Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

the ears, and to create divisions and scandals in the Christian church. And if there be any “ vain deceivers," "men of corrupt minds,” who are following the same vile practices now, “for filthy lucre's sake," they ought, by the same rule, to be carefully avoided, by all who wish well to the peace and the purity of the church of Christ.

I have now submitted to you the general rules of scripture discipline, designed to regulate the terms of church fellowship and Christian communion; together with a few examples of the primitive and apostolic application of those rules. And one would think that these rules, applied in the spirit of Christian truth and sincerity, Christian tenderness and charity, might be amply sufficient for regulating every act and instance of Christian fellowship.

Let us, my beloved brethren, as becometh the professing followers of Christ, learn to study, and, by the grace of God, to carry into practice, these important principles. Let us remember that, as the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, we “must not strive, but be gentle unto all men ; apt to teach ; patient; in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”

In all cases of private individual offence, it is our duty to act upon the rule of our blessed Sa. viour_ If thy brother trespass against thee, go

and tell him his fault between thee and him alone : if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church : but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

In all our public deliberations, decisions, and acts, as a church of Christ, regulating the concerns of Christian communion, let us desire ever to be guided by that spirit of truth and tenderness, which the gospel breathes throughout. In any case of public scandal, or gross immorality, we are bound to exclude the offender from the fellowship of the church, until there be tokens of manifest repentance and amendment. When any of our brethren may be overtaken in a fault, from the possibility of which none are exempted, it is our duty to “restore such, in the spirit of Christian meekness” and humility. It is our duty humbly to imitate the example of him, who would “not strive, nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets ;" who would “not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.” It is our duty to “receive one another, even as Christ hath received us, to the glory of God.” It is our duty to bear with each other's weakness and infirmity, and involuntary diversity of sentiment en points which do not affect the essence of faith, or the hope of salvation. It is our duty, as a church, to “let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from us, with all malice; and to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us.” It is our duty, as a church "putting away lyingiCar speak every man truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another ;” and to “ follow the things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify another:" that thus, “speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Then shall we regulate our Christian fellowship according to the Apostle's exhortation in the text_“I, therefore, beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called ; with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

Let other churches, if they please, surround themselves by fences unknown to the gospel. Let them, if they please, prescribe conditions of fellowship which neither Christ nor his Apostles ever thought of. Let them put forth their human creeds and confessions of faith ; and pronounce their anathemas, if they please, against all who do not receive them as they do. Let them say, “Stand by thyself: come not near to

1

me; for I am holier than thou.” Let them thus shut out of the pale of their communion such as may be sincere, humble, conscientious believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. But let it ever be our care to regulate the terms of Christian communion by the rule of the Christian scriptures. And whosoever is willing to walk by the $ he rule ;—whosoever takes the scriptures as his guide in principle and practice; sincerely desirous, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to understand, believe, and obey them ;whosoever declares his acceptance of eternal life, as “the gift of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,”-believing that the Son of God laid down his life for sinners; that he shed his blood for the remission of sin; that he suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God ;-and whosoever is, in consequence, constrained by the love of Christ to live not unto himself, but “unto him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood ;”-in whomsoever these things meet,-let us regard that man as a Christian. Let us take him into the bosom of our affections, as a brother in Christ. Let us look upon him as one with ourselves, and as a member of that body, of which Christ Jesus is the head. Worshipping the same God, through the mediation of the same divine Saviour; being a temple of the same Holy Spirit; seeking the same glorious immor. tality ; an heir of the same blessed hope through

Christ, let us feel, that as he was washed in the same baptism, so is he equally entitled to sit down at the same communion table with ourselves. Looking upon him as a sincere believer in Christ the Lord, as an humble follower of the Lamb of God—whatever his views may be touching certain doubtful and controverted points of theology, on which the best of Christians have had, and will continue to have, a diversity of sentiment; let us ever stand ready to receive him, “as Christ hath received us, to the glory of God.” And if such an one desire to cast in his lot among us, and to join with us in the fellowship and communion of thè church of Christ, let us say to him, as Laban said to Abraham's servant, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord ; wherefore standest thou without ?"

If Christians, and Christian churches, could but be persuaded to walk by this rule, what a blessed tendency would it have, not only to give glory to God in the highest, but also to promote the spirit of peace on earth, and good will among

The church here below would be brought to a nearer resemblance to the general assembly and church of the first born above, wherein universal love, and concord, and joy, shall reign for ever. To that assembly of glorified spirits all the followers of the Lamb shall in due time be united ; and there, it may be hoped, attain to that perfect uniformity of knowledge in divine things, which cannot be expected here.

men.

« AnteriorContinua »