صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

7. It is this confederacy, consent, and agreement, that is the formal cause of a church; it is this which not only distinguishes a church from the world, and from all professors that walk at large, the one being within and the other without, but from all other particular churches; so the church at Cenchrea was not the same with the church at Corinth, though but at a little distance from it, because it consisted of persons who had given up themselves to it, and not to the church at Corinth; and so were members of the one and not of the other; one of you, as Onesimus and Epaphras were of the church at Colosse, and not of another, Col. iv. 9, 12. From all which it follows,

8. That a church of Christ is not parochial, or men do not become churchmembers by habitation in a parish; for Turks and Jews may dwell in the same parish: nor is it diocesan; for we never read of more churches under one bishop or pastor, though there may have been, where churches were large, more bishops or pastors in one church, Phil. i. 1. nor provincial, for we read of churches in one province; as of the churches of Judea, and of Galatia, and of Macedonia; nor national; nay, so far from it, that we not only read of more churches in a nation, but even of churches in houses, Rom. xvi. 5. 1 Cor. xvi. 19. Col. iv. 15. Philem, veise 2. nor presbyterian; for we never read of a church of presbyters or elders, though of elders ordained in churches; by which it appears there were churches before they were any presbyters or elders in them, Acts xiv. 23. But a particular visible gospel-church is congregational; and even the church of England, which is national itself, defines a "visible church to be a congregation of faithful men;" and, indeed, the national church of the Jews was in some sense congregational; it is sometimes called the congregation, Lev. iv. 13-15. they were a people separated from other nations, and peculiarly holy to the Lord; they met in one place, called, the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered their sacrifices at one altar, Lev. i. 3, 4. and xvii. 4, 5. and three times in the year all their males appeared together at Jerusalem; and besides, there were stationary men at Jerusalem, who were representatives of the whole congregation, and were at the sacrifices for them: the synagogues also, though not of divine institution, were countenanced by the Lord, and bore a very great resemblance to congregational societies; and is the word which answers to congregation in the Septuagint version, and is used for a christian assembly in the New Testament, James ii. 2. to which may be added, that such congregations and assemblies as gospel-churches be, are prophesied of as what should be in gospel-times; see Eccles. xii. 11. Isai. iv. 5. A church of saints thus essentially constituted, as to matter and form, have a power in this state to admit and reject members, as all societies have; and also to choose their own officers; which, when done, they become a complete organized church, as to order and power; of which more hereafter.

OF THE DUTIES OF THE

MEMBERS OF A CHURCH TO EACH OTHER.

A CHURCH thus confederated and united by consent and agreement, there are several duties incumbent on its members; which, both for their own comfort, credit, and edification, and for the glory of God, it is highly necessary to ob serve. As,

I. And which is a principal one, to love one another; Owe no man any thing, but to love one another, is an apostolical advice, and good advice; this is a debt which every man owes to another, and should be always paying, especially christians and members of churches.

[ocr errors]

1. This is the great law of Christ, as King in his church, his royal commandment, which he enjoins on all his subjects, and frequently repeats, John xiii. 34and xv. 12, 17. 2. The example of Christ should influence and engage unto it, John xiii. 34. and xv. 12. 1 John iii. 16. 3. The relations that members. of churches stand in to each other oblige to love; being fellow-citizens of the same family, are brethren to each other, and make one fraternity, or brotherhood which they should love, 1 Pet. ii. 17. and iii. 8. and are members one of another, 1 Cor. xii. 13-27. 4. Mutual love is an evidence of being the disciples of Christ, John xiii. 35.5. It is this which makes communion in a churchstate delightful and comfortable, as well as honourable; Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! it is as pleasing and refreshing as the fragrant oil poured on Aaron's head, and as the dew that fell on mount Hermon, Psalm cxxxiii. when, on the contrary, nothing is more uncomfortable and dishonourable, as well as nothing is more pernicious and ruin→ ous to a church state than want of love, Gal. v. 15. This love of members one to another ought to be fervent, and it should be unfeigned, and without dissimulation, 1 Pet. iv. 8. and i. 22. and it should be universal, love to all the saints, weaker as well as stronger, poor as well as rich.

