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exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. x. 5). God now takes to Him his great power, and reigns in the converted soul; and the Christian, no longer living to the lusts of his own heart, desires no will but God's -no pleasure but the pleasing of Him who has called him out of darkness into His marvellous light.
The assertion that God makes in the Gospel of his claim to his creature, man, is but a re-assertion of his rights as Creator; made, however, on further grounds, which, while they do not render these rights more clear, unquestionably impose infinitely greater obligation upon us to yield the obedience they demand. “ Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Cor. xi. 19, 20.) And to this comprehensive claim every other must yield. “ If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke xiv. 26.)
But where is the renewed soul which will not rejoice in this entire devotement of itself to Christ? If true to its spiritual nature, it will delight itself in God, and in living to his will. The old man is crucified; the Christian has died to sin, with Christ, and is raised with Him to newness of life-to a new law, and a new authority—the law and authority of God. Rejoicing in this new life, he yields his members “servants to righteousness and holiness.” In the bonds of love, he gives himself unremittingly and perpetually to his service, who, by the omnipotence of his love, exhibited in the cross, took him captive to his grace.
On this point we receive further instruction from the history of the Saviour's life. Not only in verbal statement does He prescribe the amount of devotion He requires of his followers; He exemplified it, and thus defined it. Of the teachers occupying the seat of Moses, our Lord says—“They bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matt. xxiii. 4.) This censure cannot be pronounced on the “ Teacher come from God.” The obedience He enjoined He rendered, and every claim of duty He announced, He honoured. “I must work the work of Him that sent Me, while it is day.” (John ix. 4.) “I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished !” (Luke xii. 50.) Thus He spoke, and in like manner He acted. He “ went about doing good.” By night and by day; in the temple, in the market-place, and in the synagogue; in the house, and by the way, we find Him intently engaged in that work which the Father had given Him to do. Even to the awful scene of Calvary, He steadfastly set his face to that work; and it was not till He could say, “It is finished,” that He bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Brethren, this is your pattern, and ye have need to keep it continually in view. You are naturally prone to accept as a standard the conduct of your fellow-Christians. Each individual of a community powerfully influences his neighbour, it may be unintentionally and unconsciously, but necessarily; and this influence is increased when men are associated together restrictively for a common purpose, as in the church. Nay, in this association, on account of its peculiar character, the reciprocal influence is more powerful than in any other. Other associations are formed for the attainment of a certain object, and that being secured, they are dissolved; or for the expression of certain opinions in which the members are agreed, though differing, it may be, in matters of far greater moment; or if permanent, as far as anything in this world can be, still they are temporary, and to accomplish temporary purposes. The society of the Christian church, on the other hand, is formed for purposes all important, which claim to engage our supreme concern, to occupy our whole soul. It gathers the peculiar people” out of the world, and makes them one in fellowship as they are one in Christ. It binds them together by the ties of a spiritual kindred, and forms the only friendship which will be lasting as eternity. On entering the church we thus subject ourselves to an influence peculiarly powerful, and, so far natural and legitimate. Indeed, the formation or concentration of such influence was doubtless one of the great purposes designed in the formation of the church, as a counteractive to the influence of the world. In this union strength is communicated to the weak, and stability to the wavering, and the character matured for the upper sanctuary. Especially to the young, and to all in whom the Christian character is incipient is this of great importance, as they are enabled to stand by the strength of their fellow-members, and to proceed onwards by their assistance, and but for the sanctuary of the church many such would fall before the seductions of the world. In yielding ourselves, therefore, to this mutual influence, the danger is that we yield too much; that we give ourselves to be moulded by it, instead of by the higher influence of Divine truth. We ought to follow the example of Christians, but only so far as it is Christian example, neither turning aside after their aberrations, nor stopping short at their shortcomings.
The power of this influence, and the need of caution lest we yield too much to it, is manifest in the general character of the members of the Christian church. We see by far the greater part of them content with reaching the general standard (which standard indeed they form), satisfied with such an amount of attainment and devotedness as will secure them a place in the church. And what is it which has reduced the general character of Christianity, as exhibited in the lives of its followers, so far below what it ought to be? It is this resting satisfied with mediocrity—this contentment with what is merely passable. It is the making of this character the standard, instead of “reaching forth unto those things which are before.” (Ph. iii. 13, 14.) And much of the spirit of the world has hence been infused into the church, because, instead of recognising the full extent of the claims of Christ, her children have too generally sought to engraft just as much of Christianity upon their former opinions and life, as will merely suffice to secure their admission among his professed followers.
