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THE WORK AND STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH.
(Sermon preached before an Association of Churches.)

lii. 1. Awake, awuke, put on thy strength, 0 Zion. Isaiah prophesied more than a hun- bounded only by the globe ; its subjects dred years before the captivity of only by the entire race. But before it Isracl. Many of his predictions had can reach its destined universality, its to do with its termination. In his gospel must be proclaimed to all men, inspired anticipation, the period of and the gods many and lords many of Israel's desolation is now coming to a idolatry's empire must be destroyed. close, and the day of their redemption That is part of the work which Christ is drawing nigh. Hence, in these has intrusted to His Church. Glorious latter chapters, he calls upon the harvests have been reaped as the result exiles, under the figure of a captive of the Church's toil.

But large porfemale, to arise from the ground on tions of the earth have yet to be won which she has been sitting, to shake to our Saviour King. From the entire herself from the dust with which she regions of darkness and death that are has been covered, to lay aside all the still under the dominion of false gods, emblems of her degradation, and pre- it is computed that forty immortal pare to return to the enjoyment of beings go into eternity every minute, freedom and prosperity in the land of more than 2000 every hour, and more her fathers. By a figure still bolder, than 50,000 every day. Fifty thousand he summons the holy land and the human beings daily hastening to a holy city to clothe themselves in their tribunal of which they never heard, best attire, and get ready for the and ushered into the presence of a reception of the liberated captive. God they never knew, because His own Frequently he employs the proper Church has hitherto failed to make names, Zion and Jerusalem, in their Him known to the ends of the earth! literal sense ; but at other times Jeru- 2. It has the Mohammedan imposture salem is put for its inhabitants, and yet to overthrow. The mosque still Zion represents the worshippers of the stands on the very mount of God's true God. In this latier sense I employ selection, where once Solomon worthe term Zion now. In the preceding shipped, where Isaiah prophesied, chapter we see the chosen people in where Asaph sung, and vhere Jesus a suppliant attitude, sending up to taught. Nearly one hundred millions heaven the cry—“Awake, awake, put of the earth's population are daily on strength, O arm of the Lord.” In heard uttering the watch word—“There the text we listen to the responsive is one God, and Mahommed is His command of heaven, addressed to the prophet.” Never must we consider praying Church,—“Awake, awake, put the Church's work done until the on thy strength, 0 Zion.”

crescent be made to give way to the More than five-and-twenty centuries cross, and the followers of the false have passed away since the echo of prophet be brought to worship Jesus as these words first fell on expecting ears; the sent of God and the only Saviour but there is a sense in which they are

of men. as much needed by the Church of our 3. It has multitudes of the Jews yet to day as by the Zion to and for which convert to the faith of Christ. It is calIsaiah spoke and wrote.

culated that nearly six millions and a I. THE WORK WHICH THE CHURCH half of the seed of Abraham are, at HAS TO DO.

this time, scattered about in the differ1. It has millions of heathen yet to ent nations of the earth. These must evangelise. The kingdom which the be sought, and instructed, and entreated Messiah came to set up, was to be until they are won to Christ. VOL. II.

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& mere man.

4. It has the Papal apostasy to oppose. begets a restless dissatisfaction with As far from “the truth as it is in Jesus old truths however sound, and old is it now as when our own Wickly ffe ways however safe—the irreverence with began to protest against its errors. As which sacred things are treated and spoken dishonourable to God, as injurious to of. society, as corruptive of morals, as 10. It has lost ground to regain. The dangerous to souls, as when Luther cause of spiritual religion has not kept hurled at the whole system the thun- pace with the progress which has been ders of his righteous indignation. made in other things. Where, in some

