« 上一頁繼續 »
and do some other irreligious things, I will go with you to some others, and I will try to be as much like you as possible. The grand effort with such professors of religion, is, how near they can contrive to walk to the line of separation ; how near they can think, and do, and talk, and dress, and trifle like irreligious people, and yet not be exactly irreligious themselves. Now when I speak of the opposition which Christians must expect from the ridicule of foes, I do not mean this class of Christians; for on account of this treaty of peace and friendship between them and the world, they continue to get along tolerably comfortably to themselves, and you will find them one moment like Balaam, saying“How goodly are thy tents, O Israel, and thy tabernacles, O Jacob!" and the next assisting the Canaanites against the truth and in their temptations to the people of God. It is against the consistent Christian that the shafts of ridicule are mainly levelled. Once determine, my friends, to keep no terms with the enemy; come out from the world and be ye separate; live for God and your souls, and the souls of your perishing fellow men; and then you will learn what the opposition of which I am speaking amounts to. You shall, indeed, be accounted fools for Christ's sake, and there will be no term of ridicule which you may not endure. Your religion will be traduced as enthusiasm and fanaticism. Your separation from the follies and doings of the world, unreasonable singularity; and if you do not choose to act as your neighbours, or think as your neighbours, if
you have a supreme regard to your own souls, and if your untiring efforts are directed to the good of your fellow men in the spread of the Gospel, you will be called righteous overmuch, fools or hypocrites. The enemies of the work of Nehemiah had a great deal of amusement among themselves, when they talked of the great work which he was doing. The history tells us, that Sanballat mocked the Jews and said—“What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah, the Ammonite, was by him; and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.”
This opposition of ridicule, my friends, you must expect to encounter if you would begin the work of religion at all; and if when begun, you mean to continue it to the end. And it is only when the wall is finished that your foes will be clothed with shame. Take your stand decidedly on the Lord's side, and you will as decidedly have the opposition of the world; and if in no other form can you be reached by the envy and malice of the enemy, he will strive to unsettle your steadfastness, or utterly to overthrow you by the fiery darts of reproach and ridicule—“Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Again : I observed that another very powerful foe is to be found in the combined energy of the errors and worldliness of professed friends. One thing is always certain, a traitor is almost infinitely more dangerous than an open enemy. You can guard against the one, when you do not even know the designs of the other. So in religion, the actual malice of the devil, in open and violent assaults, is not so dangerous to the interests of real religion in the heart, as the errors and the worldliness of those who are professedly its friends.
I can make this more plain to you, my friends, by a few familiar illustrations, than I could by a whole afternoon spent in abstract reasonings. Thus: I, as a minister of the Gospel, converse with a person on some points of doctrine, the maintenance of which I deem absolutely essential to salvation; and I am answered, such a person, a father, or grand-father, or mother, and some very dear and respected friend, thinks so and so. They do not agree with you in opinion, and yet they are really pious, as good Christians as can be found any where! Now it does not become me to question what, in the personal character of an individual, I may know nothing about;
I and therefore whether they are pious, or good Christians or not, I cannot tell. But one thing is certain, they indulge fundamental errors; and because they are respected, those errors interpose a barrier in the way of an entrance of the truth into the minds of those with whom they are connected. There is many an individual who will not believe in the utter depravity of our nature, in the absolute necessity of a complete change of heart, and in an entire devotion to God. Why? Becuse some father, or other relative or special friend, believes otherwise. And no
matter what God says, it all goes for nothing. Again: I converse with another person about the absolute obligation of a Christian's not being conformed to the world. Now where is the lurking foe to the prevalence of truth? I have a hundred times detected him lying hidden in the folds of another's character. Such an one thinks it is no harm to do this and that. See Mrs. such-a-one, and can there be a better
a Christian ? She goes to Church, and the Lord's table, and she is very charitable, and yet she thinks
, it no harm to engage in these worldly pleasures, &c. Now I could on all such occasions bring hundreds of arguments from Scripture to prove, and prove beyond all reasonable cavil, the utter incompatibility of such a state of things with a genuine profession of religion. All these Scripture acquirements are absolutely scattered like chaff before the wind before the unanswerable objection—but such an one does so
I must confess to you, my brethren, that such a perversion of things as this most unquestionably indicates, would serve for amusement and satire, were it not that it exerts so tremendous and so deleterious an influence on the religious, and of course on the eternal destinies of men. It might appear an amiable sensibility which would hesitate to pronounce on the character and conduct of others; and affection might dictate that even the errors and worldly practices of those relatives and friends to whom we look up in general admiration, should not meet with a too severe reprehension. But it is going much too far when we let the opinions and the practices of others govern our own, when the word of God should be our only rule. The grand enemy of our salvation
works with tremendous sureness when he works through the affections and the amiable sensibilities of our nature; and he has rooted many a soul in error, because a father or a mother were in error; and he has prevented many a good deed, because it opposed the opinions of some friend ; and he has wrecked many a soul on the rock of an inconsistent and formal profession of Christianity, because some father or mother, or relative or friend, chose to be wrecked, or were wrecked on the same rock before. To God alone is our obedience due, and his word is the only standard. “What if some do not believe, shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect? God forbid ! Let God be true, though every man be a liar.” It was taking the testimony of another in the place of God, which was the cause of mortal ruin. In the garden of the earthly paradise, God said, Ye shall not eat, lest ye die. The tempter said, Hath God said you shall surely die? God doth know that when ye eat ye shall be as God, knowing good
, and evil. Our primeval. parent took the testimony of Satan, and disregarded that of God, and she fell.
I would affectionately warn you, my friends, against this opposition. When you would give up yourselves to God in the bonds of an everlasting covenant, live for him and present yourselves a sacrifice to him, you will be opposed by the belief of others and the practices of others, who have a name to live, though they may be dead. You You may be asked, would
you condemn the conduct, and by implication argue the everlasting ruin of some dear friend or relative, who thinks and acts on a different model ? Such an one did not go to such extremes in religion; such an one made no such pretensions to so much seriousness;