Brethren, your Committee of Arrangements has asked me to say a few words to you as members of the Church Club, assembled in this house of God to keep the anniversary of your institution by the reception of the Blessed Sacrament.
To dwell on the importance of your organization and the success which has attended it in aiding the Church's great work in this metropolitan city, would seem not quite in place on an occasion like this. A few practical suggestions, such as the great Apostle would have addressed to his, disciples engaged in similar work, would seem more appropriate at such a service as that in which we are now engaged.
I shall, therefore, ask your attention to a pas sage in the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians at the fifty-eighth verse:
"My beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
The text naturally divides itself into three parts setting forth: First, the necessity of steadfastness in the faith; Secondly, the duty of diligence in good works; and Thirdly, the abundant reward which awaits the faithful laborer in the Lord's Vineyard.
Let us follow them in their order. "Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, in the faith of the Gospel, this is the exhortation of the Apostle, because ye believe in the reality of the world to come. [The words in the Original Greek here translated "steadfast, unmoveable," are used by St. Paul in Col. i. 23 to express "settled in the faith and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel."] I need hardly say that, in matters of faith, there must be with Churchmen no uncertainty, no shaking like a reed in the wind. With our feet planted upon the eternal rock of the sure Word of God, with the heart established by grace, with the mind settled in the verities of the truth as it is in Jesus, we must "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free," resting our belief in "the faith which was once" for all "delivered unto the saints." This requires, not only doctrinal soundness in the essentials of the Christian faith and holiness of life, but compliance with the discipline and worship of the Church which the Lord Jesus Christ established for the salvation and sanctification of the world. The statement is so clearly allied to any doctrine of salvation by grace, that it is difficult to understand how there can be any doubt of its truth. If it is of God's mere mercy that we are to be saved at all, if we have no claim upon Him for any thing except through covenant with Christ, and if, with the revelation of His gracious purposes towards the race, He has seen fit to determine the method by which we can be restored to His favor and image, who shall fault that method and yet hope to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven? "The Lord, our God, is a jealous God," and will not allow us to set aside any of His appointments with impunity. The faith which we must preach and which those who will be saved must receive, the sacraments which we must administer and which, lest men should despise them, have been hedged about with such fearful penalties, are not left to our individual discretion or private judgment. " We preach," says the Apostle, "not ourselves," not the things which our wisdom and diligence may have selected from the Word of God, not what this or that teacher may think that he finds in the Scriptures, "but [4/5] CHRIST JESUS the LORD; and ourselves your servants for JESUS' sake." The great Apostle would not listen to those who, in the name of "science, falsely so called," were forever tampering with the faith. As he wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith," Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of:" so he declared to the Galatians, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." "As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." "There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." "And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Hence, we claim that the exhortation of the text, to be steadfast, unmovable, refers not merely to holiness of life and the practical duties of Christianity, not only to those doctrines which some consider the essentials of the Christian Faith, but to every thing which is contained in the scheme of redemption, as God has revealed it to us in these last days by His Son from Heaven.
Permit me, then, dear brethren, to urge you earnestly to contend for the faith "which was once delivered unto the saints." "Beware lest any man spoil [5/6] you through philosophy and vain, deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." Meddle not with them that are given to change; remember that the Gospel is not like human science, forever changing and for ever new. If you would abide in the Church of the Living God, "which is the pillar and ground of the truth," you must continue "steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread and in prayer." Thus only can we walk with assurance through our pilgrimage here, finish our course with joy, lie down in peace, and awake to glory, where trial shall be ended, duty be free from hindrance, and love and peace from the presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost grow and increase through the endless ages of eternity.
Secondly. We are to be diligent in good works, "always abounding in the work of the Lord." But is this, you ask, a thing to which Christian men, banded together for good works, need to be exhort ed? Do those who show by their presence here to-day that they are pledged to God's service, require to be urged to be diligent in His work? Brethren, it is a humiliating thought, but it is even so. With the best of us, the corruption of our fallen nature, the numerous temptations of the world, the deceptive habit of measuring ourselves by the conduct of others, all tend to produce, from time to time, remissness and carelessness in spiritual things. Even those that are the most earnest in the work of the Lord are apt at times to grow weary in well doing and to rest in "the form of godliness" without its power. Suffer, then, the word of exhortation, that it is not sufficient for our Christian calling to live decent and moral lives, free from open sins and without reproach among men. True religion is so practical that its character must pervade every thing that we think and say and do. It is a living principle 'of love to [6/7] God, of obedience to His laws, of faith in His Word, of charity and good-will towards men. It is animated by the illuminating influences of the Holy Ghost, that must permeate the whole man, and manifest its sanctifying presence in his daily walk and conversation. The Christian will let his light shine before men; he will live as a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth; and it will be seen that, while he seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, he looks for a "city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
The necessity of diligence in the work of the Lord is, therefore, simply the necessity of obeying our Christian calling. Without it there can be no growth in grace, no real service, no sure success. "The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence (or is 'gained by force') and the violent take it by force." Care and diligence, earnestness and exertion, are as essential elements of success in the Christian life as in any earthly calling. Those who strive for an. incorruptible crown must strive for the mastery as earnestly as those who seek to obtain a corruptible one. The Apostle uttered no unmeaning phrase when he wrote, "Always abounding in the work of the Lord." Keep, then, dear brethren, ever before your minds this great truth; think of it especially in connection with the work which you are pledged to do; let it stir you up to renewed diligence in your Christian calling; in personal religion; in fulfilling the vows of your baptism; in watching against the temptations of the world; in keeping the commandments of the Lord; and in the daily exercise of those virtues and charities which belong to the disciples of Christ. "Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Be humble, be patient, be persevering; seek no release from the full measure of your religious [7/8] duties; yield to no compromise with the world and the flesh; fear no reproach for the name of Christ, but continue "steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."
Thirdly, and lastly. And here the argument of St. Paul is so forcible that one would sup pose it irresistible. "Forasmuch as (or because) ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." What the reward of that work shall be no words of mine, not even the pen of an inspired Apostle, can describe. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." Sufficient for us to know, that it will be a state of happiness, unclouded by any shade of sorrow, as infinite in duration as our labors and travail here have been finite, and as eternal as the God from whom it all proceeds. What more can the most exalted imagination desire than to dwell forever with Him who has loved us and given Himself for us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. Keep, therefore, beloved brethren, ever before your minds the glorious prospect which awaits the child of God in the world to come. This prospect will illumine the dark places and smooth over the rough paths of this life. It will uplift your daily toil and shed a halo about the every day exertions which must be made to gain your daily bread. It will provide a higher motive for living. It will gradually lead you, whether you eat or drink, to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when the end shall come, you will realize that you have fought a good fight, that you have kept the faith, and that henceforth there is laid up for you a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give you at that day, and not to you only, but to all them that love His appearing.