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the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."*
See then the glory of the work of religion. Aid may be gained from every dispensation of God. You may seize upon it as your own, and appropriate it to yourself. It is yours, for thus saith the Lord —“All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.”+ Be ye sure that ye are in the love of God, and all things shall work together for your good. And on nothing shall your footstep tread, and on nothing shall your hand be laid, and nothing shall touch you, right or left, but from it aid in your work may be derived. And as even from the noxious weed which distils in poison the bee gathers the fragrant honey, you, from the afflictions of your course, may gather the most delicious experience of the love of God, and taste aforetime some little of that which shall be in perfection at the end of your course, even the salvation of
* Romans viii. 35, 38, 39. f 1 Corinthians iii. 21, 22.
THE GREAT WORK OF RELIGION.
NEHEMIAl vi. 3.
My subject, you are aware, is the greatness of the work of religion, and the general division of my discourse which I am now considering is, that the work is a great one in consequence of the aids which are established. Among these I have already considered—1, that the individual engaged in this work has the aid of the approbation of God; 2, that he has the assistance of the angelic host, those ministering spirits which minister unto the heirs of salvation; 3, that he has the aid of the treasuries of God, all the various dispensations of God being intended to work together for good to them that love God. This latter was the subject of discussion when I last addressed you on this text; and you will remember that in order to impress the subject more deeply on your minds, I have drawn my illustrations principally from the history of Nehemiah. I intend to do so in the point at present under consideration. I remarked to you, that in the great work of rebuilding and restoring Jerusalem, Nehemiah not only had the aid of the king of Persia's approbation, not only the aid of his forces, horses, and chariots, and captains of the host, not only the aid of the king's resources, but he had the aid of his own countrymen, who were zealously friendly to his undertaking. This is the point of present illustration. Nehemiah had the aid of his own countrymen. Let us return for a moment to the history. The third chapter of Nehemiah is entirely occupied with a detail of the names of the families who were zealously and actively engaged with Nehemiah in his laborious undertaking. We find among the friends of his great work, as leading the van, Eliashib the High Priest, with his brethren the Priests, not only superintending but actually labouring with their hands in this noble undertaking. Then we have a list of all the families and the detail of the portions of the work which they undertook. This is the illustration. Let us now take up the subject which it so forcibly illustrates. My proposition is this : that the individual engaged in the great work of religion has the aid—and can avail himself of as much of it as he pleases—has the aid of the real friends of Christ. He has their aid in these several ways,-1, their sympathy; 2, their experience ; 3, their counsel; and 4, their prayers. A beautiful subject for our meditation, and one of a most deeply practical and consolatory character.
1. The individual engaged in the great work of religion has the sympathy of the real friends of Christ.
Men, considered in this aspect of social beings, even when the subject of religion forms no bond of union-men, who have a community of interests, are so constituted as to be readily and easily engaged in
that which concerns the welfare and the happiness of each other, though they may have mistaken views as it regards what really enters into the composition of a substantial happiness—and men, merely considered as social beings, when there is the least community of interests, are apt to share in the hopes, the fears, the joys, and the sorrows of each other. Even when religion does not enter into what passes by the name of friendship, there appears to be a kind of instinct, for there does not seem to be any moral or mental reason for it. We love when others love, and hate when others hate; we exult in their prosperity, and when adversity comes, we mingle sighs and tears with the afflicted. Whenever these emotions are communicated, they are caught. Heart in this case beats in regular response to heart, and the bosom spontaneously glows, and throbs, and heaves, at the call of those by whom we are surrounded. I do not know whether you have ever taken the trouble to mark the operations of this instinctive feeling,
you can notice it in the every-day occurrences of life. This instinct of sympathy is clearly discerned in the zeal of party spirit, whether that party spirit is manifested in civil, political or religious concerns. With what a close bond it unites those of the same sentiments, and how it absorbs the feelings. The same thing is exhibited in the terrible evils of tumultuous crowds bent on mischief and wrong. Sympathy, that mysterious agent, will prompt men to do in a crowd that of which none would be guilty in his individual capacity. This same principle of sympathy,,which in the condition of an individual without religion is the mere instinct of nature, becomes, in the heart of him who is converted to God, trans
muted into a principle of grace, and then takes the character of love that love which is the second great commandment. As among Christians there is a community of interest, there is a community of feeling, because the noblest objects engage their mutual attention, because the noblest concerns engross their hearts; and in pursuit of those objects and concerns, full of comfort, hope, and joy, the best emotions which can be felt by the human heart are awakened and reciprocated. The flame which glows in one heart, is caught and kindled in another; the light which illuminates one mind sheds its lustre over others, by which it may, in the providence of God, be encircled. The soul, raised above itself by this communion, tastes as much of heaven as is permitted this side the grave.
Now, the individual engaged in the great work of religion, has this sympathy of all who are engaged in the same work, especially if they are further advanced than himself; and he may take just what advantage of it he pleases, to cheer and comfort him amidst the trials and the difficulties of his way. The selection of his Christian friends is within the compass of his own free choice; and what in physics would be called the principle of elective affinity, brings them and binds them together. The whole idea is beautifully expressed in the 27th Hymn:
Blest is the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love:
Is like to that above.
Before our Father's throne
We pour united prayers;
Our comforts and our cares.