« PreviousContinue »
to their Shepherd's voice, will say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou
be now mourning over evil tempers, and can only confess with shame and sorrow, and struggle in bitterness of soul against their conscious guilt. While you cannot be too condemnatory of self and sin, be not overwhelmed, be not overcome of evil, as if you had none to help you, or as if your cause were not common cause with all fellow-Christians, who all know the plague of their own hearts; but all are looking by faith to Him continually, who knoweth how to succour them that are tempted, and who makes their cause His, in all sincere conflicts against sin. Your sore inward conflicts are exceedingly heightened and increased by the arts and wiles of Satan, whose evil spirits come about you like bees, and perplex you, and would almost put your soul to silence. But be not overwhelmed; there is one mightier than Satan, who is all-powerful, and ready to hear your cry. Fight not in your own strength, but in His, and beseech Him to fight, not only with you, but for you. Give not over prayer-even the unuttered groaning of the heart, which He can understand, though you cannot find words to express your desire. Make every thing a subject of prayer; especially whatever that may be which you find hinders communion with God, and, interrupts loving Christian intercourse. Let nothing be unconfessed before the Throne of Grace; and if there be anything that causes vexation and angry feeling between yourself and any one else, let that very subject be brought before God in prayer, for Him to correct and chastise, or to heal and deliver from. Let our prayer be, each one for himself, “ Search me and try me, O my God; look well if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Let us “judge ourselves, that we be not judged” of the Lord. And then let us pray for an increase of true, sincere, and lively faith, to overcome our corruptions, however deeply-seated we find them. Above all, let us never give over praying for a large increase of charity in our own hearts, and in the Church at large. The more we want it, the more we feel the want of it in others, the more we must pray to their God and ours, for that most needful grace for them and for ourselves. Do not judge any brother; do not think harshly of them; turn every rising thought of unkind reflection into prayer for them, and for more mutual love between them and yourself.
Christians do not know their own strength, when, through “great grace being upon them all,” they are “ all of one heart and of one soul.” Oh, if they would but consider the rich fulness of blessing that there is in true, spiritual union and communion with one another in Christ-if
they would all seek earnestly, by continual prayer, for the gift of that Holy Spirit whose office it is to unite in one all the true disciples of Christ; to enlighten our understanding to know truth from error; that all who profess and call themselves Christians, may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life”—if they would but implore Him to heal all unnecessary divisions, to chase away dark suspicions and misunderstandings, to infuse a warm love, a cordial spirit of co-operation in all good works, with a single-hearted faith and allegiance to One only, our Master and King, our Shepherd and Bishop, our Prophet and Priest, Christ Jesus—what an united, what a conquering, what a happy band would they be! Oh, if we would but persevere in thus praying, what a goodly host would Christ's armies present under Him, the great Captain of our salvation! Who should be able to prevail against them? Externally, they would be impenetrable, because undivided. (I mean in inward spirit; the mere outward uniformity which would come of itself in such a state of things, this is not the time to seek after, for through this false cry many flocks have been scattered and not gathered.) “Union is strength.' Internally, such would be the bright flame of mutual love, truth, honesty, sincerity, and good-will, that no heart less upright in intention, less transparent and candid, would dare to appear among them, or call himself of their number. (Acts v. 13.)
Oh, hasten in thine own good time, most blessed Lord, this happy estate for thy chosen people. Oh, shed abroad thy Holy Spirit in the fulness of His sanctifying grace. O Thou, who hast ascended up on high, and hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; be pleased, we beseech Thee, to send abroad into thy harvest-fields such labourers, such apostles, such prophets, such evangelists,
such pastors and teachers, as shall be truly approved and taught by Thee, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the fulness of the body of Christ; that we henceforth be no children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, that we may grow up unto Thee in all things, who art the Head, O Christ! And grant that in Thee we may be one body, fitly framed together, and compacted by the effectual working of Thy Holy Spirit in the measure of every part; that we may make increase of the body unto our edifying in love. (See Ephes. iv. 8 to 16—adapted.) Hear us, O Lord, our Saviour, Amen.
