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particular denomination of men. On the contrary, he has threatened, in certain circumstances, to remove bis candlestick from them; and has actually done so in various instances. The true church is that body of people who embrace the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel, and manifestly live under their influence; and especially such doctrines as relate to the miserable condition of fallen man,--the method of salvation by the free grace of God, through the sacrifice of Christ, -and the regeneration and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit on the souls of inen. These are the persons who constitute the church of Christ; and though they may be distinguished and divided into various denominations, they are spiritually one.
This church, considered collectively, is weak and defenceless in itself; has no carnal weapons for its security, is encompassed with many and mighty adversaries, and subject to various mutinies among its own members ; yet God has engaged to establish it through all the revolving ages of time, and through the never ending years of eternity. Ilitherto his providence has corresponded with his promise. One antichristian error after another, and one mighty empire after another, have fallen; but the church of God stands maugre all opposition. Neither the power of a Pharaoh, nor the craft of an Ahithophel, nor the treachery of a Judas, nor all the combined efforts of its numerous and malicious foes, have been able to prevail against it. In seasons of declension, it has revived again. In times of persecution, it has not only been preserved, but has even prospered by the very means that were wickedly intended for its destruction. When the whole world was overwhelmed by the general deluge, the church found security in the Ark, and swam upon the mighty waters. And is the Lord's hand shortened? Can his purposes fail? Will he not continue to preserve and establish his church? Yes, though earth and hell unite in opposition against it. “ Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any
divination against Israel."
The promise of divine establishment belongs not only to the church, collectively considered, but to all its members individually; I mean to all its spiritual and living members. Many, alas! cleave to it with flatteries, froin principles of education, of custom, of rational conviction only. Such persons as these, are no more interested in the promises belonging to the church, than those who are professedly alienated from it. The particulars which distinguish the spiritual members of the cburch of God, are a divinely illuminated judgment, a lively faith in Christ, holiness of disposition, and exemplariness of conduct. “ They are the true circumcision who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Does this, my dear reader, correspond with your character and esperience : Then, to whatever class of chrisa
tians you more particularly belong, you are, in the best sense of the phrase, a member of the established church. “ The Hizhest himself shall establish you, - shall establish you for ever; shall establish you in righteousness.” David rejoiced in this privilege. “I waited patiently for the Lord,” says he, " and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, ont of the miry clay; and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. This blessedness belonged not to David exclusively. All “ they that trust in the Lord sball be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.” Has God made you a spiritual member of his church, and are you, in threatening seasons, afraid lest you should be overcome by your foes, and finally perish? Blessed be the name of your gracious God, there is no scripputal ground for these fears. You may be " confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you, will pertorn it until the day of desus Christ.”. “God is faithful ; by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his son Jesus Christ our Lord; who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." You have the same ground of security as the whole church has; and as soon might the whole church be destroyed from off the earth, as one member of it perish. You are not secured from outward trials and civil judgments. The church. at large is exposed to these, and you with her.
You are not established beyond the possibility of wavering, of backsliding, or of losing the comfortable sense of God's gracious presence; but you are established in the love and favour of God, with all the blissful consequences thereof. Your happy state and your renewed nature shall for ever remain; and your sublimest hopes shall not be disappointed. You are built on an immoveable foundation, the person and mediation of Christ. On this rock the church at large is founded ; " and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.” And do not your hopes rest on the same basis? Are ye not as lively stones built on him ? He himself must give way before you can perish. But this is impossible. “Behold," saith Jehovah," I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation ; he that believeth shall not be confounded.” Your defence is inpregnable. The purpose and promise of God stand engaged for your establishment. Can you desire or possess a stronger security ? Having positively declared that die himseli will confirm you to the end, all his perfections are concerned for your safety. • He himself is as a wall of fire round about you ; you are kept by his power, as your almighty garrison, through faith unto salvation." And what foe is there without or within that can prevail, when God himself stands engaged to preserve? Away then with every alarming apprelacnsion! Humbly rejoice in your security. You are a member of the church which God himself hath established for ever; and in a little time, your holiness and your happiness shall be equal to your security.
