The Right Principle
George Everard, 1866
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do — do it all for the glory of God!" 1 Corinthians 10:31
The Christian is entitled to very exalted privileges. He is freely, eternally forgiven. He is perfectly justified from all charge of guilt. He stands in the position of a dear child, made near to God by the blood of Christ. He is no more an exile, a stranger — but a citizen of the Heavenly Jerusalem, a partaker in all the rich blessings of the covenant of grace.
This brings with it great responsibilities. It demands a proportionate return. It requires of us, that we should walk worthy of our heavenly calling. If our privileges are far above those of others — then so also must be the standard at which we aim, and the motive by which we are guided. This can be nothing short of aiming in all things to glorify God, and to live entirely to Him.
When the Egyptians obtained from Joseph the food by which themselves and their families were preserved alive, he said to them, "I have bought you and your land for Pharaoh." Jesus, by bestowing upon us His precious blood and the rich benefits which are derived from it, says likewise unto us, "I have bought you and all you possess for God."
The apostle Paul reminds us, that such is the purpose for which we have been redeemed. "You are bought with a price — therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." Let not the child of God be satisfied with any lower motive, than is here set before us. It is well often to set before us the prize of our high calling — it is well to stir up our hearts, by pondering the crying necessities of the world we live in, and with true compassion to assist in meeting them — but there is something far beyond either of these motives. It is to glorify Him who is . . .
our most loving Father.
In every way this principle is the best, as well as the highest, by which we can be actuated. It greatly simplifies our course through life. Take the man who would serve God a little, and yet chiefly consults his own interests — and how often will you find him in a strait as to the course he should follow. Duty points in one direction, self-interest in another — and which is to be obeyed? Which of the two shall yield? There is the fear of conscience troubling him afterwards — and yet such a man has no strength to follow its dictates. Of all things the most painful, a wavering, undecided course, is very frequently the result. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."
The prophet Balaam affords a remarkable example of such a spirit. He was unwilling, positively and directly, to disobey God — and yet he loves the wages of unrighteousness. He would gladly die the death of the righteous, and yet he cannot refuse the golden bait which Balak offers. More than once he yields a forced obedience — when the angel meets him along the way, he declares his readiness to go back; he cannot but open his mouth to bless Israel, though he desired to curse him. What is the outcome of all this? What profit did Balaam reap? A conscience ill at ease — shame and disgrace in Moab — destruction at length among the enemies of Jehovah — such was the reward that he most justly received.
Reader, would you have your way plain and clear before you? Aim at serving God first. "Trust in God — and do the right." This motto will cut the knot of a thousand difficulties, while often the half-Christian is entangled in the net of his own weaving. A determination, at all hazards, to walk by the strait rule of God's commandments, will, in most cases, make everything plain.
It may bring loss or reproach,
it may thwart our own plans,
it may cross our own inclination,
but it will bring peace to the mind, as well as glory to God.
This principle also ennobles life. It is the highest life that can possibly be conceived. It elevates the most ordinary duties, and makes them a service acceptable to God. Even the elect angels can have no higher aim. In this, the youngest lamb in the fold is one with the great Apostle, who proclaimed the Gospel far and wide. The humblest cottager who endeavors in his calling to glorify God, has the very same object before him as the highest archangel before the throne.
It is the motive by which the Son of God was ever guided throughout His earthly pilgrimage. We see Him guided by the same spirit, as the end draws near. A few days before His sufferings, there comes before Him the dark shadow of that heavy cross, which He was so soon to bear. The flesh shrinks, though the spirit is willing. He considers within Himself what petition He shall offer to the Father. "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause," He adds, "I came unto this hour." Then notice how the petition is changed. It is not now, "Father, save me from this hour," but it is, "Father, glorify Your Name."
On the last evening of His life, Christ is comforting His disciples, before He left them, with some of the kindest words He ever spoke, and then, in a sublime prayer, commended them to the care of Him who could safely shield them amidst the perils of the world. In this prayer, he sums up in a few short words, the life which He had lived. "I have glorified You on the earth, I have finished the work which You gave me to do." It is a blessed thing to follow the example of our great Pattern, to tread in the footprints which He has left on earth, and thus to seek above all things to glorify our Father who is in Heaven.
HOW MAY WE BEST CARRY OUT THIS PRINCIPLE IN THE DAILY ROUTINE OF LIFE?
It is well, at the commencement of every day, distinctly to set it before us. When we arise in the morning, let our first thought be upon our Father's love, relying afresh on His pardoning mercy in Christ. But, coupled with this, let us offer the prayer, "Father, glorify Yourself in me this day!" Do not desire merely to get through the day with as much comfort and ease to yourself as possible — but in its varied duties and occupations, aim so to perform them as to please God. It matters not what the work may be. It may be the merest drudgery. It may be connected with matters of great importance. Be assured that it is the singleness of eye in the doing of it, which God regards.
