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subject? Of all others, you feel the strongest obligations to love and honor Jesus, the Lord of glory, the Saviour of the world. Can you decline, then, you who have quenched your thirst at the fountain of living waters? W you be unwilling to do your part in transmitting to future generations this evidence of the holy religion you possess?
There are people in the community of very doubtful, humble minds, who are kept away from the table of the Lord by the fear that they are not sufficiently pure, and that, if they make a profession of religion, they shall dishonor the cause of Christ.
If in fact you are truly sensible that you are unworthy to profess the religion of Christ, your duty is very evident, viz. to amend your life, and bring all your actions into a happy agreement with the wholesome and highly reasonable commands which Jesus has given the world, so that in this respect you are without excuse; for if, by any known violation of duty, or any impropriety whatsoever, of heart and life, you are fearful, by a profession of religion, you shall bring reproach upon the cause of Christ, it is evident that the work of reformation should speedily begin. We put the question to the conscience, whether every man ought not to live such a life, as would reflect honor upon the religion of his Master?
We do not, however, hold to perfection, neither in spirit or conduct, here on earth. All men are liable to err, even the most constantly watchful. It was on this account in part, as we apprehend, that the institution was established. Jesus knew the frailties of his followers. He knew they would be in danger of forgetting him, his toils, sacrifices, and death; and for this reason he instituted a festival, the design of which should be to keep him in their remembrance. This is a circumstance which will show, that the institution was designed for imperfect man, forgetful, apt to err, to forsake his master, and give all his thoughts to the world. This
was intended to call him back, and quicken good resolutions on his part; to lead him from the heart to pray,
"Call me away from flesh and sense,
Thy sovereign word can draw me thence;
The objection, therefore, which we are considering, is not a valid one. The service shows itself to be commended to imperfect men, as a help to them in the path of virtue. We are perfectly willing to confess, that it is the influence of religion, pure and undefiled, to make men virtuous and good; and that it is the duty of those who profess religion, to shine before men in good works, and in pure and heavenly example; but we question whether the means of piety are to be neglected entirely, until a man has acquired that state of holiness and perfection, to which these means are designed to lead him. Suppose the scholar should say, that he would no longer go to school. On being inquired of as to the reason, he replies, "I do not know enough to go to school. I am too ignorant." What would be said to him? Would he not be told, that his plea was altogether inadmissible? Schools are designed for the ignorant, to increase their knowledge. If you are ignorant, you have need to attend the school; you will thus grow wiser. No rule can be more obviously correct than this, that the circumstance which renders any thing necessary, cannot be adduced as an objection against it. Of the same character is the objection frequently made. against celebrating the Lord's Supper.
The individual is persuaded that he is not sufficiently good; he wishes he was a better man; but he is not very strict, and he is afraid he shall bring reproach upon the cause. It was for such persons as you are, that the festival was intended. It will, if properly and regularly observed, impress religion more forcibly upon the mind, and be a means of advantage and improvement to you.
We do not mean to say,
that those who observe the
ordinance should not keep a careful watch over their lives; they certainly should do so. We mean only to assert, that this ordinance was designed as a help to a pious life, to encourage men to virtue and benevolence by keeping in their remembrance the religion of their divine Master. It was, then, evidently designed for weak, erring, ungrateful creatures; and such should endeavour, in sincerity, to make such a use of the institution as should put them on their guard against their frailties. It is not certain, that we express our thoughts happily, or intelligently to others; but our object is to remove an objection which exists in the minds of many modest, tender, doubting persons, arising from the supposition, that a person must be absolutely holy, before he can avail himself of the benefit of the ordinance. We are persuaded, such an impression has been an injury, instead of a benefit. It would be a matter of regret, if these remarks should be so far misunderstood, as to lead the reader to suppose we would approve of introducing the vile and abandoned to the table of the Lord. Such will have no wish to come; they have no relish for such a service. They probably have no faith in Christ, and have never derived any enjoyment from his glorious Gospel. They do not find their interest in these things. But there are many people in the community, kind, generous, honest Christians, who are kept away, through the mistaken opinion, that a person must be absolutely undefiled, and righteous, or he cannot with propriety celebrate the death of Christ. The argument we have here advanced, is designed for them. And now brethren, (and sisters too, for you are equally interested,) will you seriously reflect upon this subject? If you are true believers in the Son of God, if you love his doctrine, if you are desirous that his kingdom shall be established in the world, if you are anxious that it shall descend to future generations, say so. Say it, not in a cold form of words, but in the vigor and constancy of your zeal, and in the habitual observance
of the commands of Christ. Be a Christian in private, and also before the world. Live a Christian's life. Bear about with you wherever you, go, the remembrance of what you are. Such a course will be of vast advantage to you. It will afford you,
"What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy,
ON THE ORGANIZATION OF CHURCHES, AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE SUPPER.
I. THE form we have presented in another chapter, as the Constitution of a religious society, might also, in the main, be adopted as the Constitution of a Christian church; but as it is necessary in the most of cases, in Massachusetts, to establish a church in distinction from the society, and will be so as long as the present state of societies shall continue, we have judged it best to prepare a Constitution for a Christian church, which we commend to the attention of all our fellow believers throughout the land. In some cases, especially in Boston, it is impossible to guard the society against the admission of members, whatever their religious opinions may be. For what is a religious society in Boston? It is the proprietors of the meeting-house, the owners of the pews therein. These pews may be transferred from one to another, at the will of the owners; and the purchaser has the full and legal right to attend all proprietors' meetings, and vote in all the concerns of the corporation, whether he be Christian, Jew, Mahometan, or heathen. The whole business is in the hands of the proprietors of pews, and we suppose, of right, ought to be, not excepting the selection and settlement of the pastor. Such a corporation may continually change. At one time a majority of the proprietors may be of a
certain faith, at another time, they may be of a faith the very reverse of this. Men very frequently purchase pews without any reference to religious considerations; they may do it for pecuniary profit; they may be obliged to take them in security of a debt; the pews may descend to them legally on the death of the owner. Under this state of things, it is not certain, that a body of proprietors will remain professors of the Christian religion. There is no security for this. They have no power to prevent any man from becoming one of their number, whatever his opinions, or whatever his motives may be, if he can obtain the possession of a pew. This state of things exists not only in Boston, but in various other parts of the Commonwealth; and the same remarks will apply, where the ownership of the meeting-house is lodged, not in the hands of pew-owners, but in the hands of the builders, or in any other way.
II. To preserve, therefore, the Christian institution pure, it is necessary to have connected with each society a body of Christian believers, who shall have the power to admit or exclude members, according as they shall judge their duty, and the directions of the New Testament require. Such an institution we call a Christian church, a body, or assembly of Christian believers. The New Testament certainly calls on Christians to make a PROFESSION of their faith. What is the meaning of that forcible expression, that the followers of Christ shall have the Father's name written in their FOREHEADS, except, that they are to make the most open and undisguised PROFESSION of their faith? “And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads." "These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and the Lamb." Rev. xiv. 1, 4. The forehead is the most conspicuous part of the human form; and when it is said, that Christians had the Father's name written in their foreheads, it means, that