A TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF THE APOSTLES AND AN EXHIBITION OF THE FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCHES

 

A TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF THE APOSTLES

BY HENRY GREW,  PASTOR OF A CHURCH IN HARTFORD

 

“Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, -and let them measure the pattern.”“Shew them the form of the house and the fashion thereof, and the goings-out, and the comings-in thereof, -and all the ordinances thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof and DO them.”  Eze 43:10,11.

 

“True religion, unlike human science, was given to mankind in a finished form, and is to be learned, not improved: and though the most capacious human mind is nobly employed while concentrating all its vigor upon the acquirement of this documentary learning, it is very fruitlessly, and very perniciously occupied in attempting to give it a single touch of perfectionment.”-Natural History of Enthusiasm.

 

HARTFORD:

 

G. W. KAPPEL’S PRINT.

 

1832.

 

NOTE. -Since the printing of this pamphlet the writer has unexpectedly found in Morris’ life of Fuller, that the views of the latter respecting the validity of lay ordination accorded with his own. Mr. Fuller also declared it to be his opinion “that there was no scriptural authority for confining the administration of the Lord’s supper to a minister,”also that it was “probably” the practice of the primitive churches to observe the supper every Lords day.

 

PREFACE.

 

Under some solemn consciousness of accountability at that tribunal whither we are all tending, and where truth only will be respected, the following pages have been written, and are now submitted to the candid consideration of the public.

 

If any thing herein will not endure the test of the word which abideth forever, let it be rejected. If truth is, in any imperfect manner, elicited and honored, to the giver of every good gift be the praise.

 

Should this essay be the means of exciting any of the disciples of Jesus to a more diligent and prayerful research after the truth in our Father’s book, the writer will not regret the time and labor it has cost him.

 

Assured that the happy era must come, when the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty shall rise in the majesty of truth, and, with holy indignation, burst the debasing shackles of human dogmas and traditions, which have so long fettered the noble mind, and walk in the holy liberty wherewith the Son of God makes his disciples free;  

 

The writer rejoices that he has been permitted to make this effort towards the accomplishment of so noble an object, before the clods of the valley shall cover him.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

“Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning: the old commandment is THE WORD which ye have heard from the beginning.” ( 1Jo 2:7). The holy union of the redeemed, for which we pray, can be accomplished only by the means divine wisdom hath appointed. Our blessed Lord, in his prayer for this important object, has plainly taught us our duty in this respect. “Sanctify them through thy truth: THY WORD is truth.” ( Joh 17:17). By returning to this perfect standard, and by that only,  will Zion shine forth in her pristine glory, “beautiful as Tirzah,”and “terrible“ to her enemies “as an army with banners.” ( So 6:4). Alas! how have the professed disciples of the Son of God been corrupted from the simplicity and purity of their divine master? How presumptuously hath the carnal mind usurped the prerogative of Zion’s King, substituting its own corrupt mandates for the perfect laws of heavenly wisdom and love, and polluting those streams which make glad the City of God!

 

Beloved brethren, in this day of profession and zeal, hath not our Lord “somewhat against”us in this manner! Have we not fallen from that strict conformity to the holy pattern, which constitutes Zion “the ground and pillar of the truth,”and the approved temple of the living God? Has not conformity to the world which is passing away, excited the profane conceit that the only wise God has commanded a trifle, and the impious practice of trifling with what he has commanded?

 

Have we not too much forgotten those recorded fearful tokens of his holy indignation, which teach us that “TO OBEY is better than sacrifice, and TO HEARKEN, than the fat of rams?”

 

Whatever may be the comparative importance of the divine commands, it is a violation of the law of love to trifle with the least. It is a violation of express precept. “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone.”If, in respect to those laws which related to matters which were only patterns of the heavenly things, (or Christian ordinances) the solemn injunction was given, “see that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed thee in the mount,”can we suppose that it is a matter of indifference, whether or not we obey those laws which relate to the heavenly things themselves?

 

In the natural body some functions are more important to its vitality and health than others; yet none are superfluous: all are necessary to its perfection. The spiritual mind may discern the same wisdom and beneficence displayed in the laws which are designed to inspire the life, and regulate the growth of the spiritual body, until we all come to the stature of a perfect man in Christ. If, in any particulars, this adaptation, by infinite wisdom, of the means to the end, is inscrutable by us; a proper confidence in that wisdom will never hesitate on the question of obedience. Here indeed is a peculiar test of our love.

 

The affirmative answer to the question, whether or not Jesus Christ has “prescribed a particular form of government for the church,”and instituted the order of worship, appears to the writer to comport best with the record of truth, and with the fact that Messiah has done all things well. It is indeed true that he has not done this “in minute and circumstantial detail.”

 

This is not the method divine wisdom has chosen to instruct us in the New Testament. The truths of the doctrine of Christ, which all his true disciples believe, are not so revealed. If our Lord only makes known his will, whatever the manner may be, it is our duty and privilege to obey.

 

If “many and serious evils are occasioned by the existence of different denominations,”may we not hope to find, in the perfect word, a remedy for these evils?

 

May we not expect to find, in precept and example, our duty so plainly marked out, as to justify the divine requirement that “there be no divisions among you;  but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment?”

 

“Of all opinions, (says a judicious writer) that which accounts for the diversity of religious sentiment and practice, by the alleged obscurity and deficiency of Scripture, is the most hostile to unity, as well as most injurious to the character of revelation. As long as it prevails among Christians, present diversities may be expected to subsist. There is neither the authority of God, nor a probable hope of success, to stimulate the advocates of this opinion to exertion in the advancement of unity. Their example must tend to keep all parties in countenance, and to prevent them from examining the grounds of their peculiar views. Men will not distract their minds with investigation, which is likely to terminate in the same uncertainty with which it commences. Shall they be forward to encounter the odium attending change of religious sentiments, the resentment of a deserted party, or the loss of worldly interest, in favor of opinions, which, after all, may not be more scriptural than those which they renounce?”

 

It deserves our serious consideration, whether the supposed deficiency of scriptural precept and precedent for church order, and consequent right of human interference, was not the stepping stone into mystical Babylon. “We are apt to look upon the rise of Antichrist to be the work of wicked men alone, and that they who fostered him had all the mischievous views that are discerned in the full grown monster. Nothing can be more unjust. Many of them, no doubt, conceived themselves to be lawfully exerting this privilege of discretionary arrangement, and enacting those rules which were for the prosperity of religion. Once admit the right of legislation, and there is no possibility of setting bounds to it in practice.”

 

Jesus prayed that his disciples may be one,  as he and his Father are one. The Apostles taught the same things “every where in every church.” It is obvious then, that if the Saviour’s prayer is answered, and his commands given to the Apostles obeyed, that there can be “but one denomination of Christians in the world?”Is Christ divided? Could there ever have been more than one denomination of Christians if the disciples of Christ had not disobeyed the command to “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment?”

 

Could this have been if they had kept the ordinances as they are delivered in the word of the Lord? And can it be a question of doubtful determination, whether the consummation of our Saviour’s prayer in the perfect obedience of his disciples to his own commandments “would have been a blessing? {19}

 

Whether the writer is correct or not, in believing that Messiah has favored his subjects with a perfect model of church order; and in believing that the opposite opinion has been often adopted as a convenient subterfuge from the just charge of making void his commands by our own traditions, it will be admitted that “whatever the scriptures have decided on this subject is of divine authority; but nothing else is of such authority, or at all binding on the consciences of men.”

 

Let us than “stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein,”that we may find rest for our souls.

 

The truth that Antichrist had commenced his corrupting career when the Apostle John wrote to the brethren,  1Jo 2:18, is conclusive proof of the obvious duty of applying the above important direction to no period subsequent to the days of the Apostles. No professed or real purity of any church, which has since existed, can substantiate a claim to be, in any respect, the model of Christian duty. This is the high and sole prerogative of that Word which “abideth forever.”

 

A TRIBUTE, &c. OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

 

The Temple of Janus was shut. The era of celestial peace had arrived. Its song was chanted by angelic choirs. The Harbinger of the prince of Peace had appeared. The Son of the Eternal descended from the heavenly glory; took the body prepared him, sojourned in this rebellious world of the Almighty’s dominions, and loved, and taught, and died, and rose, and ascended to the right hand of the heavenly majesty, there to reign until the kingdom of everlasting love is perfected, and given up to the ALL IN ALL.

 

Then was fulfilled the prophetic word, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed.”

 

It is the sole prerogative of the Son of the Blessed to reign in Zion by the pleasure of the Father, who hath declared, “yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.”

 

“This is my beloved Son, HEAR YE HIM.”

 

This glorious Kingdom, which is destined to exhibit to the redeemed, and to the powers in the heavenly places, the matchless wisdom and love of the Infinite eternally, is variously denominated in the word of Truth. It is called “the kingdom (or reign) of God,”“of Christ,”“of Heaven.”The subjects of this kingdom are “the church of the living God, the ground and pillar of the truth;”“God’s building,”“a spiritual house,”“a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices,”“the light of the world,”&c.

 

Our Saviour has plainly taught us the holy nature of his kingdom. “My kingdom is not of this world.”

 

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”“Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”His Apostles taught the same holy truth. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers-nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

 

The term Church signifies called out and assembled. In the New Testament it is always used, either in reference to the whole family of the redeemed in heaven and on earth, or to a single congregation of the saints in a particular place. In the first sense, it is used in the following passages; “the general assembly and CHURCH of the first born.”“Upon this rock I will build my CHURCH.”“Christ also loved the CHURCH.”“The CHURCH, which is his BODY.”

 

In the second sense it frequently occurs. “The Church at Jerusalem,”“at Corinth,”“Ephesus,”“Smyrna,”&c.

 

It is not applied, in the singular, to a number of congregations of a particular region. We do not read of the church of Achaia, but the churches;  nor of the Gentile church,  but of “all the CHURCHES of the Gentiles.”So also, “the CHURCHES of Galatia,”and “the CHURCHES of Asia,”&c.

 

When our Lord had finished the work given him by the Father, and “through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the Apostles whom he had chosen,”he came to the mount of Galilee “and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, (state {20} Amen.”

 

OF THE AUTHORITY OF THE APOSTLES.

 

As our present enquiry relates particularly to that order of the Church, which divine wisdom has instituted for the manifestation of its true character, and the advancement of its holy interests in the world; it is important to observe that our Lord chose and qualified his Apostles for the high purpose of organizing the churches of the saints according to his own commandments given unto them. They received of the Lord, that which they delivered unto his disciples.  1Co 11:23. They taught all things whatsoever Christ commanded them.  Mt 28:20. Having invested them with this high authority, and set them on their thrones, Jesus said, “he that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.”They were Apostles, “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father.”They were the living witnesses of the ascended Saviour. -  Ac 5:32. Acting in this official character they could “do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.”Such was their holy inspiration and authority, that they could say, “He THAT IS OF GOD HEARETH US.”

 

We plainly learn in these declarations of holy truth, that, in respect to authority, there is no difference between the inspired testimony of the Apostles, and the testimony of their divine Master. In fact, both these are the testimony of God himself. What the Apostles taught was the very truth which they received of their Lord. What Jesus taught, he received of God. “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.”

 

OF THE RULE OF CHRISTIAN DUTY.

 

Having contemplated, with holy admiration, the ministry of the Son of God, attested by those powerful and beneficent miracles, which, by their resistless evidence, constrained even the reluctant assent of his enemies to his divine mission, our obligation to make his will the rule of our duty in obedience to the Father, HEAR YE HIM, is fully established.

 

Having proved from the word of truth, the equal authority of the inspired precepts of the Apostles with those of their master, it is equally evident that we are to regard these also as presenting a rule of Christian duty.

 

There is another rule, or rather the same in different form, the neglect of which, has conduced to the unhappy divisions among the disciples of Jesus.

 

THE APPROVED PRACTICES OF THE FIRST CHURCHES.

