COWARDLY SERVICE vs. THE REAL WARFARE
The Cowardly Service of Popular Christianity - in contrast with the Real Warfare which Christ demands of His People.
Oh, what a delusion many Christians labor under with respect to the extension of the kingdom of God! They have a notion that the kingdom is to take the world by stealth; that men are to be turned to God without any connection of means with the event; that it is going to be done with a sort of internal miracle, and the church has been waiting for this miracle for 1800 years. Consequently the work is not done, because this notion is in direct opposition to the orders and ordination of the King. If ever the world is subdued, it will be by His servants Carrying out their Lord's instructions, and setting themselves to subdue it. It will be by bringing all the wisdom, skill, and force of their humanity, allied with divinity, as the early disciples did, and turning that force upon the rebel world. It will be done by hard, desperate fighting, if the great fundamental principles laid down in this Bible are to be relied on, and in no other way, because the nations in possession will never let you subdue them and take them for God without opposition. Christ systematically foretold and depicted this opposition, and gave His disciples to understand that they would have to wage WAR with all the power of those who were possessed of evil, and who were profiting by evil, and that it would be no easy conquest.
He told them they would have to go and subdue this evil by good, this unrighteousness by righteousness. The spirit of the devil would have to be driven out of man by the power of the Spirit of God dwelling in them. This He taught as plainly and persistently as He taught anything. If we wanted an illustration of the continuance of this spirit of opposition in the earth, we might find it in the events that have lately transpired in Switzerland. A little force of godly people, without any of the peculiarities about which there has been such a hue and cry in England, without an instrument of music, without a banner or flag, or procession, or open-air service, without even a uniform, had only to commence to live Jesus Christ over again, and to carry out His orders in thrusting His claims on their fellow-men, when wicked rulers combined with those who profit by the vilest kinds of vice to mob them, drive them out, put them down, or kill them, as the case might be. Why? Because the instinct of the evil one recognized the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The devil always knows where the Spirit of Jesus Christ is, and he knows something else; he knows where it is not, and where it is not he lets well alone!
"Oh! people say, "the world is different in these days from what it was in the days of Jesus Christ and Paul." Is it? Try it on the same lines, and you will soon find out how far different it is. The very essence of the spirit of evil is antagonistic to the spirit of good. Good and evil are as diametrically opposed to each other as ever; therefore they can never be brought into contact without conflict, without war, and sometimes of the most deadly kind, ending in the death and martyrdom of the saints. I was amused with the exemplification of this some weeks ago. As one of our female officers was walking up Clapton, a band of lads were hooting after her, "Hallelujah!" "Jesus Christ!" "Salvation!" and other beautiful names; for in whatever voice they be hissed out, they cannot make such words ugly. They were hissing these names after her as she walked meekly and quietly along. At length she turned suddenly to them and said, "What are you doing this for? I have never done you any harm. I am walking peaceably along the road; why are you shouting after me?" They were all so taken aback that they stood breathless for a moment, then one of them, I suppose a little bolder than the rest, and at least an honest lad, said, "It is because you are good and we are bad." Ah! that was the truth for once. That was the expression, in his rough way, of the eternal principle, that there must be conflict between good and evil; and the greater good you bring in conflict with evil, the more the evil will rage and try for the mastery. Hence, the world treated Him who was the very personification of the Father's holiness, worse than it ever treated any other human being, because He was the concentration of goodness, and therefore the devil did His worst on Him; and just as we approximate to His character will the devil do his worst on us.
Further, Christ taught His soldiers to expect the opposition of devils.
I suppose most of you believe in evil spirits who have access to the human mind. If there are evil spirits, if they have access to this world, and if they are interested in circumventing the plans of God, it only stands to sense that they should influence their servants to fight in opposition to the servants of God. This opposition was foretold by Christ, and His servants were warned against it, and provided for it. He said to His apostles when he commissioned them, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep among wolves, but lo, I am with you always." And again to Paul, "I will be with thee, delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee." Why? Because He knew the opposition which their mission would provoke. He said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." Wherever the true Christ appears, there must the sword come to the dividing asunder of everything evil, and there must also come the sword of provocation. Even the nearest and dearest relatives rise up to persecute those who truly follow the Christ. This must continue to be so while good and evil continue in contact, and the fact that modern Christianity has ceased, as a rule, to provoke opposition, is one of the deadliest signs of its effeteness. As a rule, the world and modern Christianity go comfortably on together. They are so actuated by one common principle, and walk so amicably on one common pathway, that you see very little collision between them. The world has very little to complain of, and so it lets them alone. May God help, and quickly mend or end it.
