Tag Archives: Restoration Movement

Pre-order Brother McGarvey now!

One of the most influential men in the Lord’s church in the last 200 years is, without a doubt, John William (J.W.) McGarvey.  He is well-known for his strong, conservative commentaries, his numerous articles on Biblical Criticism, and for being a prolific trainer of preachers in the late-1800s and early-1900s.

There is only one full-length biography written about this influential man of God, and it is about to be back in print for the first time in over fifty years!


Brother McGarvey, written by W.C. Morro, will give you glimpses at “President McGarvey” from many different perspectives–from friends and “enemies” alike.  You will read excerpts from his own writings and journals, and see letters from those who knew him best.


Brother McGarvey will be officially released on August 12th.  This 244-page book will cost $13.99.  However, if you pre-order before August 1st, you will receive FREE SHIPPING, and receive the book on (or maybe even before) its official release date.  Pre-orders after August 1st will still receive free shipping, but there’s no guarantee that it will be there prior to the official release date.

*In order to receive the FREE SHIPPING, enter the coupon code: BroMcG at checkout!

A Very Early History of the Restoration Movement

The year was 1844.  A man named I. Daniel Rupp had the idea to compile an authoritative encyclopedia of the various religious bodies in the United States.  So he appealed to members of each group to submit a history of their rise and progress, with specific mention of any doctrines that made them different from the others.

Robert Richardson, who would later go on to write the two-volume Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, was selected to submit this early history.


You have to remember that at this time, both Thomas and Alexander Campbell ere still alive.  Barton W. Stone was still alive (he would die later that year).  The missionary societies had not yet reared their ugly head; and none of the churches had introduced instrumental music.

So Richardson’s entry pictures the Disciples at a time when they were still united on the Bible, on biblical principles, on biblical worship, and on the biblical plan of salvation.

As always, we’ve tried to remove any typos, correct the spelling, and reformat this book for the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary so that you can enjoy it as much as possible.  On this offering, we’ve also taken the two footnotes and inserted them into the text in parentheses (they were short footnotes).

Just click the link below!

Disciples of Christ (Robert Richardson, 1844)

-Bradley S. Cobb

Some Brief Congregational Sketches … Written in 1869!

Today’s free book, exclusively from the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary, is a brief one, but with a nice, long title.

Licking County Disciples

This book is only 12 pages, but it gives some interesting historical notes about the Lord’s church and the preachers who worked in that area.  If you’re a Restoration Movement enthusiast, or you like short histories, this one is for you.

As always, we’ve prettied this one up, correcting the typos we found and reformatting it to make it easy on the eyes.

To read it online, or to download it to your computer for later perusing, just click the link below.

Historical Sketches of the Disciples Churches in Licking County

-Bradley S. Cobb

A FREE Restoration Movement History Book

We hope you haven’t gotten overwhelmed with all these new additions to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary the past couple weeks, but we’ve got a lot of books that have been sitting ready to go into the library, and we thought it’d be cruel to make you wait a week for each new one to be posted.  🙂


Today’s book was originally written as an entry to The American Church History Series, a multi-volume encyclopedia of all the different religious groups in America (this appeared in volume 12).  It was edited by Philip Schaff.

But though it was originally an encyclopedia entry, don’t think that it’s some short little thing.  B.B. Tyler (author of another book titled Concerning the Disciples of Christ) wrote a lengthy, 10-chapter book (our version is 143 pages) about the history of the Restoration Movement.

As always, we’ve gone through it and fixed any typos we ran across, and reformatted it to make it more pleasing on the eyes.

Click the link below to read it online or to download it for later enjoyment!

A history of the Disciples of Christ in America (B.B. Tyler)

-Bradley S. Cobb

Toils and Struggles of the Olden Times

You’ve been a soldier in the war of 1812.  But now, you’ve found Jesus.  The only problem you’ve got is that the religious world is telling you all sorts of conflicting things.  Which one is right?  How can you tell?

This is the story of Elder Samuel Rogers, or as J.W. McGarvey called him, “Uncle Sammy.”


Samuel Rogers was a soldier and a preacher. His life was lived as a soldier for Christ. He planted many congregations throughout Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and the surrounding areas. One estimate says that he personally baptized over 7,000 people.

Along the way he survives a wildfire, is confronted with kindness that crosses racial borders, and meets Alexander Campbell.

This new, revised edition has been completely reformatted, meticulously proofread for any typos, and updated with modern spelling–all to bring you, the reader, a more pleasant reading experience.

We’ve been publishing this book since 2013 (and you’re still welcome to buy a copy from us for just $9.99), but we’re now making available for FREE in eBook format in the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary!

Just click the link below to download it or read it online!

Toils and Struggles of the Olden Times: The Autobiography of Elder Samuel Rogers

-Bradley S. Cobb

Alexander Campbell’s Commentary on Acts

Back in the mid-1800s, Alexander Campbell received the ire of many religious bodies for having the audacity to produce a new translation of the New Testament (Because, they would say, God Himself inspired the translators of the King James’ Version).  In the first edition, he took most of the translation from various well-respected commentaries (George Campbell [no relation], MacKnight, and Doddridge) and edited it together in one volume.  In the second through fourth editions, he made several changes, seeking to have more uniform translating principles throughout.

It’s really interesting to note the background given above, because some years later, the Baptists organized a translation committee with some other religious groups (including the Disciples) called The American Bible Union.  And they recognized that Campbell was no slouch when it came to knowing the original language–so they chose him to translate Acts of Apostles.

As each book was translated for the A.B.U., it was published and distributed for comment, and it would then be revised prior to its inclusion into the finalized New Testament.

Alexander Campbell’s translation of Acts was published in a large size (8 1/2 x 11), with his commentary included–and was nearly 240 pages long.  This commentary is different from what you would expect.  It included the following features:

  • The King James’ Version text of Acts
  • The Greek original of Acts
  • His “Revised Version” of Acts
  • Translation notes on all three.


Because of the sheer amount of Greek, and the amount of notes (see picture above), we have decided to add this book to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary as published, and not attempt (at this time) to do any updating to to it (as we have with all the other books in the library).  It would just be too overwhelming of a project for now, but we want to get this book out for as many people as possible to enjoy.

Now, pay attention here, because we’re giving you two options:

The higher quality scan, as seen in the image above, is too large for us to upload to our website (115 Meg), so you will have to download it from a special link (no worries).

The second option is black/white, and is 1/10 the size of the other one, and while it is easier to read, it has a LOT of underlining and notes in the margins (This was a scan we made from Jimmie’s personal copy).  Note the picture below is the same page as the picture above, from the other copy.



To download the higher quality version, click the link below:

Alexander Campbell’s Acts of Apostles (HQ)

To download the B/W version (easier to read, other than the underlining and notes), click this link below.

Campbell, Alexander – Acts of the Apostles

The Man Behind “The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery”

Most Restoration Movement enthusiasts and experts rank the “Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery” as perhaps the most important document in the effort to restore New Testament Christianity (or at least the second-most important).  The man who was behind this document is rarely mentioned, though.  His name is Richard McNemar.

Today’s addition to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary (yes, I know this is Monday, but we’re feeling generous, and I’m behind on my apostles notes) is the rest of the story.

McNemar Cover


We first published this book back in 2014, and if you want it in print, we’ll be happy to sell you a copy (just $5.99), but now you can read it for FREE on your computer or electronic device.

I’m sure you want to know something about it, so here’s a bit of information:

From the Preface:

Richard McNemar is an enigma to many students of the Restoration Movement. He shows up as a co-worker with Barton W. Stone, and his name is on one of the most historically significant documents of the Restoration. Yet he is not much more than a footnote in the history books. This primarily stems from his conversion to Shakerism in 1805. However, for those students who want to know more about him, and want to know what happened to him after the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, this book is for you.

This is a sad tale of a preacher who had great potential, but who was caught up in false doctrines.

The author of the book (J.P. MacLean) was a historian of the Shakers (publishing several Shaker-related books), and a Universalist minister from Ohio. Since much of McNemar’s work as a Shaker was in Ohio, it caught MacLean’s attention and influenced him to put together this work, originally published in 1905.

This work on the life of Richard McNemar has undergone several editorial changes in spelling, punctuation, and formatting.  Additionally, several footnotes have been added to explain various words and phrases that aren’t familiar to most readers.   There is also a new section added to the end of the book which gives a very brief overview of the history and beliefs of the Shakers.

We do trust, however, that you will find this work, A Sketch of the Life and Labors of Richard McNemar to be interesting, and that it will help you know “the rest of the story.”


Chapter One: Early Life.
Chapter Two: Charges of Heresy.
Chapter Three: The Kentucky Revival
Chapter Four: Conversion and New Order
Chapter Five: An Account of Labors and Suffering.
Chapter Six: Travels and Special Missions.
Chapter Seven: Literary and Other Industries.
Chapter Eight: Persecution, Expulsion, Triumph, and Death
Appendix: A Brief Overview of the Shakers

Published by Cobb Publishing, 2014.

To read this book or download it for your PDF collection, just click the link below!

Richard McNemar

-Bradley S. Cobb


An interesting Restoration Movement Coincidence(?)

Abner Jones wasn’t the kind of man to toot his own horn, like his co-worker, Elias Smith, was.  True, he wrote his autobiography at the request of friends and co-workers in the kingdom who wanted a first-hand account of his efforts at restoration, but if you read it, he doesn’t make a big show out of himself.

Abner, for the most part, quietly went about his work of preaching and teaching and trying to help plant congregations and build them up.

Meanwhile, the denominational mindset that he hated so much had worked its way into the congregations that he had been laboring for. It started off innocently enough in 1808, with ministers from the New England area decided to get together for a meeting of sharing news and encouragement and fellowship.  Then they met again in 1815, and discussed whether it was scriptural to have a conference like that to discuss matters.  They decided, based on Acts 15, that it was, and so they made it an annual event.  After that, they began to elect officers to preside over the meetings.  Then they started making decisions for the whole group.  In 1824, this group, calling themselves the United States Christian Conference, decided to welcome any church, whether they practiced baptism or not, so long as they weren’t opposed to the practice.

As we saw in a post last week, this stance put them at odds with the Bible, and also with the disciples, Christians with whom Alexander Campbell was associated.  It is interesting that this resolution came at the first meeting after Campbell began writing and arguing heavily about the essentiality and mode of baptism.  Already there had been some congregations who had started uniting with the disciples, due in large part to the Scriptural stance they were taking.

It was in 1832 that Barton W. Stone, as a representative of the Christian Church (Christian Connexion) in the midwest, officially gave the right hand of fellowship to Raccoon John Smith, the representative of the disciples.

The portion of the Christian Church (Connexion) in New England wasn’t as thrilled by this measure, and there were some who wanted official resolutions against the disciples and this union that they did not agree to.  So, later that year, when they came together for the annual meeting of the United States Christian Conference, they  turned to Abner Jones, their elder statesman, to preside over it all.

And then something quite extraordinary happened.  Under Abner Jones’ leadership, a motion was made, seconded, and passed, “dissolving the United States Christian Conference forever.” (Herald of Gospel Liberty, June 16, 1910, pages 758-759).

It seems that Abner Jones knew that this body was primed to act in a very un-Christian way.  It also appears that Jones was ready and willing with work with the disciples as brethren in Christ, endorsing the union of forces.

To the outsider, the dissolution of this body, so soon after the union of the Christian Church (at least the part that followed Barton Stone) and the disciples, might appear to just be a coincidence.  But it wasn’t.

It is no coincidence that the dissolving of this body–the body who had, just eight years earlier, denied that baptism was essential for salvation–came immediately after the union of Stone and Campbell.  It is also no coincidence that it was eliminated as a decision-making body through the leadership of Abner Jones.  It is almost as though it was his way of retracting the horrible decision they made in 1824, and his desire to remove any obstacle to working together with the disciples.

Unfortunately, the elimination of the conference didn’t last long.  The next year, a prominent Christian Church (Connexion) preacher called for a conference, and the whole mess started up again.  On the funny side, they met again in 1834, and there was great confusion, because no one could agree on why they were there.  Some thought there was an official convention (like before), others thought it was just a meeting to discuss the publishing of books by members of the Christian Church.  It was agreed and resolved that the United States Christian Conference had dissolved, and so they must be there because of book publishing. (Herald of Gospel Liberty, June 23, 1910, page 790).

In 1838, Abner Jones presided over the meeting, and made it a point to stress that it was a meeting regarding the “General Book Association.”  Jones died before the next meeting (which was now being held every four years).  It wasn’t long before these meetings once again morphed into a decision-making body over the churches.

But in 1832, a wonderful thing took place; something that might, on the surface, seem like just a coincidence; yet was anything but.

-Bradley S. Cobb

(NOTE: Abner Jones’ autobiography is included in our book, Abner Jones: A Collection.)

The Restoration Movement History that Seems to Get Ignored and Twisted

Read almost any book that gives an overview of the Restoration Movement, and you’ll find the names of Abner Jones and Elias Smith mentioned.  You’ll find Barton W. Stone, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, and Walter Scott.  And the idea that you will get from reading these books is that they all joined into one, big, happy movement.

Well, that’s not actually true.  You see, Abner Jones (in 1801) and Elias Smith (a few years later) started preaching that all creeds and human names should be eliminated in favor of simply the Bible and the name Christian. The group of congregations were known as the Christian Connexion or the Christian Church.

So far, so good, right?

Barton W. Stone started teaching the same thing around that time.  In fact, letters were exchanged between the body of people whom Stone had converted to Christ and those who had been converted by Jones and Smith, with the result being that they united with each other.

Still so far, so good.

When Alexander Campbell came on the scene, he began to plead for the Bible only, and a rejection of human names and creeds and practices.  Walter Scott was very evangelistic in spreading this freedom from denominational slavery to the people.  And then, in 1832, the “Christian Church” that Barton W. Stone had been building up united with the ones calling themselves “disciples.”

Everything’s great, right?

Well, not really. It happens that the folks back in New England (the Christian Connexion, with Abner Jones and Elias Smith) weren’t too thrilled with Mr. Stone’s “defection.”  In fact, years later, their official narrative was that Barton W. Stone never joined with the disciples.  (No joke–in 1919, they even published an official booklet called “Rev. Barton W. Stone: Did He Join the Disciples of Christ?” just to promote their revisionist perspective).

The New England Christians were extremely upset because (1) Alexander Campbell argued for the use of the descriptive name “Disciples” as being “more ancient” and appearing more times in the New Testament to describe followers of Christ than “Christian.”  And (2) most of the “Christian Church” preachers taught that baptism was a good thing to do in obedience to Jesus Christ, but that it wasn’t essential–putting them at odds with the preaching of the disciples (and the Bible).  This second item was not the official stance of the Connexion until 1824, when they gathered for a conference and voted to “receive to conference membership, churches even though they did not observe the ordinance of baptism, provided such churches did not object to having the ordinance observed in the church.” (as reported in the Herald of Gospel Liberty, June 16, 1910, page 758 [page 22 of that issue])

While many of the Christian Churches merged with the disciples (often just going by the name “church of Christ”), there were several, primarily in New England, who did not, and they broke all recognition of Barton W. Stone and the churches he planted–until some years later when they decided to reclaim him as part of their history and claim he was tricked by Campbell and was too meek and humble to ever make an issue out of it.

Even more than 75 years after the unification of Stone and Campbell’s efforts, the “Christian Connexion/Christian Church” (which by this point had set up headquarters in Dayton, Ohio) still remained bitter against the Disciples/church of Christ.  Here’s a letter printed in the Herald of Gospel Liberty, the official paper of the “Christian Church,” from January 13, 1910 (Bold font added by me for emphasis).


The recent articles in the Herald of Gospel Liberty by Bros. Cooper and Whitaker, dealing with the inconsistencies of our Disciple brethren, brought to my mind a few things which I observed while in Pittsburgh during their recent centennial (?) celebration.

In a number of the display windows of the business houses were to be seen portraits of the Campbells and of our own beloved Barton W. Stone. The official banners in evidence everywhere and the badges worn by the delegates bore a trinity of portraits of Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and Sir Walter Scott. In their various convention sessions the names Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, and Christian church were heard simultaneously. The enrollment and assignment headquarters were in a large downtown vacant business room. In the large display window on one side of the entrance thereto, was a conspicuous placard bearing the following inscription: HEADQUARTERS

In the window on the opposite side of the entrance a similar placard bore this inscription:

In the homes and upon the streets the chief topic of conversation was about the great “Christian Church” convention.

While riding upon the rear platform of a crowded street car, I engaged in conversation with a Disciple brother from western Ohio. I enquired as to what was going on, and being willing to impart the desired information, he told me that the centennial convention of the Christian Church was being held in the Carnegie Institute, for which place I was bound. I made inquiry as to the faith of his church and for the distinction between his church and a people of whom I had knowledge, maintaining churches in his part of the state of Ohio and who are also designated by the denominational name of Christian. Whereupon the hobby-riding brother informed me that the people of whom I spoke were really the “New Lights” and “don’t amount to much.” Well, what I said in a brief space of time could only have been taken by an expert stenographer and I fear that I should not care to have it published for it might seem to some to be void of true Christian charity.

Brethren, is it the proper thing for us to humbly suffer these “counterfeits,” these unchristian misrepresentations, this insidious usurpation of our name? It is my conviction that we should have sent a committee, or at least an authorized representative, to Pittsburgh with authority to demand—yes, demand—that one distinctive denominational name be at once assumed by the followers of Alexander Campbell and that that name be some other than the name Christian.

One Disciple minister Informed me that they are not assuming our name; that individually they are “Christians,” but collectively, denominationally, they are “Disciples of Christ.” If this be the true attitude of their church, I move that at the next meeting of the A.C.C. we put on foot some definite movement through congressional legislation, if possible, to legally compel them to take one definite denominational name and that name some other than Christian. And In the meantime, let us create a strong sentiment In our favor by following Dr. Whitaker’s advice—“Expose it”

The truth of the matter is, we have been suffering this imposition too long already. We have become so tolerant in our eagerness to maintain a true spirit of brotherly love that we have failed in our first duty of self-protection.

Now I am sure that the brethren, especially those who know me, will not feel that I have the spirit of an unscrupulous agitator. I have the greatest love and the broadest sympathy for all true followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, but I am for the dear old Christian Church, first, last, and all the time.

W. J. Young.
Conneaut, Ohio.

Through the next several years, the Christian Connexion shrank and merged with the Congregational Church in order to continue its existence.  Then later that new group merged again with another group, and they now are known by the name “United Church of Christ.”  There is an observation to be made about what name they chose and which name they ceased using…

All this to say, while Abner Jones and Elias Smith belong, historically, to the movement to restore Christianity in the United States, and their actions resulted in many people becoming simply Christians, the next generation of their preachers were divided.  Most of them insisted on remaining separate from the “church of Christ” or the “Disciples.”  They rejected baptism’s place in the plan of salvation (Jones and Smith, by contrast, placed great importance on baptism), and as such, became enemies to the cause of restoring New Testament Christianity instead of allies fighting for it.

So, when you pick up that Restoration Movement book, and you read about the followers of Abner and Elias, and how it’s implied that they all joined into one big, happy family, you’ll shake your head.

Because now you know the rest of the story.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Who is A.B. Green?

One of our popular features here at The Cobb Six, that we haven’t done for a while, is “Restoration Moments.”  While this isn’t exactly the same, we thought you would enjoy getting to read about this Restoration Movement preacher, and see a sermon from his pen.

This was originally written in 1885.



Almon Beach Green was born in Litchfield, Conn., January 12, 1808. His parents settled in Canfield, Ohio, in the fall of 1810, and after nine years moved to Norton, Summit County, Ohio. He was baptized by Elder O. Newcomb, December 28, 1828. He preached his first sermon April 5, 1832. In the spring of 1833 he received a letter from the church commending him as a faithful and accepted minister of the gospel; and September 10 of the same year started out to make the preaching of the gospel his life-work. He served as evangelist at large, often at his own charges, two thirds of his time for twenty-nine years, when he moved to Ravenna, and took charge of the church five years. Afterward he served the churches at Warren, Collamer, Bedford, Aurora, and Willoughby, closing his pastoral ministry at the last named place after eight years of faithful and efficient service. He is now, at the age of seventy-seven, on the retired list, residing in Cleveland, near his daughter and only living child, Mrs. R. Moffett.

In 1835 he married Mary Bennett, daughter of Henry Bennett, who shared lovingly with him the burdens and joys of a minister’s life, till March 21, 1869, when she fell asleep in Jesus. This was a severe blow to Mr. Green. Few women were better qualified in heart and hand to be a help-meet for a pioneer minister. Truly can we say, in the language of Solomon: “ Strength and honor were her clothing. She opened her mouth with wisdom, and her tongue was the law of kindness. She looked well to the ways of her household, and ate not the bread of idleness. She laid her hands to the spindle, and stretched out her hand to the poor.” Indeed, but for the faith and courage and diligence of this excellent woman, Mr. Green would many a time have despaired in his work.

In 1871 he married Mrs. Amanda M. Baldwin, widow of the late Henry Baldwin, of Solon, Ohio, who now shares his comfortable home, and ministers as a faithful wife.

  1. B. Green is not what the world calls an educated man. He says he was far more familiar with the howling of wolves and hooting of owls than with schools or school books. His only library when he began to preach was his pocket Bible and “Robbin’s History of all Religions and Ceremonies.” He was, however, a great student of the Bible. He can even now, at his advanced age, quote entire chapters without prompting. It was to him the one sword of the Spirit which could vanquish all opposers of its truth; and many an adversary has felt its keen edge when wielded by his hand. Six times in his ministry he has met successfully the champions of Universalism; five times the champions of sprinkling and infant baptism, and once an apostle of Mormonism. He is preeminently a preacher of the Word. Although unacquainted with classic lore, and untrained even in the things of common grammar, he has so learned the Scriptures, and is so skilled in interpreting Scripture by the Scriptures themselves, that his judgment as to the meaning of any passage may be safely set over against that of the recognized theologian. His style is plain, clear, logical, and full of force. He survives among the last of the grand men to whom the Disciples of Christ owe a lasting debt of gratitude for self-sacrificing devotion to the restoration of primitive Christianity. The sermon here presented is one of the olden time.



By Almon B. Green.

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”—I Corinthians 15:50-51.

The phrase, “The kingdom of God,” is sometimes used for the reign of God by Christ in the hearts and lives of his people in this world. Hence the language, “The kingdom of God is within you.” There was a time when it was said, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” so near that Jesus said, “There are some standing here that shall not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” And so it was that Jesus, the promised King, ascended into heaven, and God, the Father, said to him, “Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool;” then turned and gave command, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” Possessing all power in heaven and in earth, angels and authorities being subject to him, he shall reign until the last enemy man has to encounter, Death, shall be destroyed. “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, and God shall be all in all.” Here we are introduced to the kingdom of God spoken of in the text. In his kingdom among men, he reigns in the hearts and lives of the sanctified in Christ Jesus. In the world to come he will reign over the glorified by Christ Jesus.

When we consider the heart of man, and his condition by sin, his character before God, and his bodily infirmities, we shall not wonder that the transition from this world to that of glory should call for several changes, to fit man for the enjoyment of eternal life in the world to come. There is a wide difference between man as he was, and as he is; but a still wider difference between man as he is, and as he is yet to be, if he ever enters the Paradise of God. Man as he was, knew no guilt, and was a stranger to remorse. In the image of God “he could stand and worship him in all the joy of perfect innocence.” But, oh, how different now! Carnal in his desires, the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life rule him in all his actions here. The language of his heart is, “What is the Almighty that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” It is a sad thought that sin is universal, and that nowhere upon this green earth is a sinless man to be found! An alien from God, in heart, in life, and separated from God by sin, he is without hope, and without God in the world. To prepare man for the life to come, four changes are essential:

  1. A change of heart.
  2. A change of state or relation to God.
  3.  A change of character.
  4. A change of his mortal to an immortal body.

1. A change of Heart.—By this I do not mean an exchange of one heart for another, for the Lord does not propose to annihilate any part of man, and create something else in the place of it; but to purify and cleanse that which is, and so prepare it for his service. The reason why the Lord begins with the heart is seen in the fact that the heart is the fountain of all our thoughts, words, and actions. The tongue, that world of iniquity, is moved by the heart to speak, as out of the abundance of heart the mouth speaketh. The whole history of man proves the language of the prophet true, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” To change the evil heart of unbelief, to a heart of faith, a heart of hatred to a heart of love, is no small undertaking. It is the changing of an enemy to a friend. But how can it be done? It can be done only by proving to that enemy that you are his friend. Gain his confidence; let him see that your goodness should lead him to repentance. If you gain his confidence, you have gained his heart; if you gain his heart, you have gained his love; and like David and Jonathan your hearts are knit together in love. Hence Peter says of the Gentiles, “God purified their hearts by faith.” Again, the Lord says of the sons of Jacob, “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.” Jesus came to give demonstration to the world that God is love, and that he “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish but have everlasting life.”

This gospel of the Son of God has made mighty changes in the world. It is well named the “gospel of peace.” Take Paul, for an example of its power; take the three thousand mocking men on the day of Pentecost, and see them bowing in submission to Jesus as Lord of all. What has changed their hearts but faith in Him whom they had crucified in anger? This change of heart prepared them to change their state, or relative position toward God, which is essential to perfection of character.

2. A Change of State—is more than a change of mind, or of purpose. Man must be made to feel that he is not his, but belongs to another. This change of state, or relation to God, is illustrated by many figures. Jesus says, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me. How differently the ox acts when turned into the field to roam, from his acts when the yoke is put upon his neck? In the one case he acts out his own will, in the other the will of his master. The word “yoke” is therefore evidently used by the Saviour as a symbol of government. The man of the world feels and acts out his own pleasure; but when he places himself under Christ as his teacher, takes His yoke or authority upon him, he feels that he belongs to another, and that his new relation calls for a new life. How to the point the language of Paul, “Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey?”

This change of relation is taught by another figure, to Nicodemus. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he can not enter the kingdom of God.” When Jesus comes claiming our attention as a leader, or teacher, he says take my yoke upon you and learn of me. When as a king, he speaks of his kingdom, he says, you must be born again to enter it. If men are spoken of as aliens from God, then the transaction is spoken of thus: “He hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”

If Jesus is called the vine and his disciples the branches, then the transaction is represented by another figure, “taken from the wild olive tree and grafted into the tame.” If Jesus is called the bridegroom and his church the bride, then we are said to be married to Christ.

These figures all refer, not to a change of heart, but to that which follows it,—a change of state, or of our relation to God. It is well expressed by an apostle of Christ (Gal. 3:26-27), “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This language is too plain to allow of a serious mistake as to the way this change of relation to God is effected. “Born again,” “grafted,” and “married to Christ” are all figures of speech, easily understood by their connection. So also, to “put on Christ,” as you would assume the character of another to act for him. Jesus expressed a deliverance from a state of sin to a saved state thus: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” It will be seen that salvation is not a feeling, not an emotion, but a condition. The Lord saved Israel out of Egypt; that is, he delivered them out of bondage into a state of freedom.

When a man’s heart is by faith purified from the love of sin, and he takes the yoke of Christ upon him to learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart, he feels that he is a new creature; old things have passed away, and all things have become new. He has new desires, new aspirations, a new teacher, new society, new prospects, and a new home among the people of God. He realizes that though in the world, he is not of the world; that though once a child of the wicked one, he is now a child of God and an heir of eternal life. He now seeks not his own will, but the will of Him who has called him out of darkness into His marvelous light. ’Tis now the study of his life to please his Master, and to gain that character before God that will gain the plaudit, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” As a change of heart was essential to lead us to take the yoke of Christ upon us, and thus change our relation to Him, so that change of state was necessary to aid us effectually to change our character before God. While of the world, we loved the character of the world, and studied to please the world. But entering the kingdom of God, we seek to imitate the redeemed and sanctified in Christ Jesus.

3.  A change of Character.—We must not mistake reputation for character. Reputation is what men think and say of us; but character is what we are in the eyes of Him who sees and knows the motives by which we are actuated. Jesus said of the scribes and pharisees, “Ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” But men not only often deceive others, but deceive themselves also. Alas, how many preachers are deceiving themselves, thinking how well they take among the people, and that they have a talent to sway people as they please, and are accomplishing wonders in the world, who in the great day that shall reveal the secrets of all hearts will see themselves in another light. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Then will those egotistical preachers see themselves in their true character. Even Paul was once in great danger of being overcome by this sin, and to save him the Lord gave him a thorn in the flesh, lest he should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations given to him.

“Be not deceived, God is not mocked,” is a caution worthy of being borne in mind by all. The world has to judge from outward appearances, while the Lord looks on the heart. Hence a good reputation among men can not be a safe passport to the judgment bar of God, who sees things as they are. And those self-righteous persons who plead for the letter of the gospel, but are actuated by selfish motives instead of the glory of God, will then see the difference between the letter and the spirit worshipers.

