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WE WANT MORE LIFE.
It is a good sign of our religious condition, that this expression is so frequently heard among us. We receive letters from all parts of the country which say, "We want life." We constantly hear complaints of our coldness, our inactivity, our want of vitality. This is a good sign. It marks an advance. A little while ago, and the most earnest persons were seeking light, asking for new ideas, new views. But now, amid a general activity of intellect, when all the buds of thought, then swelling, have burst into flower, we find a deeper want still. Flowers are not fruit; thought is not life. We must have some inward spiritual life as a basis for thought to rest upon, as a centre for opinions to revolve around. Without inward life, there is no stability, no depth of thought. We want what the Bible calls the Light of Life.
A little while ago, and the best people were seeking character as the best thing; to know and perform duty, to form good habits, and to cultivate and develop the moral nature. But now we see, while there is much of true virtue, integrity, and goodness about us, that 194 we need a life in the soul, to prevent it from becoming mechanical, to make it real goodness. Life, inward life, is the fountain from which thought and goodness must both come.
But it is important to know what this life is that we are aiming at.
1. Feeling is not life. Warmth is not life. Every 45 thing alive is warm; but every thing warm is not therefore alive. Religious emotion will always attend spiritual life, in a greater or less degree; but there may be a great deal of religious emotion in a heart 72 which possesses no vital piety. Emotion often comes
from natural sensibility, and indicates no living principle.
2. Bustling activity is not life. There may be a great quantity of religious operations going on; meetings, prayers, exhortations, sermon upon sermon, and yet this may be all machinery, with no living, inward principle. Because a thousand spindles are moving in a cotton factory, we do not argue a great deal of life there, but only a great deal of mechanism.
3. Outward goodness is not life. We talk of a "good life," meaning good habits and virtuous conduct. This may have a soul of high motive within, and then it is the outside at least of real life. But it may have no soul, no high motive within, and then it is, in no sense of the word, life. A man may do his duties every day very faithfully, as far as outward conduct goes, and yet be dead within. A locomotive engine does its duties very faithfully; it obeys its conductor very throroughly; it does its work exactly; aad never complains. But all this argues force and mechanism, and not life.
4. Spiritual life is an inward principle. It is the "life of God in the soul of man." It must be breathed into us by the Holy Ghost. It is a fountain within us, sending forth holy affection, spiritual thought, and right action. It has its law within itself. It feeds on hidden manna. As the needle turns to the pole, so the heart of the living Christian turns to God.
depths of his soul, beneath all the discord of sin, all the mists of error, he feels a steadfast peace and love, which demonstrate the presence of God in his heart, as in a temple. He is conscious of sin, but his sin does not drive him away from God, but makes him fly to God more earnestly. Perfect love has cast out fear.
This life is fed every day, and renewed by the inward influence of the Spirit of God.
Duty is no longer a hard task, obligation no longer a heavy burden; but a work, however difficult, sure to be accomplished, because the help of God is sure.
This life is what we need. To do good, we must be
good. There must be a deep, inward source, if the stream is to flow far, and produce rich verdure and blessing. The great blessing of Christianity is, therefore, Life. The New Testament, from beginning to end, offers this gift, announces this boon. In this word all good is summed up and implied; and we therefore say again, that it is a favourable sign of our spiritual condition, that we are now every where feeling the need of this inward, spiritual life.
"STRONG IN THE LORD."
That which the church most needs at the present crisis, is a stronger piety. We have many members, but too little grace. We have the forms of life; but an observer, in many instances, could scarcely decide whether our life itself were not death. Our religion is the same in name with that of the early Christians; but it lacks the radiant beauty, the firm purpose, the high endeavour, the vigilant activity, which gave to them and to the early church their character. Believers at present need, as it were, a fresh conversion. We need a renewed baptism of the Holy Ghost. The heavenly unction of apostolic men, which, we sometimes fear, has almost died out from the church, needs to be communicated again by a fresh anointing from on high. We forget not the honourable exceptions which move about among us, to use the language of Brainerd, "like flames of fire;" but we speak of the multitude of those who have put on Christ by an open profession. An influence and power is evidently ascribed to piety in the New Testament, which modern piety, except in a few rare instances, does not seem to possess. We profess to live in Christ, and we trust that Christ lives
in us. But though we be branches of the living vine, how little are we conscious of the life that flows from the root, pouring its thrilling life into branch, and twig, and foliage! If our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and we have entered into that near union with Christ which his words to his disciples imply, "Ye in
me, and I in you," there should not be such diversity between the container and the contained, between the sanctity of the temple and the infinite tenant who is enshrined in it. Such mutual distance, such separate living, as if we were two, and not one, should not be suffered to exist. We should be as if Christ were the very principle of our spiritual being; as if that infinite, efficient agent were the moving spring of our souls; as if his were the breath breathing in us; his the life that animates us; his the soul that feels in us; his the fervour that pleads in us; his the holiness that is reflected from us. If we have connection with a living fountain, as there is life in the source, so there should be life in the streams. That which flows out from a living source should be imbued with the life of its origin; light answering to light, strength responding to strength, life to life, grace to grace, holiness to holiness.
We believe the piety enjoined and described in the New Testament, and exemplified by the noble men whose biography is there recorded, was of a stronger stamp than that which is seen day by day in the walks of common life. We think we see in it an elevation above that which prevails even in the ranks of those in whom piety ought to shine forth in its pure, bright reality, as the patterns of their fellow-men, as those whose place calls upon them to be ensamples to the saints. Neither forms, nor eloquence, nor a sound creed, nor an intellectual conviction of truth stood in them, or can stand in us, as a substitute for this hidden, yet most visible life. The piety which the apostles and early saints had is that which modern believers need. The Gospel, proclaimed and exemplified by us, lacks the overwhelming efficiency which it enjoyed in its primitive history, in part, at least, because the piety of professors is so much weaker now than it was then. The principles of the Christian faith must grasp us with a strong hold. The renovating power of the Gospel must be felt, working mightily at the seat of life, and exerting its efficient, persuasive, constraining energy on every habit, and on the minutest workings of the life.