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VI. Because many professed Christians never came up to the work at all, and they will now step out of the harness, to let others labor in their turn. They felt reproached till the work subsided.
VII. Because the Christians each supposed that he would throw off the responsibility of letting the work subside. Ah, how mistaken! The ship's crew are perishing, and a few hundred souls are saved, but scores and thousands are crying out for help. O, send us the life boat!
If any one man in the Church must feel the whole responsibility, he would die.
VIII. Because they often think that more has been accomplished than has been. Some have seemed to yield who are going back. Some have been brought to the house of God, who will turn away. Some have seemed reformed, but are returning again, "like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
IX. Some let go, because their worldly business pressed them. They had not time to keep on. Their spirit of worldliness complained, they again wanted to take hold of the things of this life.
X. Some let go because they thought they could easily take hold again. But they now find that they have lost a precious advantage, for the god of this world will not be so easily divorced as they imagine.
XI. The people sometimes throw the responsibility on the minister, and he sometimes on them. Whichever way this happens, it is wrong; for the minister must feel that he is at the head of a party which is to save the perishing and lost in the congregation, and his Church are to feel that they are to be workers together with God, in saving the hundreds ready to perish.
XII. Sinners quit the means of grace because the Church begin to let their consciences alone.
1. Revivals should never subside. If the causes of the decline are always wicked, then they should never exist.
If exertions are made that are inconsistent with health and order, they should never have been made, but if correct exertions they should never subside.
If the feelings of God's people have not risen above what was proper, they should never be permitted to ebb. And we have never known a revival where correct feeling exceeded the bounds of propriety.
2. If a people have let a season of revival go by, it becomes them to be humble and inquire how they can ever be forgiven.
3. They should immediately rise to all that feeling and exertion which a state of revival demands.
4. When God's Churches will act right, then will commence a train of revivals that will never subside. They will not only go round the year, but will go round the circle of many years.
We shall have an Egyptian harvest where one crop will come in after another, and we shall have the joy of shouting the harvest home at the return of every moon. Every spring-tide will hear shouted reports of a correspondent spring-tide in the moral world. The showers of grace will fall so uniformly and abundantly that we shall have only to gather in the fruits of one, and another harvest begins while yet there are abundant fruits of the former harvest safely lodged in the granary to feed and replenish the whole land.
O then, with how much joy will the Churches join to shout the millennial harvest home!! till with a glad response, the heavenly arches will gladly and cheerfully respond a long and loud Amen!
PROVERBS IV. 18.
But the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
THIS is one of those texts that I have always been afraid to use in publishing the word of the Lord. I have had my fears about my use of it. It seems to exhibit the Christian as in happy circumstances. He seems to set out with the morning sun and to travel with its beams meridian, and his path to shine more and more luminous until he comes to the perfect day. But I have been afraid that this view of the Christian character would not comport with matters of fact or with my own experience. I have been afraid to exhibit the Christian as a timid and fearful man, and to be in doubt all the way whether he should reach heaven at 44
last. And still the contrary view I dare not exhibit, I dare not exhibit the Christian feeling his way along toward heaven like a blind man, lest this gloomy view should not comport with the Scriptures. For "the path of the just," we are told, "is as the shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day." Still one is troubled to explain a passage like this, "Whoso walketh in darkness and hath no light, let him trust in the Lord and stay himself upon his God." But unless this text corresponds with that other text, "Clouds and darkness are around about him, judgment and righteousness, are the habitation of his throne," referring the whole to the events of Divine Providence that may for a moment obscure the path of life while yet it is destined to shine out at length in all its brightness and glory, then it will be on the whole difficult to exhibit the Christian course consistently with the plodding, hesitating experience of many believers. But we must "let God be true, though every man a liar." This is a maxim in my exhibition of Divine truth, which I have always endeavored to pursue, hoping so to shape my course that I may come out at last the friend of God.
