Can Change the World Again.
THE TRUE BELIEVER:
CHARACTER, DUTY, AND PRIVILEGES,
CHARACTER, DUTY, AND PRIVILEGES,
In a Series of Discourses.
By REV. ASA MAHAN,
President of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, Oberlin, Ohio.
"Unto you, therefore, which believe, He is precious."
Harper & Brothers, Publishers,
82 Cliff Street.
[see my web page for such]
THE GOSPEL PLAN.
Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory or God.—l Cor., x., 31.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.--Prov., iii., 6.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus.— Phil., iv., 6 7.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee—Isaiah, xxvi., 3.
Thou shalt call his name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins.—Mat., i., 21.
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.—Mark, ix., 23.
THE design of the present discourse is not to give a particular explanation of the passages above cited, nor to deduce any one specific principle from them as the basis of my remarks; but to present some reflections of a general nature, designed to throw light upon the "GOSPEL PLAN"--reflections which have suggested themselves to my mind on reading these and kindred passages of Scripture. I need not here particularly remind the reader, that all that God requires of any being on earth or in heaven is comprehended in one word--L0VE--and that every particular precept is only a specific exemplification and application of this one principle. With this thought distinctly before the mind of the reader, I remark:
1. That love, in all its forms, implies devotion to the interest of its object. In the form of natural affection it implies this. Parental affection, for example, implies devotion to the feelings and interests of children. In the form of benevolence, such as is required by the moral law, love implies supreme devotion to the great interests and objects of benevolence existing in the universe around us. As exercised toward God, it implies supreme respect for, and delight in his character, implicit confidence in his veracity anti faithfulness, unreserved obedience to his authority, and the consecration of our entire being to his kingdom and glory. As exercised toward the creatures of God, it implies the devotion of our powers to all their interests, temporal and spiritual, according to their relative importance, such as Christ himself manifested when lie was on earth. The person who exercises this love "lives, and moves, and has his being" for this object. "Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father," will manifest itself, not merely in devotion to the spiritual and eternal interests of men, but also in "visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and in keeping himself unspotted from the world."
2. It is a fundamental design of Christ, in the plan of redemption, that the principles of the gospel, or the law of love, shall be carried out and exemplified by the believer, in every condition and relation in life--that he shall eat, and drink, and clothe his body, demean himself in the family, in the church, anti before the world, and regulate all his interests and transactions with his fellow-men, under the influence of the same spirit of love by which Christ was induced to "become poor for our sakes, that we, through his poverty, might be made rich." 'We understand, distinctly, the spirit by which Christ himself was influenced in every condition and relation in life, and by which a minister of the everlasting gospel ought to be influenced, in the duties of his sacred calling. The design of Christ is, that every believer shall be influenced by the same identical motives, in every condition and relation in life. "Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, DO ALL to the glory of God." "In all thy ways acknowledge Him." These arc the fundamental requisitions by which Christ designs and expects that we shall regulate our entire conduct before God and the world.
3. In some particular sphere in life, every individual is required and expected to glorify God, by devoting all his powers and interests to the divine glory, and conforming his entire deportment in that sphere to the principles of the gospel. On account of natural endowments and the arrangements and dispensations of divine providence, one person is adapted to, and required to move in one sphere in life, and another in another. But the farmer, the mechanic, the merchant, the husband, the wife, the parent, the child, are to glorify God by conforming their entire deportment and transactions with their fellow-men to the same principles of pure and perfect love by which the minister of the gospel is required and is expected to regulate his conduct in the discharge of the most hallowed duties of his sacred calling. Every man, what. ever his sphere in life may be, is expected to make it his supreme object to conduct himself, in that sphere, in such a manner that the greatest possible amount of glory shall result to God, and the greatest good to men.
4. In the particular sphere in which a person is for the time being called to move, there is the time and the place in which he is to glorify God. If he is at home, within the domestic circle, or abroad on a journey, or engaged in any of the ordinary or special transactions of life, it is, by ordering his whole deportment, in these particular circumstances, in conformity with the principles of the gospel, that God is to receive honor from him.