II. It is incumbent on church-members, as much as in them lies, to endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace; to press to which the apostle uses various arguments in Eph. iv. 3-6.

--

1. Care should be taken to promote and preserve unity of affection; so as to be of one heart and of one soul, having the same love, as the apostle advises to, Phil. ii. 2. But this falls in much with the first duty, before inculcated. 2. There should be, as much as may be, an unity of mind and judginent in the doctrines of the gospel; being, as the apostle in the above place directs, of one. accord and of one mind; or as he elswhere says, that all speak the same thing; and that they be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment, or otherwise there is danger of schism, divisions, and contentions, 1 Cor. i. 10. 11.

[ocr errors]

-3. And which is much the same an unity of faith; for there is but one faith, Eph. iv. 5, 13. one doctrine of faith, or scheme and system of divine truths to be believed; and church-members should stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel, Phil. i. 27. 4. There should be a zealous concern for unity of worship, and that nothing be introduced into it contrary to the pattern shewed and directed to in the word of God; and that they serve the Lord with one consent, and with one mind, and with one mouth glorify God, Zeph. iii. 9. Rom. xv. 6. and to prevent discord in affection, judgment, and worship, and to secure peace, all strife should be avoided, and even checked at the beginning of it; the advice of the wise man is good, Prov. xvii. 14. and equally good is the advice of the apostle, Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory, Phil. ii. 3. Proud and contentious men, who seek to promote strife and division, are not to be encouraged in christian communities, 1. Cor. xi. 16. the peace of a church is to be laboured after by its members, and by all means to be pursued; the comfort of saints in fellowship with each other is a strong argument for peace and unity, Phil. ii. 1, 2. and above all, as saints would be desirous of having the presence of God with them, they should be concerned to be of one mind, and live in peace; and then may they expect, and not otherwise, that the God of love and peace shall be with them, 2 Cor. xiii. 11.

III. It is the duty of members of churches to sympathize with each other in all conditions and circumstances they come into, Rom. xii, 15. and upon this their membership with one another cannot but have a considerable influence, 1 Cor. xii. 26. this sympathy should be with respect to things outward and temporal; any calamity, affliction, and distress, of whatsoever kind; they that are in bonds, especially for the sake of religion, should be remembered as bound with them, as if in the same circumstances, and should pity and relieve them as much as may be; and them which suffer adversity in body, family, or estate, as being themselves in the body, and liable to the same adversities, Heb. xii. 3. and therefore should visit, comfort, and assist them; so Job's three friends, when they heard of his afflictions in his person, family, and substance, though they lived at a distance from him, by appointment net together, to come, to mourn with him, and to comfort him, Job ii. 11. and much more should members of churches act such a part to one another. Likewise when in inward trouble and distress of soul, through the hidings of God's face, the temptations of Satan, the weakness of grace, and the strengh of corruptions; it becomes fellowmembers to comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, and bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ, which is the law of love and sympathy, 1 Thess. v. 14. Ga!, vi. 2. and the sympathy of God with his people in their afflictions, and also of Christ, who is touched with the feeling of the infirmities of his people, should direct to such a temper and carriage.

IV. It is the duty of church-members to communicate to each other in such circumstances.

1. In outward things, to such as are in want of them, Rom. xii. 13. Gal. vi. 10. hence in the times of the apostles, the churches had orders to make collections on the first day of the week for the poor saints, that thereby they might be relieved who were in necessitous circumstances, 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2. brotherly love demands such a conduct in church-members to their brethren in distress; for, how dwelleth the love of God in such, who, having a portion of worldly things, shut up their bowels of compassion from their brethren in need? 1 John iii. 17. besides, to communicate to such persons is well-pleasing in the sight of God, and will be taken notice of in the great day of account when forgotten by the saints. 2. It is their duty to communicate in spiritual things, to mutual comfort and edification; to speak often one to another about divine things; to impart spiritual experiences, and to declare to each other what God has done for their souls; to communicate spiritual light and knowledge in the mysteries of grace; and according to the gift one has received, be it more or less, to minis ter it to one another, and to build up one another in their most holy faith, by christian conference and praying together; and through the word dwelling richly in them, to teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; and care should be taken that no communication proceeds out of the mouth but what is for edification, and ministers grace to the hearers.

