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belong to the family of God as truly as their more eloquent and erudite brethren. Each of them shares the Father's love; for each the Saviour died; and in each the Holy Spirit dwells. They feel it at once a duty and a privilege to declare what God hath wrought for them; and the Church is under obligation to afford them opportunities of doing so. In all ages God has been wont to reveal the secret of His loveto them that fear Him, however poor and unpretending they may be; and He still perfects praise “out of the mouth of babes and sucklings.” To shut out and proscribe their testimony, therefore, would be to suppress some of the deepest tones which piety utters, and some of the sweetest notes of praise which the Holy Spirit inspires. The work of the Lord often proceeds " from the least to the greatest;” and simpleminded and unlettered believers have been the means, not unfrequently, of imparting light and consolation to the souls of persons greatly their superiors in intellect and acquirements. Luther once said, “I am myself a Professor of Theology, and many have acknowledged that they have derived no inconsiderable benefit from my ministry; yet I have often felt myself most sensibly raised and helped by a single word spoken by a brother who thought himself very much my inferior. The word of a Christian brother pronounced from Holy Scripture, in a time of need, carries an inconceivable weight with it. The Holy Spirit accompanies it, and by it moves and animates the hearts of His servants as their circumstances require. Thus the brethren who met Paul from Rome, cheered his spirit, however much they might be his inferiors in learning and skili in the Word of God. The greatest saints have their times of weakness, when others are stronger than they." *
But while we plead the right of the youngest and humblest of God's children to sound forth their Saviour's praise, we repudiate the notion, that the young and the unlearned alone are under an obligation to testify to the work of grace in their hearts; or that the theme of Christian experience is too simple and commonplace for persons of cultivated tastes to touch upon. The example of David King of Israel, and of Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, demonstrate that it is equally the duty of the highest, the opulent, and the learned, to “ show forth the praises of Him who bath called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.” Nothing but consuinmate pride can make any man think he demeans himself when he sets forth the lovingkindness and tender mercies of the God in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being,' and on whose favour his salvation depends.
2. However Christians differ in their doctrinal views, they all harmonize when they engage in devotional exercises, or speak on practical and experimental subjects.
Christian fellowship is the result of union with Jesus,—the branches of
the Vine intertwine, and the members of the body sympathise with each other. It assists devotion, promotes harmony, and matures love. By it Christians discover in bow many things they are in unison, and in how few particulars they differ. Being one in affection, and agreed in essentials, they find no difficulty in allowing diversity of opinion in minors, without any compromise of principle, or abatement of brotherly love. Religious controversy, on the other hand, magnifies points of diver. gence, while it minifies, or overlooks, the cardinal doctrines on which believers see eye to eye. Everything, therefore, in the discipline of the Church which provokes controversy, is to be deprecated; and any arrangement which bars out its spirit is of the highest importance. Viewed in this light, the Methodist plan of confining conversation in social meetings to practical and experimental topics, is stamped with wisdom, and is, in the working of the system, of incalculable value. On such topics pious Calvinists and Arminians, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, and Methodists are in perfect agreement; or, if there be rivalry among them, it is who shall love the Saviour most, and best prove their love by keeping His commandments. When the heart is right with God, “heretical pravity” is next to impossible; and, considering that theological opinions form no test of membership among us, it is amazing how uniformly evangelical the great mass of our people are in their religious belief. The late Dr. Henry Grey, of Edinburgh, when a minister of the Established Kirk of Scotland, was so satisfied of the advantages and unsectarian character of the Methodist class-meetings, that he encouraged certain godly wonen who were communi. cants in his church to attend them. And at the same period (1820 and 1821) a company of naval and military officers, members of different churches, met weekly in the same city, under the leadership of the late Dr. Gardiner, to pray, to read the Scriptures, and declare the dealings of God with their souls.
3. In the ministry of the Word a full provision is made for the instruction of the Church in doctrinal truth; whereas, if the relation of Christian experience and mutual exhortation be neglected in her social services, they must be omitted altogether.
Each great outline of the truth is more precious than rubies. The knowledge and belief of Gospel doctrines is essential to the enjoyment of the Christian salvation, and the practice of scriptural holiness. The Christian ministry, by which these doctrines are explained and applied, is, therefore, of primary importance to the conversion of the world, and the edification of the Church. But while we cannot overestimate the value of public worship and faithful preaching, they must not be allowed to supersede, or stand in stead, of Christian communion. In the apostolic Epistles the references to public worship are few, compared with the directions given concerning the fellowship of
gious belief angelical the great ship among us,
through the ap means of her. God, ith the truth,
saints. Under the preaching of the Word sinners are wounded, while believers have their minds enlightened, their joy increased, and their desires after a full salvation quickened ; and in the social services of the Church, the wounded are led to the Good Physician, the sorrow. ful are soothed, and believers have an opportunity of edifying one another in love, by narrating the lessons they have learned, the strength, the consolation, and other blessings they have received, through the application of the truth by the Holy Spirit. The public and private means of grace have thus a mutual relation to, and dependence on, each other. God, in wisdom and love, has joined them together. Ministers who preach the truth, but are at no pains to gather the fruits of their ministry, by meetings for directing penitents to the Saviour, are like the woodman, who fells trees in the forest, but neglects appliances for bringing them home, or turning them to useful purposes. The Church is God's household; and in order that brotherly love may continue, and each member receive his portion of " meat in due season," it seems necessary that His children should meet often together in their family capacity, to magnify His grace, exchange fraternal greetings, sympathize with each other in their griefs and trials, and pray for the more abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Church is Christ's flock; and if the sheep are left to the perils of the common, are never folded, nor made to "lie down by the still waters ” of social ordinances, we do not see how they can be said to feed in “green pastures,” or how they can be safe from the murderous hate, and subtile devices of the “roaring lion," wbo" walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." That Church whose members never meet, except in the public congregation, where the world is more or less present; or at the Lord's table, where it assembles collectively; wants an essential element of the primitive discipline established under the eye, and by the authority, of the Apostles.
