What we need in our churches to give them power and the highest usefulness — is the grasping and realizing of the thought of individual responsibility. A church is nothing but an aggregation of individuals. The life of a church is simply the life of all its individual members working together in one organized body. The zeal of a church, is simply the zeal of all its members fused and burning together. The devotion of a church is a hundred, or a few hundred, coals glowing upon one altar. The good works of a church are simply the good works of all its members. In his own place, and to the extent of his own power — every member, even the humblest, is responsible for the life, activity, prosperity, and usefulness of the church to which he belongs.
Take up a single point of responsibility from the many that attach to individual church membership. The truth should be realized that all revival and spiritual quickening in the church, must come through individual hearts. We deplore the coldness of the church, its languishing devotion, its diminishing fervor and zeal, its spiritual deadness and lethargy. We sing revival songs. We pray revival prayers. We preach revival sermons. Yet we wonder why revival never comes.
But how is it in the individual hearts — has the revival begun there yet? Everybody is looking after the condition of the church so intently — that he has no time to look after his own heart. We need more Nathans to talk parables to our delinquent Davids, and by their pungent home-thrust, "You are the man!" — to drive them to their closets, to their Bibles, to their God, and to the care of their own hearts.
The best thing any man can do toward the cultivation of a state or county — is to cultivate well his own farm, or his own field or garden. He would not be a very useful man who would spend his time in finding fault with his neighbor's farming, or with the general state of agriculture — and allow his own field to become overgrown with weeds and thorns.
And the same is true in the church. The only revival that will bless the church — is that which shall begin in the individual hearts of the church membership. And the very first thing for every Christian to do, is to secure the quickening and reviving of his own spiritual life.
Hence every Christian owes it to the Master and to his church, to live in close communion with God, to walk in the Spirit, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The great river that flows through the valley, and bears a nation's wealth on its bosom — is born of the ten thousand springs that flow out upon the hillsides and mountains, and burst up in the meadows and fields.
In the same way, the great power of a strong and noble Christian church — is born of the hearts of its individual members. The springs which compose it flow out of the secret closets, and from under the family altars of the people.
There is nothing, therefore, which tells so fatally upon the spirituality of a church — as the decay of home religion and closet devotion. It affects spirituality of a church, just as the drying up of the springs affects the river. Every Christian owes it then, to Christ to make his home religion holy and heavenly. It is to be feared that the family altar is crumbling down in too many Christian households, that the old Bible is gathering dust on the shelf, and that home piety is losing its vigor and life.
A traveler tells of tarrying for a night in a village among the mountains and lakes of Scotland, and witnessing this beautiful scene. At nightfall, suddenly, every villager disappeared from the streets. There was scarcely one to be seen. And when he asked where they had all gone, the answer was, "They have gone to family prayers, sir." What a holy scene — a whole village bowing at the same hour in their evening prayers! Could this be realized in all the homes of every Christian church in the land — what rich blessings would flow out into the churches!
Then still behind the family altar, as a spring of spiritual power — is the secret closet of prayer and communion. Many a precious revival, which has resulted in the most glorious blessing to the church and to the world — has been the open answer to the secret cries of the closet. What a mighty power would a whole church of wrestling Jacobs be! It is back in these hidden springs, that revival must begin — and out of these secret fountains, that spiritual power in the church must flow. Revival is a personal matter. Every member is responsible for the life of the church. Every member should look well to his own heart. Let each keep his own little garden — and there will be no neglected spots in the great vineyard of God!