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pains to keep the sanitary or the noisy irreverent manner utterly uncommercial fire burning than to get suited to the gracious exercises in wood for the fire of the spiritual life, which they are about to engage, although they admit this to be of exercises for which they prepare infinitely graver moment.
themselves, not by quiet reverent Take another test. Suppose the intercourse with God, but by loud place of worship selected, and well whispered conversations with each selected; there is wholesome teach- other. And, then, when the sering to be had, and the stimulating vice has commenced, unless the fellowship of kindred minds: the minister have fervour enough for us fire is kept so well burning that you as well as for himself, our hearts never feel you need run to some hardly ever rise to the level of true neighbouring copse to beg a little devotion, to the height of an intiwood. In what spirit do we enter mate communion with our heavenly on the Services of the Sanctuary? Father: unprepared and uninterA place of worship is surely and ested, we sit cold and unmoved. before all things a place for worship, Let him hew the wood, and cast it i.e.; a place in which the worship of into our cold grate, and fan it to a God is the first duty and should be flame, or the fire dies out, if indeed the supreme charm. Yet how many it was ever so much as lit. do you suppose attend our sanctu- Even when we get to the Sermon, aries only, or mainly, to enjoy the which we are reputed, and perhaps common praise of their Father in justly reputed, to make the chief heaven, and to make their common attraction : how do we use that ? supplication before Him? It is no- Some criticise it, and praise or contorious that at least with the majority demn it according as it comes up to of Dissenters, the sermon is the chief their notion of orthodoxy or falls attraction; that though we use com- short of it,—theology being the one mon forms of praise, we cannot only science which men are supposed tolerate common forms of prayer; to understand without having studied and that many of us take little pains it. Others, who pique themselves to bring a devout mind to chapel on their “ breadth,” approve or diswith us, to gather up our thoughts, approve, in proportion as the disto search out our faults and sins, to course savours, or does not savour reflect on our blessings, and so to of novelty, if not of heresy. Some induce that frame of mind of which relish any stroke of wit or humour, thanksgiving and supplication are and find all the salt of a discourse the natural expressions. It is ob- in its epigrams: others care to have vious and notorious that many of us, their fancy fed with sweet similitudes and these not those for whom home and chiming verse. Some love to pieties might be a sufficient excuse, have their hearts dissolved in tender put off coming to the house of emotions, and others to have a strong prayer to the very last moment, chain of logic put into their hands. although when we go to a concert Now logic is good, and fancy is good, we can be there half an hour before and wit and pathos, breadth and the music begins; that we often orthodoxy, are all good. They should enter even after the last moment, all, so far' as possible, be pressed into instead of securing some brief space the service of truth. But we should for self-examination and private de- care for truth more than for these. votion before we take part in the Do we ? Do we not rather, unless public worship. Nay, there are our hearts be touched or our fancy places among us into which the con- fed, or our special taste whatever it gregations enter, early or late, in a is be indulged, go away dissatisfied,
not with ourselves for our indiffer- comfort and ease: we do not object ence to truth except it come in cer- indeed to have a few casual sticks tain forms, but with the preacher thrown on our fire, but we must who has not, who possibly could not have no trouble, or as little trouble and ought not, to have given it to us as possible, in cutting and carrying in the form we prefer?
them. There are many, 1 fear, even Do not suppose, brethren, that I of those who do seek truth, who do wish to shield the pulpit from criti- not seek first the bare wood of truth, cism any more than the pew. Criti- but are something too much occucisim is as wholesome for the preacher pied in criticising the elegance or as for his hearers. Only one would inelegance with which the woodman like that the criticism should be of of the moment wields the axe, and the right kind. No sensible manly are disposed to reject any log which preacher but would be thankful to is not hewn precisely to their mind. have that, if only he could get it. The preacher is to do all our thinkThe pity is that the loudest and ing for us, or most of it, and to be most damnatory critics are very very careful both to throw it into commonly those who have no con- attractive forms and not to give us ception of what a sermon should be; too much of it at a time. Indeed and still less any conception that it the most frequent compliment some takes at least two good people to ministers receive is this, or some make a good sermon, viz., a good variation on this --“I like your hearer as well as a good speaker. sermons, sir, they're 80 short." “ What should a sermon be ?” Surely Now that, if it mean, “ You comit should be, on the preacher's part, press so much thought into a few an earnest and studious endeavour words," is a very genuine, and no to expound, in the happiest words he doubt welcome, compliment to the can command, that passage of Holy preacher: but if it mean, “I don't Writ which he has taken for his text, care to think about divine truths to bring out its meaning and to apply longer than I can help,” it is surely it to the conscience of those who a very poor compliment to the hearer. listen to him; while, on their part, It indicates no wholesome state of it should be a studious and prayerful things when a Christian congregaendeavour to receive the truth and tion is drawn together mainly to to test their lives by the standards hear a sermon: it indicates a still it suggests. Now is not that the more unwholesome state