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Slavery to Public Opinion
By Francis Wayland
(1796 - 1865)

      “But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (II Corinthians 10:12)

      It is too obvious to need illustration, that upon our social nature a large part of our happiness essentially depends. We become members of civil society as soon as we enter upon our existence, and our right to its protection and care is universally acknowledged. We instinctively concede to all born of woman the privileges which belong to humanity, and guarantee even to a helpless infant the free enjoyment of them all. This is evidently one of the noblest impulses of our common nature, and that heart must be morally diseased in which it does not beat with the power of an irresistible passion. On our instinctive social and moral elements rest the whole fabric of government and law. Remove these, and though we might be gregarious we could never form a commonwealth, and the physical force of the individual would confer the only authority known among men.

      Allied to the social element of our nature are various accessory impulses of acknowledged power. Among these may be reckoned the simple love of companionship. A sane human being instinctively shrinks from being alone. Solitary confinement for life is deemed by many more terrible than death. So abhorrent is this condition to our nature that it frequently terminates in insanity. The conception of an intelligent being condemned to eternal banishment from every living thing is one of the most terrible that the imagination can create.

      Intimately associated with the love of companionship is the desire for the esteem and affection: of our fellowmen. We all desire our companions to adopt our practices and coincide with our sentiments. The more distinctly we observe in others this moral parallelism with ourselves, the more readily do we form acquaintances, and the more rapidly does acquaintance ripen into intimacy. It is, on the other hand, painful to find ourselves segregated in feelings, sentiments, and action from our fellows; and when, in fact, a dissimilarity exists, our first impulse is to conceal it, lest, by chance, we should forfeit somewhat of their good opinion. Our Saviour alludes to this as the cause of much of the pain which would attend upon a profession of his religion: “they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil” (Luke 6:22). He, on various occasions, takes special care to strengthen them against this form of persecution as one which it would be hard to bear and difficult to withstand.

      It is, however, evident that this accessory of our social nature is wisely implanted within us. From this universal impulse arise many of the choicest amenities of daily intercourse. We are thus reciprocally guarded against the infliction of unnecessary pain; and hence an incalculable amount of mental disquietude is banished from the earth. He who disregards this impulse of his nature, and derives pleasure from collision with the opinions and practices of his neighbors, soon finds himself in a condition in which collision is impossible. Men gradually withdraw from him, and leave him in the undisturbed enjoyment of his cherished opinions. From this love of esteem, and the unwillingness to forfeit it, flow all the courtesies of refined society, the laws of universal good breeding, and that studiousness to avoid giving unnecessary offense, which should ever regulate our intercourse with our fellow-men of every rank, of ever position, of every degree of refinement, and every grade of social cultivation.

      But while all this is acknowledged, it is apparent that this excellent tendency of our nature may easily be carried to excess. Its foundations are laid in the relations which men sustain to each other, as beings endowed with the same sensibilities, and invested with the same inalienable rights. Our relations to the Creator depend upon very different principles, and it is essential to the perfection of our moral character that every impulse should be subject to the love and obedience which we owe to our Father who is in Heaven. If this love of companionship, this longing for the good opinion of others, is permitted to stifle the monitions of conscience, and paralyze our love of rectitude; if it lead us to say what we know to be false, or do what we know to be wrong; if it cause us to ignore the government of God, and thus, in practice, exclude the Most High from the government of His universe, then I think we all must allow that the love of human approbation has carried us somewhat too far. This conflict between impulse and obligation did not escape the notice of the Saviour. How can ye believe, said He, who receive honor one of another, and not the honor which cometh from God only?

      That an antagonism between our moral principles and our love of human esteem is likely to arise in a world lying in wickedness, is sufficiently apparent. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1); and we are everywhere surrounded by men who are practically guilty of this precise folly. The most comprehensive charity must admit that men are, in general, lovers of pleasure, of power, of wealth, of social position, rather than lovers of God. From the principle of companionship to which we have alluded, they desire all men to bow down to their idols, and worship the images which they have set up. Nor is this quite all. Conscience, though stupefied by sin, is painfully aroused by a living testimony to the frivolity and wickedness of a life without God. We naturally turn away from that which gives us pain, and hence he who resolutely obeys God will frequently find himself in a small minority; it will be well if he is not, like the prophet of old, apparently alone. In addition to this negative distress, he will frequently be called upon to suffer from the malice aroused by his determined opposition to the practices prevalent around him. It is thus that every step in our probation on earth becomes a test of moral character. The question is arising every day, and many times in the day, shall we “obey God rather than man”? (Acts 5:29). The authority of the Creator and of the creature are thus set over one against the other. We must decide which of the two we will obey, and his servants we are whom we obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.

      It is thus that the love of companionship tempts us to disobey God. But it frequently goes much further. We even plead companionship in evil as a justification of evil itself. If our moral convictions are at variance with our conduct, we silence the voice of conscience by the reflection that we are no worse than others. If God forbids the deed which we are about to do, we do it nevertheless, replying to our Maker, that all the world does it also. Thus, what we would confess to be wrong if we did it alone, we claim to be right if we do it in company and by concert. We seem to suppose that though it would be madness for one man to contend with Omnipotence, a multitude of men may do it with impunity. At last, having silenced the monitions of conscience, we yield ourselves up to the current of public opinion, and without a moral struggle float onward towards that eternity in which we and all born of woman will shortly be engulfed.

      It may perhaps surprise us to observe how universal and all pervading is this soul-destructive tendency. It meets us everywhere, and meet us at all times during our progress through life. It spreads its snare for us as we leave the cradle, and follows closely on our track until we step into the grave.

      The little child is no sooner capable of holding intercourse with the intelligent beings around him than he finds himself enveloped in this unhealthy moral atmosphere. He hears, in the nursery, as the justification for wrong doing, that some one else did it also. He quickly learns the lesson, and, when conscious of fault, enters the same plea in exculpation. When convicted of misconduct, he has only to show that brothers and sisters have been equally guilty, and it seems as though his innocence were established, and that the parents whose precepts he has violated can accuse him of no wrong. Thus was it at the beginning. The Lord God said, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, the woman whom thou gavest me to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:11-12).

      The instructions of parents may in some measure have corrected these evil tendencies, and the young immortal may have learned to make some accurate moral distinctions, when a new world opens upon him, the world of the school room. He soon finds that the children around him have very different notions of right and wrong from those which he learned at home. Words reach his ear which he has been taught to consider wicked and degrading. In the sports in which he engages, treachery and deceit may form a part of the amusement. Tyranny over the weak and defenseless is the rule rather than the exception. All this, however, must be kept secret from parents and instructors, and if this can be done only by prevarication and falsehood, it matters not; every scholar is bound, right or wrong, to shield the rest from punishment. If the boy questions the right of all this, he is told that the rules of the family and the rules of the school are very different things; that there is no wrong in the acts which he has considered wicked, for all the boys do them; and, in a word, unless he conform to the manners of the society in which he lives, he will be treated as a traitor, fit only to be the butt of boyish ridicule and the object of daily annoyance. The young immortal hesitates. There is placed before him, on the one hand, the teaching of parents and the sanctions of the Bible, and, on the other, the maxims of Satan enforced by all the power of boyish public opinion. This is a critical moment in the history of a child. He may with noble heroism stand firmly for truth, and honesty and God, and thus from the first build up his character in righteousness. Too frequently, association with wickedness inflicts a stain hardly ever erased. His mind is divided in its affection between truth and error. He is capable of being moved in either direction by the force of the public opinion around him. His character at home and at school are strangely at variance. His future, henceforth, depends not on himself, but upon the accidental associations into which he may be thrown. This is almost the best that can be hoped for. It is well if he has not by degrees become partaker in every form of evil, ready to inculcate defiance of principles upon the innocent stranger, and proud of being a ringleader in every form of boyish depravity. Thus is it, that so early in life the love of companionship and fear of public opinion have planted within his soul the seeds of treachery, violence, selfishness, and thorough dissoluteness of principle.

