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Pure Religion

Pure Religion

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BY J. E. Denton.

There are a great many varities of relig-
ion; so many that I could not begin to name
them all; and some of them so mysterious
that I could not understand or explain them.
BY J. E. Denton.

There are a great many varities of relig-
ion; so many that I could not begin to name
them all; and some of them so mysterious
that I could not understand or explain them.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on May 29, 2014
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BY J. E. Denton.
There are a great many varities of relig-
ion; so many that I could not begin to name
them all; and some of them so mysterious
that I could not understand or explain them.
When I was a very young preacher, a
pious old man asked me if I believed in "ex-
perimental religion." I was humiliated that
I did not know what he meant by "experi-
mental religion," but since I have found out
that nobody else knows I do not feel so badly
about it. That was in the days when people
tried to "get religion" and when any kind of
experiment was justified if the seeker suc-
ceeded in "getting through." Then, a com-
mon question was, ''Are you enjoying re-
ligion?" ow, as some one has facetiously
remarked, the question is "How do other peo-
ple enjoy it?" How does your wife, or moth-
er-in-law, or neighbor enjoy your religion?
How do your clerks, employees or political
opponents enjoy it? I like the expression
"e^7ery-day religion". It sounds practical
and business-like. It is a rebuke to Sunday
religion, or any other religion that is like a
beautiful cloak, worn only on great occasions
and then laid aside for safe keeping. "Ev-
ery-day religion" is not much different from
our subject — ''Pure Religion."
James says, "Pure religion and undefiled
before God and the Father is this: To visit
the fatherless and widows in their affliction
and to keep himself unspotted from the
world." There are three words in the orig-
inal that are translated "pure" in the ew
Testament: One means virtuous; another
means sincere; and the other means clean.
The third is the word James uses— clean re-
ligion, that is not filthy; not diseased, but un-
defiled, unspotted. There is a great deal of
spotted religion in the world. People who
are religious in one community, but who cease
to be so when they move to another, have rea-
son to be very suspicious of themselves. A
certain lady brought a church letter from the
East Vut failed to identify herself with the
Lord's people in her western home. Years
afterward her little boy came across her let-
ter and read it, and then excitedly announced:
"Oh, Mamma, I found your religion in your
trunk upstairs." It is needless to say that
her religion was old, spotted, faded, yellow
and mouse-eaten.
There are some people who are very re-
ligious at church but no where else. They
have experienced a change of heart, so they
say, but they have not experienaed a change
of home-life and business conduct. They are
only converted in spots. A religion that con-
sists of Sunday-white-wash and is neglected
for six days of the week, gets very spotted
and unhealthy. A religion only in force one
day in seven is not even one-seventh pure. A
young man who went west as a professed
Christian was asked on his return a couple of
years later, "How did you get along with
your religion out there?" "Oh, first rate,"
he said, "obody ever suspected that I was
a Christian." Christ said, "If any man would
come after me, let him deny himself and take
up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23.) Ac-
cording to that definition, the young man was
not a follower of Christ at all. The require-
ment was not to take up the cross weekly,
monthly, yearly, occasionally, or semi-occa-
sionally, but "daily." That is every-day relig-
ion. There is another scripture that brings
out this same feature in a difierent way:
"Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in
the name of the Lord" — not what you do on
Sunday, but whatever you do on any day of
the week. The distinction between secular
and sacred is a device of Satan. All duties
are sacred. Plowing corn is just as sacred
as preaching the gospel. An anvil may be
consecrated or a puipit desecrated. In many
minds religion has been chiefly associated
with sick beds and grave yards, and the great
question has been, "How did he die?" Gar-
field set us a good example when he informed
the priest who wanted to pray with him to
prepare him for death, that he did not need
his assistance. He had made his preparation
in life like the good Scotchman who, when dy-
ing, declined the offer of his daughter to read
and pray with him: "o, daughter, I hare
thatched the roof in fair weather. I do not
need to work in a storm."
