Making the Most of Life

by J. R. Miller, 1891

Chapter 13. Without Axe or Hammer.

We read of the temple of Solomon, when it was being built, that it was built of stone made ready in the quarry, so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it went up.

So it is, that the great work of spiritual temple-building goes on continually in this world. We are all really silent builders. The kingdom of God comes not with observation. The divine Spirit works in silence, changing men's hearts, transforming lives, comforting sorrow, kindling hope in darkened bosoms, washing scarlet souls white as snow! The preacher may speak with the voice of a Boanerges—but the power which reaches hearts is not the preacher's noise; silently the divine voice whispers in the soul its secret of conviction, or of hope, or of strength. The Lord is not in the storm, in the earthquake, in the fire—but in the sound of gentleness, the Spirit's whisper, which breathes through the soul.

Perhaps the best work any of us do in this world, is that which we do without noise. Words give forth sound—but it is not the sounds which do good, which brighten sad faces as people listen, which change tears to laughter, which stimulate hope, which courage into fainting hearts—it is not the noise of our words—but the thoughts which the words carry. Words are but the chattering messengers which bear the sealed messages; and it is the messages which help and comfort. We may make noise as we work—but it is not our noise which builds up what we leave in beauty behind us. It is life which builds, and life is silent. The force which works in our homes is a silent force—mother-love, father-love, patience, gentleness, prayer, truth, the influences of divine grace.

It is the same in the building up of personal character in each of us. There may be a great deal of noise all about us—but it is in silence that we grow. From a thousand sources come the little blocks that are laid upon the walls—the lessons we get from others, the influences friends exert upon us, the truths our reading puts into our minds, the impressions life leaves upon us, the inspirations we receive from the divine Spirit—ever the builders are at work on these characters of ours—but they work silently, without noise of hammer or axe.

There is another suggestion. Down in the dark quarries, under the city, the men wrought, cutting, hewing, polishing, the stones. They hung their little lamps on the walls, and with their hammers and chisels they hewed away at the great blocks. Months and years passed; then one day there was a grand dedication, and there in the glorious sunshine all the secret, obscure work of those years was seen in its final beauty, amid the joy of a nation. If the men who had wrought in the quarries were present that day, what a joy it must have been to them to think of their work in preparing the great stones for their place in the magnificent building!

Here is a parable. This world is the quarry. We are toiling away in the darkness. We cannot see what good is ever to come out of our lonely, painful, obscure toil. Yet some day our quarry-work will be manifested in the glory of heaven. We are preparing materials now and here for the temple of the great King, which in heaven is slowly rising through the ages. No noise of hammer or axe is heard in all that wondrous building, because the stones are all shaped and polished and made entirely ready in this world.

We are the stones, and the world is God's quarry. The stones for the temple were cut out of the great rock in the dark underground cavern. They were rough and shapeless. Then they were dressed into form, and this required a great deal of cutting, hammering, and chiseling. Without this stern, sore work on the stones, not one of them could ever have filled a place in the temple. At last when they were ready they were lifted out of the dark quarry and carried up to the mountain-top, where the temple was rising, and were laid in their place.

We are stones in the quarry as yet. When Christ saved us—we were cut from the great mass of rock. But we were yet rough and unshapely; not fit for heaven. Before we can be ready for our place in the heavenly temple—we must be hewn and shaped. The hammer must do its work, breaking off the roughnesses. The chisel must be used, carving and polishing our lives into beauty. This work is done in the many processes of life. Every sinful thing, every fault in our character—is a rough place in the stone, which must be chiseled off. All the crooked lines must be straightened. Our lives must be cut and hewn, until they conform to the perfect standard of divine truth.

Quarry-work is not always pleasant. If stones had hearts and sensibilities, they would sometimes cry out in sore pain as they feel the hammer strokes and the deep cutting of the chisel. Yet the workman must not heed their cries and withdraw his hand, else they would at last be thrown aside as worthless blocks, never to be built into the place of honor.

We are not stones; we have hearts and sensibilities, and we do cry out ofttimes as the hammer smites away the roughnesses in our character. But we must yield to the painful work and let it go on, or we shall never have our place as living stones in Christ's beautiful temple. We must not wince under the sorrow and affliction.

There is still another suggestion from this singular temple-building. Every individual life has its quarries, where are shaped the blocks which afterward are built into character, or which take form in acts. Schools are the quarries, where, through years of patient study, the materials for life are prepared, the mind is disciplined, habits are formed, knowledge is gained, and power is stored. Later, in active life, the temple rises without noise of hammer or axe. Homes are quarries where children are trained, where moral truth is lodged in the heart, where the elements of character are hewn out like fair stones, to appear in the life in after days, when it grows up among men.

Then there are the thought-quarries, which are in back of what people see in every human life. Men must be silent thinkers before their words or deeds can have either great beauty or power.

Extemporaneousness anywhere, is of small value. Glib, easy talkers, who are always ready to speak on any subject, who require no time for preparation, may go on chattering forever—but their talk is only chatter. The words that are worth hearing come out of thought-quarries where they have been wrought ofttimes in struggle and anguish. So it is of all great thoughts. Thinkers brood long in the silence and then come forth and their eloquence sways us. So it is with art. We look at a fine picture and our hearts are warmed by its wondrous beauty. But do we know the story of the picture? Years and years of thought and of tireless toil lie in back of its enrapturing beauty. Or here is a book which charms you, which thrills and inspires you. Great thoughts lie on its pages. Do you know the book's story? The author lived, struggled, toiled, suffered, wept—that he might write the words which now help you. In back of every good life-thought which blesses men, lies a dark quarry where the thought was born and shaped into the beauty of form which makes it a blessing to the world.

Or here is a noble and beautiful character. Goodness appears natural to it. It seems easy for the man to be noble and to do noble things. But again the quarry is in back of the temple. Each one's heart is the quarry out of which comes all that the person builds into his life. "As he thinks in his heart so is he." Everything that appears in our lives—comes out of our hearts. All our acts are first thoughts. The artist's picture, the poet's poem, the singer's song, the architect's building, are thoughts before they are wrought out into forms of beauty. All dispositions, tempers, feelings, words, and acts—start in the heart. If the workmen had quarried faulty stones in the caverns, the temple would have been spoiled. An evil heart, with stained thoughts, impure imaginings, blurred feelings—can never build up a fair and lovely character.

We need to guard our heart-quarry with all diligence, since out of it are the issues of life. The thoughts build the life and make the character! White thoughts rear up a beautiful fabric before God and man. Soiled thoughts pile up a stained life, without beauty or honor. We should look well, therefore, to our heart-quarry, where the work goes on in the darkness without ceasing! If all is right there, we need give little concern to the building of character. Diligent heart-keeping, yields a life unspotted from the world.

A little child had been reading the beatitudes, and was asked which of the qualities named in them she most desired. "I would rather be pure in heart," she said. When asked the reason for her choice, she answered: "If I could but have a pure heart, I would then possess all the other qualities of the beatitudes in the one." The child was right. A pure heart will build a beautiful life—a fit temple for Christ. Thinking over God's holy thoughts after him—will make us like God. Thinking habitually about Christ—Christ's beauty will come into our souls and shine in our faces.

Chapter 14. Doing Things for Christ.

If Christ were here, we say, we would do many things for him. The women who love him would gladly minister to him as did the women who followed him from Galilee. The men who are his friends would work to help him in any ways he might direct. The children who are trying to please him would run errands for him. We all say we would be delighted to serve him—if only he would come again to our world and visit our homes. But we can do things for him just as really as if he were here again in human form!

One way of doing this is by obeying him. He is our Lord. Nothing pleases him so well as our obedience. It is told of a great philosopher that a friend called one day to see him, and was entertained by the philosopher's little daughter until her father came in. The friend supposed that the child of so wise a man, would be learning something very deep. So he asked her, "What is your father teaching you?" The little maid looked up into his face with her clear eyes and said, "Obedience!" That is the one great lesson our Lord is teaching us. He wants us to learn obedience. If we obey him always, we shall always be doing things for him.

We do things for Christ, which we do through love to him. Obedience without love, does not please him. But the smallest services we can render, if love inspires them, he accepts. Thus we can make the commonest tasks of our lives holy ministries, as sacred as what the angels do. Christ scorns no work that is done in love to him. Most of us have much drudgery in our lives—but even this we can make glorious, by doing it through love for Christ.

Things we do for others in Christ's name, are done for him. We all remember that wonderful "inasmuch" in the twenty-fifth of Matthew. If we find the sick one, or the poor one, and go and minister, as we may be able, as unto the Lord—the deed is accepted as if done to him in person.

There are fathers and mothers who find it hard to provide for their children. It takes all their time and strength, and sometimes they say, "I cannot do any work for Christ, because it takes every moment to earn bread and clothing for my little ones, and to care for them." But Jesus whispers, "Yes; yet your children are mine, and what you do for them you do for me."

There is in a home an invalid who requires all the time and thought of another member of the household in loving attention. It may be an aged parent—needing the help of a child; it may be a child, crippled, blind, or sick—needing all a parent's care; or it may be a brother broken in health on whom a sister is called to wait continually with patient love. And sometimes those who are required thus to spend their days and nights in ministry for others feel that their lives count for nothing in work for Christ. They hear the appeals for laborers and for service—but cannot respond. Their hands are already filled. Yet Jesus whispers, "These for whom you are toiling, caring, and spending time and strength are mine—and in doing for them, you are doing for me just as acceptable work as are those who are toiling without distraction or hindrance in the great open field."

Sometimes the work we do for Christ with purest love fails, or seems to fail of result. Nothing appears to come of it. There are whole lifetimes of godly people that seem to yield nothing. A word ought to be said about this kind of doing for Christ. We are to set it down as true without exception, that no work wrought in Christ's name and with love for him is ever lost. What we, in our limited, short-sighted vision, planned to do, may not be accomplished—but God's purpose goes on in every consecrated life, in every true deed done. The disciples thought that Mary's costly ointment was wasted. So it seemed; but this world has been a little sweeter ever since the breaking of the vase, which let the perfume escape into its common air. So it is with many things that are done, and many lives that are lived. They seem to fail, and there is nothing on the earth to show where they have been. Yet somehow the stock of human happiness is larger and the world is a little better.

Our work for Christ that fails in what we intended, may yet leave a blessing in some other way. A faithful Bible-class teacher through many months visited a young man, a member of her class, in sickness. She read the Bible to him and sang sweet hymns and prayed by his bedside. He was not a Christian and she hoped that he would be led to Christ. But at length he recovered and went out again, unchanged, or even more indifferent than ever to his spiritual interests. All the faithful teacher's work seemed to have been in vain. Then she learned that a frail, invalid girl, living in an adjoining house, had been brought to Christ through the loving work done for the careless scholar. The songs sung by the sick man's bedside, and which seemed to have left no blessing in his heart, had been heard through the thin wall of the house in the girl's sick-room, and had told her of the love of the Savior.

