by Cornelius Tyree, 1859
Some of the particulars in which the religion of Christ must be exhibited in order to evince its divinity, and induce mankind to embrace it
In the healthy child there is a growth of all the parts of the body. The arms do not grow while the legs remain stationary. So it is with the scriptural, influential Christian. No duty is neglected, no virtue is cultivated to the omission of other virtues. There is respect to all God's commandments, and every false way is hated.
The type of religion that is now needed does not consist in the belief of a few doctrines and in the performance of a few duties—but in believing the whole gospel, and in the avoidance of all that it forbids, and in doing all that it enjoins. The principles of grace must pervade, subordinate, and vitalize all our thoughts, feelings, words and deeds. In fine, in all our relations, conditions, connections, and circumstances, we must act Christianly. Whether on Sunday or week day—when we are busiest and when we are idlest—whether in society or in solitude—whether we are glad or sad—whether we toil or rest, we must act out the religion of Christ. Let us then specify some of the relations in which our religion must be developed in order to convince and draw men to Christ.
1.For the glory of Christ, the good of His people, and the conversion of the world—the church has been organized. Now first in order of time, our religious principle must appear in a public identification with the redeemed of the Lord. If Christ has a standard on earth, reason demands that all who are His friends should rally around that standard. The idea of being a concealed friend of Christ is rebuked by all God's works and the plain teaching of the Scriptures. The divine plan is, that we first, by repentance toward God
and faith in Jesus Christ, become inwardly and essentially pious, and then appear so by being baptized and receiving the Lord's Supper. What is true religion? It is to believe in Jesus Christ with all the heart, and then confess him in His own appointed way. That appointed way is baptism. In this way our change of state and nature, our love to Christ and purpose to come under His government and live for His glory, are formally professed and avowed before three worlds.
Baptism is faith's first development. In it we symbolically die to sin, and rise to newness of life. It is a most important era in the believer's life—a bright spot in his retrospect, hallowing the time and place that witnessed it, bringing him under the most weighty and sacred obligations to recant the world and be Christlike. A scriptural baptism not only strengthens the graces of the subject—but deeply impresses the irreligious beholder. Hundreds have been won to Christ by it. It is the blessed gospel symbolized and made tangible, that it may enlighten the mind and affect the heart through the avenue of the eye. It is eminently religious and eminently encouraging. If all who thus avow their faith would live the life they in this ordinance so solemnly pledge to live, the reign of Christ would soon be victorious and complete.
Hence the development of our faith in our church relations implies much more than being baptized and partaking of the Lord's Supper. These are but the visible commencement of Christian discipleship. Our religion is furthermore to appear in the church by a punctual, prayerful attendance on the ministry of the Word, in meeting with the saints for prayer, praise, consultation, and discipline; in giving of our substance to spread the gospel at home and abroad—for giving is as much an element of Christ's religion as praying; in loving, admonishing, guarding, sympathizing with, and provoking unto good works—all the family of Christ around us; in contending for and maintaining the faith once delivered to the saints; in striving for the harmony, peace, purity, and increase of the brotherhood; in efforts to diffuse the gospel in one's own community and through all the world; in praying for and teaching the rising generation; and in efforts to convert the lost.
Now, all this is the gospel in practice in one of our great and most important relations. These church duties and privileges, as far as they go, are the triumphs of the Christian principle in the human life. They are one great phase of the religion which honors Christ and saves the world. A church composed of such members is Christianity, in one of its great designs, in operation. Thus far such a people are witnesses for Christ, impersonations of the truth, and the light of the world.
But membership in the church alters none of the real relations of life. By going into the kingdom of Christ, we do not go out of the world. Our natural relations remain the same; and it is just as important that we should act Christianly in these relations as it is that we should be Christ-like in the church. Many regard their religion as a sort of a sacred church affair—a holy robe too fine to be worn in the ordinary transactions of life. They lay it away for Sundays, revivals, and ceremonial occasions. When these are over, they merge the Christian into the man of the world. This is a most hurtful and wide-spread mistake. It leaves three-fourths of the character unreclaimed to Christ. It blots and rends the robe of our profession. He who acts out his pious principles only as a member of the church, not only inflicts a deep injury on that church—but renders himself powerless with the unbelievers around him.
It is comparatively easy to be pious in our church relations. It is outside of Zion that we have to fight the hardest and most important battles for Christ. To be religious in our every-day life and business—to he spiritually-minded and consistent amid the distractions of a family—to be holy amic the perplexing cares of a farm—to be God-fearing amid the fashions, laws, and false customs of those with whom we must mingle—to exhibit the light of a pious example amid the persecutions to which those who are godly will be subjected—to abide with God in our calling—to be governed by and display the Christian principle in all time jostlings and collisions of our financial interests—to be a flew Testament Christian in the shop, the store, the factory, the school-room, and in the social gathering—is the great difficulty in our Christian calling. And yet the regulating, sanctifying principles of the gospel must go with and control us in all these secular vocations and duties—or better for us and the cause of Christ, that we had never professed the gospel.
2. For the world's good, God has ordained the family relation. It is the oldest and most useful of all societies. In this relation our faith in Christ must develop itself.Of all other connections it is most important that we exhibit true religion in this. But faith has not produced its legitimate effect in this far reaching relation. There is a great deficiency in family religion. The domestic aspect of many a professing character, is unchristianized. Abroad, before the world, on great occasions, there are many whose religious example shines brightly—but at home it flickers into extinction. Many parents, who are valuable members of the church, are positively irreligious in the family sphere. By yielding to little temptations, they destroy their pious influence over those whom God requires them to train for usefulness and heaven. Like the elephant whose skin can resist the force of the musket-ball—but is goaded to madness by the sting of the mosquito, there are many who manifest their religion by resisting great temptations, and bearing great afflictions—and yet allow themselves to be provoked by the ordinary petty trials and difficulties of their family affairs, into habitual irreligion of temper and conduct. They unmurmuringly bury their dead, and willingly do much for the cause of Christ abroad—and yet permit the little inequalities of children to keep them so crabbed, unkind, and irritable, that they neutralize all the good they would otherwise do.
This is acting in religion, as the farmer would act who, in attempting to prevent inundations, should dike the high points, and leave the ravines unguarded. In vain may such parents teach and pray for the conversion of their household. Children are far more likely to practice what their parents do—than what they say. They are more influenced by the eye than by the ear. It would be infinitely better for the youth of some families if they saw more religion and heard less. We strongly advocate preceptive religion in parents; but this without the ratification of godly example, is worse than powerless. Without the invincible grace of God, the children who are only plied with precept, will become hardened in irreligion, die in their sins, and in eternity upbraid their parents for their ruin!
There are thousands of powerful motives that urge the exemplification of Christ's religion in the family circle. Nowhere else will piety work so extensively. The friends of Christ move in no other sphere where there are so many probabilities that their pious example will be imitated, multiplied, and perpetuated. Seeing religion displayed by those who are so near to them, by those whose influence over them is so boundless; witnessing religion exemplified when their natures are so tender, moldable, and imitative—there is a moral certainty that such children will receive pious impressions, deep and ineffaceable. Just as pride, covetousness, ambition, intemperance, and profanity, in parents, poison human nature in its fountain, corrupt the stream of life, and send forward a tide of resistless evil to perdition's stormy lake; so, on the other hand, pious precept and example, emanating from the same source, will mingle with and transform the elements of youthful nature before they flow into the stream of fixed habits, and thus put in motion a train of pious influences that will be diffused through all time, survive the resurrection trumpet, and augment, through eternity, the number and bliss of the redeemed.
Parents, more than any other being, but God, have the molding of the materials that are to make the nation and compose the church. To the greatest earthly extent, they have in their hands the destinies of their offspring for both worlds. Their casual words and acts will live on forever in their effects.
