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Father; that they also may be one in both, and be made perfect in one*."
The saints have "fellowship with Christ in his sufferings; for unto them it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake'.' They have communion with him as their elder brother, partaking of the same nature as themselves"; as members of his body, nourished and preserved by his constant care. Thus "God hath called us unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord"."
5. The Saints have communion with the Holy Ghost. He is the author of that new birth unto righteousness, of which they have been made the subjects. He has wrought in their souls, faith and hope and joy, and every one of those graces which distinguish them from the rest of mankind. They are sanctified by his operations; and thus become saints; and, through his holyguidance and influence, they endure unto the end, and "make their calling and election sure." St. Paul prayed devoutly for the Corinthians; and thus teaches us also to pray for ourselves, that "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, might be with them allo."
Besides, the fellowship which Christians maintain with God and Christ is through the Holy Spirit. He is given to them, as "the Spirit of adoption;" and by him they become joint-heirs with Christ: "and because they are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father:" so that they are no more servants, but sons; and if sons, then heirs of God, through Christ P.
Further; the souls of devout Christians are made the habitation of God and of his Son Jesus Christ, by the Holy Ghost, whose presence cannot be wanting where the Father and Son dwell: for "know ye not," saith Saint Paul," that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you."
6. The saints have communion also with the holy angels in heaven. The angels of God have, on various occasions, shewn that they feel a lively interest in whatever concerns the glory of God, the triumphs of Christ's kingdom, and the happiness and salvation of mankind. They foretold the birth of John, the forerunner of Christ'; they announced to the Virgin the conception of the Saviour of the world; they sang an anthem of praise at the nativity of Christ'; they conveyed the soul of Lazarus into Abraham's bosom "; they appeared unto Christ from heaven, in his agony, to strengthen him; they opened the prison doors, and brought forth the Apostles; and, "at the end of the world, they will sever the wicked from among the just, and gather together the elect of God from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other"."
The angels perform the kindest services for the Children of God: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" They commiserate the lost condition of those who have strayed from God, and sincerely rejoice at their restoration to his favour. Our Saviour assures us, that "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth"." The angels, who are the messengers of
1 Cor. iii. 16.
a Luke xv. 10.
Luke i. 13.
" ib. i. 26, 33. * ib. xxii. 43. xxiv. 31.
God, bear a near relation to mankind, and are called the angels of men. "Take heed," saith Christ, when admonishing the world not to injure his people," that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.'
7. A belief of the communion of saints should call forth the strongest expressions of gratitude to God. Surely it is meet that they who partake of so great a benefit should make a devout and cheerful acknowledgment of it. We cannot but admit that they are exceeding great and precious promises, by which we become partakers of the Divine nature." How inconceivable is the dignity which the saints attain to, in being called the sons of God! What an honour, that they should be allowed to have fellowship with God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and to receive blessings from each, expressive of the Divine love for their souls! What a privilege to have the Father and the Son dwelling within them, by the Holy Ghost!
Moreover, God hath called them to the fellowship of the angels and archangels, of cherubims and seraphims, to the glorious company of the Apostles, to the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, to the noble army of Martyrs, to the holy Church militant on earth and triumphant in heaven.
Each of the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus will break out in admiration of the Divine condescension and goodness; saying, "Who am I, O Lord God! and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto bb?" "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.
Matt. xviii. 10. ̧,
8. A belief of the communion of saints will have a tendency to promote in us a desire after holiness of life. How can we ever expect to hold communion with God, unless we are sanctified in our affections, and strive to walk unblameably before him in love? There can be no fellowship with God, without there is some likeness to him, whose nature is infinitely holy, and whose actions are just and right. "For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols d?" "If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship one with another. But if we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." Let us do nothing, then, to interrupt so happy an union with God; but endeavour to maintain and perpetuate it, by a life uniformly devoted to his glory.
9. A belief of the communion of saints is a foundation for joy. What happiness can exceed that which arises from the favour of God, which we receive when he is reconciled to us in Christ Jesus? St. John and his fellow-labourers had been blessed with the experience of God's love to them, and they wished that their brethren might share with themselves the sacred pleasures which they enjoyed :"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also also may may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."
In the same spirit, we assure all men that nothing can render them so happy as communion with God. • 1 John i. 6-8.
2 Cor. vi. 14-17.
If sinners would but forsake lying vanities, and pray for grace "to serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear," they might obtain fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, and participate the felicity of the saints, and of the household of God.
10. A belief of the communion of saints should excite in us an ardent affection for those who bear the image of Christ, and are endued with the gracious influences of the Spirit of Truth. We love those who are related to us by the ties of nature: but no relation is so strong as that which is spiritual; no union so lasting as that which is eternal. Mutual love and kindness, therefore, should constantly subsist amongst the children of God on earth, who will be associated for ever in heaven, as partakers of the same crown of glory, that fadeth not away.
Christians will respect also the memory and imitate the example of departed saints; and wait with patience, until death shall join them to the "general assembly and Church of the first-born;" with whom they will unite in saying, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever!"
11. Those who have not communion with God, and with the Church in heaven and on earth, are truly miserable. Sinners, you turn away from the society of God, and angels, and good men, to unite yourselves to the Devil, with whom you seek communion, and to whom you pay a blind obedience. You join with wicked spirits in affronting God, despising his just authority, and provoking his wrath. "Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father 'John v. 1. John xiii. 34, 35.
6 Rev. v. 12-14.