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subdued to the obedience of Christ. Christianity,' said they, 'is very good, so far as it goes ; but it is defective. It grates with our feelings, who have been used to so much religious pomp. Circumcision, and a few of our decent ceremonies, would complete it.' So also, when the gospel was addressed to the learned Greeks, some of them believed ; but among them were men who wanted to supply some of its supposed defects. Christianity, said they, 'is good, so far as it goes; but it wants a little philosophy to be added to it, and the whole to be cast into a philosophical mould ; and then it will be respectable, and worthy of being the religion of the whole human race.'
But what said the Apostle, to the churches, in respect of these proposals ? Hear him: As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in hin; rooted and built up in his, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any may spoil you through philosophy an / vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in him dwelleth all the FULNESS of the Godhead bodily. And ye are COMPLETE in him, which is the head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are CIRCUMCISED with the circumcision made without hands, in putting of the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with kom in baptisn, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hatk he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses ; blotting out the hand writing of ordinances, that was against us, which was contrary to us, and, took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powe ers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. LET NO MAN THEREFORE JUDGE You in meat, or in drink, or in re, spect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days : which are a sậadow of things to come : but the body is of Christ. LET NO MAN BEGUILE YOU OF YOUR REWARD, in a voluntary humility, and worskipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind; and not holding the Head,
from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
Had the church of Christ adhered to this counsel, it had been free from many spots which have since defaced it: but it has not. In every age, there have been men of corrupt minds, who have followed-the example of these Judaizing and philosophizing teachers, in their attempts to render the doctrine of Christ more complete, that is, more congenial to the wishes of their own hearts : and the church has, in too many instances, been carried away by them. Some have degraded the dignity of Christ, and thereby undermined his sacrifice; others have dinowned the freeness of his grace ; and others have turned it into licentiousness. Behold, how, at this day, the beauty of the church is marred by these antichristian principles, and the strifes which ensue upou them. One denomination, or society, sees the spots upon the face of another, and is employed in exposing them, instead of removing those upon its own; while the impartial eye must perceive, that deviations from the simplicity of the gospel are, in different degrees, to be found in all.
Blessed be God, who hath given us to expect a day when the church shall be freed from all this deformity ; when the watchmen shall see eye to eye ; when the people of God, now divided into parties, shall be of one heart and of one soul ; when neither disa cordance por defect shall attend their researches ; and when we shall all come, in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stat ure of the fulness of Christ!
How much also has the beauty of Christ's church been defaced by superstitious and unacriptural worship. The method of completing Christianity, by the addition of a number of decent ceremonies, first practised by the Judaizing teachers, has been acted over and over again. The introduction of such things in the first three centuries made way for the grand Papal apostasy ; and spots of this kind remain upon the faces of many Protestant communities to this day. The nearer we approach to the simplicity of primi tire worship, the better. The meretricious ornaments of man'sinvention may adorn the mother of barlots, but they are blem
ishes to the bride of Christ. They are the wood, hay, and stubble of the building, which later builders have laid upon the foundafion of the apostles and prophets, and which, when the day shall come, that shall declare every man's work, of what sort it is, will be burnt up.
Finally: The beauty of Christ's church has been greatly defaced by the impure lives of great numbers of its members. I do not not now refer to the immoral practices of all that have been cal. led Christians; as a large proportion of them cannot be said to have deserved the name. I refer to those only who have either been Christians indeed, or, at least, received and treated as such by those who were so. The evils which have prevailed among
them have been great, and still furnish matter of shame and grief in all the churches. The primitive churches themselves, some more especially, had many spots of this description. And it is worthy of notice, that those who most departed from the doctrine of Christ, such as the Corinthians, the Galatians, and the Hebrews, were most faulty in matters of practice. The evil communications of some of their teachers tended to corrupt good manners. The same causes continue also to produce the same effects. Those congregations where the pure doctrine of the cross is relinquisbed, whether it be in favour of what is called morality, on the one band, or high notions of orthodoxy, on the other, are commonly distioguished by the laxity of their conduct. Many of the former, by a: conformity to the genteel vices of the world, bave nearly lost all pretensions to Christianity; and many of the latter, by their opposition to practical preaching, and neglect of Christian discipline, have been offensive to common decency. Nor is this all : even the purest communities have their spots. Individuals are chargeable with things, for which the good ways of God are evil spoken of; and they that bave been enabled to maintain a fair character in the eyes of men, have, nevertheless, much alienation of heart, and many faults to acknowledge and bewail before God.