 

It is an important fact that the Apostles taught the same things in all the Churches of the Saints. Paul having given directions to the church at Corinth-I.  Eph 7:17. adds, “and so I ordain in all churches, “ Commending  Timothy, \\ 1Co 4:17. he writes, “who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, AS I TEACH EVERY WHERE IN EVERY CHURCH.”The churches received some apostolic directions by word, and some by letter. “The church at Thessalonica is commanded to hold the traditions which they received by word, as well as those which they received by letter. Now such things as any of the churches received by word, we can receive only by an allusion to their practice in some indirect way. When we read then of any part of their order not disapproved, we may be sure that this had by word from the Apostles, although we cannot point out any precept enjoining it. -Example then is equal to precept, because it necessarily implies precept.”Nothing, in respect to church order, appears to have been left to the direction of uninspired men. When the Apostle had given particular directions to the church at Corinth in his letter, he does not add, the rest I leave to your own discretion; but, “the rest will I set in order when I come.”  1Co 11:34.

 

In view of the important truth that the Apostles taught the same things in every church, and set all things in order, under the holy influence of the spirit of God, may not the unbiased enquirer after truth, expect to find, in the precepts of his divine Master and his inspired Apostles, and in the approved examples of the first churches, a perfect rule of duty, and a perfect model of a Christian church?

 

That the rule of Christian duty is to be found in the precepts of Jesus Christ and his Apostles, and in the approved practices of the first churches recorded in the New Testament, is the great principle we adopt as the entire basis of our enquiries on the interesting subject before us.

 

Every ordinance of subsequent invention, whether of papal or protestant origin, whatever may be its claim to antiquity, to pretended expediency, or to numerous advocates, we shall consign to its proper place, among the heap of antiChristian rubbish, which alas! has so long buried out of sight the true nature and holy simplicity of the Christian institutes.

 

OF THE APOSTLES’ DOCTRINE.

 

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”“We have seen and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.”“And this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life: and this life is in his Son.”“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”“Beware therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets; behold ye despisers, and wonder, and perish.”“By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.”“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”“God now commandeth all men every where to repent, because he hath appointed a day, in which, he hath ordained: whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead.”“Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them. Repent and be immersed every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins,”&c. “Then they that gladly received his word were immersed,”&c.

 

“The like figure whereunto, even IMMERSION, doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God”i.e.,  obeying the command to be immersed-)“ by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”&c.  1Pe 3:21.

 

“Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing (bath) of water by the word,”&c.  Eph 5:26.

 

“According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing (bath) of regeneration, AND renewing of the Holy Ghost.”  Tit 3:5

 

“There is ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ON IMMERSION, ONE GOD and FATHER of all,”&c.  Eph 4:5,6.

 

From these declarations of divine truth, we learn,

 

1. The Immersion in water, into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a permanent ordinance of Jesus Christ.

 

2. That it is appointed for all who repent and believe in his name.

 

3. That it is the immediate duty of believers. As soon as they believed the Apostles doctrine, they were immersed.

 

4. That while the scriptures plainly teach that it is the bloodof Jesus Christ which cleanseth us from all sin, and that God for Christ’s sake forgives the penitent believer; the same scriptures teach that we are to be immersed “for the remission of sins,” and that “he that believeth and is immersed shall be saved.

 

5. That the right to immerse belongs to every man who publicly preaches the truth of the Gospel, and that it is not the exclusive right of the bishop or elder. Philip, who immersed the eunuch, was not an elder. He was indeed appointed as one of the seven, but for what purpose? Not to the elder’s office, or to immerse; but to “serve tables”in “the daily ministration”of food. The modern opinion that believers may publicly preach and not immerse, is separating what God hath joined. The former is the greater work of the two.

 

6. As the scriptures of truth declare, in respect to a person’s right to this ordinance, “if thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest;”it is a manifest violation of that truth to refuse to immerse a believer in the Son of God, until he assents to the articles of a religious creed, or consents to join any particular church. Every believer is to be immersed. And this, he is to be exhorted to observe all things Christ has commanded.

 

7. The holy Word presents not a vestige of proof that the sprinkling, or immersion of infants is an ordinance of God. “The children of the flesh are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”  Ro 9:8. “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  Ga 3:29. This disannuls the claim urged in favor of infants founded on the Abrahamic covenant, and is a plain and conclusive refutation of all the innumerable pages which have been written on the subject. As to circumcision, it is idle to discuss the question, whether or not, infant sprinkling or immersion has come in the room of it, before we have proved, that, by divine authority, it has come at all. Not a precept, not an example for this rite, do we find in the only rule of Christian duty. We have no such custom, neither had the first churches. Several households were immersed. To the jailer’s the apostle spake the word of the Lord “to all that were in”it. “And-he-rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”The household of Lydia were brethren capable of being comforted by holy truth. But if these particulars had not been recorded, every unbiased and intelligent mind knows that if there were any number of household baptisms recorded, this would be no proof in favor of infants, unless there is positive proof that in these households there was at least one infant, and that that infant was baptized.

 

Far be it that we should deprive our dear children of any real privilege. Have not many parents been instrumental of doing so, by tempting their children to neglect the divine ordinance of immersion, by a previous substitution of a tradition of human origin which makes void the commandment of the Eternal? Surely we deceive ourselves, if we look for any blessing from on high to rest on our own inventions which thrust out Jehovah’s mandates from his own Temple. Jesus Christ blessed infants on earth without this rite, and he can bless them in heaven. The intelligent and unbiased consideration of the scriptural import of the holy ordinance of Immersion, must issue in the clear conviction that it has no adaptation to infants. It is a profession of the subject’s own faith in the death and resurrection of the Son of God, and of his own dying unto sin, and rising to holy life with his ascended Lord. It is the blessed badge of discipleship. What has an unconscious babe to do with this act of holy understanding and love? How can it be to such an one “the answer of a good conscience towards God?”For the honor of the King of Zion, whose ordinance has so long, and so extensively, been made void by an unscriptural rite, we earnestly and affectionately entreat professing Christians, before they repeat it, to produce a satisfactory answer from their Father’s book, to the solemn question, “Who hath required this at your hand?”In what did the sin of offering strange fire consist? In presuming to do that as an ordinance of God, which the Lord commanded not.

 

8. We learn the high privilege of the believer in the enjoyment of that sweet peace and holy instruction which this ordinance imparts. Buried with his Lord in Immersion, he obeys the requirement, which is the first appointed test of his love to his Redeemer, and enjoys the cheering consciousness of the remission of his sins by the death and resurrection of his Saviour, of which this institution is so beautifully significant. The Holy Spirit witnesses unto his spirit that he is born of God, and rising to spiritual life, he bids adieu to a carnal world, and passes onward to the celestial city. In the very manner his Lord hath appointed, and consecrated by his own example, he publicly avows Jehovah to be his God and portion forever. He yields a cordial subjection to his Redeemer, the appointed King of Zion. His heaven born spirit comes into the fellowship of the whole redeemed family and of all the heavenly hosts. He has taken upon himself the yoke of his Master, and received a precious earnest of everlasting love.

 

In the course of his pilgrimage to his everlasting home, when assailed by temptation, he looks back to the favored and solemn hour, when, before God and men, he professed to die unto sin and rise with his Lord to holiness of life. Remembering this sacred vocation, which is preeminently adapted to teach him his constant duty of holy conformity to his Master, and relying on his favor who first called him out from the world, he continues to tread it beneath his feet, and presses on to the unspeakable glory. In like precious faith, which he exhibited in his immersion, he meets the last enemy and triumphs over him with the blessed assurance of being raised to Immortality. {23}

 

We tremble at the word of the Lord, which invests, with infinite authority, all his requirements, whether those requirements relate to the eating of a little fruit, the offering of fire, or a lamb, or immersion in water. Whatever God has sanctified as a test of our obedience, is no longer, in that respect, to be called common. If his command is disobeyed, his authority is contemned, whatever may be the real or supposed insignificance of the ordinance. Many will not admit that it is possible that so much importance can be attached to immersion. Voltaire could not conceive it possible, that such consequences as the Bible represents, could result from the eating of a little fruit. Are not a few drops as good as a fountain? “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.” ( 2Ki 5:12.) Ah! proud reason of mortal man! When wilt thou know thy place? When wilt thou learn that the blessing of the Lord maketh rich, however simple the channel through which it flows; whether it be the word of the mouth, the touch of the garment, the shadow of an apostle, or the liquid grave?

 

Reader, do you pead your sincerity, and your regard for the cause of Christ, while you disobey his commands? Might not Uzzah also have pleaded his sincerity, and regard for the ark of God? “And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.”. { 2Sa 6:6,7} Might not Peter have pleaded his sincerity, and regard for his Master’s life? When will infallible testimony suffice to teach us that, when we deviate from the TRUTH, no such pleas will screen us from the just rebuke: -“But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.?”  Mr 8:33.

 

Far be it that we should not appreciate virtue, truth and piety wherever found. But immersion is the law of the King and must be obeyed. Reader, do you charge us with uncharitableness and bigotry? What! for maintaining the laws of the Most High which he has spoken to us by his Son? Against whom then are thy charges, but against thy Maker! For our part when we hear our Saviour assuring us, that he that believeth and is immersed shall be saved-when we hear his inspired messengers commanding dying men to repent and be immersed every one of you into the name of Jesus Christ, FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS-when we are taught by the spirit of truth, that immersion doth also now save us-by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that God saves us by the washing (bath) of regeneration, (or immersion) AND the renewing of the Holy Ghost-although we do not say, that believers, who are not immersed, will not be finally saved, we do say for ourselves, that we dare not go to the judgment, neglecting this duty.

 

OF THE NUMBER NECESSARY TO CONSTITUTE A CHURCH.

 

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

 

To be gathered together in Christ’s name, is to assemble, in his spirit, to obey his commandments. Here then we plainly learn, that it is the duty and privilege of the lowest plurality of true disciples, thus to assemble, which is synonymous with saying, that the lowest plurality of disciples constitute a Christian assembly or church. The term church imports an assembly. If two are not an assembly, how many are?

 

If we depart from this plain rule of our Lord, how can we ever determine the requisite number to constitute a church? There is not a single passage which gives the least intimation that any number above the lowest plurality is essential.

 

To argue that the lowest plurality cannot be a church because they cannot have officers, is to oppose scriptural facts. We may as well say that the church at Jerusalem was not a church until the seven deacons were chosen: or that the numerous congregations of the saints to whom Paul applied this term  Ac 14:23, were not churches until elders were ordained.

 

 Mt 18:17, furnishes no objection. “In giving this grand law of the kingdom, it was surely necessary to suppose churches in the most complete state. Had our Lord adjusted the precept particularly to the smallest churches that could lawfully exist, it would not have suited larger churches. Had he commanded the offended to cast off the impenitent offender, with a design to shew that two might constitute a church, the precept would not have suited a church of three or any other number. But by suiting the precept to a church in its most complete state, it is suited to every church. In a church consisting of two, when the offended, after proper remonstrance, cuts off the offender from his fellowship, the spirit of this precept is completely fulfilled.”

 

It is enquired, what are two or three disciples to do when assembled? We reply, it is their duty and blessed privilege, in holy simplicity, to obey ALL the ordinances of their Master, which they can obey in their present circumstances, unless the Master has made exceptions. They are to come together, on the first day of the week, to break bread,  Ac 20:7, and to pray,  1Ti 2:1, and to sing praises,  Col 3:16, and to read the scriptures,  Col 4:16, and, of course, to teach and exhort one another,  1Co 14:31  Heb 10:25.

 

All these commands are given to disciples, not one of them to church officers exclusively. If they are not obligatory on the lowest plurality, on what number are they obligatory? If all are not obligatory on the lowest plurality, how can we prove that any are? If Jesus Christ has made no exception, we have no right to make any. Has he made any? He has not. Disciples have therefore no more right to neglect one of these, because they have not an elder or bishop, than they have to neglect another.

