Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
The word "fervent," in our tongue, would seem to indicate heat that prevails to such an extent as to break into a flame. In the Greek it is to be boiling hot. But whether it be the dry heat or the wet, it comes to the same point — namely, feeling, carried up to the point of disclosure.
I. FERVENCY IS THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN CONDUCT, FEELING, AND LIFE. We are to have "fervid charity"; not languid and somnolent charity, but a charity that flames, that boils. There is no feeling which answers to the test of the Word of God that is not fervent.
1. But are not the deepest feelings often voiceless? Yes, and latent feeling is often the deepest and the best; and there are ether expressions of it besides those of the tongue. The eye expresses it, the hand expresses it. The best mother is not the one who kisses her babe the oftenest, but the one that takes care of it the best. The best friends are not those that for ever hang upon your neck, but those whose whole life and occupation have found out how to serve you by the ten thousand amenities of love. But feeling must develop itself somehow. Feeling that does not do anything is like a candle unlighted, or a fire of green wood that smokes and does not burn.
2. The religious side of human nature must glow. "Let your light shine before men." We must carry the light of feeling out to a boisterous world; and the feeling is to be carried up to an intensity such that it will burn or shine out, and be able to withstand the influences that are streaming from life on every side. Therefore you see it coupled with "Not slothful in business." You are to carry your fervency into business; you are to adapt it to your business; you are to make it a part of your business, and so a part of your religion.
3. A great many Christians claim that there is a living force in them; but when you look you never see it — it is never disclosed. For the law of force is fervency, and no man can work with any great competency except by strong feeling.
II. THE GREAT TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL ARE TO BE ACCEPTED IN THEIR PLENITUDE AND REALITY ONLY IN A FERVENT STATE OF MIND. As I understand faith, it is such a quickening of the mind, such an expansion of its power, such a luminousness shining through it of the fires of a sanctified imagination working on moral and spiritual elements, that the whole man is lifted up into a higher sphere, and reasons upon things that are not in the vulgar court of a mere justice of the peace, but in the spiritual court of the Holy Ghost. What is God to the great mass of men? A fate; a fear; a dread; an abstraction; a machinist; a power hid behind government; a law; a something; a nothing. But when the soul has been kindled, and the understanding is regnant, and all the best affections cluster around the reason to give it expression, the heavens cannot contain God, and the earth is full of His glory and companionship. There is but one way in which you can have a sound theology, and that is by living so near to God that you have the witness of the Divine Spirit in you that you are the sons of God. If you can breathe into the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ such a vitality of faith as that the members of it are living in a fervent and burning zeal of Christian charity, you need not trouble yourself about doctrinal beliefs; they will take care of themselves. But if you spend all your force upon the externalities of doctrine and of church organisation, you will have a huge casket with a spurious jewel in it.
III. ALL UNFERVENT, DULL, AND DROWSY PREACHING IS HERETICAL. Anything that turns people out of the way, and imperils their souls, is heresy; and of all heresies there is none more deadly than a drowsy preacher. And yet, when a man comes that wakes up the congregation, there are a great many men that look up and say, "Who knows whereunto this thing will grow?" Why, yes, if sleep be piety, what will become of religion if men wake up? But life is above all price; and a man who is fit to preach at all, must be fit to preach because he has the power of inflammation. A man that cannot boil, and that cannot make anybody else boil; a man that cannot be blown into a flame, and cannot kindle a flame in others, is not fit to preach.
IV. ALL THE CONCEPTIONS OF RELIGIOUS LIFE THAT ESTEEM STRONG FEELING TO BE VULGAR ARE UNCHRISTIAN AND UNPHILOSOPHICAL; they are utterly unallied to the whole nature of grace, or to the disclosure of God's feeling in the human soul; and yet there are a great many who have such a conception. The substitution of decorum for emotion, of polish for deep feeling, of taste for conscience — in other words, the worship of culture — there can be nothing wider from the true spirit of the gospel than that. When men are thoroughly trained and cultivated, and have religious feeling, and have it fervently and deeply, it is a great deal better that they should express it with refinement and with genius, if it can be so expressed; but to have decorum, and taste, and cold intellectuality, and none of the fire of feeling, is to be idolatrous. It is to worship the senses, and that on a very low plane of life. It is better, a hundredfold, that there should be the utmost tumult of revival than that there should be simply a decorous stupor. Conclusion: "And now, are you, that are grouped into a church, living, with real glow and fervour, a religious life? Do you love God, or do you only say you love Him? Do you love your fellow-men as yourself, or do you only say that you do in routine? Do you enjoy religion? Are you working in your several spheres with fervour? Is it not time that you should wake out of your sleep? The Master is going by, and the cry, "The Bridegroom cometh," will sound in your ears before long. Are your lamps filled and burning? Do men feel the fire and the flame? Are you a power among men? May the Spirit of light, life, fire, and power come down into the hearts of every one of the members of this church, and of all disciples of every name gathered together this morning, brushing the ashes of the past away, kindle on the old altar a new flame that shall never go out.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;