There was a man among the one hundred and twenty "upper room believers" in whom Pentecost effected a most apparent and almost spectacular change. It was Peter. We remember him as the man at whom the young girl pointed her finger and laughed. We recall that he was so cowardly that he denied his Lord on the spot, swearing that he did not know Him. Behold this same Peter on the day of Pentecost. He is charging home the murder of Christ. Fear is gone, and gone forever. He faces men and does not flinch an iota. Carnality, the source of cowardice, has been removed, and the weakling is turned into a Lord Nelson for bravery, and a Savonarola for faithfulness to men's souls.
SHALL WE TREMBLE?
Fear of man is one of the most illogical things in the world. Men sell the blood of Jesus and hope of heaven and eternal happiness because of "what people say." Think of it, afraid of a man who will die and be hurried under ground before he rots! Frightened at a thing dressed in a long black coat and a white cravat with a golden-headed cane and a tall hat and a frown; a thing which will stop breathing some fine day and the worms will eat! Shall I tremble when an ecclesiastical Leo utters a roar? Shall I halt and stammer because a top-heavy lad from a theological seminary, hopelessly in love with himself, scowls at the word "sanctification"?
There are some who bolster their courage by saying ostentatiously, "I don't care what folks say," but their very vehemence shows that they DO care a very great deal. We boys all remember how we used to whistle when we passed a graveyard after dark to show we "weren't afraid"; and how hard it was to keep our mouths puckered and how shaky our legs felt!
AFRAID TO BREAK STEP
The folks we are afraid of are afraid of us. What a situation! A great regiment of people marching straight down to hell, everyone afraid to break step for fear the others will laugh! That is precisely the condition of nearly every sinner.
COURAGE OF THERMOPYLAE
Sanctification takes away the shrinking timidity and puts in a courage like that at Thermopylae. There was once a young man who, previous to his sanctification, was so timid that he frequently stayed away from church for no other reason than that he feared God might ask him to testify. He enjoyed meetings and loved to hear preaching, but the very idea of testimony would frighten him almost ill. Now he frequently addresses many hundreds and never feels the slightest embarrassment.
The ministry is sadly in need of a blessing which will give it courage to attack sin of all kinds and degrees. We need men who will rip the mask off the putrid face of corruption and pronounce God's sentence upon it; who will lift up the trap-door of the cess-pools of men's hearts and bid them look within at their own slime and filth; who will "cry aloud and spare not," though the infuriated cohorts of bat-winged demons snarl and shriek.
There will be a day when men will curse us because we have not preached more plainly. You can call a spade "a spade" or you can designate it as "an iron utensil employed for excavating purposes," but if you want folks to understand what you are driving at use the shorter term.
SHOOTING OVER MEN'S HEADS.
There is too little plain Anglo-Saxon preaching. We shoot far over the heads of our congregations and do not even scar the varnish on the gallery banister. We dwell on the points of distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism when the greater part of our people do not know the difference between an Arminian and an Armenian, and some good old sister thinks we are preaching on the cruelty of the Turks. Here I am discussing "The Dangers of Imperialism" and "The Anglo-American Friendship," while men are starving for the Bread of Life! Brethren in the ministry, let us be less anxious about the syllogistic accuracy of our sermons and be more eager to help men live right and quit sin and go to heaven.
THE PULPIT CANNON.
There are many sins which few men have the courage to antagonize in public. Theoretically the pulpit is supposed to cannonade all sin of every variety and species, but, alas, it is usually too cowardly. The Spirit-filled man fears no one from Sandow down to Tom Thumb, from a plug-hat Bishop to a little pusilanimous dude preacher.
It is not that ministers are unawares of the prevalence of black and ghastly crimes, but that they dare not speak openly against them. Too many are contaminated with evil and involved in guilt for the preacher to voice with impunity the truths which burn in his soul. He knows only too well that if he dares assert his manhood and exercises the prerogative of Christ's minister, the retribution will be swift and terrible, viz: ejectment from his pastorate!
How ominous is the silence concerning murder. And yet the land is swarming with crimson-handed murderers and murderesses. Many of them are members of our "best churches" and move in the most select society. Some of them read with animation the responses in church service and repeat the Lord's Prayer with the greatest gusto. A few -- not many, we devoutly trust -- talk about "sanctification." Poor, deluded, hoodwinked souls! they are blinded by Satan. Their hands are red with blood, and their hearts are black as hell. Were they to ever approach the heaven of which they sanctimoniously prate, they would be met at the gate with the curse of murdered infants who never saw the light.
If there is a pitiable sight in all God's great universe, if there is a scene over which angels shed tears and demons shriek laughter, it is an old cruel-eyed mother, who has seared her conscience and sinned away all noble womanliness and blasted her own soul, whispering into the unsoiled ears of her daughter the way in which to murder her own offspring; and if there is a hot hell, such a mother will make her bed in it.
The duties and cares of maternity are too irksome, and so the women who might be the mothers of John Wesleys and Fenelons and Metchers and Inskips and Cookmans are petting poodle-dogs and rat-terriers.
THE VITRIOL OF WRATH.
How many preachers dare speak in clarion tones what religion and science concur in asserting concerning vice? But know ye by these presents, all of Adam's race, that what depraved humanity pronounces all right and harmless, the Almighty God who whirls the worlds will corrode and scald with the burning vitriol of His wrath, and woe! woe! woe! to the man or woman with whom is found sin.
Any tyro knows who drowned Morgan, but the clergyman who "opens up" on Masonry is a curiosity. Why, how can the ministers say anything when they are the chaplains of these gilt-edged frauds called "lodges"? It does not take much calculation to show that an institution which spends three dollars in giving away one has no right to exist. Some of the more weak-minded and puerile of the clergy are doubtless in fear lest their "tongues should be torn out by the roots and their hearts buried in the rough sands of the seashore." Brave men are not so easily scared.
Secretism in itself is suspicious. Solon said that he wanted his house so constructed that the people could see him at all hours and thus know him to be a good man. A system which is so built that the public is kept in the dark is entitled to the attention of a Pinkerton. Bologna sausage made in a factory at the door of which is a huge sign, "No Admittance," may be all right, but you can not make people think so.
There are few preachers so foolish and illogical as to believe that the entertainment plan is the best way to raise money for church work, yet scarcely one of them declares his honest straight-forward conviction about it. Now and then a Hale, more daring than the rest, writes a remonstrative article for the Forum, but the great mass keep quiet. A Pentecostal ministry will wheel its guns into position and load and fire into the supper and festival crowd notwithstanding the voices of objectors.
Whatever may be the matter under consideration the sanctified man dares anything right. God is with him, and he feels His presence. Right is right, and by the grace of God he will stand by it though all the world howl and roar.