The Building of
J. R. Miller, 1894, Philadelphia
The Responsibility of Greatness
No doubt it is natural to desire easy ways in
life. None of us love hardness for its own sake. We all like to have good
things come to us as favors, as gifts, without toil or sacrifice or cost.
But not thus, ordinarily, do life's best things come to us. Nor would
they be best things, if we received them in this way. The gold of life—we
must dig out of the rocks with our own hands—in order to make it our own.
The larger blessing, we find not in the possessing—but in the getting. This
is the secret which lies at the heart of our Lord's beatitude, "It is more
blessed to give than to receive." He did not say it is more
pleasant to give than to receive, or more easy to human
nature—but more blessed.
It is related in an ancient Bible record, that the tribe
of Joseph came once to Joshua with a complaint concerning their allotment in
the promised land. They said, "Why have you given me but one lot and one
part for an inheritance, seeing I am great people?" Joshua's answer was, "If
you are a great people, go up to the forest, and cut down a place for
yourself there." The incident is full of suggestion. It gives us an example
of a premise with two different conclusions. The people said, "We are a
great tribe; therefore give us a larger portion." Joshua said, "Yes,
you are a great people; therefore, clear the forests from the mountains,
drive out the enemy, and take possession." To his mind, their greatness
was a reason why they should take care of themselves, and win their own
One teaching from this incident, is that it is not the
bravest and most wholesome thing to be eager for favors and for help from
others. These people wished to be recognized as the most important tribe—but
they wanted this prominence and wealth bestowed upon them without
exertion of their own. There are men of this class in every community. They
want to rise in the world—but they would rise on the exertions and
sacrifices of others—not their own. They want larger farms—but they would
have some other hand than their own, clear away the forests and cultivate
We find the same in spiritual life. There are
those who sigh for holiness and beauty of character—but they are not willing
to pay the price. They sing, "Give me more holiness," and dream of some
lofty spiritual attainment, some transfiguration—but they are not willing to
endure the toils, to fight the battles, and to make the self-sacrifices
necessary to win these heavenly heights. They would make praying—a
substitute for effort, for struggle, for the crucifying of self. They want a
larger spiritual inheritance—but they have no thought of taking it in uncut
forests which their own hands must cut down.
The truth is, however, that God gives us our inheritance
just as he gave Joseph's lot to him. Our promised land has to be won—every
inch of it. And each must win his own personal portion. No one can win the
inheritance for any other. You must conquer your own temptations—your
dearest friend by your side cannot overcome them for you. You must train and
discipline your own faith. You must cultivate your own heart-life. You must
learn patience, gentleness, and all the lessons of love for yourself. No one
can give you any Christian grace as one gives a present to another.
There is a deep truth in that touch in the parable, when
the wise virgins refused to give of their oil to those whose lamps were
going out. Perhaps you have thought it ungenerous in them, when you heard
them say, "Go to those who sell, and buy for yourselves. We have not enough
for us and you." But the teaching is that grace is not transferable, cannot
be passed from heart to heart. The wise could not give of their oil to the
foolish. No one can live for another at any point. Even God will not give us
holiness, peace, and the rich results of victorious living, without
struggle, battle, or self-denial upon our own part. True it is that God
works in us both to will and to do—but the text which tells us this begins,
"Work out your own salvation." God works in us—only when we begin to work at
Another lesson here, is that truest friendship should
ofttimes decline to do for others—what they can do for themselves. Joshua
may have seemed a little unkind to his own tribe—but really he was not. The
best kindness to them, was to send them out to do the things they could do.
It was far better to command them to go into the forest and cut down the
timber and clear off the land for themselves, than it would have been to
give them a broad acreage of new land all cleared and under cultivation. It
was far better to send them to drive out the enemies with the iron chariots,
conquering the valley for themselves, than it would have been to send an
army to make the conquest for them.
Our best friends are not those who make life easy for us;
our best friends are those who put courage, energy, and resolution into our
hearts. There are thousands of lives dwarfed and hurt irreparably, by
pampering. Parents, ofttimes, in the very warmth and eagerness of their
love, do sad harm in their children's lives by over-helping them; by
doing things for them which it were better to teach them to do for
themselves; by sparing them struggles, self-denials, hardships, which it
were better for the children to meet.
Friendship is in constant danger of over helping in this
way. When one we love comes to us with a difficulty, it is love's first
impulse to solve it for himself. If you can wake up a young man, arouse his
sleeping or undiscovered powers, so that he will win a fortune or do a brave
thing with his own hands and brain, that is an infinitely better thing to do
for him than if you were to give him a fortune as a present. In the former
case, in getting his fortune, he has gotten also trained powers, energy,
strength, self-reliance, disciplined character, and all the elements which
belong to strong manhood. In the other case he has gotten nothing but the
money. He has missed all the lessons he would have learned, and all the
enlargement and enrichment of life he would have gotten in the struggle and
the conquest, and these are the true acquisitions in life!
Things are not possessions. Money and real estate and
stocks and bonds are not real possessions in the man. They are entirely
external to the man himself. They make a man no greater, no more a man, if
they are merely put into his hands. In laboring for a fortune, the man will
grow. Work itself, is always a better blessing than that which one
works to get. Hence it is a greater kindness to incite another to open the
hard rocks and thus find the water for himself, than it is to bring him the
water which another has led down from the mountains.
That was the way Joshua showed his friendship for these
children of Joseph. He would not do them the unkindness of freeing them from
the toil of conquest. He set them to conquer the land for themselves,
because the blessing lay as much in the conquering as in the
That is God's way with us. He does not make life easy for
us. He does not promise to lift the burden off our shoulder even when we
cast it upon him. It is God's gift to us, this burden of ours, and to lay it
down would be to lay down a blessing. It is something our life needs, and it
would be an unkindness for God to take it away. Surely it is a wiser
love—which puts new strength into your heart and arm, so that you can go on
with your hard duty, your heavy responsibility, your weight of care, without
fainting—than would be the love which should take the load away and leave
you free from any burden. You may think you would prefer the latter way,
that it would be easier—but you would miss the blessing, and your life would
be weaker and poorer in the end.
God's purpose always is to make something of us, to bring
out the best that is in us. Hence he does not clear the forest for
us—but puts the axe into our hands and bids us to cut it down for ourselves.
And while we prepare the ground for tillage we grow healthy and strong
ourselves through the toil. He does not drive out the enemies for us;
he puts the sword into our hands and sends us to drive them out. The
struggle does us good. The wrestling makes us strong.