The records of Christian ministry are full of such good work done unintentionally. Failing to leave a blessing where it was hoped a blessing would be received, it blessed some other life. We may not say that any good work has failed, until we know in the last great harvest all the results of the things we have done and the words we have spoken.

Many people die, and see yet no harvest from their life's sowing. They come to the end of their years, and their hands are empty. But when they enter heaven they will find that they have really been building there all the while, that the things that have seemed to leave no result on the earth, have left glorious results inside the gates of pearl.

Then even if the work we do does not itself leave any record, the doing of it leaves a record—an impression—on our own life. There is a word of Scripture which says, "He who does the will of God abides forever." Doing God's will builds up enduring character in us. Every obedience adds a new touch of beauty to the soul. Every true thing we do in Christ's name, though it leaves no mark anywhere else in God's universe, leaves an imperishable mark on our own life. Every deed of unselfish kindness that we perform with love for Christ in our heart, though it blesses no other soul in all the world, leaves its sure benediction on ourselves.

Thousands of years ago, a leaf fell on the soft clay and seemed to be lost. But last summer a geologist in his ramblings broke off a piece of rock with his hammer, and there lay the image of the leaf, with every line, and every vein, and all the delicate tracery, preserved in the stone through these centuries. So the words we speak, and the things we do for Christ today, may seem to be lost—but in the great final revealing the smallest of them will appear, to the glory of Christ and the reward of the doer.

Chapter 15. Helping and Over-helping.

Even kindness may be overdone. One may be too gentle. Love may hold others back from duty, and thus may wreck destinies. We need to guard against meddling with God's discipline, softening the experience that he means to be hard, sheltering our friend from the wind that he intends to blow chillingly. All summer does not make a good zone to live in; we need autumn and winter to temper the heat, and keep vegetation from luxuriant overgrowth. The best thing we can do for others—is not always to take their load or do their duty for them.

Of course we are to be helpful to others. No aim should be put higher in our life-plans than that of personal helpfulness. The motto of the true Christian cannot be other than that of the Master: "Not to be ministered unto—but to minister." Even in the ambition to gather and retain wealth, the spirit of the desire must be, if we are Christians at all—that thereby we may become more helpful to others; that through, or by means of, our wealth—we may be enabled to do larger and greater good. Whatever gift, power, or possession we have that we do not seek to use in this way—is not yet truly devoted to God. Fruit is the test of character, and the purpose of fruit is not to adorn the tree or vine—but to feed hunger. Whatever we are, whatever we have, is fruit, and must be held for the feeding of the hunger of others. Thus personal helpfulness is the aim of all truly consecrated life. In so far as we are living for ourselves—we are not Christians.

There are many ways of helping others. Some people help us in material ways. It is a still higher kind of help which we get from those who minister to our mental needs, who write the books which charm, instruct, and assist us. Mind is greater than body. Bread, and clothing, and furniture, and houses—will not satisfy our intellectual cravings. Good books bring to us inestimable benefits. They tell us of new worlds, and inspire us to conquer them. They show us lofty and noble ideals, and stimulate us to attain them. They make us larger, better, stronger. The help we get from books is incalculable.

Yet the truest and best help any one can give to others is not in material things—but in ways that make them stronger and better. Money is good—when money is really needed. But in comparison with the divine gifts of hope, friendship, courage, sympathy, and love, it is paltry and poor. Usually the help people need, is not so much the lightening of their burden, as fresh strength to enable them to bear their burden, and stand up under it. The best thing we can do for another, someone has said, is not to make some things easy for him—but to make something of him.

It is just here that friendship makes most of its mistakes. It over-helps. It helps by ministering relief, by lifting away loads, by gathering hindrances out of the way, when it would help much more wisely by seeking to impart hope, strength, energy. "Our friends," says Emerson, "are those who make us do what we can." Says another writer: "Our real friend is not the man or woman who smooths over our difficulties, throws a cloak over our failings, stands between us and the penalties which our mistakes have brought upon us—but the man or woman who makes us understand ourselves, and helps us to better things." Love is weak, and too often pampers and flatters. It thinks that loyalty requires it to make life easy as possible for the beloved one.

Too often our friendship is most short-sighted in this regard, and most hurtful to those we fervently desire to aid. We should never indulge or encourage weakness in others, when we can in any way stimulate it into strength. We should never do anything for another—which we can inspire him to do for himself. Much parental affection errs at this point. Life is made too easy for children. They are sheltered—when it were better if they faced the storm. They are saved from toil and exertion—when toil and exertion are God's ordained means of grace for them, of which the parents rob them in their over-tenderness. There are children who are wronged by the cruelty and inhumanity of parents, and whose cries to heaven make the throne of the Eternal rock and sway; but there are children, also, who are wronged of much that is noblest and best in their inheritance by the over-kindness of parents.

In every warm friendship, too, there is strong temptation to make the same mistake. We have to be ever on our guard against over-helping. Our aim should always be to inspire in our friend new energy, to develop in him the noblest strength, to bring out his best manhood. Over-helping defeats these offices of friendship.

There is one particular point at which a special word of caution may well be spoken. We need to guard our sympathies, when we would comfort and help those who are suffering or are in trouble of any kind. It may seem a severe thing to say—but illness is ofttimes made worse by the pity of friends. There is in weak natures a tendency to indulge sickness, to exaggerate its symptoms, to imagine that it is more serious than it really is, and easily to succumb to its influence. You find your friend indisposed, and you are profuse in your expressions of sympathy, encouraging or suggesting fears, urging prompt medical help. You think you have shown kindness—but very likely you have done sore injury. You have left a depressing influence behind you. Your friend is disheartened and alarmed. You have left him weaker, not stronger.

It may seem hard-hearted to appear to be unsympathetic with invalids, and those who are slightly or even seriously sick; not to take interest in their complaints; not to say commiserating things to them; but really it is the part of true friendship to help sick people fight the battle with their ills. We ought, therefore, to guard against speaking any word which will discourage them, increase their fear, exaggerate their thought of their illness, or weaken them in their struggle. On the other hand, we ought to say words which will cheer and strengthen them, and make them braver for the fight. Our duty is to help them to get well.

Perhaps the very medicine they need is a glimpse of cheerful outlook. Sick people ofttimes fall into a mood of disheartenment and self-pity which seriously retards their recovery. To sit down beside them then, and fall into their gloomy spirit, listening sympathetically to their discouraged words, is to do them sore unkindness. The true office of friendship in such cases is to drive away the discouragement, and put hope and courage into the sore heart. We must try to make our sick friend braver to endure his sufferings.

Then, even in the sacredness of sorrow, we should never forget that our mission to others is not merely to weep with them—but to help them to be victorious, to receive their sorrow as a messenger from God, and to bear themselves as God's children under it. Instead, therefore, of mere emotional condolence with our friends in their times of grief, we should seek to present to them the strong comforts of divine love, and to inspire them to the bearing of their sorrow in faith and hope and joy.

So all personal helpfulness should be wise and thoughtful. It should never tend to pamper weakness, to encourage dependence, to make people timid, to debilitate manliness and womanliness, to make parasites of those who turn to us with their burdens and needs. We must take care that our helping does not dwarf any life which we ought rather to stimulate to noble and beautiful growth. God never makes such mistakes as this. He never fails us in need—but he loves us too well and is too wise to relieve us of weights which we need to make our growth healthful and vigorous. We should learn from God, and should help as he helps, without over-helping.

Chapter 16. The Only One.

There are a great many people in this world—hundreds of millions. Yet in a sense each one of us is the only one. Each individual life has relations of its own in which it must stand alone, and into which no other life can come. Companionships may be close, and they may give much comfort and inspiration—but in all the inner meaning of life each individual lives apart and alone. No one can live your life for you. No one but yourself can answer your questions, meet your responsibilities, make your decisions and choices. Your relations with God, no one but yourself can fulfill. No one can believe for you. A thousand friends may encircle you and pray for your soul—but until you lift up your own heart in prayer, no communication is established between you and God. No one can get your sins forgiven but yourself. No one can obey God for you. No other one can do your work for Christ, or render your account at the judgment-seat.

In the realm of experience also, the same is true. Each person suffers alone, as if there were no other being in the universe. Friends may stand by us in our hours of pain or sorrow, and may sympathize with us or administer comfort or alleviation—but they enter not really into the experiences. In these we are alone. No one can meet your temptations for you, or fight your battles, or endure your trials. The tenderest friendship, the holiest love, cannot enter into the solitariness in which each one of us lives apart.

This aloneness of life sometimes becomes very real in consciousness. All great souls experience it as they rise out of and above the common mass of men in their thoughts and hopes and aspirations, as the mountains rise from the level of the valley and little hills. All great leaders of men ofttimes must stand alone, as they move in advance of the ranks of their followers. The battles of truth and of progress have usually been fought by lonely souls. Elijah, for example, in a season of disheartenment and despondency, gave it as part of the exceptional burden of his life, that he was the only one in the field for God. It is so in all great epochs; God calls one man to stand for him.

But the experience is not that only of great souls; there come times in the lives of all who are living faithfully and worthily—when they must stand alone for God, without companionship, perhaps without sympathy or encouragement. Here is a young person, the only one of his family who has confessed Christ. He takes him as his Savior, and then stands up before the world and vows to be his and follow him. He goes back to his home. The members of the home circle are very dear to him; but none of them are Christians, and he must stand alone for Christ among them. Perhaps they oppose him in his discipleship—in varying degrees this ofttimes is the experience. Perhaps they are only indifferent, making no opposition, only quietly watching his life to see if it is consistent. In any case, however, he must stand for Christ alone, without the help that comes from companionship.

Or it may be in the workshop or in the school that the young Christian must stand alone. He returns from the Lord's Table to his week-day duties, full of noble impulses—but finds himself the only Christian in the place where his duty leads him. His companions are ready to sneer, and they point the finger of scorn at him, with irritating epithets. Or they even persecute him in petty ways. They are not Christ's friends, and he, as follower of the Master, finds no sympathy among them in his new life. He must stand alone in his discipleship, conscious all the while, that unfriendly eyes are upon him. Many a Christian finds it very hard to be the only one to stand for Christ in the circle in which his daily work fixes his place.

This aloneness puts upon one a great responsibility. For example, you are the only Christian in your home. You are the only witness Christ has in your house, the only one through whom to reveal his love, his grace, his holiness. You are the only one to represent Christ in your family—to show there the beauty of Christ, the sweetness and gentleness of Christ; to do there the works of Christ, the things he would do if he lived in your home. Perhaps the salvation of all the souls of your family depends upon your being true and faithful in your own place. If you falter in your loyalty, if you fail in your duty—your loved ones may be lost and the blame will be yours; their blood will be upon you.

