THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1841 paragraph 9 TABLE OF CONTENTS ... Continuing the 1840 sermons on Sanctification from "The Oberlin Evangelist" ...

Lecture XXIX. The True Service of God



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1841 paragraph 238 237 Lecture XXIX. The True Service of God ...

The True Service of God
Lecture XXIX
March 31, 1841



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1841 paragraph 251 237 Lecture XXIX. The True Service of God ...

The last, or gospel service, is regarded by the mind as supremely good or lovely, and desirable for its own sake. This is true liberty. It is the very course of life which the mind would prefer, if left free to choose between all possible courses of life; and that solely on its own account, or for the sake of its intrinsic value. I know not how to illustrate the difference between these two kinds of service, more naturally and familiarly, than by adverting to the conduct of children. They will labor, rather than be frowned upon by their parents. But labor is not regarded by them as desirable for its own sake; but is only chosen as the less of two evils. They would prefer play to labor, if left wholly to themselves. They love their amusements for their own sake. Now such is the true service of God. It is not submitted to as the less of two evils. It is not regarded merely as something that must be done, however irksome the task. It is not an up-hill business, a grievous labor, in which there is no satisfaction. But, like the plays of children, it is delighted in and loved for its own sake.



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III. Which constitutes the acceptable service of God.

1. Supreme devotedness of heart to the same end to which God is devoted. God is love, or benevolence, and is supremely devoted to the good of universal being. His heart is full of zeal, and his mind is wholly bent in promoting universal good, as far as it can possibly be done. Now the true service of God consists primarily in a heart of supreme benevolence, or of supreme devotedness to the glory of God and the interests of the universe.



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3. It consists in devoting the whole being to this end, for the same reasons for which God devotes Himself to the promotion of this end. Suppose you employ a servant who labors only for his wages, and feels no interest in the end which you are aiming to promote. He takes no interest in your business, for its own sake--has no disinterested desire to promote the end at which you aim; but simply labors for his wages. He begins as late in the morning, rests as long at noon, labors as sparingly, and breaks off as early at night as will possibly do, without being curtailed in his wages. Now you rightly say this man is serving himself and not you. He is a mere eye-servant. He is entirely selfish, and has an entirely different end in view, from what you have. And now suppose the end you have in view is not selfish, is not your own aggrandizement, the promotion of your own interests of happiness, but the promotion of the general good--would you not blame such a servant for not taking an interest in the end itself? Would you not regard his selfishness with abhorrence? Would you not regard him as engaged in self-service, and as deserving the severest reprobation? Suppose a king to be entirely disinterested, and engaging all his attributes, and all his wealth, and all his time, in the disinterested promotion of the public interests--suppose him to say to his subjects, "Here, lay hold and help me to forward this great work, and as your individual interests are parts of the public interest, I will see that you have your reward. But the thing I require of you is, that you take an interest in the end for its own sake. If you do not take an interest in the end for its own sake, your labor will all be selfishness and slavery. If you do not love the work on its own account, it will of course make you miserable. It will hang heavily on your hands, and you will long for the going down of the sun. But let your heart be deeply imbued with the spirit of doing good; let this be the grand object of your life--love it for its own sake, and your labor will be to you a continual feast." Now suppose that the subjects should take hold of the work as mere mercenaries, caring for nothing but their wages, taking no interest in the public happiness and well-being; but simply serving for reward. This would be a selfish, eye-service, and not heart-service. This would be serving self, and not the king.

Now the true service of God consists, not only in devoting the whole being to the promotion of the same end, but also with the same motives, or for the same reasons; that is, from supreme benevolence, or an absorbing disposition to do good for its own sake, and because it is good.

4. It consists in doing all this with the same feelings with which God engages in this work. If the heart is fully devoted to this work--if the whole being is given up to it, as God's being is given up to it--and if this is done for the same reasons, and from disinterested love to the work itself, the feelings with which we engage in it will naturally and necessarily be the same in kind as those in which God engages in it . The feelings with which we engage in it and pursue it, must depend upon our motives for engaging in it. If our motives are the same with God's, our feelings will be the same in kind with his.

IV. What is implied in acceptable service to God.

1. This kind of service in sinners, implies a radical change of heart, from selfishness to disinterested benevolence. Here let me be understood. By disinterested benevolence I do not mean, that the mind feels no interest in it; but I mean the direct opposite of this--that the mind does take the deepest, nay, a supreme interest, in promoting the good of being, for its own sake and on its own account.



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(4.) In all such cases it is of fundamental importance to discriminate clearly between seeking happiness in religion and actually finding it. The Bible most clearly teaches us and we may learn the same from common sense and from the nature of the case, that if permanent happiness is the object of pursuit, and the grand motive which leads the mind to engage in religion, this is working for wages. It is self-righteousness, self-service, and not the true service of God. But it is also true that if the heart is truly benevolent, if the service of God is chosen and loved for its own sake, if to do good for the sake of the good and from a desire to promote the holiness and happiness of being for its own sake, be that which the mind supremely desires and chooses on its own account, it is impossible that the duties of religion should not afford an exquisite relish in themselves, and that a course of life so highly valued for its own sake, should not afford a relish of a permanent and blessed happiness. If then the convert complain that he does not enjoy the service of the Lord, he should be instantly and plainly told that he is not engaged in the service of the Lord, that "wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace," that "the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," and that if these are not conscious realities in his own experience, he is deceiving himself--that true religion is love or benevolence--that there is a divine sweetness and relish in benevolence--and that if he does not find in the service he renders to God, that "in the keeping of God's commandments there is great reward," it is because he does not keep them. Nothing can be of greater importance than to make the impression at once that he is a legalist and has not been born again. But instead of this, professed converts are often encouraged to rest in a legal religion as the true religion, and are only exhorted to persevere, be faithful in the discharge of duty, binding and supporting themselves by oaths and promises and resolutions, and not to expect happiness in religion till they get to heaven. O, what a terrible delusion is this. And now let me ask if this is not, as a matter of fact, the real history of many in revivals.



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1843 paragraph 322 309 Lecture VI. Putting on Christ ...

II. What is implied in obeying this command.

1. It implies the putting away of selfishness. Christ was not selfish. Selfishness is the preference of self-gratification, to the will of God, and the good of the universe, and Christ never did this. The Apostle adds, "and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." Here, he contrasts "putting on Christ," and "making provision for the flesh," which is the same as selfishness. Paul was more philosophical than any of the sacred writers, and employs the language--"works of the flesh," "following after the flesh," "carnal mind," & c. to designate the nature of sin. But the whole Bible condemns self-seeking as wrong, and inconsistent with the true service of God, or imitation of Christ.