Whatever may be the surroundings of the Christian, whatever may be his temptations, he should not be uncourteous. Affection, kindness, and forbearance were designed of God as a preparation for the society of heavenly angels.
Very many who are seeking for happiness will be disappointed in their hopes, because they seek it amiss. True happiness is not to be found in selfish gratification, but in the path of duty. God desires man to be happy, and for this reason he gave him the precepts of his law, that in obeying these he might have joy at home and abroad. While he stands in his moral integrity, true to principle, having the control of all his powers, he cannot be miserable. With its tendrils entwined about God, the soul will flourish amid unbelief and depravity. But many who are constantly looking forward for happiness fail to receive it, because, by neglecting to discharge the little duties and observe the little courtesies of life, they violate the principles upon which happiness depends.
Kind words, pleasant looks, a cheerful countenance, throw a charm around the Christian that makes his influence almost irresistible.
Bible rules must be written on the heart and carried into the every-day life. The Christian may lift up his soul to God for strength and grace amid every discouragement. Kind words, pleasant looks, a cheerful countenance, throw a charm around the Christian that makes his influence almost irresistible. This is a way to gain respect, and extend the sphere of usefulness, which costs but little. It is the religion of Christ in the heart that causes the words issuing therefrom to be gentle and the demeanor condescending, even to those in the humblest walks of life. A blustering, fault-finding, overbearing man is not a Christian; for to be a Christian is to be Christ-like. It is no mark of a Christian to be continually jealous of one’s dignity. In forgetfulness of self, in the light and peace and comfort he is constantly bestowing on others, is seen the true dignity of the man. The one who pursues this course will not complain that he does not obtain the respect due him.
He who drinks in the spirit of Christ will let it flow forth in kind words, and be expressed in courteous deportment. The plan of salvation is to soften whatever is harsh and rough in the temper, and to smooth off whatever is rugged or sharp in the manners. External change will testify of an internal change. The truth is the sanctifier, the refiner. Received into the heart, it works with hidden power, transforming the receiver. But those who profess the truth and at the same time are rough, and sour, and unkind in words and deportment, have not learned of Jesus; all these manifestations show that they are yet servants of the wicked one. No man can be a Christian without having the spirit of Christ, manifesting meekness, gentleness, and refinement of manners.
Enoch’s life and character, which were so holy that he was translated to heaven without seeing death, represent what the lives and characters of all must be, if, like Enoch, they are to be translated when Christ shall come.
Enoch was a marked character. Many look upon his life as something above what the generality of mortals can ever reach. But Enoch’s life and character, which were so holy that he was translated to heaven without seeing death, represent what the lives and characters of all must be, if, like Enoch, they are to be translated when Christ shall come. His life was what the life of every individual may be if he closely connects with God. We should remember that Enoch was surrounded with influences so depraved that God brought a flood of waters on the world to destroy its inhabitants for their corruption. Were Enoch upon the earth today, his heart would be in harmony with all God’s requirements; he would walk with God, although surrounded with influences which are the most wicked and debasing. The palm tree well represents the life of a Christian. It stands upright amid the burning desert sand, and dies not; for it draws its sustenance from the springs of life beneath the surface.
When Christ shall come, our vile bodies are to be changed, and made like his glorious body; but the vile character will not be made holy then. The transformation of character must take place before his coming. Our natures must be pure and holy; we must have the mind of Christ, that he may behold with pleasure his image reflected upon our souls. We are none of us what God would have us, and what we may be, and what his word requires us to be. It is our unbelief that shuts us away from God. Joseph preserved his integrity when surrounded by idolaters in Egypt, in the midst of sin and blasphemy and corrupting influences. When tempted to turn from the path of virtue, his answer was, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Enoch, Joseph, and Daniel depended upon a strength that was infinite. This is the only course of safety for Christians to pursue in our day. Those who profess Christ are too indolent in their religious life to surmount obstacles, and be patient, kind, and forbearing.
However repulsive or fascinating our surroundings, faith can reach above it all and find the Holy Spirit.
The lives of these marked men were hid with Christ in God. They were loyal to God amidst infidelity, pure amidst depravity, devout and fervent when brought in contact with atheism and idolatry. By faith they gathered to themselves only those properties which are favorable to the development of pure and holy characters. Thus may it be with us; whatever our position, however repulsive or fascinating our surroundings, faith can reach above it all and find the Holy Spirit.
The spirit which Enoch, Joseph, and Daniel possessed, we may have. We may draw from the same source of strength, and realize the same power of self-control; and the same graces may shine out in our lives. By reflecting the light of Christ to all around us, we shall become the light of the world. Said Christ, “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” A surly, fault-finding, selfish, uncourteous person cannot have this sacred influence.
