صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

him as the High-priest over the house of God, who transacts all affairs for them; they make use of him as their advocate and intercessor with the Father, and put their petitions into his hands, to be offered up by him, perfumed with the much incense of his mediation; they acknowledge him as their King, submit to his government, yield obedience to his commands, and esteem all his precepts concerning all things to be right. Saints have such communion and fellowship with Christ in his offices, that they have in some sense a share in them; that is, they are made by him prophets, priests, and kings; prophets to teach and instruct others, having received the anointing from him; and kings and priests unto God and his Father, 1 John i. 27. Rev. i. 6.-Much of fellowship with Christ is enjoyed in the use of, and by the means of the ordinances of his house, espe cially the ordinance of the supper. The church is a banqueting-house, into which Christ brings his people, where they sit under his shadow, and in his presence, with delight, and his banner over them is his love displayed; here he' has a table spread, and at it he himself sits, and welcomes his guests, saying, Eat, O friends! drink abundantly, O beloved! which encourages them, and causes their spikenard to send forth the sweet smell thereof, or their graces to go forth in exercise on him; so that the communion is mutual; he sups with them, and they with him.

Now this communion with Christ greatly arises from the saints relation to him; he is the Husband of his church and people, and they are his spouse and bride; hence a communion both of name and goods; they have the same common name, The Lord our Righteousness, Jer. xxiii. 6. and all that Christ has is theirs, they being Christ's and he theirs; he is made to them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 1 Cor. i. 30. Christ is the head, to which his body, the church, is joined, and the saints are members of him, and one Spirit with him; from whom they receive life and nourishment, and increase with the increase of God: he is the vine, they the branches; and by virtue of union to him, a communication of the fruits of grace, holiness, and perseverance therein is made to them from him.

III. Saints have also a special and particular communion with the Holy Ghost, in the gifts of his grace unto them, and which they exercise under his influence; as the grace of faith, which is of his operacion, and from whence he is called, the Spirit of faith; and a good hope through grace, in the exercise of which believers abound, through the power of the Holy Ghost; and love is a fruit of the Spirit, and which is under his cultivation. Morcover, this fellowship of the Spirit appears in the offices of grace, which he performs towards them; as the guide, teacher, and comforter of them: as a Spirit of grace and supplication, making intercession in them; as a Spirit of adoption, witnessing to their spirits, that they are the children of God; and as the earnest of the heavenly inheritance to them, and the sealer of them up unto the day of redemption; in whom he dwells, as in his temple, enabling then to exercise every grace and

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 hies 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 goruner, 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 cat 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 871 70 aute, 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 others.

II. The word exxλnoia, 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 elect 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 judginent 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 Jerusalem 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 day 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 ve 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 Jerusalem, 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 s Apud Euseb.

• Apud Euseb. Eccl. Hist. 1. 4. c. 15. 1. 6. c. 25.

Adv. Hæres. l. 1. c. 2, & 3.
1b. 1. 7. c. 37.

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

« السابقةمتابعة »