Abbildungen der Seite

party-I appeal to notorious facts, whether the aspect which the kingdom of Christ generally presents, is not that of secularity, nominal profession, and division? All our attempts to present a different front, fail in concealing much of the unsightliness that remains behind. I do not speak at present of the condition of those who are utterly destitute of religion, but of a large portion of the professedly christian community. The real warfare which is maintained with the world, and with the principalities and powers of darkness, is carried on by a comparatively small number. It is a species of guerilla contest, into the spirit of which the body of the people do not enter, except to look on as spectators; or to read for amusement the account of skirmishes and battles, which they scarcely regard as their own.

At the beginning this was not so. We entirely mistake the nature of the secondary causes by which the Gospel was at first so rapidly and extensively propagated, if we suppose that the preachers only were concerned in it. It is true, a few of those preachers were a host in themselves, and with them the work originated; but it was always carried on by the people. Then, the kingdom of God was one; not divided and subdivided as now, into numerous petty and hostile states, differing in spirit, in forms of polity, and in interest. All names were united in the one name of christian, and all standards were blended in the common standard of the cross. United together in the acknowledgment of the same truths, bound by the strongest sense of gratitude to their Redeemer, and feeling themselves the common objects of the world's hatred, they presented an attitude to that world, of the most imposing and powerful nature. “Every christian was, in his degree, an apostle and a martyr; a witness to the truth by his life, and often by his heroic death; and called upon, in all circumstances, to choose between this world and the next; and as frequently life, and always fortune and ease, were in readiness to be resigned, any efforts, whether of expence or of exertion, were undertaken with a promptitude, of which there are no surviving models; while their virtues, eminently apostolic, self-devotion, mutual union, unbounded charity-contempt of this life, and joyful expectation of another, struck even the heathen with astonishment at zeal, which no adverse circumstance could damp, and courage, which death itself could not quell.” *

We almost cease to wonder at the rapid diffusion of the Gospel in primitive times, when we contemplate the characters and exertions of the early disciples. Divine influence formed that wonderful communion of principle, affection, and resources, which then directed their mighty efforts to the renovation of a lost world. It combined with all the operations of that goodly fellowship, and brought them to bear with irresistible effect upon the grand object. Every christian church was then a band of devoted warriors, in which every chris

* Douglas's Hints on Missions, page 3.

tian principle was exerted in its full strength, and every talent was brought into constant and effective exercise. It was a magazine of arms, a common treasury of resources, a council for advice and encouragement. In a word, it was the host of God, and therefore we cannot be surprised, that the “weapons of its warfare, though not carnal, were mighty through God to the pulling down of the strong holds of the god of this world.”

If this is not the state of things now in the christian world, or in the churches of Christ, need we wonder, that the same spiritual efforts and success are not now realized ? But can any good reason be assigned why the same state of religion should not exist ?

Has Christianity waxed old, or has it lost its primitive glory and its primitive power? Can it do less for us than it did for the men of early times? Are the interests of the kingdom of Heaven, or the souls of men, less valuable than they were? Or have the charms of a Saviour's love, and the expectations of his approbation less power to persuade, or less attraction to excite to deeds of heroism, than they had eighteen centuries ago? We are not prepared to answer these questions in the affirmative. If not, then there is no reason to despair of yet witnessing Christianity in all its pristine purity and loveliness shining forth upon the world.

Let individuals then consider what they owe to Christ and to his cause; what Christ expects of them, and what the world has a right to look for. Let the churches of the saints rouse themselves to

still greater exertions, and stir up all the gifts that are in them. Let the talents, and the literature, and the property which belong to them be consecrated to the service of God. Let that dead. ness to the world, and that superiority to its fear and its shame, and its desire, which Christianity inculcates, be displayed. Let no man devolve upon another what he ought to do himself, or imagine that his obligations to the world can be discharged by proxy or by substitute : and that while he is luxuriating at his ease, his brethren may toil and suffer in his stead. Let us cease to imagine, that the contribution of a little paltry portion of our superfluous wealth, is a full discharge of the debt which we owe. Let us, in fine, bring all that we ought to contribute to this great cause, into God's storehouse, “and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing till there shall not be room enough to receive it."*

4. I come now to a fourth view of the means which the church and all its agents are called to employ, in order that the divine blessing may be secured—the exercise of prayer. To enter on an elaborate argument, that this is an enjoined duty, and that we cannot expect the blessing of God if we neglect it, is unnecessary, as every christian readily acknowledges it. But I fear there are

* See Note (AA).

not those strong and impressive views of its importance, which ought to be entertained, else our practice would generally be very different from what it is. In private, and in public, there would be more earnestness, and more holy importunity; more wrestling with God, and refusing to let him go until he blessed us. Then should we find, that God is indeed the hearer of prayer, and that for all heavenly blessings, he is “entreated by his people, to do them for them.”

While the duty of prayer is so generally admitted, as to render argument on the subject unnecessary, I do not know that there is any definite idea commonly entertained respecting the connexion between the means and the end. The duty is acknowledged, the object of it is under: stood; but the link which connects the one with the other is unknown, and perhaps supposed to be unknowable. That the connexion, however, is very intimate, and not altogether arbitrary, we have strong reason to believe. The mysterious link in the chain of causes and effects frequently escapes or eludes our detection; and yet that link may be of vast importance in the process of the divine operations. On this point I have two observations to offer.

In the first place, prayer is a special acknowledgment of God's prerogative in the spiritual economy, and an appeal to him to maintain his

The peculiar prerogative of God in the dispensation of Christianity, is to forgive,

own cause.

« ZurückWeiter »