In like manner, if you are the only Christian in the shop, the store, or the office where you work, a peculiar responsibility rests upon you, a responsibility which no other one shares with you. You are Christ's only witness in your place. If you do not testify there for him, there is no other one who will do it. Miss Havergal tells of her experience in the girls' school at Dusseldorf. She went there soon after she had become a Christian and had confessed Christ. Her heart was very warm with love for her Savior and she was eager to speak for him. To her amazement, however, she soon learned that among the hundred girls in the school, she was the only Christian. Her first thought was one of dismay—she could not confess Christ in that great company of worldly, un-Christian companions. Her gentle, sensitive heart shrank from a duty so hard. Her second thought, however, was that she could not refrain from confessing Christ. She was the only one Christ had there—and she must be faithful. "This was very bracing," she writes. "I felt I must try to walk worthy of my calling for Christ's sake. It brought a new and strong desire to bear witness for my Master. It made me more watchful and earnest than ever before, for I knew that any slip in word or deed would bring discredit on my Master." She realized that she had a mission in that school, that she was Christ's witness there, his only witness, and that she dare not fail.

This same sense of responsibility rests upon every thoughtful Christian who is called to be Christ's only witness in a place—in a home, in a community, in a store, or school, or shop, or social circle. He is Christ's only servant there, and he dare not be unfaithful, else the whole work of Christ in that place may fail. He is the one light set to shine there for his Master, and if his light be hidden, the darkness will be unrelieved. So there is special inspiration in this consciousness of being the only one Christ has in a certain place.

There is a sense in which this is true also of everyone of us all the time. We really are always the only one Christ has at the particular place at which we stand. There may be thousands of other lives about us. We may be only one of a great company, of a large congregation, of a populous community. Yet each one of us has a life that is alone in its responsibility, in its danger, in its mission and duty. There may be a hundred others close beside me—but not one of them can take my place, or do my duty, or fulfill my mission, or bear my responsibility. Though everyone of the other hundred does his work, and does it perfectly, my work waits for me, and if I do not do it, it never will be done.

We can understand how that if the great prophet had failed God that day when he was the only one God had to stand for him, the consequences would have been most disastrous; the cause of God would have suffered irreparably. But are we sure that the calamity to Christ's kingdom would be any less if one of us should fail God in our lowly place any common day?

Stories are told of a child finding a little leak in the Holland dike—and stopping it with his hand until help could come, staying there all the night, holding back the floods with his little hand. It was but a tiny, trickling stream that he held back; yet if he had not done it, it would soon have become a torrent, and before morning the sea would have swept over the land, submerging fields, homes, and cities. Between the sea and all this devastation, there was but a boy's hand. Had the child failed, the floods would have rolled in with their remorseless ruin. We understand how important it was that that boy should be faithful to his duty, since he was the only one God had that night to save Holland.

But do you know that your life may be all that stands, between some great flood of moral ruin—and broad, fair fields of beauty? Do you know that your failure in your lowly place and duty may not let in a sea of disaster which shall sweep away human hopes and joys and human souls? The humblest of us dare not fail, for our one life is all God has at the point where we stand.

This truth of personal responsibility, is one of tremendous importance. We do not escape it by being in a crowd, one of a family, one of a community. No one but ourself can live our life, do our work, meet our obligation, bear our burden! No one but ourself can stand for us before God to render an account of our deeds. In the deepest, realest sense each one of us lives alone.

There is another phase of this subject, however, which should not be overlooked. While we must stand alone in our place and be faithful to our trust, our responsibility reaches only to our own duty. Others beside us have their part also to do, and the perfection of the whole work, depends upon their faithfulness as well as upon ours. The best any of us can do in this world, is but a fragment. The old prophet thought his work had failed because Baalism was not yet entirely destroyed. Then he was told of three other men, who would come after him—two kings and then another prophet, who each in turn would do his part, when at last the destruction of the great alien idolatry would be complete. Elijah's faithfulness had not failed—but his achievement was only a fragment of the whole work.

This is very suggestive and very comforting. We are not responsible for finishing everything we begin. It may be our part only to begin it; the carrying on and finishing of it may be the work of others whom we do not know, of others perhaps not yet born. We all enter into the work of those who have gone before us, and others who come after us shall in turn enter into our work. Our duty simply is to do well and faithfully our own little part. If we do this we need never fret ourselves about the part we cannot do. That is not our work at all—but belongs to some other worker, waiting now, perchance, in some obscure place, who at the right time will come forward with new heart and skillful hand, anointed by God for his task.

So while we are alone in our responsibility, we need give no thought for anything but our own duty, our own little fragment of the Lord's work. The things we cannot do some other one is waiting and preparing now to do, after the work has passed from our hand. There is comfort in this for any who fail in their efforts, and must leave tasks unfinished which they hoped to complete. The finishing is another's mission.

Chapter 17. Swiftness in Duty.

Many good people are very slow. They do their work well enough, perhaps—but so leisurely that they accomplish in their brief time only a fraction of what they might accomplish. They lose, in aimless loitering, whole golden hours which they ought to fill with quick activities. They seem to have no true appreciation of the value of time, or of their own accountability for its precious moments. They live conscientiously, it may be—but they have no strong constraining sense of duty impelling them to ever larger and fuller achievement. They have a work to do—but there is no hurry for it; there is plenty of time in which to do it.

It is quite safe to say that the majority of people do not get into their life half the achievement that was possible to them when they began to live, simply because they have never learned to work swiftly, and under pressure of great motives.

There can be no doubt that we are required to make the most possible, of our life. Mr. Longfellow once gave to his pupils, as a motto, this: "Live up to the best that is in you." To do this, we must not only develop our talents to the utmost power and capacity of which they are susceptible—but we must also use these talents to the accomplishment of the largest and best results they are capable of producing. In order to reach this standard, we must never lose a day, nor even an hour, and we must put into every day and every hour—all that is possible of activity and usefulness.

Dreaming through days and years, however brilliantly one may dream, can never satisfy the demands of the responsibility which inheres essentially in every soul that is born into the world. Life means duty, toil, work. There is something divinely allotted to each hour, and the hour one loiters remains forever—an unfilled blank. We can ideally fulfill our mission only by living up always to the best that is in us, and by doing every day the very most that we can do.

We turn over to our Lord for example, since his was the one life in all the ages, which filled out the divine pattern; and wherever we see him, we find him intent on doing the will of his Father, not losing a moment, nor loitering at any task. We see him ever hastening from place to place, from ministry to ministry, from baptism to temptation, from teaching to healing, from miracle-working to solitary prayer. His feet never loitered. He lost no moments; he seems indeed to have crowded the common work of years—into a few short, intense hours. He is painted for us as a man continually under the strongest pressure, with a work to do which he was eager to accomplish in the shortest possible time. He was always calm, never in nervous haste, yet ever quietly moving with resistless energy on his holy errand.

We ought to catch our Master's spirit in this celerity in the Father's business. Time is short—and duty is large. There is not a moment to lose, if, in our allotted period, we would finish the work that is given us to do. We need to get our Lord's "immediately" into our life, so that we shall hasten from duty to duty, without pause or idle lingering. We need to get into our heart a consciousness of being ever on the Master's errands, that shall be within us a mighty compulsion, driving us always to duty.

Naturally we are indolent, and fond of ease and self indulgence. We need to be carried out of and beyond ourselves. There is no motive strong enough to do this but love to God and to our fellow-men. Supreme love to God makes us desire to do with alacrity, everything he commands. Love to our fellow-men draws us to all service of sympathy and beneficence for them, regardless of cost. Constrained by such motives, we shall never become laggards in duty.

Swiftness or slowness in duty, is very much a matter of habit. As one is trained in early life, one is quite sure to continue in mature years. A loitering child will become a loitering man or woman. The habit grows, as all habits do.

Many people lose in the aggregate whole years of time out of their lives—for lack of system. They make no plan for their days. They let duties mingle in inextricable confusion. They are always in feverish haste. They talk continually of being overwhelmed with work, of the great pressure that is upon them, of being driven beyond measure. They always have the air of men who have scarcely time to eat or sleep. And there is nothing feigned in all their intense occupation. They really are hurried men. Yet in the end they accomplish but little in comparison with their great activity, because they work without order, and always feverishly and nervously. Swiftness in accomplishment is always calm and quiet. It plans well, allowing no confusion in tasks. Hurried haste is always flurried haste, which does nothing well. "Unhasting yet unresting" is the motto of quick and abundant achievement.

There is another phase of the lesson. Not swiftness only—but patient persistence through days and years, is the mark of true living. There are many people who can work under pressure for a little time—but who tire of the monotony and slacken in their duty by and by, failing at last because they cannot endure unto the end. There are people who begin many noble things—but soon weary of them and drop them out of their hands. They may pass for brilliant men, men even of genius—but in the end they have for biography only a volume of fragments of chapters, not one of them finished. Such men may attract a great deal of passing attention, while the tireless plodders working beside them receive no praise, no commendation; but in the real records of life, written in abiding lines in God's Book, it is the latter who will shine in the brightest splendor.

So we get our lesson. There is so much to do in our short days—that we dare not lose a moment. Life is so laden with responsibility that to trifle at any point is sin. Even on the seizing of minutes, eternal issues may depend. Of course we must take needed rest to keep our lives in condition for duty. But what shall we say of those strong men and women who do almost nothing but rest? What shall we say of those who live only to have amusement, who dance away their nights and then sleep away their days, and thus hurry on toward the judgment-bar, doing nothing for God or for man? Life is duty; every moment of it has its own duty. There is no life so sad and so terrible in its penalties—as that which wastes the golden years in idleness or pleasure, and leaves duty undone.

Shall we not seek to crowd the days with most earnest living? Shall we not learn to redeem the time from indolence, from loitering, from disorderliness, from the waste of precious moments, from self-indulgence, from impatience of persistent toil, from all that lessens achievement? Shall we not learn to work swiftly for our Master?

Chapter 18. The Shadows We Cast.

Everyone of us casts a shadow. There hangs about us a strange, indefinable something—which we call personal influence, which has its effect on every other life on which it falls. It goes with us wherever we go. It is not something we can have when we want to have it, and then lay aside when we will, as we lay aside a garment. It is something that always pours out from our life, like light from a lamp, like heat from flame, like perfume from a flower.

No one can live, and not have influence. Says Burritt: "No human being can come into this world without increasing or diminishing the sum total of human happiness, not only of the present—but of every subsequent age of humanity. No one can detach himself from this connection. There is no sequestered spot in the universe, no dark niche, to which he can retreat from his relations to others, where he can withdraw the influence of his existence upon the moral destiny of the world; everywhere his presence or absence will be felt, everywhere he will have companions who will be better or worse for his influence." These are true words. To be at all—is to have influence, either for good or evil, over other lives.

The ministry of personal influence, is something very wonderful. Without being conscious of it, we are always impressing others by this strange power that goes out from us. Others watch us—and their actions are modified by ours. Many a life has been started on a career of beauty and blessing—by the influence of one noble act. The disciples saw their Master praying, and were so impressed by his earnestness, or by the radiancy they saw on his face, as he communed with his Father, that when he joined them again they asked him to teach them how to pray. Every true soul is impressed continually by the glimpses it has of loveliness, of holiness, or of nobleness in others.

