WORKINGTON STAR, July 6, 1888, pg. 4 / Sermon by REV. J. HODGSON on the Burned Parish Church.
The sermon below was delivered last Sunday morning in St. Michael's Parish Room by the REV. J. HODGSON, one of the curates in charge. We need make no comments, the sermon speaks for itself.
Text: Psalm 4, 5th verse; "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord."
When David composed this psalm, he was in exile, banished from Jerusalem. It is now Absolom who had established a rebellion which was so far successful, and the old king and his followers were retreating from the rebels.
The words of reproof which David speaks, beginning at the second verse of this Psalm, apply just as well to his followers as to his enemies. They were men of high station and very able men, but they were very worldly minded. They were filled with thoughts of bloodshed and revenge. All their desire was to win back the kingdom; and passion, violence, and wrath held possession of them.
Bu t it was not so with David. The good old king always, in his deepest extremity, turned first of all to God. And so he speaks now to his followers and bids them check themselves, and pause. He tells them to stand in awe and sin not; to be still and commune with their heart, to offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put their trust in the Lord.
And his words apply in some measure to us.
During the past week, the busy world has had its swing with us. Most of our time has been taken up with worldly thoughts. It has been a week of conflict and temptation. Our selfish passions have been brought into play, and in the hurry and work and competition of the week our souls have not remained undisturbed and unstained. But to-day we cease from worldly pursuits.
We bid the world be still.
Our passions and worldly interest, all care, anxiety, and selfish striving - let all that be buried now. We must be still, and let our thoughts be turned inward and upward, while we ask ourselves for what end God has made us, what kind of lives we are leading, and what account we shall give unto God of our stewardship. And when our minds are thus composed, calm, and reflective, we may hear the voice of God directing us now as he directed his servant David of old. He bids us "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord. Let us see now first what the words meant as applied to David's followers, and then consider their application to ourselves.
What were the sacrifices which he exhorted them to offer ? They could not offer the legal sacrifices at the Tabernacle, the sacrifices which it would have been their lawful duty to offer if they could, for the simple reason that they were outcasts, shut out from God's house and from the privileges of public worship. But they were not for that reason to cease from religion altogether. It still behoved them to offer such sacrifices as it was in their power to render. David bids them offer the sacrifices of righteousness; to offer unto God thanksgiving and call upon Him in the time of trouble.
The sacrifice of God was a broken spirit. To do righteously was the sacrifice that He required, and this kind of sacrifice in no way depended on time or place.
And now when we come to consider the words as directed to us, we find ourselves in strong sympathy with the position of David and his followers. They were shut out from God's ancient house of prayer and worship. And so are we.
We are kept out of that house of God where the fathers of many of us were accustomed to worship, not because our enemies have driven us away, but because God's house has been burned down and we and our friends are to build it up again. It is not in the power of any enemies to stop God's work from going on, but friends can hold it back. In Nehimiah's time the workmen who were building the walls carried on their work with the sword in one hand because of their enemies. And what was the result ? The work prospered. And perhaps if enemies were to come down and forbid us to rebuild our ancient and ruined church, and threaten to kill us if we went on with the work, then very likely we should go on and build up our temple in spite of them. There are far worse things than open and declared enemies. Now perhaps you have noticed how very striking and appropriate to our condition are the words of the prophet Isaiah, chap. 64, verses 9 to 12. "Be not wroth very sore O Lord; neither remember iniquity for ever. Behold, we beseech Thee, we are all Thy people. Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our hole and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised Thee, is burned up with fire; and all our pleasant things are laid waste. Wilt Thou refrain Thyself for these things O Lord ? Wilt Thou hold Thy peace and afflict us very sore? "
It would not be the least wonder in the world if He did afflict us very sore, for our offence is grievous. That is where we are - our house of worship is destroyed. Now David, we see, when he was cut off from the house of God, went mourning all the day, and longed for the time when he should once again go with the multitude in gladness to the sanctuary of the Lord. But he did not sit down in idleness and indifference. He said, "offer the sacrifices of righteousness - do what service you can in the meantime, until at last God does cause His face once again to shine upon you."
And the same advice applies to us. We can still offer sacrifices of righteousness. We must still render such service unto God as in our circumstances it is in our power to render. Coming to particulars, one very plain duty is to attend the public worship of God. And here we have one great advantage over David and his handful of men.
We have at least a roof over our heads and a place in which we can assemble for worship. Our public worship here, it is true, is carried on under great disadvantages, discomforts, and discouragements. Many of the associations and inducements are wanting here which attach people so closely to a church. All things considered let it be said that to attend the services in this room is a sacrifice. Be it so. Call it a sacrifice of righteousness. It is rendering under difficulties the public service of praise and thanksgiving that we owe unto God.
Now I would not say a single word in mitigation of the great offence and stumbling block that lies in our way. That ruined church is a scandal and a disgrace. It is a deadweight on religion in the place. Anyone who is in the least degree instrumental in hindering its restoration is incurring a very heavy responsibility, and that includes the faint-hearted who are holding back, and the dignified who are determined to stick in the mud, as well as the stubborn who are blocking the way.
But what concerns us most of all just now in the meantime is this...................that the service of God is none the less acceptable to Him for being rendered under unfavourable circumstances. On the contrary that is an element which heightens it and proves its sincerity. There might be room to doubt the sincerity of the multitudes who worshipped in the Temple of Jerusalem, but there was no hypocrisy in those who sat down and wept by the waters of Babylon.
