1 Thessalonians 5:21
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
I would apply the text to the religion of Jesus Christ and assert that it is good, and because good that you are to hold it fast. By this is not meant theology, which is very good as science and art, but is not life. Nor do we mean imposing rites, splendid churches which are very beautiful and helpful to the weak, but are not the religion of Jesus Christ. This is —
I. FAITH AS OPPOSED TO INFIDELITY — faith in God our Father, in the Lord Jesus who died for us, in the spiritual nature of man, in the spirit world.
1. This faith harmonizes with our natural instincts which lead us to feel that all that exists is not present to the bodily senses, that somewhere inside the temple of the universe is a holy of holies filled with a glory that the eye of flesh cannot behold, and our desire is to enter that inner temple, and behold what it is. A little bird in a London cellar knows instinctively that there is an outer world, although he has never been there, and he is brave enough in his gloomy place to make some attempts at singing and flying.
2. Infidelity says there is nothing to know — no God, etc. Matter is all. Well, a mole might say there is no sun, no bright worlds; yet these do exist, and if the mole would only come out of his hole he could catch some rays of glory. Let men cease then from burrowing in the earth. They will never find heaven there. Let them follow their deepest instincts and highest aspirations and they will reach the throne of God, and their first act will be to worship Him.
3. In this faith we can rest and find comfort, but the bed of infidelity is too short for my soul to stretch itself upon.
II. HOLINESS AS OPPOSED TO SIN — all possible virtues and graces, all things true, good, beautiful.
1. The religion of Christ demands holiness, "Be ye holy." "Be ye perfect." In this demand we see the wonderful possibilities of the soul. It is said that we have descended from very humble ancestors. Then there must be in our nature some marvellous energy, for the development has been truly wonderful. I can turn my face upward, build steamers that can cross the ocean against the storm, etc., more, I can pass within the veil and lay my hand on that of the Father, and say, "Thy will be done." The artist takes the rough block of marble and transforms it into a majestic statue, and everybody speaks of his genius. Yes, but something must be said for the marble that has the power of being transformed. Very wonderful is the work of the Divine Artist upon the soul, but something must be said for the soul that is capable of being changed into His image, and it is nothing less than this that our religion demands of it.
2. But it not only demands, it gives the sure promise of attaining holiness — the Church is to be without spot, etc. The process may be sketched. God loved us — sent His Son to die for our sins — gave His Holy Spirit to transform our nature — by and by He will take us to Himself. Is not this religion good? Ask not where it came from. Judge it on its own merits for once.
III. GOODNESS AS OPPOSED TO SELFISHNESS.
1. Selfishness, as seen in the priest and Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan, passes by suffering, and avoids the inconvenience of sympathy: as seen in Lot's choice, it takes the best, indifferent to the claims of others.
2. Christianity says, "Bear ye one another's burdens," etc. — the burdens of ignorance, disappointment, anxiety, fear. Now selfishness is hateful, and self-denial admirable by common consent. We have examples in the three hundred at Thermopylae and in the man who to save another's life imperils his own. But try and rise from these to the self-denial of Christ, "who loved us and gave Himself for us." Imitate that, and you are a Christian.
IV. HOPE AND JOY AS OPPOSED TO DESPAIR.
1. The natural language of despair is, "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die," and that cry arises from materialism. There is no Father to care for us; the world formed itself; man is only organized matter; there is no heaven; we are dissolved when we die as prophets, apostles, reformers, martyrs, great statesmen, teachers, poets, and our own dear ones have been. But philosophers, poets, teachers of all the religions, believed that the dead lived. It is all a dream, says the materialist. Take what pleasure you can, don't sorrow for anything, laugh at distress.
2. The gospel brings joy to the distressed and sorrowful in the present. We look through our tears at the closed grave, but see standing there One saying, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Is not our religion good? Then trust it, and don't be afraid that it is going to be overthrown. It may be captured like the ark, but it will give the Philistines more trouble than they bargain for.
(T. Jones, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.