Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

But they

eminently honourable among the agents for saving men. must also have the co-operation of the individual members of the church. Without this they labor in vain, or at best with only a partial effect. A revival that shall penetrate the mass of the community, must be carried into it by the living agents who are accustomed to mingle with the mass, and who will go hither and thither, attaching themselves to individuals. A military commander, without soldiers, could not subdue a hostile country by means of plans and general orders, or by the prowess of his single sword. Nor can a minister expect to be the means of extensive and permanent good, if unaided by the prayers and co-operation of his people, acting each in his personal and separate capacity, as well as in concert with others. We may see, then, why we have hitherto accomplished so little for our Master, and how we may hereafter effectually serve him in the conversion of men. Henceforth, let our course be the simple plan, not to wait for others, but each one do the first good thing that offers, -and then the next—and the next; and thus proceed, filling up our lives with a succession of individual acts of usefulness. O, brethren, our vows to Christ were separate and individual vows of personal devotement; and at the judgment-day, the account we shall render will not be a general account, handed in by churches or societies ; but “every one shall give account of HIMSELF to God," and sball receive, each for himself, an individual reward or condemnation.

SERMON CCCVI.

BY REV. I. S. SPENCER,
PASTOR OF THE SECOND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, BROOKLYN, L. I.

LIVING AND WALKING IN THE SPIRIT."

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."

Galatians, 5 : 25.

Tus passage is addressed to the people of God. It contains an exhortation founded on one of those great doctrines of the Bible, which the people of God all believe, and which the most holy and favored of his people always find delightful to their souls. It is a truth clear and unquestionable as any in the Biule, that the children of God become such by the adopting power of the Holy Ghost. They are begotten of God; they are born into his holy family, not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. God himself is their father. From that degradation and helplessness of spiritual death in which they were plunged God has lifted them up. From that course of prodigal profligacy in which they had wandered he has called them back. The spirit of fear has been exchanged for the spirit of love; and their recovering, adopting, forgiving Lord has removed the ruling power of worldly aims, to give supremacy and permanence to those aims which go out after the high birth-right of the sons of God. Recognizing this idea, as fixed in the minds of those to whom he was writing, the apostle founds upon it the proposal, let us also walk in the Spirit. If we are, indeed, of that number who live by the Spirit, -who, from being dead in trespasses and sins, have been made alive unto God by the Spirit, - let us walk by the same Spirit: let us have our whole conduct consistent with a christian's existence, with a christian's duties, with a christian's calling, and with a christian's joys and aims.

My brethren, all your hopes for the future, and both the felicities and the infelicities of the past, will conspire for the enforcement of the exhortation.

You hope, after you have done with this world, to go to a better one. We are saved by hope, says the Apostle : and both the duty and the privilege of the believer call you to be able, through Divine grace, to hope for perfect and eternal joys in heaven. But you hope to attain them, not in negligence, not by inaction, not by merely waiting the flow of some rapid stream, which shall bear you onward to that blissful ocean wbose surface is never ruffled by angry storms, and whose dashing billows never excite fear or create danger. No, no! As wise believers, you are sensible that heaven is a prize, and not an accident; that you are to attain it by fighting the good fight; by going on, from field to field of christian mastery, till your feet shall tread upon the pavements of the celestial city. Wise hope never promises any thing, but as she points with fixed finger, to the way, and the walk, and the warfare of the sons of God. Only as you walk by the Spirit you expect to reach the home of saints, the city of the New Jerusalem.

Of the same tendency is your felicitous remembrance of the past. The greatest bappiness which you are able to gather by any remembrance of days that are gone, is found in the evidence that you have made some progress in the Divine life, and thus done something to glorify God. But how have you made it? You must have made little indeed, if you do not know that it has been by no power of your own; that at every step God has helped you on; and that, aside from Divine aid, you would now be as distant from the home and country of the blessed as the most wayward prodigal that wanders on the fields of sin. Yes, if you have entered into the way to heaven, and made considerable progress in it, you are fully sensible that you have gained the victory over sin, baffled the adversary, kept the world under foot, held sweet and holy communion with God, only when you have walked in the Spirit.