A sincere worshipper will not find it a sufficient reason to desert God's service here because we lack the comforts and attractiveness of a church. Then as to its practical results, your attendance here is not a matter of indifference. It materially affects the spiritual life of the parish.
We know that God is in the midst just the same whether two or three or some thousands be gathered together in Hs name. But still there is much encouragement in numbers. It stregthens the hands of God's people and cheers their hearts when they see that their brethren are many and hearty in God's service.
Those who stay away from us may perhaps think that thereby they wash their hands of all responsibility in St. Michael's parish. But it is not so. They are only placing more sprags in the wheel of the Church's work, and God knows there are plenty of such sprags already in the parish. Then again, if I may give this matter a personal turn, it makes a great difference to a minister whether you come here or stay away.
His efforts may only be poor at the best, but whatever his qualifications may be, he can do more work and better, with a light heart than a heavy one.
For instance, there is many a house where the dark shadow of affliction has fallen / where hearts are sad and hope is almost entirely lost, and into such homes it is the duty of a minister to carry brightness and hope and strong faith. But he may not find it easy to do this, when his own heart is heavy, and he is hardly likely to feel the wings of his faith growing light and strong, if he often has to preach to a poor congregation. In every way a good attendance at public worship and a sincere and hearty rendering of God's service is a great help to spiritual life in a parish.
Another of the sacrifices of righteousness that we owe unto God, is that of keeping the Institution which Christ himself ordained, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. We do not call the Lord's Supper a sacrifice. It is not a sacrifice itself. It is the remembrance of the Great Sacrifice which Christ has offered for us once for all.
But yet it does indicate a sacrifice on our part. It indicates the sacrifice and surrender of one will to the will of Christ. After all this is really the great obstacle, which prevents so many from coming to the Table of the Lord. It is a question of the "will". Our own will and inclination, our personal convenience, is allowed to have greater way over us than the will of Christ. But, it is our plain and bounden duty to observe this memorial which Christ has left us; both as a sign of obedience to Him, and as a means of grace to ourselves, and also as a sign of Christian brotherhood and fellowshiip with the other members of the Church of Christ.
Some may think that it would be somewhat of a sacrifice, an act of self-denial, to attend at the Lord's Table regularly, but, I am quite sure that those who are in the habit of coming to the Lord's Supper, sincerely seeking a blessing, would find it a far greater sacrifice to have to stay away.
And now we come to another sacrifice of righteousness. St. Paul says, "I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, witch is your reasonable service. "
St. Peter says that we ourselves are a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices. In Micha we read that do justly, love, mercy,and walk humbly with God, is better than thousands of rams and ten tousands of rivers of oil. Gregorian chants are fine and beautiful, but they are a poor get off, if spiritual melody be wanting in the soul.
Gorgeous vestments, elegant little banners, incense, pretty burning candles, and all such like frivolous flummery are no substitute for the inward sacrifice of an honest and godly life.
To obey is better than sacrifice and to harken than the fat of rams."
There is only one other sacrifice of righteousness that I have time to refer to. Offerings for the carrying on of the Divine service, and offerings for the poor, which you ar specially desired to bear in mind this morning; these also are an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.
and now we will conclude with the last word in the text. "Put your trust in the Lord." Let us do all the good things we can do, but let us not put any trust in them. Whatever sacrifices we offer, our faith and trust in Christ must render them acceptable. He is our great and only sacrifice and our Redeemer.
Let us draw near unto Him now with full assurance of faith and boldness and confidence and perfect love and trust, for He who died to redeem us is both our own elder brother and the Lord Almighty, able and willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.
A sincere worshipper will not find it a sufficient reason to desert God's service here because we lack the comforts and attractiveness of a church.
Then as to its practical results your attendance here is not a matter of indifference. It materially affects the spiritual life of the parish.
We know that God is in the midst just the same whether two or three or some thousands are gathered together in His name. But still there is much encouragement in numbers. It strengthens the hands of God's people and cheers their heart when they see that their brethren are many and hearty in SGod's service.
Those who stay away from us may perhaps think that thereby they wash their hands of all resp;onsibility in St. Michael's parish. But it is not so. They are only p lacing more sprags int he wheel of the Church's work, and God knows there are plenty of such sprags already in the parish.
then again, if I may give this matter a personal turn, it makes a great difference to a minister whether you come here or stay here.
His efforts may only be poor at best, but whatever his qualifications may be, he can do more work and better with a light heart than a heavy one. For instance, there is many a house where the dark shadow of affliction has fallen; where hearts are sad and hope is almmost entirely lost, and into such homes it is the duty of a minister to carry brightness andhope and strong faith.
But, he may not find it easy to do this when his own heart is heavy, and he is hardly likely to feel the wings of his faith growing light and strong, if he, often, has to preach to a poor congregation.
In every way a good attendance at public worship and a sincere and hearty rendering of God's service is a grea thelp to spiritual life in a parish. Another of the sacritices of righeousness that we owe unto God, is hat of keeping the Institutionj which Christ Himself ordained, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. We do not call the Lord's Super a sacrifice. It is not a sacrifice itself. It is the remembrance of the Great Sacrifice which Christ has offered for us once for all
Now, I would not say a single word in mitigation of the great offence and stumbling block that lies in our way.
That ruined church is a scandal and a disgrace. It is a deadweight on religion in the place. Anyone who is in the least degree instrumental in hindering its restoration, is incurring a very heavy responsibility