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THE EDITORS OF "THE CHURCH" have now the pleasure of placing in the hands of its supporters, the first volume of their unpretending publication. In doing so, it becomes them to express their sincere gratitude to many friends who have actively encouraged its circulation; to those lay-brethren, especially, who have circulated considerable numbers as a Monthly Tract, and to those ministers who have frequently recommended it from the pulpit to the attention of their congregations. Where the latter course has been adopted, they have found the circulation much larger than elsewhere. It was the chief means by which Dr. Campbell obtained for the "Christian Witness" a birth-day circulation of upwards of thirty thousand copies.
THE PRINCIPAL OBJECT of "The Church" will now be fully understood by its readers, and, we trust, fully appreciated. The constitution and the duties of Christian churches in contrast with Antichristian churches, or even with churches partially Apostolic in their organization, have been more or less illustrated, and that too, it is hoped, in a style adapted to all capacities. Although State Church pulpits weekly resound with laudations of bishops, tithes, and prayer-books, and invectives against Dissent, Dissenting pulpits rarely discuss Ecclesiastical matters; not that such topics, treated in a proper spirit, are deemed unfit for Lord's-day instruction, but because Dissenting ministers "covet earnestly the best gifts," and prefer "excelling to the edifying of their churches." Hence too many, especially of our younger members, are illinformed on the all-important question of the present day, "What is the Church ?"
BAPTISTS, in the opinion of the Editors, are the persons best qualified to answer this question. They are the only Christians who, in the judgment of one who was not of their number (Sir Isaac Newton), borrow nothing from that great corruptor of Christ's church, "the Man of Sin." They alone compel none to undergo the Christian initiatory rite, and are free from the responsibility of having filled Christendom with millions of nominal Christians, baptized without evidence of conversion. On this point they have an incalculable advantage, in the Lord's great controversy of the present day, over their beloved Pædobaptizing brethren. They are free even from suspicion of touching the unclean thing, TRADITION. The Roman Catholic himself has never charged them, as he always does Protestant Padobaptists, with borrowing without acknowledgment. With the kindest feeling, therefore, towards all congregational churches, and towards all individuals who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, an effort has thus far been made to aid in the dissemmination of apostolic church principles. Articles may be found in most Numbers worthy, it is hoped, of the attention of older members, while the endeavour has been to make the subject interesting, or at least instructive, to the young men and women in our churches.
SECONDARY objects have been, to insert brief accounts of some of the earlier "Worthies" of our denomination, men whose faith modern Baptists should follow, considering the end of their conversation;-articles on points of Christian conduct which are not often dwelt upon in the pulpit;-together with such information as might be received from any of the churches in the Association.
ANOTHER YEAR, at the urgent request of many subscribers, the size, and of necessity, the price, will be doubled. As the request has been so general, the Editors hope that a considerably increased circulation will be the result. The additional trouble, like their past endeavours, will be "purely a labour of love."
It will give them, indeed, great pleasure if they are enabled, at the close of another year, to devote a handsome amount of profit to some object connected with the welfare of the churches of the Association. The expenses always incident to starting a new periodical, together with the quantity of letter-press given (larger than that of any provincial penny publication), has not enabled them to make any such appropriation this year.
THE YORKSHIRE ITINERANT SOCIETY will, in future, be a prominent subject in "The Church." Mr. Burton, its secretary, will regularly fill a page or two with accounts of its proceedings, and with matter suitable for our Monthly Prayer-meetings for the spread of the Gospel. The Editors trust that this will be a very interesting subject to most of their readers.
IN CONCLUSION, the Editors will feel amply repaid for their humble efforts, if they have aided any of the Lord's people, even the youngest and most uneducated amongst them, to attain clearer views of the nature of his church, to feel more deeply the value of apostolic church principles, in a word, to abhor more piously all that savours of Antichrist, and to love more fervently that church which is "BUILT UPON THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS, JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF BEING THE CHIEF CORNER-STONE."
"Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ
The object of this Periodical will be-1. To diffuse those blessed Truths which pertain unto life and godliness.-2. To exhibit the nature of that Church which constitutes the kingdom of the Son of God. 3. To direct the attention of Christians to public duties and public events.-4. To maintain Scriptural Views of the Ordinances of the Gospel.-5. To furnish Biographical Notices of eminent Christians. 6. To supply early Missionary intelligence.-7. And to collect such other information relating to Public Religious Services, Sunday Schools, Deaths and Marriages amongst Members of Churches, as may be deemed interesting.
