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and to do this with all the zeal, constancy and firmness of a devoted, faithful child?
The church occupies precisely the place of this person, which I shall endeavour to prove.
PROPOSITION I. The church is God's Witness. 1. Because she is the party best qualified to be so. To her, God has at all times revealed himself. And she is now in possession of the entire revelation of his mind and will, in a language understood; and it is placed perfectly within the reach of the poorest. Never did a father so completely unbosom himself to a dear child, as God has done to his church. He has been at the greatest pains to instruct her in the knowledge of the truth. To impress it deeply upon her mind, he has employed a great variety of modes of communication. By type and symbol, by dream and vision, by audible voices, face to face; by Urim and Thummim, and by angels. He has raised up and qualified teachers, with a variety of gifts and offices, for the same purpose. Preachers of righteousness, patriarchs, lawgivers, judges, priests and prophets. And in these latter days he has sent his only begotten Son from heaven, who, besides his own personal ministry, which was a declaration of God's great name, has left behind him when he went to heaven, apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. He has acompanid his communications, both under the Old and New Testaments, with the most stupendous miracles by which every doubt as to the character of his servants might be excluded and the attention forcibly drawn to their doctrine. He has sent down his holy Spirit to open the eyes of her understanding, that she might understand the scriptures-to lead her into all truth, and to bring all things to her remembrance. He has instituted ordinances and sacraments to be premanent exhibitions of all revealed truth. And if all this were too little, the holy Ghost writes it on the table of the heart, so that she may not only see it with her eyes and hear it with her ears, but feel it a living principle, and be able to say, “ that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we have looked upon and our hands have handled-declare we unto you.
2. For this express purpose, God has erected and preserved the church. This may be inferred from the first gospel promise," And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed, it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel.” By the seed of the woman is intended first and chiefly, Christ, who overcame the world, spoiled principalities and destoyed death: but all his true followers are also included, and are called (Rev. xii. 17.) by this same name." They
too, under the conduct of the Captain of their salvation, and equipped with the whole armour of God, wrestle against flesh and blood, against principalities and powers. But in doing this, they necessarily declare that God is the true God, and that all his enemies are liars. More particularly, God says “ This people have I formed for myself, and they shall show forth my praise." Isaiah xliii. 21. But his praise lies wholly within the compass of that revelation which he has made of himself to his church. There, his great name is fully declared-his counsels of infinite wisdom revealed-his great and marvellous works narrated his true Godhead set forth in the most glorious manner. But before the church can serve this specified end of her formation, she must in some measure echo and reflect this glory; she must set it forth in her public profession, and exemplify it in her conversation; and she must maintain and defend it against all attempts to tarnish or corrupt it. Less than this, would not be showing forth his praise in a voluntary, active and zealous manner, which is here intended. But this embraces all the duties of a Witness. Paul, directed by the holy Spirit, calls the church" the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Tim. iii. 15. The language is figurative, and is borrowed from the custom of putting up proclamations and edicts upon pillars, that all concerned might read them; and by this the apostle teaches the church, that God has raised her up for the express purpose of exhibiting his truth to the world, in the most public, distinct and formal manner: and that her laws, ordinances, worship and doctrine, have this end to serve.
3. The church is bound by the moral law, to bear witnesss for God. The law says, “ Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour;” much less, against “the Lord thy God.” The forbidding of this sin implies the opposite duty, viz: Thou shalt bear true witness for thy neighbour; and therefore, much more, for the Lord thy God. This precept requires us, to preserve and promote truth-to appear and stand for it—and from the heart, sincerely, firmly, clearly and fully, to speak the truth and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all things whatsoever. If, in this manner, we are bound to witness in the ness to the truth. It is also addressed to the individual professor, and binds him to this duty equally in all places, relations, and stations; and condemns most pointedly, as a breach of this precept, the conduct of many, who, upon changing their place of abode, or entering into a new relation in life, or some new avocation, make such an alteration in their public profession of God's truth as makes it convenient to their circumstances.
