Page images
PDF
EPUB

to the world, though they do not always equally manifest it. But whenever their duty requires them to manifest their feelings towards the world, they manifest the same feelings that Christ manifested towards the enemies of God, and that Paul manifested towards Simon the sorcerer. And such pious, Christian feelings of the Church, make them appear terrible as an army with banners to the ungodly world.

2. The true Church are formidable in their opposition to the world, because their opposition is just. The world are opposed to the Church without any just cause. The true Church are holy and harmless. They are the excellent of the earth. They bear the image of their Maker, and possess the spirit of their Saviour. “ They look forth as the morning, fair as the moon, , clear as the sun,” and “beautiful as Tirzah.” They are worthy of the love and esteem of the world. But the men of the world are unholy in their hearts and in their lives, and unworthy of the complacence of God and of all holy beings. They have a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. They are enemies to all righteousness, and opposed to the holiness and happiness of the universe. Hence, the Church are obliged in justice to be opposed to the world. They cannot do otherwise, without becoming enemies to God. They oppose the world upon the same ground upon which God opposes them. And this renders their opposition to the enemies of God truly formidable. They know that all good men ought to oppose them, and of consequence that their opposition is altogether just. Whenever they look at the true Church as real friends to God, they look upon them as justly united in their opposition to all who are heartily opposed to the greatest and best of beings. The opposition of the Church would, indeed, be weak and contemptible, were it not just, and the world might disregard and despise it. But since the opposition of the Church is founded in justice, and flows from pure love to God and the good of the universe, it is truly terrible, and the whole world have reason to tremble at it.

3. The true Church are numerous, and on that account their opposition to the world is formidable. It is true, indeed, that there have been times when the Church have been comparatively few in numbers. They were so from Adam to Abraham, and from Abraham to Moses, and sometimes from Moses to Christ; but at the deepest declension, when Elijah thought they were well nigh extinguished, God, who knew all his friends, assured him there were then seven thousand in Israel, who were attached to his cause, and opposed to his enemies. When the Church came out of the wilderness and entered into Ca

[ocr errors]

naan, they were very numerous, and amounted to hundreds of thousands. And though they afterwards diminished from time to time, yet a precious remnant continued until the coming of Christ. And after his resurrection, when he sent down his Spirit in copious effusions, the Church increased with great rapidity. In one day three thousand were added to the Church. After this, the apostles took various courses, and carried the gospel far and wide among both Jews and Gentiles, so that before the apostles had left the world, the Church of Christ became very numerous. Peter, in his general epistle to Christians, mentions those who were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. This implies, that the Christian Church had spread far beyond the bounds of Judea, and included vast multitudes of real Christians. From that day to this, the gospel has been carried almost round the world, and its converts have been immensely multiplied. And though religion has greatly declined of late, in some places, it has greatly revived in others; and there is reason to believe, that many thousands, if not millions, of real Christians are now liv. ing in Asia, Europe, and America. The true Church are now formidable in respect to numbers. Though they bear a small proportion to the world of mankind, yet, collectively considered, they are an exceedingly large army, cordially united and completely clad with every spiritual weapon. And could the Church militant be martialed together, they would strike terror to the whole world, that lies in wickedness and rebellion against their righteous and injured Sovereign, on account of their numbers. The Church of God once appeared in this formidable attitude, and then they marched through nation after nation, and struck terror into the minds of all their enemies. The army of Israel, passing from Egypt to Canaan, made the world tremble. And the Church of God now, though destitute of carnal weapons, is as terrible as an army with banners to those, who view them as their just and determined foes, clad with spiritual weapons, which are mighty through God to conquer all opposition.

4. The true Church are entirely united in their opposition to those who are in a state of rebellion against God, which makes them formidable to the world. Though the members of the Church may belong to different denominations, and wear different badges; though they belong to different nations and speak different languages; and though they may be so widely dispersed, that they cannot come together in one place; yet they are all present in spirit, united in affection, and act in concert in opposing all who oppose God. There is not one dissentient

[ocr errors]

upon the subject of opposition. Though they differ on other points, yet on this they are universally agreed. They have all drunk into one spirit. They are all of one heart and soul. They all possess the spirit of Christ. They are all partakers of the divine nature. They all love holiness, and hate sin. They all love God, and hate his enemies. So that they are all united in their views, desires, and exertions to promote the kingdom of God, and to oppose all who oppose that great and important object. Could all the real friends of God come together, and express their feelings, they would all speak the same thing, and declare their holy and hearty opposition to everything hostile to the interests of Zion. '. Now, if the true Church be numerous as individuals, and if they are all united in opposing the world, their opposition must be formidable. Union gives strength to any body or society of men. And union in a good cause, and upon just ground, is the most powerful kind of union. This is the life and strength of the true Church. Their union is permanent, being founded in immutable principles. They know, that nothing can dissolve or destroy it. But the union of the world can easily be destroyed. They are, indeed, actually disunited in heart, and in the pursuit of their ultimate object. They all seek their own, not one another's good, nor the glory of God. Hence, the union of the true Church is very alarming to those, who are conscious that they are not united among themselves. The united Church against a disunited world feel strong and courageous, and inflexibly determined in their opposition. They never mean to retreat, but are resolved to persist in opposing a rebellious world. They live in lively hopes, that the world will be broken and divided, and that their own union will be more and more connected and strengthened. This inspires them with a resolution, courage, and zeal, which carry terror and dismay to a disunited, inconsistent, and self-condemned world.

