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conversation; or, as the Apostle expresses it (1 Thess. iii. 13), to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable, in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
But under these words of the article we are doubtless further bound to believe, that all true members of Christ's church have a right of fellowship or communion with God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, because they are received in covenant by the first, through the death and sufferings of the other. Our faith is likewise concerned in holding that all true saints have communion or fellowship with the Holy Ghost, by his dwelling in them, sanctifying or making them holy; for, what says the Apostle? (1 Cor. xii. 7.) The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man, to profit withal. The words imply further, that we are to believe that they have fellowship with the holy angels, who both minister unto them, in time of hard trial, through the appointment of God, and have a most tender concern for them. This we may conclude from the declaration of our blessed Lord himself (Luke, xv, 10), Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
We are led to believe also, that they have all fellowship with one another, as members of
the same mystical body of Christ, ás already mentioned, and proved from Scripture. And the Apostle (Rom. xii. 16) commands the saints to be of one mind towards each other; that is, to promote the fellowship of love and charity towards one another.
And as to the things in which all pure saints, or truly pious Christians, have a fellowship or communion; this part of the article equally engages us to believe, they have weight in communicating in all the ordinances of the Gopsel; i. e. in the prayers of the church, in the ministry of the word and sacraments, and whatever else hath been appointed by Christ, or established in the church for the common good of all its members.
Nor do these more express marks of a communion or fellowship between the saints on earth, by any means exclude or shut out those more commonly called saints, namely, those who have departed this life in the fear of God and the faith of Jesus Christ. How they maintain communion with all who are striving after that peace they have happily obtained, we cannot positively tell. The nature of their fellowship may be much the same as it is with members of the same civil society upon earth, when they are in a foreign country far distant from one another. Probably they do in general pray for us, as it is certain they wish well to
us: But for ourselves, who are yet here on earth, we must bless God for the grace he was pleased to bestow on them, and by which they were delivered from the sin and temptation of this evil world, and enabled faithfully to serve him to the end. We must place their examples before us, and imitate their virtues; we must account them as living members of Christ's body; we must faithfully discharge any trust they may have left us, but on no account make any petition or prayer to them, however eminently holy they were here; for this being unwarranted by God's word, nay, positively forbidden by an express command, it is not only vain and unprofitable, but superstitious and IDOLATROUS, it being evidently to give that honour to the creature, which is due only to the Creator; and creatures they must ever be considered, however largely God's mercy hath been dealt out to them in their exalted state.
To conclude: from what has been said at this time, my brethren, I humbly trust you have been fully and clearly instructed in what sense you profess to believe the HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS ; viz. that it is a most certain truth, that Christ, by the preaching of his Apostles, did gather unto himself a church, or body of people, consisting of thousands of believing persons, and numerous congregations, to which he daily
added such as should be saved, and will daily continue to increase their number to the end of the world. You profess to believe, that this church in general, is holy in respect of the Author, end, institution, and administration of it; and as to the true members of it, that they are here really, and hereafter will be perfectly holy. You are to look upon this church, as not limited to one people or nation (in the extensive meaning of the word, as an universal body of true believers), but by the appointment of Christ, and the virtue of his assisting power, to be capable of reaching all nations, and extending to all places; to be continued to all ages, and containing truths proper to be known, in order to exact absolute obedience of men to the commands of Christ, and to furnish us with all graces necessary to render our persons acceptable, and our actions well pleasing in the sight of God. And as to our faith in the COMMUNION OF SAINTS, it is briefly this: that such persons as are truly sanctified in the church of Christ, while they live among the crooked generation of men, and struggle with all the miseries of this world, may yet have fellowship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, as having created, redeemed, and sanctified them; that they partake of the care and kindness of the blessed angels, who take delight in ministering for their benefit, at the command
of God's goodness; and that, besides the outward fellowship they have in the word and sacraments, with all the members of the church, they also have a spiritual communion with all the saints, or good people upon earth, as the joint living members of Christ: nor is this union separated by death, but improved for ever, in the kingdom of the Lamb.
With what comfortable-what gloriouswhat transporting meditations doth this faith supply us! Let us all humbly unite in praying God to assist us in continually dwelling upon them, and improving them to our soul's health; that, after our appointed sojourning here in unity, love, and peace together, we may finally join the fellowship of the saints above, and live with them for ever, in eternal praises to Him who hath redeemed us from this evil world. To whom, &c.
THE END OF VOL. I.
>. Gosnell, Printer, Little Queen Street, London.