Page images

be too, that then as now, Christians loved too well their own ease, and had too little of the self-sacrificing spirit of the Divine Master. They desired inordinately to live at home among their friends and their privileges. Therefore God suffered Satin to stir up the spirit of persecution and “scatter them abroad." Their trials quickened their piety, their love for Christ and for souls; and they went forth everywhere as heralds of salvation, as“ burning and shining lights." Look at the schism in the Episcopal Church, incidental to the indefatigable labors of Whitefield and Wesley, already alluded to. Missionary efforts formed no part of their original play; they were the plan of Providence. Driven by persecution from the churches of that religious establishment to which they belonged, these men of God resorted to field-preaching, for which they were both singularly adapted. By this means their hearers were multiplied a hundred-fold. Was the hand of God over more plainly visible ? Doubtless he saw that that great movement (for it was great in itself, and far greater in its consequences) was indispensable to the grand purposes of His mercy, as necessary as the persecution referred to in the text. And who would venture to say that similar schisms may not be necessary in the same church, and in other extended churches in our times, and for substantially the same reasons ?

4. This subject throws light upon the melancholy fact, - known and read of all men," that many churches which have numbers, and wealth, and much secular influence, have no corresponding moral power. Such instances are, alas! too frequent in our own country, still more frequent in the mother country, and painfully common in all communities especially where the church either leans upon the State or upon treasured funds. Pecuniary burdens are in such cases generally light; and the minister's support is secure, whether he is faithful or unfaithful. Woe to churches and to ministers who are thus at "ease in Zion.” A deep spiritual lethargy, like the sleep of death, settles down upon the people. Christians live unto themselves, and care little for others. Selfish and worldly, they make no advances in boliness; sinners remain unreproved and unconverted; "the ways of Zion mourn,” her walls moulder, and the gaeat end for which the church exists is defeated. In what sense can it be affirmed of such an association of professing Christians, that they are the “salt of the earth, or the light of the world ?” Do they vot, rather, painfully verify another declaration of our Lord : " for if the salt hath lost its savor wherewith shall it be salted ? it is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” * The way of all great apostasies from God and his truth has been prepared by just such churches-churches holding, it may be, substantially an orthodox faith, and having a “name to live," and nothing but a name.

Many such churches have become absolutely extinct-nay extended branches of the nominally Christian church formed according to this low standard of duty, have perished and been forgotten. Let us then be warned. The path both of individual and associated piety is the same. In order even to permanent existence, there must be aggressive holy action. The church must not live always in the temple, or abide on the mount, nor even tarry at Jerusalem. Having surveyed the field around her, and lifted up her heart to God for help, she must go forth to self-denying toils and conflicts. The same is true of the individual members of the church; and just in proportion as they resist the claims of duty and withdraw from all active effort for God, their piety withers, and their usefulness declines. Hence the deplorable fact, that in every church 80 many are found who add to the numbers, but not at all to the strength or efficiency of the church. They might at any time enter the church triumphant, if peradventure the gate of heaven could open wide enough to admit them, and the church militant would not, in her great conflict with sin, miss their infiuence. Like the retinue of an eastern army, they swell the roll-encumber the camp—impede the march, and in the day of battle they only embarrass the faithful soldier, and insure disaster and discomfiture to the host.

These nominal disciples of Christ may be strictly moral; exact in many duties belonging to their profession, especially those which relate more immediately to themselves. Why, then, are they not useful Christians ? Simply because they do not make exertions and sacrifices to carry forward those great Christian enterprises at home and abroad, which bear powerfully on the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the destinies of men for eternity. When such disciples of Jesus die, who will gather around their graves to moisten them with tears of pious regret? Or who, when they depart, will appear at the gate of glory to welcome them to everlasting habitations ?

The story of your religious life will soon be written. It will be summed up chiefly in this: What did he prayerfully attempt for God--what to limit the evils of sin, and diffuse the blessings of salvation? What you have done or bumbly aimed to do, for this great consummation, in your own soul, in your family and neighborhood, in the Sabbath-School, in the church, and in the world, that will have a sweet remembrance on earth and an everlasting memorial in heaven. All else will pass into utter oblivion, or be remembered only to diminish the joys or aggravate the woes of an unwasting eternity.





Charity never faileth."-1 Cor. 13: 8.

Charity is the very essence of the gospel. As a grace, it is indispensable to Christian character; as an element of usefulness, it is most active and powerful. The more of this lovely spirit we possess, the more we resemble Christ--the nearer approach we make to the society of heaven. Alas! that the world contains so little of it—that Christianity, which in its facts and dorines embodies it in is highest perfection and furnishes so beautiful an illustration of it, has not had a brighter exemplification in the lives of God's people. Surely it is quite time for the church of the Redeemer to seek a new baptism of this beavenly spirit, and try the power of Christian Charity as a means of convincing and subduing this unbelieving and rebellious world.

We may profitably contemplate the characteristics of Christian charity, and the means to be used in its cultivation.

