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children of Israel”-his own countrymen in their own beloved land. His, therefore, was a truly patriotic spirit and enterprise. And his patriotism shone out conspicuously through all his career. Fearing God, he sought God's honour; and loving his country, he sought its welfare and the good of Zion. In the case of Nehemiah, we have one of the brightest examples on record, of genuine patriotic devotion. And his patriotism was of the noblest stamp, for it was religious patriotism, founded on and nourished by the principles of godliness—faith in God and love to men—and patriotism which led him to seek the welfare of his country, by seeking first and chiefly the prosperity of Zion, the Church of the living God.
. And need we remind you, that such, too, was the enlightened patriotism of those noble worthies who, in Reformation times, in our own and other lands, laboured so zealously and successfully to promote the welfare of their countries, by seeking the good of Zion-by purifying, extending, and establishing the Church of Christ, and publishing a full and free and pure gospel ? And is not such a spirit of patriotic devotion still needed and loudly called for at the present time, in order to the preservation and maintenance of our precious religious privileges and national liberties, since with these, infinitely more than with powerful armies and navies, or extending commerce and enlarging revenues, are bound up our true national greatness and our country's highest well-being ? For it is “righteousness that exalteth a nation,” while “sin is a reproach to any people.” O, for a band of noble, valiant-hearted men, animated by the spirit of a Nehemiah, baptised with the Spirit of God, to go forth and rouse us up as a poeple, to resist the inroads of our ancient foes, anew putting forth their energies to regain their hold upon our land, and to summon us, as with trumpet tongue, to arise and build up, ere it be too late, the sadly broken down walls and bulwarks of our spiritual Jerusalem, and of our national Protestant constitution ! And would that as a people we were disposed to listen to, and comply with such a summons without delay, and, like the Jews of old, “had a mind to work” for our country's deliverance and salvation! “O, that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!” The Lord arise and plead His ow cause, turn back our long captivity, heal our grievous national backslidings, repair our many breaches, and in His great compassion, “ renew our days as of old.”
Be it ours to be stirred up by this subject, each one in his
own special sphere of labour and influence, to aim more and more at cultivating the spirit and imitating the noble example of Nehemiah. There is a twofold all-important work in which, as the professed servants of the God of heaven, we are called earnestly to engage, viz., that of working out our own individual salvation with fear and trembling, and helping on the Lord's public work in the Church and in the world—the work of winning souls to Christ and of subduing the nations of the earth to His sceptre of righteousness.
In reference to our own individual salvation, or the work of personal religion in the soul, let us be encouraged to say“The God of Heaven, He will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build.” While religion in the soul is emphatically God's work, as it is He “who worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” it is also our work, for we are exhorted to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” and to “give all diligence to make our calling and clection sure.” Now, in the prosecution of this great work, which ought to be the grand business of our lives, there is much to be done ; while there are many difficulties in the way, and many adversaries. And had we only to look to and trust in an arm of flesh, we might at once give it up in despair. But animated by the conviction that the God of heaven will prosper us, for His own name's sake, it should be ours to address ourselves earnestly to the work of building by faith upon the sure foundation laid in Zion, and of seeking to have the woful breaches which sin has made upon our moral natures divinely repaired. Encouraged by the promise of help from the glorious Captain of our salvation, we should " take the whole armour of God,” that we may fight valiantly “the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life,” resolved through grace to suffer nothing to deter us from this momentous work. Had we only such faith and zeal and courage as we ought to have, what might not be speedily effected on the side of personal godliness, under the blessing of the God of heaven ? Surely we might all make our profiting in spiritual things to appear more visibly and impressively, to the honour of God's grace and the confusion of our spiritual adversaries.