Still another lesson from this incident—is that true
greatness should show itself, not in demanding favors or privileges—but in
achieving great things. The people of Joseph thought that their prominence
entitled them to a portion above others. "No," said Joshua, "your prominence
entitles you only to the privilege of the finest heroism and the largest
labor." So he gave them the hardest task. The way a commander honors the
best regiment on the field is not be assigning it to some easy post, to some
duty away from danger. He honors it by giving it the most perilous post, the
duty requiring the most splendid courage. So it is in all life—the place of
honor is always the hardest place, where the most delicate and
difficult duty must be done, where the heaviest burden of responsibility
must be borne. It is never a real honor to be given an easy place.
Instead of demanding a place of honor as a favor of friendship, which sets
no seal of greatness upon our brow—we should win our place of honor by
worthy deeds and services.
Our Lord taught this lesson when the disciples strove for
the highest positions. They wished that he would merely appoint them to
seats on his right and left hand. His answer is very important. Men are not
appointed to the high places in spiritual life, he said, "It is not mine to
give." Even Christ cannot give any disciple rank or place in his kingdom. It
must be won by the disciple himself. In human governments, rulers may put
their favorites in places of honor merely to show them regard. Appointments
are ofttimes arbitrary in such cases, and unworthy men are set in exalted
seats. But places are never given to men in Christ's kingdom; they must be
Then our Lord went further and explained the principle on
which places are assigned to his disciples. "Whoever would become great
among you shall be your minister; and whoever would be first among you shall
be your servant." That is—rank in Christ's kingdom is in proportion to
service. He who serves his fellow-men most utterly, in Christ's name, is the
greatest. Or, to put it in another form, instead of claiming rank by
appointment or favor, you must win it by serving your fellows, by using your
strength, your abilities, your greatness, in doing good to others. The only
privilege your superiority over others gives you—is the privilege of serving
and doing good to others.
This truth is far-reaching in its applications. It should
sweep out of our thought forever, all feeling that others owe us
favors; all that spirit which shows itself in self-seeking, in claims for
place or precedence over others. It should make us despise all the miserable
toggling for rank, in which so many people play such farces. "What are you
doing with your life?" is the only question that is asked, when rank is to
be measured. The law of love, is that with whatever we have we must serve
our fellow men. Selfishness discrowns a life. The least talented man in the
world who uses his little powers with which to serve and help others—is
higher in rank in God's sight, than the most nobly gifted man who uses his
great power only to advance his own interests.
The most highly endowed life that this world ever saw,
was that of Jesus Christ. Yet he demanded no recognition of men. He claimed
no rank. He never said his lowly place was too small, too narrow, for the
exercise of his great abilities. He used his greatness in doing good, in
serving and blessing the world. He washed men's feet with those hands which
angels would have kissed. He was the greatest among men—yet he was the
servant of all. That is the true mission of greatness—to serve. There is no
other worthy way of using whatever gifts God has bestowed upon us. Instead
of claiming place, distinction, rank, position, and attention, because of
our gifts, abilities, wisdom, or name—we must use all we have to bless the
world and to honor God.
The Ability of Faith
Because a thing is hard—is no reason why we should not do
it. The limit of duty is not the limit of human ability. We ought to
do many things which, with our own strength alone, we cannot do. There is a
realm of faith in which a Christian should live, which is not under the sway
of natural laws. The religion of Christ counts for little with us—if it does
not enable us to do more than others who know not its secret. Our
righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and
Pharisees. Our achievements and attainments must be of a
higher order then those of this world's people. The true spirit of Christian
faith, is one of quiet confidence in the presence of any duty, any
requirement. It knows no impossibilities. It staggers at no command. It
shrinks from no responsibility. It is crushed under no burden.
Two brothers came to the Master with a request that they
might have the first place in his kingdom. They were thinking of earthly
rank. The Master answered by asking them if they were able to accept his cup
and baptism. They did not know what he meant—but they believed so utterly in
him, that they calmly answered, "We are able."
This was a committal from which there could be no
withdrawal. It implied courage. They knew not to what future they were
going; what it would cost them to be true to their pledge; but they faltered
not. It implied love for their Master. This was the secret of it all. They
could not be separated from him. They would follow him anywhere, they loved
him so. It implied faith. They did not know what the cup would be, which
they had solemnly promised to drink; but they believed in Christ, and in his
love and wisdom, and were sure he would lead them only to what would be the
truest and the best for them.
This is the lesson every follower of Christ should learn.
To every call of the Master, to every allotment of duty, to every assignment
of service, to every laying of the cross at our feet, to every requirement
that he makes of us—our answer should be, "We are able." This is easy
enough—so long as only pleasant things are asked of us; but pleasant things
do not test discipleship. We must be ready to say it when our expectation of
honor in following Christ is suddenly dashed away and dishonor appears in
its place, and when it means the lifting of the dark cross upon our
shoulders and bearing it after him.
Hence the answer of all noble life to every call of duty
is, "I am able." The question of ability is not to be considered. God never
asks us to do anything, which we cannot do through the strength which he is
ready also to give. It is thus that God's men have always answered God's
calls. "Here am I," was the formula in the Old Testament times. Thus
patriarchs and prophets and messengers responded when they heard the divine
voice calling their names. There was not hesitation. They did not linger to
question their fitness or their ability. In New Testament days we find the
same obedience. Paul is a noble illustration. It would seem that the motto
of his life was, "I am ready." That was what he always said, whatever the
divine bidding. He was forewarned of chains at Jerusalem, and his friends
begged him not to go. But his answer was, "I am ready not to be bound
only—but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Again, he
was thinking of Rome, that great metropolis of the heathen world, the center
of the world's power and splendor, and he wrote, "I am ready to preach the
gospel to you that are at Rome also; for I am not ashamed of the gospel of
Christ." He is in a dungeon, a prisoner of Christ, knowing that he will soon
die as a martyr, and he writes to a friend, "I am ready to be offered."
An old missionary seal bore the representation of
an ox standing between a plough and an altar, with the legend, "Ready for
either." The meaning was that the missionary of Christ must be ready either
for toil and service, or for sacrifice on the alter, if that should be the
Lord's will. That was the spirit of Paul. He was ready for life, if Christ
so willed; for life to the very extreme of self-denying, self-consuming
service—if that were the call; for life in chains and in dungeons—if the
Master led him to such sufferings. Or, he was ready for death—if by dying he
could best glorify his Lord. This is the only true spirit of one who would
follow Christ faithfully and fully. Whatever the call of the Master may
be—the instant answer of the servant should be, "I am ready. I am able."
There are many things in Christian duty which, if our
feeble human strength were all we could command, would be impossibilities.
