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CHARACTER OF CHURCH MEMBERS.
Who then is fit to become a professed Christian? When shall one consider himself competent to become a member of the church of Christ? What state of mind and heart, of belief and of character is requisite before any shall join themselves to the visible church of God below ?
We shall endeavor to reply to these questions which perplex the consciences of many, plainly and scripturally. We believe the answer simple. All ought to become confessedly and openly Christians, who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and who desire sincerely to become his true disciples.
In most churches of the present time long creeds and minute confessions are demanded of the disciple who comes forward to unite with the church. But in the Bible the only confession ever required is this, “that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.”
And again it is declared in very many places that belief in this is sufficient, so far as belief goes, for salvation. As a proof of these propositions we refer to the case of Philip and the eunuch, of Paul and the jailor, to Peter's first confessioncontained in the following passages of Scripture. Acts viii, 37: xvi, 30. Matt. xvi, 16. I John iv, 15: v, 1, 5. As regards the belief therefore, this simple confession is the
As simple is the Scripture demand upon the heart. It is not said, only the innocent, only the virtuous, only the pious, only those who have succeeded in conquering their besetting sins and gaining self command and self control, shall become members of Christ's church. It is not said, only the moral, only the pure, only the holy, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven. For Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And no matter how great the extent and power of transgression, so that one is earnestly desirous to be rid of it, he is a proper person to become a follower of Jesus.
Neither is it declared in the Bible that those only shall be received by the Savior into his flock who have been miraculously and wonderfully converted, and whose hearts have been filled with piety and love to God. It is not said only the religious shall be admitted. For still the rule applies “Those who
are whole need not a physician, but those who are sick." If one then has no religion or piety, if they do indeed desire to have their hearts made right toward God, and to be filled with all spiritual influences—if they wish to be pious and religious, and be filled with a spirit of prayer-then they should at once join the company of Christ's friends and followers.
How simple then is the description of the state of mind and heart which should bring one to Jesus. “I feel that I am in need of pardon, help and succour. I desire to be made better. I believe that Jesus is able to help me, that he was sent by God to save me, that he is the Christ of God.”
- MODE OF ADMISSION INTO TIIE CHURCH.
The mode to be Scriptural must be simple. The person wishing to join the church should signify the same to the church through the Pastor. The Pastor ought then by conversation to learn the views and sentiments of the applicant for admission, and communicate them to the church at some meeting of the same. The sentiments of the church should then be taken and communicated by the Pastor to the applicant. Then on the Sabbath of the Sacrament, if convenient, before the administration of the ordinance, some such declaration as the following, on the part of the applicant and the church, shall be read by the Pastor -- the applicant giving assent by standing.
DECLARATION OF FAITH AND PURPOSE.
“My Friend and Brother, (or Sister or Brethren) you present yourselves here, having expressed a wish to unite with this body of Christians and become one of this family of believers. I ask, therefore, in the presence of God our Father and of this assembly.
Are you convinced of your sinfulness, are you conscious of your weakness, and is it your heart's desire and fervent wish to be saved from the power of sin, and to be made holy, pure and spiritual?
Do you wish to love God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself, to keep the commandments and enter into spiritual life?
And do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, sent by God for this purpose, to save you and all from the power of sin, and that he is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through him? In this faith, do you desire to become one of his church and a partaker in all its promises and privileges ?
We then receive you gladly into our number--we welcome you to the communion of Christian hearts—we solemnly promise and engage to act toward you the part of true friends and brethren, to sympathise in your efforts after improvement, and as far as we are able to bear your burdens and fulfil the law of love toward you by our counsels and prayers, and the diligent use of all ordinances. And may
God our Father grant that this union formed on earth may be perfected and hallowed in Heaven, and tend to fit us all for the fellowship of the Saints in Light.”
It is however to be understood, that the entire form and manner of admission into a church depends on each separate church to determine for itself. The nearer however to the Scriptural mode the better.
Finally we will say a few words on the government of the church. We think it can be proved that God has not enjoined in his word any fixed and immutable order of government, or orders in the ministry. This he has left to depend upon the varying wants and circumstances of the times. The broad and generous liberty of the Christian System has made the outward form of the church not rigid but pliable, not petrified into one eternal shape but yielding to the needs of an everchanging world. “There are diversities of administration but the same Lord.” We do not deny that even the Papalor absolute form of government may be expedient in certain conditions of the church, just as an absolute monarchy may be the best form of secular government in certain states of the people. Neither do we deny that the Episcopal or Oligarchal form of government may be often a very expedient mode of government, and suited to the wants of a large class of minds. So also is the Presbyterian form of government, in which a number of churches are united together and governed by judicial assemblies. But for ourselves, we, for many reasons, prefer the Independent or Congregational form-in which each church stands wholly distinct and independent, choosing its own opinions, and not compelled to receive a creed at the command of other churches. By this mode the greatest freedom of mind in the pursuit of truth is guaranteed to each member, and the church is free to adopt any rules or modes of proceeding for its own good which suits its own peculiar circumstances.
But while we disclaim the authority of all other churches, and profess to have no other head than Christ, we feel bound to cultivate friendly and sympathetic relations with all other
churches. We join them in mutual councils for advice, and the discussion of questions of general or private interest.
And while we adopt this free and liberal mode of union, we do not underrate the absolute necessity of some kind of union. We believe that it will not do to leave religion to spread itself among mankind as a mere general principle. Jesus Christ not only taught Christianity, but founded a church. As has been well observed by a popular writer—"the union—the regular organization of the disciples of Christ, is an essential part of the plan of Christianity. To make each individual Christian isolated and solitary in a world like this, would be almost like disbanding an army on the field of battle. It is not therefore the necessity of an organization itself, but the precise form and method in which the organization is effected, that we are prone to over estimate. While the latter, the form and mode, has been continually fluctuating from the days of Abraham to the present hour; the former, the necessity of organized union itself, has remained, during all centuries, unchanged, and must remain fixed and unalterable as long as human nature continues as it is."*
HYMN. Written for the Installation of the Rev. Mr. Briggs of Plymouth, as colleague to
the Rev. Dr. Kendall.
God of love to thee we bend
Fervently to thee we pray-
Who is joined with us to-day.
With thy might his soul embue-
And his speech distil as dew.
Give him boldness, to declare
All the counsel of the Lord-
Strength, to wield the Spirit's sword
* Jacob Abbott.
O'er the world triumphantly
May he still his course pursueFrom its bondage dare be free
Spurn its frowns, its flatteries too.
Sternly may he sin reprove
Gently wipe repentant tearsKindle icy hearts with love
Calm the good man's dying fears. In the storm and shine of life
May he our exemplar be'Till o'erpast its toil and strife
He shall come to dwell with Thee.
Let thy choicest gifts descend
On thine elder servant, LordBe thou still his constant friend
His exceeding great reward. May his yet remaining years
Pass serene and cloudless byUndisturbed by pain or fears
Spent in sweet tranquility.
Bless him for his life of peace
Bless him for his works of loveAnd when earthly labors cease
Take him to thyself above; There
may flook and pastors meetThere, around thy blissful throne, All in nobler strains repeat
Songs of praise to thee alone.
A. C. S.