The following message was selected from Notes of Sermons by J. M. Pendleton. In the "Prefatory Note", written in 1886 from Bowling Green, Kentucky, Dr. Pendleton stated these sermons were preached while he was pastor in Upland, Pennsylvania.
AN UNFAITHFUL CHURCH IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION
". . . I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent," Revelation 2:5.
This is solemn language, for it intimates that an unfaithful church may become extinct.
Who, acquainted with ecclesiastical history, can deny this?
How many churches once flourishing have no existence now?
How many moral lights, once shining brightly, have been eclipsed, shrouded in total darkness?
This had been the penalty for disobedience.
The church, in what I may call the generic sense of the term, will never become extinct.
The gates of hell will not prevail against her.
But local churches may lose their visibility.
Where is now the church of Ephesus?
It is no more.
The candlestick has been removed.
The theme naturally suggested by the text is this:
AN UNFAITHFUL CHURCH IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION
In illustration of this theme I will consider --
I. The Purposes of Church Organization. What are they?
1. The spiritual improvement of Christians.
The Savior recognized and sanctified the social principle in the establishment of churches.
His disciples are brought together, embodied by means of their church relations.
A church is compared by Paul to a human body, and all the members are to have a sympathetic concern for one another.
This concern must have its origin in mutual love.
But how are church members to promote mutual spiritual improvement? I answer:
a. By frequently meeting together and maintaining the worship of God, Hebrews 10:25.
b. By hearkening to the teachings of the pastor, whose business it is to feed the sheep and the lambs, John 21:15, 16, 17; Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:2.
c. By exhorting one another and praying for one another, Hebrews 3:13; James 5:16.
d. By stimulating to love and good works, Hebrews 10:24.
e. By admonishing those who sin, Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3.
f. By withdrawing fellowship from the disorderly, Matthew 18:17; II Thessalonians 3:6.
The question in I Corinthians 5:5, must not be forgotten. These things, if done by the church members, will promote spiritual improvement.
2. The salvation of sinners.
Every church must look to this.
Every member must strive for the conversion of souls.
The light of a church must shine, Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15; I Peter 2:12.
It is the business of a church to sustain the ministry of the word, not only with reference to the edification of its members, but with a view toward the conversion of sinners.
Individual effort must enforce the appeals of the pulpit.
Personal labor cannot be dispensed with.
A church that does nothing for the cause of missions cannot be in a healthful state.
She has the bread of heaven in her custody, and must distribute it to earth's starving millions.
3. The promotion of the divine glory.
This is a purpose superior to every other.
It is the supreme purpose of church organization, and is accomplished by means of the two purposes just referred to.
That is to say, when saints are edified and sinners saved, God is glorified; when they are not, God is dishonored.
This is too plain to be called in question.
II. A Church that Fails to Execute the Purposes of Its Organization is in Danger of Becoming Extinct.
Why is this the case?
1. Because such a church is peculiarly liable to embrace false doctrines.
The moral state of individuals and churches has much to do in the espousal or rejection of correct sentiments.
The propagators of error make an easy prey of a lifeless, lethargic church.
When a church rejects fundamental doctrines or nullifies the ordinances of the gospel, it forfeits the right to be called a church, and becomes "a synagogue of Satan."
2. Because such a church must decline in numbers.
We have seen that the salvation of sinners is one object contemplated in church organization.
Now if a church is not instrumental in saving sinners, how is its number to be increased?
There will be a decrease of numbers.
Death is ever at work.
Church members die as well as others.
If no additions are made to a church it must, in the lapse of years cease to be.
All can see how this is.
3. Because such a church giving a false representation of Christianity, God, jealous of his honor, may remove the candlestick out of its place.
Such a church gives a slanderous report of the religion of Christ.
God may see that it is better for the interests of his cause that so unfaithful a church should not be.
He may see that one enemy in the camp of the saints can do more injury than a thousand foes without.
He may take to heaven some of the spiritual members of such a church, if there are spiritual members, and others under his guiding providence may seek new homes, and the worldly-minded may go back to the world.
Then the extinction is complete.
The candlestick is removed.
Darkness takes the place of light.
Sad, sad change!
III. Though a church may be in danger of extinction, repentance will prevent so deplorable a doom.
"Except thou repent."
Without repentance the candlestick is to be removed.
Nothing else will prevent its removal.
There must be deep contrition on account of the failure to carry out the purposes of church organization.
Tears, lamentations, confessions, and prayers, are imperatively called for.
There must be amendment.
Reformation will show the sincerity of repentance, and nothing else will.
Repentance, followed by reformation, will secure the permanence of the candlestick in its place.
I. Is the church of which you are a member like that of Ephesus?
II. If so, let the work of repentance begin at once.
III. How good is God to forgive repenting backsliders!
[Document provided by Robert Ashcraft via Ben Stratton. Formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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