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teachers of religion ; so that the fathers of the church, as their writings prove, are not pure from the infection. The recorded revelation of God loses all, or nearly all, authority among Christians; the priesthood pay themselves, and teach the people to pay, more attention to what the Apostles are reported to have said than to what they have actually written, and written too by inspiration of the Holy Ghost; tradition is set up as the authoritative interpreter of the holy Scriptures, and the sin is once more committed for which our Lord denounced his severest woes upon the Jewish Scribes : “ Ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." (Matt. xv. 6.) The apostasy does not stop. Men claim to be the exclusive depositaries and teachers of the will of God, because they have been appointed Priests by men who are held to be successors of the Apostles in a direct line, irrespective of all other evidence of a divine appointment to the ministerial work, and of all moral fitness for the service. As might be expected, such a priesthood becomes most corrupt; one bold and bad pretension is followed by another bolder and still worse, one extravagance succeeds another, until, by their false doctrines and immoral lives, the priesthood have corrupted the people. The church, so called, is now more corrupt than the world in the midst of which she exists ; she is the “ mother of abominations;” she “commits fornication with the Kings of the earth;” indulges in every foul and gross act, and is the great corrupter of mankind. A reformation is to be produced. A few men are raised up in the providence of God, and they adopt the simple means which the Apostles used when they won their triumphs over Jewish infidelity and ancient Paganism; “ in season and out of season,” every where they “ declare the Gospel of the grace of God.” Again and again had “the mother of abominations” been “drunk with the blood of the saints,” and she thirsts to drink their blood. “Not by might, nor by power,” of men are they preserved. Almighty God protects them; they preach, and their preaching shakes the throne from which had been launched thunders that had shaken the world, and made its inhabitants tremble. Religion again appears before the people in the simplicity of its faith and the purity of its precepts; the appointed instrumentality by which the divine influence is afforded for the salvation of mankind, is brought into activity; God owns it, the truth spreads, and a host of martyrs, confessors, and saints, are given to our Saviour. • Our country, after receiving the Reformed faith, falls away from the true spirit of that faith. The doctrines of the Reformation and of the New Testament are rarely preached by the teachers of religion : for these is substituted a morality, defective in its precepts and motives, borrowed from pagan writers rather than the Gospel ; disregard of religion pervades the public mind ; immorality spreads, until there is a general corruption of manners. Religion is to be revived. A few
men are found in the quiet of Oxford, profoundly engaged in their studies; the Holy Spirit visits and anoints them to the work. They are instruments as well fitted for the work, as the golden candlestick in the Prophet's vision for the lighting of the temple; their qualifications are such as to justify and illustrate the divine wisdom that has chosen them; but they are not men to remove mountains, nor to convert souls by might or power of their own; the work is vast, the obstructions formidable, their number is few,-it is “ the day of small things." But “the anointing which they have received abideth in them," and they succeed. Their call awakens the nation from its deep sleep of indifference to religion ; mobs appear in arms, and the Church heads them; every effort is used to silence the Preachers, and to stop the spread of the truth; but they are intrepid, “ strong in the Lord of hosts." Their word pierces the hearts of thousands ; tens of thousands are “ turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God," they “ receive forgiveness of sins," and adoption into the family of God, through believing in Christ; a Christian society is gathered out of the world, which enlarges and yet enlarges through a hundred years; and this day our numerous body appears, the fruit of their exertions. Other Christian communities that, in a state of great religious torpor, had "slept their sleep,” have been roused by means of Methodism into spiritual life and activity, and they have gathered numerous converts from the world to Christ. The effect has reached to other islands and to large continents. The greater part of the pure Christianity, of the Christianity in earnest, to be found this day existing in the world, is to be attributed mainly, and may be traced, to God's blessing upon the labours of the Wesleys, Whitefield, and their coadjutors. In view of the beautiful Christian societies and churches which overspread our land, and of the vast congregations that statedly meet for the public worship of the great God; in knowledge of the hold which religious truth in the present day bas upon a great portion of the public mind; and in recollection of the feeble instrumentality which, a century ago, Almighty God chose to employ in bringing to pass this great change, “who will despise the day of small things ?” , Yet, we hear a voice say, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts :" the slightest disposition to glory in man is thus checked, and we respond, “ He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
