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Parish Papers by Norman Macleod

Part 3 out of 5

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That not one life shall be destroy'd,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete:

"That not a worm is chosen in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell'd in a pent-up fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.

* * * * *

"So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.

* * * * *

"I falter where I firmly trod;
And falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world's altar stairs,
That slope through darkness up to God,

"I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope."

With deep sympathy for all who thus feel the weight and pain of the
subject, and who hope against hope, we ourselves are compelled to
abide in our first faith. We cannot forget that Jesus Christ, the Son
of God and the Son of man, who was perfect love, truth, and life, has
neither Himself, nor through His apostles, given us by one word the
slightest ground for hoping that any man who leaves this world an
enemy to God will ever repent and become a friend of God in the
next. The whole teaching of Scripture is one with what prudence and
principle would dictate:--Believe in Jesus; _now or never!_

Hear, in conclusion, God's Word:--"For God so loved the world, that he
gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not
perish, but have everlasting life.... He that believeth on him is not
condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he
hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And
this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men
loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.... He
that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth
not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

Hebrews ii. 1, 3:--"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed
to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them
slip.... How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which
at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us
by them that heard him."


It would be very difficult, I think, to put a more serious question to
ourselves than this, _What is to become of its after death_?

All of us, I daresay, know from experience what is meant by
thoughtlessness or indifference about our state for ever. There are,
no doubt, some who, from having had a godly upbringing in their youth,
or at least religious instruction, have always thought more or less
about what would become of their souls. Perhaps these thoughts made
them uneasy, afraid, or anxious; but still they were often in their
mind, especially in times of sickness, or when death came near their
doors, or any event occurred which obliged them to think of eternity,
and of what might happen to themselves if they were to die suddenly,
and appear before God. But there are others, again, who seem never at
any time to have had a serious thought about their life after death.
They have, perhaps, not had the same advantage with those I have been
speaking of, but from infancy have lived among worldly-minded people,
who gave the impression, by their conversation and general conduct, on
week-days and Sundays, that this world was everything, and the next
world nothing; that this world alone was real; and that man's chief
end was to labour in it, and for it alone, to make money in it, be
happy in it, get everything for self out of it, and, as a matter of
hard necessity, at last die in it, and go from it--Whither? Ah! who
could tell _that?_--who ever thought of _that?_ To them it seemed that
death ended all that was reality, and began all that was visionary.
But whether early education is to blame, certain it is that many
people do come to this state. They seem stoneblind to the future. Not
one ray of light gets an entrance into their spirits from the great
and eternal world, on whose confines they every moment live. They
think, fear, hope, rejoice, plan, and purpose; but always about this
world,--never about the other! To rise in the morning; to be occupied
during the day; to buy and sell, and get gain; to talk on politics or
trade; to gossip about people, and all they speak or do; to marry or
give in marriage; to have this meeting or that parting; to give a
feast or partake of one; to fear sickness, and to keep it off; or to
be sick, and to try and get better:--all this sort of life, down to
its veriest trifles, they understand and sympathise with, and busy
themselves about. But what of God and Christ?--of eternal joy or
sorrow?--of how a man should live to God, please Him, enjoy Him, love
Him, and walk daily in fellowship with Him? What of such questions
as,--What shall become of us in eternity? What shall we do to be
saved? How shall we obtain life eternal? How shall we fulfil the end
of our being? All this--oh, strange mystery!--has no interest to them.
These thoughts, or any like these, never cross their mind, perhaps,
from morning till night, or from the first till the last day of the
year. They may, perhaps, have heard these words, read them in books,
or heard ministers speak them from the pulpit on Sunday, and they know
that the words have to do with what they call "religion," but never
think they have to do with what awfully concerns themselves! They are
words, but not about realities; or if they express realities, yet
realities which belong to some world of mist, and cloud, and darkness,
far, far away--one not nearly so real as this world of their own, made
up of fields and barns, streets and shops, sea and ships, friends and
action! But what, let me ask, separates us from that world which we
think to be so very far off--so very unreal? The thin coat of an
artery! No more! Let the thin pipe burst through which our life-blood
is now coursing in the full play of health, and where then will our
present world, now so very real, be to us? In a single second it will
have vanished for ever from our grasp, like something we clutch at
in the visions of the night. And where then will that other world be
which to many is now so dim and unreal as not to be worth thinking
about? We, the same living persons, will be in it--in the midst of
all its realities; and with these we shall have to do, and with these
only, for ever and ever.

But many people do not _wish_ to think about the unseen future. It is
not so much that _no_ thoughts about it intrude themselves upon their
minds, as that all such thoughts are deliberately banished. It is with
the eternal future as with anything which here gives them pain,--they
"hate to think about it." This, of course, arises from the suspicion,
or rather the conviction, that it cannot be a good future to them.
They have read enough about it from the Bible to make it alarming. At
all events, they have no security for its being to them as happy as
the present; and so, whether from a fearful looking for of judgment,
because of their sins, or from ignorance of the means of salvation,
or from unbelief in the good-will of God as ready to save them, the
result is, that they voluntarily shut their eyes to, and banish all
thought of, eternity. It pains them--it agonises them--to put the
question, "What is to become of me when I die?" And the more pain the
question gives them, the more they fly to the world, and occupy their
minds with its society, its amusements, and even its dissipation and
debaucheries, in order to banish care and snatch a fleeting joy. O my
brother, if you so act, from my soul I feel for you and pity you! For
the sick-bed is coming, and you may be compelled to think there; and
if so, you are treasuring up tenfold agony for yourself, by your
present off-putting apathy and wilful thoughtlessness. And should
you manage, even in the time of sickness, and up to the very hour
of death, to shut out the future from your mind; should long and
inveterate habit enable you to succeed in the terrible, suicidal
experiment, so that you shall die as you have lived--fearing nothing,
because believing nothing,--can you avoid entering the other world?
Can you prevent a meeting between yourself and your God; or silence an
accusing conscience for ever; or hinder Christ from coming to judge
the world; or fly from the judgment-seat, and by any possibility delay
or prevent a minute examination of your life; or stay the sentence
which the omniscient and holy Judge shall pronounce upon you? And if
you cannot do this,--and if, rather, every power, faculty, and emotion
of your heart and soul must one day be roused to the intensest pitch
of earnestness about your eternal destiny,--do you not think it wise,
my brother, to think about all this now?--_now_, when there is a
remedy, rather than _then_, when there is none?

This suggests another reason why possibly you hate to think about the
future. Not only are you conscious of want of any preparedness for it,
but you do not see how it can be much better with you. You have, in a
word, lost confidence in God--have no faith in His good-will to _you_.
You think of Him--if you think of Him at all--as one who watches you
with a jealous or angry eye; who has no wish that you should be better
or happier than you are; or who, if He can save you, will not; or who,
if He will, offers to do so only on such hard and impossible terms
as to make it practically the same as if there was no salvation
for _you_. In one word, you suspect God hates you, or at least is
indifferent to you--if, indeed, He knows anything at all about you,
which you are not quite sure of! It is very shocking to write such
things: but it is much more shocking that any one should think or
believe such things; for he who so thinks and believes is as yet
profoundly ignorant of God. What is called God, is as unlike Him who
is the living and true God as is any hideous idol in a heathen temple.
But this ignorance breeds fear--and fear, hate--and hate increases the
fear, until the future, in which this God must be met, is put away as
a horrible thing, or never thought of at all.

But, my brother, why should you thus think of God, and so fear to
think of the future? Read only what the Bible says of Him, and learn
what true Christians know of Him, and listen honestly to how your
own conscience responds to all you hear about Him, and then consider
whether you can conceive of one more glorious in his character, or
more worthy of your love. Peruse the history of Jesus Christ, and tell
me anything He ever said or did calculated to fill your heart with
fear or hate towards Him,--and remember, that he who sees Him sees the
Father. Think of all Jesus suffered as our atoning Saviour, and all
"to bring us to God." Think of all God has promised to those who will
only trust Him through Jesus,--the pardon of all sin, and the gift
of a new heart; with everything which can do them good, or make them
happy; and say, How can this make you dislike God? Think of all He has
given you since you were born,--friends and relations, health of body,
powers of mind, much time, many happy days, innumerable mercies and
sources of enjoyment; think how liberally, ungrudgingly, He has opened
His hand; think what patience, forbearance, kindness, He has shewn,
and what the eternal future has in store for all who love Him; and
tell me, What has _He_ done to make you dislike Him? Reflect on what
He _could_ have done and could do, if He disliked you as you dislike
Him, and say, How can you continue in your enmity? O my brother, "Only
believe!" Believe that "God _is_ love." Believe that "in this is
manifested the love of God, that He gave His Son to be a propitiation
for our sins." Believe that He willeth not that any should
perish,--that He has no pleasure in the death of sinners,--that He
is ready to forgive,--that this is the record, that "God hath given
eternal life." Believe--trust in God for the good, the whole good, the
most perfect good, that of a child's heart and sincere love towards
Him, which He seeks in you--trust God for this through faith in
Christ, and in the mighty power of that Spirit who is love; and
depend upon it, when you _know God_, and see how excellent He is, and
understand His love to you, and what He is willing to make you, and to
give you, and, above all, when you know what _He himself will be to
you_ for ever, you surely cannot choose but Him! and "_there is no
fear in love; because fear hath torment!_"


By moments in life, I mean certain periods which occur more or less
frequently in our history,--when the spirit in which we then live, the
step we then take, the word we then utter, or what we at that moment
think, resolve, accept, reject, do, or do not, may give a complexion
to our whole future being both here and hereafter.

Let me notice one or two features which characterise those moments.

They may, for example, be very brief. Napoleon once remarked, that
there was a crisis in every battle, when ten minutes generally
determined the victory on one side or other. Yet on the transactions
of those few minutes the fate of empires may hang, and on the single
word of command, rapidly spoken amidst the roar of cannon and the
crash of arms, the destinies of the human race be affected. Men in
public life, who are compelled every day to decide on matters of
importance, appreciate the value of minutes, and estimate the
necessity of snatching them as they pass with promptness and
decision;--of "taking advantage of the chance," as they say, knowing
well that if that moment is allowed to pass, "the chance" it brings
is gone for ever; that whatever their hand "finds to do" must be done
then or never. The results to them of what they decide at that moment
may be incalculable. What is then done may never be undone; yet not
another second is added to the time given them for action. Within the
germ of that brief moment of life is contained the future tree of many
branches and of much fruit.

What a brief moment, indeed, in our endless life is the whole period
even of the longest life on earth! It is compared to a vapour, which
appeareth for a short time, and then vanisheth away; to "a watch in
the night,"--"a tale that is told." And if we but consider how nearly
a third portion of our threescore years and ten is necessarily spent
in sleep; and add to this the years spent during infancy while
preparing for labour; during old age, when our labours are well-nigh
past; and many more consumed in adorning and supporting or giving rest
to the body; and then if, after summing up those years, we deduct what
remains of time at the disposal of the oldest man for the formation
of active thought and the improvement of his spiritual being, oh! how
brief is the whole period of our mortal life, when longest, though its
transactions are to us fraught with endless and awful consequences!

Another characteristic of those moments in life is the silence with
which they may come and pass away. No "sign" may be given to indicate
their importance to us. They do not announce their approach with the
sound of a trumpet, nor demand with a voice of thunder our immediate
and solemn attention to their interests; but stealthily, quietly, with
noiseless tread like spirits from another world, they come to us, put
their question, speak the word, and vanish to heaven with our reply.
In after years, possibly, with "the long results of time" to guide us
upward as by a stream to the tiny threads of this fountain of life
and action, we may be able in a greater degree to realise of what
tremendous importance they were to us. "Had we only known this at the
time!" we exclaim, as we revolve those memories, and think of all we
would have said or done;--"had we only known!" But it is not God's
will that we should know how much of the future is involved in the
present, or how all we shall be is determined by what we may resolve
to be or do at any particular moment. Such a revelation would paralyse
all effort, and destroy the mainspring of all right action. Sight
would thus be substituted for faith; the fear of evil consequences
for the fear of evil; and the love of future benefits for the love of
present duty. God will have us rather cultivate habitually a right
spirit at each moment, so as to be able to act rightly when the
all-important moment comes, whether we then discover its importance
or not. Let us not be surprised, then, if God comes to us, not in the
strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but only in the still small
voice which speaks to the heart or to the conscience, demanding
the conduct which becomes us as responsible beings and as obedient

But let me illustrate these remarks by a few examples of "moments in
life," and such as must come to us all.

