St. Paul knocked at the inner door of the Church of Corinth. He was met by that Church, and he was asked: "Upon what ground do you demand so great a privilege?" And he replied, "On the grounds first, I have wronged no man with my tongue. I have corrupted no man by my example. I have defrauded no man in any business transaction." Jesus Christ watched the doors of his Kingdom when he stood among men, with the most uncompromising and most untiring scrutiny. And when the young man approached Christ, and would have entered the Kingdom, and Jesus looked upon him as be asked the question: "What must I do that I can get into the Kingdom?" Jesus looked at him and said: "Keep the commandments." The young man said, exultantly: "Why, Master, all these have I kept from my youth up." And Jesus looked him in the face, and said: "One thing thou lackest yet." and the young man walked away. I suppose his disciples, if they had been as worldly as we are, would have said: "Master, that's a magnificent young man. He's a very rich young man. He stands well in the community, and if he only lacks one thing let's take him in. He will give tone to the Church, and he will pay largely. We have few members of that sort, and he's got money to pay our expenses. Why, Master, if he lacks but one thing let's take him in." "One thing thou lackest yet." said Christ, and the young man turned and went away, and that's the last He heard of him. The disciples caught at the same spirit and taught men this: that you must deny yourself and take up your Cross and follow Christ. They taught us if any man love the world the love of God is not in him; if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.
A large Church membership does not mean much here now. It does not mean much anywhere, under any circumstances, and I thank God that with the state of things I now find in existence everywhere it doesn't amount to much with this world, to say the least of it. We ought to quit asking the question, "What Church do you belong to?" but we ought to ask, "How do you live now? How have you been doing? Do you pay your debts? Do you live right, and live good, and keep the commandments?" Brethren, an open profession, an outward profession, that isn't backed up by the possession of the principles of Christianity is not worth the paper your name is enrolled on. I want to see the day in this country when Church membership means consecration, righteousness, and Godliness.
I'm a natural, innate, constitutional inborn hater of shams and humbugs, and above all humbugs that ever cursed this world, the religious humbug is the biggest. That's so. I will give you a little illustration: At Harvard, I believe it was, there was in the college an old professor, one of those thick glassed old fellows, near sighted, who was a wonderful bugologist. He knew bugology better than he did manology, and he was acquainted with all the bugs from Adam down, and he had all kinds of them in frames hung up around his office. In their mischief and as a joke, the students got the body of one bug, and took the legs of another and the head of another and the wings of another, and put them together just like as if nature had formed it that way, and they all trooped downstairs together into the old professor's room, and one of the boys says: "Professor, what kind of a bug is this?" and the professor stood up and took the card on which the bug was pinned, and he cast his eyes on it, and after looking at it awhile he said: "Gentlemen, this is a humbug."
Now you have my idea of a humbug. It's a fellow that has a heart that belongs to the Church, and a head that is run by the world, and his hands by the devil, and he's just nothing but a sort of a compound. God deliver us from humbugs in the Church. Let's be only one of a kind, and let that be a good Christian. If I were asked now what is the trouble in Cincinnati – the greatest trouble – trouble you can't over-come as easily as other troubles -I believe I would answer that the greatest trouble in Cincinnati is that you have too many Churches here.
I don't mean to say there are too many buildings or too many Pastors. I would not tear down a Church in this city, nor hush the voice of a single Preacher. I would not demolish a single Church organization in the town, but I'll tell you the trouble. I will take this Church here for an illustration. Your Minister, you know, is the Pastor of two Churches, and he has a hard time of it, too, I tell you, for one Church is about as much as any Preacher can look after. The one Church you have has an enrolled list of members, but you have a Church on the inside of that, and whenever a man gets on the inside of the inside Church, then he can talk about the communion of saints and fellowship of the Spirit, and walk with God. A man who gets inside of the inside of a Church is safe for all time. But how many get in there? I reckon, if you would call a meeting of the truly spiritual members, you could hold it in some little side room. You wouldn't have to call it in this great room. It would be lost here. A double handful of your truly spiritual members would look lonely in here, and you would have to get them in the parlor. That's a bad state of things. How many men in this Church – and there is no better Church in the city – love God with all their hearts, and love their neighbors as themselves?