Parents, ponder your every step. You live at the fountains of influence. Your every movement touches chords that vibrate through eternity. If you are not a godly example at home, I would not take your place at the tribunal of God for ten thousand worlds. The ranks of darkness will regard you as one of their successful allies. They will exult over your work of destruction. You will, in an increasing ratio, make the life of many miserable—and their perdition doubly sure. But in God's strength be consistently and strikingly pious in your households, and you will make a mark that will last long after the globe shall have been melted down by the last conflagration. You will deposit in the vigil soil of your children's souls the good seed of the kingdom, which, after you are in heaven, if not before, will produce the fruit of conversion to God, and usefulness to man. Exemplify before the children whom God has given you, the piety you profess, and your influance will be felt in the prosperity, perpetuity, and, glory of your great nation, and in furnishing the church of Christ with well trained members. In fine, the welfare of our country, and of the church, the glory of God, the salvation of our children, and, through them, of the world—all combine with the weight of a thousand worlds, to urge every parent to let the light of practical godliness shine on steadily in the family circle. If parents would have their children grow up in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord," and convert their households into nurseries for the church and for heaven, then it is not enough for them merely to profess true religion—but they must constantly be and appear pious in their manner of living. What parents are, will brand itself deeply in their children.
"Alas for a thousand fathers, whose indulgent sloth has emptied the vial of confusion over a thousand homes. Alas for the palaces and hovels that might have been nurseries of heaven, but which worldliness has blighted into schools of hell. It is a kindness most unkind—that always spares the rod; a foolish love, pregnant of hate, that never frowned on sin; a moral cowardice of heart that never dares command."
3. We sustain SOCIAL as well as family relations.From instinct, and for pleasure and profit, we meet and mingle with each other. Hence, our religion will be incomplete and uninfluential unless it is developed in the social circle. Social piety is growing obsolete. From this most important sphere, practical religion is fast being excluded. The public opinion of this refined age is just as effectually banishing practical godliness from the ordinary fellowship of society, as the profession of it was banished from Rome by the edicts of Claudius. Over the social department of life, the world exercises an exclusive, stern, and despotic sway. It will allow you to profess religion, and be as devout as you choose in your churches; but the moment you enter the social pale, it requires you to abjure your religious profession and adopt its modes, obey its maxims, speak its language, cultivate its temper, and be the friend of its friends and the enemy of its enemies. Should you dissent, it will proscribe and excommunicate you from the social circle, under the charge of fanaticism; and if nothing more, it will smite you with its tongue. And just in this way the world is now, as it ever has been, a foe to Christianity, before which many a professor quails and crouches into a silent and sinful timidity, and thereby commits the sin of being ashamed of Christ before men. It requires more courage to rise up to the precious singularity of confessing Christ in this relation of life, than it does to go to a martyr's stake!
Here then is a growing and mighty evil, and unless bold-hearted Christians make a stand against it, our Zion will go into captivity, and the world will be undone. If we submit to take off the sacred badge of our religion when we enter the social sphere, we at once surrender to the prince of darkness one of our Lord's outposts, and commit the sin of treason against His kingdom. We must take, and retain the social territory for Christ. Woe to the church and the world, too, if we retreat from it! Unless this great department of life has been seasoned with the salt of practical religion, its moral corruption will go on increasing until Christianity will be compelled to abandon ground she has already gained.
Regardless, then, of the reproaches that may be incurred, unappalled by the charges of cant and sanctimoniousness that many be alleged against us, let us bind the scandal of the cross around our brow, and exhibit before the world its unutterable glories. Have not the friends of Christ the same right to exhibit their religion in social sphere, as the world has to exhibit their irreligion? Who is more lacking in true politeness and refinement—the man who, in common social life, makes no secret of being a disciple of Christ—or the man who makes no secret of being an infidel? Some tell us that when before the men of the world, our religion should be retiring and unseen. But the whole Bible inculcates openness in our attachment to Christ.