We can do no more than make a brief reference to a thousand other instances of religious effect, minor in extent, produced by the labours of pious parents, masters of families, Ministers of Christ, and private members of the church exerting themselves to be useful, in every department of Christian service, where, in the absence of all human might and power, the Spirit of the Lord has overcome the most serious obstacles, and saved men's souls. He has given to his servants the sentence, pointed and arrowy, and caused it to pierce the heart: there it has remained, “ as a nail fastened;" all attempts to extract it and to heal the wound have failed, until he was acknowledged and his grace sought, when his healing influence was poured in, and the wounded spirit was made whole. We can only now refer to other instances, of greater magnitude, where, in other lands, a Christian Missionary, or a few Missionaries, have gone forth in the midst of ignorance which no ray of truth relieved, to offer salvation to men prostrate in the most stupid apathy, or fierce with passion: they have preached “the Gospel of the kingdom," and have beheld evidence of its power such as was supplied when the Apostles preached,—the instruments were mighty, the truth triumphed, by the power of God.
Before we close our subject, we view for a moment our present position, and cast one glance upon the future.
You measure the extent of the world, its numerous islands, its vast continents. You count its population, which man can scarcely number. You look at systems opposed to the Gospel in distant lands, at the distance of those lands, and at the extreme difficulty (amounting in many cases at present to a practical impossibility) of entering them, and preaching the Gospel. At home, notwithstanding the progress which the truth has made, and the number of its converts, you behold sinful men assembled in large masses, full of the spirit of evil; and you see the bad influences which are at work against religion,-infidelity, Popery, libertinism. You look at the discredit thrown upon you, if you make any bold stand against these enormous evils ; and you see some, even good men, forward to rebuke and reprehend you. You count the number in the Christian church, and you find it small; and the number in the church likely to take any active part in promoting the world's conversion, and you find it few indeed ; and you are dispirited, it is “ the day of small things." In your minds the question sometimes is, not, “ How shall the church of Christ enlarge, until it collects within its pale the whole world?” but, “How shall the church maintain its ground ?" The answer is, “ Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Do we not think too much of numbers? If they are few, we are disheartened : if they increase, our heart rises. Of instrumentality? If that is choice, hope and confidence elate us : if it wants apparent fitness, our spirits sink. The state of religion in the world is indeed a subject for great anxiety. Every one must feel that the effect to be produced, which the Prophets have predicted, when all shall know and believe in Christ, love and worship the true God, when all shall be saved, is immense. Undoubtedly the agents engaged in advancing this glorious work are inconsiderable in number, and the hinderances are obviously insuperable by human power. But “who hath despised the day of small things ?” Let the agents, sincerely and zealously devoted to the service, put on a cheerful courage : the work is the Lord's; and, from what we have seen, we cannot doubt his power to give the most glorious success. We want stronger confidence in the Holy Spirit; we want our minds bringing to regard subordinate agency and means more justly, as instrumentality appointed by Almighty God for the accomplishment of his purpose, and nothing more,—the instruments by which he brings that purpose to pass. We want an increase of the spirit of prayer: for success in our humble labours, prayer should be made to God “ without ceasing." Then will the Holy Spirit work. The enemy, scheming, “ breathing out threatenings," and powerful, shall be subdued; God's “right hand and his holy arm” which, in ten thousand instances, “ hath gotten him the victory," shall conquer again ; and, turning to the redeemed race, it shall be “ stretched forth to save;" the difficulties in the way of the world's conversion which now appear so mountainous shall vanish; and upon the wide and beautiful plain, the temple built of living stones, now in progress, shall be finished; stone after stone shall be added, until the last shall be brought forth and put on “ with shouting, crying, Grace, grace unto it."