One kind deed, often inspires many kindnesses. Here is a story from a newspaper of the other day, which illustrates this. A little newsboy entered a car on the elevated railway train, and slipping into a cross-seat, was soon asleep. Presently two young ladies came in, and took seats opposite to him. The child's feet were bare, his clothes were ragged, and his face was pinched and drawn, showing marks of hunger and suffering. The young ladies noticed him, and, seeing that his cheek rested against the hard window-sill, one of them arose, and quietly raising his head, slipped her muff under it for a pillow.

The kind act was observed, and now mark its influence. An old gentleman in the next seat, without a word, held out a silver quarter to the young lady, nodding toward the boy. After a moment's hesitation, she took it, and as she did so, another man handed her a dime, a woman across the aisle held out some pennies, and almost before the young woman realized what she was doing, she was taking a collection for the poor boy. Thus from the one little act there had gone out a wave of influence touching the hearts of twenty people, and leading each of them to do something.

Common life is full of just such illustrations of the influence of kindly deeds. Every godly life leaves in the world a twofold ministry, that of the things it does directly to bless others, and that of the silent influence it exerts, through which others are made better, or are inspired to do like godly things.

Influence is something, too, which even death does not end. When earthly life closes, a godly man's active work ceases. He is missed in the places where his familiar presence has brought benedictions. No more are his words heard by those who ofttimes have been cheered or comforted by them. No more do his benefactions find their way to homes of need where so many times they have brought relief. No more does his gentle friendship minister strength and hope and courage, to hearts that have learned to love him. The death of a godly man, in the midst of his usefulness, cuts off a blessed ministry of helpfulness in the circle in which he has dwelt. But his influence continues.

The influence which our dead have over us, is ofttimes very great. We think we have lost them when we see their faces no more, nor hear their voices, nor receive the accustomed kindnesses at their hands. But in many cases there is no doubt that what our loved ones do for us after they are gone, is quite as important as what they could have done for us had they stayed with us. The memory of beautiful lives is a benediction, softened and made more rich and impressive by the sorrow which their departure caused. The influence of such sacred memories is in a certain sense—more tender than that of life itself. Death transfigures our loved one, as it were, sweeping away the faults and blemishes of the mortal life, and leaving us an abiding vision, in which all that was beautiful, pure, gentle, and true in him remains to us. We often lose friends in the competitions and strifes of earthly life, whom we would have kept forever had death taken them away in the earlier days when love was strong.

Thus even death does not quench the influence of a godly life. It continues to bless others long after the life has passed from earth.

It must be remembered that not all influence is good. Evil deeds also have influence. Bad men live, too, after they are gone. Cried a dying man whose life had been full of harm to others: "Gather up my influence, and bury it with me in my grave!" But the frantic, remorseful wish was in vain. The man went out of the world—but his bad influence stayed behind him, its poison to work for ages in the lives of others.

We need, therefore, to guard our influence with most conscientious care. It is a crime to fling into the street an infected garment which may carry contagion to men's homes. It is a worse crime to send out a printed page bearing words infected with the virus of moral death. The men who prepare and publish the vile literature which today goes everywhere, polluting and defiling innocent lives, will have a fearful account to render when they stand at God's bar to meet their influence. If we would make our lives worthy of God, and a blessing to the world, we must see to it that nothing we do shall influence others in the slightest degree to evil.

We should keep watch not only over our words and deeds in their intent and purpose—but also in their possible influence over others. There may be liberties which in us lead to no danger—but which to others, with less stable character and less helpful environment, would be full of peril. It is part of our duty to think of these weaker ones and of the influence of our example upon them. We may not do anything, in our strength and security, which might possibly harm others. We must be willing to sacrifice our liberty, if by its exercise we endanger another's soul. This is the teaching of Paul in the words: "It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall." "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall."

How can we make sure that our influence shall be only a benediction? There is no way, but by making our life pure and godly. Just in the measure in which we are filled with the Spirit of God and have the love of Christ in us—shall our influence be holy and a blessing to the world.

Chapter 19. The Meaning of Opportunities.

If people's first thoughts were but as good and wise as their after-thoughts, life would be better and more beautiful than it is. We can all see our errors more clearly after we have committed them, than we saw them before. We frequently hear people utter the wish that they could go again over a certain period of their life, saying that they would live it differently, that they would not repeat the mistakes or follies, which had so marred and stained the record they had made.

Of course the wish that one might have a second chance with any past period of time, is altogether vain. No doubt there ofttimes is much reason for shame and pain in our retrospects. We live poorly enough at the best, even the saintliest of us, and many of us certainly make sad work of our life. Human life must appear very pathetic, and ofttimes tragic—as the angels look down upon it. There are almost infinitely fewer wrecks on the great sea where the ships go, than on that other sea of which poets write, where lives with their freightage, of immortal hopes and possibilities sail on to their destiny. We talk sometimes with wonder of what the ocean contains, of the treasures which lie buried far down beneath the waves. But who shall tell of the treasures which are hidden in the deeper, darker sea of human life, where they have gone down in the sad hours of defeat and failure?

Glimpses of these lost things—these squandered treasures, these wasted possibilities—these pearls and gems of life that have gone down into the sea of our past—we may have when the reefs are left bare by the refluent tides—but glimpses only can we see. We cannot recover our treasures. The gleams only mock us. The past will not give again its gold and pearls to any frantic appealing of ours.

There is something truly startling in this irreparableness of the past, this irrevocableness of the losses which we have suffered through our follies or our sins.

In youth the hours are full of privileges. They come like angels, holding in their hands rich treasures, sent to us from God, which they offer to us; and if we are laggard or indolent, or if we are too intent on our own little trifles to give welcome to these heavenly messengers with their heavenly gifts, they quickly pass on and are gone. And they never come back again to renew the offer.

On the dial of a clock in the palace of Napoleon at Malmaison, the maker has put, the words, "It does not know how to go backward." It is so of the great clock of Time—it never can be turned backward. The moments come to us but once; whatever we do with them we must do as they pass—for they will never come to us again.

Then privilege makes responsibility. We shall have to give account to God for all that he sends to us by the mystic hands of the passing hours, and which we refuse or neglect to receive. "They are wasted—and are added to our debt."

The real problem of living, therefore—is how to rightly utilize, what the hours bring. He who does this, will live nobly and faithfully, and will fulfill God's plan for his life. The difference in men is not in the opportunities which come to them—but in their use of their opportunities. Many people who fail to make much of their life charge their failure to the lack of opportunities. They look at one who is continually doing good and beautiful things, or great and noble things, and think that he is specially favored, that the chances which come to him for such things are exceptional. Really, however, it is in his capacity for seeing and accepting what the hours bring of duty or privilege, that his success lies. Where other men see nothing, he sees a battle to fight, a duty to perform, a service to render, or an honor to win. Many a man waits long for opportunities, wondering why they never come to him, when really they have been passing by him day after day, unrecognized and unaccepted.

There is a legend of an artist, who long sought for a piece of sandal-wood out of which to carve a Madonna. At last he was about to give up in despair, leaving the vision of his life unrealized, when in a dream he was bidden to shape the figure from a block of oak-wood, which was destined for the fire. Obeying the command, he produced from the log of common firewood, a masterpiece.

In like manner many people wait for great and brilliant opportunities for doing the good things, the beautiful things, of which they dream; while through all the plain, common days—the very opportunities they require for such deeds lie close to them, in the simplest and most familiar passing events, and in the commonest circumstances. They wait to find sandal-wood out of which to carve Madonnas, while far more lovely Madonnas than they dream of, are hidden in the common logs of oak they burn in their open fire-place, or spurn with their feet in the wood-yard.

Opportunities come to all. The days of every life are full of them. But the trouble with too many of us is that we do not make anything out of them while we have them. Then next moment they are gone. One man goes through life sighing for opportunities. If only he had this or that gift, or place, or position—he would do great things, he says; but with his means, his poor chances, his meager privileges, his uncongenial circumstances, his limitations, he can do nothing worthy of himself. Then another man comes up close beside him, with like means, chances, circumstances, privileges, and he achieves noble results, does heroic things, wins for himself honor and renown. The secret is in the man—not in his environment.

Life is full of illustrations of this. The materials of life which one man has despised and spurned as unworthy of him, as having in them no charmed secret of success, another man is forever picking up out of the dust, and with them achieving noble and brilliant successes. Men, alert and eager, are needed, men with heroic heart and princely hand, to see and use the opportunities that lie everywhere in the most commonplace life.

There is but one thing to do, to get out of life all its possibilities of attainment and achievement; we must train ourselves to take what every moment brings to us of privilege and of duty. Some people worry themselves over the vague wonder, as to what the divine plan in life is for them. They have a feeling that God had some definite purpose in creating them, and that there is something he wants them to do in this world, and they would like to know how they can learn this divine thought for their life. The answer is really very simple. God is ready to reveal to us, with unerring definiteness, his plan for our life. This revealing he makes as we go on, showing us each moment one little fragment of his purpose. Says Faber: "The surest method of aiming at a knowledge of God's eternal purposes for us, is to be found in the right use of the present moment. Each hour comes with some little fagot of God's will fastened upon its back."

We have nothing to do, therefore, with anything but the privilege and duty of the one hour now passing. This makes the problem of living very simple. We need not look at our life as a whole, nor even carry the burden of a single year; if we but grasp well the meaning of the one little fragment of time immediately present, and do instantly all the duty and take all the privilege that the one hour brings, we shall thus do that which shall best please God and build up our own life into completeness. It ought never to be hard for us to do this.

Living thus we shall make each hour radiant with the radiancy of duty well done, and radiant hours will make radiant years. But the missing of privileges and the neglecting of duties will leave days and years marred and blemished, and make the life at last like a moth-eaten garment. We must catch the sacred meaning of our opportunities if we would live up to our best.

Chapter 20. The Sin of Ingratitude.

A blessing given ought always to have some return. It is better to be a diamond, lighted to shine, than a clod, warmed to be only a dull, dark clod. We all receive numberless favors—but we do not all alike make fitting return.

Krummacher has a pleasant little fable with a suggestion. When Zaccheus was old he still dwelt in Jericho, humble and pious before God and man. Every morning at sunrise he went out into the fields for a walk, and he always came back with a calm and happy mind to begin his day's work. His wife wondered where he went in his walks—but he never spoke to her of the matter. One morning she secretly followed him. He went straight to the tree from which he first saw the Lord. Hiding herself, she watched him to see what he would do. He took a pitcher, and carrying water, he poured it about the tree's roots which were getting dry in the sultry climate. He pulled up some weeds here and there. He passed his hand fondly over the old trunk. Then he looked up at the place among the branches where he had sat that day when he first saw Jesus. After this he turned away, and with a smile of gratitude went back to his home. His wife afterward referred to the matter and asked him why he took such care of the old tree. His quiet answer was, "It was that tree which brought me to him whom my soul loves."

