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1 TIM. iii. 14-16.

These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And, without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

WALK about Zion, and go round about her; tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces: that ye may tell it to the generation following. Such was the language, in which Zion of old was celebrated. But what is the glory intimated in these words, compared with that of the New Testament Church, which can number her Spiritual palaces,

which counts her Everlasting towers; whose bulwarks are Salvation, and her gates Praise ? It is of this church that the Apostle treats in the sublime passage before us. His design is to urge on the several orders of ministers the obligation of conducting themselves aright in the discharge of their office, from a consideration both of the nature of the Christian Church, and of the mystery which is committed to its care.

Such a subject will be admitted, I think, to be appropriate to an occasion like the present; and if I could hope to discuss the various topics which it involves, in a manner at all corresponding with its importance and grandeur, I might proceed without despondency. But the passage is of acknowledged difficulty. For, while the general sentiments which it conveys are perspicuous and sublime, its construction and language, as well as some of its allusions and doctrines, appear to be, in many respects, intricate and perplexing.

To that Divine Saviour, therefore, of whose glory I am to attempt to speak, let our supplications be addressed, that He may vouchsafe to preserve us, by the grace of His Holy Spirit, from all material error; whilst we consider, The COMMENDATION here bestowed on the Christian Church; The MAGNITUDE of the truth entrusted to its care; and The INFERENCES which may be drawn from both these topics, as to our con

duct individually in the present period of time: keeping in mind throughout, the design for which the whole passage is introduced, that of impressing us with a penetrating sense of our consequent duties.

I. THE COMMENDATION BESTOWED ON THE CHURCH forms the first division of our subject: That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

What, then, is the Church? What its Dignity? What its Office? These are the questions which we must here endeavour to resolve.

1. "The Visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered, according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." This definition may be adapted to the universal body of Christ, and to each subdivision of it. These are to be distinguished from what is called the Invisible Church, which is known certainly to God only, and consists of persons truly justified and sanctified, the elect, as they are styled in Scripture, whose spiritual union with their Divine Lord falls not

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under the observation of man. Whereas, when we speak generally of the church, we mean a company of persons confessing the faith of Christ crucified, and visible in their ecclesiastical order, in subjection to their pastors, in the celebration of the Sabbath, preaching of the Gospel, administration of the Sacraments, and in all such works as flow from a principle of Christian charity. Of this church those are members who are duly engrafted into her by baptism, and who continue in the profession of the doctrine of Christ, and in submission to spiritual discipline. Such was the rule of judgment laid down by the Apostle. He addresses the churches of Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, and other places, generally, as consisting of believers only, though in fact many serious exceptions were to be made. The term, therefore, The Church, embraces, in its widest application, the multitude of all those who confess the Gospel of the Son of God, whereever they may be dispersed; and it contracts itself, in its narrowest sense, to a single community.

Happy assemblages! may the invisible blessings of illumination, pardon, and holiness, make them, even on earth, more and more to resemble the general assembly and church of the firstborn which is written in heaven!

2. For this is the true DIGNITY of the Church -its near relation to God: The house of God, the church of the living God.

The Apostle, in the verses preceding the text, had described the true minister as one that ruled well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity. In opposition to these domestic circles, he then calls the assembly of the believers in Christ, the house of God -those whom God vouchsafes to adopt as his children, whom he regards with more than paternal love, to whom he manifests his favour, and dispenses his graces and blessings. Thus, as a palace is the house of a prince, so is the church the house of God. This is his rest for ever: here will he dwell, for he has a delight therein. This abode he daily enlarges and adorns, as a person does his dwelling. He delights in its order, its worship, its faith, its dependence, its obedience to its pastors. It is none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven.

The Apostle adds to this general expression a second, by way of emphasis and amplification: The church of the living God. For the house of which he was speaking was not a material building-not a temple made with hands, like the magnificent temple of Jerusalem, to which this title had formerly been appropriated-much less was it the sanctuary of any false and dead idol, which is nothing in the world-but the spiritual assemblage and church of the one living and true God, the self-existent and most glorious

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