The Spirit of the Lord is guiding his people to heaven where he will at last see the King in his beauty, and rejoice and be glad in him for ever. All the light therefore that comes from heaven, and shines upon the Christian's path, is calculated to guide him there. The church is represented as conducted on by the Holy Ghost to that happy world where the Redeemer is. The Light by which they pass on to that world which shines from the glory of God and the Lamb. We are thus prepared to say, in the
I. Place where heaven is. The place where there is a concentration of all that light that shines upon the Christian course.
II. We see how we are to know that our course is toward heaven. If we suppose holy actions to shine more luminously than any other course in this world, and that every exercise of holy affections, was a star thrown out in that place where he puts forth that exercise by those who are treading the path toward heaven; we see how at length that must become a very luminous path.
III. We see how others may know as well as ourselves that our path is directly toward heaven.
IV. Thus we see how we can have evidence that we are or are not growing in grace. If we are thus growing, our path will become brighter and brighter, and we shall have increased more and
more, the evidence that we are risen with Christ, and seeking those things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.
V. The evidence is rather against us, if we find our joy diminished, and our lamp go out, for we have abundant Divine assurance to prove that God would make our path more luminous, instead of more dark.
WHEN Jacob was old and had become blind, he one day sent his son Esau into the field to procure venison and prepare him savory meat, that while he ate it and was happy, he might deliver to him the prediction which in those days fathers were accustomed to deliver to their children before their death. This prediction was often a prophecy, especially in the case of the Patriarchs, in the land of Israel. In the case of the pious patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob especially, the prediction delivered over their children told the whole story down to the end of the patriarchal system. But in an evil hour Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage. But the father, either not knowing of the transaction, or not remembering it, was about to counteract the design, and still give the birthright to Esau, and had sent him into the field to procure savory meat with that intent. But Jacob was induced by Rebekah his mother to procure some meat while Esau was in the field, and thus obtain the blessing clandestinely. She so directed him as to carry the deception through, and make his father think he was blessing Esau, while in fact he was blessing Jacob. He was to cover his hands that he might appear hairy as Esau was. But, as nature will be true to herself, he could not assume the voice of Esau, although he deceptively covered his hands; and when at length Esau came from the field weary and hungry, and the moment of the transaction had arrived, he stated to his father that he had come to present to him the venison he had gone to procure in the field.
The transaction was very solemn, and very momentous to the whole patriarchal family, as we shall see in the sequel.
And now to make use of the text, we shall draw from it this doctrine. It illustrates the dissonance between the profession of the lips and the action of the hands. The lips, you are aware, are used as the organ of profession, and the hands the instrument of action. This want of agreement or dissonance, I shall attempt to illus
1. We hear many a man pray for a revival, and in long protracted quotations from the Old Testament. He will plead that "the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it." And we hear him plead again "that righteousness may run down our streets like a mighty shower."
2. We hear him pour forth in sweet and delightful strains for the Jews, the ancient people of God, that they may be brought in with the fulness of the Gentile nations."
3. We hear him pray for the slaves, the sable sons of Africa— that "Ethiopia may stretch out her hands to God."
4. We hear him pray for the suffering poor, that "God would feed them, and comfort them, and guide them by his counsel, and afterward bring them to glory."
5. We hear him pray for the heathen, "that the kingdom of Christ may be enlarged from the river to the ends of the earththat the heathen may come to his light, and kings to the brightness of his rising." But when we have looked the prayer over and repeated all the quotations which would take an hour, we are anxious to know whether those who thus devoutly pray, do as well as pray--whether they have poured in for the conversion of the Jews, their silver and gold; whether they have opened their hearts wide for the poor heathen; whether they have treated the slave more kindly than other men ; and whether they are willing to make a sacrifice for them.
1, We see the sure and only way to happiness and glory. We are to see at all times that the language of our lips corresponds with our actions.
2. We see how evidently those are mistaken who appear happy, but do not live uprightly, and do not let their life correspond with their profession.
3. "Honesty is the best policy." If Jacob had acted with per