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Why put shadow for substance again? Why suffer imagination to take the place of faith? As men, the world over, come to attach importance to the shape and position of the altar; the vestments of the clergy; the posture of receiving the sacrament; and the days of the saints, real or pretended; they are sure to decline in the spirituality of God's worship. Tell me not that they have senses, and those senses must be impressed. Say not they have a taste, and this taste must be gratified. This is true; but let me ask, is the influence to be exerted on thinking, immortal beings by the truth itself, or by some worldly-wise expedient, which is permitted to usurp its place. This is the question, and see how the great. Teacher settles it. His language is, The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. We live at this very hour. It is not posture, or form, or ritual, that God looks at. Whereever two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ, whether it be like the diciples, in an upper room; or the Scottish Covenanters, in glens and caves; or our Puritan ancestors, under the shade of a spreading oak; there the Saviour is in the midst of them.
What more is needed? Why this tendency to go back to the dark ages? Why this hankering after the leeks and onions of modern Egypt? Sure am I that, so far as life, and power, and impressiveness are concerned, I would rather bave been one of the little company on the bare deck of the Speedwell, when the holy Robinson poured out his heart to God, with Elder Brewer, and Miles Standisb, and the rest of the heroic band, kneeling at his side, than worship in the proudest cathedral in the world, notwithstanding its lofty arches, and painted windows, and deep-toned organ, and gilded crucifix. The soul cannot be fed with mere pomp and parade.
This settles the question. There is no mysterious efficacy in the order, or sacraments of a church or the church-as some are fond of styling their own little enclosure--that can either ensure, or dispepse with, the simple, spiritual homage of the heart. Why think there is ? Does the Bible encourage any such idea ? Turn over its pages and point me, if you can, to a single verse which exalts into matters of importance, the externals of religion. Men make much of the day when Christ was born, but do these sacred pages fix the time? They love to delineate his countenance, but is there anything here to aid them in doing so ? O, my brethren! we live under the ministration of the Spirit, and are not to be occupied with trifles.
3. We are not to look for a dispensation yet to come, of more pomp and impressiveness.
The present reign of the Spirit is so close the period of our world's annals. Nothing of more palpable, imposing form, is to come after it; nothing is to take its place; nothing is to intervene between it and the final judgment. My convictions are firm, and I speak with confidence. We need not be told, at this late day, and after all we have seon of the quiet, noiseless progress of truth and righteousness, that Christ's kingdom is not of this world. If I read the Bible right at all, the only throne which the Redeemer is over to set up on earth, is a throne in the heart ; and this is to be done so completely and universally, under the prosent ministration of the Spirit,
that all shall know the Lord, from the least to the greatest. He himself is our instructor. We get our lessons in his school.
Other views bring the subject down from its proper eminence. What if the incarnate Son of God should descend from Heaven, and take up his abnde once more among men, would this be better for a dying world than the ministration of the Spirit? His bodily presence could only be in one place at a time. If one nation had him with them, another could not. While in this land he could not be in Europe, or on the isles of the sea. But his presence, by the Spirit, in the word and ordinances of his house, can be enjoyed at one and the same moment, wherever men lift up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. Ah! this is what we want; and having this, wo may well be content never to see the Son of Man, until he comes to be glorified in his saints, and admired in them that believe. To be looking, really and speedily, for his personal coming, is to forget where we stand in the history of the church, and under what dispensation we live.
To say nothing of the objections to this scheme, which arise from the fact, that it tends to dry up the fountain of Christian benevolence, and to leave the heathen to perish in their sins, there are other serious difficulties connected with it. In my mind, it is nothing less than ending in the flesh, after having begun in the Spirit. It takes me back too far towards the carnal expectations of those Jews, who rejected the Messiah, because his reputed father was a carpenter, and his birth place might be traced to an inn in Bethlehem.
Far be it from me to dictate to the Master; I am perfectly willing he should pursue his own plan for regenerating and sanctifying the nations ; but I can never be unmindful of the divinely attested fact; that we have already a gift, which is far more valuable than the personal presence of the Saviour could possibly be. I would not have him take back his own words, when he says, “It is expedient for you that I go a vay.” For the world I'would not turn off the eyes of men from the ministration of the Spirit, to any theory more palpable, or visible, or externally impressive. Living, as we do, in the very midst of the Spirit reign-that Spirit that was to come in the Redeemer's stead—that Spirit who is the author of all our precious revivals -that Spirit who takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto menwhat can we wish or wait for more? It is altogether a retrogade movement to be talking now of a revisible throne, and an imposing ritual. These things belong to another economy. They are part of a dispensation which long ago, waxed old and vanished away.
For myself, I am free to say, I anticipate no such scenes. It is enough for me to have the sceptre of the blessed Jesus swayed over my affections. It is enough for me to share in the joys of his extended and applied Gospel. It is enough for me to be favored with the inhabitation of the Holy Spirit. I am willing to wait for a sight of the Son of Man, until he sits on his great white brone, I never expect to hear his voice until he says, Come ye blessed of my Father, I look for no other dominion than that which he exereises at the right band of power.
Finally--- In these days, we are encouraged to expect groat things for the church of God.
What followed the Saviour's ascension at first was only a prelude to further displays of mercy: God signalized the enthronement of his Sɔn, in the eyes of the universe, by sending down the Spirit, within fifty days, in a measure never before equalled ; and this was not more wonderful in itself, than happy in its promise, as the first fruits of a harvest still yet to be fully and gloriously gathered in. The hearing of Christ's first prayer for the gift of the Comforter, was but an antepast to the continued prevalency of his further intercession.
