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you have felt the blessedness of the Gospel, say, “ The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver."
But I am addressing many young persons this evening, who are truly pious ; who not only appreciate religion, but who love it, and are daily bringing forth the fruits of righteousness and true holiness. You have been brought under the influence of religion by the grace of the Holy Spirit God has revealed his Son in you the hope of glory. He has delivered you out of the power of darkness, and translated you into the kingdom of his dear Son. I need not pronounce any eulogy upon your state. Your experience has proved to you that a state of reconciliation, forgiveness, justification, and adoption into the family of God, is a state of enlarged and solid happiness. Never fail to acknowledge the great source of your lappiness—the grace of God. Never confide in any earthly resources for the maintenance of spirituality, but in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Enter upon no compromise with the world, nor with sin. If you do, from that moment the world will gain an advantage over you, and your happiness sustain the shock of a moral earthquake. “Watch and pray
ye into temptation.” Cultivate a spirit of seriousness, watchfulness, and prayer. Enter upon a more thorough and prayerful study of the Scriptures. Seek to be more deeply impressed with the fact, that the increase of spirituality and the conformity of your hearts to the image of Christ, approximate you to the character of God, and to a fitness for heaven. Cultivate the love of Christ by an habitual study of his character, doctrines, and precepts. Let his love to you be correctly appreciated, and then yours will rise like the waters of a fountain, rising up to eternal life. Flee youthful lusts. “ Let himn that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." You have put on the armour, but the days of confiict are before you ; be not therefore as those who are putting it off. See that you are well and fully employed. O, how much is to be done for yourself and for others! And while you look to your own soul, will you not care for others? Will you not assist in dispersing ignorance—in circulating religious knowledge—in ameliorating suffering, relieving poverty-in distributing the Scriptures, and in telling others of the salvation you have found? I believe you will. A new period of labour has opened upon us. What shall be its character? What shall be our doings ? What shall be our history? Who can take the book, and unloose the seal, and read to us the history of the present year as to ourselves, our country, or the Church of the living God. It may be prosperous, or it may be adverse. It may be marked by no signal changes in the face of society; it may be a year of confusion, of political and ecclesiastical turmoil. Dear brethren, whatever may be its character-whatever may be the progressive developments as to political society-let us be in earnest about our religious state, our growth in grace, our preparation for heaven, and the increase and true prosperity of the Church of the living God. By and bye and we shall be, in relation to all the civil, political, and literary changes of the present scene, as though we had never lived. But to our religious state we shall never be dead: if it be neglected here, if despised here, we shall be alive to the insufferable and eternal punishment consequent upon our guilty state. But if it be begun here and perpetuated in heaven, we shall, in eternity, be alive to its blessedness and glory. The rest that remaineth for the people of God, the
inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, that will prove to us how true were the deep convictions of our present state, that "the law of thy mouth, O God, is better to us than thousands of gold and silver." The motto of the Israelites, when redeemed by the strong arm of God, was, "Onward to Canaan." Let ours, as redeemed sinners, be "Onward to heaven." Then shall we be embraced in that goodly number, who as the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion, with songs and everlasting joys upon their heads. Yes, we shall obtain joy and gladness: and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
THE ORIGIN AND CLAIMS OF INDEPENDENCY.
RBV. J. BURNBT.
SILVER STREET CHAPEL, JANUARY 8, 1835.
“ Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, and were
edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”—Acts, ix. 31.
I have selected these words, my friends, as the subject of the remarks that I intend to submit to you, because they bring before us a succinct, but at the same time a very striking and interesting description of the early churches of Christ, in that part of the world where the Gospel was at first diffused, and where the churches were at first formed. If this be a picture of the Church of Christ in Judea and in Samaria, after they had been formed by the inspiration of infallible wisdom—if this be a real picture of the interesting community, that first became the depositaries of that truth which brought “ peace on earth,” and “glory to God in the highest”—does it not then become an interesting question, in what way we are to enjoy the same privileges which they appear to have enjoyed ; in what way we are to imbibe the spirit by which they appear to have been actuated; in what way we are, like them, to be “edified,” and to “ walk in the fear of God, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost," and, like them, thus to multiply our numbers by the diffusion of our principles ; in what way we are, like them, to stand out thus distinctly from everything earthly, and be influenced by feelings that belong only to heaven, and originate only with the Spirit of the living God; in what way, in short, we are, like them, to become a fellowship separated from the earth, and growing in meetness for the community of heaven ; while we exhibit here the germ of those feelings and of those affections, that are to be fully developed in our Father's kingdom?
