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$ther, the Lord is merciful to their weakKefs, and bears with them all. And as they grow in grace, and drink more into his Spirit, their hearts are enlarged, and they approach nearer to his pattern of long-suffering, patience and tenderness.
4. The word church is applied to particu-f lar societies of christians, who are connected by a participation in the fame ordinances of the gospel, and who maintain a scriptural separation from the sinful spirit and customs of the world. And though there may be pretenders among them, as there were among the spostolic churches, they are denominated by the better part. They belong to the catholic church by their profession of the truth, of course they are a part of the visible church; and those of them who are in deed and in truth what they profess to be, are living members of the mystical church, to which all the promises are made. By whatever name they are known or distinguished among men, they are branches of the true vine, they have their fruits unto holiness, and their end, everlasting life. But to return,
In this his church, or spiritual kingdom, he rules by wife and gracious laws and ordinances. nances. He releases his subjects from all authority, in point of conscience, but his own, and enjoins them to call no one master, but himself*. If they standfast in the liberty wherewith he has made them free -j-, they will not give themselves up implicitly to the dictates of any man, nor follow him farther than he follows their Lord. And consequently, if they are influenced by his royal law of doing to others, as they would that others should do unto them, they will not attempt to exert an undue authority, or wish to be called masters themselves; so as to assume a dogmatical carriage, or to expect a universal and absolute submission. But it must be owned, that in our present state of infirmity, this privilege is not sufficiently prized, nor this command duly complied with. There being scarcely a man who does not either arrogate too much to himself, or allow too much to others. A fault in the one or the'other of these respects, may be assigned as a principal cause of most of the evils which deform the appearance, or injure the peace of the church. But the design of his gospel is to set his people at li
berty from the yoke of men, from the fetters of custom and tradition, of superstition and will-worship -, that they may enjoy, in his service, a state of perfect freedom.
For it is the principal glory of his kingdom, that he reigns in the hearts of his people. There he writes his precepts, impresses his image, and erects his throne; ruling them, not merely by an outward law, but by an inward secret influence, breathing his own life and spirit into them, so that their obedience becomes, as it were, natural, pleasurable, and its own reward. By the discoveries he affords them of his love, he wins their affections, captivates their wills, and enlightens their understandings. They derive from him the spirit of power, of love, and ofa soundmind'*, and run with alacrity in the way of his commandments.
It is impossible therefore to make this song our own, and cordially to rejoice that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, unless we arc the willing subjects of his government j unless we are really pleased with his appointed way of salvation, approve of his precepts, and, from a view of his wisdom and good* 2 Tim. i. 7.
ness, ness, can cheerfully submit and resign our*, selves to the disposal of his providence. In all these respects we are by nature at variance with him. We are too proud to be indebted to his grace, too wise in our own conceits to desire his instruction, too obstinately attached to the love and practice of sin, to be capable of relishing the beauty and spirituality of his commandments. And our love of the world, and the things of it, is too strong and graspr ing, to permit us to be satisfied with the lot, and with the dispensations he appoints for us. We wish, if possible, and as far as possible we attempt, to be our own carvers. We are unthankful when he bestows, impatient if he withholds, and if he fees fit to resume the gifts of which we are unworthy, we repine and rebel against his will. This enmity must be subdued, before we can be pleased with his government. In other words, we must be changed, we must be made new creatures. To produce this change, this new creation, the gospel is the only expedient; and when revealed and applied to the heart by the power of the holy Spirit, the miracle is wrought. The sinner who is first convinced of his guilt and misery, and then
reconciled to God by faith in the great atonement, willingly yields to his administration. He owns and feels the propriety of his proceedings, is ready to acknowledge, in his sharpest afflictions, that the Lord is gracious, and has not dealt with him according to the desert of his iniquities. He considers himself as no longer his own, but bought with a price, and brought under the strongest obligations, to live no longer to himself but to him who loved him, and gave himself for him. And what was before his dread and dislike, becomes now the joy of his heart, the thought, that the Lord reigneth, and that all his concerns are in the hands of him who doeth all things well.
Are there any among us, who fay in their hearts, We will not have this Saviour to rule over us? The thought is no less vain than wicked. He must, he will reign, till he has subdued all enemies under his feet. You must either bend or break before him.