« PoprzedniaDalej »
--not discipline and government—but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
2. In due subordination to the essential things of living Christianity, maintain the true spirit of Christian liberty; and, in order to this, maintain the liberty of the churches. The church is a school for learning the will of Christ; and where the church is, the gathering together of Christ's humble pupils in his name, there he is with his Spirit to teach them. Where the church is, asking counsel of God with prayer, looking humbly for the truth, and refusing to obey any authority but that of the God of truth,
there is liberty, and there a pledge for the world's emancipa. tion. I charge you then, that you call no man master-let no human authority have dominion over your faith. Yield to no body of men, clerical or laic—to no society, of whatever name or character—to no convention, though it be called the world's convention-to no assembly, though it seem like the “General Assembly and Church of the the First-born"-yield to no human authority that allegiance which is due only to Christ. Let none command your faith or your obedience, but by showing you the mind of God.
3. Remember that as individuals, and as a church, you bear the name of Christ. You are called Christians. Walk-help each other to walk-worthy of that high and holy calling. There is no name of a party or a sect which is of any moment in comparison with the name of Christ. To honor the name by which any particular church or confederation of churches is distin. guished from others, is a small matter. To honor the name of Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, and the Redeemer of our souls, is the great thing. If you fail to maintain the purity and spiritual prosperity of your church, the grief, the shame will be, not that the name of Congregationalism is dishonored-not that the name of the Puritan New England Churches is dishonored-not that the hallowed and cherished memory of our pilgrim ancestors is dishonored-but that the name of Christ is dishonored. Shall that name which is above every name,--the name before which every knee should bow, and every tongue break forth in praise-shall it be dishonored on your account? Never forget that the name which you bear is the name of Christ.
One word, in conclusion, addressed to each and all. Are you a Christian, in the true and primitive meaning of that word ? Those primitive Christians were in the right; and if you are like them in these essential characteristics, you are in the right. They were safe—with the world in arms against them-with fire and the sword of persecution flashing in their faces, they were safe ; and if you are like them you are safe. They have attained, and are now enjoying, an inheritance in comparison with which the diadem of the Cæsars was a bauble ; and if you are like them, that inheri-. tance will soon be
BY REV. LEONARD BACON,
PASTOR OF THE FIRST CHUBCE, NEW HAVEN, COXN.
WHAT IT IS TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN.
“ And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to aú that were in his house And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes ; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat
before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."-Acts, 16 : 31-34.
Here is the description of a change which took place in a man, who, a few moments before, was at the point of committing suicide ; bis drawn sword in his hand to pierce his own vitals, that thus-not fearing the wrath of the eternal Judge-be might flee from the vengeance of an earthly despot to whom he was under a military accountability. Through God's mercy his mad intention was defeated. Thus rebuked, he listened trembling to the words of life, and immediately he believed. In the ordinance of baptism, he professed his faith and was recognized as a believer. Thence forth he was, in the common phrase of the apostles and primitivo believers, in Christ." That is to say, he was a Christian, in the true and spiritual meaning of that word.
What was the change through which that man then passed? To this inquiry the present discourse is devoted. What is it to be come a Christian? What is that change in the mind and character, which takes place at the commencement of a Christian life? We consider the change simply as an event in the history of the man, a phenomenon occurring in bis mental experience, and the question is, What is it?
This question I would consider in the simplest manner possible. Without inquiring what distinctions sectarian or partisan theologians have made, distinctions which may be of value in their proper place, I would look directly into the Scriptures, and see what they teach. What is it to become a Christian ?
We may pursue the inquiry before us by two distinct processes, both of which are simple, intelligible, and entirely Scriptural. The question, What is it to become a Christian ? may be answered with perfect propriety, by showing from the Scriptures what it is to be a Christian ; for to become a Christian is simply to begin to be such an one as the Scriptures teach us to call by that high and holy name. Or the same question may be answered by exbibiting the more direct testimony of the Scriptures, and carefully comparing the various words and phrases which are used by the sacred writers for the express purpose of describing that change, the commencement of a Christian life. Both these methods will be employed in the present discourse.
I. We may learn what is the change which takes place when a man becomes a Christian, by inquiring from the Scriptures what it is to be a Christian.
