One may have a clean, pure heart and yet be far from possessing a matured Christian character. A man may love God with all his heart, and yet not be wise in his selection of the things that will always please God. Frequently the preacher may come down from the pulpit having made a horrible botch of his attempt to serve God in the ministry. He may feel the fact keenly, and be even more conscious of it than any of his hearers. And yet that preacher may have a heart as white as Gabriel's wing and a soul full of love to God and man. But as time goes on, and he lingers repeatedly at the feet of Christ in prayer, God will show him how he can serve Him more effectively and without the objectionable features.
The fact that purity is not maturity has given rise to misapprehension on the part of many people. Indeed, many of God's dear children have been misjudged and condemned because they did not have in addition to pure hearts sound and solid judgment. As soon as a man professes the blessing of perfect love, the sharp-eyed critics of the neighborhood look out for "perfect sense," and "perfect manners," and "perfect life," and when the subject of observation fails to meet the expectation of the aforesaid critics, there is a great hue and cry that "Sister A. or Brother B. has not got what is professed," when God knows they HAVE got JUST what they profess -- namely, perfect love, full salvation. The Lord has never guaranteed a perfect head to any man that breathes. We will make mistakes as long as we hang around this old world, and it is injustice to exalted spirits who have this precious grace, and an insult to the God who gave the grace, to condemn sanctification because those who profess it are not angels, but simply men and women cleansed and filled with the Spirit.
But while God makes allowance for our weakness and our frailty, we ought not to expect Him to indulge us in avoidable and needless errors. We made a mistake. Very well. We knew no better than to make it. But now that we do know better, we have no business repeating it. And right along here comes a great expanse of territory which holiness people need to cover. Here there is infinite room for advancement and progress.
"THE IMITATION OF CHRIST"
Thomas A'Kempis wrote a wonderful book on "The Imitation of Christ." The failure in so many quarters in becoming Christlike is due to the false method pursued. First, get a Christlike heart, and then let that heart govern your life and actions. "Work OUT your own salvation," said Paul, "for it is God that worketh IN you." Precisely! God puts a holy heart into a man's breast, and his business from thence on is to bring his life into line with the heart. The old life-habits may cling to him for a time, but it is the business of the sanctified soul to free itself from all that Jesus would not do were He on earth. Imitation of Christ comes after sanctification, and not before. You simply can not imitate Jesus if you have a reptile heart in you. If you have a filthy mind you will talk "smut" and think "smut" in spite of yourself. You may hide your bad self from the world, but your wife, or your husband, or your family, those who are acquainted with you intimately, know that you are base and coarse.
A glutton may stand and look at the thin, austere, ascetic face of Dante and say within himself, "I will be a Dante," but all the world knows that in a few hours he will be gourmandizing as swinishly as before. And men look at the beautiful Jesus held up in Unitarian pulpits and resolve to act like Him, and go right on being selfish, and proud, and deceitful, and devilish. There must be a moral miracle, there must be a spiritual upsetting and overturning, before a carnal heart can begin to imitate the pure and spotless Son of God.
After we are sanctified, we ought to imitate Christ in kindness. How kind He was! Where did He abuse anyone? He preached the truth, but He never maligned any of His auditors.
THE "LITTLE THINGS"
It is the "little things" that make up the mosaic of life. Our friends know us, not by the speeches we deliver, nor the sermons we preach, nor the books we write, but by the tones of our voices, and the letters we pen, and the words we use in daily life. Introduce kindness into a discordant family and how Eden-like the home becomes! Why are we not as considerate and polite to those who are all the world to us as we are to strangers and neighbors? Christlike kindness would fill our hearts with thoughtfulness for those about us. It would bid us carry a torch to many a darkened life, and incite us to share the burden pressing upon many an aching shoulder.
Christ had great charity for the faults of those with whom He was associated. How He bore with the dull and almost stupid disciples! How He bears with us in our worse and more inexcusable blockheadedness! And, if He is so charitable and patient with our faults, how ought we to be with others? There comes a time in our lives when we are simply astonished that people pay any attention to us at all. We are so conscious of our short-comings, and so keenly aware of our mistakes, that it seems to us that surely no one is quite so blundering and fallible as we are. How easy it is then to bear with one another!
We ought to work humility out into our lives. Jesus lived an humble life -- a life of the truest and deepest humility. Not a humility conscious of itself and ever gazing at itself through the fancied eyes of others, but a humility that was real and unaffected.
A CHRISTLIKE MAN.
The writer has in mind a man of deep and earnest piety, a scholar, a successful preacher and author. With all his learning and scholarship he is as humble as a child, and one can not look at him without feeling, "There is a Christ-man." Often as the pen flies quickly across the page, or as the lips are moving in the delivery of a sermon, or as an altar service is in progress, the slight, thin figure of that man flashes to the brain, and the eye grows dim and the heart-prayer rises, "Lord, make me an humble man." There are so many great men, eloquent men, learned men, dignified men, but so few humble men. God, increase their number in the land!
Another thing in Jesus' life which sanctified people ought to learn to imitate was His activity. His days, and even His nights, frequently, were filled with service. After long days of teaching and preaching, He would seek out some quiet nook and spend the still and lonely hours of night in prayer to the Father.
THE INDIVIDUAL VISION.
Men who come into close touch and communion with Christ are impelled irresistibly to earnest and ceaseless service. They see needs which no one else seems to see. They hear the plaintive voices of dying men, and the tearful cries of despondent women, and the helpless moans of unloved children. They have visions which others never understand, and dream of things with which their dearest friends can not sympathize. They have given their all that they may know Christ, and He has rewarded them by disclosing His heart to them. They know why His face is tearful, and His voice is filled with sadness. They know why He is "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." They are baptized into a baptism of love for souls, and compassion for the sorrowing, similar to that in which He is plunged. It is for this reason that men hear the voice of God calling them away from the hearth-stone out into the desolate earth.
St. Telemachus heard the voice of God, and straightway "followed the sphere of westward wheeling stars," and journeyed on to Rome muttering, "The call of God! The call of God!" Not on a foolish errand did he go, for, after his visit to the Eternal City, gladiatorial combats ceased.
"HE THAT WARRETH"
Brethren, be true to Christ. Let not even those who love you best draw you from a steadfast purpose to spend your life and all for the Galilean. Flee ease and luxury and comfort, and impose hard tasks upon yourselves. Your friends may seek to hinder you with cries of, "Rest! Tarry!" but like Christian in Bunyan's dream stop your ears and go quickly on your journey.
THE HOME COMING.
Some day your little service will be complete. Your sun will set. The west will be filled with beauty, and the birds will twitter softly in the trees as you trudge the last mile into the City; and as the shades deepen, and the air grows chill, the Master Himself will meet you, take you to His heart, wipe the tear from your cheek, the dust of the road from your brow, and the sorrow from your heart, and lead you to the court, where with those whom you love, and those who love you, Eternity will be spent in the light of His pure and shining face.