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5. If christians ought to be zealous in maintaining the purity of divine institutions; then they are responsible for the errors and corruptions, which spring up and prevail in the churches to which they belong. It is generally owing to some fault in them, that unworthy members gain admission into the church; and it must always be their fault, if they do not either reclaim or exclude them, after they become visibly erroneous or corrupt. Christ has clearly pointed out their duty in respect to preserving the purity of his sacred institutions; and if they neglect to perform it, they stand justly responsible for the evil consequences of their neglect. How severely did the apostle reprove the church of Corinth for neglecting to discipline the incestuous person? And how much more sharply did Christ rebuke the seven churches of Asia for their unfaithfulness towards the erroneous and corrupt members, who were bringing reproach and ruin upon them? Christ still walks in the midst of his golden candlesticks, and observes the conduct of his churches. They will have a solemn account to give, if they suffer religion to languish in their hands, and the table of the Lord to become contemptible, by their negligence and unfaithful
It highly concerns all the professors of religion at the present day of deep declension, to become more watchful, and to strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die.
6. If christians ought to be zealous in maintaining the purity of divine institutions, then it is a mark of real sincerity in those, who actually manifest such a zeal. It is found by observation and experience, that
any, who are strict and conscientious in the exercise of church discipline, escape the displeasure and reproach of not only those whom they censure, but even of all who are inwardly enemies to the cause of
Christ. These persons are ready to put the worst construction upon the views and conduct of faithful christians, who are active and zealous, in watching over, reproving, and censuring the erroneous, corrupt, or disorderly. They will, if they can, make themselves and others believe, that this is a false zeal, which ought to be hated and condemned. But the sincere friends of Christ, who express their zeal for his glory and the purity of his sacred ordinances, deserve universal approbation and esteem, instead of reproach and contempt. A zeal according to knowledge in the exercise of church discipline is one of the most rare and amiable traits in the christian character. It is a signal expression of true self-denial, to take up the cross, and suffer reproach for the cause of Christ, and for the saving benefit of those, who are wandering in the paths of fatal error and delusion. Christians never act more in character, and give better evidence of the sincerity of their hearts, than while they are displaying a fervent zeal to purge out errors and corruptions from the church of Christ.
7. If christians should be zealous in maintaining gospel discipline; then those who are the subjects of it, ought to be unfeignedly thankful to their brethren for their labour of love. It is in them an expression of pure self-denial to pursue the steps which Christ has appointed to reclaim offenders, who are injuring themselves, their best friends, and the cause which they have solemnly engaged to promote. And if they are true penitents, they will hear the friendly admonition of their brethren, confess their oflences, and heal, as far as possible, the wounds which they have given to Christ in the house of his friends. Instead of complaining of the zeal and fidelity of their fellow christians, they will return them their grateful acknowledg
ments for their benevolent exertions to save them from the path of the destroyer. This will give the most satisfaction to their own minds, and be the best method they can take to regain the charity and confidence of the church, who will rejoice to see the happy issue of their fidelity and zeal. But if they are obstinate and incorrigible under the nild means of gospel discipline, they will throw themselves into the power of the great adversary of souls, and take the direct course to ruin themselves forever.
To conclude; let the professors of religion be urged to fulfil the important trusts reposed in them. Christ has given them the charge of his word, of his ordinances, and of the discipline of his house. He still walks in the midst of his golden candlesticks, and keeps his eye fixed upon his professed friends, to see
, whether they are faithful to him, to themselves, and to one another. He has given them power tunity of doing much for him, and bound them not only by his authority, but by his love, to be faithful and zealous in his cause. They have put their hand to the plough, and must never look back. It will be highly displeasing to Christ, and extremely injurious to the souls of men, if they suffer corruptions in doctrine, and practice to prevail, and let christianity languish and die in their hands. But if they are constant, faithful, and zealous in promoting piety, and maintaining the purity of divine ordinances, they will meet the final approbation of Christ, and a glorious recompense of reward. Amen.
SELFISHNESS THE ESSENCE OF MORAL
LUKE vi, 32. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have
ye? for sinners also love those that love them. WHEN Christ first appeared in his publick character he displayed so much kindness, compassion, and benevolence in healing the sick, relieving the distressed, and preaching the gospel to the poor, that he was almost universally beloved as well as admired. The high and low, the learned and unlearned, the teachers and those that were taught, flocked after him, to hear his doctrines, and to see and experience his miracles. He appeared to be what it was foretold that he should be, “the desire of all nations.” At least, the Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees, though disunited among themselves agreed to admire and to follow the long-expected Messiah. And to any one, less acquainted with the human heart than Christ was, they would have appeared to be his real friends. But he knew what was in man, and was never deceived by any false appearances of love and esteem. As he
perfectly knew the characters of all who followed him, so in his addresses to the mixed multitudes, he directed his discourses to the hearts and consciences of both the sincere and insincere. And as he had occasion, while his real enemies wore the mask of love, to point out the distinction between true love and false, so he dwelt much upon this subject in both his publick and
private discourses. An instance of this we have in the context, where we find a description of his followers, and a summary of his discourse, which he delivered to them. “He came down and stood in the plain; and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for behold your reward is great in heaven.” He now turns from his disciples to the multitude, and says, “But wo unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Wo unto
that are full! for ye shall hunger. Wo unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Wo unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you. And unto him thật smiteth thee on the cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every one that asketh of thee, and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye to them like.