 

Here let us pause, and admire the beautiful simplicity of the spiritual temple. What divine excellency opens on that vision which can penetrate the mists, by which the wisdom that is foolishness with God, has obscured the Christian institutes! How wise and gracious are the adaptations of the laws of Jesus to all the varied circumstances and wants of his favored disciples! Any two or three, in any part of the earth, possessing the New Testament of their Lord, who will call none other master, are fully competent to enter immediately, and freely partake of all the provisions of the spiritual house. They need no bishop, or council, or synod, or pope to constitute them a church. Carnal wisdom may not acknowledge them, but their record is on high. In that word which abideth forever, they are recognized as the Temple of the living God, and the ground and pillar of the truth. While they walk in simple holy obedience to the word, their title to the high appellation of a Christian church will be sufficiently confirmed by the cheering blessing of him who has assured them, “where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.”

 

TIME OF ASSEMBLING.

 

“Upon the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them,”&c.  Ac 20:7. “When the same day at evening, being THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled,”&c.  Joh 10:19. “And after eight days again his disciples were within,”&c.  Joh 20:26. If we compare the last declaration with the words, “after three days he shall rise again,”there can be no reasonable doubt that it means the next first day of the week. It is evident that Paul tarried at Troas seven days for the purpose of meeting the disciples “on the first day of the week,”being “ready to depart on the morrow.”  Ac 20:7. The apostle, we are assured, taught the same things in every church. Consequently it was the practice of every obedient church to meet on the first day of the week to break bread, and observe all the ordinances of divine worship. There is a manifest propriety in the disciples of Jesus assembling on this day, on which, their blessed Lord, after being delivered for their offenses, was raised for their justification. Well may they on this memorable day, commemorate his dying love, and glorious triumph over the powers of darkness, uniting in the animating song, the Lord is risen indeed, Hallelujah!

 

OF THE ORDINANCES OF THE CHURCH.

 

“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep THE ORDINANCES, as I delivered them to you.”  1Co 11:2.

 

The term ordinance imports appointment, or institution, and is applied, in the above passage, to the general laws of Christ respecting divine worship, delivered by his apostles to the churches. It was used in the Old Testament in the same general sense, in application to all the commandments of the Mosaic dispensation.  Mal 3:7  1Co 11:2., is the only passage in our version of the New Testament in which the term occurs in reference to the laws of the New Covenant. There is no more scriptural or rational authority for applying it exclusively to immersion and the Lord’s supper, than for applying it exclusively to preaching and discipline. Some speak of the two ordinances, and some to the seven sacraments. By the adoption of such unscriptural terms, error has been perpetuated to the disparagement of the Kings’ laws. The prayers, praises and mutual exhortation of the assembled disciples, are as much church ordinances, as their mutual participation of the supper. It is true some of these only are private duties also. But to deny that prayer is a church ordinance, because it is the duty of the closet; is to deny that it is the law of Christ that we should pray when assembled, because we pray apart.

 

By “the ordinances,” the apostle undoubtedly meant the “ALL THINGS”which the Lord Jesus commanded his ambassadors to teach his disciples “to observe.”  Mt 28:20. To determine whether any thing is a church ordinance, we have only to look at the New Testament and observe, whether it is enjoined upon, or practiced by, the first churches.

 

These holy ordinances are the means which Jesus hath appointed for the sanctification of his disciples, and the conversion of his enemies. “They that gladly received his word, were immersed-and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”How plain is the order of the heavenly kingdom to the unsophisticated and unbiased mind! “Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were immersed.”After this they were embodied, and kept the ordinances as the apostles delivered them.  1Co 11:2. To add to; to take from; or in any respect to alter these ordinances, is to impeach the wisdom and beneficence of the Most High. What arrogance and presumption! Worms of the dust, practically changing the means which infinite wisdom hath appointed with incompetency, and claiming the superior ability to perfect them!

 

OF PRAYER.

 

“And they continued steadfastly in prayers.”  Ac 2:42. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,”&c.  1Ti 2:1. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints,”&c.  Eph 6:18 “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also.”  1Co 14:15. “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel,”&c.  1Ti 2:8,9. “Let him ask in faith nothing wavering,”&c. “After this manner therefore pray ye, Our Father,” &c.;  Mt 6:9.

 

Although our Father in heaven is of one mind, working all things after the counsel of his own will, and knoweth what we need before we ask him, yet will he be enquired of by his children to do the things which he has promised. For the word of the Lord we learn,

 

1. That it is the duty and high privilege of the assembled disciples of Jesus to continue steadfastly in prayers.

 

2. That, although the subsequent prayers of the inspired apostles-Ac 4:24, demonstrate that our Lord did not intend to confine his disciples to the very words of the prayer he gave them, it is our duty always to regard the excellent model, in respect to the manner in which we pray. Adoring the name of the Most High for his glorious perfections-praying for the enlargement of his kingdom-confessing our sins and supplicating forgiveness and the supply of our wants, in faith, in simplicity and brevity, without repetition-with the spirit and understanding-“all in the name of the Lord Jesus”-appears to be our duty and blessed privilege in respect to this ordinance.

 

3. The scriptural exhortations to the churches relative to this ordinance, clearly teaches us, that it is the duty of the brethren generally,  and not of church officers exclusively, to use their gifts in the prayers of the church at their stated meetings. Consequently, those churches that require or allow elders or deacons to perform this service exclusively, disobey an ordinance of Jesus Christ, and suffer great spiritual loss. Alas! How hath pride and formality, and a carnal desire to please the fastidious taste of worldly men robbed the churches of Christ of innumerable fervent and effectual prayers of righteous men which avail much!

 

4  _ 1Ti 2:8,9,12  _ 1Co 14:34, plainly teach the impropriety of Christian females praying or exhorting in the churches.

 

Beloved brethren, one error leads to another; by your neglecting your duty, your elders have been induced to make long prayers, too much confounding prayer and preaching. Several short fervent prayers are more edifying than a long one. Is there not another prevalent error? Do not many, particularly in the introduction of their prayers in promiscuous assemblies, declare to the Almighty, what they do not believe to be true, even that the whole assembly, believers and unbelievers, humble themselves before the Lord and adore him?

 

Standing and kneeling in prayer are both scriptural and proper attitudes. Is not that of sitting in cases of health, indolent and irreverent?  Ac 20:36 Lu 18:13.

 

We do not sufficiently appreciate the high and precious privilege of prayer. It appears to be the uniting link between earth and heaven. What encouragement hath our divine Master given us to lift our souls to the Father in heaven, and spread our wants and our woes before him. He is more ready to give us all that we need, than we are to give good gifts to our children. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us-and having a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith and come bodily to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

 

OF THE LORD’S SUPPER.

 

“Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to the disciples, and said, take eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  Mt 21:26-28. “And they continued steadfastly in-breaking of bread.”  Ac 2:42. “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.”  Ac 20:7. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.”  1Co 10:16. “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”  1Co 11:28,29. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”  1Co 11:26.

 

These passages of holy truth teach,

 

1. That the ordinance of the supper, is appointed as a permanent duty and privilege in the church, until our Lord shall come “the second time without sin unto salvation.”

 

2. That the commemoration of the death of the Son of God, (which is the grand foundation of our hope of immortality) by the breaking of the loaf, was a principal object of the assembling of the disciples on the first day of the week. Every ordinance of Jesus is important. None other, however, is so particularly expressed to have been a special object of their assembling as this. It is not recorded, (as modern practice would require) that when Paul preached unto the church at Troas, he administered the Lord’s supper; but, when the disciples came together to break bread Paul preached to them. Though they had an apostle for their preacher, the distinguishing object of their meeting was to celebrate the Saviour’s love in the appropriate institute.  1Co 11:20, confirms this truth, and shews that the professed object of their coming together was to eat the Lord’s supper although the carnal manner in which they ate and drank, was not recognized by the apostle as an observance of the ordinance. How inconsistent then is the modern practice of many churches who come together every first day of the week, and yet so frequently neglect the chief object, for which the first churches assembled on that day! When we read that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers;”that they “came together on the first day of the week to break bread;”and consider the manifest import of  1Co 11:20,33, we learn,

 

3. That it is the duty and privilege of disciples to observe this ordinance every “first day of the week.”If from the above considerations this does not appear to be a duty, in vain do we attempt to prove the observance of any particular ordinance on every first day of the week. When we hear of a church observing the supper on the first Lord’s day in the month; we at once conclude it is their custom to do so every first Lord’s day in the month. So when we read that the first churches came together to break bread on the first day of the week, we cannot with an propriety avoid the conclusion that this was their constant practice.  Ac 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, [ a]rtov] {24} and in prayers.”, refers to the daily ministration of food and not to the Lord’s supper. See  Ac 27:35, “And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, [ a]rtov,] and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.

 

4. The direction  1Co 11:33, “When ye come together to eat tarry one for another,”teaches us that they attended to this ordinance soon after they were assembled. This indeed comports with the truth already established from the New Testament that it was a special object of their assembling. It is certainly objectionable “to adopt an order which places the distinguishing object of meeting altogether in the background, and to make it appear that the chief object of meeting is to hear the bishop preach.!”

 

5. We learn from the New Testament that it is the duty of the churches to break bread although they may be destitute of officers. It is the duty of the churches to appoint elders and deacons as soon as they can, and it is the duty of elders to preside in all ordinances; but the disciples are not prevented in the word of the Lord from enjoying Christian ordinances, nor exempted from the duty of observing them until they have officers. It is an important principle, that officers in church and in state, are not appointed, because we have not a right to religious or civil privileges without them, but because we can enjoy those rights and privileges better with them.

 

The supper is one of the stated ordinances delivered to the churches  1Co 11:23. If they are justified in neglecting this ordinance when they have no elder, it must be, either because it is impracticable, or because they are prohibited, in the word of the Lord, in such circumstances. The former will not be pretended; a brother may be appointed to preside, and give thanks, or call upon some brother to give thanks for “the unspeakable gift” of divine love. In vain will the most zealous advocate for clerical dignity search the New Testament for a prohibition in this case. We have no more scriptural authority to make the presence of a bishop or deacon essential to the observance of the supper, than to make it essential to the observance of the ordinances of prayer, exhortation, or praise. The emblems of the body and blood of our dear Lord, need no consecrating virtue from official voice or hands, to enable two or three disciples to say,”the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? The cup which we bless (or for which we bless God) is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?”

 

Some “call for precept, or example, or explicit declaration.”They may as well demand the same to justify the churches assembling to pray or read the scriptures without elders. “There is none of all these to prove that the bishop himself should even preside in this ordinance. {25} We do not need it, because we know that he is the ruler, and therefore must preside in everything.”As plainly do we learn that it is the duty of the churches to observe ALL ordinances, in the best manner they can, if destitute of bishops, unless the apostles have made an exception. If Jesus Christ by them has made no exception, we have no right to make any.

 

Alas! to what an incalculable extent have the children of God been deprived of the rich provisions of their Father’s house, by the corrupting and degrading usurpations of ambitious lords over God’s heritage! When, Christian brethren, shall we return to “the simplicity which is in Christ?”

 

OF READING THE SCRIPTURES, TEACHING AND EXHORTATION.

 

“And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.”  Col 4:10. “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.”  1Th 5:27. “Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”  1Ti 4:13. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another,”&c. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth on teaching: or the that exhorteth on exhortation,”&c.  Ro 12:4-8.

 

These and innumerable other passages teach us, (in accordance with the prayer of our ascended Redeemer, “sanctify them through thy truth,”) the great importance of divine truth dwelling in us richly in all wisdom, that our “love may abound IN ALL KNOWLEDGE, that (we) may approve things which are excellent and be sincere and without offense until the day of Christ.”These and similar passages also teach us the means divine wisdom hath appointed for this important end.

 

1. The reading of the scriptures.

 

2. Teaching and exhorting one another in the stated assemblies of the churches.

 

It is the special duty of bishops or elders to labor in word and doctrine, and thereby “feed the church of the Lord.”{26} But the command to the disciples, to exhort one another when they come together, is as plain and imperative as the command to the bishop to teach. To the Hebrews the apostle wrote, “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER,”&c. To the church at Corinth, “desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification and exhortation and comfort.”{27} If therefore the whole church be come together into one place-if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”“I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ: that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift,”&c. He informs the church at Ephesus that the ascended Saviour “gave gifts unto men-for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

 

Mutual exhortation by the brethren generally, was not done in a corner. It was when “the whole church was come together in one place”  1Co 14:23 -It was when they assembled at their stated meetings on the first day of the week; for we read of no meetings of any church to attend to the ordinances of divine worship, except on that day.

