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churches of Christ. Christ and his apostles have insisted much on this, as that without which the laws of Christ cannot be obeyed in any degree. It is this alone by which the disciples and church of Christ are to be distinguished from the men and the societies of the world. “ By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have tove one to another. "* Where a spirit of true christian love prevails, it will be natural and easy to obey the laws of Christ respecting the discipline to be exercised in his church ; it will appear important and necessary that these laws should be observed and executed with great care and strictness : And the good effect will be apparent. By this the church will edify itself in love, and become “ fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” And when this spirit of christian love is not in exercise, the proper practice of discipline will not take place ; and all attempts to practise it will proceed from selfishness, pride and a worldly spirit, and promote confusion, divisions and contention, rather than peace and edification, which has been verified in too many instances.
ON CHRISTIAN PRACTICE.
EVERY doctrine which comes into the system of truth, exhibited in divine revelation, and which has been brought into view, in the preceding work, is, in a greater or less degree, practical ; and the whole, considered in a collective view, do lead to, and involve every thing essential in the whole system of christian exercise and practice, which consists wholly in practising the truth, or walking in the truth.t
the truth. This will therefore serve as an help and guide in the brief delineation of this, which is now proposed.
The temper and exercises of a christian, which take place in the view of revealed truth, have been in some measure brought into view and described already. • John xiü. 35. + Job ii. 21. 2 John 4.
3 John 3,6
They consist summarily and most essentially in love : In loving God with all their heart ; and loving their neighbour as themselves. Christian practice consists in expressing and acting out this affection, on all occasions, in every suitable way, in obedience to all the holy laws of God. The christian owes perfect obedience at all times, as he always did before he was a christian, and which all men do. His becoming a christian, and obtaining pardon and the divine favour, is so far from freeing him from obligation to obey the laws of God perfectly, that his obligation to this is hereby greatly increased.
There is no real obedience, or any thing morally good or evil in mere words and external actions, considered as unconnected with the heart, and aside from the motives and affections of which they are the fruit and expression; for all obedience and virtue consist in the disposition and exercises of the heart ; and in the expressions and exertions of it, in words and external actions : And when the latter are not the fruit and genuine expressions of the former, whatever they may be, there is no holiness or moral good in them. And when they are the fruit and production of a wrong and sinful dis. position, motives and exercises of heart, they are bad fruit, and, considered in this connection, are sinful. This is expressly asserted by Christ: “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt. A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things : And an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things."* The external appearances and expressions, in words and conduct, of both of them, in some, yea, many instances, may be the same, or so much alike, in the view of man, as not to be distinguished. But those of the one are good, as they proceed from a good heart, and are the proper expression of his true benevolence and goodness. Those of the other are evil, as they proceed from an evil heart, and are the fruit and effect of selfish motives, or of self love ; and all the
appearance they have of the contrary is nothing but falsehood and hypocrisy.
Matt. ül. 33, 35.
Mankind in their state of depravity and blindness are liable to make great mistakes, not only with respect to real holiness of heart, in what it consists ; but as to the way and manner in which an honest and good heart is to be expressed in words and actions ; and therefore stand in need of particular instruction and direction with re. gard to this. God has been pleased to furnish man with direction, in the revelation which he has given, and has abundantly taught us how, and in what manner we are to express that love, in which all holiness consists, and what are the natural effects of it, in words and actions, on different occasions, and towards different objects. This is done more summarily in the ten commandments spoken from Mount Sinai by God himself, in the au. dience of all the people of Israel, and afterwards written by him on two tables of stone. But this is more par. ticularly taught and explained, by numerous precepts respecting our conduct on various occasions, and towards different objects and persons ; and by the history and example of good men ; and especially by the precepts and example of Christ.
By these, the conduct which is a proper expression of love to God and to our neighbour, including ourselves, is so particularly delineated, that they who are under the influence of this love are not exposed to make any great mistakes ; but will be directed and excited to all christian practice, in each branch of it.
I. Christian practice, as it more immediately respects God, and the things of the invisible world, which is the practice of piety, consists chiefly in the following things :
1. A public profession of a belief of the great, important truths and doctrines, contained in divine revelation, and sincere approbation of them; a profession of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ : and that we do dedicate and devote ourselves to his service, submitting to him as our Lord and Saviour; promising to obey all his commands, and attend upon all his ordinances : At the same time, professing love to the visible disciples of Christ, and a desire to join to a society of such, who are mutually engaged to promote the cause and kingdom of Christ in the world, and maintain his worship and ordi. nances, in a way which is agreeable to our judgment, and conscience. Such a public profession is due to God, and no man can properly honour Christ without it; and is therefore the natural expression of love to God, and the spirit of true piety. This therefore has been required and practised in all ages, under the Old Testament and the New, as the only way in which a visible church has existed in the world, or can exist. This is expressed in scripture in the following words : “ Ye stand this day all of you, before the Lord your God; that thou shouldst enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day."*
I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. And they shall spring up as among grass, as willows by water-courses. One shall say, I am the Lord's ; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob : And another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.'t. “ Then they that gladly received the word were baptiz-. ed: And the same day there were added unto them, about three thousand souls. And the Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes, both men and women. And much people was added unto the Lord. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”! “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved." Baptism necessarily implies such a profession, and an express engagement to obey and serve Jesus Christ.
2. If a person has not been baptized in his infancy, a submission to this commanded rite is required of him, as a christian, without which no profession of faith and obedience to Christ, is to be considered as credible, or can constitute him a visible christian. If he has been baptized in his infancy, and so made a visible member of the church, in the sense explained above, his approbation of this, and of all that is implied in it, must be expressly or implicitly declared in the public profession which he makes. And when such a professor who is • Deut. xxix. 10, 12. | Isa. xliv. 3, 4, 5. $ Acts ii. 41, 47. v. 14. viii. 37. xi, 24.
Mark xvi. 16.
baptized, and a visible member of a church, has child. ren, he is required to offer and dedicate them to Christ in baptism, and promise to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This, and his faithful per. formance of his engagements in this transaction, is an important part of the practice of piety, and the duty which he owes to Christ, which at the same time is a duty which he owes to his children, and to the church.
3. A serious, devout, and constant attendance on all the religious institutions of Jesus Christ, is an important part of christian practice. These are public worship; .consisting in prayer, singing praise to God, and hearing the word preached. Attending on the Lord's supper, whenever it is administered in the church to which he belongs. A careful and strict observation of the chris. tian Sabbath, in abstaining from all secular business, labour or recreation ; except that which is of real necessity ; and works of charity and mercy; and devoting the whole day to religious exercises, in public and more privately. This is an important part of the practice of christian piety; and every branch of the christian's ex. ercise of piety will commonly keep pace with his observation of the Sabbath. If a christian feels in any good measure as he ought to do, this will be a high day with him, as in a peculiar manner consecrated to the honour and service of Christ. He is ready to welcome it, on every return of it, with peculiar satisfaction and joy; and be concerned to order bis worldly circumstances and business, so as to have the least possible interruption, in the duties of the Sabbath. Thus he will turn away his foot from the Sabbath, from doing his worldly pleasure on God's holy day; and will call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, and honourable ; and will conscientiously honour him, not doing his own ways, nor finding his own pleasure, nor speaking his own words. *
4. A free and cheerful contribution for the support of the gospel and public religion, according to his ability, and opportunity, is a necessary part of the practice of a christian. This cannot be maintained and supported, according to the institution of Christ, without cost and
47 Isaiah lyin. 13.