If some of us were fallen asleep, and the faithful ones buried—if the Spirit of God were gone, you would say, ‘Well, we are still a large and influential congregation; we can afford to get a talented minister, money will do anything;’ and you would get the man of talents, and many other pretty things which we now count it our joy to do without. Then, if such were the case, all these vain attempts at grandeur would be unsuccessful, and this church would ere long become a scorn and a hissing, or else a mere log upon the water. Then it would be said, ‘We must change the management,’ and there would be this change and that change; but if the Lord were gone, what could you do? By what means could you ever make this church to revive again, or any other church? Alas! for the carnal, spasmodic efforts we have seen made in some churches! Prayer meetings badly attended, no conversions, but still they have said, ‘Well, it is imperative upon us to keep up a respectable appearance; we must collect the congregation by our singing, by our organ, or some other outward attraction:’ and angels might have wept as they saw the folly of men who sought anything except the Lord, who alone can make a house his temple; who alone can make a ministry to be a ministration of mercy; without whose presence the most solemn congregation is but as the herding of men in the market, and the most melodious songs but as the shoutings of those who make merry at a marriage. Without the Lord, our solemn days, our new moons, and our appointed feasts, are an abomination such as his soul hates.
For meditation: Attempts at ‘fearing the Lord’ with a combination of his ordinances and man-made outward attractions usually lead to the same conclusion—‘they fear not the Lord’ (2 Kings 17:27–34); yet someone in that position will still presume upon God’s blessing (Judges 17:5–6,12–13). Is your church in danger?