The New Zealand Evangelist
The Church In Earnest
The Church In Earnest.
The Rev. J. A. James, of Birmingham, has recently published an admirable practical work, entitled, “The Church in Earnest.” It is an accompaniment to a volume of the same character, published some two or three years ago, called “An Earnest Ministry, the Want of the Times.” Though avowedly page 258 for the benefit of his own Denomination, yet breathing throughout that truly Catholic spirit, for which the author is so pre-eminently distinguished, it may be read with great advantage by Christains of any Communion. We select as a specimen the following extracts:
“There is a very painful fact which both parents and ministers attest and lament, that very few of the sons of our more wealthy members become truly pious. Many of the daughters are brought under the influence of true piety, and come into our followship, but comparatively few of the sons. I am aware that as a general fact, far more women are pious than men; but the disproportion is, I think, still greater in the class to which I now allude, than in any other. Many concurring causes will account for this. Young men go out into the world, and are exposed to its temptations, while the daughters remain at home under the sheltering care of their parents. It requires greater moral courage in a young man to profess religion than in a female. Young men are more swallowed up in business, and have their minds more drawn away from religion, by this means. They are more exposed to the influence of bad companions, and are more in the way of being injured by scepticism, and heresy. They are allured to out-of-door recreations and games, which lead them into company. And from the fact of a large proportion of pious people being females, young men are carried away with the flippant notion that religion is a matter pertaining to the weaker sex, rather than to them. These things will account for the fact to which I here allude, which is indeed a very painful one. Our Churches and our Institutions need the aid of pious young men of this class. We know the soul of a female is as precious in the sight of God as one of the opposite sex, and we know how valuable are female influence and agency in all religious matters; but women cannot be in such things a substitute for page 259 men: and, therefore, we do lament that so few of our respectable young men become truly pious.
To what use ought this painful fact be turned, and to what specific efforts should it give rise? First of all, it should lead Christain parents, to pay a more diligent and anxious attention to the religious education of their sons. Daughters must not be neglected, but sons must have special pains taken with them. As in good agriculture most labour is bestowed on an unproductive soil, to make it yield a crop, so in the religious culture of the heart, the main solicitude should be directed to the boys. Mothers, I beseech you, look to these, and from the very dawn of reason exert your more plastic influence over their more sturdy nature. Be anxious for your sons, think of their danger and their difficulty. Imagine, sometimes, that you see that lovely boy a future prodigal, lost to himself, to his parents, to the church, and to society, and yourself dying under the sorrows of a heart broken by his misconduct; at other times, look upon the enrapturing picture of his rising up to be a minister of religion, or the deacon of a church, foremost in aiding the religious institutions of the day, and yielding the profits of a successful business to the cause of God in our dark world. Oh, dedicate that boy to God, with all the fulness of a mother's love, both for him and his Lord, and pour over him all the influences of a mother's judicious care and culture. Fathers, I say to you also, look well to your sons; be doubly laborious, and doubly prayerful in reference to them. Be the friend, the companion, the counsellor of your sons, as well as their father.
Mothers, much devolves upon you. Scarcely a character of eminence has ever appeared, either in the church or in the state, but confessed his obligations to a judicious mother. Pious mothers have done more to people heaven than any other class of persons, next to the preachers of the gospel; and even the usefulness of ministers must be shared with those who had prepared the minds of their converts page 260 to receive impressions from their sermons. Napoleon once asked Madame Campania what the French nation most wanted. Her reply was compressed in one word—“Mothers.” It was a wise, beautiful, and comprehensive answer. Ask me what the church of God wants, next to earnest ministers, and I answer—intelligent, pious, earnest mothers.
The Earnest Hearer.
The earnest hearer is the constant hearer, the punctual hearer, the devout hearer. There is a spirit of indolence, self-indulgence, and mischievous neglience creeping over the churches, most fatal to fervent devotion, in reference even to the Sabbath-day attendance. Very many of the members of our religious communities, of all denominations, go but once a week to the House of God; and this is on a Sabbath morning. All the rest of the holy day is spent in idleness, perhaps feasting and lounging over the wine through the afternoon; turning over the pages of a magazine, with little devotion and with no profit, in the evening. If these persons were in their closets, studying the Word of God, engaged in self-examination and prayer, mortifying their corruptions, and invigorating their graces, we should think less of it.—but is this their occupation? I fear this love of ease is eating out the piety of our churches, and gradually turning the Sabbath into a day of luxurious repose, instead of Christian devotion. Modern tastes are sadly at war with modern piety. It seems as if many of the professing Christians of the day, were trying with how little attendance upon the ordinances of public worship, how little of self-denial, and how little a public manifestation of their religion, they could satisfy their conscience—and alas! how very little that is.
The Best Antidote Against Infidelity.
It is the energy of the heart, which, in the human frame, nerves the arm to defend the head; so is it in the spiritual system. After Dr. D'Aubigne's page 261 conversion to God, and after he had begun to preach Christ with fulness of faith, he was so assailed and perplexed in coming into Germany, by the sophisms of Rationalism, that he was plunged into unutterable distress, and passed whole nights without sleeping, crying to God from the bottom of his heart, or endeavouring by his arguments and syllogisms without end, to repel the attacks of the adversary. In his perplexity he visited Kleuker, a venerable divine at Kiel, who for forty years had been defending Christianity against the attacks of infidel theologians. Before this admirable man D'Aubigné laid his doubts and difficulties for solution; instead of doing this Kleuker replied, “Were I to succeed in ridding you of them, others would soon rise up. There is a shorter, deeper, and more complete way of annihilating them. Let Christ be realiy to you the Son. of God, the Saviour, the Author of eternal life. Only be firmly settled in his grace, and then these difficulties of detail will never stop you: the light which proceeds from Christ, will disperse all darkness.” This advice, followed as it was by a study with a pious fellow traveller at an inn at Kiel, of Paul's expression, “Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” relieved him of all his difficulties. After reading together this passage, they prayed over it; “When I arose,” says this illustrious man, in that room at Kiel, I felt as if my wings were renewed as the wings of eagles. From that time forward I comprehended that my own syllogisms and efforts were of no avail; that Christ was able to do all by his power that worketh in us; and the habitual attitude of my soul was to be at the foot of the cross, crying to him, ‘Here am I, bound hand and foot, unable to move, unable to do the least thing to get away from the enemy who oppresses me. Do all thyself. I know that thou wilt do it, thou wilt even do exceeding abundantly above all that I ask, I was not disappointed. All my doubts were soon dispelled, and not only was I page 262 delivered from that inward anguish, which in the end would have destroyed me, had not God been faithful, but the Lord extended unto me peace like a river. If I relate these things, it is not as the history of myself alone—but of many pious young men, who in Germany, and even elsewhere, have been assailed by the raging waves of Rationalism. Many, alas! have made shipwreck of their faith, and some have even violently put an end to their lives.”
The defence of the Christian, and therefore of the church—the establishment of the individual member, and of the whole of the church in the truth, depends more upon faith than upon reason, and is to be sought rather in the grace of the heart, than in the strength of the intellect—and therefore to become feeble in piety is to let down our defences, and to expose ourselves to the enemy. It is to the blessing of God on the internal vigour of her own piety, that the church is indebted for her stability, more than to those out works which are cast up from time to time by her ablest defenders.