The Beauty of
J. R. Miller
The Beauty of Self-Control
All of life should be beautiful. God is a God of beauty.
He never made anything that was not beautiful. Paul, in designating certain
qualities of character which every Christian should strive to attain, names
"whatever things are lovely." Nothing that is unlovely should be
allowed in the life of any Christian. We should always strive to be
beautiful in life. Marden names as signs of deterioration in character,
"when you are satisfied with mediocrity, when commonness does
not trouble you, when a slighted job does not haunt you."
Self-control is one of the finest things in any life. It
is not a single element in character—but something that has to do with all
the element. It binds them all together in one. In one of Paul's clusters of
the qualities of a noble character, he names—love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, ending with self-control.
Self-control is self-mastery. It is kingship over all life. At the center of
your being, sits yourself. Your seat ought to be a throne. If you are not in
control, if there are any forces in your nature which are unruly, which do
not acknowledge your sway—you are not the king which you should be. Part of
your kingdom is in insurrection. The strength of your life is divided. The
strong man is he whose whole being is subject to him.
Perfect self-control is ideal life. You are like a man
driving a team of spirited horses. So long as he sits on the driver's set
and the horses obey him implicitly, acknowledging the slightest pressure
upon the reins—all is well. But if the animals become ungovernable, begin to
chomp on the bits, and cease to obey the driver's impulse, and then dash
away from his guidance—he has lost his control. A man has self-control
when he sits in his place—and has his hands on all the reins of his life.
His is kingly when he has complete master of his temper, his
speech, his feelings, his appetites; when he can be quiet
under injury and wrong; deeply hurt but showing no sign of malice; patient
and still under severe provocation; when he can stand amid temptations
and not yield to them.
A man when insulted may break out into a passion
of anger, and become a very "son of thunder" in the vehemence of his rage.
But that is not strength. The man who when treated unjustly remains silent,
answers not a word, with cheeks white, yet restraining himself, showing no
resentment—but keeping love in his heart—is the strong man. The Wise Man
puts it thus: "He who is slow to anger—is better than the mighty; and he who
rules his spirit—is better than he who takes a city."
There are men who rule other men—but cannot rule
themselves. They are victorious in battle—but they cannot control
their own temper, restrain their own speech, or calm and quiet their own
hearts. There is nothing beautiful in such a life. Nothing more effectually
mars a life—than fretfulness, discontent, worry, or impatience. Nothing is
more pitiful—than a life which is made to be strong, kingly, noble, calm,
and peaceful—but which is, instead, the slave of every excitement, every
temper, every resentment, every appetite and passion. Someone says,
"Alexander conquered all the world—except Alexander."
Not only is self-control strong — it is also beautiful.
Anger is not beautiful. Ungoverned temper is not lovely. Rage is demonic.
But a spirit calm, strong, and unflustered, amid storms of feeling and all
manner of disturbing emotions—is sublime in its beauty. "A temper under
control, a heart subdued into tenderness and patience, a voice cheerful with
hope, and a countenance bright with kindness—are invaluable possessions to
any man or woman."
The Bible furnishes examples of self-control. One is in
the story of King Saul's anointing. The people received him with great
enthusiasm. "All the people shouted, and said, Long live the King." He then
went to his house, and the army went with him. But there were a few who
refused to accept him. "Certain worthless fellows said, how shall this man
save us? And they despised him, and brought him no present." Saul might have
resented the insult offered him, for he was king now, and might have slain
those who refused to receive him; but he restrained himself and spoke not a
word. Amid the sneers and scoffs of these worthless men, he was as though he
heard nothing of all they said. He held his peace.
We are apt to resent insults, and retaliate
when others do us evil. But the Christian way is either not to speak at all,
or to give the soft answer which turns away wrath. The way to conquer an
enemy—is to treat him with kindness! Ignoring slights and quietly going
on with love's duty, returning kindness for unkindness, is the way to get
the true victory. The best answer to sneers, scoffs, and abuse—is a life of
persistent patience and gentleness.
It is in Jesus that we have the finest
illustrations of self-control, as of all noble qualities. The tongue is the
hardest of all the members of the body to control. No man can tame it, says
James. Yet Jesus had perfect mastery over his tongue. He never said a word
that he would better not have said. He never spoke unadvisedly. When
bitterly assailed by enemies, when they sought to catch him in his words,
when they tried by false accusations to make him speak angrily—he held his
peace and said not a word. Not only did he refrain from hasty and ill
tempered speech—but he kept his heart in control. Some men can keep silence
with their lips though in their hearts the fire burns hotly; but Jesus kept
love in his heart under all provocation. He was master of his thoughts and
feelings. He never grew angry or bitter. When he was reviled—he did not
revile in return; when he was hated—he loved on; when nails were driven
through his hands—the blood from his wounds became the blood of redemption!
Nor was it weakness in Jesus, which kept him
silent under men's reproaches and reviling, and under all injuries and
insults. There was no moment when he could not have summoned legions of
angels to defend him and to strike down his persecutors. He voluntarily
accepted wrong—when he could have resisted. He never lifted a finger on his
own behalf, though he could have crushed his enemies. He returned
kindness for unkindness. Thus he set us the example of patient
endurance of wrong, of silent suffering, rather than angry retaliation.
In his words, also, Christ teaches us this lesson
of self-control. Meekness is one of the Beatitudes. It is the ripe fruit of
restraint, under insult and wrong. "Accustom yourself to injustice" was the
counsel of an English preacher. It is not easy to accept such teaching. We
do not like to be treated unjustly. We can learn to endure a good many other
things—and still keep patient and sweet. But to endure injustice seems to be
beyond the "seventy times seven" included in our Lord's measurement of
forgiving. Yet it is not beyond the limit of the law of love.
Certainly the Master in his own life accustomed himself to injustice. He was
silent even under the worst injustices, and he leaves the lesson of his
example to us.
