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CHAPTER 16

EXAMPLES OF HOLINESS

It is easier to follow than to lead. Ordinary navigators can cross the ocean after Columbus has led the way. A few lessons from Morse enables one with common aptness to send a message a thousand miles in an instant of time. We do not wait, before we embark in any business enterprise which we think will be greatly to our advantage, until everybody else has gone into it; but if it commends itself to our judgment, and a single individual, with no advantages superior to our own, has achieved a marked success, we press boldly forward.

Why should we not do so in religious experience? Why run a greater hazard for the gold that perisheth than for the gold tried in the fire? Why press on with the multitude in the broad way, strewed with wrecks of early hopes, and which ends in darkness and destruction? Why neglect the narrow way, which a few have demonstrated is not only feasible, but increasingly delightful, until it takes us where there are pleasures for evermore?

In all ages, there have been those who have experienced the blessing of holiness in their hearts and exemplified it in their lives. They have not been the honored of earth. Generally they were persecuted and despised while living. Their true characters were understood and appreciated by but few. But they have left an example which will shine with increasing luster to the latest generations.

ABEL leads the van of the blood-washed army. We know but little about him. But this we are told, that he did not rely upon his natural goodness, but came to God through faith in the atoning blood. He brought of the firstlings of his flock. His offering spoke of his sense of sinfulness, of his penitence, and of his acceptance of the great truth that “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” He found favor and acceptance with God, and died the death of a martyr.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”—Heb, 11:4.

ENOCH. He was the seventh from Adam. In what respect those times were more favorable for living a godly life than the present, we are at a loss to imagine. If the world had not had as long an experience in wickedness, neither had it in goodness. There was no written revelation of God’s will.—The countless examples which we have of the ruinous effects of sin, and of the advantages of holiness, were then wanting. Wicked men must have had even a greater skill in leading the good astray than they have now, for they lived much longer. That wickedness abounded is beyond dispute, for Enoch died only about eighty years before Noah was born. We read that in the days of Noah,

All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.”—Gen. 6:12.

But general corruption comes on gradually. There must have been, then, great wickedness in the days of Enoch. But in the midst of it,

Enoch walked with God.”—Gen. 5:22.

In this simple statement is a world of meaning. It is testimony that cannot be questioned, to his complete deliverance from every sin, and to his enjoyment of every grace which is necessary to constitute a holy character. And his daily course of life was steady and uniform. He was not at one time governed by high religious principle, and at another led by Folly in her train. He exemplified holiness in all the relations of life. He was acquainted with all the cares and trials that press upon the head of a family, but his patience, his faith, his courage never gave out. As years passed over him he did not compromise as so many do, but he held out true to God to the end. He did not hold his peace in the presence of sin; but bore an outspoken testimony against the increasing ungodliness around. Enoch prophesied, saying,

Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”—Jude 14, 15.

This remarkable passage shows both the wickedness of the times, and the fidelity of Enoch in giving a faithful warning. It also shows that the immortality of the soul was a doctrine well understood in those days. The language plainly implies that the saints spoken of were with God, for they were to come with Him—He was not to go to them first and raise them from the grave.

During three hundred years—a period three times that of our national existence—this holy man “walked with God.” So complete was his deliverance from sin, that even his body formed an exception and did not return to the dust. In Genesis it is said,

He was not; for God took him.”—Gen. 5:24.

St. Paul explains this as follows: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”

NOAH. God does not leave Himself without a witness. When all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth, and the earth was filled with violence, Noah remained true to God. He stood alone. Wickedness was general. It was also most intense. Men lived long, and became proficient in crime.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”—Gen. 6:5

It is impossible to describe sin as more intense or more deeply seated. In the midst of this moral corruption Noah lived a holy life for six hundred years. He had all the elements of true holiness.

There was a strong power of resistance. There is never an Eden on earth into which the tempter does not enter. You cannot build walls so high that they will keep out the emissaries of evil. Every apostle of truth will find it to his apparent advantage to sell out his Master. He who is willing to follow in the evil paths will never be at a loss for some to lead the way. In the most favored localities bad examples can be found. He who takes the broad road that leadeth to destruction, will never lack for companions.

