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    painting of a sunlit thatched cottage

    Sunday and Monday Christians

    In Christ there is no separation between religious and temporal life.

    By Hannah Whitall Smith

    January 14, 2024

    Not long ago I was driving with a Quaker preacher through our beautiful Philadelphia Park, when our conversation turned on the apparent fruitlessness of a great deal of the preaching in the church at the present time. We had spoken, of course, of the foundation cause in the absence of the power of the Holy Ghost, but we still felt that this could not account for it all, as we both of us knew many preachers really baptized with the Spirit, who yet seemed to have no fruit to their ministry. And then I suggested that one reason might be in the fact that so many ministers, when preaching or talking on religious subjects, put on a different tone and manner from the one they ordinarily use, and by this very manner remove religion so far from the range of ordinary life, as to fail of gaining any real hold on the hearts of the men and women whose whole lives are lived on the plane of ordinary and homely pleasures and duties. “Now, for instance,” I said, “if in thy preaching from the Friends’ gallery thee could use the same tone and manner as thy present one, how much more effectual and convincing thy preaching would be.” “Oh, but I could not do that,” was the reply, “because the preacher’s gallery is so much more solemn a place than this.”

    “But why is it more solemn?” I asked. “Is it not the presence of God only that makes the gallery or the pulpit solemn, and have we not the presence of God equally here? Is it not just as solemn to live in our everyday life as it is to preach, and ought we not to do the one to his glory just as much as the other?” And then I added, as the subject seemed to open out before me, “I verily believe a large part of the difficulty lies in the unscriptural and unnatural divorce that has been brought about between our so-called religious life and our so-called temporal life; as if our religion were something apart from ourselves, a sort of outside garment that was to be put on and off according to our circumstances and purposes. On Sundays, for instance, and in church, our purpose is to seek God, and worship and serve him, and therefore on Sundays we bring out our religious life and put it on in a suitably solemn manner, and live it with a strained gravity and decorum which deprives it of half its power. But on Mondays our purpose is to seek our own interests and serve them, and so we bring out our temporal life and put it on with a sense of relief, as from an unnatural bondage, and live it with ease and naturalness, and consequently with far more power.”

    I am very sure that the wide divorce made between things spiritual and things temporal, of which I have spoken, has done more than almost anything else to hinder a realized interior union with God, and to put all religion so outside of the pale of common life as to make it an almost unattainable thing to the ordinary mass of mankind. Moreover it has introduced an unnatural constraint and stiltedness into the experience of Christians that seems to shut them out from much of the free, happy, childlike ease that belongs of right to the children of God.

    If it is Christ working in the Christian who is to lead the prayer-meeting, then, since Christ and the Christian are one, it must be also Christ working in and through the Christian who is to keep the house and make the bargain; and one duty is therefore in the very essence of things as religious as the other. It is the man that makes the action, not the action the man. And as much solemnity and sweetness will thus be brought into our everyday domestic and social affairs as into the so-called religious occasions of life, if we will only “acknowledge God in all our ways,” and do whatever we do, even if it be only eating and drinking, to his glory.

    If our religion is really our life, and not merely something extraneous tacked on to our life, it must necessarily go into everything in which we live; and no act, however human or natural it may be, can be taken out of its control and guidance.

    If God is with us always, then He is just as much with us in our business times and our social times as in our religious times, and one moment is as solemn with His presence as another.

    If it is a fact that in Him we “live and move and have our being,” then it is also a fact, whether we know it or not, that without Him we cannot do anything. And facts are stubborn things, thank God, and do not alter for all our feelings.

    a woman tending a fire in a thatched cottage

    Mathieu Kirsch, The Kitchen, 1830. Alamy Stock Photo.

    A dear young Christian mother and housekeeper came to me once with a sorely grieved heart, because of her engrossing temporal life. “There seems,” she said, “to be nothing spiritual about my life from one week’s end to the other. My large family of little children are so engrossing that day after day passes without my having a single moment for anything but simply attendance on them and on my necessary household duties, and I go to bed night after night sick at heart because I have felt separated from my Lord all day long, and have not been able to do anything for Him.” I assured her that all would be changed if she would only see and acknowledge God in all these homely duties, and would recognize her utter dependence upon Him for the doing of them. Months afterward she told me that from that moment life had become a transformed and glorified thing, with the abiding presence of the Lord, and with the sweetness of continual service to Him…. I feel sure there are thousands of other burdened and weary lives that would be similarly transformed if these truths were but realized and acted on.

    If our religion is really our life, and not merely something extraneous tacked on to our life, it must necessarily go into everything in which we live.

    An old spiritual writer says something to this effect, that in order to become a saint it is not always necessary to change our works, but only to put an interior purpose towards God in them all; that we must begin to do for His glory and in His strength that which before we did for self and in self’s capacity; which means, after all, just what our Lord meant when He said, “Without me ye can do nothing.”

    There is another side of this truth also which is full of comfort, and which the Psalmist develops in the verses I have quoted. “It is vain,” he says, “to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows.” Or, in other words, “What is the use of all this worry and strain? For the work will after all amount to nothing unless God is in it, and if He is in it, what folly to fret or be burdened, since He of course, by the very fact of His presence, assumes the care and responsibility of it all.”

    Let us make a hearty renunciation of all living apart from Christ, and let us begin from this moment to acknowledge Him in all our ways, and do everything, whatsoever we do, as service to Him and for His glory, depending upon Him alone for wisdom, and strength, and sweetness, and patience, and everything else that is necessary for the right accomplishing of all our living.

    It is not so much a change of acts that will be necessary, as a change of motive and of dependence. The house will be kept, or the children cared for, or the business transacted, perhaps, just the same as before as to the outward, but inwardly God will be acknowledged, and depended on, and served; and there will be all the difference between a life lived at ease in the glory of His presence, and a life lived painfully and with effort apart from Him. There will result also from this bringing of God into our affairs a wonderful accession of divine wisdom in the conduct of them, and a far greater quickness and dispatch in their accomplishment, a surprising increase in the fertility of resource, an ease in apprehending the true nature and bearing of things, and an enlargement on every side that will amaze the hitherto cramped and cabined soul….

    Sometimes the child of God asks eagerly and hungrily, “What is the shortest and quickest way by which I can reach the highest degree of union and communion with God, possible to human beings in this life?” By the homely path of everyday duties done thus in God and for God, the sublimest heights are reached. Not as a reward, however, but as an inevitable and natural result, for if we thus abide in Him and refuse to leave Him, where He is there shall we also be, and all that He is will be ours.

    Source: Hannah Whittal Smith, The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life (Christian Witness Company, 1888).

    Contributed By HannahWhitallSmith Hannah Whitall Smith

    Hannah Whitall Smith (1832–1911), was an American Christian reformer and preacher who wrote the bestselling The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.

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