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your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you, as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." Civil laws allow men to do many things which Christian laws forbid. Civil laws allow men, in a thousand ways, to show disrespect and contempt to kings, princes, and all in civil authority, which is really injurious to civil society, and obstructing the benefits which arise from good government. But the members of a Christian church have no right to abuse their civil liberty, and do things that their civil liberty allows them to do, to injure the civil society to which they belong. They ought to act as the servants of God, and do all the good they can to the civil society to which they belong.
5. Since the members of a Christian church are united by choice, affection, and covenant, it must be wrong for any of them to do anything which has a tendency to injure the whole church to which they belong. Their criminality in doing wrong is in proportion to their obligations to do right: and their obligations to do right are extremely strong. They have been admitted into the best society in the world. They profess to love as brethren, and to care each one for another, as for himself. They have bound themselves, by a solemn covenant, to seek each other's spiritual and eternal good. They have mutually engaged to meet one another in the house of God, and to sit together and hold communion with one another at the table of Christ. The benefits they have received from one another, by virtue of their Christian connection, have drawn the bands of brotherly love closer and closer, and added weight to all their other obligations to seek the good of the whole fraternity to which they belong. If under these circumstances and obligations, any of the members do anything to wound, weaken, and injure the whole body, it must be very wrong indeed. In particular, it must be very wrong for any of the members to neglect Family Prayer, which is one article in the covenant upon which this church was founded.
* Church in Franklin.
In the original covenant to which all the members subscribed their names with their own hands, they mutually engaged to read the scriptures and attend social prayers in their families every day. For any to deny or neglect this duty, then, has a tendency to wound the feelings, weaken the hands, and dishonor the whole church to which they belong. And can this be a small injury to the body for which they have bound themselves to feel and express a tender and faithful concern?
To neglect attending the stated public worship of God in his house, is injurious to the whole body of the church. It is neglecting public worship in those who are able to attend, and have nothing to hinder their attendance but mere disinclination. But how contrary it is to the professed character of a Christian to indulge a disinclination to the public worship of God, and how disheartening and wounding to the friends of Christ! Those who neglect it, weaken, dishonor, and grieve the whole church.
Those injure the whole body of their brethren, who neglect to attend the sacrament of the Lord's supper. That is emphatically a day of communion, when all the members of the church are expected and desired to meet together to commune with Christ and one another, and anticipate their future and eternal communion. To neglect attendance on such a solemn occasion for a trivial cause, or no cause at all but mere distaste and aversion to the gospel feast, argues an unchristian spirit in the neglecters, and casts a visible reproach upon the whole church, which is aggravatedly criminal.
Those who neglect to attend public worship and divine ordinances in their own church, and join in worship and communion in some other church, from a motive of convenience, or from a spirit of disaffection to their own church, violate their covenant, and do a very great injury to the church to which they properly belong. They set an example, which, if their brethren should follow, would ruin any church in the world.
Those are verily guilty of injuring the whole church, who imbibe and propagate false and dangerous doctrines among its members, as well as those who create schisms, contentions, divisions, and separations. These disturb the peace, the union, the harmony, the communion, the edification, the general growth and prosperity of the church. The uncommon prevalence of heresies and schisms at the present day in the church of Christ, threatens alarming consequences, and unless it can be restrained, must spread spiritual desolation through the land. How many once numerous, peaceful, flourishing churches are now diminishing, languishing, and dying! The authors
and fomenters of schisms and heresies contract a heavy load of guilt, and, unless they repent, will fall into the pit they are digging for others. But those who are doing the greatest injuries to a church in general, often employ so much secrecy, art, and deception, that they are not discovered until it is too late. The little leaven that begins to work spreads so gradually that it is little regarded, until many are leavened, and the whole body of the church becomes so corrupted, weakened, and discouraged, that they can make no effectual resistance. If one member personally injures or offends another, the offended is very apt to complain to the church, and seek redress. But offences against the whole body of the church but little affect individuals, whose love of union is grown old; and soon none can be found with love, and courage, and zeal enough, to bring enemies of the church in general to a sense of their guilt and duty.
THE TRUE CHURCH FORMIDABLE TO THE WORLD.
"AND terrible as an army with banners."-Solomon's Song, vi. 10.
THIS book contains a familiar dialogue between Christ and his Church; in which the Church expresses her supreme affection to Christ, and he in return expresses the beauty and excellence of the Church. In our text, it is Christ who speaks, and displays the glory and formidable dignity of the Church. "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners ?" An army is a very formidable object, especially an army drawn up in battle array, with banners or flags flying. Christ, we may presume, would not represent his Church under this hostile figure, without sufficient reason. And the plain and obvious reason is, that the Church on earth is surrounded by numerous enemies, and placed in a militant state. It is obliged to oppose the world, who are opposed to God, and to the friends of God. Hence, the Church on earth is often distinguished from the Church in heaven, by the appellation of the Church militant. All who belong to the true Church are on the Lord's side, espouse his cause, and stand opposed to a world lying in wickedness. On this account, Christ represents the Church as equipped, and prepared to defend themselves against their unreasonable and malignant enemies. Hence, we may justly conclude,
That the true Church is formidable to the world.
I shall first describe the true Church, and then show why it is formidable to the world.
I..I am to describe the true Church. This word is used in various senses in scripture. It sometimes signifies a single society or congregation of visible saints. It sometimes signi
fies all the visible saints in every part of the world. And it sometimes signifies all real saints among all religious denominations. These are emphatically the true Church, in distinction from all the rest of the world. There are real saints, it is to be hoped, among most of those, who have assumed different names or denominations in the visible Church; and 'all who are supremely attached to God and his cause, compose the true Church on earth. These, though widely scattered in different and distant parts of the world, are in reality one body, and united by the strong and tender ties of mutual affection, which never shall be broken. They are all children of one Father. They are all brethren, and love as brethren. They are all citizens of Zion, and belong to the general assembly and Church of the first-born in heaven. I now proceed to show,
II. That this true church is formidable to the world; or "terrible as an army with banners." Though the world pretend to despise the Church, yet the Church is really a formidable body of men, and sometimes appear so to their enemies. But why?
1. Because the Church are heartily opposed to the world. There is a direct contrariety between the friends and enemies of God, or between the Church and the rest of mankind. The Church are born after the Spirit, but the world are born after the flesh. These are mutually opposed to each other. Accordingly, Solomon says, "An unjust man is an abomination to the just; and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked." This representation is confirmed by Christ. He says to his true followers, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." The true Church have affections and interests, which are diametrically opposite to the affections and interests of the world. And David, in the name of the Church, has expressed their genuine feelings towards the world of the ungodly. "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them mine enemies." This is the language of the true Church. Their hearts are opposed to the hearts of the world. They are not merely nominal enemies to the enemies of God, but real and hearty enemies to them. And it is this sincere, internal opposition to the world, which renders them truly formidable. The world care very little for nominal enemies, but they dread those who oppose them in their hearts. The Church are always heartily opposed