Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counting the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
THESE parabolic illustrations ought not to be regarded as identical--a mere repetition of the same thought, in a changed form and application, to give it greater vividness and tangibility. They refer to the same engagement, indeed, and to the same party; but to an engagement and a party viewed in different aspects, with reference, first, to the state and prospects of the individual considered in himself, and then, to his relations to the surrounding world. In the first, the Christian life is brought to view; in the second, the Christian warfare.
It is true, these are inseparable. GOD has joined them, never to be put asunder. Attempts have not been wanting to sever Christian holiness from Christian zeal, and provide for the cultivation of the former by seclusion from the scenes and occupations [7/8] which call the latter into play: but they have always proved signally unsuccessful; and the absence of external assaults has been found to give vantage-ground to inward corruption and the spiritual archenemy, till faith, not suffered to feed itself in action, has been smothered in the lusts and vain imaginings of the deceitful heart.
Still, though holiness, like the precious ore, must be subjected to the assayer's fire before it can receive the stamp of genuineness, and be counted as spiritual treasure; the inward Christian life, and the outward Christian warfare, are not to be confounded. Both are essential to the perfection of the man of GOD and the Church of Con. Both are to be undertaken, as the work set before us. Both need preparation, such as our LORD designed to recommend in my text. Both must end in misery and shame, if begun and carried on without it. But the kinds of preparation which they respectively require are essentially different; not less so than the undertakings of a builder and of a warrior, by which the Redeemer chose to represent them.
The warning, in both its branches, concerns all who profess to seek salvation through CHRIST JESUS. It is addressed to every individual Christian, and brings home to the conscience of each one among us, that he has a twofold task assigned him--a heart to mould after the model of that of JESUS, his divine example; and a warfare to wage under the guidance of that great Captain of his salvation.
But what is thus taught individuals, bears also, if [8/9] less directly, yet not less strongly, upon the position and duty of the aggregate body, the Church.
The Church, as "the house of GOD," is to be built up into a holy temple, for the habitation of His Name; as His 'sacramental host,' it is to make that Name glorious, by spreading its triumphs throughout all the earth. It is "the body of CHRIST," and, as such, must "make increase unto the edifying of itself in love, by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part." It is also his banded host for "the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of GOD; " and, as such, must be clothed with the panoply of its Captain's furnishing, and wield the weapons of His warfare. On the one hand, the "King's daughter" must be "all glorious within," "fair as the moon, and clear as the sun;" but on the other, to the world around, "terrible as an army with banners."
It is empty verbiage to talk of such absolute and relative preparedness to do its Master's hest, in the body, irrespectively of the condition of its individual members. If but one of these suffer, analogy and the word of GOD assure us, that all the others suffer with it. The unholy heart of one professing Christian is a spot on the vesture of the bride of CHRIST; the recreant worldliness of one pledged soldier and servant of the LORD Jesus is a triumph given to His enemy, an injury to His cause in its tenderest part. In proportion as the strength and impetus of [9/10] the phalanx are greater than the mere aggregate of the forces of the individuals who compose it, in the same proportion is it weakened by the loss of one individual more than the mere amount of his single powers; and even so the Church loses by the want of faith or zeal in her individual members, more than the mere loss to those members themselves, by so much as their faith would have been instrumental in kindling and cherishing faith in others, and their zeal in provoking others, in holy emulation, to abound in love and all good works.
With much more force does this remark apply to those who are set apart for the especial furtherance of the end for which the Church exists--the ministry, to whose hands are committed the word of truth and the means of grace. If they be found unfurnished for the twofold work of building up themselves and others in holiness of heart and life, and leading their companions to the warfare against sin and Satan, sore, indeed, will be the evil and the shame! On their skill and industry, as master-builders, under the Providence of GOD, depends the solidity and advancement of the spiritual building: by their boldness and activity the onward march of the army of the LORD is to be maintained and hastened. Their miscalculation of their own resources will involve themselves, indeed, but not themselves only, in ruin and disgrace. The wall which they may build with wood and hay and stubble, and daub with untempered mortar, must sooner or later fall, and while it crushes the deceitful [10/11] or unskilful workman, leave an unsightly and dangerous breach in the ramparts of Zion. Their faintheartedness, or treachery, must entangle others, and turn whole ranks against the cause in which they are enlisted; not, indeed, to change the fate of a contest in which the victory has been sure from all eternity, but to bring swift destruction upon the miserable misleaders and misled.