In conducting such an inquiry as this, it is quite obvious, that, in order to be like them, we must ascertain the circumstances in which they were placed, and the authority by which they were constituted and governed. And, unless we can find elsewhere a different authority from that to which they yielded obedience, to which we are commanded to do homage ; and unless we can find elsewhere a different church constitution and administration, from that which these churches possessed; we are then, as it appears to me, bound, in order to participate in their spiritual joys, to follow up the obedience which they yielded to the authority by which they were constituted and governed, and to adopt, in the outline, the principles by which these churches were ruled, Now the subject to which I propose to direct your attention to-day, has been
• At the Monthly Meeting of the Congregational Ministers of London.
stated to be, « The ORIGIN AND CLAIMS or INDEPENDENCY:" and from this mode of stating the subject to be considered, you will perceive, at once, that INDEPENDENCY is selected as the supposed character of the system pon which these churches were formed, as the system by which they were ruled, and as the system in obedience to which they received and participated so much spiritual fellowship and enjoyment. It may be said,
" This then is prejudging the question.” Had no judgment been previously formed on the question, I should not have presumed to direct your attention to it. I propose, therefore, not to lead you into an inquiry, without knowing at its commercement what judgment I have formed concerning it; but I propose to lead you into the inquiry which I have conducted myself, and which has led to the conclusion which I have adopted, and which is embodied in the manner in which the subject has been announced to you, namely, “ The Origin and Claims of Independency."
In looking, therefore, at the passage before us, as the motto of the remarks that I have thus to submit to you—and in regarding the remarks I have to submit, as carrying with them, what appears to me satisfactory evidence, that these churches, thus edified, thus walking in the fear of God and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were Independent churches, all Independent churches, and nothing but Independent churches—I shall endeavour, in the first place, to direct your attention to the first part of the subject, namely, the origin of Independency; and, secondly, to the claims of that system upon our obedience and affection.
In the first place, then, let me direct your attention to the ORIGIN OP INDEPENDENCY.
I am quite aware, that many would find the origin of Independency in a recent period of the history of our own country: I am quite aware that the apostolical ages would be passed by in perfect silence upon the subject: I am quite aware that the early circumstances of the Church, before the days of Constantine, would be passed by in silence upon the subject: I am quite aware that the lengthened dominion of popery would be passed by as making no statements on the subject : and I am equally aware, that from the Reformation, a considerable progress would be made into the ages that follow, before it would be admitted that Independency had been detected in its origin. But whilst I am aware that all this is the fact, and whilst I do not intend to begin the inquiry which I mean to conduct with the origin of Independency in this country, but rather with the origin of Independency in the very first creation of the system, I go away from its introduction into this or any other country, and go to its first promulgation, as I think I find it promulgated, in the Gospel itself.
Now, in conducting such an inquiry, the first thing that would very naturally occur to the inquirer-as the question is about churches and church government—the first thing that would occur would be, What are we to understand by this term, “CHURCHES ?" Let it not be supposed that the term is distinctly understood because it is commonly used. The terms that are used most commonly ainongst us, are, generally, the terms that are least understood the terms to which we attach the least definite meaning—the terms that are most ikely to be abused—the terms that carry weight and power with them, because they are terms of daily occurrence; but terms that carry, at the same time,
danger with them, because, in consequence of their perpetual occurrence, they are not thoroughly examined.
Now, if I were to ask, in what sense the term “church” is employed in the Word of God, I should certainly be likely to ascertain its legitimate meaning. It would be unnecessary to occupy your time in shewing you how it is employed by mankind generally: this would introduce a great variety of definitions, and shades of sentiment upon the question, which would occupy our time, without leading to any satisfactory conclusion. It is a matter of no moment how the term may be used among the children of men ; but it is a matter of very great moment in a question of evidence, how it is used in the Word of God.
I do not propose to direct your attention to every passage in which this, aud other terms to which we are accustomed to refer, may be employed. I intend simply to direct your attention to a few passages on each subject, as a specimen of the passages that might be adduced upon the same subject from other quarters, were we not limited in time, and the brevity of a single discourse, which, you will perceive at once, would render such an application of all the passages that it would be desirable to refer to, utterly impossible.
The first meaning, then, to which I would direct your attention, of the word “ church,” is that of an assembly. The word signifies “a congregation," or “ an assembly." In Acts xix, you will find it employed in this sense. You will find a multitude collected together at the time that the Apostle was preaching at Ephesus, and you will find that that multitude, when an outcry had been raised on behalf of the worship of the goddess Diana, rushed into the theatre, the place of the ordinary assembly for judicial matters; and hence it was their intention, that a public inquiry should be instituted into the doctrine thus brought to Ephesus by the Apostle and by his friends, and promulgated there—and that judgment should be given concerning it; so that the great goddess Diana should not be offended. The town-clerk of Ephesus, the acting authority on such an occasion, restrains the people who had assembled from committing any violence, by the advice which he tendered to them. When the assembly came together, the outcry having been raised, and collected in the place where judgment was to be given, and whence it was to be decreed, the town-clerk of Ephesus, as we find at the close of the chapter, interferes, and reasons with them; and, after reasoning with them, he tells them, in the thirty-ninth verse, "If ye inquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. For," says he, in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. And when he had thus spoken he dismissed the assembly;" or, in other words, “ the congregation." The same term is that which is rendered in so many places “the Church." Now, if we regard the multitude that assembled together in the theatre, we shall find that they were nothing more than a congregation of people; and under these circumstances they give us the first idea that we may entertain of the term usually rendered “ Church" in the New Testament. Therefore it signifies a congregation.
And were we to go to the etymology of the term, it signified a “congregation called out by authority.” It would not militate against this view of the expression to reply, that this passage seems to employ the terin, to designate an