« PreviousContinue »
defined, and who would gladly have enjoyed the countenance of more experienced Christians, severely feel their privation, when that support is withdrawn. Too frequently, indeed, they are seduced, or alarmed to follow Jesus afar off, when they see others shrinking, who should have walked boldly by his side. Possibly they may even deny him, in the judgment hall of Pilate, and the house of his enemies. Many, whose hearts were yearning after the joys and hopes of true religion, have, perhaps, been kept back from attaining either, by looking, in vain, for help to their brethren. Many, whom the gracious Spirit of God appeared to influence, have suspended, as it were, their approach to the Saviour, their conflict with sin, their walk with God, upon the resolution of a friend; and cried, as Barak to Deborah, “ If thou wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not go up with me, then I will not go up.” It must needs distress those who sincerely desire to do the will of God, when they find themselves called to bear alone the burden and heat of the day. It may be a temptation to fail, and even to return from the holy strife, when, weary and heavy laden with their personal conflict, and their holy care for the safety and welfare of the Redeemer's church, they see those who ought to be foremost in the
battle retreating from the field, and merely anxious for their own ease and indulgence. It is an axiom in religion, that the strong ought to help the weak; and all to build up each other in their most holy faith. Apply the axiom to yourselves. Are there no hands that hang down, no feeble knees to be strengthened ? No fearful hearts, to whom your example may cry, “ Be strong?” No deserters from the Christian warfare, and from him who appointed their combat, who must be led back again to their station in the field, admonished, rebuked, warned, and, if possible, restored in the spirit of meekness? Are there none wounded with the fiery darts of the wicked, to be brought to that great physician, who may heal their souls ? None fallen, who may be raised, and renewed again to repentance ? No loiterers to be urged forward, no careless ones to be aroused, no mourners to be cheered, no doubting ones to be directed, no faithful to be animated ? Are there no warriors of more heavenly courage, more Christian experience, more holy caution, more fervent love, more chastened zeal, than yourselves, from whom you may learn the practice of true religion, and become followers of them, as they also are of Christ? While any of these, therefore, remain, either needing your assistance, or offering you bright and glorious examples of Christian holiness, will ye say, that an individual, and his exertions, will not be missed from the multitude of the soldiers of Jesus Christ? O for that spirit of Uriah, when, at the insidious command of David he returned from the war, and refused to indulge his own ease, while the thousands of his fellow-soldiers were enduring the hardships of war!
“ The ark, and Israel, and Judah abide in tents; and my Lord Joab, and the servants of my Lord, are encamped in the open fields. Shall I, then, go
into mine house to eat and to drink? As thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.” And might I express a wish for those who are tempted by the worldliness, lukewarmness, or unbelief of selfish professors of religion, I would utter my heart's desire, that they may each be strengthened against all the discouragements of abandonment, or inattention, to say, None of these things move me; and although no man should stand with them, to add, I pray God, that it may not be laid to their charge.
III. Again, The measure of privilege enjoyed by a Christian, and the extent of his happiness in the rest that remaineth for the people of God, are inseparably connected with his active and conscientious desire to advance the welfare of the church, and the glory of the
Saviour. If the men of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, should go armed before the Lord, as they had promised, and fight on behalf of their brethren, for the possession of Canaan; the land of Gilead, on which their desires rested, would be given them, with all its wealth, for a possession. If, on the contrary, they should not pass over Jordan, they must quit their hope of this beautiful and fertile country, and take probably a much less favourable inheritance, by lot, with the rest. Our gracious Lord has plainly led us to expect gradations of blessedness, proportioned to the talents he has bestowed, and the industry, fidelity, zeal, and perseverance, with which they have been improved. That unprofitable servant, who hid his lord's talent in a napkin, was cast into outer darkness. He who gained five talents received authority over five cities. That more distinguished steward to whom ten were intrusted, and who had doubled his loan, received authority over ten cities. The more conscientiously we stand upon the Lord's side, and aim to advance the purposes
and the kingdom of his love in our own hearts, and in the world around us, the more surely shall we testify the work of his renewing Spirit. He who labours to instruct others will find himself most effectually taught; "and in nothing more, than in
of his mercy,
the knowledge, spirit, and practice of that “ingrafted word which is able to save his soul.” He who doeth the work of the Lord negligently, dishonours the unsearchable riches of salvation. He who watereth others shall be watered himself. It is impossible to be sincere in the faith, deeply penetrated with the goodness of God, constrained by the love of Christ, sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost, and yet indifferent to the extension of religion, and the success of others, through love of ease, or fear of conflict. In proportion as we abstract ourselves from the influence and exercise of that love of the brethren, which shews that we have passed from death unto life, and which desires the same change in them, do we diminish our comfort, detract from our spiritual joy, and shed dimness over that hope full of immortality, which the Saviour pours into a believer's heart, and which is the pole star of his way to God. The Father, indeed, makes not our success a necessary condition of acceptance, when we strive to bring others to a knowledge of the truth, that they may be saved, or assist to build them
up in their most holy faith. He does not say, as Joseph to his offending brethren, “Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.” But he will look, that we have used every exertion to make that brother the com