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the pastors to remedy, not by neglecting their sermons, but by cultivating in themselves the spirit of devotion, and by proper instruction of the people.
But if we may not appeal to the people through forms, or the fine arts, or the principle of association, except incidentally, there is yet one principle to which we may appeal in sustaining religion, and one too, the power of which needs to be more fully brought forth in these latter days I mean, the social principle and the affections. “Behold,” said the heathen, in the early days of Christianity, “how these Christians love one another.” When genuine love exists in a community towards a common object, and towards each other, there will be no difficulty in bringing them together, and in making them efficient in action. Mightier far is this->love to the Savior, love to their pastor, love to each other, love to a world perishing around them, than taste, or imagination, or associations connected with any outward form. In this alone will the true ground of the efficiency of any church be found. Having this, they will meet together and sustain the institutions of religion, and labor, and pray, and give; and having not this, there will be the form of godliness without the power thereof.
It is one excellence of our religion, and an evidence of its divinity, that it not only regards man as related to God in his individual capacity, but that it takes into view his social nature, and fits him to be the member of a perfect community. Hence the social principle in all its forms, from the slightest manifestation of natural affection and neighborly kindness up to the peculiar love which Christians bear each other, ought to be cultivated in the church, and to be associated with the worship and the institutions of religion. If the social principle could have free power in religion—if restraints and formalities could be broken away, and soul could commune with soul, with the same freedom on this as upon other subjects, I feel that one great barrier would be removed, and that the waters of salvation would flow more freely through all the channels of society. And the church is an institution admirably adapted to facilitate this. The proper idea of a church, is that of a body of men associated together for the purpose of aiding each other in mutual edification that they may be more fully conformed to the Savior, and may better serve God, and build
his kingdom in the world. But how is it now? When a man joins a church, does be feel that it is to be the means of cultivating his social nature ? Does he feel and find that he is associated with a band of brethren who regard his best interests, and watch over them? Does he feel that he has entered into an association where his affections are to be called forth, and his energies are to be enlisted as in a school of mutual improvement, and for the purpose of doing good ? How is it with the meetings of the church? Is any thing done for mutual improvement or social culture? Is there a free expression of feeling? Or are they cold and formal ?
My brethren, I put these questions, not knowing how these things may be in your churches, but with the conviction that the power of the church, as a social institution, is litile known, and that one of its great energies is slumbering: This is a point to which I would gladly call the attention of this body, because I think it vital to the interests of the church. Are church members sufficiently aware of their relative duties? In the pursuit of gain—in the contests of ambition -in the demands of fashion-perhaps sometimes in the calls of benevolent societies, are not the claims of the church and of the members of Christ's body neglected ? May not the pastor do more in making it felt that he is not simply a preacher, but a pastor, a leader of the church in spiritual activity, earnestly engaged in promoting the cause of Christ in every way, and that they are to co-operate with him?
May not Sabbath Schools, and Bible Classes, and social meetings be instituted—let any man read the life of Baxter and he will see that they may—so as to engage the affections and associations of
young, and to call forth the zeal and activity of all ? May not all be made to feel that they have something more to do in sustaining the cause of religion than simply to attend meeting ? Let a church have its affections and its activity thus, or in any
in any other way excited, and let them feel that their pastor is truly a pastor and a leader, and that they are co-operating with him, and they will go to the house of God, not to be entertained, but to worship him, and will be glad to hear, in connection with his institutions, a plain sermon. They will seek to honor God's institutions, to learn their duty, and will cease to send their thoughts, with the fool's eyes, to the ends of the earth in search of great men. Then should we see, not simply individual Christians in their closets, but whole churches unitedly, socially, worshipping God in spirit and in truth. I do believe that the spirit of activity, and of Christian affection, and of devotion, may be so cultivated that there shall be fewer itching ears, and fewer disastrous changes in the ministry.
From the subject, as thus presented, I remark, 1st, That we see what it is that God values and seeks for as his holy eye looks down upon the multitude of costly churches in Christendom, and upon the crowds that weekly assemble in them. It is upon the spiritual worshipper alone, however humble and neglected by the crowd, that he looks with complacency.
