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THE LATEST IMPROVED.






From: How to Live a Holy Life

As we walk along the streets of villages and cities, we see machines of
different kinds exposed to view and bearing a card with these words: "The
Latest Improved." For our life to be perfect every day, it must be our
latest improved. The world is getting worse, we say, but you and I as
Christians can daily grow better. Our life today can be an improvement
over our life of yesterday. The Christian life is a real life, and is as
capable of development as any life. The same law that develops us
physically is necessary to our development spiritually. Day after day we
can be built up into stronger spiritual beings. We can become more like
God, possessing a firmer Christian character and having an integrity that
will not swerve for a life nor a world from the path of virtue. Constant
progress is constant peace and happiness. It is the triumphant life.

Dear reader, I am going to ask you to lay aside for a few minutes the busy
cares of life and come and have a talk with me about spiritual and
heavenly things. Now, if you feel that you scarcely have the time, and can
not fully dismiss the temporal concerns of life from your mind, then I
will excuse you. I do not care to speak with you unless you can give me
your undivided attention. I desire to help you if you need help. I want to
talk to you about your every-day life, and I do want your calm, serious
attention. Surely by God's help we can spend a few minutes to some profit.

Some people hesitate to look closely into their life, lest they find such
a delinquency as will disquiet them. Some fear to give a close
examination, lest it give Satan an opportunity to accuse them. This need
not be. We can look closely into our daily life and not allow Satan to
whisper one word to us. We can not make improvement upon our life without
close examination in order to discover weakness and imperfections. When we
discover them, we must set earnestly to work to correct them. The
discovery alone is not sufficient. If we do not correct a fault that we
have discovered, we soon lose consciousness of the fault. There are times
with every one, no doubt, when it seems that they are making no progress,
but these may be the times when we are making most progress.

If we have just one fault, we ought to desire to get rid of it. Our desire
should be so great that we shall set about at once to correct that fault.
Now, if we say, "Oh, it is such a little thing," then we shall not get
free from it, and that little thing may become a greater thing. To be too
quick to speak is a fault. The Bible says, "Be slow to speak." If we have
the fault of speaking too quickly, we should correct that. We can if we
will.

The Bible tells Christians to watch and pray. Christians do not need to
watch and pray lest they rob a bank. They would not rob a bank if they
never prayed. But we do need to watch arid pray lest we do some little
thing that we should not do. I will relate to you the experience of a dear
brother who desired to live for God, but who neglected to watch and pray
as he should. An evil thought was presented to his mind. Not seeing the
evil of it, he indulged the thought, and found pleasure in the indulgence.
After a few minutes he felt the reproving of the Spirit of God and so
dismissed the thought. Later it came again. It was so pleasing that he
indulged it a little longer than before. Again the Spirit reproved him. In
a few evenings the thought came again. It was only a little sensual
thought, a little imaginary indulgence of the flesh. But it came again and
again. It was indulged a little longer and a little longer. Eventually it
worked a fleshly lust into his heart, and after two or three years he was
led into actual commission of a sinful deed. It was an apparently innocent
thought in the beginning, but it ended in sin committed.

There are little yieldings to lightness, impatience, aircastle building,
exaggerations, frettings, murmurings, idleness, etc., that prey upon the
soul and rob it of peace and the sweet consciousness of God's presence.
But there is progress in the divine life for every one of us if we will
only give attention to our life as we pass along. The first thing is to
have a deep interest in making spiritual gain, and then to be full of
faith and encouragement.

Jesus will help you to make some gains each day if you will press your way
through the crowd and touch him. It is the earnest prayer of faith that
gets us through to God and makes us feel like giants in his strength. If
you would be strengthened in your soul, you must exercise. This is the law
of development in the spiritual as well as in the animal life. "Exercise
thyself unto godliness." This is a motto we should hang upon the walls of
our memory. Its meaning is that increase in godliness is attained only by
exercise.

