The Character of Christ's Church
James Smith, 1860
There is a good — a glorious time coming. The Lord shall be King over all the earth. Jesus will be personally present with his people. The curse will be completely rolled away from the world, and the effects of that curse will cease. Creation will be in harmony and be happy. The Church will be like Christ, as well as with Christ. Then shall be fulfilled the Lord's precious promise, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Isaiah 11:9. This promise must be made good, and a glorious time it will be when it is. But the former part of the verse represents what a Church of Christ should be now, and how a Church of Christ should appear at present. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain."
God's Church is represented by a MOUNTAIN.
A mountain is composed of common earth — for there is no difference between the Lord's people and others by nature. All are alike corrupt, depraved, and sinful.
A mountain is created by divine power. The hand that scooped out the ocean, leveled the plains, and spread out the valleys — piled up the mountains. It is the power of God, working with the Word, that makes the Christian. And a company of such Christians, bound and banded together constitute a Church.
A mountain is clothed with verdure and rendered visible. So the Church is clothed with holiness, and appears as Christ made visible. All the graces of the Holy Spirit deck and adorn the Lord's people, and they are manifestly declared to be the sons of God, the people of the Lord.
A mountain invites the traveler to ascend, inhale the breeze, and enjoy the prospect. So the true Church invites us to come, and with her receive the sweet and delightful influences of the Spirit, to see the king in his beauty, and catch a glimpse of the heavenly glory.
It s a holy mountain. Separated from the world,
set apart for God, and consecrated to his praise and glory. Its author
is holy, for it is the Church of God.
Chosen by the Father,
redeemed by the Son, and
sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Its source is holy, for it flows from the free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace of God. The purpose, the plan, and the production of the Church was entirely of grace.
The instrument by which it is produced, is holy. For the Word of God is the instrument which the Holy Spirit employs in the regeneration, sanctification, and edification of the Church of God.
The design of it is holy.
It is God's residence.
It is the Savior's spouse.
It is the Spirit's temple.
It is intended to exhibit the excellency of the divine character, purposes, and plans.
In every view of it, the Church of God is holy, not
perfectly at present — but is preparing to be so ultimately.
The prediction is, "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain."
The opposite is implied — that LOVE shall reign. The Lord's people are principally remarkable for their love. They are taught of God to love one another; and let a man have what he may, if he has not love — he is not a genuine Christian.
LIBERTY shall triumph. The Church of Christ is the home of liberty. There should be liberty to think, to act, and in some things to differ. The Church was to be characterized by unity — but not by uniformity. It is a mountain, not a dead level.
TENDERNESS shall be displayed. They shall not hurt with tongue, pen, or sword; in mind, body, or estate. They shall not destroy — life shall be held sacred, and therefore be safe.
The Church of Christ should be a loving family — a circle of friends — a company of equals. Distinctions there must be, as in every family; but a degree of equality there should be, as in every well-regulated family. No Church is perfectly what it ought to be, or perfectly what God requires it to be — except it can be said of it and its members, that they neither hurt nor destroy in all that holy mountain.
Compare this with POPERY. Who can say that they never hurt nor destroy in that Church. Compare this with many religious establishments, which fine, imprison, and put its members to death. As soon as ever a Church becomes a persecuting body — it loses its right to be called a Church of Christ.
See the dignity, the duty, and the destiny of the Church of God, like some lofty mountain it is to stand out in bold relief from the world! Like a mountain whose sides are clothed with green and pleasant verdure, it is to be lovely and attractive to the traveler's eye. And like a mountain inhabited by some loving family — all the members of the Church are to be full of love, sympathy, and kindness.
Let every professed Christian seek to be like his Lord, who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Church discipline should be attended to — but only in order to the purity, peace, and prosperity of the body. We are not to allow sin in a brother — nor to walk in fellowship, or join in company with wicked people. As we are not of the world — we are to be distinct from the world. As redeemed from among men — we are to be unlike men, that is, superior to men.
Let not the sinner then be prejudiced against religion by anything he sees in professors, or in Churches; the only standard of true religion is the Bible; the only model is the Lord Jesus; and only as we answer to the descriptions of God's Word, and walk as Jesus walked — are we entitled to be considered his disciples, or looked upon as his Church.
Lord, in your mercy, so pour out your holy, loving, gentle Spirit upon us, that it may be literally true, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain."