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Observer, Nov. 1, '72.
Perhaps nothing is gained by publicly naming our foes. Indeed, I think we war the better here for waging it secretly. If the worldknows what we fight, the world, under Satan, inay use its knowledge to defeat us.
We will keep our secret then. But we have singled out our vice, our giant vice, the vice that leads us captive at will; and, under God, we are going to make a struggle to conquer it.
In the first place, much is gained by holding a vice a long time before the mind. We seldom commit a sin while intently reflecting against it. I do not mean on it, but against it, and I mean the word against to be very significant. There is such a thing as reflecting on a sin indifferently. This does us no good. There is such a thing as reflecting on a sin amorously. This does us great harm. And there is such a thing as reflecting against a sin. This always does us good, and this is what I mean. I mean, then, that there is much gained by reflecting against a sin. Sin grows hideous and dangerous the longer we look at it. We grow alarmed as we gaze. From being alarmed, we become frightened ; and from being frightened, we turn to run; and when we can run from a sin, it has lost its power
We are half safe. When once the spell of sin is broken, the day of emancipation draws near.
In the second place, we must be careful, in reflecting on sin, that we do not reflect apologizingly. This the preceeding language implies. It is dangerous to toy with sin. A gruff condemnation here is infinitely better than a polite parly, or any attempt to beat down with graceful syllogisms. Exhibitions of etiquette are no laws of exeat to sin. out from kicks, not froin smiles. We do not waive it out of the soul;' we have to tear it up by the roots, and thrust it out. With other treatment it stays in.
In the third place, when we are about to make an effort to get rid of a sin, we must carefully study it and its histoy in the light of the Bible. That Book will not deceive us; our own hearts may. In what light does God view this sin ? How has it affected those who have been addicted to it? What has been their end ? It will be well to put these and many other questions to ourselves when engaged in the eflort I am here contemplating.
In the fourth place, it is most important, in an effort to get rid of sin, to keep constantly before the mind its eternal conscequences. Is this sin to be my ruin, my ruin forever? In virtue of it, am I to be driven from God, and from Christ, and from the holy throughout eternity? Is this my certain doom ? And is there no escape ? Nay, more, am I just as near to this end as I am to death; and may death be not distant one hour ? Fearful thought! Will it not shake sin from my soul ? Will it not so alarm me, so inspire me with moral courage that I can become free ? Am I not resolved ; is not God with me; am I not equal to the task ? I can conquer if I will; I must conquer if I can.
I then will conquer.
Such must be my mode of reasoning and such my decision.
But in the fifth place, let him who would become master of his sin not forget to pray. This, after all, will be found his chief security : for men do not pray to be delivered from a particular sin, and at once rise up
and commit it. Such at least I presume to be both the rule and the experience of Christians. Nor will it be found quite enough to pray. Prayer, to be efficacious in the cure of sin, must be preceded by purpose and meditation. It should not be sudden, but the result of preparation. Let us beforehand set apart an hour for prayer; let it be a suitable hour, an hour of composure and freedom from worldly cares. Let the prayer be in secret ; and before we commence let our thoughts run somewhat after the following turn: I am now about to enter into the presence of God to pray; I am going to name to him this my besetting sin ; I will name it in great candor, and will try to name it in deep sorrow; I must conquer my sin or it will ruin me; and I am going to ask God to help me to gain this victory. My resolution is fully taken ; but should I fail to keep my resolution, should I break it; and should this lose its power to control me, I am lost. With such a preparation as this, prayer becomes a sublime power. It is only not almighty. But the security it brings is great and indispensable. . God hears prayer made under the circumstances just named.
Let no one doubt this. With mo it is a profound faith. If asked for the philosophy of it, I answer I ave none and seek none. It is the will and appointment of my Master. This is enough.
In the last place, to all the preceding means and helps, we must add watchfulness. Here, as we would protect life, we must shun temptation. When once we have put the bit on our vice, we must never for an hour let the reins loose. If we yield even once, we may be lost. With a powerful will and a steady hand we must maintain our mastery.
Even when we feel safe, we must still watch and pray. But enough. In hope that this homily may help some frail child of God in his struggles for holiness, it is sent abroad on its errand.
HOW I DID NOT MEET WITH THE BRETHREN.
