« PreviousContinue »
be a father! But not so the church. “ Thus saith the Lord" does not satisfy her sons now. They must have better reasons for believing than that. They must hear first what he has to say, and then see if they can get a confirmation of it from any quarter before they will believe it. How unceremoniously many of these children treat some of the things which their Father very evidently says, because they do not strike them as in accordance with reason, justice, or common sense!
How docile the little child is ! Mary, who “sat at Jesus' feet and heard his word,” was such a child. Never a why or a how asked she of him. I cannot say so much for the church of our day. Simplicity also characterizes little children. How open and artless they are—how free from guile. Such was Nathanael. Whether this trait of character be conspicuous in the church now, let the reader say.
Little children are moreover characterized by love, and their charity
thinketh no evil.” How unsuspicious they are! But too much of the charity of the present day, so far from thinking no evil, thinketh no good. It suspects every body. It "hopeth " nothing. Indeed love, and her sister peace, which used to lead the graces, are become as wall-flowers with many; into such neglect they have fallen. They seem to be quite out of the question with many. Some good men appear to think that contending for the faith is the end of the commandment:
and the fulfilling of the law. But it is not. It is a duty, an important duty-one too little regarded by many-one never to be sneered at as by some it is. I acknowledge some treat it as if it were nothing. I only say it is not every thing. There is walking in love, and following peace, which, as well as contending for the faith, are unrepealed laws of Christ's house. I believe they can all be done, and that each is best done when the others are not neglected. I am sure truth never lost any thing by being spoken in love. I am of opinion that a principal reason why we are not more of one mind, is that we are not more of one heart. How soon they who feel heart to heart, begin to see eye to eye! The way to think alike is first to feel alike; and if the feeling be love, the thought will be truth. I wish, therefore, for the sake of sound doctrine, that the brethren could love one another. What if we see error in each other to condemn, can we not find any thing amiable to love? I would the experiment might be made. Let us not cease to contend for the faith—not merely for its own sake, but for love's sake, because “faith worketh by love." But, in the conflict, let us be careful to shield love. It is a victory for truth scarcely worth gaining, if charity be left bleeding on the field of battle.
You see why I think the church wants converting. It is to bring her back to humility, and simplicity, and love. I wish she would attend to this matler. She need not relax her efforts for the world. She has time enough to turn a few reflex acts on herself The object of the church is to make the world like herself. But let her in the meantime make herself more like what the world ought to be. It is scarcely desirable that the world should be as the church in general now is. Let her become a better model for the world's imitation. Her voice is heard for Christ; but let her " hold forth the word of life" in her conduct, as well as by her voice. Let her light shine. Let her good works be manifest Let her heaven-breathed spirit breathe abroad the same spirit.
The work of the conversion of the world goes on slowly; but it makes as much progress as the work of the conversion of the church does. No more sinners are converted, because no more Christians are converted. The world will continue to lie in wick. édness, while " the ways of Zion mourn as they do. Does any one wonder that iniquity abounds, when the love of so many has waxed cold? We are sending the light of truth abroad, when we have but little of the warmth of love at home.
We are often asked what we are doing for the conversion of the world. We ought to be doing a great deal-all we can. But I would ask, what are we doing for the conversion of the church? What to promote holiness nearer home, among our fellowChristians and in our own hearts? Let us not forget the world, but at the same time let us remember Zion.
16. Inquiring Saints.
I was asked the other day whether I had had any recent meeting for inquirers. I replied that I had not --that there were few inquiring sinners in the congregation, and I judged the reason to be, that there were few inquiring saints. “ Inquiring saints ! that is a new phrase. We always supposed that inquiring belonged exclusively to sinners." But it is not so. Do we not read in Ezekiel, 36 : 37, " Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them ?” By the house of Israel, that is, by his people—by the church. You see that God requires and expects his covenanted people to inquire. It is true that saints do not make the same inquiry that sinners do. The latter ask what they must do to be saved, whereas the inquiry of Christians is, " Wilt thou not revive us again ?" It is a blessed state of things when the people of God are inquiring. It is good for themselves, and it has a most benign influence on others. When the people of God inquire, presently the impenitent begin to inquire. That question, “ Wilt thou not revive us ?'' is soon followed by the other, “What must I do to be saved ?" Yes, when saints become anxious, it is not long ere sinners become anxious. The inquiry of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, “Men and brethren, what shall we do ?" was preceded by the inquiry of the one hundred and twenty, who '"
Hall continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” Generally, I suppose, that is the order. First saints inquire, and then sinners. And whenever, in any congregation, religion does not flourish, one principal reason of it is that the saints are not inquiring. They do not attend their inquiry meeting appointed for them. The saints' inquiry meeting is the prayer meeting. In that Christians meet together to inquire of the Lord “ to do it for them," that is, to fulfill the promise about the new heart and the new spirit, of which he had been speaking. Now, when this meeting is crowded and interesting -when the inquiry among Christians is general, and earnest, and importunate, the sinners' inquiry meeting usually becomes crowded and interesting.
O that I could make my voice to be heard by all the dear people of God in the land on this subject I would say, “ You wonder and lament that sinners do not inquire. But, are you inquiring? You wonder that they do not feel. But do you feel? Can you expect a heart of stone to feel, when a heart of flesh does not? You are surprised that sinners can sleep. It is because you sleep along side of them. Do you but awake, and bestir yourselves, and look up and
you will see how soon they will begin to be roused, and to look about them, and to ask the meaning of your solicitude." O that the saints would but inquire! That is what I want to sec.
cry to God, and