Noah’s friends and neighbors, relatives and acquaintances, all forsook the service of God. In most places, here and there one can be found who has the fear of God before him. But it was not so in that age of the world. Go as far as he might, in whatever direction he might, he could find no assembly of the saints—for there were no saints to assemble. Every gathering was a wicked gathering. Every man was a wicked man. To stem this current of corruption required moral energy. He had it. We may have it. The force of gravity is just as great now as it was when the world was first swung out upon its orbit. So grace does not degenerate. It can do for us all it did for the patriarchs of the infant world.

Noah was a just man. He met all his obligations, both to God and his fellow man. Some men who call themselves honest will, when opportunity offers, take advantage of those who have taken advantage of them. They try to be even with the dishonest. If the government steals from them they do not hesitate to defraud the government. If they suspect others of misrepresenting, their own representations must be taken with allowance. But Noah was just. Honesty is essential to holiness. It is but a small part of holiness, but it is a necessary part. No excess in other directions can compensate for a lack here.

He was a devout man. While walking uprightly among his fellow men he maintained a spirit of true devotion to God. In every thing he was led by the Spirit. His life was one of communion with God. His prayers and praises were not formal. He walked with God.

Without a spirit of devotion the most rigid morality makes one but a Stoic. He is not a Christian. An essential ingredient is wanting. Without the love of God there can be no true service of God. But if we love God we shall walk with him. We shall have a consciousness of his presence. He will talk with us and we shall talk with Him.

He was consistent. His piety was all of a pattern. There was no redundancy and no lack. Some who are very devout abroad, are ill-tempered at home. Some will give liberally, but they make their money by questionable practices. Others are full of integrity, kind, polite, firm, but they encourage pride, both by silence and by example. Many hold out well for a time, and then gradually cool down to the temperature around them. But Noah was perfect in his generations. (Gen. 6:9.) He began well and he held out as he began.

In true holiness there is symmetry of character. Every one has his natural defects, but grace is intended to supply these defects. Whatever is too prominent it depresses; whatever is wrong it removes, and it furnishes whatever is lacking. Any one may become a saint. Whatever is needful for the purpose God can, by the mighty operation of His Spirit, impart. The Bible not only affirms that Noah was perfect, but the Saviour commands us to be perfect. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.”—Matt. 5:48. This has respect, not to any one good quality in particular, but to all good qualities. It is the practical application, made by the Saviour, of His own blessed teachings. It requires right feelings towards our fellow-men, and a course of conduct corresponding in every particular to that feeling. It enjoins love to our enemies, the kind treatment of all, and the full discharge of all the obligations which we owe to our Heavenly Father.

The end aimed at in all the teachings of the Bible, is this completeness of Christian character.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—II Tim. 3:16, 17.

St. Paul also tells us that it was to secure this perfection of Christian graces that the ministry was given.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”—Eph. 4:11-13.

With all these helps, it is expected that the weakest Christian excel the mightiest saint who lived and died without these aids.

Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.Matt. 11:11

Does not the prophet refer to this when he says,

He that is feeble among them at that day shall be is David.”—Zech. 12:8

JOB. The place which the book of Job occupies in the Bible is calculated [liable] to leave a wrong impression as to the time when he lived. We naturally suppose that the Books which are placed first were written first. But this is not always the case. Dr. George Smith in his “Patriarchal Age,” shows conclusively that Job was born about two hundred and eighty years after the death of Noah. He lived in Arabia when Babylon and Assyria were in their infancy. The book of Job, probably written by Job himself is without doubt the oldest book in existence. As a literary production it challenges our highest admiration. Its poetry is in the most exalted strain, and its allusions to natural science have stood the test of the criticism of ages.

As to the character of Job God himself bears the clearest testimony. He calls him his servant and says,

There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil.”—Job 1:8

He manifested his piety under a great variety of circumstances, and with the most satisfactory results.

