Archibald Forbes.

The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

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a tradesman, dependant, perhaps, for a settling, im-
portant to his credit, upon our punctuality, is a spe-
cies of cruelty perfectly inhuman.



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^



CHRISTIAN FATHER'S PRESENT.



A good method wiseU/ arranged and ptmdmaUy ob-
served in the distribution of our time^ wonld mate-
rially assist ns in rigbtlj employing it. Religicm,
bosiness, mental improvement, the exercises of be-
nevolence, oneht all, so far as the ever- vaijing cir-
cumstances of life will admit, to have their proper
allotments. Each hour should know its proper em-
ployment, and receive its proper care in its season.
No man should leave his days to be occupied by
whatever accident or chance can seize them ; for
then trifles, being more common and clamorous than
other things of greater importance, are likely to nm
off with the greatest share.

Have always some work in hand^ which may be
goins; on during the many intervals, for many there
will be. both ofbusiness and recrelttion. Pliwy, in
one of nis letters, where he gives an account of the
various methods he used to fill up every vacancy of
time, aAer several employments which he enume-
rates, says, ''Sometimes I hunt; but then J carry
with me a pocket-book, that whilst mv servants are
busy in disposing of the nets and other matters, I
may be employed in something that may be useful
to me in my studies ; and that if I miss of my game,
I may at the least bring home some of my own
thoughts with me, and not have the mortification of
having caught nothing all day." This is the way
to excellence and wisdom; and it is a road open to
aU. Carry about with you, therefore, some book,
or subject, which will gather up the fragments, that
nothing be lost^ for these fragments, like chips of
diamond, or filings of ^old, are too precious to be
thrown away. It is with our property as it is with
our time, when we look at it in the gross, we spend
freely because it seems as if it would never be ex-
hausted ; and when we have hours, half-hours, or
quarters, we squander them becauiie they are not
worth keeping. There is a proverb which our fru-
gal ancestors have taught us, " Take care of the
shillings, and the pounds will take care of them-
selves." So in reference to our time, I would say,
" Take care of your hours, and the years will" take
care of themselves." A man that is thrifty in his
money, will grow rich upon what another throws
away as not worth saving ; so a man that is thrifry
of his time, will grow wise by those interstitial va-
cancies which intervene in the most crowded vari-
ety of employment, and which many are foolish
enough to squander upon trifles, or saunter away in
idleness.

Avoid procrastinaHon. Do at on^c what at once
ought to be done. Let not the season of action be
spent in the hesitancy of skepticibm, or the purpose
of futwe effort. Do not let to-morrow be perpetually
the time when every thing is to be done, unmindful
that the present time alone is ours, as the past is dead,
and the friture yet imbom**

Erasmus furnishes one of the most striking in-
stances on reccMrd of the fruits of a diligent improve-
ment of time. *' His life was one continual pere-
i urination ; ill supplied with the gifts of fortune, and
ed from city to city, and from kingdom to king-
dom, by the hopes of patrons and preferment, hopes
which alwajTS flattered and always deceived hun,
he yet found means, by unshaken constancy and a
vif ilant employment of those hours which, in the
midst of the most restless activity, will remain un-
engaged, to write more than another, in the same
condition, would have hoped to read. Compelled
by want to attendance and solicitation, and so much
versed in common life, that he has transmitted to
U9 the most perfect delineation of the manners of his
age ; he joined to his knowledge of the world, such
application to books, that he will stand for ever in



the first rank of literary heroes. How this profi-
ciency was obtained, be sufficiently discovers by in-
forming us that the ' Praise of FoUtf^^ one of his
most celebrated performances, was composed by him
on the road to Uain,- lest the hours which he spent
on horseback shomd be tattled away without regard
to literature."

A right improvement of time, then, my dear
children, is the wa^ to knowledge, which does not
in every case require uninterrupted leisure ; only
keep the mind open to receive ideas, and diligently
employ every spare moment in collecting them, and
it is astonlsbing how rapidly the accumulation of
mental treasure will go forward. But it is chiefly
in reference to eternity that I exhort you to redeem
the time. Too many attempt to justify their neglect
of religion by pleadmg a want of opportunity to at-
tend to its high concerns: but how inadmissible
such a plea is, the subject of this chapter plainly
proves : for, as we have formerly shown, religion it
a right disposition of mind towards the great and
blessed GK>d *, and we now see that such a disposi-
tion, besides the more solemn seasons of public and
private prayer, will pour its influence over the whole
of a man's life, and fill the interstices .which are left
between the most crowded occupaiionSj with ejacu-
latory petitions to heaven, and tne aspirations of a
soul panting afrier God, and the anticipations of a
renewed mind looking towards eternity.