when, being common sense view of what a ser- mainly drawn together to hear a sermon should be to both speaker and mon, they can't even listen to that hearer ? Yet how many of us, think without impatience if it extend beyou, speak and listen in that fashion ? yond a few minutes. how many of us are content with a Again : we put the Bible on the sermon if only it brings out the preacher's desk. It lies also on our truth of the text and enforces it, own tables, not always without a even though it be not embellished little dust on its covers. We conwith any grace of eloquence, or fess that it contains the very truth although it taxes our mental powers of God. Well, with all our reading to follow it and make it our own ? and all our preaching, how many of I fear there are many among us who, us have really studied the volume so far from making truth our first which is able to make us wise unto consideration, and being willing to salvation ? Have we not most of us purchase it at some expense of another book somewhere-a gramthought, care very much more for mar, a ledger, a poem-to which we manner and style, or even for our have given more hard consecutive thought, and of which we have a fire may burn briskly; but when more accurate and complete concep- your spiritual life is in question the tion than we have of the Gospel of fire is left burning so low that it is the grace of God ? For ever boasting always in danger of going out! that “the Bible, the whole Bible, But, finally, it may be asked, and nothing but the Bible is the “What would you have? We want religion of Protestants”-how much to do right-to feed and nourish our of this “religion” do you think we spiritual life, to keep the fire in. know? If the old Puritan plan were Much of what you have said is true revived, and one service on the Sun- enough, and tow true. We do know day were given to a Catechetical our ledgers better than our Bibles. Lecture, how many of us could stand We don't think so much of our an examination even in the history spiritual interests as we ought and of the Lord Jesus Christ? how would like to do. But we must many, for example, could say in live; we must provide for our what year of His ministry, or at the families. And to do this is very prompting of what touch of circum- bard work. It absorbs nearly all stance, this parable was spoken or our time and strength. Would you that miracle wrought? Yet no have us leave our ledgers unposted ledger or grammar is so well worth that we may read the Bible, or negstudying as the Holy Gospel—the lect our honest necessary work to ledger of our spiritual traffic, the look after our souls ?” grammar of conduct for our spiritual Surely not, my brethren. There,
is much truth in this side, your side, Besides a Teacher and a Book, the of the question, as well as in that House of God has Sacraments, which I have tried to put before you. sacraments which, if the Word of But shall we together try to look at God be true, are very direct and both sides of the question for a mopotent means of grace. Yet surely ment, and see whether after all they there are some of you who have not really disagree? been baptized, and others who do The point from which we start is not commemorate the dying of the this,—that a man should not be less Lord Jesus. You say, perhaps, that bent on providing for his spiritual you can be just as good Christians life and interests than for any of the without observing the ordinances to lower and more temporary forms his do them. Yes : but do you take life assumes ; and that here, in the quite that tone when other than House of God, are certain “means spiritual interests are concerned ? of grace” which are specially adapted Do you ever say, “I shan't die, if I to nourish his spiritual life and addon't eat this meal or take that vance its interests. Very well: our medicine:” or, “I shall have some first onward step is to inquire thing to wear, even if I don't buy whether or not you are using these that new bonnet or this pretty means to the very best of your dress ;” or, “I shall do well enough power. If you are, it is well with in my business, even though I neg- you, and nothing more can be relect yonder great opening for trade ?" quired at your hands. But are you? Is that the tone you take about tem- Some of you might surely come poral things ? And if not, why take oftener or earlier to God's house it for the spiritual interests which than you do. Some might prepare you confess to be supreme ? For themselves more carefully to profit health's sake, or appearance' sake, by its worship. Some might learn or business' sake, you pile on the to come mainly for worship; and wood as fast as you can, that the other some might learn to listen to
sermons, rather for that which in- you do. You may eat and drink, structs them in the truth than for you may post your ledger or buy that which strikes their fancy or your bonnet, you may sweep a room gratifies their taste. Most of you, I or sell your goods, to the glory of dare say, if you were very much bent God. All that busy and overbusy on it, might give a little more time life of yours may become a discipline and thought to the study of the of holiness. Do all you do as unto Scriptures ; and some of you surely the Lord rather than as before men, ought to call in the help of the Sacra- and in all you do you will be serving ments. Remembering that where the Lord Christ; you will be conno wood is, there the fire goeth out, firming yourselves in habits of holy you might perhaps use more strenu- virtue which God will accept as your ous endeavours to gather wood for devoutest worship, and from which your fire in every copse which God you will derive your best help to a has thrown open to you.
vital knowledge and love of the truth. This is one side of the question, And therefore, my brethren, however and now for the other. The best numerous your engagements, howpart of worship is obedience; the ever harassing your cares, however best knowledge of truth that which exhausting your toils, the pure flame shows itself in service. And you of a divine worship need never go may serve and obey God, that is, out, since you may throw a fresh you may worship Him, in everything stick on it every moment, if you will.
