THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1839 paragraph 257 234 Lecture IV. True and False Religion ...

7. Religion is regarded by this class of persons as the most important, yet not the most loved employment. Their reason affirms that it is the one thing needful. But their hearts do not affirm that it is the one thing most loved, and rejoiced in for its own sake.



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1845 paragraph 658 632 Lecture XIV. The Folly of Refusing to be Saved ...

Some of you probably know so little about the Bible that you would not know whether the preacher had quoted from the Bible or the Koran! Shame on such ignorance of such a book as the Bible! Let me ask these young men and young women; how much have you read in your Bible the past year? Is it so much that you are advancing in that knowledge of God which it reveals? Are you sure that you have made some fresh accessions to your knowledge of the Bible during the past week? Suppose your Bible could speak and were called on to testify how much you had read in it; what sort of testimony would it bear? If that Bible could also testify how much you have neglected its pages and how much you have read other books of far less importance; if it could testify also to the small interest you have felt when you seemed to be reading its sacred lines and to your great interest, when you have read other pages inspired with far other spirits; what a testimony would be borne! How full of condemnation to your soul! Let this come home to every heart.

7. The sinner's madness appears also in this; they postpone the one thing needful for almost any trifling matter. Religion is put off and made to give way to every thing else. One man pleads that he must pay his debts first; another must get his lessons first, or perhaps get through college first; and then, after all the more important things are done, he will attend to religion. Thus in practice religion is made the last of all things, and in time of being attended to it comes last of all. In theory, however, these same men will admit and even maintain that it should be first of all.

Now there can be no greater or surer mark of folly than to pursue a course directly the opposite of what we know to be right. This every sinner is doing.



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1854 paragraph 535 518 Lecture XIV. The Indications and The Guilt of Backsliding ...

Now in view of all these indications, will you be so kind to yourself, each of you, as to ask--Is this my state? Can you go on your knees before God and say--O, my God, thou knowest I am not lukewarm. How is this?

16. I have still to name one more indication--a life which fails to make the impression on all who see it that religion is your chief business--the one thing needful. For if religion is your chief concern and the thing of deepest interest with you, it is most certain and inevitable that your life will show it. Your life will make the impression on all who know you, that your heart is full of God and of love. The true Christian is a light which cannot be hid. His life will make its impression. He will be known as a zealous man, a self-denying man, as a charitable man, as a holy man--as one who lives in God and God in him.

But I must pass now to say,

III. That a lukewarm state is a most guilty one.

1. As a general thing, these professors of religion are enlightened. The fact that they have publicly professed religion evinces this. By how much the greater their light, by how much the greater their guilt.
2. It is also a most hypocritical state. Backsliders are hypocrites I do not mean that they have never been converted, but I do mean that they profess towards God what is not true. Their heart and their life believe their profession. They are living, walking hypocrites!
3. It is, moreover, a perjured state. That Christian has taken his oath to love and serve God, and has done it under most solemn circumstances--even at the communion table with the symbols of Christ's body and blood in his very hands! What has he sworn? to live for God; to observe all His statutes and all ordinances; often the very terms of his covenant specify attending to all the general meetings of the church, and performing each and all of his duties as a member of the body. Thus he solemnly swears--but thus he never does. At each successive communion season he renews his oath, only to break it again during all the next succeeding interval. He solemnly swore that he would renounce all ungodliness and every worldly lust--that he would walk soberly, righteously and godly in this evil world;--yet how constantly and universally does he violate each point in the solemn affirmation! Do I speak too strongly when I say that this man perjures himself? I am well aware of the technical distinction made in courts of law whereby it is held that there may be much falsehood without perjury--it being essential to perjury that the accused should deliberately swear falsely on a point material to the issue. But let me ask you if the oath of the backslider is not taken deliberately? What could be more so? Let me also ask if it is not to a point most material to the main issue? Surely it is. The very thing he swore he would do is the very thing he does not do. How horrible must such perjury be! Suppose you go into court and you see there a witness taking the stand and swearing to a lie--to what you know is a lie--and to what you know he knows is a lie! Would you not cry out, How awful!--What have we come to! But what is this compared with that we see at the communion table? See there;--the table is spread, God's holy presence is solemnly invoked--the minister takes the holy Bible, and expounds the nature of the oath to be taken;--then backsliders come forward and solemnly swear to perform all their Christian duties;--solemnly avow their allegiance to Jesus, the crucified--profess supreme love to him, solemnly testify that they believe in his blood as the ground of their forgiveness and that they owe him the devotion a thousand hearts and lives;--they solemnly covenant to walk with their brethren in labor and prayer--to attend the prayer-meetings;--but when the hour comes, he is not there! Another season comes round; he is not there! He almost never comes. It is a very rare thing that he even pretends to do any one of the many overt tangible things embraced in his vow. He does indeed come to meeting occasionally on the Sabbath. But this costs him no particular self-denial. On the Sabbath there is nothing else he can do. He may not work his farm, or drive his trade, or open his store. So on the Sabbath he will come to the house of God. But really, and in the spirit of it, he breaks every material point of his solemn covenant. At the next communion he is ready as ever to renew it; the communion season once past, he is ready to trample it under his heedless foot again! Is not this a most guilty state?
4. Still further, it is guilty because it is a most injurious state. It does infinite mischief. Nothing so discourages a minister as to be shut up to the necessity of reaching the impenitent over the heads of backsliders. He preaches that religion is the chief concern; they deny it. He says, it is and should be the principal business; they give him the lie. He says, religion gives its possessor peace; they reply--that is all a lie. He holds forth that Jesus has died for sinners, and those who are bought with his blood must devote their whole life and heart to his service; they reply--we don't hold, in practice, to any such things. He preaches to sinners that the hearts of Christians are bleeding with sympathy for them; they can very promptly say--that is utterly false, for we know better. Let the minister say what he will to paint the glories of heaven, or portray the woes of hell; to urge the need and the value of gospel salvation, or to exhibit the power and the reality of religion;--the backslider rises before him and gives the lie to all he can say. Alas, it is almost a hopeless task to preach so! For to make the matter still worse--these professed Christians are supposed to know from experience. They have tried it and have gone back to the world again. The minister may have a good theory, but it don't work in practice, and there is the proof. Or he may have some professional motive for such preaching; but, say they, do we not know that the proof of these things must lie in experience!

