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Produced by Bryan Ness, Greg Bergquist and the Online
Scientific and Religious Journal.
|Vol. I.||AUGUST, 1880.||No. 8.|
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those who are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.—2 Tim. 3: 1–5.
The Savior once began his instructions with these words, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled.” They seem to be an appropriate introduction to our lesson upon this occasion. What is the religion of thousands? They were made the special objects of God’s favor in their infancy (?), were christened in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (?), were dedicated to God and his service by their parents (?), who, for them, took a solemn vow to forsake the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires, to forsake, also, all the carnal desires of the flesh, and not to follow or be led by them. It is said that the christened took this vow when they were children, and understood it not; when they became men they understood it about as well as when they were children. But in all candor, I confess that I never could believe they took this vow; their sponsors took it upon themselves to make it for them, and usually pledged themselves to see it fulfilled. What fearful responsibilities are assumed just here. It is too frequently the case that those very sponsors serve more devoutly, love more affectionately, and confide more heartily in the profits, honors and pleasures of the world than in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Survey the lives of many of these men, of all conditions, and then deny, if you can, that the profits, honors and pleasures of the world are the gods they worship. Their daily and constant employment is either a violent pursuit of the vain pomp and glory of the world, or of its power, riches and profits; or it may be that they are led on by pride, malice or revenge. Such persons live, not knowing or regarding the fact that the baptism which now saves us is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.” There are many such who live but little in advance of pagans in a commonwealth of Christians, and know but little more of God or of Christ than if they had been brought up in India. A great many are taught to act over this play in the name of religion, and learned to say, “Our Father who art in heaven,” and “I believe in God the Father Almighty;” but do they live as though they did believe in earnest that God is their Almighty Father? Do they fear him and trust in him? Do they love and obey him? Mere pretense, or, as Paul termed it, a guise of godliness, for such is the meaning of the original term, is so common that we meet with it almost daily. Men have learned to tamper with the word of God until the world is full of theorists. How many talk about religion who set aside a great portion of the word of God as worse than useless? And that which they profess to believe they do not believe with half the simplicity which they manifest in believing the words of their earthly parents. It has been said, “He who is not industrious to obtain what he professes to desire does not desire it, and he who is not industrious to bring about that for which he prays, prays with his tongue only, and not with his heart.” All such have simply a “guise” of godliness, while they deny its power.
A great many people profess to believe the Scriptures are true, and that they present the plain and only way to infinite and eternal blessedness, and yet they neglect the study of the Scriptures. How is this? If there was a book revealing a plain and easy way for all men to become rich and enjoy health and pleasure and this world’s happiness, would it not be studied by all men? And why is it that the Bible is not studied by the masses and regarded more? Why are so many professors of religion negligent in this matter? May it not be because they prefer all other business and pleasures before this? If professors of religion throughout christendom heartily believed the Scriptures even as they profess, they would be more diligently studied, and in many instances treated with greater respect. The faith of many is undoubtedly very weak. If the laws of our country provided a plain way of escape from temporal death for the benefit of the condemned criminal, as plain and pointed as the great commission given to the apostles of Christ, would any condemned criminal hesitate to obey or treat the stipulations of law as men are constantly treating the precepts of the gospel of Christ? When a man believes the Bible contains the facts and truths which concern us infinitely more than all earthly matters, his care and diligence should be, to some extent, in harmony with his persuasion. At this point men seem to be most strangely careless and grossly negligent. How few people do, or will, understand that the terms of salvation are written as with the beams of the sun? Is the trouble a low degree of faith, approximating unbelief? The shadows are always the longest when the sun is lowest. Is the sun of righteousness low in your spiritual heavens? Or have you given him the uppermost seat in your affections? What think you of Christ? Whose son is he?
When I tell you that thousands received the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, even before the Holy Spirit was given, and were clean through the words spoken unto them, many are ready to cry out, “These are hard and strange sayings—who can hear them?” Yet, strange as it may seem, these facts have been upon record near nineteen hundred years. Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” In the record of St. Luke, chapter 24, the condition of the new covenant, to which remission of sins is promised, is expressed by the term repentance: “Thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” The word repentance, when used in the law of Christ, is always equivalent to the use which the ancient martyrs made of it, viz: “Amend your lives.” We have it beautifully expressed in these words: “If the wicked turn from all the sins which he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”
Paul summed up the whole matter of his preaching in the sentence, “Repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” In some of the best Latin translations this passage in Acts 20th is rendered, “Conversion to God;” also in Hebrews, 6th chapter, we read, “And conversion from dead works.” Such is more clear and natural; but if we should read, according to modern theology, sorrow towards God, and sorrow from dead works, it would sound very unnatural, and almost ridiculous. This is a grand argument in favor of the reading of the Geneva text, which reads, “Amend your lives and turn, that your sins may be blotted out.” But if heaven may be gained at an easier and cheaper rate, how is it that we are so frequently and so plainly assured that without actual newness of life, holiness and sanctification unto obedience, there is no hope, no possibility of salvation? John the Baptist, preaching repentance, said: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.” It is not the leaves, simply, of a profession, nor the blossoms of good purposes and intentions, but the fruit, the fruit only, that will save us from the fire. “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.”
Our Savior said, “Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my father who is in heaven.” After he had delivered all the beautiful precepts found in the lesson given upon the mount he closed up all by saying, “He that heareth these sayings of mine and doth them not I will liken him to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand, and when the rain descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, it fell, and great was the fall of it.” They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. If they have not done this, and so attained fitness of character to dwell with God, it matters not what their sorrow has been, nor their intentions, they will not enter the kingdom of God.
Paul says, “The works of the flesh are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditious, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, of which I forewarn you, as I have told you in time past, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” He does not say they who have done such things shall not be saved, but just the contrary, for he adds: “Such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified;” but he teaches the doctrine that those who do such things and do not amend their lives shall not be excused by any pretense of sorrow and good purposes; they “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature”—a creature living by a faith, which worketh by love. It is not simply wishing you were a new creature; not simply wishing for a working faith; nor sorrowing because you are not a Christian; but “keeping the commandments of God,” that will permit you to enter heaven.
Paul says, “Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” And Peter says, “Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity”—and finally says, if ye do these things ye shall never fall, for so an abundant entrance shall be ministered unto you into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And John says, speaking of the Christian’s hope, “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure;” then the impure may flatter themselves, and presume upon the favor of God without “purifying their souls in obeying the truth,” but they are without hope in the world. And again he says, “Little children let no man deceive you, he that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”
So all the writers and teachers of the New Testament, with one consent, proclaim the necessity of obeying the commandments of the gospel. What a vain whim it is to think that sorrow and mere intention without reformation of life will admit you into heaven. This golden dream of heaven has sent thousands out of this world unpardoned and unsaved.
A great many persons satisfy themselves with a mere confession and acknowledgement of their sins. They seem to think they have done enough, if to confession of sins they add some sorrow for it. They think all is well if, when their fit of sinning is past and they are returned to themselves, the sting remains, breeding some remorse of conscience, some complaints against their wickedness and folly for having done so, and some intentions to forsake it, though never carried into effect. There are many persons in the churches of our country who seem to think the church is a stage, whereon they must play their parts, who make a profession every day of confessing their sins with humble hearts, and yet, after having spent twenty, thirty or forty years in this manner, their hearts are as stubborn as ever, and they as impenitent and disobedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If giving thanks to God for the blessing received at his hands is performed with words only, with simple hosannas, and hallelujahs, and “gloria patris,” and psalms, and hymns, then I presume it is done very efficiently, (?) though our lives are provoking to his majesty. It is not the office of a friend (?) to bewail a friend with vain lamentation. To be thankful to God is not to say God be praised, or God be thanked, but it is to remember what he desires and execute what he commands. A dying Roman once said, “It is not the office of a friend to bewail a dead friend with vain lamentations, but to remember what he desires and execute his commands. It is the office of the friends of Christ to remember his desires and carry out his instructions. If we do so we are thankful, and if we do not our thankfulness is nothing more than mere talk.”
