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their constant employ, knowing that God is well pleased with such sacrifices. Works of faith will likewise be labours of love, and with these works their lives will be distinguished and adorned. They will not sing in God's house, and among God's people,
“My Saviour, how shall I proclaim,
How pay the mighty debt I owe?
Ceaseless to all thy glory show,"
and when they return to their homes, or their workshops—when they are found in their families or counting-houses, or in the marketplace, not only forgetting what they have sung, but giving the lie to it practically ; on the contrary, their whole being will be the embodiment of the sentiment which so much moved their hearts in the exercise of devotion.
Oh, who would not rejoice to see such a Church in existence ? Which of you who reads this would not give God thanks if such were the character of the Church with which you hold membership ? Let each one, then, in himself present one member who shall contribute something to make the Church all that God requires, and that its best wishers desire it to be. If all the members are perfect, then the body composed of those members will be perfect also.
"Finally then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.”
" And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love toward one another, and toward all men : to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."
HOW CAN WE HAVE A MOVE ? So far as we can learn there is stagnation in many of our churches; and not in ours alone, but in other denominations as well as ours. It is complained of that the services in many places are thinly attended, and wanting in unction and power. The masses, it is affirmed, do not care for religion, do not come near the places of worship erected in their neighbourhoods, and many of them for the special benefit of the class who persistently neglect them. Ministers, in many cases, are depressed and sad while contemplating the general dulness and coldness of spiritual feeling among the people, and the apparent fruitlessness of labours long and carnestly performed in hope of a better state of things, which, after all, does not come. Conversions are scanty; the churches do not increase, but decline; and the Word of God is not attended with the power it formerly carried with it to the masses of the people.
Probably there may be something of the exaggeration which gloomy feelings are always apt to impart to our conclusions, in the case as we have heard it and stated it; but divested of all colouring, and of all exaggeration, no doubt the spiritual life of our churches is, in many instances, feeble, and there is need of a revival of religion among us. There is need, urgent need, of a baptism of the Holy Ghost; and, without this, we may go from bad to worse, till no man can say what the end may be.
It may help us in the consideration of this subject if we remember two facts which decidedly affect the question. The first is, that human nature is the same that it ever was; and the second is, that the Gospel is the same for the renovation and salvation of this nature. We are not aware that either of these assertions can be disputed. We are not aware that human nature is much more hard to deal with now than it was in the days of the apostles, in the days of John Wesley, or, in nearer times, when we had "showers of blessing.” There are some changes in the social condition of the people, and there are some in their mental condition, which are decidedly to the advantage of the present times as times for activity, power, and success in all religious enterprises. The people are better informed, are, we believe, better paid for their labour, and better cared for every way than they were fifty years ago or more. These facts ought not to be a disadvantage to the Church, they ought to be a help to it. On the other hand, there is less personal control of time than there used to be before the working classes were massed in large numbers in large manufactories, and moved as an autonomy by the sound of a bell and the index of a clock. They were freer formerly to attend, especially week-night services, than they may be now. It may be admitted also that their better information has not always proved a santified gift to them. Infidelity has used the school and the press simultaneously with Christianity. If not as well and as actively as Christianity, still it has used these agencies with deadly effect in many lamentable cases. It may further be allowed, that the very familiarity with religion which constant preaching, constant Sabbath-school labour, tract distributing, and almost endless meetings of a religious character in every conceivable relation to the Church's work, has destroyed the novelty of the movement, and so far diminished its attractions to the general mind. But after all, and balancing the advantages of our times and their disadvantages as affecting the success of Christian effort, we do not know of any great preponderance, one way or the other, that will of itself account for the indifference of the masses to the claims of religion, or that has so materially altered human nature that it is not the same nature, but another and a different nature, as compared with that on which Wesley and many nearer agents have operated so powerfully and beneficially.