Our Lord sent out his disciples to heal the sick and to raise the dead. They
could do neither of these things, and they might have said, "We cannot cure
fevers, nor open blind eyes, nor make lame men walk, nor restore the breath
of life to the dead." Instead of saying this, however, their reply really
was, "We are able;" and as they spoke in the name of Christ, power was in
their words and in their touch, and miracles were wrought by them. Paul has
a remarkable word which illustrates the same truth. He is speaking of the
endurance of hardships. "I have learned," he says, "in whatever state I am,
therein to be content." Then a little farther on he says, "I am able to do
all things through Him who strengthens me." Here we have the confidant "I am
able," with its secret laid bare—"through him who strengthens me."
This is the law of Christ's kingdom. Nothing is
impossible with God! When He gives us a duty—He will give the strength we
need to do it. When He sends one of His servants on an errand—He is ready
to give power to perform the task, however hard it may be. When there is a
battle to fight, He will inspire the heart and nerve the arm to fight it, so
that we may become "more than conquerors through Him who loved us." We are
always the strongest—when we are weakest in ourselves, because the measure
of our conscious weakness—is the measure of the strength which He imparts
to us. This is a blessed secret! It puts the very power of God within our
reach! We can do all things through Christ! "To this end I labor, struggling
with all His power, which so powerfully works in me." Colossians 1:29. "I am
able to do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
There are but two conditions—obedience and faith. The
strength will not be given unless we obey. We must not wait to have
it given before we will set out—it will not be given at all if we do
this. No matter how difficult, how seemingly impossible, the duty may be—we
must instantly obey, or Christ's power will not be forthcoming. It is when
we go forward confidently in the way of duty, that the strength of Christ is
given. There must also be faith. We cannot do these things ourselves;
there is not sufficient strength is us. But when we, without doubting, begin
to do God's will, he will put his strength into us. Thus, whatever the task
he gives, we may say with quiet confidence, "We are able." Whatever burden
he lays upon us, we need not falter, nor fear to bear it. There is no divine
promise that the burden will be lifted away—but there is an assurance that
we shall be sustained as we walk in faith beneath it.
But Christ's sustaining does not come him who
falters and hesitates; it comes to him only who goes forward firmly in the
way marked out for him. It does not come to him who waits for the opening of
the way before he will set out; the way will open only to the feet of him
who goes on unflinchingly and unquestioningly in obedience to the call of
duty, regardless of high walls or shut gates or overflowing rivers crossing
his path. The floods of the Jordan were not cut off while the pilgrim
multitude lay back in their camps, nor while they were moving down the green
banks, nor even while they tarried close to the brink, waiting for a way to
be made for them. It was not until the feet of the priests who led the
multitude, moving firmly on, trod the very edge of the water, that the river
opened to allow them to pass through to the land of promise. It never would
have opened to feet which waited for it to open. It is so in all cases.
There is a time for quiet, patient waiting—when we have done all we can. But
there is a time when waiting is defeat and failure.
If we are living sincerely and earnestly—life will never
be easy. Duties are too large for our ability. Circumstances are hard. Our
condition has its uncongenialities. Our tasks are more than our hands can
perform. We are disposed to fret and to be discontented, and then to be
discouraged, and to say we cannot live sweetly and beautifully where our lot
is set. But this is never true. Difficulty never makes
impossibility —when we have the power of Christ from which to draw. No
duties then are ever too large. No burdens are ever too heavy. There is no
environment in which we cannot live patiently and sweetly.
It is in the hard lot—that we learn our best lessons, and
do our best living. Certain birds, when they are to be taught to sing
new songs, are shut up in a darkened cage. Then they are caused to hear in
the darkness the sweet strains which they are to learn. By and by they begin
to sing what they hear, and they are kept singing it over and over until
they have fully learned it. Then the curtain is withdrawn, and now they sing
the sweet songs in the sunshine. It is thus that God puts us sometimes into
darkness, where the conditions are hard. "How can we sing the Lord's songs
here?" we ask. But divine help comes to us, and grace, and as we try to live
gently, patiently, and lovingly, and to sing the songs of joy, we find we
can do it in Christ who strengthens us. Then there is always blessing in
victoriousness. However great the cost of godly and noble living may be, the
reward is always greater than the cost.
Let us never disbelieve God, by saying in any place, that
we cannot live there beautifully and godly. Let us rather accept the
hardship, the struggles, the burden, the difficult environment; and, helped
by the divine Spirit, let us learn to do always the things that please God.
Submission takes the bitterness out of pain, which becomes calamity when we
resist and chafe. "Peace in this life, springs from acquiescence even in
disagreeable things, not from exemption from bearing them." Acquiescence is
the faith, which gets the divine strength, which makes all things possible.
Sources of Strength
We all need help. None of us are sufficient in ourselves
for all the exigencies of our condition. Life is too large for any of us.
Its duties are too great for our strength. Its trials overtax our power of
endurance. Its antagonisms over master us. Our own hearts contain only a
little cupful of oil; and, unless we can replenish them from some reserve
supply—our lamps will go out, leaving us in darkness.
Yet we are required to meet life victoriously. We are not
to succumb to its stress or struggle. We are told that while our temptations
are far more than a match for our strength—yet we need not fall in them. The
task is set for us of being more than conquerors in all life's trials. We
are not to be crushed by sorrow. We are to rejoice always, though always
enduring sore grief.
It is possible, therefore, for us to receive help from
outside our own little life, to make us equal to whatever we may have to
bear or to endure. It is important that we learn how to live so that we can
get this help. What are the sources from which we may draw strength in our
time of need? Evidently they are twofold. We can be helped in a certain
way—by human hands; and we can be helped in the largest measure we need—by
the divine strength.
In all things the life of Christ is our pattern. He lived
a human life—to show us how to live. He did not meet life otherwise than we
must meet it. He wrought no miracles to make trials easier for himself than
they would be for his followers. In our Lord's experience in Gethsemane, we
have an illustration of the way he sought help in time of great need, both
from the human and the divine source.
The real agony of Christ's atoning death was in
Gethsemane, and not on Calvary. It was there he fought the battle and won
the victory. After this, there was no more struggle. It is worth our while
to look closely into our Lord's experiences in the Garden, to learn the
secrets of the victory which he won there. It will be ours some time—to face
a sore struggle, a bitter disappointment, a great trial, a keen sorrow, or
to take up a heavy cross. How can we prepare ourselves for the experience,
so as to meet it victoriously?
The Mexicans whisper over the cradle of a new-born babe,
"Child, you are born to suffer; endure and hold your peace!" Courage in
meeting trial is good. We should learn to take up our burden quietly, and
walk beneath it steadfastly. We should learn to endure and hold our peace.
