GREAT CITIES--WHAT HINDERS THEIR CONVERSION?
IN BEHALF OF THE CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION SOCIETY,
DELIVERED ON WEDNESDAY EVENING, JUNE 12, 1850,
BY THE REV. PROFESSOR FINNEY
OF OBERLIN COLLEGE, UNITED STATES
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS.
I don't know that it is necessary to take a new text; I have been requested, on this occasion, to dwell upon "the obstacles presented by great cities to the spread of the Gospel." In so doing, I shall consider--
I. THE GREAT OBSTACLE, WHICH IS COMMON TO ALL PLACES AND ALL TIMES.
II. I SHALL CALL ATTENTION TO SOME OBSTACLES WHICH ARE PECULIAR TO GREAT CITIES.
III. I SHALL STATE THE CONDITIONS OF OVERCOMING THESE OBSTACLES.
If we were going about any particular business, the first thing is, of course, to understand what it is we are going about. What, therefore, is the evil we aim at correcting? What is moral depravity? This is necessary to be understood, for it is everywhere to be found; it is common to all humanity, to all times, and to all places. Human nature is substantially the same in every age and nation, in this respect. Although existing, in its outward development, in a great variety of forms, nevertheless, in all cases, it resolves itself into a simple unit. Unless people understand this, they will go about matters in such a way as to fail. I should like to enlarge on this single thought, but we must now proceed to inquire, "What is the difficulty to be overcome?"
Let me say, then, that all sin may be said to resolve itself into this--a spirit of devotion to self. It is generally believed, I suppose, that our first parents, when they sinned, fell into a state of total alienation from God. What was the particular thing they did? They withdrew their devotion from God, in order to gratify themselves, in spite of his authority. He told them they might eat of every tree in the garden, save one. He designed to throw a restraint upon them, for the sake of subduing their wills--developing and strengthening their virtue; but then they withdrew their allegiance from God, and set up to be gods themselves! The tempter said, "Ah! though God said, Of every tree of the garden mayest thou eat, except of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; thou mayest eat even of that, and in the day in which thou dost eat thereof thou shalt NOT surely die, but ye shall be as gods, knowing good from evil!" Of this, when Eve saw it, she partook. What constituted the great evil of this? It was not only disobedience to God's expressed commands, but it was sinning simply for the sake of their own personal gratification. Instead of seeking the honour, and obeying the commands of the Almighty, they withdrew themselves from God, and devoted themselves to the promotion of their own interests, in despite of God. Now, this is the sin of all mankind, for they withhold their allegiance from God, and devote themselves to themselves. "Selfishness" is a word which may express the will of sin, if properly understood. It matters not at all which of the propensities overrules the rest, and leads the mind into bondage. Sin consists in man's giving himself up to himself--to his own gratification, and seeking his own pleasure and profit. This develops itself in a great variety of ways. In one man, one propensity entices the will to seek its particular gratification; in another, another. This gratification of the various propensities--this devotion of the will and of the being to pleasing self in some way or other--is the great evil of the world. Now, whatever makes strong and powerful appeals to these propensities, are obstacles to be overcome. The thing to be done, is to withdraw man from himself, and to bring him to God. Our first parents set up to be gods for themselves. Now, if they had come back, and consecrated themselves to God, yielding up their whole being to obey him, and seeking his interest and his glory--to have done this, would have been to have returned to God. There must be begun in us that devotion to God which constitutes piety. We must forsake ourselves; for virtue, or holiness, resolves itself into a unit as much as sin does, and the mind devoted to self, is a mind totally depraved; while the mind devoted to God--seeking his glory, and yielding itself up to be influenced by him--this is a pious mind. Now, to induce men to cease altogether to live to and for themselves, and to live to God, is to restore them to a position in which they can be happy. A great many persons seem to talk, as if in this, and in all great cities, the people were very peculiar. Now, the peculiarity is not with the people, but it is with the circumstances which make the selfishness, which takes one development in one place, and another in another. The fact is, great cities are the very hot-beds of those influences which make such strong appeals to these propensities, yielding the mind up to which, constitute sin. The appetite for food or drink, when inordinate, is not a constitutional appetite, but the will seeking gratification; whereas the Almighty forbids us to give ourselves up to obey and seek the gratification of these propensities, instead of subordinating every one of them to the will and glory of God.
