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maintain it; and that the laws he had promulgated, which were all comprised in supreme love to him, and perfect benevolence to our fellow-creatures, could neither be repealed nor abated. "Think not," said he, "that I am come to destroy the law-I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil; for verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
While Christ came to save sinners, nothing was more remote from his design, than to approbate, or in any way connive at sin. "God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, condemned sin in the flesh." He came to save sinners by making an atonement for their sin. And what is an atonement? Is it not essential to an atonement that it should do as much to make sin appear vile and ill-deserving as would be done by the infliction of the threatened punishment on sinners themselves?
If any suppose, that the only object Christ had in view in dying for us, was to free us from punishment, they greatly err. To free us from a spirit of disaffection to the government of God, was in his view a matter of no less importance. To redeem us from iniquity, is declared to be the end he had in view, in giving himself for us. Hence it was, that he made the most unfeigned repentance of sin a prerequisite to forgiveness in every case. "Except ye repent, ye shall all perish."
It was another important object of Christ's mission to this revolted world, to reflect light on the benevolent character of God, especially as it is displayed toward his enemies-his disaffected subjects. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." This display of the mercy of God, gives a new lustre to his justice. It seems clearly to show that justice when it executes the threatened punishment, is not prompted by motives of cruelty. The religion of Christ represents all men as moral bankrupts, owing a debt to divine justice, of ten thousand talents, and having nothing to pay; and it represents God as standing ready to forgive them the whole debt when they shall desire it; yea, as soon as they consent to take the place of complete insolvents, and from the heart pray, "Forgive us our debts."
II. Having thus stated some of the leading truths relating to Jesus Christ and his mediatorial work, I am now to show how these lay a foundation for holy fellowship between the people of God, and also between them and God himself.
1. Agreement in these leading truths, lay a foundation for fellowship between God's people. Fellowship in the moral system, as before remarked, depends on a congeniality of views, feelings, and pursuits. We have fellowship in politics, by entertaining similar opinions concerning the affairs and interests of the nation, the men in office, the measures pursued, and the like. We have fellowship in matters of science, by adopting similar systems of philosophy; and in religion, by adopting the same sentiments, and manifesting the same feelings towards God and the interests of his kingdom. The greater the agreement in our belief, feelings, and practice, the more perfect will be our fellowship. If, however, the matters in which we are agreed, though numerous, should be of a circumstantial nature, leaving us in a state of disagreement concerning only a few things which are essential to the gospel scheme, a proper foundation for fellowship would
still be wanting. But as soon as we can discover an agreement in the most essential points of faith and practice, even before we have descended to minute particulars, we are naturally led to the conclusion, that if our agreement thus far be cordial, there cannot be difference enough remaining to prevent a brotherly union. And the text seems to make the assumption, that the things which relate to the person, character, and work of the Redeemer, comprise so many of the fundamentals of religion, that they whose sentiments harmonize on these subjects, will be sufficiently agreed to enjoy Christian fellowship. That the things now referred to, were viewed by Paul, as lying at the foundation of the Christian faith, is manifest from his saying to the Corinthians, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ:" and also from his saying, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified."
Under the first head it was shown, that the most material things concerning Christ, which are presented in the scriptures, relate either to his person, in which the divine and human natures are brought together; or to his character, which even in the human nature is perfectly holy; or to the object of his advent, namely, the bringing relief to a revolted world in such a way, as to frown on rebellion, and sustain the authority of God. Now is it not a fact, that those who harmonize on these points, must be substantially agreed in their whole scheme of doctrine? They who concur in the belief that Christ is possessed of a divine nature, in which he is in every respect equal with the Father, must view the atonement which he made, as having infinite value; and of consequence, they must view sin as an evil great enough to need such an atonement, and great enough to deserve an endless punishment. They must view the law in all the strictness of its requirements, as justly claiming from us that unremitting obedience which was yielded to it by our Substitute; aud, in all the severity of its threatenings, as just, and deserving that honor which he gave to it by his ignominious sufferings.
