DEAR BRETHREN: In times like the present it is well for us, as Christians, to pause and look around us, and ask ourselves the question, where are we going, and to what point are we tending.
Sin in all of its hideous forms, like a mighty deluge is sweeping over our once peaceful and happy land, and carrying, in its awful train many who once espoused the cause of Christ, and were often seen in the house of prayer, and nightly surrounded the altar of prayer with the dear ones whom God had given them, and committed them to the Father of their spirits, and the giver of every good and perfect gift. Would it not.be well for us, members of Christ's visible Church, to stop and reflect upon our own spiritual condition; the most difficult, and yet the most important of all Christian duties. Ancient Israel would not consider, and is there not great danger that we, too, may provoke the wrath of God by failing to recognize the signs of the times.
The Church of Jesus Christ, numerically, is made up of individual members, and so it is spiritually, and the Church, as such, is what the individual members make it when congregated together. If the individual members are spiritually dead, the Church is dead. If they are all living stones in the temple of God, then the Church is alive, and has put on her beautiful garments, and is prepared for the great
spiritual contest which is before her; and can successfully grapple with all her enemies, "the powers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness in high places." The work before us is to attain to this high position, ever remembering the source of our strength, and relying upon the strong arm of Jesus fbr support. There is no point in religion at which the Christian stands still, he must either, like the "sow that was washed, return to his wallowing again in the mire," or daily become more like Christ.
Personal piety ought to be the chief object of every Christian, for without it it is impossible for us to please God, and we fail in the object of our search - true happiness. The mission of the Christian in the world, is to honor God, and promote the welfare of his fellow men, and by so doing, he himself is blessed in his deeds. It is only the pious man that can be happy, for he has the promise of the life which now is, and that which is to come.
Personal piety may be promoted by the use of all the means which God in his providence has placed within our reach. A faithful attendance upon the worship of God in the public congregations, is the the duty of every professed follower of the meek and lowly Saviour. No trivial excuse should be allowed to intervene between the Christian and duty, ever remembering the promise, that "they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount upon wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, and walk and not faint."
Another duty is to be present at the prayer meetings of the Church, a place sadly neglected in these days of religious declension. Every Christian man should be a praying man. How can a man fail to commune with his Heavenly Father, who has ever had the love of Christ shed abroad in his heart. Well did the poet say:
"Satan trembles when he sees,
The weakest saint upon his knees."
Realizing the power and efficiency of prayer in the overturning of the kingdom of darkness.
Another means of promoting personal piety is, statedly attend the Sabbath School in the capacity of teacher, superintendent, or scholar. For 'tis there the word of God is studied, which is able to make us wise unto salvation, and "which is as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path." The word of God is a great chart to guide us through this world to a world of bliss and happiness, at God's right hand in heaven.
We oftentimes spend more time and labor to excuse, ourselves to our own consciences, for some dereliction in duty, than would have
been required to have faithfully performed the duty. As strange as it may seem, we try as hard to deceive ourselves, as we do others, and often times succeed. Well did the Prophet say, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it."
The man that would seek after personal piety, should carefully use the talent or talents which have been given him by God. They are all given for our good, and we are to be the recipients of the blessings derived from a proper use of them. And yet what slothful servants we often prove ourselves to be, when we are to receive all the labor of our own hands. Has God given us one talent, let us use it to the best advantage; if two, the responsibility is increased; if five, our obligations are still enlarged, but if faithfully used, the richer will be the reward, "For to him that hath shall be given, but to him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath." No duty, however small, can be neglected without loss. The committal of one sin always prepares the way for the second, and so on, without number.
Brethren, we live in eventful times, the times of years, both religious and social, are frequently sundered; and no marks of their former existence remains, and new associations are formed, which in bygone days, would have astonished those now forming them. Old and tried friends are set aside and contemned, and strangers are embraced as our bosom companions. Brethren are alienated, one from the other, those who once took sweet counsel together, and went up to the house of the Lord in company; and now the ungodly are the companions of the saints of the most high God. And why these sad changes in the affections and actions of brethren? Is it because the love of Christ constrains us to this course? Has the day come when the children of light love the company of the children of darkness? Or have our hearts become so insensible to the love of Jesus that the exciting political revolutions of the day absorb every other feeling of our hearts. Oh, that we could always feel and realize the power arid energy of the Divine Spirit in our hearts, so that we would love the image of Jesus wherever we behold it, and have that charity which, covers a multitude of sins. The Saviour said, "Offences must needs come, but woe unto him by whom they come." Let us exercise that charity to others which we ask for ourselves - as we forgive so are we forgiven. And may it be said of us, as of the early disciples of Christ, "Behold how they love one another." ============[From Long Run Baptist Association Minutes, 1864; via the Southern Baptist Seminary Library, Archives and Special Collections, Louisville, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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