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A Sermon, Delivered before a late Convention of the Church in Vermont, by the Rev.
ABRAHAM BRUNSON, of Manchester.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine. :No more can ye, except ye abide in me ....John xv. 4. ,
PEOPLE in general are too apt to satisfy their minds with rague, indefinite, indeterminate notions of the manner in which they can bring forth christian fruit, and attain the christian promises. Some vainly imagine, that if their moral good works are more numerous than their bad ones, they shall be justly entitled to salvation ; not considering that the best of their works are not meritorious, and of course cannot make amends for any of their faults. Others again, with as little reason, suppose that sincere endeavors to live an honest atid sober life will save them, without any degree of devotion or love to God: while some expect to be saved by visions, ecstasies or sudden illuminations. But it appears to me, my friends, that all these notions fall far short of the point they aim at. Some of them are but subordinate parts of the christian life ; some are abuses of it, and others have no relation to it. If we expect salvation, we must expect it in no other way but that of God's appointment. It is absurd to imagine that we shall receive the blessings of the gospel in consideration of our performing such duties only as our rea. son recommends, without any regard to those peculiar doctrines, which the gospel points out. We must not hope for the christian promises, upon any other but christian firinciples. The bible points out the way, and the only way, in which we can obtain salvation. Christ, who brought life and immortality to light, says, that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no man can come to the Father but by him. In our context he observes to his disciples, I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit ; for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, ke is cast forth as a branch, and is withered ; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. And in the text, As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. Our works, voless they are wrought in and through Christ, are nothing worth ; they are tinctured with so much imperfection, that they have need of his infinite merits, to render them acceptable to God.
This, even natural reason teaches us sufficiently plain, if we do but listen to its voice. It teaches us, that as God must be perfectly holy, nothing but perfect holiness can be worthy of his acceptance. And as our actions are all stained with some impurity, they must be sanctified, and washed, as we may say, in some holy fountain, (see Zech. xiii. 1.) before they can come holy and clean into the presence of the most high. Our reason, however, does not point out a way, in which they can be sanctified. For our direction in that matter we must go to divine revelation, which teaches us, that this gracious work can be performed only through Christ, by the power of bis spirit. As our Lord informs us, in the verse before the text, we must be made
clean through the word which he has spoken unto us. In no other way can our persons be sanctified, and our conduct rendered acceptable. Unless we are in Christ, members of his body, and actuated by his spirit, we cannot, in a christian sense, be called children of God, nor be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. It is dangerous trusting to general ideas of the divine mercy. If we expect the salvation revealed in the gospel, it must be only upon the terms which are there revealed, and not in any method of our own contriving. We must be lively members of Christ's body, in order to become partakers of the blessings of his kingdom. As the apostle says, we must be members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
But how can these things be? How can we belong to the body of Christ, which is not even upon this earth, but has ascended into heaven? Or if he may be called a vine, yet his growth is not of the soil of this world ; he is transplanted into another region, into God's garden above ; how then can we be engrafted upon him, so as to become his branches ? Notwithstanding these carnal suggestions, the foundation of God standeth sure. In one sense Christ is even now upon earth, and will be to the end of the world. He has established a kingdom here below, which he governs by ineans of his ministers and his spirit, and which is entirely under his control. This king. dom is described in scripture in numerous instances, and under va. rious representations. It was represented by the garden of Eden, which contained the tree of life. It was prefigured by the ark of Noah, into which men must enter, in order to be saved from the deluge that overspread the world; the like figure whereunto even baptism, as being admission into the church, doth also now save us. The sojourning of the Israelites in the wilderness, where they were fed by food from heaven, also represented our being in the church, where the holy spirit is ready to sustain and support every sincere professor. The nature of this kingdom is likewise very strikingly set forth in many of our Lord's parables. It is compared to a net cast into the sea, which gathered of various kinds, as the church has some worthy and some unworthy members; and the good are gathered and saved, and the bad are cast away. Calling men into Christ's kingdom the church, is like hiring laborers into a vineyard. None who refuse to come, have a right to expect any wages from the Lord of the vineyard, or to receive any favor at his hands, This kingdom is also likened unto a marriage feast, to which men were invited ; and none could receive the benefits of it, but those who actually came in the wedding garment of sincerity, humility and repentance. And in a variety of passages it is compared to a vineyard, in which we must be planted, in order to partake of the nourishment of that rich soil, and the cultivation and care of the master of the vineyard.
But in the writings of the apostles, the church is more generally called the body of Christ. St. Paul, in reproving the Corinthians for their divisions, says, Ye are the body of Christ, and members in partie cular. We are all baptized into one body, and have been all made to drink in!o one spirit. And he pursues a long course of reasoning upon this idea. To the Ephesians also he advances and strongly enforces the same sentiment. He calls the converted Gentiles fel.
low-heirs and of the same body with the Jewish christians, and prartakers of the same promise in Christ by the gospel. There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. And Christ gave some apostles, and some firophets, &c. for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places, and put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, and the fullness of him that filleth all in all. And again : Christ is the head of the church, and he is the saviour of the body. To the Collossians he says, I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the church. He is the head of the body, the church, and by him all things consist. And finally, this apostle calls the church of Christ an olive tree, of which the particular christians are branches. Some are grafted in, and thus made to partake of the root and fatness of the tree; while others that are unfruitful, are broken off and cast out...Rom. xi. 17. &c. This re. presentation is much similar to that of our Lord in the chapter from which the text is taken, where he compares himself, and his church, to a vine. I am the true vine, and my father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every one that beareth fruit, he purgeth, that it may bring forth more fruit, I am the vine ; ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for aithout me ye can do nothing. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye, except ye abide in nie.' If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Such, my friends, are the figures and comparisons, by which the church or kingdom of Christ is described to us in scripture. And from this description we may learn several valuable and useful considerations.
