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intervals to relieve and there is some period to finish them. When we ask a friend that is sick, how he does; “ I in pain now," says he, “but I hope to be easy soon. This is a sweet mitigation of the present uneasiness. But how dreadful would his case be if he should answer, “ I am all over pain, and I shall be never eased of it. I lie under exquisite torment of body, and horror of soul; and I shall feel it for ever!" Such is the case of the damned sinners in hell. Suffer any pain, then, rather than come into that place of torment!
I conclude with one more reflection, taken from Dr. Watts :
“ It demands our highest gratitude, that we who have long ago deserved this misery are not plunged into it. While there are thousands that have been adjudged to this place of punishment, before they had continued so long in sin as many of us have done, what an instance is it of divine goodness, that we are not under this fiery vengeance ! Have we not seen many sinners, on our right and our left, cut off in their sins ? And what but the tender mercy of God hath spared us week after week, month after month, and given us space for repentance ? What shall we render unto the Lord for all his patience and longsuffering even to this day? How often have we incurred the sentence of condemnation by our repeated rebellion against God! And yet we are still alive in his presence, and are hearing the words of hope and salvation. O let us look back and shudder at the thoughts of that dreadful precipice, on the edge of which we have so long wandered ! Let us fly for refuge to the hope that is set before us, and give a thousand thanks to the divine mercy, that we are not plunged into this perdition !"
OF THE CHURCH.
“I beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith
ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love ; endeavouring. to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. T'here is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all,
and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians. iv. 1-6. 1. How much do we almost continually hear about the Church! With many it is matter of daily conversation. And yet how few understand what they talk of! how few know what the term means ! A more ambiguous word than this, the Church, is scarce to be found in the English language. It is sometimes taken for a building, set apart for public worship; sometimes for a congregation, or body of people, united together in the service of God. It is only in the latter sense that it is taken in the ensuing discourse.
2. It may be taken indifferently for any number of people, how small or great soever. As, “ where two or three are met together in his name," there is Christ ; so, (to speak with St. Cyprian,) “ where two or three believers are met together, there is a Church.” Thus it is that St. Paul, writing to Philemon, mentions “ the Church which was in his house;" plainly signifying, that even a Christian family may be termed a Church.
3. Several of those whom God hath called out of the world, (so the original word properly signifies,) uniting together in one congregation, formed a larger Church; as the Church at Jerusalem ; that is, all those in Jerusalem whom God had so called. But considering how swiftly these were multiplied, after the day of Pentecost, it cannot be supposed that they could continue to assemble in one place; especially as they had not then any large place, neither would they have been permit
ted to build one. In consequence, they must have divided themselves, even at Jerusalem, into several distinct congregations. In like manner, when St. Paul, several years after, wrote to the Church in Rome; (directing his letter, “ To all that are in Rome, called to be saints,") it cannot be supposed that they had any one building capable of containing them all; but they were divided into several congregations, assembling in several parts of the city
4. The first time that the Apostle uses the word Church is in his preface to the former Epistle to the Corinthians: “Paul called to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ, unto the Church of God which is at Corinth :” The meaning of which expression is fixed by the following words : “ To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus ; with all that, in every place,” (not Corinth only; so it was a kind of circular letter,) "call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” In the inscription of his second letter to the Corinthians, he speaks still more explicitly : “ Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in all Achaia.” Here he plainly includes all the Churches, or Christian congregations, which were in the whole province.
5. He frequently uses the word in the plural number. So, Gal. i. 2, “ Paul an Apostle,—unto the Churches of Galatia ;" that is, the Christian congregations dispersed throughout that country. In all these places, (and abundantly more might be cited,) the word Church or Churches means, not the buildings where the Christians assembled, (as it frequently does in the English tongue,) but the people that used to assemble there, one or more Christian congregations. But sometimes the word Church is taken in Scripture in a still more extensive meaning, as including all the Christian congregations that are upon the face of the earth. And in this sense we understand it in our Liturgy, when we say, “Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's Church militant here on earth.” In this sense it is unquestionably taken by St. Paul, in his exhortation to the elders of Ephesus : (Acts xx. 28 :) “ Take heed to the Church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.” The Church here, undoubtedly, means the catholic or universal Church; that is, all the Christians under heaven.
6. Who those are that are properly “the Church of God," the Apostle shows at large, and that in the clearest and most
decisive manner, in the passage above cited; wherein he likewise instructs all the members of the Church, how to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called.”
7. Let us consider, First, Who are properly the Church of God? What is the true meaning of that term ? “ The Church at Ephesus," as the Apostle himself explains it, meáns, saints," the holy persons, that are in Ephesus," and there assemble themselves together to worship God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ; whether they did this in one or (as we may probably suppose) in several places. But it is the Church in general, the catholic or universal Church, which the Apostle here considers as one body: Comprehending not only the Christians in the house of Philemon, or any one family; not only the Christians of one congregation, of one city, of one province, or nation ; but all the persons upon the face of the earth,
who answer the character here given. The several particulars contained therein, we may now more distinctly consider.
8. “ There is one Spirit” who animates all these, all the living members of the Church of God. Some understand hereby the Holy Spirit himself, the Fountain of all spiritual life; and it is certain, “ if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Others understand it of those spiritual gifts and holy dispositions which are afterwards mentioned.
9. “ There is,” in all those that have received this Spirit, “one hope;" a hope full of immortality. They know, to die is not to be lost: Their prospect extends beyond the grave. They can cheerfully say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
10. “ There is one Lord,” who has now dominion over them ; who has set up his kingdom in their liearts, and reigns over all those that are partakers of this hope. To obey him, to run the way of his commandments, is their glory and joy. And while they are doing this with a willing mind, they, as it were, “sit inheavenly places with Christ Jesus."
11. “ There is one faith ;" which is the free gift of God, and is the ground of their hope. This is not barely the faith of a Heathen: Namely, a belief that “there is a God," and that he is gracious and just, and, consequently, “à rewarder
of them that diligently seek him.” Neither is it barely the faith of a devil; though this goes much farther that the former: For the devil believes, and cannot but believe, all that is written both in the Old and New Testament to be true. But it is the faith of St. Thomas, teaching him to say with holy boldness, “My Lord, and my God!” It is the faith which enables every true Christian believer to testify with St. Paul, “ The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
12. “ There is one baptism ;” which is the outward sign our one Lord has been pleased to appoint, of all that inward and spiritual grace which he is continually bestowing upon his Church. It is likewise a precious means, whereby this faith and hope are given to those that diligently seek him. Some, indeed, have been inclined to interpret this in a figurative sense ; as if it referred to that baptism of the Holy Ghost which the Apostles received at the day of Pentecost, and which, in a lower degree, is given to all believers: But it is a stated rule in interpreting Scripture, never to depart from the plain, literal sense, unless it implies an absurdity. And beside, if we thus understood it, it would be a needless repetition, as being included in, « There is one Spirit."
13. 6 There is one God and Father of all” that have the Spirit of adoption, which “crieth in their hearts, Abba, Father;" which“ witnesseth” continually “ with their spirits,” that they are the children of God: “Who is above all,"—the Most High, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Governor of the whole universe: “ And through all,"—pervading all space ; filling heaven and earth:
Totam Alens agituns molem, et magno se corpore miscens :“ And in you all,”-in a peculiar manner living in you, that are one body, by one Spirit :
Making your souls his loved abode,
The temples of indwelling God. 14. Here, then, is a clear unexceptionable answer to that question, “ What is the Church?” The catholic or universal Church is, all the persons in the universe whom God hath * The following is Warton's translation of this quotation from Virgil
“ The general soul