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The Influence of Fellowship in the Lord.
293 Aaron's beard ; that went down to the skirts of his garments ; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion ; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” That is the great text of the Bible on the beauty of Christian Brotherly Love; let it preach-and preach eloquently—to us all. Let us cultivate this love more and more. Let us make it as warm as we can-as broad as we can. Let us try to discover each other's excellencies; and if we must find fault, let us expend the ungenial passion upon ourselves. All Christians, even the most uncomely, have some redeeming qualities ; let us find out these, and let them touch our hearts, not only into complacency, but also into emulation. Let us be careful to avoid all words, deeds, and courses of life, which can legitimately grieve our brethren. In all our intercourse with them let us cherish, not the spirit of the lion, but that of the lamb—not the spirit of the vulture, but that of the dove. Better still would it be for all Christians—all orders of Christians—to worship together as often and as fully as possible at the feet of the same all-loving Saviour, and in the shadow of the same all-sacred cross. So shall we drink into Christ's own divine, unfathomable, exhaustless love; and taking our fill of that, we shall learn the better to love like Him.
How delightful is the thought that one day the love of Christ shall be omnipotent in all the earth, and that, when that day comes, 66 all men shall be lovers, and every calamity dissolved in the universal sunshine.”
THE INFLUENCE OF FELLOWSHIP IN THE LORD.
BY J. LAWTON, OF LOUTH.*
The faculties and nobler emotions by which man is distinguished cannot be displayed in an isolated position. Hence the proverbial expression“ One man is no man." To be a man completely developed, one must come out into social life, and move in a sphere influenced by the presence and power of other human beings. We must feel the force of the sympathies and examples of those with whom we enter into relationship. Fellowship gives strength.
While this principle may be abused, it may also be wisely and beneficially used. Hence the endeavours which are being made to bring the respective classes of the people into nearer association for definite practical objects. The power of association for diverse purposes was never more thoroughly appreciated than now. Never could the circles of association take so wide a radius with practical effect as now. Think of the rapidity with which the thought of the organizer can be “ wired” from town to town, from county to county, and from land to land; and the author of the thought conveyed to the place where his influence may be required. Nor are men slow to apply it. Trades' unions, labourers' unions, protestant associations, evangelical alliances, national temperance leagues, liberation societies, all testify to the facile and mighty energies of association.
This power was definitely recognized by our Lord. Whether all organizations connected with Christianity have been beneficial or not, it is certain Christianity was intended to take an organized form. Without such an organization, it would be incomplete and less effective for good. Still, it may be questioned, whether our church fellowship yields all the benefits purposed by Christ. Nevertheless, of all the bonds of union which bind
Substance of an Address delivered at the Association, Burnley.
men together, whether social, political, national, or religious, there are none so strong and influential for good as those which bind together the true servants of Christ. Its essential basis is a personal and spiritual relationship to Christ-a sense of everlasting indebtedness to Him for His redeeming love—a vital union with Him by faith and love. The reality of this union to the Lord is manifested by an avowal of a personal interest in Him, and by obedience to His will in spirit and in life. Here, too, are the means of its recognition by others. This recognition made, there is fellowship in Christ the Lord. The Christian speaking to his fellow Christian can adopt the language of Jehu to Jehonadab, 2 Kings x. 15—“Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart ? If it be, give me thine hand; and those hands may be clasped in fellowship for ever. Here is the basis of spiritual brotherhood. On this foundation rests our fellowship in Christ. On this basis may be formed (1.) a union of persons forming a local community, and meeting often in the name of Christ in the same place. Or (2.) a fellowship of Christian souls unexpected, occasional and spontaneous one sweet interview, to be renewed no more on earth, but assuredly by and by in heaven! Or (3.) a pre-arranged assembly of brethren from different parts of the land met for mutual encouragement, for holy invigoration, and for the extension of the kingdom of Christ, such as our Association forms. In each of these instances there may be Christian recognition and sympathy, at once animating and refreshing.
I. Three special phases of Christian fellowship deserve consideration : fellowship in worship; in counsel; and in work. Fellowship in worship has a blessed influence, for it deepens devotion. Those sacred feelings of reverence towards God and of love to Him, which it is a privilege to cultivate in private, are deepened and intensified by communion with others in the presence of the Lord. The manifestation of religious emotion has a reciprocal influence. Such emotion is rapidly and vigorously diffusive. “Iron sharpeneth iron, so doth a man the countenance of his friend." Private devotion is the soft sweet melody, the quiet song of the single heart. Devotion in fellowship is the same song, but with the combined harmony of parts, blending, rising, swelling into a grand chorus of praise
“Hearts all on fire, and feelings strong,
And souls all melting in our song." Private devotion is the appeal of one heart, calm, fixed, earnest. Devotion in fellowship, is the yearning of many hearts in fervid desire. One voice may audibly plead, and another, and several more, but all the while many souls are pressing the request at the throne of grace : the one Mediator's work the plea: the glory of the one blessed Christ in the happiness of men the end. Herein the ardour of spiritual desire gathers strength, surging emotions expand, till the longings of beating hearts find expression in the warm and united “ Amen.”
