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DISCOURSE X.

On the Advantages attendant upon a conscientious Communion with the CHURCH; together with the Disadvantages consequent upon a wilful Separation from it.

THE

HE weight which any practice or opinion ought to have upon the mind, muft depend, in a great degree, on the conclufion to be drawn from it. Were not the advantages and difadvantages confequent on a communion with, or feparation from, the church to be made apparent; all that has been written on these fubjects might, for the most part, be confidered as wafte paper. For if nothing is to be gained or loft by the determination of man's conduct in this respect, it certainly becomes a matter of indifference, with what fociety of Christians he is connected; and in this cafe he might, in religious matters at least, be left at liberty to follow the guidance of his own fancy or opinion.

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But if the church is to be feen in the light in which we have placed it, as a fociety of CHRIST'S forming, for the exprefs purpose of men being faved in it from the corruption and condemnation of a wicked world; it becomes a matter of effential con fideration 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 cafe, we proceed, in conformity with our plan, to point out the advantages and difadvantages confequent upon a communion with, or feparation from, the church. In doing this, it may be proper to confider man, first, in the relation in which he ftands to GOD, as redeemed by the blood of his crucified Son; and, fecondly, in that in which he stands to his fellow-creatures, as member of a civilized society.

It is a position, we prefume, not to be controverted, that if the falvation 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 fet on foot by GOD for the purpose of carrying his gracious defign into effect. The probable confequence of his

acting otherwise, must have that weight in the mind of every reasonable man, as to induce him to fteer wide of the poffibility of it.

In a matter of this effential importance, no gratification of private conceit or prejudice, no attachment to particular fect or opinion, will be fuffered to preponderate against the fingle confideration of conformity to the revealed will of GOD. "What is written, how readeft thou?" will be the answer which every wife man will be ready to receive and to profit by; confidering that He who opened the gate of everlasting life, must be the fureft 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 fo clearly laid before us, that whatever we may in charity hope in the cafe of others, we are at least qualified to form fome decifive conclufions in our own. Were it not fo, it would be for little purpose, it should seem, that the facred records have been put into our hands.

Upon an appeal to thefe 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 (fays 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 faid to have purchased with his blood. In confequence of this purchase, the church is confidered to be the peculiar property of CHRIST; every member of it, therefore, must have a peculiar intereft in him. The church, then, according to the idea which the fcripture has taught us to form of it, is that fpiritual affociation, which draws as it were the line of diftinction between those who are living without GOD, and confequently without hope, and those who are formally admitted into covenant with Him, and fealed with " the holy spirit of promife, as an earneft of their future inheritance."

Taken in this light, the church on earth may be confidered as a preparatory ftage in the road to man's future happiness; it being a school of difcipline efta blished by CHRIST, for the purpofe of making every member of it meet for the poffeffion of his heavenly inheritance. In confequence of man's admiffion into this fchool, he is no longer confidered as ટ a stranger and foreigner, but as a fellow-citizen with the faints, and of the houshold of GOD.".

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