Will not those who harmonize in their views concerning the infinite greatness of the Redeemer, the purity of his character, and the holy and benevolent object of his incarnation, necessarily entertain the same sentiments concerning every thing relating to the attributes and government of God? Will they not agree in the belief that he is most great and glorious? If we agree in entertaining just conceptions of the atonement made for sin by the sacrifice of Christ, we must have the same views of Jehovah's right to reign over us, and of our obligation to obey; the same views of the perfection of the law, and our entire inexcusableness in transgressing it. We cannot have just conceptions of the atonement, without understanding that it was no part of its design to make amends for, what might seem to us, an over rigidness of the law; but that it is wholly a scheme of grace, which among fallen creatures may be limited, either in its provision or application, according to the good pleasure of God, without giving any of them the least cause of complaint. They who come around the cross of Christ, and who are instructed alike and affected alike with the wonderful scene which is here presented, may be considered as having for substance, the same religious creed. If they lay the foundation alike, why may they not unite in completing the building? In other words, will not an enlightened and real agreement in this fundamental
doctrine, the atonement of Christ, furnish a bond of union between his followers and a security to their holy fellowship?
2. I shall now attempt to show that an agreement in the great truths relating to Jesus Christ and his salvation, is sufficient to give existence to a fellowship between the people of God and God himself. The atonement of Christ, it is well known, is the only foundation of intercourse between God and men; but the sentiment now inculcated is this: that when any of God's intelligent creatures, whether redeemed, or such as need no redemption, entertain the same views of the character and work of his beloved Son, which he does himself, and possesses the same feelings of approbation towards him,-between him and such creatures there must exist a holy fellowship. They can say, not only that they have fellowship one with another, but also that their fellowship is with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ.
To determine that we truly have fellowship with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we need only to ascertain these three things: First, the character exhibited by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the representations made by him concerning the claims of God, and the duty of man: Secondly, the Father's approbation of this character and these representations. Thirdly, our own approbation of them. Nothing is more evident than this; that if we unite with the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, not only in loving his Son, but in loving him for the same reasons, we must be in a state of holy fellowship, both with the Father and the Son. It is not difficult to ascertain what were the feelings of the divine Father towards his Son. They were altogether feelings of approbation. More than once a voice came from heaven declaring, this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. He always said and did the things which pleased his Father. His Father was pleased with him, because he loved righteousness and hated wickedness; because all the words of his mouth were in righteousness, and there was nothing froward or perverse in them. We are here shown the heart of the Son of God-all his representations were in favor of righteousness, and in opposition to wickedness. We are also taught that it was this which rendered him dear to his Father. Now to make it certain that we have fellowship with the Father, there is one thing more which we need to know, namely, that it is the Savior's love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness which serves to endear him to us.
A striking proof of the Savior's love of righteousness was given by the high regard he manifested to that law, which, in our world, had been violated and despised. Without the least dissimulation he could say, "I delight to do thy will, O God; yea, thy law is within my heart." The law, in its most unabated form, he preached, obeyed, and confirmed by bearing its curse on the cross. This law with which he was so much delighted, and upon which he put such honor, both by his life and death, is based on the principle of universal good will, requiring every one to love his fellow as himself, and to love God supremely. It is certain that this regard which he manifested to the law, drew forth the complacency of his Father. Does it draw forth ours? If it does, there is communion between us and God. Hatred of wickedness is always implied in the love of righteousness. The Son of God gave the highest proof that he really hated wickedness. He never committed any, and always manifested grief when he saw it committed by others. He boldly reproved it, both in public and
private; and to fix an eternal stigma upon it, was one important design of his death on the cross. His utter abhorrence of evil, renders him dear to his Father; and the same thing makes him precious to them that believe on him. A harmony of views in this matter is one means of the fellowship which exists between God and his people.
Jesus, the name which God gave to his only begotten Son, imports that he was sent to save his people from their sins. The interest which he took in effecting their deliverance from sin, endeared him to his Father: "Therefore," said he, "doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again"-that is, my Father loves me because I have benevolence enough to induce me to lay down my life to redeem men from iniquity. Now if we love the Son on the same account the Father does, then have we fellowship not with the Son only, but also with the Father.
