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Our Lord preferred to be followed by a little faithful band, rather than an army of illchosen and ungodly men. He could have gathered into his church, if he would have lowered his requisitions, a mass of Scribes, and Pharisees, and Saducees, and Lawyers. Had he been less austere, to use the term his foes employed, he could have swel led his little flock to a countless multitude, and could have selected from them a soldiery, that would have made him a king, and built him up an empire. Had he but proclaimed, that he would feed by miracle the multitudes that would follow him, he could easily have outnumbered the army of Xerxes, and could have obliged the world to do him homage. But his cause would have suffered, and he could no longer have said, that his kingdom was not of this world.
When the influence of Constantine, poured in upon the church an unwieldy mass of nominal christianity, the result was that the sinew of action was paralized. There ensued the dark ages, in which there was swept, from what had been the church, the last vestage of truth and holiness. There was more real light and strength in the camp of that little band, which fled from her sword into the wilderness, than was found in the whole catholic communion.
And the same will be the result whenever the same experiment is tried. Bring down the standard of piety till men totally depraved shall covet the
children's bread, and you have perverted the whole design of a christian church. The equipments of the gospel will no longer adorn his soldiery, nor the Captain of her salvation, lead her on to victory and glory. Hence the design, to break down all distinction between the children of God, and the unsanctified, and lead within the enclosures of the church a band of God's enemies, is assuredly of all the intreagues of the prince of darkness, one of the most daring and desperate. While it pretends to strengthen the church, it makes a deep and broad incision in her arteries, and lets out her very
life blood. While it professes a wish to beautify her, so that the ungodly are charmed with her visage, it does but constitute her an image of marble, cold, blind, deaf, dumb, and powerless. While it holds out a wish to gaurd her interests, to watch her gates, and man her fortresses; it does but covenant with her foes, and in the dark hour of midnight, while her watchmen sleep, gives the enemy possession of her towers.
The men of this world can never be the beauty or the strength of Zion. The Lord Jesus Christ will have a church, that puts on his image, and reflects his glory, that can be a nursery for heaven, that fosters in her bosom his own disciples, and will stand, herself, a monument of his redeeming power. She is a city set on a hill, and her light must shine. She must have on, all the features of beauty seen in her Master, and show out to the world every line of
comeliness found in his image. There must be written on her banner, “ Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”
And can all this be, when the church shall be composed of ungodly men? Will they put on the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, or act out the graces of the Spirit, or have any light to spare, by which the darkness of this apostate world may
be illuminated ? Can their science, and their courteousness, and their high sounding titles, become a substitute for the ornaments of the Spirit? Let monarchs come in with their diadems, and princes with their trappings, and the multitudes of the learned with their philosophy, but who have none of them been taught at the feet of Jesus; and is the church thus made beautiful ; Ah, it would depend on who saw her. She would dazzle the eye which could look only on the outward appearance, but would be deformity and corruption in his view who looketh on the heart.
What will the church gain then, when she has opened her bosom to the multitude ? May the believer look for individual enjoyment, from being associated in covenant with those who are wise and honourable in this world ? Will such fellowship ensure to him esteem and respect, from those who shall thus have pledged themselves to treat him as a brother? We answer, no.
When the men of the world have put on the garb of piety, facts assure us, that they will by their ungodly conversation bring rebuke and shame upon the Lord's people ? Believers will not run with them to the same excess of riot. Hence their scruples of conscience, which will still render them a peculiar people, will not fail to bring upon them the sneer, and the contempt, and the buffetings, of the whole proselyted brotherhood. The stricter principles, and purer doctrines, and higher standard of christian morality, adopted by the real disciples of the Lord Jesus, will be denominated enthusiasm ; and whatever they may do more than others, will go to sink their reputation, and cover them with reproach.
What then are we to think of that gospel, so called, which aims at this monstrous confederacy? which would flatly contradict, or artfully nutralize, every requisition of discipleship in the family of Christ, and thus mingle the church with the world ? On what page of inspiration shall we find the solitary text, that thus confounds the Lord's people, with the multitudes that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ ? And who would venture to make such an experiment on the life of the church, unless unequivocally instructed from heaven? Alas, the experiment has been made, and is making, the divine authority to the contrary notwithstanding. Many churches are bleeding and expiring under the operation of this philosophy. It has polluted their creed, and changed their ministry, and robbed them of their covenant, and thrown open
the doors of their fellowship to the wide world. The hedges of the vineyard are broken down, and the result is, that the boar out of the wood devours the vine. I proceed to say
III. That the men of the world are injured no less than the church, by this promiscuous amalgamation of those who have no similarity of temper. Let me remark.
1. A profession of religion increases the disposition, and gives men better opportunities to do mischief: and this it will be acknowledged is a curse and not a blessing. I know it has been said, that the enemies of the church may be restrained, by the gospel being so accommodated to their taste, as to win them to its faith, and its fellowship. Do away, it is said, those doctrines that they disrelish because härsh and unreasonable, and those traits of christian character that give offence, and they will all rush into the fellowship of the gospel, and be good and harmless christians.
This point the history of the church shall answer. Judas gained admission into the fold, had access to the Lord of glory, and won the confidence of the unsuspecting disciples. But Judas was still a thief and a devil, and became the leader of that band, that broke in upon the retreat of prayer, and arrested, and bore away to the judgment seat the Son of God. There probably was not another wretch in