This is a serious charge; let us see whether it can be made good. Alas! the proof is but too obvious, and too abundant. Has the church been careful to maintain the line of demarcation distinct between the world and herself? Have her children been ever zealous to show themselves those whose citizenship is in heaven? So far from this, the church has in various of her sections voluntarily allied herself to the world in an unseemly yoke, and partaking of the nature of that to which she has so united herself
, has become of “the earth, earthy." The ambition of her children glorying in this connection has been, not to separate themselves as far as they could from the world, but to conjoin themselves with it as closely as they might venture to do, and yet retain the Christian name. And even in those sections of the church which, while they give to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, refuse to yield Him the things which are God's; we find the maxims and practices of the world intruding and exerting their baneful influence. Their members are found too frequently striving as eagerly and anxiously for the attainment of the prizes of the world, as the men of the world themselves ;
endeavouring to surpass each other in worldly importance, and outshine each other in worldly acquisitions. Are not these things so? And if so, should such things be? The Redeemer, in his last solemn act of intercession for his followers before his death, characterises them as those who were given him out of the world, and prays that, while in the world, they might be kept from the evil. “I have given them thy word; and the world bath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John xvii. 14.) The Apostle Paul, in enumerating some of those worthies who obtained a good report through faith, and mentioning the triumphs of that faith, speaks of them as those “ of whom the world was not worthy,” and exhibits them living as “ strangers and pilgrims on the earth," desiring a better country, that is, an heavenly.” (Heb. xi. 10, etc.) And the Apostle John solemnly enjoins the Christians to whom he addressed his first epistle, to withdraw their love from the world, emphatically declaring the love of the world to be incompatible with the love of the Father. If such ought to be the character and conduct of the followers of Christ, how grievously we have fallen from our high calling.
But leaving out of view the character exhibited by the majority of professing Christians, the relative position of the world will make good the charge against the church. The church was formed for the regeneration of the world. With her is deposited that truth which is to leaven the entire mass of humanity. Is the world regenerated, or in a fair way of being so ? The world regenerated! Alas! the god of this world still holds undisputed sway over, by far, the greater portion of our race. Darkness covers the earth, gross darkness the people. And, as to the progress of the church, the world is outgrowing her even in so-called Christian countries, where she possesses her chief power. The number of converts reported by our missionaries does nothing like keep pace with the increase of population in heathendom, and the annual additions to the membership of the church among all her various sections, are not made at the annual ratio of the increase of our population. The church may be maintaining her ground—may be even doing more—and we think she is, but she is relatively becoming weaker and weaker as the world gains upon her.
Now, what is the cause of this state of things ? 66 Is the Lord's arm shortened that it cannot save, or his ear heavy that it cannot hear ? Doth his promise fail for evermore ?”. It would, indeed, appear as if the professed followers of Christ had lost their faith in the efficacy of the truth as it is in Jesus, and were acting on the idea that its virtue was expended, and its energy exhausted in the triumphs of primitive times; that it is now capable only of fitful outbursts, leaving long years of langour and impotency between, for they are content to admire the virtues of the Christians of the apostolic age, and to regard the successes then won as unapproachable by them, and therefore virtues which they would in vain aspire after. But why so ? Were the Christians of the early church more devoted to Christ than they ought to have been, or more zealous in his cause ? Was the blessing from on high poured out upon their efforts more abundantly than that which God now promises to bestow ? Surely not; and if not, the church must look to herself, to her own character and conduct, for the cause of her present position in reference to the world. Is it not true, that the greater part of her members are disposed to rest very much contented with things as they are, both as to their own attainments and as to their efforts for the evangelisation of the world around them? Nay, is it not the case, that these efforts, limited as they are, are the result of the zeal and energy of a few? In most con
gregations, the majority of those connected with them are satisfied to be little more than mere lookers-on. They leave all exertion to the active few. They contribute their mite, and listen, it may be, to an annual missionary report, and give themselves very little farther concern about them. It is even with a considerable degree of importunity, not unfrequently, that they are brought thus far, and this importunity very often fails to draw forth the resources of the church, so as to meet the demands made upon them by God in his providence. How frequently do we find men or money awanting, to enable the church to enter in at the doors God throws open for the admittance of the Gospel ; to storm the breaches made in the bulwarks of Satan's kingdom, by which God calls them to enter and take possession in the name of the King of Zion. It is lamentable that the means which the church provides for carrying on the Redeemer's cause around her, should be so frequently the fruit of importunity, instead of the spontaneous flow of holy zeal and Christian devotion; and that with all this she should be found so uniformly deficient in her provision of these means, and perpetually lagging behind the leading of Divine providence. That the state of matters is better now in this respect than it formerly was, is very gratifying; but that it is such as it is, is truly sad, and displays a wofully deficient apprehension of Divine grace and of Christian duty. If the church were what she ought to be, the world would not long continue as it is. However zealous and persevering the efforts of the active devoted few, they are altogether inadequate to produce a general and permanent impression on the world. We must bring the mass of the church to bear on the mass of worldliness which surrounds her, ere such an impression can be made. Each member must stand to his post and do his duty as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, not deserting, not hanging back, not throwing his duty on the shoulders of another; nor, trusting to the efforts of the more active, content that he himself is a mere on-looker. Thus, - all at the work, and always at it,” with that intensity of zeal which never tires, that fervour of devotion which looks upon its utmost effort as all too little to give to Him who hath redeemed us by his own precious blood, and that hearty animation which considers itself highly honoured in being permitted to take a part in such a work, we could with all confidence expect to see an advance made, which would tell upon the world at large,-a sensible diminution of the widely-extended power of Satan.
