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working with them, "And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed." Acts xiii. 48.
In process of time, as appears from the Sacred Volume, and corroborated by Acclesiastical Mis-E tory, Churches or Societies were formed, of men and women; who, in the judgment of charity, not of infallibility (for the Apostles themselves were deceived), had been previously changed by regenerating grace, and led from the darkness and blindness of nature, to discern and feel experimentally the inestimable truths contained in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, as exhibited by the ministerial exertions of the Preachers. 1 Corinthians i. 21.
Of which Churches, we have particular ac counts in the New Testament, the motives and spirit by which they were influenced, the discipline they maintained, as well as the end they had in view; namely, "To shew forth the praises of Him, who had called them out of darkness into his marvellous light." Peter i. 2, 9.
Now, as it is impossible, speaking after the manner of men, that any Society, in this imperfect state, can continue in being, that has no rule to observe, and as order, holiness, and consummate harmony, are essential to the glorious Author of all we are and have, so, "Holiness becometh his Church for ever;" destitute of it, she ceases to be "the pillar and ground of truth." Calculated and designed to diffuse hppiness and joy, wherever its benign influences are experienced, "the perfect law of liberty" which the King of Zion has enjoined his willing
subjects to observe, is in perfect unison with the law of nature, with this difference, that it is enforced by the superior obligations and prívileges of the Gospel; not teaching the cheerless lesson of working for life, but from spiritual life in the soul; its language is, "Whatsoever 'things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Phill. iv. 8. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ, in prescribing a rule of conduct for his people, has imposed nothing upon them, which is not morally excellent, conducive to their happiness, and an exact counterpart of his own primeval motive in laying down his life for his friends, namely, love; "Not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins." 1 John iv. 10.
Whatever name it be called by, whether grace, favour, mercy, or else, it is indisputably the origin of Salvation, independent of any thing in us; "Not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who sheweth mercy,' Romans ix. 16. "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus be fore the world began." 2 Timothy i. 9.
The principle of faith also, by which we ap prehend and appropriate the blessing of salvation, even the imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus, is likewise a giff and a very essential
part of the privilege it is designed to embrace: By grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Ephesians ii. S.
Love then is the golden chain by which the whole mystery of human redemption, from first to last, is indissolubly connected; he that acts therefore from other motives, according to his testimony, who leaned on the Saviour's bosom, has his mind (notwithstanding profession) enveloped in that darkness, which, unremoved, is the awful presage of "Outer darkness, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth," 1 John ii. 11, Hence it appears a most unwarrantable usurpation, for any man, or set of inen, who, if they feel as Christians, know they are "not their own but bought with a price," I Cor. vi. 20, to arrogate to themselves, contrary to our Lord's command, and the example of his Apostles, a right, to exercise coercive vindictive measures in the Church; take their fellow servants by the throat, or at least wound their feelings, whether it be by unscriptural censure, suspension, exclusion, or else; making thereby a breach in the spiritual building without cause, and furnishing the enemies of God and truth with an opportunity to blaspheme, whilst they deter tender minds from making an open profession of the sacred cause of the Redeemer.
The Writer of these hints has no idea of fores going discipline, God forbid, "Let your light so shine before men," cannot be dispensed with; but, alas! revenge and private resentment are too often the springs of action in men, where
forbearance and meekness ought to rule, who, very unhappily prostitute thereby the most salutary regulations to the basest purposes; and whilst acting under the influence of splenetic dispositions, in pretending to extract dross, infuse deadly poison. In order therefore that the humble enquirer may be enabled, under a divine blessing, to form consistent views of the discipline our indulgent Master has bequeathed to his Church, it will be expedient to examine minutely some of the passages in the New Testament, which treat expressly on the subject; previously enquiring (as our blessed Lord de clared his kingdom is not of this world) what views are to be formed of the Church collectively, in order to ascertain the relation subsist ing individually.
"One is your Master, even Christ," is indelibly stamped upon, and forms the Magna Charta of the glorious Gospel dispensation, the free, vivi fying atmosphere of the Church; whilst she continued to breathe in it, like a prudent chaste virgin, she enjoyed health in all her members, till pride, and the denser fogs of priestcraft introduced through the unnatural alliance with the civil power, polluted her, with disorders as numerous and complicated as unregenerate nature under satanic influence could bring to birth; hence Popes, Prelates, Lords over God's heritage, comprising an innumerable, pestiferous swarm of holy depredators, linked together by their own ingenious policy, from his Holiness down to the Bell-toller.
Be this as it may, the man of common under
standing, with the New Testament in his hand, and the grace of God in his heart, knows that every pretension to superiority in the Church of Christ is groundless; the least appearance of such a disposition being evidently a spawn of AntiChrist in embryo, that wants nothing but opportunity to issue forth bulls and anathemas; and however plausible these things may appear to the credulous, or grateful to the assuming, they ought, by the spiritually minded, to be boldly and unequivocally rejected; remembering that the man in goodly apparel or favored with affluence, has no ground from Scripture to expect any partiality from the Church, more than the beggar; "God is no respecter of persons, One is your Master, all ye are brethren," Matt. xxiii. 8; James ii. 9. And now, according to the order in which this interesting subject is deve loped in the Sacred Volume, which more or less pervades a considerable portion of the New Testament, and particularly the epistolary parts; notice again, what constitutes a Church of Jesus Christ:-The Church, in its most proper and comprehensive sense, is the great body of be lievers, of every nation, kindred, colour, and denomination; and of every age, since the fall of Adam to the last individual, that God by his Holy Spirit will call, to embrace the Saviour and rely upon his merits, for salvation and eternal life. This is the multitude of which John had a vision, Rev. vii. 9, called by the Apostle, the Elect, in contradistinction to the rest, Rom. xi. 7, i. e. that part of the human race which God Almighty has, in his unerring councils, determined to bring to holiness here, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief