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mandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” “For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." “ For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater : so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." With these declarations of the polver of the word of God, and of Jehovah's determination that his word shall accomplish the purpose for which it was given, we ought to expect that conversions would be the rule, and non-conversions the exception. But is it so in the Churches at the present time? Let the speeches at the May-meetings in London for this year, and the reports from the Churches at their yearly meetings, answer this question. Wherever God's word is rightly preached, and is accompanied by the Almighty power and unction of the Holy Ghost, conversions will frequently take place : so that we are driven to the conclusion that, when conversions are rare, the Spirit's influences are, in a great measure, withdrawn-God is not among us in his life-giving power.
These signs are unerring proofs that Jehovah is not with his penple in all his life-giving power; and from nearly every quarter complaints are heard of the lowness of vital piety, the want of zeal according to knowledge, of frequent and numerous backslidings, and of the rarity of conversions. It becomes us, therefore, seriously and devoutly to inquire, Why is the Lord absent from his Churches in his life-giving power ? The reasons are many: we will specify some of the principal. But before doing so we would observe, that Jehovah never acts capriciously in withdrawing his saving power from any of his Churches. He would never hide his face from the house of Israel if he had not just reasons for so doing. This is evident from the following declarations of his tried Word: "O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened ? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" (Micah ii. 7.) “Your iniqnities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you. For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares: they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich. They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper : and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things ? saith the Lord : Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" (Jeremiah v. 25-29.) “Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot Bave; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah lix. 1, 2.) If we turn to the second and third chapters of Revelations, we must see that the sins of the seven Churches of Asia called forth Christ's stern rebukes and tremendous threatenings. His judgments denounced against those Churches for their sins well deserve the consideration of the Churches in our day; and they ought deeply to ponder the declaration of Christ,
which occurs in the address to the Church at Thyatira: “All the Churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts : and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." It is fully apparent, therefore, that, whenever God is absent from any of his Churches in his saving power, the sins of his ministers and people are the cause.
One reason why God is not among us in all his life-giving power is our pride, our ambition, and our luxury. Among the professors of religion in our day, there is sadly too much of the “pride of life," of the seeking for “great things," and of luxury in the manner of living, ever to be acceptable to him who “ made himself of no reputation, but took upon him the form of a servant," who," though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor," who said, “ The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head," and who reproved Martha for being careful and troubled about providing many things for his entertainment, when only one thing was needful. Wherein do many of the people of God differ from those in the samo station of life who are of the world ? Is it in their dress, in the furnishing of their houses, in their style of living, or in their pursuit of the things of the earth ? Nay, verily. None can perceive, from these things, that many professors are " a peculiar people ;" that they have renounced the world ; that they have set their “ affections on things above;" that they are “seeking those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." We would not willingly offend the least of God's children; but we cannot help asking, Whether the manner in which many Christians of this day demean themselves is in accordance with the law of the Gospel ? “Be not conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." In the Church of God there is seen that which he cannot approve. In some cases, the strife as to who shall be greatest, the respect often paid to gold rings and to gay clothing in the house of God, show that pride and ambition are in the ascendant; and that Jehovah's word has been forgotten which reads, “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; where is the house ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest ? For all those things hath mine band made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord; but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.” Pride, ambition, and luxury have not only ruined nations, but have ruined Churches ; and we fear that the want of God's presence among the Reformed Churches of this day is principally to be attributed to the pride, the ambition, and the luxury which have crept in among us, it may be unawares. Churches should never forget that “ God resisteth the proud ; but giveth grace to the humble.”
Another reason why God is not among his Churches, in all his lifegiving power, is their divisions.- It is not a visible unity of the Churches with an outward representative of that unity, such as exists in the Church of Rome, that is wanted to secure the presence and life-giving power of God among them. “ The great bond,” says D'Aubigné,“ which originally bound together the members of the Church, was a living faith in the heart, by which all were joined to Christ, as their one Head.” Speaking of visible unity, he says, “The semblance of identical and external organization was gradually substituted in place of the internal and spiritual unity which is the very essence of a religion proceeding from God. Men suffered the precious perfume of faith to escape while they bowed themselves before the empty vase that had held it. Faith in the heart no longer knit together in one the members of the Church. Then it was that other ties were sought; and Christians were united by means of bishops, archbishops, popes, mitres, ceremonies, and canons." Those who indulge Utopian thoughts of the Churches of Christ becoming one visibly, should ask, What would the Church or the world gain by such unity? The thing has been tried on a gigantic scale for near fifteen hundred years. Has the Papal Church, then, with its visible unity, filled the world with wisdom, righteousness, peace, and joy? Nay, verily; but with darkness, corruption, strife, and misery. It is not because all the Churches are not blended into one, with a visible head, that God is not among us in all his life-giving power; but because we clo not love as brethren all the children of our God and Father. There is not that internal and spiritual union among all the followers of Christ, which manifests itself in those acts of kindness and love, which the first Christians so strikingly exhibited, as to induce their heathen persecutors to exclaim, with admiration, “See how these Christians love one another." When members of different Churches draw nearer to each other in faith and love, God will draw them closer to himself, and pour out upon them his richest blessings. There is reason to believe there is now an improvement in this respect among the Churches. May the time speedily come, when the envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off. Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.” In the Churches of Christ there are often internal broils; divisions among the members of the same congregation of believers, which prevent Jehovah from blessing his Churches with prosperity. God is the author of peace, not of strife and confusion. Whenever the diabolical spirit of strife and contention gets into any Church, and the members begin to quarrel among themselves, God will withdraw his Spirit. What communion is there between light and darkness? or what concord hath Christ with Belial? None whatever. Rest assured, then, that the“ very God of peace" will have no fellowship with a contentions, quarrelling Church. Strife is the atmosphere in which the Devil breathes, discord the element in which he lives; but wherever God resides, there must be peace and concord, harmony and love. We have known Churches where they had everything requisite to prosperity— Bible doctrines, simple forms of worship, scriptural government, faithful ministers, able, liberal, and zealous members, kept in a low state for years through their internal broils. We have heard often, from ministers and members of Churches recently, such statements as these : “We have everything requisite to prosperity in this Church, but union among the brethren.” “Our people would get on well, if it were not for some unhappy quarrels of a family nature." “We have everything on our side in this place; but some of our leading men keep us in hot water, and we cannot prosper as we should.” Ah! these unhappy differences, not of opinion, but of feeling, mar the work of the Spirit, blast the blooming work of grace, and cause God to leave us destitute of his saving power. Oh! when will the members of Churches act as the Scriptures direct ? “Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour even as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. Let us not be desirous of vain-glory, provoking one another, envying one another. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are scaled unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you. If there be, therefore, any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the saine love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Ministers and members of Churches! ponder, deeply ponder, these citations-believe that you must obey them to the letter! Act at once, and for evermore, as they direct; then one of the greatest barriers to God's favour shall be removed ; and, if all other things are right, your Churches " shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine ; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.”