It is a solemn "moment in life" when the glad tidings of the love of
God in Christ Jesus are heard and understood. Remember that we are
saved by "the truth;" born again "of the Word;" sanctified "by the
truth." To receive the truth of God, then, as a living power into the
mind and conscience, is of infinite importance to us. Now, while God's
truth comes to us "at various times and in diverse manners," there are
moments in life when we cannot choose but feel as if it was addressing
our inner spirit as it never did before, and earnestly knocking for
admission. The circumstances in which this appeal is made may be what
are called commonplace; such as when hearing a sermon preached from
the pulpit, when reading a book by the fireside, or when conversing
for a few minutes with an acquaintance; yet at such times truth
expressed in a single sentence, or in a few words, may search our
spirits, and gaze on us with a solemn look, saying, "Thou art the man
I am in search of!" But, as it sometimes happens, the circumstances in
which we are thus arrested by the truth, and are compelled to listen
to it for weal or woe, may be peculiarly impressive; as when we are
ourselves in sickness or danger, or when addressed by a parent or dear
friend on their dying bed, or when in deep family distress, or when
standing beside the grave that conceals our best earthly treasure from
our sight. At such moments the voice of God's Spirit is awfully solemn
as He cries, "Now is the day of salvation;" "To-day, if ye will hear
His voice, harden not your hearts;" "Believe and live."

These moments may be very brief. The crisis of the battle between God
and self, right and wrong, truth and falsehood, may be concentrated
into a few minutes. But time sufficient is, nevertheless, given
wherein to test our _truthfulness_, the soil in which truth grows, the
mirror that reflects its beams; time sufficient is given to say Yes
or No to that God who claims our faith and love. Truth comes with
authority and majesty as an ambassador from the living God, and with
clear voice, pure eye, and an arm omnipotent to save, offers to give
light, life, and liberty to the captive spirit. But we may evade his
bright glance, and close our ears to his voice, and refuse to consider
his claims, and deal falsely with his arguments; we may reject his
offers, and, shrinking back from his touch and his helping hand,
retire into the gloom of self-satisfied pride, preferring the darkness
to the light; or we may make merry with Heaven's ambassador, and mock
him as they did the prophet of old; or cry out, "Away with him!" as
the world cried to the Lord of light and life. And what if the second
ambassador never comes again with such pressing earnestness, but
passes by the door once so rudely closed against him, and will knock
no more? Or, though he may in mercy return again and again, what if
the eye gets blinded by the very light which it rejects? and the ear
becomes so familiar with the voice, that it attracts attention no
more than the winds that beat upon the wall; and the heart becomes so
hardened as to be unimpressible, until the dread sentence is at last
passed,--"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched
out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my
counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your
calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as
desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress
and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will
not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for
that they _hated_ knowledge, and _did not choose_ the fear of the
Lord: they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled
with their own devices."

A young man came to Jesus seeking eternal life. "Jesus, looking on
him, loved him," and answered his prayers by teaching him how eternal
life could alone be attained. But the young man went away sorrowful,
because he had much riches. What a history was contained in that brief
moment of his life!

Again, young King Agrippa, along with the young Bernice, hear a sermon
from Paul the prisoner. The outward picture presented to the eye on
that day had nothing more remarkable or peculiar about it than
has been witnessed a thousand times before and since. Those royal
personages entered "the place of hearing" with "great pomp,"
accompanied by "the chief captains and principal men of the city." And
before them appeared an almost unknown prisoner, upon whom his own
nation, including "the chief priests and elders from Jerusalem,"
demanded the judgment of death to be passed. That prisoner, "in bodily
presence weak and contemptible," was however "permitted to speak for
himself;" and verily he did speak! He spoke of God and Christ; of
repentance and the new life; and of his own glorious commission to
"open the eyes" of men, "to turn them from darkness to light, from the
power of Satan unto God, that they might receive the forgiveness of
sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified through faith in
Jesus." What a revelation was this from God to man! The voice which
spoke from Sinai and through the prophets, the voice of Him who is
truth and love, spoke at that moment of life through Paul to those
royal hearers, and to the captains and principal men. But Agrippa,
with a sneer or with some conviction of the truth, replied, "Almost
thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Unlike St Paul himself, when
the Lord spoke to him on his way to Damascus, Agrippa was disobedient
to the heavenly vision. And so the sermon ended; the gay multitude
dispersed; the place of hearing was left in silence, and echoed only
the midnight winds or the beat of the sea-wave on the neighbouring
shore. St Paul retired to his cell; Agrippa, Festus, and Bernice, to
their chambers of rest, to sleep and dream by night, as they slept and
dreamt by day. But they never heard the apostle preach again! It
was their first and last sermon; that moment in their life came and
passed, but never returned. Like two ships which meet at midnight on a
moonlit sea, those two persons, the prisoner and the king, spoke, then
each passed into the darkness, and onward on their voyage to their
several ports, but never met again! Oh, how awful are such moments
when truth reveals herself to the responsible spirit of man! And so,
my reader, does it ofttimes happen between thee and God's Spirit. Let
me beseech of thee to "redeem the time," to know this "the day of
_thy_ visitation," and to hear and believe "the word of the Lord."

Another "moment in life" which may be specially noticed, is that in
which we are tempted to evil. Temptations are no doubt "common to
man." Our whole life in a sense is a temptation, for whatever makes a
demand upon our choice as moral beings, involves a trial of character,
and tests the "spirit we are of." But nevertheless there do occur
periods in our lives when such trials are peculiarly testing; when
large bribes are offered to the sin that doth so easily beset us,
tempting us to betray conscience, give up principle, lose faith in the
right and in God, and to serve the devil, the world, or the flesh.
Such moments may be very brief, yet decisive of our future life. They
may come suddenly upon us, though possibly many notes of warning have
announced their approach. For they are often but the apex of the
pyramid to which many previous steps have gradually and almost
imperceptibly led; the beginning of a battle, which must at last be
fought, and very shortly decided, but yet the ending of many previous
skirmishings. Be this as it may, that moment of life does come to us
all, when evil like the enemy appears to concentrate against us its
whole force, and when we must fight, conquer, or die; when like a
thief it resolves to break into our home and take possession; when as
a deceiver it promises happiness, and demands immediate acceptance or
rejection of the splendid offer,--"All these will I give thee, if thou
wilt fall down and worship me!"

What a moment is this in the life of many a young person. How
unutterably solemn is the first deliberate act which opposes
conscience, rebels against the authority of God and of His law, shuts
out the light, and prefers darkness. Future character, and the life
and happiness of years, may be determined by it. The step taken in
that brief moment, the lie uttered, the dishonesty perpetrated, the
drunkenness or debauchery indulged in, the prayers for the first time
given up, and the father's home left for the far country. Who can
realise the consequences of those first acts, or estimate the many
links of evil, and the endless chain itself, that may connect
themselves with the one link of sin fashioned in that moment of life!
Who can foresee the streams ever increasing in breadth and depth which
may flow from this letting in of water! Would God that my readers,
young men especially, would but believe in the possibility even of the
choice they make at such a time determining their future destiny. The
thought of this might at least make them pause and consider.

There is no exaggeration in this language. To realise the danger, all
we need assume is the law of habit; for, according to that law, we
know that any act of the will, good or bad, has a tendency to repeat
itself with increasing ease and decreasing consciousness, until it
becomes a "second nature." Hence the first resistance of evil is much
less difficult than any subsequent attempt; and he who in one moment
of life could by a manly effort become a conqueror, and enter on a
life of principle and peace, may, by yielding, very soon sink down
into a degraded slave, who is held fast by the iron chain of habit,
each link of which he has himself forged by his own self-will.

What a moment was that in the life of Herod when he permitted evil
desire for Herodias to enter his soul. That desire conceived sin, and
sin when finished brought forth death. Acts passed into habits,
and habits into a life of abandoned passion. Then came the festive
birthday, and the dancing before him of the daughter of his paramour;
and then the foul murder, with the spectacle of the bloody head,
closed eyes, and sealed lips of the greatest and noblest man of his
time; and then followed the hour when Jesus Himself was brought before
the murderer, when the Lord spoke not one word of warning, rebuke,
or mercy to him, but smote the wretch with the terrible wrath and
righteous judgment of silence!

What a moment in life was that, too, when Judas welcomed covetousness
into his heart as a most profitable guest. Then one day Covetousness
offered him thirty pieces of silver if he would betray his Lord; and
Judas agreed to the proposal. A whole eternity of misery was involved
in that moment of his life: for the night soon arrived when the
bargain was to be kept. A few moments more, and the history will end
here to begin elsewhere. Yet there is not a sign on earth or heaven
to indicate the importance of that brief hour to Judas! He forms one
among the most distinguished company that ever sat at the same table
since the earth began; and never did mortal ears listen to such words
uttered by human lips, nor did mortal eyes ever contemplate such
a scene of peace and love as was witnessed in that upper room in
Jerusalem. But the hour has struck, and Judas rises to depart. The
deed of darkness must now be done. It is late, and he has made a most
important appointment; unless he keeps it, he may lose his money; and
what a loss to the poor follower of a man who had nowhere to lay His
head! Judas leaves that company; and what was there in things visible
to make him suspect even that an awful moment of life--his last--had
come? All was calm within that upper room,--all was peace in the world
without. The naked heavens shone in the calm brilliancy of an Eastern
night The streets of Jerusalem, along which the traitor passed on his
dreadful errand, echoed his footsteps in their silence. Yet Judas,
"the son of perdition," was at that moment on his way "to his own

And thus it is with many a man in the hour of temptation. The voice of
sin speaks not loudly, but whispers to his inner spirit. He pursues
his path of evil without alarm being given by sight or sound from
heaven or earth. There is nothing in the world without to disturb the
thoughts and purposes of the world within his false and unprincipled
soul. The moment of his life brings the temptation, and he yields his
soul to its power, and the moment passes with as noiseless a step;
and soon the last moment comes, and passes away; but he too has
noiselessly passed away with it "to his own place!"

The "moment in life" when we are called upon to perform some positive
duty, is one which is often very critical and full of solemn
consequences to us. The duty may _appear_ to be a very trifling
one,--such as writing a letter, visiting a friend, warning some
brother against evil, aiding another, or sympathising with a sufferer
in his sorrow. But whatever the work may be, and in whatever way it is
to be performed, whether by word or deed, by silence or by speech,
yet there is a time given us for doing it, very brief perhaps,
and unaccompanied by any sign to mark its significance,--a time,
nevertheless, when whatever has to be done must be done quickly, "now
or never."

Such a moment in life was that in the history of the three apostles
who accompanied our Lord, at His own request, in order to watch
with Him in His last agony. As a man, He deserved their thoughtful
presence, their watchful sympathy, when enduring the dread sorrow
which filled His cup, from realising by anticipation all that was
before Him. Thrice He came to them from the spot, not far off, where
He wrestled in prayer with His terrible agony.

