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God should hear our murmur
REFLECTIONS ings, as if he treated us unjustly, or had withdrawn all his good
THE ADVANTAGES OF It is truly humbling, to CHURCH-MEMBERSHIP. think, how frequently we liave displayed our unbelief and ob- That man is a social being, duracy. A childish and per- is evident. The creation of Eve verse distrust of God, has been shew), it was the Creator's inthe sin of his people in every tention he should be so; and age. To wliich, even of the the experience of every age has saints, shall we look for perfec- nianifested, that society is the tion? One alone displayed that great delight of his soul. The character in all his trials and diversity of gifts and favours, afflictions. He was tried in all with which it has pleased the things, as we are, without com- Alinighty to distinguish manmitting sin. The “man of kind, strongly marks the necessorrows and acquainted with sity of mutual intercourse, and griefs,” never, in the darkest our dependence on each other. hour, lost his wonted_confi- In the religious world, this so dence in his heavenly Father. cial advantage is not less conHe has left us an example, that spictious. Christianity pre-emiwe should tread in his steps. nently encourages this natural When we sit in darkness, the feeling. It never recommends Lord will be a light to us. a life of solitude. It affords no How great, how free, how mer- excuse for want of benevolence. cifully adapted to our wants, it uniformly inculcates broare the aid and comforts of the therly love, and exhorts to Holy Spirit! Not only is the every act of kindness and hugospel of the grace of God cal- manity: culated to make us rejoice in Revelation directs this des the hope of the glory of God, lightful principle in the formabut to rejoice in tribulation tion of religious societies, called also. A measure of divine Churches of Christ, which, while strength and consolation will be they embrace the advantages of imparted to us, proportioned to other societies, possess benefits the weight and severity of our peculiarly useful and honourasufferings. If we are truly of ble. Let us meditate on churchthose who fear Jehovah, and membership as a discharge of obey the voice of our sympa- duty. It is so, both with rethizing high priest; then, hap- spect to God and man. pen what will, we may trust in Is it the duty of a child to the name of the Lord, and stay obey his parent? So is it the upon our God. Against hope, duty of a Christian to observe let us, like Abraham, believe in the commandments of Christ, hope, knowing, that, what God who is, as God, our heavenly has promised, he is able also to Father. Is it the duty of a subperform.
ject to honour and obey his lawERASTUS. ful sovereign ? So is it the duty
of every Christian to yield obes dience to Christ, as his glorious stranger in Israel, a by-stánder, King. That the formation of a mere spectator. It is the duty Christian churches originated in of Christians to exhort, warn, the will of God, few serious and teach each other; bui he. minds will be inclined to doubt; must do either with timidity. and that there are ordinances It is a duty to be watchful over incumbent on Christians, that each other, and to rebuke; but can, in no other connection, be he can have no right to do so, regarded, is evident. The adap- except in his own domestic tation of Christian rites and pre-circle. He places himself out . cepts to the state of our nature, of the pale of Christ's church, is no inconsiderable proof of the out of the reach of her inestimadivine source of our holy reli- ble discipline. He discourages gion. No sooner do we feel the minister, and places himself; love to an object, than we de-out of his control. He denies, light to have opportunities of the church his gifts, and negshewing it. No sooner do we lects to seek the editication of believe in and love Christ, than his brethren and sisters, partiwe are anxious to say, “ Lord, cularly on those occasions when what wilt thou have us to do?” strangers are required to with-, and Christ cannot be obeyed draw. He may have helped to but by our being added to the satisfy his conscience, when it church, agreeably to the apo-recommended more consistent stolic practice.
