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the fulfilment of his joy. Of such fellowship they were as conscious, as that there was “any consolation in Christ,” or “any comfort of love,” or “any bowels and mercies,” Phil. ii. 1, 2. Real believers have fellowship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in all he is, has, and does. Jehovah is graciously become their all in all. And they, through the Spirit, freely give themselves to Him, and to each other according to the will of God. Thus they “walk in the light, as he is in the light,” and “have fellowship one with another,” 1 John i. 7. in mutual affection, interest and end. To such it may with great propriety be said, “all is yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's. As fellowship more directly relates to, and is expressive of connection and interest; so the term communion is frequently applied to conversation. In this sense the scripture uses it with respect to men communing with men," and it is in like manner used respecting the familiar intercourse between God and his people. When the solemn conversation ended respecting Sodom, it is said, the Lord went his way as soon as he had
* Thus Abraham communed with the children of Heth, about a place to bury his dead, Gen. xxiii. 8. Joseph communed with his brethren, xlii. 24. Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house, where they walked along on the flat roofs as we walk in the streets of a city, 1 Sam. ix. 25. Saul said unto his servants, Commune with David and say, Behold the king delighteth in thee, xviii. 22. And Jonathan said, I will commune with my father of thee, and he spake good of David unto Saul, xix. 3, 4. So the queen of Sheba communed with Solomon of all that was in her heart, 1 Kings x. 2. Thus Judas Iscariot communed with the chief priests, Luke xxii. 4. And Felix with Paul, Acts xxiv. 26. And the two pensive disciples it is said were communing together when Jesus drew near to them, Luke xxiv. 15.
left communing with Abraham, Gen. xviii. 33. And when he had made an end of communing with Moses, he gave him two tables of testimony, Exod. xxxi. 18. But not to multiply instances, we may observe that communion with God, from its first commencement, is inseparably connected with fellowship. Relation to God, and an interest in Christ and divine things, whether only desired, or really enjoyed ; longed for, or rejoiced in; lead to, and furnish with matter for communion with the divine Being. We would remind you, brethren, of your dealings with God, when you first in reality knew yourselves, and began to be acquainted with him : when your misery and his mercy drew the attention of your whole souls: when, like Ephraim, you began to bemoan yourselves. Then you wished to speak to God, but knew not how. Shame and inclination struggled hard, and produced confusion : which with a consciousness of loathsome depravity and inexcusable guilt, perhaps made you weep in silence; but could not keep your hearts from crying with the penitent publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Probably these perplexed cries of necessity were not accompanied with an understanding how the Lord could shew mercy consistently with his equity; and therefore fear might suggest that attempts to converse with God might be arrogance in you, and offensive to him. But when the method of salvation was discovered, as supporting his righteous character, and encouraging the vilest sinner under a sense of misery to seek for merey; then you began indeed, not only to long, but fervently to pray, for an heart-satisfying knowledge of your interest in the Saviour. Hearing of the unspeakable happiness of those who belong to him, your desires to be like them, in union with him, and partakers of the inestimable benefits resulting from his love, obedience and death, furnished you with matter in abundance for converse with God. To be found in Christ, to have fellowship with him, to be devoted to him, supplied from him, and made like him; to be admitted into special and [... connection with the family of God, put among the children, and is: with that favour which he bears to his own people; such blessings you esteemed great indeed, about which you found the need of conversing much with God. Your views of merey flowing freely to sinners through the Saviour, excited and encouraged you to commune with God, as on a throne of grace. You then came with some degree of boldness, and filled your mouth with arguments, drawn from the atonement of Christ, the free invitations, and precious promises held forth in the gospel. These, together with your extreme necessity, encouraged and urged you to plead with him as a man doth with his friend. Feeling his word penetrate your souls, describing your real character, and suited to soothe your various sorrows, and fill your vast desires; your faith as it increased, led to greater freedom with him. You then could look to him, and commune with him, as your Father, Saviour, and infallible Guide. Then you delighted yourselves in the Almighty, who spoke peace to your consciences, and cheered your hearts with good words, and comfortable words. The purport of your language then, was similar to that predicted of the church, in Isa. xii. “O Lord I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou com