There are men who do this, hardening themselves against pain and sorrow, and
meeting life's misfortunes and trials stoically, with solemn firmness. But
this is not the best way to meet life. It was not thus that our Lord met his
trials. He did not go to his cross stoically. True, he set himself to
endure. Never, before or since, has anguish been borne so victoriously, or
has the world seen such peace as filled the Redeemer's soul during all the
hours of his deepest humiliation. But his was not the peace of stoical
hardening; it was the peace of God which kept his heart and mind.
"Endure and hold your peace" is not all of the lesson.
There is something better than stoicism. We need not struggle unaided. It is
not a mark of weakness to accept help in hours of great need. Jesus desired
to be sustained as he entered his agony. First, he craved and sought the
help of human sympathy. It seems strange to us, at first thought, that he,
the strong Son of God, could receive help from men. And from such men as his
disciples were. It showed his true humanity. It showed, too, how real human
friendship was to him. We know that his friends received help and comfort
from him—but we are not so apt to think of him needing them and receiving
strength from their love. But here we see him leaning upon them, wanting
them near to him while he struggled and suffered, and craving their sympathy
and tenderness. How sad it was, then, that the three chosen disciples whom
he led into the depths of the Garden, that they might watch with him and
strengthen him by their love—slept instead of watching!
In Brittany, among the peasants, they have this beautiful
legend of the robin. They say that when the Savior moved toward Calvary,
bearing his cross, with enemies all about him, a robin hovered near. And,
reckless of the tumult, the bird flew down and snatched a cruel thorn from
the Christ's bleeding forehead. Then over the robin's bosom flowed the
sacred blood, tinting with its ruby stream the bird's brown plumage. This,
the peasants say, was the origin of the red spot on the robin's breast.
This is only a legend. No bird plucked a thorn from that
sacred brow. Not by even so small a soothing, was the Savior' anguish that
day mitigated. Yet it was in the power of his disciples to have soothed his
bitter agony immeasurably. But when he came back to them after each
struggle, hoping to find comfort from their love, they were asleep. They
failed him, not through carelessness—but through faintness. The spirit was
willing—but the flesh was weak. Had they been stronger, it would have been a
little easier for Christ to endure the cross. Their love would have taken at
least one thorn from his crown of thorns.
We all need human friendship. We need it especially in
our times of darkness. He does not well, he lives not wisely—who in the days
of prosperity neglects to gather about his life a few loving friends, who
will be a strength to him in the days of stress and need.
Then we should be ready, too, to give the strength of our
love to those whom we see passing into the ways of struggle of sorrow. We
should not commit the mistake of our Lord's friends, failing those who need
and expect our cheer. There is a deep lesson in the words Christ spoke at
the last to the men to whom he had come three times in vain, craving
sympathy. "Sleep on now, and take your rest; it is enough, the hour is
come." There was no need, then, for longer watching, nor could any good come
of it. The struggle was over, the victory had been won without them, and
there was nothing left for them to do.
This experience is too common. Continually men close
beside us are needing sympathy and love which we have it in our power to
give—but which we do not give, letting them pass on unhelped.
There is a time to show sympathy, when it is golden; when
this time has passed, and we have only slept meanwhile, we may as well sleep
on. You did not go near your friend when he was fighting his battle alone.
You might have helped him then. What use is there in your coming to him now,
when he has conquered without your aid? You paid no attention to your
neighbor when he was bending under life's loads, and struggling with
difficulties, obstacles, and adversities. You let him alone then. You never
told him that you sympathized with him. You never said a brave, strong word
of cheer to him in those days. You never scattered even handful of flowers
on his hard path. Now that he is dead and lying in his coffin, what is the
use in your standing beside his still form, and telling the people how nobly
he battled, how heroically he lived; and speaking words of commendation? No,
no; having let him go on, unhelped, uncheered, unencouraged, through the
days when he needed so sorely your warm sympathy, and craved so hungrily
your cheer, you may as well sleep on and take your rest, letting him alone
unto the end. Nothing can be done now. Too laggard are the feet which come
with comfort—when the time for giving comfort is past.
Shall we not take our lesson from the legend of the robin
that plucked a thorn from the Savior's brow, and thus sought to diminish his
pain—rather than from the story of the disciples, who slept and failed to
give the help which the Lord sought from their love? Thus can we strengthen
those whose burden are heavy, and whose struggles and sorrows are sore.
So much for the human help. There was another source of
help in our Lord's Garden experience. If there had not been, he would have
been utterly unhelped in all his sore need, for human friendship proved
inadequate. "Being in an agony, he prayed." He sought strength from heaven.
He crept to his Father's bosom, and made supplication to him and was heard.
As we watch him in his struggle, we see that he grows
calmer and quieter as he prays. It is evident that divine help comes to him.
He is sustained and strengthened. At length, when he comes from his
pleading, his heart is at rest; his pleading has died away in the sweetest
and divinest of peace.
We have the same infinite and unfailing source of help in
our times of great need. Human friendship can go with us a little way—yet
not into the inner depths of our experience of sorrow or trial. Human
sympathy is very sweet—but it is weak, and ofttimes sleeps when we most need
its cheer and comfort. But when the human ceases to avail—the divine is
ready. In the face of life's great needs, when no other help can come to
us—God comes, and from his divine fullness gives all that we need.
The prayer of our Lord in the Garden is a model for all
who would find help in sore need. It was intense in its pleading—but it also
breathed the most perfect submission, "Not my will—but yours be done." No
other spirit of prayer is pleasing to God, or brings blessing. The answer
did not come, the cup did not pass away—and yet our Lord was really
strengthened and helped in his praying. At its close, he came forth with
peace in his heart, ready now to pass into the darkness of his cross.
"How was he helped," someone may ask, "when that which he
craved was not granted?" He was not spared the sorrow—but he was
strengthened to endure it. This is God's way in much of our praying. We
do not know what would be a blessing to us. What to our thoughts seems
bread, might really be a stone to us. We may make our requests for things we
desire—but we should make them humbly and submissively. If it is not our
Father's will to grant us what we wish—he gives us grace to go without it.
If he does not avert the trial from which we ask to be spared, he
strengthens us for meeting it. Thus no true prayer ever goes unanswered. The
divine help never fails. There is a limit to what our human friends can do
for us—but God is infinite, and all his strength is ready to our hand, to
help us as we need.
The Blessing of Weakness
We are not accustomed to think of weakness—as a
condition of blessing. We would say, "Blessed is strength. Blessed
are the strong." But Bible beatitudes are usually the reverse of what nature
would say. "Blessed are the meek." "Blessed are you when men shall reproach
you." The law of the cross lies deep in spiritual life. It is by the
crucifying of the flesh—that the spirit grows into beauty. So, "Blessed are
the weak—for they shall have God's strength, " is a true scriptural
beatitude, although its very words are not found in the Bible.
