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one for another, that we may be healed.” But how can this be done if we never meet our fellow-members in private for social worship. It cannot, we think, be denied, that in the texts adduced, mutual exhortation, joint supplication, brotherly confession of faults, and such a participation in the joys and sorrows of our Christian brethren, as implies acquaintance with their personal experience, are, by apostolic authority, made part and parcel of our duty; and that these things are enjoined upon us, not in our civil capacity, nor with a reference to near relations, or personal friends merely, but to our fellow-disciples, and those who are partakers of “like precious faith" with ourselves. If the tree, in fine, is to be judged by its fruit, and if institutions are to be estimated by their results,—by their harmony with the genius of our holy religion, and their agreement with Scripture precept and example,—then the wisdom, utility, and scriptural character of our social means of grace are established beyond dispute.
IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH WE OUGHT TO SPEAK ON THIS EXALTED AND INTERESTING THEME. DAVID SAYS, “I WILL DECLARE,” &c.
1. We ought to declare it freely. This is a duty we owe to God. When He lights the candle of His grace in our hearts, it is not that it be put “under a bushel,” but “on a candlestick," that it may give light to all with whom we have Christian intercourse. If we have been truly converted, “ the King of kings and Lord of lords” has visited us in our low estate, pardoned our heinous offences, stamped His image on our souls, taken up His dwelling in our hearts, and given us a title to His heavenly kingdom. For us, then, who have been thus honoured and enriched, to hide His gifts, to be silent in His praise, and to forbear testifying to His love and power to save, would be the blackest ingratitude. Jesus was not less offended with the selfish silence of the nine lepers who were cleansed, than He was pleased with the loud and grateful thanksgivings of the “stranger” who returned glorifying God.
To declare the grace of God is a duty we owe to ourselves. Some of us vowed that if God would save us, we would publish His praise, that sinners might be converted unto Him. These vows were heard in heaven ; and not to fulfil them would bring guilt on our souls. When God in His providence blesses men with an increase of wealth, they are rarely backward to avow the prosperous change ; and
“Shall we slight our Father's love?
Or basely fear His gifts to own ?
Shall we the hallow'd cross to shun,
By hiding it within our heart ? ”
ledged, they are either unappreciated, or are ascribed to nature ; and, in either case, they are sure to be withdrawn. Talents buried, and gists misapplied, not only bring no revenue of glory to their Sovereign Dispenser, but their non-improvement and misapplication entail forfeiture and condemnation. To him “ that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he bath.” “The fear of man bringeth a snare;" and some of God's people have had the sense of forgiveness obscured, by their neglecting openly to avow the possession of the blessing, from the fear of losing it, or through the dread of being accounted enthusiasts for professing to enjoy it.
It is a duty we owe to the Church. Many in our day doubt whether the Gospel has not lost its power to save : whether the cultivation of the intellect, morality of life, charity to the poor, and striet attention to the rites and ceremonies of public worship, may Dot, in this enlightened age, stand instead of conscious forgiveness, the witness of the Spirit, and the entire dedication of body, spirit, soul, to God. Now every sound conversion that the Holy Ghost effects, through the preaching of the Word, refutes these unbelieving and God-dishonouring speculations; and hence it becomes the imperative duty of those whom He, in mercy, has “created in Christ Jesus," to bear witness that, as in apostolic times, so now, the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." On all suitable occasions let us testify that “ being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,...... and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also : knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed.” Such testimonies were never more needed than at present; and for the rebuking of scepticism, for the establishment of such as waver, for the encouragement of ministers, for the honour of Christ, and the extension of His kingdom in the earth, believers ought to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear."
2. We should do it fully. A formal and superficial mode of stating Christian experience is generally a sign of secret backsliding, -is injurious to ourselves, unedifying to others, and embarrassing to ministers and leaders. If we live a life of faith in the Son of God, watch unto prayer, duly frequent the Lord's table, search the Scriptores, subject ourselves to daily sell-examination, and mark passing events, answers to prayer, and instances in which God has made us useful to others, our experience will be anything but monotonous. Nay, it will be distinguished by variety of character, interesting inci. dents, proofs of the Divine care and condescension, and evidences of God's faithfulness; the narration of which will benefit ourselves, and
edify our brethren. As fully, then, as time will permit, let us state how we have been enabled, by the grace of God, to receive and enjoy providential mercies, endure and pass through trials, reciprocate the kindness of friends, bear with and forgive enemies, perform duty, fulfil vows, improve privileges, and keep up our walk with God. Nor ought we to omit, for our own abasement, and as cautions to others, the instances in which we may have failed in embracing or improving opportunities of usefulness, keeping our affections set on things above, reproving sin when committed in our presence, redeeme ing time, maintaining a watchful spirit, and setting the Lord always before us.
3. We should do it sincerely. We are to declare what God hath done,-nothing more. In relating the Lord's dealings with us, we onglit sacredly to guard against exaggeration, display, random talk, and attempts to excite astonishment. That our words may be well weighed, and a true index to the state of our souls, we should enter our closets for self-scrutiny before we go to the Class-meeting, or speak in the Lovefeast. In this scrutiny we should inquire not only whether duty has been discharged, but from what motives ? Not only, Has the form of godliness been maintained ? but, Has its power been enjoyed and exemplified ? Not only, Have we loved God, but have we loved Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves ? Whether we have given to all their due,“ tribute to whom tribute ; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour ?" If we are truly sincere we shall sometimes have but little to say, and that little will be of a deeply humbling character ; but at other times our joy will abound,“ like Jordan's swelling stream;" and we shall have more to tell than language can express, or time will permit us to utter.