TRUE GRATITUDE AND REAL GREATNESS
In the frequent visits Elisha made to Mount Carmel, it is probable he had often to pass by Shunam, a city in the tribe of Issachar. Here he was kindly entertained by a person of respectability. Observing how fond he was of retirement, she proposed to her husband to build him an apartment in a situation congenial to his taste and employment. The proposal is no sooner made than it was cordially acceded to.' This chamber was neither formed nor furnished after the similitude of a palace ; but every way suitable to a man who lived above the world, was content with a little, and who, with the presence of his God, found contentment, whether in a cainp, a cave, or a wilderness. The event we particularly refer to, happened in the kingdom of Israel, during the reign of Jehoram; and soon after the prophet's remarkable interposition with his God, in behalf of the combined armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom. The prophet, at the close of one of his visits, probably the last he made to the house of this Shunamite, commanding his servant to call her, she is thus addressed:- Thou hast been careful for us with all this care, what is to be done for thee? wouldst thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host ? And she said, I dwell among mine own people *.” From these words, and the connection in which they stood, are we not taught, That where persons are in easy or affluent circumstances, they ought to be generous and hospitable? From this woman's proposal to build a chamber upon the wall for the prophet, and, from the prophet's offer to speak for her, or her husband, to the king or the captain of the host, it is not improbable but that her husband was either commander over the city of Shunam, or that his residence was in some castle. But this woman, though“ rich in this world,” needed no "charge to do good, to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, or willing to communicate.” She was a lover of good men: glorified the grace that appeared in them, and esteemed thein amiable, in proportion as holiness shone forth in them. Though an inhabitant of Israel, where idolatry was then established,
2 Kings iv, 13
her heart seems to have been right towards that God who was worshipped at Jerusalem. As a wife, she fulfilled the part of a good helpmate, consulting her husband in what she did, and freely proposing to him what, sl:e apprehended, they were in duty and obligation bound to do. God bad blessed them with afluence, though not with children ; and thereby they had greater opportunities, and were under greater obligations,“ to do good to all ; but especially to those who were of the household of faith.” Their house and their hearts were always open to all good men ; and whenever such approached their door, probably something like this was the kind invitation,—" Come in, ye blessed of the Lord, wherefore stand ye without ? Let all your wants rest upon us : God has not only given us the ability, but the disposition and the desire also to do good. He has blessed us, that we may be rendered blessings to others : and, from long experience, we have found that it is more blessed to give than to receive."
Their example holds out to us this lesson, “ Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby sme have entertained an. gels unawares.*" Not to dwell upon the instances of Lot and Abrahain, -- the two disciples who supposed Jesus to be a stranger, by urging him to tarry with them, found by happy expcrience, that the Lord of Angels--the Fountain of Truth, and the Saviour of their souls, was with them. True, that exhortation might have a more particular respect to a season of persecution, when the followers of Jesus were scattered every one from bis own place. Such asylums in this wilderness, inany of our forefathers found when separated from their beloved Hocks; while those who entertained them, experienced the truth of our Lord's declaration,“ He that receiveth a prophet in the naine of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous inan in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man's reward. And wbosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones, a cup of water only, in the name of a disciple, verily, he shall in nowise lose his reward +." Real christiaus, however low they may be in circumstances, by their prayers and godly conversation, will be found like sheep, which benefit the pasture upon which they bave been fed. “ The liberal soul shall be made tat; and he that watereth, shall be watered also himselt I.”
From this narrative it appears also, that “ Good men need! very few accommodations in their passage through a world, in which they bave been taught to consider themselves as strangers and pilgrims." A bed, a stoot, a table and a candlestick (or lamp) were all the furniture provided for this good
* Teb. xiii. 2.
† Matt. X. 41, 42,
1 Prov. xi, 25.
man. Food, raiment, residence, and a little suitable society, make up the inventory of our real necessities.
“ For we brought nothing into this world ; and it is certain we can carry nothing out, Having therefore food and rajinent, let us therewith he content.l" Our imaginary wants are more numerous than our real ones. For
Man wants but little ; nor that little long. This prophet had plain fare; but it was accompanied with a blessing. He “ate his meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all” around him. Whether he ate or drank, or lied down or rose up, his aim was to glorify God. How would Elisha's heart overflow with gratitude, after the day's journey, as he sat down upon his stool to rest his wearied limbs Scarcely bad he entered his chamber, but the table would be furnished with food convenient for him :- when nature was satisfied, and the “ shadows of the evening were stretcbed out,” his lamp would be lighted, that he might read and meditate un God's word:- and then, after committing himself to the care of the Keeper of Isract, lying down upon his bed, his sleep would be sweet unto him. He found that
Solitude is oft the best society. + For happier was Elisha in his chamber on the wall, than the king of Israel in his palace, regaling on all the delicacies that his kingdom could produce. The prophet felt no anxiety “ what he should eat or drink, or wherewith he should be clothed ;" sensible that his Heavenly Father knew that he needed all these things, and confident that they would be provided for him. Those persons, perhaps, are found to live the nearest to God, who lived on bim by the day; and who are taught that divine art of “ casting all their care upon him.” Such see his hand, -trace his steps, and enjoy their mercies with a peculiar sweetness.
We conclude, this prophet did not find such a friend in every place, nor such accommodations in every city; but, like Elijah before bim, had sometimes to drink of the brook, or take up his lodgings under the canopy of heaven. O that the trials which have been, and still are experienced by many of God's children, may make us more sensible of our mercies, and of our obligations to God for them! And may we never forget that He, who had a sufficient price to lay down for the ransom of our souls, was himself brngry, thirsty, and had not a place wliere to lay bis head! “ Though he was rich, yet, for our sakes, he became poor,
|| Tim. vi. 7, 8.