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the salvation of the souls of men ? The ungodly may and do feel for the bodies and the minds of their fellow-men so far as the present is concerned, but they can by no possibility, human or conceivable, feel for the spiritual and immortal welfare of precious never-dying souls. It is God's truth, that only truly godly converted men, are qualified for saving souls, (instrumentally of course we mean,) and for building up the church purchased with a Saviour's blood. The wall which we have to lend a hand in building up is not of matter, but of sanctified mind, and not of mind in the abstract, but so to speak, making all the instrumentality on foot to describe a circle, the enclosure of which, is the church, and which instrumentality we would refer to in the order following: First and foremost, is the preaching of the "glorious gospel of the blessed God ;' hence, our temples for worship, occupy by far the greatest and most prominent portions of that circle. Then, next, our various religious institutions, which have for their object the same end, as publishing to the world, “God's plan of salvation;" these include our noble Missionary Institutions, our Sabbathschools, with our Bible, Tract, and other Christian Societies; each of which, forms but a fragment of the one great whole.
This and other subordinate agency, describe the circle which at present presents to the eye of the natural man, but an imperfect and ineffectual agency, but to the eye of the believer, of the devout disciple of Jesus, it presents the only lever which is to move and elevate the moral world. I speak, as says the Apostle, “after the manner of men,” but I do not forget the divine hand which controuls the whole, and which renders the united
agency of the church-we refer to its every section of every name—both at home and abroad, the power of God to salvation.
Surely all will admit, that the work before us is great, whilst at present the means for its full accomplishment are very-very limited. But let us have minds to work.
II. We shall next speak of the obstacles, which in the prosecution of their work, the Jews had to encounter.
We think the language of the text, apart from the historical facts on the subject, implies opposition from some unfriendly hand; the very difficulties the Jews were placed in, and the adverse powers they had to encounter, summoned them to the conflict, and made them more determined to accomplish the task they had undertaken. There was the combined force, or concentrated power of their own and their God's enemies. They had heaped upon them, the reproaches and jeers of time-serving, persecuting men. They were designated by that restless adversary Sanballat, and his Samaritan army, of which he was governor, " THE FEEBLE JĘws." Then one Tobiah, who filled a similar post to that of his wicked contemporary, manifested not less scorn towards both the Jews and their work. Mark his characteristic declaration, as found in the third verse of the chapter before us. “Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.” This was the way, and is still the way in which the adversaries of God, and his church look upon all efforts to do good.
The church, then, must never forget that her
adversaries are both numerous and powerful; that Sanballat and Tobiah, Achan and Judas, have their successors now. Their leader is the enemy of souls-that master Spirit of Evil, “ that worketh in the children of disobedience." Under his dread influence are kings and queens-princes and nobles--the mighty and the mean.
The church's enemies and obstacles, are indeed both numberless and formidable, and boast of their brazen front. But, brethren, have not the church's greatest difficulties often proved her greatest blessings ? It has led the Lord's people both to see and to feel more of their dependance upon him, and the power of his might, and that in him alone they are strong. We know that the church has to contend against the ignorance, the superstition, the prejudice, the errors, and guilt of a world of unsanctified mind. There is Infidelity, Popery, and Semi-Popery, bearing a Protestant name ; there is Socialism, in all its foul forms of evil, in array against the church, the church's Saviour, and the church's God; another class of enemies and often the most powerful for evil, is that of Christian by name, men with a Demas' face and a Judas' heart.
It becomes us, however, not to be afraid either to look our enemies full in the face, or to contemplate their aggregate, the mighty-the fearful whole, though they occupy at present, by far the greatest part of each division of the globe. There is Europe, of which we are but a mere speck, with its Papal abomination, Socialism, and perfected Infidelity. There is Asia, with its teeming millions, under the withering and soul-destroying influence of that impostor Mahomet, and its other votaries. There is Africa, with her untold myri
ads of “sable sons,” bowing down to superstitions and degradations the most revolting. And there is America, that vast continent and boasted land of liberty and of the free ; still the dark domain of slavery in all its horrid forms. These are obstacles to the church's work and progress, and which call for the exercise of our faith in God, and for all our energies to be devoted in his service.
We might name other obstacles besides, especially those arising from the aversion even of sanctified mind to long-continued effort, as also from its proneness to yield to despair under discouragement. But, notwithstanding all this, and much more that might be said, the church has worked, and many of her noblest sons and daughters have worked well, unceasingly, and successfully ; and the consequence is, as we shall have presently to shew, that “instead of the thorn, has come up the fir-tree ;' not only at home, but in every place where Jesus has been preached-his salvation made known.
III. But we advince to consider the spirit in which the Jews carried on their work.
They had their minds, that is to say, their souls in it, and they were determined to accomplish it. The brief statement of the text implies, that they loved their master, their work, and each other. They loved their God, and were prompted out of gratitude and love to him, to labor in his cause. It is true, that the God of their fathers had suffered them to be carried into Babylon, and there for many years to endure persecutions of no ordinary nature; but did they love their Gud the less for that? oh, no ; " for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?” Christians, do you love your Lord the less for his painful discipline towards you ; certainly not, is your prompt, immediate reply, I love him more because I know that “whom the Father loveth he chasteneth ; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
But the Jews not only loved their master, but their work, and it was work, literally work, and hard work too-it was work neither so easy or so cheap as lip service, the work of too many in modern times. There is one fact recorded in this chapter, from the 16th verse, to which I refer you, from which we may all learn a useful lesson ; it is this, not only not to forget how restless are the church's adversaries, but also never to consider that we have time to be idle, until our work is done-until every soul with whom we have to do, is savingly converted to God.
We may further learn from the fact, that the builders had swords by their sides whilst engaged in their labor, that our duty is not only to work, but to pray ; both must go together, for it is by effort and prayer, under God, that the world is to be brought to Christ. Only, dear friends, let us love our work, let our souls be in it, whatever post we may be occupying, though we be but “hewers of wood and drawers of water :" then we shall bave nothing to fear, and shall find, as we reminded you last Lord's day, in the morning, that the Lord's service insures its own reward.
But, finally, the Jews loved not only their master and work, but they loved one another; they had all of them a kindred spirit, they had a mind to work for God and with each other; they did not all work on the same spot, but removed at