The beauty of self-control! It is always beautiful,
and the lack of it is always a blemish. A lovely face which has won
us by its beauty, instantly loses its charm and winsomeness, when in some
excitement, bad temper breaks out. An angry countenance is disfiguring. It
hides the angel and reveals the demon. Self-control gives
calmness and poise. It should be practiced not only on great occasions—but
on the smallest. A hundred times a day it will save us from weakness
and fluster—and make us strong a quiet. It is the
outcome of peace. If the heart is still and quiet with the peace of
Christ—the whole life is under heavenly guard. The king is on his
throne—and there is no misrule anywhere.
How can we get this self-control which means so much
to our lives? It is essential if we would live beautifully. We are weak
without it. How can we get the mastery over ourselves? It is not
attained by a mere resolve. We cannot simply assert our self-mastery,
and then have it. We cannot put self-control on the throne, by a mere
proclamation. It is an achievement which must be won by ourselves, and won
by degrees. It is a lesson which must be learned, a long lesson which it
takes many days to learn. As Lowell says:
"Beauty and truth and all that these contain,
Drop not like ripened fruit about our feet;
We climb to them through years of sweat and pain."
We need divine help in learning the lesson. Yet we
must be diligent in doing our part. God helps those who help
themselves. When we strive to be calm and self-controlled, he puts his own
strength into our heart. Then we shall find ourselves growing strong and
gaining in self-mastery. The attainment will come slowly.
But however long it may take us to reach this heavenly
achievement, we should never be content until we have reached it. This is
the sum of all learning and experience. It is the completeness of all
spiritual culture. The man in us is only part a man—while we are not master
of ourselves. We are in grave peril while any weak hour we may lose our
kingliness and be cast down. It took Moses forty years to learn
self-control—and he did not learn it in the world's universities; it was
only when God was his teacher and his school was in the desert, that he
mastered it. Then in a sad, unwatched moment he lost his kingly power for an
instant and spoke a few words unadvisedly, and failed and could not finish
Think what the lack of self-control is costing men
continually! One moment's dropping of the reins—and a wrong decision
is made—a temptation is accepted—a battle is lost—and a splendid life lies
in ruin! Let us achieve the grace of self-control.
The Work of the Plough
The figure of ploughing, much used in the Bible,
is very suggestive. The initial work in making Christians—is
plough work. Human hearts are hard, and the first tool which must go over
them, must be a plough, that they may be broken up and softened. In our
Lord's parable, some seeds fell on the trodden wayside. The soil was good—it
was the same as that which, in another part of the field, yielded a
hundredfold—but it was hard. It had been long a roadway across the field and
thousands of feet had gone over it, treading it down. There was no use in
sowing seed upon it, for the ground would not receive it, and lying upon the
hardened surface, the birds in eager quest for food would pick it off. The
only way to make anything of this trodden roadside, was to have it broken up
by the plough.
The first work of Christ in many lives is ploughing. The
lives have not been cultivated. They have been left untilled. Or, like the
wayside ground, they have been trodden down into hardness. Many people treat
their lives as if they were meant to be open commons, instead of beautiful
gardens. They do not fence them in to protect them—and so beasts pasture on
them, trampling over them; children play upon them; and men drive their
carriages and their heavy wagons across them making roadways as hard as
rock. We readily understand this in agriculture, and it is little
more difficult to understand it in life culture.
A godly woman said that God wanted her heart to be a
garden filled with sweet flowers. A garden needs constant care. Our
lives should be watched continually, that the soil shall always be tender,
so that all manner of lovely things may grow in them—but there are many
lives that are not thus cared for and cultivated. They are unfenced, and all
kinds of harsh feet go treading over them. No care is given to the
companions who are allowed admittance into the field; soon the gentle things
are destroyed, and the tender, mellow soil has become hard. Those who are
entrusted with the care of children should never fail to think of their
responsibility for the influences which are allowed to touch them.
For the lack of such care, many men and women become
hardened, without capacity to receive tender impressions. They have large
capacities for rich, beautiful life and for splendid service—but they are
permitted to read all kinds of books, and to have all kinds of
amusements, and to see all kinds of entertainments, and to see
all kinds of evil life—and they grow up without beauty, really useless and
without loveliness. They need to be ploughed and ploughed deep, that they
may be made fertile.
God himself does a great deal of ploughing. His Word
is a plough. It cuts its way into men's lives, crushing the heart,
revealing sinfulness, producing penitence. It finds men impenitent—and
leaves them broken and contrite, confessing sin and asking for mercy. David
tells us, in one of his penitential Psalms, how he tried for a long time to
hide his sins—but how his pain became unbearable, until he confessed. God's
plough went deep into his heart. Then when at length he confessed his sin,
forgiveness came and peace and joy. David became a new man after that. God's
Spirit had ploughed up his heart.
A Bible found its way into a home where a Bible had never
been before. The man of the house began to read it aloud to his wife in the
evenings, and the words entered their hearts. One night, after reading aloud
portions of the book, the man said, "Wife, if this book is true—then we are
wrong." The book condemned them. They became troubled. The word was
ploughing its way in their hearts. Next evening, as they read again, the
sense of sin in them became still deeper, and the man said, "Wife, if this
book is true—then we are lost." They became very greatly distressed.
The words they had read had shown them that they were sinners, guilty, and
lost. Next night they read again, and found something of hope—they had read
of divine love and mercy, and the man said, "Wife, if this book is true—then
we can be saved." The word of God does mighty plough work in men's hearts
before they can be made fruitful.
Sorrow ofttimes is God's plough. We dread pain and
shrink from it. It seems destructive and ruinous. The plough tears its way,
with its keen, sharp blade, through our hearts—and we say we are being
destroyed! When the process is completed and we look upon the garden with
its sweet flowers growing—we see that only blessing, enrichment, and beauty
are the result. We complain of our suffering, but we cannot afford to have
suffering taken away.