True, Christ rebuked ostentation and hypocrisy—but He enjoins the manifestation of love to Him before all men, under all circumstances, under pain of His displeasure. As well say there are times when the sun, moon, and stars, should conceal their beams in order not to be ostentatious. They were created to shine, and shine always. So the light of Christian example should be poured forth always on the darkness of a lost world. Is it immodest for the stars to shine, for the flowers to bloom, and the violet to emit its fragrance? No more is it immodest in the obscurest saint to display before men the light of true piety. Paul, John, Luther, Hall, Judson, and Payson, were modest men, and gentlemen also; yet their piety formed their characters; was as manifest in them as the sun blazing on the forehead of morning.
And then what does Jesus mean in saying, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven?" "He that is ashamed of Me, and of My words, before men-of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when He shall come in His own glory, and with the glory of the Father, and with the holy angels." Our faith must show itself in this side of our life and character, or we shall deny Christ, and confirm the world in their unbelief.
But is it asked how we are to display the religion of Christ in this respect? We reply, in nameless little things. By speaking evil of no one, by putting away all jesting and foolish talking, by never ascribing to others a bad motive so long as you can impute to them good ones, by discouraging the tattler and tale-bearer, by seeking to heal breaches between neighbors, by discountenancing all unnecessary and dissipating amusements, by meekness, gentleness, kindness, sincerity, simplicity, affectionateness, pureness, and cheerfulness, by giving conversation a pious turn, by speaking of Christ, His kingdom and claims, on all suitable occasions. In this way you will shine as lights in the world—be invested with the mild glories of a heavenly deportment—display the winning sweetness of a holy example, and thereby impress the beholder not only that your religion is an emanation from heaven—but that it is transforming, ennobling, and above all things desirable.
4. But man sustains business as well as social relations. Hence our religion must appear also iii our SECULAR transactions. Man was made for society and business, as well as for loving God and praying to him in secret. True, the most of our religion has to do with God and Christ and ourselves; but much of it regards our fellow-creatures, and cannot be exemplified without intermixture and transactions with them. One prevalent error, is regarding religion as something separate from the common affairs of life. Many act on the unscriptural and mischievous maxim of "keeping business in its place, and religion in its place." Their creed is—that praying, holy thinking, reading, and conversation, hearing sermons, communion with God, and efforts to do good, are for Sundays; but on week-days, in the secular transactions of life, these things may be laid aside and ignored. Never was there a greater moral heresy!
As in the material world there are no conflicting laws, so in the moral world there are no conflicting duties. All duties are commanded by God, and are in a most important sense religious. God as much commands us to work and take care of our temporal interests on week-days—as He does that we should meet for His worship on Sundays. He as much enjoins industry, prudence, and economy as He does praying, repentance and faith. He might have arranged matters otherwise. He might have built us houses as He creates the trees, and caused our corn and wheat to grow as He does the weeds and tares. He might have rained down our food as He did the manna of old, clothed us as He does the fowls, and educated our children without pains and expense on our part. But as this is not His arrangement. As He has ordained that in order to be fed, clothed, and educated—we must labor; and inasmuch as he requires of us in all things to glorify Him, to "be fervent in spirit" as well as "diligent in business," then it follows that it is His ordinance that His religion and the common business of life should be blended. And if so, it moreover follows that there is no incompatibility between the religion of Christ and the avocations of life, for God never requires of His people impossibilities.
In this way the religion of the Bible may be brought down from that ethereal, angelic region in which it seems to the men of the world to dwell, and assume in the buying, selling, trading, bartering affairs of life a tangible, convincing, winning reality.
But alas, how irreligious are thousands who wear the name of Christ, in the business aspects of their characters! What selfishness in the management of their financial interests! What violations of the golden rule! Some make promises to pay their bills—only to break them. Some take the advantage of the necessities of their neighbors to increase their gains. Others evince a disposition to take advantage in their bargains and sales. Others fail in business, when there are grounds to suspect that falsehood and fraud have attended the whole transaction. Others borrow money never to return it; and others, in their efforts after gain, show a degree of overreaching bordering on dishonesty.