It is with no dubious propriety, then, my Christian hearers, that I call for your attention on this occasion to the warning of our LonD. We are assembled to solemnize the engagement of a band of young brethren to give themselves wholly to the work of preparing for admission to the ministry. They now bind themselves to "prosecute the studies, and perform the duties" required of them for that end, and "uniformly to cultivate such religious and moral habits" as may fit them for the high trust to which they are aspiring. [Words of the Matriculation promise.] In itself, this promise is no light thing: but what importance does it assume, viewed in reference to the end it has in view--the assumption of the indelible character and fearful responsibility of the ministerial office! Well may your preacher endeavour at once to remind you, brethren of the congregation, of the extent of your indebtedness to those who shrink not from a labour and responsibility so arduous and so awful, and you, my beloved young friends, of the range of those engagements [11/12] in which you are about to take the initiatory step, as they develop themselves in
The nature of your future official duties; and in
The position of the Church in which you are to minister.
Count the cost, brethren, of becoming ministers of CHRIST.
Bounden as we all are, not to implicate the Church and its Divine Head in the consequences of our hasty and thoughtless assumption of the vows which make us one with it and Him, a manifold responsibility rests on those who seek admission to the ministerial office. They volunteer to the forlorn hope in the assault upon the world. They claim the privilege to lead the way to victory. They profess the ability and will, at once to teach and to inspirit all to conquer. And to do this, they must and do direct their aim to a superior pitch of personal holiness and spiritual attainment.
In all pursuits it is a true proverb that the disciple is not above his master--the teacher must not, cannot look for proficiency in others, which he does not himself exemplify. But above all others, this is true of the teacher of religion. He has every drawback to encounter in his efforts to gain and form disciples. Innate corruption, fixed habits, and surrounding example, all combine to destroy the efficiency of his instructions. He points, avowedly, to an unseen reward and unknown dangers as the grounds of exertion. He holds out motives for which the evil heart [12/13] of depraved humanity has little relish. He lays down principles which are hard to understand, harder still to realize, and hardest of all to put in practice. In such a work, can the force of example be foregone? Will worldly men believe the messenger of eternal truth, whom they see living as one of themselves? Will sinners be swayed by motives which they behold inoperative on him who holds them forth? Will they receive and cherish principles, which are unproductive of results in the life and character of their professed expositor and advocate? Such questions need not the answer of experience: but that answer has been given too loudly and too long to be unheeded. Every page of the history of the Church of GOD, under both the dispensations in which it has existed, is a lesson on the indispensableness of irreproachable purity and elevated piety in those who serve the altar. The Gospel, to be lifegiving, must be borne abroad by living evidences of its power. Holiness must be communicated by contagion, as it were, from those who are commissioned for its inculcation. GOD'S omnipotence, indeed, is not to be limited by the unfaithfulness of his servants. He can and will perform his promise to maintain his Church, independently, if need be, of human co-operation. But the life of a Church with a corrupted ministry, is like that ghastly life of which we read in the fables of enchantments--when the moving and animated eye does but lend fresh honors to the cold, putrescent corpse: the spirituality and purity of our holy faith casts a shade of double [13/14] intensity over the inconsistent conduct of a worldly clergy and their perishing people.
It is to holiness, then, brethren, to Christian holiness, in all its height and breadth, to be pre-eminently displayed in you as patterns of the flock, that you are about to pledge yourselves, in the ministry of CHRIST. Count well the cost of such a pledge, before you make it!
Of the inherent difficulties in its performance by men of mortal mould, I trust, you do not require to be reminded. Your personal experience has already taught you, that the foundation of the Christian character is laid in tears, and its superstructure raised in cares, and weariness, and watching, and self-denial, and many conflicts, and ceaseless prayer. The heart, that fountain of all evil, is to be searched out and cleansed. The tongue, that unruly member, is to be curbed. The love of ease, and the love of pleasure, and the love of the praise of men, are to be overcome. The affections are to be withdrawn from objects too little and too low to deserve them, and yet too near, too familiar, too long cherished, to be relinquished without painful struggles. The whole body, soul and spirit are to be offered up a sacrifice to GOD. The very will is to be subdued, and changed, and disciplined to identity with THAT WILL which is the pattern and root of holiness.