Remember, then, above all things, that time was
given you to repent of sin, to pray for pardon, to be-
lieve in Christ to work out your salvation, to lay up
treasures in heaven, to prepare for the solemnities of
judgment, and secure that happiness which is not
measurea by the revolution or years, but is, in the
strictest sense of the woiA—etemal,



*See an admirable story in Miss Edgeworth's
Pq>ular Tales, entitled To-Morrotr.



CHAPTER XXn.

ON THE OBLIGATION TO ENTER INTO FXLLOWmiP
WITH A CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

Religion is a personal thine, and the goepel firrt ad-
dresses us in our individual and separate existence.
We must each for himself repent of ain, believe in
Christ, obey the law. Nothing can be a substitute for
this : no line of pious ancestry, no connection with liv-
ing Chriatians, no communion with the church of God,
wm be of an^ avail to ua in the absence of faith and
holiness. Still, however, religion, though personal in
its nature, is social in its tendency and exercisea : it \»
superinduced on a being formed for society, and who
carriciiB this propensity of hia heart into bia avery aito-
ation. Hence nia piety leads him to aeek the compa-
nionahip of men of^" luce preciona faith." Chriatiaiiity
acknowJedgeaand hallows thia principle of our naturs,
and exhibita it in her own divine inatitutiona. Tlie
New Testament, therefore, while it inalata on the ne-
ceasity of a perM>naI religion, equally demanda a social
one. It knowa nothing of that pienp wliich keepa its
poaseaaor aeparate and apart from diose who partake
with him of tlicT " i^minon salvation." The first thing
we read of,.afibr & miraculona effuaion of the Holy
GhoHt, ia tbp j^a^ng of the gospel ; the next the con-
version of *8inher%4Bd then we find that '* they that
gladly receive^th^ydrd were baptiaed ; and the same
day there wera added to them about three tfaouaand
BouL;. And they continued ateadfksily in the apoatle'a
doctrine, and fellowabip, and breaking of bread, and
prayera. And all that believed were together, and bad
all tbinga common. And they oontinuinx daily with
ooeacccrd in the temple, and breaking bread from
hvMiae to house did eat their meat with giadneaa*
and singleneaa of heart, praising God, and having



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CHRISTIAN FATHER'S PRESENT.



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favor with the people. And the Lord added to the
church daily, such as should be saved."

Such is toe lovely picture which the inspired histori-
an gives us of the first eflTect of the preaching of the
gospel, in which we perceive, not only that souls were
converted, but that immediately upon their conversion
they were drawn to each other by the force of mutual
love, and formed a voluntary and blessed fellowship.
No one that believed the gospel remained separate and
apart from the rest, but gave himself up to be one with
the Church ; and indeed, till he did this, was not ac-
knowledged as a Christian. This was always the case
in the primitive times ; as soon as a man believed, that
same day, without being put upon his trial for months,
he united himselfwith believers. No such custom then
existed, as persons, who were acknowledged to be
Christians, remaining year aAer year in no visible con-
nection with the body of Christ ; this is a system of mo-
dern times.

Indulging a' hope, which indeed is one of the most
blissful expectations of my heart, that you, my dear
children, will be partakers of the jrace of Gk)d, the
fiutb of the gospel, and the love of Christ, I shall now
strongly enjoin upon you an early association with
some Christian socie^. It is on these suppositions
only that I recommend it It is intended, not so much to
make men Christians, as to maintain and improve their
Christianity : not as an ordinance of conversion, as of
edification, sanctification, and consolation. A Chris-
tian church is thus described in the Epistles of Paul :
'* To all that be in Rome beloved of God, called to be
saints." " Unto the Church of God which is at Co-
rinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, call-
ed to be saints." Unless, therefore, you really believe
in Jesus Christ, and are sanctified by the spirit of God,
yon are not meet to be partakers of the inneritance of
the saints in light. If you were to join the church in
an unconverted state, you would be as an enemy
amongst brethren, a stranfer amongst friends, an
alien amongst citizens, a rebel amongst subjects. Tak-
ing it then for granted that you believe in Christ and
supremelv love him, I admonish you to connect your-
selves in his own way, with his own people.