We cannot afford to lose pain out of the world—or
out of our life. It means too much to us. We owe too much, get too
many joys and treasures from it—to have it taken out of our lives. We owe to
suffering many of the treasures of experience. Without pain we never could
know Christ deeply, intimately, experimentally. Two friends may love each
other very sincerely, without suffering together—but it is a new friendship
into which they enter when they stand side by side in a great sorrow. Grief
reveals Christ and draws him closer to us, and we love him better
afterwards. To take pain from the world would be to rob life of its divinest
joy, it richest blessings. If the plough never cut through the soil—there
would be no furrows and no golden harvests.
This plough work is for every one of us. God is making
us—and that is the way he has to do it. A little child had a garden, which
her father had given her. But nothing would grow in it. The flowers and
plants would begin to come up—but in a short time they would wither and die.
She had little pleasure from her garden. One day her father brought some
workmen with heavy iron tools, and they began to tear up her garden. The
removed the soil. They destroyed everything beautiful in it. The child
begged that the men would go away. She said they were ruining her garden.
But they heeded not her imploring and tears. They broke up the ground and
found a great rock just below the surface. This they took away, then
smoothed down the soil, and made it beautiful again. After that the flowers
and plants grew into beauty. Then the child understood the value of the
plough work, which at first seemed so destructive—but in the end left her
garden a place of rare beauty.
Christ has, in his love for us—a wonderful vision of what
he wants us to become. He would have us share his own glory. "Let the beauty
of the Lord our God be upon us" is a prayer God loves to answer. He wants us
to become radiant in loveliness. He wants love to blossom in our lives into
all gentleness, sweetness, purity, and patience, into ideal manliness,
heroic nobleness, splendid sacrificial life. But we never can attain this
vision in ways of ease. To spare us from the pain, struggle and
suffering—is not the way of truest kindness for us. It needs the plough and
sharp plough-work, to bring us to our best beauty.
Ploughing is hard work. It is hard for him who follows
the plough through the long furrows. There seems to be no reward for him. It
is all painful work that he does—cutting and crushing the soil. He sees no
growing seed, no golden harvest. It is all weariness, aches and toil for
him, with nothing to cheer his heart, nothing to enrich him. The reaper
rejoices as he thrusts in his sickle and then threshes out the yellow grain.
But the work of the ploughman seems to be destruction for the time.
Yet in the end it proves to be glorious work.
It is hard also for the soil, to have the plough of God
driven through our hearts and over our lives, breaking them and crushing
them. Oh, how heavy God's plough is, as it is dragged over us, its sharp
plow-share cutting into the very center of our being. Rough is the plough
work. It has no comfort in it. No reward is apparent. The plough cuts
remorselessly. But the ploughman may have visions of a rich outcome from all
his toil. There will be a harvest by and by, when, in the place where his
share now cuts, golden grain will wave, and he will fill his bosom with
sheaves. You cry out today because of the pain you suffer as God's plough
cuts into your life and seems to be spoiling all its beauty. But look
forward. First the plough—then the fields with their glorious grain. Now you
know nothing but pain; hereafter you will reap joy from the places now
scarred and furrowed.
There is a picture in Revelation which explains it all.
There appeared a great company, wearing white robes and carrying palm
branches. "Who are these?" was asked. "These are those who have come out of
the great tribulation," was the answer. The way to heaven's highest
glory—lies through pain. Today the plough is cutting through your life;
tomorrow a blessed harvest will wave!
Finding Our Duties
Some people have trouble in discovering God's guidance in
everyday life. Perhaps the trouble is that they look for the direction in
some unusual way, whereas, ordinarily, it is shown to them very simply.
Duty never is a haphazard thing. There never are a half
dozen things any one of which we may fitly do at any particular time; there
is some one definite thing in the divine thought for each moment. In writing
music, no composer strews the notes along the staff just as they happen to
fall on this line or that space; he sets them in harmonious order and
succession, so that they will make sweet music when played or sung. The
builder does not fling the beams or stones into the edifice without plan;
every block of wood, or stone, or iron, and every brick have its place, and
the building rises in graceful beauty.
The days are like the lines and spaces in the musical
staff, and duties are the notes; each life is meant to make a harmony and in
order to do this, each single duty must have its own proper place. One thing
done out of its time and place makes discord in the music of life, just as
one note misplaced on the musical staff makes discord. Each life is a
building, and the little acts are the materials used; the whole is congruous
and beautiful only when every act is in its own true place.
The art of true living therefore, consists largely in
doing always those things which belongs to the moment. But to know what is
the duty of each moment is the question which, to, many people is full of
perplexity. Yet it would be easy if our obedience were but more simple. We
have only to take the duty which comes next to our hand. Our duty never is
some far away thing. We do not have to search for it—but it is always close
at hand and easily found. The trouble is that we complicate the question of
duty for ourselves by our way of looking at life, and then get our feet
entangled in the meshes which our own hands have woven.
Much of this confusion arises from taking too long
views. We try to settle our duty in long sections. We think of years
rather than of moments, of a whole life work rather than of individual acts.
It is hard to plan a year's duty; it is easy to plan just for one short day.
No shoulder can bear up the burden of a year's cares, all gathered into one
load—but the weakest shoulder can carry without weariness what really
belongs to one little day. In trying to grasp the whole year's work, we are
apt to overlook and to miss that of the present hour, just as one, in gazing
at a far off mountain top, is likely not to see the little flower blooming
at his feet, and even tread it down as he stumbles along.
There is another way in which people complicate the
question of duty. They try to reach decisions today, on matters which really
are not before them today, and which will not be before them for months—but
possibly for years. For example, a young man came to his pastor in very sore
perplexity over a question of duty. He said he could not decide whether he
ought to go as a foreign missionary or devote his life to work in some home
field. Yet the young man had only closed his freshman year at college. It
would require him three years more to complete his college course, and then
he would have to spend three years in a theological seminary. Six years
hence he would be ready for his work as a minister, and it was concerning
his choice of field then that the young man was now in such perplexity. He
said that often he passed hours on his knees at prayer, seeking for
light—but no light had come. He had even tried fasting—but without avail.
The matter had so taken possession of his mind that he had scarcely been
able to study during the last term, and he had fallen behind in his classes.
His health, too, he felt, was being endangered, as he often lay awake much
of the night, thinking about the momentous question of his duty, as between
home and foreign work.
It is very easy to see what this young man's mistake
was—he was trying to settle now a question with which he had nothing
whatever to do at the present time. If he is spared to complete his course
of training, the question will emerge as a really practical one, several
years hence. It is folly now to compel a decision which he cannot
make intelligently and without perplexity. It is very evident therefore that
this decision is no part of his present duty. He wonders that he can get no
light on the matter—but that even in answer to agonizing prayer, the
perplexity does not grow less. But is there any ground to expect God to
throw light on a man's path so far in advance? Is there any promise that
prayer for guidance at a point so remote should be answered today? Why
should it be? Will it not be time enough for the answer to come when the
decision must really be made?
It is right, no doubt, for the young man to pray about
the matter—but his present request should be that God would direct his
preparation, so that he may be fitted for the work, whatever it may be, that
in the divine purpose is waiting for him, and that, at the proper time, God
would lead him to his allotted field. "Lord, prepare me for what you are
preparing for me," was the daily prayer of one young life. This would have
been a fitting prayer for this young student; but to pray that he may know
where the Lord will send him to labor when he is ready, six years hence, is
certainly an unwarranted asking which is little short of presumption and of
impertinent human intermeddling with divine things.
Another obvious element of mistake in this man's case is
that he is neglecting his present duty, or failing to do it well, while he
is perplexing himself with what his duty will be years hence. Thus he is
hindering the divine purpose in the work his Master has planned for him.
Life is not an hour too long. It requires every moment of our time to work
out the divine plan for our lives. The preparatory years are enough, if
they are faithfully used, in which to prepare for the years of life work
which come after. But every hour we waste, leaves its own flaw in the
preparation. Many people go halting and stumbling all through their later
years, missing opportunities, and continually failing where they ought to
have succeeded, because they neglected their duty in the preparatory years.
There are more people who, like this student, worry about matters that
belong altogether to the future, than there are those who are anxious to do
well the duty for the present moment. If we would simply do always the
next thing, we would be relieved of all perplexity.
The law of divine guidance is, step by step. One who
carries a lantern on a country road at night, sees only one step before him.
If he takes that step, however, he carries his lantern forward and this
makes another step plain. At length he reaches his destination without once
stepping into the darkness. The whole way has been made light for him,
though only a step at a time. This is the usual method of God's guidance.
The Bible is represented as a lamp unto the feet. It is a lamp, or
lantern—but not a blazing sun, nor even a lighthouse—but a plain, common
lantern, which one can carry about in his hand. It is a lamp unto the feet,
not throwing its beams afar, not illumining a whole hemisphere—but shining
only on the bit of road on which the pilgrim's feet are walking.
If this is the way God guides us, it ought never to be
hard for us to find our duty. It never lies far away, inaccessible to us, it
is always "the next thing." It never lies out of sight, in the darkness, for
God never puts our duty where we cannot see it. The thing we think may be
our duty—but which is still lying in obscurity, is not yet our duty,
whatever it may be a little farther on. The duty for the moment is always
perfectly clear—and that is as far as we need concern ourselves. When we do
the little which is plain to us, we will carry the light on, and it will
shine on the next moment's step.
If not even one little step of duty is plain to us, "the
next thing" is to wait a little. Sometimes that is God's will for us
for the moment. At least, it never is his will that we should take a step
into the darkness. He never hurries us. We had better always wait than rush
on as if we were not quite sure of the way. Often, in our impatience, we do
hasten things, which we find after a little while, were not God's next
things for us at all. That was Peter's mistake when he cut off a man's ear
in the Garden, and it led to sore trouble and humiliation a little later.
There are many quick, impulsive people, who are continually doing wrong
next things, and who then find their next thing trying to undo the last.
We should always wait for God, and should never take a step which he has not
made light for us.
Yet we must not be too slow. This is as great a danger as
being too quick. The people of Israel were never to march until the pillar
moved—but they were neither to run ahead nor to lag behind God. Indolence
is as bad as rashness. Being too late is as bad as being too
soon. There are some people who are never on time. They never do things just
when they ought to be done. They are continually in perplexity which of
several things they ought to do first. The trouble is, they are forever
putting off or neglecting or forgetting things, and consequently each
morning finds them not only facing that day's duties—but the omitted duties
of past days as well. There never really are two duties for the same moment,
and if everything is done in its own time, there never will be any
perplexity about what special right thing to do next.
It is an immeasurable comfort that our duties are not the
accidents of any undirected flow of circumstances. We are clearly assured
that if we acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, he will direct our paths.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own
understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will guide you on
the right paths." Proverbs 3:5-6. That is, if we keep eye and heart ever
turned toward God, we never shall be left to grope after the path, for it
will be made plain to us. We are authorized to pray that God would order our
steps. What direction in duty could be minuter than this? "He who follows me
shall not walk in the darkness," said the Master (John 8:12). "He who
follows me." We must not run on ahead of him, neither must we lag behind; in
either case we shall find darkness, just as deep darkness in advance of our
Guide, if we will not wait for him, as it is behind him, if we will not keep
close up to him.
Prompt, unquestioning, undoubting following of
Christ—takes all perplexity out of Christian life, and gives unbroken peace.
There is something for every moment, and duty is always "the next thing." It
may sometimes be an interruption, setting aside a cherished plan of our own,
breaking into a pleasant rest we had arranged, or taking us away from some
favorite occupation. It may be to meet a disappointment, to take up a cross,
to endure a sorrow or to pass through a trial. It may be to go upstairs into
our room and be sick for a time, letting go our hold upon all active life.
Or it may be just the plainest, commonest bit of routine work in the home,
in the office, on the farm, at school.
Most of us find the greater number of our "next things"
in the tasks that are the same day after day, yet even in the interstices,
amid these set tasks, there come a thousand little things of kindness,
patience, gentleness, thoughtfulness, obligingness, like the sweet flowers
which grow in the crevices upon the cold, hard rocks—and we should be ready
always for these as we hurry along, as well as for the sterner duties that
our common calling brings to us.
There never is a moment without duty, and if we are
living near to Christ and following him closely, we never shall be left in
ignorance of what he wants us to do. If there is nothing, absolutely
nothing, we can do, at any particular time, and then we may be sure that the
Master wants us to rest. For he is not a hard Master, and besides, rest is
as needful in its time, as work. So we must not worry when there come
moments which seem to have no task for our hands. "The next thing" then, is
to sit down and wait.
Into the Right Hands
"Hold me up—and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117
Certain ancient mariners were accustomed to say, as they
put out to sea, "Keep me, O God, for my boat is so small—and the ocean is so
great and stormy!" There could not be a fitter prayer for a Christian—as he
sets out in life. The world is vast and full of perils, and a Christian,
even the best, is very weak and frail. He has no ability to face the
difficulties, the obstacles, the hardships he must face, if he is to pass
successfully through life. The world is large and full of storm and
struggle—and only a few get through it safely.
If there were no one greater and stronger than ourselves,
into whose keeping we may commit our lives, as we go out to meet the
perils—what hope could we have of ever getting through safely? The Christian
cannot guide himself. He cannot master the storms. He cannot shelter
himself. "Keep of me safe, O God, for in You I take refuge!" (Psalm 16:1)
should be his prayer, not once only when he launches his barque—but daily,
But does God really care for our little individual lives?
Does he care for the child that has lost the shelter of human love, and has
no one to think of it or provide for it? Does the great God give thought and
care to one little child among the millions of the world?
The very thing that Jesus wants to do for us—is to be the
keeper of our lives as we pass through the world with its storms and
dangers. We do not know what we lose when we keep our lives out of the hands
of Christ. No other can make of us what he could make. No other can bring
out the powers and possibilities of our being as he can. Our lives are like
musical instruments. They have marvelous capacities—but only one who has the
skill can bring out the music. Only one who understands our lives, with all
their strange powers, can call out their possibilities.
There is a story of an organist in one of the cities of
Germany, who one day refused to permit a visitor to play upon his organ. The
visitor begged to be allowed at least to put his hands upon the keys and
play a few notes, and the old man reluctantly consented. The moment the
stranger began to play, the organ gave forth such music as it never had
given forth before. The custodian was amazed, recognizing the fact that a
master was at his keys. When he asked who it was, the player answered, "I am
Mendelssohn." "And I refuse you permission to play upon my organ!" the old
man said, in grief and self reproach.
It is said that one day, many years ago, there was an
auction in London which was attended by distinguished people. Among other
things offered for sale was a Stradivarius violin, more than a hundred years
old. The auctioneer raised the violin and held it gently, almost reverently,
as he told its story and spoke of its wonderful qualities. Then he gave it
to a musician who was present, asking him to play upon it. The man played as
well as he could—but the violin in his hands failed to win enthusiasm from
The auctioneer began to call for bids. But the responses
came slowly. Then a stranger came into the room, an Italian. He pressed his
way to the side of the auctioneer to see the violin. He took it into his own
hands, examined it carefully, held it to his ear as if it had some secret to
whisper to him, and then laid it gently on his breast and began to play upon
it—and marvelous music at once filled the room. The people were strangely
affected. Some smiled, some wept; every heart was stirred. It was Paganini,
the great master, whose fingers were on the strings. When he laid the
instrument down, the bidding began again, and there was no trouble now in
selling it. In the hands of the first player—the qualities of the violin
were not brought out, and men did not know what a treasure was being offered
to them. But in the hands of the great master—its marvelous powers were
discovered and brought out.
Our lives are like violins. In the right hands they will
give forth wonderful music. But in unskillful hands, their powers are not
discovered. It is strange with what lack of thought and care, many people
entrust their lives into the hands of those who cannot bring out the best
that is in them—and ofttimes of those who only do them harm. This
is seen in the recklessness which many young people show in choosing their
friends. Indeed, they do not choose their friends at all—but let
themselves drift into association and intimacy with any who come their way.
The influence of friendship is almost irresistible. The admission of
a new companion into our life is the beginning of a new epoch in our course.
If the friendship is pure, inspiring, and elevating, if the friend is one
who in his own character will set before us new visions of beautiful life,
and in all his influence over us will prove inspiring, the day of his coming
to us will ever be a day to be remembered. But if the new friend is
unworthy, or if his hands are unskillful, nothing good can come from his
friendship. His coming into our life is a tragedy.
Young people should seek association with those who are
wiser and more experienced than themselves, those who can teach them lessons
they have not yet learned, lead them in paths they have not yet walked in,
and help them to find their own powers and possibilities. It is a great
mistake merely to choose a friend with whom to have a good time, one who
will flatter us and make us feel satisfied with ourselves, one with whom we
may get on pleasantly. We should have friends who, like Paganini with the
Cremona, can discover and call out the best that is in us. "Our best friend
is he who makes us do what we can."
It is the same with the teachers to whom we may
go. There are those who have wisdom enough to teach, and who honestly do the
best they can with those who come to them—but who lack the mental vision to
discover the faculties that are in their pupils, or who lack the ability and
skill to bring out their possibilities. There are other teachers who may
know less themselves—but they have the power to find the talents that are in
their pupils, and then to call them out.
The same is true of the value and influence of books.
There are books which we may enjoy reading, and which may give us
entertainment and pleasure—but which leave in our minds no new knowledge, no
stimulating of thought, no new visions of beauty, no wonder to impel us to
advance, and no strengthening of character. On the other hand, there are
books which stir our hearts, which wake us up, which kindle in us upward
inspirations, and which incite us to the attaining of better things. These
are the books we should read, for they will give us the help we most need if
we are to grow into fullness of life and power.
