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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      There are the internal and external evidences of the Christian religion; and there are the internal and external evidences of Christian character. By the internal evidences of Christian character, we [84] mean the evidences which every individual Christian has that he is born of God--that he is a Christian in deed and in fact. By the external evidences of Christian character, we mean those fruits of the Christian faith which distinguish the "Israelite indeed" from one of the nominal Israel of God, in the judgment of all competent and impartial witnesses. But we now speak of the internal evidences of Christian character; and who is the best author on this subject? We answer, John the Apostle. "Christian experience" is best examined in the light of this luminous author on the internal evidences. Of these the following are chief:

Personal Internal Evidences of Christian Character.

      1. We know that we have passed away from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not his brethren abides in death. On this evidence a question arises--viz.: How do we know that we love the brethren? The same author settles this question. "By this we knew that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep his commandments" (chap. v. 2).

      2. "By this we know that we have known God, if we keep his commandments:" and "Whosoever keeps his word, truly in this man the love of God is perfected." By this we know that we are in him. "Now he who keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in him; and by this we know that he abides in us, even by the Spirit which he has given to us."

      These two witnesses in us are sufficient. Love to the brethren is distinguished from natural affection and common benevolence by the most unequivocal criteria. It is a love active and operative by the Lord Messiah's sake, terminating upon a person because he is Christ's. The keeping of all the commandments, or that spirit of universal obedience, exciting and stirring up a person to do all that the Lord commands, because he commands it, is as distinct from the lashings of conscience and that servile attention to orders, from a sense of duty, as the affectionate regard of a child to its parents is distinguishable from the unwilling and partial obedience of a slave.

      These two witnesses are more credible and responsible than the longest experience ever told, which substitutes any thing else as evidence of Christian character, than what is found written in their testimony by the beloved Apostle.

External Evidences of Christian Character.

      1. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."--Jesus.

      2. "If you know that the Lord is righteous, you know that every one who works righteousness has been begotten by him" (I. John ii. 29). [85]

Internal Evidences that a Person is a Child of the Devil.

      1. "Whosoever hates his brother, is a murderer; and, like Cain, is of the wicked one. And no one that hates his brother has eternal life abiding in him" (I. John iii. 12, 15).

      2. He that works sin is of the devil" (I. John iii. 8).

External Evidences that a Person is a Child of the Devil.

      "In this the children of the devil are manifest: whosoever works not righteousness is not of God; neither he who loves not his brother" (I. John iii. 10).

Infallible Evidences of Self-Deception.

      1. "If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie" (I. John i. 6).

      2. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I. John i. 8).

      3. "If a man say, I know him, and keep not his commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (John ii. 4).

      4. "He that says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even till now" (ii. 9).

      5. "If a man say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar" (iv. 20).

      Such are the personal evidences laid down by the infallible pen of the distinguished Apostle of Christ. He who is inquisitive to ascertain whether his heart and life be right in the sight of the Sovereign Judge of all, or whether he be a child of God or of the devil--a hypocrite or self-deceived, needs no other treatise than the catholic epistle of John.

      The question of personal interest in the salvation of God is incomparably the most interesting of all questions. Were a person master of the eloquence of men and angels--could he, in the lofty strains of David and Isaiah, in the glowing and seraphic strains of heaven-taught Prophets, set forth the glory and excellency of the salvation of God--could he describe, with supernatural power and beauty, all the glories which the new heavens and the new earth will unfold--the eternity of bliss, the exceeding and eternal weight of glory which awaits all the righteous--what is it to you or me, candid reader, it we can not feel that we have a personal interest in it--if we can not be assured that our individual selves will be partakers of the glory to be revealed? Let us, then, give all heed to make our calling and election certain.



      This is such a common-sense sort of question, that every one expects to hear it who professes any thing different from others. If a person proposes to himself any object superior to those objects [86] which the many propose to themselves, he can not think of accomplishing it unless by doing more than others. Does a student desire to excel his companions in science? He must read more, think more, labor more than they. Does any one propose to himself more learning, more wealth, more fame, more honor than fall to the lot of the many? and will he not feel and think that he must make greater exertions than others, and use means correspondent to the end proposed? This is common sense.

      In religion is it otherwise? Does a person profess religion? Then all the world expect a difference, not only from himself in days that are past, but from all who do not profess religion. But in no department in society is this expectation more correctly founded, more general, than in reference to those who profess to be reformers in religion. Envy and jealousy, and the zeal of those who feel themselves rivalled in such attempts, will lead them to exclaim, "In what do these reformers excel? Excellence, they say, they profess; but in what, and how far?"

      But we professors of reformation were not induced to this course because others will goad us with the question, "Wherein do you excel?" but because we saw that personal, family and social reformation were indispensable, and have set out in this great and holy enterprise.

      Brethren, we must excel--we must do more than others. A Christian is one of rare excellence. He is one that greatly excels all other men. His model casts a shade over all the excellence of the heathen world. As the stars become invisible when the sun lifts his glowing face above the horizon, so all the excellence of the Pagan world is unworthy of admiration in the presence of the Sun of righteousness. More, then, much more, will be expected from us Christians, than from those who never had before them a model of perfect excellence.

      But in reference to our fellows in this age of apostacy, there are various points in which we must excel, else we shall fall short of our high standard of religion and morality. Our standard is the Bible. Theirs is the Bible as explained and set forth at Rome, at Westminster, at Geneva, or at Cambridge--that is, the Bible lowered down in its tone of religion and morality to suit courts and worldly sanctuaries. Everybody who can think correctly, must know that a perfect sectary is a very imperfect Christian. We want much more than the liturgy or the books of discipline framed by the sons of hierarchies, to bring us up to the Christian standard--the Bible alone.

      Brethren of the Reformation, we want more knowledge of the Scriptures, more faith, more zeal, more liberality, a higher and a purer morality, more disconformity to this vain and foolish world--we want the devotedness to God which distinguished the first Christians. To these points we intend to call your attention in the present. [87] volume. We shall be explicit--we shall speak out. The Lord's cause demands it. It is not a reformation in theory, in name, in profession, but in reality, for which we contend. We shall lose our labor if we fail in the end proposed.

      In the first place, then, (and we can only now suggest it,) every reformer must read, and study, and even commit the Scriptures to memory, more than other professors--more than he has done formerly. He must have the word of Christ dwelling in his heart--he must be able to bring out of his treasury things new and old.

      There is nothing more distressing to an intelligent and benevolent mind, than the prevailing ignorance of the Living Oracles. Fathers, mothers, and children are, in innumerable instances, almost alike ignorant of the Word of Life. In travelling a hundred miles one can not find, sometimes, a single family that altogether can repeat a single epistle or two chapters of Old Testament or New. We repeat it, this must not be so amongst the disciples. We must either renounce our profession or reform. Every Christian family ought to be a nursery for Christ. Moses and all the Prophets, as well as all the Apostles, concur in admonishing us in this affair.

      We may, in our next number, submit to our readers a plan of improvement in this business. The reformation we plead calls for more knowledge of God's word and will--of his precepts and his promises; for more prayer--more abstraction from the world--more devotion to God--more purity, and more consecration of ourselves to the Lord, than appear in any sect in Christendom. On these we must be--we shall be, most explicit.

[A. C.]      
Vol. 1834, pp. 47, 48.      

      1. Alexander Campbell. "Personal Evidences." The Millennial Harbinger 4 (April 1833): 161-162.
      2. ----------. "'Wherein Do You Excel?'" The Millennial Harbinger 5 (February 1834): 47-48.


[MHA2 84-88]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)