Holiness of practice, what is it?
It is not a set of feelings.
It is a course of conduct, and it comprises several particulars, as first, abstention from the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
Mix not with what appears to be wrong; ask not how far you can go in that which even the world blames.
What moral, worldly men blame, should it not be eschewed by professing Christians?
Where the worldling would not go, should the Christian think of going?
Just think of it – “the appearance” that which looks wrong.
You may say, “O but my conscience does not accuse me; my motives are not bad.”
That rule is not permitted you. No man has a right, professing the name of Jesus Christ, to go on that ground. It is ungracious ground; it is false ground, unholy, untender ground.
It is the excuse of the flesh; it is the deception of the heart, the hypocrisy of the mind, the pollution of Satan. It is not good ground.
Whether your conscience accuses you or not is not the question (though, by the way, I might say that perhaps the reason why your conscience does not accuse you is that it is very much hardened; and if so, then your case is much worse). O “follow holiness” by keeping from the appearance of sin.
Let me repeat it: what the world condemns, do not touch.
Secondly, abstention from actual wrong.
“Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?”
Can you touch pitch and not be defiled?
Can you walk in what God forbids and be innocent?
Can you join yourself to any wrong thing, anything that appears wrong to the world, that the world would condemn, and be innocent in that union?
No. And think of the effect upon others. Think of the effect upon your brethren if you walk in wrong. Why, it stumbles them, it stumbles tender people; it reproaches the church of Christ and brings evil.
Therefore, abstain from every evil. Be jealous of God’s honour, of His Christ. Be jealous of His holy gospel, of His holy promise, and walk so as that the finger of reproach shall never be justly pointed at you, and unjustly at the gospel through your conduct.
If you are spoken against, let it be falsely; then a blessing shall attend you according to Christ’s Word. But if it be justly, woe to you, for if you be the Lord’s child, then you will smart for what you do. His rod shall make you know what an evil thing and bitter it is to go where He has told you not to go, to walk in what He has forbidden.
What? will you touch that which is sin?
Will you knowingly do that which you know the LORD has forbidden?
Would you do that?
Then you are not following holiness, and if a child of God, O what is before you God only knows.
You are not walking as the Lord commands you to do.
Follow holiness, leave off everything that is evil – all lying:
“Putting away lying…”
“Lie not one to another.”
“..Speak every man truth with his neighbour.”
“…Love the truth and peace.”
These things are not for nothing spoken; dear friends, they are not given to us for nothing. The Lord knew well our base, false nature, the hypocrisy and lying that we have in it; and therefore He said to His saints, Do not practise that; speak the truth; let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay.
Walk so; follow this holiness – separation from the world that lieth in wickedness.
Follow holiness in those particulars. Follow holiness in all your dealings with men, so that if they know your religion, if they know your strict and particular belief and hate it, and express their hatred of it, there yet may be extorted from their unwilling lips a testimony of the goodness and uprightness of your life.
Happy the man whose dealings with men are equal to his profession before God!
It ought to be so. I touched upon this important subject just now, in speaking of masters and servants.
Then come also to closer relationships in life.
What of the husband?
The Scripture tells him what to do, that he is to cherish his wife and give her the honour that is due to the weaker vessel; that he and she are one flesh; that he is in all faithfulness to attend to her, leaving all others, leaving his father and his mother and being “joined unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31).
And says Paul, “No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (verse 29).
That is the Scripture, and he who breaks it, if he be a child of God, will get = broken for his breaking of it, in some way.
And what of the wife?
Yes, it is said to her that she is to obey her husband in all things in the Lord. She in her wifely duties has the Word of God to teach her. She must behave herself, comport herself consistently with that relationship that is the nearest, and dearest, and sweetest of all the relationships the earth knows. Husband and wife are to follow holiness, as when the wife prays to be enabled to fulfil her duties, and the husband begs for grace to enable him to do that which is enjoined upon him in the Scriptures.
What sorrow of heart has the breach of this precept occasioned some good men for many years after the sin has been forgiven!
It is godly sorrow that “worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10). The shame, the carefulness, the indignation, the vehement desire, the zeal, the revenge, which follow a breach of this branch of holiness they, through grace, have had.
Follow holiness, too, in that external conduct which attaches or should attach to every professor of the name of the holy child Jesus.
“Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
(2 Timothy 2. 19)
Parents are addressed. The father, he is not to provoke his children lest they be discouraged, but he is to tell his children about the Lord’s goodness; he is to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, admonishing them in that great, that good commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12).