fortedst me. I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song, he also is become my salvation.” But, dear brethren, those of you who have been most favoured with such appropriating faith in God, know that it tended to increase as well as sweeten your communion with him. Salvation from misery you did not consider as your ultimate end. You desired to glorify God as well as enjoy him; to own his authority over you, as well as his mercy to you. Your Saviour you considered as your sovereign : and looked to him not only as the fountain of pleasure, but the source of authority, and centre of union. Your communion with God now turned upon new subjects: you wanted not only to know and feel delight in his personal excellence, but likewise in his relative connections and interests. His laws as well as his love you desired to be more fully acquainted with. The nature of his kingdom, the prerogatives of his crown, as well as the privileges of his people, became matters of serious and earnest enquiry. Being convinced that no power on earth has the least authority over the conseiences of men, you were therefore concerned to know the mind of Christ, who is King in Sion, the sole government whereof is upon his shoulders; and who as the true head of the church, sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice forever, Isa.; ix. 6,7. Having been told by Himself that his kingdom is not of this world, you therefore were resolved to enquire after the directions of his word, and to adhere to what he by his Spiritsaith unto the churches. The apparent subjects of his grace, you esteemed as the excellent of the earth. Acquaintance with them and union to them you sought
after, being desirous to know what was committed to them, and required of them as in fellowship with Him. You began to be ashamed of remaining cool spectators. The love of Christ constrained you to take an active part in religion. “For all people will walk every one in the name of his God, and we” said you, “will walk in the name of Jehovah our God for ever and ever,” Mic. iv.5. You therefore asked the way to Zion, desiring to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of your lives, to see the beauty of Jehovah, and to enquire in his temple. That he might not only cause you to hear his loving-kindness, but shew you the way wherein you should walk, you have many a time lifted up your souls unto him, each crying, “Lord what wouldst thou have me to do o Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God. Shew me thy ways, O Lord, teach me thy paths, lead me in thy truth and teach me; for thou art the God of my salvation, on thee do I wait all the day, Ps. xxv. 4, 5. cxliii. 8. If you are Christians indeed, whether you have all attained to the assurance of hope or not, you know what it is to commune with God upon these and such like subjects. For surely those who are in fellowship with him, not only should, but will, be concerned to know what he has committed to them, requires of them, and expects from them. Remember, brethren, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.” Consequently they who are thus united to him, will consider his opponents as their enemies, and his friends will be their favourites. What he designs will be their desire; his promises their portion, and his glory their ultimate end. By your
professed subjection to Christ, you are bound to consider yourselves as intrusted with the care of his property, and as accountable to him, for all you have received from him; according to the law relating to fellowship, Lev. vi. 2. Keep therefore his charge constantly in mind, “Occupy till I come;” improving every talent, and devoting every power which you possess to his interest and honour. May every gospel truth, and divine appointment be preserved in its original purity and simplicity, as first delivered to the saints, that you may give up your accounts at last with joy and not with grief It is your duty, your interest, O that it may be your perpetual resolution, in the strength of grace, to hold fast what you have, that no man take your crown' Consider, brethren, you are not your own, and what you possess is the Redeemer's riches, heaven's precious property, committed to your care, as in fellowship with God. Of these treasures be careful, and about their nature, use, and tendency, continue to commune frequently with him, that ou may obtain mercy to be found faithful unto death, and then receive the crown of life. We would now, dear brethren, give you our advice respecting your attendance to this solemn exercise, and point out what we apprehend is necessary to be regarded, in order to your maintaining and carrying on communion with God. First, Deliberately enquire into his true character, and your own real condition. Consider, brethren, “with whom ye have to do”—the King eternal, immortal, the only wise, living and true God. That glorious, holy and dreadful Being, before whom devils tremble, and angels veil their faces, is he with whom you are called to converse. The omnipotent, omniscient Jehovah, whose eyes penetrate what his hands support: the author, upholder, and governor of universal nature; whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain ; he who is decked with solemn majesty, and shines in the full-orbed splendor of perfect purity, deigns to commune with you. Yes, this awful God is yours: and that his terror might not make you afraid, he has sovereignly assumed for your encouragement various endearing characters, each included in his being the God of all grace. You are now called to behold him as through a new medium, even the person of Christ. There tremendous dignity and tender mercy unite their radiant beams | There his sovereign love to your persons, and his natural hatred to your sins, are wonderfully displayed. O that you may have growing acquaintance with his essential greatness, and condescending compassion. Then your converse with him will be reverent, humble, solemn and serious; and the more so in proportion to the knowledge you acquire of your condition as sinful dust and ashes. The infinite contrast duly considered, will fill your souls with holy wonder and profound awe. Holy dread accompanies heavenly delight. “How dreadful is this place P’ said Jacob, when he communed with his God at Bethel; “this is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven.” The consideration of your natural littleness when compared with God, and of your dependance upon him, and especially of your moral distance from him, and unlikeness to him, will deepen your humility before him; while his gracious character as the “Father of mercies” and “God of all comfort,” inviting you to draw