There is no true life without its sacred memorial of special blessing or good. There is something that tells of favor, of deliverance, of help, of influence, of teaching, of great kindness. There is some spot, some quiet walk, some room, some book, some face—which always recalls sweet memories. There is something that is precious to us because in some way it marks a holy place in life's journey. Most of us understand that loving interest of Zaccheus in his old tree. In what life is there no place that is always kept green in memory, because there a sweet blessing was received?

Yet there seem to be many who forget their benefits. There is much ingratitude in the world. It may not be so universal as some would have us believe. There surely are many who carry in their hearts, undimmed for long years, the memory of benefits and kindnesses received from friends, and who never cease to be grateful and to show their gratitude.

There certainly are unkind hearts—which return coldness for kind deeds. There are children who forget the love and sacrifices of their parents, and repay their countless kindnesses, not with grateful affection, honor, obedience, thoughtfulness, and service—but with disregard, indifference, disobedience, dishonor, sometimes even with shameful neglect and unkindness. There are those who receive help from friends in unnumbered ways, through years, help that brings to them great aid in life—promotion, advancement, improvement in character, widening of privileges and opportunities, tender kindness which warms, blesses, and inspires the heart, and enriches, refines, and ennobles the life—who yet seem never to recognize or appreciate the benefit and the good they receive. They appear to feel no obligation, no thankfulness. They make no return of love for all of love's ministry. They even repay it with complaint, with criticism, with bitterness! We have all known years of continued favors forgotten, and their memory wiped out—by one small failure to grant a new request for help. We have all known malignant hate—to be the return for long periods of lavish kindness.

Ingratitude is robbery! It robs those to whom gratitude is due, for it is the withholding of that which is justly theirs. If you are kind to another, is he not your debtor? If you show another favors, does not he owe you thanks? True, you ask no return, for love does not work for wages. Only selfishness demands repayment for help given, and is embittered by ingratitude. The Christlike spirit continues to give and bless, pouring out its love in unstinted measure, though no act or word or look tells of gratitude.

Yet while love does not work for wages, nor demand an equivalent for its services—it is sorely wronged when ungrateful lips are dumb. The quality of ingratitude is not changed because faithful love is not frozen in the heart by its coldness. We owe at least loving remembrance to one who has shown us kindness, though no other return may be possible, or though large return may already have been made. We can never be absolved from the duty of being grateful. "Owe no man anything—but love" is a heavenly word. We always owe love; that is a debt we never can pay off.

Ingratitude is robbery. But it is cruelty as well as robbery. It always hurts the heart, which must endure it. Few faults or injuries cause more pain and grief in tender spirits, than ingratitude. The pain may be borne in silence. Men do not speak of it to others, still less to those whose neglect or coldness inflicts it; yet It is like thorns in the pillow.

Parents suffer unspeakably when the children for whom they have lived, suffered, and sacrificed, prove ungrateful. The ungrateful child does not know what bitter sorrow he causes the mother who bore him and nursed him, and the father who loves him more than his own life; how their hearts bleed; how they weep in secret over his unkindness. We do not know how we hurt our friends when we treat them ungratefully, forgetting all they have done for us, and repaying their favors with coldness.

There is yet more of this lesson. Gratitude, to fulfill its gentle ministry, must find some fitting expression. It is not enough that it be cherished in the heart. There are many godly people who fail at this point. They are really thankful for the good others do to them. They feel kindly enough in their hearts toward their benefactors. Perhaps they speak to other friends of the kindnesses they have received. They may even put it into their prayers, telling God how they have been helped by his children, and asking him to reward and bless those who have been good to them. But meanwhile they do not in any way express their grateful feelings to the people who have done them the favors, or rendered them the offices of friendship.

How does your friend know that you are grateful—if you do not in some way tell him that you are? Truly here is a sore fault of love, this keeping sealed up in the heart the generous feeling, the tender gratitude, which we ought to speak, and which would give so much comfort if it were spoken in that ear which ought to hear it. No pure, true, loving human heart ever gets beyond being strengthened and warmed to nobler service—by words of honest and sincere appreciation. Flattery is contemptible; only vain spirits are elated by it. Insincerity is a sickening mockery; the sensitive soul turns away from it in revulsion. But words of true gratitude are always to human hearts—like cups of water to thirsty lips. We need not fear turning people's heads by genuine expressions of thankfulness; on the other hand, nothing inspires such humility, such reverent praise to God, as the knowledge which such gratitude brings—that one has been used of God to help, or bless, or comfort another life.

Silence is said to be golden, and ofttimes, indeed, it is better than speech. "It is a fine thing in friendship," says George MacDonald, "to know when to be silent." There are times when silence is the truest, fittest, divinest, most blessed thing—when words would only mar the hallowed sweetness of love's ministry. But there are times again when silence is disloyalty, cruelty, unkind as winter air to tender plants. Especially is this true of gratitude; to be coldly silent, when the heart is grateful, is a sin against love. When we have a word of thanks in our heart, which we feel we might honestly speak, and which we do not speak, we have sorely wronged our friend.

Especially in homes ought there to be more grateful expression. We wrong home friends more than any other friends. Home is where love is truest and tenderest. We need never fear being misunderstood by the loved ones who there cluster about us. Yet too often home is the very place where we are most miserly of grateful and appreciative words. We let gentle spirits starve close beside us—for the words of affectionateness that lie warm in our hearts—yet unspoken, on our tongues. None of us know what joy and strength we could impart to others, if only we would train ourselves to give fitting, delicate, and thoughtful expression to that gratitude which is in our hearts. We would become blessings to all about us, and would receive into our life new gladness.

Nothing is sadder than the sorrow witnessed about many a coffin; the grief of bereavement and loss made bitter by the regret that now the too slow gratitude of the heart, shall never have opportunity to utter itself in the ear which waited so long, hungry, and in vain, for the word that would have given such comfort.

But it is not enough that we be grateful and show our gratitude to the human friends who do us kindnesses. It is to God that we owe all. Every good and perfect gift, no matter how it reaches us, through what messenger, in what form, "comes down from above, from the Father of lights." All the blessings of Providence, all the tender things which come to us through human love and friendship, are God's gifts.

We owe thanks to God, therefore, for all that we receive. When we have shown gratitude to our human benefactors—we still owe our Heavenly Father thanks and gratitude. It is possible, too, for us to be grateful to the friends who help us, and yet be as atheists, never recognizing God, nor giving him any thanks. This is the sorest sin of all. We rob God, and hurt his heart, every time we receive any favor at whatever hand, and fail to speak our praise to him.

Whatever we may say about man's ingratitude to his fellow-men, there is no question about man's lack of gratitude to God. We are continually receiving mercies and favors from him, and yet, are there not days and days with most of us, in which we lift no heart and speak no word in praise? Our prayers are largely requests and supplications for help and favor, with but little adoration and worship. We continue asking and asking, and God continues giving and giving; but how many of us remember always or often—to give thanks for answered prayer?

The angel of requests—so the legend runs—goes back from earth heavily laden every time he comes to gather up the prayers of men. But the angel of thanksgiving, of gratitude, has almost empty hands as he returns from his errands to this world. Yet ought we not to give thanks for all that we receive, and for every answered request? If we were to do this our hearts would always be lifted up toward God in praise.

There is a story of some great conductor of a musical festival suddenly throwing up his baton, and stopping the performance, crying, "Flageolet!" The flageolet was not doing its part and the conductor's trained ear missed its one note in the large orchestra. Does not God miss any voice that is silent in the music of earth that rises up to him? And are there not many voices that are silent, taking no part in the song, giving forth no praise? Shall we not quickly start our heart-song of gratitude, calling upon every power of our being to praise God?

Chapter 21. Some Secrets of Happy Home Life.

Home life ought to be happy. The benediction of Christ on every home to which he is welcomed as an abiding guest is, "Peace be to this house!" While perfection of happiness is unattainable in this world, rich, deep, heart-filling happiness certainly may be, and ought to be, attained.

Yet it requires wise building and delicate care to make a home truly and sincerely happy. Such a home does not come as a matter of course, by natural growth, wherever a family takes up its abode. Happiness has to be planned for, lived for, sacrificed for, ofttimes suffered for. Its price in a home is always the losing of self—on the part of those who make up the household. Home happiness is the incense which rises from the altar of mutual self-sacrifice!

It may be said, in a word, that Christ himself is the one great, blessed, secret of all home happiness; Christ at the marriage altar; Christ when the baby is born; Christ when the baby dies; Christ in the days of plenty; Christ in the pinching times; Christ in all the household life; Christ in the sad hour when farewells must be spoken, when one goes on before and the other stays, bearing the burden of an unshared grief. Christ is the secret of happy home life!

But for the sake of simplicity the lesson may be broken up. For one thing, the husband has much to do in solving the problem. Does a man think always deeply of the responsibility he assumes when he takes a young wife away from the shelter of mother-love and father-love, the warmest, softest human nest in this world, and leads her into a new home, where his love is to be henceforth her only shelter? No man is fit to be the husband of a true woman, who is not a godly man. He need not be great, nor brilliant, nor rich—but he must be godly, or he is not worthy to take a gentle woman's tender life into his keeping.

Then he must be a man—true, brave, generous, manly. He must be a good provider. He must be a sober man; no man who comes home intoxicated, however rarely, is doing his share in making happiness for his wife and family. He must be a man of pure, blameless life, whose name shall grow to be an honor and a blessing in his household. Husbands have a great deal to do with the matter of happiness at home.

The wife, too, has a responsibility. It should be understood at the very beginning, that good housekeeping is one of the first secrets of a happy home. If the man must is a good provider—the woman must be a good home-maker. No woman is ready to marry until she has mastered the fine arts of housekeeping. Home is the wife's kingdom. She holds very largely in her hands, the happiness of the hearts that nestle there. The best husband, the truest, the noblest, the gentlest, the richest-hearted, cannot make his home happy if his wife is not in every sense—a helpmeet. In the last analysis, home happiness does depend on the wife. She is the true home-maker.

Children, too, are great blessings, when God sends them, bringing into the home rich possibilities of happiness. They cost care, and demand toil and sacrifice; ofttimes causing pain and grief: yet the blessing they bring repays a thousand times the care and cost. It is a sacred hour in a home when a baby is born and laid in the arms of a young father and mother. It brings fragments of heaven trailing after it to the home of earth. There are few deeper, purer joys ever experienced in this world—than the joy of true parents at the birth of a child. Much of home's happiness along the years is made by the children. We say we train them—but they train us ofttimes more than we train them. Our lives grow richer, our hearts are opened, our love becomes holier when the children are about us.

Jesus said of little children that those who receive them in his name, receive him. May we not then say that children bring great possibility of blessing and happiness to a home? They come to us as messengers from heaven, bearing messages from God. Yet we may not know their value while we have them. Ofttimes, indeed, it is only the empty crib and the empty arms, which reveal to us the full measure of home happiness that we get from the children. Those to whom God gives children, should receive them with reverence. There are homes where mothers, who once wearied easily of children's noises, sit now with aching hearts, and would give the world to have a baby to nurse, or a frolicking boy to care for. Children are among the secrets of a happy home.

