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I. And this leads me to lay down this general principle
God's privileges, the gifts which He bestows, and the advantages which He confers on some, are never intended to be exclusive. They are never meant to dishearten men and to drive them to despair, but always to be the means of drawing men to Himself.
This is not at all a favorite view of the Church and its privileges with some—and some, too, who undertake very loudly to speak for God, and to interpret His mind to the world in our day. Their favorite notion is, not that the Church is composed of all who will obey the drawing of God, but of those on whom God has, in the exercise of His sovereign will, set a mark, and whom He so draws as to compel them to come. The Church, on this supposition, consists, of course, of a strictly privileged class, in whose privileges the outside world may never hope to share. The man who is unmarked, whom the sovereign election has passed by, may look in, just as a beggar might peep wistfully into a banquet hall which is open only to kings. Whoso can believe that this is a true account of the ways of God, of the God who is Love, let him believe it. I thank God that I find it impossible. God calls all, He calls you. The banquet is spread for all, it is spread for you. The door is open to all, it is open to you. The message is pressed on all, it is pressed on you. The servants lay hold on all, they lay hold on you, and compel you by the soft compulsion of love to come in.
It is a condition of high privilege of great, eminent, glorious joy and hope. A Christian, if he believed it, would not change his position and hopes, even in rags, sickness, and outward misery, with the archangel before the throne. For which of the angels has been called a brother of Christ, and an heir of everlasting glory. But if any man say "these privileges and hopes are mine,
because I am happy enough to belong to a sealed number, a number to which poor sinners are not called, who are not privileged like me,” he wrongs God, he wrongs God's great Love, in his thoughts. If, further, he says this, as the Pharisees did, by his spirit and manner as he moves about among his fellowmen, he dishonours God's name, he drags, as far as he can do it, His glory, the glory of His redeeming love to the world, in the dust. If God gives to one man advantages which He denies to another, it is that the first may be His minister to bring that other to share in His joy. I believe this to be universally true of the privileges and advantages which God confers on nations and on men. He means them to be ministries. He means brother to minister to brother; and ministry, like mercy, is "twice blessed; it blesseth him that gives and
“ him that takes." It lies at the root of all the higher developments of society; it is God's ordinance for the completing of His work of benediction in the world.
Unless a Church or a Christian be attracting men, ever saying to them by look, voice, manner, hand, “ Come with us and we will do thee good,” it is simply doing what the Jews did, causing the name of God to be blasphemed. Nothing so makes men to blaspheme as to be told that God has placed this man in a position, and has called him with a calling, which that man cannot hope to share. And this is what the doctrine which is preached in many popular pulpits comes to. It is of no use to try to take off the edge of the difficulty by saying,
True, there is this effectual calling of some, and this leaving of others uncalled to perish, but no man can read the names in the book of God's decrees, so no man can say he is wrongfully dealt with in comparison with another, inasmuch as no man can be sure, or even has the right to think, that his name is not there.” The principle of action is the one thing in question here with all honest minds; and when they are told that this is the principle of God's action, and read in God's book, “ARE NOT MY WAYS EQUAL, SAITH THE LORD ?” they say plainly, either there must be a more righteous and loving explanation of God's ways, or that sentence, with every word which dwells on His love" to man, yea, to the rebellious also," must be blotted out of His book. “I would that not thou only, but also all that hear me, were not almost but altogether such as I am, except these bonds,” said a God-inspired man. The God who inspired him says the same by him to us—to every individual member of the lost human race. I now proceed to dwell on the invitation. It should be the spoken, the silent utterance of every Christian man, of every Christian household, of every Christian Church. That it should be so was manifestly God's purpose in separating men from the corrupting mass around them, and bringing them near unto Himself. They were to be educators, purifiers, ministers to the world around them, to bring them, by the soft bands of loving, human agency, into fellowship with their God, their “God and Father reconciled in Christ Jesus.”
II. The invitation which, in the name of the Christian community of which I am the minister, I urge on you,“ COME I
I endeavour to present it under four forms:
4. Come with us to the Home of the Great Family in Heaven.
1. Come with us to the House of God.
I believe that God never gave to man a more blessed boon than the day of rest. But like all God's other gifts, just in
. proportion to its preciousness is it despised and profaned by
those to whom its ministries are most important, and its benediction most large and complete. I am not here thinking of attempting to place it on the ground of legal obligation. I am not trying to prove to Sabbath-breakers that they are sinners against a law in neglecting to honour God's day. How few, even in these days, understand that “we are not under the law but under grace.” It is not a law of the Sabbath which
you are breaking, but something which it is yet more terrible to sin against, God's loving and gracious counsel, in creating for you a day of rest, and guarding it, as man cannot guard it by the most elaborate positive laws. How much almost fatal mischief has been done by the extent to which this day of rest has been treated as a legal obligation, and men have been charged as transgressors of a legal commandment, instead of as despisers of a gracious boon! Still, as of old, the law but developes sin. We want a Gospel of the Sabbath sadly—a
— Gospel which shall secure its honour, by revealing it as the good gift of God. It is on this ground alone that I urge the subject on you in this place. I want you to feel how good the ordinance is, and to love it for its goodness, and to love the Lord who gave it, and who guards it, as man could never guard it, by His Spirit in the Church.
In Genesis ii, 1-3, we find these words, “ Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." From what did God rest? From activity ? Surely not; but simply from creation ; from what, under human conditions, is conceived of as
h the toil of production. His activity and energy, continued during the seventh day to sustain and to quicken the universe which He had made. “MY FATHER WORKETI HITHERTO, AND I ALSO WORK," was the answer of the Saviour to the charge that He had done something on the seventh day not expressly counted among the lawful, because necessary, Sabbath works. God rested; but His rest was the sustaining of the Creation, the upholding of the order, beauty, and fruitfulness of the world. The sun, at His bidding, that morning, came forth with his wonted splendour, the earth flushed with joy, to meet the eye of her bridegroom, and spread all her glorious beauty forth to respond to his passionate gaze. That was God's Sabbath day's work. And man is to rest in his measure like God, -a rest of joyful, holy activity; the activity of that which is highest and most God-like in him; not the rest of a brute, sleeping lazily before a fire. How many of you spend your idle, joyless Sundays just like a dog before a hearth. You lie as long as you can, get up as late as you can, loll, lounge, smoke, drink, gossip till it is time to lie down again, spending the most lazy, useless, lifeless, cheerless day of all the seven, and then wake up next morning jaded and weary, in heart at any rate, and begin the dreary round of joyless work. That is not a man's rest; it is a brute's. Man is a spirit, and man's spirit rests only in communing with God, and doing the Father's mission. The rest which man wants is a pure breath of the air of that heavenly region, which is the native home of his spirit, that he may brace himself for his daily toil by intercourse with Him who has ordained the task, in loving fatherly wisdom, and whose approval is never wanting when the work has been faithfully done. The man who has lifted his soul up from the earth by such contemplations on the first day of the week, will find himself strong to resist the temptation to grovel during the rest. He will go to his work, hard as it may be, uncongenial as it may be to his tastes and habits of thought, with a higher view of it, what it is, what it means, what it secures.