But whoever or whatever we may take into our life—Christ
should always have the first place as Master, Guide, and Friend. No
other one knows the capacities that are in us, and no other can find and
bring out these capacities and train them for the highest service. Into
Christ's hands, therefore, we should commit our lives for teaching, for
discipline, for the developing of their powers. Then we shall reach our
best, and realize the divine thought for us.
Christ alone, is able to keep our lives. He is the
Master of all the world. He met every power and conquered it. He faced all
evil and overcame it. We never can find ourselves in the hands of any enemy,
who is too strong for him. One of the most beautiful ascriptions in the
Bible is that which says: "To Him who is able to keep you from falling and
to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great
joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!" In all
this world's dangers, he can guard our lives from harm, and he can present
us at last without blemish.
Christ alone, is able to guide us. The world is a
great mass of tangled paths. They run everywhere, crossing each other in all
directions. Hands are forever beckoning us here and there, and we know not
which beckoning to follow. Even friendship, loyal as it may be,
sincere and sympathetic as it is, lacks wisdom and may guide us mistakenly.
There is One only whose wisdom is infallible, whose advice never errs—and he
is our Guide. There is a little prayer in one of the Psalms which pleads:
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my
trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul."
Psalms 143:8. This prayer, if sincere, will always be answered. We may see
no hand leading us. We may hear no voice saying, as we walk in the darkness,
"This is the way—walk in it." Yet if we seek divine guidance and accept it
implicitly, we shall always have it.
Not only do we have keeping and guidance in Christ—but
everything we need on the way—and then eternal blessedness! We may commit
our lives into His hands with absolute confidence. He will take us with all
our faults and our sins—and will keep us from hurt in all the perils of the
way. He will lead us in the right path amid all the confusion and tangle—and
then He will then bring us to glory!
Living Unto God
"Settle it in your heart that the sum of all business and
blessedness, is to live to God." John Wesley
"The glory is not in the task—but in doing it for Him."
The object of our life determines its character.
What we live for—tells what we are. If a man's aim is to get rich, if that
is the ruling motive of his life—greed for gold is his absorbing passion. If
a man lives to do good to his fellow men, if this is his single purpose, the
desire will inspire all his thoughts and actions.
It is interesting to put ourselves to the test to
discover just what the real purpose of our living is. When we know this we
can tell where our life is tending, what it will be when it is finished,
what impression we are making on the world, and what our living means to
That which distinguishes a Christian life from others—is
that it is God's. We belong to God. To live to any other, therefore, is
disloyalty and idolatry. Paul in one of his epistles, asserts this truth
very strongly. He says, "None of us lives to himself, and none dies to
himself. For whether we live—we live unto the Lord; or whether we die—we die
unto the Lord; whether we liver therefore, or die—we are the Lord's."
All our relations are with the Lord. To him we owe our
full obedience—we have no other master. It is his work we are doing, whether
it be what we call secular work, or whether it be what we consider
religious work. In all our acts, words, thoughts, feelings—we are living
to the Lord—if we are living worthily. We may not be conscious of this
relation—but whether we are or not, it is to the Lord that we are living. We
may not think definitely of God every time we speak, every time we do
anything—but if we are sincere our desire always is to please God, to honor
him, to have his approval. It is to the Lord that we must answer in
judgment. "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God—each one of us
shall give account of himself to God."
The truest life, is that which is lived most fully and
unbrokenly unto God. Jenny Lind said, in accounting for the motive and
spirit of her wonderful singing, "I sing to God." She meant that she
looked into God's face, as it were, and consciously sang to him. She did not
sing to the vast audience that hung on her words and was held spellbound by
them. She was scarcely conscious of any face before her but God's. She
thought of no listening ear but God's. We may not all be able to enter into
such perfect relation with God as did this marvelous singer—but this is the
only true ideal of all Christian life. We should do each piece of work for
God. The business man should do all his business for God. The
artist should paint his picture for God. The writer should write
his book for God. The farmer should until his ground for God. This
means that we are always engaged in the Father's business, and must do it
all in a way that he will approve.
Jesus was a carpenter, for many years working at the
carpenter's bench. We are sure that he did each piece of work for his
Father's eye. He did it skillfully, conscientiously, beautifully. He did not
skimp it, nor hurry through it, so as to get away from the shop earlier.
What a transformation it would make in all our work if we
could say in truth, "I do it for God." Now this is not an impossible
ideal for Christian life. It was this that Paul meant, in part, at least,
when he said, "To me to live is Christ." He was living in
Christ. He was living for Christ. His life was all Christ—Christ
living in him. He had the same conception of Christian life when he wrote,
"Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do—do all to the glory
of God." Even our eating and drinking are included in this high ideal. The
sins of gluttony and intemperance in drinking are condemned. We must also
eat healthfully: eat to live—and not live to eat. To do anything to the
glory of God is to do it so that it will reflect the divine glory, and be
for the divine honor. This is part of what Paul meant when he said, "We live
unto the Lord."
It is possible to follow the guidance of conscience in
all things, doing always what is right—and yet not live unto the Lord, not
to have any consciousness of God, any sense of a personal God, any thought
of God at all, in what we say or do. It is possible to accept the
Christian moralities as our rule of life, following them even in the
smallest things—yet not be living unto God, not even believing in God nor
having any love for him. When the singer said, "I sing to God," she meant
that she thought of God as she sang, and poured forth her song directly in
praise and love to him. So we should seek to do all our work for God.
There cannot but be a wonderful inspiration in living in
this way unto God, if we make it real. It is not always easy to work under
those who are over us. Sometimes they are unjust, unfair in their treatment
of us, unkind toward us, tyrannical in their exactions of service or in
their manner of enforcing their commands. It is easy for us to fret and
chafe when we have to endure severity or unkindness in the
performance of our daily tasks. But it changes everything, if we are
conscious of another Master, in back of the human master, and remember that
he is the one for whom we really are working. He is never unfair or unjust,
never severe or harsh. We can work joyfully with him and for him, unaffected
by the hardness or the inhumanity of the human master who is immediately
over us. We may bear the harshness, the injustice, the unkindness we have to
endure, if it is our duty to stay in the place, seeing ever the eye of
Christ, with its love and sympathy, looking upon us and enduring all the
harshness for him.
