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The religious privileges which are common to the whole of this family of true believers in Christ are unspeakably valuable. At some of the principal of them we may now shortly glance.
1. They are brought out of darkness into marvellous light. “Ye are a choşen generation," said the apostle Peter to some of the early Christians, "a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;" I Pet. ii, 9. Furnished with ample and satisfactory evidences of the truth and divine authority of Christianity, they have found in that holy religion, as it is recorded in the Holy Scriptures, a plain statement of all those truths which appertain to man's salvation-a clear account of the character of man-of the attributes of God—of the future life-of eternal rewards and punishments; and more especially of that divine Saviour, the incarnate Son of God, who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. That outward knowledge, which has been thus graciously communicated to them, may truly be denominated a "marvellous light." Yet these expressions are more properly applicable to that spiritual illumination, by which the humble followers of Jesus are enabled to form a right estimate of the things of God. True Christians may be described as persons whose moral opticks are rectified. God has given them the spirit of “a sound mind.” Every thing connected with religion appears to them (as far as is consistent with the narrow limits of the apprehension of mortals) in its real dimensions. From the secret illumination of the Lord's Holy Spirit, and by the instrumentality of the outward revelation of divine truth, they are enabled to form a comparatively just view of themselves of their Creator-of virtue and vice-of the world and eternity-of heaven and
hell--and more particularly of Jesus Christ, as their Mediator with the Father, as their divine and allpowerful Redeemer. Such persons can acknowledge, with humble gratitude, that “the darkness is past," and that "the true light now shineth;” I John ii, 8.
2. The religion, respecting the truths of which Christians are thus enlightened, is a powerful religion. In other words, it is the medium through which the power of God operates upon them, for the great purposes of sanctification and salvation. Thus the apostle Paul expressly asserts that the Gospel of Christ is “the power of God unto salvation;" Romans i, 16. Again, he says, “ The preaching of the cross is, to them that perish, foolishness; but, unto us which are saved, it is the power of God;" I Cor. i, 18: and, in addressing his Ephesian converts, he makes particular mention of the “exceeding greatness” of the “ power" of God "to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places;" Eph. i, 19, 20. We may
conclude, therefore, that “the grace of God, which bringeth salvation,” and which “hath appeared unto all men," is, with a preeminent fulness of measure, poured forth on the believers in Jesus. trust in the living God," says the same apostle, “who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe;" I Tim. iv, 10.
Faith in the Son of God is not the mere assent of the understanding to the mission and divinity of Jesus. It is a practical and operative principle of wonderful energy. Those who live by this faith enjoy an access unto the Father by a new and living way, which Christ hath “consecrated for them through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” Their dependence is placed, not upon their own strength and wisdom, but upon that
Great High Priest of their profession, who “ever liveth to make intercession" for them—who "is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him,” Heb. vii, 25; and at his gracious hands, they receive that more abundant effusion of the Holy Spirit, by which they are enabled, in a distinguished degree, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and to become conformed to the will of a righteous and holy God. Thus do they experience, that, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new;" II Cor. v, 17.
3. The followers of Jesus Christ being enlightened in their darkness, and strengthened in their weakness, are animated during the varied course of their earthly pilgrimage, with the clear hope of immortal joy. Their treasure, their conversation, are in heaven: their desire is fixed on that "city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” They are seeking better country, that is, a heavenly.” Often indeed are they cast down under a humbling sense of their great infirmities, and many transgressions; and are at times scarcely able to entertain the belief that they shall "be counted worthy of the kingdom of God." Yet, as their regards remain steadily fixed on that Saviour who died for their sins, and rose again for their justification; as they are “ kept by the power of God, through faith;" they are seldom permitted to sink into despondence, or finally to lose a peaceful expectation of that inheritance which is “reserved for them in heaven"__"an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away;" I Pet. i, 4.
4. Lastly.They are, in a preeminent manner, “baptized by one Spirit into one body.” How delightful is the union which subsists
the numerous members of this holy family! It is true that their views, in some respects, are far from being perfectly
coincident.-It is true that they are ranged under various banners, and are designated by a considerable diversity of denomination. It is true, also, that they do not all possess the same measure of light; and that the sentiments of some amongst them are of a more spiritual character than those of others. Nevertheless, their ground of accordance is at once wide and substantial. Their footing is placed on the same Rock of ages; and that Rock is Christ. They enjoy a true fellowship one with another, even because their fellowship is “ with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”. Love is the blessed principle by which they are united, and which animates them in the prosecution of joint efforts, conducted on common principles, in support of the same cause.
Such, then, are the religious privileges which appear to distinguish, from mankind in general, the members of the true visible church of Christ; and which, as it relates to them, are universal. They are in a peculiar manner brought out of darkness into marvellous light —they experience the exceeding greatness of the power of God revealed in Christ for their salvationthey are cheered by a prospect of immortal joy, clearly manifested to them by the Gospel; and in a preeminent degree they are brought into spiritual fellowship one with another. May the love, which cements together the varied members of this mystical body of Christ more and more abound; may the barriers which ignorance or prejudice have reared amongst them be broken through and demolished; may Christians be enabled increasingly to strive together for the hope of the Gospel; and, while they individually draw nearer to the Fountain of all good, may they be enabled yet more perfectly to enjoy “the communion of the Holy Ghost,"—to“ keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!"
ON RELIGIOUS PECULIARITIES.- GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THOSE
OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS.
THE members of the true visible church of Christ, some of whose common religious privileges have now been described, are divided, as the reader cannot fail to know, into a variety of particular societies. United as they are in the fundamental principles of repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, these societies are distinguished from one another by different and sometimes even opposite views and practices, in connexion with several particulars in religion, of a less essential character.
When we consider the infirmity and deceitfulness of the heart of man, and remember how often the power of habit and prejudice is found to interfere with a just and enlightened apprehension of truth, it is no matter of wonder that such a result should have taken place. Nor ought we, in tracing the causes of
7 I am well aware that, in the various societies of professing Christians, many persons are necessarily included, who cannot, on any sound scriptural principle, be considered members of the true visible church of Christ. To such nominal professors of religion, under whatever denomination they may be ranged, I am not now alluding; and I must, in a particular manner, request my reader to observe that, in treating of the Society of Friends, as forming a part of that true church, my views are directed only to those persons, of our peculiar profession, who are really living under the influence of vital religion.