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A DIMINUTION OF ATTENDANCE UPON THE HOUSE OF GOD. The influence of the mere presence of each member of the church, is mighty. The influence of his absence, mightier still. His absence, if unnecessary, discourages the preacher, and is a comment upon the work of God which sinners easily read. Yet a dropping off, in the attendance of professors of religion, is not uncommon. Many of them begin the revival-season well. They come to the first prayer-meetings. They hear the first sermons. Their goodness is a morning cloud; and as the early dew it goeth away.
WORLDLY BUSINESS. It is a hard lesson for christians to learn that their business is God's, if such that they have a right to pursue it; and that God's work is theirs. They are not the proprietors of their worldly concerns, but only agents. If the Proprietor calls us off, and by his providence and Spirit points us to the revival, as the scene of chief labor for the present, there we must be. While such is the indication, there we must stay :-only caring meanwhile that His other business takes no harm. When the members of the church "cannot afford time from business," the work is likely to cease.
WORLDLY COMPANY. When christians go again for their happiness, into circles where religion is not ascendant, or court or admit the attentions of the irreligious and the gay-it is saying decisively that we have no further occasion for the company of the Holy Spirit.
HABITUAL AND EASILY BESETTING SINS. The first step, on engaging in a revival, is to part with these. If they are resumed, the work ceases. Too often, the christian has not slain his sins; nor was it his calculation to slay them. He only laid them by; to take them up, perhaps with new zest.
OUR SELFISH ENDS ANSWERED. Numbers and strength have been added to the church. My own house has shared in the blessing. I have received a new impulse: it has been a season of comfort to my soul; my doubts and darkness are scattered; my backslidings healed. My child, my husband, or my parent has been saved.
These are blessed results. But ends no higher, no larger, are selfish; and if we rest when they are gained, the work will cease. Thus saith the Lord God, I do not this for your sakes, but FOR MY HOLY NAME'S SAKE.
A VAGUE IMPRESSION THAT THE WORK WILL GO ON. If the idea obtains, that the preaching is good; the preacher wise and successful; the church humble and prayerful; the congregation deeply moved; the Spirit powerfully operating ;-and therefore, irrespectively of the part individuals may act, the work will advance, it is likely to cease.
PRAYER INTERMITTED. Exalt God less; recognize, realize less, your entire dependence on the Almighty Spirit; let prayer flag in the closet, prayer-meetings become thin and lifeless, and the conviction less fixed and less felt, that this work advances only as GOD IS HERE,and the work will cease: IT HAS CEASED.
IV. Why should this work NOT CEase ?
The work HONORS GOD. When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. It is in transforming the sinful heart, and and in training his child for his service and kingdom, that God best displays his glory. When, by the outpouring of his Spirit, he multiplies these results, as the drops of dew, or the leaves of spring, it is the brightest view of grace, that earth, or heaven, knows.
THE PRESENCE OF GOD. He speaks much of times of visitation, and of refreshing from his presence and insists that his people shall improve them. "A present God is all our strength, and all our joy and hope." Wo to them when I depart from them!
THE PROMISES OF GOD. Many, varied, full, sincere, exceeding great and precious. Often tested, and never known to fail.
THE NUMBER ALREADY CONVERTED. That this has been considerable, should only prompt to greater desire and effort. It is so in other things to have, is to desire more,-success gives birth to enterprise. Why not in the case of the best of blessings:--and on the part of their Giver, untold resources, a warm heart, and the most encouraging offers ?
THE ESTABLISHING OF CONVERTS. No school for them like a revival; the revival in which they were born. Let them learn here, the elements of truth, the guidance and witness of the Spirit, the source of their strength, the blessedness of bringing others to Jesus. Let him that heareth, say Come. The conversion of the convert is not his last step, but his first. Let these happy influences remain about him, till he shall have taken many a manly stride.
IT IS A DELIGHTFUL WORK. It is drawing from the richest fount of joy in the sanctified heart; since "it is more blessed to give than to receive." It is mingling with our friends in the scene of their overflowing love, their first real happiness. It is sympathy, in desire and employment and the delights of success, with the Savior!
THE INFLUENCE OF THIS WORK, ON OTHER CHURCHES. It is a token for good, a hold upon heaven, when the Spirit is operating in a neighboring church. The hope is, that the happy contagion will reach us: that God, who has come so nigh, will favor our Zion. Praying ones are encouraged to cry, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for us? Bless us, even us also, O our Father!
THE WORTH OF THE SOUL.
With its immortal nature; its deep affections; its ever enlarging capacities for bliss, or for wo; its ransom, no less than "the precious blood of Christ,"-the soul is to be converted, or lost; and that soon!
THE NUMBER OF THE UNCONVERTED. Many are "anxious"; many evince earlier stages of sensibility; many are unawakened.
THE CHARACTER OF THE UNCONVERTED. It may be that they are "the hardened," "those who have passed through many revivals," and" the opposers." They have indeed withstood powerful influences, these many days. But shall the work for this reason cease, and the Spirit be withdrawn, and these be left to certain death?
THE NEARNESS of MANY TO OURSELVES. By blood, and by strong
affection, they are dear to us. We love them, as our own souls. All the close relationships of life are here. And can we deliberately con-cur in separations which now exist; and which, remaining to the close of this work, are so likely to exist forever? Could we all agree today, where this revival shall stop,-which of our houses it shall not enter?