      The youth thus instructed enters upon another stage of his career. His is removed from home to a more advanced institution of learning. Under the discipline which he has left, the evil tendencies which surrounded him were checked and frequently arrested by the eye of the instructor in the school room, and the precept and example of parents by the fireside. Domestic religion may daily have recalled to his recollection and teachings of the Bible, and conscience thus quickened may have held him back from the grosser forms of sin. He was continually receiving from his parents affecting proofs of self-sacrificing love. Brothers and sisters were watching his progress with trembling anxiety, and he could not be unaware that they all were looking forward to his success, as one of the brightest spots in their anticipations of the future. These redeeming influences have not been without their effect. Though his heart, under the discipline of the school room, has in many places grown callous, there remain some fibers within it, which still palpitate with generous emotion. The word home still exerts its magical power over his affections, and he would shrink from giving pain to those who love him so tenderly. But now his condition is, in many respects, dissimilar. The home of his childhood, hallowed by so many delightful associations, is exchanged for a residence in a college. He is to be separated for months, it may be for years, from all who love him best. He is no longer a witness to their self-denials. He no more hears their words of encouragement and affection. Left to his own guidance, with the means provided by parental love, he is to work out his own destiny in the new world upon which he has just entered.

      At first, a distressing feeling of loneliness settles heavily upon him. He instinctively craves society of some sort, and soon finds that this craving can easily be satisfied. His acquaintance is quickly sought by older students, who soon initiate him into all the mysteries of the new society. It is not long before he finds that many lessons are to be learned, besides those specified in the published course of study. There exists here an unwritten code of laws, in many respects quite unlike that with which he has been previously acquainted. He learns that one law governs his intercourse with students, and another his intercourse with instructors. To lie to a student is mean, to lie to an officer is innocent, it may even be honorable. The principles which regulate his conduct to students are very different from those which regulate his conduct to the rest of the world. His associates form a society by themselves, governed by such laws as its public opinion may enact, and right or wrong they are bound to stand by each other. Deceit, dishonesty and malice are only disreputable in our intercourse with the protected class. The grosser crimes affect unfavorably no man’s standing provided they are committed in comparative secrecy, and to conceal them from the uninitiated every man holds himself unreservedly committed.

      The young man, if he be not thoroughly corrupt, is for a time bewildered. He can not comprehend these distinctions of moral obligation. He has been taught that right acknowledged no modification of circumstances, but was pure and unchangeable as the throne of God. He had always believed that duplicity was mean, that deceit was contemptible, that the very suspicion of falsehood inflicted on the character a stain like a wound, that vicious pleasure was a sin against God, and that to abuse the self-denying love of parents was a crime of which none but the most abandoned could be guilty. If he remonstrates against some act of meanness or wickedness, he finds to his surprise, that his remonstrance is seconded by no one. He is told that such things can not be wrong, for all the fellows do it; and he learns that this announcement is clothed with a power which he can scarcely comprehend. Those antiquated notions belong to a state of society quite unlike that into which he has now entered. Honorable men here acknowledge no laws but those enacted by the public opinion of the little world around them. He observes the men by whom this public opinion is created, and he finds them in general to be the idle, the ignorant, the dissolute, and the profane. He, however, soon learns that this public opinion is a fixed fact, and that its origin is not to be too closely investigated. He is moreover assured that everybody submits to it, that it punishes with isolation and multiplied annoyance the rebel against its authority, and that he had better be careful how he sets its mandates at defiance. He begins to reflect seriously upon his position. Here is the very crisis of his destiny. If strong in manly virtue he resolves to hold fast to his integrity, and acknowledge no higher law than the law of God; if rising to the dignity of a disciple of Christ he scorns the enticements of sin and despises the threatenings of sinners; if looking calmly at all that may come upon him he determines on no occasion, be it great or small, to swerve from his allegiance to truth and honor and the fear of God, he has determined his character for life. No severer trial in the future, probably, awaits him. No temptation will henceforth take him at a disadvantage. His path is onward and upward. With the blessing of God, his success is as certain as his life. He can not fail, for he holds in his own hands the power of being victorious. He has vanquished the vanquisher of millions, by defying public opinion when it is a defier of the Most High God. Let him pursue this path to the end of life and he may, by the blessing of God, leave an inheritance for humanity which they will not readily consign to oblivion. But if he take the opposite course, if yielding to the love of companionship, and quailing before the frown of a vicious public opinion he first temporizes, then surrenders principle in things that seem ambiguous, then associates with the vicious and depraved, and, at last, silencing the voice of conscience, acknowledges no law but that imposed upon him by the men whom he despises; every manly and generous sentiment will soon be clearly scooped out of his heart. Friends on earth and angels in Heaven will weep over the change that has passed upon the lost soul. He left his father’s house a worshipper of God, pure in principle, virtuous in conduct; looking forward to the future buoyant in hope and confident of success. He returns thither shipwrecked in faith, beggared in hope, conscious of the degradation which is written on his flushed forehead and in his treacherous eye, the fawning and impious worshiper of a public opinion which though he servilely obeys he can not but thoroughly despise.