It has been said that if two angels were sent from Heaven, one to sweep the streets, and the other to rule a kingdom — they would be equally satisfied in obeying the command. No doubt there is truth in this. Let us cultivate the same spirit. Let us regard each day that is granted to us, as affording us fresh openings for service.
Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say;
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Your sole glory may unite.
In all our plans, in all arrangements for the future, let this object stand foremost. You may be undertaking some important business, or entering upon a new pursuit, or changing your home, or your condition in life, or setting out on a long journey, or taking a fresh employment — and you cannot the least foresee what may be the outcome. The change may seem to you as one likely to advance your interests, or minister to your comfort — but little can you positively know with respect to it. It may turn out very differently to what now you expect. New trials and difficulties may arise, which have never occurred to you. The only safe way is to bring the matter before God. Desire in it to please Him rather than yourself. Go or stay, follow out the scheme or not, according as His Word, and Providence seem to direct — and as will be most for His glory. You have then ground for confidence. You may look for a favorable result.
A courtier once desired permission of his king to go and look after his private affairs. "Look after my affairs," was the reply, "and I will look after yours." God deals with us in the same way. If we are faithful to Him, He will not be slack in providing the very best for us. It is written, "Those who honor Me, I will honor."
Fear Him, you saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear.
Make His service your delight,
He'll make your needs His care!
Do not lose sight of this motive, either in the smallest or the greatest matters. Very broad is the precept laid down for our guidance. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do — do it all for the glory of God!" The occasion which called forth these words, was a dispute that had arisen in the Church of Corinth. It was questioned, whether it were lawful to eat meat which had been offered in sacrifice to idols. Some regarded the matter in one light, and some in another — and it is referred to the judgment of Paul. He declares that an idol is nothing in the world. All things are the Lord's property. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." It cannot, therefore, be wrong to partake of that which God has granted for our use. Yet wisdom was needful. It was lawful, but it might not be beneficial. It might prove a stumbling-block to a weak brother. If it were to be so, let them rather abstain from partaking of such meat as was sacrificed to idols. Above all, the Apostle would say, "Let your eye be single, let your aim be to bring honor to God." "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do — do it all for the glory of God!"
The circumstances which led to this discussion, have long since passed away; but the principle here laid down is forever. Eating and drinking are common every day matters. They come to us as a matter of course, and yet even in these, the right principle is to come in. We are to exercise moderation. We are to receive with true thankfulness the bounties by which we are daily sustained. Thanking God before meals should not be a mere form. The strength given to us in the use of these gifts, is to be employed for God.
It is to be the same in all other common actions and every day affairs. "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." No single moment of our lives, no single action — ought to be taken outside of the sphere of this rule.
Our rising up and lying down,
the disposal of our time,
the spending of our money,
our social gatherings,
the way of conducting the affairs of our household,
the books we read,
the letters we write,
buying and selling,
business transactions of various kinds —
all these, and a multitude of other suchlike matters, are all to be ordered under the daily guidance of the same principle.
Reader, beware of neglecting to exercise this Christian principle in little things. Great occasions for serving God occur but seldom; lesser ones arise every moment. Little things are not to be despised. "He who despises little things, shall fall little by little." Little omissions of duty, little acts of disobedience, as they may seem to us — may prove a great hindrance along our path. A few grains of dust, or a small insect in the eye, will often cause great pain and annoyance. A little stone in a horse's foot will make it stumble again and again.
The Christian will find much the same thing from the indulgence of apparently trivial sins. They will . . . .
harass the mind,
destroy the peace and comfort which he might enjoy,
prove a stumbling-block to him as he endeavors to run the heavenly race.
In greater matters, also, the same principle is to be our guide. Though to follow it may bring great temporal loss, though it may oblige us to relinquish that which seems essential to us — yet we must not hold back.
Abraham followed it when, at God's command, he first left his country, and afterwards shrank not from offering up his beloved Isaac.
The three Jewish young men followed it, when they chose, in preference to bowing down to the idol, to endure the burning fiery furnace.
The same rule is to guide us, in seasons both of prosperity and adversity. When the sun shines overhead, when the path before looks bright and cheerful, when nothing seems for the time to threaten our comfort — let us be careful how we walk. We need to stand on our watch. We must rejoice with trembling. We must employ His gifts as talents, for which an account must be rendered. We must cherish a thankful spirit, and delight more in the Giver than in the gift.
