[The lease of the chapel occupied by Mr. Wilks and his friends in Norwich being nearly expired, they have obtained a very convenient spot of ground in a central part of the city, on which to erect a new place. On the 14th of September last, the first stone of the new chapel was laid, and Mr. Fuller, of Kettering, delivered the following address to a large number of people assembled on the occasion.]
HAVING been requested to say a few words on this occasion, I wish, my friends, to direct your attention not so much to the place about to be erected, as to the use to which I trust, it will be appropriated. Under the gospel it is not place, but the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth that is of account.
To fix your attention on this subjeci let us read, a passage from 1 Peter ii. 4, 5, "To whom coming as unto a living stone. disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
Much of the religion of the Old Testament consisted in the building and worship of the temple; when therefore the New Testament was introduced it was usual to speak of its religion under this imagery. Thus the passage which I have read alludes partly to the building, and partly to the worship of the temple. As the stones were laid on their foundation, so believing in Jesus we "come to him as unto a living stone," and are "built up a spiritual house," and as the priests offered up their sacrifices, so believers are "an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." There were, however, great disparities between the Old and New Testament temple; the stones there being mere unconscious matter, were brought; here, being conscious and voluntary agents, they "come;" the foundation there was also mere matter, but here it is "a living stone;" that was literally a house, this "a spiritual house;" priesthood was there distinguished by descent, here by character; their sacrifices were taken from the herd or the flock, ours from the heart, the offering of prayer and praise, presented in the name of Jesus Christ.
But laying aside the imagery, we may consider the whole as furnishing a description of individual and social religion. Social religion begins with individual, and individual with "coming " to Jesus Christ.
The scriptures make much of coming to Christ, However correct we may be in our deportment, and devout at the stated reasons of worship, if Christ be disallowed, all is nothing. Election itself no otherwise secures our salvation than as it secures our coming to Christ for it. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." The atonement of Christ does not avail us but as coming to him. It was thus in the atonements under the law: in some cases sins were confessed by the party on the head of the animal, in others by the priest on his behalf, but in no case could they derive benefit but as "comers thereunto."
The first operations of true religion in the mind work in this wav. Christ may not be the first object to which a sinner's thoughts are turned; this may be his sin and exposedness to the wrath of God: but let our thoughts of sin and misery be as
pungent as they may, if they lead us not to Christ for salvation there is no true religion in them. He is "the way" to God; "no man cometh unto the Father but by him." We may be burdened under guilt and fear, but till we come to him with our burden, there will be no gospel rest for our souls. The promise is not made to us as burdened, but as coming to Christ with our burdens.
Nor is it confined to the time of our first believing; the christian life consists in coming to Jesus. "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh, is by faith on the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." That which food is to the body, the doctrine of Christ crucified is to the mind: "Except we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us."
Our estimation of other objects is often governed by public opinion, but we most appreciate Christ not by what men think of him, but by what he is in the account of God. He may be "disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious;" and if we are of God we shall be of God's mind; he that is precious to God will be so to us. May there be many characters of this description, my friends, amongst you! You will then have materials for the building up of the spiritual temple, and for the offering up of spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
This leads us to add a few remarks on social religion, under the same idea of a temple; particularly, on the materials with which it must be built - the important character it sustains - the employment of its priesthood - and the medium through which all their sacrifices must be accepted.
The proper materials for the christian temple are "lively stones;" else they will not fit a living foundation, nor unite with other living stones in the building. Beware that the desire of being a large and opulent people may never induce you to overlook this. If it ever come to this that your members are admitted on any principle short of faith in a living Redeemer, Ichabod will be written upon your doors!
The important character you sustain is that of a TEMPLE FOR GOD TO DWELL IN. If the word of truth be preached amongst you, the worship of God preserved in its purity, and the ordinances of Christ observed according to their primitive simplicity, God will dwell in you, and walk in you, and be your God, and you shall be his people. God in his word makes great
account of christian churches, as being the appointed means of establishing his kingdom among men. With what complacency did he speak of ancient Zion. "This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell for I have desired it." - "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." What a high degree of interest is Christ described as taking in the concerns of the seven churches in Asia. The same idea is conveyed by the judgements [sic] denounced against those who have corrupted or persecuted them. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." It was this that opened the gates and broke down the walls of old Babylon, and it is on account of this that that another Babylon, the anti-christian church, shall come down even to the ground. "They have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink, for they are worthy!"
As to your employment as a holy priesthood, this is to offer up "spiritual sacrifices." We have heard much of 'the christian, priesthood' as applied to ministers; but Christianity knows of no priesthood but what is common to christians. It knows of pastors, bishops, elders; but it is a misnomer to call them priests. It is for you all as christians to offer up prayer and praise, both for yourselves and others; and may you continue on this spot to offer them!
Finally, Be not forgetful of the medium by which all your offerings become acceptable - "Jesus Christ." We must not carry our offerings in our hand, like Cain, presuming to be accepted on account of them. The order of the divine proceedings is the reverse of this. The Lord had respect not to the offering of Abel, and so to him, but to Abel and so to his offering. The good works of sinful creatures, even those which are most "spiritual" are no otherwise acceptable to God than by Jesus Christ. The case of Job and his three friends serves to illustrate this principle. The Lord was so displeased with them that he refused to accept even a petition at their hands. "My wrath, saith he, is kindled against you - take your offerings, and go to my servant Job - he shall pray for you - him will I accept - lest I deal with you after your folly!" Such is our case, and such the intercession of our Redeemer. Him God accepts, and through him our prayers and praises become acceptable to God.
[From The Baptist Magazine, 1813, pp. 150-153. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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