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ness of time, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him.”
2. In the light of this subject we see, that Christian fellowship is something truly great and holy; very different from a union made by party interests, or an agreement in the mere modes of worship, and other circumstantials of religion. It is the union of minds sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and thus brought to harmonize in their views and feelings concerning the essential truths relating to God, his character, providence, moral government, and grace. “Whom I love," said the beloved disciple, “in the truth : and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth's sake which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us forever.” Here we are taught that the truth, when it is so received into our hearts as to gain a permanent residence, now constitutes, and will forever constitute the great bond of fellowship.
3. In the subject before us, we discover a good reason for denominating the Lord's supper a communion. “The cup of blessing which we bless," said the apostle, “is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ?" By our eating of one bread and drinking of the same cup, we have an apparent fellowship; but to render it real and holy, we need to have similar feelings towards those infinitely important truths which are exhibited in the sacramental supper; such as the holiness of the law, the ill desert of sin, the justice of God in punishing, and his mercy in pardoning it. If the communicants do not discern the Lord's body, and, in a spiritual sense, feed upon it, they will have no life in them, nor communion among them.
4. Since gospel truth lays the foundation for Christian fellowship, the proper way to promote such fellowship, is to make a clear erhibition of that truth. When the mere modes and forms of religion divide our hearers, it may be consistent that we should bear lightly on them, or perhaps for a time pass them over in silence : but if our preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified will offend them, they must be offended. Could any thing be more absurd, than that the ministers of Christ, for the sake of promoting fellowship, should withhold those pillar doctrines that furnish the only basis on which Christian fellowship can be consistently built ?
5. In view of the importance of a holy fellowship in the moral system, of what immense value is the gift of the Holy Spirit. His efficiency is the immediate cause of all such fellowship, wherever it is found, whether on earth or in heaven. Hence it is that it receives the name of “the fellowship of the Spirit,” and “the communion of the Holy Ghost.” As the witness and intercession of the Spirit, of which the apostle speaks in his Epistle to the Romans, intend those evidences of grace, and those breathings of devotion, which exist in our own hearts, by means of his sanctifying influence; so the fellowship of the Spirit, or the communion of the Holy Ghost, (which means the same thing,) describes that holy fellowship or communion among ourselves, and between us and our Maker, of which his agency is the cause. Without this agency, the truth itself forms no bond of union. Even devils agree with the angels of light in believing the existence of one living and true God. But their agreement with them in this belief, has no influence in uniting them to those blessed spirits: nor is it any bond of union among themselves. With the angels of light, things are very different. They not only believe in the existence of one living and
true God; but their belief of it is spiritual, being the fruit of a completę indwelling of the Spirit of God in all their hearts. Nor is the belief of just men made perfect in glory, any less spiritual. And so far as the Spirit of God has prevailed, in expelling sin from the hearts of good men on earth, the way is prepared for them to receive the truth in the love of it; so that they have a real and pure fellowship one with another, and also with the inhabitants of the upper world. All the holy fellowship in the universe, is effected by the Spirit of God. The infinite holiness of God himself, is certainly from his own Spirit : and the holiness of all his creatures, whether on earth or in heaven, is from the same source. Their holiness, it is true, exists in their own minds; but his Spirit is the efficient cause of its existence. And since the holiness thus produced, prepares them to be united in their views, feelings, and pursuits, it is a spiritual union, and may well be denominated the fellowship of the Spirit.
6. This subject will assist us in determining the question of our meetness for heaven : if we have fellowship with God and his friends, then are we prepared to spend eternity in their society. By reading the word of God, we discover what are his sentiments and feelings, and also what are the sentiments and feelings of his friends, in relation to all those great subjects which lay a foundation for spiritual fellowship. If we are honest in our endeavors to become acquainted with their sentiments and feelings, and also with those of our own minds, we shall be able to determine whether we are in a state of agreement with them: and agreement, let us remember, is essential to fellowship; for how can two walk together except they he agreed?
