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THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHURCH.
IN TWO PARTS;
DELIVERED IN PARIS, (N. Y.) APRIL 8, 1813,
ON THE DAY OF A
RECOMMENDED BY THE ONEIDA ASSOCIATION,
CHURCHES AND SOCIETIES
WITHIN THEIR LIMITS.
BY ELIPHALET STEELE,
PASTOR OF A CHURCH IN THE TOWN OF PARIS
PUBLISHED AT THE REQUEST OF THE CHURCH.
PRINTED BY MERRELL AND CAMP.
N. B. THOSE who heard the following Discourse when it was delivered, and read it as it comes from the press, will find in the latter part especial. ly, some particulars, which, then, were not brought into view. The reason is, the speaker was in a state of ill health, and so exhausted with the labor of the day, that he was under the necessity of omitting, in some instances, what he should have dilivered, if his health had been good. What was then omitted is now brought in, as was at first designed.
That Professors who may read the following pages, may be provoked to Love and good works, is the prayer of
THE AUTHOR. BV
603 ,S 8
The Importance of the Church.
A DISCOURSE, &c.
PSAL. CV. 14, 15.
He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes ; saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.
THE Psalmist, in the foregoing Psalm, is celebrating the majesty, and sovereign dominion of God, manifested in the kingdom of nature: the care he takes of his creatures, and the plentiful provision he makes for them. In this Psalm, the Psalmist praises God for his special favors to his church, and the great and marvellous things he has done for it. In that he praises God for his works of common providence in the world: in this, for his works of special grace in his church.
The Psalmist looks back to the time of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He mentions the covenant God made with them, and the providences of God concerning them, while waiting for the accomplishment of the promises. Their dangers sometimes were great: they seemed to lie at the mercy of man, and were exposed to be run down and destroyed. At one time, particularly, the rash and wicked conduct of Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob's sons, by murdering the Shechemites, gave just cause of offence to surrounding nations. Strange it is they did not rise, and destroy the whole family. But they were beloved for the fathers' sakes. Therefore, though few and feeble; though strangers, and wandering from one nation to another; and from one kingdom to another people, they were guided and guarded by the power, and special providence of God. Here, only, was their safety. So says the text, He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for theirs akes; saying, touch
not mine anointed, and do my prophet's no harm.Mine anointed ; a phrase which discriminates the true members of the church from hypocrites: in this sense it is used in both testaments. It means those who have received the unction of the Holy Spirit.
The subject before us will be prosecuted by discussing the following propositions.
I. God has had, and ever will have a church in the world. II. God's love to his church is wonderful.
III. He exercises a special providence over his church, and all its concerns; and so takes care of it.
IV. The judgments which God sends on the world, and on the church, are for the sake of the church.
I. God has had, and ever will have a church in the world.
From the fall of man, to the flood, little is said of the religious character of pious persons, and but few such are named: Some, however, who were eminent in their day, are particularly mentioned. Of Abel it is said, he was righteous. Of Enoch, he pleased God. of Noah God said, Thee have I found righteous in this generation. There were, no doubt, , many other pious people, whose names are not noted in the scriptures of truth. These all belonged to God's spiritual kingdom; whose names, though not handed down to us, yet being written in the Lamb's book, were members of God's church.
With Abraham, and his seed, God established an everlasting covenant: it comprehended, summarily, every duty, and every privilege; it is the charter of the church: it rests on this covenant as on its base, sure, and steadfast forever, Here the church has the sure mercies of David. Hence we do know that the true spiritual kingdom of Christ, existed under the Old Testament dispensation ; and the church which now exists, is the same which then existed. It always was, and always will be the same holy and spiritual kingdom. In reference to this kingdom, the words church, and churches, are used more than a hundred times in the Bible.
God not only has had a church, but he always will bave a cburch. In proof of this assertion many divine promises might be recited, the following are sufficient. ļsaigh liv, 15,
17. Whosoever shall gather together against thee, shall fall, for thy suke. No weapon that is formed against thee, shatl prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment, thou shalt condemn.
God has had and always will have a church in this world. II. The love of God towards his church is wonderful. This is plainly implied in the strong expressions used in the text. He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; saying, touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm,
The great love, wherewith God loves his church, is evident by emphatical expressions he uses concerning it. He says, when speaking of his church, since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee; therefore will Igive men for thee, and people for thy life. Again, I have loved thee, So again, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, Once more, He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye. Though God's people had become exceedingly corrupt, and deserved to be abandoned by him for their idolatry and wickedness, yet behold what tender, what affectionate language he uses; as if he would not endure the idea, of giving them up to irrecoverable ruin. The expressions are very remarkable. Hos. xi. 8, 9. How shall I give thee up Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim ? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim,
The wonderful love God bears towards his church is evidenced not only by strong language, by lively and animated expressions; but also by his works. The Psalmist mentions some general works of God, which he wrought in behalf of his people. Psal. evi. 43, 46. Many times did he deliver them, but they provoked him with their council, and were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry. And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies. He made them also to be pitied of all them that