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SERMON X.

DIVINE FELLOWSHIP.

1 JOHN i. 3.-Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

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THE term "fellowship" signifies, in general, the participation of two or more persons in the same thing. As employed in the text, it seems to include principally two ideas;-union or alliance, and communion or intercourse. In the opinion of some commentators, it involves an allusion to the fellowships or fraternities instituted for celebrating the mysteries of the heathen deities; and it may, therefore, be considered as implying that the parties here mentioned were connected by a sacred and intimate alliance. Believers, like other men, were once alienated from God, and enemies to him in their mind by wicked works;" but they have been "brought nigh," and "reconciled by the blood of the cross;" and now he and they belong to the same holy and blissful society or community. At the head of this society are the Father and the Son, "The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named;" and among its members are comprehended all the good that now live or that ever have lived on earth, all the angelic hosts in heaven, and all holy intelligencies in the universe.

The ties which bind together the component parts

of this society, are of a spiritual and celestial, not of a political or secular nature; but they are more intimate than the bonds which connect any human family or any earthly association. Christians are "members of Christ's body, of his flesh, and of his bones." They are more; for "he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit. The union established betwixt them implies an assimilation of character and disposition. Believers partakers of a divine nature;" the lineaments of the divine image are impressed on their souls, and they are endowed with moral attributes and qualities resembling those of the Father and the Son. They are the regenerated and adopted children of God; and they have "the Spirit of adoption" infused into them, prompting them to "cry, Abba, Father." The union of believers with their God and Saviour implies not only a resemblance in character and disposition, but a community of interests and aims, of action and pursuit, and of pleasures and enjoyments. As this union is far more intimate, so it is far more durable than any earthly alliance. The closest and most endearing of earthly connexions are temporary, and will soon be dissolved by death; the bonds which connect believers with their God will survive the disruption of all terrestrial relations, and the dissolution of all visible things.

Union forms the natural basis of intercourse or communion; but the one does not necessarily involve the other. The members of the same family may be so alienated in affection, or so widely separated in respect of place, that there may be no intercourse between them. Here there is union without communion. But this does not occur between God and those who are his "children, by faith in Christ Jesus." He loves them with "a love passing knowledge;" they regard him with sentiments of confidence and affection; and

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wherever they are, he is present with every one of them. The "fellowship" mentioned in the text, implies not only union and alliance, but communion or affectionate intercourse. To the latter, exclusively, I propose to confine our attention in the present discourse.

To this subject there is generally supposed to attach a certain degree of mysticism and obscurity; and there is reason to apprehend, that the conceptions of many professed christians respecting it are lamentably vague and confused. In itself, however, it is not "hard to be understood;" and it need scarcely be added, that it is a subject exceedingly interesting and important, and most appropriate to a sacramental or communion Sabbath. In entering on the consideration of it, let it be our mutual prayer, that He, from whom emanate all good thoughts and all devout desires, would impart to us his illuminating and quickening Spirit, so that we may not "darken counsel by words without knowledge," but "speak to edification, and exhortation, and comfort."

The following are the principal particulars relative to the subject, which demand consideration:-The reality of this communion, the nature of it, the qualifications requisite for enjoying it, the means by which it is enjoyed, the importance of it, and its comparative imperfection in the present state. In illustration of these points, I shall direct your attention to the following propositions :—

I. The possibility of communion betwixt God and men is demonstrable by reason; and the reality of this communion is explicitly taught in scripture.

Of the nature of this communion I shall speak more fully under a subsequent particular. In the meantime, it may be sufficient to remark, that, like intercourse between other intelligent beings, it implies the inter

change of thoughts and sentiments; and consists more especially in the communication of gracious influences on the part of God, and in the exercise of devout affections on the part of his people.

The unbelieving and the profane, and some who would not willingly be classed with either, have derided the very idea of this sacred intercourse as a piece of mystical jargon or pernicious fanaticism. Visionaries and enthusiasts, giving scope to an undisciplined imagination, have uttered much respecting it that is extravagant and unintelligible, bewildering and delusive. Others, not destitute of genuine piety, but more distinguished for fervour of temperament than correctness of taste and judgment, have irreverently applied to "the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ," familiar epithets and phrases borrowed from the language of human endearment, and have thus debased the dignity and sanctity of the subject, and disgusted and grieved the wise and the sober.

But though the doctrine has been ridiculed by the profane, and perplexed by the visionary, and degraded by the illiterate, does it follow from this, that it is utterly unfounded? Surely not; for the best things have often been the most abused. Look at it attentively, and you will be convinced that it is not more soothing than true; that it is consonant to reason, and expressly asserted by revelation. In what consists that intercourse or communion which takes place between human friends on earth? Words, and looks, and other external signs, are the vehicles by which it is carried on; but its essence consists in the interchange of thoughts and feelings, And what is there to prevent the most affectionate and delightful communion from being carried on between God and men, between the Saviour in heaven and saints on earth, though it is not conducted

by the medium of audible or visible signs? Can it be doubted, that he who made the human soul, and who upholds it in the exercise of its various faculties, knows every avenue by which to approach it; and is able at pleasure to awaken it to the perception of what is excellent, and the desire of what is lovely; and in answer to its aspirations after heavenly influences and blessings, to communicate to it infusions of light and life, of purity and joy?

The possibility of a gracious intercourse between God and his people, results necessarily from his attributes as an infinitely perfect Being, and from his relations as the Creator, Preserver, and Ruler of the world; nor can it be denied but on principles conducting directly to atheism. It seems to be pre-supposed in the exercise of prayer; an exercise to which nature herself, when perplexed and agonized, prompts by an instinctive and irresistible impulse. We find, accordingly, that it was virtually admitted by the very heathen; for their philosophers frequently speak of human wisdom and goodness as the fruit of divine influence, and their heroes are frequently introduced as praying not only that the outward occurrences of life might be controlled and overruled, but that an immediate influence might be exerted on the mind-that the soul might be irradiated with supernatural light, and nerved with supernatural courage-prayers which would have been preposterous, except on the belief that an intercourse the most intimate and advantageous, might subsist between human beings and higher but invisible powers.

These considerations serve to establish the possibility of communion with God. Consult next the oracles of inspiration, and you find the reality and certainty of this communion recognized and asserted in

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