The Romance of the Christian Life
One sometimes meets Christians who use scriptural words and thoughts with no more feeling than if they were licking postage stamps. They seem to belong to a religious world whose citizens live always north of the Arctic circle in their emotions-- their spiritual affections are buried beneath yards of ice and snow. When they venture to talk about the things of God, they use good words and express sound ideas, but they are evidently in complete control of their own emotions always.
In such company, the doctrines of God's Word have the fascination of an ice-crystal or a snow-flake. The truths of Scripture look beautiful, but feel icy cold. One senses that it would be an impertinence to breathe a sigh in their presence or to utter a stifled sob. And to shed a tear would be unpardonable.
No doubt, emotion can be overdone in religion, as in all else. Not everything we say on biblical subjects needs to be said in a gush of tears or punctuated with an 'amen'. We remember hearing of a preacher whose every sentence was virtually greeted by an 'amen' from someone in the gallery. It was perhaps tolerable, but the voice then gave itself away at one point by shouting 'amen' when the number of the next hymn was announced. The zeal was artificial, scarcely more significant than a twitch of the face or a nervous habit of coughing.
For false emotions of this kind, we make no appeal here. But we are putting in a plea for more expressions of genuine emotion both in the pulpit and out of it. Dare one venture to say that it is scriptural and sound for a Christian to give vent at times to profound religious feeling? Human natures is amazingly capable of great feeling and no subjects under the sun should rouse us to deep feelings like the subjects of the being and attributes of God, the person and work of Christ, the judgment to come and life everlasting. To think and speak of these in a matter-of-fact way is to reveal a slackness of spirit and smallness of soul. All subjects of divinity oblige us to be in awe and reverence by the very majesty of their content.
To our mind, the evidence is compelling. Emotion is a proper part of the Christian's life. It is not to be stifled or supressed, but rather educated. We are not to teach ourselves how to supress our feelings, but how to express them unto edification, both our own and others. The Christian would do well to make it a habit never, if possible, to speak or think of God without deep reverence and affection. At least, he should refer to God feelingly when his circumstances permit him to do so. He should set aside time regularly to meditate on the truths most fitted to excite and enthral his soul. What moves one man may not move another.
It is good for the soul to develop the habit of expecting to feel great emotions from time to time in the use of the means of grace. The habit we refer to is to expect that God will periodically fill our hearts with wonderful melting and heavenly comfort. We believe that those who do not expect such experiences are not likely to have them. But this is much to their loss. Christ is able to fill the heart to overflowing by his felt presence and grace. The great saints of the past have had frequent experience of such gracious visitations and we are to seek to grow up into Christ as they did until we have similar spiritual experiences.
There is no doubt that the romance has gone out of the Christian life for too many believers. We have forgotten for too long that every doctrine of Scripture should have its corresponding echo in the soul: 'The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life' (Jn. 6:63). A large part of the Christian's joy and comfort is to 'feel' the force of these truths and to become familiar with them till they fill his heart with heavenly music.
When doctrines are preached with feeling, warmth and passion, they will be felt in the congregation, not by all, but by those who have a soul which thirsts after God. Those who blow the gospel trumpet have the highest privilege on earth. It would be good to see congregations everywhere thrilled and excited by the Word of God. Such emotion is sanctifying and exhilarating. it is also infectious.
- Maurice Roberts