The positive method is the only way of victory in our struggle with the evil that dwells in our own nature and besets our own hearts. The reason why many men fail, is because they thrust the vice out and then forget to lay hold on the virtue. They evict the unclean spirit and leave a vacant house. To cease to do evil is important, but to learn to do good is far more important. Reformation never saved a man. Transformation is the only way. And to be transformed, a man must welcome the Spirit of Good, the Holy Spirit, into his heart, and work with Him every day, doing the will of God.
There are two ways of fighting fever. One is to dose the sick people with quinine and keep the fever down. The other is to drain the marshes, and purify the water, and cleanse the houses, and drive the fever out. Try negative, repressive religion, and you may live, but you will be an invalid. Try positive, vital religion, and you will be well.
There is an absorption of good that guards the soul against the infection of evil. There is a life of fellowship with Christ that can pass through the furnace of the world without the smell of fire on its garments,—a life that is full of interest as His was, being ever about His Father’s business; a life that is free and generous and blessed, as His was, being spent in doing good, and refreshed by the sense of God’s presence and approval.
Last summer, I saw two streams emptying into the sea. One was a sluggish, niggardly rivulet, in a wide, fat, muddy bed; and every day the tide came in and drowned out that poor little stream, and filled it with bitter brine. The other was a vigorous, joyful, brimming mountain-river, fed from unfailing springs among the hills; and all the time it swept the salt water back before it and kept itself pure and sweet; and when the tide came in, it only made the fresh water rise higher and gather new strength by the delay; and ever the living stream poured forth into the ocean its tribute of living water,—the symbol of that influence which keeps the ocean of life from turning into a Dead Sea of wickedness.
My brother-men, will you take that living stream as a type of your life in the world? The question for you is not what you are going to get out of the world, but what you are going to give to the world. The only way to meet and overcome the inflowing tide of evil is to roll against it the outflowing river of good.
My prayer for you is that you may receive from Christ not only the watchword of this nobler life, but also the power to fulfil it.
Jeremiah vi. 16.
Stand ye in the ways and see; and ask
for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk
therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
This advice was given to people who were in peril and perplexity. The kingdom of Judah was threatened with destruction, which could be averted only by wise and prompt action. But the trouble was to decide in which direction that action should be taken. The nation was divided into loud parties, and these parties into noisy wings. Every man had a theory of his own, or a variation of some other man’s theory.