« ElőzőTovább »
path of patient, intense, and never-intermitted application. Wealth is accumulated by similar processes of vigilance, care, and daily toil. In social and political life, progress is the eward of conflicts of opinion, maintained with the ardor of a mission from heaven. Liberty, that priceless boon of God to man, which priests and princes have imagined they might dole out in limited quantities or withhold altogether, is ours, because the heroes of many generations have hewed their way to it through serried ranks, and over the bodies of myriads who have fallen in the contests. The same wise decree which has made our bread the reward of sweating toil, has fixed the path to great and noble ends through difficulties at which timid spirits shrink and start back. The decree is illustrated by the history of the world, and is as irrepealable as any other ordinance of heaven.
But in how many breasts (alas ! too often as an excuse for indolence or worldliness), the thought arises, that while all this is true as relating to worldly enterprises and ends, it has no application within the realm of religion. That most sacred doctrine of the Divine Sovereignty, is imagined to be best honored by a heartless and inefficient church! Heaven pardon the weakness and the folly! The divine sovereignty is best honored by obedience; and the obedience which is required at our hands, is the obedience of an energetic and undivided heart. If you survey the history of the church of Christ, you find that in all ages its progress has been in proportion to its earnestness. Who ever witnessed the Holy Spirit's descent upon the impenitent, and their conversion to Christ, when Zion was sleeping and inert; -when no warnings came from her towers, and no prayers ascended from her scattered homes? You have seen revivals under earnest preaching, earnest praying, earnest exhorting, but never under other conditions. The ministers of religion, to whom, in these late days, God has given the honor of distinguished usefulness in saving the souls of men, have been earnest heralds of the cross-Payson, Davies, Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley. They seized and held the minds and hearts of their auditors, by the irresistible power of earnest remonstrance and persuasion. Ascend from these men to the Reformers, and you find them men of kindred energy. Luther, with the blessing of God, shook the world-Luther first shook himself. Luther felt himself charged with a mission, a mission of transcendent moment and he brought to the service of Christ the highest earnestness of his nature. And this prince of Reformers but copied Paul and other spirits of apostolic days. Why, when Jew and Roman sought to quench the fires of the new religion, by the crucifixion of the Lord of glory, and the threatenings of priestly and civil vengeance on his followers, did not that religion expire, and its traces cease from the world? Because the Head of the church had committed the mission of its propagation to earnest men, who counted not their lives dear, if they might be found in Christ, surrounded by those whom they had led to his feet. The power of the apostolic church, so far as means were concerned (and of these only we now speak), was in its earnestness. Every member within its pale regarded himself as a witness for Christ, and as bound to bear such part as his talents and opportunities might allow, in the glorious work of the world's regeneration. If scattered abroad by persecution, the blow that dispersed them, so far from disheartening them or weakening their influence, served rather to awaken their energies afresh, and everywhere they preached the word. How soon, despite the rage of kings, and the vain imaginings of the people, the earnest labors of the church, crowned with the blessing of God, brought the Roman empire, in outward form at least, to the feet of the crucified Nazarene.--My brethren, the constitution of human nature teaches nothing; the experience of men, in the pursuits of the world, has no lessons for the children of light; the history of the church, modern and apostolic, is a mystery; or it is earnestness in the use of appointed means, and that only, which, under God, is required to secure the rapid regeneration of the world.
" What is wanted,” says John Angell James, in a late work on this subject, which I commend to your notice—“What is wanted, and all that is wanted, under God's blessing, for the world's conversion to Christ, is—an earnest ministry, and an earnest church." We need hearts fired with the impulse, and obeying the impulse of the prophet, when he uttered the text, “For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof, as a lamp that burneth."
We pass then, to the concluding portion of these remarks, which will be devoted to some considerations relating to the means by which we may be aroused to that high earnestness which properly belongs to the Christian profession.
1. And I remark, first, that antecedent to any real improvement, we must be duly impressed with both the fact and the guilt of our present apathy. We must retire within ourselves, and putting our consciousness in the light of the Divine law, and of the examples of our Lord and his apostles, ask in all honesty our personal share in the inefficiency which marks the present state of things in the church, and with the purpose of owning the worst. And how is it? Which love we most, God or Mammon? Which most engrosses our hearts, the spiritual beauty of Zion, or the pleasures and fashions of the world? What engrosses the intense earnestness of our lives? We are earnest enough, but for what? Brethren,-men of business, toiling early and late, and eating the bread of carefulness, for what do you toil? Is it for the glory of your Redeemer, the triumphs of truth and peace on earth, and the
salvation of a race treading on each other's steps in crowds to the death that never dies ?-or is it that you may use your accumulations for the displays and luxuries of life, and for the advancement of yourselves and families in worldly rank? We see no such earnestness for the advancement of religion, as we see for worldly success,-no such intensity in prayer as in enterprises of business, -no such zeal to save a soul as would indicate that soul to be worth more than all the treasures of the world. We cannot abide the scrutiny of a truthful examination. It is written, that when the great apostle stood on the confines of life, looking back on the period of his service, and forward to the reckoning of the great day, he could say with a peaceful and approving heart, “I hare finished my course,”—accomplished my mission, done that which God gave me to do,—and now with the fruit of my toil, gathered and to be gathered, I go confidingly to my rest; “ henceforth there is a crown laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day.” But is there one of us that anticipates the privilege of uttering a dying testimonial like this? And yet such is the service which we owe to Christ. This is the zeal which should be the mark and the honor of the church. By how much we fall short of this measure, by so much are we guilty, and by so much may a perishing world confront and rebuke us in the judgment day. And we must see our delinquencies before we shall arouse from our apathy. The whole church must become conscious of her supineness, and the guilt of it, before she will start into her primitive earnestness, and find her primitive strength. We have backslidden, and the path of return to God lies through the valley of repentance. Oh, that God would open our eyes, and teach us how deeply we have sinned, while giving to ourselves and to worldly ends, the energies of a life which belongs to Him, and to the regeneration of the race which His Son came to redeem!
