Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Acts ii, 38. as circumcision was to the covenant-seed of Abraham. And as the covenant-grant which was the foundation of circumcising his infant-seed, recorded Gen. xvii. 7. is evidently extended to the New Testament church, as an encouragement to baptism, and the warrant for it, Acts ii. 38. 39. it is highly credible, that baptism has the same place in the Christian dispensation, as circumcision had in the Jewish. This point needs no process of reasoning to deduce its authority from the oracles of truth, being obviously founded in Col. ii. 8–13. This supposed ; infantbaptism, a sign and seal of their church-membership, is confessedly a just and necessary consequence. Wherefore those that are, in the appointed order, partakers of baptism, are vested with all the external rights and privileges, which can belong to them that are truly regenerate, in the same circumstances ; until, in advancing years, their neglect or contempt of those duties, on the performance whereof the continued evidence and proof of visible regeneration rest, shalldemonstrate the badness of their heart and state. To them we may apply, with necessary alterations, these words, Rom. ii. 25. ‘Baptism verily profiteth, if thou observe all things Christ hath commanded: but if thou slightest his words, thy baptism is made no baptism, in the sight of God,' as to real communications of grace, and acceptance with him; and is therefore made no baptism in the sight of the church, as to a participation of the external rights and privileges of a regenerate state. Regeneration is of that mysterious nature, that it is discerned in the internal and real existence of it, by him only who searcheth the heart; its evidences and fruits in their external demonstrations are all of which the church can judge; and the admission of churchmembers to enjoy privileges, belonging, in their nature, use, and design, to the regenerate only, must be regulated by these appearances, which the Holy Ghost tells us, usually characterise a true Christian, to the view of the world.

“The appearances of Christianity, which characterise the new creature, in whom old things are passed away, and all things become new, are neither dark nor doubtful. These appearances are necessary to enable men, who must judge of things by looking on the outward appearance, to form an estimate of themselves and others; but cannot in any respect assist the Deity, whose judgment is always according to truth.

He seeth not as man seeth; but looketh on the heart, 1 Sam. xvi. 7. He knoweth what is in man, and needeth not to be told by any outward discovery; for he searcheth the heart. We, poor limited mortals, must judge of things by the seeing of the eye, and the hearing of the ear. It is not our province, to search the heart; this is the prerogative of him who made the heart, to understand the secrets of it; and under every specious shew, discern truth, with infallible certainty. What we are concerned in is, to enquire what qualifications the scripture requires to clear our title and right of admission to, or continuance in, the fellowship of the saints. And,

"1. Those who manifest prevailing inclinations to any sin, of any kind, and walk accordingly, against light and conviction, shall not inherit the hingdom of God, I Cor. vi. 9, 10, 11.

“ 2. Those who have escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust, by the knowledge of the truth, have professedly given up themselves to the Lord, and joined themselves to his people in churchorder ; but have returned again with the dog to his vomit, and with the swine that had been washed to wallow in the mire, who harden themselves against warnings, admonitions, reproofs, and councils, which have been administered with a Christian temper, and in the due order, Matth. xviii. 16, 17, 18. so that they neglect to hear the church in the judicial exercise of her authority, in a plain case of sin or error ;—those who act thus must be reputed by the church, as Heathen men, and aliens from the common-wealth of Israel.

“ 3. Believers, who receive the knowledge of the truth, and profess to esteem and love it, may, and none else ought, to be admitted into churchfellowship. This is a sacred, and should be a settled maxim among Christians. Accordingly the apostles baptized, and united in holy communion, these that gladly received the gospel ; even as Abraham received circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith, which he had yet being uncircumcised. The apostle writes to the church of Ephesus, as consisting of ós Tisou believers, or faithful persons, Eph, i. 1. His meaning was very well understood. How frequently do we find faith connected with salvation; and the want of it as often joined with damnation! Can we think, that the scripture speaketh to this purpose, in vain? Because the truth is important, and should be kept in our memories, line is laid upon line. Every adult member of the gospel-church should have the same appearances of faith which Simon Magus bad, Acts viji. 12. a faith not contradicted, but perfected, by works, and rendered visible in its fruits, James ii. 14--26. Such believers only ought to be received, or retained, in the communion of saints.

“4. Such as hold this faith, must make an open profession of the subjection of their consciences to the authority of Christ in the Gospel, and of their hearty readiness to yield obedience to all his institutions. This profession supposes a competent knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel; and it implies a denying of their own wisdom and choice, where the wisa don and authority of Zion's Lawgiver interpose, together with a declared resolution to perform all known duties of religion, and to abstain carefully from every known sin, Rom. 8. 9. 10.

“This is a short draught of the appearances of vital union to the Lord Jesus, which are specified on by the Holy Ghost, as essentially necessary, in these who may warrantably be allowed to commence or maintain fellowship in a church-state, with an humble confident dependence on Christ for an effectual blessing on their connections.

“It appears from the whole, that hypocrites, who have assumed and never laid aside a mask, must be reputed members of the church, so long as they continue to use that mask, without denying by their works what they profess in words. The reason is plain; they wear the appearance of saints and faithful persons; and that they have no more than the appearance, is known to God and themselves only. Men can judge of men, by appearance only; yet this we may add on the best authority, that God who searcheth the heart, will cause fearfulness to seize the hypocrites in Zion, and this they shall assuredly have at his hand, they shall lie down in sorrow, and be covered with confusion.

“But this is the province of an all-seeing, just, and jealous God: and what are blind, deceiving and deceived men, that they should presume to intrude into those things which they have not seen? Secret things belong to the Lord our God alone : but the things wbich are revealed belong to us and our children. Let us learn not to exceed our line, in judging of what was never competent to any created intelligence, being the prerogative of JEHOVAH."

