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of praise, where nothing will be seen but sights of bliss.
"Jesus, thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
And reign without a rival there:
"O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but thy pure love alone :
My joy, my treasure, and my crown;
"O Love, how cheering is thy ray!
All pain before thy presence flies;
"Still let thy love point out my way!
How wondrous things thy love hath wrought!
Still lead me, lest I go astray;
Direct my word, inspire my thought;
And if I fall, soon may I hear
Thy voice, and know that love is near.
"In suffering be thy love my peace;
In weakness be thy love my power;
In death as life be thou my guide,
"Love as brethren."-1 Pet. iii. 8.
WHAT a lovely object would the Church of Christ present to the world, did all its members live in the spirit of the gospel. The conversion of the world to the faith of Christ would then be hastened, if all who believe in Jesus were cemented together by holy love, and actuated by the Holy Spirit. The declarations of Scripture are clear and decisive on the beauty and blessedness of Christian fellowship.
"By this," said our Lord, "shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."* To the Thessalonians St. Paul wrote: "As touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you; for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more."+ "The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you." St. Peter exhorted the Christians, to whom he addressed his epistle, to add "to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity."S
Did all the churches of Christ, in the apostolic age, manifest to the world the graces of brotherly kindness and charity? Were there no disfiguring traits in the character of the primitive believers? Alas! we have to mourn over the corruption of the heart, even in the purest age of Christianity! With the apostolic admonition, Let love be without dissimulation,"|| St. Paul had to warn the church at Rome, "I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine John xiii. 35. + 1 Thess. iv. 9, 10.
§ 2 Pet. i. 7.
1 Thess. iii. 12.
| Rom. xii. 9.
which ye have learned; and avoid them."* For the Corinthians, he drew with the pencil of truth, guided by the Eternal Spirit, the most beautifully finished portrait of Christian love.† And yet, over this very church, for which, on some accounts, he could thank God, he had also deeply to mourn. "There are contentions among you." "There is among you envying, and strife, and divisions." "Ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren." "When ye
come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating, every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken." "I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would:......lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults."§ Can this be the picture of a primitive church? Alas! it is. If we ask, while surveying these tares, who hath done this? Our Lord has told us in his parable: "An enemy hath done this?"|| Satan busily sowed his tares among the wheat at the very formation of the Christian church. Though admitted by baptism into the society of the faithful, they proved by their works whose children they were. And so it is now. Hypocrites, deceivers, false brethren, heretics, and schismatics trouble the church. This condition of the visible church, painful as it is, verifies the words of the apostle, when writing to the church at Corinth: "I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."** To such faithful souls, Jesus sent a word of comfort by his servant John :"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that + 1 Cor. xiii. 1 Cor. i. 4-9. vi. 8; xi. 20, 21; 2 Cor. xii. 20. 1 Cor. xi. 18, 19.
- Rom. xvi. 17.
fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Truly this is a word in season. O! that we may found faithful when the sifting time arrives.
The images employed to describe the unity of the church are beautiful. The harmony which is experienced in the human frame, where, if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it :-the union which subsists between the foundation and the superstructure of a building :-the tender oneness of the marriage state; are all employed by the apostles to set forth the union of believers in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Head, his people are the members of his mystical body. Jesus is the Foundation, his people, the lively stones in the spiritual building. Jesus is the Husband, his people, collectively, form the bride, the Lamb's wife.t
Perfection is a plant which bears its fruit in heaHere we may and ought to cultivate it with unceasing care, but still the precious fruit can only be enjoyed in the paradise above. Whilst journeying thither, "if it be absurd to expect perfection, it is not unreasonable to expect consistency." Did Christians act up to their principles, did they do to others, as they, in reason and justice, would wish others to do to them, we should behold a blessed change in the so-called religious world. Uprightness and sincerity formed the perfection of the Old Testament saints. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright for the end of that man is peace." Maturity in Christian experience, and ripeness in Christian graces, compose the perfection of believers in Jesus. "Brethren," says St. Paul to the Corinthians, "be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men."§ (Marg. perfect, or of a riper age.) And to the Hebrews he writes, "Every one that useth milk is unskilful in
Rev. iii. 10, 11.
+ Col. i. 18; 1 Cor. xii. 25-27; 1 Cor. iii. 11; 1 Pet. ii. 5, 6;
the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, (Marg. perfect) even those who by reason of use (Marg. an habit; or, perfection) have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”*
Blessed Jesus! thy nature was perfect, thy soul spotless, thy whole life without sin, when thou condescendedst to become man, and to die the just for the unjust, to bring us nigh unto God. Grant that I may be renewed in the spirit of my mind; that I may be transformed into thy holy image; and walk before thee in newness of life. Give me the
simplicity and godly sincerity. Cause me to grow up into thee in all things. Enable me to forget past attainments, and to reach forth unto those things which are before. Deliver me from presumptuous sins. Strengthen me to fight the good fight of faith. Shield me by thy grace; and preserve me, as a vessel of mercy, unto thine eternal kingdom and glory.
Next to communion with God, there cannot be a more refined felicity than the communion of saints. Every thing holy in principle, and exalted in prospect, is associated with the assurance, that the friends whom we love upon earth, shall be our friends in the presence of God our Saviour.
Worldly attachments resemble the summer showers, which rapidly swell the brooks, but soon pass away; while Christian friendship, the communion of saints, is like a perennial spring. The love of Christ towards his people is the ever-flowing, the ever overflowing fountain of blessedness, whose refreshing streams are the most abundant, when the most needed.
O! that I may daily partake of these waters of salvation ! How sweet it is to taste that the Lord is gracious. His consolations are neither few nor small. When we forsake Him, we forsake our own mercies. And yet, alas! how prone we are to forsake the fountain of living waters, and to hew out to ourselves Heb. v. 13, 14.