2. In the second place, in order to the earnestness which properly characterizes the disciples of Christ, it is indispensable that we have a due sense of the mission to which we are called. No man becomes aroused to the highest earnestness of his nature who does not see and comprehend his work. It is the inspiration of high purposes which sets the soul on fire, and strengthens the arm for mighty deeds. And what has our Master given us to do? Behold, the field is the world. Over its broad surface are multitudes which no man can number, each individual of whom has a soul, a soul stained by sin, under the condemnation of God's law, doomed and waiting execution, yet capable of being saved through the merits of an infinite redemption; and our mission is to spread through the world the healing cry, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters ;" to purify and exalt individual and social life till crime shall cease, and happiness become universal ; till truth shall spring from earth like summer flowers, and righteousness look down from heaven on scenes of peace and love; till Christ shall reign the Universal King, and the world redeemed become the vestibule of heaven. Such is our work. O Thou great Author of the world's salvation, may our minds comprehend and our hearts warm to this mission! May its high aims and blessed results inspire us, and make us like Him, who himself the Leader of the work, when He saw that the baptism of the Cross lay in the path to its achievement, was nevertheless impatient, straitened, till even that baptism was accomplished !
Finally, I remark, that if we would attain the true earnestness of Christian devotion, we must find it in the individual consecration to Christ which springs from a personal sense of the preciousness of his cross. We cannot manufacture an effective earnestness by any outward assiduities to which we may apply ourselves. True earnestness is an inward impulse awakened at the cross of Jesus Christ. “The love of Christ constraineth us,” said the apostle to the Gentiles, when those who, measuring by more meagre views the value of the cross, accounted his intense energy as uncalled for and fanatical. If we are Christians, there have been times when a sense of personal unworthiness has weighed down our hearts with inexpressible anguish—when our sins have seemed too numerous and aggravated for even Divine Mercy to heal—and we have obtained no solace for our woe, till turning to the cross, and estimating the love of the infinite Victim, we have found there the sufficient ransom, and have heard from his lips the precious voice of pardon and peace. Oh, how have our souls been ravished with a sense of His love, and with what sincerity and unreserve we have at such moments said,
“Here, Lord, I give myself away,
'Tis all that I can do !!
And at such moments, what service were we not ready to perform for our Master? Whither were we not ready to go at his bidding? What would we not do to bring even one soul to his feet? And when, under the influence of such a personal consecration, we have passed our thoughts over the world, reflecting on its condition and necessities, and its possible and promised destiny, how have our hearts burned within us at the magnitude and blessedness of the mission of the church, and our feet hastened to the work which, in this wide scheme of beneficence, has been alloted to us! This was the true impulse of Christian earnestnes. This was a type of that earnestness which alone can qualify the church of Christ for the conquest of the world. This is the toil which the Spirit's presence shall bless, and under whose warm devotion the solitary place shall blossom as the rose. There is no hope of revivel earnestness which does not find its origin and its support in
a sense of the Saviour's unspeakable love. The cross is the hope of the world, not only as the atonement for sin, but as the awakening impulse and sustaining power of that energy in the church of Christ, which shall bear its messages of mercy to every creature. Oh, that its power may rest upon us, that we may find in it the shelter of our own souls, and the motives to an earnestness in the service of Christ which shall never flag till he shall call us home, and pronounce our work well done. Come thus, 0 Saviour, to all thy church-rouse her to new endeavors, and may thy cross be the power of God to the world's speedy regeneration !
BY REV. J. MANNING SHERWOOD.
THE WARNING VOICE.
“And what I say unto you, I say unto you all, Watch.”—MARK 13 : 37
Christ is no vain alarmist. When He bids us, beware-watch-there is always occasion for the warning, and we slight it at our peril. Dangers throng our path; enemies lie in wait to surprise; temptations assail at all points; and evil influences, within and without, are continually operating to seduce and ruin the soul. And we must watch.
1. Watch against evil thoughts. We are creatures of thought. The mind is always thinking; it is the occupation of every rational being; every day is filled up with thoughts ; not even the night watches” are free from them. To how many thoughts does a man give being and immortality, even during this short life! And thoughts are not the vain and powerless things that men take them to be : they are the “ seeds” of all things: they are immensely prolific of good or evil : there is life or death in them. For, thoughts make the man! They are the parent of feeling and of action. They constitute, mainly, a man's being-exercise and control it—and rule his life and destiny. The character of one's habitual thinking, determines all his mental habits and moral exercises and attributes, and gives tone and complexion to his daily conduct. If his habitual thoughts are thoughts of levity, his mental being and visible life will quickly come to bear the marks of emptiness, vanity, contemptibleness, folly. If his thoughts are habitually impure, his inner life will be corrupt, and his inward corruption will flow out into his language and conduct, in spite of every restraint or barrier. If his ruling thoughts are worldly, selfish, or irreligious, they will make his spirit and life such in their prevailing purposes and habits. "No man can think wrong habitually, and do right;