We conclude, by observing,
1. That the utmost diligence should be used in contriving means to be employed in advancing the purposes of God's mercy, and the utmost care in the selection and appointment of agents. Little scope is left to human ingenuity in devising the kind of means which ought to be used; for God has appointed them. The religious instruction of the young; the careful inculcation of religion in families; the dissemination of the word of truth; the ministry of the Gospel; the collection of converts into churches; and the constant use of all scriptural ordinances, God has appointed for the salvation of mankind; and you, my fathers and brethren in the ministry, feel, and justly feel, more confidence in the means expressly appointed by the wisdom of God, than in any which can be devised by the wisdom of men: they, we may believe are suitable, and perfectly adequate to their intended end. Greater scope exists for contrivance in bringing these means into use, in arranging plans, and seeking out and employing agents, to spread in all directions the saving knowledge of Christ. But the greatest scope of all is afforded us for diligence and zeal in carrying out our plans, and urging the truth upon the acceptance of all, both at home and abroad. It belongs to the Holy Spirit to raise up and inspire his Ministers; but prayer may influence “the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into his harvest;" and that he may do so, we should most earnestly pray. Then due care ought to be used in trying the fitness, in every respect, of those who profess to have received his call : when satisfied, howEver, on this point, the agents should be sent forth without loss of time; every part of our country, every country of the world, should be supplied with a suitable conveyance through which divine light and influence may flow to the souls of men. For a hundred years Methodism has acted a prominent and useful part in this glorious work; but it must do far more in furnishing the instruments and means by which
God works, if its Ministers and people continue to receive his blessing. Its aggression upon the darkness of men in all countries must increase as its numbers and their means increase ; its utmost energies are all demanded in furtherance of our Saviour's redeeming purposes. Then, be it ever remembered, that what appears to us to be the best-adapted instruments are not more than instrumental ; and that, what may appear to us a feeble instrumentality, if he chooses it, may be rendered “mighty through God.”
2. That every intelligent and active agent engaged in the service of God, should study to preserve communion with the Holy Spirit. If “ Zerubbabel” and “Joshua” represent all living, active agency employed in forwarding the work of God, Christian parents, heads of families, Teachers in schools, and especially the Ministers of Christ; and if the “two olive-trees,” from which oil was continually exuding and dropping into the bowl of the golden candlestick, represent Zerubbabel and Joshua, which I take to be the Prophet's obvious and primary meaning, (and for any more recondite sense it is beside my present purpose to inquire,) then their situation should receive our most serious notice : " Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive-trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olivebranches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be ? And I said, No, my Lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." (Verses 11-14.) My Christian brethren, if we will be ourselves full of divine influence; if we will pour into all our institutions, and through all our instructions, by the domestic hearth, in the school, and from the pulpit, an influence which shall enlighten and convert; we must be ever in communion with the Source of all influence, “standing by the Lord of the whole earth.” It is not the things we say, but the unction, the divine power, which accompanies them, that produces the saving effect. To address the truth to others, is our work; to afford us the anointing, and pour it richly on our heart, is the work of the Holy Spirit. The great men of other days and of our own were eminent for the fellowship they held with the Spirit; they were “ full of the Holy Ghost." The secret of their power and of their success, when preaching the plain truths of the Gospel, was their conjunction with this divine Agent: like Stephen, when filled with the same Holy Spirit, their enemies, and the enemies of the truth “ were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which they spake.” (Acts vi. 10.) Let us imitate them. Personal piety is not only indispensable, it is the first qualification for usefulness : we can render no great nor permanent service to his cause, unless we maintain communion with God. By prayer, by the study of the holy Scriptures, by devout meditation, by the exercise of faith, by the constant elevation of the soul to heaven,