by John Stock
When I speak of conduct in the church of Christ, do not suppose that in my view a Christian should be a different man in the church from what he is in the world.
A Christian is to be a Christian everywhere and always. Whatsoever he does, he is to do to the glory of God. He is to be governed by the principles of the gospel in all the relations of life. His character, lite the silver trumpets under the law, is to be all of a piece. Every act should be sanctified by a regard to Christ’s authority. He should find a temple everywhere. The best church is a church in the house.
Alas! too many professors [Christians] seem to regard religion as an affair of times and seasons. They put their godliness on and off with their Sunday clothes. But a holy life is a sweeter psalm of praise than any other: it is the loudest and most acceptable hallelujah that we can sing to the glory of our Redeemer.
Still our relation to the church of Christ, like every other, involves us in corresponding obligation. Suffer me, then, to give you a few earnest counsels,—” that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Tim. iii. 15.
Neglect not assembling with God’s people, as the manner of some is. Heb. x. 25. Those who are living nearest to God in secret, will most value public ordinances. “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” Psa. lxxxvii.
Our Divine Redeemer bequeathed to us this gracious declaration, “Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matt, xviii. 19, 20. It must be blessed for us to be where Christ is. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; they shall grow like a cedar of Lebanon. Planted in the house of Jehovah, they shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age ; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that Jehovah, my rock, is upright, and there is no injustice in him.” Psa. xcii. 12—15. The stress of this beautiful passage is on the clause,—” Planted in the house of Jehovah.” Having likened the righteous to the stately palm-tree and the spreading cedar, the Psalmist proceeds to indicates the soil in which they are to grow;—The House Of Jehovah. The figure implies a constant and abiding love to divine ordinances. In this soil the roots of the divine life are to strike out their fibres, and to find nourishment. Firmly and fixedly Planted here, saints shall continue to bring forth fruit to their dying day. I have known many good people who have seemed to be thus really planted in God’s house. Its blessed means of grace have become as natural to them as the parent soil is to the tree which has been raised in »it. Their love for divine ordinances has appeared to grow with their years. As long as their tottering steps have been able to do so, they have trodden the path to God’s house. And such Christians have always been eminent ones: they have been fruitful even to old age.
On the other hand, the abatement of love for the sanctuary has always been, so far as my observation has gone, the indicator of declining piety;
and, in too many instances, the precursor of utter apostasy. I beseech you, then, resist the first temptation to forsake God’s courts. You cannot tell what you may lose by one absence. Thomas was not present when the disciples assembled after our Lord’s resurrection. “We are not told what kept him away. Perhaps it rained; perhaps his head ached; perhaps he had taken medicine; or perhaps a friend had called to see him. But whatever may have been the cause of his absence, one thing is certain, he missed seeing his risen Redeemer. Let not any cause keep you from the house of the Lord which you would not permit to prevent your keeping an important business engagement.
Surely the appointment to meet the Saviour where he has promised to be found by his faithful disciples is, of all appointments, most important, and ought to be most faithfully kept.
Let the house which inspiration designates ” a house of prayer for all people ” (Isa. lvi. 7,) be your chosen resort. When God’s people unite in the language of confession, of thanksgiving, and of prayer, let no trivial or insufficient reason keep you away. With King David say, “I have set my affection to the house of my God.” 1 Chron. xxix. 3.
Take your troubles and difficulties there.
When good King Hezekiah received the blasphemous and threatening letter from Sennacherib, he read it, and “went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.” 2 Kings xix. 14; repeated, Isa. xxxvii. 14. The act was so beautiful and appropriate that it is twice recorded by two distinct inspired penmen. When Asaph’s mind was pained by the prosperity of the wicked, and by the afflictions of the righteous, and he was tempted to say, “Verily in vain have I kept my heart pure, and washed my hands in innocence” (Psa. Lxxiii. 13,) the mystery was all solved for him when he went into the sanctuary of God. 16—18 verses. Many a burden has been lightened, many a tear wiped away, many a difficulty removed, and many a doubt satisfied, by going up to the house of the Lord, since the days of Asaph and Hezekiah. Be sure you take your troubles, then, where those holy men took theirs! Mourners especially should not stay at home. The greater their grief, the more urgent their need of the consolations of the sanctuary.
But your relation to the church of God, and your profession of faith in Jesus, involve you in something more than an obligation to assemble with the Lord’s people for worship.
You owe to Christ, and to the church, the debt of earnest and self-denying work for the extension of the Saviour’s kingdom in the earth. God has made you a Christian that you may be the means of making others partakers of your glorious hopes. You are a part of “the salt of the earth,” that you may season it with religious influences. You are a ray of “the light of the world'” that you may enlighten its darkness. God has led you to embrace the Gospel, that from you it may ” sound out” to your neighbours and friends. The millennium will be brought about, not so much by the labours of splendid and gifted preachers, as by the universal and persistent labours of the great body of disciples, “every man saying to his neighbour, Know the Lord, until all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest.” See Jer. xxxi. 34. Thus shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. Now in this blessed labour you are called upon to take a part You have been made alive unto God by Christ Jesus, that you may work for Jesus with all your heaven-born energies.
