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own 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 preëminently 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 universal 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 affliction, 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 which He established her, even more; and this end she has perhaps lost sight of. What was the effect of the persecutions and sufferings alluded to in the text ? Plainly to scatter more widely the seed of God's truth, to spread abroad into other regions the gospel of the kingdom, which was shut up mainly within the parrow limits of Judea. The converts at Jerusalem did not even yet fully understand the gospel's glorious 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 selfsacrificing spirit of the Divine Master. They desired inordinately to live at home among their friends and their privileges. Therefore God suffered Satan 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, “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 holiness; sinners re. main unreproved and unconverted; “ the ways of Zion mourn,” her walls molder, and the great 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 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 boih 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 surveved the field around her, and lifted up her heart to God for help, she must go forth to selfdenying 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 de. plorable fact, that in every church so 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 influence. Like the retinue of an eastern army, they swell the roll-encumber the campaimpede 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 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.
BY REV. N. W. FISHER,
Sandusky City, Ohio.
“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 doctrines embodies it in its 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 heavenly 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 pain. ful 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 shattered pilaster, that broken column, this beautifully carved chaplet, and that gor. geous, 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 certainty and force. Even
* Since this sermon was accepted for the Preacher, the Lord, as in a whirl. wind, has swept to his rest the beloved Author. He brought us the MS. 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.
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 hearts of the redeemed here. It yields its sweetest fruits, and sheds its brightest glories hereafter in its own native climes. Its greatest excellence 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 sympathies the whole human family. It respects the highest good, not of inanimate objects which are incapable of happiness, but of man, and the whole range 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 them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have 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 coëxistent with selfishness; sinners exercise it ; but that which belongs to the Christian character aiins 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 Ris utmost to send the gospel to the destitute, to relieve the distressed, to succor the widow and the orphan, to confirm the doubting, strengthen the weak, encourage the virtuous, and reprove the faulty. In short, he is ready to engage in all the offices of kindness and love which may promote the present and future good of man, as he has ability and opportunity. Every man is his brother, of whatever nation, color, or condition.
There is, however, a distinction which God makes, and which he directs us to make. The love of benevolence will lead us to