Thrice He found them asleep. "What!" he asked, "could ye not watch
with me one hour?" Ah! they knew not what an hour that was!--what it
was to Him--what it was and might have been to them! They might have
had the joy, the exalted privilege, which for ever would have been as
a very heaven of glory in their memory, of sharing, through the power
of sympathising love, the burden of their Lord's anguish. But they
yielded to the flesh, and permitted that moment of time to pass; and
when they at last roused themselves from their slumber, it was too
late. That moment in life had come and gone, and could return no more.
"Sleep on, and take your rest; behold, he who betrayeth me is at

And thus it often happens in the life of us all. An hour is given us
when something may be done for our Lord or our brethren, which cannot
possibly be done if that hour is permitted to pass away unimproved.
Then we may teach an ignorant soul, or rouse a slothful one to action;
we may alarm one who is lethargic, worldly, sensual, "without God or
Christ in the world," so as to win him to both; or we may comfort the
feeble-minded, and support the weak. Circumstances may give us the
opportunity, and the "moment in life," when such works may be done.
The persons to be helped are perhaps inmates of our dwelling; they are
our relations: they are sick or dying; or they have cast themselves
upon our aid. But we let the moment pass. The work given us is
not done. We have neglected it from sloth, procrastination,
thoughtlessness, or selfishness. And we may become awake to our
culpable negligence, and rouse ourselves to duty. But, alas! those
whom we could have aided are past help. They are dead, or are removed
from our influence, or in some way "past remedy." And so the moment
in life given us is gone, and gone for ever, except to meet us and to
accuse us before the bar of God. And thus it is with duty in countless
forms. What our hands find to do must be done quickly, if done at all,
and in the time given us. If not, a night comes, and may come soon and
come suddenly, in which either we ourselves cannot work, or in which,
though at last willing to do it, it is no longer given us to do.

But there is one moment in life--and I conclude by suggesting it to
your thoughts--which must come to every man, and which generally comes
with signs sufficiently significant of its importance,--I mean the
last moment which closes our life on earth. Come it must. And, as an
old writer remarks, "the day we die, though of no importance to the
world, is to ourselves of more importance than is all the world." That
moment in life ends time to us, and begins eternity; it ends our day
of grace and begins the day of judgment; it separates us from the
world in which we have lived since we were born, and introduces us to
the unseen, unknown world of things and persons in which we must live
for ever during the life of God. What a moment is this! It may come in
the quiet of our own chamber, or amidst the confusion and excitement
of some dread accident by land or sea; it may be heralded by long
sickness or old age, and accompanied by much weakness and bodily
suffering. But if that moment, when it comes, is to bring us
peace, let our present moments, as they come, find us watchful,
conscientious, believing, and prayerful. And should these words of
mine be read by chance by one who has begun his last moment without
having begun the work for which he was created, preserved, and
redeemed, let me beseech of him to improve it by repentance towards
God, and faith in Jesus Christ, who will pardon his sins, give him a
new heart, and save him as he did the thief on the cross. If every
hour of his day of grace has been misimproved, let not this last be
added to the number. If he has stood all the day idle, let him in the
eleventh hour accept his Master's work of faith alone in his own soul,
and do what he can for the good of others. But let this moment in
life pass, then shall the next moment after death bring only fear
and anguish; for, be warned and also encouraged by the words of
the truthful and loving Jesus, uttered with many tears, over lost
souls,--"If thou hadst known, even thou, at least _in this thy day_,
the things that belong unto thy peace; but now they are for ever hid
from thine eyes!"


These words seem to me to express the idea of true labour, such as God
calls us to, and _in_ the doing of which there is a great reward. They
imply that the living God has a work to do on earth, in men and by
men; that in this work He has--if I may so express it--a deep personal
interest, because it is one worthy of Himself, and for the advancement
of His own glory, and the good and happiness of man.

Now, God wishes us to know this work, and to sympathise with Him
in it. He does not conceal from us what He wishes done, or what He
himself is doing; nor obliges us to remain for ever blind as to His
will and purposes regarding ourselves or others; so that, if we work
at all, we must work according to our own wills only, and for our own
purposes. Instead of this, He reveals in His Word, by His Son, through
His Spirit, and in the conscience, what His will is--what He wishes
us to be and do. Nor does He say to us, "Learn my commands, and
obey them; but seek not to know why I have so commanded." Were it
impossible, indeed, to know _why_ any command was given, the mere fact
of its injunction would itself demand instant compliance; "but,"
says our Lord, "I have not called you servants, but friends, for the
servant knoweth not what his lord doeth." The servant or slave does
not occupy the place which the friend does. The one hears only what
is commanded; but the other, through personal acquaintance with the
master, is enabled to sympathise with the righteousness and love in
the command. The friend not only knows what, as a servant, he _must_
do, but sees how right and beautiful it is that he should be commanded
so to do. In like manner, we read that God made known His "ways" to
Moses, but only His "acts" to the children of Israel. This revelation,
of principle and plan to His servant was indeed a speaking with him
"face to face;" and thus does God speak to us now in these latter days
by the grace and truth revealed in His Son. And it is only when we
thus know God's work on earth, and when, from a will and character
brought into harmony with His, we see how excellent the work is, that
we can be, not labourers only, but "_fellow_-labourers" with God;--not
workers only, but "workers _together_ with Him."

Consider, for instance, _the work of God in our own souls_. This is,
as far as we ourselves are concerned, the most important work in the
universe. Upon it depends whether the universe shall be to us a heaven
or a hell. "What will a man give in exchange for his soul?" is a
question which assumes that to the man himself nothing can be so
valuable. But has God any work to do in our souls? Has He ever
expressed any wish as to what He would have us believe, become, or
enjoy, or revealed for what end or purpose He made our spirits? Is
there no wrong state or condition in us with which He is "angry" and
"grieved," and no right state with which He is "delighted," and over
which He "rejoices?" Has He laid no command upon us to "work out our
own salvation with fear and trembling?" and has He given no intimation
of His "working in us to will and do?" Or is it to Him the same
whether we are wrong or right? Surely we can have no difficulty in
replying to such all-important questions! If a man loses faith in the
reality and sincerity of God's wish, that he personally should have
his guilty soul freely pardoned, and his unholy soul sanctified, and
his whole being renewed after God's own image,--that he himself should
be a good, a great, a happy man, by knowing and loving his God; and if
a man brings himself to such a state of practical atheism as to doubt
whether God knows or cares anything about him;--then it is impossible
for such a man to be "a fellow-labourer," a "worker together" with God
in his own soul; for he does not know and has never heard of any work
of God required _there_. But if he believes that God is indeed his
"Father in heaven;"--that He has goodwill to him, and therefore
desires his good by desiring him to _be_ good;--that, for the
accomplishment of this end, all has been done which is recorded in the
Bible, from Genesis to Revelation;--that God has been working in him,
through agencies innumerable, since his childhood, by parents and
friends, by tender mercies and bitter chastisements, by Sabbath
ordinances and pulpit ministrations, by the constant witness of
conscience and the Word of God, in order that he should know and love
God his Father,--then, seeing this, will he see also how he may be
a "fellow-labourer with God." _And have not you, my reader, been
conscious of this work?_ You cannot get quit of the conviction that
there is One higher than yourself with whom you have to do,--One who
is ever with you, seeking to deliver you from evil, from your own evil
self,--One whose voice is never silent, and who is righteously judging
your daily life. And have you never been conscious, too, of fighting
against what you certainly knew was not self, but a holy, winning,
mysterious power or Person, who opposed self, and for that very
reason was resisted by self? And therefore your sin has not been the
ignorance of good, but opposing the good,--not the absence, but the
resisting of a good work in you. It is on this very principle men will
be condemned, for "This _is_ the condemnation, that light hath come
into the world, and men _prefer_ darkness to light, because their
deeds are evil." And if this has been your sin, so has it been your
misery. In exact proportion as you thus "hated knowledge, and did not
choose the fear of the Lord," you become wretched and unsatisfied. No
wonder! for with whom does the man work when he works in opposition
to the will of God? In refusing to serve God, he serves Satan, and
becomes a "worker together" with "the spirit who now worketh in the
children of disobedience!"

Well, then, what are you to do? I reply: "Yield yourselves to God;"
"be subject to the Father of your spirit, and live." "Wherefore do
you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that
which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that
which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline
your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live." Instead
of being workers against, seek to be "workers _together_" with God in
your own souls; to have His "work of faith and love," and everything
beautiful and holy, perfected in you. Believe in Jesus Christ as the
living Person who alone can and will save you, by pardoning your sins,
and giving you His Spirit to make you like Himself. Begin your work by
assuming that God _is_ working in you to will and do; and _because_
you have Him, through His omnipotent Spirit, working in you, do not be
as one who beats the air in aimless and profitless warfare, nor strive
against nor grieve that Spirit, but through Him "work out your own
salvation." In thus pleading with you, I feel that I myself am but
working with God; for I can say with the apostle, "Now then we are
ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray
you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made
Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the
righteousness of God in Him. We then, as _workers together with Him_,
beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."

Put this question in another way: Suppose you had met Jesus Christ
when He was on earth; that you had listened to one of His appeals when
He preached the gospel from city to city, and felt His eye looking
at you as He spoke in His own name, and in the name of His Father,
saying, "Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I
will give you rest"--"The Son of man hath come to seek that which is
lost," and the like; that you had witnessed the delight it gave Him to
do good, and to find any one willing to receive His overflowing love,
and the sorrow He endured when men would not believe in Him or trust
Him, but preferred remaining without the blessing; and that you
had accompanied Him during His ministry on earth, and studied His
character from all you saw and heard,--could the impression made upon
you in such circumstances be thus expressed, "I believe that Thou
carest not for me; that my well-doing or ill-doing are equally matters
of indifference to Thee; and that there is no faith or love that Thou
desirest to see accomplished in my soul?" Would you have _dared_ to
speak in anything like this strain of blasphemy to the holy Saviour
had you met Him? Or would you not have been overwhelmed by the
conviction, that whether you yielded to His wishes or not, these
wishes were clear and unquestionable--that from His character as a man
having fellowship with God, His work as the Saviour of sinners, His
revealed will as Lord, nothing could be more certain than that He
wished you _personally_ to be holy and happy through faith in His
name; and accordingly, that if you accepted His call, and His offer
of power to be so, you were but working _with_ Him; and that if you
neglected both, you were certainly working _against_ Him?

But with this personal Saviour you have to do just as really and truly
now as any of His disciples who had followed Him when on earth; and
so I beseech you to be fellow-labourers with Him in His own holy and
living work within your own soul. Let your prayer then be: "Thy will
be done! Let Thy holy and loving will, my Father, be done in me! I
believe in Thy forgiveness, and am at peace with Thee, according to
that will, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. And as this
is also Thy will, even my sanctification, and Thy revealed purpose,
that I should be made conformable to the image of Thy Son, so let Thy
grace, which is sufficient for the chief of sinners, daily bring this
salvation into me, by teaching me to deny ungodliness and worldly
lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present
world; that so learning Christ, taking up His cross daily, following
Him and being disciplined by Him, I may be taught to put off the old
man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and to be
renewed in the spirit of my mind; and, as Thine own workmanship, be
created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works. Amen!"