So is there devout fellowship in connection with the utterance of sacred thought for edification and comfort. Spiritual sympathy oft arises between speaker and listeners—a combined enjoyment of divine truth is realised, which is a rich and sacred festivity to the soul. In the mountain of the Lord is celebrated a "feast of fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined.” Isaiah xxv. 6.
This fellowship in worship, so invigorating and cheering, should be highly prized by us and carefully cultivated. In our families our prayer meetings, our congregations where we usually assemble, and in our annual meetings, we should value our communion in worship. Such fellowship
The Influence of Fellowship in the Lord.
295 will deepen our consciousness of spiritual brotherhood; it will promote due considerateness of each other's feelings and claims; it will prepare us the more readily to tone down that sharpness of expression which diversity of opinion naturally excites. Here is the reservoir of spiritual oil for the stilling of "troubled waters;" here a wise provision made by Him whom we honour as the Prince of peace. One is our Master, even Christ, and
are brethren." II. Fellowship in counsel is beneficial. Christian men oft need to give counsel one to another. The entire treasures of wisdom and knowledge are never laid
in any one mind, much less are they found in every mind. Each individual of each class of men is capable of some service which others are not. Some have a more ready perception than others of what is right and good. Some are more sanguine and adventurous than others. These would never be content to do the quiet plodding, but they have aid to render in important enterprises which others could not give. They have counsels to give which others may mature and apply.
In consultation for the promotion of the interests of the kingdom of Christ there will be varieties of view. But the variety will oft prove a source of enrichment. The many-sided view of truth and duty which fellowship in thought and counsel gives is at once the most comprehensive and correct.
From various plans may be devised one harmonious and efficient plan. Thus united counsel prepares for united and effective work. In relation to our general spiritual enterprises, and the management of our denominational institutions, the questions will necessarily arise—what is to be done ? and how can it best be accomplished ? Some will be quick in answering what, and others in replying how. Hence the advantage of union in counsel. Each may contribute to the general good, and all be partakers of the common advantage referred to by the apostle where he says, “ all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; all are yours; and ye are Christ's ; and Christ is God's.” 1 Cor. iii. 21-3.
Do not undervalue, then, my brethren, the mental, moral, and spiritual enrichment which fellowship in counsel gives.
III. Fellowship in sacred work brings advantage. From union issues power. A single drop of water will not turn the mill nor float the ship, but drops largely multiplied will do both. One man's labour
be little; but combined industry can accomplish marvels. Of what are the thousands upon thousands of yards of cloth-fabrics which these hives of industry in Lancashire and Yorkshire produce, composed ? Of single fibres of material, spun into single threads, for the most part fine and feeble. But these threads are combined, woven into lengths and breadths of fabric sufficient to clothe nations. A single thread would not clothe a babe, but the due combination will cover millions !
Fellowship in labour is animating and quickening. Surrounding activity stimulates the active, and awakens and pushes on the sluggish. Thus more work is done. As with the ordinary industries of life, so with spiritual work. A healthy stimulus is felt in united labour, whether in teaching, giving, or other efforts to conquer evil and subdue the world to Christ.
Hence, beloved brethren, our fellowship in Christ should be tenderly recognized, carefully guarded, and vigorously sustained. Our union in
worship, in counsel, and in work, should be appreciated and utilised for our own individual growth and happiness, for each other's welfare, for the good of mankind, and for the honour of Christ our glorious Lord.
Nor let us forget that the fellowship begun below will be renewed and perpetuated above. In a new sphere, under new conditions, it will still be fellowship with Christ and union with one another in worship, and in doing in all respects the will of our Father in heaven.
Remembering what we once were, and gratefully contrasting our present with our former state when we were astray from God and neglectful of our best interests, let us rejoice in our redemption, in our union to Christ, in our reconciliation to the Father, and in our communion one with another in the name of our gracious Lord.
“O sweet it is through life's dark way,
A DAY OF SPECIAL PRAYER.