1. It is permanent. “Charity never faileth.” The climax of its excellence is, that it never decays, never dies. Often bas the tear been shed over the perishable nature of all earthly objects. And the superior worth of some of these objects presents a painful contrast to their transient duration. Beauty has no charm that will not fade. The proudest inonuments of human genius and art soon decay. Walk among the remains of ancient Thebes and Palmyra, and behold what was once the pride and boast of art, now a confused heap of ruins. See this.

Since this : ermon was accepted for the Preacher, the Lord, as in a wbirlwind, bas swept to his rest the beloved author. He brought us the M.S. a few weeks since, and was then full of life and strength; but returning to his people, among whom the pestilence was so awfully raging, he was numbered with its victims. These circumstances seem to warrant a departure from our rule, and lend to this sermon a melancholy interest, and enforce its teachings as by a voice from Heaven.- ED.

shattered pilaster, that broken column, this beautifully carved chaplet, and that gorgeous, crumbling dome. Alas! that they should be smitten with mortality. If there be laws of reproduction, the laws of change and decay operate with equal cera tainty and force. Even religion itself does not crown with immortality everything embraced within its glorious economy, Prophecies fail. The visions of the seer have passed away, The gift of inspiration is withheld. Tongues have ceased, Knowledge shall vanish away. Supernatural communications revealing to the mind the predictions, types, and mysteries of religion are withdrawn. But " charity never faileth.” It lives in the heart of the redeemed here. It yields its sweetest fruits, and sheds its brightest glories hereafter in its own native climes. Its greatest excelleuce is its permanence. Even faith, by which we overcome the world, shall be absorbed in sight; and hope, by which we are cheered on our pilgrimage, shall be swallowed up in a glorious fruition; but charity is greater, because it will forever live and reign as the native child, the brightest ornament of the skies.

2. It is a comprehensive grace. Its very nature shows that it is designed to embrace in its syropathies the whole human family. It respects the highest good, not of inanimate objects. which are incapable of bappiness, but of man, and the whole reign of sentient being. The more extensively it operates, the more does it resemble the benevolence of its author, who maketh his sun to shine and his rain to fall upon the evil and upon the good. "For," says Christ, "if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to tbem of whom ye hope to receive, what thank bave ye? for sinners also lend to sinners to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again, and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest; for he is kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil." Thus we are taught that our love and benevolence are not to be limited to those who can reciprocate our kindness. Such benevolence is coexistent with selfishness; sinners exercise it; but that which belongs to the Christian character aims at the good of all, whether good is received from them or not. Nor does it spend itself in mere sighs and good wishes, " be ye warmed and clothed," while no provision is made for the things needed. The true Christian : is ready to do his utmost to send the gospel to the destitute, to relieve the distressed, to succor the widow and the orphan, to confirm tbe doubting, strengthen the weak, encourage the virtuous, and reprove the faulty. In short, be is ready to engage in all the offices of kindness and love, which may promote the present and future good of man, as he was ability and op

portunity. Every man is his brother, of whatever nation, color or condition.

There is, however, a distinction which God makes, and which he directs is to make. The love of benevolence will lead us to do good unto all men; but the love of complacence prompts us to acts of kindness towards the household of faith, because of their faith and moral excellence. To love Christians as such, and because they are such. And this is a love which is not confined to names, nor parties, nor sects, nor is it hemmed in by ecclesiastical rules and forms, but extends as far as the spirit, and image, and principles of Christ are found.

3. It is of paramount importance. Our Saviour enforced the duty of brotherly love in a new commandment; and enjoined upon mankind the love even of their enemies. He mentions it as the highest qualification of those who shall stand on his right hand, and the want of it as the reason of the dreadful curse that shall be denounced against those on his left, in the day of judgment. Paul declares love to be the fulfilling of the law, and places it first among the fruits of the Spirit. Не gives it the preeminence above all other gifts and graces-above the tongues of men and angels-above prophecy and mysteries and knowledge--and even faith and hope. "Now abideth faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity." The beloved disciple who lay in the bosom of his Lord and seemed to partake largely of his spirit, tells us that God is love. All his other attributes are but the varied modificatinns of his love. Love presides over all his counsels, and directs all his acts. The same apostle asserts that this attribute is an evidence of our being born of God; and its absence of our still abiding in death. He calls him a murderer who hates another; and him a liar who says that he loves God whom he hath not seen, and hates his brother whom he hath seen. Thus Christ and his disciples exhort and teach, that love may continue and abound.

Now, it is not easy to conceive how any honest man can misapprehend and evade these precepts. He can as readily shuffle any other duty enjoined in the Bible. And he who fancies himself a Christian, while he manifests habitually a spirit in direct opposition to true evangelical charity, is willing to lie under a fatal delusion. He takes upon himself the name of Christ and comes under the obligations of discipleship, wbile he knows nothing of Christianity. For, the duty of Christian charity is not taught in doubtful phrases, in fancied • analogies, and far-fetched interpretations; but in plain commands, in frequent, earnest entreties and expostulations. And those who are proof against all these will not be urged to duty by considerations of a moral kind. Hence, however much heat and zeal a man may show in defence of nis religious opinions, if they be not kindled by the fire of Christian love, they are fruitless of any good. Men may die martyrs to their opinions,

« PreviousContinue »