Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.…
I. ITS HINDRANCES.
1. Exaggerated individualism.
(1) It is a grand truth that religion lies between the solitary soul and God, and that no priest has any right to intermeddle with it. Alone we were born into the new world; alone we have to wrestle in it; alone we shall die.
(2) But we have exaggerated this principle, and thrown the idea of the Church into the shade. The lonely pilgrim travels to the Cross, but to find there "the general assembly and Church of the first-born." Yet there are those in our churches who do not share, or only feebly, this common .life. To them public worship differs only from private in being offered publicly. They eat their portion alone, and come and go, knowing only the man who preaches, and the man who collects pew rents. It may be they are constitutionally shy, or self-absorbed, or unhappy. But they are spots in our feasts of charity, and icebergs which chill the gulf stream of the Church's life.
(3) We need to be reminded that the Church is not a club, hotel, or a mere voluntary association, but a home, and that they can no more denude themselves of their spiritual than they can of their natural relationships.
2. Social distinctions.
(1) It is a dark day for any Church when it declares its special mission to be to any one class, or when a Church consists of any one class. This is a danger which menaces modern Church life. The rich gravitate to the suburbs, the poor crowd into the towns, her great gulf yawns between.
(2) The ideal relation is when rich and poor meet together on the same common level — before the Lord, the Master and Redeemer of them all. We need to be reminded that squire and labourer, master and clerk, mistress and maid, have committed the same sins, felt the same penitence, been redeemed by the same sacrifice. If the life of the Church is not strong enough to perfect this union, and enable men So rise above such things, seen and temporal, as distinctions of rank, to things unseen and eternal, it is time we consider how to recover the diviner spirit of earlier days.
3. The caste of culture. Superior persons who are acquainted with all the scientific objections to Christianity look down upon the uninitiated as Philistines. Then there are those half-time Christians who contend that their spiritual culture can be promoted quite as well by private reading as public worship, and attend once a day merely for example. Such forget that the Saviour was the Friend of publicans and sinners, and thanked God for hiding things from the wise and prudent, and for revealing them unto babes.
4. The spirit of faction. "Mark them which cause divisions among you." How many are they! On what slight grounds and paltry pretexts they disturb the peace of the Church! With what arrogance do they judge and condemn brethren whose lives are as pure as theirs!
II. PRACTICAL REMEDIES.
1. We must train our young members, and inculcate upon them the duties as well as the privileges of Church fellowship.
2. Our churches must be organised for work. There must be no drones in the hive. No member ought to secure exemption by money payment from personal service. It was when the people had a mind to work that the walls of Jerusalem rose. Pastor Oncken, of Hamburg, gathered a church of three thousand, the distinctive feature of which was that each was pledged to personal service. In our churches the most beautiful and spiritually operative brotherly love is found among those who, in Sunday-schools, tract societies, etc., are associated in effort to advance the cause of Christ.
3. Meetings of the Church might be held distinct from those for business, for mutual conference, after the pattern of Methodist class meetings, where "whosoever hath a psalm, a doctrine, a revelation, an interpretation," might feel at liberty to impart it. The patient sufferings of the sick and poor, their quiet trust in God's love might rebuke our discontent, and teach us the meaning of Divine support and consolation. The rough honest speech of a working man telling the story of his difficulties might give the well-to-do an insight into hardships which they are in danger of forgetting, while a business man frankly telling his difficulties might remind the poor man that the prosperous have temptations from which he is spared. Such conferences would create a mutual trust and affection fruitful in a thousand acts of brotherliness.
(A. Wilson, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.