ONE of our ministers referring to conversations held in the intervals of our recent Association meetings suggests that the first Sunday of October be set apart as a day of special prayer to God for the revival of the spiritual life throughout our churches: and that at least one sermon during the day should have reference to the need, spirit, and means of a revived life. A deacon of one of our churches laments the slow rate of our progress compared with the increase of the population, with the advance in chapel and school accommodation, and with the spread of Ritualistic practices ; and maintains that it is necessary the churches should be brought to the conviction that "it is not well with them, notwithstanding they have handsome chapels, pealing organs, and convenient Sabbath schools; and says, until our slow progress be felt as a real grief to the souls of both laymen and ministers, nothing will be done. We are at ease ; and rest in organizations, committees, and money.”
With all our heart, and soul, and strength, we would urge both the necessity and desirability of this day of special prayer. Can it be well with us, brethren, we diffidently and anxiously suggest, when the clear increase of our churches in a whole twelvemonth is not more than 365 souls ; and the entire number of those gathered into the fold of Christ from our families, and schools, and from beyond both, by all our agencies, reaches no higher than 1,675 More than 21,000 believers in the Lord Jesus Christ toiling for fifty-two weeks, have only these few sheaves to present to the Lord of the Harvest ! Ought these things to be so ? Do they not witness to some, nay, much feebleness of spiritual life?
I know and feel to a degree no words can adequately express, the extreme hazard we run in any endeavour to report accurately the spiritual condition of any church, much more of a large assemblage of churches. I am fully aware of the total inadequacy of our means of estimating the spiritual results of a single throb of the divine life in the soul of man.
Our vision is limited in its sweep, and sadly enfeebled in its intensity. Wrong principles of judgment are readily adopted. The scales in which we weigh success and failure are of human manufacture, and oftener bear the mark of the commercial exchange than the stamp of heaven. Only Christ Jesus
For a Revived Spiritual Life.
297 can say with a conclusiveness that is final, and an assurance that betrays no quivering doubt, "I KNOW thy labours, and thy patience, and how thou hast borne, and hast not fainted; nevertheless I have somewhat against thee.” His eyes are like a flame of fire, and His scrutiny can neither be resisted nor questioned. He walks in the midst of the seven lampbearers, and holds His ministers as stars in His hand, and His sentences on both minister and people admit of no appeal. He searches the reins and hearts, weighs the motives of workers with unspeakable accuracy, and commends as warmly the hidden graces that cluster round the heart, as the brilliant toil of the garlanded hero praised by the many-tongued crowd. He knows us altogether, and His judgment is full and entire, wanting nothing
But we, alas ! rarely photograph in our reports the placid countenance of silent suffering, the sweet serenity of meek endurance, the calm content won by years of self-scrutiny and self-repression; and have to be content with returning the number of recruits, the staff ready for service, and the more conspicuous successes achieved. We know not the laws and conditions of spiritual growth. We must judge by appearances if we judge at all ; and so judging we should, on the day before the Pentecostal morn, have written "failure” over against the report of our Lord's three years' ministry. Nay
Even when our own coldness has lowered the thermometer near us by several degrees, we may read it as though it were a true guage of the heat of the whole community. We can count our chapels, register the number of ministers and members, local preachers and Sabbath school teachers, and reckon up our contributions to the Lord's treasury: and it is well that we should do this, thanking God that His grace is not bestowed upon us in vain : but what know we of motive ? how can we estimate the poverty and riches of the heart ? where is our infallible measure of spiritual success ?
Still, when so many spirits sigh for renewal, when dissatisfaction with the low level of spiritual life is so wide spread, when our rate of increase bears so marked a disproportion to our intelligent hopes, we surely do well to stir up our hearts to take hold afresh of Him who is our life. Who knows? 'We may be as near to the dawn of signal triumphs as were the disciples when they returned from the farewell scenes of Olivet, and knew Christ after the flesh no more? Who can tell ? All that is needed now may be that we should meet with one accord and pray as the heart of one man really alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, and He will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. It is no more than He has promised. It is not more than He yearns to do.
But let us, above all things, take care that in our thoughts before hand, and in all the services of the consecrated day (for surely we shall welcome such a time), that we are real and true. It is not galvanism we want, but life. It is not a mere religious excitement, productive of transitory emotions, but the breath of God renewing and quickening the forces of our life and character. We desire not a solitary leap, but a permanent exaltation above the ordinary and poisonous atmosphere of worldliness, indolence, and materialism, into the pure and bracing air of heaven. Nothing is more essential in the search for a revived life than REALITY. There must be no feigning a sorrow that is not felt, no overweighted words in the confessions of sin, not a breath of falseness, or our quest will be unsatisfied, our prayer unanswered. Speaking of a time of renewed life, God says, “In those days, and in that time, the children of