4. We should do it audibly. The subject is a joyous one, and the voice should neither be melancholy nor inarticulate. One great end of these meetings is mutual edification; but how can this be secured if one balf of those present do not hear what the others say? Young disciples, and persons who have an impediment in their speech, or who are constitutionally timid or nervous, should be dealt with in the tenderest manner, until by regular attendance, growth in grace, and familiarity with the exercise, they acquire confidence and selfpossession. In our Love-feasts and public Band-meetings, the speaking is perfectly voluntary ; and in the Class-meeting, also, some latitude may be allowed for silence, without impairing the usefulness of the institution. But while we put in a plea for indulgence in special cases, yet, ordinarily, our manifest duty is to testify for God in language which all can hear and understand. To do this, nothing more is necessary than that we speak in our usual conversational tone. Indeed, all unnatural tones are to be avoided, as savouring of affectation, and leading to mere excitement. Those professors who have voice enough on all topics save that of Christian experience, and who are eloquent everywhere except in the Class-room, have generally sickly souls; and would do well to inquire whether they are in the faith? whether they love the Lord Jesus ? and whether their hearts be right with God and their neighbour ? “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” To David it was evidently no cross to publish the lovingkindness of God: he longed for opportunities of doing so; and when these did not naturally occur, he created them, inviting his fellow-saints to come and hear his song of praise. Love to them, as well as zeal for the honour of the Most High, made him “declare”-speak out—what God had “done for his soul."
5. We should do it humbly. What "He hath done.” In such meetings it will often be necessary to speak of our labours in the Lord's vineyard, of our sufferings for His name's sake, and of our conflicts and triumphs in the prosecution of our Christian warfare ; but such statements should always be made with a single intention to glorify God, and not to exalt ourselves. David ascribed every honour with which he was crowned, every gift with which he was enriched, every conquest he gained over his enemies,—the forgiveness of his sins, the healing of his diseases, the redemption of his life from destruction,-to the power and goodness of God. Paul, too, sets us an example in this matter. "By the grace of God I am what I am.......I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." "I live; yet not I, bat Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” So, whether we speak of blessings received, or afflictions endured, or work done, or successes achieved, by ourselves or others, let our spirit and speech be in harmony with the words of the Psalmist, on another occasion, “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake." "It is God which worketh in" us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure." And this meets an objeetion which has sometimes been started against our Class-meetings, namely, "that they foster pride." That they may be made to minister to pride and self-elation, is undoubted: the best and holiest things have been, and may be again, perverted. But that they do not necessarily lead to such a result, is manifest. Does it foster pride in the pardoned criminal, to tell how his sovereign has graciously rescued him from an ignominious and merited death by the exercise of royal clemency ? Or in the patient, who was the subject of a dangerous and loathsome disease, to tell of the painstaking skill and potent remedies, by which his physician restored him to perfect soundness? Or in the orphan, to set forth the poverty and wretch
elness in which his benefactor found him, and from which he delivered him,-raising him to affluence and honour, by his unmerited beneficence ? No. The burden of our testimony on earth is, “ By grace are we saved through faith ; and that not of ourselves ; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast:" and our song in heaven will be, “ Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.
6. With reverence and regularity. The place of meeting may be humble, but it is hallowed by the Word of God and prayer ; the company may be small, and some among them may be poor; but they are the disciples of Jesus, and He will assuredly be in their midst. The hour devoted to Christian fellowship has its commercial value, and importunate suitors will claim it for secular purposes; but we must resolutely guard against its abridgment, or absorption, by company, recreation, or worldly engagements. Instead of grudging the time requisite for social intercourse with our Christian brethren, let us bless God that we belong to a branch of His Church which not only believes in “the communion of saints," but which practises it. As the exercises in which we are about to engage are sacred, as the persons with whoin we are to assemble are the excellent of the earth, and as our great end is the glory of God, and our brethren's edification,-let us pray to be delivered from wandering thoughts, from grovelling affections, from unbelief, and every feeling contrary to love. As we enter the Class-room or vestry, let us say,
“Lo, God is here! Let us adore,
And own how dreadful is this place!
And silent bow before His face;
Serve Him with awe, with reverence lore." Let us join heartily in the introductory exercises of praise and prayer, believing that God is able and willing to do “exceeding abund. antly above all that we ask or think.” While our brethren and sisters are relating their experience, let us, by mental prayer, maintain "fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ," and try to profit by the statement of each. If some are in trouble through the death of near relations, while we sympathize with them, let us thank God if our own family circle continues unbroken. If others are weighed down with bodily affliction, or the infirmities of age, while we pray that the grace of God may be made sufficient for them, let us praise God if our own health is preserved, and our bow abides in strength. If others mourn over shortcomings and forfeited joys, while we weep with them, and pray for the restoration of their peace, and the