Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Are you a stuffed Christian?

How like to a Christian a man may be and yet possess no vital godliness! Walk through the British Museum, and you will see all the orders of animals standing in their various places, and exhibiting themselves with the utmost possible propriety. The rhinoceros demurely retains the position in which he was set at first, the eagle soars not through the window, the wolf howls not at night; every creature, whether bird, beast, or fish, remains in the particular glass case allotted to it; but you all know well enough that these are not the creatures, but only the outward semblances of them. Yet in what do they differ? Certainly in nothing which you could readily see, for the well-stuffed animal is precisely like what the living animal would have been; and that eye of glass even appears to have more of brightness in it than the natural eye of the creature itself; yet you know well enough that there is a secret inward something lacking, which, when it has once departed, you cannot restore.

So in the churches of Christ, many professors are not living believers, but stuffed believers, stuffed Christians. There is all the external of religion, everything that you could desire, and they behave with a great deal of propriety, too; they all keep their places, and there is no outward difference between them and the living, except upon the vital point, the life which no power on earth could possibly confer. There is this essential distinction, the life is absent. It is almost painful to watch little children when some little pet of theirs has died, how they can hardly realize the difference between death and life! Your little boy’s bird moped for awhile upon its perch, and at last dropped down in the cage; and do not you remember how the little fellow tried to set it up, and gave it seed, and filled its glass with water, and was quite surprised to think that birdie would not open his little eye upon his friend as it did before, and would not take its seed, nor drink its water! Ah, you had at last to make him know that a mysterious something had gone from his little favourite, and would not come back again. There is just such a spiritual difference between the mere professor and the genuine Christian. There is an invisible, but most real, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the absence or the presence of which makes all the difference between the sinner and the saint.

From a sermon entitled "Life's Ever-Springing Well," delivered April 4, 1869. Image by marya under Creative Commons License.

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