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watch over each other in love. For the government of such an association, the few and simple rules laid down in the New Testament are amply sufficient, but modern churches embrace whole nations, and their complex machinery requires many regulations which were totally inapplicable to the primitive churches.
We may further inquire, by what authority this change has been made? Is it sanctioned by the Word of God ? Certainly not, for there we read that the kingdom of Christ cannot be moved. We are cautioned against being carried about with divers, and strange doctrines, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. We are warned against introducing any thing into the churches which is not sanctioned by apostolic practice ;' but while the name of churches is retained, the nature of the institution has been completely altered, and then we are gravely told that the instructions contained in the New Testament are insufficient for our direction. The obvious inference is, that we are in a great measure left to our own discretion, or rather, that power is committed to the clergy or the civil magistrate to regulate those matters according to circumstances, --a principle which of necessity divides the disciples of Jesus into sects and parties. We may form evangelical alliances, we may cherish love to believers who differ from us—and such, no doubt, is our duty; but there can be no real union among believers, which is not based upon truth. However we may
agree to differ," and however well this amiable principle may appear for a time to work, offences will come, irritation will be gendered, and then the hollowness of our union will become apparent.
1 Heb. xiii. 8, 9.
2 1 Cor. xi. 16.
This deviation from the rule of Scripture will not always continue, and the signs of the times clearly intimate that great changes are in rapid progress. The issue will, no doubt, be auspicious, but there will, in all probability, be great misery in the transition. Let those who understand the Lord's declaration, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and who have been taught that the apostolic precepts and the example of the churches recorded in the New Testament, are amply sufficient for the formation and guidance of Christian churches,-endeavour to convince believers who are otherwise minded, that recurring to the example of the first three centuries, or to their own notions of expediency, result from inattention to the Scriptures, and not discerning the simplicity the nature and object of a church of Christ. Men form a false idea of what is implied in the name,
and then delude themselves with the notion, that the rules laid down by the Apostles are insufficient.
These observations are naturally suggested by the consideration of the Epistle to the Galatians, in which the Apostle at once points out the harmony and discrepancy of the law and the Gospel. The former is the shadow, the latter the substance ;-the one is the scaffolding, the other the building ;-—the first is the preparation, the second the completion. The Mosaic system, which was introductory to the kingdom of God, answered the most important purposes, not only as it afforded a demonstration of the truth, but as it exhibited the great doctrines of the Gospel in a palpable form. But after all, it only occupied the place of the handmaid ; and as when Hagar forgot her situation, and attempted to assume equality with, or even superiority over her mistress, —when her son presumed to mock and ridicule the heir,—they were cast out of the family; so the Jewish
system was abolished, and the observance of the law rendered impossible, by the destruction of Jerusalem.
In our Lord's prediction of that event, there seems a very plain intimation of a more extensive overthrow; and the supposition is confirmed by “the city in which the Lord was crucified,” in other words, Jerusalem, being one of the names given to the mystical Babylon.' It is written, “ That by fire, and by sword, will the Lord plead with all flesh : and the slain of the Lord shall be many.' And again, “ Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger : for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering."
"5 This, no doubt, refers to the restoration of Israel, which the Apostle tells us will be like life from the dead. It is evident, however, that their restoration will be accompanied with awful judgments upon the nations. It will be “the day of the Lord's vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.” The so named Christian nations shall then be called to account for corrupting the doctrine of Christ, by mixing it up with Jewish observances, which, in Popish nations, has increased to more ungodliness, and converted the holy doctrine of Christ into a system of idolatry, while the rulers of Protestant
1 Rev. xi. 8.
4 Rom. xi. 15.
nations have employed the religion of Jesus as an engine of state. Both systems are evidently tottering to their fall. Rome may appear to be extending her dominion ; she may have a glimpse of prosperity, and appear in the eyes of her votaries to be renewing her youth, but this is no more than the sun rising upon Sodom on the morning of its destruction, to make the righteous judgment of God more manifest. • Jerusalem is becoming a burdensome stone to the Protestant nations. They have put forth their unhallowed hands to the ark of God; they have presumed unbidden to take charge of the religion of Jesus, and in their folly have imagined that it could not stand without their aid. They have reared an edifice, whose walls they have daubed with untempered mortar ; but it shall fall; a stormy wind shall rend it; and, in all probability, the convulsion will dissolve the whole frame-work of civil society. Even worldly politicians tell us that the kingdoms of Europe are upon a volcano, and, probably, ere long the eruption will take place.* The Lord is saying to the disciples who have been intoxicated with Babylon's golden cup, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” And to those who have listened to the solemn warning, He says,
« Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain." Again, " Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness : it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.”ı
the storm apo
* While this publication was going through the press, pears to have burst.
1 Isa, xxvi. 20, 21.
The Epistle to the Galatians is also peculiarly valuable, from the luminous view it affords of the cardinal doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, appropriated by faith. This doctrine is exhibited throughout the Scriptures, and is more or less insisted upon in all the epistles, but especially in those to the Romans and Galatians, in which the Apostle proves, that justification is altogether independant of our observance either of the moral or ceremonial law.
That fallen man should hope for acceptance with God by obedience to the moral law, is not surprising. He was made under this law, and was to live by keeping the commandment of God. True, his life is forfeited by disobedience, but still the work of the law is written in his heart; he sees and approves of what is right; his heart condemns him when he does wrong; he knows that no one compels him to sin ; he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed; and, while he gives way to his corrupt desires, he resolves to act otherwise in time to come, and flatters himself that his future circumspection will atone for his past disobedience. His language naturally is, “ Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” It is true, that such reasoning proceeds from the blindness of his mind, and ignorance of the character of Him with whom he has to do, who will by no means clear the guilty ; but it results from his conscience, which, although defiled, is still to a certain degree awake, and forms so powerful a check on the conduct of mankind, that it may be doubted whether, if it were removed, society could subsist.
i Zeph. ii. 3.