As far as I could learn the nearest church was about twenty miles away, at Milford, north-west from my home. But, as the ferry at Ogden was discontinued, it was necessary to go round either by the bridge at Manhattan or the two bridges near Junction city. I had a friend at Wakefield, an English settlement on the Republican river, some miles above Milford, and another some thirteen miles further west, on the high prairie. I had borrowed a horse, and I had five days; but I must be home on Sunday night, as I had to teach school on Monday morning; so I purposed only to call at Milford going, and stay with the brethren there on Sunday morning as I returned, and ride the thirty miles home, by Manhattan, after dinner. As I went I found the house of Bro. Dr. Lair, but he was away, and I only saw his wife; but it was pleasant to have a cup of water from and a half-hour's talk with an intelligent Christian lady. Bro. Bartelle's house I missed, but found it when I returned on Saturday night, and had a hearty Christian welcome; but I learned that there was no meeting on Lord's day morning, as the Independents had alternate use of the schoolhouse, so I concluded to saddle and ride. I did so: but called at Bro. Branscomb’s, but he was from home; so I rode over the prairie and down the valley of the Wild-cat Creek, and rested at Manhattan, and was home before sundown.
It was rather cloudy and a few spots of rain ; but school was over on Saturday noon, and I started to walk to Milford, hoping to hear the preaching of Bro. Cunningham next day. But just on reaching the Kansas river the rain came down, and
when I had got across in the little boat and was walking across Ogden bottom, the rain came in torrents, and I was wet through. I stopped at the first house in Ogden, and sheltered and dried myself. The rain ceased, and I went on up the wet roads towards the high prairie, and I was soon wet through again. I got instructions as to the road, and when I got clear of the head waters of the creeks and was on the swelling prairie upland, I went on for miles and miles without seeing a house or meeting a person; only the Texan cattle, or a herd of horses to stare at my progress. I saw far ahead the valley of the Republicans, and thought I was right. Still no house, no signs of approaching the village, and nearly three hours have passed since I was only eight miles from my destination. The clouds were all over the sky, and night was coming on, and I began to suspect I was out of the way, and that I should have to pass the night on the prairie. At length, when the light was almost gone, I met a wagon, and was told I was nine miles from Milford, and was going direct from it. I turned back with them, and the blackness of darkness settled down. On we drove, and my friends put me down at the cross roads, with the assurance that it would be impossible to find my way that night, but, informing me, that about a mile away I should find a house—the house of the governor of the State. I had had the honour of dining with him some months before. So when I had stumbled over his fence and among his vines, I found a good supper, dry socks, and a good bed in his hospitable home. Next morning was wet, and I went round his orchard and tasted his peaches and apples, and then walked to Milford, but found the weather had altogether made a meeting impossible, and I spent the day at Bro. Branscomb's, eating his grapes and peaches, and talking of the things of the kingdom. Towards evening we went to Bro. Englehardt Bartelle's, and saw his orchard, and had a little chat; and next morning came over the prairie to Manhattan, and home.
I heard Bro. Knowles Shaw was to preach at Manhattan, where the brethren have lately begun to meet again, on the Lord's day; so I started to walk to the city (ten miles) on Lord's day morning, hoping to get a ride in some wagon going from Ashland, but no wagon went, and I had to walk all the way, and it was hot and the meeting was over, and so I did not meet with the brethren at the Lord's table, but I heard Knowles Shaw.
I heard him preach six times in three days, and he has done me good. He sings the truth and preaches the truth, earnestly and effectually, with a voice and presence like a lion, and sensibilities as tender as a gentle girl. He tells of Christ, and Him crucified. He has roused the sleeping church, and outsiders are coming to listen. We hope much, but I leave to-night. I wish you had him in England, you will do well to send for him. You would enjoy his visit as a time of refreshing, and I believe you would increase the churches in numbers and power. He is intensely practical, and terribly intense. He has the power and physique of George Greenwell, and the tenderness of C. C. Foote. I hope to hear him again sometime, and others like unto him.
I will write again when I have met with any of the churches on Lord's day; and, in the meantime, when I am at home my wife and I will continue to do as we have done, and break the memorial loaf on the first of the week. Will the brethren and the churches who know us accept our kind remembrances, and not forget us when they gather at the footstool of our Father?
Observer, Nov. 1, '72.
CONSTITUTION OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH. NOTHING is more clearly established than the fact that the apostles distinguish between the one indivisible church of Jesus Christ, or what some theologians term the invisible church, and the particular church, located at a given geographical point. The indivisible church, the aggregation of all believers the world over, formed “the body of Christ, indissolubly united in all its parts, and drawing its nourishment from the Divine Head.” It is this invisible church which Paul beholds with the eye of faith when he speaks of the bride of Christ, without blemish and without spot. Eph. v. 23—27. It alone possesses in perfection that unity of love so often marred by failure and sin in the various visible churches. Eph. iv. 4, 5. The " General Assembly" or "Church of the first-born" is not to be identified with the separate local church, except on the principle of faith and love.