And here in order to prevent and obviate some vague objections in this process, which may, perhaps, arise in such minds as are accustomed to other methods more scholastic and metaphysical-let it be remarked, that we understand what any particular change is, just when we fully know the phenomena of the changes, or, in plainer words, the facts in which it consists. The change is one thing, the power by which it was wrought is another thing, and its connection with a thousand other events is another thing. The change is an event-a plain matter of fact, and may be altogether understood, even while its causes and its connections are very imperfectly apprehended, and are matters of speculation and inquiry. There lies before you a mass of ice. As you stand in the sunshine, and with the south wind breathing softly upon you, you see the mass dissolved. Here is a change. That which ex. isted in one form exists in another form. That which was a solid is now a fluid. This fact is all the change, and the more perfectly you understand this fact, the more perfectly you understand the change. You may examine and analyse the fact-you may learn more minutely the properties of the solid, and the properties of the fluid-yon may observe the solid down to the instant when its properties as a solid ceased to exist, and the fluid at the very instant at which it begins to flow-and after all, the change of the substance from a solid to a fluid consists in the simple fact that it was the one, and is the other. This the child knows, who sees the change, and more than this the philosopher can not know. The only difference between the child and the philosopher, on this point, is that the latter knows better than the former what is a solid and what is a fluid. You may ask many questions about the change-you may inquire by what power and instrumentality it was effected-you may trace its connection with innumerable other events and operations, with the rising of the fountains and the swelling of the torrents, with the coming on of longer days, and brighter sunshine, and warmer breezes, with the shooting forth of vegetation, with the revolution of the earth on its orbit. You may look for the class of changes to which this particular act most properly belongs, and for the law of universal nature under which it has occurred. You may consider how it stands related to the power, the wisdom, and the benignity.of the great Author of creation and of providence. But all these inquiries into the relations and connections of the change, are entirely distinct from the question, what is the change ; and, indeed, they all presuppose, in the inquirer, a knowledge of the proper answer to that question ; for how can any man intelligently look for the relations and bearings of an event, which event is to him unknown?
So in respect to the particular subject before us--the change which takes place when a man becomes a Christian. We speak now of the nature of the change, and of that simply. We are not to inquire at all into the power and influence by which it is effected or into any of its connections with the purposes of God, or with the scheme of his moral government. The question about the change is not, How is it? or, Why is it? but simply, What is it? The answer is, in general terms, the man who was not a Christian begins to be a Christian. This fact is the change, and if we understand this fact clearly—that is, if we understand clearly what it is not to be a Christian, and what it is to be one--then we understand the change precisely. Tell nie from the Scriptures what is a Christian-tell me how far and in what respects the Christian differs from other men, and you have told me just what change has taken place in that man, you have told me how far and in what respects he differs from his former self.
To this part of the inquiry, therefore, we now turn. What is it, according to the Scriptures, to be a Christian ?
1. A Christian is one who believes the Gospel. “He that believeth shall be saved." “We walk by faith and not by sight." " Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” It is unnecessary to repeat the quotations which might be made on this point. They all amount to this,--he who is truly a Christian, is one who takes the Christian religion as his rule of life, and who acts habitually with a thoughtful regard to all the disclosures of the word of God. This is one of the first and most striking peculiarities of the Christian as such, and this is no small part of the change which took place when he became a Christian. In that hour he ceased to treat the oracles of God with that neglect and practical rejection with which he had always treated them before, and began to look at the things which are not seen, and to act on the principle, that all the word of God is unerring and moment-' ous truth.
2. A Christian is a disciple and follower of Christ. How often the word disciple is used in the New Testament as the distinctive appellation of Christians--how often Christians are spoken of as believing on Christ, owning him as their master and teacher, and following his example, I need not show. What is it then to be a disciple and follower of Christ? It is obviously to adopt his principles ; to receive all his declarations and doctrines as truth, and as truth of infinite importance; to imbibe his spirit and tread in his steps, and to be devoted with the zeal of a partisan to his honor and the advancement of his cause. This then is the char. acteristic of the Christian. This is one point wherein he differs from other men and from his former self; and this is one point of the change which took place in him when he began to be a Christian. At this crisis he began to be a disciple and follower of Christ.
3. A Christian is a penitent sinner. To him, and to none other, belong the blessings pronounced by Jesus on the poor in spirit, and on those that mourn. In what terms does Paul speak of himself as “ less than the least of all saints,”—as having been “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious ;” and with how much meaning does he testify," this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” I need not spend time to argue, that this is the characteristic spirit of a Christian. This is the pover. ty of spirit, the mourning, the meekness, which Christ pronounces blessed. Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Those, therefore, whom he calls and calls effectually —those who are bis—are all penitent sinners like Paul. The Christian is one who acknowledges himself a sinper-one who does not profess, or think to stand before God in any other light than that of a rebel surrendering himself, and trusting only to the mercy of his sovereign. He is one who thinks very meanly of himself on account of his sins, and who takes a pleasure in humbling himself before God. He is one who strives habitually against sin as against a deadly and horrible evil, and whose ambition and earnest purpose is to escape the pollution that is in