But all this is the every-day task of ordinary Christians. It is in common with them that you have undertaken it, because it is the cross which every one must bear who follows CHRIST. Your higher, [14/15] harder calling, is in all this to stand forth self-submitted to the gaze of all, as a model for those who make the same profession, and a butt for the peculiar envy, scorn, and hatred of the many whom it places in condemnatory contrast. I know that it is as men, not angels, that we go forth with our commission; that even an apostle ranked himself but as an earthly vessel entrusted with the heavenly treasure; that the brightest examples of ministerial faithfulness and success have ever been most earnest in disclaiming exemption from the weakness and misery which they shared with the meanest of their brethren. We are but poor, mean instruments in the hand of an Almighty Workman, and are most bounden so to think ourselves. But let not such a proper and wholesome estimation of ourselves deceive us into vague and low views of the position we are called to fill. The minister of CHRIST, to himself and to his Master, is still a man, a mere man; and O, how often is he made bitterly conscious of it! But to his brethren, and above all to the world, he is no longer so, when once invested with the sacred office. He then becomes, in one sense, the angel--the official representative and delegated agent of the Maker and Judge of all, to instruct and exhort the righteous, to reprove and rebuke the disobedient, to warn the sinner and alarm the thoughtless. These all inevitably connect the office with the person, and demand of the pastor higher degrees of holiness, and institute severer scrutiny into his character and life, in proportion to their sense of the importance or of the importunity [15/16] of his message to themselves. Suppose this were unreasonable, (which I am by no means willing to admit,) suppose it were unreasonable in them, yet the consequence must be their irreparable injury by any falling short of this their standard on the part of the Gospel minister. Instead of a leader, he becomes to them a stumbling-block and a snare. Believers are discouraged and thrown back, the careless confirmed in their indifference, and the profane furnished with excuses, if not scoffs and jeers. Admit them to be all wrong; will the man who gives the occasion be unaccountable? Most surely not! Most surely, inasmuch as he might have strengthened the weak and did not, and might have won over the adversary, but instead put a weapon in his hand, their blood will be required of him!
This, brethren, is the responsibility you purpose to assume. Shrink not, I beseech you, from looking it full in the face! Put not the thought aside, as unwelcome and disheartening! You must be prepared to be sifted as wheat, and tried on every side, if you would not have cruel disappointment, or more dreadful abandonment to spiritual deadness, to overtake you in after-life. Aim at no low grade of piety! Deem not that decent consistency is, all that needs be maintained! and that that exacts of you no more than of the multitude of professing Christians! Their highest attainments are bare consistency in us: we fall below our level when we do not soar above them.
This is especially true of the active manifestation of Christian principle in its opposition to falsehood, [16/17] error, irreligion, worldliness, and impurity. No follower of CHRIST is free from obligation to fight against sin, the world, and the devil, under his Master's banner; but if there is a being on whom the name of DASTARD TRAITOR should be branded in characters of burning shame, it is the minister of CHRIST who compromises with the world, and suffers sin to go unrebuked, and heedlessness unwarned, and prevailing error unopposed, through want of zeal. "It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful;" but how is that man faithful to his committed trust? The holiness of the Most High is, as it were, put in his keeping, to preserve it and exalt it among his fellows, and he trucks it away for ease and worldly gain! He tramples his Lord's honour in the dust, to be free from opposition, or enjoy his slothful quiet! As much as in him lies, he justifies the wicked when he saith in his heart "GOD hath forgotten, He hideth his face, He will never see it." My brethren, we cannot but feel the deep disgracefulness of such a course: we cannot but perceive the cogency of the Psalmist's reasoning, "Wherefore doth the wicked contemn Con? He hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it,"--and perceive, too, that the dumb servant who has withholden his Lord's message of rebuke and threatening is his accomplice in this blasphemy, if not its cause. But is it such an easy thing to avoid this guilt, so black, so damning? Trust me, it is not! Before aware of it, one becomes entangled in its meshes. It is like the deadly miasma of some putrid marsh, which steals into the traveller's frame [17/18] in the guise of a delicious sleep, from which he wakes to be the prey of pestilence. The specious names of modesty, and prudence, and kindliness of feeling, cover its first approaches. 'There is something so obtrusive and so harsh in the sweeping censure of uncompromising zeal! There are so many wiser and better than ourselves, and possessed of wider influence, for whom it is but becoming in us to wait, before we take decided ground! It will so limit our usefulness, to be looked on with hostile eyes by the multitude who run to do evil--will so close the door against friendly intercourse by which we might gradually and imperceptibly win them back! How sweetly does this syren song lull the conscience into slumber, and give sloth, and fearfulness, and dull apathy, the mastery over duty! In the meanwhile, the unconscious traitor is placed in a position where his best-meant efforts to do good are rendered ineffectual. His half-told message falls powerless on hearts fortified against it by his own unfaithfulness. 'He cannot be in earnest,' they reason, 'or he would carry out his principles into consistent severity and uncompromising opposition to worldliness and vice. He can bear with these things; we are surely in no such danger if we go a little further and partake them.' The reasoning is false as all the webs of lies which men weave to cover their own desperate condition from their view: but the conduct which occasions it is none the less condemnable. When ungodliness comes in as an overflowing flood, the people are overwhelmed [18/19] because the watchman makes no outcry: shall not he answer for their blood?
