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On the Advantages attendant upon a conscientions
Communion with the Church; together with the Disadvantages consequent upon a wilful Separation from it.
"HE weight which any practice or opinion ought
to have upon the mind, must depend, in a great degree, on the conclusion to be drawn from it. Were not the advantages and disadvantages consequent on a communion with, or separation from, the church to be made apparent; all that has been written on these subjects might, for the most part, be considered as waste paper. For if nothing is to be gained or lost by the determination of man's conduct in this respect, it certainly becomes a matter of indifference, with what society of Christians he is connected; and in this case he might, in religious matters at least, be left at liberty to follow the guidance of his own fancy or opinion.
But if the church is to be seen in the light in which we have placed it, as a society of Christ's forming, for the express purpose of men being saved in it from the corruption and condemnation of a wicked world; it becomes a matter of essential con. Lideration with every man, whether he be a member of that church or not.
To enable the Christian, then, to draw the conclufion necessary to confirm his judgment in this case, we proceed, in conformity with our plan, to point out the advantages and disadvantages consequent upon a communion with, or separation from, the church. In doing this, it may be proper to consider man, first, in the relation in which he stands to God, as redeemed by the blood of his crucified Son; and, secondly, in that in which he stands to his fellow-creatures, as member of a civilized society.
It is a position, we presume, not to be controverted, that if the salvation of fallen man be an act of free grace on the part of God, (as Divine revelation has informed us that it is) man ought thankfully to receive it on the terms upon which it is bestowed; and of course to conform himself to any plan set on foot by God for the purpose of carrying his gracious design into effect. The probable consequence of his acting otherwise, must have that weight in the mind of
every reasonable man, as to induce him to steer wide of the possibility of it.
In a matter of this essential importance, no gratification of private conceit or prejudice, no attachment to particular fect or opinion, will be suffered to preponderate against the fingle consideration of conformity to the revealed will of God. " What is written, how readest thou?" will be the answer which
every wise man will be ready to receive and to profit by; considering that He who opened the gate of everlasting life, must be the surest guide to conduct man into it.
Upon an appeal to this revealed will, as delivered to us in the facred writings, we have the plan of Divine wisdom in the falvation of fallen man so clearly laid before us, that whatever we may
in charity hope in the case of others, we are at least qualified to form fome decisive conclusions in our
Were it not so, it would be for little purpose, it should seem, that the sacred records have been put into our hands.
Upon an appeal to these records, we find the church called, as hath been above observed, the body of CHRIST; that body, of which He is the Head and
Saviour. “CHRIST (says the Apostle) is the Head of the church, and He is the Saviour of the body." Eph. v. 23. And we no where read of him in the character of a Saviour, but with reference to that church, which he is said to have purchased with his blood. In consequence of this purchase, the church is considered to be the peculiar property of CHRIST; every member of it, therefore, must have a peculiar interest in him. The church, then, according to the idea which the scripture has taught us to form of it, is that fpiritual association, which draws as it were the line of distinction between those who are living without God, and consequently without hope,
and those who are formally admitted into covenant with Him, and sealed with “ the holy spirit of promise, as an earnest of their future inheritance."
Taken in this light, the church on earth may be considered as a preparatory stage in the road to man's future happiness; it being a school of discipline established by Christ, for the purpose of making every member of it meet for the possession of his heavenly inheritance. In consequence of man's admission into this school, he is no longer considered as “ a stranger and foreigner, but as a fellow-citizen with the faints, and of the houshold of God."