Saturday, September 6, 2008

The influence of godliness and religion

tulips at night

The kings of Israel were all idolaters, but yet the presence of a little salt, a few of the godly in the land, had an effect upon the state; and the situation of the little kingdom of Judah, close at their elbow, with its temple and its prophets, influenced the manners and customs of the people, so that “the kings of the house of Israel were merciful kings,” and this not because they feared God themselves, but because there were others who did, and whose influence and example, perhaps, unconsciously, softened public sentiment, and mitigated the ruthless ferocity of war. Is this nothing? Is it not a high honor to the seven thousand who bowed not the knee to Baal, that in this respect they made Baal’s worshippers bow to them?

Little do we know how much of the apparent morality of this country is due to the real religion which we have in our land. There are thousands of men in London who would open their shops tonight, if it were not for the influence of those who fear the Lord; their shops are closed, not because they take any interest in the Christian’s day of rest, but out of respect to custom. Sins, which now hide their heads under the veil of night, would stalk through our streets with barefaced impudence, if once Christianity were withdrawn. Bad as the customs of trade are, without the purifying power of the godly they would be infinitely worse. The whole fabric of our commerce, politics and war, is manifestly affected for the better by our religion. Let those, then, who do not feel its power, yet at least think well of it, from this fact — that it is a blessing to our country; and while other nations have been rent with civil war, while revolution has followed revolution, and class has been set against class, the religion of Jesus Christ has made our land a happy land, and a land, after all, in which there is more generous benevolence towards the needy, and more mutual sympathy, than in any other kingdom or even in any republic beneath the sky. Thank God for true religion! Even if it does not convert a man, yet its presence in his neighborhood tends to sober him, and to keep him from running into so great an excess of riot.

From a sermon entitled "Ben-Hadad's Escape - An Encouragement For Sinners," delivered October 11, 1863. Flickr photo by James Jordan; some rights reserved.

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