A third reason for the absence of God's saving power from his Churches is fleshly dependance and carnal glorying. Whenever Churches depend on an arm of flesh, God will withdraw his saving power, to teach them the folly, the injustice, the ingratitude, the wickedness of their conduct. When Churches glory in their Paul, their Apollos, or their Cephas, God is displeased, and hides his face. Our God is a jealous God, and he will not give his glory to another. He is jealous of his honour; and if we trust to man, or glory in man, he will undoubtedly cast us away from his presence, and take his Holy Spirit from us. When too much reliance is placed on secondary principles, when we are found glorying more in rules for Church government, or in denominational peculiarities, than in
The wisdom, wealth, and strength of grace the Lord is displeased; and no wonder, therefore, that he hides his face from his people. And we candidly ask, Is there not too much of such carnal glorying in all the Churches of Christ in this day? The Episcopalian frequently boasts too highly of his Episcopacy; the Congregationalist of his independency; the Baptist of his immersion; the Wesleyan of the supremacy of the pastorate ; the New Connexionist of the equality of the ministry and the laymen; and all other Churches of which we have any knowledge go often sadly too far in this confident boasting. Too often is it the case that the members of Churches expect their peculiar distinctive principles to do much in the extension of Messiah's kingdom; but never was there a greater mistake. Church government is for the regulation of the Church, and not for the conversion of the world. Distinctive denominational principles are often more gloried in than are the great and saving principles of the gospel of Jesus. There wants amendment here in all the Churches of Christ; and there must be amendment, too, before ever God will bless his Churches with abundant prosperity, and make them the successful agents in the conversion of the world to Christ.
Slothfulness in the discharge of spiritual duties is another reason why God is not among his people in all his saving influences. God abhors idleness in all; but it is doubly offensive in his people. When the Churches are at ease, settled upon their lees, too idle to labour for the good of souls, too lazy to pray fervently and importunately for spiritual blessings, too indolent to watch unto prayer, and to look out for the openings of providence, that they may embrace them, and advance forwardthen God forsakes them, and leaves them to feel the sad effects of his displeasure. God is seriously, earnestly engaged in the destruction of sin, and in the evangelization of the world; he calls upon his Churches for their help, their utmost help, their constant help; and if they will not come up to his help against the mighty, his bitter curse descends upon them.“ Curse ye Meroz," said the angel of the Lord, “curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” Lukewarm Churches are so nauseous to the blessed Saviour, that he declared to the Church at Laodicea he would, for this cause, spew her out of his mouth. If all the members in the Churches of Christ were diligent and faithful in the discharge of spiritual duties, and if all the Churches belonging to the different evangelical denominations would come up to “ the help of the Lord against the mighty,” God would “shine forth from between the cherubims," and make all his Churches happy and prosperous.
Allowed sin in members of Churches will cause God to withdraw his saving power. When the men of Israel were smitten before the men of Ai, Joshua fell upon his face, and cried unto the Lord saying, “O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies. ... And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it eren among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, because they were accursed : neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.” (Josh. vii. 10–12.) Paul, also, knowing that allowed sin in members of Churches would displease God, and cause him to restrain his Holy Spirit, commanded the Corinthian Church to put away from them “ that wicked person" who was guilty of incestuous practices. And in whatever Church a godly, wholesome, scriptural discipline is neglected, and members are allowed to remain in church-fellowship who are living in known sin, there will be nothing but coldness and death; for God will not bless and save to the uttermost.
Other reasons might be assigned for the want of all God's life-giving power in the Churches ; but our space is filled. As an evangelical section of the Church of Christ, the Methodist New Connexion, in common with other denominations, wants more of the life-giving power of God; we not only need it, but we desire and pray for it: then let us act so as to secure the fulness of the blessings of the gospel of Christ. Let us humble ourselves before God, mortify our ambition, give up our luxury. Let us dwell together in love, and “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Let us boast only in the Lord, and ascribe to him the glory of all our achievements. Let us arouse ourselves, and come up more fully to the help of the Lord in the salvation of lost souls. Let us separate from us all who will not live as it becometh the gospel; and then, if we stir up ourselves to take hold of God, believe in Christ to perform mighty works for us,