We are given, however, to believe, that it will not be thus al. ways. The church will not only see better days, before the end of time, but, ere she is presented to her Lord, shall be entirely purified: The Son of man shall send
forth his angels, and they shall
gather out of his kingdom all THINGS which offend, and THEM which do iniquity : THEN SHALL THE RIGHTEOUS SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN IN THE KINGDOM OF THEIR FATHER.
Another term, by which the present imperfections of the church are expressed, is that of wrinkles. . These, as well as spots, are inconsistent with perfect beauty. They are signs of the decay of life, and health, and vigour : hence, they are the ordinary symp: toms of old age, or of an enfeebled constitution. Surely, a mort appropriate term could not have been chosen for expressing those spiritual declensions to which the church, in its present state, is con tinually subject. The church at Ephesus, during her first love, resembled a virgin in the bloom of youthful beauty ; but, when sbe left it, and, with it, her first works, she became as a woman bowed down by age, and covered with wrinkles. In this church, we see what the church in general is, compared with what it was in the primitive ages; what Protestants are, compared with what they were at the Reformation; what Protestant Dissenters are, compared with the Puritans and Nonconformists; and what many congregational churches are, compared with what they have been at certain periods. I need not enlarge on these particulars : your own reflections are sufficient to convince you, that great numbers of each description are in a wrinkled, or decayed state. There is indeed, in us, a strong and perpetual tendency to declension. Things which have formerly been interesting and impressive, will, if we do not habitually walk with God, lose their influence. We shall read of the zeal of the apostles, of the martyrs, and of other Christian worthies; but we shall not feel it. On the contrary, we shall seem to be reading of men whom we cannot but admire, but whom we know not how to imitate.
How cheering is the thought, that the time is coming, when these spots and wrinkles will be no more; but the church, and every individual member of of it, shall be holy, and without blemish!
Holy beauty, in every stage and degree of it, is lovely. The character given to that generation of the Israelites which grew up in the wilderness, and which, warned by the crimes and punįshments of its predecessors, clare in great numbers to the Lord,
is charming: Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holi. ness unto the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord. It was then that Balaam endeavoured in vain to curse them; and that, iöstead of cursing, he was constrained to bless them. Like an old debauchee, awed by the dignity of virtue, he was compelled to desist, and even to admire the object which he could not itai. tate: How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel. -- Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end Be like his! Such, I may say, was the youthful beauty of the Jewish church'; and that of the Christian church was still greater. To read the Acts of the Apostles, and to see the faith, the fove, the zeal, the disinterestedoess, the diligence, and the pajience of the first disciples, is very affecting. It was then that they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers ; that great grace was apon them all; and that, having believed in Jesus, they rejoiced in being thought worthy to suffer for his name. But, lovely as both the Jewish and Christian churches were, neither of them could vie with the church made perfect. The disparity between the highest degrees of holiness and a state of sinless perfection, is inconceiveable. The deliverance of the captives from mere temporal thraldom, and which was only the effect of sin, was so overcoming, that they were like those that dream, scarcely beleiving themselves to be what and where they were : but for the church of God, in full remembrance of its foul revolts, to feel itself holy, and without blemish, is an idea too great for sinful creatures to comprehend.
If any imagine this language to be too strong, and that sinless perfection, or what is near to it, has been attained by many in the present life, I would recommend them to consider, that to be holy, and without blemish, is different, according to the different kinds, and degrees of light in which it is viewed. A vessel may be clean, if viewed in a dim light, and very foul, if viewed in a clear one. Thue a character may be holy, and without blemish, if viewed only