I pass on, then, in the next place, to inquire into some of the difficulties in the way of securing the end I have just named, namely, the subjugation of selfishness. Scarcely any of these difficulties are peculiar to great cities, in the sense that they do not exist at all in other places--for almost all of them exist in most places;--but the peculiarity is, that they exist in a multiplied form in great cities. Things in the way in great cities, may be expressed thus:--Great cities expose men to most aggravated forms of temptation. Don't let me be supposed to assert, that these things don't exist in other places: but that they do really exist in a most intense degree in great cities.
This subject might be divided, for the sake of being condensed into a single sermon--for a month would scarcely suffice to go right into the detail, and to make it take hold of the mind of the people--I shall, therefore, just name the things, and show what the difficulties are, and who are guilty of these things. I said, for the sake of classification and condensation, I may regard these aggravated forms of temptation under different heads. 1. The temptations which are peculiar to the Church. 2. Those which are peculiar to the world, as distinct from the Church. 3. Those which are common to both. I don't mean to say, that this classification is so distinct as not to run these divisions into one another; but I have taken them simply for the sake of condensation.
1. The obstacles which are peculiar to the Church of Christ. Here, after all, is to be found the great evil, and I must begin where I am pained to have to begin, but where I must begin, or I should fail to touch the very core of the difficulty. What I have to say on this subject may fall far short of hitting the right nail on the head, because I am so much of a stranger in London and England; I shall speak, therefore, of things as I have observed them in the great cities of America. Now, I have resided in all the great cities of America, and I presume that these things are to be found in all the great cities of Christendom, to a greater or less degree. First, then, I have said I shall notice the temptations peculiar to the Church of Christ; and first of all, to the ministers of the Church. For, after all, if the difficulties did not act on the pulpits, on the ministers who occupy them--that is, if the ministers were left unshackled, unbiased--they would, after all, lead the sacramental hosts of God's elect to overcome these difficulties, and that in every great town throughout all Christendom. I don't mean the temptations of ministers are the only things in the way, but as all the root of the matter lies in them--for Satan knows right well, that if he can pervert and corrupt that source--if he can do anything to beget an unfaithful ministry, he can do the rest well enough; therefore it is his policy, in some way or other, to render the pulpit powerless; and just so far as he succeeds in doing this, he gains his end. Here are temptations too numerous to mention, except just to be glanced at.
And, first, ministers in great cities are more intensely tempted than in other places, to seek popularity with worldly men. Such men exist more in great cities than anywhere else. This is one of the great temptations which often takes effect--seeking popularity with worldly men. Every one can see, when a man yields to these, he has bound a fetter upon his own spirit--he has tied his own heart, if he allows himself to do this; the fact is, that the pulpit is muzzled, and the minister, as far as his influence is concerned, is about ruined. In order to obtain popularity with the worldly great, the ministers of great cities are tempted to aim at excellence in scholarship and oratory, and to let these, and a multitude of other things, get dominion over the mind. They are tempted to aim at getting connected with their Churches and congregations, the worldly great. Now, what is the influence of this upon him? Why, of course, he is come into such relations to these men, that he will, without being aware of the extent to which he does it, he will temporize--he will denounce sin in the abstract from the pulpit, but no one's sin in particular. In great cities, ministers are tempted to be vehement in denouncing sin, but no particular sin. They do not say what sin or character they are reproving. It is nobody, and no sin in particular. They take care, however, to imply that they don't mean their own congregation--they don't mean that. I know that ofttimes there are influences of this kind so powerfully exerted upon them, that it should lead Christians to pray for their ministers a thousand times more than they do. If they knew the policy of the devil, who wishes to bribe to silence the minister, and make him afraid to do his duty--afraid to rebuke the wickedness in high places--the Church would lie on her face, if she has any piety. Ministers in great cities are tempted to avoid giving offence to worldly men, even to worldly professors of religion. In fact, some ministers lose caste with their brethren, because they do not keep "good" congregations. Worldly professors of religion are generally found to be rich, luxurious, great, intelligent; they not only endanger his loss of character, but of usefulness. Such temptations are very great. Again, ministers in great cities are tempted to aim at pleasing, rather than disturbing their worldly hearers. The thing they ought to do, is to aim at disturbing all classes of their hearers who are living in sin, and at rendering them as unhappy as possible in their sin, and thus hunting it out of them. Instead of aiming to please them, they should endeavour to make them anything but pleased with themselves. They shape things to please, when they ought to aim at creating agony in their minds, too great to be endured without submission to God. Another great evil is, the want of union among ministers in these respects. One feels he must not stir in this matter, because others do not. He says, If I offend so and so, he will go to yon other Church, where he will be received immediately. Now, if all would unite to hunt such men, it would be different. Many say, If I could only have the co-operation of my brethren--if all would agree to spare no pains to arouse to a sense of their danger every class of mankind, especially the worldly great and luxurious, then I could stand; but I cannot do it alone. Another temptation of ministers in great cities is, that even professors of religion are often extremely fastidious. They want peculiar ministers. They have itching ears--even professors of religion want such teachers as will not probe them too deeply, or hunt them out of their sins. They want ministers to please them, and the ungodly who belong to their rank in society. I have often known professors regretting that their ministers said anything to offend such and such a wealthy individual. They might possibly expostulate with him for this, but more probably they will go and speak against him behind his back, and thus cripple his influence; thus his own Church will not say, God speed to him--will not say, We will stand by you. No! They throw out hints about being "so personal," and all this, which cripples his hands, and completely discourages his heart. There are multitudes of such things as these in great cities.
But let me say again, ministers in great cities are tempted to neglect the wants of the masses of the people, both in and out of the pulpit. I have observed in our country, that there is a great deficiency in this respect. The sermons are framed, not so much to meet the wants of the masses, as those of certain individuals in the higher walks of society, and of advanced education. They aim at pleasing such persons, instead of coming down to the masses of the people, and suiting their pulpit instructions to them. It is, no doubt, true, that sermons directed to the masses, are, for efficiency, even more acceptable to the educated and higher classes of society than any other. The fact is, that the senators, and other great men, would be more affected by sermons addressed to the commonest people in the congregation, or even to children, than by some efforts to amuse and please themselves. Yet in great cities ministers are tempted, and to a great extent yield to the temptation, to neglect, both in and out of the pulpit, to sympathise with, adapt themselves to, and aim at the salvation of the masses. They rather aim at a few individuals, and aim, moreover, in such a manner as rarely to hit even them. Flattery causes them very often to temporize; they are often flattered by their hearers, and then they don't like to deal faithfully with them. Ministers are often drawn in by dining with such persons, and in various other ways come into such relations with persons in high places--they suffer themselves to be drawn into such relations with them--that they neither can, nor dare, after that, be faithful with them. It is easy to see that these things have a direct influence on the minister, and are a serious evil--a worm at the root--at the very vitals--which must be overcome.
One word more on this head. A great difficulty, as every one knows, who has thoroughly investigated the subject, is, that ministers are tempted to indefiniteness in their statements. They temporize in this way--they don't fail to denounce sin, but they do fail to denounce the particular sin of their particular hearers. There is a great temptation to neglect to make people feel that they mean them. The temptation is to temporize so as to denounce sin in the aggregate; but while they do this, they may preach about other people's sins, and the congregation may go with them. They may thunder from the pulpit against such and such people's sins, and the congregation may join with them. The wickedest man on earth will denounce lying, and every kind of injustice and wickedness, and everybody's practice and sin, except his own. But if a minister denounces sin in the abstract, and does not make you feel that "I mean you," he fails. What is done, after all? Why, you might fill this city and the world with such ministers, and do but little, almost no good. I must not enlarge upon this. There are materials enough, painful as they are, to fill a volume, instead of occupying the few moments I am able to devote to them in this sermon.
2. The difficulties presented by the membership of the Churches. These, too, are far too numerous to be detailed in one sermon. First, they are strongly tempted to secure to their churches the attendance of ungodly, but wealthy men. I have often noticed, that if our people were preparing to build a church--or chapel, as you call it here--they were tempted to have an undue regard for wealthy and influential men. They build the chapel in a locality which will be agreeable to them. They employ a minister of such a character as will suit them. They must have a popular man, but, unfortunately, he is popular in the bad sense of the term. There are many men popular, but in very different ways. Some are popular for usefulness to the poor; others for getting the support of the rich, to which they are tempted at every step. Now, all this grieves the Spirit of God, and renders their efforts ineffectual. Such men never attain their end; they sacrifice all for the sake of getting in worldly men, and getting fitted up an appropriate place of worship--getting some mighty scholar, some mighty orator, or some mighty anything else, except a mighty good man. They arrange everything in such a way as not to displease or offend, but to please and consult rich men, whether good or bad. I have often known the question to come up, whether a revival effort should be made in the great cities of our country, when neither minister nor Church dare consent, because, were they to do so, many of their rich men would take offence. Neither minister nor Church dare introduce any searching measures to secure the salvation of the world around them. Things must be done with caution, lest they disturb such men in their congregations, who, by exercising their worldly influence, are the greatest curses the Church can have.