Further, I want you to note, that, notwithstanding all the danger involved in this deadly warfare, which Jesus Christ represented it to be, -- for He did not deceive them, but told them plainly that all. men would hate them, that they would probably have to follow Him to martyrdom and death, nevertheless, they accepted the mission. I grant that they were a little time in coming to comprehend it; I grant that it took some time to free them from their national and sectarian prejudices. Peter had to receive his lesson through the vision of the sheet let down from heaven, before he understood the true genius of his mission. But when he and the other apostles did comprehend it, -- and that was the difference between them and modern apostles, when they saw the work to which the Master called them, they joyfully embraced it. They did not stop to confer with flesh and blood, or to reason what it would cost them, to ask about salaries, or houses, or friends; they embraced the mission and went, and carried it out with their lives in their hands; and oh, how magnificently they succeeded! What a large portion of the world they subdued in comparison with their numbers and facilities, for, remember, there were no railways in those days to speed them from town to town, and city to city; there were no telegraphs to fly before them with their announcements; no printing presses to herald their coming with posters and handbills and all manner of notices; they had none of the facilities which we possess in these days for quickening the speed, or how gladly would they have availed themselves of them! What gigantic success they attained, because they carried out their mission on the lines which Jesus Christ had laid down. Is it not true that just in proportion as their successors have followed in their steps, they have been successful in propagating the gospel? We all know that the stars in the heavenly firmament, the men and women who stand out with extra brilliancy on the page of history, as having been successful in pushing this glorious warfare, have been the men and women who took their lives in their hands, and followed their Master without respect to consequences; who came out straight and clear from the world and set themselves to their work, irrespective of what men might say or do to them. And we know what mighty conquests some of them achieved, and therefore we may reason that if all Christ's professed disciples had followed in the same track, a million times greater results would have been attained.
Let me put a practical question here. How many are there here who have comprehended the task? How many are there to whom the Spirit of God has said in unmistakable language, "Come out from amongst the ungodly or the half-hearted, and be separate, and I will touch your lips with a live coal from off My altar, and will make you fishers of men?" Did you embrace the mission? Have you gone forth following your Master, carrying His cross and seeking the souls of men? If not, what will you say to Him in the great day of account?
Further, in looking at the requirements of the King, and at the history of the early apostles and disciples, I charge it on modern Christianity, that its professors do not even comprehend the first principles of this warfare, much less do they set themselves to carry it on to the ends of the earth.
The service rendered to the King and to the kingdom in these days is, alas, with few exceptions, of a very milk-and-watery type, of a very short-weight character, and the great effort of the majority of its teachers, judging from their writings, and from what we see and know of their public services and of their private lives, seems to be intended to make things comfortable all round. "Peace, peace," is the continual cry, when there is no peace. As one of the bishops said a little while ago, "We hear a great deal about Church defense; we ought to be hearing about Church aggression." Yes, alas! in the great mass of instances when these modern Christians do fight, it is over opinions and ceremonies with their own children, inside their own walls, instead of with the enemy outside. They are far more valiant in defending. some ceremonial of the Church, than they are in defending the cross of Christ in the presence of its adversaries. They are far more concerned in propagating their "ism" than the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Alas, that it should be so; but such is the fact, and it is patent to every enlightened observer.
Jesus Christ did not call us to fight each other, but He called us to present one bold front to the enemy. He bade us go and take captive the hearts and souls of men, and not merely to change their opinions. Get a man's heart right, and his opinions will soon follow. But you may be tinkering at his intellect till the hour of his death, and he will not be a whit nearer heaven, but perchance nearer hell, than if he had been left alone.
Further, these modern Christians, as a rule, do not see any NEED for the fight.