In all Your mercies may our souls
A Father's bounty see;
Nor let the gifts Your hand bestows,
Estrange our hearts from Thee.
Then when a change comes, when dark clouds lower over us, when approaching trials weigh heavy on the spirit — we must not murmur. We must kiss the rod that smites us. We must cheerfully accept the chastening which our Father sends. "Glorify the Lord in the fires." Never, perhaps, is God more glorified on earth, than when some child of suffering or sorrow is patiently and joyfully taking up daily his appointed cross, and in quiet submission yielding up his own will to that of the Father.
We must carefully watch over the spirit in which all religious actions and services are performed. It is perfectly possible to bring religion into the common every-day concerns of life. It is equally possible, and much more frequent, to bring a secular spirit into religious duties. What is more painfully apparent, than that many who minister in holy things, enter upon their work as they would upon that of any other calling? Preparing and preaching sermons — visiting the sick — administering the holy ordinances, without any solemn sense of the presence of Christ or the value of souls; offering to others the water of life — and yet never stopping to drink at the fountain themselves; calling upon their hearers to taste of the good things provided in the Gospel feast — and yet themselves being obliged inwardly to cry, in the Prophet's language, "My leanness, my leanness!" through lack of a personal appropriation of them; reading or uttering prayers, which never arise from the depth of their own hearts, or return in blessings to their own souls — all this is seen and felt every day.
What is more common, again, than to see the most lamentable ungodliness among those, to whom are entrusted the accessories of Divine worship? Who has not known deacons, singers, ushers, and the like, setting an example of at least utter indifference to all spiritual religion? What is more common than unconverted Sunday-school teachers, who hear lessons and teach Scripture, and profess to feed the lambs of the flock — and yet have never begun by loving the Master? Are there not tens of thousands who, month after month, partake of the memorials of Christ's death, and yet feed not upon the bread of life? Are there not multitudes every Sunday who appear in the sanctuary, and yet their hearts are wandering to the ends of the earth? Are there not very many who, morning and evening, bend the knee at the family altar, or even in secret offer a form of prayer, and yet never once sincerely prays from the heart.
Beware of a mere outward formalism in religion, as its most deadly bane. It is like the parasite, which clings to a tree so closely that it destroys its vitality. Endeavor to throw life and reality, into every part of religious worship. "God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." Pray incessantly for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Spirit to quicken you. In every prayer which you offer, in every service in which you take part, in every word you speak for Christ — be genuine, be real; let it be as before God. Mingling with it all, let the fervent cry of the heart be the prayer taught us by Christ, "Hallowed be Your name."
In seeking the glory of God, we must not forget to labor for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. In no other way is the name of God more glorified, than when the kingdom of His dear Son is being extended. When, in our own land, souls are brought from darkness to light; when, in answer to prayer, and as the reward of faithful labor — worldly men become men of God, kinsmen in the flesh become kinsmen in Christ, the thoughtless child becomes a lamb within the fold of Christ — then is God glorified in His Church.
When, again, fresh laborers are thrust forth into the harvest-field abroad; when the word of truth is proclaimed in the ears of willing and obedient hearers; when worshipers of blind idols become spiritual worshipers of the living God; when congregations are gathered together for prayer and praise — then is being hastened forward the fulfillment of the promise, "From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, My name shall be great among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty." It is an object worthy of untiring effort to be "God's workers" in the salvation of precious souls. It is a far better one than that of personal ambition or aggrandizement.
In the same year two young men went up to the great metropolis. Each had a fixed purpose in his mind, and the desire of each was accomplished, but great was the contrast between them. One said in his heart, "I will get rich," and so he did. His wealth could be estimated by millions, yet so wretched was he in his latter days, that he constantly feared a pauper's end.
The other young man said in his heart, "I will do something for the London poor." He did do much for them: and the name of Nasmith will ever he had in honor as the founder of the London City Mission — a Society which has been the instrument of untold good in the great city. Who would not choose thus to be honored by God, rather than to amass any amount of this world's treasures?
Let us only cherish prayerfully the same desire, and it cannot be in vain. Let the constant breathing of our souls be that of David Brainerd, "Oh that I were a flame of fire in the service of my God!"
Christian reader, be not afraid because the standard set before you is a high one. Your salvation is not dependent upon the measure which you are enabled to attain, if only you truly desire it and honestly strive after it. It is true you fall very far short — yet are you complete in Christ, freely saved through His merits and not your own. Rejoice evermore in Him. At the same time press forward to the things which are before. The Holy Spirit can raise you far above anything you may yet have reached. Plead earnestly for this, and it will be given to you.