 

How significant is the apostle’s figurative illustration of the great importance and blessed effects of a faithful use of the various gifts in the church. The exercise of ALL the gifts in the church, is as essential to its true spiritual prosperity, as the exercise of all the members of the body is to its health and usefulness. As there is no superfluous member in the natural body, so there is none in the spiritual. The head may as well say to the feet, you may not walk, because you cannot talk as I can, as the bishop say to the brethren, you may not exhort because you cannot teach as I do. “There are diversities of gifts”for the edifying of the body. But “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”To neglect the use of these gifts, is to impeach the wisdom, and to contemn the goodness of the ascended Saviour, who imparts them for the blessed purpose of our growth in grace and increasing union in truth and love. By the faithful and humble use of these varied gifts they will be improved. Thus the general fund of knowledge in the things of the holy kingdom, will be constantly increasing for the benefit of the whole church. “In this way, the churches may have a kind of community of goods. The knowledge of individuals becomes part of a common stock. The community has advantages peculiar to itself. All are enriched by it. The most advanced in a church may not only be refreshed, but informed, by those much upon the whole their inferiors in knowledge. Paul expected to be refreshed by the church of Corinth. Well then may the most learned bishops receive refreshment from the exhortations of their brethren. Nothing is more unfounded than the notion, that we cannot be benefited except when we learn something which we did not know before. It is not eminently calculated to confirm us in the truth, to hear unlearned men, in their own unadorned manner, speaking rationally and Scripturally upon subjects, the deepest and most interesting that can be presented to the consideration of men? Indeed, even the pride of philosophy could not spurn the massy ingots of rude common sense. It is only when unlearned men assume the airs of learning or oratory, that their address becomes disgusting. If the brethren speak the things which they fully understand, in their own manner, I do not think that they are likely to disgust even the infidel philosopher. It is likely rather that such a one will be astonished and convinced.”“Mr. Collins, whom Mr. Newton called the archbishop of the freethinkers, met one day with a plain countryman going to church. He inquired where he was going? To church, Sir. What to do there? To worship God. Pray, whether is your God a great or a little God? He is both, Sir. How can he be both? He is so great Sir, that the heaven of heavens cannot contain him, and so little that he can dwell in my heart. Collins declared, that the simple answer by the countryman had more effect upon his mind than all the volumes which the learned doctors had written against him.”

 

Alas! how many useful gifts have been buried and lost to the church, through the influence of pride, and of that wisdom is foolishness with God! Obedience to the commands to pray and exhort one another when the disciples come together, is necessary to spiritual fellowship. Are there not many churches containing hundreds of members, many of whom have scarcely more acquaintance of each others knowledge and experience in the things of the kingdom, than if they lived in another planet? if they would observe this ordinance of Jesus, calling none other Master, how would their hearts burn within them with holy fellowship and love. Their union would not be merely nominal. This duty involves a happy necessity to search the scriptures, that disciples may be able to teach and admonish one another.

 

We are also expressly taught that there is an important connection between this ordinance and the conversion of unbelievers. “If all prophecy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of ALL, he is judged of ALL, and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”  1Co 14:24,25.

 

Beloved brethren, have we not reason to tremble in the consideration of the awful fact of withholding from our fellow men who hasten to perdition, the very means God hath appointed for their salvation? How often, by divine favor, has the simple, affectionate, and pungent exhortation of some plain Christian, produced the desired effect in the conscience and heart of the sinner which the systematical discourse of the learned pastor failed to accomplish. Far be it that we should at all depreciate the importance of the bishop’s office, or his useful labors. As far be it that we should neglect and contemn other means which God hath appointed for the perfection of his church and the conversion of the world.

 

Is it objected that this ordinance has been abused? True, and what ordinance has not been? It is the abuse,  and not the proper observance of it that occasions disorder. To suppose the latter, is to charge God foolishly. The Lord’s supper was abused by the Corinthians. Is it therefore to be neglected? The ordinance we advocate was also abused in the same church. Did Paul therefore prohibit all teaching and exhortation except that of the elders? So far from it, in the very connection that he corrects the abuse, he remarks, “ye may all prophesy one by one that all may learn and all may be comforted.”He prohibits none but the females (which indeed he does very expressly and positively {28} from speaking in the church. It is the duty of the church to judge of its gifts, and for the elders to rule in conformity to such judgment, that all may be done to edification.

 

OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO THE WORLD.

 

We learn from the New Testament the duty of the churches to send forth the glad tidings to perishing men, and of every disciple to declare the holy truth as he has ability and opportunity.

 

“For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia,”&c.  1Th 1:8. “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.”  Ac 8:4. The latter were not the apostles, nor church officers exclusively, but the brethren of the church of Jerusalem, who were dispersed at the time of the persecution. Divine wisdom overruled the opposition of the powers of darkness to Emanuel’s rising kingdom. These redeemed and happy souls, glowing with divine love and the hope of immortality amid all their temptations, went forth declaring the cheering facts of Messiah’s death and resurrection, that “he that believeth and is immersed shall be saved,”and “he that believeth not shall be damned.”Out of the abundance of the heart, the heralds of salvation proclaimed the joyful sound in every place: in the synagogue, by the river and way side. They were not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, which they knew was the power and wisdom of God to every one that believeth, though Greeks profaned and Jews blasphemed.

 

Brethren, if we wish to impart the vivifying beams of celestial light throughout a benighted world, let us return to the simplicity and purity of the apostolic churches. As the members of the church of Jerusalem, by using and improving their gifts in the church, which is Christ’s college, were prepared to go forth to preach the word,  Ac 8:4, so now might thousands of missionaries be qualified for this glorious service, and raise, in the dark isles and gloomy continents, where superstition and idolatry spread their sable banners, the joyful acclamation, “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace-that publisheth salvation!”

 

OF SINGING PRAISES.

 

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.”  Heb 13:15. “In psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Eph 5:19,20. “In Psalms &c., singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord.”  Col 3:16. “I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also.”  1Co 14:15 1. There is no divine ordinance, which approximates so near to the worship of the perfectly blessed, as that of praise. This was the peculiar delightful employment of the sweet singer of Israel. This is the animating and purifying privilege of the redeemed on earth and particularly of the churches of Christ. O what a theme for holy, grateful, and cheering song, doth the glorious gospel of the blessed God present! A theme which angelic choirs love to celebrate. “And I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, worthy is the Lamb that was slain-Blessing and honor, and glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”  Re 5:11,13 2. The scriptures of truth plainly teach us to worship “the only true God and Jesus Christ whom (he) has sent.”The former, as the “one God and Father of all; OF whom are all things;”for whose “pleasure all things are and were created;”who only hath immortality;”besides whom “there is no God;”in the primary sense of that term, although it is figuratively applied to the Son and to other beings. “Who will not give his glory (the glory of infinite and independent perfection) to another.”The latter as the “one Lord Jesus Christ, BY whom are all things”-as “the Lamb that was slain, who hath redeemed us to God by his blood,”&c. -as “the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow-and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.”The worship of the Spirit of God, in distinction from the Father, is authorized by no divine precept or recorded practice of any prophet, or apostle, or saint, or angel in the holy book. There is not a single address to the Holy Spirit either of prayer or praise in all the Bible. Now, as it is contrary to that word which is truth, it cannot be acceptable to Him who will be worshipped in truth. All those Christians, who do not continue to worship the Most High according to the “precept of men,” have rejected this practice. Alas! the power of prejudice! While the saints and angels in heaven  Re 5:11,13 , are singing one doxology, which is plainly revealed for our imitation, many of the saints on earth are singing another! Many, after sitting down to sing God’s truth, will stand up to sing man’s tradition. It is truly amazing, that a rational mind can believe, that the scriptures of truth reveal an infinitely divine person, and yet never reveal a single precept or example for worshipping him! Is not this single consideration conclusive evidence that the Holy Spirit cannot be a distinct person, or being, from the Father. {29}

 

3. Although divine truth in general and the Christian’s experience of that truth may be proper matter of Christian song, it is obvious that the perfections of Jehovah, and particularly his wondrous love to guilty perishing man, in the unspeakable gift of his best beloved and only begotten Son, should be the principal theme of holy celebration in our grateful praises. Ought we not to sing more direct praise to God and the Lamb? The matchless doings of Jehovah formed the chief matter of songs of God’s prophets and people in ancient times. So should our songs abound with blessing, and honor, and glory to him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb.

 

4. The truth that singing the praises of the Most High, is one of the spiritual sacrifices which believers only can offer-that it is a direct and solemn profession of holy faith and love-that “God is a Spirit”and must be worshipped “in spirit and in truth,”and that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,”renders the expostulation of the Almighty to many modern religious societies awfully appropriate. “And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and the sick is it not evil? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar, and ye say, wherein have we polluted thee?”Unto the wicked, God saith, what hath thou to do to declare my statues, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in they mouth?”  Mal 1:8.

 

The apostolic command to the churches is, “be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness,”&c.? “Wherefore come out from among them, and BE YE SEPARATE saith the Lord,”&c. If there is any ordinance to which this solemn and imperative injunction applies, is it not applicable to that under consideration, in which, we come into the immediate presence of the God of truth with the assurance that we believe, and love and adore Him? Why are any disqualified for membership in the spiritual Temple? Is it not because they are disqualified to offer its spiritual sacrifices? The practice we reprove, represents that the unsanctified are qualified to offer one of these sacrifices, which is as holy as any other. Why then are they refused membership? If they are qualified for this, why are they not for all?

 

False worshippers of old, were charged with sin of lying unto God with their tongues, because “their heart was not right with him.”  Ps 78:36,37. In what view then must a jealous God consider the practice of his people, in encouraging such characters to offer their dead sacrifices, under the spiritual and purer dispensation? By what scripture or reason can we shew, that we are not as much obliged to require some evidence of Christian character in those whom we encourage to unite with us in this ordinance, as we are in those whom we receive to unite with us in the supper? Is not holy faith and love as essential to the former as to the latter? Is it not as positive and direct profession? Is it not even more so? Do we not more positively declare, “I love thy kingdom Lord.”“Lord thou hast seen my soul sincere?”

 

Will it be said that the impenitent are not to be considered as making these professions when they sing? If so, this is sufficient proof of the impropriety of the practice, for every intelligent Christian knows, that to make such profession, is the very design of the appointment of this ordinance in the church. But on what principle do we say that it is not to be considered as a profession? We allow that it is so, in respect to the saints. It is not so in respect to church members who are only nominal Christians? Is it not manifestly so in respect to all who unite their voices with the true worshippers? We might receive the impenitent to the Lord’s supper, as some have done, and excuse ourselves by saying we do not consider it as a profession of religion. The difference which may suppose exists between the two classes is the effect of custom, which is so infatuating as to prevent many Christians from seeing the great evil of encouraging men to draw nigh unto God with their mouths, and honor him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him.

 

Will it be said that when the choir or the congregation are invited, without discrimination, to engage in this ordinance, that they are invited to do so with right hearts? Now let us candidly examine this matter. On the Lord’s day morning the pastor, expecting to meet his brethren at the Lord’s table, discourses on the subject to the whole congregation. He faithfully teaches the requisite qualifications to an acceptable observance of it. He affectionately expresses his desire that all his hearers, by true faith in the great Mediator, may be prepared to participate in this privilege, but that faithfulness to Christ and their own souls requires him not to invite them to come until they give evidence that they repent and believe. Consistently with this plain truth, when his discourse is ended, he invites, not the whole congregation, but his Christian brethren only, to come to the table of the Lord.

 

In the afternoon, he discourses on the subject of singing to the praise of God. He faithfully teaches the requisite qualifications for the acceptable performance of this duty also. He declares the necessity of holiness of heart, and that without this, the sacrifice is an abomination, and the profession a mockery. But instead of telling those who give no evidence of piety, as in the morning, that he cannot invite them to unite in the ordinance until they manifest repentance and faith, he has no sooner ended these solemn declarations, than he invites them to do what he has assured them is an abomination to the Lord, if they do it in their present character of ignorance. Now we ask, is this distinction founded in truth, or in an antiChristian custom? If he is excused in the latter case, because he tells them it is their duty to sing with the spirit, why would he not be equally excused if he invited them to the table, with the caution to come in the exercise of faith?

