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Holiness belongs especially to the Lord. In Him it is pure, unmixed and underived. Hence He is called THE HOLY ONE, as if the name Holy and God are the same.
The Messiah in like manner is called the Holy One.
Holiness in man is often defective. It may be wanting in some of its essential elements. Hence in the Scriptures we find some qualifying terms applied to holiness when used in connection with human beings.
“Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”—Eph. 4:24.
This implies that there is a false holiness—that which passes for holiness though wanting in some of its essential properties.
“That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”— Luke 1:74, 75.
The phrase, “before him,” is the highest form of a superlative, and denotes a holiness and righteousness which will bear the scrutiny of God’s all-searching eye.
The holiness of the day is so ineffective because so much of it is defective. The load does not move because so much of the steam is lost. The medicine does not cure because it is combined with so many neutralizing substances. The gold is not current because mixed with so much alloy. Let us see to it that we have true holiness.
Much of the current holiness is wanting in spirituality. It has a worldly aspect. Generally it talks after a worldly manner. It keeps up a profession of holiness where it is popular to profess holiness. But in general its conversation is of the earth, earthy. It lacks the odor of sanctity. It does not bear the solemn, heavenly aspect of one who holds communion with God. Notwithstanding its efforts to the contrary it carries it with it and diffuses wherever it goes a worldly spirit.
Much of it is wanting in loyalty to God. While God is nominally acknowledged as Sovereign, the supreme allegiance is given to self, or to society, or to the church. Some yield to the claims of holiness until they appear to interfere with their worldly interest. They give a positive testimony to holiness until they discover that some whose good opinion they covet treat them with coldness in consequence. Then they are guarded or silent. They set out to meet the requirements of the Bible on dress; but when they find it brings upon them reproach and persecution, they go with the multitude and are conformed to this world.
Some meet the requirements of holiness as far as they can and keep in harmony with the authorities of the church. They have their convictions clear and positive. As far as the usages of the church are in harmony with these convictions, they stand by them firmly. But let them be expressed ever so plainly in the standards of church doctrine, yet if the church disregards them in practice, they readily fall in with it and act directly contrary to the clearest convictions that God gives them. A wealthy member of the M. E. Church saw clearly that the practice of renting or selling seats in the house of worship is contrary to the Scriptures. They needed a new church. He was asked to head the subscription. He offered to if they would make the seats free. The preacher insisted they could not build a free-seated church. The Christian man offered to build one himself if they would make the seats free. His offer was accepted and he built a large, convenient church. Only a few years elapsed before the preachers persuaded him to consent to rent the seats in that very church.
By artful management the most iniquitous decisions are obtained in the church tribunals against some of its most devoted and godly ministers. Men claiming to be advocates of holiness, who would have defended these proscribed ones if they had chanced to be in a majority, close their ears to the strongest testimony, and give to the merest phantoms of the imagination all the authority of Sacred Writ. A holiness that ignores the claims of justice only as they are sanctioned by the majority, a holiness that acknowledges no higher fealty than loyalty to the church, that makes it its highest duty to stand by those in power, do what they may, is treason to God. It is a refined, subtle idolatry—but an idolatry not less damning than that which leads its votaries to bow down to stocks and stones. A saint yields his highest allegiance to God. Truth and justice he recognizes as attributes of God, and however they may be trampled in the dust he knows he cannot be false to them and at the same time be true to God.
It was this disposition to stand by the truth of God in each other when the authorities of church and state were arrayed against it, that made the primitive Christians invincible. Paul writes,
“But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly whilst ye were made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.”—Heb. 10:32-34.
Lucian was a celebrated Greek writer and an enemy of the Christian religion. He flourished about the year of our Lord 176. In speaking of Christians he says: “It is incredible what expedition they use when any of their friends are in trouble. In a word they spare nothing upon such an occasion; for these miserable men have no doubt they shall be immortal and live forever; therefore they contemn death, and many surrender themselves to sufferings. Moreover their first law-giver has taught them, that they are all brethren, when they have turned and renounced the gods of the Greeks, and worship that Master of theirs who was crucified, and engage to live according to His laws. They have a sovereign contempt for all the things of this world, and look upon them as common.”
If this doctrine of supreme loyalty to the church had prevailed in our Saviour’s time, Christianity could never have been established. For Christ was crucified by the authorities of the church: and that too, not by one church among many, but at the instigation of the chief priests of the only church of God then on the earth—a church founded by Abraham and sanctioned by the working among them from age to age of wonders and miracles, and made rich by the wisdom and illustrious, by the piety of prophets whom God raised up among them from time to time.
If loyalty to the church be our first duty, then were Luther and Wesley heretics and schismatics and not the reformers we are accustomed to consider them. The very foundation principle of the reformation is, that every soul owes its first and highest allegiance to God. On no other principle can the reformation be defended.
Preachers and churches are helps in their appropriate places but when they require one to do what God forbids then, cost what it may, God must have the preference.
If masonry be, as is clearly shown by the late President Finney, by President Blanchard and others, and in our tract entitled “False Religion,” a rival and hostile religion to Christianity, then that holiness is defective which closes its eyes to this great fact and sustains Masonic preachers in its churches.
If selling or renting pews in houses of worship is a plain violation of the prohibition to have respect of persons in seating congregations, and is contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Gospel, then that holiness is defective which gives its sanction or support to this anti-Christian practice.
If the Bible requires plainness of dress and forbids Christians to adorn themselves with “braided hair or gold or pearls or costly array,” then is that holiness defective which pays no attention to these plain commands, but conforms to the fashions of the world in things plainly forbidden by the Word of God.
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