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First, You ask me, what you, and your friends ought to do? I answer, do right as men, as members of civil society, and as christians. As men, as mere men, you must follow nature, or you will sink beneath the level of the beasts of the field. Vices of many sorts, are unnatural; they are solely the effect of habit. Swearing, drunkenness, and gaming, are of this description.
Secondly, You ought to act right as members of civil society. You cannot stand alone; living in, and members of a civil community, you must submit to those laws, which are enacted by the legislative body. If you deem existing laws too severe, you may avoid the rigour of which you complain, by a removal from the State. If you say, your interest will suffer in consequence of your departure, then it will be more for your interest to continue where you are; and you must be content to submit to a lesser evil, for the sake of a greater good; in other words, you must surrender, to the claims of government, a part of your property, for the security of the residue; you must then, if you consult your interest, to say nothing more, render obedience to the laws of the State, where they do not run counter to the laws of God and nature. We, in this State, and indeed the subjects of the Union at large, are peculiarly happy, that there are no regulations established among us, to which, as freemen and as christians, we cannot most cheerfully submit.
But, lastly, You are to perform your duty as christians. To be christians, you must be disciples of Christ Jesus; and to be disciples of this Master, you must be under his direction. Then are ye my disciples, saith the Saviour, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
You say, there are numbers in your neighbourhood, who profess the christian faith, who call themselves believers, and who, having heard with delight the voice of the good Shepherd, resolve they will not again attend to the voice of the stranger. Blessed be the name of the Redeemer, they are under no obligations so to do. You inform me, they cannot, consistent with their ideas of rectitude, contribute to the support of false teachers. Well, the mild government under which we live, has made ample provision for such conscientious persons; they are under no obligation to support, what they conceive a false religion. But, you suspect there are some, who value their money more than their religion; such persons are covetous, such persons are VOL. III.
idolators, and for such characters the compilers of our Constitution have not made provision. The members of the Convention who formed our constitution, were of opinion, that religion of some sort or other, was a public benefit; and as neither public nor private advantage can be obtained in this world without some expense, our wise men thought it best to oblige every member of the community, to contribute to the support of the religion of his election, indulging serious, conscientious persons, with liberty to choose for themselves, and to dispose of their taxes to the support of their own teacher. This is all the liberty we have, and this, by many, is thought to be sufficient.
Permit me, then, in conformity to your request, humbly to propose, that as many of you as are real lovers of divine truth, should associate together in Church fellowship, state the articles of your faith in clear and concise language; and let all those who choose to subscribe thereto, mutually consent to have fellowship one with another. Let them meet together upon the first day of every week, for the purpose of worshipping God according to his divine appointment. If they have no one to preach the word of the kingdom unto them, let them read a portion of the scriptures which, accompanied by the Spirit of God, is sufficient to make them wise unto salvation. But you will say, "Suppose they have not that Spirit, in that case what are they to do?" I answer, if any lack wisdom, let them ask of God, who giveth unto all liberally, and upbraideth not. He will give the Holy Spirit to them who ask him. Do you ask, "Are there any inspired in the present day?" Assuredly there are. All men are under the influence of one spirit or another. All true believers are under the influence of the Spirit of the true Christ; all unbelievers are under the influence of the spirit of anti-christ. Are any acquainted with the things of God, they are indebted for this knowledge to the Spirit of God, who alone can take of the things of Jesus, and shew them unto us. Are there any real Universalists, they are made so by that Spirit of truth, which alone is able to lead them into all truth. Let, then, your brethren, if they are thus taught of God, supplicate the divine Presence and Favour; for, although God delighteth in doing us good, yet he will be inquired after; and he is a God that heareth and answereth prayer. Prayer indicates our trust in, and dependence upon him, in whom we have believed; and a declaration of this dependence, constitutes a part of
the worship of God. Perhaps some will say, "They have not gifts; they know not how to pray;" but this is a very capital mistake. In many instances, indeed, we may not know what to pray for, but there are no individuals, in the wide family of earth or heaven, who do not know how to pray. Indeed, there are but few who know how to pray as the hypocrites, who make long prayers and abound in repetitions. Professors, in general, in their addresses to the throne of grace, seem to study more to please men than God. Is any among you afflicted, let him pray. A man who is really afflicted in the want of any thing, will not suffer in the want by which he is afflicted, because he cannot make use of what is called good language. Were he, in applying to a superiour, able and willing to assist him, to make use of very flowery language, his sincerity might justly be called in question. God be merciful to me a sinner, was more acceptable to God, than the much speaking of the Pharisee. David said, LORD, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great. Have mercy on me, thou son of David, is another prayer which answers the description of true prayer. Whoso cometh unto God, must believe that he is faithful, and a rewarder of such who diligently seek him; but it is him we must seek, and not the applause of men; yet it is the latter and not the former, which is sought by every one who can pray in private and not in public, or who can ask a favour of his fellow creature, and find it difficult to ask of God. Can we reasonably suppose, that the infinitely great and glorious God, is under the influence of much or fine speaking? The Searcher of all hearts, looketh only to the heart. If your hearts be right with God, then you will, when you meet together, come into his presence with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. But when you would sing the praises of the redeeming God, do not offer the sacrifice of fools, by singing what is not true, by singing your prayers, or by attending more to the sound than the sense, thus sing to the praise and glory of the singer. The religion of this world, is too often show and solemn mockery. Men pray to make an exhibition of their gifts; they sing to evince how well they have cultivated their voices and their ears; and few, in the present day, sing, but those who have learned, not of the Father of their spirits, but of some singing master. There should be order and regularity in all we do; and harmony in singing is good; but I would rather see a congregation unite in
one key, in one part, while their hearts made melody unto the LORD, than a formal company of mere singers. Bass, counter, tenor, and treble, how accurately soever they might perform, if it was certain they attended only to the manner with unconsecrated hearts.
