He is a very different person from a Christian who is only called so because he happens to dwell in a Christian nation, for, unfortunately, the Christianity of Christian nations is something like the gold which is spread over many of our household ornaments—very thin indeed. A little Christian gold leaf goes a very long way, and makes things look respectable, but the gilded articles are not solid gold. National Christianity is no more the real thing than a gilded farthing is a golden coin of the realm. It is a lamentable fact that many who are called Christians, because they belong to a Christian nation, are a grievous dishonour to the name of Christ. The heathen, judging of Christianity by them, have often been heard to say, "We had better remain as we are than become as drunken, or swear as profanely, or act as viciously as these so-called Christian people do." Our missionaries have found this to be a terrible impediment to the success of their work. I have nothing to do now with merely nominal Christianity. Do what you like with it. Use it as a football if you will.
Neither do I at all identify a man in Christ with one who is profoundly conversant with all the externals of the Christian religion, and who gives himself up devotedly to them, but never looks into the centre—into the heart and kernel—of the matter. It has been well said that, when a man possesses nothing but the externals of religion, he is generally a great bigot for them, because he has nothing else; while a man who has passed beyond the externals into the very soul and essence of our holy faith, can allow a thousand differences of opinion in his fellow Christians as to outward forms, without feeling that these divergencies constitute any barrier whatever to the heartiest fellowship. No, a man may go as far as ever he pleases in the observance of religious rites, and become a stickler for even the tithing of the mint, and the anise, and the cumin of ceremonials, and sacraments, and the like, and yet, for all that, he may not be "a man in Christ."
I am also bound to confess that there are members of evangelical churches, not devotees of ceremonialism, but advocates for the barest simplicity of worship, who make a very high profession of being real Christians, and talk a great deal about vital godliness, who, nevertheless, are not men in Christ. The church of Christ has been plagued by hypocrites from the first day even until now. There was a Judas among the apostles themselves. Are you surprised at this? I confess I am not. Because Christianity is in itself so valuable, therefore there are many worthless imitations. Men counterfeit a sovereign because it is worth having; if it ever should become worthless the trade of the counterfeiter would be gone: and it is because the possession of true godliness is so valuable a thing that there are so many who pretend to have it who know nothing about it. I distrust full often those who are so loud in their professions. I know that the cart which rings the loudest bell when it goes through the street only carries dust; but I never hear a bell rung when they are carrying diamonds or bullion through the city. The best actions which are wrought in this world are for the most part done in secret by those who desire no eye to observe them except the eye of the Almighty God. But some, under the pretence of doing that, are rather standing up for themselves than for Christ, and are not quite so anxious to cry," Behold the Lamb of God," as to say, "Come, see my zeal for the Lord of hosts! Admire me, and see what a wonderful honour I am to the religion of Jesus Christ." Now I give up these religious pretenders to the world's utmost scorn. I have nothing to say in their defence, but very much by way of disgust at their untruthfulness. I am now going to speak about men who are really in Christ—who have Christ in their heart of hearts, and are in Christ themselves.
A man in Christ is a man, and, being a man, he is, therefore, imperfect. I have heard a great deal of talk of perfect men, but I believe that a little examination with the microscope, or even without it, would have discovered a great many flaws in them, and probably more in those who thought themselves perfect than in others who have honestly confessed their imperfections. There is not a Christian man whose entire life might be read instead of the Bible his life would need notes, additions, and corrections ere it would exactly correspond with the perfect law of the Lord. Ask him, "May I learn Christian principles entirely from your conduct?" and he would say, "I wish I could answer 'Yes.' I am striving to make my conduct so, but I am afraid that, though I try to copy my Master, stroke by stroke, yet I have failed in some respects to reproduce the full spirit of the grand original. I wish you could read me, and see the spirit of the New Testament in every little as well as in every great transaction of my life. But," he will add, "I make mistakes, and, what is more, I am sometimes off my guard, and allow the old nature that remaineth in me to come to the front. I am not what I ought to be, nor what I want to be, nor, blessed be God, what I shall be. You may, I trust, see something of Christ in me," he will say, "but yet I am a man; and, being in this body, I am compassed with infirmities." Ought not you who may not happen to be Christians to recollect this when you are judging Christian men? Be fair! Be honest! If a man receives not the gospel himself, at least let him treat those who do receive it with the candour which he would desire to be exercised towards himself. A man in Christ is a man; do not expect him to be an angel.
When I say that a man in Christ is a man, I mean that, if he be truly in Christ, he is therefore manly. There has got abroad a notion, somehow, that if you become a Christian, you must sink your manliness and turn milksop. It is supposed that you allow your liberty to be curtailed by a set of negations which you have not the courage to break through, though you would if you dared You must not do this, and you must not do the other: you are to take out your backbone and become molluscous; you are to be sweet as honey towards everybody, and every atom of spirit is to be evaporated from you. You are to ask leave of ministers and church authorities to breathe, and to become a sort of living martyr, who lives a wretched life in the hope of dying in the odour of sanctity. I do not believe in such Christianity at all. The Christian man, it seems to me, is the noblest style of man; the freest, bravest, most heroic, and most fearless of men. If he is what he should be, he is, in the best sense of the word, a man all over, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot.
