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LIMITS OF SANCTIFICATION
Holiness is popular. There is great danger of its being carried too far. Already the effort is being made to sanctify things that cannot be sanctified.
There is a limit to the subjects of sanctification. There are some things which, from their nature, are not capable of being made holy. The best mathematician cannot teach an ox the multiplication table, or teach a horse algebra. A church raised up in the providence of God to spread Scriptural holiness through the land, cannot make gambling holy, or sanctify pride. The things which God forbids, should be put away and not reformed. All attempts at reforming things forbidden by the word of God, should be abandoned. God lays the axe at the root of the tree. Let us ply our blows there, and though the tree may seem as flourishing as ever, yet work on and it will fall when the roots are severed. You may trim at the branches and show results in the handful of severed twigs you bear off in triumph, but the tree will only be the more vigorous from the pruning.
Money-worship cannot be sanctified. In the eyes of the world men are estimated less by their worth than by their wealth. The ability to gain and hold wealth is treated as a cardinal virtue. Bad, incompetent men are elected and appointed to high official positions, for no other reason than because they are rich. This mammon worship is wrong. It is idolatry. It is degrading to manhood and insulting to God. It is wholly bad—bad in itself. It cannot be sanctified by taking it into the house of God and making it contribute to the support of the Gospel. It is as wrong to give a man a seat in the house of God because he is rich, as it is to give him a seat in Congress, or in the Cabinet, for the same reason. It is as wicked to trade in pews as it is to trade in votes. It is just as corrupt to buy one’s way to a front seat in a church, as it is to buy a seat in the Legislature. The principle that lies at the bottom is, a servile acknowledgment of the Almighty Dollar. It is giving money preference over the man. It is placing a lower estimate upon Christian virtues than upon money. It paying the homage to gold that is due only to merit. This principle cannot be sanctified. It should be put away from the house of God entirely. Men should stand there, as men. There should no preference be given to one over another on account of wealth. The rich and he poor should meet together, feeling that the Lord is the Maker of us all.
Pride cannot be sanctified. It may be introduced into holy places, but such an introduction does not make it holy. A jewel may be inserted in the flesh—heathens hang them in the nose—Christians in the ears—but it does not become flesh. It may produce inflammation, but it cannot add to the strength. Pride may enter largely into the construction and furnishing of edifices consecrated to sacred uses, but this does not render the pride sacred. God speaks of those who anciently introduced unauthorized refinements into His worship, as
“A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick.”—Isa. 65:3.
To display pride and fashion-badges of the love of the world in the church, is as if the wife should present herself to her husband adorned with the rings and jewels of his wicked rival and enemy.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”—Jas. 4:4.
The attempt to sanctify the drama, by making Sabbath school children actors; the church the theater, and preachers and leaders the managers, can only result in dragging the actors down, instead of elevating the stage. Priests and monks tried the same experiment hundreds of years ago, taking their characters from the Bible, and their spirit from the world, until they made Christianity contemptible, by sinking its votaries to the level of the heathen, in morality.
The effort to sanctify things which should have been put away, has been a prolific cause of the corruption of the church in all ages. After the conversion of Constantine, the Bishops in their zeal for the conversion of the heathen, adopted the heathen rites and called them by Christian names; just as the Churches now, to draw in the world, adopt worldly pleasures and attempt to throw over them a religious garb. Mosheim says, “The rites and institutions, by which the Greeks, Romans, and other nations, had formerly testified their religious veneration for fictitious deities, were now adopted, with some slight alterations, by Christian bishops, and employed in the service of the true God. These fervent heralds of the Gospel, whose zeal outran their candor and integrity, imagined that the nations would receive Christianity with more facility, when they saw the rites and ceremonies to which they were accustomed, adopted in the church, and the same worship paid to Christ and His martyrs, which they had formerly offered to their idol deities. Hence it happened, that, in these times, the religion of the Greeks and Romans differed very little, in its external appearance, from that of the Christians. They had both a most pompous and splendid ritual. Gorgeous robes, miters, tiaras, wax-tapers, crosiers, processions, lustrations, images, gold and silver vases, and many such circumstances of pageantry, were equally to be seen in the heathen temples and in the Christian churches.”
From the fiercest persecutions the church of Jesus Christ rapidly recovered and came out purer and stronger from the fiery ordeal. But from the attempt to sanctify heathen rites and heathen temples the church has never recovered. The most numerous and the most powerful of all the churches that bear the Christian name, the Roman Catholic, has today more of the spirit and practice of the old pagan churches than of the church founded by Jesus Christ.
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