      If leaving the snares which beset the path of the young, we observe the pursuits of maturer life, we may not unlikely fall upon similar experiences. Were we invisibly to pass through the marts of trade, we might probably meet with much that would deeply interest a thoughtful mind. We might perhaps learn that light weight and short measure were in many cases indispensable to profitable business, that to tell a lie to the customer is no untruth, for he need not believe it unless he chooses, that welling a vicious adulteration at the price and in the place of a genuine article is not dishonest if people are willing to buy it, that to defraud the revenue is no wrong, if it be not discovered, that a false oath at the custom house involves us in no guilt, if a clerk is willing to perjure himself for us, that to monopolize the necessaries of life in order to fleece the community and double the price of the poor man’s loaf is one of the legitimate uses of capital, and that to dupe the unfledged in the stock market is nothing more than a pleasing divertisement. We might wonder at all this, and be surprised to behold engaged in it men who would grieve to be suspected of dishonor. Were we, however, in a moment of calm reflection to ask them whether such things are right, the answer would probably be, why, not exactly right, but what is the use of talking, for every body does it? Thus men seem to think that what every one would acknowledge to be wrong if it were done by a single individual, every one believes to be innocent if it only be done by the multitude.

      Should we turn now to public life, one might possibly there also find some rare examples of this power of sin. Could we listen to the private discourse or the more private thoughts of the men who devote themselves to the service of their country, we might possibly learn that discourse about political principles was designed only for the uninitiated, that patriotism was a word useful only for a political canvass, that a man liable to be troubled with conscientious scruples, was a very useless, or as it is said, a very impracticable member of a party, that on questions involving the dearest interests of humanity, a man may, without the least offence, take any side that promises him a majority, that he may change his opinions as often as necessity requires, provided always that it is not done clumsily, that he can never expect to rise to power unless he loves party better than principle, or even personal honor, and, in a word, that religion, truth, morality are one thing, and politics quite another. We should thus learn that there is a large class of actions, actions affecting the highest interests not only of ourselves, our children, our fellow-citizens, but the interests, social, moral and religious, of the whole human race, in which it is innocent for us to ignore every principle derived either from the love of God or the love of our neighbor. If we press this consideration upon men, what reply shall we probably elicit? They will tell us, not that it is right, but that it has been so always and every where, and that now especially such is the universal practice. It would not be surprising if they should turn upon us and ask, who would be such a fool as to be in a minority for the sake of an idea, or sacrifice his political prospects for a barren adherence to impracticable rectitude.

      But if leaving the men of the world, we turn to the church of Christ, shall we find that even here the fear of God has triumphed over the fear of man? By observing the communicants at the sacramental table, we find those who profess the name of Jesus intermingled with other men in all the departments of active life. They are to be seen among students, professional men, merchants, mechanics, manufacturers, brokers, and politicians of every grade and every political party. Should we ask them whether in their several relations they make it their first concern to obey the Master, they would probably inquire with some astonishment whether we suppose that the precepts of Jesus Christ are to be understood literally. Should we modestly intimate that Christ spoke very plainly, they would inform us that to obey the law of Christ strictly, would separate them from all men, that the course which they pursue can not be wrong, for every body pursues it, and that, upon the whole, it is certainly better to do a little wrong, than by shutting ourselves out from the world, lose all our influence over it.