 

Will it be said that the supper is a special church ordinance? Where in the New Testament do we learn this? And if we did, where do we find authority for unbelievers to unite in any ordinance, in that kingdom which eternal truth declares they cannot even enter,  until born of water and of the Spirit; and in which they have no part, while their heart is not right in the sight of God?

 

Is it said that there is a positive requirement that we should discern the Lord’s body, and the awful declaration that he that eateth unworthily eateth condemnation to himself? So have we the positive requirement to make melody in our heart unto the Lord when we sing his praise, and the equally awful declaration that he “will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

 

Men will resent the proffer from each other, of what they presume to offer to the Almighty. If a man, who is constantly unrighteously opposing our interests, comes to us with false professions of regard, do we not say, your pretension is an abomination to me; your hypocrisy, I cannot away with, it is iniquity?

 

How long, my brethren, shall we encourage the profanation of the name of the Most High, to gratify the ears of worms of dust?

 

We have no authority from the New Testament to use musical instruments in the worship of the church. An appeal to the example of Jewish worship in vindication of this innovation, will serve equally to justify the introduction of dancing.  2Sa 6:14, “And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.”.

 

OF THE FELLOWSHIP OR CONTRIBUTION.

 

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.”  Ac 2:42. “For to their power, I bear record, yea and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves praying us with much entreaty, that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”  2Co 8:2-4. “As it is written, he hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor-for the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; -they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all,”&c.  2Co 9:9-13. “Now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints; for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.”  Ro 15:25,26. “But to do good, and to communicate, forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”  Heb 13:16.

 

The same Greek word, is in the above passages translated fellowship, contribution, distribution, and to communicate. We understand all these passages as referring to the same subject—See Below:-

 

[Editor: Strong‘s Numbers: -(2842) koinwni>a, —koy-nohn-ee’-ah; from (2844) (koinwno>v); partnership, i.e. (literal) participation, or (social) intercourse, or (pecuniary) benefaction: —(to) communicate (-ation), communion, (contri-) distribution, fellowship]

 

Among the various blessed effects of the holy truth on the hearts of those who believe it, we contemplate with admiration, the spirit of love and benevolence. To this powerful spirit of mutual affection, and not to any positive law, we trace the community of goods, which prevailed to a considerable extent, for a short time in the church at Jerusalem. That this was only a temporary voluntary arrangement, and not a positive law, or the practice of the first churches in general, appears from the following considerations.

 

1. Peter said to Ananias, respecting his land, “while it remained was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?”

 

2. Paul writes to Timothy, who was to set things in order in the churches, “if any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.”If in the churches generally, there had been an entire community of goods, this direction would not only have been superfluous, but it would have been impracticable.

 

Christian love produces a fellowship or communion, not only in spiritual, but in temporal things, at least so far as to excite us cheerfully to impart to our poor brethren as they have need. To do good unto all men, and especially unto the household of faith, as we have opportunity, is a positive revealed duty, and an essential characteristic of a good steward of the manifold grace of God. “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” ( 1Jn:3:17.) “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” { 1Jo 3:18,19} “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.”

 

True love alone makes this duty a privilege and delight. It is in the exercise of this godlike benevolence we find the verification of what our Lord hath said unto us, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” This makes us the cheerful giver whom God loveth. The apostle enforces this duty by the same significant and beautiful figurative illustration, as he employed, in enforcing the use of gifts. “If one member suffers all suffer with it, if one is honored all rejoice.”Blessed spirit of sympathy and love! What a scene would this vile world of selfishness present, did it universally prevail! Alas! how little doth it yet prevail even in the churches!

 

It is enforced by the most affecting example. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

 

Benevolent Redeemer! breathe upon us thine own spirit of love, that it may be said of Christian churches, neither was their any among them that lacked. {30}

 

OF FASTING

 

When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites,”&c.  Mt 6:16. “Can the children of the bride chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast.”  Mr 2:19,20. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them they sent them away.”  Ac 13:2,3. “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting.”&c.  Ac 14:23. “That ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.”  1Co 7:5.

 

A temporary abstinence from food, as a religious duty, has been practiced by the people of God in all ages. The holy prophets and the children of Israel on particular occasions of the righteous judgments of the Almighty, and when they were sensible of their departures from him, humbled themselves, and fasted before the Lord. Fasting was also observed by the first churches on particular important occasions, on the appointment or ordination of elders.  Ac 14:23. Also, when persons were sent out from the churches to preach the word of life to perishing men.  Ac 13:2,3. We learn also from  1Co 7:5, that it is the occasional duty of individuals.

 

Although we ought ever to be clothed with humility, and have constant need to confess our sins before God, and seek his forgiving love, in the name of Jesus, fasting is not a stated duty, but is to be attended to as the providence of God, the particular state of the church, and of individual Christians, may require. Our Lord directs us to avoid all unnecessary publicity when attending to this duty, that we “appear not unto men to fast but unto (our) Father which is in secret.”When observed with discretion, it is conducive both to physical and spiritual health.

 

It is not in the province of civil governors to appoint fasts, or in any manner to direct or regulate the time or manner of divine worship.

 

If it was, the constant formal appointments of days for special fasting and thanksgiving, without any variation to confirm to the providences of the Almighty, must be acknowledged to be objectionable, by everyone who has a scriptural understanding of this duty.

 

OF DISCIPLINE

 

“Do ye not judge them that are within? Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”  1Co 5:12,13. “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise, ye ought rather to forgive him, &c.- Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.”  2Co 2:6,8 .“ Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  Ga 6:1, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”  Jas 5 19,20 .

 

As the scriptures of truth assure us that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God,”and that “except a man be born again, he cannot see”it, we are as plainly instructed that such persons ought to be excluded, as that they ought not to have been received. He who is not fit to enter the kingdom, is surely not fit to remain there. To retain him, when the evidence of his character is unquestionable, is as much a false profession on the part of the church, as on the part of the individual. The church profess to receive and love him as a member of the spiritual body of Christ, when they believe the contrary. They bear false practical testimony before the world concerning the character of the church of God. If in any case that question of fearful rebuke, “will ye act deceitfully for God?” is appropriate, it is peculiarly so in this. Nor is this all. The individual, who is the proper subject of righteous discipline, is deprived of the divinely appointed means for his reformation and salvation: but of whom will his blood be required?

 

OF PRIVATE OFFENCES.

 

“If thy brother shall 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 a heathen man and a publican.”  Mt 18:15-17.  How doth the divine wisdom and goodness of our blessed Master shine forth in these directions? What an incalculable amount of reproach to the Christian name; of strife and animosity among brethren; and of perplexing labor in the churches; would the observance of these precepts have prevented? How plain is our first duty in case of a private offense. Before a word on the subject is uttered to another, go to thy brother, not in the spirit of domineering accusation, but of meek and affectionate entreaty, and, in all the faithfulness of love, tell him his fault “between thee and him alone.” Consider thyself lest thou also be tempted, and humbly and earnestly endeavor to restore and gain thy brother. Overcome evil with good.

 

Have we not reason to believe that the failure in the first act, is often to be attributed, as much to the improper spirit and manner of the offended, as to the obstinacy of the violated, and the offender, instead of being restored, excited to sin more, by the offended person divulging the matter first to others, and that in an exaggerated manner?

 

If our brother is not gained by the first prescribed act, we are still to keep the matter secret, and take “one or two more.”If he hear them, the matter ends there, and is not to be communicated to any other person. If this fails, “tell it unto the church.”If he neglect to hear the church, our fellowship with him as a Christian is to cease. Yet we are not then released from the obligation of endeavoring to restore the wretched wanderer to the fold of God. From the decision of the church, our Lord allows of no appeal to any council, or other tribunal on earth.

 

OF PUBLIC OFFENCES.

 

“Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”  1Ti 5:20.

 

It is obvious that the honor of Christ and the holy character of his church require, in case of public offenses, that the discipline, whatever it may be, should be public. No more so, however, than the offense. If an offense is committed in presence of any particular number of persons, and such confession and reparation made at once as the word of God demands in the case, the knowledge of the offense ought not to extend beyond those persons. This the spirit of our Lord’s directions requires. But if, by any means, the knowledge of the offense should extend beyond the first company, the confession if possible must be equally extensive.

 

In all cases where offenses are publicly committed or known, public discipline is requisite. The apostle instructed the Corinthian church to put away the incestuous person when they were gathered together, which we are certainly to understand as referring to their stated meeting on the first day of the week, from which we know by  1Co 14:23, that unbelievers were not excluded. We have no scriptural authority for preventing any person from observing this ordinance. It would be putting our most important light under a bushel. Christian churches are to manifest unto all, that they have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Private church meetings for the execution of discipline are unscriptural and injurious to the cause of Christ. Whatever means may be used in investigating the case, and preparing it for a decision, the execution of discipline, whether rebuke and confession, or exclusion be requisite, ought to be as public as any other ordinance of the church. Thus will the holiness of God’s house be manifested unto all.

 

The honor of Christ and the peace and unity of the church require that the members act in concert in cases of discipline. The apostle directed the church, not the elders,  to put away the incestuous person. It is indeed the duty of elders to preside in this, and every ordinance; but the whole church are to act in the case. The apostle represents the punishment of the incestuous person  2Co 2:6, to have been inflicted of many.

 

The purity of Christ’s house requires discipline to be observed on the first day of the week. It may happen that on the Lord’s day morning a brother will be found to be totally unworthy of a place in the church. -How can the church hold fellowship with him, when he is known by all to be a wicked person? If a case is doubtful, the church indeed cannot proceed to put him away, but if the fact is substantiated, the execution of discipline will occupy but a few minutes.

 

We learn from the apostolic direction to the Corinthian church  2Co 2:6-8, the duty of forging, and receiving to our fellowship, all penitent offenders. Our Lord requires us to do this, seventy times seventy; and assures us, that if we do not, from the heart, forgive our brethren their trespasses, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us.

 

ON LOVE, UNION, AND FORBEARANCE.

 

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”  Joh 13:34. “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul:”  Ac 4:32. “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”  Php 2:2. “And above all things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”  Col 3:14. “Salute every saint in Christ Jesus.”  Php 4:21. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  1Co 1:10. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, 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; endeavoring to keep the unity of one spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one immersion, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  Eph 4:1-6. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye,”&c.  Ro 14:1. “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”  Ro 15:7.

 

The true bond of the Christian churches is holy love. This blessed affection is founded in the eternal truth of the gospel. Disciples of Jesus love one another for the truth’s sake which dwelleth in them and shall be in them forever. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”Although founded in truth, it is a union of heart, without which, uniformity of opinion avails nothing. This heaven born charity, which constitutes the felicity of all the holy hosts, has united in one indissoluble bond the Gentile and the Jew, the polite and the rude, the prince and the peasant. This is the vital principle of the one body. It is this that unites all the members of that one body to the head, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. God is love: and “he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God and God in him.”

 

While, in imitation of our Father in heaven, we are to exercise benevolent affection towards all men, even to our enemies, we are to cherish a peculiar love of complacency towards all who bear the blessed image of the heavenly. How diverse is Christian from sectarian love. The latter is contracted and selfish. The former is a pure and blessed principle, flowing spontaneously from the holy heart towards all the redeemed family; resting most copiously on those, of whatever name, who bear most of the image of the perfect Saviour. It is an operative principle. True Christians “love not in word and in tongue” only, “but in deed and in truth.” It was the practical exhibition of this blessed principle in benevolent action, that excited the exclamation, in the purer age of the church, “see how these Christians love one another!”The happy subjects of this affection bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. It is this which unites the babes, the young men, and the fathers, blessing them with sweet fellowship, and exciting them to harmonious cooperation in the service of their Master, until they all come “in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man,”in him.

