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relation to the Saviour, which is common to all: believers, and which is the result of saving and transforming faith in the testimony of God concerning him. And we understand by this relation something inconceivably more interesting, close, and momentous, than that which consists in a mere geographical distinction, in the nominal profession of christianity, in the observance of outward rites, in the possession of external privileges, or in any thing short of genuine “repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Not to advert in support of this all-important truth to the general principles and objects of the gospel, which aims at nothing less than the moral renovation and full recovery of man to the favour and image of his Maker, it would suffice to notice the ordinary phrases and similitudes which are applied in the Holy Scriptures to the character and relative condition of all true believers. “To have the Son,” “.to be in Christ,” and to be “ one” in him, are expressions which must be familiar to every person who has looked into the inspired volume, or who is at all acquainted with its ordinary phraseology. And although they are, no doubt, frequently uttered without conveying to the minds of many who hear them any correct and definite ideas, and may. therefore savour, in their view, of mysticism, and produce a class of repulsive feelings; yet they announce a sublime and fundamental truth, which all
are deeply concerned to understand, and which must be verified in the experience of every individual who does not at last perish in his sinfulness. For these are phrases which designate, in concise and powerful terms, the relation of all believers to the only Mediator between God and man, and denote the fellowship which they hold with him, and by consequence with one another. Christians are united to him by a common bondthe sacred bond of love to his name, and of mutual participation in the benefits of his death. And the most striking and beautiful images are-employed in the scriptures to set forth the nature of this exalted union. The relation of members to the living head of the same bodily frame, or of branches to the root or parent stock of the vine, or that of the foundation to the several parts of the structure superinduced upon it, is a relation of vitality and peculiar closeness. And yet these, and other similitudes of the same kind, are, it is well known, selected for the express purpose of illustrating the connection which subsists between the Saviour and the members of the church "which he hath purchased with his own blood,” and which in due time he will present, in its complete and perfected condition, before the throne of God.*
* See John i. 16; xv. 5 ; xvii. 21; Eph. iv. 15, 16; Col. ii. 19; 1 Pet. ii. 4.
But that faith which unites them to him, binds them to one another. It is an assimilatiog principle; and while it produces a common resemblance by moulding, them into the image of God, it invests them with a common title to all the immunities, privileges, and blessings, present and prospective, which are included in the promise of eternal life. Thus their relation to one another possesses a most sacred and exalted character. It is a spiritual, holy, and eternal alliance. Its elements are unearthly; and although it is distinct from all the ties of humanity, and the fleeting interests of life, and is essentially independent of them, it is capable of co-existing with the greatest differences of outward condition, and even of opinion, as it respects the subordinate points of religious doctrine and discipline. In short, the relation of which we are speaking is common to all believers, and is precisely that which the Saviour himself described so pathetically, when on being informed that his kindred desired to see him, he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, “Behold my mother, and my brethren! For whosoever will do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” *
We have deemed it proper to advert somewhat particularly to the nature of the relationship subsisting between the disciples of Christ, because it is the basis of christian fellowship under every form in which it can be presented to our notice. The friendship which is immortal, whether it exists in private life, or appears on a more enlarged scale in the public communion maintained amongst christian churches, is the union of regenerated minds, the intimacy of real believers, whom Providence has brought into contact and personal fellowship with each other. It may be blended with the endearing relations of parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister, and impart to them its sacred influence and exalted associations. It may unite those who are united by other bonds of secular interest, congenial feeling, and similar pursuits. But still it must be viewed in the abstract, and contemplated as a connection which has an existence independent of all secular and earthly affinities. Its cement and very essence is christian sympathy; sympathy sanctified by the Spirit of God, enlightened by the word of truth, regulated by the highest principles, warmed by the glow of holy love, fired with zeal in the service of the Saviour, and finding its proper element and end in the purity and bliss of heaven.
* Matt. xii. 46–50.
And since the direct tendency of error, especially as it respects the essential discoveries of revelation, is to subvert every virtuous sentiment, and to frustrate the merciful designs of God towards our fallen race, it must be of the first importance to remember that christian friendship implies a rational and uncompromising adherence to the faith which was once delivered to the saints. It is founded upon a conviction, which the growing experience of the parties united tends to strengthen, that divine truth is the seed of evangelical virtue—the instrument by which the sanctifying Spirit purifies the believer, and gradually raises him to the perfection of his nature. It can therefore be no more indifferent, we conceive, to the obvious and fundamental principles of the gospel, than to purity of motive and rectitude of conduct. Whilst it breathes the spirit of goodwill to all men, it can give no countenance to the false candour which betrays the highest interests of the species, by undervaluing the announcements of revelation concerning Him who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” The cross of Christ it contemplates as the centre of attraction to his disciplesthe sacred standard around which they rally in defence of all that is dear to themselves, and of vital importance to the human race.