Pleasant, kind, and well-bred Christians will have an influence for God and his truth; it cannot be otherwise. The light borrowed from Heaven will shed its brightening rays through them to the pathway of others leading them to exclaim, “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man whose strength is in thee.” The words we speak, our daily deportment, are the fruit growing upon the tree. If the fruit is sour and unpalatable, the rootlets of that tree are not drawing nourishment from a pure source. If our affections are brought into harmony with our Saviour, if our characters are meek and lowly, we evidence that our life is hid with Christ in God; and we shall leave behind us a bright track. The Christian life will be in such marked contrast to that of unbelievers and children of darkness, that beholders will discern that we have been with Jesus and learned of him.
The Christian need not become a recluse; but while necessarily associating with the world, he will not be of the world. Christian politeness should be cultivated by daily practice. That unkind word should be left unspoken, that selfish disregard for the happiness of others should give place to sympathy and thoughtfulness. True courtesy, blended with truth and justice, will make the life not only useful, but fragrant. It is no evidence that the Christian has lost his religion, because he has a good report from those who are without. Virtue, honesty, kindness, and faithful integrity make noble characters; they will win esteem even of unbelievers, and their influence in the church will be very precious. God requires us to be right in important matters, while he tells us that faithfulness in little things will fit us for higher positions of trust.
A lack of courtesy is one of the greatest stumbling-blocks to sinners. Selfish, complaining, sour Christians bar the way, so that sinners do not care to approach Christ.
There is a very great neglect of true courtesy at the present time. The good qualities which many possess are hidden, and instead of attracting souls to Christ they repulse them. If these persons could see the influence of their uncourteous ways and unkind expressions upon unbelievers, and how offensive is such conduct in the sight of God, they would reform their habits; for a lack of courtesy is one of the greatest stumbling-blocks to sinners. Selfish, complaining, sour Christians bar the way, so that sinners do not care to approach Christ.
Could we look beneath the surface of things, we should see that half life’s misery is created by frowns and unkind speeches, which might be prevented as well as not. Many make a hell upon earth for themselves and for those whom they might comfort and bless. These are not worthy of the Christian name. These will not dwell in heaven, in the society of pure angels who are always kind, courteous, and considerate of others.
I call upon these dissatisfied, mourning, fretting ones to reform before it shall be too late. There is still time for you to learn of Christ. You have greatly injured his cause, you have kept many souls from the kingdom of heaven; but you may yet repent and be converted. Lay off the yoke which you have placed upon your own neck, and accept the yoke of Christ. Many are sensible of their great deficiency, and they read, and pray, and resolve, and yet make no progress. They seem to be powerless to resist temptation. The reason is, they do not go deep enough. They do not seek for a thorough conversion of the soul, that the streams which issue from it may be pure, and the deportment may testify that Christ reigns within.
All defects of character originate in the heart. Pride, vanity, evil temper, and covetousness proceed from the carnal heart unrenewed by the grace of Christ. If the heart is refined, softened, and ennobled, the words and actions will testify to the fact. When the soul has been entirely surrendered to God, there will be a firm reliance upon his promises, and earnest prayer and determined effort to control the words and actions.
Some persons speak in a harsh, uncourteous manner, that wounds the feeling of others, and then they justify themselves by saying, “It is my way; I always tell just what I think;” and they exalt this wicked trait of character as a virtue. Their uncourteous deportment should be firmly rebuked; it is something of which they ought to be ashamed,–a cruel practice, which is born of Satan, and is not in the least akin to Heaven. Much is said concerning the improvements which have been made since the days of the patriarchs. But those living in that age could boast of a higher state of refinement and true courtesy than is possessed by people in this age of boasted enlightenment.
The angels never fly into a passion, never are envious, selfish, and jealous. No harsh or unkind words escape their lips.
Integrity, justice, and Christian kindness, blended, make a beautiful combination. Courtesy is one of the graces of the Spirit. It is an attribute of heaven. The angels never fly into a passion, never are envious, selfish, and jealous. No harsh or unkind words escape their lips. And if we are to be the companions of angels, we too must be refined and courteous. And we have none too much time to change our wrong habits, reform our defective characters, and obtain a fitness for the society of those with whom we expect to associate not long hence. All harshness and severity, coarseness and unkindness, must be overcome in this life; for they are Satanic. Now is the very time for us to do the work. We can have no second probation. If we do not improve these hours of privilege, we would not improve a second probation should it be granted to us. It is now, while it is called today, that we are not to burden our hearts and continue to make Christ ashamed of the unsanctified words and deportment of us who bear his name.
This article originally appeared in Review and Herald, September 1, 1885.