They hide themselves under some vain, false notions of the sovereignty of God. Oh, how often they have made my heart ache when I have been trying to arouse them to do something for the kingdom. They say, "God is a sovereign, and He will accomplish His purposes out of all this sin and ruin;" and so they sit comfortably down and let things drift; and they have drifted to some purpose, have they not? In this so-called Christian country, in this nineteenth century, they have drifted to about as near perdition as they well could, without absolutely bringing hell on the earth. They have drifted socially as well as spiritually. Look at the state of the nation. Look at the godlessness, the injustice, the falseness, the blasphemy, the uncleanness and the debauchery everywhere! Do you ever look at the condition of things close to your doors and your churches? the worse than heathen beastliness into which thousands of our neglected neighbors, rich and poor alike, have sunk? If only half the professing Christians of London had followed in their Master's steps for one twelvemonth, such things would have been impossible, utterly impossible
I repeat, Jesus Christ has ordained and provided that His people are to set themselves to stem these .torrents of moral and social pollution; they are to go and beard the lion in his den; to face the slaves of sin, open their eyes, and bring them down to His feet, just as much as were His early followers; and never till we do it shall we realize a better state of things. All the legislation, education, or provision of better dwellings, as I shall hereafter try to demonstrate, won't touch the moral cancer, the spring of all this wickedness and misery; nothing will do it until the Christians rise up to do their Master's bidding. But I say, they do not see any need for it, and they try to quiet us who do. You have to prove, and argue, and drive, and almost show them damnation before you get a bit of service of any sort out of them. They have no heart for the fight. They do not feel these things. As God said of the fallen and false prophets of the 'Jews, "They lay not these things to their hearts." They lay their own business to their hearts. You see it depicted on the countenances of these Christian men if the balance is on the wrong side; if bankruptcy stares them in the face, you soon find that out. These Christian women lay the welfare of their own families to their hearts; you soon find out when a child is sick, or in any kind of disgrace or danger. But these same men and women can walk about the walls and see the desolations of Zion without any of these marks of distress or apprehension, without any such tears or groans.
They will manifest more anger against the people who urge them to fight, than they will against the enemy. They say, "You are always at us; let us alone, we want peace." They want to be quiet and comfortable, and to have their religion in a snug, back-parlor fashion. Fight! they hate the name of fighting. Going out to face the mob! oh, dear no! that is out of all question. How could you ever think of such a thing? Being mocked, and spit upon, and kicked, and buffeted, and perchance killed for Christ! they would think you were clean gone mad. Some of these modern Christians have tried to put two or three of our people into asylums for nothing else . The moment anybody attempts really to obey Jesus Christ, they cry, "Mad! mad! away with such a fellow; he is not fit to live." What a veritable laughing-stock to hell such professed Christians make themselves. The devil says, "All right; let them alone. Let them go to their sanctuaries, let them have their creeds and ceremonies, let them sing their sweet hymns, and amuse themselves with their religious entertainments and their Bible classes; do not disturb them, whatever you do, they are amongst my best and most successful allies." Oh, may God show us these things, and help us to set to work to awaken every backslidden, lazy professor within reach of us.
Many of these latter day Christians are most zealous in building the sepulchers of the prophets, that is, of the saints -- the spiritual warriors of bygone tunes. They are often great at lectures on these ancient worthies -- Luther, George Fox, Wesley, and others, -- and they will listen most interestedly to a dissertation on their heroism, just as they would listen to a lecture on Shakespeare or Milton; but as to imitating their deeds of valor, it never enters their minds any more than if they had been inhabitants of another sphere. They simply go, in the great mass of instances, to have their intellects amused, their feelings tickled. It never dawns on them that they are to go and imitate the example of. these heroes. They do not perceive that it ought equally to be the absorbing interest of their own lives, and that they are equally called to brave men and devils in propagating the kingdom of Christ in the earth. They go home and live the coming week exactly as they lived the week preceding it. They admire the men who laid down their lives for the King a hundred or three hundred years ago, and will perhaps put up a monument to their memory, but as to doing so themselves, or allowing themselves to come into the same circumstances of persecution, they would sooner almost go to hell. I speak the things I know and have witnessed till my heart is sick.