After singing a nymn of praise to God, you should address the throne of grace in prayer. Surely there are among you some, who may be able to speak to our common Father. If no more be said than simply, our Father, give us now we are met together in thy name, thy reviving presence. We lack wisdom; be graciously pleased to give us what thou seest we want; give us thy good spirit to guide us into all truth, and save us from the evil, that is in the world. We are met together, agreeably to thy divine direction, to search the scriptures; be pleased to commune with our spirits, and open unto us thy scriptures, that our hearts may burn within us. Send forth, O thou LORD of the harvest, labourers into thy harvest, and bring all men into the knowledge of the truth, that thy will may be done in their salvation. Bless our governours and rulers, and all conditions of men among us; enable us, and all who believe in the Saviour, to walk as children of light, that our light shining before men, they may be led to glorify thee, our heavenly Father. Surely, you will not find it difficult in some such way as this to address the God in whom we live, move and have our being. Our gracious God hath said, Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, and whatsoever you ask, according to my will, you shall receive. When you have thus prayed, concluding with what we are taught to call the LORD's prayer; then let some one of the brethren read a portion of God's word, remembering always the words of our divine Master, who, when he bade us search the scriptures, assured us they testified of him ; nor should we forget, that for the purpose of testifying of Jesus in his various characters, and of exhibiting a just idea of all his works; the sacred volume testifies also of many other persons, as of Adam, who was a figure of Jesus Christ; the second Adam of the deceiver, who beguiled our general mother, and who, in the character of a murderer, did the deed, which brought ruin and death on all the human race. Of two classes of fallen sinners, the angels who kept not their first estate, and the hu
man nature, deceived by the former, and consequent thereon, apparently destroyed.
The scriptures give an account of a just God, who in the law which he gave by Moses, denounces death and the curse upon every one, who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them; but in the same scriptures we have an account of the same God, manifested in the flesh, as the head of every man, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, being made a curse for them: and this revelation is that gospel, which is glad tidings to every child of Adam, because every child of Adam being once under the law, and a transgressor of the law, was consequently under the sentence of death, and subjected to the curse. Jesus having redeemed the human sinner by tasting death for every man, being the Saviour not of a few individuals only, but of all men; the gospel, which is a divine declaration of this truth, is indeed glad tidings to every fallen sinner. When we read in the scriptures of wrath, tribulation, death, &c. we know that God speaketh in his legislative character, as he was manifested by Moses, as the just God, who will by no means clear the guilty; but when we read of grace, mercy, and peace, of life, as the gift of God, of salvation began or completed, we know that the same God speaketh in the language of Zion, in the character of the just God and the Saviour. The one is the language of the law, the other is the language of the gospel. Whatever in any part of the scripture manifests sin, and the punishment due to sin, is the law: whatever exhibits Jesus as bearing the sin of the world, and suffering the punishment due thereunto, so making peace by the blood of the cross, is gospel : wherever I find the scriptures speaking of a reconciled God, well pleased for his (Jesus') sake, I find the gospel, the believing of which gospel, is accompanied by a salvation from all the misery, to which we are exposed, while we believe the law only, and not the gospel.
The Scriptures speak of a judgment past, and a judgment yet to come. The past judgment is, first, where the world was judged in the second Adam, according to the testimony of the Saviour, now is the judgment of this world, now is the prince of this world cast out, and death executed upon them, according to the righteous judgment of God. Secondly, Every one taught of God judges himself, and therefore he shall not be