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terest in these and other reforms. This will be noticed and explained in the proper place. But whatever is true of sinners under certain circumstances, it must be always true of Christians that they hail the cause of peace, of the abolition of slavery, and of the abolition of every form of sin, and of every evil, moral and physical, with joy, and can not but give them a hearty God-speed. If they see that they are advocated on wrong principles, or with a bad spirit, or by bad men, and that injurious measures are used to promote them, the saints will mourn, will be faithful in trying to find out and to proclaim a more excellent way. Do but keep in mind the fact that saints are truly benevolent, and are really and heartily consecrated to the highest good of being, and then it will surely be seen that these things must be true of real saints.
The saints in all ages have been reformers. I know it is said that neither Prophets, Christ, nor Apostles, nor primitive saints and martyrs declaimed against war and slavery, &c. But they did. The entire instructions of Christ, and of Apostles, and Prophets were directly opposed to these and all other evils. If they did not come out against certain legalized forms of sin, and denounce them by name, and endeavor to array public sentiment against them, it is plainly because they were, for the most part, employed in a preliminary work. To introduce the gospel as a Divine revelation; to set up and organize the visible kingdom of God on earth; to lay a foundation for universal reform, was rather their business than the pushing of particular branches of reform. The overthrow of state idolatry, the great and universal sin of the world in that age; the labor of getting the world and the governments of earth to tolerate and receive the gospel as a revelation from the one Only Living and True God; the controversy with the Jews to overthrow their objections to Christianity; in short the great and indispensable and preliminary work of gaining for Christ and his gospel a hearing, and an acknowledgment of its divinity, was rather their work than the pushing of particular precepts and doctrines of the gospel to their legitimate results and logical consequences. This work once done has left it for later saints to bring the particular truths, precepts, and doctrines of the blessed gospel to bear down every form of sin. Prophets, Christ, and his Apostles have left on the pages of inspiration no dubious testimony against every form of sin. The spirit of the whole Bible breathes from every page blasting and annihilation upon every unholy abomination, while it smiles upon every thing of good report
that promises blessings to man and glory to God. The saint is not merely sometimes a reformer; he is always so. He is necessarily so if he abide a saint. It is a contradiction to say that a true saint is not devoted to reform; for, as I have said, he is a true saint just because he is devoted, heart and soul and life and all, to the promotion of the good of universal being.
11. The sinner is never a reformer in any proper sense of
He is selfish and never opposed to sin, or to any evil whatever from any such motive as renders him worthy the name of reformer. He sometimes selfishly advocates and pushes certain outward reforms; but as certain as it is that he is an unregenerate sinner, so certain is it that he is not endeavoring to reform sin out of the world from any disinterested love to God or to man. Many considerations of a selfish nature may engage him at times in certain branches of reform. Regard to his reputation may excite his zeal in such an enterprize. Self-righteous considerations may also lead him to enlist in the army of reformers. His relation to particular forms of vice may influence him to set his face against them. Constitutional temperament and tendencies may lead to his engaging in certain reforms. For example, his constitutional benevolence, as phrenologists call it, may be such that from natural compassion he may engage in reforms. But this is only giving way to an impulse of the sensibility, and it is not principle that governs him. His natural conscientiousness may modify his outward character and lead him to take hold of some branches of reform. But whatever other motives he may have, sure it is that he is not a reformer; for he is a sinner, and it is absurd to say that a sinner is truly engaged in opposing sin as sin. No, it is not sin that he is opposing, but he is seeking to gratify an ambitious, a self-righteous, or some other spirit, the gratification of which is selfishness.
But as a general thing it is easy to distinguish sinners, or deceived professors from saints by looking steadfastly at their temper and deportment in their relations to reform. They are self-indulgent, and sinners just for the reason that they are devoted to self-indulgence. Some times their self-indulgent spirit takes on one type and sometimes another. Of course they need not be expected to ridicule or oppose every branch of reform, just because it is not every reformer that will rebuke their favorite indulgences and call them to reform their lives. But as every sinner has one or more particular form of indul
gence to which he is wedded, and as saints are devising and pushing reforms in all directions, it is natural that some sinners should manifest particular hostility to one reform and some to another. Whenever a reform is proposed that would reform them out of their favorite indulgences, they will either ridicule it and those that propose it, or storm and rail, or in some way oppose or wholly neglect it. Not so, and so it can not be with a true saint. He has no indulgence that he values when put in competition with the good of being. Nay, he holds his all and his life at the disposal of the highest good. Has he in ignorance of the evils growing out of his course, used ardent spirits, wine, tobacco, tea, coffee? Has he held slaves; been engaged in any traffic that is found to be injurious; has he favored war through ignorance; or in short has he committed any mistake whatever? let but a reformer come forth and propose to discuss the tendency of such things; let the reformer bring forth his strong reasons; and from the very nature of true religion, the saint will listen with attention, weigh with candor, and suffer himself to be carried by truth, heart and hand and influence with the proposed reform, if it be worthy of support, how much soever it conflict with his former habits. This must be true if he has a single eye to the good of being, which is the very characteristic of a saint.