But let me say again, another great difficulty, and one of the greatest difficulties, in the way of promoting religion in great cities, is the effect of competitions in business--the Church undertaking to compete with worldly men in business. Worldly men have worldly motives, worldly rules, worldly business maxims. They transact business in a certain way. Now, professors of religion think they cannot compete with them, without similar dealings, and therefore fall, one after another, into a state of mind in which they are not useful--a state of perfect bondage to the world, by endeavouring to compete with worldly men in the business of their city. How many have I known rendered weak and inefficient, and stumbling-blocks, by falling under this temptation! These individuals are shorn of their strength and influence, as Christians. But I cannot go into details as to the operations of this, which would carry me too far out of my way. But who does not know that the business operations of our cities are hot-beds of temptations in this respect? I have heard Christians say, in great cities, "We must give up our attempts at competing with these men in business, or we must ruin our souls." One of the first merchants in New York said to me, "I must abandon my business, or ruin my soul." Now, every one can see that this is the case. They are sure to lose their efficient piety. It may be easily shown that this is a mistake, even in a commercial point of view; if they carried out Gospel principles in their business transactions, they would command the confidence of all classes; so much so, that the people would say, "Go to that man, for then we shan't be cheated. He always has one price for his articles, a fair and honourable price, and nothing more. He never covers matters up, but deals straight out." This is a peace of policy, after all, even in a commercial and business point of view. But the difficulty is, to make Christians believe this. Now, let any one try this, till his neighbours know, and it becomes to be known throughout the city, that he will not take advantage of any one--that he may be trusted--that he tells the exact truth--let this be known throughout the city, and let me ask how many clerks will that man want, in less than five years, to do his business? Who would go to a man who was likely to cheat him, when there was one he could go to, who would be certain not to cheat? Persons are tempted to suppose, that if this is done, they cannot compete with worldly men. It is a mistake--a mistake fatal to piety, and constitutes one of the principal difficulties in the way of promoting religion in great cities. In business transactions, members of Christian Churches become ensnared; and these, by their example, often place a fearful stumbling-block in the way of the world. They suffer themselves to be carried along contrary to their convictions of duty, and contrary to the spontaneous declarations of their consciences, contrary to the express injunctions of the Bible; and hence, they frequent places, and allow themselves to do things, merely because public sentiment, and the customs of society, seem to demand it. Now, whatever causes a cloud to get between the Christian's heart and God--whatever shuts out from his soul the direct light of God's countenance--is fatal to the interests of the Church and of religion; and these influences, which thus becloud the soul, and get between God and it, are so manifested in great cities, that the Church is crippled, the salt loses its savour, the light of the world becomes darkness--and how gross that darkness is!
I would enlarge upon this point--the things that grieve the Spirit of God--were it not that, on Friday evening, I shall preach on quenching and grieving the Spirit.
But let me say, again, another difficulty in the way is, that Christians are tempted to unbelief in the possibility of the conversion of great cities. I have scarcely entered a great city since I have been in the ministry, where it was not thought, by both ministers and Christians, that great cities, and especially their great city, could not be converted. I have been told, that I did not understand the peculiar difficulties of great cities. I do not say, that there is no such thing. They are great; but they can be overcome. They should not discourage the Church, but lead it to perceive what great efforts must be made, and how much they are dependent upon God. Is anything too hard for God? Why, yes; they say so; they say, "If God should make the windows of heaven to open, it could not be." This is the language of their hearts. This has been said in London again and again, by one and another. But one of the great difficulties is, your unbelief, which limits God, that he cannot do his many mighty works, because of your unbelief. All other matters are but difficulties, in so far as they produce this result--in so far as they crush faith in God--they don't believe God's arm will be made bare, or that Christ is able to take captive the masses around them, and subject them to his dominion. The extent of this unbelief is frightful. The ministry say it cannot be done. They don't say it right out in preaching, but multitudes talk just as if such things were impossibilities. Now, is this always to be so? Is the Church always to believe that great cities, on account of the aggravated and intense forms in which temptations exist there, will not be converted? Cannot we remove this unbelief of the Church, and beget a confidence in the Church that it can be done? If we can do this, then the great difficulty is overcome. But there are a multitude of other things, almost numberless, which serve constantly to grieve the Spirit, and, consequently, to suppress and to kill the faith of the people of God.