The second fact is less open to question than the former which has just passed under review. The Gospel is not changed : it is the same, whether man is the same or not. It is still the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. It was designed for all times, for all countries, and for the various conditions in which society may be placed. It has operated savingly under all these conditions, and we have no reason to suppose that it cannot operate under any conditions which may arise in any state of society which Providence in the future may create or permit.
The main question is whether our modes of operation are as well
adapted to the existing conditions of society as the Gospel itself is? Have we or have we not made a mistake in our convictions as to what our churches now require to maintain their vitality and power? Granting that the same preaching which satisfied and fed the churches fifty years ago would not satisfy and feed them now; granting that the people are more intelligent, and require a better-educated and a better informed ministry than formerly, is there not a possibility that we have estimated this requirement at so high a value as to overlook the fact that their emotional nature is the same, and must be acted on in much the same way as formerly? It may be a sad reproach to human nature, but so it is, that logic, mathematics, and metaphysics have never reached very far down into the depths of our emotions. Nay, even conviction itself plays a very subordinate part as a motive power in morals and religion. We see men every day who are far better than their professed convictions would lead us to expect, and every day we see men much worse. If man was a being all head we should know how to deal with him, but unfortunately, or the reverse, he has a heart as well as a head, and the two “members” do not always pull one way. They often oppose each other in ways which are as singular as they are lamentable. The heart sometimes asserts its rights in spite of the head, and contrives, right or wrong, to hold its own in the moving forces of human conduct.
It is very pleasant to glorify our times, because in doing so we glorify ourselves whom the age we live in has made, as we have made it. This idea of the superior intelligence of mankind and of our churches in the present age may be allowed, but have we not gone wild about it? Have we not permitted it to stamp itself upon our minds so deeply as to efface or weaken other ideas, which, if they are not “innate," are certainly very ancient ? Has it not come to be understood that all preaching in these times, and all modes of operation in the Church, must be very intellectual, very elegant, very nice, in order to satisfy what we suppose to be the taste of the people? We say “what we suppose to be the taste of the people,” not what is really their taste ; for as culture extends, and as business, with all its exacting and exhausting cares and competition, extends with it, the taste in religious matters is in the direction of greater ease and simplicity. At no time in this country has there been a louder cry among educated Christians for simplicity, ease, and brevity as to pulpit ministrations than there is now. The wearied and exhausted business man and artizan want us to bring them to Christ, to bring them to the blessed peace and comfort of the Gospel, in the directest way possible. They are impatient of circumlocutions, and indignant at attempts to display while their souls are hungry for substantial spiritual food. “The taste of the people,” correctly understood, is not in favour of increased elegance or nicety in our ministrations, only so far as these may be associated, as they may at all times be, with unction and power. But if it were otherwise, ministers and churches are bound to tho models they must imitate. If the people are wrong, wrong in taste, wrong in the perception of duty, it is the business of church guides and teachers to put them right in both senses, not to succumb to prejudices, or to pander to a false appetite, when questions 80 serious as the salvation of the soul and the life and power of the Church are at stake. It is the duty of such guides and teachers to watch carefully over every influence that may diminish or destroy the Church's power. We must have power, whatever else we have. We can live as Christians without many things—without wealth, for instance, or higher culture, or a fashionable standing before the world—but we cannot live without the power of religion in our souls, which means the power of faith, love, zeal, joy in the Holy Ghost-in short, the power of holiness.
Is there, then, anything we have left undone that we can better attend to in the future, or anything new that we can devise by which, as far as human instrumentality is concerned, we may have more of this power?
We believe that so far as diligence is concerned there is a very large amount of work conscientiously performed in the Church, both by ministers and the people. We do not think that indolence can be justly charged against the servants of Christ in these days, and certainly not against ministers of the Gospel. The necessities of their position compel them to work, even if they were not so disposed. To “the care of all the churches” there has been added the care of many other things, for there is scarcely anything going on in our time but ministers are expected to take an active part in. Temperance, education, missions, Bible societies, lectures of all sorts, and on nearly all subjects-all kinds of social reforms and benevolences, from the rectification of national wrongs to the superintendence of a Dorcas society or a soup kitchen. About all these things ministers are consulted, and many hours and days have to be devoted to work of this kind which never taxed the minds or occupied the time of our fathers the “old divines."
