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life and character the honour of the Saviour is identified and bound up is with one feeling at our heart, “We are not our own, but bought with a price ; sovereign desire and aim, to be faithful to Him, to do all we can for Him, to serve Him in every work and way of life? This ought to be, if we would deserve the name which was given first in Antioch.
4. It is a symbol of unity.
Thus they who first received it evidently regarded it. It is interesting to note that the first recorded act of this newly-formed Gentile church was one by which they gracefully claimed brotherhood with the elder church at Jerusalem, the sending a contribution to the necessities of that church during a famine. Here is a lesson
It is one blessing of this name Christian that it gives outward and simple expression to the unity of all that are Christ's. We are severed by many barriers; divided into sects, and parties, and creeds; but beneath there is a unity deeper and more lasting than all divisions. Difference of opinion is inevitable among honest, thoughtful, independent men. Uniformity of belief is an impossible object of desire and endeavour, and would be worth but little even if it could be attained. But it is part of the obligation imposed by the very name we bear, to “ endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. While firm and faithful in the maintenance of all that we believe to be truth, let us learn to love the grand universal name of Christian better than all the names which are the badges of our sectional distinctions; and not with the lip only, but from the depth of hearts all aglow with love, and by the eloquence of deeds of brotherly love and help, as God gives us opportunity, let us cry, “Grace be with all them who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
5. It is the hint of our final hope. There is this peculiarity about our position as Christians, that our name is ever in advance of our condition; that it means more than is actually realized in us, speaks rather what we aim to be than what we are. Only in a modified and partial sense does this glorious name befit us here—we await and aspire after the full realization of its meaning hereafter. For surely " this is the heaven we long to know," the full and final attainment of all that this name implies. To be Christians indeed, without one lingering doubt resting on our claim to the character, without one blot on the bright escutcheon of our profession; to be Christ's wholly and for ever, made like Him, devoted to Him, dwelling with Him—this is the vision that animates our hopes, our soul to courage, and fills it with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Meanwhile, fellow-Christians,
be it ours to “ follow after, if that we may lay hold upon that for which also we have been laid hold upon by Christ Jesus.” “This is His will concerning us, even our sanctification." Let it be our will concerning ourselves. To this high and holy destiny He has called us; fired with zeal, let us - forget the things that are behind and reach forth to those that are before, pressing towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
And now what remains but to ask the twofold question, Does this name belong to us ? and, How far are we striving to realize, to translate into living character and deed, the meaning it conveys ?
The name belongs to all who, conscious of sin and need, are trusting for salvation to the sacrifice and work of God's dear Son; and who, feeling at how vast a cost
of love and suffering they
have been redeemed, have given themselves to be His, to do His will, to serve Him in love. This is the root and ground of true piety. Where this faith is, there is the authentic trace and stamp of the regenerating work of the Spirit of God.
Let us examine ourselves well on this point : “whether we be in the faith or no.” If in times of persecution, which sifted the Church as wheat, there were those who had “ a name that they lived, but were dead,” how much more danger of this is there now, when this name "Christian” is used 'so vaguely; when we talk of Christian nations, meaning nations with a sew Christians in them; when men are
Christians because of rites performed upon them in insancy by priestly hands, or because of their attention to the outward moralities of life, and their punctual fulfilment of the forms of religion. It behoves us to trust in no reputation we may have for piety, in no connection with a Christian Church, but each to ask himself, searchingly and apart, Am I a Christian ? Am I, that is, a sinner trusting in, desiring to love and serve, and longing to be like, the Saviour who died for me?
