never having had the truth properly laid before them, have taken up with erroneous opinions; which, from prejudice of education or incapacity, they are prevented from bringing to the test of reason and Scripture. Deriving their natural growth in error from their parent stock, they have by years acquired an habitual attachment to it; at the same time that the earnest zeal even of those who
might be qualified for the purpose, will not let thert ftop to examine the fource from which it has been derived. Such men may be considered as not far from the kingdom of God; and it must be the earnest wish of every minister of that kingdom to bring them into it. Could these men be but once brought acquainted with the nature of Christ's church, they would never separate from its communion; becaufe they would be convinced that the plan upon which Christ has established that church, must be conformed to by all, who expect to enjoy the privileges annexed to it.
On looking into the writings of the Apostles, we find frequent mention made of the unity of the Christian church, as necessary to the preservation of that peace which Christ left with his followers; and repeated and earnest cautions against those divifions, by which it must be unavoidably difturbed. The Founder of this church is emphatically stiled the Prince of Peace; because he is not only the maker of peace between God and man, but also the author of a religion calculated to promote that blessing upon earth. The mark or distinction, therefore, by which the professors of this religion ought to be known, is, that love and harmony by which they are joined
together in the same mind and in the same doctrine: agreeably to the description given of them in the earliest stage of their connection; before the prince of this world, that destroyer of peace, had sown his seeds of division among them; when, as we read, « the multitude of thein that believed were of one heart and of one soul.” Acts iv.
32. As the time of our Saviour's departure from the world drew near, the future establishment of his church appears to have constituted the most interesting subject of his thoughts. That most earnest and folemn
prayer addressed to his Father almost immediately before his fuffering, strongly marks out to us his dying with upon it; where, after having first prayed for those particular disciples, to whose immediate care and dire&tion he thought fit to commit his church; that they might be duly fanctified for the great work of their ministry, he thus proceeds: " Neither
pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that
be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that 'they also may be one in us; that the world
believe that Thou haft fent ine. JOHN
xvii. 20, 21,
Unity, therefore, was designed to be an essential characteristic of the church of CHRIST; the members of which were to be considered as constituting one body, animated by one spirit, imparted to them by their regular communication with one head, Jesus Christ. Agreeably to which idea, the Apostle addresses himself to his Ephefian converts: “I befeech you (says he) that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” As a reason for their so doing, the Apostle proceeds to remind them, that“ there is one body; and one spirit; one hope of their calling; one LORD, one faith, one baptifm, one God and FATHER of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.” Ephesians iv. 1, &c.
We have here a picture of the Christian church in its perfect state; in which, in conformity to CHRIST's institution, it ought at all times to be found; a society joined together by the bond of charity, in the profession of the fame faith; into which the members of it are admitted by one and the same baptism; in consequence of which they become partakers of that spirit, which is derived to