Tell me not that the prospect is dark, and often seems to be growing still darker. I remember what was done in Jerusalem, before the blood of stonemont bad hardly dried away from Calvary. I remember what has taken
place in the spiritual birth of nations in our day. Above all, I remember what is written on these blessed pages. Why give way to despondency ? Is it not said, all the ends of the earth shall seo the salvation of our God ? Are we not told that the glory of the Lord shall fill the earth, as the waters cover the sea ? We want nothing more. We ask for no higher security.
Those who pray for Zion's increase now, come to God in an acceptable time. Much has been done, as there was before the Saviour's advent, in the way of preparation. The field bas been explored ; languages have been learnt; the path to the heart of heathen kingdoms has been laid open; partial conquests have been made; the army of the living God is in motion. Who can look abroad and not see cheering indications? In this ministration of the Spirit we place all our contidence. We ask for nothing else than his new creating energy. Only let the Spirit be sent down as Peter saw it, when he charged the murder of the Son of God upon the Jews; and as Paul saw it, when he moved like an angel of mercy from city to city, and from country to country, and the work may be soon accomplished. The babe in your arms may live to see the day, when even China, with her teeming millions, shall welcome the Son of David to his place among her children.
Be not disheartened; the means are at coinmand, and just so soon as the Spirit is poured out like water upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground, we shall find the great cause of the world's conversion moving on towards its ultimate triumphs, with an efficacy and a glory that will awaken new songs in heaven. Expansion is the very law of i he Saviour's kingdom. Judaism had not in it the elements of enlargement. It could never be the religion of the nations. Everything about it was local and temporary; the world could never attend the feasts at Jerusalem. But Christianity embraces every feature of increase and perpetuity; and whenever it shall please God to give the Spirit in primitive fullness and power to all our churches, and all our missionaries, we shall be prepared to hear it shouted on earth, and echoed from heaven, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ!
Look up, then, O believer, and pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. What, though nearly two thousand years have passed away since the hill of Calvary was wet with atoning blood! What, though darkness still almost covers the earth, and gross darkness the people! What, though threefourths of this world's population are yet ignorant of the Saviour's name! Never give way to despondency. The time is not far off when Zion sball look forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and ter„rible as an army with banners!
THE DUTIES WHICH THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH
OWE TO EACH OTHER. - For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free: and have been made to drink into one spirit. And whether one member sufer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it." 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13, 20.
The subject which, from these words, I propose to illustrate, is the dulies which the members of the church owe to each other.
There are duties which every society owes to itself, as there are duties which every individual owes to himself. Those duties arise from the nature and objects of the association. They are such as pertain to its own strength and respectability ; to the conduct and welfare of its members, and to mutual help and counsel in relation to the purpose for which the society has been formed. A society may be of such a nature that a large part of its duties will relate only to its internal affairs; or it may be of a kind designed to act extensively on those around it, and yet its whole efficiency will depend on its vigilance over its own members.
Taking the church of Christ at large, there is perhaps nothing more remarkable than the little interest which the members have in each other. In many cases the entire vigilance over the conduct of the members devolves on a few, or perhaps on the pastor alone ; in many instances the amount of interest and sympathy extends only to a civil recognition; in others there is not even the interest which secures the most distant acquaintanceship. In numerous instances those who enter a Christian church are left to struggle with difficulties and embarrasments without sympathy,where they feel no more at liberty to call on a member of the church for counsel or aid than they would on any other person ; in many cases they struggle along with their spiritual conflicts disheartened and discouraged,
VOL. XIX.-No. II.
with no reason to suppose that a single member of the church sympathizes with them ; in not a few instances members of the church are known to others to be living in the neglect of duty, or to be conformed apparently entirely to the world, and no one feels under obligation to administer the most gentle rebuke. In many instances also the members go astray, where a kind word from some one of greater age and experience would have saved them from a melancholy fall, and the church from open disgrace.
This is the more remarkable, from the condition in which many are when they become members of the church. Many of them are young and quite inexperienced. Most of them have just entered on the Christian life, and religion is with them like a grain of mustard seed. Many of them are in families where there is no religion, and where ther can place no reliance on their kindred to “help them on to God.” Many of them are thrown into circles where they are exposed to great temptations, or are engaged in kinds of business where there is every prospect that they will go astray. Add to this that not a few of them are poor, and need assistance; not a few are called to descend from a state of affluence through great reverses, when a sympathizing word would be to them of inestimable value; and not a few are descending into the vale of years who seem to be forgotten in the prayers and sympathies of all those who are in the . bloom and vigor of the Christian life.
It has become a very serious question whether it would be possible to restore that artificial thing which we call the church, to the model contemplated in the New Testament. The circumstances of the world have so changed, and the church seems to sustain so many relations to the world not contemplated by the organization of the New Testament churches, that it is a matter of grave inquiry whether it would be possible to restore that model ; perhaps with many it would be a question whether it would be even desirable it it could be done. It can be very readily seen, from the slightest acquaintance with the New Testament, that no church approximates the model that was contemplated by the Saviour and the Apostles, that it might be made a serious question with some, whether the progress of society has not suggested some valuable improvement on the original pattern, and whether it be not like some republic or democracy that, with a very imperfect and rude constitution, answered well enough for the half barbarous age in which it was founded, but in which such amendments to the constitution have been made in conformity with the demands of increasing light and civilization, that a removal of those amendments, and a return to the primitive model, would be in fact a relapse into barbarism. What, for example, would any one of our churches become, if everything adventitious and foreign were removed, and it were at once placed on the model of the New Testament ?
Hopeless, however, as it may seem to bring matters back where