Let us consider for a little longer God's work in us, by His
providential dealings towards us. A moment's reflection will suffice
to remind you that God, in His providence, is constantly working with
you. He is, for instance, a wonderful Giver. "He gives us all things
richly to enjoy." "He openeth His hand liberally." His mercies are
more than can be numbered; though as a father He also chastises His
children. "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away." Now, in whatever
way God deals with us, whether He gives or takes, there is a purpose
which He wishes accomplished. He has a work to do in us by every joy
and every sorrow. There is a voice for us in the rod of darkness, and
in the ray of sunshine; and it is our duty, our strength, our peace,
to hear that voice, and to know that work of providence so as to be
fellow-labourers with God in it. Perhaps you are disposed to excuse
yourselves for want of sober inquiry into God's dealings with you,
by saying, that it is very hard to know, and often impossible to
discover, what object or purpose He has in view when sending to us
this gift or that grief. In some cases it may be so; but it is much
to know and to remember what God's purpose is _not_, and what He can
never wish to have accomplished, either by what He gives to us or
takes from us. Never can it be the purpose of God, in any case, to
advance the work of Satan in our souls, or to retard within us the
coming of His own glorious kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in
the Holy Ghost. Never can He send us a gift to make us proud, vain,
indolent, covetous, earthly-minded, sensual, devilish, or in any
degree to alienate us from Himself as our chief good. For whatever
purpose He fashioned our body with such exquisite care, providing
so rich a supply for all its senses, it was not, assuredly, that we
should make that body the instrument of degrading and ruining the
immortal soul, and of sinking our whole being down to a level with the
beasts that perish! He never gave beauty of form to make us vain
or sensuous; nor poured wine into our cup that we should become
drunkards; nor spread food on our table merely to pamper our
self-indulgence and feed our passions. He never gave us dominion
over the earth that we should be Satan's slaves. He never awoke from
silence the glorious harmonies of music for our ear, nor revealed to
our eye the beauties of nature and of art, nor fired our soul with the
magnificent creations of poetry, that we might be so enraptured by
these as to forget and despise Himself. He never gifted us with a
high intellect, refined taste, or brilliant wit, to nourish ambition,
worship genius, and to become profane, irreverent, and devil-like, by
turning those godlike powers against their Maker and Sustainer. We
cannot think, that if money has been poured at our feet, He thereby
intended to infect us with the curse of selfishness, or to tempt us to
become cruel or covetous men, who would let the beggar stand at our
gate, and ourselves remain so poor as to have no inheritance in the
kingdom of God; or to make us such "fools" as to survey our broad
acres and teeming barns with self-love and worldliness, exclaiming,
"Soul, take thine ease; thou hast much goods laid up for many years;
eat, drink, and be merry;" or to tempt us to refuse the cross, and to
depart sorrowful from Christ, because we had great possessions; or to
choke the seed of the Word as with thorns, so that it should bring
forth no fruit to perfection! Can it be possible that He has spared
our family, and enriched us with so many friends, in order that, being
"so happy" with them, we should never wish to know God as our Father,
Christ as our Brother, or have any desire to become members of the
family of God? Has He given us so much pleasant, useful, or necessary
labour in the world, that we should forget the one thing needful, and
leave undone _the_ work for which we were created? Has He given us the
Church, the ministry, the Sabbath, the sacrament, that we should make
these ends instead of means--instruments for concealing, rather than
revealing our God and Saviour? And if the Lord has taken away, and
visited us with sharp sorrows and sore bereavements, was this "strange
work" done by Him who does not "willingly afflict" His children, in
order that we should have the pain without the "profit," "faint under"
or "despise" the chastisement, or become more set upon the world and
the creature, more shut up in heart against our Father, more dead to
eternal things, or fall into despair, and curse God and die?

Without prolonging such inquiries, enough has been said, I hope, to
enable you to apprehend what I mean by our being fellow-workers with
God in all His works of providence that concern ourselves. We believe
that these things, whether of joy or sorrow, do not come by chance,
nor through the agency of dead mechanical laws, but that a living
Person is dealing with us wisely, lovingly, righteously,--that, in
truth, "_the Lord_ giveth, and the _Lord_ taketh away," and that,
accordingly, there must be a design or purpose to serve in what He
gives or withholds,--that this never can be an evil purpose, but must,
in every case, be good, and that we may derive good and a blessing
from it. Let us, then, be fellow-workers with Him in seeking, through
faith and love, to have this purpose realised, and to have the end
designed by God fulfilled in us or by us, so that every joy and sorrow
may bring us nearer the glorious God, and make us know Him better, and
love Him more, and thus possess "life more abundantly," even "life

But not only is there a work to be done _in_ us, but also _by_ us, in
the doing of which we are to be "labourers together with God."

This kind of labouring with others is illustrated by Saint Paul when
he says, what I have already quoted, "Now then we are ambassadors for
Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's
stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us,
who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in
Him. We then, as _workers together with Him_, beseech you also that
ye receive not the grace of God in vain." He is here, you perceive,
addressing those who were enemies to God, and beseeching such to be
"reconciled." But in what spirit does he plead with them? In labouring
to bring them into reconciliation with their Father, and to save their
souls, he does not feel himself alone and solitary in his work and
labour of love; as one prompted by his own goodwill to lost sinners,
and his own wishes to redeem them from evil, yet in doubt or in
ignorance as to what God's wishes or feelings were in regard to them.
He does not proclaim the gospel to one or to many sinners with such
thoughts as these: "It is no doubt my duty to preach to them, and to
plead with them, and from my heart I pity them, love them, and could
die to save them; but whether God pities them or not, or truly wishes
to save them, I do not know, for I am totally ignorant of His will or
purpose." Surely such were not the apostle's convictions! Did he not
rather engage in this work of seeking to save souls with intense
earnestness, because he knew that however great his love, it was but a
reflection, however dim, of the infinite love of God to them, and his
desire to save them but a feeble expression of the desire of God? Was
he not persuaded, that in "beseeching" them to be reconciled, he could
speak "as though God did beseech" them by him, as one "in Christ's
stead;" and that "in beseeching" them "not to receive the grace of God
in vain," he was but "a worker together with God?"

In this same spirit may we, and must we seek to do good to others.
We dare not look upon our brother as one belonging exclusively to
ourselves, or one dear to ourselves only, but as one belonging to God
his Creator, and dear to God his Father. We must ever keep before us
the fact, that there is a work which God wishes to have accomplished
in his soul, as well as in our own; and that our brother is given to
us in order that we should be workers _together_ with God in helping
on that good work. And if so, this will very clearly teach us at least
what we ought _not_ to do to our brother. We should never, by word or
by example, by silence or by speech, strengthen in his spirit the work
of evil: for that is not God's work. For when we flatter his vanity,
feed his pride, shake his convictions of the truth, or when, in any
way whatever, we lay stumbling blocks in his path, or tempt him to
evil, we are surely not workers together with God. In our conduct to
our brother, let us ask ourselves, Is this how Christ would have acted
to any one with whom He came in contact when on earth? Is this helping
on His work now? But, on the other hand, when our brother's soul is
dear to us,--when, at all hazards, we seek first, and above all,
his _good_,--when our love is such that we are willing to have its
existence suspected, and ourselves despised and rejected by him, even
as our loving Lord was by His "own whom He loved," rather than that we
should selfishly save ourselves, and lose our brother; then indeed we
are labourers together with God, and possess the spirit of Jesus! Oh,
little does the world understand the deep working of this kind of
love, which, however imperfect it may be, yet burns in the heart of
Christians only, because they only partake of that love which is
possessed in perfection by Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us!

Let us, then, remember that we are not to concern ourselves about
another's good as if we were alone in our labours, our wishes, and
our sympathies; as if we really cared more than God does about the
well-being of this relation or of that friend. Let our love flow out
with all its force, and express itself with holiest longings and
tenderest sympathies; yet infinitely above all this love is the love
of our God and their God! In our truest and holiest working be assured
that we are but a worker _together_ with Him, the true and holy One,
otherwise our labours could not be _right_; for they would not be in
harmony with God's will, or such as He could command or bless.

The same principle applies to our more extensive labours for the good
of the whole world, and is the very life and soul of home and foreign
missions. We can enter the abodes of ignorance and crime at home, and
ply with offers of mercy the inhabitants of the foulest den, and plead
with every prodigal to return to his Father, because we believe that
in all this we are in Christ's stead, and are warranted to beseech in
God's name, and with the full assurance that we are not working alone,
but "together with God." We can visit any spot in heathendom,
cheered and borne up by the same assurance amidst every difficulty,
discouragement, and danger. Whatever else is doubtful, this, at least,
is certain, that in every endeavour to save sinners, we are but
expressing our sympathy with Jesus in His love to them, in His longing
to see of the travail of His soul, and to be satisfied in their
salvation; and that when experiencing the deepest sorrow because
men will not believe, we are only sharing the sufferings of Him who
mourned on account of unbelief, and wept over lost Jerusalem because
it would not know the things of its peace. All this is as certain
as that there is such a living person as the Saviour, unchanged in
character, everywhere present, seeing the evil and the good, hating
the one and loving the other, whose labour and whose joy is that God's
name should be hallowed, His kingdom come, and His will be done on
earth as it is done in heaven.

Oh, how depressing, how deadening, to have any doubts as to this
reality of the interest which our God and Saviour takes in the good of
human souls! How must the dread thought silence the tongue, wither the
heart, and paralyse the hand, that however ardent the wish influencing
us to be good ourselves, or to do good to others, God is indifferent
to both, and has no real interest in either--as if we had more love,
more holiness, and more desire that the kingdom of righteousness
should advance, than the loving and holy God! Nay, how is it possible
for us to have any true love at all to human friends unless it is
first kindled by Him, and is in sympathy with Him, who loved His
neighbour as Himself?

Let me here remind you of the only other alternative set before
you,--it is the awful one of being a "labourer together" with Satan.
Our Lord rejects neutrality; for such is really impossible. He
recognises the _no_ real friend as a positive enemy. "He that is not
with me is against me;" "He who gathereth not scattereth;" "Ye cannot
serve God and mammon," but must serve either. Now, Satan has a work
on earth. It is this spirit which "worketh in the children of
disobedience." Will we, then, work with him in his desire to destroy
our own souls? Will we have "fellowship with the unfruitful works of
darkness," and take part with that wicked one in his dread work of
opposing the kingdom of light, and advancing the kingdom of darkness
in the world? Will we assist him in tempting others to evil,--in
entangling souls more and more in the meshes of sin,--in propagating
error and opposing truth? And will we, by our words and example,
by our coldness or open opposition, help to keep any man back from
Christ, or to drag down to hell a neighbour or friend, a brother,
sister, or child? A labourer together with Satan! Oh, consider the
possibility of this being the record at judgment of our history, that
we may start, as from a nightmare, from so hideous an imputation!
Instead of anything so inconceivably dreadful being true of us, may we
know and love the Father, through the Son, and by His Spirit, and thus
realise more and more in all our labours the strength and blessedness
of being "labourers together with God!"

The more we reflect upon this principle which I have been
illustrating, the more we shall see that it is the life of all true
work, and can be applied to any work in which a Christian can engage.
The true artist, for example, ought to occupy the elevated position
of being a labourer with God in faithfully, industriously, and
conscientiously working in harmony with Nature, which is "the Art of
God." He ought to study, therefore, the sculpture, the paintings, the
music, of the Great Artist, and understand the principles on which He
produces the beautiful in form, in colour, or in sound. The humblest
mason who plies his chisel on the highest pinnacle of a great
building, or who fashions the lowliest hut, should have an eye to Him
who makes all things very good, and for conscience' sake, ay, for
God's sake, he should, to the very best of his ability, work in the
spirit of the Great Architect, who bestows the same care in building
up the mountains, moulding the valleys, fashioning the crystal, making
a home to shelter the tiny insect, or a nest where the bird may rear
her young. Without loving our work, and doing it to the best of our
ability, as in the sight of God, we cannot be fellow-workers with Him
who hath made our bodies so wonderfully, and cultivated our souls so
carefully; for "ye are God's building"--"ye are God's husbandry."




"An awakening" expresses better than the stereotyped phrase "revival,"
the idea of a wide-spread interest in religious truth. This is the
response to the righteous demand, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and
arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light," for at such a
time men but awake to the reality of truth, which was previously dim
and shadowy to them as things seen in dreams; or formerly the awful
facts of God's revelation had been as pictures hung up on the wall,
which now suddenly become alive.