 

To “grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ,”i.e.,  of the truth of Jesus, is the constant duty and privilege of his disciples. For this he offered his supplications to his Father; and for this he offered his life on the cross. “For their sakes, I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth. The church is the school of Christ. Jesus is the teacher and master. If we will know none other, we shall make happy progress in heavenly knowledge. Our union in the truth will be continually increasing until “we know even as also we are known.”

 

The inspired apostles, imbibing the spirit of their Saviour, prayed, and labored, and suffered to promote the same holy object, the perfect union of the one body in the truth. They were often grieved by the divisions and dissentions of the disciples. To the apprehension of any inaction, or dead formality, resulting from their all speaking the same thing, and being “perfectly united together in the same judgment,” concerning the things of the kingdom, they were utter strangers. They lived and died to promote this union. O that we may have divine favor to imitate their blessed example! Beloved brethren, let us turn away from darkness unto light, from all the creeds and covenants and standards of fallible men, unto the most holy testimony, even to that word “which liveth and abideth forever.” Then, as lines in a circle, as we approximate towards the sun of righteousness, the center of truth, we shall approximate towards each other.

 

The duty of aiming at perfect union in the truth, is perfectly consistent with the divine precept to receive the weak in faith, and to forbear one another in love. We are commanded to receive one another as Christ also received us. How has Christ received us? Not as perfect in knowledge and obedience, but as the true and willing disciples who desire to know and do the will of his Father. We assume the prerogative of Zion’s King if we make more essential to membership in his church than he has made so. We rob him of that prerogative, if we make less.

 

As the apostle writes of the strong,  as having knowledge, it is obvious, that the weak, we are to understand those who, in some respects, are ignorant or erroneous.

 

Two reasons are assigned for receiving each other, and forbearing one another in Christian love.

 

1. God hath received us.

 

2. What we do we do unto the Lord.

 

It is important to observe, that the apostle enjoins mutual forbearance, not because the errors of the weak were small in comparison with other errors not fundamental, but because God had received them, and because what they did they did unto the Lord. The first principle would have been one of very difficult application, and it is a remarkable fact, that they who adopt it, have never been agreed how far to extend it. The second principle is of easy application. It requires us to receive all who appear to have been received of the Lord, unless he has made an exception.

 

It is the practice of some churches of immersed disciples to make, what we apprehend to be, a most unwarrantable and pernicious distinction between errors of faith and practice not fundamental. They make some of these, matters of forbearance, and others, they will not. Now we ask, do the scriptures of divine truth recognize such a principle? Does the inspired apostle give the least intimation of such a distinction when teaching the nature and ground of Christian forbearance? Is it not one of the innumerable corrupt offspring of the creeds of human tradition, which have so profanely thrust out from the sanctuary the law of the Lord, and severed the one body into which “by one Spirit,”we have been immersed?  1Co 12:13. To require the babe in Christ to understand, and give assent to all the articles of a human formulary, some of which, even the fathers can scarcely digest, and to make this a condition of receiving him into the church, is no less preposterous, than for a mother to refuse her infant the breast, and the father to exclude it from the family, because it cannot eat strong meat! To require the new convert, to subscribe to, he knows not what, is still worse. The church is the school of Christ. What should we think of a school-master who should refuse to receive a little boy into his school, who was desirous to learn, because he did not know as much as some young men whom he had instructed for years?

 

The scriptural doctrine of forbearance is in perfect harmony with truth. Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but in the truth. Although we are required to receive the weak or erroneous, whom God hath received, because they do what they do unto the Lord, i.e.,  because they are not willfully disobedient, sincerity alters not the nature of error; nor does it render it innocent, where the means of knowing better are possessed. Our errors are to be attributed, not to the ambiguity of the word of the Lord, which would be an impeachment of divine wisdom and goodness, but to our own prejudice and imperfection. While the disciples of Jesus are to forbear one another in love, in respect to matters in which they are not agreed, and harmoniously unite in the things in which they are of one mind, forbearance requires no such violation of truth, or neglect of duty, as is implied in our uniting with our brethren in anything we believe to be wrong, and in neglecting to do what we understand to be right. Matters of indifference, or what have no moral character, such as meat, &c., which, if we eat, we are not the better, and if we eat not, we are not the worse, are an exception to the rule. In such cases, and in such only, we are required to abstain from acting according to our own opinion, for the sake of our weak brother, lest we cause him, by our example, to offend and do that which he considers wrong; “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”{32}

 

It is a plain and important principle that whatever others believe and practice, we must serve the Lord, by believing what we understand to be his truth, and by obeying whatever we understand him to command. This however we are to do in humility and forbearance, remembering that we see now through a glass darkly, and know but in part.

 

There is an important difference between proving any doctrine or ordinance to be true,  and proving it to be essential to membership in the Christian church. This difference has been to much overlooked. If the belief of every doctrine, and the practice of every ordinance of truth, is essential to membership, perfection is essential. Perfection is a duty, for it is a command. We know that it is not essential to membership. Paul himself had not attained to it when he wrote to his brethren.

 

OF ELDERS.

 

“And when they had ordained them ELDERS in every church, and had prayed with fasting,”&c.  Ac 14:23. “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless-for a bishop must be blameless,”&c.  Tit 1:5-7. “The elders which are among you I exhort, feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.”  1Pe 5:1-3. “A bishop [Editor: or what we presently call an elder of the congregation.] —A bishop, given to hospitality, apt to teach-patient-not covetous; one that ruleth well in his own house-not a novice,”&c. “Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are without,”&c. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account,”&c.  Heb 13:17. “Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And the laborer is worthy of his reward.”  1Ti 5:17,18.

 

For these passages, we learn: -

 

1. That the terms elder and bishop are descriptive of the same office.  

 

See  Tit 1:5-7 2. That the bishop’s office extends but to one church. This is evident from the fact that they ordained them elders (or bishops) “in every church:”  Ac 14:23 -and “in every city.”  Tit 1:5-7. That there was but one church in a city, is evident from the apostolic addresses to the church,  not churches at Rome, Ephesus. &c. There is not a single precept or example authorizing the ordination of a bishop over a plurality of churches. Instead of this we very plainly learn,

 

3. That they had a plurality of elders or bishops in the same church.  

 

We read of the elders of the church at Jerusalem  Ac 15:4, of the church of Ephesus-Ac 20:17, and that elders were ordained in every church.  Ac 14:23. “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church,”&c.  Jas 5:14. It is incontrovertible, that a presbytery in each church is a divine institution, and that it is the duty of all Christian churches to appoint a plurality of elders as soon as practicable. In this provision we may discern the wisdom and goodness of the ascended Saviour. The arduous and various duties of this office, in a church of numerous members cannot be adequately discharged by an individual. Although all elders must possess, in some degree, the requisite qualifications, one will be more eminent in some particular gift than another. This we are taught in the passage, “let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor (or support) especially they who labor in word and doctrine.”Although all elders must be apt to teach, some excel others, and consequently it is the duty of such to labor more in word, and doctrine; while another may excel in some other useful qualification. The harmonious co-operation of these various gifts, conduces to the edification of the church. No church of numerous members is properly or scripturally organized without a plurality of bishops. To all objections, however plausible, which may be offered in opposition to this, or any other divine institute, it is sufficient to reply, “what is the chaff to the wheat?”

 

4. We are taught the requisite qualifications of a bishop or elder. He “must be blameless.”  

 

He must be a holy man, possessing and manifesting the pure spirit, and practicing the sacred precepts of that word which he preaches unto others. He must be an example to the flock, or he profanes his office whatever his attainments may be.

 

He must have knowledge of the word and doctrine of the Lord. The word of truth and life must dwell in him richly in all wisdom. He must not be “a novice”or new convert. The neglect of the churches, to encourage the use of all their various gifts of teaching and exhortation, has led to the evil of thrusting into the elder’s office, exhorters who are not “apt to teach,” and teachers who do not possess other requisite qualifications for office.

 

He must be “apt to teach.” In addition to the knowledge of the holy truth, he must have a talent to communicate it in an edifying manner unto others. A knowledge of the word of God in his own tongue, and an ability to communicate, explain, and enforce it; is all that is essential in respect to learning. Whatever advantage may be derived from the knowledge of other languages, and of the sciences in general, it is adding to the word of God to make such knowledge essential to the elders office. He who possesses the scriptural qualifications plainly described in First Timothy, the third chapter, is worthy of it, although he may be ignorant of heathen classics and dead languages. “It has a very plausible appearance to promote the advantage of gospel churches, to insist on the necessity of a learned ministry; but in reality it disqualifies those who are here marked out to office by the Holy Spirit. The invariable effect which this principle has hitherto had, and which it is still likely to produce, is to diminish the importance of the qualifications which are absolutely required. It will ever have a tendency to appoint to office learned men, or at least those who have gone through the forms of learning, in preference to those who possess the pastoral qualifications in a much superior degree.”

 

“Experience has proved that men who cannot be called learned have made able and excellent bishops, many of them much superior in usefulness and general ability, to others who have excelled in learning.”

 

Some suppose that a knowledge of the original languages is essential, that the pastor may be able to correct the errors of the translation. If so “the translators of the Bible themselves were not qualified for the pastoral office, so far as concerns learning. If it is necessary that all bishops now be able to correct the errors of the translation, they who committed these errors were certainly disqualified.”The errors of the common version are not of such magnitude as this principle implies. If they were, it is high time that it should be rejected

 

5. In the word of truth we learn the office work of a bishop.

 

Bishops are not appointed in the Christian church because they are essential, either to the existence of a church, or to the observance of ordinances. They are appointed for the edification of the churches; and that all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord may be observed in a more perfect manner: as a governor is appointed in a state, not because the people have not a right to their civil privileges without him, but that, in consequence of such appointment, they may enjoy them better.

 

The common opinion that the disciples have no right to observe some of the ordinances without an elder has no foundation in scripture or reason. The right of disciples to immersion and the Lord’s supper, is no more necessarily connected with the elder’s office, than the right of the citizens of the state of Connecticut to enjoy their civil liberties, is necessarily connected with the governor’s office. The right, in both cases, exists antecedent to the official appointments. “What makes the deacon’s office necessary? Not that money cannot be gathered and given, before they are appointed; but because the poor never will be as well attended to, as when there is an office for this particular purpose. Why then should a church want the ordinances of the Lord Jesus, till they obtain stated pastors? The nature and design and importance of the pastoral office does not require it-analogy to the nature and design of office in general does not require it. If it is required, then it must be by the express command of the Lord Jesus-no such command is to be found. No such restriction then is lawful. How unreasonable is it to lay it down as an axiom, that the necessity and importance of the pastoral office requires that there should be certain ordinances which depend upon it; and then without a single sentence upon the subject in all the book of God, to set about drawing a line of distinction, showing what may, and what may not be attended to by a church without pastors? This is certainly to interpose the authority of men, in the room of that of the Lord Jesus. If a church without pastors may observe any ordinance, they may observe all, if none are excepted. In attending to every ordinance there must be some to preside. Why should it be lawful for one to preside in any one ordinance, and not in another? What is there extraordinary in the supper? The holiness of the ordinance cannot make the distinction, for all God’s ordinance are equally holy. Other cannot forbid churches without pastors to attend to this ordinance, for order is as much concerned in every other ordinance-Presiding in this ordinance is not peculiarly difficult; it is not near so much so as in discipline. Can one pray on other occasions, and not be able to give thanks for the bread and cup?”

 

“Nothing can be more void of foundation, than that these views suppose the bishop’s office to be superfluous, or not highly important. Though a church is deprived of none of the ordinances by wanting a bishop, it wants much when it wants official oversight and teaching. The children of a family may instruct each other when deprived of a teacher; but does not this imply that they are likely to be much better taught, and to make much greater progress, when a proper teacher is obtained? There is no occasion to starve the sheep, in order to show the necessity of the shepherd.”What then is the office work of a Christian bishop?

 

He is to “feed the church of the Lord,”with the bread of life, the holy truth of God’s word, by which the redeemed are sanctified and prepared for the service and enjoyment of their Lord. With this word of truth, he is to instruct the ignorant, comfort the afflicted, confirm the wavering, strengthen the weak, animate the slothful, and warn the unruly. He is to preach, not himself, not his own imaginations; not to honor himself-he is to preach “Christ Jesus the Lord,”considering himself a servant of the church for Jesus’ sake.