He is such a man because he has realized his own personal responsibility to God. He knows that to his own Master he stands or falls,—that he shall have to give an account in the day of judgment for his thoughts, his words, his acts, and therefore he does not pin himself to any man's sleeve, be he priest, or minister, or whatever he may be called. He thinks for himself, takes the Bible and reads for himself, and comes to God in Christ Jesus personally, and on his own account. He is not content to do business with underlings, but goes to the Head of the great firm.
Being accustomed also to endeavour to do that which is right at all times, if he be a man in Christ, he is bold. I have heard a story of a man who was so continually in debt, and was so frequently arrested for it, that one day, catching his sleeve on a palisade, he turned round, and begged to be let alone this time. There are many people who go about the world much in that style. They know that they have done wrong, and that they are doing wrong, and therefore "conscience doth make cowards" of them. But when the conscience has been quieted, and the heart knows itself to be set upon integrity and established in the right, the Christian man is not afraid to go anywhere.
Moreover, a man in Christ is accustomed to wait upon his Lord and Master to know what he should do, and he recognizes Christ's law as being his sole rule; and for this reason he is the freest man under heaven, because he does not recognize the slavish rules which make most men tremble lest they should lose caste, or forfeit the favour of the society in which they move. He obeys the laws of his country because Christ has commanded him so to do, and all things that are right and true are happy bonds to him which he does not wish to break; but, as for the foolish customs and frivolous conventionalities which fashion ordains, he delights to put his foot through them and trample them under his feet, for he saith, "I am Thy servant, O Lord: Thou hast loosed my bonds." When he has anything to say, he looks at it to see whether his Master would approve; and as to whether the world would approve or not, it does not enter into his mind to consider. He has passed beyond that. He knows the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free. When we become the servants of Christ we cease to be the servants of men. When Christ's yoke is upon you, then are you free to do the right, whoever may forbid. From that time forth you would not speak the thing that is not true to win the acclamation of a nation, nor suppress the truth though the universe itself should frown. A man in Christ bowing the knee before the King Himself, is too high-minded to pay obeisance to error or to sin, though robed in all the pomp of power: he stands up for the right and for the true, and if the heavens should fall he would be found erect.
A man in Christ is manly because he is trustful in Providence. If he be what I mean by a man in Christ, he believes that whatever happens here below is ordered and arranged by his great Lord and Master; so that when anything occurs which surprises, and, perhaps, perplexes him for the moment, he feels that it is still not an accident nor an unforeseen calamity beyond the Divine control. He believes that his Lord has a bit in the mouth of the tempest and reins up the storm. He is sure that Jesus, as King of kings, sits in the cabinets of princes, and rules all the affairs of mankind. Therefore he is not afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. If he live as a Christian should live, when others are seized with sudden panic he can wait, for he knows that there is no panic in Heaven, and that all things are rightly arranged and ordered by the powers above; and committing his present case into the hand of his Lord Jesus, he both patiently waits and quietly hopes. He is thus enabled to become master of the situation, for he is cool and calm when others are confused. He is a match for any man in the hour of perplexity, for he has flung his burden off his shoulder and left it with his Lord; and now he can go forward with a clear and placid mind to do his business, or to leave it undone, as the peril of the moment demands. A Christian man, because he trusts in the God of providence, quits himself like a man, and is not afraid.
And he is manly because, being a Christian, he does not wince when he is opposed, for he expects opposition. That man who, being in Christ, never meets with any opposition, must either be very happily circumstanced, or he must somewhat conceal his religion; for from the first day until now it has been found that those who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. The man in Christ, being a true man, does not fret about that. If a joke is passed off at his expense, he knows that it breaks no bones. There is a little laughter over a story, more witty than true, and perhaps a sneer or two caused by a very nasty sarcasm; but he bargained for that, he discounted that matter, when he became a Christian. Nay, he has by degrees become so accustomed to it that if it pleases other people it does not annoy him. And, now and then, when a sting does go rather near the heart, he is accustomed to sing to himself very quietly—
"If on my face, for Thy dear name,
Shame and reproach shall be,
I'll hail reproach and welcome shame,
For Thou'lt remember me."
And so he gets to be a man all round; and it frequently happens that, as he pursues the even tenor of his way, those who at first despised him come to respect him. Men trust him, and finding him upright, they honour him, yea, and honour him for his fidelity to his convictions; for even with those who care not for Christianity, there is a something which makes them reverence the man who is truly what he professes to be. We have seen it so in others, and may each one of us live long enough to experience it in our own persons. Let but the Christian live on and live well, and he will live down opposition; or, if the opposition live, he will live above it and flourish all the more.
