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"Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." ACTS II. 47. PRAISING God:" behold the natural history of the regeneration. Those who are bought with a price are constrained to glorify God. " In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." The thanksgiving is a con stituent element of prayer. If the prescription is made up without this ingredient, it is ineffectual: mere pre-
56 77/<? CJinrcli in the House. scription however will never produce true thanksgiving: the gratitude which comes only through prompting is not gratitude. The real emotion is spontaneous, and could not be restrained. As soon as Israel get through the Red Sea, they cluster on the cliffs and make the desert ring with their jubilant psalm, "Sing unto the Lord ; for he hath triumphed gloriously." Who can for bid a song, when persons or peoples are redeemed by the blood of Christ, and satisfied with bread from a heavenly Father s hand, that their pent-up emotions may get vent ? This is the kind of thanksgiving that breaks forth from loving hearts on earth and reaches the throne of heaven, the thanks, not that you draw out, but that you could not keep in. " Having favor with all the people." In the first stage of their progress immediately after Pentecost, the Chris tian converts were not persecuted. The people looked on, admiring, applauding. They saw a beauty in holi
ness, when holiness in those revival days had the dew of its youth upon it, and were betrayed for the moment into an admiration of a goodness which themselves had not attained. This phenomenon is eminently worthy of observation. On the surface lies a difficulty; but from beneath a precious lesson may be drawn. In the mat ter of favor or enmity shown by the world, two opposite experiences alternate in the history of the Church. Prov idential administration does not proceed uniformly on one method; the way of the Lord, rather, is to balance two opposites, so as to make them work together for good. When hope and holiness adorn the character of disciples, the world outside sometimes admire and ap plaud, sometimes revile and persecute. It is not possible to construct a general rule by which it could be deter mined beforehand in any given case whether the world will favor or frown on a company of true disciples. If there be a law that determines the sequences of these alternate courses, it lies beyond our reach. We might, indeed, conclude on general principles that neither the one nor the other would be permitted uniformly to pre vail. If true godliness should always and in all places obtain the favor of the world, counterfeits would spring up in such strength and abundance as would suffice absolutely to smother and destroy the truth; and, on
At once Godly and Popular. 67 the ether hand, if godliness should always, and in all places, bring down the world s enmity, the spark of Divine truth in humanity might be quenched, and the gates of hell at last prevail to blot out Christ s name from the earth. The Head on high holds the balance in his own hands. He permits as much of the wrath of man to break forth as suffices to praise himself by purg ing his Church of its hypocrisy, and then he restrains the remainder thereof.
Although we could not, in the first instance, have invented this method, we are able to perceive, when we see it exemplified in history, that it is the best. When a spark is imbedded in the flax and it begins to smoke, a blast permitted to burst upon it would blow it out; therefore, the blast is by Divine command re strained. But after the fire has fairly caught, the blast will spread the flame, and, therefore, it is per mitted to blow. The Lord will not permit the smok ing flax to be quenched by a premature severity. He commands a calm till the fire take hold, and then per mits a tempest to make the fire spread. In those first days after the Pentecost, the Christians were not per secuted. Many were added to the Church, and the faith of the members was confirmed. When the spark had made some advancement in a calm, the storm that afterwards arose, did not blow it out, but blew it in. Both these principles may be seen alternately operat ing in society at the present day. In some cases god liness wins favor; in others it stirs enmity. All is in the Lord s hand; disciples may well pray with Agur that in this matter he would give them neither pov erty nor riches: neither too much of the world s fa vor, nor too little, lest grace should be choked under the weight of its embrace, or withered by the scorch ing of its anger. If the rule were absolute,- The more likeness to Christ, the more favor from the world, the faith of the Church, like corn sown in land too fat, would grow rank, cleave to the earth and bear nothing but chaff. If on the other hand the rule were absolute, The more likeness to Christ, the more persecution from the world, the faith of the Church, like corn sown on a mountain-top, would wither long before the harvest.
58 The Church in the House.
We cannot in any case tell beforehand whether a true exhibition of the Christian character will concili ate kindness or provoke enmity; as we cannot tell to day whether the wind to-morrow will blow from the East or the West: but both the winds of heaven and the hearts of men are under law to God although we cannot detect the law or predict the result. " And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved." Here again we have a thing with two sides: all real things have two sides. The Lord added them; and yet they added themselves. The Good Shepherd carried the stray sheep home on his shoulders; and yet the prodigal walked home on his own feet. The sheep and the prodigal in these twin parables certainly do not point to different persons, but to two sides of the same person. On one side, the upper, it is the Lord s doing: on the other side, the lower, it is the man s. In this verse we read the his toric fact, "The Lord added them:" and in the con text we hear the Divine command, "Save yourselves." At one place the saved are " whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord:" at another they are, "as many as the Lord our God shall call." When I know myself to be like a withered leaf on the stream that flows to a sea of perdition, it is sweet to think that help is laid on One that is mighty, and to hope that when I am utterly helpless the Lord adds me to his Body, the Church, to himself, the Church s Head. My comfort in temptation springs not from consciousness of my own strength to hold by him, but from knowledge of his strength to hold me. But woe to the man, who with no liking for the presence of the Lord or the company of his people no willingness to crucify -the flesh, and press through the narrow gate, dares to comfort himself in his coldness and worldliness with the thought, It is not in my power to make myself better, I must wait till the Lord put forth his strength. Nay, brother: the Lord is ready now to do
it, if you were willing that it should be done. " Daily: " every day some. There is no blank in the birth registers of God s family. The Lamb s Book of Life has a page for every day of time, and names in
At once Godly and Popular. 69 every page. I suppose some of the pages are more crowded than others. At that first Pentecost, as at many seasons since, they came as doves to their win dows, a great cloud coming at one time. At other periods they seem rather one here and one there, like the gleaning of grapes after the vintage. The Romish calendar is crowded with saints. They cannot find room in the circle of the seasons, for all whom the pope delighted to honor. But there are more real saints written in heaven than false ones in Romish heraldry. Daily, ever since men were multiplied on the earth, have the saved streamed through the strait gate into life, and now a multitude whom no man can number inhabit the mansions of the Father s house. He added the saved to the Church: added them in the act of saving, saved in the act of adding. He does not add a withered branch to the vine; but in the act of inserting it, makes the withered branch live. When pure water is drawn from the salt sea, it is added to the clouds in heaven. In being drawn from the salt sea, these fresh drops are added to the white clouds of the sky. It is thus that the Lord adds the saved to the Church, winning them from a sea of wickedness, and leaving their bitterness behind. " Daily " some are added: every day some; but only while it is day this process goes on. The night cometh wherein no man can work, not even the Son of Man,
Son of God. He is now about his Father s business: he is finishing the work given him to do. He works, works, works, in wrenching lost men from the devil, the world, and the flesh, and inserting them as living members of his own body for eternal life. "To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts," for the day is wearing away, the day of grace. The night com eth, cometh; how stealthily it is creeping on, the night wherein not even this Great Worker can work any more. In the last, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, " If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
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