4. The duty of the church in all ages has been laid down in such a form, that, while it expresses her obedience to God, it also explicitly testifies against the Serpent and his seed. As early as the days of Enoch, public testimonies were given against the ungodly deeds and hard speeches of the wicked; (Jude 14, 15.) and this was done in the performance of official duty. In building the Ark, Noah not only manifested his faith in God and obedience to him, but also condemned the world. (Heb. xi. 7.) Abraham's departure from his country and kindred and sojourning in a strange land, with Isaac and Jacob, was a public and explicit renunciation of the prevailing idolatry and sinful courses of their time, as it was an open avowal of the true God and of obedience to him. That Abraham had such an understanding as this, in what he did, may be gathered, not obscurely, from what he said to Abimelech. “Because I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place,” (Gen. xx. 11.) that is, he thought every place was full of idolatry, and that all had apostatized from the true religion. Most of the ceremonial services, while they shadowed forth good things to come, were efficiently a testimony against idolatrous nations arounıl. Moses refuses to agree to Pharaoh's proposal that the Israelites should sacrifice to the Lord in Egypt, bocause they would sacrifice the abominations of the Egyptians, viz: the very species of animal which they worshipped as a God. When they entered the tabernacle they did so with their faces towards the west and their backs towards the east; this was a plain testimony against all those worshippers of idols who turned their faces towards the east, and plainly intimated, that the whole worship of Jehovah in that holy place was in opposition to theirs. Though the seventh commandment might have been considered as a sufficient reason for prohibiting all the unlawful marriages and lusts mentioned in (Lev. xviii.) yet another is added, to which also they were to have respect in obeying this precept, viz: “For all these abominations have the men of the land done which were before you.” Again: “Ye shall not walk in the manners of the nations which I cast out before you; for they committed all these things, therefore I abhorred tbem." Lev. xx. 23. And there was nothing which they were so carefully to guard against, as learning the manners of the nations. God made a broad line of distinction between them, by observing which they were continually witnessing against their neighbours: and therefore did these neighbours heartily detest and hate them, as they against whom a pointed testimony is given, have always done and will continue to do. For“ Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.” The same thing may be pointed out in the New Testament. When Christ had cleansed the leper he enjoined him to go and show himself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded; but this was not enough, he must do this “for a testimony unto them.” Matth. viii. 4. The Christian's duty is to put on the whole armour of God, and fight, wrestle, strive together, and contend earnestly, for the faith of the gospel. This is much more than to give testimony to it. Many would give their testimony, when they would not be willing to fight for truth. And this consideration may satisfy any one, that bearing testimony to the faith of the gospel, is certainly included, though not expressed, in these passages.
5. Christ, the head of the church, is a Witness, consequently she must be so. The Father by the prophet says, “Behoid, I have given him for a Witness to the people.” Isa. lv. 4. And he himself, speaks thus: “For this cause was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth.” John xviii. 37. . And Paul, sets this before Timothy for imitation, when he gives him charge-"before Christ Jesus, who, before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.” 1 Tim. vi. 13. He is styled, the “Faithful witness,” (Rev. i. 2.) “the Amen, the faithful and true witness." Rev. iii. 14. This is one of the things in which he is imitable; and surely the church, which is. his body, his bride, whom he has redeemed with his own blood, and regenerated by his own Spirit on whom he confers all the treasures of his grace, a kingdom and a crown, is bound to imitate him in every thing imitable. On what can she ground her pretensions to having the Spirit of Christ Jesus, if she have not the witnessing Spirit ?
6. All official servants of Christ, under both dispensations, are denominated witnesess. Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Barak and Jephtha, Samson, David and Samuel, and all the prophets, were witnesses for God in their day and generation. See Heb. xi. and xii. 1. Their testimony was substantially the same with that of the church now" Christ in his sufferings and the glory that should follow." "To him gave all the prophets witness." John the Baptist also “ for a witness, that he might bear witness of that light, that all men through him
might believe." John i. 7. This was the character given by Christ, to his eleven apostles, after his resurrection: “And ye are witnesses of these things.” Luke xxiv. 45. When one was to be selected to fill the place of Judas, he had to be “ordained a witness, with the rest, of Christ's resurrection.” Acts i. 22. When Paul was called to be an apostle it was also “to be his witness to all men of what things he had seen and heard.” Acts xxii. 15. And his preaching, was a “Witnessing to small and great, saying none other things than those which Moses and the prophets did say should come.” Acts xxvi. 22. All the faithful ministers of the gospel which have lived, or are yet to live, during the thousand two hundred and sixty days of Anti-Christ, are called, “My two witnesses.” Rev. xi. 3. Accordingly the gospel they preach, which shall be preached in all the world, is denominated "a witness to all nations.” Matth. xxiv. 14. Hence it follows, that if any man faithfully do the duties of a gospel minister, he must be bearing witness.
Finally. The church collectively, is expressly so called. are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.” Isa. xliii. 12.xlviii. 8. This was not a character belonging to that generation alone; nor was it given to them because they were the seed of Jacob according to the flesh, but because they were the church of God. The reasons assigned for it are such as will hold good while there is a church upon earth. They are contained in the words following: “and my servant whom I have chosen, that
ye may know and believe and understand that I am he.” In the xiith chapter of the Hebrews, it is private believers and public officers, men and women of different ages and generations, that are called “so great a cloud of witnesses.” In the Revelation, ministers and private Christians, though only in the with chapter expressly called witnesses, yet in sundry places they are plainly spoken of as acting in that character. Our Lord Jesus says to the church of Pergamos“And thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, [witnesș,] who was slain among you.” Rev. ii. 13. Is not this commending them for pursuing the same course with Antipas? and that was, witnessing faithfully to the truth at all haz