conduct, by imagining churchIt is no less a duty to man. meetings as uninteresting and Every renewed mind must glow unimproving; an opinion as inwith a desire of being useful. correct, as it is dishonourable He may question his ability in to the Author of church governvarious views, but he must have ment. — There is something the desire of glorifying God, painful to the reflecting mind, and contributing to the eternal when strangers are dismissed. welfare of his fellow men. Does o, Christian, how can you, at he glorify God who disregards such seasons, endure the appelhis advice? Does he study the lation of stranger? Is it true, best interests of his fellow men, that an hour spent in the house: who neglects a connection that of God is transcendently pleawould multiply his opportuni- sant? How can you then quit ties of usefulness, and call forth it so willingly? On every other his best powers for their good ? occasion, the attendance in the Let every believer, who disre- place of worship is promiscugards church-membership, re- ous; but, on these opportunicollect, that, if it were pos- ties, in a judgment of charity, sible that his example should we conclude ourselves in the be generally followed, reli- company of saints; of those gion would languish, for the whose sentiments and views greatest disorder must prevail. most remarkably coincide with He is, as it were, a religious our own; surely, then, it is not anchorite. He is like an alien merely a discharge of duty, but in God's house ; a comparative an enjoyment of privilege.
The communion of saints is as in suspension and exclusion, privilege of the most exquisite awakening to reflection, are the kind to the spiritual mind, and means of his restoration. The membership must peculiarly duty and right of members to promote it. It is in the church watch over each other in the of God that divine ordinances fear of God, when tenderly exare observed; and the believer ercised, is no inconsiderable ad needs not be told, that these vantage; and the very existence ordinances are so many means of this duty and right, castsa saof grace. God has instituted cred awe over the mind, most disnothing in vain. The expe-pleasing to the enemy of souls. rience of Christians has proved Reader, are you a believer in them to be sources of instruc- the Son of God? Examine his tion, and every means of im- will, in which he has mercifully provement is a great privilege. revealed what he would have There is a peculiar solemnity you regard. Are you a memand beauty in the remarkably ber of the church militant? figurative ordinance of believers' Bow with gratitude to Him, baptism; and though it may be who has given you a name and a possible to regard this, and stop place in the church below. Are short of membership, yet cer- you a stranger to full commutainly not with equal propriety. nion? Why are you so ? ReThere is a delightful simplicity flect! You wish full commuand seriousness in the .comme- nion in eternity—be consistent. moration of the Saviour's dying Draw as near as you can to love; and this is the exclusive God, and saints below. privilege of membership. God
N. N. is frequently pleased remarkably to bless the observance of these sacred rites. Church dis- THE ATONEMENT, cipline has proved a source of
(Continued from page 188.) instruction to many a child of God; nor can there ever have MY DEAR FRIEND, been real Christian, who In my last letter, I endeaformed this connection without voured to state, in a general way, advantage. - Is the Christian the nature of the atonement, or tempted ? He can unbosom the principles on which it prohimself to an affectionate pas-ceeds, with a view of shewing tor, whose appropriate hints its consistency with the best and exhortations, whether pub- views that we can entertain of lic or private, are often emi- the character and government nently blessed. Is he in a state of God. I propose, in the preof backsliding ? The kind and sent letter to shew, from the tesinstructive visits of his fellow- timony of scripture, that Christ members, sanctioned by the au- did not sustain merely the chathority of the Great Head of racter of a divinely-commissionthe church, are frequently the ed teacher, and that he did not means of his consolation; or, die, merely, as a martyr to his the soverei gn discipline of God, doctrines, but that he really pro
cured our salvation by his death; acceptance with God, and to that it wrought an atonement for procure our eternal salvation ? sin, according to the principles We conceive that the latter is laid down in the former letter. the scriptural view of the subIn entering, at such length as I ject, and, that it is, will, I hope, did in my last letter, into the ar- appear from the succeeding obgument respecting the consist- servations. ency of the doctrine of atone- The terms frequently used by ment.with the divine perfections, the sacred writers, when speakI would not be supposed to iming of the death of Christ, are ply, that the scriptures are not such as do not at all comport sufficiently clear and authorita- with the notion of his dying, tive upon the point; nor that I merely as a martyr to his docbad any intention of departing trines. Simply in the characfrom the principle that I have ter of a martyr, his death could all along maintained, that we are confer no benefit on others, exbound to receive whatever is cept, as it might afford him an contained in the scriptures, and, opportunity of exemplifying that, from their testiinony, there certain great virtues for their can be no appeal to any other imitation and encouragement. authority whatever. But, as the But, we should never think, notion of atonement has been on this account merely, of frequently reprobated on the speaking of the death of Christ ground of its being supposed as he and his apostles spoke to reflect injuriously upon the of it. The apostles themselves character of God, I thought it sealed their testimony with their right, in the first instance, to blood, and died in the exercise meet this objection, and to shew, of every virtue which human on the contrary, that it reflected nature could exhibit. So also the brightest lustre on all the have a host of martyrs since divine perfections, and that the their time. From contemplatvalue of the scriptures iš en-ing the characters and deaths hanced, by its appearing that of these illustrious men, of whom they reyeal nothing bụt what is indeed the world was not worin the highest degree worthy of thy, mankind may, to the latest God.