Further, I charge it on popular Christianity that its professors are ashamed of their colors in the presence of the enemy.
They shrink from any open, straight forward confession .of Christ before men. I maintain that it is not confessing Him to go to church or chapel once a week amongst those who go the same way with you. They do not confess Him on the exchange, in the bank, or in the streets of the city. Where do you see any one, or only one in a million, who comes out with any thorough going, straightforward confession of Christ before the world? Where? There are a few Roman Catholics or high Church monastics, and whatever I may think of their errors and their mummeries, I always feel a measure of reverence when I pass them. I feel there is a man or woman who is willing to acknowledge his God before men, and who is not ashamed to come out and condemn the world, by being separate from it, and entering a protest against its fashions and its follies.
How many professing Christians are there of this day who would go through the city of London in any attire, or with any kind of badge, that said to men and women, "I am a saint and a soldier of Jesus Christ?" And yet the soldiers of the queen are proud to do this in an enemy's country! I repeat, who is there that dare do it for Christ?
I do not care what kind of a garb or a badge you wear, -- that is not the point, but there ought to be a badge which says to every man and woman, "I belong to Jesus Christ, and I am not ashamed of my colors."
Any profession of Jesus Christ which brings no cross is all nonsense; it is not confession at all. There are plenty of Christians very brave inside their churches in the presence of their friends, or on parade. They sing:
"Am I a soldier of the cross?".
or, "Hold the fort, for I am coming."
I was once in a large congregation where they were singing this with the greatest gusto:
"Wave the answer back to heaven, 'By Thy grace we will.'"
I was sitting beside a warrior of the cross, one who carried the marks of many a desperate battle on his worn face. I whispered, "What should you think this people's conception of holding the fort is?" and he whispered back, "A seven-and-six-penny pew!" Alas, how true, in hundreds of instances. Are there any ministers here? If so, I ask you, Is it not true of three parts of your congregations? What do the people in your pews mean by holding the fort? What fort do they hold? They hold the fort valiantly on the stock exchange, in the bank, at the office, or behind the counter. Let anybody go and try to get the better of them there, and they will hold that fort valiantly enough; but what fort are they holding for Jesus Christ? Here are two men, one is a professing Christian, the other an honorable man of the world. They are both, we will suppose, in the same business. Take their lives from day to day, and what is the difference between them? The one goes to church or chapel once or twice on Sunday. On the week day he gets up in the morning and has his breakfast, and perhaps he reads prayers out of a book, or perhaps not; this done and away be rushes to the city, to the business, where he works and thinks and plans with untiring energy till evening to make money. This is what he does six days in the week, without giving one hour per day to any kind of service to God or humanity, or even to the affairs of his own or his children's souls. The other man does just the same, only he does not go to church on Sunday, or read prayers. If you look into the lives of these two men at the end of the week, you can't find that the professed Christian has done one iota for the kingdom of God more than the other. You can't find that he has spoken to any one about his soul, he would think it out of season to talk about religion in the shop, the counting-house, or on the exchange. He has never buttoned-holed any of his acquaintances or friends in his own house; he has never knelt down by the side of any poor wandering brother or sister, never visited any sick one or prayed with the dying; he has not done a thing for the Lord Jesus, and yet he will go to chapel and sing, "Hold the fort" on Sunday, as though he had been living the life of a saint all the week. I ask, Why should such a man be called a Christian any more than his neighbor over the way? Oh, friends, it is time we wiped away this reproach, and put it out of the power of infidels and atheists to wag their heads and say, "What do ye more than others?" It is time we drummed out of the professed armies of our Lord all such renegades or hypocrites!
Further, the great mass of these modern Christians cannot enter into this fight because they REFUSE TO BEAR THE CONSEQUENCES.
Fighting is hard work, whatever sort of fighting it is. You cannot fight without wounds of body, heart or soul. You cannot be a soldier without enduring "hardness," and genteel Christians don't like hardness -- they won't have the consequences.