I am willing for any body to have more money than I have, and more land than I ever expect to have, and more stocks and bonds than I can ever get, but I ain't willing for any man that walks this earth to have more religion than I have. I can get as much as a soul full, and that's about as much as an angel can get. If I am a Christian, I will be a Christian; if I am a Methodist, I'll be a Methodist; if I'm a Presbyterian, I'll be a Presbyterian; and if I'm a Baptist, I'm a going to be one all over, through and through; but I wouldn't be a little, old, dried up, knock kneed, one horse, shriveled nothing anywhere. Haven't you ever felt some time away down in your soul that you wanted to get above every thing? Haven't you had a desire to rise up above the sight of this kind of little fellows, that you can put twenty of them in a sardine box? Haven't you ever had a glorious feeling in your soul that made you feel for a minute as if you wanted to be a whale? You have never known much about religion if you never felt in your soul as if you wanted to be somebody – something so big that you feel as if you could fly up, and up, and up; then you can know something about what religion is.
Religion's a grand thing. There is nothing on earth like it, and nothing in Heaven better than religion. A poor, tempest tossed, tempest driven soul, thrown hither and thither in helpless wandering, tired, restless, and hungry, finds a haven there. O! How dark it was once for me; how hungry this poor soul was once. How like the crest of a wave! I knew no rest. But I found it in religion. Religion! Religion! It's a great word. In its etymological sense it means that there is something in this small universe that can take up a poor, wandering, hungry, restless soul, and tie it back to God. Religion means to bring the soul back to its moorings. That's it. I have often thought of the picture of the Lake of Gennesaret, and, as I looked at the calm, placid little lake, surrounded on all sides by rugged, towering mountains, I have thought that the winds of the storm could never rue its bosom. But if there was any place on earth where the four winds of Heaven more fiercely contested for supremacy, it was on this little lake of Gennesaret. Christ was once riding over this lake in a boat with His disciples, and the Savior was below in the cabin sleeping, when suddenly a fierce storm arose, and the little ship began to toss and pitch and rock fearfully, and the disciples, trembling with fear, ran and aroused Him, and said: "Master, wake up, we are engulfed. We will be drowned." Christ opened His eyes and raised Himself up, and wiping the spray from His forehead walked up to the prow of the little ship, and gathered the waves up to Him on His lap, like a mother tending her child, and the seas subsided, and the winds blew no more. And the disciples said: "What manner of man is this, that the winds and waves obey him?" Blessed Christ, with my poor soul, tempest tossed and driven, I'll crawl up under the Cross, and He will pull my poor, tired soul up in his great loving arms and sweet peace will enfold me, and I'll walk away singing:
Now, not a wave of trouble rows,
Across my peaceful breast.
Brethren, there's something in religion that will make a man of us, there's something in religion for Preachers and people. The more religion a Preacher has, blessed be God, the better it is for him; and the more religion a merchant has, the better it is for him; and the more religion a farmer has, the better it is for him. Blessed be God, religion is not only the best thing in the universe, but it is free for all.
"Receive us." Why? "I have wronged no man with my tongue." A man's tongue has a great deal to do with his religion, or rather a man's religion has a great deal to do with his tongue. We've got sanctified people all over this country. They are sanctified in a thousand senses except the sense in which St. James talked about sanctification. Hear his description of a sanctified man. Listen! "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." A man who has learned to manage this term has it right. I believe in sanctification as strongly as justification; but, brethren, sanctification means a great deal more, perhaps, than you have conceived. A Christian Preacher in Augusta went down to St. James Church one night to a holiness meeting, a sanctified meeting, where sanctified people met. Next day he met the Pastor of St. James Church on the street, and said, "I learned last night for the first time, the difference between justification and sanctification." "Well, how is that?" said the Pastor. "Why, I found out last night that justification meant to satisfy God with man and man with God. That is justification; and sanctification means to satisfy a fellow with himself, and I thought to myself, there's something in that as sure as you live. Justification satisfies a man with God and God with man, and sanctification satisfies a man with himself."
I have heard People talk as if they were well satisfied with themselves, but I never found many in their neighborhood who were well satisfied with them. Whenever a man gets more religion than he has sense, he's going to talk foolishness right straight. Don't let anybody come and say I'm only talking sanctification. I am not. Some of the best men on earth practice and live sanctification. But you are obliged to have something more. You must get something. Lord Jesus, Master, help men to see that religion does not consist in what I profess, but it consists in how I live. I have no objection to a man's professing sanctification. It's as much my privilege to confess sanctification as it is justification. I don't quarrel with a man as long as he lives on a level with what he professes, but when he gets down below that, I'm going for him sure.
