Chapter IV Section II (A)
Just how Christian are most “Christians” (In England in 1797)
Here are some dysfunctions I see scattered in differing measures and combinations throughout our population.
First let me say that true religion is in the heart. It reigns supreme in the heart and gradually expels all that is contrary to it until it brings all the persons passions and desires under its control.
Many people who call themselves “Christians” are not like this. Will they let God into every part of their lives? No way! They are like this:
They start by seeing religion as a list of prohibitions. If we picture their lives as a farm, we could say they see religion like someone saying the dam is dangerous – so they put a fence around it – but then do what they like with the rest of the farm. Even then they often go to the fence and look longingly at the dam!
Some take the next step: they admit religion has some positive claim on them. Back to the farm picture we could say they fence off a small area for native animals - then they do what they like with the rest. In real life these people set aside a portion – be it small or big – of their time, money, effort and so forth as belonging to God, then fee free to do whatever they want with the rest. They may be stingy and only go to church on Sunday and put a little in the plate or they may tithe a tenth of their income, and perhaps give to charity beyond that. They may be much more generous with their time: go to church twice on Sunday, and Bible study or church committee meetings during the week, even daily prayer. But the crunch is this: after paying their perceived “dues” to God everything else belongs to them to do exactly what they like with.
Big mistake! Huge! This is not true Christianity.
If promoting the glory of God and possessing his favour is our highest regard then nothing short of giving God control over the whole farm will do. Every, yes every, aspect, part and moment of our lives – all that we are and all that we have – must be given to God. Yes, we must trust God. Trust that he cares for us, trust that he knows our needs and human obligations better than we do ourselves and that he will use his lordship over our lives in a way that will fulfil all these. Conversely, when people only give God part of their lives they are really saying they don't trust him!
“...we find in fact that the generality of mankind among the higher order, in the formation of their schemes, in the selection of their studies, in the choice of their place of residence, in the employment and distribution of their time, in their thoughts, conversation and amusements, are considered as being at liberty, if there be no actual vice, to consult in the main their own gratification.”
So instead of Christianity in all its beauty, we are left with a “decent” selfishness. A life frittered away in idleness or self-centred activities. A claim that “we are not hurting anyone, we are not neglecting our family or civic duties – so why should we not seek pleasure!”
Some “Christians” forget that health is only a meant to an end – useful labour! They make the pursuit of “health” their goal, and even their god.
“Others again seem more to attach themselves to what have been well termed the “pomps and vanities of this world”. Magnificent houses, grand equipages, numerous retinues, splendid entertainments, high and fashionable connections appear to constitute in their estimation the supreme happiness of life.”
Others again let ambition or avarice rule the parts of their lives they keep from God. They let the cares of this world and the pursuit of advancement, power or money squeeze God further and further out of their day-to-day lives.
Still others pursue other ends – learning, art, science – to name a few. These are noble but they must not be in the highest place in our attention and our lives. We look forward to eternity: God must be our supreme good and our supreme goal