 

He is to watch for souls as one who must give account; considering those to whom he may, by divine favor, be instrumental of spiritual and eternal advantage, as his joy and crown. For this important purpose he must, as a faithful shepherd, know the condition of the flock; he must continually acquaint himself with the spiritual state of those for whose edification and salvation he labors; that, like a wise servant, he may know how to give to each a portion in due season.

 

He is to rule the church of God, according to the laws of Christ. He has no legislative power. He is only to enforce the laws of the King, which are all to be found in the New Testament. Faithful in his high calling, he is constantly to maintain, in unison with his brethren, that holy discipline, which is essential to the true character of the church of God.

 

As a minister of the living God, and an occupant of the highest and most important office which man can sustain on earth, he is to perform all these duties, with all that holy solicitude, disinterested love, and untiring patience, which the glory of God, the value of souls, and the tremendous retributions of eternity, are fitted to inspire.

 

6. In respect to the ordination or appointment of elders,  

 

we read that the apostles ordained “elders in every church,”  Ac 14:23, and that Titus, who had authority from the apostle to set things in order in the churches according to apostolic direction, was to ordain elders in every city.  Tit 1:5.

 

Apostles and evangelists have no successors. They were extraordinary officers. No living man can claim authority to set things in order in the churches. The apostles are not directing us. They being dead yet speak in the holy word. It is evident that bishops were ordained over a single church. Their office of jurisdiction was confined to that church. As it is their official duty to preside in all ordinances in the church of which they are overseers, it is consequently their duty to preside in the ordination of all officers whether deacons or elders, in their respective churches. But here is their boundary. We find no authority in the New Testament for elders appointing or ordaining officers in another church. Saul and Barnabas were set apart to the work of going forth to declare the glad tidings by the teachers in the church of Antioch in which they were members.  Ac 13. It was doubtless “the presbytery”of the church to which Timothy belonged, that laid hands on him.  1Ti 4:14.

 

The right of choosing officers is somewhere; as it is not out of the church, it must be in it. “Why,”asks a scriptural writer, “may not a church, which has not bishops, appoint certain of their own number to act in the formal ordination of its office-bearers, as well as to formally admit, rebuke, or exclude members? There would be the same propriety in sending for such to appoint officer bearers. Bishops have no power out of their own churches. Nothing which they do abroad can be considered as done in right of office. A church can appoint persons, according to the will of the Lord Jesus, to do all things, belonging to the bishop’s office in itself; but it cannot give them power to do similar things in any other church. If one church has not power to choose office-bearers for another church, neither have the bishops of one church a right to ordain them. Ordination by persons appointed out of the church itself, appears strange to many, only because they have been long accustomed to clerical ordination. It is rational, and agreeable to analogy in the conferring of office, even in temporal things. When one king receives his crown from another, it implies vassalage. I am persuaded, if the Prince of Wales lives to succeed to the crown he will rather have it placed upon his head by some of his own subjects, than by the greatest potentates. The nation, on such an occasion, will not find it necessary to seek the cooperation of the emperors of the north and south.”If a church possesses the right of choosing officers, must it not possess the right to attending to that ceremony which is the instituted expression of that choice? It is an important principle that it is the duty and privilege of each church to obey the laws and enjoy the advantages of the heavenly kingdom without the control or interference of any other church, or presbytery, or council, or synod, or pope.

 

Among all the unhallowed causes which have conduced to the corruption of the churches, from the simplicity of their divine Master, the pride and vanity of a dominant clergy has exceeded. To the disgrace of their profession, these lords over God’s heritage, have robbed the disciples of the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free, and set themselves far above the sphere assigned to Christian bishops in the New Testament. There is not an ordinance of Jesus which their pride and covetousness has not perverted. Alas! how has the beautiful simplicity of the Christian institutes been marred by these marks of the beast! Assuming most arrogantly the exclusive right of administering all ordinances in all circumstances, they have persuaded the ignorant multitude that their presence and ministration was absolutely essential to their acceptable observance. Happy would it be my brethren, if this darkness was past, and the true light now shined. It is far otherwise. By the continued prevalence, to a considerable degree, of this unscriptural principle, Christians are deprived of their rightful privileges and their Lord of their obedience.

 

7. The apostolic word teaches us the duty of the churches towards their elders.

 

“We beseech you brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.”“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they must give account.”

 

The constant solicitude and arduous labors of those, who with the pure motive of holy love, engage in this “good work,”call for the continual affectionate sympathies, grateful esteem, fervent prayers, and holy subjection of those for whose everlasting welfare they labor. An accusation against them is not to be received “but before two or three witnesses.”It is the duty of the brethren to confirm by their exhortations, the truth and importance of the “word of doctrine,”in which it is the official work of the elders to labor; and to establish, by their co-operation, the holy government and discipline, which it is the official duty of bishops to maintain.

 

It is also the plainly revealed duty of the churches to communicate of their carnal things, to those who minister to them in spiritual things, according to their ability, and the need of those who are over them in the Lord. It may however be impracticable now, as it was for the church at Ephesus, wholly to support elders by their contributions. The apostolic direction, enforced by his own example, is plain in such a case. What is it? Did he require them to have but a single elder that the church might be able entirely to support him and his family? Did he direct these elders to seek out for office connected with larger salaries? Nothing of all this. In the spirit of disinterested love he said, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, , it is more blessed to give than receive.”Elders may occupy very useful stations, where their brethren have not the ability to contribute to their entire support. Pride and luxury is a disgrace to the office; but it is not at all incompatible business to provide in whole or in part for themselves and those of their household. A Christian bishop, and a lord in lawn, are very different characters. It must be remembered however that necessarily engaging in secular business for a temporal support and pursuing such business with the covetous desire to lay up treasures on earth, are very different objects, and actions of a very diverse moral character. It is desirable when practicable, that bishops should give themselves wholly to the work of their important office.

 

OF DEACONS.

 

“There arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, it is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore brethren look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”  Ac 6:1-3. “Paul-to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”  Php 1:1.

 

We here learn that the office work of a deacon is to take care of the poor in the church. As deacons were appointed in the churches generally, and their qualifications particularly described with those of bishops, it is evident that it was not a mere temporary office arising out of the peculiar curcumstances of the church at Jerusalem. The divine wisdom and goodness in the permanent appointment of such an office, plainly appears from the fact that the poor we have always with us. That holy love which cements the spiritual body of Christ, manifests itself in supplying the wants of his members, many of whom though rich in faith, are poor in this world. It is the duty of all the favored recipients of the divine bounty to do good unto all men, and especially unto the household of faith; this blessed labor of love, to make distribution unto every man according as he has need, is the peculiar duty of Christian deacons.

 

Deacons must be “grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.”They must “first be proved, then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.”

 

There is a peculiar blessing connected with the faithful discharge of the duties of this office. “For they that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

 

From  Ac 6:3, it is obviously the duty of the brethren of the church, to select deacons. By prayer, and the laying on of the hands of the elders of the church, they are to be set apart unto this work. If a church is destitute of pastors, brethren may be appointed for this service. Although the laying on of the hands of the apostles was sometimes attended with the communication of miraculous gifts, the ceremony now can be considered only as a solemn sign of setting apart to a particular work. That it is proper to practice this although miraculous gifts have ceased, appears from the fact that the laying on of hands was not exclusively an apostolic act, and, that it was practiced as a sign of setting apart to a particular office or work, when no miraculous gift was imparted. See  Ac 13:1-3.

 

SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD.

 

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”

 

While the benevolent spirit of the gospel requires us to imitate our Father in heaven who is good to all, and imparts his mercies to the unthankful and the evil, the holy spirit of the heavenly kingdom, and its imperative precepts, prohibit all alliance of the friends and enemies of God in the things which pertain to this sacred community. The first and indispensable principle to any participation here, is reconciliation to the holy truth. No speculative knowledge, no fair moral exterior, no profession, can reverse the decree of truth, “thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: FOR THY HEART IS NOT RIGHT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.”

 

Alas! how long hath the house of the Lord, and his ordinances been profaned, and made the scoff of the infidel, by the preposterous alliance of the friends and enemies of the Lord Jesus upon the pretence of advancing his cause. Who ever heard of any earthly kingdom, forming an alliance with another kingdom, while warring against each other? There is now war in heaven, in the church of Christ; Michael and his angels, and the devil and his angels are in hostile array and determined conflict. All the carnally minded, whatever may be their professions or their hopes, are the messengers of Satan, and in voluntary alliance to him against the Messiah. For the subjects of the holy kingdom to form alliance with these, is treason (though it is not always so understood) against the King and his cause. Alas! how common is this confederation in respect to the things appertaining to the holy kingdom. All our modern churches that are connected with societies present examples of such incongruous confederacy. The New Testament recognizes no religious society but the church. Where in the holy book, do we find an epistle addressed to the church and society, or of a bishop ordained over a church and society in any place? Have not all such alliances produced, more or less, their own proper fruits? Have not the churches thereby been corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ? How is it possible that such confederations can be maintained without some sacrifice of those holy principles and perversion of those ordinances to which the carnal mind is opposed? Alas! for this unhallowed purpose, how have these ordinances been despoiled of their original purity and simplicity, that carnal men may see some beauty in them that they should desire them! Ah! brethren, how has the arch adversary triumphed here! Under the plausible pretext of building up the cause of God, pride, covetousness and vanity have reigned to the reproach of religion, and to the destruction of the souls of men.

 

The very prevalent opinion that such associations of believers and unbelievers are justified, on the principle that worldly men may attend to the temporal concerns of the church, is not merely unwarranted by an scriptural precept or example, but is a violation of both. The apostolic precept and the examples of the first churches require that men full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, be appointed for this very purpose.  Ac 6:3. Every reflecting mind must perceive that it requires spiritual discernment and a holy disposition to make such an arrangement of the temporal concerns of the church, as shall comport with the holiness, the simplicity, and humility of the gospel. Modern Sanballats and Tobiahs are saying, “let us build with you,” and some of God’s dear children consent, forgetting the truth, that all who in heart are subjected to the King, “have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem.”Worldly men, whether professors or not, will never build according to the holy pattern. They make void the commandments of God, by their own traditions. They profane the sanctuary of the Lord by their unhallowed innovations. They are Achans in the camp, and prevent the advancement of the redeemed towards the high and blessed attainment of standing “perfect and complete in all the will of God.”How is it possible, in the nature of things, for the church, with such an nightmarish incubus, to travel with joyful eagerness or alacrity, the celestial road? How can the carnal and the spiritual go on in harmony without a sacrifice of truth on the part of the latter? “How can two walk together except they be agreed?”“What fellowship hath light with darkness?”Is it not an incontrovertible fact, that these inconsistent confederacies, are to be traced to a departure on the part of the Lord’s people, from the purity and simplicity of the New Testament and that by the prevalence of the same carnal spirit of worldly conformity they are still maintained? Every candid and intelligent person must acknowledge, that, as in the case of the ancient Israelites, these unscriptural associations with the men of this world, instead of conforming the world to Christians, have conformed Christians to the world. If this is not going into mystical Babylon, and committing spiritual fornication, we have yet to learn what is. O brethren, hear the word of the Lord; for Zion’s sake, and for the sake of the souls of perishing men, hear it, for love’s sake we beseech you. “COME OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE, THAT YE BE NOT PARTAKERS OF HER SINS, AND THAT YE RECEIVE NOT OF HER PLAGUES.”

