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school, and how the fidelity which marked its beginning has been its distinguishing feature ever since; how the first prayer meetings held Sunday afternoon in the school house in the Pratt district, in the face of the discouragement and even ridicule of onlookers, so hopeless was the field, grew into the Sabbath school, which now, in their new Clark chapel, forms one of our most promising departments of outside work; how our Bethel mission has been nursed along, until, in its own house, it is enabled to carry on what has already come to be a large work among the newsboys and their class.
My first night in Minneapolis was spent in a little brown house, retired behind some solemn poplar trees on the spot where we are now gathered. It would be a daring fancy that could then have pictured this grand edifice, our happy home, which represents so much of planning, of toil, of prolonged self-sacrifice, as it now stands, paid for, consecrated in prayer and gift, the scene of so much of joy and pain, the birthplace of many souls, the beloved church, the House of God to us all. In the passing years it has been my sad duty to offer the last prayer over 142 of your dead. Many bedside scenes are stamped upon my heart, many last words are written in my memory. Many faces which some of you did not. know, pass before me, the reminder of those who once shared in our labors, and of not a few who came to Minnesota only to die, and knew the church only in its pastor by their bedside, and by the sound of its distant bell.
It is a long, long story, too full by far to be crowded into a sermon; too full, it would seem, to be embraced in the ten years that are gone. Many a house on our streets is to me eloquent of scenes of joy, or of sorrow, that have transpired within it, of which no other participant than myself now remains among us. Not infrequently in the railway train, or on the street of some distant city, I am taken by the hand by a stranger and given grateful reminder of the ministrations of our church and our people.
But the first ten years of our united life are ended.
We have to ask, where do they leave us; what of the duties of the future?
The church I regard as just now at the most imporportant period of its history. Its largest usefulness lies immediately before us. We have passed out of the years of childhood, out of the adolescence of youth. The first children born to the families of the church have come to man and womanhood. For the first time they are establishing homes and becoming parents themselves. This autumn. no less than a dozen young couples take their places among the families of the church. It is the beginning of a new era. It marks a stage in the growth of the community. It brings serious responsibilities upon the church. We must settle soon and definitely what our plan of life and work as a church is to be. We can no longer go on tentatively, to be led this way or that from day to day. We must have convictions as to the Christian life, no less than as to the Christian faith. We must settle definitely our methods of Christian work and worship, no less than the traits of individual Christian character. For the family life that is crystalizing about us is not pliable as is the life of the stranger, and of the young people. It settles quickly into established ways, and there abides. It quickly determines the future of the church, as indeed it is determined by it. I believe that we are called to fix in the months just before us the character of our church for its whole future. I desire, therefore, to take advantage of the occasion to say some serious words. I have chosen our text because it lays down a single principle which I believe it is our duty to apprehend and exalt.
Paul is bidding farewell not only to the elders of the church at Ephesus, but to all the churches which mark the scene of his most important work as the apostle to the Gentiles. He believes that they will see his face no more. He reviews in a few words his own work among them, and then gathers his last injunction into one short sentence. It is intended to mold their character as churches, and fix their methods of life and work. What
does he say? Is it," Draw in the net incessantly. Labor among the unconverted and the fallen. Strive to gather many from the world into the church; bend your energies. to increasing your numbers and extending your bounds"? Not at all. We are surprised, for Paul's own work has been preeminently that. So churches have been spread over western Asia, and beyond the sea into Macedonia and Greece. But stop a minute. Has this been Paul's chief work? He made rapid missionary journeys, organized churches among the heathen, and then passed on. But quickly he returns upon his track. He is willing to be all things to all men, if by all means he may save some, but his heart seems to be chiefly occupied with the thought of those who have started in the Christian life. He writes to them earnest letters. Again and again he visits them. His first missionary journey occupies about a year; then he returns to spend four or five years with the church at Antioch. Of the two years and a half of the second journey one year and a half are given to the church in Corinth. Again he returns to Antioch. Then he spends three solid years in strengthening the church at Ephesus and the churches thereabout. Once more
he starts, but not to visit new fields, though "great and effectual doors" for the conversion of the heathen are open to him as before.. He passes by them all that he may revisit the churches of Macedonia to give them "much exhortation." He spends three precious months doing a like work in Greece; and as the end draws on he seizes one more opportunity to return to his much loved converts in Macedonia. He prolongs his stay to the last minute. He must hasten, and would have sailed by Ephesus, for the passover was at hand, but in the same spirit he stops at the harbor, Miletus, and sends up to the city for the elders of the church, that he may give to them one more charge.
We should think that Paul would have gathered the sailors on the wharves, or such of the heathen as would hear, to preach to them in the few hours that remained. It would seem more consistent with his calling, more in
the line of much of our modern religious work; but, no, he sends for the officers of the church. His last words are for them.
And what are those words? "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood!" Has Paul lost the spirit of his early consecration? Does he not care for perishing souls? Are there no heathen to be won in that great city? Is there no missionary work to be done in the regions beyond? Yes, but Paul evidently believes that the progress of the Kingdom of Christ and the salvation of souls is to be accomplished primarily by the training and cultivation of the church. Here we have the foundation principles of his work, the truth important for us to grasp to day. looking upon the fields so dear to his heart for the last time, is anxious before all else that the flock of God shou'd be fed. If that is done, the rest, the conversion of the world is sure to follow.
If you will examine the New Testament you will see that this principle pervades all Paul's writings. a new word to the church to express the thought. Open your Bible at Matt. 7: 24, and you will find a word translated build, in the case of the man who built his house upon a rock. Follow it along and it is always so rendered until you come to Acts 9: 31, where Luke says, "Then the churches had rest and were edified." It is the same word; where did Luke learn this use of it? Turn to Paul's epistles and you will find your answer. He everywhere so uses it. "He that prophesieth, edifieth -or, builds up-the church." "Charity edifieth." We are to "edify one another." Everyone is to "please his neighbor for good unto edification." The power of the apostle himself is given to "edification"; the “edifying of the body of Christ" is the end of all gifts, and when the whole body is fitly joined together and compacted, in an effectual working, the proof is not in its influence over
the unconverted, but in an "increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love."
Nor was Paul alone in this teaching. cant are the Saviour's last words to Peter. been intrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. He was first to proclaim the everlasting gospel to the Jew and to the Gentile. But what was the Saviour's final injunction? "Be faithful in preaching to the heathen?" No: but three times repeated, "Feed my Sheep.'
Here then is our lesson. How can we as a church best adopt this command, and do our part in advancing the Kingdom of Christ by securing the most efficient religious training and culture for one another?
I believe the time has come for us, before all else, to pay more earnest attention to the Religion of the Family.
A great change has taken place in the religious training of the home since many of you were boys and girls. Doubtless in many ways there has been improveThe Sunday School has come into prominence, with all its attractions of lively music, uniform lessons, illustrated books and papers, picnics and festivals. The home has perhaps lost something of asperity. But, dear friends, we know what sort of men and women those old fashioned homes produced; it remains yet to be seen what the product of the new method is to be. Certain it is that children cannot be neglected by parents, as many are now, and turned over to outside training in the Sunday school and the public school, however thorough that training of its kind may be, while the parents excuse themselves from so large a part of their proper responsibility and care, without the children suffering grevious harm. Why is it that so many of you are allowing your children a laxity in their choice of amusements which you as children were not allowed, which indeed you cannot now allow yourselves as men and women with a clear conscience? Why is the theater, in one form or another, looked upon as a proper place for your boys and girls; why do you encourage children's dancing clubs, with the