BIBLE INSTRUCTION.

No. IX.

THE LAW OF GOD.

“Wherefore the law is boly, and the commandment holy, and just, and

good."-ROMANS vii, 12.

The law of God is the rule of Christian duty. When the sinner believes on Christ, he is taken from under the law as a ground of hope, but submits to its authority as a rule of life. He is “not without law to God, but under the law to Christ." Our present purpose is to explain the rule of Christian conduct; and with this view we shall, 1. Offer a few remarks in explanation of the law; and, 2. Point out the uses of the law under the dispensation of the Gospel.

I. Remarks in explanation of the law. The term is used in various significations in the Scriptures. It signifies a rule to direct the conduct of rational beings, Prov. xxviii. 4; any thing to which our conduct is conformed, Rom. vii. 23; the Scriptures, Psal. i. 2; the ten commandments, Rom. vii. 7; the second table of the law exclusively, Rom. xiii. 8; the Mosaic dispensation, John i. 17; the principles of righteousness impressed on the human mind at the creation, Rom. ii. 14; the Old Testament Scriptures, John X. 34; and the Gospel, Isa. ii. 3. At present we shall understand by it that law which God at first revealed to man for the rule of his obedience, called the moral law, because it is intended to regulate the manners of men, It is reduced by Christ to two great principles—the love of God and the love of man. And it is comprehended in the ten commandments originally published to the Jews upon Mount Sinai. A few thoughts on, these three points will explain the subject.

1. This is the law which God at first revealed to man for the rule of his obedience. He published it to our first parents in paradise. He impressed it on their hearts, inspiring them with a knowledge of it, and a disposition to obey it. He formed it into a covenant, promising life if it was obeyed, and threatening death if it was violated. It is the transcript of the divine mind, and was copied into the human mind when man was made in the image of God.

2. The law is reducible to two fundamental principles the love of God and man.--Matt. xxii. 37–40. In this respect the law of God is, like all his other works, characterized

by simplicity and comprehensiveness. No case can occur in human life, which may not be referred to one of these principles. It is unlike the laws of men. These are the most minute, and seek to provide for every case that may occur ; yet cases are perpetually occurring, for which there is no provision. The law of God, on the contrary, is the most simple, being reduced to two fundamental principles, and these meet every case that can possibly occur. The laws of men are so extensive and complex, it is not possible fully to understand them, and yet they are defective; while the law of God is the most simple, universally applicable, and understood by all.

3. The law is summarily comprehended in ten commandments. The design of such a classification is to render the two great principles, already noticed, more plain and easy in their application to human conduct. For the same reason these commandments are again divided into two tables--the first containing four commandments, explaining the great principle of love to God; and the second containing the remaining six, explanatory of our love and duty to men. A few words will suffice for the explanation of these ten commandments.

The first commandment requires that God shall have the first place in the heart. It forbids that any person or thing shall occupy the place due to him. And it is violated by idolatry, pride, ambition, covetousness, sensuality, and any thing, in short, that takes away the heart from God.-Matt,

The second commandment requires such worship as is agreeable to the perfections of God and honourable to his name. It forbids eyery thing, either in the spirit or manner of worship, that is not appointed in his word. It is violated by superstition, formality, or insincerity, and demands of the worshipper simplicity, sincerity, and spirituality.—John iv.24.

The third commandment requires the holy and reverend use of the names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works of God.' It forbids the profaning or abusing of any thing by which he makes himself known. It is violated by indifference, irreverence, impiety, profane swearing, or perjury. And it demands zeal, veneration, devotion, and prayer.

The fourth commandment requires the exclusive dedication of one whole day in seven to the worship of God, and to works in accordance with that. It forbids the dedication of any portion of it to the ordinary works of men. It is violated by idleness, amusement, or worldly employment of any kind.

x. 37.

And it allows the exceptions only of necessity and mercy.-Isa. lviii. 13.

. These four commandments comprise the duty which men owe to God. They determine the object, spirit, manner, and circumstances of religious worship. The remaining commandments respect the duties which men owe to one another.

The fifth commandment requires the faithful discharge of the relative duties of life—those of parent and child, husband and wife, master and servant, king and subjects, poor and rich, learned and unlearned, and all the other relations in which men stand to one another. It forbids either the neglect or violation of any of these. And is alike violated by the one or the other.Col. iii. 18-22; iv. 1.

The sixth commandment regulates the duty we owe tó others, in respect of their person and life. It forbids any act whereby these may be injured. And it is violated by anger, malice, revenge-every injurious thought or act towards the person of others.Matt. v. 21, 22.

The seventh commandment requires purity in thought, word, and deed. It forbids whatever tends to impurity in any of these. And it is violated by lightness of conversation or indelicacy of dress, as well as by the more gross actions which it condemns.—Matt. v. 27-30.

The eighth commandment regulates the duty we owe to others, in respect of property. It requires honesty. It forbids whatever may unnecessarily or unjustly injure the temporal circumstances of others. It is violated by slothfulness, luxury, or extortion ; while it demands industry, frugality, and fairdealing. .

The ninth commandment teaches our duty, with respect to the reputation of others. It is violated by slander, calumny, injurious suspicions or insinuations—whatever, in short, needlessly injures their good name; while it requires that we shall be forward to protect the innocent and defend the injured.

The tenth commandment requires submission to the dispensations of God, and thankful contentment with our circumstances. It forbids repining, murmuring, fretfulness, dissatisfaction, envy-whatever produces uneasiness with what the providence of God has allotted to us, and begets an inordinate affection towards that which is possessed by others.

Such is the law of God. It will now be seen with how much propriety it was said that it extends to all the cases that can occur in life. The description given of it in the text of Scripture at the head of this paper, will at once commend itself to

« ForrigeFortsæt »