RisfftmraolemnandboundeHduty.

Uistake not by supposing that this matter is left to
your choice ; it is no more optional than any other part
of religion. Vou may just as well imagine that it is
optionaJ whether yon shall keep the sabbath or not. —
fiftrange it is that this part of a Christian's duty should
have been detached, by many persons, from all the
rest, as an observance which bad no obligation upon
the conscience. Was it not an invariable practice, in
the first ages of the church, for those who were con-
verted, to enter immediately into the fellowsbip of the
faithful t Our Lord's Knguage in reference ti the sa-
cred supper, is a command, not an invitation ; it is the
hnguage of OMt^rtty, not of advice : " Do this in re-
membrance of me." Now as the supper is a church
ordinance, this injunction makes it absolutely impera-
tive on all bis disciples to unite themselves to the
"household of fiutb."^

Far be it from me to say that a person cannot be a
Christian unless he be a church member, for I have al-
ready observed that be ought to be a believer htfott he
enters into fellowsbip : but I will say, that he who
loves Christ, and yet continues unconnected with the
church, is living in that instance in direct disobedience
to bis Lord's commands. And if one of the primitive
Christians were permitted to come from his celestial
seat into our assembly at the time we were preparing
to celebrate the supper, he would very certainly and
naturally conclude, that all those persons who rose and
retired from the emblems of the Saviour's body and
blood, neither believed in him, loved him, nor obeyed
him. And when informed, that amongst that crowd
there were stjll some of whom we entertained hope that
46*



they did in reality love Jesus Christ, with what sur>
prise and emphasis would he exclaim, " Love Christ !
what and live in habitual disobedience to his com-
mands? We have no such love as that ili heaven, nor
had we when 1 lived on earth.*'

It is your unspeakable honor to be early in the
church. '

It has been the dishonor , and is stilt the reproach,
of multitudes, that tfiey neelect this divine ordinance.
Admitting that upon the whole the man is a Christian,
and yet through some mistaken notion is unconnected
with a company of believers, what a spot is it Upon
his character, what a stain upon bis garments, to see,
him, when the company of Christ's disciples are col-
lecting round the table, hurrying away with the multi-
tude of carnal, worldly, sensualperrons ; thus associat-
ing in this act of {disregard to Christ's authority, with
some that are profane, others that are skeptical, others
that are immoral. What a disgrace is it to any one
who pretends to bear the name of Christ, to be seen
thus turning his back on the friends of the Redeemer,
and walking away from the Christian Institute with the
enemies of the cross. But alas ! this reproach is too
common to be felt as it ought.

But it is so much the greater honor to obsorxe this
duty, by so much the more it is neslected. It is con-
sidered delightful to see the head of the youthful sena-
tor, whose breast is full of patriotic ardor, lifted amidst
the venerable forms of sged statesmen ; and the juvenile
warrior fighting by the side of veteran heroes in his
country's cause ; and how much more delightful to see
the young Christian, undeterred by a false and sinful
shame, unrestrained by the examples of many of his
seniors, entering the fellowship of the faithful, and, in
the presence of the world, exclaiming, *' I am not
ashamed of Christ, or his words, before this adulterous
and sinful generation. Preserve me, O God, for in
thee do 1 put my mist O my soul, thou hast said
unto the Lord, tbou art my Lord, my goodness extend-
eth not to thee : but lo the saints that are in the earth,
and to the excellent in whom is all my delicht Their
sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten. after another
God : their drink ofierings of bloo<} will I not offer, nor
take up their names into my lips. I wiU take the cup
of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. O
Lord, truly I am thy servant, and the son of thy hand-
maid ; thou hast loosed my bonds. I will pay^ my vows
unto the Lord now, in the presence of all his people :
in the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of thee,
O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord."

Oh my children, may I see this honor lighting on
yon : may it be granted me to see yon sitting amongst
the followers of me Lamb, associated with the church of
the livinff God ; and I am not very solicitous for you to
obtain the wreath of fame, or any of the distinctions
which men can confer upon each other; the honor of
being an early and consistent member of that fellow
sliip, of which God in Christ is the head, is, in mj
eyes, a crown of glory, compared with which the dia-
dems of monarchs are gilded toys.