Turning to the life of the household, affectionateness is one of the secrets of happiness. There are hundreds of homes in which there is love that would die for its dear ones; and yet hearts are starving there for love's daily bread. There is a tendency in some homes to smother all of love's tenderness, to suppress it, to choke it back. There are homes where the amenities of affection are unknown, and where hearts starve for daily bread. There are husbands and wives between whom love's converse has settled into the baldest conventionalities. There are parents who never kiss their children after they are babies, and who discourage in them as they grow up all longing for caresses. There are homes whose daily life is marred by incessant petty strifes and discourtesies.

These are not exaggerations. Yet there is love in these homes, and all that is needed is that it be set free to perform its sweet ministry. There are cold, cheerless homes which could be warmed into love's richest glow in a little while—if all the hearts of the household were to grow affectionate in expression. Does the busy husband think that his weary wife would not care any longer for the caresses and marks of tenderness with which he used to thrill her? Let him return again for a month to his old-time fondness, and then ask her if these youthful amenities are distasteful to her. Do parents think their grown-up children are too big to be petted, to be kissed at meeting and parting? Let them restore again, for a time, something of the affectionateness of the childhood days, and see if there is not a blessing in it. Many who are longing for richer home happiness, need only to pray for a spring-time of love, with a tenderness that is not afraid of affectionate expression.

We ought not to fear to speak our love at home. We should get all the tenderness possible into the daily household life. We should make the morning good-byes, as we part at the breakfast-table, kindly enough for final farewells; for they may be indeed final farewells. Many go out in the morning—who never come home at night; therefore, we should part, even for a few hours, with kindly word, with lingering pressure of the hand, lest we may never look again in each other's eyes. Tenderness in a home is not a childish weakness, is not a thing to be ashamed of; it is one of love's sacred duties. Affectionate expression is one of the secrets of happy home life.

Piety is another of these secrets. It is where the Gospel of Christ is welcomed, that heaven's benediction falls: "Peace be to this house." There may be a certain measure of happiness in a home without Christ—but it lacks something at best, and then when sorrow comes, and the sun of earthly joy is darkened, there are no lamps of heavenly comfort to lighten the darkness. Sad indeed is the Christless home, when a beloved one lies dead within its doors. No words of Christian comfort have any power to console, because there is no faith to receive them. No stars shine through their cypress-trees. But how different it is in the Christian home, in like sorrow! The grief is just as sore—but the truth of immortality sheds holy light on the darkness, and there is a deep joy which transfigures the sorrow.

Then may we not even put sorrow down as one of the secrets of happiness in a true Christian home? This may seem at first thought a strange suggestion. But there surely are homes that have passed through experiences of affliction—that have a deeper, richer, fuller joy now, than they had before the grief came. The sorrow sobered their gladness, making it less hilarious—but no less sweet. Bereavement drew all the home hearts closer together. The loss of one from the circle made those that remained, dearer to each other than before. The tears became crystalline lenses, through which faith saw more deeply into heaven. Then in the sorrow Christ came nearer, entering more really into the life of the home. Prayer has meant more since the dark days. There has been a new fragrance of love in the household. There are many homes whose present rich, deep, quiet happiness, sorrow helped to make.

But it is not in sorrow only that piety gives its benediction. It makes all the happiness sweeter to have the assurance of God's love and favor abiding in the household. Burdens are lighter because there is One who shares them all. The morning prayer of the family, when all bow together, makes the whole day fairer; and the evening prayer before sleep, makes all feel safer for the night. Then piety inspires unselfishness, thoughtfulness, the spirit of mutual helpfulness, of burden-bearing, and serving, and thus enriches the home life.

After a while the young folks scatter away, setting up homes of their own. How beautiful it is then to see the old couple, who, thirty or forty years before, stood together at the marriage altar, standing together still, with love as true and pure and tender as ever—waiting to go home. By and by the husband goes away and comes back no more, and then the wife is lonesome and longs to go too. A little later and she also is gone, and they are together again on the other side, those dear old lovers, to be parted henceforth nevermore. And that is the blessed end of a happy Christian home.

Chapter 22. God's Winter Plants.

One of the papers tells of a newly discovered flower. It is called the snow-flower. It has been found in the northern part of Siberia. The plant shoots up out of the ice and frozen soil. It has three leaves, each about three inches in diameter. They grow on the side of the stem toward the north. Each of the leaves appears to be covered with little crystals of snow. The flower, when it opens, is star-shaped, its petals being of the same length as the leaves, and about half an inch in width. On the third day the extremities of the anthers show minute glistening specks, like diamonds, which are the seeds of this wonderful flower.

Is not this strange snow-flower, an illustration of many Christian lives? God seems to plant them in the ice and snow; yet they live and grow up out of the wintry cold—into fair and wondrous beauty. We might think that the loveliest lives of earth, are those that are reared amid the gentlest, kindliest influences, under summer skies, in the warm atmosphere of ease and comfort. But the truth is, that the noblest developments of Christian character are grown in the wintry garden of hardship, struggle, and sorrow!

Trial should not, therefore, be regarded with discouragement, as something which will stunt and dwarf the life and mar its beauty. It should be accepted rather, when it comes, as part of God's discipline, through which he would bring out the noblest and best possibilities of our character. Perhaps we would be happier for the time if we had easier, more congenial conditions. Children might be happier without restraint, without family government, without chastening—just left to grow up into all wilfulness and waywardness. But there is something better in life than present happiness. Disciplined character in manhood, even though it has been gotten through stern and severe home-training, is better than a childhood and youth of unrestraint, with a worthless manhood as the outcome. A noble life, bearing God's image, even at the price of much pain and self-denial, is better than years of freedom from care and sacrifice with a life unblessed and lost at the end. "To serve God and love him," says one, "is higher and better than happiness, though it be with wounded feet and bleeding hands and heart loaded with sorrow."

It is well that we should understand how to receive trial so as to get from its hard experience the good it has for us. For one thing, we should accept it always reverently. Resistance forfeits the blessing which can be yielded only to the loving, submissive spirit. Teachableness is the unvarying condition of learning. To rebel against trial is to miss whatever good it may have brought for us. There are some who resent all severity and suffering in their lot as unkindness in God. These grow no better under divine chastening—but instead are hurt by it. When we accept the conditions of our life, however hard, as divinely ordained, and as the very conditions in which, for a time, we will grow the best, we are ready to get from them the blessing and good intended in them for us.

Another important suggestion is that we faint not under trial. There are those who give up and lose all their courage and faith when trouble comes. They cannot endure suffering. Sorrow crushes them. They break down at once under a cross and think they never can go on again. There have been many lives crushed by affliction or adversity, which have not risen again out of the dust. There have been mothers, happy and faithful before, out of whose home one child has been taken, and who have lost all interest in life from that day, letting their home grow dreary and desolate and their other children go uncared for, as they sat with folded hands in the abandonment of their despairing, uncomforted grief. There have been men with bright hopes, who have suffered one defeat or met with one loss, and then have let go in their discouragement and have fallen into the dust of failure, never trying to rise again.

Nothing is sadder in life than such yieldings. They are unworthy of immortal beings. The divine intention in trial never is to crush us—but always to do good to us in some way, to bring out in us new energy of life. Whatever the loss, struggle, or sorrow, we should accept it in love, humility, and faith, take its lessons, and then go on into the life that is before us. When one child is taken out of a home, the mother should, with more reverent heart and more gentle hand, turn the whole energy of her chastened life into love's channels, living more than ever before, for her home and the children that are left to her. The man who has felt the stunning blow of a sudden grief or loss should kiss the hand of God that has smitten—and quickly arise and press onward to the battles and duties before him. We should never accept any defeat as final. Though it be in life's last hours, with only a mere fringe of margin left, and all our past failure and loss, still we should not despair.

There is nowhere any better illustration of the way we should always rise again out of trial, than we have in the life of Paul. From the day of his conversion until the day of his death, trouble followed him. He was misunderstood; he was cast out for Christ's sake; he met persecution in every form; he was shipwrecked; he lay in dungeons; he was deserted by his friends. But he never fainted, never grew discouraged, never spoke one word about giving up. "Cast down—but not destroyed," was the story of his life. He quickly arose out of every trial, every adversity, with a new light in his eye, a new enthusiasm in his heart. He could not be defeated, for he had Christ in him. Shall we not catch Paul's unconquerable spirit, that we may never faint in any trial?

It requires faith to meet trouble and adversity heroically. Undoubtedly, at the time, the blessing is not apparent in the sorrow or the defeat. All seems disastrous and destructive. It is in the future, in the outworking, that the good is to come. It is a matter of faith, not of sight. "All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous—but grievous; yet afterward it yields peaceable fruit unto those who have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness." Oh, the blessing of God's "afterwards"! Jacob one day thought and said that all things were against him—but afterward he saw that his great afflictions and losses were wrought in as parts of a beautiful plan of love for him. The disciples thought that the cross was the destruction of all their Messianic hopes; afterward they saw that it was the very fulfillment of these hopes. The pruning, which at the time cuts so into the life of the vine, lopping off great, rich branches, afterward is seen to have been the saving and enriching of the whole vine. So we always need faith. We must believe against appearances.

Back and forth the plough was driven. The field was covered with grasses and lovely flowers—but remorselessly through them all the share tore its way, cutting furrow after furrow. It seemed that all the beauty was being hopelessly destroyed. But by and by harvest-time came, and the field waved with golden wheat. That was what the ploughman's faith saw from the beginning.

Sorrow seems to destroy the life of a child of God. Its crude blade ploughs again and again through it, making many a deep furrow, gashing its beauty. But afterward a harvest of blessing and good grows up out of the crushed and broken life. That is what God intends always in trial and sorrow.

Let us have the ploughman's faith, and we shall not faint when the blade is driven through our heart. Then by faith we shall see beyond the pain and trial—the blessing of richer life, of whiter holiness, of larger fruitfulness. And to win that blessing will be worth all the pain and trial.

Chapter 23. Unfinished Life-building.

We are all builders. We may not erect any house or temple on a city street, for human eyes to see—but every one of us builds a fabric which God and angels see. Life is a building. It rises slowly, day by day, through the years. Every new lesson we learn lays a block on the edifice which is rising silently within us. Every experience, every touch of another life on ours, every influence that impresses us, every book we read, every conversation we have, every act of our commonest days—adds something to the invisible building. Sorrow, too, has its place in preparing the stones to lie on the life-wall. All of life furnishes the material.

There are many noble fabrics of character reared in this world. But there are also many who build only low, poor huts, without beauty, which will be swept away in the testing-fires of judgment. There are many, too, whose life-work presents the spectacle of an unfinished building. There was a beautiful plan to begin with, and the work promised well for a little time; but after a while it was abandoned and left standing, with walls half-way up, a useless fragment, open and exposed, an incomplete, inglorious ruin, telling no story of past splendor as do the ruins of some old castle or coliseum—a monument only of folly and failure.