Some have the idea that religion is insur-
ance against fire in the world to come. Even
if that were true, '^honesty is the best policy"
and it is not very honest to wait till the goods
are set on fire before you take out insurance.
Religion is something that makes a man bet-
ter here. It makes us better fathers, moth-
ers, children, neighbors, members of society,
citizens of our government; better prepared
for all life's righteous undertakings.
"Pure Religion," etc. This language is
addressed to Christians, not to the world. It
tells, not how to get rid of spots, but how to
keep them off. If we are spotted with the
leprosy of sin, it will never remove the spots
and make us Christians to do such good works
as providing for the fatherless and widows.
* 'The blood of Christ cleanseth us from all
sin" when, in God's appointed way, we come
in contact with that blood. But this direction
of James' is how to keep well — by healthy ex-
ercise. This text gives the result of being a
Christian, not the process of becoming a
Christian. If the question were, "What is
first rate farming?" a good answer would be,
"one hundred bushels of corn to the acre, or
thirty bushels of wheat to the acre and the
soil left free from weeds — in good condition
for the next crop." That is the way James
defines pure religion. It is to visit the fath-
erless and widows in their affliction, etc. He
does not mention all the results of being
a Christian, but some of the most meritor-
ious acts that are most apt to be neglected.
He mentions a few of such acts but enough to
test the genuineness of any man's religion;
enough to show that pure religion requires
doing something for humanity. And these
deeds must be from proper motions to con-
stitute pure religion: For Paul says, "If I
bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I
give my body to be burned, but have not love,
it profiteth me nothing." It is not the exact
thing that we do but the love that prompts it
that makes it puerly religious. It is no credit
to make money by taking every conceivable
advantage of his fellow men and then seek to
gain the approbation of the world by leaving
wealth to benovelent objects, wnen he can no
longer use it himself. The truly religious
man administers on his own estate; he never
passes by on the otherside when suffering
humanity holds out its hand for help.
The ew Testament is not a code of laws
but a book of principles. James uses the
fatherless and widows as examples, because
in ancient times, they were, as they are yet
in heathern lands, the most helpless and
pitiable creatures in society. If James had
lived in this age and country, he might have
held up for our sympathy and care the moth-
erless rather than the fatherless children: For
Christianity has done so mucn for women, that
now she fares better with her fatherless chil-
dren than does a father left with his mother-
less ones. Jame's advice would apply to all
such cases. We are to visit the afflicted, not
simply to call and see them because they are
widows, or fatherless, or motherless, but to
look after them, provide for their wants and
relieve their sufferings.
The law of love is the most flexible and
yet the most binding of all laws. It contains
requirements made by no other law; and
many things lawful in themselves are not ex-
pedient for me under the law of love. It is
imposiblc to regulate every act by code, al-
though many legislators have attempted it.
It is said that Arabian commentators of Mo-
hammed attempted to make a law applicable
to every relation in life; they published a code
containing seventy-five thousand rules, but
cases soon arose to which none of these rules
would apply. Christianiiy undertook to rule
man through love. Dispensations changed;
codes and constitutions are annulled, or
amended; but love is infinite and eternal; it
waters the roots of the Christian tree and
brings forth virorous branches fragrant and
fruitful. If we have love for Christ, we have
everything, and will follow him unquestioning
anywhere Christ says, *'The great command-
ment is love," and Paul says, *'The loye of
Christ constraineth us." It is the supreme
constraint, compressing all our energies into
one channel — the doing of God's will. Heath-
en, just starting from their idoltry toward
Christianity, needed the decalogue. Would-
be criminals needed the strong arm of the law
behind them, and the penitentiary before them.
But love is the fulfilling of all other laws of
God. "Perfect love casteth out fear." "What-
soever ye would that men should do to you,
do ye even so to them." This "Golden rule"
is not like Confucius' "Silver rule" in negative
form ; it includes the good deeds we would
have done as well as the evil that we would
have undone. Upon each person is placed the
responsibility of interpreting this law. I
have sent men to the penitentiary because I
believed it best for the community. But Vic-
tor Hugo represents the charitable bishop as
shielding the convict, Jean Valjean, and giv-
ing him the silver he had stolen from him.