Hence, when backsliders come upon the stand and swear that not one word of God's can be believed--that all His promises are a humbug--that all the time prospects and hopes of the young convert are blasted, and he must needs return to the world again for life and joy; how fearfully injurious must this be!

5. It must be most injurious, because it hardens sinners in the worst way, and begets in them a contempt for religion. They see those who profess it go to the communion table and carefully maintain the forms of religion; but then they also see these same persons perjure themselves on all these vital points of their profession. They know that these professors have no deep interest in religion--no feeling about it; they see enough to convince them that their profession is nothing better than a blasphemous humbug. When they see masses of those who have made the solemn professions, absenting themselves from prayer-meetings, and really doing nothing to promote the objects they profess to love so deeply, is it any wonder that they are hardened? Is it strange that they are made skeptics? I know, and everybody who examines the subject must know, that the backsliding of professed Christians does more to beget skepticism than all the writings of infidels. I have seen places--I have been called to preach in places, where the conduct of professors has begotten an almost universal skepticism, so that the very foundations of Bible truth had to be laid over again. Nothing could be done in preaching the gospel till you had gone back to first principles; till you had rolled baleful influence of so much backsliding and apostasy, and shown people that they must examine the Bible for themselves and on their own responsibility--let apostates believe it as they might.
6. Backsliding does more injury to souls than any thing else, because it leads to false hopes. Men will form their notions on what religion is from the life of his professors. If this life believes religion, giving a false view of it, multitudes are deluded. Thus the backslider does much to confirm both himself and others in a false hope. Suppose a pastor becomes lukewarm, and that then his deacons also become lukewarm, their life and spirit still remain the general standard of piety. The masses, thinking themselves as good as the deacons and the minister, feel very much at ease in their state, and so go down in vast numbers to the depths of hell.

It is expected that young converts will be led by older and leading minds. The latter virtually say--We are older and have more experience than you; it befits you to follow rather than to lead us; modesty and humility are altogether becoming in the young. Thus backsliders throw themselves directly in the way of young converts. Twice within a few years have I heard ministers say--"O, if I could only take these young converts away by themselves, how easily could I train them up for God and form in them habits of earnest Christian activity. But now, what can I do? If the older, backslidden members are not kept foremost, they will become chafed, restive, and perhaps will wound the feelings of the young converts; while if the converts are kept back and under their influence, they will be frozen to death. If we could only take these young converts along as they now wish to go, what a noble church they would make, and what living, working Christians?"




Lecture II. The One Thing Needful



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1859 paragraph 53 52 Lecture II. The One Thing Needful ...

The One Thing Needful
Lecture II
February 2, 1859



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1859 paragraph 78 52 Lecture II. The One Thing Needful ...

Think of the men among us who have been here for years but are not converted. Shall they be saved? Thus far they are only more hardened. Will they ever choose that good part? When shall it once be? I will tell you. It will be when Christian people shall unite in treating this matter as the one thing needful. Then, when unconverted people see that Christians are absorbed in efforts to save them, and treat everything else as of no value, compared with their souls, then you may expect them to believe you are sincere, and then your example and efforts will have weight. But suppose a general effort to promote a revival is made; they are invited to come in; but they hear that a party is being gotten up at this place and another at another place and that many professed Christians attend these parties, what will they think of it? Must it not tend to banish all serious thought from their minds?



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1859 paragraph 80 52 Lecture II. The One Thing Needful ...

6. Now if this saving knowledge of Christ be the one thing needful, will you not treat it as if it were?



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1859 paragraph 83 52 Lecture II. The One Thing Needful ...

Will you, Christian, fulfill your part of the conditions of a general revival? Do you answer -- I will give my whole heart to it? I will bend to it my utmost efforts? Then it will not be long before each one will have chosen the one thing needful. Christ would say -- You have all chosen that good part which shall not be taken from you.



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1861 paragraph 651 582 Lectures X. & XI. Profit and Loss; Or The Worth of The Soul- No.'s 1 & 2 ...

To save the soul is the great errand of life, the infinitely important concern, the one thing needful, the great business and errand upon which God has sent us into this world. If we attend to the soul, eternity is secure; if we neglect the soul, eternity is lost. And to think of a soul's being ushered into this life, and commanded to prepare for an eternal state; and then to neglect it, to die in sin, and be obliged at last to say, "I have been an infinite fool, I have lost my soul!"