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SERMON V.

TJIE WORTHY VIEW OF THEIR CALLING HELD BY THE

EARLY CHRISTIANS.

O Thou who hast blessed us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to thy purpose and grace, which thou hast given us in Christ Jesus, grant unto all of us thy Holy Spirit, that we may ever be mindful of our heavenly calling, and may strive and contend earnestly against every evil thing, and serve thee in holiness and righteousness, as is pleasing unto thee, that we may one day become heirs of that glory which thou hast prepared for us, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

God, in his wisdom, has assigned to each one of us here on earth his peculiar calling, in which he must work according to the gifts and powers entrusted to him, and put out to usury the talent he has received, to the honour of God and the profit of society. When, therefore, we see any one neglecting this calling, and slow or indolent in performing the duties belonging to it, none of us would think of justifying or excusing him; nay, we should rather blame him, and require with justice that every man should both study to acquire the accomplishments, faculties, and knowledge, which give him the means of honourably pursuing his calling, and also should work in that calling with faithfulness and cheerfulness, in order worthily to occupy his position in society. In most cases, indeed, we find that none lack zeal, industry, or perseverance in their earthly pursuits. If there are some who neglect their duties, and prefer to live away their days in sloth and indolence to giving themselves to an useful and happy activity, they certainly form the smaller number, and are as nothing compared to the multitudes of those who in this respect are void of reproach. In many cases, indeed, we can scarcely enough wonder at the earnestness and zeal men exhibit, and we perceive often among ourselves such running, and hastening, and speed, that we might heartily rejoice at this active life, were not our joy troubled by the thought, that, with the many, it is no right principle, but either earthly necessities and poverty, or covetousness and desire of wealth, that spur and urge them on, so that we might say to many, as our Lord did to Martha, “ thou art careful about

many things.”

But beside this peculiar calling, we have all one in common, and that is, my brethren, our Christian calling, and since this concerns not things earthly, but things heavenly, not things temporal, but things eternal, not our outward well-doing, but the weal of our immortal souls, it might be expected that all would consider this vocation as the chief concern, the thing most important and essential of all things in this life, that they would sacrifice to this all things earthly, as of far less importance, and fulfil their Christian duties with the greatest earnestness, cheerfulness, and fidelity. Bụt, alas! it is not so. Few seem really to have at heart their Christian vocation. Most have but very poor conceptions of it, and considering it as they do as something unreal, treat it only as a secondary matter, and show not the least earnestness or zeal in fulfilling its duties. They often content themselves with the name of Christians, and never ask themselves whether they walk conformably to their Christian vocation, what this vocation demands of them, and what duties it binds them to. Nothing of this troubles them, so that to them we must cry without intermission, in the words of our Lord, one thing is needful.” Yes, my brethren, one thing is needful, this one,

that we approve

ourselves as true Christians, and that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

To be a Christian is no

small or unimportant business, it is rather something so vast, so important, so glorious, that we can scarce be disturbed enough at the indifference, carelessness, and laxness of so many Christians, especially when we consider that he who neglects or lightly estimates his Christian calling, can give no security for his activity and fidelity in his earthly duties. At least he will not work with those feelings, and that spirit, which will authorize us to say of his works that they are done in God.

We have begun, my brethren, to contemplate the life of Christians during the first ages of the church, and our glance on those disciples of our Lord has already in many ways been encouraging and awakening to us. They will be to us equally models and patterns in the way in which they estimated their Christian calling. To them it appeared as a thing the highest and the holiest they could have to deal with, and most truly and conscientiously did they seek to fulfil its duties. Earthly things were not by them preferred to heavenly. Their chief concern was - to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ;" and the deep earnestness which they as Christians exhibited, in the view they took of their calling, forms a striking contrast to the light estimation in which most Christians of our days consider it, who deem Christianity and salvation as things unimportant or indifferent. Let us, then, this day, my brethren, learn a lesson of those first Christians, and God grant that our attention to their conduct may incite us to emulation; and to this end we implore Him for His blessing.

Text. I therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.-Eph. iv. 1.

An exhortation, my brethren, much needed in our times, and one which cannot be too often repeated ! Paul exhorts most urgently, most impressively, as a pri

He was in bonds for the Lord's sake: he was

BO

er.

Paul ex

in prison and in chains; and to this his zeal, his faithfulness in his vocation, had brought him. Paul exhorts most movingly, “ in the Lord,” pointing to the love, the mercy of God who gave his life for us. horts Christians to walk worthy of their vocation as Christians, as those whom the Lord hath called to his fellowship, to his service, to his glory. What power should such an exhortation of such an apostle have! Do you feel this, my brethren? If you do, your Christian calling cannot be to you a thing indifferent; Christianity must appear to you to be something unspeakably great and inoportant; and you must exhibit an holy earnestness in all things belonging to your eternal happiness, an earnestness such as Paul exhibited, such as the Christians of the first ages were inspired by. This earnestness was expressed in a manner which could not but be perceived by all.

1. In the esteem in which they held their Christian vocation.

2. In the life which they led conformably to this calling

These two subjects will afford us matter enough for two meditations,

my
brethren;

and we will therefore consider the first point to-day, and the second, if God will, on the next occasion.

Holy Father, sanctify us with thy truth; thy word is truth. Amen.

as

How used the Christians of the first ages to look on their calling, my

brethren? They looked on themselves 6 soldiers of the Lord,” as a priestly nation, and as “ children of God,”-all of them views in which a holy earnestness was exhibited.

No reader of the Bible can be ignorant how often in Holy Scripture the life of a Christian is drawn as a continued conflict, and the Christian himself as the soldier of Christ. “ I have fought a good fight,” says St Paul, as he looks back on his apostolic career. " Do thou endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," writes he to Timothy. No one used this image more frequently, no one knew how to apply it to life more profitably than this apostle. Now he depicts the enemies against whom we have incessantly to contend :

we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Now he shows the arms which we are to put on for this conflict, in order that we may come out conquerors:

“Put on the armour of God and stand, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” Now he holds up to our view the prize which shall reward the conqueror, an incorruptible crown," the heritage of eternal life. Now he reminds us of the holy earnestness, with which we must conduct the battle : “ No man that warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; and if a man also strive for masteries, yet he is not crowned except he strive lawfully.” All these images taken from holy Scripture, which present so lively a picture of the Christian's vocation and life, are embodied in our treasures of spiritual songs. Think only of such hymns as these :

“ Up, ye Christians, to the fight!
Ye must arm yourselves with might:

For the foe desires to slay you." or thus :

“ Up with zeal, ye Christian soldiers,

Follow straight your Saviour's steps !” or Luther's hymn

“ A castle firm is our God.” And when we consider how truly in their situation and all their relations the early Christians were soldiers and combatants, we shall be the less surprised at the love they had for this image, as representing their calling. Could' they profess their faith freely and without hindrance ? To us, indeed, it is granted to serve the Lord

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