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SERMON I.

OUR PURPOSE.

BY REV. T. P. ABELL.

“ For Zion's sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.”— ISAIAH lxii. 1.

WHATEVER room there may be for the exercise · of critical skill in determining the authorship of

the text, it will be regarded as sufficient for the present to say, that the language is clearly expressive of the feelings and desires of the one who employed it. It announces the settled resolution to labor for the enlargement and the prosperity of Zion — to pursue this great object without rest or cessation, “ until the righteousness thereof shall go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.”

We believe, my brethren, that we may say with safety, that our desires and aims are not wholly dissimilar to those indicated in the text. We

come together, on this anniversary occasion, moved by a common impulse, animated by a common object. We meet as the representatives and members of a large and growing religious body, distinct from all other bodies, and allied only to each other and to God. We come together as a people, openly confessing the sin of sectarianism, and freely proclaiming to the world our principles and our design. Our compact is the welding of our natures by truth. Our position is that of activity. Our aims assume the dignity of a purpose. Our chief design, as a denomination, is two-fold. We remark, then,

I. That it is our purpose to assist in solving the problem whether Christianity, as a system, is a satisfactory religion, in its adaptation to the intellectual and the affectional nature of man.

We say that we are to assist in this work, for we would not arrogate to ourselves more than we may with justice claim. If there are others laboring with the same intent, we would readily share with them all incidental reproach, and accord to them all merited honor. We speak of Christianity, not as a “ life,” not as a “moral element,” but only as a system, — as a scheme

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of simple but divine doctrines. We speak of the intellectual and the affectional nature of man distinctively, for the reason that mind, as such, would be satisfied with a religion which was purely rational, while such a religion could not address itself with success to the heart the affections. And we say that it is our aim, as a people, to throw in our contributions towards the solution of the problem whether Christianity, as a religious theory, is fully adapted to meet and answer the wants of our complex nature.

Confessedly, we are undoubtedly in the wrong in esteeming this a question which yet waits for a demonstration. Christians of every modification of belief are ready to affirm its standing and triumphant demonstration at their hands. If they have not evolved all truth, they have at least exhausted all the needed powers of analysis, and shown the sufficient adaptations of their Christianity. But practically, actually, all this asseveration must go for cant and confusion. Where, and what is that interpretation of the Gospel which satisfies? Where, and who are those men whose easy natures have found such rare content? When, and how were such miracles of happiness

wrought in our midst? I look in vain for such wonders, for such demonstration.

I go among those who scorn to come among us; and I everywhere find mournful evidences of an unsatisfying faith. I have been, as many of you have been, by the bedsides of some of their dying saints, and sought to catch from the intimations of death, verifications of a creed whose spirit a holy life had outlired, whose truth the latest consciousness denied. It is an unfortunate hour for Christianity-an unfortunate hour for the world, when sober minded men are compelled to regard it in its more common forms as having acceptably justified and commended itself to the understanding and the heart. From such a decision, reason instinctively appeals; nor can its acquiescence be won, except its functions are perverted and debased.

Nothing, in fact, is more evident; for a large proportion of these forms of religion insist upon the rejection of reason as the fundamental condition of their acceptance. Were reason not to recoil from their embrace --- were they to betray any intrinsic congeniality with this attribute, they would be direcily regarded by their abettors

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