5. It has a growing infidelity to con- cases, the external machinery of religion front.

has been pushed forward, there is rea6. It has to meet and resist a form of son to fear that the inward life of it religion which, while it holds fast the has been “sick and ready to die.". name of Christianity, denies and denounces These are some of the claims which most of its distinctive doctrines. I refer the times now passing over us present to that system which would pluck the to the act of the Church; and if crown of Deity from the Saviour's the Church had nothing more to do brow, and reduce Him to the level of than what has now been stated, it

must be evident at a glance that its 7. It has a vast region of indifference work is one of great magnitude and to invade. Wrapped in the slumbers vast responsibility. The requirements of a spiritual death, multitudes care for of the case cannot be met by feeble none of these things.

resolves, low aims, or weak efforts. A 8. It has a false liberalism to contend Church asleep will not do for it. A against. The parties that espouse this Church reposing on the lap of its own cause have a creed, and it runs some- privileges will not do for it. "Awake, what in this strain—“There is some- awake, put on thy strength, O Zion." thing good in all religions: no church is II. IN WHAT THE STRENGTH OF perfect, nor persons either : it matters THE CHURCH CONSISTS : AND HOW IT not what sect a man belongs to, so SHOULD PUT IT ON. that he has charity in his soul, and 1. The first element of its renewed observes justice in his dealings : it strength must be sought in its waking matters not what doctrines a man be- up to a sense of its past neglects and its lieves, so that he is honest in his belief, present duties. Misconceptions on these for-this condition complied with—he points will be fatal to its power. may be an infidel and yet be saved.” 2. The Church's love to Christ must be We must not let this evil

go

unchecked augmented. What was the secret of and unopposed. It is wrong in itself, Apostolic doing, daring, and sufferit is dangerous and destructive in its ing? It was love—“the love of Christ tendency-and hence, as the witnesses constraining us." Could we but get for God, we must work to stop its pro- the same hallowed fire in our hearts gress and to neutralise its inischiefs.

—could we but get it to burn on, with 9. It has cerlain tendencies of the age a steady, constant, and augmenting to keep in check. Such as the growing flame, no service would be a weariness worldliness of professors of religion--the to us, no sacrifice a hardship, and no lagrowing love of gaiety, amusements, and bour commanded by our Divine Master pleasure, which often leads to dangerous would be refused or neglected. If we associations and the desecration of the can but get our hearts filled with the Sabbath—a spirit of daring speculation expansive and impulsive energy of in trade--the deification of reason, which Divine love, we shall soon be clad in leads men to treat Gospel doctrines as the mantle of Divine strength. they would mathematical problems, to 3. There must be an increase of faith. question when they ought to believe, Our warfare is the fight of faith, and and to reject what they cannot com- our work is the work of faith. The prehend--the rage for novelties, which Master whom we serve is the invisible God; the rewards we expect are unseen into it by the individual responsibility and future. The results of our labours of its separate members. Go daily to are uncertain, except as we anticipate the throne of God with the inquirythem by faith. Our obstacles are seen, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to our difficulties are felt. The natural do ?” Be willing that God should exclamation of conscious weakness is-- answer it in any way He sees fit; and the work is too great for us. Too great then as soon as it is answered, do that indeed it would be, if we had to do it thing, whatever it may be, do it willalone. But Omnipotence is pledged to ingly, do it diligently, do it well. help us, and success is guaranteed by 6. There must be enlarged liberality. Divine promise. We must have faith As compared with the givings of some in that promise. Going forth strong bygone ages, the present scale of conin the power of faith, we may expect tributions to the cause of God may

be to see much greater things than we admitted to be liberal. But what is have ever yet beheld.

given now, in a general way, bears but 4. There must be an increase of fervent small proportion to what was given prayer. First must we become princes by the devout Jew to meet the rewith God, and then shall we prevail quirements of the ceremonial law. The with men. The Holy Spirit is given givings of both rich and poor to the in answer to prayer. The special out- cause of Popery—the princely sums of pouring of that Spirit on the Church English earls, and the hard-earned in its infancy, was preceded by special pennies of Irish labourers—might well prayer. Gifts, zeal, activity, eloquence, shame the stinted offerings of those fervour, will all be in vain without the who profess a purer faith. The sacriSpirit of God. What the steam is to fices made by deluded multitudes in the engine, and what the winds of the worship of their false gods, make heaven are to the canvas-clad vessel, our ordinary rate of giving appear the influences of the Spirit are more like an insult than an offering. to the plans and activities of the The servants of sin give incomparably Church. Without these influences more to the cause of corruption and there may be much husbandry but no death, than do the servants of the harvest, much work but no progress. living God to the cause of religion and The known readiness of the Spirit to salvation. How will rich professors help and bless, should not supersede answer for themselves before God, who prayer but stimulate it.

