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And does it not follow, that those who devis ate from the truth, whilst they pretend to be under the immediate direction of the Spirit of God, are chargeable with the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost ?
And if there be but one system of evangelical truth, we must not seek to learn it from any
of those who plead an appointment which they cannot produce, and, in the presumption of spiritual pride, set at nought the laws of Christ, and the constituted order of his church, Here it is our evident duty, to observe the general precept of our Lord-Go NOT AFTER THEM, NOR FOL
The appointed ministers of Christ's church may occasionally err—they have their treasure in earthen vessels ; but their errors are easily perceived and avoided by those who have the Gospel in their hands, and attend to its instructions with diligence and simplicity of heart. And therefore no Christian is authorised, upon these and the like pretences, to separate the body of Christ's church, to contemn the administration of his ordinances in the hands of his official servants, and to follow those who manifestly
and systematically transgress bis laws-who not only break the commandment, but also teach men so.
Such conduct with regard to 'a civil government would not be deemed innocent. And no government upon earth has been established upon a more regular and definite plan, than the one visible church of Christ; no human order of magistrates more lawfully and solemnly commissioned, than the stewards and ministers of that visible church.
OF THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH.
JOHN, XVII. 21.
That they all may be one : as thou, Father,
art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us : that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
HEN we take a general view of the primitive church of Christ, as it grew up, under the care of his apostles, it must be distinctly perceived, that its first and most prominent character is that of unity.
However the individuals, or the several congregations of which that church consisted, may have been locally dispersed, they composed but one harmonious brotherhood united together, and consolidated by the use of the same sacred ordinances, the profession of one common faith, and the acknowledgment of one system of doctrine, which they received not of man but of God, and, therefore, deemed it unchangeable. And the indispensable obligation of maintaining this unity, is taught and enforced by Christ himself.
Thus, when speaking of the gentile converts, who were to be added to the society of his disciples, he says—And other sheep I have which are not of this fold—which are not of the house of Jacob ;-these also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice ; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John, x. 16.) From which passage it evidently appears, that these sheep do not properly hear his voice, till they hear him calling them into the one fold of his visible church.
Accordingly, our blessed Lord, in the words of my text, earnestly prays to his Almighty Father, that his whole visible church
upon earth, or all who should believe in him, through the word of his apostles, might be preserved in perfect peace and unity amongst themselves; and he insists upon this unity, as a powerful argument to convince the world that he came from God. -That they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us'; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
In order that we may be duly impressed with the force and energy of these words, I shall consider the time and occasion upon which they were spoken ; and take a brief view of some important events with which they stand connected.
They were spoken by our Lord in that same night in which he was betrayed; at a time when he was taking a solemn and affectionate leave of his apostles, before he submitted to die upon the cross for the rea demption of our fallen race. In the evening of that day, he had retired with the twelve into a private room, to celebrate the feast of the passover--to commemorate the sacrifice of that Lamb which, by the effusion of his blood, had preserved the chosen people of God' from the power of the des stroying angel.
This consecrated rite was to the families of Israel, not only a monument of a great deliverance, but also a pledge of union and mutual harmony. They were all commanded to observe the same ordinance: and those friends and neighbours who assembled in this celebration, never separated from each other's society during the sacred