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school Teacher and his Work”—“The Character and Doings of Infidelity, as displayed in the French Revolution ”—Sketches of Distinguished Men, such as Dr. Raffles and Joseph Sturge, &c. Each number has also furnished “Scenes in Nature as the Year Revolves," and “ The Aspects of the Times we Live In,” including a bird's-eye view of the principal events and the leading philanthropic institutions of the age, with their various agencies and operations, both at home and in the heathen world. The doings of our own Denomination in the great cause of missions, in the erection of chapels, and in other aggressive movements, have been regularly chronicled ; and the Memories of departed worth have found an enduring record in our pages. These interesting topics, with a multitude of gems extracted from the richest mines of theology, science, and literature, form the staple matter of the volume now consigned to the hands of our readers.
Our hearty thanks are due to the excellent brethren who have furnished the instructive and edifying materials of this volume, and also to the esteemed ministers and friends who have aided us in its circulation. We solicit a continuance of their invaluable help, and rely on them and others to secure, if possible, a still better volume, and a still wider circulation, for the year 1866. There is, perhaps, no fixed or definite standard of excellence for human literature, but there ought to be a fervent aspiration for higher attainments of excellence; and this the Editor and his helpers will cherish, hoping that this lawful ambition will secure, as it ought, a corresponding zeal, practically manifested by all who have any influence, to secure for our periodicals the widest possible diffusion among our people. Though but a small body, we boast that we are united : let us, then, show it by our co-operation ; though our sphere is limited, let us work it well, and, by zealous labour, render it fruitful as the garden of the Lord. Let us, indeed, in every department, faithfully do our duty, and thereby fulfil the great end of our being; and let the magazines, containing our best and ripest thoughts, and plying the best and holiest motives, be rendered a powerful lever in advancing all that is good, and in realizing our highest aspirations as private Christians and as a Religious Denomination.
With these sentiments, we solemnly commend to Jehovah's blessing the volume now issued, and fervently implore his special aid in composing the next, that it may be more radiant with light, more vigorous in the advocacy of truth, more effective in the enforcement of duty, and more successful in promoting the great cause of religion, which is the glory of God and the happiness of man.
Crescent, Albany Road,
Nov. 16, 1865.
THE METHODIST CONNEXION MAGAZINE.
Theology and General Literature.
THE METHODIST CLASS-MEETING; OR, THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS — A SCRIPTURAL
DUTY, AND A PRECIOUS PRIVILEGE. A SERMON BY WILLIAM COOKE, D.D.-PREACHED AND PUBLISHED BY
REQUEST. “ Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another : and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."-Mal. iii. 16, 17. I HAVE selected these words as affording the sanction of Divine authority for those edifying and precious means of grace, commonly called “class-meetings, but for which a more appropriate designation would be “Meetings for Religious Communion.” I have undertaken this duty by special request, in order to remove misapprehension from some minds and indifference from others, and with a desire to generate in all a more just appreciation of the importance and Scriptural character of this form of Christian fellowship. A classmeeting is a means in which a number of religious persons, varying from ten to twenty, sometimes more and sometimes less, meet together for about an hour once each week for the purpose of Christian communion and prayer. In such means of grace the disciples of Christ perform the duty and realize the privilege of “the communion of saints.” Therefore, without contending for the name or the use of any precise form, we maintain that in their spirit and purpose these means have the Divine sanction; and this will appear from a consideration of the following propositions :-1. Religious communion is a requirement of genuine religious experience ; 2. It is implied in the vital union of true believers ; 3. It has been realized by God's people in all ages ; 4. It is sanctioned by the most evident tokens of God's approval; 5. Therefore, the Church ought to provide the means for this communion, and believers are under obligation to avail themselves of this privilege.
I. Religious communion is a requirement of genuine religious experience. The disposition for communion is natural to man; it is an element in our mental constitution. Indeed, God himself has this
It is as
disposition; it is an attribute of his glorious nature, and has been
; eternally exercised by him. Before any created being had existence, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were to each other, reciprocally, agent and object of intimate communion and infinite complacency.
Thou lovedst me," says Christ to the Father, “ before the foundation of the world." And when the Triune Jehovah created intelligent beings, he implanted within them this disposition as one radiant feature of his own image. This disposition for communion, therefore, belongs to all minds in their normal or original state. universal in the world of spirit, as gravitation and attraction are in the world of matter. It is this which unites man to man, angel to angel, and both to God. From this disposition springs our delight in the society of our fellow-men. Our social instincts, sympathies, and affections are so active and powerful, that almost every enjoyment would be diminished, and many enjoyments would be destroyed, if man were to be deprived of intercourse with his fellow-man. Mind must commune with mind. God himself, who made our nature what it is, has authoritatively said, and the words have a wide application, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Now, religion does not destroy, but fosters and develops this disposition. Indeed, there is no tendency in Christianity to weaken, much less to destroy, any beneficial instinct of our nature. Religion counteracts and destroys only that which is evil. Alienation and misanthropy are evil: these religion encounters, because they sever man from
But the social principle is good-good to the individual himself, for it stimulates ennobling sympathies and sentiments-good to others, for it unites the hearts of mankind, promotes mutual dependence and kindly ministrations, and binds men together by reciprocal affections and interests; good, too, in thus fulfilling the purposes of Divine benevolence, and thereby securing the Divine glory. Christianity takes hold of this principle in man, refines it, stimulates it, and gives it the fullest development; and thereby makes it productive of the union and consolidation, the co-operation and extension, of the Church of Christ.
There is an essential identity in vital religion which unites all human hearts; for though the experience of each believer has its minor varieties, just as the human countenance has its diversities of hue and expression from physical causes, yet in both there is an essential affinity in their main characteristics. All true Christians are born of the Spirit, and being born of the Spirit, are all made partakers of a new nature; and with a new nature, they have mutually new relations as children of God and joint-heirs of heaven. Thus they are brethren; and as brethren have a new class of sympathies and affections which bind them to each other by the tenderest and the strongest ties. Being all born again of the Spirit, they all bear the fruits of the Spirit. “Love, peace, and joy” are their common inheritance, though existing, it may be, in various degrees; and long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, are common graces and virtues, though exemplified in different grades of excellence. This affinity draws them towards each other; for like seeks its like in the spiritual as well as in the natural world. As heirs of heaven they are all pilgrims on the earth, seeking a better country, that is, a heavenly; and as such, they have common foes and common dangers,