ages, derive the most important The question for present con- instructions. But we should sideration, then, is, in what light never, on this account, think of do the scriptures represent the speaking of their death, as the death of Christ? From the ge- apostles speak of the death of geral tenor of revelation, do we Christ. There is not, I should gather that he died as others think, a Socinian existing, who have died, merely a martyr to would not revolt at the idea of the truth, and without any de- applying such language to the sigy of benefiting mankind by death of the Christian martyrs, as his death? or, that his death was is applied to the death of Christ; really intended, in connection and yet, if Christ died in no other with every part of his humilia character than that of a martyr, tagn, to open the way for our there is no reason why the language that describes the na-calculated much rather to misture of his death, should not lead, than to give correct views be used with equal propriety of the subject. The same rein describing the death of the mark will apply to the followapostles, and other martyrs. ing passages.
“ The Son of Imagine then, for a moment, man came not to be ministered the following language to be unto, but, to minister, and, to; applied to St. Paul, or to St. give his life a ransom for many. Peter, or to Ignatius, or to I lay down my life for the Polycarp, or to any martyr of sheep. The bread, which I will later times, who, in dying for give is my flesh, which I will the truth's sake, gave proof of give for the life of the world. the most illustrious virtues. “In Christ died for the ungodly.” him we have redemption through Many other passages of the his blood, even the forgiveness same kind might be quoted, of sins, according to the riches upon which, my observation is of his grace. He gave himself this : that to any impartial and a ransom for many. He hath intelligent reader, they certain-, given hinnself for us, an offering ly convey the idea, that the and a sacrifice to God. He death of Christ has meritorious, gave himself for us, that he ly procured the salvation of might redeem us from all in- men. They deserved to die, quity. By his own blood he but he became the victim for has obtained eternal redemp- them. He satisfied divine jus-, tion for us.'
There is no one tice, by offering himself as a but who would feel such an sacrifice, he honoured the divine application, of the above, lan- law, and, therefore, upon the guage, to be exceedingly im- principles stated in my last proper, and, indeed, perfectly letter, the great obstacle that absurd. But it can only be stood in the way of human reso, upon the principle for which demption was removed, and I am contending, viz.that Christ God could be just while he did not die as a mere martyr, was the justifier of all who bebut that he accomplished that lieved in Jesus. by his death, which can never To say nothing now of the be attributed to the death of socinian system not at all acany other person. .
cording with the principles on It must, I think, be acknow which the divine government ledged by all, that if the pas- must proceed, it does not accord sages just quoted, are only in with the phraseology of scriptended to convey an idea of ture. The above passages, and that benefit, which the church numerous others, do certainly derives from the death of Christ, convey the idea of a benefit : as affording a bright and trans-derived from the death of forming example of sufferig vir Christ, far beyond what may tue, they are a great deal too arise from contemplating him strong, and indeed, in that view, as a perfect pattern of suffering the language is exceedingly in- virtue, and of a different nature. appropriate, and ill chosen, and It is a benefit analagous to,