First, they won't lose their reputation; they won't be counted fools and fanatics. I was thinking the other day, if we could have a list of the names of every person, high and low, rich and poor, who however been to the meetings of the Salvation Army, and who has received light and truth, and been called and claimed by God for this war, but who has gone back into the wilderness, what a list that would be! And more than half of this drawing back has been because people have been ashamed to own where they got their blessing, or where they might have had it. Friends, the recording angel keeps such a list! A gentleman answered the other day, when bewailing his miserable spiritual condition, and one of our friends asked him to go to a holiness-meeting, "not in my own town." If he had been in London, and could have crept in with the crowd into the great Congress Hall, where nobody would have recognized him, he would have gone, but not in his own town. That reveals the secret of thousands of people having resisted the light, and lost the blessing they might have had. It was the same spirit of false shame which prompted the question of the Pharisees, "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?"
My brother, my sister, listen:-- while you care what any man or woman on earth thinks about you, or the instruments used of God to bless you, never expect to keep your blessing, for you never will. That man will go blundering on in his present lean and skeleton condition to the grave, and probably into hell, unless he repents, and finds out his mistake, and does his first works. Ashamed! Won't be thought fanatical or weak, won't be mixed up with these common people. "Not in my own town, not in my own family," -- too proud to confess that I am not just what I should be, and that I am going amongst those poor people to be made better. Oh, dear no, not if heaven depended upon it. Listen! "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of my words, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
Then, further, these modern Christians refuse to give their substance to carry on the war. Now then, I say that if the Christians of this London and this England of ours had the true war spirit, the spirit which says, "I want the world for Christ Jesus: I want my King to reign over the hearts of men: He shall win, be it at the cost of money or blood, or all else," -- if this spirit possessed them, instead of begrudging and reckoning how little they could give, and how much would save appearances, they would try how far they could deny themselves, and how much they could give. Oh! is this not true? Can you contradict it? Then, what am I to think of a band of professed soldiers who are always grumbling about having to give their money to extend the reign of their king, whom they profess to love more than all else besides! I do not propose to dwell on the beggarly subterfuges for getting money which these Christians resort to; it would make my cheeks crimson with shame. It makes me burn with shame to think how money is raised for so-called religious purposes by semi-worldly concerts, entertainments, penny readings, and bazaars, at which there is frequently positive gambling to raise money for Jesus Christ, whom they say they love more than fathers, mothers; husbands, wives, houses or lands, or anything else on earth! I have sometimes talked to ladies when they have been expensively dressed, and they have said, "Really, I do not care for these things." "Then," I have said, "it is passing strange you should be willing to spend your money for them. People generally care for the things they pay for." If Christians really cared for the reign of Jesus Christ over the hearts of men, if their hearts were set on His Kingdom and on doing all they possibly could to extend it, if it were the highest ambition of their souls, the waking and sleeping idea of their minds, do you think they would grudge to pay for it? Oh no; any child knows they would not. Such professed concern is a mockery!
Oh! what do you think Jesus Christ would say to such people? Would He not say, as He said of their representatives, the Pharisees, "Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me"
Oh, the stories I could unfold, the dozens of letters that could be produced, pleading with young men and women whose hearts God has touched with pity for the perishing multitudes; bringing all the considerations of family ties, worldly position, future prospects, wealthy alliances, and I know not what else, in order to induce them to turn aside from the path of self-sacrifice and whole-hearted abandonment to the interests of the kingdom. I sometimes wonder that Christian parents and friends dare utter such words or pen such letters. I wonder that the ink does not turn red as they write, and that their accusing consciences do not force them to sign their names "Judas."
What a different spirit parents and friends manifest with respect to their children and wards when the war-fever seizes the nation! Mothers give their sons -- it may be with tears and heartaches -- nevertheless ungrudgingly, to face the horrors of foreign warfare, in the shape of loneliness, toil, long marchings, exposure, privation, fever, dysentery, and a desolate death; and in other instances to wounds, loss of limbs, enfeebled constitutions, or violent death. Nay, women themselves have gone to such a war with the bravery of men, making lint, nursing the wounded, and inspiring the weak or wavering, and even working the guns; and as one rank has fallen, others have rushed in to fill up the bleeding gaps. But is it so in this warfare? It used to be. No grander enthusiasm, no more heroic self-sacrifice, no more determined abandonment, has ever fired human souls than has been exhibited in the cause of Jesus Christ; but alas! it is a long while ago. The Christians of this age, as a rule, want all their time, strength, and ability, and that of their children also, to enable them to climb up the ladder of this world's social position; to get up, UP, from whence God -- if Christ's teaching means anything -- will say, "Thou fool!" and hurl them down to perdition when they have done.