But even if we have reason to hope that we are indeed sharers of this precious faith, there is yet room for the further question, How far do I exemplify, fill
in my life and character, the meaning of the name I wear? How far am I exhibiting it as a living powerful reality before the eyes of men ? It was well said by a living speaker, “It has been asked, "What is there in a name?' There is something in a name! There is something in the name of Washington; there is something in the name of Napoleon. But what is it? Just what the men put into the name." And so even this holy name of ours may come to be an empty, powerless thing, the mere relic of a dead reality, through our faithlessness, negligence, or sloth. It is so easy now to win and wear the name; it is so easy to keep enough show of piety to pass muster as a saint; it is so easy to save our credit with Christians, and even to put a cheat upon ourselves; that there is great danger lest we should be content with low attainments in godliness, with slight exemplifications of the Christian character. Remember, ours is not to ask, How little piety, may I have, and yet be safe ? but, How much can I, by God's grace helping me, attain and show? Would that we could cast out the demon of selfishness which possesses even our piety; could get rid a litle of the everlasting thought of safety as “the be-all and the end-all” of religion ; could be more bent on' holiness than mere happiness, and inspired more with the spirit of love to Christ and zeal for His glory! Would that we could feel more that we are His always and everywhere; not His on Sunday and in the sanctuary, and pur own on Monday and in the market, but His in work and play, alone or in society, by the fireside and in the street ; His to reflect His character and show forth His praise ! Thus interpreted and illustrated, this name would become indeed a power in the earth,
a name to charm with.” Men would believe perforce in the reality of sainthood and in the power of the Gospel, if they saw it thus practically manifested in the lives of the saints. Fellow-Christians! our Lord puts His name upon us, commits His honour to our hands, constitutes us His witnesses and representatives in the earth. Let us awake to feel the dignity and responsibility of our position, and, relying on His grace, resolve to live near Him and more entirely for Him than we bave ever done before. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
THE SCRIPTURAL RULE WITH REFERENCE TO OFFENCES
G. W. FISHBOURNE.
(Concluded.) WHAT has been now advanced has been suaded of its great importance, and of the confined principally to that part of our happy effects which must result from its Lord's command which requires, in the more general and strict observance. En. first place, our privately communicating mity, fostered by the neglect of this rule, with our brother. This part has been would, by its observance, be overcome and specially dwelt upon, because we are per
subdued, and the bonds of Christian affec.
tion' and friendship be more closely cemented. The Spirit of God, instead of being dishonoured and grieved, as He is by the neglect of this rule, would, by its observance, be honoured; and His peaceful and sanctifying influences more richly enjoyed. The Church, whose peace is now often disturbed, and whose members are often set at variance, by taking sides in disputes which they ought not to bave been informed of, would be preserved in barmony-their unity and love would be promoted. The world, now often rejoicing at the dissensions which exist among brethren, and at the unhappy and desolating influence which the spirit of contention excites in our Churches; now often saying, “Aha, so would we have it!" would, by the observance of this rule, be made to feel the spiritual and heavenly character of the religion of Jesus Christ; and, in the manifestation of its softening and peaceful tendencies, would exclaim, “ See how these Christians love one another!”
We are taught, however, from our Lord's words, to expect that there may be cases in which private remonstrance may fail. Our brother may not, after all our prayers and representations, hear us. Should this unhappily be the case, our duty is not then ended, our obligations are not then discharged; other steps must be taken, which are laid down with equal clearness, and are to be observed with equal scrupulosity and care, with those already stated. Here again let us remark, with reference to any after steps, which may be by the nature of the case rendered necessary, that our purpose must never be to gratify a feeling of revenge. Our aim, throughout the whole matter, must be to "gain our brother." We must constantly pray for it. If not realized, it should be matter of sincere grief to us; as its realization should be a cause of real joy.
