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“There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep,” he says, “Send and fetch him, for we will not sit down till he come hither.” A messenger goes. By-and-by, feet are heard at the door ; it opens; and, little dreaming of the honors that await him, David, who had left his harp, and pipe, and playful lambs, on the hills of Bethlehem, enters—modesty, and manliness, and beauty in that countenance which was “goodly to look to.” While the old man eyes the lad, as he stands reverently before him, a voice not caught by Jesse's ear, but heard by Samuel's, says, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Now, suppose that the different churches, like these sons of Jesse, stood before us. Whatever may be made of their claims, each cannot be Christ's true body. He has but one church ; for the second Adam, like the first, is the husband of one wife. And just as the church cannot have two heads, neither can the head have two bodies; for, as that body were a monster which had more heads than one, not less monstrous were that form where one head was united to two separate bodies. Of all these churches, then, each claiming to be cast in the true gospel mould—that with consecrated bishops, this with simple presbyters, this other without either ; that administering baptism to infants as well as adults, this only to adults; that robed in a ritual of many forms, this thinking that religion, like beauty, when unadorned, is adorned the most—which is Christ's body, the Lamb's wife? Which are we to receive as the favorite of heaven? Of which does God say, as he said of David among rival brethren, Arise, anoint her, for this is she 3 Of none of them. Christ has a church, but it is none of these. In explanation of a remark which may surprise some, and is fitted to teach all of us humility and charity, I observe—
II. That Christ's body, which is not identical with any one church, is formed of all true believers, to whatever denomination they may belong.
It is natural for men to be partial to their own sect. Nor do I quarrel with the feeling, if, looking kindly on others, you are ready to extend the hand of fellowship to all that love the Lord Jesus Christ. Mothers are prone to think their own children lovelier than their neighbors'; and nothing is more natural than that we should say of our own denomination, Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. That is no breach of Christian charity. But to foster a spirit of sectarianism, and thus sin against Christ's spirit, is an offence as great as to sin against his truth. In some respects, indeed, I think bigotry is worse than heresy; and more hateful in God's sight than error, is the haughty churchism or exclusive self-righteous pride which say to others, “Stand by thyself; come not near me; for I am holier than thou.”
“The king's daughter is all glorious within ;” but where on earth is the church which will stand that test ? Where is the church that, among other points of resemblance to the ark, has not the unclean as well as clean within its walls, raven and dove, leopard and kid, the cruel lion with the gentle lamb 7 Are not events ever and anon occurring to remind us of the two birds Noah sent forth on a voyage of discovery 2 Like this snow-white dove on weary wing returning to the ark, there are souls that can find no rest in sin or in the world, or anywhere away from God; happy souls' but, alas, there are others, also tenants of the ark, like yonder foul raven, that croaks and flaps his wings above corruption, and riots on the carcasses of the dead. Such characters as the last are found in the purest churches; spots on the sun, dead flies among the ointment. Surely it behoves us to see that we are not of their number. For, oh! these are sad and solemn words, Many are called, but few are chosen. And, happier than Christ, happier than Paul, that pastor must have a small and select flock whose members cost him no anxiety, neither fears nor the tears of him who said, Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. By these remarks I would not disparage outward ordinances and forms. They are valuable in their own place and for their own purposes; frames, as they are, to set the picture in ; caskets for truth's jewels; dead poles, no doubt, yet useful to support living plants, and very beautiful when the bare stem is festooned with green leaves, and crowned with a head of flowers. The church of Christ, however, is not to be identified with this or that other form either of government or worship. She embraces the good of all denominations, and rejects the bad, from whatever hands they have received the rite of baptism, to whatever communion they may belong, however pure their creed, or scriptural their form of worship. “The just shall live by faith,” by nothing else. He belongs therefore to the true church who believes ; and he who believes not, to whatever church he may belong, has “neither part nor lot in this matter.” “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” God help us to lay that truth to
heart, and to embrace the Saviour as he is offered in the gospell I have seldom heard this catholic and happy doctrine more pointedly expressed than by a poor woman who dwelt in one of the darkest and most wretched quarters of our city. Away from her native home, and without one earthly friend, she had floated here, a stranger in a strange land, to sink into the most abject poverty; her condition but one degree better than our Saviour's. In common with the fox, she had a hole to lay her head in. Yet, although poor and outwardly wretched, she was a child of God, one of the jewels which, if sought for, we should sometimes find in dust-heaps. With a bashfulness not unnatural, she had shrunk from exposing her poverty to the stare of well-robed congregations, resorting on Sabbath days to the well— appropriate place—where a pious man was wont to preach to ragged outcasts, crying in the name of Jesus, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. Supposing, in my ignorance of this, that she was living, like the mass around her, in careless neglect of her soul, I began to warn her. Nor shall I soon forget how she interrupted me, and, drawing herself up with an air of humble dignity, and half offended, said, Sir, I worship at the well; and am sure that if we are true believers in Jesus, and love him, and try to follow him, we shall never be asked at the judgment day, Where did you worship 2 Well said, and well shot, thou poor one; that arrow hits the mark And as I hold no other creed, nor admit anything to be of vital importance but genuine heaven-born faith, let me ask, Are you true believers? Blessed are you! Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered Are you unbelievers, impenitent, ungodly 2 You may by profession belong to a church which holds the head, and holds truth, and has, in God's providence, been honored to testify and suffer for it; but what of that ? There is no safety in that. On the contrary, you appear only the more offensive to a holy God. A spot looks worse on the face of beauty; Satan looked most hateful when he stood among the sons of God; and, as I have observed at funerals in the winter time, skulls never look so grim, nor the churchyard mould so black, as when they have been flung on a bank of snow. Trust not in your church, nor say, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we.” Judgment shall begin at the house of God.
III. Christ's body, in a sense, embraces all those churches which hold the essential truths of the gospel.
It was the misfortune of Europe that Charles W. did not learn at an early period of his life the lesson which he was afterwards taught in a Spanish cloister. It had saved him much treasure, the world much bloodshed, and his soul much sin. After vainly attempting to quench the light of the Reformation, and make all men think alike, this great monarch, resigning his crown, retired to a monastery. Wearied, perhaps, with the dull round of mechanical devotions, he betook himself, in the mechanical arts, to something more congenial to his active mind. After long and repeated efforts, he found that he could not make two time-pieces go alike, two machines, that had neither mind nor will, move in perfect harmony. Whereupon, it is said, he uttered this memorable reflection, What a fool was I to attempt to make all men think alike ' Unfortunately for the peace of the church and for the interests