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Woman, suppose you tell your unconverted husband, in an easy, laughing way: "My dear, I believe you are going to hell"; will he believe you? If your life is gay and trifling, you show that you either do not believe there is a hell, or that you wish to have him go there, and are trying to keep off every serious impression from his mind. Have you children that are unconverted? Suppose you never say anything to them about religion, or when you talk to them it is in a cold, hard, dry way, conveying the impression that you have no feeling in the matter; do you suppose they believe you? They do not see the same coldness in you in regard to other things. They are in the habit of seeing all the mother in your eye, and in the tones of your voice, your emphasis, and the like, and feeling the warmth of a mother's heart as it flows out from your lips on all that concerns them. If, then, when you talk to them on the subject of religion, you are cold and trifling, can they suppose that you believe it? If your demeanor holds up before your child this careless, heartless, prayer less spirit, and then you talk to him about the importance of religion, the child will go away and laugh, to think you should try to persuade him there is a hell.
5. To the love of Christ. You are to bear witness to the reality of the love of Christ, by the regard you show for His precepts, His honor, His kingdom. You should act as if you believed that He died for the sins of the whole world, and as if you blamed sinners for rejecting His great salvation.
This is the only legitimate way in which you can impress sinners with the love of Christ. Christians, instead of this, often live so as to make the impression on sinners that Christ is so compassionate that they have very little to fear from Him. I have been amazed to see how a certain class of professors want ministers to be always preaching about the love of Christ.
If a minister urges Christians to be holy, and to labor for Christ, they call it "legal" preaching. They say they want to hear the Gospel. Well, suppose you present the love of Christ. How will they bear testimony in their lives? How will they show that they believe it? Why, by conformity to the world they will testify, point-blank, that they do not believe a word of it, and that they care nothing at all for the love of Christ, only to have it for a cloak, that they can talk about it, and so cover up their sins. They have no sympathy with His compassion, and no belief in it as a reality, and no concern for the feelings of Christ, which fill His mind when He sees the condition of sinners.
6. To the necessity of holiness in order to enter heaven. It will not do to depend on talking about this. They must live holy. The idea has so long prevailed that we "cannot be perfect here," that many professors do not so much as seriously aim at a sinless life. They cannot honestly say that they even so much as really meant to live without sin. They drift along before the tide, in a loose, sinful, unhappy, and abominable manner, at which, doubtless, the devil laughs, because it is, of all others, the surest way to hell.
7. To the necessity of self-denial, humility, and heavenly- mindedness.
Christians ought to show, by their own example, what the religious walk is which is expected of men. That is the most powerful preaching, after all, and the most likely to have influence on the unrepentant, which shows them the great difference between themselves and Christians. Many people seem to think they can make men fall in with religion best by bringing religion down to their standard. As if the nearer you bring religion to the world, the more likely the world will be to embrace it. Now all this is as wide as the poles are asunder from the true philosophy about making Christians. But it is always the policy of carnal professors. And they think they are displaying wonderful sagacity, and prudence, by taking so much pains not to scare people at the mighty strictness and holiness of the Gospel. They argue that if you exhibit religion to mankind as requiring such a great change in their manner of life, such innovations upon their habits, such a separation from their old associates, why, you will drive them all away. This seems plausible at first sight. But it is not true. Let professors live in this lax and easy way, and sinners say: "Why, I do not see but I am about right, or at least so near right that it is impossible God should send me to hell only for the difference between me and these professors. It is true, they do a little more than I do; they go to the Communion table, and pray in their families, and a few suchlike little things, but these details cannot make any such great difference as between heaven and hell." No, the true way is, to exhibit religion and the world in strong contrast, or you 34 can never make sinners feel the necessity of a change. Until the necessity of this fundamental change is embodied and held forth in strong light, by example, how can you make men believe they are going to be sent to hell if they are not wholly transformed in heart and life?
This is not only true in philosophy, but it has been proved by the history of the world. Now, I was reading a letter from a missionary in the East, who writes to this effect: that "a missionary must be able to rank with the English nobility, and so recommend his religion to the respect of the natives." He must get away up above them, so as to show a superiority, and thus impress them with respect! Is this the way to convert the world?
You can no more convert the world in this way than by blowing a ram's horn. What did the Jesuits do? They went about among the people in the daily practice of self-denial, teaching, and preaching, and praying, and laboring; mingling with every caste and grade, and bringing down their instructions to the capacity of every individual. In that way their religion spread over the vast empire of Japan. I am not saying anything in regard to the religion they taught. I speak only of their following the true policy of missions, by showing, by their lives, a wide contrast with a worldly spirit.
If Christians attempt to accommodate religion to the worldliness of men, they render the salvation of the world impossible. How can you make people believe that self-denial and separation from the world are necessary, unless you practice them?
8. Again, they are to testify by meekness, humility, and heavenly-mindedness. The people of God should always show a temper like the Son of God, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again. If a professor of religion is irritable, ready to resent an injury, to fly in a passion, and to take the same measures as the world does to get redress, by going to law and the like - how is he to make people believe there is any reality in a change of heart! He cannot recommend religion while he has such a spirit.
Some people always show a bad spirit, ever ready to put the worst construction upon what is done, and to take fire at any little thing. This shows a great want of that charity which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7). But if a man always shows meekness under injuries, it will confound gainsaying.
Nothing makes so solemn an impression upon sinners, and bears down with such tremendous weight on their consciences, as to see a Christian, truly Christ-like, bearing affronts and injuries with the meekness of a lamb.
It cuts like a two-edged sword.
I will mention a case to illustrate this. A young man abused a minister to his face, and reviled him in an unprecedented manner. The minister possessed his soul in patience, and spoke mildly in reply, telling him the truth pointedly, but yet in a very kind manner. This only made him the more angry, and at length he went away in a rage, declaring that he was "not going to stay and bear this vituperation," as if it were the minister, instead of himself, that had been scolding. The sinner went away, but with the arrows of the Almighty in his heart; and in less than half an hour he followed the minister to his lodgings in intolerable agony, wept, begged forgiveness, and broke down before God, and yielded up his heart to Christ. This calm and mild manner was more overwhelming to him than a thousand arguments. Now, if that minister had been thrown off his guard, and answered harshly, no doubt he would have ruined the soul of that young man. How many of you have defeated every future effort you may make with your unrepentant friends or neighbors, in some such way as this? On some occasion you have shown yourself so irascible that you have sealed up your own lips, and laid a stumbling block over which that sinner will stumble into hell. If you have done it in any instance, do not sleep till you have done all you can to retrieve the mischief.
9. Finally, they are to testify to the necessity for entire honesty in a Christian. Oh, what a field opens here for remark! It extends to all the departments of life. Christians need to show the strictest regard to integrity in every department of business, and in all their intercourse with their fellow men. If every Christian would pay a scrupulous regard to honesty, and always be conscientious to do exactly right, it would make a powerful impression, on the minds of people, of the reality of religious principle.
A lady was once buying some eggs in a store, and the clerk made a miscount and gave her one more than the number. She saw it at the time, but said nothing, and after she got home it troubled her. Feeling that she had acted wrongly, she went back to the young man and confessed it, and paid the difference. The impression of her conscientious integrity went to his heart like a sword. It was a great sin in her in concealing the miscount, because the temptation was so small; for if she would cheat him out of an egg, it showed that she would cheat him out of his whole store, if she could do it without being found out. But her prompt and humble confession showed an honest conscience.
I am happy to say, there are some men who conduct their business on this principle of integrity. The wicked hate them for it, railing against them, and vociferating in barrooms that they will never buy goods of such-and-such individuals; that such a hypocrite shall never touch a dollar of their money, and all that; and then they will go right away and buy of them, because they know they will be honestly dealt with. Suppose that all Christians could be equally trusted: what would be the consequence?
Christians would run away with the business of the city. The Christians would soon do the business of the world. The great argument which some professed Christians urge, that if they do not do business upon the common principle, of stating one price and taking another, they cannot compete with men of the world, is all false - false in philosophy, false in history. Only make it your invariable rule to do right, and do business upon principle, and you control the market. The ungodly will be obliged to conform to your standard. It is perfectly in the power of Christians to regulate the commerce of the world, if they will only themselves maintain perfect integrity.
Again, if Christians will do the same in politics they will sway the destinies of nations, without involving themselves at all in the base and corrupting strife of parties. Only let Christians generally determine to vote for no man who is not an honest man, and a man of pure morals; only let it be known that Christians are united in this, whatever may be their difference in political sentiments, and no man would be put up for election who was not such a character. In three years it would be talked about in taverns, and published in newspapers, when any man set up as a candidate for office: "What a good man he is - how moral - how pious!" and the like. And any political party would no more set up a known Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler, or a profane swearer, or a rum-seller, as their candidate for office, than they would set up the devil himself for President of the United States. The carnal policy of many professors, who undertake to correct politics by such means as wicked men employ, and who are determined to vote with a party, let the candidate be ever so profligate, is all wrong - wrong in principle, contrary to philosophy and common sense, and ruinous to the best interests of mankind. The dishonesty of the Church is cursing the world. I am not going to preach a political sermon; but I want to show you that if you mean to impress men favorably to your religion by your lives, you must be honest, strictly honest, in business, politics, and everything you do. What do you suppose those ungodly politicians, who know themselves to be playing a dishonest game in carrying an election, think of your religion, when they see you uniting with them? They know you are a hypocrite!