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the Corinthians not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one, no not to eat.
Your assistance is particularly necessary to resist and overcome those unlovely partialities which are too often found in individuals towards their relations or favourites. We have seen and heard of disorderly walkers, whose connexions in a church have been so extensive, that when they should have been censured or admonished, either a strong opposition was raised in their favour, or at least a considerable number have chosen to stand neuter, and so to leave the officers of the church to act in a manner alone. It is glorious to see a people in such cases acting in the spirit of Levi, who did not acknowledge his brethren, nor know his own children; but observed God's word, and kept his covenant! ,. '•h..i-m
It is often extremely difficult for a pastor to go through with such matters without injury to his character and ministry. He being, by bis office, obliged to take the lead, becomes the principal object of resentment; and every idle story is raked up by the party and their adherents, which may wound his reputation, and impute bis conduct to suspicious motives. If, in such circumstances, his brethren stand by him, he will disregard the slander of his enemies; but if they be indifferent, it will be death to him. Should such a conduct issue in his removal, it is no more than might be expected.
Thirdly: In every church of Christ we may hope to find some persons inquiring after the -way of salvation.—This may be the case much more at some periods than at others; but we may presume, from the promise of God to be with his servants that the word of truth shall not be any length of time without effect. Our work in this case is to cherish conviction, and to direct the mind to the gospel remedy. But if, when men are inquiring the way to Zion, there be none but the minister to give them information, things must be low indeed. It might be expected that there should be as many persons capable of giving direction on this subject as there are serious Christians; for who that has obtained mercy by believing in Jesus should be at a loss to recommend him to another? It is matter of fast, however, that though, as in cases of bodily disease, advisers are seldom wanting; yet, either for want of being interested in the matter, or sufficiently skilful in the word of righteousness, there are but few, comparatively, whose advice is of any value. And this we apprehend to be one great cause of declension in many churches. Were we writing on ministerial defects, we should not scruple to acknowledge that much of the preaching of the present day is subject to the same censure: but in the present instance we must be allowed to suppose ourselves employed in leaching the good and the right way, and to solicit your assistance in the work. When the apostle tells the Hebrews that, considering the time, they ought to have been teachers, he does not mean that they ought all to have been ministers; but able to instruct any inquirer in the great principles of the gospel.
It has been already intimated, that to give advice to a person under concern about salvation, it is necessary, in the first place, that we be interested on his behalf, and treat him in a free and affectionate manner. Some members of churches act as if they thought such things did not concern them, and as if their whole duty consisted in sending the party to the minister. A church composed of such characters may be opulent and respectable; but they possess nothing inviting or winning to an awakened mind. To cherish conviction, and give a right direction to such a mind, we must be free and affectionate. When a sinner begins to think of his condition, such questions as the following will often cross his mind: 'AVas there ever such a case as mine before? Are there any people in the world who have been what I am, and who are now in the way to eternal life? If there be, who are they 1 where nre they V But if, while he is thinking .whitt he must do to be saved, he neither sees nor hears any thing among you which renders it probable that such was ever your concern;—if, as soon as a sermon is ended, he sees merely an exchange of civilities, and en leaving the place observes that all the congregation immediately fall into conversation about worldly things; what can he think? Either that there is nothing in religion, or if there be, that he must seek elsewhere for it. The voice of a Christian church to those who attend upon their ministry should be that of Moses to Hobab: We are journeying to the place of which the Lord hath said, I will
give it you. Come thou with us, and toe will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.
It is of great consequence to the well-being of a church, that there be persons in particular in it who are accessible to characters of this description, and who would take a pleasure in introducing themselves to them. Barnabas, who, by a tender and affectionate spirit, was peculiarly fitted for this employment, was acquainted with Saul while the other disciples were afraid of him. It was he that introduced him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
Affection, however, is not the only qualification for this work: it requires that you bo skilful in the word of righteousness; else you will administer false consolation, and may be instrumental in destroying, instead of saving souls. Not that it requires any extraordinary talents to give advice in such cases: the danger arises principally from inattention and erroneous views of the gospel.
If, brethren, you would assist us in this delightful work, allow us to caution you against one prevailing error, and to recommend one important rule. The error to which we allude is, Taking It
FOR GRANTED THAT THE PARTY HAS SB DOUBTS AS TO THE GOSFlEL WAY OP SALVATION, ANB NO UNWILLINGNESS TO BE SAVE!) BY IT,
Provided God Were But Willing To Save Him. Such are probably his thoughts of himself; and the only question with him is, whether he have an interest in Christ and spiritual blessings. Hence he is employed in searching for something in his religious experience which may amount to an evidence of his conversion; and in talking with you he expects you to assist him in the search. But do not take this account of things as being the true one : it is founded in self-deception. If he understood and believed the gospel way of salvation, he would know that God was willing to save any sinner who is willing to be saved by it. A willingness to relinquish every false confidence, every claim of preference before the most ungodly character, and every ground of hope save that which God has laid in the gospel, is all that is wanting. If he have this, there is nothing in heaven or in earth in the way of his salvation. In conversing with such a character we should impress this truth upon him, assuring him that if he be straitened, it is not in God, but in his own bowels ; that the doubts which he entertains of the willingness of God, especially on account of his sinfulness and uoworthiness, are no other than the workings of a self-righteous opposition to the gospel, (as they imply an opinion that if he were less sinful and more worthy, God might be induced to save him) and that if he be not saved, it will be owing to his thus continuing to stumble at the stumbling-stone. Instead of allowing that he believes the gospel, and is willing to be saved in the gospel way, while yet his very moans betray the contrary; we should labour to persuade him that he does not yet understand the deceit of his own heart; that if he were willing to come to Christ for life, there is no doubt of his being accepted ; in short, that whenever he is brought to be of this mind, he will not only ask after the good way, but walk in it, and will assuredly find rest unto his soul. .:";-rt«*:*t;
The rule we recommend is this: Point Them Directly To The Saviour. It may be thought that no Christian can misunderstand or misapply this important direction, which is every where taught in the New Testament. Yet if you steer not clear of the above error, you will be unable to keep to it. So long as you admit the obstruction to believing in Christ to consist in something distinct from disaffection to the gospel way of salvation, it will be next to impossible for you to exhort a sinner to it in the language of the New Testament. For how can you exhort a man to that which you think he desires with all his heart to comply with, but cannot? You must feel that such exhortations would be tantalizing and insulting him. You may, indeed, conceive of him as ignorant, and as such labour to instruct him: but your feelings will not suffer you to exhort him to any thing in which he is involuntary. Hence, you will content yourselves with directing him to wait at the pool of ordinances, and it may be to pray for grace to enable him to repent and believe, encouraging him to hope for a happy issue in God's due time. But this it not pointing the sinner directly to Christ. On the contrary, it is furnishing him with a resting-place short of him, and giving him to imagine that duties performed while in unbelief are pleasing to God. nfiMW»^'
If you point the awakened sinner directly to the Saviour, after the manner of the New Testament, you will not be employed in assisting him to analyze the distresses of his mind, and administering consolation to him from the hope that they may contain some of the ingredients of true conversion, or at least the signs that he will be converted. Neither will you consider distress as ascertaining a happy issue, any otherwise than as it leads to Christ. If the question were, Do I believe in Jesus for salvation 1 Then, indeed, you must inquire what effects have been produced. But it is very different where the injury is, What shall we do; or what shall I do to be saved? The murderers of Christ were distressed; but Peter did not attempt to comfort them by alleging that this was a hopeful sign of their conversion, or by any way directing their attention to what was within them. On the contrary, he exhibited the Saviour, and exhorted them to repent and be baptized in his name. The same may be said of the Philippian jailor. He was in great distress ; yet no comfort was administered to him from this quarter, nor any other, except the salvation of Christ. Him Paul and Silas exhibited, and in him directly exhorted him to believe. The promise of rest is not made to the weary and heavy laden, but to those who come to Christ under their burdens.
Once more: If you keep to this rule, though you will labour to make the sinner sensible of his sin, (as till this is the case he will never come to the Saviour ;) yet you will be far from holding up this his sensibility as affording any warrant, qualification, or title to believe in him, which he did not possess before. The gospel itself is the warrant, and not any thing in the state of the mind; though till the mind is made sensible of the evil of sin, it will never comply with the gospel.
Fourthly: There is in all congregations and neighbourhoods a considerable number of people who are living in their sins, and in a state of imconcernedness about salvation.—Our work in respect of them is, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, to declare unto them their true character, to exhibit the Saviour as the only refuge, and to warn them to flee to him from the wrath to come. Id this also there are various ways in which