We should be holy because God wants us to be holy. He commands it. He says, 'As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.' God is in earnest about this. It is God's will, and it cannot be evaded. Just as a man wants his watch to keep perfect time, his gun to fire true, wants his friends to be steadfast, his children to be obedient, his wife to be faithful, so God wants us to be holy.
To many, however, the command seems harsh. They have been accustomed to commands accompanied by curses or kicks, or blows. But we must not forget that 'God is love,' and His commands are not harsh, but kind. They come from the fullness of an infinitely loving and all-wise heart. They are meant for our good. If a railway train could think or talk, it might argue that running on two rails over the same road year after year was very commonplace. But if it insisted on larger liberty, and so jumped the track, it would certainly ruin itself. So the man who wants freedom, and refuses to obey God's commands to be holy, destroys himself. The train was made to run on the tracks, and so we were made to live according to God's commandment, to be holy, and only in that way can we gain everlasting good.
Oh, how tender are His words! Listen. 'And now, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and His statutes .... for thy good?' (Deut. x. 12, 13.)
For thy good! for thy good! Do you not see it, my brother, my sister? It is 'for thy good.' There is nothing harsh, nothing selfish in our dear Lord's command. It is 'thy good' He is seeking. Bless His name! 'God is love.'
We should be holy, because Jesus died to make us holy. He gave Himself to stripes, and spitting, and cruel mockings, and the crown of thorns, and death on the cross for this purpose. He wants a holy people. For this He prayed. 'Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth.' (John xvii. 17.) For this He died. 'Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.' (Titus ii. 14.) 'He loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it,..... that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy, and without blemish,' Let us not disappoint Him. Let not His precious blood be spent in vain.
We should be holy, in order that we may be useful.
Who have been the mightiest men of God of all the ages? They have been holy men; men with clean hearts on fire with love to God and man; unselfish men; humble men, who forgot themselves in their love and toil for others; faithful men, whose lives were 'hid with Christ in God.' Moses, the meekest of men; Paul, who would gladly pour out his life a sacrifice for the people; Luther and Fox, and St. Francis and Wesley, and the General and Mrs. Booth, and ten thousand times ten thousand other men and women, who were 'great in the sight of the Lord.' These are the ones whom God has used.
So long as there are any roots of sin in the heart, the Holy Spirit cannot have all His way in us, and so our usefulness is hindered, But when our hearts are clean, the Holy Spirit dwells within, and then we have power for service. Then we can work for God and do good, in spite of all our ignorance and weakness. Hallelujah!
A plain, humble young Irishman heard about the blessing of a clean heart, and went alone, and fell on his knees before the Lord, and cried to Him for it. A man happened to overhear him, and wrote about it, saying, 'I shall never forget his petition. "O God, I plead with Thee for this blessing!' Then, as if God was showing him what was in the way, he said, "My Father, I will give up every known sin, only I plead with Thee for power." And then, as if his individual sins were passing before him, he said again and again, "I will give them up; I will give them up."
'Then without any emotion he rose from his knees, turned his face heavenward, and simply said, "And now, I claim the blessing." For the first time he now became aware of my presence, and with a shining face reached out his hand to clasp mine. You could feel the presence of the Spirit as he said, "I have received Him; I have received Him!"
'And I believe he had. for in the next few months he led more than sixty men into the Kingdom of God. His whole life was transformed.'
To be holy and useful is possible for each one of us, and it is far better than to be great and famous. To save a soul is better than to command an army, to win a battle, to rule an empire, or to sit upon a throne.
Again. we should be holy that we may be safe. Sin in the heart is more dangerous than gunpowder in the cellar. Before Peter got the blessing of a clean heart and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he yielded to the sinful nature within, and cursed and swore, and denied Jesus. Before David got this experience, he too fell into awful sin, and nearly lost his soul.