Before entering on the discussion of this rather delicate subject, there
is one question which we would respectfully press upon the attention of
the reader, and that is, Whether he would like a revival of genuine
religion? We do not question him regarding his sympathy with any
particular form in which the supposed revival might come, far less with
any of those peculiarities which are supposed by some to be necessarily
characteristic of a revival; but supposing that such an awakening or
revival occurred by means of any agency, or any process, that it was
accompanied by such outward signs of calm and peace as he himself would
select, and that its results were unquestionable;--supposing that
society was unusually pervaded by a spirit of truth and holiness, that
no countenance could be given to evil by word, look, or sentiment, but
only to all that was pure, lovely, and of good report,--would such a
heaven upon earth be readily rejoiced in by him? If this question is
fairly and honestly put to the heart and conscience, the manner in which
we entertain the thought of the mere possibility of a revival becomes a
trial of our own spirit, a test of our sincerity when we pray, "Thy
kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven."

The weakest Christian has but one answer to give to such a question.
He may be pained by anticipating the contrast which he thinks is not
unlikely to be presented between himself and others more holy; or he
may fear that what is false and fleeting, but more attractive, may, in
a time of excitement, usurp the place of what is real and permanent,
though less obtrusive; but he cannot but desire with his whole heart
that he himself and all men may become more and more awake to the
realities of truth, and be revived as by the breath of a new spring,
so as to grow more in grace, and bring forth more fruit to the glory
of God.

For, given that a revival is possible,--that a wide-spread interest in
the will of God towards men, with a corresponding power vouchsafed to
know it and do it, may be suddenly produced and permanently sustained
in the minds of men,--we ask, Is not this _the_ one grand blessing
from God which we require? To the question, "What wilt thou that I
should do unto thee?" which we may conceive our loving Lord putting
to His blind, deaf, lame, even dead brethren of mankind, does not
the response come from individuals and congregations, from solitary
mourners, and from unhappy hearts, from the weary, the hopeless, the
despairing, the labourers at home and abroad--"_Life_, Lord! We need
life in our souls, life in our duties, life in our minds, life in
our families, life in our teaching and hearing, in our working and
praying, life in all and for all!"

All our clergy constantly need a revival of genuine life,--life which
no parishioner might be able to define, but which, if there, every one
would soon perceive. It would be felt in every home like the breath of
spring, experienced beside every sick-bed like a touch of healing, and
be heard in every sermon like a voice from heaven. Oh, what a
heavenly gift to himself and others would this be, and what a time of
refreshing from the Lord! And how many would share the blessing,
now hindered, perhaps, by his own unbelief and satisfaction with
indifference. For though "dead" ministers may in some rare cases have
succeeded in saving souls, we never heard of living ones who had
in every case failed. God has ordained that a living ministry--the
preaching of those who utter what they themselves _know_ from personal
experience to be true--shall be His most powerful instrumentality for
converting the world. We believe, accordingly, that every minister,
whose own soul became alive, would soon find that his life was
_contagious_, and that his living spirit would tell upon other spirits
in a way never before realised by him. That indescribable impression
made by a genuine Christian character, which never can be successfully
imitated, would exercise a marvellous influence upon all with whom he
came in contact; and if he had one sorrow for life, it would be
the remembrance of the dark and horrible time when he was a mere
formalist, dead to the eternal interests of his own soul and the souls
of others.

Again, What _parish_ does not stand in need of such a quickening? Few
ministers are encouraged and stimulated to aim at and attain higher
measures of good, from the abounding evidences of Christian life among
their parishioners. Many more are tempted, by all they see around
them, to wax cold in love, and to lower their standard of personal
and ministerial life,--to become quite satisfied with the every-day,
stereotyped formalism of things around them, or to submit to it as if
it were a doom. The very smile of incredulity with which the account
of alleged revivals is received,--the wonder which good men express,
if told of many being awakened by the mere preaching of the Word
in some congregation or district,--only indicates how all hope has
perished of our people over becoming what the preacher _in words_
urges them to become, or of their ever being delivered from the
torpor, the indifference, the death, which _in words_ he tells them
are the preludes of coming death eternal. Is not our hope well-nigh
lost regarding many a parish; and what but the quickening and reviving
power of God's Spirit can restore it?

And is there no revival needed in _our most living congregations?_ We
may, indeed, have cause to thank God for many signs of genuine life
within them, and for such good works as indicate a living spirit in
the body. But in the most encouraging cases we have more cause to
deplore the vast extent of the ground where the seed sown has been
carried away, withered, or choked with thorns, rather than to rejoice
in the small patches which may be bringing forth fruit. Let any
minister, as he surveys his congregation, and as he visits them from
house to house, ask himself the question, How many of these really
care about Christ, and ever pray to Him, or try to serve Him? and
making every allowance for our ignorance of other men's condition,
for the life that may be hidden from the eye, yet will there not be
innumerable evidences, _forcing_ upon him the conviction, that if the
doctrines he preaches are true, death reigns to a very awful extent
even among members of the Church? We do not wish to exaggerate, or
make out a case against pastors or their flocks, but we leave it to
every candid man who will dare to look the truth in the face, to deny
the existence among us of a, mighty want--the want of a revival of
spiritual religion among both.

Once more, let us look at our _missions_, and consider whether there
is any need of a revival in this department of Church life. We confess
that a mingled feeling of shame and sorrow swells our hearts as we
think of the contributions, whether of men or of money, furnished
by all Christendom for the conversion of heathendom. It is not
that Protestantism is behind Romanism even in the number of its
missionaries, while in _quality_, and even permanent and holy results,
we never will compare these two sections of the Christian Church. But
how can we hope to possess such missions as shall be worthy of the
Protestant Church, without a revival of spiritual religion throughout
the parishes, families, theological halls, and congregations of Europe
and America? Is it too much to expect, for example, that Christian
_parents_, who would now rejoice if their sons received "an excellent
civil appointment in India," or "a commission without purchase," or "a
partnership in a first-rate house," shall also rejoice in the prospect
of one of their children becoming a missionary of the Cross? Is it too
much to expect that those _licensed to preach the gospel_ shall love
the work for the work's sake, and that some years at least of health
and strength may be given to the foreign field? What is needed more
than a revival among our _preachers_, before we can look with hope for
a revival in our missions?

And, finally, is not a revival much required to banish the
estrangement, coldness, envy, which exist between _the clergy of
different Churches?_ There are delightful exceptions, where genuine
Christian goodwill and love exist. But, alas! we sadly miss the want
of that manly, truthful maintenance of what appears to us to warrant
our own church organisation, with that just appreciation of the sense,
principle, and judgment of those who have no sympathy with our views.
Surely every great branch of the Church has at this time of day proved
to every honest and fair man, that enough can be said in its favour
to justify a man in belonging to it without his belying his Christian
profession, or being either a fool or a hypocrite. Yet, what an inward
_chuckling_ is often manifested at each other's blunders, failures,
or even sins,--what a straining for the masteries between the rival
sects,--what an utter absence, in innumerable cases, of the slightest
sign or symptom of that Christian love and forbearance which is the
very proof of being children of God--nay, how little of the good
breeding and kindness which are universal among gentlemen! And all
this evil, and more than we have described, is often glossed over with
such an evangelical phraseology, that what is of the earth earthy is
made to appear as if it were heavenly; and the coarsest product of the
coarsest and most vulgar vanity, self-seeking, and pride is so painted
and misrepresented as to look like love of principle or love of truth.
What will put an end to the proud antagonism, the Popery, the Church
idolatry of Protestantism? Can it ever be that we shall carry one
another's burdens, and _so_ fulfil the law of Christ, and so love
_the_ Church and its Head as to love ourselves and our sections of the
Church less,--that we shall so love our brethren of every name,
that their sins shall be our grief, and their well being our
blessing,--that we shall be willing to decrease, if Christ only
increases, by whatever means He may in His sovereign wisdom select?
In one word, can it be that Christian ministers and people of every
church shall, in any town or district, come to love one another with a
pure heart fervently, because loving the Lord? Who would not long for
such a blessed consummation! "But, behold, if the Lord could make
windows in heaven, might this thing be!" So we exclaim in our
unbelief. But, unless we have lost all faith in the power of God's
Spirit, why should we not believe that God _can_ open the windows of
heaven, and pour forth such showers of His grace that ministers shall
believe what they know, and act as they teach, and be what they
profess, and that thus the parched places shall rejoice and blossom as
the rose. Then, indeed, would be fulfilled the gracious promise made
to a renewed Church:--"For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth
with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you
into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the
brier shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a
name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."



It cannot be denied that very strong prejudices are entertained by
many of our most intelligent, sober-minded, and sincere Christians
against revivals. It is both unjust and untruthful to allege that
their real objection is against all vital godliness and genuine
Christianity. Such persons as those we allude to love both, and desire
the advance of truth as truly and sincerely as any "revivalist" in the
land, and much more so than many who bear the name. But from their
education, their temperament, their views of truth, and from what they
have seen or heard regarding the "revival movements," they have been
led to question the reality of sudden conversions, the evidence of the
instrumentalities and means ordinarily employed to effect them, and
the correctness of the teaching imparted, either to awaken or build
up; while other things which appeared always to accompany "a revival,"
as if essential to it,--such as the extravagant and exaggerated coarse
addresses of some, the impudence, conceit, and spiritual pride of
others, the thrusting aside, as if of no value, all that was quiet,
sober, and truthful, and the bringing forward all that was noisy,
demonstrative, talkative, and excited,--has had such an effect on
their minds that the very name of "a revival meeting" produces a
feeling of repulsion and aversion as against a falsehood.

Now, we do not profess by any means to defend whatever has presented
itself to public notice in any village or district as "a revival." A
good name, whether assumed by men, meetings, or movements, does not
necessarily make either of them good or worthy of their name.[A]

[Footnote A: It is very unfair to represent those clergy as opposed to
revivals who may not have attended "revival meetings." These meetings
were often summoned and managed by self-appointed committees of
laymen, whose names were unknown to the clergy, and no guarantee
whatever was afforded as to who would address them, or how they would
be conducted. Clergymen, therefore, were unwilling either to attend
as mere spectators, or to appear on the platform, where they might be
placed in the unpleasant position of either opposing or acquiescing
in what was said or done. They, therefore, confined their labours to
their own flock, thankfully acknowledging the good which may have
been done by others in the way which seemed best to _them_; and also
themselves finding, when sought, a portion of the blessing for their

On the other hand, whatever form revivals may take, or have taken, in
any country or district, whatever mistakes have been made, or whatever
evils have accompanied them or been occasioned by them, yet we cannot
admit that any objections can be valid which would hinder us from
hoping for such wide-spread and rapid extension of the gospel as we
have never yet seen, nor from believing that a very real and genuine
revival has to a remarkable extent taken place, and is yet going on,
throughout our country and the world.

But let us briefly state the ordinary objections against revivals:--

1. "We have no great faith in _sudden_ conversions," is a form of
expression in which we hear revivals objected to, when the subject
happens to be the topic of conversation in ordinary society.

Alas! how many have little faith in the necessity of _any_ conversion!
A want of hearty conviction regarding human sinfulness and guilt, and
a tendency rather to flatter man's character, worship his genius, and
almost deify his powers, lies too much at the root of many of the
views and feelings of our day about religion; and hence there is a
corresponding want of faith in the necessity of that "new life" which
some time or other every one must possess, or in the "supernatural"
means required either for the removal of man's guilt and his
restoration to the Divine favour, or for the renewal of man's nature
and his restoration to the Divine image. There are, in short
very inadequate convictions--if these are brought to a Scripture
test--either as to the state _out_ of which or _into_ which every man
must be brought before he can be saved. But, nevertheless, there are
moral necessities grounded on the character of God as it is, and the
character of man as it is and ought to be, which remain the same in
every age and clime. Some of these necessities are expressed by such
declarations as--"Ye must be born again." "Except ye be converted,
and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of
heaven." "If any man is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature."