hoard up wealth for themselves and 5. There must be a deepened sense of their heirs, and leave the cause of God personal responsibility. When charged to languish and die for want of support? with past neglects and sins, we must The Church's work will not be done not attempt to shift the blame from until those of His servants, whom He ourselves and fasten it upon others. makes stewards of His wealth, shall

Against Thee, O Lord, have 1 sinned, honour Him with something better and done evil in Thy sight.” With than “the crumbs" which fall from respect to the future and its duties, we their own table. must be on our guard against being 7. There must be more directness of deluded by what may become to us aim in the pulpit. To preach before a the fiction of the Church.

When we

congregation is one thing, to preach speak of the Church's work and re- to it is another. To preach to men in sponsibilities, we must not give the the mass, is the method of some, to least indulgence to the idea that we preach so as to make each man feel—it are speaking of some imaginary being is I, was the method of Paul (Col. i. 28). or body, altogether separate and dis- 8. There must be more of a devout ond tinct from ourselves. The Church is teachable spirit in the pew. The extracomposed of individual Christians, and vagant and often ridiculous demand the only responsibility of the Church for “talent” in the pulpit, must be as a whole is that which is brought moderated. When this is made the

Hence many

alpha and omega of ministerial fitness, ing brings the greatest number of souls of course the

people take
upon them-

to Christ, and is most successful in selves to judge whether or not it exists promoting the knowledge, purity, conin sufficient measure.

sistency, and usefulness of his flock. go to the house of God, not to be in- Men who really want to do God's structed, edified in the faith, helped on work, will feel that they have no time in their way to heaven ; but to sit in to waste in fruitless criticisms; and judgment on the preacher's intellectual that human life is far too precious a powers, that they may go and pro- thing to be frittered away in either nounce for or against what they have compliments or complaints of God's heari. Spiritual growth is the last workmen. thing thought of and least cared about. 9. The promotion of family piety must But this must be altered before Chris. be made more a matter of business at home. tians will advance and churches will 10. There must be more of mutual work as they ought to do. When our sympathy between Christians and churches. people come to a right state of mind There must be co-operation for mutual on this subject, they will think that support and for aggressive work in the man the best minister whose preach- name of Christ.-John Corbin.

THE PERILS AND STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH.

enemy, like

lii. 1. Awake, awake, put on thy strength. The words of the text were ad- truths of its creed that have enabled dressed by God to His people when in it to stand the storms of persecutions, a state of peril. The

that inspired its reformers, clothed its Delilah, about taking advantage of martyrs with power to suffer death on their drowsy condition, to deprive its behalf, and form the basis of this them of their strength.

grand edifice the Christian Church I. THE COMMAND UTTERED TO THE (1 Cor. iii. 11). CHURCH.

2. “Awake, awake,because there are “Awake, awake." The words, elements within thee that rapidly lead to though indicating the low condition apostasy, decay. The injury received by of the Church, in reference to its the Church from without, compared moral and spiritual mission, are still with that done within, is but very consoling; they prove that it was not little. Joshua and his people had dead. It was sleeping, and life is an many evils to withstand and powerful essential condition of sleep. The enemies to conquer in taking the fortiChurch at the time was in the nearest fied cities of Canaan; but they had a position possible for the living to be greater loss and more shame through to the dead. Sleep resembles death

the action of Achan in their own camp in many respects. But it is not death. than from all the enemies without. Hence the propriety of the command. There are things still in the Church