5. The true Church are not only united among themselves, in their opposition to the world, but they have very numerous and powerful allies, who are united with them in the same cause. The Church militant have all the Church triumphant in cordial alliance with them. The whole number of those who have been sanctified and admitted into the kingdom of glory, are heartily united with the Church on earth. They all wish well to their opposition to the world, and possibly may

afford them some real, though invisible, assistance. But if the spirits of just men made perfect cannot afford them any personal assistance, yet all the angels of heaven are allied with them, and constantly employed in affording them aid in their opposition. They are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs

[ocr errors]

of salvation. These powerful allies attended the Church through the wilderness, and through the whole period of the Mosaic dispensation. They sometimes appeared in visible forms, and did wonders in aiding the Church in days of danger, and giving them victory over their invading enemies. And though they have not, since the gospel day, very often made their visible appearance, yet we are assured that they are still attached to the Church, and employed in opposing those who oppose them. The numbers of saints and angels in heaven are immensely great. Their-power, wisdom, and goodness are equal to their numbers. The Church militant carry on their opposition to the world in alliance with all the hosts of heaven. So that they may confidently say, as Elisha did on a certain occasion, “ They that be with us, are more than they that be with them, who rise up against us. This is a very consoling and animating consideration to the Church, and no less alarming to those who confide in their numbers to bear down the little flock of Christ. Did the world only realize the numerous and powerful allies of the Church, their hearts would fail them, and they would despair of gaining the victory over the friends of God.

6. The true Church are furnished with the most impenetrable and irresistible armor. It is true, the weapons of their warfare are not carnal, but spiritual. These, however, are the most effectual against a sinful and opposing world. They preserve the Church from harm, while they send the most deadly arrows into the hearts of their enemies. We find the armor of the Church described with great particularity, in the sixth of Ephesians. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication.” Men fortified with truth and righteousness ; with faith and prayer ; and with the word and spirit of God, must be very formidable to a world destitute of all these spiritual and powerful weapons; and they appeared so, when the Church militant were marching to Canaan, clad in the whole armor of God. While they carried the ark before them, which contained the word of God; while they carried

1

[ocr errors]

truth, and righteousness, and holiness to the Lord, inscribed in capitals on their breast; and while Moses and Aaron were praying always, with all prayer and supplication, the armies of Amalek, the walls of Jericho, and all the nations of Canaan, fell or fled before them. And though the true Church are not now collected in a body, yet they are all covered over with their spiritual armor, and equally prepared to carry death and ruin into the camp of their spiritual enemies, who presume to oppose and obstruct them in their way to the heavenly Canaan.

7. The true Church always have the presence of God with them, in their opposition to the world. As God approves of their opposition, so he always affords them his aid in carrying it on.

This was visibly and gloriously apparent under the Mosaic dispensation. Then he constantly attended his Church with visible tokens of his power and protection. He dwelt in the pillar of cloud and of fire. And this pillar moved before the Church, from the time they left Egypt, until they safely arrived in the land of promise. From this pillar he issued his orders, directed their steps, and dispensed his aid from time to time. He never left them a single day, or a single moment; though once, for their disobedience, he threatened to forsake them. But Moses stood in the gap, and successfully interceded for them. He said to God, “ If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.” God heard his petition, and graciously replied, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."

The same gracious and powerful presence of God still attends his people, though it does not appear so visibly to them and to the world. Christ has said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." God manifested his gracious presence with his Church, on the day of Pentecost, by the great and glorious effects he produced on that extraordinary occasion. God still dwells in Zion; for he hath chosen it for his habitation. And this gracious, though invisible, presence of God with his Church, renders their opposition to the world terrible as an army with banners.

8. God has promised to give his Church a complete victory over all his and their enemies. He has promised that his Church shall increase in numbers, in holiness, and in strength. He has promised to give the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, to the people of the saints of the Most High.” He has promised to make Zion the joy and praise of the whole earth. And he has commanded his Church to pray for the fulfilment of these great and precious promises. While they pray, they hope ; and the

« PreviousContinue »