George Everard, 1866
Love of dress . . .
is a snare of the Devil;
is a fruitful source of evil;
fosters vanity and pride;
opens a door to flattery;
paves the way for the rain and disgrace of many a young person;
and robs the Lord's treasury.
Professors of religion, who can find but a paltry driblet for Christian charity, will spend in a year many pounds in needless dress and show.
In persons of slender means, it often leads also to other mischief. Debts are contracted which remain long unpaid, or even fraud and actual dishonesty are resorted to, that the craving for dress may be satisfied. The counsel of Peter to the women of his day, needs to be often repeated in our own. "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4
The fable of the crane and the peacock is in point. When the peacock was priding itself upon its gaudy array of plumage, the crane suggested, that surely it were a nobler thing to be able to mount upwards to the clouds, than to strut about and to be gazed at by fools.
The application is left to the reader.
Besides, also, be it remembered that beneath the coarsest clothing, there often beats a heart endued with heavenly love. While beneath mirthful attire, the eye that searches all things may discern it to be far otherwise. John the Baptist had his clothing of camel's hair — while Herod, within his palace, wore his royal robes. The beggar, beloved of God, sits at the gate in his rags — while within, the rich man is clothed in purple and fine linen.
There is better clothing, however, than what earth affords, and of this I would speak. Amidst every variety of condition and of climate, there is clothing common to the whole household of faith. It is worn alike by the poorest peasant, and the wealthiest noble. It suits equally well the polished European, and the hitherto degraded African. Hearken to the joyful language of the Church, "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels!" Isaiah 61:10
What is this glorious clothing in which the Church is attired? In one word, it is Christ; as the Apostle has written it, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 13.14.) It is Christ in the spotless perfection of His righteousness, and in the beauty of His holy character. It is that righteousness wrought out for us in His life and death, and by which every blemish and defect in us is covered and hidden. It is the covering of His Spirit, transforming us into His image evermore, until we become like Him, when we see Him as He is. Here is "the fine linen" in which saints are clothed. Here is the beauty and the adorning, which God puts upon His chosen ones.
We must daily, by faith, put on the righteousness of Christ for our justification before God. In our pilgrimage to Zion, the ground of our acceptance ought never to be left out of sight. What single thing in us or from us is there, upon which we can build our hope? What plea can we draw from any feelings, purposes, efforts, or works of ours — by which we could expect, in any degree, to propitiate the favor of the Most High God? In strict justice, what is the value of any goodness we have to boast? In a few short words may we sum up all that belongs to us: "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Our righteousnesses cannot clothe us for they are rags; they themselves need cleansing for they are filthy rags.
Beveridge has truly echoed these words of the old Prophet: "Our very repentance," he writes, "needs to be repented of; and our prayers and tears to be washed in the blood of Christ."
In a similar spirit is the confession of one, whose touching strains of Christian psalmody waken many a response in the heart of the believer.
My God, how perfect are Your ways,
But mine polluted are;
Sin twines itself about my praise,
And glides into my prayer.
I cannot tell what You have done
To save me from my sin;
I cannot make Your mercies known,
But self-applause creeps in.
Where then can we turn? Only unto Him who is named Jehovah Tsidkenu, "The Lord our Righteousness." None otherwise can we hope to be accepted than that proud Pharisee Saul was, who aforetime had gloried in his own blamelessness and obedience to the law. Like him must we "count all things loss that we may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having our own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
We must also daily put on, through the grace of the Spirit, the holy character of the Son of man. Our justification in Christ must be manifested by our conformity to His likeness. If His righteousness is upon us — then the grace of His Spirit will be in us. All that is unlike Him, all that is contrary to the example which He left, must be cast aside. The grave-clothes of our sinful state must be put off — sloth, selfishness, strife, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, a restless ambition, an absorbing love of money, and a carnal mind — these must be renounced. We must ever be looking upon Christ, that we may discern wherein we may walk as He did on earth. "Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Christ was clad with the garment of devout prayerfulness. It was "praying," Luke tells us, that He went down into the water at His baptism. It was "while He prayed" on the mount that He was transfigured, and His clothing became white and glistening. "Rising up a great while before it was yet day," did He, on one occasion, depart into a solitary place to pray. At another season, before setting apart the twelve, "He continued all night in prayer to God." From the garden where Christ often resorted with His disciples, did the agonizing prayer thrice ascend to His Father in Heaven. On that tree of life, the cross of our salvation, three times at least, did Jesus pray. Right through the earthly pilgrimage of the Man of Sorrows, His strength, His consolation, was to pour out His heart to Him, with whom from eternity He had ever been.