I shall have much now to say about your doing, but bear in mind that the
doing is to be not in your strength, but in God's strength. Here are two
mottos to keep in remembrance: "Without Him I can do nothing"; "I can do
all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me." By the help of the Lord
we are going to tell you how to be strong in him. God wants you to be a
David. Go out in his strength and meet the Goliaths. They must fall before
you. I shall not tell you so much you do not know as I shall endeavor to
get you to practise what you know. How many times have you resolved to do
and have failed to keep your resolution? Your failure was not because you
could not, but because you did not. To make a success in any business
enterprise, one must give it constant and daily attention. Likewise, if
you make a success in the Christian life, you must give it constant and
daily attention. You must make it not only a business but the
first
business of your life.

But some make this complaint: "It takes so much time." It will take some
time, that is true, and if you do not think you have time, then you had
better not begin. What would you think of a man who contemplated engaging
in some business, but said he did not have much time to devote to it? You
would advise him not to engage in the business at all. It takes time to
make advancement in the Christian life. One brother said, "But we must
attend to our temporal duties." My reply was, "Shall we not attend to our
spiritual duties?" When people talk of having to attend to temporal
duties, it appears that they are going to do this if they have to neglect
spiritual duties. Unless we have a better enlightenment than this, we
shall never make progress in the Christian life.

We have no excuse for not being strong in the Lord. "Watch ye, stand fast
in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." Of course, you need the help
of God, but God helps those who help themselves. He will not by some
irresistible power convey you to your closet and put you on your knees,
but he will give you strength to go if you will use what he gives you.

I will now give you, not learned theology, but plain, simple instruction
how to make daily advancement in the divine life and to be strong in God.
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from
fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." I Pet. 2:11. Any indulgence of
the flesh weakens the spiritual powers. The question might arise, "What
are fleshly lusts?" We are here in the flesh. The flesh has not only its
desires but its needs. To indulge the flesh in its needs is not fleshly
lust, but to indulge it in any thing beyond its actual needs is "fleshly
lusts." In other words, any intemperance is lust of the flesh. Temperance
is a fruit of the Spirit. We are to add temperance to our knowledge. The
more knowledge we get of the divine character, the more clearly we can
discriminate between fleshly lusts and temperance.

"I keep my body under, and bring it into subjection," says the apostle
Paul. He spoke these words when talking about running to obtain an
incorruptible crown. He calls our attention to how people run to obtain a
corruptible crown, "and every man." he says, "that striveth for the
mastery is temperate in all things." If men must be temperate in
all things in order to obtain a corruptible crown, how much more temperate
must we be in order to obtain an incorruptible crown? If the soul does not
keep the body under, the body will keep the soul under.

But this keeping under does not consist in many prayers, in long vigils,
and fasts, in severe chastenings of the body, in dwelling in a cloister or
being a hermit. Do not make this sad mistake. His yoke is easy and his
burden is light, yet the Christian life is one of self-denial. But his
love in our hearts makes it a delight. We are not to keep our bodies under
by prolonged fasts and beatings, but to keep in control the self-seeking
that is natural to the self-life of man. The pure in heart have organs of
sense, are capable of feeling the impressions made by external objects. It
is natural for the individual life of the sanctified to seek ease and
comfort. This is not the nature of the divine life in the soul, but is the
nature of the self-life of man.

Adam and Eve had this self-life in the purity of their creation; they had
organs of sense. It was to these that Satan made his appeals; to the
feelings in their self-life, not to the feelings in the divine life of
their soul. The will of sense--for such it might be called--overpowered
that higher will of the soul, and they yielded to the will of sense as
aroused by temptation. We who are pure in heart have this same will of
sense. It is this will of sense that must be "kept under." or in control
to the will of God. "Not my will [that is, that lower will of my self
-life]." said Jesus, "but thy will, be done." I will make this plainer as
we go on. I feel like making it as plain and simple as I can, even if
doing so does require time, because here lies the secret of success in the
Christian life. Those who look upon the instructions herein as trifling
will do so to their own spiritual injury.