Even live coals, when scattered on the hearth, soon lose their light and heat; but, piled up, and kept together, they propagate heat, and kindle into a bright flame. As “iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." (Prov. xxvii. 17.) Isolation from Christian brethren depresses the spirit, clouds the countenance, and renders ordinary duty irksome,—as is the task of cleaving wood with a blunt axe; but friendly intercourse with the wise and good cheers the heart, brightens the countenance, and makes even difficult services pleasant to ourselves, and profitable to others.
"Woc to him whose spirits droon,
To him who falls, alone!
To help his weakness on:
Happier we each other keep;
We each other's burden bear;
Upheld by mutual prayer.” 4. As Christian experience is a subject of deep and universal concern to the people of God, nothing can be more fitting than that it should constitute their chief theme at their social services.
If any ask, What is Christian experience ? we reply, It is“ the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us ;” “Christ in us, the hope of glory;" "grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord;" God dwelling in us, and we in God; it is the strength of God made perfect in our weakness; the fulness of God filling our emptiness, and the wisdom of God illuminating our darkness : it is the truth of God tried, the glory of God seen, the goodness of God tasted, and the sufficiency of God proved.
In our Lovefeasts and Class-meetings, the convinced sinner confesses his guilt, deprecates the wrath he has merited, supplicates mercy, weeps over time squandered and opportunities lost, pleads the efficacy of the atoning blood; and, not unfrequently, in these exercises he obtains the forgiveness of sin, and peace which passeth all understanding. In them the infant believer describes the combat between hope and fear, nature and grace, Christ and Belial, the process of his passing from death to life, the peace and joy he finds in believing, the confidence and consolation he derives from the witness of the Spirit, the sacred pleasure he has in the means of grace, and in tracing the progress of the new creation in his soul. In them the Christian soldier tells of the tyranny to which he was subjected in the enemies' camp, the weight of the chains he carried, the terror of mind with which he was haunted, the dreary nights he spent in groaning for deliverance, the circumstances connected with his escape, his enlisting in the army of Christ, the putting on of the heavenly panoply, and the commencement of the war with the devil, the world, and the flesh. He dwells with deepening delight on the character of his Captain, the trustiness of his two-edged sword, the impenetrable nature of his shield, the proved value of his helmet, the ground he has won, the spoils he has taken, the ambushes he has escaped, and the rebels he has put down and conquered in his soul. Neither is he backward to tell, for his own humiliation, and the warning of others, of the defeats he has suffered, the wounds he has received, the stratagenis by which he has been deceived, and the shame with which he has been covered, through neglecting his Captain's commands, or by trusting to his own strength. In them, toy, the Christian labourer bewails the precious time he lost by standing idle in the market-place, expresses his admiration of the Divine condescension in admitting him into the vineyard at so late an hour in the day of life, and tells of the early rising, hard toil, and vigilant watching, he found necessary to clear the garden of his heart of noxious weeds and prickly thorns. He dilates, also, on the pleasure he has in sowing the incorruptible seed, training the tender plants of the Spirit's graces, taking counsel with his fellow-workers, and in reaping the fruits of their joint and prayerful labours.
In these social meetings, the rich and the poor, the learned and the illiterate, unite, as the witnesses of their common Lord, in supplieating His blessing, in praising the riches of His grace, and in cheering each other on in the way to the kingdom. Controversy is banished, love abounds, light is diffused, sorrowful hearts are comforted, and captive souls are delivered from the snare of the enemy. Thus while little children lisp their Father's name, and young men esult in their Saviour's might, and fathers and mothers in Israel declare, in the" assurance of hope," their longing desire to depart and to be with Christ, as being “far better," the hands which hang down are lifted up, feeble knees are confirmed, timid believers are emboldened, the church is edified, and God is glorified.
5. Many texts of Scripture which speak of the fellowship of saints eajoin mutual exhortation, the confession of faults, and intercom. munion respecting religious joys and sorrows—in other words, free conversation on the state of our souls.
In Romans xii. 15, we are commanded to "rejoice with them that do rejoice ;” but how can we do this unless we know the deliverances our rejoicing brethren have experienced, the answers to prayer they have received, the temptations from which they have been rescued, or the blessings with which they have been enriched ? In the same verse, we are exhorted to "weep with them that weep;” but how can we sympathize with our brethren who sorrow, unless they narrate to us the losses they have suffered, the bereavements they have sustained, or the spiritual griefs of which they are the subjects ? And where can such confidential and personal communications be made except in social intercourse ? In Hebrews x. 24, we are commanded to "consider one another;" that is, affectionately and attentively to acquaint ourselves with each other's crosses, temptations, afflictions, and infirmities, that we may be qualified to afford counsel, give relief, and impart comfort, as need requires : “to provoke unto love and to good works,”-stimulate and incite each other by exhortation and example, to the practice of love, and exercises of brotherly kindDess. To intimate that this can be done only through the intervention of social meetings, the apostle adds, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but ex. horting one another: and so much the more, as yo see the day approaching." In James v. 16, we are commanded to “confess our faults," not to the priest, not to the "elder,” but to "one another ;” and to “pray