The tongue, said St. James – I ran off at a tangent for a while – is full of deadly poison. Many a person in this city – if you will go to their homes, and sit by their side, and put your ear to their heart – you can hear their heart's blood drip, drip, drip, and you say, "What does that," and they'll tell you an unkind tongue stabbed it there. God pity a man that will take his tongue and stab a man's character with it. I'll tell you another thing. This tongue is not only capable of stabbing Christ, but the tongue is the cause of all the trouble in our midst. It's not what we do, but what we say, that kicks up the mischief all around – it's what we say. I have known men who would leave home in the morning and go down to their stores and be as polite to their women customers, and palaver to them as sweetly as you please; but when they go home at night they talk to their wives as if they were old bears. Did you ever know a case like that, my friend? No? Didn't you see one in the glass tonight when you brushed your hair before you came to meeting? Many a time a good pains taking wife has carefully arranged every thing to make home pleasant and bring smiles to her husband's face, but before he has been in the house five minutes he takes that tongue of his and stabs his wife to the heart, even before her kiss of welcome is dry on his lips, and she goes upstairs and buries her face in her hands and sobs and cries as though her heart would break. God pity a woman that has an old bear for a husband! Many a time a poor man who has toiled all day with heart pressure upon him because of his kindness to her at home, goes homeward and before he has been in the house five minutes the woman that should be all to him stabs him with her sharp tongue, and he says, in his self, "I wish to God I were dead."
I think the finest tombstone I ever saw, and the prettiest epitaph I ever saw, was when I was visiting an old friend of mine. After dinner he took me into the garden, and in the most prominent place there was erected a beautiful tombstone of white marble, in memory of his wife, and on it I read her name and the date of her death, and her simple epitaph was this line: "She made home pleasant."
I remember the old Irishman who said: "I hope I'll never live to see my wife married again." Brethren, let us be kind to wife, for she has left her father and her home and her mother and given up all things for us, and she gives her life to us, and we ought to be kind to her. Never let a word slip from your tongue that will bring a drop of blood from her heart. We should be kind and loving to our children, too.
I remember once, at a camp meeting two or three years ago, I was talking to two or three of the brothers after dinner, and to one of them a little girl, a rosy cheeked and bright eyed fairy, ran up and asked him some question, and he snapped out a word to her that almost made her faint, so frightened was she. I cried, "You brute, you!" Brethren, you can almost crucify one of your children with one stroke of your tongue. How cruel it is. I know how it is myself. Sometimes when I was busy at work my little boy would bother me and I would snap at him and drive him away, but I afterward hunted him up and begged his forgiveness. But some of you would sooner die than do that. Control your tongue and be kind to your children.
Think of the picture! I look upon that sweet child with his arms around my neck and he looks with beaming eyes of love in my face for the last time; and when his little arms are forever folded on his breast and he has gone from us, I never want to go in my parlor and look upon my child and say, "O, how his icy cold fingers point my memory to the past, and to my hard words and actions to that angelic child." God give us Christly teaching. Brethren, get your tongues under perfect subjugation. This is one ground on which you can enter the inner Church. Get your tongues straight.
But upon what other ground must I rely? "Because I have corrupted no man by my example." Brethren, what we need now is a few good examples. You go home mother, and seat your little lovely daughter on your lap, and ask her, "Daughter, who is the best woman in the world?" And she will say, "Why, you, mamma." "Daughter, whom would you rather be like than any body else?" and the sweet little child will say, "You, mamma." Ask the child such questions as that and she will answer always, "You, mamma." Ah, sister, that child is mistaken, yet she is that way – there's no doubt about that.
The saddest thing a father ever said to me in all of my experience was this. I was a Pastor of a Church then, and I have been Pastor for eight years, and know all about the relations of Pastor and people. I tell you, brethren, you can't love your Pastor too much, or pray for him too much – he needs your examples and prayers. This brother said to me, about four weeks after I had preached a sermon in his town: "I heard your sermon on 'Home Religion' and it waked me up." He was a man of intelligence. I said, "What about it?" "I went home," said he, "and studied my children four weeks, in all of their varied characteristics, and all of the phases of their character and life, and I reached a verdict." "What was that?" said I. "Well, I found out that my children haven't got a single fault that I or their mother hasn't got, or a single virtue that we have not got; a direct copy of my wife and myself our children are."