Now who needs be told that in this way Christ has been deeply wounded in the house of His friends—and His cause greatly impeded? It is with Christians secularly that the men of the world have most to do; and many such men, judging Christianity by the inconsistent conduct of its friends in this particular, have been confirmed in their prejudices and opposition to it. Perhaps the financial and commercial inconsistency of professing Christians is doing more to retard the spread of the gospel than any other. Here is Zion's chief danger. And verily this will never do. Our secular transactions must be Christianized, or the church will never carry out her mission. Until the friends of the Redeemer put away all wrong-doing in their business, until they feel themselves as much bound to obey the command, "Owe no man anything," as they pray in secret—there will still remain one mighty stumbling block in the way of the world's conversion. It is our deepest conviction, that unless professing Christians can be induced to regulate, subordinate, and control their secular interests more by gospel principles, they can never extensively and effectually spread the empire of their Lord. This blot on our escutcheon is one of the causes of our comparative defeat. Let the redeemed, for the sake of Christ's honor and the world's salvation, wipe it off. Let each one in God's strength determine that 'the Christian' shall appear in the man of business.
Evince your religion by not only keeping within the precincts of legal obligation—but by avoiding every petty unfairness, and by exemplifying whatever things that are honest and honorable. We earnestly plead for a reformation in this direction. Let the pure religion of the cross be acted out in this great department of life. Let all the men of business take God's word for their guide and God's glory for their aim. In all their matters of work and trade, let the farmer, mechanic, the merchant, the buyer, the seller—bring to bear on their avocations the high sanctions of Christianity, and not only will they transmute all their duties, their toils, their losses and gains into the service of God; but they will do more in impressing those with whom they have to do, with the truth and importance of religion, than they could do by all their prayers, tears, and admonitions!
5. Our religion must be seen in all of our CIVIL relationships.Some contend that Christians should have noshing to do with the affairs of government; that they should stand aloof from civil matters, leaving them entirely to the management of the carnal and worldly. But a mere 'ethereal piety' is useless. Civil government is as much an ordinance of God as Baptism and the Lord's Supper. "The powers that be, are ordained of God." Christians are more interested in civil affairs than any other part of the community. They have, in common with worldly men—property, families, characters, and bodies, to protect. Civil liberty, necessarily includes religious liberty. We know this position has been greatly misunderstood, and greatly abused. We repudiate all alliance between religion and the civil arm, either offensive or defensive. Religion asks nothing of the State but protection in some of its local interests. It thanks no magistrate for his officious interference, to force men to heaven. Were this simple principle understood by the Christians of Europe, it would sweep away their 'national religious establishments', and give the churches there a power and spirituality they have never known. Still, patriotism is a Christian virtue. We urge on the friends of Christ, a calm, enlightened concernment in the political affairs of their country. In this age and land, some of our most precious interests demand it. The history of the world has demonstrated that the best forms of government are vain without public virtue; but public virtue is the sum of private virtue, and private virtue is the fruit of true and efficient religion. Our model form of government has in it no inherent vitality. It will be efficient just in proportion to the religion and virtue of the people whose will it embodies. There are rife, among the people of this land, feelings, sectional prejudices, and sentiments, which, if not restrained by the conservative power of God's religion, will soon sweep away all our parchment barriers and safeguards. Inevitable downfall awaits our beloved republic, if its management be given up to the ungodly, the wicked, and fanatical. Nothing can secure its perpetuity, prosperity, and glory—but the agency of the godly.
But while we say this much, let us again guard against being misunderstood. Patriotism and partyism are two very different things. While we plead for the former, as a legitimate and important development of the religion of Christ, we oppose the latter, as alike detrimental to Church and State. This we say without trenching on anyone's political creed. What we deprecate, as having done a vast deal in bringing Christianity into disrepute—is the many instances in which professed Christians have become clamorous party politicians.