[PRICE ONE PENNY.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INQUIRY-WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
We live in a day, in which much is said, by all classes of persons, about "the Church;" and well would it be, if all, who are in the habit of speaking about it, would determine, by a prayerful study of the word of God to know what it is. Especially, dear Christian reader, would we urge this pleasing and profitable duty
If we turn to the Gospel of the everblessed God, we find, that the Church has been the subject of his eternal thought, and that it is the object upon which he lavishes the over-flowings of an everlasting love. It is his house, his heritage, and his rest; his portion and his crown; his peculiar treasure and delight; the chosen, betrothed, and wedded object of his love "the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood." Yes; "Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water by the word;" and he is "Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of Him, that filleth all in all."
How important then, that the followers of the Lamb should know what that Church is, which is so precious in his sight!
Again, it is a matter of highest concern that we should know much of God; but this will be impossible, without a scriptural acquaintance with that Church, which is the brightest reflection of his glory, the chief depository of his truth, and the sublimest monument of his power and love. "The heavens declare the glory of God;" "the earth is full of his riches," and "all his works praise him, in all places of his dominions." But it is not to nature, nor to reason-much less to our own fancies and imaginations-that we must turn for that knowledge of "the only true God, which is life eternal." No; it is in Judah that God is known! that his name is great! It is in the history of the Church, that his titles, laws, and attributes, his mighty kingdom, and his purposes of eternal mercy are displayed! This, dear reader, is the book that angels study! Here are the mysteries, which they desire to look into; that furnish the materials of their noblest songs; for now, "unto the principalities and powers, in heavenly places, through the Church, is made known the manifold wisdom of God!"
It is in Israel
The Church too, is the appointed means through which all divine truth is directly communicated; and for this purpose is
furnished with a holy apparatus of offices, ordinances, and means, which infinite wisdom has contrived, and the Eternal Spirit has promised to uphold and bless. Thus endued and sustained, the Church is "the pillar and ground of the truth." Her children are "the lights of the world," "the salt of the earth," "the epistles of Christ," and the faithful, though persecuted "witnesses" of God.
And what shall we more say? Angels are her "ministering spirits," Jehovah is her God, and heaven is her home! To be a genuine member of the Church, is to belong to "the general assembly of the first-born whose names are written in Heaven;" to escape the bondage of sin and death; to be a child and an heir of God. It is, to have an interest in that kingdom, before which all other kingdoms must fall, and that is destined to fill the whole earth with righteousness and peace. It is, to have fellowship with "the innumerable company of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect," and to dwell among them for ever as a "king and a priest unto God." It is, to be a member of that community, for which the world was created and is still sustained; and which, when "heaven and earth shall pass away," the Lord of men and angels will "present unto himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing."
How infinitely important then, dear reader, that we should know what is meant in scripture by the Church of which such "glorious things are spoken," and learn to distinguish it from those false systems, which the word of God warns us, though all the world should wander after them, to shun, "lest we be partakers of their sins and receive of their plagues." "Sought out" is one of the names of that heavenly city, to which, if happy, we must belong. Let us then, "inquire the way to Zion, with our faces thitherward."
"There would I find a settled rest,
WHO ARE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.
As it is intended, in this Magazine, to make "the Church," in every important view of it, a principal subject of attention, it seems reasonable to state distinctly who are its members. The Greek word in the New Testament translated "church," is well known to mean assembly. "The church of God" or of "Christ" means, therefore, "the assembly of God" or of "Christ." The same word is employed by Luke for any assembly. He uses it, for instance, both where we read of the rioters Acts xix. 32, "the assembly was confused," and in Acts xx. 28, exhorting the elders to "feed the church (assembly) of God," &c. The distinction, between a Christian assembly and another, is made in the New Testament, when needful, by adding "of God," &c. As all parties allow, that Christ considers those only as members of his church, whom he will acknowledge at the last Judgment and save eternally, the practical question narrows itself to this, "Whom may we, we who cannot search the heart, recognise as fellowmembers of Christ?" The answer seems too evident for a child in christian knowledge to mistake,-Those are members of Christ who give CREDIBLE, i. e. scriptural evidence of being in him. All the persons who joined the Churches in the Acts of the Apostles,-all to whom the Epistles were written, are spoken of as "believers," as "in Christ," "saints," "new creatures," &c.—while the railer, covetous, fornicator, drunkard, extortioner, disorderly person, and the maintainers of fundamentally erroneous doctrine, are required to be excluded.
Hence we learn-1st. What manner of persons we must be, in all holy conversation and godliness, to be members of Christ's church. All the "glorious things" spoken of it are ours, not merely if a Christian church has admitted us into its number, but if it has not erred in so doing, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, if our faith worketh by love, if we have the "spirit of Christ."
2nd. We learn that there can be no such