Page images

it must be crucified. If, therefore, you refuse to repent and forsake sin; if you refuse to live, to exist without it, you must die with it. die the second death. If you will not have sin crushed in your hearts, under the stroke of divine justice, you must be crushed with it. Do you reply that you are helpless, and therefore cannot come? This indeed is a truth; but it is a truth which you neither believe nor feel. Your supposed intention of future repentance, which has the effect of quieting your conscience, which true repentance alone ought to produce, is made in your own strength. If you are helpless, raise the cry of helplessness to God. This cry is the most solemn and earnest that ascends from this earth to heaven. The Lord will hear it and will be your help. None who raise this cry shall ever perish; for God will be your refuge and strength. Come then to Christ as guilty and helpless sinners believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved; for his blood cleanseth from all sin. This blood, sprinkled on the heart, will dissolve its connection with sin. Without this blood, your hearts will remain incurably wicked. Delay is dangerous. Be. hold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

[blocks in formation]



MATTH. 18:18. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind

on earth shall be bound in 'heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The Church of the living God on earth has always been considered, by both her friends and her foes, as a society distinct from the world. This is the leading fact which is brought into view in the text and context. The church in this passage is represented as a regularly organized body, having a government of her own, and exercising that government for peculiar and special purposes, and with singular efficiency. Whatsoever she binds “ on earth shall be bound in heaven," and whatsoever she looses 6 on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

We propose at this time to consider,


On the first of these we need not dwell. À mere statement of a few of the leading facts is all that is necessary. And,

1. The church, as a society, is within a society, and having objects and modes of operation peculiarly her own. But in these respects there is no difference betwixt the church and a thousand other societies that are in the world. Every voluntary association for commercial, or literary, or national, or benevolent purposes, has exactly the same character. It is formed and it operates within the bosom of the national government, and in every case it is modified to a great extent by the character and habits of the mass of the population of the country.

* Synodical Scrisori,

All these societies agree further, in that though each has its peculiar object, and its peculiar mode of acting, and though all the members of any particular society may be connected with a vast number of other societies; yet men are known and recognized as members of that particular society only for a particular and specified purpose; and while all the arrangements of the society are made to bear upon

that one object, yet the government of the society has no control over any of its member, but just so far as the declared object of the society is concerned. In all other matters, every member of the society is as free as if no such society did exist.

2. The great and specific object of the church, as a society, distinct from the world, is, without doubt, the deliverance of the human family from the power and pollution of sin. All her peculiar titles will be found to bear on this one object, and for this purpose were all her ordinances and modes of doing business appointed.

3. The means which the church, as a distinct society, commands for the accomplishment of this great object are ample, and most appropriate. They may all be comprehended under—the written word,

- her sabbaths,-her ministry, and the character and attainments of her members. Hence the great object of church government must be, to preserve these, and to exhibit them in all their purity and simplicity; and in the exhibition of them, to make them bear upon the under. standing, and the hearts, and the consciences of men. And, in every case, the administration of church government is good when it accomplishes this one object, and it is bad when it fails to accomplish this object.

4. All things considered, and so far as government is concerned, the character and the attainments of her ministry and members is that which has the most important bearing on her efficiency and success. Nor does the church in this respect differ from other associations. In every society, whether large or small, whether voluntary or supported by authority, the society will be efficient, and will ultimately accom. plish its specific object, in exact proportion to the qualifications and character of its members, and particularly of its officers.

This great and important matter is particularly brought into view in the passage before us.

“ Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he negleet to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” Mat. 18:15–17. The great and distinct object of church government is, to attend to the admission or rejection of members. Let all things in this matter be done at the right time, and in the right manner, and with the right spirit, and all will be weil The authority and arrangements of the church will be irresistible. • Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever


shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven," We proceed now to consider,

II. The SOURCE from which church government is derived.

And here we are at once presented with one of the peculiar characteristics of the church. In all other associations of



power claimed and exercised by the officers of government over their fellowmen, is either directly or indirectly derived from the members of the society; and these officers, whether legislative or executive, act in the name and by the authority of the whole. But in the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant, is the sole source of all the authority claimed and exercised.

He is the sole Head and Sovereign of the church. As Jehovah he created and gave being to all men, whether of the church or of the world. As Redeemer, he purchased the church with his own blood. He has, therefore, an original and underived right to supreme authority. He, and he only, gave to the church and to the world the written word, which is the charter of all her privileges, as well as the only proper rule of her conduct, and the ground of all her hopes. He appointed her ordinances,-her sabbaths, and her sacraments, and the reading and the preaching of the word. He, and he only, appointed her ministry both under the Old and New Testament dispensations. And under the New Testament dispensation particularly, the ministry was appointed before the church was organized. Or in other words, the officers existed before the society existed. He still continues to communicate, from generation to generation, all the ne. cessary ministerial gifts and graces. And in preaching the word, and in administering the sacraments, and in exercising government and discipline, these officers are merely executive—they possess no legis. lative or creative power.

He hath further marked distinctly in his word what ought to be the qualifications of all her members. And members and officers are in all cases to be admitted or excluded only upon the evidence being produced of their possessing, or their not possessing these qualifications.

Finally: He has, in the passage before us, distinctly stated that he is to be personally present wherever the church may meet in his name, and that he is to take a deep interest in all their proceedings,--and that whatever is done in these meetings in accordance with his revealed will shall be ratified and carried into execution by himself. And in another passage, referring to the exercise of the ministerial office in all its parts, he says, “ He that heareth you heareth me, and he that dem spiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me."

We pass on

III. To attend to the MANNER in which those to whom the government of the church is entrusted are to exercise it.

We cannot, here, go into any details as to the various forms of eco clesiastical government. We can only state a few general principles. And,

1. No society of any kind can exist and act without some form of government. And whatever may be the form of government, there must be officers; and these officers, by whatever name they may be called, always constitute the executive department.

2. We have just seen that the church, properly speaking, has no legislative power. In whatever form then any particular church may agree to do their particular business, they are only to carry into execu. tion the laws already given them; and given to them in common with all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus. No portion of the church has any power to make any new laws. The written word given by the Lord Jesus Christ is the common rule, and common charter, and common statute book of the whole catholic church.

3. In the Presbyterian Church the representative form of government is adopted, and ordained officers only are ,entrusted with the whole administration. Hence, in the remarks which are to be offered, though the general principles which may be stated may be applicable to every form of church government, yet they are to be applied in the present case particularly to ourselves.

« PreviousContinue »