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might seem to affect myself, and my fellow ministers only. But I have yet a word to add which will, I trust, bring the lesson home to us all. Surely, a very little thought will show that others beside the clergy are concerned in preparing Christ's way. Surely my friends, the work is yours almost as much as ours. Surely the Gospel has come to you in vain if it has not taught you, as a first principle of your faith, when thou art converted strengthen thy brethren. Surely, with the world around us lying in wickedness, with those who dwell with us in the same spot, our near neighbours, perhaps our kinsmen, leading the life that many of them do—a life without God, a life of provocation, a life unsoftened and unsanctified by the influence of the Gospel, we can ill afford, any of us, to be idle. Who must not feel, while his Lord's way is yet so unprepared, that he ought to lend his hand to the work, the work of the Forerunner, the work of turning the hearts of “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,” of bringing souls to Christ that they may live P s It is not, believe me, an unthankful service, this of preparing the Lord's way, this of bringing souls to Christ, to which I would invite you. It carries with it its own exceeding great reward. Among the happy inmates of that home in heaven, for which we all hope and pray, none, I think, will be more justly glad than they who shall have helped a brother or a sister to enter with themselves into the same holy place. And, brethren, if anything can cast a cloud of sorrow there, it will be the thought that some are missing
through our neglect. It will be the thought that all was not done that might have been done on earth for our brethren; that opportunities were lost for winning souls, that we worked out our own salvation all too selfishly, not caring enough for the weak and ignorant and those who were out of the way; not considering their claim upon us, but leaving them to walk in their own way, and, so far as any help from us went, to perish Mindful of this, let us all strive to do our duty now toward those with whom God has associated us together, whom we have to do with, whom we can influence in any of the many ways in which one man touches another. Let us unite, all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, with real heartiness of purpose, as fellowlabourers in a great cause, to prepare in this desert a highway for our God. And let us not leave unremoved any hindrance, any stone of offence, which it is in our power to take away; and which, while it remains, stops in some measure the coming of the Just One, and delays the setting up of His kingdom in the world.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
PHILIP IV. 4, 5.
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your modera
tion be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.”
We have come again, brethren, to the Fourth Sunday in Advent—the Sunday next before Christmas. Already, no doubt, many of us are thinking of that blessed day, and preparing to spend it joyfully. Already, both in town and country, many signs that Christmas is at hand are to be seen. The shops put on their gayest look. There is now more buying and selling-giving and receiving of gifts, than at any other time throughout the year. Children are at home from school. Friends and relatives who have been separated, by business or habitation, for perhaps a whole twelvemonth, are looking forward to the day when they shall meet once more, and wish one another the good old wish—“A merry Christmas and a happy new year.”
Now our Church seeks to take advantage of this, and to turn it to a good end. And so, on this Fourth Sunday in Advent, she chooses for our meditation passages of Scripture which chime in with the common feeling of joy that now prevails. She does not wish to stop that joy. She would not have us abate one jot of the gladness with which we greet the approach of Christmas. Her desire is to increase our joy; to deepen it, to enlarge it : and, that it may be deepened and enlarged, to put it upon its only true ground. Rejoice, she says, but it is Rejoice in the Lord. So that your joy is centred upon Him, it cannot be too full. Rejoice in the Lord: and again I say, Rejoice. Now I would take occasion, from the occurrence of this verse in the Epistle, to speak a few words on the sort of rejoicing that ought to be ours at Christmas; and also on the sort of rejoicing which ought not to be ours— which we cannot indulge in without harm.
I. Of the unfit rejoicing, that which we could wish might not prevail, and which can in no wise be commended.
Of this kind is all excess of riot, drunkenness, gluttony, revellings, and the like.
When men think of Christmas only for the opportunity it gives them of indulging their bodily appetites: when they make excuse for such indulgence by saying, “Christmas comes but once a year,” let us eat, drink, and be merry: when that merriment is pushed beyond all temperate bounds—when there is no moderation in our festive doings: when, like the Jews of old, whom Isaiah rebukes, we feast without a thought of Him Whose coming alone sanctifies our feast—have the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine in our feasts, but regard not the work of the Lord : when this is the case—must we not say all such rejoicing is wrong? It is not a joying in Jesus Christ. It does not tend to His honour. It tends to His dishonour, and to bring scandal on His holy religion. May such a profanation of Christmas be far from us! Eat and drink we may surely, at this time, and of the best that our means can provide. Merry we may be, so that we transgress not in our mirth. But let this thought be with us to check all excess, all going beyond the bounds of what is becoming. “I rejoice, because Jesus Christ is come into the world—because He who is without spot has come down from heaven and taken my nature, to make me and all who will receive Him clean from sin. Shall I, on His birthday, run into sin P Shall I not, even in my mirth, remember Him, and keep myself, my body, soul, and spirit, no longer mine, but His—blameless P” And O, brethren, if there be some of you who, in times gone by, have abused this holy season, who have made our great holiday a day of sinful indulgence, let the past suffice to have wrought such folly. Do not, I beseech you, repeat your trespass. Do not add another misspent Christmas to the sad reckoning of former years. On you lies very strongly the obligation in the second verse of my text, Let your moderation be known unto all men. Let your neighbours see that you can rejoice, and at the same time be wise. And if you know, from past experience, that some