I'm reading through A Discourse Concerning Love by Nathaniel Vincent. This book (ISBN 1-57358-079-1) was originally printed in 1684 and reprinted in 1998 by Soli Deo Gloria Publications. In this work, Mr. Vincent expounds Ephesians 4:16 "Maketh increase of the body, unto th edifying of itself in love."
Mr. Vincent argues that "a deadly damp has seized on love" and that the "Church's pulse beats in disorderly fashion" because "love is the cause of her [the Church's] increase and edification," (p. 1). The author shows that the Church edifies itself in love in four propositions (pp. 2-3):
- "The Church of Christ is compared to a body."
- "This body of Christ is imperfect in this world, and therefore should be continually increasing."
- "The body of Christ should diligently endeavor to edify itself."
- "The more love abounds among the members of the church, the more the whole body will be edified."
In Chapter 1, the author explains his first proposition by showing the great resemblance between the Church of Christ and a body:
- "The life of the body depends upon its conjunction with the head. Christ is the Church's life, and the Church could no more live without Christ than a body could remain alive after the head was severed from it," (p. 5).
- "The head has a mighty influence upon the body. There is a powerful influence from Christ upon His Church; and what good it does is done by virtue of this influence," (p. 5).
- "The body has many members, and these members have different offices. The Church likewise has various members, and their different stations, relations, and callings diversify their work and duties," (p. 6).
- "The body is fitly joined; and thus fitly joined is the Church of Christ," (pp. 6-7).
- "The body is compact together, and so is the Church of Christ," (p. 7).
- "God has set the members in the body as it pleased Him; the different gifts and graces which are in the Church of Christ, and the members of it, are according to God's will and pleasure," (p. 8).
- "In the body, nourishment is conveyed upon the part, and the whole is hereby sustained...The Church of Christ has food to eat which the world knows not of. It has a spiritual sense, a spiritual appetite, and its food is spiritual," (p. 9).
- "In the body, the members and parts are operative and active for the good of the whole. In the church there is is an energeia, an effectual working in the measure of every part, that the whole may be increased," (p. 10).
- "The whole body, as well as all its members, is animated by one soul; and the Church, with all its true members, is animated by one and the same Spirit," (p. 10).
- "The body is under the soul's conduct and command; the Church is conducted and ruled by the Spirit of Christ," (p. 11).
Next, Mr. Vincent shows what kind of body the Church of Christ is:
- "The church [sic] is a body of men," (p. 12).
- "The Church is a body governed by the best laws [for the] Lord Himself is their lawgiver; and He is holy and just," (p. 13).
- "The Church is the wisest body and society in the world," (p. 14).
- "The Church is a body of great beauty and excellency," (p. 15).
- "The Church is a body of great strength; for this body is strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might," (p. 16).
- "The Church is a body to whom the whole is beholden," (p. 17).
- "The Church is a body that will at length, by many degrees, be made more glorious than 'tis at present," (p. 17).
Under this first proposition, Mr. Vincent notes three uses for application:
- "Let the Church, and all the members of it, consider their relation unto Christ their Head, and do that duty which such a relation calls for," (p. 18). "The members of Christ should (1) love Him in great sincerity, (2) endeavor to promote His honor and glory, (3) obey all His commands, (4) live by faith upon Him, and (5) do nothing unbecoming His members," (pp. 19-21).
- "Let the members of this body, the Church, consider the relation they have one to another," (p. 21).
- "Let the world take heed how they deal with the Church, which is the body of Christ," (p. 26).
Under the second use for application, the author entreats the members of the Church to follow these counsels:
- "Let not higher members despise the lower," (p. 22).
- "Let not the lower members of the Church be discontent," (p. 22).
- "Let the members of the Church be sensible of the need in which stand, one of another...God has ordered it so in His Church that, as the members are to have their main and principal dependence upon Christ their Head, so they are to have some kind of dependence upon one another," (p. 23).
- "Let the members of the Church 'have the same care one for another that they have for themselves' (1 Cor. 12:25)," (p. 24).
- "Let the members of the Church sympathize with suffering members," (p. 24).
- "Let the members of the Church be concerned about fellow members who are sinfully distempered," (p. 24).
- "If one member of the Church is honored, all the members should rejoice with it," (p. 25).
- "Let there be no discord among the members of the Church, but they should perfectly agree together," (p. 25).
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ," (1 Cor. 12:12).