near, will encourage you to expect much, though you deserve nothing. Secondly, Properly regard what he says to you. Mutual attention, you know, is necessary in common conversation; and surely much more is it needful when communing with God. This is often mentioned in Scripture in a most pathetic manner, as what the Lord requires. “Hearken unto me, O ye children, attend unto the words of my mouth,” Prov. vii. 24. “Take heed and hearken, O Israel,” Deut. xxvii. 9. “Listen, O Isles unto me and hearken,” Isa. xlix. i. “Hearken diligently unto me—incline your ear—hear and your soul shall live,” ly. 2, 3. Misapprehensions are frequently the effects of inattention, therefore Jesus, “when he had called all the people unto him, said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you and understand,” Mark vii. 14. God addresses you by various providential occurrences. “Day unto day uttereth speech.” Every mercy calls for gratitude; its language relates to his bounty and your obligation. And every calamity calls for contrition, and a personal enquiry, “What have I done 7" As thereby he discovers his displeasure, “the man of wisdom will see his name, hear the rod, and him who hath appointed it,” desiring to plead with him, and talk with him of his judgments, Mic. vi. 9. Jer. xii. 1. These are frequently very mysterious, they are as a great deep, in which his own people are ready to be overwhelmed, as Jonah was literally. Holy Job for a long time, knew not the reason of the Lord's conduct towards him. But he wisely resolved to make enquiry into the cause of the calamity, as well as give vent to his sorrow. “I will say unto God, do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendst with me; I am full of confusion, therefore see thou mine affliction, for it increaseth,” x. 2, 15, 16. The mysterious dispensation was the subject of much converse and reasoning with God, and at last the cause and the consequences were discovered to him, and felt by him, to his great satisfaction and abundant joy. But, dear brethren, the mind of God is most clearly discovered in the scriptures of truth. Therein “the Spirit speaketh expressly.” Therein are contained the plain and “true sayings of God.” Endeavour to understand his meaning. Take care of wresting his words. Attend to the descriptions he therein gives of men and things. There your hearts are laid open : your conscious feelings, whether fears or desires, are all described ; every painful and pleasing sensation is there distinctly noticed; and according to your internal character and condition, you are distinctly spoken to, as if by name. Attend therefore closely to what God the Lord says to you in particular. Whether it be in a way of admonition or encouragement, caution or comfort, regard what he says, and accordingly commune with him. Thirdly, Give full credit to what he says. Treat him as a God of veracity, who cannot lie. Would you choose to converse with men whom you could not credit? Or take delight in communing with those who would not credit you ? Remember “he that believeth not God hath made him a liar,” 1 John v. 10. How just and awful the charge “Take heed therefore, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief.” For “without faith it is impossible to please him.” To be inattentive to what he says, is treating him
with neglect, as an insignificant being below your notice. Not to believe what he says, be that what it may, is an horrid reflection upon him as a false perfidious being, not to be trusted or confided in." O, that none of you may ever lead for the innocence of unbelief! But dread it, watch against it, and expose it, as the most detestable foe to God and man. If you would enjoy communion with God, intreat him to increase your faith in him, and unite your hearts to him. For if your attention and trust decrease, be assured your communion with him will diminish. Therefore “trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your hearts before him.” (To be continued.)
ORIGIN, PRINciples, AND PRESENT CoN bition of PRotestANT Dissenters. It may be said, without fear of its being successfully contradicted, that “the antiquity” of Protestant Dissenters “is of ancient days.” It is an undeniable fact, supported by the most abundant evidence, that the sentiments held by the primitive believers, and all Christians for the first three centuries, with regard to the constitution of the churches, were similar to those which have always been maintained by them. A few extracts from Lord King’s “Constitution of the Primitive Churches,” will be sufficient to prove this assertion. Cyrian says of the office of “bishop,” or pastor, &c. “in a church might be many presbyters, but only one supreme.” Before the time of Constantine, we find from Ignatius,
* The evil of unbelief. and of a careless neglect of salvation, is displayed in a most striking manner in Edwards's History of Redemption, first edit. p. 206—215. Pitcher's edit. with notes, 352–360.