Let me say again, when this spirit has once taken possession of, and comes to be indulged, it aggravates itself by a natural law. For example, suppose ministers and Churches have an impression that great cities cannot be expected to be moved, they will not work in such a manner as can be expected to make them move. On the contrary, year after year will tend to establish and strengthen them in their unbelief; for, beginning to say, "It cannot be done," their energies are crippled--it is not done; and its not being done, makes them say still further, "It cannot be done;" and thus the evil, instead of correcting, but aggravates and perpetuates itself. This is true to such an alarming extent in many of our great cities, that I can see clearly that great masses of professing Christians despair of the conversion of these great cities, and, therefore, they must naturally despair of the conversion of the world. The worldly influences which have been brought to bear upon them have produced these disastrous results.
The next thing I have to say, is, what are the stumbling-blocks in the way of conversion of the ungodly? 1. The business habits of the Church--(it is a curious retributive law of God's kingdom)--the business habits of the ungodly draw the Church astray to a great extent. They fall into these ungodly habits. Their selfishness has taken effect to some extent, and what is the result? The Church is now a snare to them. They snared the Church, and now the worldly business habits of the Church snare them. So far as experience has gone, there is no such great stumbling-block so powerful as this. Many persons are engaged in kinds of business which the ungodly know are purely selfish. If professors act in this way, what will their clerks say? Who does not know that the ungodly in the employment of such men are stumbled by their conduct? Again, the self-indulgent habits of the Church, into which they are drawn by the worldly influences to which they are subjected, have a reactionary tendency on the people generally. Again, the manifested unbelief and cowardice of the Church, are great evils in the great cities. Professors of religion are shorn of their strength in great cities, they are afraid to be faithful, they cower down before the ungodly, and their influences. This is the great stumbling block; it is thus, then, as I said before, that, by a natural retributive law of the government of God, that if the world lays a snare for the Church, just so far as they succeed in ensnaring the Church, will they ensnare themselves. They bring down their violent dealings on their own head; it is easy to see that this is the natural action of things. But I must notice only a few things which are common to all classes.
First, for example, the temptations to intemperance and licentiousness. The appeals which are made, on every hand, to the weaknesses of human nature, all the ingenuity of science--earth and hell would seem to have been ransacked in order to develop to the utmost these propensities, to draw them out, and to compel the will to yield itself up thereto. As you walk the streets everywhere these things meet the eye, and strike the ear. The whole thing seems to have been moulded, as it were, by some infernal agency. Temptations are presented alike to old and young, both sexes, and all classes of society. As you go round the city you perceive there are bands with trumpets before the tippling houses, getting the people to stop and hear the music--getting them to do this, and then, of course, they want something to drink. All sorts of things are contrived to entice people to these tippling houses--to get people to this place, and that place, to this lecture and that lecture, to this banquet of music, and that banquet of wine. In short, who does not know that in our great cities it seems as if these things were set together as close as type. They thrust something into every nook. To arrest attention, the streets are placarded with all sorts of huge notices. But this is not enough; they send men to carry on their shoulders notices of the same baneful description. And, again, men drive about the city with these notices posted on great vans. Now, only think! the whole place is swarmed with them. Wherever you go you see them, and feel their influences. These are all so many stimuli tending to develop the love of sin--selfishness, to tempt the will to indulge the appetite. These things are seen on every hand, and as the Christian walks the streets, he must either hold constant communication with God, or yield himself up to temptation.
III. I must notice some of the CONDITIONS OF OVERCOMING THESE GREAT EVILS.
1. The great want is, then, a heart supremely and singly set on overcoming these obstacles. It is a very trite and commonplace saying, but is very true, that, "Where there's a will there's a way." Wherever there's a will there's a way, to the actual accomplishment of all that God requires. If he requires that the Church should convert the world, and he does,--if there's a will there's a way. The thing is, then, for the Church to make up her mind to do it.
2. The next thing to be done is to lay aside this ungodly unbelief, and have confidence that God's Almighty arm can do it. What is this great mountain before Jerubbabel? What are such difficulties as these to the Almighty? Oh! do God the honour to believe he is able, for if anything can be done to overcome the unbelief of the Church, the world may be saved. What can be done, my dear brethren, to get out of your mind the difficulties which you think of so much, till your hearts are discouraged? You cannot do, or expect to do, anything, while you suffer your heads to hang down, and are ready to faint with discouragement.
3. Union is an indispensable condition. The devil will tell you the thing cannot be done, but you must not believe it. Ministers must lay aside all party differences, and unite against the common enemy. Christians must lay aside their sectional views and prejudices, and assail the common enemy of God and man. Let us forget that we belong to this or that Church, let us lose sight of this, and go up in an unbroken mass to the work.