Christian pilgrim, follow Christ continually to the mount of prayer. Learn of Jesus Christ to pray. He has commanded you, He has invited you, He has promised to hear you, He has gone before you in the path.
Christ was clad with the cloak of zeal, coupled with a meek and humble spirit. "He was clad with zeal as a cloak." In His youth He could say, "Don't you know that I must be about My Father's business?" With a scourge of small cords in His hand, did He drive out the buyers and sellers from the temple, so that His disciples remembered the words, "Zeal for Your house has consumed Me!" When by His word spoken to the Samaritan woman He had recalled her to the fold, He could say, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work."
Yet, likewise, what marvelous meekness shone forth in all that He did! Willingly does He go down to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph, and remain subject to them. When the Samaritan villagers shut their doors against Him, tired and wearied as He was with His journey, He refuses to call down fire upon them, and quietly travels on to another village, declaring that the Son of man was not "come to destroy men's lives but to save them." He takes the lowest office of the lowest slave. Girt with a towel, He stoops down to wash the feet of those He loved. "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats." 1 Peter 2:23. "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth."
Herein also let us follow the Master.
Boldness and zeal for the honor of God and His truth in the world are not to be despised. It is a grace to be earnestly coveted, especially in the days in which we live. Around the ark of God, perils not few nor small may plainly be discerned. Low views of the authority of Scripture, departures in various directions from the Divine simplicity of the Gospel of Christ, everywhere abound.
We need zeal and courage to stand alone, if it may be so, wisely and yet boldly to maintain the old landmarks. It was a noble saying of Athanasius, "Athanasius against the world — and the world against Athanasius." It was also a brave word of Luther, when summoned to stand as a witness for Scripture truth against the corruptions of Romanism: "Though there were as many devils at Worms as tiles upon the housetops, I would go through them all in the name of the Lord."
But zeal must be tempered with meekness. "Be clothed with humility." No self-sufficiency, no self-wisdom, no despising others who do not receive the truth as we receive it — ought to characterize a disciple of Christ.
Too often spiritual pride lurks beneath an apparent zeal for religion. Do we not find those, who seem to imagine that by some means they are wiser Christians than any who have gone before them? Hearken to the loud and confident tone in which they will run on for half-an-hour, without paying the least heed to anything that may be urged on the other side. Mark how they will propound some new interpretation, some new view of doctrine, or of a passage in Scripture, and then quietly put down any doubt or difficulty suggested, by saying, "If you are a child of God, you will be taught this."
Oh, for more of the spirit of a little child! Oh, for more of the meekness that will make men "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to become angry!" When shall we be willing to own, and to act upon it, that the most enlightened Christian in this world can obtain but very partial views of the truth, and that on every side he is apt to err? "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12
Learn here, also, to covet the spirit of quiet, effective power — rather than the noisy vociferation and excited manner, which by some is deemed necessary for success in dealing with souls. Look at the ministry of Christ. There was a power and reality about it which made the people marvel — but there was little noise. "His voice was not heard in the streets." But twice, I believe, are we told that Christ spoke "with a loud voice," and in neither case was it in preaching. At the tomb of Bethany, with a loud voice, He cried, "Lazarus, come forth!" Also, in His hour of bitter agony, Jesus "cried with a loud voice — My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me!"