if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” The making known the matter to others has now become necessary, but the number of persons to whom it is to be thus known is fixed and limited. From the terms employed,“ take with thee one or two more," it would appear that they should first hear the details of the case in the offender's presence. This would certainly be the most satisfactory course of manceeding, especially if we regard the
character in which these parties are to stand, in case the matter should ultimately be brought before the Church for its decision~ viz., as witnesses of the whole affair, os that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." This would be the course which a mind conscious of right would readily and wil. lingly pursue ; because representations made under such circumstances, and views of the case thas formed, would be the most unprejudiced and satisfactory. It cannot fail to be marked as of importance, that we exercise great discretion in the selection of the one or two persons whom we take with us to be witnesses ; as, of course, the success of this proceeding must, under God, depend greatly on the kind of persons they are, and the manner in which they fulfil their mission. They should not be the personal friends or relations of either party; they should be altogether disinterested, as well as unacquainted with the matter. They should be men of experience and wisdom ; of equable temper; gentle, and of good repute amongst their brethren. Their business will be to hear and decide impartially on the case; and as far as they judge the accused party to blame, to seek, by firm and kind remon strance, to bring him to confess his fault; and, if the circumstances of the case require it, to a reparation of any injury that he may have committed.
In the great majority of instances, it might reasonably be hoped that the offender who had resisted the first would be recovered by this second effort for his good ; in which case, of course, as in the first, if successful, the matter must there terminate, and no mention be made of it beyond the parties immediately concerned. Success may not, however, always be realized. The offending brother may refuse to hear these brethren. But he is not yet to be left as incorrigible, his offence even now to be published to the world. Any step calculated unnecessarily to wound his feelings, or to make known to parties not religiously interested in the case the matters of which he may be accused, is forbidden,
“And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church.” To the Church the final appeal is to be made; and with thein rests the ultimate and final decision of the case. From that decision there can be no appeal. And supposing, as we must, that that decision will be based upon the facts of the
case, and be in harmony with the directions and laws of the Head of the Church, we must believe that it will be accepted and ratified by Christ as the expression of His will. “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven ; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
“ Tell it unto the Church.” When the Church shall be gathered together to deliberate on the matter, in the presence of the witnesses, and if possible in the presence of the offender himself, the brother trespassed against must state the
and having done so, leave it in their hands, to take such steps as they shall deem desirable and proper. His responsi. bility now rests. Having heard the statement of the case, and its confirmation by the witnesses, and being satisfied that the Scripture rule has been thus far adhered to, they must, by faithful and affectionate representations of the matter, and of the law of Christ, seek to reclaim the erring brother. Nor must they fail to set before bim the iniquity of his sin, the solemnity and danger of the position in which he stands, and the consequences to which perseverance in offence must expose him. If he will now hear the Church-that is, if he will now make such acknowledgments and concessions as the Church may deem right and proper-he must be forgiven both by the Church and the party against whom he may have trespassed; and then all further steps in the matter are unnecessary and, by implication, forbidden. But if he will not hear and obey the Church, if he will not submit to the decision to which they come, then they are to exercise the highest power of punishment with which Christ has invested
will of Christ. For, in cases of this kind, it is only by His word and by His Church that His will is made known; and if these are neglected and disobeyed, Christ is also, neglected and disobeyed. Let it be borne in mind also that we are not always to judge of the degree to which a man offends solely by the nature of the outward act. And let it be further observed, that the Gospel requires, not merely that its followers abstain from open and gross sins: but that they should cultivate a spirit which is pure, peaceful, gentle, and easy to be entreated ; that they should follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which they cannot see God; and that body and soul should be a living sacrifice to Him. In short, that its followers should not only approve themselves to men, by an external conduct at once harmless and beneficial, but that they should also approve themselves to God, by an entire and cheerful submission to His authority, and by ardently seeking conformity to His image.
We would earnestly urge upon the Churches of Christ the importance of securing, as far as possible, an attention on the part of their members to the former part of our Saviour's rule on this subject,-at all events, in all cases of the kind which may come before them for their decision, to ascertain whether it has been complied with. Supposing a case introduced to the Church in which it had been neglected, we imagine that the Church would be justified in positively refusing to judge in the case, as between the two brethren, till that course had been pursued, and having been so pursued, had failed. And still further, that it would be justified in rebuking, and even be bound to rebuke, and openly to censure, the party guilty of such neglect, and convicted of having publicly made known the trespasses of his brother. We feel persuaded that if this offence (for such it truly is) were not connived at, but made matter for Church discipline, it would tend much to promote the order, peace, and efficiency of our Churches.
