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CHAPTER XII.

REMARKS ON THE NATURE AND

OBJECTS OF CHURCA

FELLOWSHIP.

No spectacle on earth can be more impressive and refreshing to the heart of a good man, than that of a christian church, whose members, animated by the spirit of their divine Master, are brethren dwelling together in unity, and fulfilling the various ends of their sacred fellowship. Every such society is a little spot redeemed from the surrounding waste of the moral world, and with peculiar propriety may it be called “the garden of the Lord,” where the plants of righteousness are to be seen in their verdure, fruitfulness, and beauty, and on which the eye of Piety rests with special complacency.

What, indeed, is a church of Christ but a holy fraternity which practically embodies the principles developed in the present pages, and which holds them up, agreeably to divine authority and direction, to the view of the world? The light in which its members are to be regarded, and in which they should never forget to contemplate one another, is that of a company of redeemed and immortal intelligences, who have entered upon a friendship which is to run parallel with the ages of eternity. The bond which holds them together, unlike that of any secular confederacy, is sacred and indissoluble, being a common love and resemblance to Him who has said to all his disciples, " Because I live, ye shall live also." Each individual added to their number, is, indeed, received into fellowship with the rest, on the presumption formed in the judgment of charity, and founded on a credible profession of faith in the Saviour, that he is a regenerated man, and consequently an heir, together with themselves, of the grace of life. The names of all, therefore, who are not self-deceived, or disguised by the mask of hypocrisy, are enrolled in the book of life, and will be announced on that day, when there will be a general manifestation of the sons of God. As often as death enters in amongst them, and thins their ranks, he appears in the character of a messenger to conduct his charge into the presence of God, and to unite them with that portion of believers who have already reached the heavenly world ; and those of them who are left behind in this region of sin and sadness, are waiting the same summons, and are borne along on the swift wings of time to the same dwelling-place. In proportion, too, as they act agreeably to the instructions of Christ, walking in love, striving together for the faith once delivered to the saints, and aiming, with a single eye and devoted heart, at the glory of God in the regeneration of others and in their growing conformity to his will, precisely in the same degree do they shadow forth their anticipated confederacy in a future world, and represent, at the same time, though on a limited scale, and imperfect manner, the general communion of the saints, which is to be consummated by “ the dispensation of the fulness of times," when the Divine Being will “gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth.”

And all the institutions of religion are so framed as to be adapted to these objects, and are peculiarly fitted to impart to the members of a christian church just views and impressions concerning the nature and sublime objects of their association. What, indeed, is such a society but a school in which human beings are training up, under a certain discipline, adapted to their particular case, for the pursuits and pleasures which they are to share in communion with one another in the great world which is before them? While all the means of grace, by their sacred influence over the heart, are calculated to improve our condition in every

possible aspect, they are especially intended to remind us of an eternal world, and to prepare us for its blessedness. Whenever the christian brotherhood meet in the temple of God, they appear before each other, and the world, in the character of immortal friends, and declare plainly, as strangers and pilgrims on earth, that they are looking “for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." The holy exercises of the sanctuary in which they engage, tend to purify and strengthen every sentiment of brotherly love, and to prepare them for sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God. The eye of the christian minister is fixed upon their common destination, and the height of his ambition is to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. In proportion as he catches the distinctive spirit of his office, may he be expected, with this view, to “ be instant in season and out of season;" to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine,” and, on surveying his charge, to realize the feelings, which, on a similar occasion, dictated the sublime and affecting appeal of a distinguished apostle ; " For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are qur glory and joy.” And when he meets them around the sacramental board to participate with them in that spiritual

banquet, which, more than any other, shadows * forth the perfected fellowship of the redeemed in a heaven, their sublime relation and common pro<spects, come with surpassing clearness before their s minds, and often dilate the heart with pure and

intense emotion. At the table of their Master i and best friend, all things, indeed, concur to give peculiar force to the dying admonition which he has addressed to all his disciples, “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” Here the vital i bond of their union, the cross of Christ -- is presented in tangible images before them. Here, with unequalled interest, is exhibited to their view that which is both the foundation of their hopes, and the animating principle of their obedience. Here, in presence of God, and angels, and men, they renew the solemn and unreserved dedication which they have made of themselves to Him who loved them and gave himself for them. Here they meet, as a portion of the great family which is named after Christ, and feel their hearts enlarged with the hallowed desire that grace, mercy, and peace, may rest upon all that love him in sincerity. Here they are reminded that they are one in faith, in privilege, in character, in purpose, and in destination. Here they behold the proper subjects of that divine complacency which brotherly love includes--see around them the common objects

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