It is true, doubtless, that in some cases the loud, noisy tongue may arrest attention to the things of God, for the Spirit can employ any means He chooses; but there is a mighty effect in a gentle, earnest address, spoken under an unction from the Holy One. It may produce less apparent response, but usually it tells more in the end.
Of course in public speaking, animation and life are very necessary, and to this a fair amount of action will usually contribute. I speak not against this, but against the unnatural tone, and the boisterous style, by which an attempt is so often made to work upon the feelings of the hearers.
In a dock-yard in the South of England, where ships are plated with iron, I have watched the working of various pieces of mechanism employed. It is interesting to notice the iron-cutter — the blade descending so quietly, that to a bystander it would seem that it could scarcely hurt an infant's finger, and yet so mighty is the hydraulic pressure, that thick plates of solid iron in a moment are cut in twain. So effectual may be "the still small voice" of the worker for God, under the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christ was arrayed with unsullied purity, coupled with tender compassion toward the erring and the fallen. The spotless purity of His life, none can forget. At every turn was He meeting with sin and mingling with sinners. For thirty years He lived in a spot which was a very byword for evil. "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" He went in and out among Publicans, as well as Pharisees. Yet, who could lay a charge of sin at His door? No thought of iniquity ever lodged within His breast. No unrighteous action ever defiled those hands, which so constantly were stretched out to bless. Like as a ray of the glorious sun may enter the darkest abode of misery and vice, and still remain in itself as pure as before — so He, who was the very Sun of Righteousness, was holy, harmless, and undefiled — though continually in contact with the iniquity that on all sides abounded.
Yet, Christ was reckoned the Friend of sinners, and He was so. He stood not aloof from any, if only He might win their souls. He touched the leper, to show that He abhors no sinner that comes to Him. In the house of Levi, He sat down amidst such as had sunk deepest in the mire. The taunt thrown out against Him, that "He received sinners, and ate with them!" was acknowledged to be true. He thereupon spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd, tracking the footsteps of the lost ones on the mountains. Over the city which rejected Him, He let fall burning tears of tender pity. Even in His last agony, does He rescue yet another perishing one from the grasp of the destroyer, and bears him along with Himself, safe to Paradise.
The same spirit becomes the servant as the Master. The garment of holiness must cover us. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Rest not until each plague spot of sin is gone. Whensoever evil thoughts arise, be watchful at once to resist them — and, as soon as possible, to cast them off.
On the Lake of Geneva, I once observed a servant on board the steamer frequently shaking the canvas over the deck, with a long rod which he held in his hand. I inquired the purpose of his doing so. In reply, he answered, that he was shaking off the sparks from the fire, before they settled and could do injury. Let the Christian act in a similar way. With the rod of a holy determination and of prayer for help, cast off as they arise, sinful thoughts and imaginations. Don't let them settle. Don't give them time to leave their mark behind.
But while, after the example of Christ, sin in every shape is abhorred — be very compassionate towards those who have gone astray. Trample not upon the drunkard or the fallen one. Stretch out the hand to lift up any within your reach. Make it an important part of your business in life to win souls for Christ and His kingdom. Who can tell the good that may be effected, even where the instrument may be very feeble?
The tear of a little girl fell upon her father's cheek, as he was carrying her with him to one of those haunts of evil which abound in the metropolis. It touched his heart, broke the spell of former habits, and saved a soul from death.
Harlan Page, the joiner, before his death, could count by hundreds, those to whom the Spirit had blessed his words.
A deaf and dumb painter in Brussels longed for the welfare of those afflicted like himself. By his means, eight or nine such were led to Christ; and while the ordinary congregation were assembled in the Church, he would gather his converts in the school-room beneath, and there would instruct them, and lead them with him to the mercy-seat, in silent yet hearty worship.