It is natural for us to avoid hardship and suffering. This is not wrong of
itself; it is wrong only when it conflicts with the will of God. It is not
wrong for you to avoid burning at the stake unless it be God's will that
you should thus end your life. If God wills you to burn at the stake you
must not seek to avoid the ordeal. If we do not watch carefully and live
close to God and keep our body under, the will of sense will grow strong
and cause us to avoid hardships even when God wills us to undergo them. Be
careful that you do not mistake the impulse of sense for the divine will.
One may say he does not believe it to be God's will that he undergo this
suffering when it may be only his own humanity. Out of human sympathy we
may try to dissuade our brother from doing the will of God. At Caesarea
certain brethren tried, out of mere sympathy, to persuade Paul not to go
to Jerusalem, where, it was prophesied, he should be bound and delivered
to the Gentiles. Seeing that he would not be persuaded, they gave place to
that higher will, and said, "The will of the Lord be done."

This is not confined to the greater affairs of life, such as burning at
the stake, but includes the little affairs of every-day life. How easy it
is for man to conclude it is the will of God for him to do a certain thing
when perhaps it is only the will of sense! Remember, God's ways are not as
our ways. It seems to be a most reasonable thing to the minister that he
should go home to his family. How easy it is for him to believe it is
God's will that he should go! At least, it has been so many times with the
writer. He has too often obeyed the human desire and disobeyed God. Such
disobedience, if such it may be called, is not sin, since the will of God
is not known, but it is being led by the impulse of sense and is
detrimental to spirituality. God would have us look more earnestly to him
in order to know his will and not yield so readily to mere human desires.

To enjoy nearness to God we must not be influenced by any will of sense.
The impulse of sense is so deceptive that, if we are not very watchful and
fully surrendered to God with an intense desire to know and do his will,
it will prevent our understanding his will to us. It may not be difficult
to convince you that it is God's will that your brother should go as a
missionary to some foreign field, but very difficult to convince you that
it is God's will for you to go, when perhaps it is just as reasonable
every way that you should go. It may be the will of sense to remain, that
prevents your knowing God's will.

Here is a truth I wish you to think upon: We can not see the folly of any
passion clearly when we are strongly tempted by that passion. A sanctified
man may eat too much sometimes; he may be intemperate sometimes in the
sexual relation; and yet the Word of God says, "Whether ye eat or drink,
or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Let me say, however,
that those who enjoy deep union and communion with God are careful to be
temperate in their entire manner of life.

As we have stated before, the pure in heart have organs of sense. These
organs can be impressed by external objects. These impressions may
properly be termed "feelings." A man filled with the Holy Spirit may, when
being praised by some unwise person, be tempted to pride; in other words,
he feels a sense of pride. This feeling is in the self-life of the man. A
sanctified man is tempted to impatience. He feels a sense of impatience,
not carnal, but as an impulse of sense in the self-life. When some one
does something contrary to your pleasure or wishes, you may have feelings
of displeasure or impatience. The patience of a mother is sometimes tried
by the conduct of a child. The trying of patience is simply feelings of
impatience in the self-life. But in her patience she is to possess her
soul. These feelings of impatience are to be resisted in the strength of
the Lord. Resist them with a prayer.

I have now brought you to the place where I am ready to tell you how to
grow in grace, how to increase, how to make progress in the divine life,
which is all that is meant by the expressions, "getting closer to God,"
"becoming more like Christ," etc. Remember this: 'feelings are
strengthened by being indulged. You are tempted to pride, to lightness, to
impatience; you have feelings of pride, lightness, impatience, for this is
what temptations are. These feelings should be immediately and indignantly
resisted. Get after them in earnest. The very exercise of resisting is
what will develop and strengthen the spiritual powers; but if the feelings
are indulged, they will grow stronger and the spiritual powers grow
weaker. If you value your spiritual prosperity, you will be very quick to
resist every temptation. Sometimes people allow a tried, mean, impatient
feeling to settle down upon them for hours. They do not feel pleasant,
neither do they look pleasant. Such feelings leave their trace behind.
They are a dangerous foe. Loathe them, despise them. Go to the Lord in
earnest prayer and pray until joy springs up in the soul, a smile beams on
the face, and the bad feelings are made to fly away like a startled bird.
Some say, "We can not prevent bad feelings and thoughts from attacking
us." They use the words of Luther--"We can not prevent birds flying over
our heads, but can prevent them from building nests in our hair." It is no
sin nor source of discouragement to be attacked by bad feelings and bad
thoughts. But bear in mind that we can frighten the birds that are flying
over and thus make them fly quickly, and that after being frightened a few
times they will fly far around or very high over. So with bad feelings and
thoughts: if earnestly and indignantly resisted, they will fly away
quickly, and their assaults will grow weaker and weaker. It is God's will
that we eat, drink, and sleep; but to be intemperate in these is to
destroy spiritual life. We should be guided by a sense of the divine will,
and not by a sense of human desire. To yield to the lower will of sense is
to be soon abandoned to self and destitute of grace.

