« PreviousContinue »
from both sides of the fence, merely by changing his dress when he goes to reap souls for his
garner of destruction.
Now, brethren, the cure and remedy of all this, and the defeat of Satan under this disguise, is, to labour after the spirit of communion, to hunger and thirst for agreement, to desire peace and to ensueit. To surrender our own selfishness, our predilections for a party, and to seek the bowels of love towards all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity and truth. We ought to open our minds to light as the day, and be easy of conviction as the blushing child. We ought to know the person of Christ, to desire his image, to look unto him, and to imitate him alone. Yea, not even Paul, nor Cephas, nor Apollos, but Christ alone. We ought to spread our spirits abroad over the whole compass of God's precious word, and from every plant thereof gather the milk and honey of our spiritual life. Not delighting ourselves with the Epistles in particular, or with the Gospels in particular, or with the Psalms, or with the Prophets, for there is no such sign of a confirmed sectarian as to have wedded himself to particular fragments of God's word; leven as there is no such sign of a catholic Christian as to love it equally, and delight in it all, as revealing to him that one truth of God which is life'. unto his soul. And always we ought to remember the diversity of gifts which God hath appointed to the diverse members of his body, not making the body all eye, or all hands, or all' feet, but placing a diversity of offices in his church for the profit of the whole. · Above all, we ought to set ourselves at our proper lowness in the church, desiring to be a servant of servants to the saints, and confess
ing our unworthiness to keep a door in his house, too humble to take upon ourselves the office of judging others, infinitely removed from the usurpation of making ourselves a standard to others, but as we desire ourselves to be conformed, so desiring to see all others conformed unto Christ.
Oh that ye would look unto Christ as your Saviour, as your Teacher by the Holy Spirit, as your pattern in all things ! Then would
be very open to the word of truth in all its variety and compass of application, and very desirous of finding the living resemblances of his holiness, unwearied in your prayers to be possessed of his likeness, unwearied in your love of those who were pursuing the same great end, in whatever external communion they were found. Thus only is Satan to be defeated as a sectarian, by perceiving the utter unprofitableness for salvation of the outward visible church in any form, and the necessity of being of that spiritual and invisible church, whereof I have lately taught you what be the sure and everlasting foundations. But if
you set store by these outward forms which are only an emblem and representation before the world of the spiritual things, then it will come to pass that the spiritual things themselves will escape your observation, and ye will become a prey to Satan arrayed as a sectarian.
Thus, brethren, have I set before you Satan's third artifice to pluck away the seed of the word, which the preacher soweth in your heart; and I solemnly warn you of it as that to which, of all others, you who hear the word from my lips are liable. For it hath been so ordered in the providence of God, that we should be gathered from all conimunions, both of the churches established, and of those departing from them; and therefore we never shall be able to come into sweet fellowship with one another, or a ready consent unto the word of the preacher, but by great watchfulness against the several peculiarities in which we have been reared up. Therefore I do earnestly entreat you, not to be conformed to any rule of man's invention, to any idea of early education, but like wise men to judge all things, and hold fast that which is good. And, for my own part, while I fulfil all things according to the rules and doctrines of the church which hath honoured me with the ministerial calling, I feel that I am not restrained thereby from fulfilling the perfect office of a preacher of the word, and of a Christian Pastor to the souls of all the people. But go not to allow any bugbear of an established church, or any prejudice which artful men may disseminate against the doctrine, discipline, or government thereof, to hinder you from receiving the word at my lips with that confidence and love which is necessary to its producing of fruit. Go not to lie in wait for faults, go not to sit in critical judgment, go not to measure the compass of Christian doctrine by your present ignorance, as if you were masters over the ministry, and as if your mind and reason were the proper measure of the contents of Christ's word. Ye are occupied with the world, and it is not reason that ye should be able to discern the deep mysteries of the word of God, over which we are appointed the stewards. It is my part and province, and the chief use I am of in the world, and that for which you have called me, to search the Scriptures diligently, and meditate them carefully, and to bring forth from them the lessons of doctrine, correction, reproof, and instruction in righteousness, for which they were inspired of God. Now it is by every one submitting himself to this word, that every one is to be taught in the one truth, and conformed to the one image of Christ Jesus. And if you think me not enough instructed myself in the ways of godliness, nor careful enough of the spirit of communion and love, I do entreat you to pray earnestly in my behalf, that every thing personal, every thing prejudiced, every thing narrow and sectarian, may be done away with, and that I may be a vessel sanctified unto honour, and altogether filled by God with the living waters of the Spirit for your sakes. Even as I do now pray and entreat the Lord for every one of you, that you may be delivered from the pride of intellect, and the self-sufficiency of reason, from the powers of prejudice, and the desires of power, from vanity and ostentation, and hardness of heart, and malice and all unrighteousness, in order that ye may receive the engrafted word in the love of it, to the salvation of your souls : which word I do this night, as always, declare unto you, that Jesus Christ is the perfect wisdom of God, which must fill our minds by the banishment and exclusion of our personal peculiarities, that the new man within us is his child, begotten of his Spirit, nourished by the sincere milk of his word, and conformed in all things to his image. That this child of Jesus is the same in all men, and where he is there is love and peace and blessedness. And that the church is the society of such children of the Spirit of Christ; and that the minister of the church is the nurse of these children, the shep
herd of this flock of Christ whom he hath purcbased with his own blood. And that this new man of the heart is greedy of Divine instruction, is happy to hear sin reproved, desireth to see it extinguished, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, doth not behave itself unseemly, is not easily puffed up, but patient, meek, gentle, merciful, and full of good fruits. He hath no kindred with sectarianism; for though yet a child, and able to embrace a part, he hath the love and presentiment of the whole, and delighteth in nothing so much as in one who can instruct him more perfectly in the way of Christ, and bring him more exactly to the image of God, created in righteousness and true holiness.
And now I proceed, in the last place, to point out Satan's fourth artifice against you, the hearers of the word ; which is to deny that which is of the holy and true faith revealed unto us by Jesus Christ.
IV. THE HERETIC. Though it be said, as the characteristic of the first class of the hearers of the word, concerning whom we discourse, that they hear, then cometh the devil, and taketh way the word out of their hearts, you are not therefore to suppose that every time they hear the word, they have a distinct perceptible act of the evil one, invalidating it by his accusations; for Satan is not such a novice as to be always doing the same thing over again, but doth consolidate his work as it proceedeth, and builds up prejudices and antipathies and forms of error, which, like strong intrenchments, may fortify the heart of the hearer against the assaults of the word, nor resteth he satisfied until he gets