 

The means which infinite wisdom and love hath appointed to promote the cause of truth, must be best. “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”Let us cease to impeach that wisdom and goodness by adding our vain imaginations to the holy oracles. The church is competent to attend to all the temporal concerns of the holy community. We have proved from the word of the Lord that they are under the spirit and order of the holy kingdom. {33} They need no man’s money to build costly edifices, which bear a false testimony respecting the religion of the humble Saviour. Nor are they to be justified in adopting any unscriptural methods to obtain what they do need. Alas! how prone we are to deceive ourselves, and to gratify “the lust of the eye and the pride of life,”under the specious pretence of honoring the Almighty! Is it consistent, brethren, with the simplicity and spirituality of the gospel of Christ-is it consistent with our professed love to the souls of the heathen-is it consistent with our begging the hard earned pittance from the laborer to put into the treasury of the Lord, to expend ten thousand dollars for useless ornaments in a single house for worshipping Him who dwelleth not in temples made with hands, but in the hearts of the humble and contrite however plain may be the place of their assembling? {34}

 

Some have been induced to admit the impenitent to their fellowship in the ordinances of the Christian church, by the erroneous supposition that these ordinances are to be observed by such characters, as means of grace for their conversion. We have sufficiently proved that these ordinances are appointed for believers as professors of their faith and love as means of their growth in grace, and for the manifestation of the truth, that sinners may be converted to God. Let it now be candidly considered whether it is either scriptural or rational to direct the impenitent to adopt forms of prayer or praise or to come to the Lord’s table (for these must be equally proper or improper) as means of their becoming penitent? Is not the scriptural direction, repent and pray?  Ac 8:22. What is prayer? Is it not the desire of the heart? If put into words, must not the words correspond with the desire? What then is the desire of the impenitent? What words must he use in conformity with the desire of his heart, on which the all-seeing eye of God rests? O Lord, I desire to be saved in my impenitence. Is not such a prayer the very spirit and expression of rebellion against the Most High, who hath assured him, that except he repents he shall perish? Is this a means of grace or conversion? Or if his words do not accord with the desire of his heart; if like Israel of old  Ps 78:36, he flatters the Almighty with his mouth, and lies unto him with his tongue, is this a mean of grace? How abhorrent the thought to every pious heart! To say that the impenitent desire to repent, and may therefore express that desire in prayer, is not only a contradiction, but is in effect casting the blame of their present impenitence on God. If the sinner desires to repent and cannot, he is not to blame. The requirement therefore of immediate repentance is unjust. The supposition that the impenitent use means to repent, involves the absurdity, that they seek what they do not wish to find. The truth is, the whole difficulty is in the sinner’s unwilling heart. The moment that relents, there is nothing in heaven, earth or hell to hinder his repentance. Until that blessed moment, the voice of the Almighty to him is, “what hast thou to do to declare my statutes or that thou shouldst take my covenant into thy mouth?”

 

There exists the same objection to his engaging in the ordinances of praise and the Lord’s supper. If he engages in these, alas! he sings, he eats, he drinks condemnation to himself!

 

There is a divine harmony in the “ALL THINGS”given to the apostles for the establishment of the holy kingdom which manifests the glory of infinite love. The order of Christian worship is in perfect unison with Christian doctrine. This harmony is violated, whenever the principle of separation from the world in the things of the kingdom is not maintained. the modern union of churches and societies, and of believers and unbelievers in the ordinances of divine worship is a practical subversion of the ordinances of divine worship is a practical subversion of Christian doctrine. Such practices are a declaration that a man can enter the kingdom of God without being born again; and that he has some part and lot in this matter, though his heart is not right in the sight of God. They are a declaration that the church of the Lord is not a spiritual house built up to offer spiritual sacrifices. This unscriptural “arrangement”therefore, exhibits constantly a false testimony of “the heavenly things,” and, by flattering the pride, and fostering the vain hope of the ungodly, conduces to their destruction. Singing to the praise of God and the Lamb, is a church ordinance, when the church engages in it; if the unholy are invited to unite in it, we give them fellowship in that ordinance. We might as well invite them to the supper, and not to the ordinance of praise, and say that we do not give them church fellowship, because we do not invite them to the latter, as to say that we do not give them church fellowship, by inviting them to unite in the ordinance of praise, because we do not invite them to supper. The Lord’s supper is no more a church ordinance, than the ordinance of praise when the church engage in it. How mighty is the power of custom! How infatuating is its influence! Most of the Baptist churches in the land, while they will not invite un-immersed believers to one ordinance, will invite the impenitent and unbelieving to unite with them in another which is equally holy?

 

Although all the divine precepts respecting the temporal support of elders and preachers authorize the churches to claim such support from disciples only, and require us to preach the gospel freely to the world-although these precepts and the holy nature of that kingdom which is not of this world, forbid the combinations we oppose, we have scriptural authority  Ac 23:10, “ Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.”-for gratefully accepting any voluntary contributions from any person. We are under obligation not only to treat them courteously, but to encourage them, by all scriptural means to hear the joyful sound,  to see the redeemed of the Lord observe the ordinances of his worship, and to pray and labor on their behalf, if, by an righteous means, we may save their souls from death. Constantly exhibiting the meek and humble spirit of our divine Master, and breathing towards all, the same temper of love, we are to manifest to them that it is in the fear of God we maintain the holy separation enjoined by his own indispensable word, and not in that pharisaical spirit which says, stand by for I am holier than thou.”

 

OF TITLES.

 

“The Scribes and the Pharisees-love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, rabbi. But be not ye called rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. -He that is greatest among you, shall be your servant. -And whosoever shall exalt himself, shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”  Mt 23:1-11.

 

It is truly affecting to contemplate how the above precept has been, and still is violated by many of the professed followers of the meek and lowly Saviour. The title of “reverend” is, in the Bible, exclusively appropriated to the Most High. “Holy and reverend is his name.” Does it then become worms of the dust to assume it? It is admitted by the learned that rabbi and doctor are corresponding titles. {35} Is not then the giving and receiving of the latter, a manifest violation of the precept of Jesus Christ? What must infidels think of our profession of humility, my brethren? Must it not tend to confirm them in their fatal opposition to the gospel of Christ to hear his professed followers giving one another the flattering titles of reverend, doctor, worshipful, right reverend father in God, &c.? If the giving and receiving of these titles may be reconciled with the spirit and precepts of the humble Saviour, what, in the whole department of antichrist, may not be? Peter thought it sufficient to speak of an inspired apostle, by the appellation of“our beloved brother Paul.” Why did he not style him right reverend father in God, or at least reverend? Because, like Mary, he had learned at Jesus’ feet. Who is there, that has been instructed in the same school, that would prefer the title of reverend doctor to that of beloved brother? Is it consistent to say that we love simplicity when we accept these titles?

 

OF THE IMPORTANCE OF PERFECT OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD OF GOD.

 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”  2Ti 3:16,17.

 

“TO OBEY is better than sacrifice, and to HEARKEN than the fat of rams.”  1Sa 15:22.

 

“Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto ALL thy commandments.”  Ps 119:6.

 

“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”  Re 22:14.

 

“Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”  Mr 7:9.

 

The great protestant maxim is, THE BIBLE, THE BIBLE IS OUR ONLY RULE. Yet alas! how much popery still exists among protestants! Protestants indeed do not avow the right to the chair of St. Peter. But what is the difference between such an avowal, and claiming the right, on the ground of expediency, and change of times, &c., to deviate from the practice of the first churches founded on apostolic precept? It will be time enough to talk about successors to the apostles, when they have vacated their thrones. They have the very same authority now to rule, by their word, in all the churches of Christendom, as they had to rule in the churches of Galatia. The difference between papists and many protestants consists in the former more boldly avowing, and carrying out to greater extent, the principle of usurpation of the king’s authority, than the latter. Christians can never be united in truth until they wholly abandon the principle. The views of fallible minds concerning what is expedient are as variant as the wind. Until we are willing to practice on the great maxim, we may no more expect to be united in our Lord’s kingdom, then we may expect to meet in the same port, if we should put to sea in different vessels without helm or compass.

 

The dissenters left the church of England on the principle we advocate. They considered that it not only justified, but required, their separation. To this they appealed, and on this they rested their defense against all the same charges of schism and disorganization, which the papists had urged against their opponents. The Baptists on the same principle separated from the Presbyterians and Congregationalists: and on this principle we have separated from the Baptists. On this holy principle we would joyfully unite with all. The doctrine of Christian forbearance indeed requires the continued union of disciples in the same church amid diversity of opinion and imperfection of obedience; but it neither requires or allows the abandonment of this principle. It is the foundation stone of the spiritual temple. It must be maintained, or the vital principle of the new man expires; the main spring of holy action is broken. If, for the important question, what saith the scriptures? we substitute, what is expedient as means to increase our sect? we manifest, that while we disavow the name of popery, we retain its spirit. This is the beast.

 

Brethren, how can we be “the ground and pillar of the truth,” while we adopt, and act upon, the principle, that it is expedient to deviate from the truth? If we begin to act on this principle, where shall we stop? I repeat it, we lose the true character of the church of the living God, and bear false testimony concerning it, so far as we act upon this corrupt, though specious, principle. How can we urge the word of the Lord as proof against other men’s sins, while we advocate the right of departing from it ourselves? How does it appear that we love the Saviour, and reverence his authority in Zion, but by keeping all his commandments so far as we understand them? “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.”

 

Brethren, we expect no new revelation to consummate the millennial glory. Is it not by the return of the people of God to that pure word from which we have departed, and by a strict conformity to the holy simplicity and order of the New Testament, that Zion is to put on her beautiful garments, and shine forth in sacred attire to the glory of her Lord and the joy of his obedient subjects? Is it not by conformity to the holy word that the prayer of Messiah is to be answered, and his disciples be ONE, that the world may believe that the Father hath sent him? Let us then, in the fear of God, for his glory, and for the salvation of perishing men, immediately return unto Zion. “Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.”“If a model exists in the New Testament by which all churches ought to be regulated; if each is occupied in imitating this, they will gradually approach nearer to one another and thus the numberless sects and parties which dishonor the religion of Jesus will be at an end.”If such a model is not acknowledged, union is not to be expected. If there is no king, every one must do what is right in the sight of his own eyes. But what saith the Almighty? “Yet have I set my king on the holy hill of Zion.”“Blessed are they that do his commandments.”

 

CONCLUSION.

 

And now reader, in the prospect of that day, when to be found with the “little flock”of true followers of the Lamb, and not with the multitude of carnal professors, will be our highest honor and blessedness, permit the writer, for the truth’s sake, to present the question, “are these things so?”Has the true testimony of that word which abideth for ever been exhibited in the foregoing pages? If so, wilt thou avoid the aggravated condemnation of knowing they Master’s will and doing it not, and enjoy the true scriptural evidence of citizenship in the New Jerusalem, by keeping the sayings of God’s book? Wilt thou return, and encourage others to return, and build again the broken walls of the holy city, where the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the light thereof? As dying and accountable men it surely behooves us all most solemnly to ponder the words of our judge; “not every one that saith Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeththe will of my Father which is in heaven.”It is a truth of tremendous consequence to each of us, that our eternal well-being is inseparable connected with the obedience of faith. To make our garments “white in the blood of the Lamb:”and to “follow”him “whithersoever he goeth,”are both necessary to our sitting down with him in the everlasting kingdom.

 

Alas! how many professors act in their religious concerns upon the same carnal principle which influences their general conduct. To such, in respect to the unpopular views herein exhibited, we regret to be obliged to address the forcible words of our Lord, “how can ye believe that receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which cometh from God only?”

 

Beloved brethren, to whom belongs the responsibility station of being ensamples to the ransomed flock of the dear Savior, and of teaching the same to walk “uprightly according to the truth of the gospel,”is it not time to bring the redeemed of the Lord out of the wilderness of carnal traditions and worldly conformity into the green pastures of his own holy truth? Is it not time to build the Lord’s house according to the most holy model? What will the approbation of the multitude-what will the flattery and support of worms of the dust avail us, if he who walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks is frowning upon us for trimming our ways to seek love? How light, and insignificant will all sacrifices and sufferings for his precious name appear to us, when, after being favored to act in some humble degree with a single eye, “Well done thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things-enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

 

Dear disciples of God’s anointed one, shake off your slavish chains, and go forth in the holy liberty wherewith your Master makes you free. From those societies where the holy truth is sacrificed at the shrine of carnal wisdom and presumptuous pride, the word of the Eternal is calling you to “come out.” Numerous and powerful are the temptations to keep you there. Plausible and illusive are the arguments urged in favor of making void God’s commands by our own traditions. But “the judge standeth at the door.”“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”  Re 2:7.