Paul exhorts servants to be obedient to their masters—"as
servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." "Whatever you
do," he says, "work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; knowing
that from the Lord you shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: you
serve the Lord Christ." It makes the most trying service easy, when it is
done in this way—but looking beyond the human master and seeing
Christ as the real Master, for whom we are working. We are living
unto him. We are serving him. From him we shall receive the reward
for our faithfulness.
Paul speaks in this same connection of dying. It does not
seem strange to hear him say, "Whether we live—we live unto the Lord." But
when he goes on and says, "Whether we die—we die unto the Lord," the words
strike us as unusual and startle us. Dying does not interrupt nor in any way
interfere with our relations to Christ. It is just like any other passage in
life. Dying is only a phase or experience of living. We are as really
Christ's, when we die and after we die—as we are when we are living. The
words are wonderfully illuminating; they throw a bright light on the mystery
of dying. We are not separated from Christ in death; the bond between us and
him is not broken. When we die we do not pass out of Christ's service; we
only pass to another form of service. We have the impression that death cuts
our life off, interrupts it, and makes an entire change in everything which
concerns us. But the truth is, life goes on through death—and after death
very much the same as it did before. There will be nothing greatly new in
our experience, nothing strange or unusual, when we are dead. Life and death
are all one—parts of the same continued existence. "Whether we live—we live
unto the Lord; or whether we die—we die unto the Lord; whether we live
therefore, or die—we are the Lord's."
There really is nothing to dread, therefore, in dying.
The Old Testament Scriptures represent it as a walk through the valley,
the valley of the shadow of death, accompanied by the Shepherd, whose
presence allays all fear and gives peace. In the New Testament what we call
dying is a departure from earth, in the companionship of Christ. There is a
mystery in it because it is away from all that we know or understand and all
that we can see—but there is nothing in it to be dreaded—for it does not
separate from Christ for an instant—and it takes the person to Christ to be
with him forever. We are to die unto the Lord, with no interruption to our
attachment to him, and then continue, in the heavenly life, living unto the
Lord. For life will go on with its blessed activities in heaven. Our work
may differ in its character—but we shall ever be loving and serving Christ.
Thus our relation with Christ is for all time, through
death, and through eternity. He does not become our Savior merely to deliver
us in some emergency. Ofttimes this is all that we can do for a man who is
in distress or need. We can relieve him for the time—but when the occasion
is past he drops away from us, perhaps back into his old trouble, and our
relation to him ceases. But when we accept Christ as our Savior it is
forever. He takes us into his love and into his life. He establishes a
relation with us that never shall be broken. He will never weary of us. We
may sin against him—but he will not cast us off. We may be unfaithful to him
and may wander far away—but when we repent and creep back to him, he will
forgive us and receive us again to the place of love. The marriage covenant
has a limitation, for it is "until death us do part." But there is no such
limitation in the covenant made between Christ and us. Death will not part
us from him. We belong to him in the heavenly life. We are to follow him in
this world to the very last, and then forever in the world to come. We are
to do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven, and then continue to
do his will when we reach heaven.
The Indispensable Christ
One of Christ's words to his disciples was, "Without me
you can do nothing." If anyone is thinking of giving up Christ, let him wait
a moment and ponder the question, whether he can afford to do it or not.
What will it mean to him to give up Christ? There are some losses which do
not take much from us; there are some friends whom we might lose and be
little the poorer. But what would it take out of our life to give up Christ?
"Without me," he says, "you can do nothing."
An old writer tells of dreaming that a strange thing
happened to his Bible. Every word in it that referred to Christ had faded
from the pages. He turned to the New Testament to find the Gospels, and
found only blank paper. He looked for the prophecies about the Messiah,
which he used to read, and they all had been blotted out. He recalled sweet
promises which he used to lean on with delight—but not one of them could be
found. The name of Christ had faded from every place where once it had been.
What would it mean to us to find ourselves some day without Christ, to find
that we had lost him, to look for him in some great need and find that we do
not have him anymore?
There is a striking little story by Henry van Dyke,
called the Lost Word. It is a story of one of the early centuries. Hermas
had become a Christian. He belonged to a wealthy and distinguished pagan
family. His father disinherited him and drove him from his home when he
accepted the new faith. From being one of the richest young men in Antioch,
he was now one of the poorest. In the Grove of Daphne one day he was sitting
in sadness by a gushing spring, when there came to him a priest of Apollo, a
pagan philosopher, who, seeing his unhappy mood began to talk with him. In
the end the old man had made this compact with Hermas. He assured him of
wealth, of favor, of success, and Hermas was to give him only a word—but he
was to part forever with the name of Him he had learned to worship. "Let me
take that word and all that belongs to it entirely out of your life, so that
you shall never need to hear it or speak it again. I promise you
everything," said the old man, "and this is all I ask in return. Do you
consent?" "Yes, I consent," said Hermas. So he lost the word, the Blessed
He has sold it. It was not his anymore. He went back to
Antioch, to his old home. There he found his father dying. For hours he had
been calling for his son. The old man received him eagerly, said he had
forgiven him, and asked his son for his forgiveness. He then asked Hermas to
tell him the secret of the Christian faith which he had chose. "You found
something that made you willing to give up life for it. What was it you
found?" The father was dying and his pagan belief gave him no comfort. He
wanted now to know the Christian's secret. Hermas began to tell his father
the secret of his faith. "Father," he said, "you must believe with all our
heart and soul and strength in –" Where was the word? What was the name?
What had become of it? He groped in darkness—but could not find it. There
was a lonely soul, crying out for the Name—but Hermas could not tell even
his own dying father what it was. The word was lost.
Love came into his life and happiness was heaped on
happiness. A child was born to him. But in all the wondrous joy something
was lacking. Both he and his wife confessed it. They sought a dismantled
shrine in the garden and Hermas sought to pour out his heart. "For all good
gifts," he said, "for love, for life, we praise, we bless, we thank –" But
he could not find the word. The Name was beyond his reach. There was no one
to thank. He had lost God.