There is no merit in [salvation for] such labours for the Redeemer. They constitute no part of the ground of your acceptance in God’s sight. God first justifies believers in Christ, and then accepts their labours for Christ’s sake. Your work for Jesus can add nothing to the work of Jesus for you. The basis of your justification was laid broad and deep when your dear Lord exclaimed, “It is finished,” bowed his head, and died. To lose sight of this great truth will involve you in spiritual bondage. You are to work for God, not for life, but as a fruit of the life and acceptance already received from the Saviour.
All life is meant for activity;
and the Divine life is no exception to this rule. Hence work for Jesus is a condition of spiritual health The life of godliness requires suitable exercise, and this is supplied in “teaching every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord.” The function of the Bride, the universal church, and not merely of an anointed ministerial class, is to say to a perishing world, “Come ” to the water of life, and take of it freely. See Rev. xxii. 17. Only as you realise this great end of your effectual calling can your soul be in health and prosper. It is to be feared that too many people join the professing church of Christ without sufficiently realising the great object of their conversion. They seem to think that all their obligations are discharged when they abstain from scandalous sin, and live decent moral lives. As to any direct effort to win a soul for Christ, that is a duty they regard as belonging exclusively to the clergy, and so they never attempt it I trust, however, my young friend, that you have not so learned Christ. Let me beseech you to commence your career as a disciple of your Lord, by devoting yourself to the work of winning souls fat Him. In your own family and household, among your youthful companions, and workmates, and friends, be a humble messenger of salvation by the blood of the Lamb. Oh that I could fire you with a holy ambition to be the means of turning many to righteousness!
That you may effectually recommend it by word of mouth, you must honour it by your daily life. Christians are too often the world’s Bible, the only one that unbelievers care to study. They judge of Christianity, not by its sublime facts, doctrines, promises, precepts, and motives, but by the lives of its professors. They study us rather than the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. Beware, then, my young friend, of giving the adversary occasion to speak reproachfully of your holy religion. Be as Christ was in the world; then what you have to say for Him will have power with men. Let the mind which was in Jesus be also in you; then, when you meekly and modestly seek to recommend Hut to others, there will be a blessed force in your words.
I do not stop to discuss methods of working. Every case has its own peculiarities. You need not look out for a sphere or a mission. Tour sphere is around you; your mission is to your own kith and kin, to your neighbours and friends, to all whom you can influence by your example, or reach by your labours. You need not go abroad to be a proclaimer of the Cross. You need not indulge in sentimental sighs for ” a mission.” You have a mission; only see to it that it is faithfully fulfilled. You have a work to do which nobody else can do for you, and .which, if you neglect it, must remain undone. Your influence and opportunities are your own exclusively, and no one but yourself can do the work for which they fit you. May the good Spirit of our God lay these thoughts upon your heart and conscience; then the church will be glad for you, and the world will be all the better for your residence in it. Let it be your resolve to leave the world better than you found it.
Need I remind you that it is your duty to study the PEACE of the Church of God?
When Christian people associate together for united labour, the only condition of peace is, that there shall be in their midst mutual yielding and forbearance. Be prepared for any sacrifice, short of the surrender of principle, for the sake of peace. About mere methods of working, and questions of precedence in the synagogue, there should be no strife. Where there is no scripture there can be no conscience involved. Be not like some men whom I have known, who would rend the church in pieces for the cut or colour of a vestment; who would mount a special hobby of their own, and on its back ride roughshod over the necks of the Lord’s people; who, if things were not managed precisely in their own way, would throw up all connection with a work, however God-like. Remember, there is the gracious promise, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee.” Psa. cxxii. 6. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” Bom. xiv. 19. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Cor. xiv. 33. “Beat peace among yourselves.” 1 Thes. v. 13. “Follow peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Tim. ii. 22. Study, too, James iii. 14—18.
Surely any man who can set at nought such earnest and pathetic exhortations as these must be possessed of a very low type of piety.
All considerations of personal importance and dignity should be with us light as a feather, when weighed in the balances of the sanctuary with our regard for the peace of the Lord’s church. Ever be willing to take the lowest place among your brethren. Our Lord teaches us the true greatness of humility in the words— “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” Matt. xx. 27. The heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus, has bidden you to the gospel feast: be sure you take the lowest room at the festival: then shall you have honour in the presence of them that sit at meat with you. “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke xiv. 7—11.
Let these principles be specially carried out in your relations to the church with which you are most intimately associated.
That church represents to you the whole mystical body of Christ. Do not content yourself with loud professions of a catholic spirit, while in your own religious community you are a source of discord. Some professors are all love and smiles at meetings of The Evangelical Alliance; but, in the church of which they are members, are notorious disturbers of the peace. Such people put one in mind of the proverbial description ” Saints abroad, devils at home.” Sectarianism is hateful ; but a loud-tongued profession of catholicity, which is associated with a spirit of strife and bitterness in a man’s own spiritual home, is most hateful of all, because most hypocritical. It is your duty to love All who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity and truth; but the genuineness of your love for the whole family of the redeemed must be tested by the fervour and unselfishness of your love for that portion of the family with which you have to live.