That belongs to us who are parents, and in very substance belongs to all children. You children who are still with your parents, do tenderly regard God’s Word. It is a solemn thing for children to disregard parents.
Disobedience to parents is one of the crying sins of today, and it is one that the Apostle Paul mentions. Disobedience to parents is mentioned together with unthankfulness and unholiness. O children, regard your parents tenderly; obey them constantly. Obey them because the Lord has told you to do so, and do not forget that disobedience to parents is a sin which God will punish; and where He forgives it by the blood of Christ, there are often times and things which make the child in later days (perhaps when he himself is a parent) remember the sins of his youth.
Often he may have to say to his heavenly Father, “Remember not the sins of my youth” (Psalm 25:7); remember not against me former transgressions. Here I speak out of a painful experience. It is a bitter thing to sin against God and transgress His holy Word.
And then in the next place, follow holiness in all your conduct in the church as professors. Follow holiness – separation from every evil thing; as for instance, obeying them that have the rule over you, for they admonish you, and “they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
That is God’s word, and although I speak as a pastor, I would say to you, “Mind that word.”
I do not say it because I have had any reason to smart under any disregard of it amongst you. I would bless God with humility that He has been so kind to me, a weak, unworthy pastor.
But who knows what I may come into?
May I be kept from giving any occasion of stumbling.
Do not forget that scripture: “Obey them that have the rule over you.”
No pastor’s rule lies in an external rule over the mind, will, judgment, conscience or estates of his people. It lies in this: the unction of the ministry, which will bring them to the obedience of Christ. It lies thus in God’s power. I would not give a straw for the external authority of a minister, if he should not possess also, and chiefly, the authority that the affection of the people willingly gives him, from the power and unction of the Word in their hearts. Other than that I never sought, as far as I know myself.
Follow holiness in this also: be careful one of another, be tender one for another, mind each other’s wealth.
“Look not … on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Follow holiness in obedience to the precepts. One of them is:
“Exhort one another daily, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
And again, “Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him” (Leviticus 19:17).
Remember those things. They come from heaven and are not to be disregarded. You are to look on the wealth of your friend, your brother, your neighbour, to look after his growth in grace. If you see him wrong, walking in any wrong thing, go to him and tell him; if he shall offend you, tell him his fault privately. Do these things; follow these things. Because the world goes otherwise, you must be separate. God has called you to holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7), to act from other principles than the world’s and with other ends.
Follow this holiness. We are to treat each other with all uprightness and all purity. The aged men and deacons are to be grave; the elder women are to be treated as mothers, and the younger as sisters in the Lord, with all purity. These things God has enjoined on us, and he who disregards them at all walks improperly, walks against the Lord, and the Lord will walk against him in some way sooner or later for doing so.
And how shall you enter heaven without a proper walk?
Though not by the merit of a proper walk, yet by the testimony of a good work your faith will be justified. Abraham was justified by works (James 2:20-23).
Think of it, dear friends.
Do you complain of bondage?
Do you complain that you are walking in darkness, that God hides His face notwithstanding your confessions and your prayers to Him?
Now examine your conduct; go into your soul, and say to it, “What are you doing? How are you living?”
Then go to your walk.
What is it?
Is it such as even the world would disapprove?
Then ask no longer why the former days were better than these, for therein you do not enquire wisely.
Rather charge yourself no longer to walk in that which dishonours God’s truth, and name, and church, and brings bondage and wounding to your soul, and guilt and defilement on your conscience.
Without a gracious walk, what is a profession?
Without straight feet, what is a glib tongue?
What are prayers, if the conduct is not right?
No man shall see the Lord without his heart, his spirit, his mind and his conduct being all of a piece. Grace saves from sin.
“Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.”
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?”
And “how shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
Dear friends, if you live in sin, you are not dead to it – you are its servants.
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”
Three things must accord: heart, lip, life; these make up a man.
Now take this exhortation by God’s help to yourselves, as I would take it to myself. Let us examine not only what we believe, but how we are living. Let us continually seek to abstain from the appearance of evil, and to turn away from all wrong things; things which not only God condemns, but which appearance may condemn, and which men if they saw would condemn.
Only thus living have we any right to talk of experience in divine things or to mention Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the Lord help us, help us individually, help us as a church to hate evil, to hate the garment spotted by the flesh, and to fear doing anything that would bring a reproach to Christ, to His church, anything that would bring the frown of God, that would bring it danger.
The good Lord make us fear where we should fear, help us where we need help, strengthen us where we need strengthening, purge us, cleanse and save us, and grant us His smile and His presence.
By J.K. Popham – 1911