"There is nothing sadder," writes one, "than an incomplete ruin; one that has never been of use; that never was what it was meant to be; about which no pure, holy, lofty associations cling, no thoughts of battles fought and victories won, or of defeats as glorious as victories. God sees them where we do not. The highest tower may be more unfinished than the lowest, to him."

We must not forget the truth of this last sentence. There are lives which to our eyes, seem only to have been begun and then abandoned, which to God's eyes are still rising into more and more graceful beauty. Here is one who began his life-work with all the ardor of youth and all the enthusiasm of a consecrated spirit. For a time his hand never tired, his energy never slackened. Friends expected great things from him. Then his health gave way. The diligent hand lies idle and waiting now. His enthusiasm no more drives him afield. His work lies unfinished.

"What a pity!" men say. But wait! He has not left an unfinished life-work as God sees it. He is resting in submission at the Master's feet and is growing meanwhile as a Christian. The spiritual temple in his soul is rising slowly in the silence. Every day is adding something to the beauty of his character, as he learns the lessons of patience, confidence, peace, joy, love. His building at the last will be more beautiful, than if he had been permitted to toil on through many busy years, carrying out his own plans. He is fulfilling God's purpose for his life.

We must not measure spiritual building by earthly standards. Where the heart remains loyal and true to Christ; where the cross of suffering is taken up cheerfully and borne sweetly; where the spirit is obedient though the hands lie folded and the feet must be still—the temple rises continually toward finished beauty.

Or here is one who dies in early youth. There was great promise in the beautiful life. Affection had reared for it a noble fabric of hope. Perhaps the beauty had begun to shine out in the face, and the hands had begun to show their skill. Then death came—and all the fair hopes were folded away. The visions of loveliness and the dreams of noble attainments and achievements, lay like withered flowers upon the grave. An unfinished life! friends cry in their disappointment and sorrow. So it seems, surely, to love's eyes, from the earth-side. But it is not so—as God's eye looks upon it! There is nothing unfinished, which fulfils the divine plan. God cuts off no young life—until its earthly work is done. Then the soul-building which began here and seemed to be interrupted by death, was only hidden from our eyes by a thin veil, behind which it still goes up with unbroken continuity, rising into fairest beauty in the presence of God.

But there are abandoned life-buildings whose story tells only of shame and failure. Many people begin to follow Christ, and after a little time turn away from their profession, and leave only a pretentious beginning to stand as a ruin to be laughed at by the world, and to dishonor the Master's name.

Sometimes it is discouragement which leads men to give up the work to which they have put their hand. Too often noble life-buildings are abandoned in the time of sorrow, and the hands which were quick and skillful before grief came—hang down and do nothing more on the temple-wall. Instead, however, of giving up our work and faltering in our diligence—we should be inspired by sorrow to yet greater earnestness in all duty and greater fidelity in all life. God does not want us to faint under chastening—but to go on with our work, quickened to new earnestness by grief.

Lack of faith is another cause which leads many to abandon their life-temples unfinished. Throngs followed Christ in the earlier days of his ministry when all seemed bright, who, when they saw the shadow of the cross, turned back and walked no more with him. They lost their faith in him. It is startling to read how near even our Lord's apostles came, to leaving their buildings unfinished. Had not their faith come again after their Master arose, they would have left in this world only sad memorials of failure instead of glorious finished temples.

In these very days there are many who, through the losing of their faith, are abandoning their work on the wall of the temple of Christian discipleship, which they have begun to build. Who does not know those who once were earnest and enthusiastic in Christian life, while there was but little opposition—but who fainted and failed when it became hard to confess Christ and walk with him?

Then sin, in some form, draws many a builder away from his work, to leave it unfinished. It may be the world's fascinations, which draw him from Christ's side. It may be sinful human companionships, which lure him from loyal friendship to his Savior. It may be riches, which enter his heart and blind his eyes to the attractions of heaven. It may be some secret, debasing lust, which gains power over him and paralyzes his spiritual life. Many are there now, amid the world's throngs, who once sat at the Lord's Table and were among God's people. Unfinished buildings their lives are, towers begun with great enthusiasm, and then left to tell their sad story of failure to all who pass by. They began to build—and were not able to finish.

It is sad to think how much of this unfinished work, God's angels see as they look down upon our earth. Think of the good beginnings which never come to anything in the end; the excellent resolutions which are never carried out, the noble life-plans entered upon by so many young people with ardent enthusiasm—but soon given up. Think of the beautiful visions and fair hopes which might be made splendid realities—but which fade out, not leaving the record of even one sincere, earnest effort to work them into reality.

In all lines of life, we see these abandoned buildings. The business world is full of them. Men began to build—but in a little time they were gone, leaving their work uncompleted. They set out with gladness—but tired at length of the toil, or grew disheartened at the slow coming of success, and abandoned their ideal when it was perhaps just ready to be realized. Many homes present the spectacle of abandoned dreams of love. For a time the beautiful vision shone in radiance, and two hearts sought to make it come true—but then gave it up in despair.

So life everywhere is full of beginnings—never carried out to completion. There is not a soul-wreck on the streets, not a prisoner serving out a sentence behind iron bars, not a debased, fallen one anywhere—in whose soul there were not once visions of beauty, bright hopes, holy thoughts and purposes, and high resolves—an ideal of something lovely and noble! But alas! the visions, the hopes, the purposes, the resolves, never grew into more than beginnings. God's angels bend down and see a great wilderness of unfinished fabrics, splendid possibilities unfulfilled, noble might-have-beens abandoned, ghastly ruins now, sad memorials only of failure!

The lesson from all this is—that we should finish our work—that we should allow nothing to draw us away from our duty—that we should never weary in following Christ—that we should hold fast the beginning of our confidence, steadfast unto the end. We should not falter under any burden, in the face of any danger, before any demand of cost and sacrifice. No discouragement, no sorrow, no worldly attraction, no hardship, should weaken for one moment our determination to be faithful unto death. No one who has begun to build for Christ, should leave an unfinished, abandoned life-work, to grieve the heart of the Master and to be sneered at as a reproach to the name he bears.

Yet we must remember, lest we be discouraged, that only in a relative, human sense can any life-building be made altogether complete. Our best work is marred and imperfect. It is only when we are in Christ, and are co-workers with him, that anything we do can ever be made perfect and beautiful. But the weakest, and the humblest, who are simply faithful, will stand at last complete in him. Even the merest fragment of life, as it appears in men's eyes, if it is truly in Christ, and filled with his love and with his Spirit—will appear finished, when presented before the divine Presence. To do God's will, whatever that may be, to fill out his plan—is to be complete in Christ, though the stay on earth be but for a day, and though the work done fulfills no great human plan, and leaves no brilliant record among men.

Chapter 24. Iron Shoes for Rough Roads.

The matter of shoes is important. Especially is this true when the roads are rough and hard. We cannot then get along without something strong and comfortable to wear on our feet. One would scarcely expect to find anything in the Bible about such a need as this. Yet it only shows how truly the Bible is fitted to all our actual life to discover in it a promise referring to shoes.

In the blessing of Moses, pronounced before his death upon the several tribes, there was this among other things for Asher: "Your shoes shall be iron." A little geographical note will help to make the meaning plain. Part of Asher's allotted portion was hilly and rugged. Common sandals, made of wood or leather, would not endure the wear and tear of the sharp, flinty rocks. There was need, therefore, for some special kind of shoes. Hence the form of the promise: "Your shoes shall be iron."

Bible words, which took the most vivid local coloring from the particular circumstances in which they were originally spoken, are yet as true for us as they were for those to whom they first came. We have only to get disentangled from the local allusions the real heart of the meaning of the words, and we have an eternal promise which every child of God may claim.

Turning, then, this ancient promise, into a word for nineteenth-century pilgrims, we get from it some important suggestions. For one thing it tells us that we may have some rugged pieces of road before we get to the end of our life-journey. If not, what need would there be for iron shoes? If the way is to be flower-strewn, then velvet slippers would do. No man needs iron-soled shoes for a walk through a soft meadow. The Christian journey is not all easy. Indeed, the Christian life is never easy. No one can live nobly and worthily without struggle, battle, self-denial. One may find easy ways—but they are not the worthiest ways. They do not lead upward to the noblest things. One reason why many people never grasp the visions of beauty and splendor which shine before them in early years, is because they have not courage for rough climbing. We shall need our iron shoes—if we are to make the journey which leads upward to the best possibilities of our life.

But the word is not merely a prophecy of rugged paths; it is also a promise of shoeing for the road, whatever it may be. One who is preparing to climb a mountain, craggy and precipitous, would not put on silk slippers; he would get strong, tough shoes, with heavy nails in the soles. When God sends us on a journey over steep and flinty paths—he will not fail to provide us with suitable shoes.

Asher's portion was not an accidental one; it was of God's choosing. Nor is there any accident in the ordering of the place, the conditions, the circumstances, of any child of God's. Our times are in God's hands! No doubt, then, the hardnesses and difficulties of any one's lot—are part of the divine ordering for the best growth of the person's life.

There was a compensation in Asher's rough portion. His rugged hills had iron in them. This law of compensation runs through all God's distribution of gifts. In the animal world there is a wonderful harmony, often noted, between the creatures and the circumstances and conditions amid which they are placed. The same law rules in the providence of human life. One man's farm is hilly and hard to till—but deep down beneath its ruggedness, buried away in its rocks, there are rich minerals. One person's lot in life is hard, with peculiar obstacles, difficulties and trials; but hidden in it there are compensations of some kind. One young man is reared in affluence and luxury. He never experiences lack or self-denial; he never has to struggle with obstacles or adverse circumstances. Another is reared in poverty and has to toil and suffer privation. The latter seems to have scarcely an equal chance in life. But we all know where the compensation lies in this case. It is in such circumstances that grand manhood is grown, while too often the petted, pampered sons of luxury come to nothing. In the rugged hills of toil and hardship—life's finest gold is found!

There are few things from which young people of wealthy families suffer more, than from over-help. No noble-spirited young man wants life made too easy for him, by the toil of others. What he desires is an opportunity to work for himself. There are some things no other one can give us; we must get them for ourselves. Our bodies must grow through our own exertions. Our minds must be disciplined through our own study. Our hearts' powers must be developed and trained through our own loving and doing.

The best friend we can have, is not the one who digs out the treasure for us—but who teaches and inspires us with our own hands to open the rocks and find the treasures for ourselves. The digging out of the iron—will do us more good than even the iron itself when it is dug out.

Shoes of iron are promised only to those who are to have rugged roads—and not to those whose path lies amid the flowers and soft meadows. There is a comforting suggestion here, for all who find peculiar hardness in their life. Peculiar grace is pledged to them. God will provide for the ruggedness of their way. They will have a divine blessing which would not be theirs—but for the roughness and ruggedness. The Hebrew parallelism gives the same promise, without figure, in the remaining words of the same verse: "As your days—so shall your strength be." Be sure, if your path is rougher than mine, you will get more divine help than I will. There is a most delicate connection between earth's needs—and heaven's grace. Days of struggle get more grace than calm, quiet days. When night comes—stars shine out which never would have appeared, had not the sun gone down. Sorrow draws comfort—which never would have come in joy. For the rough roads—there are iron shoes!