Remember that holiness is nothing more nor less than perfect love, for God and man, in a clean heart. If we love God with all our hearts we shall gladly keep all His commandments, and do all His will as He makes it known to us. And if we love our fellow-men as we love ourselves, we shall not knowingly do any wrong to them. So we see that this holy love is the surest possible safeguard against all kinds of sin, either against God or man, and we cannot count ourselves safe unless we have it. Without it, Peter and David fell; but with it, Joseph and Daniel resisted the temptations of kings' courts, and the three Hebrew children and the fire-baptized Stephen and Paul gladly faced death rather than deny their Lord.
Finally, we should be holy, because we are most solemnly assured that without holiness 'no man shall see the Lord' (Heb. xii. 14), and God has made all things ready, so that we may have the blessing if we will thus leaving those who refuse or trifle and fail without excuse.
I bless Him that years ago, He wakened me to the infinite importance of this matter, sent holy people to testify to and explain the experience, enabled me to consecrate my whole being to Him, and seek Him with all my heart, and He gave me the blessing,
Will you have it, my Comrade? If so receive Jesus as your Sanctifier just now.
My idols I cast at Thy feet, My all I return Thee who gave; This moment the work is complete, For Thou art almighty to save.
O Saviour, I dare to believe, Thy blood for my cleansing I see; And, asking in faith, I receive Salvation, full, present, and free.
Wrestlers With God
William Bramwell writes in one of his letters, 'Almost every night there has been a shaking among the people, and I have seen nearly twenty set at liberty.' Then he adds these heart-searching words: 'I believe I should have seen many more, but I cannot yet find one pleading man. There are many good people, but I have found no wrestlers with God.'
O my Lord, that is what we want! In these days of organization, of societies, leagues, committees, multiplied and diversified, soul-saving and ecclesiastical machinery, together with world-wide opportunity, above all things else we want 'wrestlers with God ' -- men and women who know how to pray and who do pray. Not men and women who say prayers, but who pour out their hearts to Him, who call Him to remembrance and keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth' (Isa. lxii. 6, 7).
Some weeks ago I went to a corps for the Sunday morning meeting, just the one meeting. Not many people knew I was coming. No special preparation was made; snow was on the ground, and less than one hundred people were present. But a wrestler with God was there, and oh, how he prayed! My heart melts within me yet as I think of it. He pleaded with God, he poured out his heart before Him. In his manner and words he was wondrously familiar with God, but it was that sweet familiarity that comes from utter self-abasement and deepest humility, and which enables its possessor to come with unabashed faith right face to face with God and ask great things of Him, because asking only for His honour and the glory of His Son. That morning twenty-four people were at the Penitent-form seeking the Lord!
Several years ago I wrote an article on the prayers of soul-winners. It fell into the hands of two young officers, one of whom is now in India, and they began to pray, and one of them it was reported, prayed all Saturday night. The next day they went to a hard corps, where it had almost been impossible to get anyone to make a start for Heaven, and that day they saw sixty-two people seeking God.
The same article was read by a Captain in a certain corps. She became interested and read it to her soldiers, urging them to greater diligence in prayer. The spirit of prayer fell on the soldiers, and some of them used to ask the Captain for the key and spend half the night in the hall wrestling with God until His power fell on the people, and scores of sinners were converted, and the largest corps in that State was built up, and the whole city was stirred.
The other day, a staff officer in charge of a band of boys told me that a short time before, he went with his boys into a town, and after two hours' wrestling with God, he got the assurance of a revival. In eighteen days they saw one hundred and fifty people seeking salvation, and fifty more seeking the blessing of a clean heart.
More than all else the Lord wants these wrestling, pleading men.
Indeed, there are many good men, but few wrestlers with God. There are many who are interested in the cause of Christ, and who are pleased to see it prosper in their corps, their church, their city, their country. But there are but few who bear the burden of the world upon their souls day and night, who make His cause in every clime their very own, and who, like Eli, would die if the ark of God were taken; who feel it an awful shame and a consuming sorrow, if victory is not continually won in His name.
This spirit of prayer is fed on the Word of God. He who neglects diligent, daily study of and meditation in the Word of God will soon neglect secret prayer, while he who feeds upon it will be constantly pouring out his heart in prayer and praise, and in this as in all things, regular practice will cultivate, increase and perfect the spirit of prayer.
