THREE CLASSES OF PROFESSING CHRISTIANSI. The true friends of God and man.
They will show that they hate it in themselves, and that they hate it in others. They will not justify it in themselves, and they will not justify it in others. They will not seek to cover up or to excuse their own sins, neither will they try to cover up or to excuse the sins of others. In short they aim at perfect holiness. This course of conduct makes it evident that they are the true friends of God. I do not mean to say that every true friend of God is perfect, no more than I would say that every truly affectionate and obedient child is perfect, or never fails in duty to his parent. But, if he is an affectionate and obedient child, his aim is to obey always, and if be fails in any respect, he by no means justifies it, or pleads for it, or aims to cover it up, but soon as he comes to think of the matter, is dissatisfied with himself, and condemns his conduct.
They do not cover up the sins of others, or plead for them and excuse them, or smooth them over by "perhaps this," or "perhaps that." You never hear them apologizing for sin. They know its horrible nature, and abhor it always.
They show the same ardor to promote God's honor and interest that the true patriot does to promote the honor and interest of his country. If he greatly loves his country, its government, and its interest, he sets his heart upon promoting its advancement and benefit. He is never so happy as when he is doing something for the honor and advancement of his country.
They have the same kind of friendship for souls that God feels. I do not mean that they feel in the same degree, but that they have the same kind of feelings. There is such a thing as loving the souls of men and hating their conduct too. This is a peculiar kind of sympathy which the real child of God feels, and manifests towards sinners. It is a mingled feeling of abhorrence and compassion, of indignation against his sins, and pity for his person. It is possible to feel this deep abhorrence of sin mingled with deep compassion for souls capable of such endless happiness. and yet bound to eternal misery.
Whether they converse, or pray, or attend to the duties of life, it is their prominent purpose to recommend religion and to lead everybody to glorify God. A true and affectionate child wishes everybody to love and respect his father. And if any one is at enmity, it is his constant aim and effort to bring him to reconciliation. The same you would expect from a true friend of God, as a leading feature of his character, that he would make it a prominent purpose of his life to reconcile sinners to God.
They always wish to avoid everything calculated to prevent the salvation of souls, everything calculated to divert attention or in any way to hinder the conversion of souls. It is not the natural question with them, when anything is proposed which is doubtful, to ask, "Is this something which God expressly forbids?" The first question that naturally suggests itself to their minds is, "What will be the bearing of this upon religion? Will it have a tendency to prevent the conversion of sinners and to hinder the progress of revivals?" If so, they do not need the thunders of Sinai ringing in their ears, to forbid their doing it. If they see it contrary to the spirit of holiness, and contrary to the main object they have in view, that is enough. They avoid whatever they see would hinder a revival, as a matter of course, just as a merchant would avoid anything that had a tendency to impair his credit, and defeat his object of making money by his business.
They call it a lamentable state of things in the church, if no sinners are converted. No matter what else is true, no matter how rich the congregation grows, nor popular their minister, nor how many come to hear him, their panting hearts are uneasy unless they see the work of conversion actually going on. They see that all the rest is nothing without this - yea, that even the means of grace are doing more hurt than good, unless sinners are converted.
If you know the habitual tenor of people's prayers, it will show which way the tide of their feelings sets. If a man is motivated in religion mainly by a desire to save himself, you will hear praying chiefly for himself - that he may have his sins pardoned and "enjoy" much of the Spirit of God, and the like. But if he is truly the friend of God and man, you will find that the burden of his prayers is for the glory of God in the salvation of sinners; and he is never so copious and powerful in prayer as when he gets upon his favorite topic - the conversion of sinners. Go into the prayer meeting where such Christians pray, and instead of seeing them all shut up in the nut of their own interests, spending their whole prayer on themselves, and just closing with a flourish about the kingdom of Christ, you will hear them pouring out their souls in prayer for the salvation of sinners. I believe there have been cases of such Christians who were so much absorbed by their desires for the salvation of sinners, that for weeks together they did not even pray for their own salvation. If they pray for themselves at all, it is that they may be clothed with the Spirit of God, so that they can go out and be mighty through God in pulling souls out of the fire.
When anything is presented to them that promises success in converting sinners, they do not wait to be commanded to do it, on pains and penalties if they do not. They only want the evidence that it is calculated to advance the object on which their hearts are set, and they will engage in it with all their soul. The question is not with them all the while, "What am I expressly commanded to do?" but, "In what way can I do most for the salvation of souls, and the conversion of the world to God?"
God has established throughout all the universe the principle of GIVING. Even in the natural world, the rivers, the ocean, the clouds, all give. It is so throughout the whole kingdom of nature and of grace. This principle is everywhere recognized. This is the very spirit of Christ. He sought not to please himself, but to do good to others. He found his highest happiness in denying himself to do good to others. So it is with this class of persons - they are ever ready to deny themselves of enjoyments and comforts, and even of necessities, when by so doing they can do more good to others.
The other classes of professors are willing to be rocked to sleep, and willing their minister should preach smooth, flowery, and eloquent sermons, and flattering sermons, with no point and no power. But these are not satisfied unless he preaches powerfully and pointedly, and boldly, and rebukes and entreats, with all long-suffering and doctrine. (2 Tim. 4:2)
12. This class of persons will always stand by a faithful minister, who preaches the truth boldly and pointedly.
No matter if the truth he preaches hits them, they like it, and say, "Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be an excellent oil." (Ps. 141:5) When the truth is poured forth with power, their souls are fed, and grow strong in grace. They can pray for such a minister. They can weep in their closet, and pour out their souls in prayer for him, that he may have the Spirit of God always with him. While others scold and cavil at him and talk about his being extreme, and all that, you will find Christians of this sort will stand by him, yea, and would go to the stake with him for the testimony of Jesus. And this they do for the best of all reasons - such preaching falls in with the great design for which these Christians live.
However much they may really "do" for this object, it seems that the more they do, the more they long to do. They are never satisfied. Instead of being satisfied with the present degree of their success, there is no end of their longing for the conversion of sinners. I recollect a good man, who used to pray till he was exhausted with praying for individuals, and for places, and for the world's conversion. Once when he was quite exhausted with praying, he exclaimed "Oh! my longing, aching heart! There is no such thing as satisfying my unutterable desires for the conversion of sinners. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath." That man, though he had been useful beyond almost any other man of his age, yet he saw so much to do, and he so longed to see the work go forward and sinners saved, that his mortal frame could not sustain it. "I find," said he, one day, "that I am dying for want of strength to do more to save the souls of men. Oh, how much I want strength, that I may save souls."
If you wish to move them, you must hold up the situation of sinners, and show how they dishonor God, and you will find this will move their souls and set them on fire sooner than any appeal to their hopes and fears. Show them how they can convert sinners, and their longing hearts travail for souls, until they see them converted, and Christ formed in them. (Col. 1:27)