There is yet another suggestion in this ancient promise. The divine blessing for every experience, is folded up in the experience itself, and will not be received in advance. The iron shoes would not be given until the rough roads were reached. There was no need for them until then; and besides, the iron to make them was treasured in the rugged hills, and could not be gotten until the hills were reached.

A great many people worry about the future. They vex themselves by anxious questioning as to how they are going to get through certain anticipated experiences. We had better learn once for all—that there are in the Bible no promises of provision for needs—while the needs are yet future. God does not put strength into our arms today for the battles of tomorrow; but when the conflict is actually upon us—then the strength comes. "As your days—so shall your strength be."

Some people are forever unwisely testing themselves by questions like these: "Could I endure sore bereavement? Have I grace enough to bow in submission to God, if he were to take away my dearest treasure? Or could I meet death without fear?" Such questions are unwise, because there is no promise of grace to meet trial—when there is no trial to be met. There is no assurance of strength to bear great burdens—when there are no great burdens to be borne. Help to endure temptation is not promised—when there are no temptations to be endured. Grace for dying is nowhere promised—while death is yet far off and while one's duty is to live.

There is a story of shipwreck, which yields an illustration which comes in just here. Crew and passengers had to leave the broken vessel and take to the life-boats. The sea was rough, and great care in rowing and steering was necessary in order to guard the heavily-laden boats, not from the ordinary waves, which they rode over easily—but from the great cross-seas. Night was approaching, and the hearts of all sank as they asked what they would do in the darkness—when they would no longer be able to see these terrible waves. To their great joy, however, when it grew dark they discovered that they were in phosphorescent waters, and that each dangerous wave rolled up crested with light which made it as clearly visible as if it were mid-day.

So it is that life's dreaded experiences, when we meet them, carry in themselves the light which takes away the peril and the terror. The night of sorrow, comes with its own lamp of comfort. The hour of weakness, brings its own secret of strength. By the brink of the bitter fountain itself, grows the tree whose branch will heal the waters. The wilderness with its hunger and no harvest, has daily manna. In dark Gethsemane, where the load is more than mortal heart can bear, an angel appears, ministering strength which gives victory. When we come to the hard, rough, steep path—we find iron for shoes! The iron will be in the very hills, over which we shall have to climb.

So we see that the matter of shoes is very important. We are pilgrims here and we cannot walk barefoot on this world's rugged roads. Are our feet shod for the journey?

"How can I get shoes, and where?" one asks. Do you remember about Christ's feet, that they were pierced with nails? Why was it? That we might have shoes to wear on our feet, and that they might not be cut and torn along the way.

Christ's dear feet were wounded and sore with long journeys over thorns and stones, and were pierced through with cruel nails—that our feet might be shod for earth's rough roads, and might at last enter the gates of heaven, and walk on heaven's gold-paved streets!

Dropping all figure, the whole lesson is that we cannot get along on our life's pilgrimage without Christ; but having Christ we shall be ready for anything which may come to us along the days and years!

Chapter 25. The Shutting of Doors.

The shutting of a door is a little thing—and yet it may have infinite meaning. It may fix a destiny for weal or for woe. When God shut the door of the ark, the sound of its closing was the knell of exclusion to those who were outside—but it was the token of security to the little company of trusting ones, who were within. When the door was shut behind the bridegroom and his friends who had gone into the festal hall, thus sheltering them from the night's darkness and danger, and shutting them in with joy and gladness—there were those outside to whose hearts the closing of that door issued in their despair and woe. To them it meant hopeless exclusion from all the privileges of those who were within—and exposure to all the sufferings and perils from which those favored ones were protected.

Here we have hints of what may come from the closing of a door. Life is full of illustrations. We are continually coming up to doors which stand open for a little while—and then are shut. An artist has tried to teach this in a picture. Father Time is there with inverted hour-glass. A young man is lying at his ease on a luxurious couch, while beside him is a table spread with rich delicacies. Passing by him toward an open door, are certain figures which represent opportunities; they come to invite the young man to nobleness, to manliness, to usefulness, to worth. First is a rugged, sun-browned form, carrying a flail. This is labor. He invites the youth to toil. He has already passed far by unheeded. Next is a teacher, with open book, inviting the young man to thought and study, that he may master the secrets in the mystic volume. But this opportunity, too, is disregarded. The youth has no desire for learning. Close behind the teacher comes a woman with bowed form, carrying a child. Her dress betokens widowhood and poverty. Her hand is stretched out appealingly. She craves charity. Looking closely at the picture we see that the young man holds money in his hand. But he is clasping it tightly, and the poor widow's pleading is in vain. Still another figure passes, endeavoring to lure and woo him from his idle ease. It is the form of a beautiful woman, who seeks by love to awaken in him noble purposes, worthy of his powers, and to inspire him for ambitious efforts. One by one these opportunities have passed, with their calls and invitations, only to be unheeded. At last he is arousing to seize them—but it is too late; they are vanishing from sight and the door is closing!

This is a true picture of what is going on all the time in this world. Opportunities come to every young person, offering beautiful things, rich blessings, brilliant hopes. Too often, however, these offers and solicitations are rejected—and one by one pass by, to return no more. Door after door is shut, and at last men stand at the end of their days, with beggared lives, having missed all that they might have gotten of enrichment and good, from the passing days.

Take home. A true Christian home, with its love and prayer and all its gentle influences—is almost heaven to a child. The fragrance of the love of Christ fills all the household life. Holiness is in the very atmosphere. The blessings of affection make every day tender with its impressiveness. In all of life, there are no other such opportunities for receiving lovely things into the life, and learning beautiful lessons, as in the days of childhood and youth, which are spent in a home of Christian love. Yet how often are all these influences resisted and rejected. Then by and by the door is shut. The heart that made the home is still in death. The gentle hand that wrought such blessing is cold. Many a man in mid-life would give all he has to creep back for one hour to the old sacred place, to hear again his mother's voice in counsel or in prayer, to feel once more the gentle touch of her hand and to have her sweet comfort. But it is too late. The door is shut.

Take education. Many young people fail to realize what golden opportunities come to them in their school-days. Too often they make little of the privileges they then enjoy. They sometimes waste in idleness the hours they ought to spend in diligent study and helpful reading. They might, if they would, fit themselves for high and honorable places in after years; but they let the days pass with their opportunities. By and by they hear the school door shut. Then, all through their years they move with halting step, with dwarfed life, with powers undeveloped, unable to accept the higher places that might have been theirs if they had been prepared for them, failing often in duties and responsibilities—all because in youth they wasted their school-days and did not seize the opportunities that then came to them for preparation. Napoleon, when visiting his old school, said to the pupils, "Boys, remember that every hour wasted at school means a chance of misfortune in future life." Thousands of failures along the years of manhood and womanhood attest the truth of this monition.

Friendship is another opportunity that offers great blessing. Before every young person stand two kinds of friends, ever reaching out a beckoning hand. The one class whisper of pleasures that lead to sin and debasement. They offer the young man the wine-glass, the gambling-table, the gratification of lust and passion. They offer the young woman flattery, mirthful dress, the dance, pleasures that will tarnish her womanly purity. We all know the end of such friendship.

But there is another class of friends who stand before young people, wooing them to noble things. They may be plain, perhaps homely, almost stern in their earnestness of purpose and in the seriousness with which they talk of life. They call to toil, to diligence, to self-denial, to heroic qualities of character, to purity, to usefulness, to "whatever things are true, whatever things are just, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are lovely." It is impossible to overstate the value of the blessings that true, wise, and worthy friendship offers to the young. It seeks to incite and stimulate them to their best in character and achievement. It would lift them up to lofty attainment, to splendid victoriousness. The young people to whom comes the offer of such friendship are most highly favored.

But how often do we see the blessing rejected for the solicitation of mere idle pleasures which bring no true good, which entangle the life in all manner of complications, which lead into the ways of temptation, and which too often end in disaster and sorrow!

There is a time for the choosing of friends, and when that time is passed and the choice has been made, the door is shut. Then it is too late to go back. There are many people in mid-life, bound now in the chains of evil companionships, who would give all they have for the sweet delights and pure pleasures of friendship which once might have been theirs, which in youth reached out to them in vain, white hands of importunity and blessing. But it is too late; the door is shut.

So it is with the opportunities of doing good to others, comforting, helping, cheering, lightening burdens, giving gladness and joy. We stand continually before open doors which we do not enter. Ofttimes we shrink with timid feeling from the sweet ministry, holding back the sympathetic word or restraining ourselves from the doing of the gentle kindness, thinking our offer of love might be unwelcome. Or we do not perceive the opportunity to give a blessing. This is true very often, especially in the closer and more tender intimacies of life. We do not recognize the heart-hunger in our loved ones, and we walk with them day by day, failing to help them in the thousand ways in which we might help them, until they are gone from us and the door is shut. Then all we can do is to bear the pain of regret, having only the hope that in some way in the life beyond, we may be able to pay—though so late—love's debt.

These are but illustrations. The same is true in all phases of life. Every day doors are opened for us which we do not enter. For a little time they stand open with bidding and welcome, and then they are closed, to be opened no more forever. To every one of us along our years, there come opportunities, which, if accepted and improved, would fit us for worthy character, and for noble, useful living, and lead us in due time to places of honor and blessing. But how many of us there are who reject these opportunities and lose the good they brought for us from God! Then one by one the doors are shut, cutting off the proffered favors while we go on unblessed.

There is another closing of doors which is even sadder than any of those which have been suggested. There is a shutting of our own heart's door upon God himself. He stands at our gate and knocks and there are many who never open to him at all, and many more who open the door but slightly. The latter, while they may receive blessing, yet miss the fullness of divine revealing which would flood their souls with love; the former miss altogether the sweetest blessings of life.

This sad sound of closing doors, as it falls day after day upon our soul's ears, proclaims to us continually, that something which was ours, which was sent to us from God, and for which we shall have to answer in judgment—is ours no longer, is shut away forever from our grasp. It is a sad picture—the five virgins standing at midnight before a closed door through which they might have entered to great joy and honor—but which to all their wild importunity will open no more. It is sad, yet many of us are likewise standing before closed doors, doors that once stood open to us—but into which we entered not, languidly loitering outside until the sound of the shutting fell upon our ear as the knell of hopeless exclusion: "Too late! Too late! You cannot enter now!"

Of course the past is irreparable and irrevocable, and it may seem idle to vex ourselves in thinking about doors now closed, that no tears, no prayers, no loud knockings, can ever open again. Yes; yet the future remains. The years that are gone we cannot get back again—but new years are yet before us. They too will have their open doors. Shall we not learn wisdom as we look back upon the irrevocable past and make sure that in the future we shall not permit God's doors of opportunity to shut in our faces?