Jesus said to his disciples: “Ye are my friends if ye do what I command you.” And again: “If a man love me he will keep my words; he that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings.” Again: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Those who love God love his cause. When that cause prospers they rejoice; when it declines they are hurt. When clouds and darkness are round about the church it is time to double our diligence and pray to God for help. Circumstances, over which no human being can have control, sometimes cause sluggishness in the character of a church. The hearts of God’s people are often deeply affected by witnessing the indifference and carelessness of the people, and still more affected by a falling off in their numbers. When the godly man ceaseth and the faithful fail from among the children of men, it is distressing; but such is the lot of man that we are often called upon to witness the truthfulness of the prophet’s statement. All true Christians love the godly because they are faithful. The term faithful implies truth, sincerity and fidelity. Christ, our great example, is called the faithful and true witness. The use of the term in our religion indicates believers in Christ—obedient believers—faithful brethren in Christ. Col. i: 2. Sometimes it is equivalent to the word true, as in 2d Tim., ii: 2—”Faithful men;” the fidelity of the persons alluded to had been tried—proven. And again, it means a Christian, in opposition to an infidel, as in 2d Cor. vi: 15—”What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” A good man is faithful in his business transactions; faithful to his profession, adhering to the principles of the gospel and laboring to be faithful to death; faithful in the discharge of his duties; faithful in the employment of his talents; faithful in all things committed to his trust; faithful to his promises; faithful in his friendship. These men fail and cease by means of death. The fathers, where are they? And the teachers, do they live forever? The visitations of death are often mysterious to us. Sometimes the most brilliant in intellect and the most useful in talent, also the most pious and useful in the church, are cut down, while mere cumberers of the ground remain.
The profession of some is only transient; they soon disappear from the assembly of the saints. Some improper motive, some peculiar excitement may have moved them, or their goodness of heart may have left them. They have possibly been stony ground hearers or thorny ground hearers. The world allures thousands and kills the vitality of their religion.
Judas betrayed his master from the love of worldly gain; and Demas, an acceptable preacher and companion of Paul, abandoned his profession, “having loved the present world.”
Many fail by endeavoring to unite the world and their religion, maintaining a good moral character, but are destitute of energy in Christianity.
When this spirit gets hold of a man, and he is disposed to secularize his religion, or subordinate it to his worldly interests, he is sure to fail sooner or later. Some fail by falling into temptations of various kinds, and disgrace their profession; and some fail through intemperance. Many fail through the influence of error and the enemies of Christianity. These frequently beguile the unwary.
There never was a time in our history when unbelief and skepticism was more determined in its opposition to the Christian religion than at the present. There is an incessant attempt to instill into the minds of the young principles in opposition to, and destructive of Christianity. Many have split upon the rocks of infidelity, and stranded upon the quicksands of doubt and skepticism, in spite of the fact that Christianity presented them an example, which is the light and life of men—a character without a blot! And this example is the only foundation upon which to build a moral and pious temple in which the Lord does, and the creature may dwell.
BY P.T. RUSSEL.
A rap is heard at the door. It being opened, Christian enters. “Good morning, gentlemen. I am very glad to find you all here. Since our former interview I have been very anxious to continue our investigation of the evidence of the existence of God. I presume, as you are ‘Free-thinkers‘ and lovers of truth, you are by this time ready to give a scientific reason for the existence of the idea of God, and, as you agree with me that we only obtain ideas through the aid of the five senses, our only idea of color by the eye, of sound by the ear, etc., I wish to ask you to account for the idea of God. Will you oblige me?”
Atheists—Certainly. We have consulted on this theme since our last interview, and now declare it to be the work or nature of the imagination. It is a scientific truth, as you will readily admit, that imagination can and does get up some singular and unreal forms. We now assume that the idea of a God is but the thought of an imaginary being.
Christian—True, gentlemen. Fancy, or imagination, does, in active moments, bring for our amusement some fantastic pictures. Her work, however, is never simple, but always complex. This that we are in search of is the idea of a simple being—a being that is single, and not duplex. I will now illustrate the extent of the power of the imagination. Taking a walk through nature’s flower garden, we gather one of every variety, and examining them closely, one by one, we notice their difference in form, color and size by the eye. Their fragrance we note by the smell. Thus, by the aid of the senses, we note all their sensible properties. Now, allowing that memory is perfect, we have in store all the peculiarities of each and every individual flower. Gentlemen atheists, am I correct in this conclusion?
Christian—Very well; then I’ll proceed. Having learned, by what we saw, the art of combining, we can and will imagine all these single flowers blended in one large conglomerated flower, containing all the peculiarities of each and every single flower. Now, gentlemen, is not this all that the imagination can do?
Christian—Very well. Is this a simple or compound idea?
Atheists—It is a compound idea. It is simply the blending of the idea of each single flower.