Are we in a state of agreement with the God of the Bible? Can we perceive this, when we pray? Prayer is often called communion with God. Do we, when we pray, have real communion with Him ? Unless our prayers are an unmeaning form, they bring our minds to look directly at the most weighty truths of divine revelation, and this gives us a good opportunity to know whether our fellowship is with the God of the Bible. When we come before him in prayer, it concerns us to be able to decide, whether we entertain those views of divine subjects which he has declared to be his own. He views it as his right to reign over the universe ; and has declared that he will not give his glory to another. Do our feelings accord with this declaration : do we from the heart say, let him have the glory due to his name? He has manifested an entire regard to his holy law, and a great abhorrence of our transgressions. Do we love the one, and abhor the other? In God's account, a pharisaical self-righteous spirit is loathsome; but those who come to him with a broken and contrite spirit, not relying on their own righteousness, but on that of his Son, he will not despise. Are these the very sentiments of our hearts? Do we loathe the self-righteousness we discover in our own religious services ? Though God would have us justified freely through the redemption of his Son, yet he wills our sanctification. Do we, in accordance with this, hunger and thirst after righteousness? Can we, in these solemn approaches to God, appeal to him as the searcher of hearts, that his will, as he has revealed it to us, concerning his prerogatives and our obligations, his infinite purity and our entire depravity, his free grace and our utter unworthiness, meets our cordial approbation? Can we say, that as he thinks and feels on these interesting subjects, so we think and feel? If we can, then may we say with the apostle, truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And they who enjoy the blessedness of communion with God now, will enjoy it hereaster; for communion on earth is a foretaste and an earnest of communion in heaven.
But let us remember the caution which the apostle gives, in close connection with the text: "If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness,” (i. e. in moral darkness or sin,) “we lie, and do not the truth."
Lastly. This subject reflects light on the criminality of unbelief. To many it seems strange, that the gospel should denounce such severe threatenings against that, which to them appears no crime at all; or, if any, a very small one. How, say they, can we be considered so culpable for not believing what appears to us irrational and unworthy of our belief? But would such a glorious exhibition of divine truth appear unworthy of their belief, if they did not love darkness rather than light? The gospel, which proffers salvation to repenting rebels
through the mediation of Christ, recognises the immutable difference - between holiness and sin, and makes the most luminous display of the divine glory, and of all those truths, which form the only basis for a consistent fellowship in the moral system. They who cannot be attracted by such things as are presented in the gospel, are decided enemies to the interests of the universe. The man who rejects the offer of eternal life, on the condition of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, practically declares that he wants no fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, nor with his father, nor with his disciples, nor with angels of light; that he wants no divine government, no moral law, no mercy-seat, nor reconciliation with God. His unbelief plainly speaks it out: "If I cannot be received into the fellowship of God and his friends, without my feelings and pursuits being made to harmonize with theirs, let me remain without the camp of Israel.” And what does the threatening of God do, but confirm his own choice? “He that believeth not, shall be damned.” The threatening places him without the gates of the New Jerusalem, where he has chosen to remain. It excludes him from the fellowship of those within the walls of the holy city, and leaves him in the company of those who are characterized as dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie !"
But let not the unbeliever think that his case excites no compassion. While the gates of the holy city are not shut, to be opened no more, we cannot forbear to cast a wishful look, and to address him, in the language of Moses to Hobab: Come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel. Let such of you as have not yet accepted the gospel invitation, know that the God of Zion, and all his friends in heaven and earth, wait to receive you into their fellowship. “The Spirit and the bride say, come.” Oh, come then without delay, lest the privilege of being associated with such holy and blessed society be lost forever.
BY REV. JOHN H. AGNEW.
PROFESSOR IN NEWARK COLLEGE, DELAWARE.
MOTIVES AND MEANS OF PEACE TO THE CHURCHES.
PSALM, CXI. 7.—Peace be within thy walls. The Psalmist, contemplating the beauty of Zion, and the delightful harmony and exquisite grandeur of the worship at Jerusalem, and feeling his bosom glow with love for his “brethren and companions," when they said, "let us go into the house of the Lord,” breathes forth to Heaven the soft aspiration, “Peace be within thy walls.” This prayer of the sweet singer of Israel, contains a sentiment which ought to be cherished in every Christian's heart, and often uttered in his petitions before the Throne. It is of the same spirit with the final blessing and legacy of the dear Redeemer: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you :" and will therefore be an appropriate theme for a few remarks on the importance of peace in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
1. The triune Jehovah, the covenant God of the Church, is the God of peace. How frequently in the benedictions of the Apostle Paul, is he thus characterized: “The God of peace be with you,” Rom. xv. 33.