"According to these principles, so simple and so plain, it is obviously a great error to regard the primitive church as a vast hierarchical establishment, like the church of the fourth century. It is no Mother ChurchMater Ecclesia-laying the yoke of its external unity on each individual church. Such an idea is altogether alien to the apostolic age. The one invisible church is realized or embodied in the particular churches. These churches form their own organizations on the same substantial basis as this, but with notable differences in all secondary matters. They are united among themselves, but the bond thus formed is purely spiritual ; it is never a chain. Each of the churches is a small republic, a society of believers, an association of Christians, which govems itself without seeking direction or inspiration from any of its sister churches. Paul never appeals at Corinth, at Ephesus, or in Galatia, to the authority of the church as a whole. The questions raised are decided fully and finally within each particular church, and each is considered competent to its own absolute self-government, subject only to the sovereignty of truth. The conferences held at Jerusalem are no violation of this rule. It was necessary that the apostles should understand each other on questions of such moment.. Moreover, we have already shown that the so-called council did not issue anything like positive decrees; it confined itself to recommending a compromise which had no obligatory character.
"It is impossible to find, in the whole of this period, any traces of general organization of the churches tending to external unity. There are no general and periodical assemblies ; more significant still, there is no centre of unity." Early Years of Christianity, p. 133.
These are the brilliant words of that clear-headed historian and theologian, E. de Pressense, the eminent leader of evangelical Protestantism in France, whose exegetical analysis of the Scriptures, and whose profound researches into history, sacred and profane, are accomplishing so much in the way of presenting to us the fair and beautiful form of primitive Christianity. He makes the image of the Apostolic Church stand forth in cameo perfection and in stately grandeur. He has no faith in outward, external unity, which either the fiction of a disordered brain, or the objective point of some dangerous despot, seeking power and self-aggrandizement. “ Those who regard Rome,” he says,
as having been such a centre (the centre of a general organization of the churches) are guilty of a
Observer, Nov. 1, '72.
strange anachronism. We have seen, also, how little prominence attaches, in this period, to the part of that apostle who has been made the head of the pretended ecclesiastical monarchy. If the churches had sought at this time, as subsequently they did, a religious centre, they would unquestionably have chosen Jerusalem, the glorious birthplace of Christianity. But the church in that city, so far from exerting a wide influence on the development of Christian thought during the period of St. Paul, only followed afar off the movement led by the great apostle.”
This writer shows explicitly that spiritual unity pervaded all the churches, without the remotest idea, in the minds of the apostles, of a general visible organization. I am tempted to quote from every page, for, on this subject his pen glides and glistens and seintillates like that of Alexander Campbell forty years ago. Hear him once more : “ We have a touching proof of the unity prevailing among the churches of Asia Minor and Greece, and those of Palestine, in the generous collections made at the urgent and repeated instance of Paul, even as far as Galatia and Corinth, for the poor brethren in Judea. The churches of Asia Minor, of Macedonia and Achaia, sent messengers to Jerusalem to carry thither their offerings, and, with their gifts, the assurance of their brotherly affection. Never was unity more real than in these times, when it rested on the perfect law of liberty. The harmony which reigned among the apostles helped to maintain it. Peter writes to the churches founded by St. Paul, in Asia Minor, as Apollos, the disciple of Paul, writes to the Christians at Jerusalem. Thus we have in the first century a true Christianity based upon a common faith, but exercising no constraint but the constraint of love upon the individual churches, each of which had its distinct and special characteristics. The
fiction had not yet arisen of an impersonal church, distinct from the various · local churches in combination, and from the free association of believers,
divinely endowed with arbitrary power to rule the people of God, and established and built up by some other means than individual faith. The particular church or congregation united by a living link to all Christians throughout the world—such is the visible church in the age of the apostles.
The particular church or congregation is the only form of the visible church recognised by the apostles.
None but the believing and obedient were received into the Church of Christ, as founded by the apostles. In the absence of the least shadow of evidence, I assert, with the utmost assurance, that none ever entered the church except such as were capable of believing ; such as were capable of accepting or rejecting the truth ; such as were susceptible of being regenerated by the gospel, which is “the power of God.". The Epistles were addressed to saints-the holy ones—and not to babes and unconverted men. A few Scriptures on this head will suffice. “ To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” “ To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” “ To the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." Rom. i. 7. 1 Cor. i. 2. Eph. i. 1. They were called by such titles as, the redeemed, the justified, the sanctified, the washed, holy brethren, the elect, and by a variety of endearing titles, all of which are satisfactorily explained by the fact of their change of relation; by the fact that in becoming Christians, by their own free will and by an act of their own, they entered into distinct and peculiar relations to God as Father; to Christ as Saviour ;