Why the Church to-day should obey that demand that it should listen to the the command. 1. “Awake, awake," alarm of our text. (1.) The ritualistic because the foundations of thy faith are tendencies of a great number of its threatened. Threats spring from various members. People that think more sources—from the sceptical teachings of the form than the spirit of the of the age, from the oscillation of its service, more of the person that own members, and especially from the speaks, than what he

says;

that fact, that so many of its teachers clothe themselves in the ritual of reendeavour to persuade men that it ligion and feel satisfied. (2.) “Worldmatters not what they believe if they liness." This evil principle manifests live properly. This is an attempt to itself in various forms in Church life, deprive the Church of the fundamental There are some people that join the

Church for mercenary purposes. Re- which they were connected, who have ligion in our days is considered so left their mark on the kingdom of evil. respectable a thing, that a profession of 2. In meditation. There is nothing it gives a person reputation, and helps so effectual to inspire the mind, and him on; but mark this, it is possible clothe the soul with courage, as medli. to obtain a reputation by a mere pro- tation on the Lord's dealings with His fession of Christianity, and at the same children (Ps. lxxvii. 11-20). time be void of its power (2 Tim. iii. 3. Prayer.

With this the Church 5). It manifests itself also in the lack on earth is able to command the forces of liberality, shown by many of its of heaven to the battle-field to fight on members in sustaining its tunds. The its behalf (2 Chron. xx.) poorer classes cannot afford to contri- 4. The word of God, which is called bute large sums for this purpose ; but by Paul “the sword of the Spirit," when we find people enjoying all the and is the offensive weapon of the luxuries of life and contributing mea- Church. The Cliristian armour consists grely towards the funds of the Church of both defensive and offensive weapons of the Most High, we feel it our duty (Eph. vi.), and the Church is comto deal plainly with them. What con- manded to take “the whole armour of verted Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, God, that it may be able to withstand brought Haman to the gallows, and in the evil day, and having done all, sent “ Demas” out of the Church into to stand."-J. P. Williams. the world ļ Worldliness! And worldliness will again affect its victims in a similar manner, and the presence of I. Put on strength by wakefulness. such an enemy in the Church is a Sleep of the body, up to a certain sufficient reason that it should listen point, is needful and wholesome; but to the voice of its Maker in our text. beyond that it is harmful. The drow(3.) The carelessness of a great number siness of the sluggard is injurious. of its members with reference to purity of Still more hurtful is spiritual drowsilife. The standard of Christian morality A slumbering life results in is certainly too low in the minds of moral death, Sleepy men

are the thousands of our fellow-Christians. easy prey of false teachers; their The ripe fruits that adorn the Christian moral vision is obscured, and they do life (Gal. v. 22, 23) are unknown to not easily discern between the true many professing Christians in our day. and the false; their critical faculties

In the presence of many enemies, are paralysed, and they are not in a the duty of the Church is clearly de- condition to try the spirits," whether fined. "Awake, awake, put on thy they be of God. These times require strength.” She need not seek power men who are awake. The first two outside her own resources.

“ Put on

words of the text are not to be disconthy beautiful garments.” Open thine nected from the others, for by wakeown wardrobe, clothe thyself in thine fulness we do put on strength. Awake own apparel, that thy beauty and from your dreams, open your eyes to power may be perceptible.

behold the realities of life, and address II, IN WHAT DOES THE STRENGTH yourselves to the duties to which God OF THE CHURCH CONSIST?

1. In its devoting itself entirely to the II. Put on strength by activity. work which it has to perform. The work Activity develops strength of body, of consecrating oneself to the moral and of mind, of soul. Slothfulness is the spiritual objects of the Church is too secret and the cause of the spiritual often neglected in these days. Remem- weakness that abounds in our churches, ber, it is the men who entirely devoted What God requires of us is that themselves to the Lord's service, inde- by exercise we should develop the pendent of their own personal interest strength with which we have been and safety, or of the sect or party to

endowed. It is not our possession of

ness,

calls you.

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