Let us, my dear fellow-Christians, be strong in faith, strong in union and charity. Let us have the patience of hope. Let us be mighty in the Scriptures, and continuing instant in prayer for the agency of the Holy Spirit.
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God to the pulling down of strong-holds.” (2 Cor. x. 4.) Let us join also in St. Paul's sublime prayer, Eph. iii. 14 to 21.
COLUMB. E. T. R.
THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH.
“And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go
to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto Heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.' GEN. xi. 3, 4.
Fair indeed is the vision which has risen before many eyes, of one vast temple, wherein all nations shall be gathered, wherein all hearts shall worship the Lord God Omnipotent: yet not too fair for a fulfilment far beyond anything that the eye hath seen, that the ear hath heard, or that it hath entered into the heart of man to shadow forth.
Meanwhile, the dreamers of our age, like certain ancient visionaries of whom the Scriptures tell, may behold their own glittering fantasies disperse and melt into thin air, when the day has indeed dawned over all lands, when the day-star has indeed arisen upon all the dark places of the earth. And this may happen not the less because the dream they have dreamed possesses a majesty, which, if it were possible, might de ceive the
elect. The great fear which haunts them would seem to be that of division and dispersion. So were men haunted in the early days of our world ; and a scheme very similar did they devise for the prevention of the dreaded evil. It would seem, also, that they made some progress in their work, until He, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, whose ways are not as our ways, came down to behold their city and their tower. Perhaps in that early age there were a few among the families of men who rejoiced not in the shadow of the giant tower, who dreaded the concentration of might in the hands of the cruel and the proud, and the Lord hearkened and delivered them. One thing we know: then and there the tribes of the earth received that signal which was to disperse them for weary centuries. Then and there the word of the Highest brake into fragments their language and their interests. And when these shall be again united, we know not. Are there no circumstances in the history of the Christian Church which coincide rather strangely with this result? Have not the children of Rome said to one another “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; let us make us a name lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth;” and has not the end been, a tenfold dispersion and confusion even unto this day? Are not some amongst ourselves using the ancient language, and uttering anathemas against us, because we will not bring the slime and the brick at their bidding, to aid in their mighty work? The end is not yet, and it is hidden from our eyes; still we cannot but think their edifice of the earth, earthy; one that the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and destroy with the brightness of His coming. They may indeed point with scorn to our own manifold divisions, and truly grievous they are to look upon; but for the cause of these we think we must look farther back than they would care to glance, and in quarters where they would least allow that such manifestations could originate.
Have we, then, altogether closed our eyes to the fair vision of the Holy Catholic Church, because we will not lift them towards the Seven Hills, to which they are pointing? Surely not. We do behold, and not dimly, the vast temple of our God. We do see it rising between earth and heaven; not builded, indeed, of the slime and brick of this world, but of living and spiritual stones. We do oftentimes gaze into its majestic chambers, and we see them pure and white, shining with a heavenly glory, not darkened with earthly imagery, not clouded with earthly incense. We do gaze, and we do long for the day, when, none daring to make us afraid, our feet shall tread the holy courts, whose gates are closed against whomsoever loveth and maketh a lie. A gorgeous
may for a space rest upon a basis of falsehood like the
gay visions that hover awhile over an Italian sea; but we would fain build upon a surer foundation. Our work may seem contemptible now, and the scorner may say even “ that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall;" but we look for the day when the headstone shall be raised amidst shouts of praise, and a cry shall be heard from many tongues, of “Grace, grace unto it.”