Weakness is blessed, because it insures to us more of the
sympathy and help of Christ. Weakness ever appeals to a gentle heart. We see
illustrations of this truth in our common human life. What can be more weak
and helpless than blindness? Here is a blind child in a home. Her condition
seems pitiable. She gropes about in darkness. She is unaware of dangers that
may beset her, and cannot shield herself from any harm which threatens her.
The windows through which others see the world—to her are closed, and she is
shut up in darkness. She is almost utterly helpless. Yet her very weakness
is her strength. It draws to itself the best love and help of the whole
household. The mother's heart has no such tender thought for any of the
other children—as for the blind girl. The father carries her continually in
his affection and is ever doing gentle things for her. Brothers and sisters
strive in all ways to supply her lack. The result is that no other member of
the family is sheltered so safely as she is, and that none is half so
strong. Her very helplessness is the secret of her strength.
Her closed eyes and outstretched hands and tottering feet appeal
resistlessly to all who love her, inspiring them to greater thoughtfulness
and helpfulness towards her—than anyone else in the household.
This illustrates also—God's special thought and care for
the weak. All the best things in human life, are really hints and gleams of
the divine life. The heart of Christ goes out in peculiar interest toward
the weak. Paul could well afford to keep his "thorn" with its burdening
weakness, because it made him far more the object of divine sympathy and
help. So weakness always makes strong appeal to the divine compassion. We
think of suffering or feebleness as a misfortune. It is not altogether so,
however, if it makes us dearer and brings us nearer to the heart of Christ.
Blessed is weakness, for it draws to itself the strength of God!
Weakness is blessed, also, because it saves from
spiritual peril. Paul tells us that his "thorn" was given to him to keep him
humble. Without it he would have been exalted over much and would have lost
his spirituality. We do not know how much of his deep insight into the
things of God, and his power in service for his Master, Paul owed to this
torturing "thorn." It seemed to hinder him and it caused him incessant
suffering—but it detained him in the low valley of humility, made him ever
conscious of his own weakness and insufficiency, and thus kept him near to
Christ whose home is with the humble.
Spiritual history is full of similar cases. Many of God's
noblest servants have carried "thorns" in their flesh all their days—but
meanwhile they have had spiritual blessing and enrichment which they never
would have had, if their cries for relief had been granted. We do not know
what we owe to the sufferings of those who have gone before us.
Prosperity has not enriched the world—as adversity has done. The
best thoughts, the richest life lessons, the sweetest songs that have come
down to us from the past—have not come from lives that have known no
privation, no adversity—but are the fruits of pain, of weakness, of trial.
Men have cried out for emancipation from the bondage of hardship, of
sickness, of infirmity, of self-denying necessity; not knowing that the
thing which seemed to be hindering them in their career—was the very making
of whatever was noble, beautiful, and blessed in their life.
There are few people who have not some "thorn" rankling
in their flesh. In one it is an infirmity of speech, in another an infirmity
of sight, in another an infirmity of hearing. Or it may be lameness, or a
disease, slow but incurable, or constitutional timidity, or excessive
nervousness, or a disfiguring bodily deformity, or an infirmity of temper.
Or it may be in one's home, which is cold, unloving, and uncongenial; or it
may be in the life of a loved one—sorrow or moral failure; or it may be a
bitter personal disappointment through untrue friendship or love unrequited.
Who has not his "thorn"?
We should never forget that in one sense our "thorn" is a
"messenger of Satan," who desires by it to hurt our life, to mar our peace,
to spoil the divine beauty in us, to break our communion with Christ. On the
other hand, however, Christ himself has a loving design in our "thorn." He
wants it to be a blessing to us. He would have it keep us humble—and save us
from becoming vain; or he means it to soften our hearts and make us more
gentle. He would have the uncongenial things in our environment discipline
us into heavenly-mindedness, give us greater self-control, help us to keep
our hearts loving and sweet amid harshness and unlovingness. He would have
our pain teach us endurance and patience, and our sorrow and loss teach us
That is, our "thorn" may either be a blessing to us, or
it may do us irreparable harm—which, it depends upon ourselves. If we allow
it to fret us; if we chafe, resist, and complain; if we lose faith and lose
heart—it will spoil our life. But if we accept it in the faith that in its
ugly burden, it has a blessing for us; if we endure it patiently,
submissively, unmurmuringly; if we seek grace to keep our heart gentle and
true amid all the trial, temptation, and suffering it causes—it will work
good, and out of its bitterness will come sweet fruit. The responsibility is
ours, and we should so relate ourselves to our "thorn" and to Christ, that
growth and good, not harm and marring, shall come to us from it. Such
weakness is blessed only if we get the victory over it, through faith in
"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for
my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more
gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is
why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,
in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak—then I am strong." 2
Corinthians 12:9-10. There is a blessing in weakness, also, because it
nourishes dependence on God. When we are strong, or deem ourselves strong,
we are really weak, since then we trust in ourselves and do not seek divine
help. But when we are consciously weak, knowing ourselves unequal to our
duties and struggles, we are strong, because then we turn to God and get his
Too many people think their weakness a barrier to their
usefulness, or make it an excuse for doing little with their life. Instead
of this, however, if we give it to Christ, he will transform it into
strength. He says his strength is made perfect in weakness; that is, what is
wanting in human strength he fills and makes up with divine strength. Paul
had learned this when he said he gloried now in his weaknesses, because on
account of them the strength of Christ rested upon him, so that, when he was
weak, then he was strong—strong with divine strength.
The people who have done the greatest good in the world,
who have left the deepest, most abiding impression upon the lives of others,
have not been those whom the world called the strong. Much of the world's
best work has been done by the weak, by those with broken lives. Successful
men have piled up vast fortunes, established large enterprises, or won
applause in some material way; but the real influence that has made the
world better, enriched lives, taught men the lessons of love, and sweetened
the springs of society, has come largely, not from the strong—but from the
I walked over a meadow and the air was full of delicious
fragrance. Yet I could see no flowers. There was tall grass waving on all
sides—but the fragrance did not come from the grass. Then I parted the grass
and looked beneath it, and there, close to the earth, hidden out of sight by
the showy growths in the meadow, were multitudes of lowly little flowers. I
had found the secret of the sweetness—it poured out from these humble hiding
flowers. This is a picture of what is true everywhere in life. Not from the
great, the conspicuous, the famed in any community, comes the fragrance
which most sweetens the air—but from lowly lives, hidden, obscure, unpraised,
which give out the aroma of unselfishness, of kindness, of gentleness. In
many a home it is from the room of an invalid, a sufferer—that the sweetness
comes, which fills all the house. We know that it is from the cross of
Christ, that the hollowing influence flowed which all these centuries has
been refining and enriching and softening the world's
life. So it is always—out of weakness and suffering, and from crushed,
broken lives—comes the blessing which renews and heals the world.
