CHURCHES may be divided into four descriptions, in regard of their prevailing character.

(J. A. James, "The Church in Earnest" 1847)

The first consists of those in which an apparent high degree of spirituality exists; the preacher is devout, and his sermons partake of his own habitude of thought and feeling; the people, like the pastor, are thought to be, and perhaps are, professors of a higher tone of piety than many others; and there is much of the divine life. But although numerous and wealthy, they do nothing, or nothing in proportion to their ability, for the cause of Christ. Their collections are few and small—they are not at all known as engaged in any of the great societies of the day. They seem to suppose their calling to be to luxuriate on gospel privileges, to enjoy a perpetual feast of fat things; but they appear to think they have no vocation to proclaim the word of the Lord; or at any rate they consider themselves as something like the Jewish church, a stationary witness for God.

The second description of our churches is that of the communities of Christians where there is perhaps less of spirituality, less of the desire for doctrinal theology, either in the pastor or the flock, though their spiritual life is by no means low in comparison with many others; but with them all is activity and energy, the pastor is devoted not merely to his people but to the cause of God at large. The collections are numerous and great. The church can be depended upon, and is looked to for assistance by the directors of our evangelistic institutions. All hands are busy in Sunday and daily schools, tract distribution, Bible classes, and organizations for home and foreign societies; all that know them think and speak of them as a thoroughly working church.

The third description applies to those who are neither the one nor the other of the foregoing; they have lost their spirituality and have not gained a character for activity; they neither enjoy the life of godliness nor diffuse it, they have not even a name to live—but are dead.

The fourth description includes those, (alas! how few they are,) who unite earnest spirituality with activity and liberality no less eminent; whose spiritual life is all healthfulness and vigor, and in whom its developments are seen in all the operations of holy zeal.

This then is what we want—churches in which the vital principle of piety shall be so strong that they may be said to be like the mystic wheels of Ezekiel, instinct with the Spirit of God and ever in motion; churches whose activity, like that of the strong and healthy man, is the working of a life too vivacious to remain in a state of indolence and repose; churches so filled with the Spirit, that his gracious influence is perpetually welling up and flowing over in streams of benevolent activity for the salvation of the world; churches partaking of so much of the mind of Christ that from their own internal constraint, they must, like him, be ever going about doing good. Oh that God would pour out his Spirit, and raise every separate fellowship of believers to this blessed state of spiritual prosperity!