THOSE IN ATTENDANCE INCLUDED:
Malice, Envy, Pride, Greed, Sinful Pleasures, etc.
“Now my good imps, what have you done today to weaken the Church of God?”
“We have been very busy today, making empty seats in church houses,” began one.
“Nothing could please me better,” answered their king.
“I persuaded one man that he had a headache and kept him from a sermon that might have changed his whole life,” said one.
“I induced one good man to slip to his store and fix up his books,” said another.
“Good!” said the king. “He’ll soon give up public worship altogether.”
“I was able to get one pure young man to attend dances, card parties, and questionable movies,” said one imp.
“Hallelujah!” roared Satan. “Work all you can, and stir up sinners to visit Christian people on Sunday and make them think they must stay at home and entertain them. And instead of a plain simple dinner Sunday, make people think they must have something extra, so some of the family will have to stay away from church services and Sunday school. You can work this on the people who think they are very devoted.”
“I made several poor women who were hungry for God’s Word stay at home to repine over trials. I just said to them, ‘Oh, these well-to-do people don’t care for you; you can’t wear fine clothes, so I wouldn’t go where I was looked down upon,’ ” said the imp labeled Pride.
“That is one of the best ways to cheat poor people out of heaven that I know of,” answered the king with approval.
“I induced a good many men and women to believe they were not strong enough to attend church services,” said one called Indifference. Of course, all these folks will be at their business on Monday, even if they feel worse.”
“Very good,” said Satan, with a sulphurous grin, “a Sunday headache is one of the best excuses for absence from church services.”
“I am the weather imp,” said one fellow. “I go around making people believe it is going to rain, or that it is too cold, too damp, or too hot to venture out. It is enough to make even your gloomy majesty laugh to see these same people start out the next day in the worst weather imaginable. One would think it a sin to carry an umbrella and wear rain coats to meeting.”
“You are doing finely, my imps,” his majesty said warmly. “Preachers may work and pray over their sermons all week, but there will be no results in preaching to empty seats. Your plans are excellent, but I might suggest another good point. All preachers have human imperfections-some fault or manner of speech. Get Christians to criticize their pastor, especially before their children. If you can stir up a spirit of fault-finding against the preacher, or among the members, it will help empty seats. If the seats are empty, the minister will preach to no purpose.
“See the result of your labor in the Churches today. Not only did the people who stayed at home lose a blessing, but each empty seat did its work against the Lord’s kingdom. A little imp in each empty seat surely can put the damper on a fervent preacher. He made unusual preparation and went with his heart aglow, but the empty seats chilled him and he did poorly.
“It isn’t a smart preacher, nor a rich congregation, nor a good location, that makes a successful church. It is the church members always being there who draw in the unconverted. As soon as a Christian begins to stay at home for one excuse or another, I know I have a ‘mortgage’ on his soul which if he does not pay off, I will foreclose on the judgment day.
“Now one last word,” said Satan as he was closing the convention, “get the Christians to say something unkind to the preacher-anything true or untrue. Tell him the truth if necessary, that hurts! But say it in an unkind manner so that you get him discouraged. One preacher discouraged is worth a host of laymen discouraged. If you can only work those lines too, it will greatly augment our growing number of empty seats. Tell him he’s long-winded, that he rambled in his talk, you know, anything-but just get him discouraged-that will take the ‘fire’ out of him. Once that’s done it won’t take the ‘fire’ long to go out in the people in the pews. Then it won’t be long before we can close another church and write across its portals, ‘Ichabod’-the glory of the Lord hath departed!”