Yet while conversion is absolutely necessary for every man, we by no
means assert that its inner history must, in each step, be necessarily
the same, though the results must be essentially the same in every
case. The Spirit of God, who works when and how He pleases, may, in
some cases, so work in the soul from its earliest years, that the time
when the seed of a new life entered it, and the process by which it
has gradually increased there, until it now brings forth fruit, are
both unknown. Not unknown is _the fact_ that life is there, for it
is recognised and evidenced by its fruit, but _when_ it began may be
unknown; and the rate or successive stages of its increase may be
equally unknown, or at least unmarked.

This is true in some cases--or, let it be admitted, in many cases,
chiefly among those favoured ones who have been reared from childhood
within the paradise of a truly Christian home,--still, why should
we deny the reality of many conversions on the mere ground of their

We shall not appeal to authentic historical facts to refute the
objection, but simply remind our readers of such sudden conversions as
those of Paul the apostle, the jailer at Philippi, or the thousands on
the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem. Would we be warranted in rejecting
those, because a few days or hours only marked a transition from death
to life, from darkness to light, from their serving Satan to serving
God, from being enemies to their being friends of Jesus?

But apart from this evidence, what, we would ask, is there in the
nature of conversion inconsistent with its alleged suddenness? There
may indeed be a _preparedness_ for it that may occupy much time, as
dawn ushers in the sunrise, or as months of travail precede the "child
born into the world;" and there maybe _results_ whose character may
require time to determine. Nevertheless, why should not conversion
itself, apart from its antecedents or consequents, be sudden? Let us
consider briefly what conversion is.

It is not, for example, the attainment of _good habits_ nor even the
doing of good works, though it leads to and must end in this, if
genuine. These are the _results_ of conversion. Nor, again, does it
imply anything like a full or accurate _knowledge_ of the Christian
scheme, far less of its "evidences;" for how little could have been
thus known by the converted jailer of Philippi, who was one day a
heathen, and the next day a baptized Christian--or by the converted
thief on the cross--or by the three thousand converts on the day of

But in conversions there must be _thorough earnestness_ about the
salvation of the soul, or of our relationship to God. And why should
not this feeling be suddenly kindled? Men can be easily roused to
_sudden_ earnestness, in order to save their bodies, when they realise
present danger; and why not to save their souls? _If_, indeed, the
soul can never be in such danger, or if a man can never be ignorant or
forgetful of the fact, or if in no circumstances or by any means
he can be roused to a sense of his danger, then may such sudden
earnestness be impossible; but if his danger is real, and deliverance
near, surely all this is possible, and even probable, and of infinite
importance, seeing that the day of grace ends with life, and life may
end in any moment. If this night a man's soul may be required to give
its account, surely on this day conversion is required to make that
account one of joy, and not of sorrow.

Conversion implies also _faith in what God has revealed to us_. And
why should we not _at once_ believe God? Do we think it necessary
to hesitate for months and years ere we believe the word of an
honourable, truthful man, in matters of fact about which he cannot
possibly be mistaken? And shall we think it strange to believe God's
Word the moment we hear it? Now, that Word tells us many things which,
if true, cannot be believed without producing immediate results. It
tells us that we are lost sinners "condemned _already_;" that God, in
love, has had pity on us, and sent His Son to save us; that He died on
the cross for sinners, so that "whosoever believeth in Him shall never
perish;" that He lives to quicken and sanctify through His Spirit all
who will receive Him; that there is "no other name given under heaven
whereby a man can be saved;" and that "he who believeth not shall be
damned." Now, is it really impossible for a man at once to believe
all this, or even thus far to understand his danger, and believe the
gospel as the only deliverance? Does it seem strange that men should
have at once believed Christ, or any of His apostles, when _they_
preached? Or, does it not seem more strange that some were "fools, and
slow of heart to believe?" And why should it seem incredible that a
sincere and earnest man should now believe the moment he hears the
same gospel, and say, "I have been a great sinner in hitherto treating
this message with so much neglect! By my disbelief I have made God a
liar; I shall do so no more: Thy Word is truth. Lord, I believe; help
mine unbelief!"

Conversion implies a "yielding ourselves to God," because thus
believing in His love manifested through Jesus Christ and Him
crucified. Such a state of mind might be thus expressed: "Lord, I
shall fight against Thee no more! I believe in Thee, and yield myself
to Thee for time and eternity, to have the good pleasure of Thy
righteous will done in me and by me; to be pardoned, sanctified, and
governed wholly by Thyself, and in Thine own way. I am Thine--save
me!" Surely this attitude of soul may be assumed _at once_ towards God
the very moment the gospel of His goodwill to us, and of His desire to
possess our hearts, is heard.

Conversion implies some degree at least of _peace_ with God. Many
seem to think it almost presumptuous to look for peace or to expect
joy in God. "It betokens," they say, "a want of humility." Love and
humility are one. Both are a going out of ourselves, and finding our
good, strength, peace--_all_ in God. It is surely a poor compliment to
pay a friend, if we rebuke those who dare to be happy in his presence
or to find peace in his society. What hard thoughts have men of God
when they do not see how He must ever rejoice in the good and peace of
His children! Oh, shame upon us that we do not "rejoice in the Lord
_always_," and possess the "love which casteth out fear, for fear
hath torment." Why, then, should it seem impossible for a man to have
peace, the moment he can say with the apostle John, "We have known and
_believed_ the love that God hath to us?" Cannot that love be seen in
its own light when revealed? And if so, why should the possession of
_immediate_ peace, in a degree corresponding to faith in God, seem to
be so wonderful? Would not its absence be more so? The very _hope_,
methinks, of pardon, when first entertained by the condemned
criminal--or of deliverance and return to home, when first realised
by the shipwrecked sailor--or of life and health, when first deemed
probable even, by the hitherto despairing invalid--or of meeting his
long-injured, but still patient and loving father, by the miserable
prodigal--may well kindle sudden joy and peace. Much, no doubt, may
have been done before any hope could dawn to the captive, to the
shipwrecked, to the invalid, or the prodigal; yet the hope itself may
_suddenly_ flash on each, as the message enters the cell to assure the
criminal of his safety, or the signal is seen on the distant horizon
that promises succour to the mariner, or the smile plays on the
countenance of the physician, telling that the dread crisis is over
and that progress towards recovery has begun, or the remembrance of a
father's love is rekindled in the heart of the wanderer. And thus
a man who has been roused to see his moral guilt, as well as moral
depravity--to see his dread and terrible danger--may well find
unutterable peace _the very moment_ he believes that there is for him
deliverance from the evil, and forgiveness with God, "that He may be
feared"--or even when the _maybe_ dawns upon him that he, the hitherto
dead, careless, presumptuous sinner, has not been so shut out of his
Father's heart and home, but that there is yet grace omnipotent to
save _him_, to take away his sins, renew his whole being, and make him
and _keep_ him a child of God. When the prodigal in the far country
was planning only his return, he resolved to say to his father, "Make
me one of thy hired servants!" To be for a time a very slave in his
father's house, seemed in prospect as a very paradise when compared
with his present wretchedness; but to be received at once as a
son--_that_ he would not be so presumptuous as to dream of. Ah! he had
forgot his father's character in the far country. Unbelief had done
its work, and "cut off his hope." But however dark and dim his views
were, he nevertheless returned, was met afar off, and was at last
received in his father's arms. There he poured forth the confession
which relieved his choking heart, "I am no more worthy to be called
thy son!" True. But did he add, "Make me a hired servant?" No, he
could not, for he had already been received _as a son_.

Our Lord tells us how some hearers may receive the Word immediately
with joy, and yet give up when it is the occasion of their being
brought into outward perils or difficulties. Paul complained that
Demas had forsaken him, and John of many who, he says, "went out from
us." We must not think it strange, moreover, if the _visible_ Church
should ever and anon disclose to us how much evil as well as good
it contains. Our Lord never contemplated a Church on earth as
possible--owing to the sinful offences which must needs come--which
should be otherwise than a mixture of good and bad. There was one in
twelve of His own pure apostolic Church a traitor. Among the members
of the pentecostal Church, two were struck down dead for falsehood of
the blackest kind. Among the earliest professed converts in Samaria
was Simon Magus, in the bonds of iniquity. And so it will ever be. The
field will contain tares as well as wheat, and both must grow together
till the harvest; the net must gather into it bad fish as well as
good, until the great day of final separation comes at the end of the
world. But, nevertheless, the field may _now_ contain a glorious crop
of wheat, and the net, after a night of toil, be sometimes full of
good fish, so as to excite the wonder and praise of the "fishers of
men." Those converts who fall away have probably misunderstood the
true idea of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. They looked for
safety from punishment apart from salvation from sin; upon Jesus as a
deliverer from guilt and hell only, and not also a deliverer from
sin, by giving that life which is heaven; they looked for that life
hereafter, and not now; or they imagined faith as an _act_ done once
for all--a coming to Christ once only for what was required, instead
of as _a state_ which receives at once pardon and acceptance through
the merits of Christ, and _abides_ in Christ for ever as the only
source of life.

We have dwelt upon this point longer than we had at first intended;
for the doubt so often expressed, of the possibility of one who is
lost finding _immediate_ peace when he finds his God--and so has
found himself--betrays great unbelief or great ignorance of God. Pride
is at its root;--a desire to find something wherewith to commend
ourselves to God--some evidence of a good character first--some work
done as a hired servant, in order to entitle us with any hope to call
God father and be at peace with Him; instead of our _beginning_ all
work by _first_ being at peace--by our being reconciled at once to God
through faith in His love to us, revealed in the atonement of Jesus
Christ. We may just add, what every true man knows, and rejoices to
know, that the hour which begins his peace with God necessarily begins
also war with all sin in his own heart. His friendship with God
implies enmity to all in himself which is opposed to God.

2. "But the whole tendency of revivals, and of this theory of sudden
conversions by means of any man's preaching, is to disparage God's
appointments of the Church and the family for accomplishing genuine

If by this is meant that God ordinarily blesses for the saving of
souls what are termed "the means of grace," or "_the truth_ as it
is in Jesus," whether inculcated by the parent, the teacher, or the
minister, and presented to the mind, and impressed upon it patiently
and laboriously during a course of years,--then we also believe this,
and cordially admit it. Nay, we would have all "friends of revivals"
keenly alive to the danger of so expressing themselves as to seem even
to disparage such earnest painstaking, and we would have them to
avoid seeking to attain by a summary process what thousands strive to
attain, and actually do attain, only by a prayerful diligence, which
begins with sowing the seed in childhood, and never ceases until there
is the blade and the full ear ending in the golden harvest. We feel
assured that the faithful minister who has seen many souls born to God
under his teaching, will acknowledge that these results were connected
not so much, or probably not at all, with any sudden change, from some
striking sermon he had preached, but from a series of impressions
made by pious parents in their home-training, or by himself in his
congregational class, or by the whole tone and tenor of his public
ministrations, &c. How often has it thus happened that others have
laboured, and that he has but entered into their labours! The
conversion of his hearers has been the culminating point of a thousand
appliances, and, in the vast majority of cases, it has been reached by
degrees. The glorious summit has been attained, not by a leap from the
valley, but after many preparatory steps. The light of life has not
flashed out of darkness, but has dawned by imperceptible degrees,
until the glory of God was seen in the face of Christ Jesus. If the
new life itself has been suddenly experienced, yet let us not overlook
the preparatory work of the shaking of the dry bones, then of the bone
coming to its bone, and, finally, the flesh and skin covering the
skeleton, and so preparing a home in which the living spirit could
dwell and act. We cannot use language strong enough to express our
conviction of the blessing which, as an ordinary rule, is sure to
follow from the Lord on the faithful and prayerful labour of a pious
parent, Sabbath-school teacher, or pastor. Let nothing be said in
favour of wide-spread and sudden revivals to discourage these hopes! A
true revival, we believe, shall ever, in God's own time, attend such
labours. This is emphatically true regarding the work of the ministry.
We believe that the ministry is of God as much as the Bible is--one of
the most precious gifts obtained for the Church by the risen Saviour;
and that now, as ever, the preaching of the Word by ministers duly
prepared and regularly called and ordained by the Christian Church, is
the grand means for converting sinners; that this power never grows
old or loses its adaptation to the wants of man amidst the constant
changes of society, any more than a lens does in transmitting the rays
of the sun from age to age.