5. Such are the fixed arrangements of divine providence and grace, that if we do not thus glorify God in each particular sphere in which we are called to move, we do not glorify Him at all. He can receive no honor from us in any sphere whatever. Suppose, for illustration, a professed Christian is, as in this respect he ought to be, very punctual in his attendance upon the services of the sanctuary on the Sabbath, and upon all the meetings for social prayer, &c., and that in all these services be appears exceedingly devout, if you should meet him nowhere else, you might, whatever his real character may be, receive a hallowed influence from his example; because you would think his external appearance a reflection of the state of his heart. But, should you detect that man, in some business transaction, in a settled plan to overreach you, what influence would his appearance in the house of God and the circle for social prayer, now exert upon you? As long as that sin remains upon that individual, unconfessed and unrepented of, it is impossible for him to glorify God in your estimation, in any other sphere, whatever his appearance and conduct there may be. The same principle holds equally true in all cases whatever. The man who does not glorify God in every sphere in which he is called to move does not glorify him in any.
6. A fundamental design of the redemption of Christ was and is to provide and reveal grace, by availing ourselves of which we may "serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear," in every particular sphere in which we are called to move. In this consists our " completeness in Christ." In making provisions for our redemption, He remembered us in every particular sphere and condition in which we are called to move. As a Savior, He presents Himself as able and willing to meet all our necessities, and to render us, in every relation in life, all that God requires us to be.
7. Hence, I remark, that if Christ does not save us, by rendering us, in our different spheres and relations in life, as parents and children, as husbands and wives, as citizens and members of the household of faith, what God requires us to be in these relations and circumstances, he does not save us at all, if he saves us, he does it by destroying in us the spirit of disobedience, and inspiring us with the spirit of obedience to the commandments of God. The man imbued with such a spirit will have "respect to all God's commandments" in every relation in life. If Christ saves US, He does it by destroying our selfishness, and rendering us benevolent like Himself. The person possessed of such a spirit (and none others know Christ as a Savior at all), who loves his neighbor as himself, will not "overreach or defraud his neighbor in any matter." All his business transactions with him will be an exemplification of the law of love.
8. Hence, I also remark, if our faith dues not fasten upon Christ, to render us in our different spheres as above referred to, what God requires us to be, we do not, in any true sense, exercise faith in Him as a Savior from sin. It is in these circumstances and relations that our sins are found. Here we sin, if we sin at all. Here, then, our faith must fasten upon Christ, to be thus saved from our sins, or we do not know Him by faith as such a Savior.
9. Another fundamental principle of the gospel plan is this: in every condition and relation in life, we are authorized and required to look to Christ for special wisdom and grace, to render us, in those particular circumstances, all that God requires us to be. This we are to do, with the assured expectation, that, in conformity with his promise, while we "acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our paths." "He will instruct us, and teach us the way we should go, and guide us by his eye."
10. While we thus consecrate our entire being to God, He kindly assumes the guardianship of all our interests, temporal and spiritual. While we are "careful for nothing, but in all things by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make known our requests unto God," his word stands pledged that "no good thing shall be withholden from us ;" that the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Our exclusive business, the only thing about which we are to be careful, is, to "hearken to God's word," and do his will. His business is to see that all our real interests are secure, all our real wants supplied, and our souls "kept in perfect peace."
Such is a brief outline of the Gospel Plan. The way is now prepared for some important remarks, arising from the train of thought thus far pursued; remarks designed to throw still further light upon this subject.
1. We see the relations between the moral principles and precepts and the doctrines of the gospel. The former constitute the rules of action in conformity to which we are required to regulate our heart and conduct, in all the circumstances and relations of life. The latter embody those motives and influences designed and adapted by infinite wisdom and love, to secure obedience to the moral precepts of Christianity. This is the design of every doctrine of the gospel, and this the relation between the doctrines and moral precepts of Christianity.
2. We see, in the light of this subject, in what conflicts the perfection of the gospel. It consists in the absolute perfection of its moral precepts, and in the equally perfect adaptation of its doctrines and influences to secure obedience to its moral precepts. Any other view of the gospel than this makes it, so far, an imperfect gospel.
3. We also perceive in what consists the perfection of Christ as a Savior. It consists in his perfect ability and willingness to meet entirely every demand of our being, in every condition and relation in time and eternity, it consists in his ability and willingness to remedy all the consequences of past sins, to secure us, in all future time, against the power of sin and all incentives to its commission, and to cause all, by whom He is inquired of by faith to do it for them, to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Such a Savior, we, as sinners, imperiously need; and were Christ in any respect deficient in these characteristics, He would be so far an imperfect Savior.