"The healing of the world
Is in its nameless saints."
We need only to make sure of one thing—that we do indeed
bring our weakness to Christ and lean on him in simple faith. This is the
vital link in getting the blessing. Weakness itself is a burden; it is
chains upon our limbs. If we try to carry it alone—we shall only fail. But
if we lay it on the strong Son of God—and let him carry us and our burden,
going on quietly and firmly in the way of duty—He will make our very
weakness, a secret source of strength. He will not take the weakness from
us—that is not his promise—but he will so fill it with his own power that we
shall be strong, more than conquerors, able to do all things through Christ
who strengthens us!
This is the blessed secret of having our burdening
weakness, transformed into strength. The secret can be found only in Christ.
And in Him—it can be found by every humble, trusting disciple.
We ought not to allow ourselves to be beaten in living.
It is the privilege and duty of every believer in Christ to live
victoriously. No man can ever reach noble Christian character, without sore
cost in pain and sacrifice. All that is beautiful and worthy in life—must be
won in struggle. The crowns are not put upon men's heads through the caprice
or favoritism of any king; they are the reward of victorious achievement. We
can make life easy, in a way, if we will—by shirking its battles, by
refusing to grapple with its antagonisms; but in this way we never can make
anything beautiful and worthy of our life. We may keep along
shore with our craft, never pushing out into deep waters; but then we shall
never discover new worlds, not learn the secret of the sea. We may spare
ourselves costly service and great sacrifices, by saving our own life from
hardships, risks, and pain—but we shall miss the blessing which can come
only through the losing of self. "No cross—no crown" is the law of
"He who has never a conflict—has never a victor's palm,
And only the toilers—know the sweetness of rest and
Therefore God really honors us, when he sets us in places
where we must struggle. He is then giving us an opportunity to win the best
honors and the richest blessing. Yet he never makes life so hard for us, in
any circumstances, that we cannot live victoriously through the help which
he is ready to give.
This lesson applies to temptation. Not one of us
can miss being tempted—but we need never fail nor fall in it.
Never yet was a child of God in any terrible conflict with the Evil One, in
which it was not possible for him to overcome. There is a wonderful word in
one of Paul's Epistles, which we should write in letters of gold on
our chamber walls: "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to
humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond
what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of
escape, so that you are able to endure it.
These are sublime assurances. Not one need ever say, "I
cannot endure this temptation, and must yield and fall." This
is never true. We need never fail. Christ met the sorest temptations—but he
was always victorious; and now this tried and all-conquering Christ is by
our side as we meet and endure our temptations, and we cannot fail when he
is with us. It is possible, too, for us to so the meet temptations, as to
change them into blessings. A conquered sin becomes a new strength in our
life. We are stronger because every conquest gives us a new spirit of life;
the strength we have defeated becomes now part of our own power.
Victoriousness in speech is among the hardest of life's
conquests. The words of James are true to common experience, when he says
that the tongue is harder to tame than any kind of beast or birds or
creeping things or things in the sea; indeed, that no man can tame it. Yet
he does not say that we need not try to tame our tongue. On the other hand
he counsels us to be slow to speak and slow to anger. A Christian ought to
learn to control his speech. The capacity for harm in angry words, is
appalling. No prayer should be oftener on our lips than that in the old
psalm, "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my
The hasty word in an uncontrolled moment—may leave sore
wounding and pain in a gentle heart, may mar a sweet friendship, may set an
innocent life on a career of evil. Also, the hurt in him who speaks
ungoverned words, is scarcely less sore. The pain that quickly follows their
utterance, is terrible penalty for the sin. There is ofttimes a cost, too,
in results, which is incalculable. Lives have been shadowed, down to their
close, by words which fell in a single flash from unlocked lips! Moses was
not the only man who has been shut out of a land of promise—by reason of one
unadvised word. It is better to suffer wrong in silence—than to run the risk
of speaking in the excitement of anger.
One writes: "A single word spoken under the influence of
passion, or rashly and inconsiderately spoken, may prove a source of abiding
pain and regret. But the suffering of an act of injustice, of wrong, or of
unkindness, in a spirit of meekness and forbearance, never renders us
unhappy. The remembrance of a sinful or even a hasty word, is not
infrequently the cause of very deep mortification. The reflection that our
words manifested a weakness, if not a lack of moral and spiritual balance,
humiliates us. It is a wound to our self-respect, and the consciousness that
the regret is now unavailing adds a sting to the pain. But in the feeling
that in our exercise of the meekness and forbearance inspired by the love of
Christ we went further than we were bound to go, is not often a cause of
distress. In a review of the act—we do not feel that we wronged ourselves by
making too large a sacrifice, or that our failure to resent the injury and
to attempt to retaliate was a mistake. Reason and conscience approve the
course, and it is a source of satisfaction and comfort."
The lesson applies also to whatever in our environment
makes life hard. Sometimes we find ourselves in places and conditions of
living, in which it seems impossible for us to grow into strength and beauty
of character. This is true of many young people in the circumstances in
which they are born—and in which they must grow up. They find about them the
limitations of poverty. They cannot get the education they seem to
need—to fit them for anything better than the most ordinary career. They
envy other young people who have so much better opportunities. But these
limitations, which seem to make fine attainments impossible, ofttimes prove
the very blessings through which nobleness is reached. Early hardship
is the best school for training men. Not many of those who have risen to the
best and truest success, began in easy places.
Sometimes it is poor health which appears to make
it impossible for one to live grandly, at least to do much in the world. But
this is not an insuperable barrier. Many people who have been invalids all
their life, have grown into rare sweetness of spirit, and have lived in the
world in a way to make it better, and to leave influences of blessing behind
them when they went away. Many a "shut in " has made a narrow room and a
chamber of pain—the center of a heavenly life, whose blessings have gone
far and wide. At least, there is no condition of health in which one cannot
live victoriously in one's spirit, if not physically. One can be brave,
cheerful, accepting one's limitations, praising God in sickness and in pain,
sure always that what God wills is best, and that he who sings his little
song of joy and praise in his prison—is pleasing God and blessing the world.
Sometimes that which makes life hard is in one's own
temperament. Passions are strong; temper seems uncontrollable; the
affections are embittered, so that meekness and gentleness appear to be
impossible; or the disposition is soured so that one finds it hard to be
loving and sweet. The fault may be in one's early training, or the unhappy
temper may be inherent. None of us come into the world saints, and ofttimes
there are tendencies in one's childhood home, or in one's early years which
give the wrong bias to the life. A few years later one awakes to find
the nature misshapen, distorted, with the unlovely elements prominent and
Must one necessarily go through life to the end thus
marred, with disposition spoiled, quick tempered, with appetites and
passions uncontrollable? Not at all. In all these things we may be "more
than conquerors through Him that loved us." The grace of Christ can take the
most unlovely life—and change it into beauty. Godliness is impossible to
none, where the grace of God is allowed to work freely and thoroughly.