Yet, with all these admissions, and with profound veneration for the
ordinary calm and methodical means of grace, we can nevertheless
believe in wide-spread sudden "conversions," and that too through
other instrumentalities, and in circumstances which leave no doubt of
their being caused by what has been termed an extraordinary outpouring
of God's Spirit. For let us beware of dogmatising irreverently as to
when and how that living Spirit shall operate on the souls of men,
who worketh according to His own counsel of unerring and inscrutable
wisdom. "Who hath known the mind of the Lord, and who hath been his
counsellor, that he should instruct _him_?" As a Person, He acts as
"He wills," and in every case with perfect wisdom and perfect
love. And it is in keeping with this truth, or rather a necessary
consequence from it, that God's Spirit should teach and educate
individuals and churches differently, or at least in accordance with
their respective and specific wants. If His outward dispensations
towards the same person constantly vary, yet all work towards one end,
the soul's good,--even as the combinations of the elements vary day by
day, yet all help on the earth's fruitfulness,--we might expect that
His dealings with the _inner_ life of persons should also vary, while
one glorious scheme of education for heaven is carried on in all and
by all. And if so, why do we think it strange that an individual
should have his times of comparative spiritual darkness and light,
strength and weakness? or that churches should also experience
different kinds of treatment, so to speak, from the same wise Spirit,
yet all suited to advance more and more in the end, both in us and by
us, that kingdom which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy

Then, again, as to the instrumentalities which God's Spirit employs,
these may be often exceptional to His general rule. For it is surely a
great mercy when the regular ministry, or any other ordinance of His,
becomes inefficient through sinful indifference or unbelief, that
He should raise up in such an emergency, and that too from the most
unexpected quarters, those who will do the work which others ought to
have done. The grand end of saving lost souls, and bringing many sons
and daughters unto God, cannot be sacrificed to any organisation
ordained for that purpose when it fails either to seek it or
accomplish it. Thus

"God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one _good custom_ should corrupt the world."

If, therefore, we find, as a matter of fact, that some one who follows
not us--_why_ he does not follow with us we may not be able to
understand--is yet confessing Christ's name, and so doing Christ's
work that devils are cast out by him, we dare not say, "Forbid him."
Our Lord does not command us to forbid him, any more than He commands
him to follow us. He says only, "Forbid him not. He who is not against
us is for us." We all need humbly to act on such a principle. But
should we in our pride and ignorance condemn a sincere and faithful
labourer _for_ Christ, our Lord will not confirm our judgment. On the
other hand, he who does not "follow" the ministers of Christ's Church,
whom he finds already engaged in the Master's work, must answer to the
Lord for incurring so solemn and serious a responsibility.

But we must pass rapidly and more briefly to the consideration of one
other objection to revivals.

3. "We object entirely to revivals because of the great excitement
which attends them."

To this we reply--

We admit the possibility of great excitement connected with religious
truth, in spite of the total absence of religious character. There is
no more interesting or remarkable chapter in history than that which
records the _manias_ that have spread like epidemics at different
periods (especially during the middle ages) over Europe. They are
cases of _hysteria_ upon a great scale; and that these should take
a religious form as well as any other is no way impossible. It has
happened a hundred times before, and will happen often again. We
have seen cases of "revival" which were purely physical, with little
religious knowledge and no religious character, in those who were most
under the influence of the preacher, but with much ignorance and great
nervous susceptibility. Preachers as ignorant as these people have
been deceived by such appearances, which, not being able to account
for by any natural cause, they at once attribute to supernatural
agency. But, putting aside those illustrations of very common physical
phenomena, we admit--

That excitement is by no means to be desired. Its _tendency_ is to
produce reaction, and, when the fire passes, to leave nothing but
ashes behind. We may receive the Word with joy, and yet it may soon
wither; and also give our bodies to be burned, and yet be nothing.
_Mere_ excitement is next door to grossness and licentiousness. Both
have the same sensuous elements in them. Had we our choice, we would
prefer a revival without any excitement.

It is, therefore, not only possible, but it has frequently happened,
that hundreds have been powerfully moved by a revival, have professed
faith in Christ, found peace with God, and been assured by enthusiasts
and fanatics that they were now actually "saved," who soon gave token
that they never had been saved from either gross ignorance or gross
sin, but destroyed rather by want of sense in themselves, and in those
who, from ignorance or vanity, excited their feelings, and worked on
their mere animal sensibilities.

But we have not our choice in such matters. We cannot change the laws
of the human mind, and as long as these remain, it may not in every
case be possible to prevent some degree of excitement by what so
powerfully appeals to every feeling and affection in the soul of man.
Given only that the facts of Christianity are true regarding man's
condition without a Saviour, and all that has been done for him, and
must be done in him, before salvation is possible, with the tremendous
consequences throughout eternity attached to his faith and repentance
in time,--and excitement is very natural, and not altogether
unbecoming, in him who sees and believes, and, as it generally happens
where excitement exists, who _hears_, these truths for the first time
in his life. Would not calm self-possession, in such circumstances,
if more _reasonable_, be more wonderful than excitement among those,
especially without culture? It is quite true also that excitement will
much less frequently occur among strongminded educated people, who are
accustomed to keep their emotions under control; while many, with a,
comparatively speaking, weak emotional nature, but with sound head and
sound sense, and wakeful conscience, seldom, in any case whatever,
betray much feeling. Violent excitements, as a rule, are found only
among northern nations, among the ignorant masses, or those who have
more feeling than judgment.

But why may not a wide-spread excitement _about_ religious truths,
though in some persons a mere physical condition of the nervous
system, be the very means, under God, of arresting their mind or the
minds of others, and disposing them to consider and receive the truth
itself? What is it which we have most to complain of as an obstacle to
the gospel? Not infidelity, nor active opposition, nor ignorance, but
_indifference_,--cold, heartless indifference in those who may go to
church, stand up at prayer, hear or sleep, read or dream, agree with
everything the minister says, yet verily believe nothing, and are
therefore neither roused by fear nor gladdened by hope, but live on,
day by day, buying and selling, eating and drinking, respectable,
it may be, and respected, as good farmers, decent tradesmen, honest
shopkeepers, but to spiritual things in their living reality and
momentous importance--_indifferent!_ Could any one but read the
thoughts, hear the conversation, or watch the effects on the great
mass of the hearers, one day or one hour, after hearing the most
impressive and earnest sermon, in which the minister before God
sought to save their souls, what a fearful vision of the mystery of
indifference would be revealed!

Whatever, then, breaks this up is a blessing. No excitement can be so
dangerous, so deadly, as this indifference. Better a thousand times
the wild hurricane than the calm miasma. Better the stream which
rushes impetuously over its banks, carrying with it devastation for a
time, than the dead and foetid marsh. The one may be turned into a new
channel, and made available as a power for advancing the interests of
man, but the other is "evil, and only evil continually," Whatever,
therefore, we repeat it, tends in providence to destroy indifference,
and induces people to _listen_ with earnestness and attention to the
truth,--be it the excitement of a storm or earthquake, of a great
religious revival, or of domestic bereavement and sorrow,--whatever it
be, yet is it a blessing if it prepares the soul to receive the seed
of the gospel, by inducing men even to _think_ seriously, as the first
condition for their ultimately believing seriously.

But this excitement which alarms so many sober-minded people was not,
after all, an element which vitiated the religious "movements" in the
early ages of Christianity. There were rational Sadducees, learned
scribes, and formal Pharisees, who were much displeased at the
excitement of the multitude when Jesus made His triumphant entry into
Jerusalem. But when our Lord was asked to rebuke them, He replied
that the very stones would cry out if these were silent. Was there no
excitement on the day of Pentecost when thousands were crying out,
"What shall we do to be saved?" The preaching of the gospel was
everywhere accompanied by such awakenings as arrested the attention of
cities and nations. Would God it were so now!

But, in once more meeting this objection, we cannot help noticing the
character of the persons who most generally urge it. How often does
one hear from the lips of the intensely worldly-minded fears expressed
at the danger of religious excitement! And if the symptoms of such a
terrible state of mind manifest themselves in son or daughter, even in
the form of thoughtfulness in regard to their duty to God, or of fear
about their state, or doubts with reference to the manner in which
they have been accustomed to spend their time and talents, how often
does the very mother who bore them become herself thoughtful and
concerned about her child! "She so much dislikes religious excitement.
She likes cheerful Christians,--religious people now-a-days are so sad
and gloomy,--she is really anxious about her poor daughter," &c. And
all this from persons who live in a constant whirl of excitement, to
whose daily life excitement is essential, not as a means of temporary
relief from severe thought and action, but as the very end of
existence. And whence is their excitement derived? From the most
contemptible and silly frivolities, from balls, parties, visits, and
gossip without end--excitements utterly selfish, which materialise the
soul, debase its tastes, enervate its powers, rendering it incapable
of all earnest labours or self-denial, and which incapacitate it from
apprehending the purity, the majesty, and the surpassing wonder of
spiritual realities. These are the persons who, forsooth! are so much
alarmed lest their dear children should become excited about the
things which arrest the attention and engage the thoughts of the
mighty angels, yea, of Jesus Christ himself. Believe it, that whatever
excitement may possibly accompany the commencement of the Christian
life in one who has never been trained to think seriously or act
conscientiously, the only persons in the world who are habitually
free from all excitement, or violent emotions of any kind, are true
Christians, because they have the "love which casteth out fear," and
enjoy "the peace of God which passeth all understanding."

We must here conclude these brief and very imperfect remarks upon
a great subject. We end, as we began, by expressing our profound
conviction that _the_ want of all our wants is this, and this only, a
_Revival of Spiritual Religion_; or, in other words, genuine, simple,
truthful, honest love to Jesus Christ, to His people, to His cause,
and to the whole world! This, and this alone, will fulfil the longing
of many a weary, thirsty soul for better things than at present seem
probable or possible.

"Who will shew us any good?" is the despairing cry of many a
thoughtful man, as he passes in review before his anxious eye the dark
side of things, such as careless living students of divinity, who
are to be the future teachers of this great nation; ministers and
congregations apparently dead as stones; churches becoming idols,
claiming the reverence and love of their members, and jealous of
any other idol usurping their throne; scoffing infidelity among the
ignorant; philosophic scepticism among the intelligent; indifference
among thousands; while abroad heathen nations, with countless
millions, are opened up to the Protestant Church, which can only send
driblets of two or three missionaries here and there, many of whom go
in tears to live in comfort as well-paid gentlemen, while thousands of
common soldiers pour out their life's blood for their country. "Who
will shew us any good?" Our hope, O Lord, is in Thee! "Lord, lift Thou
up the light of Thy countenance upon us!" Pour Thy Spirit upon the
thirsty ground! Our strength is gone; arise, O Lord, and revive Thy
work among us all. Come Thou and help us, for Thy great name's sake.
The cause of righteousness is Thine own. Do Thou hear and help us,
then shall death be changed to life, and truth shall banish error, and
disunion be lost in love, and out of this valley of dry bones, and
from all sects and parties, a great army will arise, strong and united
through the power of the Spirit who will dwell in each and all, and be
mighty to pull down all the strongholds of Satan, and to advance the
kingdom of our blessed Lord at home and abroad, to the joy of men and


A Christian congregation professes to be a congregation of Christians,
and to represent the same kind of body which, in the apostolic
epistles, is termed a "church"--"saints and faithful brethren"--
"faithful in Christ Jesus"--"holy brethren."