Again, this spirit of prayer will only thrive where faith is active. Lazy, slow faith, quenches prayer.
Prayer must be followed by watchfulness and dead-in-earnest, patient work, else it will soon grow sickly and die.
Light and foolish talking and jesting, pride, over-sensitiveness that leads to suspicion, jealousy, envy, selfish ambition even in Christian work, indulgence of appetite, love of the applause of men and desire for the honour that man can give, an uncharitable spirit, criticism and the like, will surely quench the spirit of prayer.
Jesus says, 'Men ought always to pray, and not to faint' (Luke xviii. 1), while Paul says, 'Pray without ceasing' (I Thess. v. 17).
Don't underestimate the power of God in you, nor yet what you, by working quietly and steadily with Him, may accomplish. Paul tells not to think too highly of ourselves. (Romans xii. 3.) But he said of himself, 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.' (Philippians iv. 13.) He thought of himself linked to the illimitable strength of Christ, and therefore omnipotent for any work Christ set him to do.
The future before you is big with opportunities and possibilities. Open doors on every hand invite you to enter and do service for the Master and for your fellow-men, and the strength that worked in Paul works in you, if you do not hinder it by selfishness and unbelief.
The future success of The Army depends upon its religion -- its relation to God in Christ -- And no one can tell, my dear reader, how far that may depend on you. 'Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!' Keep the fire of love and faith and sweet hopefulness burning in your heart, and you may start a blaze that will some day sweep the country or the world. I mean you, reader, whoever you are, whether the highest-placed Officer or the latest Convert; 'thou art the man' -- the woman, upon whom the glory of the Lord may so shine that through you a great quickening may come to The Army, which will make its future so bright that the past will pale before it.
Would you like to be that man or woman? Then seek the Lord, seek Him daily, constantly, with your whole heart. Seek Him through His Word, seek Him in secret prayer in the night watches and in the noonday. Seek Him in glad obedience, seek Him in childlike faith. Seek nothing for yourself. 'Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not,' is the word of the Lord to you if you want Him to work in you mightily.
If honor comes, thank God and lay it at the torn feet of Jesus, and forget it, lest it ruin you. 'Love is not puffed up.' If honor comes not -- if men seem to forget you in the distributions of rewards and honors and promotions, still thank God and go on. Still seek the honor which comes from God only, the honor of walking in the footsteps of Jesus, of loving, of serving, of sacrificing, of suffering for others, and you shall have your reward. You surely shall, and it will be great, exceeding abundantly above all you 'ask or think.' The crowning joy is yet to come. The final and all-sufficient and unfading rewards will be given by the Master's own hand. Fret not, if you fail of some lesser reward, lest through your fretting you fail of the honor which cometh from God only, and miss the crown Christ keeps in store for you. Oh, beware of fretting over rewards and promotions and honors which man can give! It is a snare set for you by the enemy of your soul. Take your eyes off other people and see Jesus only. If others are good and spiritual and devoted to the Lord, emulate them, follow them as they follow Christ; but if they are faulty, fret not your soul because of them (Psalm xxxvii. 1-5), but pray for them, and remember the word of Jesus to Peter: 'What is that to thee? follow thou Me.'
Be filled with the spirit of Jonathan and his armor-bearer. They went up alone and routed the Philistines. They were jealous for the glory of God and the overthrow of His impudent and insolent foes, and were willing to jeopardize their lives to defeat God's enemies.
Be filled with the spirit of Paul, who wrote: 'What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ,' and 'Neither count I my life dear unto myself '; also 'I will very gladly spend and be spent, for you: though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.'
Bless God, this spirit of Paul abounds in The Army, but may it abound yet more and more, and may it abound in you! This is Holiness; this is Heaven begun; this is the spirit of Jesus still abiding in men.
Don't forget that 'you hath He quickened (made alive) who were dead in trespasses and sins.' (Ephesians ii. 1.) And don't forget 'your calling. brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen ' -- note well -- 'God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen' (What a chooser is God!); 'yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are; that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus.' (I Corinthians i. 26-30.)