4. We may understand the nature of evangelical faith. The believer, in the exercise of such faith, recognizes himself as "complete in Christ," in every condition, relation, and sphere in life. To his mind, every promise of God is "yea and amen in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God the Father." His great inquiry is, What has God promised ? When he understands the blessing really embraced and proffered in any promise, his faith at once fastens upon Christ, to have that promise, in all its fullness, accomplished in his own experience. Then he has no more doubt, whether he shall realize its fulfillment, than he has of the veracity of Cod. He never "staggers at any promise of God through unbelief." When called to move in any particular sphere or relation in life, he at once looks to Christ for grace and wisdom to meet fully every responsibility devolved upon him in that relation. This he does, expecting to "receive of Christ's fullness, and grace for grace," as his circumstances require. Such is true evangelical faith. Reader, is this the "confidence that you have in Him ?"
5. We may see the nature of unbelief. Unbelief assumes three forms:
(1.) It denies the truth of revelation altogether.
This is Infidelity.
(2.) It admits the truth of revelation; but denies the fact, that provisions are made and revealed in the gospel to enable the believer to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" in this life. Or, it admits the adequacy of the provisions of grace, and then affirms that they sustain such a relation to us, that no believer ever did or ever will so avail himself of them in this life as to render the obedience required. This is unbelief--as manifested by the opposers of the doctrine of Christian Perfection.
(3.) Unbelief in the third form, admits the provisions of grace. and the practicability of our availing ourselves of them, and then withholds the faith required. This is practical unbelief.
6. We may also notice the symptoms of unbelief, or those indications by which any man may determine whether he is under its influence:
(1.) The absence of a confirmed and settled peace of mind is a sure indication of unbelief. "They that wait on the Lord are as Mount Zion, which can not be moved." "They whose minds are stayed on God are kept in perfect peace." Faith recognizes in Christ a full, and perfect, and present supply for every necessity. Where is the place for carefulness in such a mind? Remember, reader, that if your peace is not "as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea," it is because of your unbelief.
(2.) Present disquietude in regard to the future is, a sure indication of unbelief. Faith recognizes in Christ a full supply of every necessity, in every possible exigency of our present and future being. It, therefore, "casts all its cares upon the Lord," with the most peaceful assurance that every want will be met as it occurs. Carefulness finds no place in such a mind. Will you bear it in mind, reader, that all disquietude about the future--whether it respects our temporal or spiritual interests--has its origin exclusively in unbelief?
(3.) Continued failure in good resolutions is another certain indication of the presence and prevailing influence of unbelief. Faith is "the victory which overcomes the world." It resolves upon obedience, and, by the grace of God, renders that obedience. Unbelief is overcome by the world. It
"Resolves, and re-resolves, and dies the same."
Or, rather, despite its resolutions to the contrary, it slides back "with a perpetual backsliding." Reader, how is it with you? Do your oft repeated, and as often broken resolutions, proclaim the fact, that you are in unbelief?
(4.) Another very common indication of unbelief is, the idea, that there is in our circumstances and relations in life, something peculiarly unfavorable to our sanctification, and that when our condition is changed, we shall be more holy. How perfectly evident is it, that the faith of such persons rests, not upon Christ, but upon external circumstances. In other words, here are the certain indications of unbelief. Faith recognizes for itself an infinite fullness in Christ for every condition, relation, and circumstance in life.
(5.) The complaint of a heard heart is another sure indication of unbelief. God has promised to "take the stony heart out of our flesh, and to give us an heart of flesh." Faith lays hold of the promise, and realizes its fulfillment in actual experience. Unbelief, on the other hand, retains the heart of stone, as a fearful weight upon the soul. The conscious presence, therefore, of such a heart is a certain indication of unbelief.
(6.) A want of a felt, conscious assurance, that God hears and answers us when we pray, is another certain indication of unbelief. Faith introduces the soul into the very audience chamber of the Most High. It uses the name of Christ with the most fixed and peaceful assurance of being heard, and of having the petitions desired of Him. Unbelief, on the other hand, shuts the soul from God, and depresses it with the gloomy consciousness that God does not hear and will not answer. Christian, when you pray with the feeling that God does not hear you, will you admit the fact that the cause is unbelief in your own heart ? Say not that past sin is the cause. Past sin originated in unbelief; and God always hears the prayer of penitence and faith, whatever the past may have been.