MAN'S social nature inclines him to visit. All of us have a circle of intimate friends, whoin we are always pleased to see; and if they come not to us we are constrained to go to them. These visits, paid at proper intervals and in a prudent manner, may be made exceedingly pleasant and profitable, by endearing friends to each other, and by calling forth their mutual sympathy and help.
The benefits arising from these friendly visits lead us to suppose that it would be an advantage to us if we could introduce into all our churches a good system of visitation. Properly carried out it would exert a good influence on the visited. It would take away from them that sense of religious isolation which so many feel, and would increase tbeir interest in those Christians among whom they worship. Comfort, instruction, and reproof, could be imparted as circumstances might reqnire; and in thus ministering to their brethren and sisters the visitors themselves would be blessed.
To whom should these visits be paid? To the sick, who are deprived
of the ordinary means of grace; to the bereaved, whose loss of one friend will make the visit of another more wolcome; to the poor, whose lack of temporal comforts gives them a claim upon the sympathy and assistance of their richer friends; to the indifferent, who have lost their interest in church privileges, and whose neglect of duty proves a stumblingblock in the way of others; in short, to all the members of the church ; and, so far as practicable, to all the members of the congregation these visits should be paid.
By whom is this work to be done? I fancy I hear a whole chorus of voices exclaimirg, “ By the pastor, of course." Yes, the pastor must visit if he would gain the affections of his flock. The very name he bears seems to imply. that this is a part of his work. In the epistle to the Ephesians Paul seems to distinguish between pastors and teachers (Eph. iv. 11). This distinction is recognized by people generally. “He is a good preacher but no pastor,' is an expression frequently used in reference to a minister who seldom visits. Those who are placed over
the churches of Christ as overseers instances in which members have been must have a personal knowledge of all afflicted for weeks and the pastor has over whom they rule, or they will not had no knowledge of it whatever, and be able to give them their meat in due yet his absence from those sick rooms season. To obtain this personal know- has been ascribed to his indolence or ledge of them they must visit them. neglect. Let the friends of the sick
Let those who ask for apostolic remember this direction of the apostle example read Acts xv. 36—“Paul said James, and send for their pastor if they unto Barnabas, Let us go again and wish to see him. Yea, let all who are visit our brethren in every city where specially anxious for a visit from their we have preached the word of the pastor adopt the same plan, Lord, and see how they do." We are Thus, dear reader, you will perceive aware that that was not an ordinary that I agree with those of you who pastoral visit; but the spirit of the maintain that the minister ought to passage is certainly in favour of pas- visit his flock. I hope we shall agree toral visitation. Paul was not always equally well when I make the followtravelling about. For three years he ing qualifying statements. dwelt at Ephesus. What his manner Visiting is not a pastor's chief work. of life was in that city we learn from To preach is his especial duty. Paul his address to the elders of the Ephe- said, “Christ sent me not to baptize, sian church, in which he states that he but to preach the gospel." The direcbad taught them publicly, and “from tions which he gives to Timothy have house to house" (Acts xx. 20. Paul special reference to his public duty. thus combined the pastor and the Preaching is the chief means employed teacher. The truths he uttered in by God for the edifying of His church, public he enforced in private. When and for the conversion of souls. “It possible, pastoral visits should be used pleased God by the foolishness of as means for spiritual instruction. preaching to save them that believe." This instruction may be imparted The minister is to be an expounder of either directly or indirectly. Directly, the Scriptures. He must rightly divide by catechising or formal exhortation ; the word of truth. This will necessiindirectly, by blending it with ordinary tate close and continued study, especonversation. The former plan, we cially in a young inexperienced minisare aware, would not be tolerated in ter. This study will occupy a conthe majority of families. Where it siderable portion of his tiine. In some would be allowed it would be very instances there will not be much time useful. Those who are very anxious left for visiting. But whatever time for this part of a minister's work to be can be spared from the study the faithdone should ever show themselves ful minister will gladly spend among willing to receive instruction or re- his flock. Let those who would rob proof when they are required, as well him of his time for study know that by as the comfort which they so eagerly so doing they cripple him, and deprive seek. “For they be rather bears than the church of much substantial food. sheep, who do not vouchsafe to hear Ifa minister can do both kinds of work the voice of their pastor unless he be well, so much the better. If he can in the pulpit; and cannot abide to be only do one kind well, let him devote admonished and reproved at home, his energies to preparation for the pulyea, do seriously refuse that necessary pit, and let visiting be regarded as a duty." The apostle James seems to secondary work. recognize the duty of pastoral visita Another qualifying statement retion when he says, “Is any sick ? let quires to be made. Visiting does not him call for the elders of the church". belong exclusively to the pastor. He has (James v. 14). Observe the phrase, sharers in his work and in his reward. "Let him call for the elders." This Private Christians are to be visitors in seems a very reasonable request. As common with their pastor. In this as ministers are not omniscient, they in other things, the pastor may be exmust be informed of the illness of their pected to set the exainple; but when friends, or they cannot be expected to the example is set, the people should visit them so promptly as they other be prompt in imitating it. wise would. The writer has known The visitation of the fatherless and