The happy experiences of the christian are a fund of instruction. They contain many a lesson rich in Divine wisdom, and pleasant for the believer's meditation. But they contain no lesson so plain as this; that every item of happy experience has come from walk

ing with God. It is when you have walked in the Spirit, that the candle of the Lord has shone upon your tabernacle, darkness has vanished, and your soul has been cheered with the presence of God and the light of life. It is when you have walked in the Spirit, that fear has departed, affliction has lost her sting, sin has failed of its enchantment, and you felt that you were happy because, through grace, you were God's. You could thank him for your joys, you could submit and not murmur, if he removed them : resting on him, you could exclaim, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he maketh me to lie down in green pastures ; he leadeth me beside the still waters; he restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Your want of felicity, too, as christians, admonishes you that nothing has so much diminished your joys as the want of a close and constant walk with God. Oh! It is when you have forsaken him that he has forsaken you! You failed to walk in the Spirit, and then you failed of the joys of your salvation. If you have ever been so unhappy as to find your christian comforts few; as to find your light dimmed; your heart sad; your fears prevailing over faith ; and your soul sinking in the deep waters; you found it so only at those unhappy periods when you failed to walk in the Spirit. Your very mourning showed this: oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head, and when, by his light, I walked through darkness. The exhortation of the text, therefore, is enforced by your hopes, and happiness, and fears.

By the Spirit in the text is meant none other than the Holy Ghost, the third person in the adorable Trinity. It is by his efficiency that the hearts of men are renewed. Before that efficiency is exercised they are dead, according to the language of the Scriptures ;—they are dead in sin, dead to holiness, dead in law, and dead to every qualification for the joys of holiness and heaven. But when the sanctifying power of the Spirit is exerted, they are made alive. They are alive, because, delivered from the curse of the law; they are alive in holiness; they are alive, because they are quickened by the Spirit of God; they are alive by that kind of vitality which marks all the members of the family of God, and qualifies saints and angels for the joys around his throne. It is not by the powers of our fallen nature, that they are alive; it is not

by the energies of conscience, by the leadings of understanding, nor by the strong promptings, even, of that hope, which would grasp possessions more permanent than the unsubstantial pleasures of this world. They live by the Spirit, if they live at all as christians. God has quickened them. They are created anew in Christ Jesus.

On this principle the apostle then appeals to their consistency, If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit; if we are indeed of that number who have any right to think themselves christians, let us live as christians: if we possess a spiritual existence, let us maintain & spiritual walk; let us live as children of light, and not of darkness. This is the nature of the exhortation.

But it is not of unaided human nature to do so. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, is the inspired account of spiritual life. If we live, it must be in the Spirit; if we show the signs of life, or discharge the offices of life, or gain the benefits of life, if we walk, it must be in the Spirit.

But this exhortation would be greatly inappropriate, were the Spirit communicated without any reference to our endeavors or desires. In that case we should have only to wait and to receive; action and anxiety would be alike in 'vain, The Spirit, however, by which growth in holiness is secured, and without which nothing of importance in religion is ever accomplished, is not so communicated to believers. There is a temper and conduct calculated to invite his presence; and there is a temper and conduct calculated to invite his departure.

That we may be able to obtain comfort and growth as believers ; that, by the presence of the Divine Spirit with us, we may walk in the Spirit; let us see how we may be most likely to secure his continued presence.

1. If we would have much of the presence of the Spirit we must value it bighly

It is true, God sometimes grants bis spiritual presence where it has been little or none at all desired. In the first act of sanctification in the renewal of the soul and perhaps sometimes in the recovery of his backslidden people, he acts without great reference to the previous estimation in which he was held. But surely he does not ABIDE with those with whom he is an unwelcome guest

« PoprzedniaDalej »