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low the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. They must endeavor to be continually growing, and aspire after a more complete and perfect manhood.
They must grow in all things. A partial religion is not that which the gospel teaches. We must have res. pect to the whole character of Christ—to the whole compass of dutymto every known doctrine and precept of scripture. We must aim to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God to walk worthy of him unto all pleasing, and to be fruitful in every good work. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away ; all things are become new.” A hypocrite may seem to grow in some things, while he is destitute of the main things, which belong to religion. He may abound in knowledge ; but he fails in practice, He may have much zeal; but he has no humility. He may be warm in his devotions; but he is cold in his charity. He may pretend to a strong faith; but he is void of real holiness. He may talk much about religion ; but he does little. He may express much joy in Christ, and comfort of hope ; but he is full of love to the world, and a stranger to contentment and patience. He may be severe against other men's sins; but he excuses his own. He may pretend a high love to God, and an ardent desire of heaven ; but still he indulges his earthly passions, and ungodly lusts.
Such is the hypocrite. The sincere Christian is not like him. He, having received the truth in love, grows up into Christ in all things. All the graces of the gospel unite in forming his temper. They all operate in harmony. His religion is one continued, uniform, consistent work.
I proceed now to the other branch of our subject, which is to shew how the Christian attains to this maturity. It is by union with Jesus Christ, “ from whom the whole body compacted and cemented together by every joint of supply, according to its power in the proVOL. III.
portion of every part, maketh increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love."
From the growth of the human body the Apostic borrows a similitude to illustrate the spiritual growth of the Christian church.
The head is the principal part of the body. Here is 'the seat of spirit and life. Hence nourishment and an. imation are conveyed to,' and diffused through the whole body, by means of the communication which there is among all the parts, each part assisting the distribution according to its measure and office. If the intercourse between the head and any member was cut off-if any channel of supply failed in its operation, a langour and decay would immediately ensue.
In order to the growth of the body, there must be, not only a union with the head, but a communication through all the parts. The several members aud vessels must reciprocate with one another.
So it is in the spiritual body. Christians must be united by faith unto Christ the head, who filleth all in all. They must keep up an intercourse with him by prayer and an attendance on his ordinances. It is as absurd to expect growth in knowledge and holiness, without the means instituted for the edifying of the body of Christ, as it would be to expect the growth of a natural body without supplies of food. While we attend on these external means, we must look to Christ for the supply of the Spirit; for it is the Spirit that quickeneth. It is his kindly influence, which renders, divine ordinances effectual to our nourishment and increase.
As there must be a communion with the head, so there must be an intercourse between the several parts, in order to the growth of the body. The members of Christ, who are by faith united to him, must also by mutual love be united to one another, that spiritual nourishment may be properly distributed. The whole body,
compacted by every joint of supply, must experience an effectual working in the measure of every part.
Christians are to seek, not merely their own, but the common edification. They are to comfort and encourage, to exhort and assist one another. They are to agree together in prayer and praise, in hearing the word, and attending on ordinances. They are, by mutual example and friendly discourse, to animate and strengthen one another. They should have the same care and attention ore for another, as the members of a natural body. If one member suffer, all should feel for it. If one be honored, all should rejoice with it. Thus the body will make increase to the edifying of it. self in love.
It is remarkable, and it cannot be too often noticed, that whenever the Apostle speaks of Christain growth and edification, he points out love, peace, unity, as the main thing in which this edification must appear. “ Speaking the truth in love, grow up into Christ.”—“The body is edified in love.”—“ Study the things which make for peace, and the things wherewith ye may edify one another.”—“Let the body be joined together and compacted, that it may make increase.”_" Let your love abound more and more."-"Abound in love one toward another, and toward all men."
This is the Apostle's favorite theme.
1. We see then, that there can be no Christian growth, where Christian love is wanting.
Love is a principal grace the end of the commandment--the bond of perfectness--the distinguishing mark of Christ's disciples
and a mean of improvement in all other graces. It is this which unites the several parts of the spiritual body, and maintains the communication between them, so that nourishment is ministered to them all.
2. We are here reminded, that Christians are bound to seek the peace, in order to the edification of the particular church, of which they are members. These
the Apostle joins together. The latter cannot take place without the former.
We must guard against every thing which tends to schism and disunion in the body ; and prevent, as far as possible, those evils which would break the cohesion, or weaken the attraction, whereby its parts are held together. “Where envy and strife are, there is confusion and every evil work.”
3. We learn from our subject, that no pretences of personal edification will justify our withdrawing from the communion of a church, in such a manner as would hinder the edification of our brethren. We are to be joined and compacted together, and thus to make increase. We are to look at the things of others, as well as at our own. We are, indeed, to edify ourselves ; but our edification must be in love, as well as in other graces. And this love will excite us to study the things which make for the common edification. You think, perhaps, the word is dispensed more to your edification, or more to your taste, in some other place, than in the church with which you are immediately connected. It may be so: This is no improbable supposition. Preachers have different gifts, and hear. ers have different humors. One may relish this, and another that manner of preaching, though the same gospel is dispensed. Still you are not to withdraw from the assembly of your brethren, if your withdraw- . ment would disturb the peace, and obstruct the edification of the church. You are to seek, not merely your own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Your spiritual growth depends on your union with Christ, the head ; and on your communion with Christians, the members of the great body. Christ can make his gospel successful, though it be delivered by one, whose speech is called contemptible. You are then most likely to receive a blessing from your Lord, when you act in that spirit of love and condescension which he requires,
Paul, Apollos and Cephas, all preached the same gospel ; but each had his own peculiar manner of preaching. Paul was a strong reasoner ; Apollos was an eloquent orator ; Peter was a warm and affectionate speaker. They all had their admirers in Corinth. One said, I am of Paul ; another, I am of Apollos ; and another, I am of Peter. Paul reproved this party attach, ment, as an indication, that they were carnal; that they were, as children, governed more by natural humor,
than by spiritual understanding. “While one saith, i i am of Paul ; and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not
carnal ? Who is Paul, or Apollos, but ministers by whom ve believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? Paul planted, and Apollos watered ; but God gave the increase."
As Christians have been called of God to the fellow. ship of his Son, they should all speak the same thing; they should be joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment; and there should be no divi. sions among them.
Since Christ has appointed the gospel ministry for the edification of his body, let us meekly, humbly and prayerfully attend upon it, as his institution; keeping in view its important end, endeavoring to grow thereby, and desiring to come in the unity of faith and knowl. edge, unto the stature of perfect men.
Finally, beloved brethren, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, pray in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, and wait for the mer. cy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life.