The salvation of Christ is not only a deliverance from sin, but it is in such a way as to abase the pride of man, and exclude all glorying, save in the Lord alone. In this salvation we are represented as being altogether too poor to redeem ourselves; the Son of God must give himself a ransom for us. He said he came to save the lost-not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He frowned on them who trusted in their own righteousness. He taught the children of men, that if they expected to receive any benefit from him, they must come before the mercy-seat wholly in the character of sinners, acknowledging their destitution of all worthiness, and their entire dependence on divine mercy. With these representations of a free and gratuitous salvation, which were made by the Son of God, the Father was well pleased. He was well pleased with his Son, because he never, on any occasion, proffered to his brethren of the race of Adam, conditions of salvation different from these. And just so many of our race as are pleased with the Redeemer, and that on the same account, are in a state of agreement with his Father and their Father, his God and their God. It is an axiom, (i. e. a self-evident truth,) that when two things agree with a third, they agree with each other. And this will apply to moral as well as natural subjects. Just so many intelligences, whether infinite or finite, whether celestial or terrestrial, as entertain the same view and the same approbation of the character and work of the Redeemer, are in such a state of agreement one with another, as to prepare them to be united in one holy and blessed society forever.
1. This subject helps us see why Christ is represented as the uniting bond, that will hold together those parts of the intelligent universe which have either retained or recovered a holy character. The sinless angels did not need his blood to redeem them; but that developement of the glory of God, which was made by the work of redemption, they did need. These are things which the angels desire to look into; and they serve as the most perfect bond of union between them and their supreme King, and also between them and their fellow-subjects. Christ is therefore spoken of by the apostle as collecting together and becoming the head of a family composed of men saved from their sins, and of angels who never sinned: "that in the dispensation of the ful
ness of time, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him.”
2. In the light of this subject we see, that Christian fellowship is something truly great and holy; very different from a union made by party interests, or an agreement in the mere modes of worship, and other circumstantials of religion. It is the union of minds sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and thus brought to harmonize in their views and feelings concerning the essential truths relating to God, his character, providence, moral government, and grace. "Whom I love," said the beloved disciple, "in the truth: and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth's sake which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us forever." Here we are taught that the truth, when it is so received into our hearts as to gain a permanent residence, now constitutes, and will forever constitute the great bond of fellowship.
3. In the subject before us, we discover a good reason for denominating the Lord's supper a communion. "The cup of blessing which we bless," said the apostle, "is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" By our eating of one bread and drinking of the same cup, we have an apparent fellowship; but to render it real and holy, we need to have similar feelings towards those infinitely important truths which are exhibited in the sacramental supper; such as the holiness of the law, the ill desert of sin, the justice of God in punishing, and his mercy in pardoning it. If the communicants do not discern the Lord's body, and, in a spiritual sense, feed upon it, they will have no life in them, nor communion among them.
4. Since gospel truth lays the foundation for Christian fellowship, the proper way to promote such fellowship, is to make a clear exhibition of that truth. When the mere modes and forms of religion divide our hearers, it may be consistent that we should bear lightly on them, or perhaps for a time pass them over in silence: but if our preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified will offend them, they must be offended. Could any thing be more absurd, than that the ministers of Christ, for the sake of promoting fellowship, should withhold those pillar doctrines that furnish the only basis on which Christian fellowship can be consistently built?
5. In view of the importance of a holy fellowship in the moral system, of what immense value is the gift of the Holy Spirit. His efficiency is the immediate cause of all such fellowship, wherever it is found, whether on earth or in heaven. Hence it is that it receives the name of "the fellowship of the Spirit," and "the communion of the Holy Ghost." As the witness and intercession of the Spirit, of which the apostle speaks in his Epistle to the Romans, intend those evidences of grace, and those breathings of devotion, which exist in our own hearts, by means of his sanctifying influence; so the fellowship of the Spirit, or the communion of the Holy Ghost, (which means the same thing,) describes that holy fellowship or communion among ourselves, and between us and our Maker, of which his agency is the cause. Without this agency, the truth itself forms no bond of union. Even devils agree with the angels of light in believing the existence of one living and true God. But their agreement with them in this belief, has no influence in uniting them to those blessed spirits: nor is it any bond of union among themselves. With the angels of light, things are very different. They not only believe in the existence of one living and