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Exodus, xiy. 20.

The pillar of the cloud came between the camp of the Egyptians

and the camp of Israel ; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these : 80 that the one came not near the other all the night.

I SPOKE on Friday of that dulness or hardness of conscience which hinders us so often from dwelling upon our own faults, or from feeling any shame or sorrow for them, and which, by a necessary consequence, hinders us also from feeling any love to Christ, any thankfulness for his death, or any joy in his resurrection. I said, that if we would throw off this dulness, and really take heed to our ways, the difference in the character of all our religious exercises would be very great,—in our prayers, at the communion, or at the confirmation ; whereas nothing is more difficult than to speak of any of the great events celebrated by our Christian festivals, when our hearers are generally careless in their lives, and have no serious thoughts of their own about the matter. We know not what language to use in such a case. If we were missionaries speaking to heathens, then we might attract attention by the novelty of our preaching : we should have to relate the most wonderful thing which ever happened on the earth, and our hearers, to whom it would be no less new than wonderful, would listen with attention and with interest. Or, if we spoke to a congregation of Christians really worthy of their name, there our task would be

easy also: for the thoughts which our great festivals awaken would so go along with every sentence uttered, that let our words be in themselves what they would, they would fall into such good ground as to bring forth fruit abundantly. But to indifferent Christians, to those whose ears are familiar with all that can be said, while their hearts are altogether indifferent to it, what language can be used successfully? The story of Christ's death and resurrection is like a twice, or rather an hundred times told tale, which we are almost weary of hearing ; whilst, on the other hand, there is no deep love for the subject, which would make the repetition of it only the more welcome.

And thus it is that Easter Day, and all the other great Christian festivals, may be likened to the

pillar of the cloud described in the text; they are a cloud and a darkness to Egypt, but a light to Israel. They stand as it were between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel, between those who do not belong to Christ and to those who do, separating them effectually from each other they separate them ever more and more, helping these onwards upon their heavenly way, driving back the others, and removing them farther and farther from the love of Christ their Saviour. So it is ever, that God and his manifestations are a light, and a blessing, and a glory to his own people, but to the wicked a consuming fire.

It is one of the saddest and most solemn sights in the world, when we look round upon this, or indeed upon any other congregation, to consider how our foes are they of our own household,”how in fact, although by no means in intention, we are a hindrance to one another, many times unconsciously aiding the great enemy of us all to destroy our brethren. And then it is that, as I have said before, one does feel keenly the real dissolution of Christ's church; one does feel grieved with the cruel mockery of those who would put a shadow upon us in place of the reality, and tell us that where we have rites, and outward worship, and a legitimate ministry, there we have the virtue of the church. But this is not our present busi


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ness; only it is of the greatest importance for us all to consider, whether our brethren, by which term I mean those of our neighbours with whom we have most intercourse, do really help us in goodness, or hinder us. If they hinder us, then it is most clear, that the virtue of Christ's church is not there; that however entire may be its forms and outward ordinances, yet that its power of saving souls is wanting. For that which we still retain is the virtue of Christ's Gospel, not of Christ's church : the knowledge of what Christ has done for us, the knowledge, if I may so speak, of our divine helpers, of Christ our Saviour, and of the Holy Ghost our Sanctifier. This knowledge we have, and this we might have no less if we were in a desert island by ourselves,—and by this knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, by our single faith and our single prayers, we might, through God's grace, be saved. But the church was appointed, that our single faith might be helped by our brethren's faith, our single prayers helped by our brethren's prayers; that in them we might see reflected in a manner the image of Christ, and might be enkindled by it more and more to love it and become ourselves also changed into it. Assuredly, where many are living together, and do not help each other in goodness,—much more, where they actually though not intentionally hinder each other,

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—there any one among them may retain and use for his own salvation the blessings of Christ's Gospel, but he has not the benefits of Christ's church.

Now, then, let us see here how the case is with us; for it is possible that the benefits of Christ's church may exist here and there, although they may be lost generally; the church may be found in a single house, as it was in its earliest state in those countries where it was recently planted. Let us see whether we help one another or hinder. And let me repeat again, that when I speak of our hindering one another, I do not mean at all that any one of us tries or wishes to hinder another; I mean only to inquire whether in point of fact, we do hinder, not intentionally, but yet through our own fault; because out of an unbelieving and evil heart proceed words and works of evil, and the evil naturally struggles against the good.

Now we may hinder each other, first in those duties which are called directly duties of religion, and secondly in those other duties of our common lives which are in truth duties of religion no less, that is, as being our appointed service to God, but which the great enemy has taught us to call, and too often to regard, as secular or worldly. First, then, in what concerns our prayers, whether in public or private, in what concerns the reading of the Scriptures, in what concerns our coming to the holy communion, do we help each other or

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