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perhaps in a few individual cases, be either seduced or dismayed. Light now begins to shine on this our independent position,its reasons in the divine counsels, and its mercy to the world. In despite of all attempts (and they have been numerous) at absorption or amalgamation, some kind of hidden and intangible influence and power has gone on, working in the body, till it has become too numerous, too complicated, and too compact, to admit of coherence with
any other. This has perplexed and saddened many hearts, at different periods, both within and without our United Societies. But the “end is known from the beginning" by the Lord; and we doubt not that the whole mystery will be made manifest, and most likely at a period not far distant. Let our chief thanks, however, be presented to God, that he has provided so extended a means of preaching and conserving his truth, of training up a spiritual church, and of seeking the salvation of mankind.
But privileges and responsibility stand in close connexion. “Where much is given, much is required.” Our stewardship is of a most solemn nature. Nothing can fit us for it but deep humility, much prayer, singleness of purpose, deliberative wisdom, the absence of earthly passions,—of ambition, self-indulgence, avarice,—as well as union, brotherly love, exalted piety, and laborious zeal. The hand which steers our vessel safely through the perilous seas surrounding us must be, indeed, more than human. Let us implore His grace, and stand to our post. There are seasons when neither an ordinary amount of capacity, nor of self-sacrifice and zeal, will meet the demands of duty. This is one of those times. We have always been much more a working than a speculative people. If possible, we are bound by every consideration to become tenfold more active, diligent, and laborious than ever in the conversion of souls to God ready to rush into every open door, to carry with us the “ glad tidings of great joy." But with the hands of the labourer we must have corresponding vigilance; with untiring industry we must have presiding mind; with the power to “ do good” we must have the courteous courage to see that it is not “ evil spoken of.” God has, in every period of our history, supplied us with agents for every kind of work ; and if we continue to obey his call, and to do his will, no exigency can arise in which he will not, out of the fulness of his Spirit, do
Hence, while anxious, we are full of confidence.
Great things await us, either in the form of disaster or progress. A church which rests on the extended platform now occupied by our people and institutions, cannot be agitated, disturbed, split, broken up, and wrecked,—which is the obvious hope of some of our enemies,—without leaving a mighty chasm, and producing a sort of moral earthquake. And, on the other hand, we cannot remain and prosper without great results. A religious system which rests nearly on every shore, and which, in some parts of the world, embodies an immense number of disciples,—at the same time possessing means of moral influence and usefulness of a very powerful nature,—cannot proceed on the scale even of natural growth without producing great effects. The magnitude of our body; the extent of interests involved ; the success granted ; the number of people in our fellowship; and the connexion of the whole with the destinies of the world at large; may well, on occasions like this, fill the mind with anxious thought. What God may
do with us, we know not. Our duty is plain. It is, to remain faithful to our principles, our doctrines, our church-polity, our fellowship, our objects of doing good ;—" to be of good courage, and play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God," and then in humility to say, “Let the Lord do that which seemeth him good.” (2 Sam. x. 12.)
IN FURTHER CONSIDERING OUR
POSITION AS A CHRISTIAN COM
MUNITY, IT WILL BE REQUISITE TO JUDGE OF THE PRINCI-
The character of a church must be judged of, not merely by its own internal organization and communion, but by its spirit and action in fulfilling the designs of Christianity itself. In addition to apostolic doctrines, there must be found apostolic practice, or a church cannot be considered as primitive in character. It may, indeed, be questioned whether purity of doctrine can long remain with any people, unless the saving designs of the Gospel be carried out. This point seems somewhat analogous to that of experimental and practical religion. A believer will attain the privileges of grace irrespective of good works, by faith only ; and although he will retain these privileges on the same ground, yet it must be a faith working by love, producing holiness, and leading to good works, otherwise the state of blessing must be forfeited and lost. It is the same with a community. there is a deposit of truth, a dispensation of the Gospel given, a spiritual communion, rich gifts, and the ministerial function, together with the means of its exercise :—then, there must be evangelical exertions, diligence in extending the kingdom of our Lord, otherwise the blessing must be forfeited, or, what amounts to the same thing, the body will become corrupt, lifeless, or extinct. A church which is destitute of the Spirit, and fails in the work of evangelization, must
have lost its calling, or, at least, be in a backsliding state, and need reformation, on the simple ground, that one of its unquestionable duties is, to carry on an aggressive warfare against the idolatry, sin, and evils of the world.
I. WE POSSESS TWO OR THREE SEVERAL RULES OF SCRIPTURE ON THIS SUBJECT, WHICH MAY BE CONSIDERED AS MARKS OF A
1. Acting on the apostolic commission is one: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost : teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you : and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.)
