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Í JOHN i. 3.
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto
you, that ye also may have fellowship with us : and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are assembled, my brethren, under very interesting circumstances. At a distance from our respective homes, we have met together in a foreign land for the purpose of mingling our devotions before the altar of our common Father. And while I would congratulate you upon an event so likely, I trust, to prove salutary to us all; while I would mention with thankfulness the kindness of our Christian friends, who thus generously furnish us with so convenient a place for worship ; I should poorly discharge the duties of the sacred office, did I not call upon you to look with the eye of gratitude to that Being whose superintending providence directs all the concerns of this lower world, and to whom we are ultimately indebted for every good and every perfect
gift. It is his Hand that has gathered us together
a little flock. It is to Him that we owe this inestimable privilege of treading his earthly courts. It is his presence and blessing which can alone render our services acceptable in his sight. It is his Word which we expect to hear. It is his Gospel that is to sound in our ears. It is his Son that is to be offered to us as the object of our faith, and as the only Saviour of our souls. And as we improve or abuse these occasions of learning his will and our duty, we must expect to receive at last the kindest tokens of his love, or the severest marks of his displeasure. With these momentous truths in view, and feeling my own weakness and insufficiency, I venture to address you, and, as an ambassador of Jesus Christ, to solicit your serious attention to all you may hear that is conformable to the oracles of Divine Truth. And may the Source of all Truth shed down his wisdom upon our minds, and his grace upon our hearts, while we attend at this time to the portion of Scripture recorded in our text! " That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
Religion is seated in the heart--an inward, secret principle of thought and action. Thence it communicates life and activity to the whole spiritual
Its hidden workings are seen by the eye of Omoiscience alone. We can ascertain its existence, and trace its operations, only by its effects upon the
outward appearance and conduct: and there we have to observe it acting uniformly through all the various forms of human character. It occupies, with the same Divine influence, the breast of the prince and the beggar-of the wise and the ignorant-of the old and the young-of the refined and the rude-of the civilized and the savage-of the freeman and the slave. In this respect, it resembles both the principle of vitality and of intellect in man. God breathes into man the breath of life. Its impulse causes the heart to throb and the blood to flow, under all the diversities of human countenance, complexion, and structure. However great these diversities may be, man, wherever you find him, has one uniform principle of animal life. The same is true of his intellectual character : “ There is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” This immaterial and immortal principle, the gift of the Father of spirits, displays the same general characteristics, and appears to be governed by the same laws, whether you view it in the philosopher or the child in the lettered recluse or the busy man of the world. There is, in like manner, an unity, a oneness of religious principle in the hearts of all sincere Christians, of whatever age, or climate, or nation; of whatever rank or condition in life: “ For they are all born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” He is their common spiritual Father, and they all bear the impress of his moral image on their hearts. Nor
let it be said, that the various forms of church government and the different modes of external worship which pervade the Christian world, or even articles of faith, dissimilar in some particulars, are appearances difficult to be reconciled with this oneness of the Christian character. For these appearances are no more strange than that, in the animal and intellectual constitution of man, the same general principles should exist under such a variety of external forms. Man is the same, as to body and mind, amid all the diversities which these two parts of his nature present to our view. The Christian is the same, as to real holiness of heart, amid all the various outward appearances his piety may assume, while exhibiting itself in persons of different conditions or circumstances in life. Nor is the wisdom of providence more to be arraigned in the latter case than in the former. 66 He hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth ;" and yet he hath so ordered events, that the diversities of the human countenance, and structure, and mind, are infinite. < Christians have been all made to drink into one spirit;" yet “unto every one is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ :'' and hence the external varieties which are discernible among the members of the Christian church. In both dispensations, God, no doubt, has wise purposes to answer, which may, perhaps, hereafter be disclosed to us. Without being too curious, therefore, to inquire into the reason why He permits so much apparent difference to exist among Christians,
let us look, my brethren, at a brighter view of our subject. Let us “endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," while we consider, first, What abundant proof there is that all the true followers of Jesus have fellowship with one another, and with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ : and, secondly, In what this fellowship consists.
1. There is abundant proof that all the true followers of Jesus have fellowship with one another, and with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are full of testimony on this point. They use the boldest metaphors, when speaking of the relation which subsists between Christians and their Divine Master. He is the Vine, and they are the branches. He is the Corner-stone, and they are the superstructure. He is the Bread which is pecessary to support their spiritual life. He is the Head, and they are the members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones, and members also one of another. They are all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one spirit. In our Saviour's prayer for his disciples, on the night preceding his crucifixion, he uttered these memorable words : " Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word : that they all may be one ; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent
And the glory which thou gavest me I have