      But let us open our eyes upon the men around us who claim to be, by way of eminence, the world. What are the gods which these immortal beings worship? They are worshipers of pleasure more than lovers of God. They bow down before the lusts of the flesh, and lust of the eye, and the pride of life. The objects for which they live are the various forms of sensual enjoyment, political power, social position, and luxurious display. They congregate by thousands in those resorts where vanity may be satisfied, if satiated it can be, where the senses are stimulated to intense excitement, and where fashion scoffs at the prudery which shuns the appearance of evil. Every one knows that this ceaseless pursuit of sensual pleasure banishes from the soul every thought of eternity, benumbs our moral sensibilities, and renders us powerless to resist the temptations which it spreads everywhere around us. Nothing can be more at variance with a heavenly mind than a life of thoughtless worldliness. But are the men and women who avow that they are living for this world the only worshipers at the shrine of fashionable sensuality? Alas! too often shall we see in the midst of this giddy throng, enjoying its pleasures to the uttermost, many of the professed disciples of the lowly, cross-bearing, crucified Jesus of Nazareth. You ask, Can such things delight a soul that has been transformed into the image of Christ? Can these childish vanities satisfy affections that are placed on the eternal God? Do the followers of the Messiah find the print of His footsteps here, and did we not see them in the garden with Him? When we press these questions on such disciples as these, we are told that they would lose caste unless they followed the examples of those who hold the social position after which they aspire, and beside this, it is all perfectly innocent, for they find associated with them Christians of every denomination; and yet more, conformity to the world is necessary in order to render the religion of Christ attractive to the giddy and thoughtless. We urge upon men of the world the saying of Jesus, “Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), and they tell us they can not see the necessity of any moral change, for these regenerated men are in no respect different from themselves. Thus Christians disobey Christ because men of the world do it; and the men of the world disobey Him because Christians set them the example.

      But let us pause for a moment, and ask where do we now find ourselves? We have only to generalize this principle, and whereunto will it lead us? The voice of conscience is silenced, the distinction between honor and meanness, between virtue and vice, between right and wrong is abolished; the law of God is trampled in the dust; the Judge of the whole earth has no longer any jurisdiction; and all this is accomplished by the simplest possible process. Nothing else is needed than that you and I, the creatures of yesterday, declare that though we defy God and crucify His Son afresh, we have nothing to fear, for we do it by companies and we do it in concert.

      But amidst all this flimsy folly and audacious wickedness, God has not left Himself without a witness. He has taken special means to caution us against this wide-spreading delusion. If there be a single child of Adam beguiled by this miserable sophistry, it will not be on account of ignorance that could not be dispelled, but because he has loved darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil.

      In the first place, reason and conscience abundantly teach us that no relation whatever exists between many and few, and innocence and guilt. Right and wrong, innocence and guilt, depend on the moral relations of the parties, and not upon the number of the actors. If ten men lie, each one of them is an individual liar; nor is the matter altered if they agree to the same lie, and all unite in affirming it to be the truth. If twenty men agree together to do a mean thing, every one of them is individually despicable. If a hundred men are false to their country, every one of them is a traitor, and as an individual must he answer for it. I do not deny that companionship and concert may, in some respects, modify the character of a moral action. If a man act alone he may act thoughtlessly, and from sudden and ungovernable impulse; but if a number of men agree together to do an act, they must do it deliberately. If they organize themselves into an association to do it, they manifest a still more settled determination. Thus piracy is always held to be more atrocious than murder; and an organized banditti deserves more condign punishment than an individual thief.

      But lest this should not be enough, God, in the revelation which He has given us, has made known His moral attributes, and the relations which we sustain to Him. He is the Creator and Preserver of all, the Legislator, and rightful Governor, and Proprietor of the universe. He justly claims of all His intelligent creatures universal obedience, and obedience which springs from boundless gratitude and illimitable love. “...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength...”(Mark 12:30). All other things are created, God alone is the Creator, holy, just, true, all compassionate and all merciful. The greatest crime of which it is possible for us to conceive, is for a creature on any account, or for any reason, or under any inducement, to disobey God. What then must be the guilt of setting aside the authority of God by deliberate consent, and installing in its place the opinions and example of men, nay of men even weaker and more wicked than ourselves. It is exchanging the true God for a lie, and worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator Who is blessed forevermore.