V. It is the duty of church-members to watch over one another; that they do not indulge no sinful lusts and pleasures, and make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thersof; and so bring a reproach on the good ways of God, and the doctrines of Christ; and to warn them that are unruly, or err from the rule of the word, and recover them from any evil way they seem to be going into; as also to watch over them, lest they receive any notion contrary to the gospel of Christ; for not only pastors of churches are to watch over them for this purpose, but members of churches are to look diligently, or act the part of a bishop or overseer in some respect, lest any man fail of the grace of God, or fall from the doctrine of grace, Heb. xii. 15. they should not suffer sin to lie upon a brother; but rebuke and admonish him for it, according to the gospelrule, first alone, and then, if such rebuke succeeds not, to do it with and before others; and such rebukes and admonitions should be in love, and with much tenderness, as well as faithfulness; for such only are like to be kindly received, and to be successful; such that are fallen, whether into immorality or error, should be endeavoured to be restored by those who are spiritual, in the spirit of

meekness.

VI. It is incumbent on members of churches to bear with one another; the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak; and to bear one another's burdens, and to forbear with each other, and not bear hard on one another, considering the patience, forbearance, and long-suffering of God to them; and it becomes them to forgive one another, as Christ, and God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven them; and especially when repentance is declared and discovered, then forgiveVOL, III.

a I

ness should be extended, not only to seven times, but to seventy times seven; for if we forgive not, neither will our heavenly Father forgive our trespasses, Rom. xv. I.

VII. It is the duty of members of churches to pray for one another; as they have all one common Father, who is attentive to their supplications, and is able and willing to help them in their times of need, they are directed to address him in this manner, saying, Our Father, which art in heaven; and are thereby instructed to pray for others as for themselves, to whom he stands in the same relation as to themselves, even for all saints, as the apostle intimates, Eph. vi. 18. and especially for such who are in the same church-state; and particularly when they are in any distress, inward or outward; and not for ministers of the gospel only; though members should never be forgetful of their own pastors, who are set over them in the Lord, that they may be fitted for their work, be assisted in it, and be made useful to their souls; but for the several members of the church, that they may have their several wants supplied; that they may grow in grace and spiritual knowledge; be kept faithful, and preserved blameless, to the coming of Christ; it becomes them in general to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and in particular for the hill of Zion, to which they belong, that peace may be within its walls, and prosperity in its dwellings.

VIII. It becomes church-members to separate themselves from the men of the world, and not touch persons and things which are defiling; they are in a church-state, which is as a garden inclosed; they are a separated people, and should dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations or the people of a vain and carnal world; they are called out of the world, and therefore should not be unequally yoked with the men of it; with men unrighteous, ignorant, lawless, disobedient, dead, and profane sinners, with whom they can have no profitable communion; and, indeed, from all such in their own societies who walk disorderly they are directed to withdraw themselves. — 1. In conversa tion they are to abstain from sinful men; not that they are to have no ccmmerce nor correspondence with them in civil things, for then, as the apostle says, they must needs go out of the world; but that they are not to join with them in their sinful practices, but bear a testimony against them; they are not to walk, as other Gentiles do, in the vanity of their minds; nor to walk with them in the same paths of sin and folly; nor to keep up any intimate and fami liar converse with them; knowing, that evil communications corrupt good 2. Nor should they keep company with erroneous persons, with men of unsound principles; for such, who cause divisions and offences, con trary to the gospel of Christ, are to be avoided, and their conversation shunned; and such who cavil at, and consent not unto the wholesome words of Christ, and the doctrine according to godliness, are to be withdrawn from; and such who have imbibed heretical notions, are to be rejected; and such who bring not the doctrine of Christ with them, are not to be bid God-speed, nor received into the houses of God's people.

manners.

-

« السابقةمتابعة »