« AnteriorContinuar »
HEAR THE CHURCH. MATTH. XVIII. 17.
X HERE are two sorts of Christians, who do not hear the Church; and of these, one sort is In the Church. There are also two great errors, into which Christian people are betrayed; the first supposes, that the Church will save men witlteut godliness; the second, that godliness will save men without the Church. The first was the error of the Jews, and is now the error of too many, who call themselves Churchmen: the other is the error of those that leave the Church to follow some private way of worship. Very plain rules may be laid down, by which both these parties may judge of themselves, if they will but be honest and sincere: and as the case of the Churchman is of nearer concern, I shall in this discourse address myself to him in the first place
His profession is right: but it will do him no good, unless he is wise enough to keep up to the design and spirit of it. All the living creatures, which God hath made, are endued with form and life. There is no life that we know of without form. And the Church, which God hath made, is of a like constitution. It hath its forms, its sacraments, its ordinances; and with these, it has a life, sense, and spirit of them; without which, the Church is nothing hut a form; that is, a hody without a soul. Every Christian is taught, that with the sign, there is the thing signified. The sign is the pledge for information and assucance: tfra thing signified, is the inward and spiritual part: and neither of these can be, what God intended it should be, without the other.' With every doctrine of the Church, there is a moral, or practice, which should attend it: and the latter should always follow: according to that admonition, be ye doers of the word and not hearers only. But here the Churchman falls into a mistake: if he complies with the form, he is too apt to think himself safe; and his mistake is the same as that of the Jew was formerly. If the Jew was circumcised on the eighth day, he was called a son of Abraham; and such he was; but not by the sign without the sense of it For there was a circumcision made with hands: and there was another circumcision made without hands, which was inward upon the heart, by the power of God's Holy Spirit, disposing and enabling a man to put away all carnal and unclean affections. This latter was the inward^and spiritual grace, without which a person was nncircumcised in heart. .By the outward circumcision, he hecame a Jew; but unless the inward and spiritual were added, he was not a true Jew; not an Israelite indeed.
The case is the same, and the danger is the same, at this time, with the Christian, in regard to Baptism. The outward sign is water; and the promise of God to the office and authority of the Christian Ministry, makes that water effectual to the purpose intended. But what is the sense of the sisni r What is it that water doeth? it washes and cleanses: and what that doeth to the outward man, the Spirit of God doeth to the inward. But the effect may remain with us; or, it may be lost. He that is washed may remain white and pure, as the sheep doth; or, he may turn again to the mire, as the swine doth. From the lives of too many Christians, it appears, that they have returned to the vileness of nature, and are now in the midst of it, defiling themselves with that sinfulness, which it is the work of Baptism to wash away. _.
The true Churchman is therefore mindful of his Baptism; knowing that its real value is not in the washing with water, but in the new creature*. He therefore continues in newness of life; according to that petition of the office in his behalf, wherein the Church prays, that he may lead the rest of his life according to that beginning; that he may be dead unto sin, and alive unto righteousness. The end of Baptism is everlasting life: for it makes us members of Christ, and consequently heirs with Christ of his Father's kingdom; but all this must be through a present life of righteousness. In this we have the true sense of Baptism.; it is not only a birth but a life, never to be departed from. For Christ being dead unto sin, dieth no more, but liveth for ever unto God: and the Christian is to be conformed to the same pattern; sin should no more have dominion over him: then is Baptism what it should be, and what the Church intends, and prays for, from the beginning.
The service of the Church requires every person to repeat the Articles of the Apostles Creed: and so far we may be said to witness a good confession. But does he that repeats the Creed endeavour to practise it? I say, practise it: for the Christian faith is practised in the Christian life: if not, it will be a witness against us: every word we repeat will condemn us.
• Gal,vi. 15.
A man may say, he believes in God: but does he live as if he believed in him? Does he serve him, and shew the world that his faith is real by the life it produces? l!e believes that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary: but. is he born of God: and doth it appear to himself, or to any body else, that he is a spiritual man, begotten again by the Gospel to newness of life? He believes that Jesus Christ was crucified: but is he crucified? Is the old man of sin, that was born in him, put to death? Is he hated by bad people, for the good that is about him? Does he, for the sake of Christ, sufFer any thing with Christ: or is he conformed to the world, that he may sufFer nothing? He believes in the Holy Ghost: does he also believe, that the Holy Ghost now worketh in the Church for the remission of sin: that he is the Lord and giver of life; that there is no life to the soul of man without him; and that it is impossible to think a good thought, or do a good action, without the help of the good Spirit of God moving and assisting us; and that the Spirit is therefore most eminently called the gift of God, without which all other gifts and endowments are vain? He believes that the Church is holy: but has it made him holy; or, does he desire that it should ever make him holy? An unholy person may be in the Church; as he was at the feast, who was without a wedding garment: or, as the bad fishes were inclosed in the same net with the good ones: but he cannot continue; for when God shall come, to cast out all things that offend, he will not abide that inquisition.
The Commandments may be considered in the same way. For the honour of God, and the benefit of those who belong to the Church, they are com* monly written about the Altar, and held up before our eyes. This is a very good custom, aud agrees well with our profession: but then, the Churchman is to remember, that the Commandments which are written upon our walls, are to be written upon our hearts: for this is the promise of God to the Gentiles, when they should be called into the Church of Christ: I will put my law in their inward part, and write it in their hearts *: and when this promise was fulfilled in the Gentiles, the Apostle boasts of them to the Jews, for the work of the law written in their hearts; so written, that no man had now any occasion to teach another; because the law transcribed into his own heart was thenceforward a source of teaching to himself: sufficient for admonition er justification to the conscience, or, as the Apostle words it, their thoughts accusing or else excusing one another. So should the law now be written in the hearts of us Gentile-Christians, as a constant, and I may say, a portable rule of our obedience.
If the matter of the Commandments be well considered, particularly of the first and second, the sense extends much farther than we may suppose at first sight. For the heart of man, as well as his eyes, may have its idols. We are to have none but the true God in our thoughts: and instead of placing idols before the imagination, we are to set the Lord always before us; to be mindful, that he sees all our actions, and knows all our thoughts, and that his eyes are in every place: that he is the author of our happiness; and, as such, the supreme object of our love and affection. If we trust to any thing for our happiness more than to God, that object, whatever it may be, whether it be wealth, or pleasure, or fame, takes
. , * Jer. xxxi. 33. Heb. y'ia.. 10.
voi,. iv. T