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power of the truth at that central point, they took up the standard of the cross and bore it in triumph round the globe. They traveled from city to city, and from region to region; and everywhere they acted aggressively. They assailed pagan superstition in all its strongholds; they overturned its alters of blood; they cast down its false gods, and called its deluded: votaries to repentance-exhorting them "to turn from these dumb idols, to serve the living God." It was thus that the apostles, their coadjuters and successors conquered the earth for Christ. Thus they subdued all nations to the obedience of faith, until shouts of victory and songs of deliverance went up to Heaven from a regenerated world.
Turn to a still later page in the history of the church. How was it at the Reforination? Luther was a monk, shut up in a cloister. There, as he read his Latin Bible, the grace of God touched his heart. The scales of error fell from his eyes, as they did from the eyes of Saul of Tarsus. Having received the great doctrine of Justification by Faith, he rose upon Germany as a new and glorious star. He went forth as the sun when he shineth in his strength. By God's help he rolled away the thick darkness of ages, and filled Europe with intellectual and spiritual light. But mark, this great work was not affected, chiefly, by the prayers of the cloister, but by many a hard-fought battle for God and his truth, in the open field.
At length the zeal of the Reformers declined; their missionary movements were remitted. Then the cause of truth began to lose ground; and the Protestant church ignobly surrendered field after field wbich she had so gloriously won. How was it in our mother country at the period when Whitefield and Wesley appeared ? The English Church, proud of her strength, had long reposed amid ber privileges, surrounded by the defenses and sustained by the aid of the secular arm. She had well-nigh forgotten the very end of her being. Vital piety had declined, until it had become nearly extinct. Then the Spirit of God moved upon the hearts of the devoted men I have just named. They were both young, but they were endued with much of the spirit, if not with all the wisdom of the first preachers of the gospel. It was the missionary spirit, and their movements were missionary movements. Through the impulse which they were chiefly instrumental in imparting, spiritual religion revived and extended both in Britain and our own country, and in all branches of the Evangelical church. So it has ever been; and so, I believe, it will continue to be to the end of the world. Just in proportion as any branch of the Christian church, in the spirit of Christ, attempts spiritual aggression, missionary enterprises, at home and abroad, in the same proportion its interests are smiled upon It
If these things are so, then our main position is established,
namely, that it is chiefly by the external and missionary movements of the church that she is to maintain life and health in her on a soul-extend the empire of pure religion abroad, and fill the earth with the light and glory of God.
1. We see why the church is organized. It is partly for social religious improvement; but this is as a means to an end. It is organized pre-eminently with a view to united and powerful external action. Hence the obligation on all the true friends of Christ to join themselves to some evangelical branch of the church, and to stand fast in the faith and hope of His gospel ; that the sacramental host of God's elect being perfectly joined together, hand and heart, may move forward to final and universil triumph.
2. This subject also indicates the grand object of all preaching to the church. It is not chiefly the personal enjoyment of Christians. It is indeed the duty of the spiritual husbandman to cultivate the Lord's vineyard already inclosed; but is not even this in reference chiefly to a higher duty, that of enlarging its borders and causing new plants of righteousness to spring up and bear fruit to His glory?
The late William Ward, so well known as a devoted missionary and an accomplished preacher, in his letters addressed to British and American Christians, suggests his belief that too much of the public preaching of the Sabbath is, in many parts of Protestant Christendom, devoted to the edification of the church, and too little to the conversion of sinners. And he assigns this as one reason why the gospel has hitherto had such limited success. The suggestion from such a quarter should have great weight, and though more applicable perhaps to the British than the American pulpit, is well worthy of being pondered by all.
3. This discussion throws light upon the providences of God towards the church. Now, as in former days, He allows heresies, persecutions, schisms, and various forms of affiiction, from time to time, to invade the church. This is not because the church is not dear to him, for He hath loved her with a perfect and an everlasting love; but it is because He loves the end for wbich be established her, even more; and this end she has perhaps lost siglt of. Wbat was the effect of the persecu- . tions and sufferings alluded to in the text? Plainly to scatter more widely the seed of God's truth, t) spread abroad into other regions the gospel of the kingdoni, which was shut up mainly within the narrow limits of Judea. The converts at Jerusalem did not even yet fully understand the gospel's glo-. rious mission, and their duty to give it to a lost world. It may 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 Sat in 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 plan; 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 ever 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, “ kuoin 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 taithful or unfaithful. Woe to churches and to ministers who are thus at " case 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 not, rather, painfully verify another declaration of our Lord : “for if the salt hath lost it's savor wherewith shall it be salted ? it is benceforth 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; ex: act 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 humbly 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 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 di otrines embodies it in iis liighest 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 has 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 monuments 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 whirlwind, bas swept to his rest the beloved author. lle brought us the M.S. a few weeks since, and was then full of life and strength; but relurning to his people, among whom the pestilence was so awfully raging, be 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 teacbings as by a voice from Heaven.- ED.