Our examples! A father said to me once, and he was a conscientious, good man, too: "A few days ago I was in a grocery store, where they sold provisions in the front part and kept beer and other liquors for sale in the back room. I was in there buying groceries, when a gentleman came in and said to me, 'Won't you have a glass of beer?' Without a thought, although I was never in the habit of it, I accepted. I walked back, and the beer was drawn, and as I put it to my lips my little boy pulled at my finger and said: 'Papa, what's that you're drinking? I stopped drinking, and told the little fellow it was beer. After a while the child again pulled my finger and asked me: 'Papa, what was that you were drinking just now?' And I told him again it was beer, lager beer; and so it was again as we were going up the street, my child pulled at my finger again and said: 'What did you say that was you were drinking, papa?' and as he asked that again. O God, my God, I would have given all the world to have been able to recall that act. I am afraid that one act will make a drunkard of my child."
Our examples! Brethren, hear me. I shall never do, or suffer myself to do, or suffer any one else to do, in my home, in the radius of my influence, any thing that would or could curse mine or anybody's child. You can have cards at your house if you want to, but until this world burns down, I never will, so help me God. They shall never be brought in or remain in my house. Do you ask me why? Nine tenths of the gamblers of this city were raised in Christian homes; they are the most polite and refined gentlemen in town, and if cards in any Christian home ever made a gambler out of a Christian boy, then so long as life shall last, I will never have cards in my house. If demi-johns, and glasses, and bottles ever damned a member of the Church's son, then, so long as I have given my home to God, demijohns, glasses, and bottles shall have no place there. And I will tell you another thing. Old Brother Demijohn and old Sister Demijohn, you are just raising up drunkards by the hundreds, and I reckon if God Almighty lets your sort of folks into Heaven, the very angels would call out, "Brother Demijohn and Sister Demijohn, have you got in at last?" And some women have reached the degraded stratum where they are nothing more or less than barkeepers for their husband, stirring their toddies and mixing their drinks. Next to the biggest fool that God's eyes ever looked upon is a woman who stirs toddies for her husband; but the biggest fool God's eyes ever beheld is a woman that will marry a man with whisky on his breath.
I know what I am talking about. I believe if I had had such a wife as some drinking men in this city have today, I would now be in a drunkard's grave and a drunkard's hell this moment but, thank God, my wife never would touch, taste, nor handle, nor suffer it in her house. I have had a woman come to me, who in her young married life had indulged her husband and seen that his wines and liquors were carefully prepared for him – I have had her come to me with haggard face, and cry out, "O Mr. Jones, in God's name, help me to save my husband from death and hell"; and she gave her husband the first years of her married life in the encouragement of drinking! An old woman in a county in Georgia – I was preaching prohibition down there, and I never felt more at home preaching Jesus Christ to sinners than I felt down there preaching prohibition – I know that it's unpopular in this city. I have been preaching prohibition experimentally, practically, collectively, and personally for about thirteen years, and it's never hurt me yet, but whisky liked to have knocked me in about thirteen months. In one county where I was talking prohibition this old snaggle toothed, wrinkle faced bag said of me, "I hope God will kill that man before election day for trying to rob people of their living." This old Mrs. So and so had buried three husbands in drunkards graves. My Lord, what sort of an old hag was that?
I'll tell you another thing; I don't know how the Preachers have been preaching to you – they are all better men than I am – but if the occupants of the two hundred pulpits in this city will stand up and talk for law and order, sobriety and righteousness will prevail in this city. God wake up the pulpits and help the brothers to talk about things that are damning this city! One Preacher will talk about evangelical methods, and another Preacher will split hairs a mile long on real and unreal regeneration. I never hear a man read this text – with all due respect to the Preachers -"Except ye be born again ye can not enter into the kingdom of Heaven" – I say I never hear that text read from the pulpit but I wish you to add: "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from unrighteousness." Jesus Christ knew how to preach, brethren, and Jesus Christ touched that subject to one man, an intelligent man who staggered back and asked, "Why, how can this thing be?" Hear me, brother. God's Gospel is to teach a man to quit his meanness. Come to God, and let the Lord explain His own works and let God do His own work. I heard of a grand Preacher who had a grand revival; he preached day and night for three weeks on regeneration, and he never had a single convert; but brother, I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is adequate to reach every sinner in this city.