4. We must study the movements of the enemy. We must act as wisely as they act; the children of this world are wiser in their generation than "the children of light." Yet, they did not choose a better end, but better means--more appropriate means; God will require the use of means in proportion to the existence of means. We are not to expect a miracle to be performed, where we have sufficient evidence to establish the Gospel without it. For example, if there was no trace of evidence to establish the truth of the Gospel, we might expect the performance of miracles--we might expect that God would accommodate himself to such a state of things; but, where there are means, God expects them to be used, and we must, therefore, adapt them wisely to the end. We must not expect that God will overrule and set aside his own laws; we must study those laws, study how to counteract the efforts which the devil is making, to bring men into bondage within the Church, and to ruin those who are without the Church.
But let me say again, the efforts of the Church must be set over against the efforts of the world. You see how men advertise the worldly amusements; they move the whole city with their advertisements, they make everybody understand clearly who and what they are, and what they are going to do. Now, were the Church but as zealous in getting people to hear the Gospel as the world is in getting them to its amusements, why, every Church in the city would be filled with worshippers and hearers. Christians should oppose their efforts to those of their enemies, and God's means would surely prevail over the means of the devil. Truth is mightier than error, God is stronger than Satan, but Satan is allowed to take the field almost alone. He wields the press, and makes it groan in exciting and drawing men in the wrong direction. Now, if God's children were really awake, they would come forth and devote their money, their talents, and all their influence, to searching out ways and means of putting them on the right track, and opposing the ways and means of wicked men; they would lift up their hearts in prayer, and soon would they see the mighty truths of Jehovah prevailing over the masses round about them.
But, let me say again, there must be a great deal more done to interest the masses. The masses must be sympathised with, there must be references to them in sermons and everything that is done. The world is carrying the masses away, we must reclaim them. While the world is running away with the masses, the Church is satisfying herself with securing the support and attendance of the great, while the masses fail to be converted, or even interested. There must be much more prayer and self-denial. Now, who does not know, from the nature of the case, and from the history of the Church, and from the world, that intemperance is going on to ruin our great cities; till Christians deny themselves, touch not, taste not, handle not, there can be no hope of saving the masses from going down to destruction. As you walk along the streets and see the men and women, and even the little children, sitting before the tippling houses, you should say, and resolve that, as God lives, and you live, anything you can do in this respect--any self-denial you can make, you are willing to submit to, in order that you may lead the way. I have been pained to see the slowness of British Christians in this respect. I have heard them say, that teetotallers make it their religion. Now, I think there is some danger of making "drinking a little" a religion, too. I know some who, when they have drunk "just a little," can pray, or sing, or do anything else well. When I was a young man I taught a school and boarded in a family, where the man came home three times a-week half intoxicated. Now, I noticed that on these occasions he used to pray very earnestly, and at no other time did he pray at all. I have thought of this many times, when I have seen ministers take "just a little to assist them." The Lord deliver me from such a snare as this!
But I cannot enlarge. Do you not believe that if the entire membership of the Churches were to lift up their voices against the drinking customs of this country, and if the ministers were to head them, that they would not exert a mighty influence in counteracting them? You must believe it! Shall it be that any branch of reform which is indispensable, shall not be embraced by Christians? It is indispensable that you must be reformers throughout, you must reform yourselves; and if you cannot reform men without total abstinence, you must be ready to imitate the apostolic example--neither to eat meat, or do anything whereby thy brother is stumbled, offended, or made weak. Now, this man well nigh shook the world. Well might he say, that he would do it; the secret of his success was, that he would deny himself anything under heaven which he considered would stand in the way of his saving souls of men; he went so far as to say, that he could wish himself accursed for his kinsmen after the flesh. By this, he meant to say, that he would almost be separated from his own salvation. He did not mean to say he would be damned, but that he could submit to anything to save his dear brethren. I can only say, that every reform must be carried out in this way. You persuade men to desist from drinking, but do not do it yourselves. How inconsistent! Why do you not say, I abstain for your sake, I give up these things which I can lawfully use; but as you abuse them, I take off my hand. Christ did many things for the sake of his disciples which would not otherwise have been incumbent upon him. One great thing he did--he died for their sakes. Are you ready to act in this spirit? Are you ready to take the lead in every branch of reform, and to go up having washed your hands of every unclean thing? Set your business transactions right! If you are engaged in a wicked business, put it away! If you have cheated any man, make restitution and come forth; wash your hands, and strengthen your hearts in God; go up to the work, and IT SHALL BE DONE!
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