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 2, Mr. Vincent explains his second proposition that the body of Christ is imperfect in this world:
- "The number of the Church's members is not yet completed," (p. 27).
- "Those members who actually are of the Church are imperfect, the very best of them, as long as they remain in this world," (p. 29).
First, the author shows how the church should be continually increasing:
- "Prayer should be constant and very fervent for this increase," (p. 32).
- "The promises of the Church's increase are to be believed and pleaded," (p. 32).
- "The Church is to be increased by the powerful preaching of the gospel," (p. 33).
- "The avoiding of scandal does much for the Church's increase," (p. 34).
- "The Church is mightily increased by the exemplary conduct of her members," (p. 34).
Second, Mr. Vincent shows that as the Church increases in numbers, all the members should increase more in grace and goodness. He notes that grace is increased in the Church members several ways:
- "It is increased by a serious and frequent engaging in those ordinances which He has instituted," (p. 35).
- "Grace is increased by the improving of providence," (p. 35).
- "The covenant of grace is to be studied, and the promises applied, in order for a Christian to increase," (p. 36).
- "Grace is increased by having recourse unto that fullness which dwells in Christ," (p. 36).
- "All impediments of increase must be carefully shunned, such as pride, sloth, earthliness, or carnal and corrupt affections," (p. 37).
Then, he gives several reasons why the Church should be continually increasing:
- "This increase is for the Father's glory," (p. 37).
- "This increase of the Church is for the honor of Christ, the Church's Head," (p. 38).
- "In this increase of the Church, the operation of the Spirit is very illustrious," (p. 38).
- "This increase is for the Church's advantage; therefore it should be pursued," (p. 39).
- "The world benefits by the Church's increase," (p. 39).
- "The angels themselves are concerned with the increase of the Church," (p. 39).
Finally, Mr. Vincent gives three uses for application:
- "of reproof to whose who hinder the Church's increase," (p. 40).
- "of encouragement unto the Church of Christ notwithstanding her imperfection," (p. 42).
- "of advice to the Church of Christ, and all her true members," (p. 44).
"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).