It is not, therefore, a number of people meeting only to hear a
sermon, or even to unite in public worship, but without any visible
coherence, social life, or united action, but _a body_, an _organised_
whole; the Lord's Supper being the grand symbol of the unity of its
members with one another, and with the whole society of the Christian
Church on earth and in heaven.[A]

[Footnote A: The social character of the Lord's Supper, and its being
a constant witness to the oneness of the whole body of Christ and the
_communion_ of saints, has been often so perverted as to have become
in the minds of many the grand test and evidence of sectarian
division, while "hearing a sermon" is the utmost latitude which is
given to the believer who wishes to testify his love to all who love
the Lord Jesus in sincerity. "I would hear him preach, but I would not
_join_ with him," _(i.e._, I would not remember Christ with him,)
is the strange view of many a professing Christian, in Scotland at

Now, the congregation, as an organised Christian society, has a
twofold work to perform. The first is _within_ itself, and includes
whatever is done by the members of the congregation for their mutual
good; the second is _beyond_ itself, and includes the good done by the
whole body to the world "_without_."

It is thus with the living body of the Church as with the dead
machinery of a steam-engine, which _first_ feeds itself with coals and
water, and _then_ turns the wheels of the whole factory.

The inner and outer work of the congregation as a body may be briefly
indicated in a few sentences, though volumes might be profitably
filled with its details.

1. The inner work is accomplished within the soul of each member
through the preaching and reading of the Word of God, public prayer,
and partaking of the sacrament. By these means chiefly comes that
"kingdom of God which is within us," and is "righteousness, peace, and
joy in the Holy Ghost," Every other work will be done efficiently by
the whole body just as this inner work begins and progresses among its
individual members. But the fellowship and mutual aid of the members
of the Church in "considering one another, and provoking to love and
good works," and in contributing their share of God's gifts and grace
bestowed upon themselves for the comfort and edification of their
brethren, also belongs to the inner work of the Church. This will
express itself and be strengthened by meetings for social prayer and
Christian intercourse, and by those works and labours of love for
which the congregation itself has the first claim. These labours
of love include the religious instruction of its young members the
baptized children; the visitation of sick; its support of the poor
and destitute brethren. In these and other forms of well-being and
well-doing which will suggest themselves, abundant scope will, in most
cases, be afforded for exercising the energies, and calling forth the
love of the members of the congregation within the limits of their own

2. The work _external_ to itself to be performed by the congregation,
as a body, consists generally in its "doing good unto all as God
giveth it an opportunity." The home mission within the district or
city in which it is placed will engage its first efforts; and after
that, or along with that, the aiding by its contributions and prayers
to evangelise the world.

But the point which I would specially insist upon in this paper is,
the vast importance of developing, combining, and directing the gifts
of _all the members_ of the congregation for accomplishing both its
inner and outer work.

If we read the apostolic epistles, (see I Cor. xii. 14-27,) the
impression which, as I have already said, they give us of a Christian
congregation is that of a body so organised as that each and every
member is made useful to the whole body, and the particular gift which
God bestows upon the weakest and most insignificant (for "_He_
hath set the members in the body as it hath pleased _Him_") is so
appreciated and applied, that "the head" or "the eye"--the most
intelligent or most discerning--cannot say to that weak member, "I
have no need of _thee_".

It may be alleged that the congregations of the primitive Church are
not intended to be models in their peculiar organisation for modern
times. But is not the primitive Church system of union and mutual
co-operation essential to the very idea of a Christian _society_? And
what authority is there for its assembling together to hear sermons,
to pray, or to partake of the sacraments, which is not equally binding
for its performing of all the other duties and enjoying all the other
privileges described by the apostles as pertaining to church-members?

Now, in most cases, everything is left to the minister or his official
assistants. The calculation is never soberly made as to his bodily or
mental powers to do all which is expected of him. There is an immense
faith in both. It is assumed that he, and not the congregation, is the
body; that he alone, therefore, possesses the eye, the tongue, the
ear, and the hand;--and some ministers seem so pleased with their
elevated position as to be unwilling that any should share it with
them. But when the minister is alive to the responsibility of his
position, and when he is so fortunate as to have in his congregation
men and women who share his convictions, and are willing to share the
labour which these entail, even then there is still the tendency on
the part of the great bulk of the members to have their work done by
proxy. They have no objection that visiting, teaching, almsgiving, and
the like, should be done by "the committee,"--while the committee,
perhaps, are inclined, in their turn, to leave it to Mr A., or Miss
B., who are active members of it. It is true we must labour, in the
meantime, with whatever instrumentality God furnishes, and make the
most of it, but we must not cease to aim at realising the noble end of
making _each_ member, according to his gifts and abilities, manifest
the spirit of Him whose saying it was,--"It is more blessed to give
than to receive!" No doubt, much wisdom is required upon the part
of office-bearers to whom the government of the congregation is
intrusted, to discern gifts, and to apply them. But the "one thing"
chiefly needed is "_love in the Spirit!_" It is for this we should
chiefly labour; for, let love to Jesus be once kindled by the Spirit
of God through faith in His love to us, and love, which unites us to
Him, will unite us to one another.

But admitting all we have said to be true regarding the congregations
of the primitive Church, and acknowledging, moreover, that it would be
highly desirable could such Christian congregations reappear in our
day, it may be reasonably questioned whether this is possible in the
present state of society, or whether any attempt to realise it is not
a pious imagination, which would lead to extravagances and fanatical
disorders such as have often characterised minor sects, who, in
seeking to rise up as perfect churches, have sunk down into perfect
nuisances? It may be said, "Only look at the elements you have to
work upon! Deal with the actual flesh-and-blood men and women who
necessarily form the bulk of our congregations, and not with ideal
persons. Look at this farmer or shopkeeper--that servant or master;
enter the houses of those hearers or parishioners in town or country,
from the labourer to the proprietor;--is there the intelligence, the
heart, the principle, the common sense--any one element which could
unite those members into a body for any high or noble end? _They_
provoke each other to love and good works, or help to convert the
world! Would it were so! but it is _impracticable_."

Such thoughts we have ourselves experienced with feelings of despair.
But there are others that make us hope that Christian congregations
throughout our land may yet rise out of their ashes, living bodies
imbued with life and love from their living and loving Head.

Are not all the difficulties, for example, connected with the proper
organisation of the congregation those only that pertain to the
existence of a living Christianity among its members? Given,
that church-members individually were what they profess to
be--"believers"--"disciples"--"brethren"--would they not, as a
necessary result of this character, act collectively, as we suppose a
Christian congregation ought to act? And, therefore, when we assume
that it is vain to think of congregations becoming, as a whole, and in
spite of many exceptions, living bodies of Christians--men united for
mutual good and for the good of the world--do we not thereby assume
that it is vain to expect professing Christians to become "constrained
by the love of Christ not to live to themselves, but to Him who died
for them and rose again?" Must we confess it to be utterly hopeless to
look for such manifestations now of the power of the Spirit as will
produce, in our cities and parishes, such congregations, ay, and far
better ones, as once existed in Jerusalem, Ephesus, or Philippi?

There is another thought which encourages us, and makes us hope that
these same "elements we have to work upon," and which appear to
make our congregations incapable of accomplishing the high and holy
destinies in the world to which we think they are called. It is
this: that just as there are in nature hidden forces--in a quiet
and apparently harmless cask of gunpowder, or electric battery, for
instance--which lie concealed until the right spark calls forth their
latent power into action, so there are, in many more individuals than
we suspect, hidden forces of some kind or other capable of doing
greater things than we could ever have anticipated, and which require
only the right spark of spiritual life and energy to excite them also
into vigorous action. It is thus that heroic bravery and sublime
self-sacrifice have been manifested in the hour of sudden and
appalling danger, or during seasons of long and dreadful suffering,
by those who were never until then suspected of possessing so great
a spirit, and who, but for such an occasion occurring for its
manifestation, might have been doomed for ever to remain helplessly
among the most commonplace incapables. Had a Grace Darling or a
Florence Nightingale been known only as a sitter or pewholder in a
congregation, they might have been deemed unfit for any work requiring
courage, self-sacrifice, or perseverance. But these noble qualities
were all the while in them. In like manner, have we never seen among
our working classes a man excited by some religious enthusiast or
fanatical Mormonite, who all at once seemed inspired with new powers,
braved the sneers of companions, consented to be dipped in the next
river, turned his small stock of supposed knowledge into immediate
use, exhorted, warned, proselytised among his neighbours, spoke in the
lanes and streets unabashed, and gathered his knot of disciples from
among the crowd of his old comrades, thus giving token of a force
having been lying hid in one who seemed capable only of work on
week-days and of sleep on Sundays. There is not a Hindu fakir, who
swings from a hook in the muscles of his back, or measures with his
body a long pilgrimage to Juggernaut; not a Popish devotee, who
braves the opinion of society with naked feet, comical garment, and
self-imposed "bodily exercise," but demonstrates what a man can and
will do, if the mainspring of his being is touched. There is not a
sailor or soldier who does not, at sea or in battle, shew a greatness
which he seems incapable of when seen in ordinary circumstances. It
is thus, we repeat it, that most undoubtedly there are, in every
congregation, men and women who have in them great powers of some
kind, which have been given them by God, and which, though lying
dormant, are capable of being brought out, in a greater or less
degree, by fitting causes. Nay, every man is enriched with some talent
or gift--if we would only discover it and bring it into action--which,
if educated and properly directed, is capable of enriching others to
a far greater extent than he himself is the least aware of. But what
power will develop this force? What power, we reply, in the universe
is so fitted to do so, and to bring out of a man all that is in him,
and to direct all the force of his being to worthy and ennobling
objects, as the power of a living Christianity? If the love of Jesus
Christ and Him crucified, understood, believed, felt, does not kindle
all the love in a man's heart, and fire it with all the enthusiasm,
and inspire it with all the bravery of self-sacrifice, and nerve it
with all the indomitable perseverance of which it is capable, then
we know nothing else which can do this, or anything like this.
Christianity has not become effete! It is still the "power of God and
the wisdom of God." It is still mighty in pulling down strongholds. It
can still convert "the elements we have to work upon" into instruments
of righteousness, and "make the foolish things of the world to
confound the wise;" and "the weak things of the world to confound the
things that are mighty; and the base things of the world, and things
that are despised, and things that are not, to bring to nought the
things that are." But we must have real, living, and undying faith in
Christ's life and power to do this, and be earnest in personal and
social prayer; and then only will we be able to judge as to the
capabilities of "the elements we have to work upon."

There is no department of congregational work in which the personal
ministration of the individual members is more required than in its
_Home Mission_. The sphere of this mission must necessarily be a
district in which the members of the congregation can labour. We may
assume that there is no district even in this Christian land in which
are not to be found a number who require to be instructed in the
gospel, and brought into the fellowship of the Christian Church, as
well as a number who require to be ministered to in private owing to
the infirmities of their bodies, the bereavements in their households,
or other necessity of supplying their temporal or spiritual wants.
In large cities not only does each district inhabited by the poorer
classes abound in what has been termed a "home heathenism;" but this
population is so fluctuating from month to month, that a more extended
and vigorous agency is required to make use of the brief opportunity
given us for doing it any good.

Now, one thing we hold as settled by the whole design of Christianity,
and amply confirmed by daily experience and observation of human
nature, and that is, that to seek and save the lost, a _living_ agency
is absolutely necessary. Religious tracts alone won't do. Far be it
from us to write in an apparently slighting manner of what we so
greatly value as good tracts, when we can find them. But, on the other
hand, let us beware of exaggerating the power of such an agency, or
demanding impossibilities from it. A great number in our large cities
and manufacturing districts who require to be reclaimed from
ignorance and vice cannot read at all. Those who can do so are yet
so imperfectly instructed in the art as to be utterly unable to
comprehend a continuous narrative of facts, far less any exposition of
doctrine or duty; while those best able are not always willing to read
anything of a religious character. The most efficient method, in our
opinion, of making use of tracts in all such cases, is to read them,
when possible, to others, and, if necessary, explain them, and _then_
distribute them. But what is a dead tract to a living person?--what is

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