Hence the great question, What is character? The answer is easy, It is what we are before God.

It will be seen then that character is not made by a single act in life, but by our general conduct through life. David, the man after God’s own heart, was guilty of a great sin. But it was from a sudden impulse of the mind, and foreign to the general tenor of his life. His penitence was equal to his sin, and lasting as his life. The best of men have been overcome by temptation; hence the exhortation, “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” Again, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

It is not the number of years we live that makes character, but faithfulness in our calling. “He that endures to the end shall be saved.” Paul beautifully expresses it of himself thus, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

What, then, is the course of life called for to gain that character before God that will be acceptable to Him? “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” The moral man may glory in the thought that he is honest, and seeks to deal justly with his fellow-men; and that he has a heart to feel for, and show mercy to, an offender. But does he walk humbly with God? Does he seek to cooperate with God in saving men from sin and turning them to righteousness? Or does he stand aloof from religion and from all efforts with the people of God to reclaim the world from sin? He lives upon God’s footstool, breathes His air, and lives upon the bounties of His providence, but never gives God thanks for any of his mercies! He proves himself to be unthankful and unholy, and without natural affection. When a favor is conferred on him by another, he thanks him for his kindness, and teaches his children to say, “I thank you,” when a favor is shown them. But he is totally destitute of gratitude to God for his favors. Whatever may be his reputation among men, he must be set down as an alien from God in heart and life, and therefore without hope and without God in the world. The damaging sin of ingratitude rests upon his head, and he must answer for it at the bar of God.

“Who,” then, “shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob” (Ps. 24).

4. The change from Mortality to Immortality.—This great and last change is essential to the perfection of the children of God. “Flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” Our bodies are represented as the tabernacles in which the soul resides in this world. But they are mortal, dying bodies, that we lay aside in death. In them we groan, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. Sin has not only defiled the heart and conscience, but it has brought upon us death and all our woe. “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return,” was the stem decree of heaven when man sinned. The whole man, body, soul, and spirit, is defiled by sin; and the body, without change, would be no more fit for the bliss of heaven, than the unchanged heart and character would be. We need a heart and character and a body suited to the new state of being we enter into.

That state, the apostle Peter informs us, is “incorruptible and undefiled, and fades not away.” It is evident then that we must have new bodies, or else have our old bodies changed, to enjoy that new inheritance, the future home of the saints of God. God purposed to change and purify the old heart, and renovate the old character; and why not change the old body, for the new home? That this is what he purposes is evident from many passages of Scripture. Paul, to the Philippians, says, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” To this agrees the language of the apostle John, who says, “It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Even the Psalmist had a glimpse of it in his day, and said, “I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” The Lord purposes to quicken into life our mortal bodies, and change them from flesh and blood to immortal, spiritual bodies. Here our bodies go to decay, and waste away in rottenness and corruption. But the promise is, “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

We are not justified in allowing philosophy to supplant our faith, by asking, How can God raise the dead and give life to our wasted bodies? From a human stand point this seems impossible. But why should it be thought a thing incredible that God should raise the dead? That the dust of the earth should be fashioned into a man of flesh, blood, and bones, is no less a mystery than that this corruptible body should be changed to incorruptibility. We are not called upon to comprehend, but to believe. Creation is a mystery, but we are compelled to believe the world was made; and it is no dishonor to a man to believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And then, what a comfort to poor, dying man to believe that though he die, yet shall he live again. With a heart full of joy he listens to the language of the apostle as he affirms,

“Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Then, child of God, shout for joy and bury your fears, and sing, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Death, thou mighty conquering foe, Christ has robbed thee of thy sting! Grave, thou mighty vanquisher of mortals, Jesus leads thee captive in everlasting chains since He burst thy bars and triumphed o’er thy power! Then “thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Once we were enemies to God by wicked works, but now by his grace we have been changed in heart to love and revere him; we have been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son, “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”

We have been brought under his discipline and trained in character for a home in heaven. But the flesh weighs us down and our partnership will be dissolved in death; but at last deliverance will come when the angel of the Mighty One shall have blown his last blast into the ear of time,—then shall we come forth equipped for the world of light, where sin and sorrow shall be felt and feared no more. Then God’s finishing touch shall have been given and man stand complete in his sight. Amen and amen.