It is written, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever!" Daniel 12:3
In Christ is a marvelous combination of all that is lovely and beautiful. It is written of the Most High, "He covered Himself with light, as with a garment." It is well known that in one single ray of light, there is the combination of rays of various hues. Christ, as the only begotten of the Father, was also clad with light, and in this was there such a wondrous variety of heavenly graces. Whatever virtue or grace was ever witnessed in another — was fully, preeminently in Him.
The faith of Abraham,
the godly fear of Isaac,
the meekness of Moses,
the patience of Job,
the holiness of Isaiah,
the devout prayerfulness of David,
the integrity of Daniel,
the sincerity of Nathanael,
the fervency of Peter,
the zeal of Paul,
the tenderness of John —
all these, in their brightest colors, shone forth in Him, who was full of grace and truth.
In our measure, let us follow Christ in this beautiful harmony of Christian graces. Let no part of His character be left out of sight. This coat of many colors, and yet these blending into one, which was worn by our Joseph — may be also upon us His brethren. The Spirit of God can reveal to us where we fall short, and then endue us with that which is lacking.
Mark how an Apostle calls upon us to put on, not one grace only, but all. "Make every effort to . . .
add to your faith goodness;
and to goodness, knowledge;
and to knowledge, self-control;
and to self-control, perseverance;
and to perseverance, godliness;
and to godliness, brotherly kindness;
and to brotherly kindness, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!" 2 Peter 1:5-8
Without this putting on of Christ here on earth, there can be no abiding in His presence hereafter.
A feast is provided. The guests are invited. Not a few are gathered together. Good and bad, the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind, are there assembled. At length, the King comes in. He regards not what may have been their condition or their character in bygone days, but He does regard what clothing is upon them now. "He saw there, a man that had not on a wedding garment." Upon that one His look is fixed. To him the question is put, "Friend, how did you get in here, not having on a wedding-garment?" "He was speechless." He cannot plead his ignorance; for he knew, as did the other guests, what clothing was befitting such a Presence. He cannot plead his poverty; for the fitting garment, as also the rich provisions of the feast, were granted freely through the royal bounty of the King. Then, shut out forever from that feast, was the man who thus cast contempt upon Him who spread it.
Within the professing Church of Christ are to be found those who shall stand in the same position. Apparently they have accepted the gracious call of the Gospel, but in truth they are despising and rejecting it. The solemn inquiry which must one day be met is this, "Is your soul clothed with Christ? Does the robe of His righteousness cover your unrighteousness? Do you stand evermore before God, relying solely upon His merits, His obedience, His finished work on Calvary? Together with this, do you daily, through His Spirit, strive after conformity to Him? Do you pray to be endued with His perfect character, His lowliness, His zeal, His tender love, His purity of heart and life?"
If otherwise, that day will reveal it. Each individual soul, who in this is found lacking, must answer for it to the King. It matters not what other clothing may be upon you. It may be the fair garment of a virtuous exterior, and a life of kindliness and integrity among your fellow men. It may be the garment of a most devout religious ritualism — the unfailing observance of hours and seasons for worship; yet, if it is not Christ, it avails nothing. He alone is made of God to the sinner, "Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."
A CHRISTIAN'S PRAYER.
My God, in me Your mighty power exert!
Enlighten, comfort, sanctify my heart;
Sweeten my temper, and subdue my will,
Make me like Jesus, with Your Spirit fill.
I want to live on earth a life of faith,
I want to credit all the Bible says;
I want to imitate my Savior's life,
Avoiding lightness, gloom, and sinful strife.
I want to bring poor sinners to Your throne,
I want to love and honor Christ alone;
I want to feel the Spirit's inward power,
And stand prepared for death's important hour.
I want a meek, a gentle, quiet frame,
A heart that glows with love to Jesus' name;
I want a living sacrifice to be,
To Him who died a sacrifice for me.
I want to do whatever God requires;
I want a heart to burn with pure desires;
I want to be what Christ my Lord commands,
And leave myself, my all, in His dear hands.
O Lord, pour out Your spirit on my soul!
My will, my temper, and my tongue control;
Lead me through life to glorify Your grace,
And after death to see You face to face!