It is especially worthy of remembrance by the Churches, in the exercise of this power of cutting off a member from the body, that they stand in a very solemn and responsible position with reference to it ; and that there is much need for both caution and firmness.
The Church of Christ cannot, nor indeed would it wish to, reclaim its erring mem
“But if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” They are to put him away from them; to cut him off, or exclude him from the Church. They are not to company with him ; they are to have no religious intercourse or fellowship with him in any sense that would mark him as entitled to the love of complacency, or the esteem of Christian friendship. If any imagine that this is a hard and severe measure for what some might deem a slight offence, we nswer that the despising the will of the hurch, when it acts according to the law Christ, in however small and apparently
a matter, is virtually despising the
bers by pains and penalties by the hand of the civil magistrate ; but if its act be in conformity with the word of God, it handles a weapon which is calculated to *pierce the soul itself, and so wound it as to put it beyond the power of any to heal but the Great Physician of souls Himself. This power should never be used without the fullest investigation into the facts and merits of the case; nor until all other means have failed, and the Church is fully satisfied as to the necessity of the step.
Yet, supposing this care and caution to be exercised, and the necessity for the exclusion of the offender to be established, let the Church be firm. Let no false delicacy or affection, let no fear of the power of man, no hopes arising from the benefit of his favour, be stumbling-blocks in our path, and prevent our feet from treading in the path of duty and of safety, and in which alone we can enjoy the favour of qur Lord. And let the Church not only be firm with regard to the act of exclusion, but also with regard to the manner in which the excluded person is to be treated.
“ Let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” One, indeed, for whom the love of compassion may be in lively exercise; one, indeed, who is not to be counted as an enemy, but admonished as a brother ; ane, indeed, who is to be the object of our prayers; and one whom we are to seek by the word of truth to win back to the path of righteousness, and peace, and life; but one with whom, as before noted, there is to be no intimate association, no close friendship.
But nothing can tend more to destroy the efficiency and effect of discipline than thie want of co-operation and unity amongst the Churches themselves on the subject. If a brother, for refusing to hear the Church of which he is a member, is excluded, and by that Church is treated as a heathen man and a publican, yet finds that he can have ready and easy access to a neighbour. ing Church, it does but fortify his mind in an evil course, strengthen his conviction (if he have such) that he is an injured man, and raise the cry of a party against those who have acted according to the rule of the word of God. There may, indeed, be cases, though we should imagine they would be few, in which exclusion from a Church might be exercised hastily, arbitrarily, and without sufficient grounds. In such a case, upon application by the excluded brother, a neighbouring Chạrch
might, upon full investigation of the cir, cumstances, and after communication with their brethren, feel justified in receiving him ; but if other and even neighbouring Churches will receive excluded members without direct and fair communication with their brethren, without full investigation, or merely upon the representations of the parties themselves, or their personal friends and connections—this, indeed, is to divide the house against itself; to set the members of the body at variance; to render what is in reality the most formidable step of the Church a mere nullity. The churches should be one in this matter; cautious, but firm ; kind to the brother, but faithful to Christ; and they ought to be one in this matter, the rather because obedience to Christ, regard for His glory, and the real and eternal good of the offender, constitute their motives and aims. One Church, however, must not wait for the enforcement of discipline till the practice of other Churches has attained complete efficiency in this respect, or it may wait till the want of discipline destroys its own existence; but if each is careful to attend to the Lord's will for its guidance and regulation, it adopts the best means for promoting the prosperity and wellbeing of the whole body.
It is obviously of the greatest moment that we should cultivate that spirit and manifest that conduct which, while becoming the Gospel of Christ, most effectually contribute in their operation to secure peace and unity in the family of God. The peace and unity of the Church should ever be an object dear to the heart of every believer in Christ. Christ attaches much importance to it, Himself praying that it might be realized, that the world might believe that the Father had sent Him. The apostle constantly urges to it: “That ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel." “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” “ Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another, according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the