I have said that a man in Christ is truly a man, and I will give one more meaning to my words. He is a man in this sense, that he is human; or, lengthen out that last syllable, and it gives a better meaning—he is humane. Of all who live, the man in Christ is the most human, or really humane man. In this he follows the Lord Christ Himself. Ah, what a man He was! There is not one whom you could not point to and say, "That is an Englishman," or "That is a German," or "That is a Jew," or "That is a philosopher," or "That is a clergyman," or something or other special and distinguishing; but of Jesus of Nazareth, as a human being, you could never say more than that He was a Man—the noblest, purest specimen of man who ever adorned this world. A Man belonging to all nations, to all ranks, and to all times. Do you not notice in His life how everything that had to do with man lay near His heart. I take it that He was more completely a man than John the Baptist, although there are many who consider that type of manhood to be the very highest. John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, but Jesus came both eating and drinking; and though the ribald throng said, "He is a drunken Man and a wine-bibber," yet He was all the more a perfect Man, because He was a Man among men. He dwelt not in the wilderness, but among the people; he did not eat locusts and wild honey, but went to a marriage, and ate bread at the tables of those who invited Him. He entered into all that men did except their sins. He was in all things to man a true brother and friend. He was not merely a preacher, but He became a Physician and healed bodily sicknesses. The Christian man should always be the helper of everything which promotes the health and welfare of the people. Christ was not only the bread from Heaven, but the Giver of the bread of this life to the poor and needy. He fed thousands of the fainting with loaves and fishes. If all other hands be fast closed, the hand of the Christian man should always be open to relieve human necessity. Being a man, the believer is a brother to all men—rich and poor, sick or healthy—and he should seek their good in every possible way, aiming still at the highest good—namely, the saving of their souls.
The man in Christ, also, is in the best sense human, in that he lives in a real world and not in an ideal castle of sanctity. He has found out how to spiritualise the secular. He elevates the things of a man till they become the things of God. You know it is very easy to secularise the spiritual: there are many who have desecrated the pulpit, and brought it down to the lowest conceivable level; but there are others who have elevated the carpenter's bench, and made it holiness unto the Lord. The man in Christ does exactly that. He does not draw a line and say, "So far my life in Christ goes, but no further. My religion is a thing for Sundays, but not for the Stock Exchange. 'Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you,' is a golden rule for the domestic circle, but it will not do for our market at all, we could not get a living on any such principle." No, he considers that no religion can be true which unfits a man for a lawful calling. His religion is part and parcel of himself. He does not carry it with him, but it is in him. It has come to be himself. A man in Christ makes up his accounts as sacredly as he reads his Bible. He does not pray upon his knees alone, but in all places he speaks with God. His service of God is not confined to his closet and his pew; but, diligent in business, he is still fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. All that Christians do ought to be done as unto the Lord—whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do. If there be anything in this world that you cannot do to the glory of God you must not do it at all; but all things that ye do, if ye be Christian men, are to be done in the spirit of faith, in the presence of God, unto the glory of God Most High. Such is the man in Christ Jesus.
This also is his mark as a man, and humane—that he does not seek his own. Of course, going into the world, he does not tell a lie and say, "I am not going to try and make money. I shall not aim at doing business." He is going to do that, and he would be a great foot for going upon 'Change at all if he had no such object. Does he become a broker with the design of losing his capital? Nobody would believe him if he said so. But he goes to his office with this determination: "I am not going to rob another to enrich myself. It shall not be said of one single grain of gold that I add to my heap that I wrung it from the widow or the orphan, or that I gained it by driving a man hard who needed it more than I, or that I wrested it from one who, whether he needed it or not, had a better right to it than I." The doctrine of the worlding in Horace, "Get money, fairly if thou canst, but by all means get it," is no Christian doctrine: it is worthy of heathenism in its worst form. The man in Christ, though active, earnest, intelligent, and by no means a simpleton (if you think he is, deal with him and see), yet is so far a fool in some men's esteem that when he sweareth to his own hurt he changeth not; and when he seeth a fine opportunity, at which some would leap, he standeth back and says, "So do not I, because of the fear of the Lord." He cannot and he will not bring a curse upon himself by an unjust action, and this, it seems to me, makes him all the more truly a man, though it manifests one of the characteristics of his being a man in Christ Jesus.
Young men, to you I would honestly say that I should be ashamed to speak of a religion that would make you soft, cowardly, effeminate, spiritless, so that you would be mere naturals in business, having no souls of your own, the prey of every designing knave. Young men, I have tried the faith of Jesus Christ, and I have found it give me "pluck"—that is an old Saxon word, but it is exactly what I mean. It puts soul into a man, firmness, resolution, courage. If he is in the habit of talking with his own conscience, and his Bible, and his God, he can look the whole universe in the face—ay, and a universe of devils, too—and never feel the slightest fear. Why should he? Is not the Eternal on the Christian man's side? Is not the risen and reigning Christ on his side? Is not the blessed Spirit his friend? Yes, the angels of God, and providence, and time, and eternity, and all the forces that exist, are his allies, save only those of death and hell, and these his Lord has conquered and trampled under foot. I would that every young man were enlisted in the army of Christ right early, for none make such good soldiers as those who begin while yet they are young.
—Good Start, A