I have been asked whether it is possible for us to attain such a degree of
perfection that we should never speak a harsh, impatient word or a light
word, or be the least intemperate in any way. My answer is that by much
prayer, by close watching, and earnest resisting, the will of sense can be
so weakened and the soul become so habituated to act under a sense of the
divine will that foolish or impatient words, impulsive actions, or any
intemperance will be very few and far between. This is being strong in the
grace of God.

Again, I have been asked, "Can we reach a place where we shall be no more
tempted?" Yes; if you are earnest and faithful, you will reach it when you
arrive in that land where flesh and blood can not enter. There you will no
more be tempted. But as long as you are here in the flesh, you will be
tempted. In the very nature of things you need to be. Your spiritual
powers would weaken if they had nothing to resist. Let me here acquaint
you with a device of Satan. All these attacks upon the will of sense are
made by the devil. He will use some external object to try you. He may
withhold temptation for a long time in order that you may become careless
and cease to watch and pray, and thus in a measure lose your power of
resistance. Then he will come in with a slight attack, so slight you will
not detect it in your weakened state. If it be an attack to impatience,
you will speak a little hastily, but will scarcely perceive it and will
think it of little consequence. But his attacks will grow stronger; your
words will grow more hasty; there will be frettings and worryings; and you
will be so stupid that you will not be aware of your backsliding. Do not
cease your watching and praying even if you have no temptations. Alas, how
many have gone down under this cunning device of Satan! This is a scheme
he plays well.

When the Christian first starts out on his pilgrimage, he is watchful and
prayerful. An attack of Satan startles him, and he becomes earnest in his
resistance. If he speaks impatiently or lightly, he flees at once to God
for grace, and thus he grows in grace. But if he becomes strong and his
soul forms the habit of acting in holiness, he feels strong and ceases his
close watching and praying and resisting. Then he slowly but surely
retrogrades. Unless he is in some way awakened, he will backslide.

But the question arises, "How can we keep up resistance in order to be
strong, if Satan ceases to tempt." Have sham battles. In time of peace
soldiers are constantly drilling so that they may be prepared when they
come to battle. Pugilists go through much training in preparation for the
actual contest. So we are to watch constantly. Keep the soul in a
defensive attitude. This is what I mean by sham battles. Bearing in mind
that you may be attacked at any time, keep the soul in a defensive
attitude; keep up the shield of faith. The very exercise of holding up the
shield and keeping the soul in watchings makes it strong for the battle.
If you do not exercise your soul in earnest prayer each morning, Satan
will likely catch you that day unprepared.

For the perfecting of the soul in the habit of holiness, you must exercise
yourself in inward acts of resistance. Keep an intense hatred of sin and
the devil; get where you enjoy a contest with Satan; glory in tribulation;
rejoice when you are persecuted; count it joy when you are tried and
tempted. Soldiers get so they love the battle, pugilists enjoy the
contest, and we should be where we love trials. We hate them, therefore we
love to conquer them; they afford us means for development, therefore we
welcome them; they deepen us into God and make us more like Christ,
therefore we hail them with joy. We hate them themselves, but in our
intense love for God and the privilege of exercising ourselves in his
strength we count all our trials joy. We rejoice in the midst of
temptation because we have the opportunity of displaying the strength of
our God.

