« PoprzedniaDalej »
them, saying, "All hail, be not afraid; and they were admitted to come and hold him by the feet, and worship him,” Matt. xxviii. And though we cannot be charitable in this way to Christ, who in his exalted state is infinitely above the need of our charity; yet we may be charitable to him even now, as well as they then. For though Christ is not here, yet he has left others in his room, to be his receivers; and they are the poor. Christ is yet poor in his members; and he that gives to them, lends to the Lord and Christ tells us, that he shall look on what is done to them, as done to him.
Rebekah, in her marriage with Isaac, was undoubtedly a remarkable type of the church, in her espousals to the Lord Jesus; she obtained her husband in doing deeds of charity; agreeable to the prayer of Abraham's servant, who desired that this might be the thing to distinguish the virgin who was to be Isaac's wife. So Cornelius was brought to the knowledge of Christ in this way. "He was a devout man, and one that feared God, with all his house; which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. And an angel appeared to him, and said to him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God; and now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter," &c. Acts x. at the beginning. And we have an account in the following parts of the chapter, how God, by Peter's preaching, revealed Christ to Cornelius and his family, and of the Holy Ghost descending upon them, and filling their hearts with joy and their mouths with praises.
Some may possibly object, That for persons to do deeds of charity, in hope of obtaining spiritual blessings and comforts in this way, would seem to shew a self-righteous spirit, as though they would offer something to God to purchase these favours. But, if this be a good objection, it may be made against every duty whatsoever. All external duties of the first table will be excluded by it, as well as those of the second. First-table duties have as direct a tendency to raise self-righteous persons' expectations of receiving something from God, on account of them, as second-table duties; and on some accounts more, for those duties are more immediately offered to God, and therefore persons are more ready to expect something from God for them. But no duty is to be neglected for fear of making a righteousness of it. And I have always observed, that those professors who are most partial in their duty-exact and abundant in external duties of the first table, and slack as to those of the second-are the most selfrighteous.
If God's people in this land were once brought to abound in such deeds of love, as much as in praying, hearing, singing, and religious meetings and conference, it would be a most
blessed omen. Nothing would have a greater tendency to bring the God of love down from heaven to earth: so amiable would be the sight in the eyes of our loving and exalted Redeemer, that it would soon as it were fetch him down from his throne in heaven, to set up his tabernacle with men on the earth, and dwell with them. I do not remember ever to have read of any remarkable outpouring of the Spirit, that continued any long time, but what was attended with an abounding in this duty. We know it was so with that great effusion of the Spirit which began at Jerusalem in the apostles' days. And so it was in the late remarkable revival of religion in Saxony, which began by the labours of the famous professor Franck, and has now been carried on for above thirty years, and has spread its happy influences into many parts of the world; it was begun, and has been carried on, by a wonderful practice in this duty. And the remarkable blessing that God has given Mr. Whitfield, and the great success with which he has crowned him, may well be thought to be very much owing to his laying out himself so abundantly in charitable designs. And it is foretold, that God's people shall abound in this duty at the time of the great outpouring of the Spirit that shall be in the latter days, Isa. xxxii. 5, 8. "The vile person shall no more be called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful-But the liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand."
To promote a reformation, with respect to all sorts of duties among a professing people, one proper means, and that which is recommended by frequent scripture-examples, is their solemn, public renewing of their covenant with God. -And doubtless it would greatly tend to promote this work in the land, if the congregations of God's people could generally be brought to this. Suppose a draught of a covenant be made by their ministers, wherein there should be an express mention of those particular duties that the people of the respective congregations have been observed to be most prone to neglect, those particular sins into which they have heretofore especially fallen, or of which it may be apprehended they are especially in danger, whereby they may prevent or resist the motions of God's Spirit. Suppose the matter be fully proposed and explained to the people, and, after sufficient opportunity for consideration, they be led, all that are capable of understanding, particularly to subscribe the covenant. Suppose also all appear together on a day of prayer and fasting, publicly to own it before God in his house, as their vow to the Lord; hereby congregations of Christians would do what would be beautiful in itself, what would put honour upon God, and be very profitable to themselves. Such a thing was attended with a very wonderful blessing in Scotland, and fol
lowed with a great increase of the blessed tokens of the presence of God, and remarkable outpourings of his Spirit; as the author of the Fulfilling of the Scripture informs, p. 186, 5th edition.-A people must be taken when they are in a good mood, when considerable religious impressions prevail among them; otherwise innumerable will be their objections and cavils against it.
One thing more I would mention, which, if God should still carry on this work, would tend much to promote it; and that is, That a history should be published once a month, or once a fortnight, of its progress, by one of the ministers of Boston, who are near the press, and are most conveniently situated to receive accounts from all parts. It has been found by experience, that the tidings of remarkable effects of the power and grace of God in any place, tend greatly to awaken and engage the minds of persons in other places. It is a great pity, therefore, but that some means should be used for the most speedy, most extensive, and certain information of such things; that the country be not left to the slow, partial, and doubtful information, and false representations of common report.
Thus I have (I hope by the help of God) finished what I proposed. I have taken the more pains in it, because it appears to me that now God is giving us the most happy season to attempt an universal reformation that ever was given in New England. And it is a thousand pities, that we should fail of that which would be so glorious, for want of being sensible of our opportunity of being aware of those things that tend to hinder it, of taking improper courses to obtain it, or of not being sensible in what way God expects we should seek it. If it should please God to bless any means for convincing the country of his hand in this work, for bringing them fully and freely to acknowledge his glorious power and grace in it; and for bringing them to engage with one heart and soul, and by due methods, to endeavour to promote it, it would be a dispensation of divine providence that would have a most glorious aspect, happily signifying the approach of great and glorious things to the church of God, and justly causing us to hope that Christ would speedily come to set up his kingdom of light, holiness, peace and joy on earth, as is foretold in his word. Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!
RULES OF THE WORD OF GOD,
REQUISITE TO A
COMPLETE STANDING AND FULL COMMUNION
VISIBLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
Behold now I have opened my mouth :-My words shall be of the uprightness
of my heart.
-Job xxxiii. 2, 3.
Confitebatur [Lutherus] dolorem suum, quod ab ipsis reflorescentis Evangelii Primordiis, quosvis absque Discrimine ad Cœnam Dominicam admisisset, quodque Disciplinam, Fratrum Disciplinæ similem, apud suos non constituisset.- Quia objiciebatur, Fratres non habere Ecclesiam apertam ;-Responsum fuit, Sancta dare non Sanctis prohibuisse Christum :-Errorem [in Papatu] corrigi non posse aliter quam ut certa Probatione, nec illa subitanea, Cordium Arcana revelunter, Novitiique diu et caute tum informentur, tum explorentur. Ratio Discipl. Fratr. Bohem.