Indifference to the Claims of Religion
James Smith, 1859
Men in general are not indifferent — but are full of life, and zeal, and energy — in pursuit of their favorite objects, and in carrying out their cherished plans. In acquiring wealth or fame, in pursuit of pleasure or sensual gratification — men are all energy and decision. But when the subject refers to God, or the soul, or eternity — then indifference is manifested. What a proof that man is sinful, that the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe. When immortal man ought to be all life and energy — he is cold and careless! And when some worthless bauble is set before him — he is all activity and zeal! He is only indifferent to the things that make for his everlasting peace.
What are the claims of religion?
It claims the heart, the seat of the affections — for God. God created the heart for himself, to love him, obey him, and serve him — and he still wishes to be the object of our love and reverence. When he might use the language of authority, he employs the words of paternal love, and stoops to ask as a favor — what he might claim as a right. "My son, give me your heart."
Religion claims the talents for God. God has conferred upon us many, and varied talents, which may be so used as to be an honor to us, a blessing to mankind, and bring glory to God. We can think, speak, write, act, give of our substance, and influence others — and religion claims every one of these talents for God. It requires that they should be consecrated to him, and to his service. So that . . .
if we think — we should think for God;
if we speak — we should speak for God;
if we write — we should write for God;
if we act — we should act for God;
if we give — we should give to the cause of God;
and if have influence — we should exert it for God and his glory.
Religion claims the life for God, and would have us make God the chief object and the end of life. We should live unto the Lord. We should live for the Lord. To serve, to please, and to enjoy him — should be our constant aim.
Is there indifference shown to the claims of religion? There is. Millions are totally indifferent to these claims.
They hear of a God — but they never worship him;
they have or may have a Bible — but they never read it;
they live near to the house of God — but they never enter it.
The salvation or damnation of their soul never troubles them. The very heathen are in a better state, than many that inhabit our streets, and villages, and cities — for they are totally indifferent to the claims of religion. And many who are not totally indifferent, are partially so. They attend divine worship, listen to the gospel — and yet have no deep, penetrating, soul-pervading thoughts of God, the Savior, sin, salvation, Heaven, or Hell. They are not in earnest pursuit of everlasting life — they never strive, or agonize to enter in at the strait gate. They never labor for the food which endures to everlasting life. They have no warm affections for God, nor are they at all, much less entirely, consecrated to God.
Besides these, many who profess Christ, never yield themselves fully to the claims of religion. They can see souls perish without a tear for them, or an effort to save them. They never speak of Jesus to them, never warn them of their sin and danger, nor do they even invite them to the house of God, to hear the good news of salvation declared to them.
How can we account for indifference to the claims of religion?
Unbelief is the great cause. Not open, avowed, and honest infidelity; but secret, sly, and crafty unbelief; which lurks within, and works unseen. The authenticity and inspiration of the Scriptures are not denied; but the solemn truths which they contain are not realized, believed, and acted upon. They are allowed to have a place in the creed — but are not admitted to regulate the life, or influence the heart.
Then there is covetousness, or the desire to get, retain, and amass wealth. This is one of the most powerful — and yet one of the most secret causes of indifference to the claims of religion. It occupies the thoughts, fills the mind, and regulates the life; leading men further and further from God, and choking the Word with the cares of life, and the deceitfulness of riches.
Once more, self-indulgence makes men indifferent to the claims of religion. Look at the furniture of our houses, the provisions for our tables, and the dress of our bodies; and say, what is written on the whole — self-indulgence! This self-indulgence is not always honest, for many professors dress at the expense of honest tradesmen — furnish their houses at the expense of tradesmen — and gratify their appetites at the expense of tradesmen, whose bills they never pay. And even when they do pay, long credit, or exorbitant discount is required, so that industrious people can scarcely live. Now where secret unbelief lurks, where covetousness works, or where self-indulgence rules — there the claims of religion are neglected or despised.
Is it so, that many are indifferent to the claims of religion — then let us be more decided for God, let us be thorough, whole-hearted Christians. Let us be more devoted to God, consecrating every talent to his service, and living principally to his praise and glory. Let us be more energetic in God's ways, throwing our whole life and soul into his work. Doing everything as in the light of eternity, with the judgment-seat of Christ in view. Let us be more active — all alive, and always alive, for the good of souls. We have not been half active enough yet. Worldly prudence may commend us — but a death-bed, or eternity never can. O let us carry our indifference to the cross of Jesus, and crucify it there! Let us seek grace from God, to make us like our beloved Master, who said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work."
Reader, God claims your heart — to cleanse it in the blood of his Son; he claims your intellect — to enlighten it with his truth; he claims your whole person — to save it, sanctify it, make it his temple, and fill it with joy and peace unspeakable, and full of glory. Give yourself therefore unto God. Be no more indifferent — but acknowledge the claims of religion, and render them at once, and forever.