That the obligation to perform this duty rests on the church in all ages, is evident from the latter part of the passage. The terms “ alway, even unto the end of the world,” show that the commission extended to all times. Every other portion of instruction given to the Apostles, on the question of extending the knowledge of the Saviour's name, accords with this full and complete commission. It follows from this, that the possession of the aggressive attribute is, in all ages and places, essential to the character of a primitive and apostolical body. When we find this PRINCIPLE embodied in the constitution of a church, its spirit cherished, and means adopted to carry the Lord's message universally through the world ; then this primary appointment may
be considered as adopted and taken up. That the commission cannot be assumed by individual Ministers; and, consequently, must be embraced as a church-principle, to be carried out by arrangement and concert ; is evident from the fact, that it is not in the power of individual men to accomplish it. What right, then, can any community have to claim for itself the qualities, powers, and grace of a true church of our Lord Jesus Christ, if it fail to execute his commission? Allowing that, in some sense, the succession doctrine is true; that there really exists a ministry which stands in the position of the first teachers of the Gospel ; where are we to look for it so much as amongst the churches which act on the principle of extending that Gospel to all the world?
Surely this vocation is not limited to a mere designation to office a title-a name. It contains a great commission; and none can have a right to the name of apostolical churches which do not, practically, obey the injunctions of the Lord Jesus on this subject. Their pretences otherwise are something like the obsolete custom of the Monarchs of this nation, in assuming the heraldry, insignia, and name of “ Kings of France," for so many ages after we had lost every foot of land in that kingdom, and nothing remained but the empty title. So it has been with many churches claiming to be primitive. The name has
remained as a symbol of departed glory, but without any vestige of its spirit and power. For ages and ages, some of these bodies have been nestling in their own corruptions, without any consideration of the wants and dangers of the world, or any kind of means adopted to carry out our Lord's command. How, then, it may be asked, can that church be apostolical, or its Ministers the successors of the apostolic “ Order,” which fails to execute the commission delivered by Christ into the hands of these honoured servants ? thing is a more unequivocal mark of a body of Christians being intrusted with this commission than another, it is its actual execution. How could it be executed unless it were given? and how can it be given where it is not executed ? This will be an evidence of a true church in all ages.
2. The example of primitive times, as well as the apostolic commission, will show that a church, to be scriptural, must be constituted on the principle of aggression.
It is easy to perceive, on the evidence of the sacred narrative alone, that the ancient societies of Christians were constituted on this basis. They were not isolated and independent bodies; existing for themselves alone ; confining their prayers, charity, preaching, economy, and means, to the matter of mere self-edification. All these, indeed, were regarded in their place. But the strength of the central church was built up, that it might be in a condition to act on the surrounding world, as well as to enjoy blessings in itself.
The disciples at Jerusalem constituted one of these central bodies, which by its spiritual movements first touched the nearest portions of territory and population around, but, in its remote results, reached the ends of the earth. From the upper room where the Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost, was given, the Apostles and Evangelists went forth in power to proclaim the glad tidings of Gospel peace and salvation. We have many interesting circumstances connected with these earliest exertions of the mother church to extend to other places the light and mercy which she had received. Though the impulse was new, the faith of the disciples steadfast, and their love ardent and glowing ; yet their means were limited, their prejudices numerous and next to insuperable, and the barriers in the way of their aggressive movement appalling; and every thing had to be wrought out from a germinant principle, by a painful experience of labour, prayer, enterprise, opposition, and martyrdom. How insignificant and unpromising were appearances at the death of our Lord ; nay, even at the period of his ascension, and afterwards, when his church stood before the world as a distinct body! But even in their feeblest state, we find the Apostles going " forth, and preaching every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” (Mark xvi. 20.) At this early date, as might be expected from our Lord's predictions, many things of a most unpromising nature, as to outward events, contributed to the success of the first plantation of the church. Amongst these must be classed impulses of the blessed Spiritinterpositions of Providence—facilities for aggression from the then state of the world—and not unfrequently persecution and opposition. We perceive all these elements powerfully contributing their several amounts of influence and impetus, to impel the church forward in her course of evangelical labour and success. Hence, at the time of Stephen's martyrdom, "there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem ; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. Now when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John : who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost : (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them : only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the Gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.” (Acts viii. 1, 3–5, 14-17, 25.) This is the first account we have of the disciples moving beyond the limits of Jerusalem. It developes the principle of aggression as an element in the first church ; but it is only brought out in combination with persecution, the scattering of the flock of Christ, and the preaching of Philip, one of the Deacons,—or, as he would now be called, “a layman.” In these early times the burden of prophesying, teaching, or preaching, lay on the conscience of every disciple. All the Lord's people were Prophets, in the sense of being his witnesses amongst men.
St. Peter was gone to Joppa, when he was called to open the Gospel kingdom to the Gentiles in the family of Cornelius, then residing at Cæsarea. Two miraculous agencies were employed to accomplish this ; :-an angel was sent to Cornelius, and a vision was granted to Peter. The issue was the introduction of the truth to the family of a devout Gentile, and the beginning of the work of conversion among
that numerous branch of the human family. This event excited the prejudices of the Jewish converts. " And the Apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. But Peter