I know, brethren, that there is danger of our being led astray by rash zeal, to do evil that good may come, and bring disgrace even on the cause of holiness and truth; and by false zeal, which, under the mask of duty, cloaks base ambition, and worldly aims and passions: but greatly am I mistaken if our temptation be not to the opposite extreme; and a temptation sore and dangerous it is! Are you prepared to meet it? Can you with a clear conscience stand forth, and make the profession of the man after GOD's own heart, "Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee? Yea, I hate them with perfect hatred?"--and of the Man who was GOD dwelling with us, "The zeal of thine house hath even eaten me up?" As sure as GOD is true, and changeth not, these expressions designate a state of mind which befits and is required of those who would do Him acceptable service; but, O, what difficulties cluster round the way to its attainment! What purity of heart and hands does it require to save the professor from base hypocrisy!--what fixedness of purpose to shield him from perpetual taunts of inconsistency!--what depth and breadth of charity to preserve him from confounding the sinner with the sin, and making zeal for the law occasion of transgression by failure in love to his fellow men? Yet, after this perfection, brethren, you are to bind yourselves to strive! 'to walk through the world, wounding according to the rule of zeal, and scattering balm [19/20] freely in the fulness of love; smiting as a duty, and healing as a privilege; loving most, after the example of your Father in Heaven, when you seem most stern; with a heart bleeding at every wound that you inflict, and yearning most tenderly after those whom in semblance you treat most roughly.' [Altered from Newman's Sermons, Vol. In. p. 204. See the whole sermon, which suggested the thought on page 19.] To this warfare you are called--a warfare without truce or quarter; against sin, wheresoever, or in whomsoever it may be developed; against the world, with all its attractions and blandishments, and all its opposition; against the devil and his wiles, the more dangerous when least conspicuous, and most to be dreaded when ambushed beneath the garb of established usages and innocent indulgence! Sit down, I pray you, and consult what forces you can bring into the contest; what preparation you have made to overcome? GOD forbid that I should discourage one resolved spirit from coming up to the help of the LORD against the mighty! but even that were better than that any should rush blindly to the onset, knowing neither whom they were to oppose, nor on what to depend for victory.
You look forward to no life of ease or inglorious repose, beloved young brethren! The nature of the official duties to which you aspire, binds you to incessant struggles with the sinfulness of your own nature and of a world lying in wickedness around. The strength of GOD's Spirit, sought in humble and unceasing prayer, can alone sustain you. Without [20/21] that, it were better for you that you had never been born, than to undertake the hopeless work. There is no man sufficient for it; it is only through Him whose strength is made perfect in our weakness that any can endure it. Ask of Him, brethren, to fit you for it, by communication of His own holiness, and of that zeal which burns only on the altar of a heart filled with the sense of its own unworthiness, and of His exceeding majesty and love.
I have left myself small space for advertence to those circumstances of our Church, which make its ministry a station of peculiar difficulty.
They grow out of the character of the age in which we live, and the anomalous position of our country.
Self-sufficiency characterizes the times, to an extraordinary degree. We have almost in sober sadness taken to ourselves the bitter sarcasm of the patriarch, with the slight change of substituting past for future. "No doubt but we are the people, and wisdom was born with us." The advances in physical science and the arts of life made by the last three generations, equal in our eyes all that all the rest of the world has ever done. The march of civilization and of intellect is an admitted fact, an axiom; and every inference deduced from it is to the disparagement of those who have trod the path before us; to the weakening of the hold of time-honoured notions and observances; and to the preference of that which is new, because of its very novelty.
