‘Only let your conversation be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ.’
It is not said that we are always—in every place—to talk of religion; that would not be religious. But we are to talk and act religiously.
I. There is to be a religious tone, an under-current of religious feeling in everything about us; a recognition always of it in our own hearts.
II. Society is a great snare to many persons.—They live simply, and they dress neatly, and they like and prefer simplicity in the ordinary habits of their home life. But partly and professedly from consideration of others, but much more from vanity, their dress, and their mode of entertainment—when they go out or when they receive company—are so far beyond their usual level, and their proper expenditure, that they are actually extravagant.
(a) Are the expenses of your entertainments and your dress in right proportion to your own income? or as becomes the followers of a Lowly Master?
(b) What is the full consequence of a high rate of social life? Bills—I will not say unpaid, but bills of which the payment is deferred far too long—to the real inconvenience and distress and injury of tradesmen, who are yet too slow—from fear of giving offence—to claim and press their due. I speak what I know when I say that among highly professing Christians there is a most ungenerous and unjust delay in the settlement of their common accounts.
(c) Is very much ornament in accordance with the spirit? I will not say of the letter of St. Peter’s rule for all Christian women: ‘Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair,’ etc.
(d) And what shall we say of the ordinary language, the fashionable phrases of social life? Are the modes of address—in our notes and letters—‘I am very sorry!’ when we are not at all sorry; ‘I am very happy!’ when we are not at all happy; and the exaggerated endings, and the foolish compliments! and the fond epithets! the ‘not at home!’ and thousands of expressions framed only to please at almost any sacrifice. Are they innocent because they are conventional? Or are they too near to a lie?
(e) And your amusements—are they means to ends? or are they ends? And if they are ends, are they worthy ends? Can you say conscientiously—in your ordinary amusements—you are always walking as you are told to walk—as you yourself promised to walk—in the footsteps of your Master? Would you like Christ to come now, and find you there?
III. It is a hard thing for any one of us to be consistent, and to ‘walk as it becometh the Gospel of Christ.’ Who can say it—which of us can say it—‘My hands are clean! I am consistent with the Gospel of Christ.’ ‘The Gospel of Christ!’ Thank God that there is a ‘Gospel of Christ’ to cover the very sins which that same ‘Gospel’ condemns!