But amidst all our toils—amidst all the changes of taste or of mental and social conditions among the people which we are supposed to know and required to provide for—we question whether we are using, as we might use and ought to use, the means which are directly adapted to promote what we are accustomed to designate revivals of religion. There ever have been such means used in Methodism, and that with the best results ; special meetings—continuous or “protracted” meetings --held for weeks together, with a view to intensify the feelings of the people on the subject of their salvation. We are well aware that objections may be urged, and have been urged, against such meetings. There seems to be, in some minds, an apprehension that they may create unbealthy excitement, which lasts only a short time, and is then followed by collapse. Discredit has been sometimes brought upon them by the character of the special agents who have gone about the country conducting them. Then, again, it is not every one who has an aptitude in conducting them, and so the results have not always been satisfactory. But notwithstanding all that may be said against them, it is undeniable that they have resulted in immense good to our churches, and multitudes are now living, worthy, active members of the Church, who were brought to God by these means. There may be objections raised against everything we do to improve the spiritual condition of the Church, unless what we do shapes itself into a cold propriety against which formalists will never object, because their spiritual slambers are not disturbed
thereby. It is no mark of a right state of mind to take merely negativo views; it is better to go ahead, even if we offend somebody, than to stand still and move nobody.
It may be said, How can we have such meetings, taxed as we are with some service or other nearly every night in the week? Now, that is just where we ert in our arrangements. We fight our spiritual enemies too much in detail. Why could not arrangements be made in those circuits existing in the same town for a grand united effort, bringing two or three regular ministers, and a host of local brethren, to one chapel for, say, two, or—better still — three weeks together, with services every night during this time? Then change to another chapel, of course as central as could be found; then to another, occupying six weeks, at some convenient season of the year in the same town in these special efforts. We are confident that at the end of the term the ministers would find their own souls blessed, and would resume their ordinary work in a happier, healthier, and stronger tone of mind. The people would be blessed, how greatly no one can tell; for if the fire began to burn at one series of services, it would be carried to the others, and there might be such a movement as we are little aware of, and as we are little disposed to hope for. Now, brethren, some one begin, and let us have " a move." Let all the places in a circuit show a willingness to set their ministers free for this special work. What if, instead of a sermon, we should have to put up with a prayer-meeting for a few weeks, to accommodate the claims of the case, what harm would there be in that? Besides, there are in all our circuits the local brethren; and the week-night services and these special services, too, could all be kept going with due arrangement. Will it be said by any of our brethren, “We pay for our preaching so many sermons per quarter, and must have them?” If it were so said, we should consider the first place that says this should have the first protracted meeting, for, certainly, whoever says this, when the greater good is aimed at, has need of more religion than he has. We should use stronger terms than these to stigmatize such conduct if it were polite to do so, and were not restrained by the proprieties. If nothing else can be done, let each society arrange for two or three weeks' services among themselves-every night the whole time. One night will not do. Two nights will not do. We must go at it for weeks together. If " quarterly boards” cannot or will not arrange to grant you the services of the ministers, don't wait on these boards. You can have Christ with you all the time. If you cannot have a sermon, get up a prayer-meeting, or a love-feast, or a fellowship-meeting, or—if you can do nothing else—sing. You can at least sing, and you might manage to intermix with your singing a few words of prayer-as, for instance, "Lord, come and bless us now; warm our hearts now; send the fire and the glory now." Do something, at any rate, and let us get out of these old ruts of formality, coldness, and spiritual death. We must have a move-we may have a move. God grant it may be such a move as we never had before, and that it may come soon-this very winter.
J. H. R.