This is the tone of the age. Democritus and [21/22] Heraclitus might each find in it abundant scope for the exercise of their favourite propensities. But whatever there is in it of dangerous and ridiculous, becomes doubly so in our land, among us Americans. We are a motley race, of no descent. There is for us no past. We live in the present and the future. Our riches and power must be, and are, our own creation; our distinction our own earning. We owe no debt of gratitude to gone-by ages for monuments of skill and industry, studding town and country with gems of beauty, and forcing the beholder to admit that the space he occupies beneath the heavens has been filled by beings worthy, at least in some respects, to go before him. Wherever our eye falls, it rests on triumphs achieved and achieving by man that is; on conquests from rude, mute, barren nature, won but yesterday and to-day; on plans and preparations for extending the spread of cultivation, and heightening the pitch of civilization, in a progression almost geometrical. The very bonds and bulwarks of society, when they crossed the Atlantic, assumed positions and bearings entirely new, and, like some rejuvenescent subject of enchantment, are no longer recognizable. Every thing around us joins in the conspiracy to cut us loose, and turn us adrift upon the sea of time.
Selfishness, intense, brutish selfishness, is the tendency of this state of things. We see this more or less exemplified, on a small scale, in every knot of human beings forcibly sundered from the mass of society. They sink, and grovel in their propensities [22/23] and pursuits, in proportion to the completeness and hopelessness of their state of severance. They lose their continuity with the aggregate of intellect and feeling, and concentre in their little selves.
So might we have done, had GOD in his wrath permitted us to be isolated from the old world in speech, as we are in position and in interests. Happily, we receive with our mother's milk a language stamped indelibly with traces of the past; and as the mind matures, are forced to satisfy its cravings with intellectual food which is the growth of other days and climes. We have no literature; and England, as she lends us hers, imparts with it her recollections, her indebtedness, and at least a portion of her gratitude. Thus, thank GOD, we are linked on to the olden time, and preserved from that complete state of "fragmentary existence," which, in the language of one who has thought as deeply as any of our day, "begets ingratitude, sensuality, and hardness of heart; annihilates the past, and deadens to the future."
But we, brethren, we Protestant Episcopalians, are indebted to that country, under GOD, for something inestimably better, and more powerful in this respect than mere literature--a literature at best speckled and checked, and now but too deeply tainted with all the faults of the age, in their worst manifestation. To us has been transmitted the word of GOD in the Church of GOD, in a pure and healthy branch. We have the promises made to the fathers, in the channel formed for them, flowing down through the [23/24] ages that have gone by, an ever-living stream of blessings.
We are alone in this.
Other denominations, with one exception, are all of mushroom growth, not even coeval with the discovery of our continent, but as yesterday. Children of change, and given to it, they partake of the peculiar evils of our times and situation, in all their intensity. Novelty is their origin and their bane.
It is true, they cannot suffer from our moral isolation in the extent to which political and civil institutions may. So long as in any way they continue to hold fast to the Foundation--Him who was made man for our salvation; and receive any portion of the truth delivered to the saints eighteen centuries ago--the Gospel, in its least genuine form, in its most unnatural associations, is an imperishable bond of union, with things without and above the present.
But the Gospel, as given of GOD, is one and unalterable; and man cannot tamper with its truths and institutions without proportionate loss. This we are taught, were it not self-evident, most plainly by the fate of that one denomination which I just excepted from the crowd by which we are surrounded. The Church of Rome, though not like the Protestant sects of England and continental Europe the offspring of innovation, has yet tampered with Christian verity till its very life-blood is contaminated, and it reeks with impure humours at every pore. Now, its safety is the very expedient against which it makes [24/25] the loudest and fiercest outcry--novelty, and change. It is the very Proteus of fable,
suae non immemor'artis
Omnia transformatsese in miracula rerum,
with a new aspect for every change of times or clime--accommodating itself to the prejudices, the propensities, the worldly views and interests, the intellectual stamp, the mere caprices of those among whom it domesticates. It is not from Rome that we are to expect resistance to the evil tendencies of our times and country.
But it is the peculiar genius of our Church to seek to the primitive source of truth and grace for its doctrines, its ordinances, its polity, and its principles; to adhere to that which has been from the beginning, with unyielding tenacity, because it was in the beginning; and to hold fellowship with all who have shared the same blessings, and held on the even tenor of the same safe way, from the beginning until now. It is our especial privilege to hold an inheritance to the title deeds of which holy men in every successive age have set their seal, yea, often in their blood: and it is our glory to keep it in the same condition in which, generation after generation, it was found, and left by them.