Never forget the church of God in your prayer!
In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to pray that God’s name may be hallowed; that His kingdom may come, and His will may be done on earth as it is done in heaven, before we ask for our own daily bread. How this order rebukes the selfishness of the closet! How apt we are to spend most of our praying hours in supplications for ourselves; while the claims of the church of God in its efforts to win for Christ a world “lying in the wicked one” are left to be disposed of in a sentence or two at the close. Let not your prayers be animated by such a spirit. Let the key-note in your wrestlings be—”Thy kingdom come.” Seek for the coming of that kingdom in the fulness of its majesty in your own soul, only that you may be a humble instrument of its establishment in the souls of others.
And never forget when on your knees your spiritual guide, the pastor who breaks to you the bread of life. Of all men upon earth he most needs your prayers. How pathetically the mighty Apostle of the Gentiles appealed to the disciples for an interest in their supplications—” Brethren, pray for us.” 1 Thes. v. 25; 2 Thes. iii. 1; Heb. xiii. 18, &e. And if he with all his supernatural endowments needed to be thus remembered at the throne; how much more must uninspired ministers of the present day require such a support! Pray that your pastor may have health of body, vigour of intellect, fervent piety, a deep understanding of the truth as it is in Jesus, the ability to expound that truth wisely and faithfully to men, and that the Holy Spirit may ever bless his ministrations to your own edification and the good of others.
When you are conscious of not hearing the word profitably, pray all the more earnestly for the preacher and yourself.
Praying for your pastor is a more profitable occupation than grumbling against him. Whatever you have to say against him, be sure you first say it to him. Give him an opportunity of fully explaining whatever may have caused yon pain. You may have misunderstood him: others may have misinformed you concerning him; and the least you can do, before speaking disparagingly of him, is to give him an opportunity of vindicating himself. Before you lift your hand against “the Lord’s anointed,” go to the throne of grace, and pray for direction; scrutinize your own heart and motives, and be sure conscience and Holy Scripture warrant the course you propose to take.’ Remember, too, your own inexperience as a young Christian; and never forget, that modesty and humility are specially becoming in youth. Never add to your pastor’s troubles or cares by unkindness, neglect, or indifference; but ever cheer him by your prompt and cordial co-operation. Thus you will be thrice blessed; for you will get a blessing yourself; you will be made a blessing to the church, and your pastor will thank God for you.
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Reverend John Stock, 1817-1877, a leading Baptist minister of Victorian times. was born in London in 1817 and educated at University College London. before fulfilling pastorates at Zion, Chatham (1842-1848), Salendine Nook, Huddersfield (1848-1857), Morice Square, Devonport (1857-1872) and Salendine Nook again (1872 till his death in )884). He played a full part in denominational affairs as a Trustee of the Psalms and Hymns Trust, and was an active member of the Baptist Union Council. Shortly before his death he proposed, unsuccessfully at that time, that Vice-Presidents of the Union should be elected by ballot. He was a visiting Examiner at Rawdon and Manchester Colleges and President of the Yorkshire Baptist Association (1877).
A prolific pamphleteer and controversialist, his ‘magnum opus’ was A Handbook of Revealed Theology, written at the express request of C. H. Spurgeon and used as a standard text at Pastor’s College. First published in 1862, it ran into several editions, and was translated into Welsh and in part into Japanese. In 1850 he published correspondence between himself and Archbishop Whately on the question of Baptism. Deeply committed on many social and political issues. he was an active member of the Liberal Party. In a sermon preached in 1880 on politics and religion, he affirmed ‘Our political principles should be based on the teaching of the Holy Scriptures’ because ‘the moral principles laid down in the teaching of Our Lord and His Apostles were meant to guide us in every department of life … in retirement. in the family. in the warehouse. and at the polling booth … Nations and governments are bound to act upon the same lines of truth and equity and mercy which every citizen is commanded to observe in his conduct to his fellow citizens. There are not two moral codes – one for private individuals, and another for monarchs and lawmakers and statesmen. During the American Civil War, he campaigned in support of the Northern States, publishing a pamphlet called The duties of British Christians with relation to the Struggle in America, as well as numerous newspaper articles and letters. Probably as a consequence of his exertions, he made a visit to the United States in 1867. Writing of him and his visit, Dr Amos Webster said in an article in America’s oldest religious newspaper, The Watchman, published in Boston, Massachusetts. ‘With a remarkably clear and appreciative knowledge of our American institutions, he not only comprehended the origin of our civil conflict, but with both pen and voice did noble service in his country for freedom and the North, thereby meriting more that cordial reception which was accorded to him here’. He subsequently received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Madison University in recognition of his scholarship and literary work.