صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

perform every duty, working them up for that self-same thing, eternal glory. and happiness.

IV. The properties of it; shewing the excellency of this communion and fellowship.

1. It is a wonderful instance of condescension in God; that he who is the High and lofty One, who dwells in heaven, the high and holy place, and yet with such also who are of a contrite and humble spirit; that he whose throne the heaven is, and the earth his footstool, and yet condescends to dwell with men on earth; that Wisdom, or the Son of God, should build an house, furnish ́a table, and invite sinful unworthy creatures to partake of the entertainments of it; that Father, Son, and Spirit should come and make their abode with sinful. men, and admit them to the greatest intimacy with them.-2. It is very honourable to the sons of men to be favoured with such communion: if it was an honour to Mephibosheth to sit at the table of king David, as one of the king's sons; or for an Haman to be invited to a banquet with the king and queen; how infinitely more honourable is it to be admitted to sit with the King of kings at his table, and be entertained by him as royal guests!-3. This is a privilege very desirable, nothing more so; this is the one thing saints are desirous of in public worship, to behold the beauty of the Lord; to see his power and his glory in his sanctuary; to sit under his shadow, and taste his pleasant fruits. This is no other than the gate of heaven.-4. It is exceeding valuable; it is beyond all the enjoyments of life, preferable to every thing that can be had on earth; the light of God's countenance, his gracious presence, communion with him, put more joy and gladness into the hearts of his people, than the greatest increase of worldly things; it is this which makes wisdom's ways, ways of pleasantness, and her paths, paths of peace; it is this which makes the tabernacles of God amiable and lovely, and a day in his house better than a thousand elsewhere; and because so valuable, hence the apostle John, in an exhulting manner says, Truly, our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ!





HAVING treated of the object of Worship, and distinguished Worship into Internal and External; and having considered Internal Worship as it hes in the exercise of various graces; I now proceed to consider External Worship, both Public and Private: and first Public Worship; and as Public Worship is carried on socially in a church-state, I shall begin with considering the nature of a Gospel-Church, the seat of it. The word Church has various significations, which it may be proper to take notice of, in order to settle the true sense of it, as now to be discourced of.

I. Some take it for a place of worship, and call such a place by that name; but wrongly, at least very improperly: it is a remarkable saying of one of the ancients, even of the second century, Not the place, but the congregation of the elect, I call the church. Indeed, any place of worship was formerly called an house of God; so the place where Jacob and his family worshipped, having built an altar for God, was called Bethel, or the house of God, so the tabernacle of Moses is called, the house of God in Shiloh, Judg. xviii. 31. and the temple built by Solomon, the house of the Lord. But neither of them are ever called a church. The papists, indeed, call an edifice built for religious worship, a church; and so do some protestants, I might add, some dissenting protestants too; who call going to a place of public worship, going to church; though with great impropriety. It must be owned, that some of the ancient fathers used the word in this metonymical and improper sense, for the place where the church met for worship: and some passages of scripture are pleaded for this use of it; which yet do not seem to be plain and sufficient: not Acts xix. 37. for the word poruker, should not be rendered robbers of churches; but robbers of temples; and design not edifices built for christian worship; but the temples of the heathens, as that of Diana, at Ephesus: but what may seem more plausible and pertinent, are some passages in 1 Cor. xi. 18-22. When ye come together in the church I hear, &c, which is thought to be after explained: When ye come together into one place :-have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or despise ye the church of God? All this, indeed, supposes a place to

meet in; though rather not the place, but the assembly that met in it, is called the church; and their coming together in the church may intend no other than some of the members coming and meeting together with the rest of the church; and 87. To auto, which we render into one place, may design, not the unity of the place; but the unanimity of the people in it; nor is the opposition between their own houses and the place of meeting; and this is only mentioned to shew that it would have been much more suitable and decent in them to have eat and drank in their own houses, than in the presence of the assembly and church of God, which was to their scandal, reproach, and contempt; for not the place, but the people that met in it, were properly the object of contempt: however, it is certain, that there are numerous places of scripture which cannot be understood of any material edifice or building; whether of stone, brick, or wood; as when it is said, tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church, Acts xi. 22. it would he absurd to understand it in such a sense; and so many


II. The word εxxλnoia, always used for church, signifies an assembly called and met together, and sometimes it is used for an assembly, whether lawfully or unlawfully convened; so the people who got together, upon the uproar made by the craftsmen at Ephesus, is called a confused assembly, and suggested to be an unlawful one; since the town-clerk told them the matter should be determined in a lawful assembly; and when he had thus spoken, dismissed the assembly, Acts xix. 32-41. in which passages the same word is used which commonly is for a church; and which may be considered either as a general, or as a particular assembly of persons,