      In His written Word God has left us some impressive lessons on the subject which we are now considering. In the early history of our race, the worshipers of the Most High had followed the examples of the ungodly, until all flesh had corrupted its way, and the earth was filled with violence. Century after century had the infection spread, until only one family remained which held fast to its integrity. It was then that Jehovah interfered, and, saving only eight persons, overwhelmed with a flood the world of the ungodly. Though the whole race was united in companionship in evil, the judgment of God slumbered not, but brought upon every individual sinner unexpected and remediless destruction.

      At a later period, the cities of the plain had sunk down in loathsome sensuality. A preacher was sent to reprove them for their wickedness and warn them of their danger. To all his remonstrances every individual was able to plead that there could be nothing very wrong in their conduct, for no man was in particular more corrupt than his neighbor. One family alone was exempt from this general pollution; the rest had become so preeminent in wickedness, that their name has become a by-word to the ages. At last their cry came up to Heaven, and no intercession could save them. A deluge of wrath swept them away, and, with the exception of this single family, they all sunk into the burning abyss, and are set forth as an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

      Nor are the Scriptures wanting in examples of those who, in the face of contumely and persecution unto death, have scorned companionship with sinners, and boldly avowed their allegiance to God. We read of Moses, who chose “...rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt...” (Hebrews 11:25-26). We are told of the three noble Hebrews, who, in sight of the furnace heated sevenfold, calmly replied to an Oriental despot, “ it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). We have the example of Daniel, who, when the decree was signed forbidding the worship of any God under pain of a dreadful death, and when a whole realm was bowing submissively to the blasphemous enactment, “...went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10). The Holy Spirit has set before us such instances for the imitation of all the sons of God. Nay more, they reach us that when we refuse at all hazards to become partakers in sin, we are then the objects of the special care of our Father in Heaven. We may, it is true, be surrounded with hosts of the ungodly, but more are they that are with us than those that be with our enemies; for the mountain of which we stand is encompassed with chariots of fire and horses of fire, sent from on high to be our invisible but mighty protectors. Nothing can harm us if we be followers of that which is good.

      But all human examples pale in the presence of that illustrious example which came down to us from Heaven. The Messiah visited our earth not only to make an atonement for our transgressions, but to teach us how we should live in the midst of a world in rebellion against God. Observe the position which He chose for the accomplishment of His object. Was He surrounded by millions bowing before Him in lowly adoration? Did He by conforming to the manners of Jew or Gentile, ally Himself to the wealthy, the powerful, the intellectual, or the refined? Did He by pandering to the vices of the multitude gain over the masses to His cause? Did he by pandering to the vices of the multitude gain over the masses to His cause? Did the fear of standing alone ever move Him to adopt the principles or conform to the practices of sinners? Did He ever quail before the tyranny of public opinion in rebellion against God? You know His history. He stood up alone, and resisted unto death the whole power of a world lying in wickedness. No temptation could allure, no danger could alarm Him. Neither the opinions nor examples of earth’s teeming millions ever moved Him an hair’s breadth from the line of perfect love to God, and perfect charity to man. No association either with the lofty or the lowly ever palsied His tongue when the cause of truth, or piety, or charity required Him to speak. The prince of this world came, and had nothing in Him. Amidst a world of faithless,

“Faithful only he,
Amidst innumerable false, unmoved,
His loyalty he kept, his love and zeal,
Nor numbers nor example with him wrought,
To swerve from truth, nor change his constant mind,
Though single.”
      If such were the Master, what must be the disciples? And those His disciples who walk not in His footsteps?

      A few Galilean fishermen imbibed His spirit, separated themselves from the world, and became His chosen and inseparable companions. With them He traversed the mountains of Galilee and threaded the streets of Jerusalem. With them He shared His scanty meals, and spread His homely couch. He knew no distinction among men, but that which is made by moral character. “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). Day by day He enlightened their understanding, invigorated their principles, enlarged their conceptions, and thus prepared them to engage in the conflict with a sensual, frivolous and ungodly world.