To have turned the criminal loose through in-
difference to his sin would have been heinous ;
but he sought to save the sinner by buying
him to be good ; his act was dictated by the
purest charity notwithstanding his ideas, ac-
cording to my judgment, were impractical; he
and I handled the same Word differently.
There is no passage in the Bible that mi-
nutely describes our duties under all circum-
stances — unless everything is included in the
command to love; there is no place where we
are told in unchangeable laws just how often
we must meet, how many sermons we must
hear, or how many dollars we must pay. Our
love of Christ must decide us and constrain
us in regard to duty. When you have some-
thing more important to do than to go to
church don't you go; but be sure about it;
don't make your decision lazily, carelessly or
selfishly; let the largest, broadest love influ-
ence your action. If you have something
more important to do with your money than
missionary work, don't pay a dollar for such
purposes; but be sure it is love and not stingi-
ness that dictates the decision. The question
of worldly amusements is to be settled in the
same way. There is no command, "Thou
shalt nob attend base- ball games on Sunday;"
or, "Thou shalt attend the Christian Endeav-
or;" but the love of Christ will enable us to
decide where we can do the most good. This
law of love may seem to be too lax or liberal;
but if we undertake to violate it, we fall un-
der the strictest, severest condemnation.
Love is the greatest incentive to action; and
inaction means death.
This law of love is binding on nations as
well as individuals. Pure religion is neces-
sary to healthly national life. The nations
that have perished and are perishing have had
spots on their religion. It is sin that makes
national suffering necessary; and when the
spots become so great that they wholly ob-
scure the Sun of Righteousness, the nations
go down in darkness. Happy is the nation
that profits by her chastening and cleanses
herself from unrighteousness before it is too
late. It is not easy to repent; it must be
preceded or accompanied by suffering. After
the Egyptians had held the Israelites in bond-
age hundreds of years, the Lord did not sim-
ply allow them to set the captives free; He
saw it necessary for Egypt first to be punish-
ed by awful plagues. Afterwards, Pharaoh
not only let the people go, but the Lord put it
into the hearts of the Egyptians to allow
themselves to be "spoiled" by giving such
lavish amounts of gold to the people whom
they had so bitterly oppressed.
After Solomon had reduced his own nation
to a condition of slavery to support the mag-
nificence of his court, it was morally impossi-
ble for his son and successor — Rehoboam — to
accede to the demands of the people to make
their burdens lighter. Providence had doom-
ed his kingdom to division and he made the
exact reply necessary to bring on the disas-
ter: *'My father made your yoke heavy and
I will add to your yoke: my father chastised
you with whips but I will chastise you with
Again, in their history, the children of
Judah, needed chastening; and God, to cure
them of idolatry, sent them into captivity for
seventy years to an idolatrous nation ! It did
not follow that their oppressors were blame-
less; and God judges them also by subjecting
them to a still stronger nation that set the
people of Judah free and helped them to re-
turn to their native land.
Who can fail to see the same principles il-
lustrated in God's dealings with the enemies
of our own country? Able English states-
men had advocated the American cause in
vain. God reserved the right to judge our
oppressors, which he did by the disasters of
war. The wrongs were too great to be right-
ed in any peaceable way.
Afterwards, even our own beloved nation
could not be left un judged for its wrong; and
we felt His chastening rod in His way of abol-
ishing slavery. Great men, though opposed
to the iniquity of holding men as property,
thought the evil remediless except by the use
of moral suasion on slave owners: so they
plead for compromise and peace; but the na-
tional sin was too deep to be atoned for with-
out blood— the best blood of our land.
