Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God.…
1. A culpable inattention to the things which are necessary to preserve the spirit and life of religion.
(1) Inattention to the characteristic spirit of the gospel is highly injurious to the life of religion.
(2) Inattention to the means which God has appointed to preserve the life of personal religion, is a cause of its declension.
(3) The next thing necessary to maintain personal religion, is serious attention to the motives which the gospel inspires, the neglect of which forms a powerful cause of its decline.
(4) It is necessary also, in order to maintain the life of religion in the soul of individuals, that they should keep the principal design of the gospel in view; the neglect of this is one cause of its declension.
2. The pernicious influence of erroneous sentiments.
(1) One of the pernicious effects of erroneous sentiments is, that they induce those who are under their influence to be more attentive to speculative opinions than to personal religion.
(2) Their tendency is to make the Church less solicitous about the conversion of sinners to God, than the establishment of some favourite notions.
(3) Erroneous sentiments produce evil passions, and prevent unity of exertion, and thus tend towards the decline of the Church. Peace and unity are of high importance to the prosperity of a religious community; whatever tends to engender evil tempers is therefore very injurious, and hastens its decline.
(4) The introduction and prevalence of pernicious sentiments tend to fix an unfavourable character on the Church, and thus to prevent its prosperity, and hasten its decline.
(5) The Spirit of God is grieved, and withholds His gracious presence from the people.
3. The destructive influence of a worldly spirit.
(1) A worldly spirit is manifested when individuals or families struggle for preeminence.
(2) When property is suffered to have all undue influence in the affairs of the Church.
(3) When the members of the Church are attempted to be directed or governed more by the power and authority of its officers than by reason and Scripture — by love and persuasion.
(4) When there is a want of suitable submission and subordination in the members of the Church.
(5) The spirit of the world is manifested in a way very injurious to the Church, when its most prominent members so comply with the maxims and customs of the world as to have their Christian characters involved in that of the worldling and people of fashion.
4. The neglect of those Scriptural principles which were given by Christ for the direction and government of His Church.
(1) The neglect of the nature and importance of the Scriptural principles given for the guidance of the Church, often involves in it consequences injurious to the peace and prosperity of the body.
(2) One of the most important cases which imperatively requires an attention to right principles, is the choice of a minister. The decline of some Churches may be traced to imprudent steps taken on such an occasion.
(3) Another thing which leads to the decline of religion and the Church, is the neglect of Scriptural principles in the admission of members.
(4) The neglect of Scriptural principles in the conduct of the Church toward its minister sometimes operates as a cause of the decline of religion in that congregation.
(5) The neglect of Scriptural principles by the Church with regard to their conduct towards each other, is often a cause of its decline.
5. The next general cause is the prevalence of a fastidious and a false taste in matters of religion. A false taste may effect
(1) the simplicity,
(2) the unity, and
(3) the energy of the gospel.
6. The last, and often the principal cause of the decline of religion in a Church, is an inefficient ministry.
1. That all the individuals in the congregation should use every means in their power to impress upon their own minds, and upon the minds of others, a sense of the necessity and importance of revival.
2. Endeavour to discover and remove the obstacles to its success.
3. Adapt the means of revival to the circumstances of the place.
4. Unite and combine the diversified talents of the people for the accomplishment of this end.
Parallel VersesKJV: Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.