He is mentioned in the Bible as one of the three holy men who had the greatest power with God.

Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.”—Ezek. 14:14.

Let us look, first, at some of the elements of the character of this man who stood thus high in the favor of God.

He was a perfect man. The word “perfect”as used in the Bible in this, and in similar connections, is a qualifying term, not so much of degree, as of kind. It signifies “whole,” “complete,” with nothing lacking. It implies not an excess of one moral quality, and a corresponding lack in others, but the harmonious blending of all moral virtues in their proper proportions. There are, and always have been, but few such saints in the world. With the most, there is a want of symmetry. Their lives present the appearance of a mountainous country—sometimes up, sometimes down. Their graces are out of proportion. But Job’s character was duly balanced. This is not only implied in the term “perfect,” but it also appears from the other qualities ascribed to him.

He was an upright man. This is the character that man possessed before the fall. God made man upright. Job had regained this original character. He was governed in all the relations of life by the principles of sterling integrity. No opportunity to promote his personal interests could cause him to swerve from the right, in the slightest degree. The holiness that does not make men honest, is hypocrisy and not holiness.

Uprightness is that disposition which leads one to give to all that which is their due. A man who binds himself by oaths and obligations to screen from justice those with whom he is associated, cannot possibly be an upright man. The heavy oaths that are upon him make him lean from the right. As long as he acknowledges the binding force of these obligations, it is impossible for him to be an upright man. They are intended to make him lean. Unless this object is secured they are an utter failure. But Job was free to deal justly with all men. He gave no preferences to one above another on account of any associations or connections.

He feared God. He was not a cold, heathen moralist. He had a deep, abiding reverence for His Creator. The fear of incurring the displeasure of God was a controlling element in his nature.

My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me; and many such things are with him. Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.”—Job 23:11-15

There can be no true holiness without the fear of God. The piety that leaves this out, is weak and enervated, and always gives way under pressure of temptation. It is earthly in its origin, earthly in its motives, policy and tendency.

He avoided sin. This follows as a natural consequence of fearing God. “The fear of the Lord is to depart from evil.” That is—it leads men to depart from all moral evil; or sin. Where wickedness openly and generally prevails, it will be found that the fear of God has been thrown off. In revivals, where the converts remain proud and dressy as before, and hold on to all their worldly associations, it will be found that the preaching is of that nature that is not calculated to produce much of the fear of God. Knowing the terrors of the Lord we persuade men. The old revivalists, such as Wesley, Edwards, Knapp and Redfield, whose converts generally held out in the narrow way, were men who proclaimed the law of God in thunder tones, and laid the foundation for a genuine Christian experience and a consistent Christian life, by begetting in the minds of their hearers a salutary fear of God.

Job exemplified the principles of holiness in all the relations of life, and under the most trying circumstances.

As a father, how careful he was of the spiritual welfare of his children!

And it was so when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offering according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.”—Job 1:5.

As a ruler—for Job as a patriarch was a ruler among his people,—he was just and merciful. Such was his uprightness as a judge that he was treated with the greatest respect by all. “When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street!”—where to this day in oriental cities judges hold their courts,—

The young men saw me and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up. The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth. The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.”—Job. 29:7-17.

Would that all our magistrates were men of this character. Thus did Job exemplify holiness in prosperity.

But reverses came upon him. His children were cut down suddenly by the whirlwind’s stroke. His property was swept away; a foul disease preyed upon his body; his friends decided against him—as friends are very apt to do when we need them most; and even the wife of his bosom turned against him, and reproachingly said,

Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.”—Job 2:9.

Yet under this accumulation of trials, Job’s faith in God never for an instant gave way. He maintained his fidelity to God to the last.

True holiness is adapted to us equally in all the relations and in all the circumstances of life. It is a crown of beauty to the young, an unfailing source of strength to the middle-aged, an unwavering support to the aged, and to all a safe covering from the scorching rays of prosperity and the blasting storms of adversity. Follow holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.

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