First, we may learn from it the importance of unity among christians. They should endeaaor to keep the unily of the spirit in the bond of peace. For there is one body, and one spirit, and one hope of their calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and
father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in them all. Is Christ divid. ed? says St. Paul to the schismatical Corinthians : As the body is one, and hath many members, and ull the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. His body is but one ; and those who are not united to that one body, are not, in an outward and constitutional way, united to him. In this body.there should be no echism. The spiritual Jerusalem should be at unity in itself. “ The church,” says a late writer, * " is no confused multitude of people, in. dependent of one another, and subject to no common rules: But it is a regular society, like to other societies in some respects, but different from them in others. It is called a body, a family, a city, a
* Mr. Jones ; whose excellent “Essay on the Church” ought to be in the hands of every churchman,
kingdom. A body is a regular structure, the limbs of which being joined together, are subordinate and subservient to one another, and are animated by the same soul or spirit. For by one spirit we are all baptized into one body. It being also called a family, the members of it must have some common relation to one another; being called a city, it must be incorporated under some common laws; and being a kingdom, it must have some form of government and magistracy. Families, cities and kingdoms are societies; and the church being represented by them, must be a regular society.” This being the case, those who dissent from this society, and from its rules and government, leave the family of Christ, and in that respect are not his. children. They depart from his house, like the prodigal; and though they may perhaps carry with them some knowledge of his word and will, yet while they continue absent, they are deprived of the blessings of his paternal care and protection. They have no promise of enjoying his favour till they return to his family, and are again received into it. If they abide not still in a state of separation, they may be grafied in: for God is able to graft them in again.
Separation from the church of Christ dismembers his kingdom. When God's people, the Israelites, divided into two nations, the consequences were truly deplorable. They not only indulged mutual enmities against each other, but the revolters set up new religious authorities, a new priesthood, new forms and places of Worship, and this division finally terminated by involving the schismatics io idolatry and heathenism. If men would be saved in the kingdom of Christ, they must conform to its authorities and ordinances. They must both ontwardly and intoardly be in union with it and members of it. Those who separate themselves, the apostle teaches us, are sensual, having not the efiirit. The spirit of Christ pervades his body. None but members of his body can reasonably expect to be partakers of his spirit. We must be baptised into this one body, in order to be made to drink into this one spirit. Every one must be. sensible that if one of his lim!'s is severed from his body, it is no longer supported by his soul; it is no longer actuated and kept alive by that animating principle, which dwells no where but in his body. As, also, if the branch is broken off from the tree, or from the vine, it must immediately wither and sie, for vant of that strength and fatness which can spring only froin the root. It cannot bear fruit, nor even subsist, except it abide in the vine, because it has ne nourishment and support. These ideas are obvious to the meanest capacity. All must understand and admit them; all must be sensible that one of the members cannot say to the body, I have no need of thee; neither can the branch say to the vine, I have no need of thee.
[To be concluded in oar next.]
Exposition of the Articles of the Church.
Of the Old Testament. « The Old Testament is not contrary to the New. For both in the Old and new Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, who feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth, yet notwithstanding no christian man whatever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.”
THIS article was directed against the opinion of certain persons, who thought that the old testament, after the promulgation of the new, was no longer of any use; and also against the anabaptists and other enthusiasts, who mistaking some expressions in the epistles concerning justification by Christ without the works of the law, maintained that christians were under no obligation to obey the moral precepts of the mosaic dispensation. I shall, in order to prove the former part of il, repeat and explain some of those prophecies and types which refer to the offer or promise of everlasting life to mankind by Christ.
Immediately after the fall of our first parents from their state of innocence and happiness, God said to the serpent, I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel....Gen. iii. 15. in which words is intimated the future saviour of the world, who was to be born of a woman, and through whom mankind would bruise the head of the serpent, that is, gain the victory over sin and death, which the serpent was the means of introducing into the world. God next declares to Abraham his gracious design of redeeming the world, Gen. xvii. 7. and xxii. 18. The same promise is repeated to Isaac, Gen. xxvi. 3. and to Jacob, Gen. xxviii. 13. In Jeremiah God says, This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel ; after these days I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts ; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people ; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin na more....Jer. xxxi. 33. In the above passage the nature of the gospel covenant is explained, as designed to produce inward purity, and to procure pardon for sin ; and in Isaiah the benefits of this covehant are declared to extend to the Gentiles also. It is a light thing, saith the Lord, that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel : I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest behmy salvation unto the ends of the earth.... Isa. xlix. 6. The atonement also is clearly asserted in Isaiah : He was wounded for our transgressions ; he was