Be not disheartened or dismayed, humble child of God, called to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Upon Nehemiah of old and his great enterprise there were adversaries who poured contempt, deriding him, doubtless, as a foolish enthu
siast; but he was successful notwithstanding—and who does not now honour and applaud him ? So was it with our noble reforming ancestors, in their day, and the great work they were called and honoured to perform ; and so has it been, less or more, with all, in every age, who have dared to appear on the Lord's side and have been valiant for His truth, according to the apostolic declaration, “ All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” And so may you expect to be derided and reproached in an evil, error-loving world, in proportion as you are faithful to Christ, and to the interests of your own precious souls. But rejoice that the day is coming when you shall be acknowledged by the God of heaven before an assembled universe, and then shall those who may now treat you with derision bitterly regret that they did not join with you in the work which they ridiculed and set at nought. “Be thou faithful unto death,” says Christ, “and I will give thee a crown of life.” “ Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
Then, in reference to the further important work of seeking to advance the interests of the Redeemer's cause and kingdom in the world, be encouraged also to say, like Nehemiah, “ The God of heaven, He will prosper us, therefore we His servants will arise and build.” How much yet remains to be done in and for the Church of Christ, and in and for the world at large, through the Church's instrumentality! How loud and incessant the call to all the living members of the Church, in all its sections, to bestir themselves in the work of maintaining and defending the truth as it is in Jesus, and of spreading it abroad-to arise and build up the walls of our national Zion, that have been so long sadly breached, and are being every day more seriously broken down, by error and corruption, and to extend the blessings of the gospel to those perishing for lack of knowledge—to labour more zealously, and give more liberally, and pray more fervently, that Christ's kingdom may come, and that His will may be done upon the earth as it is done in heaven! In what a sad and pitiable state of ruin and desolation are all the Churches of the Reformation, and how urgent the need of seeking for them, both at home and abroad, times of reviving, extension, and thorough reformation! And in what a woful condition, spiritually, is the world at large, filled with the darkness of error, and sin, and the habitations of horrid cruelty - everywhere exhibiting the mournful effects of the relentless work of the great destroyer of souls! For the world's sake, therefore, how concerned should we be for the advancement of the Redeemer's blessed cause, since therein lies the only hope of its emancipation from the dread thraldom of the wicked one!
And what though many may be lukewarm, indifferent, or desponding, who might be expected to take the lead in all such work ? What though our means be small and our opportunities few for helping on this twofold noble work of maintaining the truth and evangelising the world? And what though those opposed to such efforts should ridicule and do their utmost to counteract them ? Should we, because of such things, sit down in listlessness and despair ? Nay, verily! All the more, rather, should we be constrained to put forth every effort for the furtherance of the Gospel, in humble dependence on the promised blessing, saying, “The God of heaven, He will prosper us, therefore we His servants will arise and build."
Had all who profess their faith in Christ, and their belief in His gospel as the one, divinely-provided, sovereign remedy for the world's sore maladies—as the one grand instrument for the enlightenment and salvation of mankind-had all such a mind to work: if they were filled with love, and zeal, and courage, and led to “strive together for the faith of the gospel,” and combine their efforts for its dissemination in a judicious, scriptural way; and were they to mingle believing, importunate prayer with all their labours—who can conceive what great things might be effected in a short time under the blessing of the God of heaven, who is the God of all grace? How soon might truth be triumphant and prevail, and the wilderness and solitary place be made glad, and the moral desert rejoice and blossom as the rose !
Let us take courage, and be resolved to do what in us lies on the side of truth and of the world's salvation," while it is day," pressing earnestly forward in the work of the Lord and having respect unto the glorious recompence of the reward. Undismayed by adversaries, and undeterred by difficulties, let us confide in the God of heaven, and go on in His name and strength to fulfil His holy and blessed will. Let us devise liberal things in the Lord's service, and put the Divine faithfulness to the test. And let us deal courageously, and the Lord shall be with the good. Amen.
CONFESSION OF SINS,
THE SURE CONDITION OF
REV. J. J. G. KIPPEN,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."-1 JOHN i. 9.
THE Apostle John, the writer of this epistle, aims at bringing his readers to walk in unbroken fellowship with the Father and the Son. The substance of the message, which he received from the manifested “Word of Life," and now declares to them, he gives in few, but pregnant words,—“God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” He only, then, can have fellowship with God, who walks in the Light, as God is in the Light. And if we thus walk, the blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us from every sin. But, in order to this cleansing, sin must be confessed. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." In such a case, we are walking in the darkness, and not in the Light. The acknowledgment of sin is involved in the very fact of walking in the Light. And this acknowledgment is the sure condition of forgiveness and cleansing; for, “ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Here, three points suggest themselves for our consideration, -First, Confession of sin; Second, Forgiveness of sin, and cleansing from unrighteousness; Third, the sure ground we have for believing, that where sin is confessed, it will be forgiven and cleansed away.
I. Confession of sin. What is it?