At the Church of Our Father
“It is good to be zealously affected is a good cause at all times,” was Dr. Chaney’s text yesterday. He preached a sermon on living zeal, showing how often it was suffered to depend on personal influence or some other extraneous cause. Paul wanted no galvanized Christians, men who only moved as he moved them; men who fell back on ceremonialism, the moment he turned his back. “Foolish Galatians who hath bewitched you?” he wrote, knowing that the secret of their faith was in some magnetizing personality. They were a prey to the lost prophet.
The preacher then illustrated the distinction between proselytes and converts. Converts are inwardly convicted and regenerated. Proselytes are charmed by some personal trait in their leader and overawed by his domineering will, or subjected to his authoritative self confidence, or fairly cowed by his supposed commission from on high.
The Galatian church, when Paul wrote seems to have had more proselytes than converts in it. The Galatians were gentiles by birth, had Judaized by contact with Jewish proselyters. Paul had come upon them with the gospel of grace like the sun upon the darkness of night, or rather upon the dimness of early morning. So long as Paul was present with them, the persuasion to creep back under the cover of the darkness and sleep again the fascinating morning nap, could not prevail over his stirring call, “Let us who are of the day, awake!”
The only safeguard against running down is running up. When progress ends, decline begins. Men catch the thought of a spiritual religion in which free devotion to the one sole good is more. than all sacrifices or offerings, and just as they are getting acclimated, as it were, to the higher air, gravitation proves too much for them, and they stagger earthward like as stricken kite.
After showing the various ways in which men lapse, (1) on account of mere proselytism towards a prophet rather than conversion to his spirit and life, (2) by law of return to primitive type unless maintained by watchful cultivation, and (3) by reaction from over-zeal running into fanatical enthusiasm, the preacher said that the tenor of the text was this: “A good thing is always worth good championship.” Once convinced of the worth of our cause, we must not depend on Paul or apostles to keep us hearty and active in the defense. More and more, we are to value principles above their prophets; vote for measure rather than men: live for ideas and not for teasing and disappointing persons and those devoted to things that endure. We are to work for them with a zeal proportioned to their intrinsic value.