But do not make the mistake of thinking that you are so strong in God that
the little evil thought, or the feeling of pride or impatience, or the
little act of intemperance, is of no consequence. It is these little
things that sap away the spiritual strength. Get after the very least of
them and put them to death. Give them no place. If one single word of
lightness or of impatience escapes your lips, go in earnest prayer, asking
God to make you a conqueror. Seek to have your life wholly free from
imperfections, and you will daily advance in the divine life.

Life is full of peace and pleasure
When we're saved by grace;
Sweetest joys overflow the measure
When we're saved by grace;
Gifts from heaven fall in show'rs,
Cheering dark and lonely hours,
By our pathway bloom sweet flow'rs,
When we're saved by grace.

E'en in sorrow there are blessings
When we're saved by grace;
Chastening rods are fond carressings
When we're saved by grace;
Storm-clouds far away are driven,
Life flows on so sweet and even,
Round us beams the light of heaven,
When we're saved by grace.

All around is wondrous beauty
When we're saved by grace;
There is joy in every duty
When we're saved by grace;
Hope is ever sweetly singing,
Peace-bells in our souls are ringing,
Guardian angels round us winging,
When we're saved by grace.

We must every day be growing
When we're saved by grace;
Progress in divine life making,
When we're saved by grace;
Upward, upward, nearer heaven,
Life more peaceful and more even,
Fuller light upon us beaming,
When we're growing in grace.

You will, I hope, pardon the writer if he repeats too much. Repetition is
sometimes needed that a truth may be enforced. Sometimes line upon line is
needful.

What, in its true sense, is a holy life? It is the life of Jesus. His
whole manner of life was truly holy. His life is the ideal life. If we
would live holy, we must live as he lived. The artist has his ideal before
him, and with touches of the brush here and there upon his canvas he forms
an exact image of the ideal. The life of Jesus is what we are to imitate.
He sets the example of holy living and calls us to the same holy life. "As
he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of
conversation." I Pet. 1:15. This text has a better rendering in the
Revised Version: "Like as he which called you is holy, be ye yourselves
also holy in all manner of living." As Christians we are God's offspring,
and as such are like him.

Holiness in the life of Jesus is found not only in the great miracles that
he performed, but also in the lesser happenings of his life. The restoring
of life to the dead is no more beautifully holy than the laying of his
hands upon the heads of children and blessing them. His memorable Sermon
on the Mount no more portrays the loveliness of his character than does
his conversation with the woman by the wayside well. It is the little
things in every-day life, if attended to and kept in the meekness and the
solemnity of the Spirit of Christ, that make life truly beautiful and
holy. It is not the eloquent sermon that makes a life so sublime, but it
is the tender smile, the kind word, the gentle look, given to all; it is
the patient manner in which all the little trying and provoking things of
life are met. You may preach or write ever so forcibly and eloquently, and
bring out the sublime truths of the Bible in great beauty; but if in the
privacy of your own home there are little frettings, a little peevishness,
a little crossness, a little levity, a little selfishness, a little
distrust, your life is not as truly holy as it should be.

If you desire God's holy image to be stamped upon your soul, your
countenance, and your life, you must carefully avoid the little sprigs of
lightness, the little bits of sloth and indolence, touches of forwardness,
rudeness, selfishness, etc. Pure words belong to a holy life. You should
use the very choicest words, language that is free from vulgarity, slang,
and the spirit of the world. Untidiness, uncleanness, carelessness, and
shabbiness are not at all beautiful ornaments in a holy life. But
quietness, modesty, and reticence are gems that sparkle in a holy life
like diamonds set in a band of gold. Give attention to your words, your
thoughts, your tone of voice, your feelings; to little acts of
benevolence, the practise of self-denial, of promptness, of method and
order. These are auxilaries of holy living. Are there not many little
things in your home life that you can improve upon? Seek God for help and
be truly holy.





Next: LUKEWARMNESS.

Previous: THE CHRISTIAN'S WALK A WALK WITH GOD.



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