Are we accused of gazing with cold indifference on our own especial position in the universal Temple, because we will not magnify a fair chamber into the vast and majestic whole? Do we look coldly on the goodly stones of which it is builded, because we will not chisel them according to the quaint devices of some amongst our brethren—because we will not shadow them with a perishable, though gorgeous tapestry? It is not so; but we would not that the work of our hands, the fabric so fair in our eyes, should be consumed in the latter day because of the hay, straw, and stubble encumbering it, even though we should escape, as by fire.”
Meanwhile we may learn something from those who oppose themselves. There is no reason why the discipline so beautiful in their eyes should be utterly neglected by ourselves. We, too, may find work for every hand; we, too, according to our degree, may yield or exact that dignified obedience which the highest and noblest minds are always the most willing to render. Decent order was not thrown aside, though it might be interrupted for a space, when our fathers brake down the graven images, and ground into powder the idols of the land. Discipline need not become a dead form, if we supplicate the presence of Him who hovered over the shapeless earth in the beginning, till that fair creation appeared, which was "very good” in the sight of its Maker.
DANGER OF SELF-CONFIDENCE.
NEGLIGENCE of the commandments of God must necessarily be accompanied with negligence of our own spiritual interests, of our best and highest happiness. Both are the immediate consequences of a self-conceited, self-satisfied state, which brings on remissness, carelessness, unwatchfulness. Then, who can say what may not follow of the black
catalogue of transgression and sin; of omissions in duty, negligences, commissions of positive sin, and scandalous breakings of His holy laws; excepting He, of the infinite riches of His long-suffering mercy through Jesus Christ, take pity upon us, and arouse us, and quicken us to repentance, to a sense of our dangers, to a tender, filial mourning over our departure from Him, and to renewed watchfulness, and diligence, and perseverance, and anxious desires after further progress in the blessed and only happy paths of His commandments; and a constant sense of His presence; and the light of His countenance towards us in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord.
To count not anything done, while anything remained undone, and to be more fearful of losing the good effects of a victory, that triumphant in the victory itself, was the maxim and secret of success of one of the greatest of the ancient heroes. And this may afford an illustration to the practice and experience of a greater hero, in attaining far nobler victories, even St. Paul himself, who says, “ Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. ii. 13, 14, and 12 also.) These kind of considerations throw a light on the exceeding danger of self-confidence and of becoming self-satisfied, conceited, and vain-glorious, which immediately brings on carelessness in the Christian walk. It is as if Satan were suggesting to them,
have made so great a progress, you need not take such pains in future.” Oh, poor, ignorant, foolish soul! thou wilt quickly undo all that thou hast wrought, quickly lose all that thou hast gained, if this be the language of the whisperings of thy heart, or of the enemy of your soul who is always on the watch for such thoughts, and knows either how to inject them, or to improve them to some bitter fall, if not to thine everlasting ruin. This may be the first step of thy departure from the Lord; these deceitful flatteries of Satan or the world to rob thee of thine eternal crown. See that thou lose not that which thou hast wrought; let no man take thy crown!" But oh, watch and pray yet the more humbly, and the more earnestly, the more advantages thou seemest to gain from the enemies of thy soul; the more progress thou appearest to make in victory over "sin, the world, and the devil.” And oh, see that it is under Christ's banner, and by the faith of Christ crucified, that thou alone dependest for victory. Fighting the good fight of faith is the best school for humbling self, and exalting the Captain of our salvation; for in this fight all is done in His strength, and to His glory. “His strength is made perfect in thy weakness.”
Again: He who knoweth what is in man, has, throughout His holy word, given us “ line upon line, and precept upon precept,” to teach us humility, watchfulness, and the necessity of a tender, awakened, fearing, yet loving frame of mind, and a humble, contrite walk with Him. And that not only is this the only spirit which He accepts through His blessed Son, but that it is the disposition the safest for thee, and the most productive of those fruits which are to redound, not to thy own glory, but to His, who gave Himself for thee, and in love bade thee learn of His own meek and lowly spirit. Yet whose conquests can in the remotest degree approach those of the great Captain of our salvation