I remark, 2d, That the labors of those who would promote spiritual worship must be great. This must be so in any form in which a church and its worship can be constituted, because it implies an opposition to the whole force of human corruption, and to that desire to get to heaven without holiness of heart, which is the very essence of popery and paganism and formality. But emphatically must this be so with us, as so much of the interest of the worship must depend upon the pastor.
Very different is it in most other denominations.
In the papal church the forms are every where the same, and one man can go through them as well as another. The preaching is relatively nothing. In the Episcopal church the prayers are composed by the church, and much of the duty of a clergyman consists in going through with a prescribed form. In the Methodist church the system of itinerancy prevents the necessity of mental labor for more than four or five years. No so in the Congregational churches. In them the whole responsibility, both of the worship and of the sermon, comes upon the pastor, and he must appear from year to year before the same intelligent and thinking people. This is a burden which the Spirit of God, in connection with the prayers of the church, can enable a man adequately to sustain, and nothing else can. Into such a ministry, few will enter that they may enjoy literary leisure; and though some may do it
, as we doubt not they do, from sincere conviction, yet we do not wonder that the ambitious, the lovers of ease and pleasure, and those in whom the imagination preponderates, should
But if our labors are arduous, or our sacrifices great, they are not such as were those of our great Master and of his Apostles. In their footsteps we think we follow. To them we look for an example.
We claim for ourselves whatever there is that is venerable in an antiquity higher than that of the papal church. We are grieved and astonished at the forms and ceremonies and pomps and mummeries and priestly domination that has assumed to be the religion of him who was meek and lowly—who went about doing good—who had not where to lay his head—who taught men to worship God in spirit and in truth. We would be of his spirit
. We would teach men every where the great lessons that he taught; if it should be necessary in that mighty struggle, the foretokenings of which he must be blind who does not see, we would pray for strength to yield ourselves to the baptism with which he was baptized.
And this leads me to remark, finally, that those who would promote the spiritual and true worship of God, should themselves be spiritual and holy men. This is the one thing needful in the ministry of any church or under any form. This we would embrace in the arms of our affection wherever we find it. This can irradiate and beautify, as the sunlight the evening cloud, any form not contrary to the spirit of the gospel, and without this, all forms, even our own, will become but as the material upon which a false religion will be enthroned to the terror and corruption, or on which it will be gibbeted, for the mockery of mankind. But let there be a faithful, humble, holy ministry, and the word, and worship, and ordinances of God will be honored. From then there will go out an influence such as can go from them alone, that will be felt for good in every interest and in every relation of society. God will set his seal upon their labors. Not more certain is the promise of seed time and harvest than that “they that sow in tears shall reap in joy." There will be joy in heaven over repenting sinners. There will be joy on earth, because “ Zion shall arise and shine, her light being come;" and there will be joy when the chief Shepherd shall appear, and such pastors shall go up with their flocks to stand before him. Amen.
“ Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be sub
ject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”—1 Peter, v. 5,
Every well ordered society has its laws of intercourse. In polite society these laws, or usages, go under the general name of etiquette and custom. The intercourse of neighbors, as such, is regulated by such proprieties as are understood to pertain to good neighborhood. More particular societies, such as deliberative assemblies, corporations, and the like, have their more specific regulations. There could be no society-nó agreeable intercourse between individuals, as social beings, without such laws. Barbarism itself finds them necessary.
These social laws are not always reduced to writing ; nor are they susceptible of it. Nor are they in all respects exactly defined. But their existence and propriety are understood, and generally respected. Every one, at least, who pretends to good manners, is supposed to recognize them, and to know their general limits, and about where, if not always exactly where, they are transgressed.
Now a Christian church is a society; and is eminently social in its design and constitution. No human society, the family excepted, is supposed to involve a greater intimacy among its members. It therefore needs its social laws,-needs them eminently. And it has them. They are laid down in the Scriptures, and particularly in the New Testament, with as much distinctness as the case admits of. They do not undertake to define and make palpable the exact bounds and lines of religious social propriety; they leave much to the good sense and good will of the members, as all society does. But they give some