But, some one may observe, “such an active part is not my profession.” Not your profession, brother! Do you not profess to be a Christian? And “I do not like to put myself forward as if I was a party man,” another may urge. But you are a party man, brother! You are of the party of Christ against Satan,-of the party of the church against the world, or your profession is like the engraving on the lid of the coffin, or the lettering on the tombstone, exhibiting an empty name over the dead. The policy of the kingdom of Christ is aggressive. It must be so, otherwise the world will never be won to Him. The idols of the nations might stand peacefully side by side in the pantheon, no one questioning the claims of his neighbour, nor disposed to draw to himself the devotions of the other's shrine. But these were the vanities of the heathen. God will not give his glory to another, nor His praise to graven images. Satan has usurped God's power in the world, and has set up the many gods to whom the blinded nations bow; but the Lord goes forth against him, resolved to repossess himself of his rights ; and has sworn, that every knee shall bow to him whom He has anointed King in his “holy hill of Zion.” In order to the accomplishment of this glorious design, so fraught with all blessing to mankind, he confers upon his people the high honour of taking part in this work; and calls upon them to go forth against the powers of darkness under his banner. Equiped with the sword of the Spirit, that Divine truth which is hostile to all ignorance, and to all error,—for error and ignorance are alike dishonouring to God,and destructive of the interests of mankind; and having in this truth Omnipotence on their side, they are fully furnished for the great contest. No one must be awanting then ; every member of the church must be up and doing, fully alive to the unspeakably high honour conferred upon him in being permitted to put his hand to the work, so that his efforts, of whatever kind, or however made, may not be the result of constraint, or the fruit of importunity, but the offering of a willing mind.
But, alas ! we must return from the contemplation of what the church ought to be, to look upon her as she is. Her state we need merely adduce to prove the allegation we have made. While she is possessed of life and light, there is still much inertness and deficiency. Her members, as a body, come far short of their high calling,—far short of what their solemn profession requires them to be. Where are her heavenly purity and shining virtues, as the Bride, the Lamb's wife? Where are her courage and activity and dauntless fortitude, as the host of the Lord embattled against the legions of darkness ? These virtues are exhibited in some measure, and in this we rejoice; but in a measure far short of that to which she is called, of that to which she has pledged herself.
We repeat then, brethren, that the amount of devotion required of you as members of the Church of the living God, is not that which may obtain as an average among Christian professors. Rest not content, then, with having reached this standard, nor think you have paid your vows when you have acted in accordance with it. Be not satisfied with mediocrity,—with such a display of devotion as will suffice to secure and maintain you a place in the church. As the church now is, very little will suffice for that. Strive rather to bring up your fellow-members to what is demanded of them by Him whose name they bear. Ye are not your own; keep ever before your mind, the claims made upon you by Him whose you are, and the example He has left to you to follow. Let these define the extent of your devotion, and incite you ever to press onward to its perfect attainment.
THE FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM.
The general subject of finance is at present receiving no small share of public attention. It is keenly canvassed both in church and state. Nor is the discussion of this question, in either department, to be at all regretted. True, painful facts are being elicited, and disagreeable feelings excited by the controversy. But so vital is the subject, and so important is it that it be fully considered, and well understood, both in its civil and ecclesiastical bearings, that every enlightened citizen, and every intelligent Christian, must rejoice, notwithstanding some awkward exposures and unseemly bitterness,--that the war of figures has fairly commenced, and that the conflict, end where it may, already promises to issue in favour of economy in the one case, and liberality in the other, and justice in both.
These two words-economy and liberality-indicate the objects chiefly proposed by financial reformers in their respective departments of the state