THE INFLUENCE THAT THE CONVERSION OF A SOUL MAY SET IN MOTION. The conversion of a layman, Page, is supposed to have resulted in the direct conversion of one hundred others. To how many more, God blessed his influence, in life, in death, and now, when being dead, he yet speaketh, will not be known on earth. How many more might have been converted through the labors of that useful man, but før his early departure, it is impossible to conjecture. But suppose his labors blessed in the saving of one hundred,-nay of fifty souls. Suppose each one of those, or half of them, possessed of his zeal and his faith, and instrumental in the conversion, each one of many more. And they, in their turn; and so on, till time shall end," the circles widening as they recede."
Suppose a young man converted, who becomes educated, and preaches the gospel. In connection with his labors, it pleases God to save many hundreds. Of these, many inherit the spirit of self-denying labor for the cause of the Redeemer. Not a few become preachers: some, missionaries of the cross. Many a mother, among those con-verts, now begins to train her children for heaven. Many of the youth,. in after life are parents, and train their children for God. Who can calculate the influence of the conversion of that young man? And if one such trophy may be secured to the Savior in this revival; or one person saved, who shall accomplish a fraction of that good,-why should the work cease?
Finally, if the work ceases, it is that we "GO DOWN" AGAIN INTO CARELESSNESS AND SIN. The close of a revival is as sad, as its commencement is happy. The church laying down their watch, and relaxing their effort and prayer, and the irreligious falling into indifference, must compensate the adversary it would seem for the inroads he has suffered. Shall this be? Can we bear the thought?
V. How may we secure the continuance of the work?
Continue all that we have done, to invite the presence of the Spirit; and to promote the work. Abandon all that may have hindered its more powerful progress. Cherish your interest in the revival. Be present amid its moving scenes. Learn within those walls, how little is the world; how valuable is the soul; how great is God! Be humble; be watchful; be solemn; be prayerful.
If you have withheld your presence, and your hearty co-operation repent. Now throw yourself into the work. Show that you have enough religion, enough sympathy with the Savior, enough regard for the souls of men, to concur in the saving operations of the Spirit.
If you cannot show this:-if it is not so: then inquire into your own standing before God. Inquire whether there is not the first and best of reasons, why you, you should enter into this work: whether this revival may not have been sent to rescue one at least from a state as fearful as avowed impenitence!
It only remains, therefore, that we press onward. I seem to hear that cheering order, Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward. Tire not. Let your trust be in God. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse. Lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left. Thus the work shall not cease. "The Lord is with you, while ye be with Him."
EXCUSES FOR NOT BEING A CHRISTIAN.
"I pray thee have me excused."-Luke xiv: 18.
"MANY and various are the excuses which men plead for neglecting religion when its importance is pressed on their attention. All have some excuse, but among them all there is not one which is valid now, or which will prove well grounded in the day of judgment. Some of the excuses which are urged are indeed very deceptive. It is not uncommon to hear individuals say "I wish I were a christian, but I do not know how to become one." Impossible. To wish to be a christian, and actually to be one, are the same thing. Still many persons use this language, "I wish I were a christian but do not know how to become one;" and this discourse is designed to show you, my hearer, not how to gratify your supposed wish, but to show you that if you are not a christian, you have, in fact, no wish to become one. There are reasons why you have not; which, though they are sometimes expressed, oftener lie coiled up secretly in the heart, and are only perceived when they are distinctly pointed out. Some of these will be brought to view in this discourse; and the hearer, while he considers them, should carefully inquire whether he is not himself under the influence of them; so as, in fact, not to wish to be a christian; so that, though he may wish for the safety and the happiness which he imagines piety would bring, he does not really wish for the reign of piety itself in his heart.
I. I am too young to attend to religion.-Some have a secret feeling, that they are so young, that it is not necessary for them to attend to
religion. You may regard religion as very suitable for those who are advanced in life, and especially for the aged and the dying; but the world and its pleasures appear so bright and alluring, that you think it hardly reasonable to expect that you will give them up at present. You cannot attend to religion now. But, consider carefully, for a moment, the import of this language. What is it to attend to religion? It is to obey God. God commands you to remember now your Creator, in the days of your youth; to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He commandeth all men every where to repent; and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. These commands are not addressed to the old exclusively, but to all, and more especially to the young; because there are peculiar promises and encouragements held out to those who seek God early. To attend to religion in a proper manner, is nothing more or less than to obey these commands. To neglect religion, is to disobey these commands. Those, who repent of their sins, believe in Christ, give him their hearts, and devote themselves to his service-those, and those only, attend to religion in a manner that is acceptable to God. This is religion, and there is nothing else that deserves the name. Those, on the contrary, neglect religion, who live impenitent, slight the invitations of Christ, pursue the pleasures of the world, doing more to please themselves and their fellow-men, than they do to please God.
Now look at your excuse. You may perhaps understand it better. Too young to attend to religion; that is, too young to obey the God that made you, and on whom you are dependent for every breath you draw. Too young to love and serve the God of heaven! Are you not, on the other hand, too young to be without religionto disobey God-to set yourselves in opposition to the Most Highto say to the Lord Jesus, who died to redeem you,-I will not have this man to reign over me? Is it well for the young and tender youth to assume an attitude like this? God says, 'My son-my daughter, give me thine heart.' When does he command you to do this? to-morrow?-or next week?—or next year?—or when you have arrived to old age? No,-he commands you to do it to-day. You cannot then neglect religion, without directly disobeying this command of the most high God. And does the circumstance that you are young, furnish a good reason why you should do this? Put your excuse into plain language, and see how it will sound. I am young, therefore I will disobey God; I will set his authority at defiance; I will seek my happiness in the world, instead of seeking it in his service. And though the Savior, who has died for my redemption, follows me with his earnest and pressing invitations, I will slight them all; I will neglect his great salvation.-Would you be willing deliberately to adopt language like this? But this is the real import of your language, when you say you are too young to attend to religion.
Consider again; are you too young to die? Have you never