Wise and Unwise Testimony for Christ by J R Miller
All the passages below are taken from J R Miller, “Intimate Letters on Personal Problems.”
I know that the work which you are doing, especially in the class of college of which you speak, is hard and discouraging. The pressure of work is so great, that the girls are quite apt to decide that they have no time for religious or devotional meetings of any kind, scarcely even time to read the Bible and pray. This is unfortunate. Indeed, it is not true that they are so driven. Luther used to say, “I have so much to do — that I cannot get along with less than three hours a day praying.” The more he had to do — the more he needed to pray, for with him, to pray was to work. However, this is not the attitude in which most college girls approach the subject. They look at it from a different point of view, and too often it is quite easy for them to set it entirely aside.
I want to talk to you about a matter which I am quite sure you have noticed yourself in these colleges. I am not certain that there is any way to remedy it — but, at the same time, it is important that workers like yourself should have a full conception of it and should give it careful consideration. It so happens that many of the girls in these colleges who seem to represent the best Christian elements, are not themselves such girls as can influence others. Often they are not the best in their standing in the class. Then, frankly, they do not seem to have a fortunate way of expressing their Christian life. It partakes too much of the goody-goody style. It is not strong, vigorous, nor very wholesome Christianity. Sometimes they are rather morbid girls. Then, in their contact with the others, especially in their efforts to do them good — they lack tact. The same thing is observable everywhere. Some of the most earnest Christians in churches are often those whose influence over others is not very strong.
I have thought that possibly you might be able to do something in this direction, by talking freely to the Christians in the different classes, on the necessity of wisdom in the expression of their Christian life, and in their efforts to do others good. Religion ought to be the most natural thing in the world. It should always be approached in a natural way, so as not to give to the efforts of good people the semblance of impertinence.
Some years ago I was in California and strolled into the Y.M.C.A. rooms one day. A young man, seeing me there as a stranger, approached me and began to “talk religion” to me. I was quite anxious to find out his method, and was noncommittal at first in my answers and developed in him some of the very worst phases of that professional talk which is too common, even among good people. It is nothing more than miserable religious rhetoric, and, if I had not been a Christian man, with a large amount of patience gathered for the occasion, I would certainly have felt that he was exceedingly impertinent, talking to me in a way in which he had no right to talk, and saying things of which he had the smallest possible knowledge himself.
I think you will appreciate my motive in writing of this to you, as I have done, so frankly. I have been trying, as far as I possibly could, to help the Christian students, as I have met them, from time to time, to learn the lesson that they must be simple, sincere and natural, not only in their Christian life — but especially in their conversations on religious subjects. As a rule, Christian students had better not do very much talking about religion to those who are not Christians. The better way for them, is to live out their religion in their contact with these girls, to pray much for them and to learn to love them deeply and truly — but not to speak to them personally until the appropriate time comes for it. I have known Christians who, by their beautiful and holy life, have won the confidence and the affection of unbelievers, and have also won their respect for the Christian religion. The time has come, by and by, when they could speak to them and when every word they spoke was golden, because of the place they had won in the hearts of these girls by their sweet, beautiful and sincere Christian life and character.