Church fellowship is an inestimable prinlege.

It is connected with, and leads to many solemn, de-
lightful, and beneficial observances. It is lyr joining
ourselves to the church, that we have a right to the
Lord's Supper. This sacred feast is to be observed b^
the church f not by individuals in their separate condi-
tion. In approaching the table of the Lord, we are to
go as one of a company. It is intended at once to ex-
hibit onr unity, ana to preserve it That bread which
is the emblem of the natatral body of Christ broken for
sinners, is at the same time, by its many parts in anion
with each other, the emblem of his imfmetd body. It
is an ordinance which at the same time sets fortn both
our onion to Christ by faith, and to each other by love.
It shows one church deriving salvation flrom the death
of one Redeemer. Hence £e object of oar partaking



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CHIII8TIAN FATHER'S PRESENT.



of the sacred Sapper is, to keep ap right afiectiona to
Chriat* and to each other for Christ's Mke. Preciooa,
mv childreo, ve those hallowed tfeasonaofcommuDion
wnich are apeat by the disciples at the table of the
Lord. No aensnal gratifications will bear any com-
parison with the subUme delight of those sacred enter-
tainments. What scenes of past wonder ind sorrow,
and triumph are brought to recollection, even the in-
carnation, life, sufferings, death, resurrection, and as-
cension of Jesus Christ ; yes, those apparently insig-
nificant emblems, bring before the mind, so far as the
mind can comprehend it, the whole of the vast scheme,
devised from eternity in the counsels of Omniscience,
for the salvation of a ruined world, and executed by
the Son of God upon tl^ cross. What present emo-
tions of wonder, joy, lore, gratitude, to him, " who
loved OS and washed us from our sins in his blood, and
made us kings and priests to God and the Lamb," does
the Sapper produce and cherish. What visions of
futore glory, connected with the second coming of our
Lord, does the institution call up before the eye of hope.
How forcibly art the rich blessings of grace, and the
eternal blessings of glory, brought home upon the
heart AH the virtues of Christianity are strengthened,
all its privileges are enjoyed. ' Tne soul, by being
brought nearer to Christ, is brought nearer to his diit-
oiples. The joys of salvation are more rich and full,
by being experienced in the company of those who are
heirs of thp same bliss.

Union with the church gives a right to attend ail the.
man private meetings of the brethren^ where pastoral ex-
hortation is delivered, brotherly love is cherished, mem-
bers are admitted, and all the transactions of the house-
hold of God Are managed.

Church membership is connected with ^any plea-
gant r^ections. In such a situation we have the con-
sciousness of our being where we ought to be ; of our
obeying the will of Christ; of our being in the midst
of the righteous, om one of their number, and an object
of their interest.

It is no inconsiderable means of spiritual sqfety. In
general it may be urged that the path of duty is the
path of safety. Where are we so likely to enjoy the
showers of divine grace, as in those gardens of the
Lord on which they more usually fall 7 *' (jrod meet-
eth him that worketh righteousness." It is connected
with pastoral oversight and tvatctifidness, with brotherly
mspeUionf eachortation and reproof; it secures an inte-
rest in the prayers and sympatky of tfte disciples ; and
then it leads us to consider the additional obligations
which lis upon n$ in consequence of our profession, and
the more painful efiects which would thus follow an
act of inconsistency : in short, it seems to be an addi-
tional defence for us against the dangers to which we
are exposed in our spiritual warfare. In looking for-
ward 10 our approach to the table of the Lord, we shall
be led to more frequent and serioas examination ; in
looking back to the vows which we there brought our-
selves under, we shall be stu'red up to more caution;
considering through the month previous, that we are
soon to appear amongst the saints at the sacramental
board, we shall find this a check to temptation, a sti-
mulus to duty, a motive to consistency ; and looking
back during the month that follows, upon what then
took place, we shall find the retrospect no less salutary
than was the prospect. A regard to our own reputa-
tion and comfort will join itself with a concern for the
bonor of Christ, and the prosperity of the Church, to
operate as a preservative against unholy conformity or
•inful indulgence. We are poor frail creatures, and
our spiritual strength is so feeble as to stand in need of
every additional help ; and it is no inconsklerable assist-
ance that is furnished by Christian fellowship. Com-
panionship is one of the hot-beds both of sin and holi-
ness. Trees grow better, as I have already remarked,
in plantations; they shelter each other from the vio-



lence of tb,e wind, aod the severity of the col(^ tod
draw each other into a taller and a straighter growth :
so it is with the trees of righteousness of God's own
right hand plantine, and it is by being thus planted in
the house of the Lord, that they shall flourish as the
palm tree, and grow as the Cedar in Lebanon.