(7.) The common impression that such is the strength of our sinful propensities, and the number and power of our temptations and besetments to sin, that we can not hope to be sanctified in this life, is a certain indication of the wide-spread influence of unbelief. The language of unbelief in this case is, that Christ, as a Savior, is not able to deliver us from the world, the flesh, and the devil, or that he is not willing--the worst imputation that can possibly be cast upon his character. To say that Christ is able or willing to save us from all sin, when and only when He has got us beyond the reach of all temptation, is saying very little, surely, to his credit as a Savior. It is the most cruel imputation which unbelief ever casts upon his character. Christian, how often have you thus wounded Him, "in the house of his friends ?"
I might mention other symptoms of unbelief; but these are sufficient to enable the reader to determine whether he is under its fearful influence.
7. We can now see why it is that the religion of the majority of professing Christians waxes and wanes with external circumstances. Who does not know that this is the case with a very great proportion of the church? If religion is revived around them, they are excited and active. If it declines, "the love of many waxes cold." They lie down and slumber with the rest. What is the cause of such a state of things? I answer:
(1.) The religion of such persons is not a religion of love. If it were so, as soon as religion begins to decline, instead of going with the multitude, they would begin to "sigh and cry for the abominations" which are being done around them.
(2.) Theirs is not a religion of faith. Faith "looks not at things seen and temporal, but at things unseen and eternal." The religion of faith, therefore, is independent, for its strength and continuance, upon external circumstances. "It endures as seeing Him who is invisible."
(3.) It is not Christ, but external circumstances, which sustain and influence such persons. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." Those who are really sustained and influenced by faith in Him, will, indeed, be as "Mount Zion, which can not be moved." When circumstances around them are unfavorable, He will "give more grace." "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."
8. What then must we think of the condition and prospects of a great proportion of professing Christians ? Let the reader attentively examine the ninth chapter of Ezekiel, and there learn who, and who only, have the mark of God in their foreheads. "And he called to the man clothed in linen, which had the writer's ink-horn by his side; and the Lord said unto him, go through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men THAT SIGH AND CRY for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in my hearing, Go after him, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary." But one solitary class, as we see, was spared; those who, amid abounding wickedness, "sighed and cried for all the abominations" which were being done around them. In all the churches of the living God, this one class only now stand approved in his sight, as "the heirs of the grace of life." Reader, when "judgment shall begin at the house of God," Where will you appear ?
9. The true spirit of the gospel, that which distinguishes the sincere believer from all other men, next claims our attention. It is all comprehended in this--implicit faith or confidence in every truth of God, firm reliance upon all his "exceeding great and precious promises," and filial, unreserved obedience to all his commandments. There is but one thing that such an individual really fears, and that is sin. As from the pains of "the second death," he flies from it himself, and from all incentives and allurements to it, and in the deep sincerity of his heart, "sighs and cries" when others perpetrate it. This, reader, is the true Christian. This was the spirit of him whose name we bear; and remember, "if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
10. I not unfrequently meet with the question, How shall we obey the great precept ? "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." How shall we demean ourselves in respect to food, drink, and dress, and the business relations and transactions in life, for example, so that we shall therein glorify God ? We are now prepared for a specific answer to such inquiries, inquiries of vast importance to every one who would "have respect to all God's commandments."