In the midst of our rejoicing at victory
over Spain, we sorrow at the sacrifice of hun-
dreds of our sons at Santiago; it had to be. In
that very city in 1873 the Spaniards massacred
fifty-three of the crew of the Virginius — a
steamer carrying the American flag and sail-
ing in English waters at the time of the cap-
ture. Instead of sending an army to punish
the murderers, we accepted an apology and
money as an indemnity. If we had done our
duty then, Cuba would have had the freedom
long ago, and the destruction of the Maine
never could have been. It is at least a re-
markable coincidence that Hamilton Fish was
the Secretary of State that made the compro-
mise with Spain, and his grand-son, Hamilton
Fish, Jr., was one of the first to fall in this
war for Cuban liberty. If our punishment
has been severe Spain has been "Cervera"!
And what may she not yet expect to suffer:
for her religion has become so spotted that
there is not a sound patch left on her guilty
hide? May we profit by her downfall!
It is true in national as well as individual
life that we reap as we sow. We have in our
land now, a giant, in comparison with which
slavery was a sleeping infant dwarf — I mean
intemperance, the source and incitor of all
other crimes. This giant is growing with
fearful rapidity. AccordingLito the statement
of the United States International Revenue
department, the consumption of alcoholic
liquors in 1860 was six and one-half gallons
per capita; in 1890 it had increased to fifteen
and one-half gallons. We fear this evil will
go on until, as the result of some of the wrongs
which it has perpetrated, there shall be such
pestilence, calamity, or war as to cause the
people who have been responsible for it to be
astounded at their own indefference. It is a
great mistake to suppose that when that time
comes the drunkards and their famalies will
be the only sufferers; it is never true in re-
gard to other, calamities; why should it be in
this? The cholera may start in the slums, but
it never stops there; the plague-stricken
region widens rapidly until the whole city is
involved; the tent, the cottage, and the palace
are infected, and clean and unclean go down
before the fell destroyer. It may be so with
this plague which slays a thousand where
cholera slays one.
This view may seem discouraging. It
may be asked, "What is the use of struggling
against the inevitable? If revolution must
come, and only the Providence of God can
save us, why not sit down and allow the natural
development of events?" To us the answer
is plain: The greater our indifference the
greater the needed revolution will be. It will
not be needed for the individual; the drunk-
ard gets the sufferings of hell day by day, to
say nothing of his future exclusion from the
kingdom of God. Dives was punished after
his earthly existence was ended; but God's
displeasure at the sins of nations can only be
manifested to them during, their life- time.
Our government must be chastened for
the part it has taken in helping this iniquity
along. How was it in regard to Egypt?
Moses was directed to ask Pharaoh to let the
Hebrews journey into the wilderness, but at
the same time the Lord said, "I am sure the
king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a
mighty hand." That is one authority for ask-
ing what will not be granted, and what will
only add to our insults and injuries.
We may ask of our legislators relief but
their answer will be the lash. "What do
Moses and Aaron know about politics?" "Why
do you let the people from their works?"
"Get you unto your burdens." "Make the
same number of bricks as before and gather
your own straw." Pharaoh may make some
conciliatory promises, sometimes, but his
heart will soon be hardened; he may promise
freedom but he will see to it that technicalities
neutralize his apparent efforts to carry out
temperance reform; but when his utter heart-
lessness and wickedness are fully exposed,
and all who are responsible for the ravages of
rum have suffered in the way that will most
benefit the generations to come, then God will
bring out his people "with a mighty hand and
with a stretched out arm," and a nation will
join in Miriam's song — "The Lord hath tri-
umphed gloriously."
Pure religion is necessary to pure and
permanent prosperity. The nation is com-
posed of individuals, and the sooner we cleanse
our lives of all spots of impurity, the less lia-
ble are we to subject our nation to suffering,
and the greater will be the blessings poured
out upon our national life. Let us recognize
and honor God, not only in the church, but in
our homes, in the school- room, Id business, |in
every way, on every day, realizing to our full-
est capacity the glorious promise, * 'Blessed is
the nation whose God is the Lord."

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