You may thus be uf^/W to oihers, ^ Your parents will
rejoice over you with unutterable joy ; your ministers
will be encouraged in the work of the Lord; oiber
younff persons, if serious, may be drawn by ]^ou into
the church, or, if unconverted, may have their atten-
tion roused, and their conscience awakened ; the more
aged who have neglected this duty will be stirred op to
shame and repentance : thus what is so beneficial to
you, will extend its advantages to others; and the
Kingof Zipn will look upon you with peculiar and in-
efluble delight.

Before this chapter closes, however, I must answer
the objections which are but too commonly brought
by young persons, even by those whose hearts are
right wim God, against this act of obedience to
Christ.

iSome are in doubt about their personal relifion.
Where this is the case, let them not remain in ooabt
any longer, but examine themselves, and bring the
matter to an issue. " Elxamine yourselves," saiu the
apostle, "whether ye be in the faith; prove your own-
selves." This is too important an afiair to remain un-
decided and in suspense. Nor need you be kept io
ihe dark about it. If you really reflect, you most
know whether you believe the gospel or not; whether
you love the Lord Jesus or not ; whether yon are obey-
ing God or not. Do not doubt yonir religion under the
mistaken apprehension that doubts are proofs of piety,
and evidences of humility. Your iDauiry is not to hie,
" Am I a perfect Christian V but, ** Ami a real one f"
If you can answer the latter question in the a6toa-
tive you ought not to remain out of the communion of
the church. ^

Others are saying, / am not Jit to join the diureh yet.
Then you are not fit to die. God requires no other
prerequisite to the Lord's table, than what he does to
heaven ; and all the fitness he requireth for either, is to
be convinced of sin, to believe me gospel, and to for-
sake unrighteousness.

Jam irfraid, say some, of maJdn^ a public prdeism,
lest J should dishonor Christ by sinning qfter it. In some
cases this is nothing more than an er-suse for not mak-
ing a profession at all, as if it were no sin to ofibnd
God before a profession is made. Many dread the
idea of binding themselves by the acknowledgment
that they are Christians ; forgetting that it is their sin
not to make a profession, and that they will be cpn>
demned for neglecting it, as some otiiers will be for
disgracing it If, however, it be really the misUiken
scruple of a timid mind, I would say again, the way of
duty is the way of safety ; do your duty, and trust God
for preserving grace. For a man to be afraid of doinjf
what is right, lest he should alUrwards do wrong, m
singular caution : he forgets that by his neglect he is
already sinning. What reason is there in saying, ** I
am very weak, and therefore will neglect this prop-^
I am liable to start aside ; and therefore will not avail
myself of this Scriptural resuraint."

J am too young in years, is the frequent thought of
young people. Certainly not, if you are not too youqg
to believe the gospel, to u>ve Christ, and to discern the
Lord's body. Is there any age specified in the New
Testament, below which no one is to join the charob.
If sOt were is it 7 There is none. Faith working by
love is the qualification for membership, not yean.
Children often years of age, or even younger, if they
are believers, ought to be admitted as members. A^
has nothing to do with it. If we might make any dlP
ference, I was going to say, the younger the more wel-
qome. Jesus sboweid his favor to the yonng when be



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CHRISTIAN FATHiER'S PRESENT.



60



■aid, ''Safier the little children to come unto me,
aad Cbrbid ihem not, for of such ia the kingdom of
God."

I am too ytnuig in the faith, say others. Not if you
are sincere. If we make the word of God oDr guide
in this matter, (and what else ought to guide us?) then
we must infer that a sincere beliew>f the gospel, with a
competent knowledge of the ends of church fellowship,
is alfthat ought to fa« required of a candidate for mem-
bership. You may hare been oonverted only a month,
but if tmly converted that is no objection. The same
day that they believed, the three thousand persons con-
verted under the sermon of Peter, were added to the
Church. The privileges of fellowship are needed, if
possible, more by the young than hv the aged Chris-
tian : they are milk for babes, aa well as strong meat
for them who have attained to riper years.



Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 63 of 121)