Hence against noisy political partyism in the disciples of Christ, we, in the name of our beloved Zion, enter our solemn protest. We affirm that such injure the cause of their country as much as they do the cause of Christ. We say there to all such—heed us while we speak out our earnest impressions on this subject.
From our present standpoint we see clearly the evil of such a course, and the way to remedy it. Just let professing Christians become so engrossed in politics, as to forsake their church to attend political meetings, spend their free time in reading secular papers instead of their Bibles, discuss politics on the way to and from the house of God, and do things as members of a party that they would not do as individuals, and they will inflict deeper injury on the cause of Christ than all the infidels of Christendom. Such could not take a more effectual way to destroy the church of Christ, and confirm the kingdom of darkness. It is our firm belief that no Christian can aid and abet all the measures of either of the great political parties of the day, without grieving God's Spirit and greatly diminishing his Christian influence.
The point then we urge, is that the politician should be merged into the Christian, not the Christian into the politician. The glory of God should be as distinctly aimed at in the selection of a civil officer as in the election of a pastor. Dependence on God for success in the affairs of State should be as distinctly recognized and avowed, as dependence on Him for success in the affairs of the church. The disciple of Christ should evince his religion by standing aloof from, and repudiating every measure, and every candidate for his vote, that requires of him, either in fact or in appearance, the sacrifice of Christian propriety.
In all his civil movements the religion of Christ should be his guide and companion. In the performance of his political duties he should act from a sense of religious obligation, and with a view to his accountability at the great day. In this way he will not only most effectually serve his country—but serve his Savior in serving his country, and thereby exhibit, to this God-forgetting world—a most striking proof of the divinity, loveliness, and transforming power of the religion of Christ. We repeat it—woe to our country when its politics shall become religionless.
6.Christians not only, as we have seen, sustain church, domestic, social, commercial, and political relations, in all of which they are to manifest their religion; but they also sustain to mankind at large, moral and benevolent relations, in which their faith must develop itself in effort to save them. All of earth's inhabitants are one family. According to the teachings of Christ, all are our neighbors. Every man has a claim on every other. God has imposed on us an obligation that we cannot cancel—to impart to all, and to each, all the good we can. Not to do good to others, is a frustration of the ulterior end of our existence; upon the same principle as the believer in the hour of his conversion was made the subject of the greatest of all blessings, he becomes bound by the most pressing and tender of all obligations to be the medium of those blessings to others. It is just as much the duty of each disciple to diffuse the gospel, as it was to embrace it. The last great command of Christ makes it the main duty and high privilege of each and all of His flock to aid in the world's conversion. Our very conversion is but a means to an end, and that end is the salvation of sinners, at home and abroad. We speak scripturally when we say that the believer who does not somewhere, between his conversion and his death, win one sinner to Christ, misses the great end of his redemption. This is a great standing law of the new dispensation, that can neither be revoked nor evaded.
This position being admitted, then it follows that the missionary enterprise is not a modern conception engrafted on the religion of Christ—but is as much one of the genuine forms and developments of faith in Christ, as baptism, prayer, and brotherly love. Christ was the great model Missionary; the apostles were missionaries; all the members of the primitive churches were missionaries; the gospel itself is as diffusive as the light of heaven. And this spirit, Christians, in this day, must possess, or they are less than the least of all saints, in more senses than one. You cannot define New Testament religion, without including, as one of its essential elements, the missionary spirit.