Many people find in their own homes the greatest obstacle
in the way of their becoming beautiful and gentle in life. Home ought to be
the best place in the world in which to grow into Christlikeness. There all
the influences, should be inspiring and helpful. It ought to be easy to be
sweet in home's sacredness. Everything good ought there to find
encouragement and stimulus. All home training should be towards "whatever
things are lovely." Home should be life's best school. What the
conservatory is to the little plant or flower which finds warmth, good soil,
and gently culture there, growing into sweet loveliness; home should be to
the young life that is born into it, and grows up within its doors. But not
all home-life is ideal. Not in all homes, is it easy to live sweetly and
beautifully. Sometimes the atmosphere is unfriendly, cold, cheerless,
chilling. It is hard to keep the heart gently and kindly in the bitterness
which creeps into home-life.
But no matter how sadly a home may fail in its love and
helpfulness, how much there may be in it of sharpness and bitterness, it is
the mission of a Christian always to be sweet, to seek to overcome the
hardness, to live victoriously. This is possible, too—through the help of
These are only illustrations of this lesson. Many of us
find ourselves in uncongenial conditions in which we must stay, at
least for the time. But, whatever the circumstances, we may live
Christianly. God will never allow us to be put in any place in which, though
the help of his grace—we cannot be godly and beautiful Christians.
Limitations, if we rightly use them, only help to make our life more
earnest, more beautiful. A writer calls attention to the fact that every
musical string is musical, because it is tied at both ends and must vibrate
in limited measure of distance. Cut the string, and let it fly loose, and it
no more gives out musical notes. Its musicalness depends upon its
limitations. So it is with many human lives; they become capable of giving
out sweet notes, only when they are compelled to move in restraint. The very
hardness in their condition, is that which brings out the best qualities in
them, and produces the finest results in character and achievement.
This lesson applies also to experiences of misfortune,
adversity, or sorrow. Paul speaks of himself in one place as "sorrowful—yet
always rejoicing." His life could not be crushed, his joy
could not be quenched, his songs could not be hushed. We must all
meet trial in some form—but one need never be overwhelmed by it. Yet it is
very important that we should learn to pass through our sorrow as
Christians. Do we meet it victoriously? We cannot help weeping; Jesus wept,
and tears are sacred when love for our friends and love for Christ mingle in
them. But our tears must not be rebellious. "May Your will be done" must
breathe through all our sobbings and cries, like the melody of a sweet song
in a dark night of storm.
Sorrow hurts some lives. It embitters them. It leaves
them broken, disheartened, not caring more for life. But this is not the
Christian way. We should accept sorrow, however it may come to us, as
bringing with it a fragment of God's sweet will for us, as bringing also
some new revealing of divine love. We should meet it quietly, reverently,
careful not to miss the blessing it brings to us. Then we should rise up
again at once, and go on with our work and duty. Some hands are left hanging
down after grief has come. "I do not care any more for life," men are
sometimes heard to say. "I have no interest in my business, since my wife
died. I want to give it all up." But that is not victorious living.
Sorrow absolves us from no duty, from no responsibility. Our work is not
finished because our friend's work is done. God's plan for our life goes
on—though for the life dearest to us, it has ended. We rise the morning
after the funeral, and find the old tasks waiting for us, clamoring for our
coming, and must go forth at once to take them up. "Let us dry our tears and
go on," wrote a godly man to his friend, after a sore bereavement. That is
the true Christian spirit.
We ought to live more earnestly than ever, after grief
has touched our heart. Our life has been enriched by the experience. Tears
leave the soil of the heart more fertile. The experience of sorrow
teaches us many lessons. We are wiser afterward, more thoughtful, better
fitted to be guide and helper to others, and prepared especially to be
comforters of those whom we find passing through affliction. Instead,
therefore, of letting our hands hang down in despairing weakness, we should
rise up quickly, fresh from our new anointing, and hasten on to the duty
which waits for us.
Thus all Christian life should be victorious. We should
never allow ourselves to be defeated, in any experience which may come to
us. With Christ to help us, we need never fail—but may ever be more than
conquerors. Even the things which seem to be failures and defeats in our
lives—through the love and grace of Christ—if only we are faithful—will
prove in the end to be successes and victories. Many a good man fails in a
worldly sense, and yet in the moral and spiritual realm is more than
conqueror. There is no real failure—but in sin. Faithfulness to Christ is
victory, even when all is lost.
Interpreters for God
God has interpreters. He does not walk the earth in form
that we can see, or speak to us in words that we can hear. Yet he is always
with us, and he is always speaking to us. Once he sent his only begotten
Son, and men saw his face—a face like their own, and heard his voice, a
voice like their own. Now he has many sons; and in all of these, just in the
measure in which they are true, God's face beams its love upon the world,
and God's voice speaks its message to the world.
Everyone of us has something to do in interpreting God to
men. If we are his friends, the "secret of the Lord" is with us. Not a
secret, however, which we are to keep to ourselves—but one which it is ours
to declare. The reason why we are in the world, is to reveal God—and to make
God's words plain to others.
We have many illustrations of this in the Scriptures. For
example, twice in the story of Joseph, do we find him acting as an
interpreter for God. Two of his fellow-prisoners had dreams. Joseph told
them the meaning of the dreams. Pharaoh had a dream which Egypt's wise men
could not interpret, and Joseph was brought from his prison to tell its
meaning. In both of these cases, the dreams were words of God, whose
interpretation it was important to learn. In the case of the prisoners, the
dreams were forecastings of the future of the two men. In the case of
Pharaoh, they were revealings which the king needed to understand, in order
that he might make provision for his people in the famine which was coming.
It would have been a great calamity for Egypt and for the world—if he had
not learned the meaning of what God had spoken in his ear in the visions of
the night. But without an interpreter he never could have known.
So we all stand in this world amid mysterious writings
which we cannot read, having our dreams and visions, whose meanings we
cannot ourselves interpret. Yet these writings and these visions are really
God's words to us, divine teachings which we ought to understand, whose
meanings it is intended we should find out. They have their lessons for us,
which we need to know. They hold messages of comfort for our sorrows,
of guidance for our dark paths, of instruction for our
ignorance, of salvation for our perishing souls. We cannot live as we
should live—until we learn the meaning of these divine words. We need
Take the little child. It comes into the world knowing
nothing. On all sides are wonderful things—in nature, in its own life, in
other lives, in books, in are, in providence. But the writings are all
mysterious. The child understands nothing. Yet it is here to learn all it
can of these writings. They are words of God which concern its own welfare.
