George Everard, 1871
"Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven!" Matthew 5:16
Home work stands only second to heart work. The true Christian must shine in the household where God has placed him. He is compared to a candle, and the nearer you come to a candle the more you see its light. It ought to be so with each of you, my young sisters. But alas! does not conscience whisper that it has been too often the very reverse? I have known young women at the Bible Class, who could give the best answers, and who could write letters full of religion — and yet their profession was as hollow as a drum. They could not live a week in a family without wasteful extravagance, yes more, they practiced deceit and dishonesty, and thus gave the plainest proofs that they had not as yet the guiding principle of the fear of God. But I hope better things of you. I trust you may be desiring to walk circumspectly, and to do God's will in everything. If this be so, I am sure you will value a few friendly hints as to your home duties.
Make it a great aim and principle with you, that you home life is to be a daily sermon on the reality and happiness of the gospel. Perhaps you think that only Christ's Ministers have to preach sermons. You are greatly mistaken. Whether you know it or not, you are in the pulpit every day. You are always preaching sermons to aid the cause of Christ — or to hinder it. Every word you speak, and every action you do, is a sermon which many listen to. Sometimes you are telling those around you in this way, that religion is only an empty form to be used on Sunday. Sometimes you tell them that you prefer the sinful indulgences which Satan offers, to all the wine and milk and heavenly provisions of the Gospel feast. Or it may be the other way. You may be preaching better sermons in your daily life, than even our best and wisest preachers can in the pulpit. Your life may tell more — it may have a more lasting effect on men's hearts and consciences — than any spoken address can possibly have. If it is so, blessed forever are you! Your glory shall be brighter and more manifest one day than that of the most successful preachers who may have lacked the grace to live as they preached.
To vary the illustration, I would compare your life, not to a sermon, but to the sound of the church bell — and I want there to be a clear ring about it! I want it to be distinct and plain, that everyone may know what you are. I shall never forget one Sunday morning. Our church bell sounded so strangely — I listened, and listened, and such a wretched, dull, sound I never heard — the bell was cracked! But we sent it to the founder. He recast it, and mingled some new metal with the old so as to make it quite like a new bell, and then it was replaced in the tower, and it was quite a pleasure to hear it give out a sharp, clear sound, that could be heard for two or three miles around.
I want your life to be like this. I know that first there must needs be the work of the great Founder! The Lord must put you into His mold, renew you by His Word and Spirit, and make you a new creature in Christ Jesus. But then your life, especially in your own home, must bear witness that this has been a reality. Your life must give no uncertain sound, but give forth by God's grace the clear ring of truth, love, and godliness.
To carry this out let me say, take care, in the least things as in the greatest, to act as in God's sight. Remember there is an eye always upon you. It is the eye of One who loves you, and who delights in seeing you strive to please Him. It matters not what position you may be in. The youngest believing servant in the house is as dear to God as anyone else.
It is very instructive to read what the Apostle Paul writes on home duties. He writes to husbands and wives, to parents and children, to masters and servants, and he gives them all the same motive for acting rightly — they are all alike to keep Christ before them. He dwells especially on this with reference to servants. These servants were slaves — yet they were Christ's freemen; and the service they did for Him He would accept and reward. They should receive double wages: they should have the comfort of knowing that He accepted them now, and then they should have the reward of the inheritance hereafter.
If you believe that Jesus is always near, and will accept all your desires to please Him — let this motive influence you in everything. Be thoroughly trustworthy in word and deed: hate a lie, or the very least deceit, more than any rebuke, or any discomfort that might come to you through telling the plain truth. If you have done wrong, or have had an accident, or have been late in something required of you — do not gloss it over by laying the blame on someone else. It seems rather a strange thing to say, but I fear the cat has far more laid to her charge than she is guilty of! I have read of the cat in a few weeks charged with breaking I know not how many plates and dishes, devouring I know not how many good things, for which usually she has no appetite! Nay, my sister, bear with me: have the courage to speak the truth, and say, "I did it — I am sorry for it, and will do so no more."
If you speak the truth always, I need not add be thoroughly honest: never steal either the goods or the character of a master, a mistress, a fellow-servant, or of any one connected with you. If you take but a little tea that does not belong to you, whatever you call yourself, God calls you a Thief! Let those about you be able fully to rely upon your fidelity. Whether it be money, or food, or household property of any kind, or articles of dress, let them be able to feel that these things are as safe in your hands as in their own. I have at times left my purse by mistake on my dressing-table, having in it both gold and silver; and yet I have not felt the least uneasiness when I remembered it, as I knew the one who went to the room would rob herself as soon as me.
And be sure that to know you are trusted brings as much comfort to yourself, as it is a comfort to another to know that they can trust you. It brings a double pleasure and a double profit — and this is as important with respect to the character as the property of those you live with.
It is a very great sin and wrong you do, when you blacken or misrepresent the character of another. I have known a servant who would speak very smoothly to a mistress, and would speak of sermons and the like; and yet would tell lies about the family, to almost every one who came to the door. I suppose scarcely any reader would act in this way. But take heed what you say: don't make much of small matters, don't look at everything in the worst light, don't exaggerate.
If you meet a fellow-servant, could you not find out a few faults of your own to tell her — instead of speaking about those of your mistress?
I am very sure that slander and tittle-tattle brings great guilt to the door of many a young woman. Will you not watch against this evil? Speak kindly, speak hopefully, speak charitably of all around you. Throw a garment of forgiveness and charity over their faults, and be ready to see in them, whatever there may be that is kind and good.
I would give you another word of advice. Remember that minutes are gold dust, and one of them is too precious to lose. Be a great miser as to your time — you cannot be too careful in hoarding it. When you are at work, do it with a will. Never dawdle over what you have to do, stopping to look out at the window for two or three minutes, or taking up a book or a picture, or something of this kind, and then getting behind-hand, perhaps for half a day afterwards.
And remember how precious is the time of others: when you keep them waiting beyond the right time, for a room being ready, for breakfast or dinner or the like — you know not the loss you are causing them. Very possibly the loss of a quarter of an hour may be to them, sometime or other, the loss of money, yes, or even the loss of health or life itself. It may hinder them from keeping an appointment, or writing a letter, or speaking to someone; and this may bring incalculable injury.
Therefore be punctual in everything. If any meal is to be at such a time, let it be on the table before five minutes of the time appointed; if you promise to be home at nine o'clock, let the mistress know you so well, that before the clock strikes she can depend upon it you will be inside the door. These seem small matters, but they are very great ones in reality — they make all the difference between a good servant and a bad one. Many a truthful and honest girl has lost a good place, because in these things she could never learn to be punctual.
One word more. Strive to be a sunbeam — be bright and cheerful — take patiently contrary words. Very likely one person in the house has a very awkward temper: well, you can't help this, it is not your fault — therefore bear with it. Take everything by the smooth handle: curb your own temper and tongue, either speak softly or be silent. The Germans may be brave soldiers — they have taken Paris: but you may win a greater renown. He who is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit, than he who takes a city!