Or look at the matter in another light. The whole heathen world are still unconverted. At home, tens of thousands are in the deepest ignorance, and are the slaves of the vilest sins. Each succeeding wave bears off millions of the unredeemed to the everlasting damnation of hell. Christians have the gospel—which is the only remedy for this appalling evil. The church is the only agent in the universe for conveying to the unsaved the gospel, and converting them to Christ. Her opportunities for doing so are many and multiform. God has so arranged matters that we may stay at home, and yet reach and save these dark masses as effectually as if they were at our doors. Now can one be a Christian in the true sense of the term, without earnest cares, efforts, and self-denials to save the perishing amid such circumstances as these? Is not that man's religion a mere name, who looks on undisturbed and sees souls sink down to perdition by thousands a day—without putting forth his hands to arrest the mighty ruin? No! And it is high time that Christianity was better understood and acted out. The unbelief of men at home will never be overcome until Christians, in addition to their faith, abound in prayers and self-denying exertions to spread the empire of Christ. "A Christian is the highest style of man," and a Christ-like missionary is the highest style of Christian. The fullest and most symmetrical embodiment of the religious principle, the nearest duplication of Christ's character in our midst, is the man who, in addition to his personal holiness, goes out of himself in self-denying exertions to save a lost world. Never will modern Christians, in any adequate sense, represent Christ and His religion until they cease to insulate themselves from the dying world around them, and abandon themselves in zeal and activity for the diffusion of the gospel.
7. But there is one relation we sustain that is more vital and responsible than all others. It is to GOD.He is the source, and must be the object of our religion. God in Christ must be in reality and in appearance "all and in all" in our religion. If we act out our faith in every earthly relation, and fail in the one we sustain to God, we are only moral, and not pious. The great double command, which is the sum of all Bible religion, consists not only in loving our neighbor as ourselves—but in loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and all our minds; and this love must manifest itself in every part of our life and religion. Our faith must develop itself in maintaining communion with God through the mediation of His Son; in realizing His presence and secretly imploring His mercy, and then our supreme regard for Him must be as manifest as the sun in mid-heaven. Has He revealed to us His word? Let our faith in that word and in its Author appear by studying it and recommending it to others. Has He given His Son to die for us? Let our love and gratitude to Him for His unspeakable gift appear by unconditionally embracing His Son in all His offices, and in confessing him before men.
Has He a cause in the world? Let us evince our supreme love for God by being the avowed, unflinching friends and promoters of His great cause. Do we meet those who blaspheme His name, vilify His government, and caricature His religion? Let our faith impel us to "rise up for Him against evil-doers, and to stand up for Him against the workers of iniquity." Is it the glory of the soldier to defend his country when it is assailed? and shall not the soldier of the cross rush to the battle, and strive for the Lord of glory, when His honor is impugned and the standard of defiance is waved before His throne? Has God given you a family? Let your faith in Him and love for Him be evidenced to all around you, by teaching your children God's truth, and praying with them morning and night. In your household live, pray, and teach for God. "And these words, which I command you
this day, shall be in your heart: and you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up."
Has God appointed you the lot of poverty and obscurity? Prove before the world the genuineness of your faith in His sovereign goodness by being contented, neat, economical, and industrious. Does he take from you possessions and friends? Show your faith in Him by throwing off dejection, suppressing discontent, quelling inordinate grief, and saying, when your dearest hopes are crushed, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away—blessed be the name of the Lord." This is a nobler development of faith in God than going to a martyr's stake or speaking with the tongue of an angel. Does He send bodily afflictions on you? Show faith in God's power to comfort and sustain, by being patient, serene, and unmurmuring. What eloquent witnesses such are for God! How they glorify Him in the fires! What a testimony do they bear to the power of His grace and the comforts of His Spirit!
The inference the beholder must draw when he sees this tangible evidence that God can sustain His people when earthly supports give way, and refresh them when creature-consolation is dried up—is that the religion of God is beyond all doubt infinitely important, and ought to be embraced. When I have turned away from such a submissive sufferer, I have said—'I have read the religion of Christ in the New Testament; I have preached it; but I have now seen it unmistakably verified!' And I have felt like saying to every unbeliever, 'Come, see how God sustains His people in time of trial—and doubt if you can.'