_“ The very God of peace sanctify you wholly," 1. Thess. v. 23.—“The God of peace make you perfect in every good work,” Heb. xiii. 20.“God is not the author of confusion, but of peace,” 1. Cor. xiv. 33.Consequently, in entering into covenant with him, he will expect of us conformity with his own character, and esteem us as his people only so far as we imbibe his spirit. And we cannot consider the church as fulfilling her obligations to her Sovereign, unless she cultivate those dispositions which will fit her for communion with him, and continuallyfollow after the things which make for peace."
2. Jesus Christ, the head of the church, and king in Zion, is the Prince of peace—the Lord of peace. At his birth as the Son of Man, a choir of the heavenly hosts sang, 6 Peace on earth."
To effect a reconciliation between an offended God and rebellious men,
purpose for which he came into our world, and submitted to poverty, reproach, and death ; and to secure this object, he now lives as Intercessor in heaven. He therefore anticipates, that peace will reign in his spiritual kingdom, that its members will all speak the same thing, being perfectly joined together in the same mind, that there may be no schism in the body, but the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. What! shall there be strife and divisions among the subjects of that kingdom, which is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost ?"' Shall the soldiers of the Prince of peace, march forth under any other banner than that of love? Shall they not emulate the spirit and manner of their great leader ? His paths on earth were paths of peace; his sermons, sermons of peace; his prayers, his benedictions, his commissions, all were peace. ` And now that “he reigns exalted high,” peace is inscribed on the radiant bow of glory that encircles his head.
3. The Spirit, who inhabits the church as his temple, is a spirit of peace, and refuses to dwell in the midst of noise, strife, and confusion. # The fruit of the Spirit, is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance." These effects of the Spirit's operation are all connected with a subdued and softened heart; and every thing which is of an opposite nature and tendency, belongs to the flesh, grieves the Holy Spirit, and induces him to take his departure. “Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts, that war in your members ?". Wherever then we find envying, strife, and divisions, there is carnality, confusion, and every evil work; there the Spirit will not remain, and we may not look for his peaceful and purifying presence. But how shall the church ever arise and shine, fair as the moon, and clear as the sun-how shall she ever put forth her strength, and exert her power to bring the world to the love of God and holiness, if that Spirit desert her, whose it is to cherish her graces, give her might in prayer, and make her instrumental in the conversion of the world?
4. The constitution of the kingdom of Christ, is one whose essential principles are peace. “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.”—The principles on which I establish my government in the world, are not the ordinary principles of human government, but such as inspire my subjects with peaceful feelings, and induce them to sheath the sword, and make conquests only by the persuasive influences of truth and love. The gospel is the gospel of peace. “Have peace one with another." “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” “The kingdom of God is peace.” Indeed we can scarcely read a section in this constitution, without perceiving clearly that it emanated from the God of peace, and was intended and adapted to bless the world with peace, and to lead men to love and prirsue it.
Hence we read that “unto them that are contentious, and obey not the truth,” God will render "indignation and wrath :" but "blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.” “ Live in peace, and the God of peace shall be with you. When therefore the Christian church enters into sharp and virulent controversy, when her members indulge in debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults, they belie Christianity, contravene its laws, rebel against its righteous principles, and offend its author, their King. If then we would preserve inviolate the very charter under which we act, and which we acknowledge to be excellent by our voluntary adoption of it, we must avoid foolish and unlearned questions, which gender strife, and follow after peace with them that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.
5. The church can only then shew forth her beauty, and glorify her King, when her members are at peace with one another. The beauty of the church consists not in any external habiliments, or any system of observances, but in a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God, is of great price; in the manifestation of kindness, tenderness, meekness, forbearance, peace. Only when clothed with humility, and crowned with love, and speaking in the mild accents of mercy, can she so let her light shine, that others, seeing her good works, shall glorify her father who is in heaven; and only then can she go to the footstool of mercy, and implore the Spirit to list up a standard against