“Mark the hypocrites that come into the Christian church and that mar her purity. Observe the formalists that crowd her courts, that sit as God’s people sit, and sing as God’s people sing, but have hearts full of rottenness and villainy. Observe even the true saints—how unbelieving, how carnally-minded often, how childish, how ready to murmur against God! How few of them are fathers in Israel! When they ought to be teachers, they have need to be instructed in the first elements of the faith. What heresies come into the church, and how many unstable minds are carried away with them. What divisions there are! How one saith, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” and a third, “I am of Christ” (1Co 1:12). What envyings there are, what backbitings of those that are eminent for usefulness. What suspicions against those who are a little more zealous than their fellows! My brethren, what a lack of affection we can see in the church of Christ; how little brotherly kindness, how little sympathy. On the other hand, how much of pride is discovered…How we find some claiming to be lords in God’s heritage and taking to themselves names and titles to which they have no right, seeing that “One is our Master,” and we are not to be called “Rabbi” among men. When I look at the church even with a blinded eye, having no power to see her as God’s omniscient eye must see, yet is she covered with spots. Well may she wear her veil and say, “Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me” (Song 1:6). O church of God, how is it Jesus Christ could love thee, for even in thy church capacity and church-estate how much there is that could make Him say, “Thou art reprobate silver; thou shalt be cast into the fire” (see Jer. 6:30). Lo, how much there is that must make Him say of thee, “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?...It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Luke 14:34; Mat 5:13).
And yet you see, dear friends, it is written that Christ loved His church, and gave Himself for it. I think I see it—a piece of ground untilled; neither hedged, nor walled, not covered with vines, nor redolent with the perfume of sweet flowers, but it is a spot in the wilderness, filled with the thorn, the thistle, and the brier; her hedges are broken down; the stones of her wall are scattered; the wild boar out of the wood wasteth her; all kinds of unclean creatures lurk among her weeds and brambles. Oh, how is it, Thou Lord of glory, that Thou couldst buy, at the price of Thy heart’s blood, such a waste piece of ground as that? What couldst Thou see in that garden that Thou shouldst determine to make it the fairest spot of all the earth, that should yield Thee the richest of all fruit?
Methinks, again, I see the church of God, not as a fair maid decorated for the marriage-day with jewels, and carrying herself right gloriously both in her person and her apparel; but I see her as a helpless child, neglected by her parents, cast out, unwashed, unclothed, left uncared for, and covered with her filth and blood. No eye pities her, no arm comes to bring her salvation. But the eye of the Lord Jesus looks upon that infant and straightway love beams forth from that eye, speaks from that lip, and acts through that hand. He says, “Live!” and the helpless infant is cared for: she is nurtured; she is decked with dainty apparel; she is fed, clothed, sustained, and made comely through the comeliness of Him Who chose her at the first. Thus it is that strong love moved the grace of God, and the church found that Christ gave Himself for it.”