I am not going to run the grand old ship of Zion about ten miles from shore. I am going to bring her to the land. Ten million sinners might look at the old ship away off and say, "There she is, but I can't get to her, for if I tried to swim to her I would drown." Brother, brother, let's run the old ship in until her keel strikes the shore. Tell the world: "All aboard! This grand old ship is going by!" You can't get the old ship of Zion too close to sinners.
"I have corrupted no man with my life; my example has been right"; that's it. "I have wronged no man; I have set no bad example." In addition to that Paul said, I have defrauded no man in a business transaction. O, for hands like these to work for God and for man!
Talk about Ingersoll, I never met an intelligent man yet that had been damned by Bob Ingersoll. The only difference between Bob Ingersoll and any other fellow running after him is this: Bob Ingersoll plays the fool for $1,500 a night, and this little fellow runs after him and plays the fool for nothing, and boards himself. And I tell you Bob Ingersoll is going to continue to play that kind of a fool as long as this country gives him $1,500 a night to insult God and ridicule his precious Word; and yet you go to hear him. If I had a dog to go and hear him I would kill him. He couldn't come to my house any more.
"I have defrauded no man in any business transaction." Brother, let us look into this and do what it says; do what you say you'll do and quit defrauding men. Brother, hear me; a man who has $50,000, $100,000 riding in a $1,200 carriage and living in a $25,000 house, driving down the streets meets a poor old widow from whom he has stolen. I tell you if there is any hell, it's for that kind of a man. There's no use talking. I'll tell you another thing. There are too many men in this country boarding with their wives: no doubt about that. Let me tell you another thing – when the fellow does a clean thing, God Almighty will stand by him. He will give him three square meals every day if He has to put the angels on one third rations. Let's do right and defraud no man, and we will have righteousness, peace, and joy.
Well, I have talked considerably over an hour. I did not intend to. But hear me, let's think about these things. I tell you I never – I tell you I never want to see a revival in this city, or anywhere else, that isn't bottomed on bed rock. Let's go down until you hear your boot heels grating and grinding against the Rock of Ages. None of your corn stalk revivals! We want the sort of revival that will make men do the clean thing. If we can have that sort of revival I want to see it – but not corn stalk revivals. Do you know what a corn stalk revival is? Well, if you were to pile up a lot of corn stalks as high as this house, and burn them up, there wouldn't be a hodful of ashes. We want a revival of righteousness – we want a revival of honesty; we want a revival of cleanness and purity, of debt paying, of prayer meetings, of family prayer, and of paying our brothers a little more salary. That's the sort of revival we want. The Lord give us this sort!
One more illustration in conclusion. Some months ago a man was fearfully crippled in his right leg by a railroad accident. It was fearfully mangled and bruised. They wanted to amputate the leg, but he said: "O I don't want to lose my limb; preserve it if you can." They watched at his side until at last the surgeon said: "My friend, the crisis has come when we must amputate your leg." He said: "Doctor, has it reached that point?" "Yes," said the surgeon. "Well," said he, submissively, "if there is no chance to save my leg, get your knife and go to work." When they got all ready and laid the patient on the table to commence the fearful operation, the surgeons desired to administer chloroform, but the mangled man said: "I do not want to take that; if I die I want to die in my full consciousness, but I want you to let me know by some sign when I begin to sink, so that I can breathe my spirit out in prayer." They told him that he couldn't stand the operation without chloroform, but he said that he could. The doctor picked up the knife and said to the patient, "If you see me lay the knife down on the table you may know that you are sinking."
The doctor commenced the operation, and the man did not flinch. When he struck the arteries he laid his knife down to adjust them, and the young man took it for a sign that he was dying, and commenced praying. The surgeon picked up the knife and resumed his work. In a few minutes the operation was over, and he saw he was saved, and he turned to the surgeon and said: "Doctor, when you picked the knife up from the table and began your operation, it was the sweetest sensation I ever felt in my life." "What do you mean?" said the doctor. "I mean," said he, "that those sensations meant life for me." Now, brother, when God Almighty throws down the pruning knife it is a sign that you are sinking – the sword of the Divine Spirit cutting through the tendrils of sin; but, thank God, He has not laid down the sword. The sword of the Spirit means life. O brother, come to life in the presence of Jesus, and die in his love. God help us to take these things home with us!