But the sinner or deceived professor is naturally a conservative as opposed to a reformer. He says, Let me alone in my indulgences and I will let you alone in yours provided they in no way interfere with my own. Consequently he is in general disposed to distrust, to discountenance, and to ridicule reforms and those that advocate them. He is uncandid and hard to convince; will demand an express, thus saith the Lord, or what is equivalent to a demonstration of the wisdom and utility and practicability of a proposed reform. He will evince in many ways that his heart is not predisposed to reforms. He will be eagle-eyed in respect to any faults in the character or measures of the reformers; he will be eager to detect and seize upon any error in their logic and is easily displeased and repelled with their measures.
In short sinners will be almost sure to manifest a latent dislike to reforms. They will dwell much and almost exclusively upon the evils of revivals of religion for example; the danger of spurious excitements; of promoting fanaticism, and misways manifest a disrelish for revivals of religion, but always rule; of encouraging false hopes; and they will in various
under the pretence
of a concern for the purity of the church
and the honor of God. They will be too much taken up with the evils and dangers to ever give themselves heartily to the promotion of pure revivals. They act on the defensive. They have enough to do to resist and oppose what they call evils without even trying to show a more excellent way. They in general take substantially the same course in respect to almost every branch of reformation, and especially to every reform that can touch their idols. They are so much afraid of mistakes and evils that they withhold their influence when in fact the difficulty is they have no heart to the work. The fact is, benevolence has been for thousands of years endeavoring to reform the world, and selfishness is opposing it. And often very often, under the sanctimonious garb of a concern for the honor of religion, selfishness utters its sighs and lamentations over the supposed ignorance, mistakes, fanaticism and injurious measures of those whose hearts and hands and entire being are devoted to the work.
12. Christians overcome the world. I will here introduce an extract from a discourse of my own upon this text reported in the Oberlin Evangelist:
"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."-John 5: 4.
I. What is it to overcome the world?
1. It is to get above the spirit of covetousness which possesses the men of the world. The spirit of the world is eminently the spirit of covetousness. It is a greediness after the things of the world. Some worldly men covet one thing and some another; but all classes of worldly men are living in the spirit of covetousness in some of its forms. This spirit has supreme possession of their minds.
Now the first thing in overcoming the world is, that the spirit of covetousness in respect to worldly things and objects, be overcome. The man who does not overcome this spirit of bustling and scrambling after the good which this world proffers has by no means overcome it.
2. Overcoming the world implies rising above its engrossments. When a man has overcome the world, his thoughts are no longer engrossed and swallowed up with worldly things. A man certainly does not overcome the world unless he gets above being engrossed and absorbed with its concerns.
Now we all know how exceedingly engrossed worldly men are with some form of worldly good. One is swallowed up with study; another with politics; a third with money-getting;
and a fourth perhaps with fashion and pleasure; but each in his chosen way makes earthly good the all engrossing object.
The man who gains the victory over the world must overcome not one form only of its pursuits, but every form-must overcome the world itself and all that it has to present as an allurement to the human heart.
3. Overcoming the world implies overcoming the fear of the world.
It is a mournful fact that most men, and indeed all men of worldly character have so much regard to public opinion that they dare not act according to the dictates of their consciences when acting thus would incur the popular frown. One is afraid lest his business should suffer if his course runs counter to public opinion; another fears lest if he stand up for the truth it will injure his reputation, and curiously imagines and tries to believe that advocating an unpopular truth will diminish and perhaps destroy his good influence-as if a man could exert a good influence in any possible way besides maintaining the truth.
Great multitudes, it must be admitted, are under this influence of fearing the world; yet some of them and perhaps many of them are not aware of this fact. If you or if they could thoroughly sound the reasons of their backwardness in duty, fear of the world would be among the chief. Their fear of the world's displeasure is so much stronger than their fear of God's displeasure that they are completely enslaved by it. Who does not know that some ministers dare not preach what they know is true, and even what they know is important truth, lest they should offend some whose good opinion they seek to retain? The society is weak perhaps, and the favor of some rich man in it seems indispensable to its very existence. Hence the terror of this rich man is continually before their eyes when they write a sermon, or preach, or are called to stand up in favor of any truth or cause which may be unpopular with men of more wealth than piety or conscience. Alas! this bondage to man! Too many gospel ministers are so troubled by it that their time-serving policy is virtually renouncing Christ and serving the world.
Overcoming the world is thoroughly subduing this servility
4. Overcoming the world implies overcoming a state of worldly anxiety. You know there is a state of great carefulness and anxiety which is common and almost universal among worldly men. It is perfectly natural if the heart is set upon