The child needs interpreters. And we are all only children of various
growths. Life is full of enigmas for us. We bend over the Bible and
find texts we cannot understand. There are mysteries in providence;
they come into every life at some time. Yet in these obscure texts
and these dark providences, there are words of God hidden, words of
love, of wisdom, of mercy. We all need interpreters to read off for us the
mysterious handwriting of God.
Then it is our office as Christians to be interpreters
for others. Joseph found the two prisoners sad, and his heart was touched
with sympathy. He became eager to comfort them. This revealed the true and
noble spirit in him. He had a warm, gentle heart. No one can ever be greatly
useful in this world, who does not enter into the world's experiences of
need. Christ was moved with compassion, when he saw human pain and sin. At
once his love went out toward the sufferer, and he desired to impart help.
Wherever we go we see sad faces which tell of unrest, of broken peace, of
unsatisfied longings, of unanswered questions, of deep heart hungering.
Sometimes it is fear which writes its perplexity, which darkens the
features. Sometimes it is baffled longing. Here it is desire to look
into the future; again it is eagerness to learn more of God.
We are sent to be interpreters, each in his own way, and
in the things which he knows. All the rich knowledge of the world has come
down to us, through human interpreters. All along the ages, there have been
men who have climbed to the mountain tops, where they saw the earliest
gleams of light, while it was yet dark in the valley of life below, and have
then come down and spoken to men of what they saw. There have been seers in
every age, gifted to look upon the scrolls of truth and read off the words
We have learned to read God's words in nature. To
most people, nature's wonderful writings mean almost nothing—flowers, trees,
rivers, lakes, seas, mountains, the splendor of the skies—people walk amid
these divine miracles without awe, seeing nothing to touch their hearts or
thrill their spirits. But there have been interpreters—men with eyes which
saw, with ears which heard, and they have told us something of the meaning
of the wonderful things which God has written in his works.
Or take the literature of the world. It is the
harvest of many centuries of thought. In every age there have been men who
have looked into truth with deeper, clearer vision than their fellows, and
heard whispers of God's voice; then coming forth from their valleys of
silence, they have told the world what they heard.
Take the treasures of spiritual truth which we
possess; how have they come to us? Not through any scrolls brought from
heaven by angels—but through human interpreters. God took Moses up
into the mount and talked with him, as a man talks with his friend,
revealing to him great truths about his being and character, and giving him
statutes and laws for the guidance of men; then Moses became an interpreter
to the world of the things which God had spoken to him. David was an
interpreter for God. God drew him close to his own heart and breathed
heavenly songs into his soul; then David went forth and struck his harp and
sang—and the music is breathing yet through all the world. John was
an interpreter for God. He lay in Christ's bosom, heard the beatings of that
great heart of love, and learned the secrets of friendship with his Lord;
then he passed out among men and told the world what he had heard and felt
and seen; and the air of this earth has been warmer ever since, and more of
love has been beating in human hearts. Paul was an interpreter for
God. God took him away from men and revealed himself to him, opened to him
the mystery of redemption as to no other man in all Christian history; and
Paul wrote his letters, which we have, which have been marvelous in their
influence, all these Christian centuries.
But not alone have these inspired men been God's
interpreters; many others since have taken up the Word of God, and have
found new secrets, blessed truths, precious comforts, which had lain
undiscovered before, and have spoken out to men what they have found.
Evermore new light is breaking from the Bible.
God gives to every life that he sends into this world,
some message of its own to give out to others. To one it is a new revealing
of science. Kepler spoke of himself as thinking over God's thoughts, as he
discovered the paths of the stars and traced out the laws of the heavens. To
the poet, God gives thought of beauty, revealings of the inner life, which
he is to interpret to the world; and the world is richer, sweeter, and
better for hearing his messages. Even to the lowliest man, God whispers some
secret of truth which he wants that man to impart by word or act to others.
God forms a close personal friendship with each of his
children, and tells each some special secret of love, which no other ever
has learned before. We cannot all make books, or write poems or hymns which
shall bless men; but if we live near the heart of Christ—there is not one of
us into whose ear Christ will not speak some fragment of truth, some
revealing of grace and love, or to whom he will not give some experience of
comfort in sorrow, some glimpse of light in darkness, some glimmering of
heaven's glory in the midst of this world's care. That now is your
message—God's own peculiar word to you; and you are God's prophet to
forth-tell it again to the world. Each one should speak out what God has
given him to speak. If it is but a single word, it will yet bless the earth.
Not to speak it—will leave the world a little poorer.
Says one: "If the flowers should no longer be in the
world, if the sun should no longer shine, how great would be our distress!
If the bird no longer twittered on the budding bough of the tree, how
greatly we would miss it! Everything is so closely connected with us, that
we cannot do without it. Everything has its corresponding fact in human
nature, and every little thing has a destiny, a message. Orientals believe
that each man and woman has a message, and the man or woman who accomplishes
it, is a true man or a true woman—but one who does not, is an anomaly—one to
We dare not hide in our heart, the message which God
gives us to utter to the world. Suppose that Joseph, knowing by
divine teaching, the meaning of Pharaoh's dreams, had remained silent, think
what his silence would have cost the world. Or suppose that John,
having leaned upon the Lord's bosom and having learned the inner secrets of
his love, had gone back to his fishing, after the ascension, and had refused
or failed to be an interpreter for Christ—what would the world have lost! If
one only of the million flowers which bloom in the summer days, in the
fields and gardens, refused to bloom, hiding its gift of beauty, the world
would be a little less lovely for the failure of the one flower. If but one
of the myriad stars in the heavens should refuse to shine some night,
keeping its beam locked in its own breast, the night would be a little
darker. Every human life that fails to hear its message and learn its
lesson, or that fails to interpret its own secret, keeping it locked in the
silence of the breast—in some measure impoverishes the world, and withholds
that which would have enriched earth's life. But every life, even the
lowliest, that learns its word from God and then interprets it to others,
adds something, at least, to the world's sum of blessing and good. We need
only to be pure in our purpose and strong in our struggle—and all life shall
be purer and stronger through our faithfulness.
It is our mission then, to live near the heart of Christ,
that we may catch the spirit of his life, and then to go forth among the
people to interpret to them the things of Christ which we have learned. It
is not our words which the world needs, so much as the sweet and holy life
which we should live. Let us get into our heart—the word and spirit and love
of Christ—and then interpret in our daily walk among men—the beauty of