      By the Spirit which descended upon Him from on high, they were enabled to follow in His footsteps. Few and feeble, poor and illiterate, they went forth boldly to subdue rebellious nations unto God. Every people, every political party, every religion, every priesthood, all the usages of society, all the maxims of trade, all the investments of capital, all the reverence for antiquity, all the seductions of the arts, all the blandishments of poetry, and all the magic ofeloquence were arrayed in deadly hostility against them. They met it all and came off from the conflict victorious. But in what manner was that victory achieved? Was it by yielding themselves up to the seductions of a sensual age, by submitting their consciences to the dictation of rulers, or conforming their lives to the maxims of the world around them? You all know how they lived and how they died. In every place and in every company, they fearlessly avowed their principles in the presence of persecution unto death. They had but one question to ask, “is it right in the sight of God to obey God rather than man?” and by the answer to that question, the course of their conduct was decided. Everywhere they proclaimed the teachings of their Master, and exemplified His precepts by a holy life and blameless conversation. It was thus that they have exerted a power over humanity to which the history of our race presents no parallel. Thus they commenced that moral movement which is so perceptibly changing the destinies of mankind, and which can never be arrested until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. Thus did Christ and His apostles achieve their victories. This then is the model of a Christian life, and we are disciples of Christ, in just so far as we are individually conformed to it.

      If this be so, the principles which govern a Christian’s life must place him in direct opposition to the opinions and maxims of impenitent men. He acknowledges the supreme authority of the eternal God, they bow down and worship the public opinion of a world lying in wickedness. The one looks to the present, the other to the future. The one acts for time, the other for eternity. The one follows in the footsteps of Christ, the other in the footsteps of his enemies. Lives so diametrically opposite can never coincide, for we can not serve God and Mammon. Let each man inquire for himself, which manner of life he was chosen, for on the choice which he has made depends his eternal destiny.

      Would it not be well for every one of us to pause for a moment and consider well our prospects for eternity? The objects which now interest us so deeply will soon have passed away forever. Every one of us will soon have laid aside this earthly tabernacle, and uncovered spirits stand in the presence of our Omniscient Judge. Companionship in sin will avail us nothing, for every one of us must give account for himself unto God. Public opinion will yield us no protection, for there every mouth will be stopped, and the whole world be guilty before God. What will it profit us to have sinned in company and defied the Almighty in concert? Our plea will only seal our tenfold condemnation, and our dwelling place forever must be with the devil and his angels.

      Some among us hope that we have taken shelter under the cover of the atonement, and are trusting in the merits of Christ for salvation. But what are the conditions on which we are permitted to rely on the great sacrifice for sin? The Saviour Himself has told us. Unless a man “...deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24), he can not be my disciple. What evidence have we that we are resting under the shadow of the atonement, if we have neither denied ourselves, nor taken up the cross, nor followed Christ? In vain do ye call me Lord! Lord! and do not the things that I say. What will it avail us, at the last day, to aver that multitudes with us made the same profession of discipleship, that we denied Christ in masses, and put Him to open shame in company? We thus with our own mouths pronounce our own condemnation.

      When the question was asked, Lord are there few that be saved? the answer returned was, Strive to enter into the strait gate, for many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able. Are there any among us who are thus striving, who hold themselves aloof from all companionship with fashionable sin, whose standard of duty is the Word of God, and whose pattern of life is the example of Christ? Are there any among us in whose daily conversation Christ is set forth, and who joyfully suffer ignominy for the name of Jesus? Are there not some among us who esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the companionship of the ungodly? God be with you and strengthen you, ye saints of the Most High. Men may cast out your names as evil, but be of good cheer, your names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. The path that you tread may be rough and wearisome, but it leads directly to the city of the living God. There is not a reproach that you bear for Christ, which shall not work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Trials may await you, for in the world ye shall have tribulation, but “Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Your eternity will be with the Forerunner in whose footsteps you have trodden, and with the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in Heaven. “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple...” (Revelation 7:13-15). “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17)

The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar;
Who follows in his train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below:
He follows in his train.

The martyr first whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave;
Who saw his Master in the sky,
And called on him to save.
Like him, with pardon on his tongue
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong:
Who follows in his train?

A glorious band, the chosen few
On whom the Spirit came;
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and shame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel,
The lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their necks the death to feel:
Who follows in their train?

A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Saviour’s throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent to heaven,
Through peril, toil and pain.
O God! to us may grace be given,
To follow in their train?

[From Christopher Cockrell, Editor: The Berea Baptist Banner, March 5, 2017, pp. 1, 6-11, & 14. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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