Let us suppose that an individual, in all his business transactions and arrangements, maintains a strict adherence to the principles of integrity, and to the demands of the great law of love, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," and that he seeks the guidance of wisdom from above in the disposal of all that Providence commits to his trust, regarding himself in all such relations as the steward of God, the servant of Jesus Christ. Such an individual will glorify God in his business transactions as really and truly, as the minister does in the most hallowed, duties of his sacred calling. Thus every individual may glorify Christ in all the varied circumstances and relations in life. The application of the principle under consideration to the regulation of our conduct in respect to food, drink, and dress, is manifest. "Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified," that is, its appropriate use is a service, rendered virtue in us, and acceptable to God, "by the Word of God, and prayer." The great truth here presented is this: Every object which God created, he brought into being for a certain end. When from respect to what is in itself right, and to the will of the great Giver of all, we use such object for the end for which it was created, we honor God in its use. Our mental and physical constitution was created for a certain end, an end of which no one is ignorant. Food, drink, and apparel are requisite to this end. When from a sacred regard, and in strict subordination to this end, we gratify and regulate these propensities, never in obedience to the demands of pride, custom, or appetite, violating the laws of life and health, we then "glorify God in our bodies and spirits, which are His." Thus, while we acknowledge God in all our ways, everywhere, and in all things, "He directs our paths" to his own glory. One of the most melancholy features of the prevailing religion of the present time, is the almost total divorcement of the fear of God, and respect for his laws, from the ordinary transactions of life. How few remember that EVERY work is to be brought into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. It is a fearful thing, reader, to "defile the temple of God," and that temple, remember, is the mortal body which you now inhabit.
Reader--does God thus receive glory from you ? "He that is faithful in the least, is faithful also in much. He that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much."
11. We see how it is, that individuals lose the presence of Christ, when they leave their closets, or the house of God, and engage in business, when on a journey, or when brought into new and untried circumstances. The reason is, that they do not admit that Christ has provided special grace for them in those particular circumstances, or they do not avail themselves of that grace. If this were so, "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, would keep their hearts and minds," at all times and under all circumstances. Christ will be with you, Christian, as the joy, the rest, the life, and peace of your soul, whenever and wherever you have faith to apprehend and receive Him. Whenever your faith abandons Him, then He leaves you in darkness and the shadow of death.
12. We see how it is, that many professors of religion destroy their influence as Christians, when they are not at all aware of the fact. It is through the temper and spirit which they manifest, in the peculiar spheres of active life in which they are called to move. For example, a clerk in a store, was under deep conviction of sin, and apparently on the point of submission to God, was turned backward, and rendered an infidel, in consequence of detecting his employer, a professed Christian, in an attempt to defraud a stranger out six cents, in the sale of a trifling article. The exhortations to repentance from that merchant could have no influence over that young man, after the disclosure of such a spirit. How many children are hardened into an incurable obstinacy against religion, in consequence of the ill temper of their parents in the domestic circle. Reader, is the blood of no deathless spirit sprinkled upon your garments, in consequence of your conduct in some unguarded hour? Does religion so influence you in every sphere and relation in life, that your entire deportment is a standing reproof against sin, and not an excuse for it?
13. We may understand the great defect in the gospel, as apprehended by the mass of Christians at the present time. One glaring and melancholy defect is, that Christ is contemplated almost exclusively as a Savior front hell, and not as a Savior from sin--as a justifying, and not as a sanctifying Savior. Another is, that the gospel, as now apprehended, has comparatively little to do with men in their particular and varied relations in life. They expect the gospel to influence them in the closet and on the Sabbath, but to have very little to do with them in the ordinary transactions of life.
The gospel, when thus contemplated, can have but little influence upon Christians themselves, or upon the world through them. On the other hand, when Christ is recognized and received, as the parents' and the child's, as the husband's and the wife's, as the farmer's, the mechanic's, and the merchant's Savior--when every believer, in every sphere and relation in life, shall look to Christ as a special Savior to him in that particular sphere and relation in which, for the time being, he is called to move--then will the power of the gospel be felt in the church, and through the church upon the world. This, reader, is the gospel of Christ. Christ has come as a Savior to us, in every condition and relation in life. The promises and provisions of His grace cover our entire necessities, here and hereafter. There is no condition or relation in life where His grace is not extended, and where it will not be sufficient for us, if we have faith to receive it. Remember, "the just shall live by faith." Remember, also, the fearful declarations, "If ye will not believe, ye shall not be established ;" "If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him."
Such, I repeat, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such a Savior is Jesus Christ to all who will receive and trust in Him. Do you love this gospel ? Have you faith to receive such a Savior ? If you can thus receive Him, not one "jot or tittle" of all that He has spoken and promised shall fail of its accomplishment in your blessed experience. "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."
"So let our lips and lives express,
The holy gospel we profess;
So let our works and virtues shine,
To prove the doctrine all-divine."
The Gospel Plan. By Asa Mahan - The True Believer Chapter I.