This is becoming more and more generally known and more observed by those around us. Harrassed and endangered by the tosgmg.sea of change on whose fitful waves they float, men are casting longing eyes on our ark as it is borne along smoothly [25/26] and majestically above the waters. They recognize in its condition one of the best tests of heavenly protection and continuing safety. They avouch it for a spiritual Goshen, blest with light and peace in the midst of surrounding storms and darkness, because the LORD is with his people, the children of his servants of old.
In a twofold manner this state of things enhances the responsibility and the danger of ministering at our altar.
The curse of popularity is a fearful; evil; and without special exertion and redoubled vigilance on our part, we may feel its withering influence. We are in danger of attributing to ourselves, what belongs merely to our principles and our position; of pluming ourselves and taking credit for what should be felt and owned with humble thankfulness as all the gift of GOD, wholly undeserved, and abused, at best. We are in danger of the wo denounced upon those of whom all speak well--the awful delusion of choosing the praise of men before the praise of GOD, and seeking to nurse the rising breeze into favourable gales by the concealment of truth and the concession of principle. We are in danger of the giddiness of the man who has attained to sudden elevation, and, while he is exulting in success, falls headlong to ruin, the more certain and more miserable in proportion to the height from which he is precipitated.
Again--and it is in this point of view that I am most anxious you should regard the matter, my young brethren--the conspicuousness thus given to [26/27] our Church, as well by her own pretensions, as by the regards of others growing out of their own relative position, demands a great increase of watchfulness and diligence--of holiness and zeal--on the part of her ministering sons. The eyes of multitudes will be upon you, measuring by your lives and ministrations the value and efficacy of the precious deposit transmitted down to you, and the safety and tendency of the good old paths you profess to tread. The LORD has set your lines in a city on a hill, where no slothfulness, no time-serving, no worldly-mindedness, no want of earnestness and spirituality can be hid. Every inconsistency, every slip will be noted and treasured up, every fault and deficiency exaggerated; and all charged, not to you alone, but to the holy cause you undertake to serve, and the blessed company of GOD's faithful people with whom you claim to be associated.
Your temptations, too, will be greater than those of such as minister in a less staid and settled order. On the one hand, there is danger lest you mistake coldness for sobriety, and inert, mechanical adherence to a beaten round, for regularity; on the other, there is even more, lest the horse-leech cry of the age, "Give, give!" stimulate you to seek zest for your ministrations in novelty, instead of chastened zeal, and to slake the feverish thirst of the multitude with waters drawn from the broken cisterns of men's inventions, instead of the pure stream of scriptural truth, flowing in the narrow and simple, but well fenced and safe channels of primitive tradition. So to temper [27/28] zeal with prudence, and quicken soberness with energy, as to hold fast the form of sound words committed to your keeping, and yet be instant in season and out of season, in urging home its truths to the conscience of the ungodly and the sinner, the careless and the worldly, the false professor and the formalist--is no easy task.
But I must conclude.--My theme has been too fruitful, and has enticed me into a trespass on your patience. Only, in parting, let me entreat that my hasty observations be not understood as discouragements to those who seek the high and solemn responsibilities to which they have had relation.
Never did the Church so much need the devotion of zeal, and talents, and acquirements, to her service, as at this moment. Never was it more a duty in those who perceive in the Providence of GOD a call to minister at his altar, to say humbly, "LORD, here am I, send me." Never were the encouragements to devoted, prayerful preparation for the holy office, greater. Never was the prospect of an abundant harvest, already whitening to the reaper's hand, more rich.
Nor yet, at any time, could the reasons which I have urged for serious preparation, be rightly construed into discouragement for the work. For, in proportion to its demands and difficulties, are the sure pledges of Divine assistance. OUR MASTER is our fellow-worker: His holiness, His truth, His power, are all engaged in our behalf. That we are [28/29] now here, on His errand, in His name, is our warrant that He will never leave us, nor forsake us. For what is the Church in which He has mercifully raised us up as sons, but a pledge and proof of his never-dying love and power from age to age? The building is His own: He set it up on the everlasting Rock: and its presence among us is a sure witness that in spite of our sins His mercy yet endures, and in defiance of sin and Satan, His power yet prevails. Though thousands be arrayed against us, under Him we may go boldly forth to the war, secure that our march shall be still onward, conquering and to conquer, till all the world shall own Him only LORD AND KING.