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portion for ever.' And when the freed spirit, delivered from the thraldom of this weary world, mounts upwards to the glorious throne of his heavenly Father, it is the same joy which expands into celestial fulness, and flows in the boundless tide of eternal pleasure, at God's right hand for ever
Even thus, my brethren, should the Christian understand his profession of faith, when he says, 'I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who spake by the Prophets.' It is he who addresses us in the language of the sacred Scriptures; he who by his blessed influence 'disposes our hearts to repentance and to faith; he who gives us grace to show forth our faith by our works; he who gives us peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with our brethren; and he who vouchsafes to us a measure of celestial joy in this life, which is matured into the perfection of bliss in the Paradise of God. And thus it is, that the Holy Ghost is the Lord and Giver of life, not animal and bodily life, but the eternal life of the soul. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink' merely; it is not designed to rest in the support of our present being, nor in outward circumstances alone; but it is 'righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.'
Are you the subjects of this kingdom, my brethren? Are you partakers of this righteousness, have you experienced this peace, have you felt this joy? Alas! I fearI fear that there are some amongst you, to whom our whole discourse has appeared to be an unintelligible mystery, destitute of any real light or meaning. And equally unintelligible, equally mysterious will the things of God continue to appear to you, until you use his grace aright, seek for the blessed influence of his Spirit in earnest prayer, and strive after that change of heart, without which, no man
shall see his face in glory. 'For the natural man receiveth not the things of God,' saith St. Paul, neither can he know them.' And why? Because they are spiritually discerned.' If your minds be not illuminated by this spiritual discernment, if your hearts be not impressed by this spiritual influence, the message of the Gospel will continue to be sent to you in vain; and the most powerful and eloquent preacher upon earth, as well as the humble individual who now addresses you, would prove no better than a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. But take heed, my brethren, how you convert these truths into a false apology for your carelessness and your procrastination, by saying that you cannot help it,-by persuading yourselves that God has not yet given to you the requisite portion of his grace, and that, therefore, you must wait his time, before you can believe or obey. Surely it cannot be true, that any one amongst you has been neglected by the Holy Ghost. Surely it cannot be true, that the good Spirit of God has not yet striven with you, for his grace is given to every man to profit withal,' and that grace has not been withheld from any individual amongst you. Often and often, in hours of sickness and of solitude, and in the sanctuary of his temple, and under the pressure of disappointment or distress, you have felt some kindly drawings of the soul towards the religion of Jesus. Often and often, that Holy Spirit has shed upon your hearts the softening and the gracious influences of his presence, and for a little while you have felt as if you could repent and believe the Gospel; you have felt the burden of sin; you have felt the want of a Saviour; you have had longings after the rest that remaineth for the people of God; you have seen that here you had no abiding place, no continuing city, and you have sighed after some refuge of heavenly safety, some sure shelter of peace and joy. O why, in such moments as these,-why
did you not pursue and cherish the blessed impression? Why did you not welcome the visitation of God's Holy Spirit, instead of thrusting it away? Why did you not prostrate yourselves before the Majesty of heaven, thus condescending, for the sake of Christ, to breathe his sacred inspiration on your souls? And why did you scatter to the winds these tender beginnings of holy thoughts and good desires, by yielding yourselves with willing madness to the sins, and pleasures, and follies of the world?
My beloved brethren, the kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and here, and here only will you ever find them. You may seek for righteousness in the pride of worldly morality-you may seek for peace in the acquisition of wealth and honor-you may seek for joy in the haunts of revelry and mirth-but you will seek in vain. O then be persuaded, I beseech you, by the mercies of God, be persuaded to have mercy on yourselves. Turn to the Lord, for he is gracious, long-suffering, and kind. Apply your hearts to the inspired wisdom of the Scriptures, and pray that the Spirit which dictated, may open your hearts to understand them. Labor to know your transgressions, strive to repent of them, and pray that your repentance may be sincere. Supplicate, in the name of Christ, for that living faith which the Holy Spirit can alone bestow, and have constant recourse to the same Divine Teacher, for instruction, for direction, and assistance, in every duty, and trial, and circumstance of life. Humbly and perseveringly pursuing this simple course, no soul of man has ever failed, nor will any ever fail, to secure the prize. Thus seeking the influence of the Spirit, in the blessed name of Christ, your search shall be rewarded by the riches of his grace; and the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, shall establish you in that kingdom of God which is righteousness, and peace, and joy, in time and throughout eternity.
ACTS xx. 28.
FEED THE CHURCH OF GOD, WHICH HE HATH PURCHASED WITH HIS OWN
In reciting the language of the venerable Apostolic Creed, my brethren, there are, perhaps, none of its various clauses to which a less definite meaning is commonly attached, than that referring to the Church, I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,' or, as it is expressed in the Nicene formulary, 'I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church.' These phrases are doubtless uttered by many, who have never seriously endeavored to understand their true import, and yet that import must be high which led to their insertion amongst the essential principles of the Christian faith. In order to explain this part of our profession, we design, by the blessing of God, to consider the text in connexion. with the Creed, so as to show, first, the signification of the word Church; secondly, its universality as expressed in the term catholic; thirdly, its constitution as being holy and apostolic; and lastly, its exalted dignity and privileges in the redemption attained for it by the blood of Christ.
1. The signification of the word Church admits of considerable latitude in Scripture. The original term used by the Apostle in the text, properly signified any assembly whatever that was called together; but, in its religious sense, it was equivalent to the phrase THE congregation OF THE LORD. The English word Church, is derived from the
Greek adjective, which signifies, belonging to the Lord, so that the true meaning of the term, as used in the Creed, and in its most extensive sense, is well expressed by our nineteenth article, The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.'
Besides this principal meaning of the word Church, it was sometimes applied to a single family, as where the Apostle sends his salutations to Priscilla and Aquila, and 'to the Church which is in their house.' Again it is used to signify the different congregations established in a large region of country, as the Churches of Judea, the Churches of Macedonia, and so on. Again we find that in great and populous cities, where there were many distinct congregations, they are, nevertheless, spoken of as one, as the Church at Jerusalem, the Church at Antioch, the Church at Thessalonica, and the Church at Ephesus; and this is the meaning of the word in our text. In one place, at least, it is supposed that the Apostle uses the term in the sense which refers to the house in which the worshippers assembled, a mode of using the word which became very common at an early period, and is still current amongst us. But the enlarged meaning of the term Church, which is to be understood in the Creed, may be defined thus: the collective body of professing Christians, or all those over the face of the whole earth, who believe in Christ and acknowledge him to be their Saviour.
2. We are next to consider in what sense we are to understand this Church to be catholic. The word catholic was not used by the Apostles, but was introduced into the Creed by the primitive fathers at a very early period. The