Prayer And Piety
( Originally Published 1896 )
Prayer and piety are good, but they can never be made a substitute for push and principle. Duties that ought to be done on our feet cannot be performed on our knees. We can and should often answer our own prayers - especially for the poor. Prayer may only be a vain verbal performance - a perfunctory, useless ceremony. What kept the lions from devouring Daniel? Not his praying three times a day more than his rigid daily service of his God, his refusing to bow to the idols and eat the king's meat. Even the heathen king said to this uncompromising young man, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee." We want more young Christians now who dare to be a Daniel. Five minutes of holy self-denying practice is worth more than five hours of praying or preaching alone. A morbid religion will do nobody any good. In the place of so much sanctimonious effeminacy we want more strong, hardy, athletic Christianity. We are to look at what men are rather than what they wear, and how they daily walk than how they talk. There is no place in God's temple for mere ornamental Christians-who stand and talk while others work. We always admire the "stand-bys " of the church, but not those-who are like the young woman that would stand by and see her mother do all the work. Some people are more pious than useful. To what' nobler work can human hands and hearts be devoted than saving perishing souls? In one of his dialect poems, John Hay says:
" And I think that saving a little child,
The gift of prayer is not always grace of prayer. We should live and pray for the same thing. Too many people make a good profession without making their profession good. It is possible to have religion only on one side - the outside. No matter how much religion we profess, all that counts is what we live. Don't be big Christian and little endeavor. It is not, as a rule, the most talkative and self-assertive Christian who is the most consistent, complete, and mature. It is enough to disgust an angel to see some conceited, self-righteous religionists in these days get together and laud their own virtues, parade their own piety, and harp on their own goodness. Those who know many of them "out of meeting" are too well aware of their shortcomings, failure to pay their debts, reluctance if not refusal to help support the regular means of grace, and their abusive disposition at home. Theirs is a mere verbal religion-all in their tongue. The man who is famous for parading his piety is a good man to deal with on the basis of cash payments.
"0 worship the Lord in the beauty of holines!" Belshazzar drank wine out of the vessels of God's sanctuary, but he was not sanctified. Bishop Taylor says, "We are not to pray so much for a blessing as to receive the Blesser." Don't label your bottle till you get something in it. " Be ye clothed with humility," and do not desire to wear a cloak of ostentatious profession of high attainment.
Mark Guy Pearse writes as follows:
"'I have been reading about holiness,' said one to me the other day; I do wish I could find it.'
" 'Find it?' I said; ' you mean find Him. Holiness is Jesus.' As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.' A week after my friend came to me with a radiant face; ' I have found Him.'
" We think and talk about holiness as if it were getting into the king's garden, climbing over a wall by a tremendous effort, or getting in as a great favor, and plucking a flower which we wear in its fragrance for a day, then keep it pressed and treasured, a faded remembrance of the king's grace. No; holiness is ours only when we open the door of our heart unto the King, that He himself may come in and make this barren place the garden of the Lord, a very paradise wherein He may walk and talk with His child."
Bishop Haygood says:
" Some have holiness for a hobby -'second-blessing holiness. Well, don't everybody who preaches on Christian graces or duties preach on holiness? We won't quarrel about theory. If you've got the second-blessing theory, don't think you are better than people who don't hold it. If Jesus did not give us any theory. about holiness, you must not get excited if I prefer his teaching to yours. Christ says, ' Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.' That will do for me."
Bishop Keener says:
" When you do get these wonderful blessings, do not be in too great a hurry to tell it. Paul was caught up into paradise, but he never told it but once, and not until fourteen years after the event. There is a habit nowadays of saying, ' I am wholly sanctified,"l am holy.' There must be something wrong about this. Were a man to take me aside and say, ' I am honest,' or, ' I am a wise man,' I would not believe him. So there must be something wrong about this complacent way some have of proclaiming their own piety."
Chancellor McDowell well says that "much of what poses as meekness is the consummate pride. Much of what poses as heart purity is the stagnation of a pond lying idly in the sun. Much of the rejoicing in persecution is the desire for publicity and notoriety."