1. As a general assembly, called, The general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, Heb. xii. 23. and which include all the elect of God, that have been, are, or shall be in the world; and who will form the pure, holy, and undefiled Jerusalem-church-state, in which none will be but those who are written in the Lamb's book of life; and this consists of the redeemed of the Lamb, and is the church which Christ has purchased with his blood; and who make up his spouse, the church he has loved, and given himself for, to wash, and cleanse, and present to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle; this is the body, the church of which Christ is the head; and in which he is the sole officer, being Prophet, Priest, and King of it; it being not the seat of human government, as a particular church is: and this church is but one, though particular churches are many: to this may be applied the words of Christ; My dove, my undefiled, is but one, Cant. vi. 9. and this is what sometimes is called by divines, the invisible church; not but that the whole number of God's clect is visible to him, and known by him; The Lord knows them that are his; and the election of particular persons may be known by themselves, by the grace bestowed upon them; and, in a judgment of charity, may be concluded of others, that they are the chosen of God, and written in the book of life: but all the particular persons, and the number of

them, were never yet seen and known; John had a sight of them in a visionary way, and they will be all really and actually seen, when the new Jerusa lem shall descend from God out of heaven, as a bride adorned for her husband; which will be at the second coming of Christ, and not before; till that time comes, this church will be invisible. It is sometimes distinguished into the church triumphant and militant, the whole family named of God in heaven and earth. The church triumphant consists of the saints in glory, whom Christ has taken to himself, to be with him where he is; and this is continually increasing. The church militant consists of persons in the present state, which is said to be, as an army with banners, Cant. vi. 4. this is made up of such who become volunteers in the dav of Christ's power; who put on the whole armour of God, and fight the good fight of faith; and in this state it will continue to the end of the world.

There is another in which the church may be said to be catholic, or general, as it may consist of such in any age, and in the several parts of the world, who have true faith in Christ, and hold to him the head, and are baptized by one Spirit into one body; have one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, and are called in one hope of their calling: and this takes in, not only such who make a visible profession of Christ; but all such who are truly partakers of his grace; though they have not made an open profession of him in a formal manner; and this is the church which Polycarp called, the whole catholic church throughout the world: and Irenæus, The church scattered through. out the whole world to the ends of the earth: and Origen, The church of God under heaven: and this is the church built on Christ the rock, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail; such a church Christ has always had and will have; and which may be, when there is no visible particular congregated church, or a particular church gathered according to gospel-order; and of this the apostle seems to speak, when he says, Unto him be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end, Eph. iii. 21.

11. The church may be considered as a particular assembly of saints meeting together in one place for religious worship. Such was the first church at Jeru salem, which is called, the whole church, that met together in one place at the same time, and the church at Antioch, convened by the apostles, to whom they rehearsed what God had done with them, Acts xiv. 27. and these churches, in after times, continued to meet in one place; the whole church of Jerusalem, at the destruction of the city, removed to Pella, a town beyond Jordan, which was sufficient to receive the christians that belonged to it; and two hundred and fifty years after Christ the church at Antioch met in one house. And so the church at Corinth, 1 Cor. xiv. 23. and the church of the disciples at Troas, who came together on the first day of the week to break bread, Acts xx. 7. of these there were many in one province; as the churches of Judea, besides that Adv. Hæres. l. 1. c. 2, & 3. 1b. 1. 7. c. 32.

Apud Euseb. Eccl. Hist. 1. 4. c. 15.

1. 6. c. 25.

Euseb. Eccl. Hist. 1. 3. c. 5.

9 Apud Euseb.

at Jerusalem, and the churches of Galatia, Gal. i. 2, 23. and the seven churches of Asia, Rev. i. 4. and the churches of Macedonia, 2 Cor. viii. 1. the church at Cenchrea, a port of Corinth, and distinct from the church there, as were all these churches distinct from one another; so that he that was of one church, was not of another; as Epaphras is said to be one of you, of the church at Colosse, a peculiar member and minister of that church, and not of another, Col. iv 12. And this is the church the nature of which is to be treated of; and may be considered essentially, as to the matter and form of it; and organically, as to its order and power; or as a body corporate, having its proper officers.

I. Essentially considered, as to its matter and form, of which it consists. 1. As to the matter of it, both as to quantity and quality. As to number, Tertullian thought that three persons were sufficient to constitute a church; which may seem to be confirmed by Matt. xviii. 20. Where two or three are gathered together in my name, &c. who may be sufficient to meet and pray together, and edify one another; but a judical process in a church-way, in case of offence, as directed to in some preceding verses, seems to require more; seeing, if the offending and offended parties cannot compromise things among themselves, one or two more are to be taken, which if two make four; if reconciliation cannot be made, the matter must be brought before the church, which must consist of a greater number than the parties before concerned; and which it should seem cannot be less than six more, and in all ten; which was the number of a congregation with the Jews and a church organically consi dered, or as having proper officers, seems to require more; the church at Ephesus was begun with twelve men, or thereabouts, Acts xix. 7. yet a church should consist of no more than can meet together in one place, where all may hear, and all may be edified; and if it should be so increased that this cannot be, then it should be divided into lesser communities; as an hive of bees, when too many, swarms; and which seems to be the case of the church at Jerusalem; which, upon the departure of those who were converted at Pentecost, and on the scattering of the church Ly persecution, formed several churches in Judea, and accounts for the early mention of them. But not to dwell on this, the quality of the materials of a gospel-church more especially deserves attention. In general, it may be observed, that all such who are of immoral lives and conversations, and of unsound principles, as to the doctrines of the gospel, are not proper persons to be members of a gospel-church; no unclean persons, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, have, or should have any inheritance, part or portion in the kingdom of God, as that may signify, as it sometimes does, a gospel-church state; and though there may be such secretly, who creep in unawares, yet when discovered are to be excluded; and such persons, therefore, who are to be put away from a church, as wicked men, and such as walk disorderly, are to be withdrawn from, and such as have imbibed false doctrines, are to be rejected; then most certainly

« السابقةمتابعة »