Friends, is it not true? If so, we ought to go down on our faces and weep, and have a confession service -- first, for those who feel that this truth applies to themselves; and second, for those who, although their own consciences acquit them, know that it applies to thousands round about us. Like the prophets of old did, let us humble ourselves for the sins of our people. Let us take their iniquities on our hearts as far as we may, weep over them, confess for them, and pray for them, and then set ourselves to try to arouse them up to a sense of their responsibility and danger.
Further, I charge it on the professors of popular Christianity that they have no valor in the fight for truth and for God.
They hold not fast the faith once delivered to the saints, but surrender first one point and then another of God's revelation to any skeptical heathen who may see fit to attack it. They bid Godspeed alike to all professed prophets and creeds, simply because it is a matter of indifference with them whether truth or error shall prevail; in fact, they are most tolerant of false teachers because they propound the easiest doctrine, often patronizing the most monstrous contradictions and shameless caricatures of the gospel. There can be no doubt that millions of souls are being sacrificed to the godless, senseless antinomian gospels of the present day, gospels which have been hacked and hewed worse than any poor vivisected animal. The very standards and landmarks of goodness, truth, honesty, chastity, and godliness are broken down, and the people are taught that they have nothing to do, to sacrifice, or to suffer, in order to be saved and to get into heaven, in fact that they call get there as easily by the broad road as by the narrow way; and all who preach the truth as Christ preached it are stigmatized as legal -- as workmongers, as antichrists and papists.
Further, these modern Christians lack all enthusiasm in the warfare.
Look at their poor, gasping, half-hearted, uncertain profession of personal religion. They condemn anybody who dares get up and tell out any definite change that God has wrought in them, or of any glowing experience of the love, sufficiency, and power of Christ to save. They characterize all such testimony as self-exaltation and vainglory, whereas they ought to know that one of the main purposes of Christ in establishing a kingdom on the earth was that His servants might be His witnesses -- not witnesses merely of His existence, but of His power to save from sin and its consequences. They should also study the writings of Paul, whom they claim as their great apostle, and note his bold, comprehensive, and persistent expression of his own personal experience, which occupied so large a share of his epistles.
Look at the cold, stiff, stilted public service of these modern Christians; note how they pray, sitting looking about, without reverence or decency, while their ministers pray for them by proxy; listen to their songs, mostly sung by a few dressed-up dolls perched in an organ-loft or singing pew, doing their praises for them, perhaps with a profane or drunken leader at so much a year. Listen to the preaching, -- as a rule, cold dissertations and abstractions or platitudes, "moving not a hair of the polished divine" who utters them, nor of the people who listen. An amen or hallelujah would sound almost as much out of place as it would be on the gallows Who would ever imagine that such a minister and such worshippers were professedly serving Him of whom it was said, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire"? Alas, alas such worshippers have nothing to be enthusiastic about. They have no personal participation in the Spirit or purposes of their professed Lord, no realization of His presence, and no glowing anticipation of His predicted triumphs. But watch the change when the time for dismissal comes; see the rush of acquaintances at the church or chapel doors to shake hands with one another; listen to the rush of tongues; there is plenty of enthusiasm now! Frank's prizes at school or honors at college, Harry's promotion in the killing army, Gertrude's recent engagement, or Lizzie's new baby, -- these are topics in which the heart is interested, and so the tongue is inspired, and the soul comes forth from its lethargy! Alas for the little children who watch the altered countenances and listen to the interested tone and manner of mother and father during the progress of these congratulations! No wonder if they conclude that this is the reality, and what they have been witnessing in the church or chapel is a sham. No wonder such a Christianity cannot hold its own against the forces of the enemy; no cause is so hopeless as one without enthusiasm. People who do not care much are sure to go to the wall.
Alas, alas! on all these points popular Christianity must be confessed, when weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, to be found lamentably wanting.
Friends, what about yours?