It is, moreover, our duty to bear testimony for God in our manner of dying as well as in our manner of living. It is the last time we can do anything for God's glory and the good of our generation. A triumphant death often does more for God and His cause than all our books, sermons, and admonitions can do. Many skeptics have been won to Christ by the dying demeanor and words of the saints, who had been unmoved by all other attempts. The evidence that such a death furnishes for the divinity of Christianity is too tangible and plain to be denied, and too solemn to be ridiculed. Such a death forces the beholder to conclude that the Master who can thus comfort, encourage and support His people amid the agonies of death, ought to be loved and served—-that the religion that can produce, in the trying article of nature's dissolution, such serenity, resignation, and triumph, ought from every principle of self-love and gratitude to be embraced. So live, then, that in dying your religion may thus bring glory to your God and good to your friends.
Now the man who in all his pious and worldly duties, in all his plans and afflictions, shows a supreme regard for the will of God, does more in effecting the conversion of the ungodly than by any other means he could use.
8.In order to be manifestly the epistles of Christ, known and read by all men, there is one other particular in which the light of our godliness must shine. We have seen that we sustain relations, and owe duties to the church, to our families, to the world, socially, financially, politically, and piously, and primarily to God, as our Creator, Judge, and Redeemer—in all of which the religious principle must develop and discover itself. But we sustain relations and owe duties to ourselves; and hence our religion will be incomplete and inefficacious, unless we have deep concern, and put forth great efforts to save our own souls. Piety, in every other respect, will not compensate for the lack of it, in this. Discharging our duties to all others, in all respects, will not make amends for the neglect of our own soul's mighty interests. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves—but not more than ourselves. In this day of effort for the diffusion of Christianity, we have declined in personal piety. Our gospel has lost, perhaps, as much at home as it has gained abroad. But our religion cannot gain and maintain breadth without depth. The only way by which the gospel can save the race, is by commencing with the individual heart and character, and working outward. We cannot, upon the whole, do much in converting the world, without, at the same time, giving all diligence to make our own calling and election sure. The most effectual method of building up the wall around our Jerusalem, is to build it up at our own door. The only way to make liberal expenditures, is to secure large spiritual receipts.
There is a most important sense in which the salvation of the world depends upon our sympathies, prayers, and contributions in its behalf; and there is another sense equally as important, in which the world's conversion depends upon concerns, prayers, watchfulness, and toils, in our own behalf. In other words, not only does our own admission into Paradise depend upon our being individually and thoroughly pious—but all the appliances for bringing this revolted world back to God, depend, also, on personal piety. The individual must, in all his tempers, words, indulgences, and habits, be sanctified and controlled by the principles of grace—or the door of heaven and the door of the sinner's heart will be barred against him. The religion which saves us—and through us, the world—must be a personal transaction between the individual and his God. An attempt to make anything else compensate for personal holiness, will ruin our own souls and block up the world's way to Christ.
Now, the religion that appears in these eight particulars, is the religion that Jesus Christ requires us to possess and manifest. It is a religion that, having adjusted our relations to God, united us to Christ, and changed our natures, must then regulate our every employment, sanctify our every connection, give tone to our every duty, and direction to our every action. It must give form and power to all man is, says, and does. The religion that saves beyond the grave, and of which the world stands in crying need, is that inward transforming principle that regulates the parent in his family, the master with his servant, the merchant in his store, the lawyer in his office, the physician by the sick-bed, the sailor on the deck, and the soldier in the battlefield. This is the religion of the New Testament!
In the hour of your conversion and baptism, you put on the snow-white robe of Christianity. Do not take it off when you leave the house of God on Sunday. All seamless and shining with heavenly beauty, let it adorn you while in the family circle. Clad in it as your glory and your hope—mingle in society. Keep it on, and keep it unspotted from the world in all your secular and civil transactions. Your baptismal vow, the glory of God, and the salvation of the world--require you to live thus. "Keep yourself pure" and you will not live in vain!