The boy grew into wondrous beauty. One day Hermas was
victorious in the chariot races. Then he took his boy in the chariot and
again drove round the ring to show him to the people. The tumult frightened
the horses and they ran away. The child was tossed off and when his father
turned to look for him, he was lying like a broken flower on the sand. His
distress was great. Days passed. "Is there nothing that we can do?" said the
mother. "Is there no one to pity us? Let us pray for his life." Hermas sank
on his knees beside his wife. "Out of the depths," he began "– out of the
depths, we call for pity. The light of our eyes is fading. Spare the child's
life, O merciful –" But there was only a deathly blank. He could not find
the Name. The word he wanted was lost.
This story has become true in actual life thousands of
times. People have given up the name of Christ, sold it for money, or
pleasure, or power, or sin. Then when times of need came, and they turned to
find help, there was only blankness. In a home there is some great distress.
One is near unto death, and friends want to pray for him. But they cannot
pray. In childhood they were taught the words. "Our Father," but long since
they have lost the holy Name, and now, when they would give worlds to go to
God—they cannot find the way.
In all the world, there is no sadness so deep as the
sadness of one who has lost Christ and then in some great need is trying to
find him. There is no ear to hear. It is a fearful thing to give up Christ,
to lose him. "Without me you can do nothing."
We must not press these words too far. Of course there
are certain things men can do who are without Christ, who have no connection
with him. There are people who are very useful, benefactors to others, who
never pray, who do not love Christ. One may be an artist and paint lovely
pictures, pictures which the world will admire, and yet may not believe in
Christ, or even think of him. One may be a writer and prepare beautiful
books which shall interest others and enlighten, cheer, and inspire many
lives to noble deeds—and yet really disregard Christ, be altogether without
Christ. One may be a patriot soldier, fighting the battles of freedom or
country, or a statesman leading his land to honor—and yet not know Christ,
nor be able to get to him. A man may be a good father, kind to his family,
making his home beautiful with the loveliest adornments, and rich with
refinement and gentleness, providing for his children not only things their
bodies need—but providing also for their mental needs and cravings—and know
nothing of Christ. There are homes of luxury and refinement, homes of
culture, in which there is no prayer, where Christ is never welcomed as a
Guest. There may be natural affection, father love, mother love, love of
husband and wife, love of friends—yet no love for Christ.
When Jesus says, "Apart from me you can do nothing," we
must understand his meaning. He does not say we cannot live good lives,
cannot be good merchants, good lawyers, good teachers, good fathers and
mothers—but what he means is that we cannot have the joy and blessing of
spiritual life—we cannot do the things of God.
The relation between Christ and his friends is closer
than any human relation. No one can say to any friend, "Without me you can
do nothing." The mother cannot say it to her child. It is a sore loss when
the mother of a baby is taken away—but how sore a loss no words can explain.
Even God cannot twice give a mother. No other one, however loving and tender
in spirit, however gentle in care, however wise in guiding and helping the
young life—can be to it all that its own mother could have been. Yet even
the best and holiest mother cannot say to her child, "Without me you can do
nothing." The child, though so bereft, lives and may live nobly without a
There are other earthly friendships that become so much
to those to whom they are given that they seem to be indispensable. The
trusting, clinging wife may say to her husband, who is being taken away from
her: "I cannot live without you. If you leave me, I will die. I cannot face
the cold winds—without your shelter. I cannot go on with the tasks, the
cares, the struggles, the responsibilities, the sorrows of life—without your
comradeship, your love, your cheer, your strong support, your brave
confidence and wise guidance." So it seems to her as she stands amid the
wrecks of her hopes. But when he is gone—the strong man on whom she has
leaned so confidingly, she takes up the duties of life, its cares, its
trying experiences, its tasks, its battles—and goes on for long years with
splendid faithfulness and great bravery.
"I never dreamed that I could possibly get along as I
have," said a woman after a year of widowhood. Then she told of her utter
faintness when she realized that she would no more have her husband's
comradeship. She had never had a care or a responsibility unshared by him.
As she turned away from his grave it seemed to her that now she was utterly
alone. But Christ was with her. Peace came into her heart, calmness came,
and then courage began to revive. She grew strong and self reliant. She was
a marvel to her friends as she took up her work. She showed resources which
none ever dreamed she had. Her sorrow had elevated her. She lived and lived
grandly now, without the one who had seemed essential to her very existence.
So we learn that no human life however close it has been
is ever actually indispensable to another life. To no one, no human friend,
can we say, "I cannot live without you." The taking away of the human,
But note what Jesus says, "Apart from me you can do
nothing." As the vine is essential to the life of the branch, so is Christ
essential to us. We cannot meet any of the serious experiences of life,
without Christ. A wonderful change came upon the disciples as they lived
with Christ, heard his teaching, let his influence into their lives. They
were transformed. They never could have done anything without Christ.
Do without Christ! You do not know what Christ has been
to you, even when you were not aware that he was your Friend. You think he
has not been doing anything for you, when, in fact, he has been crowning you
with loving kindness and tender mercies all your days. If we were to lose
Christ today out of our life, as Hermas in the story lost him, if his name
were utterly blotted out, his friendship and help taken utterly from our
life—what a dark, sad world this would be for us! Think of going out
tomorrow to your duty, struggle, danger, responsibility, without Christ,
unable to find him in your need. Think of not having Christ in your day of
sorrow! Think of dying without Christ!
But we do not have to do without Christ. Only by our own
rejection, can we cut ourselves off from him.
The One Who Stands By
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as You art,
And make me love You as I ought to love.
Teach me to love You, as Your angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The baptism of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and your love the flame.
Jesus spoke to his disciples of the Holy Spirit, as the
Paraclete. The word used in our translation is Comforter. The
name is very beautiful and suggestive. We think of a comforter as one who
gives consolation in trouble. There is much sorrow in the world, and there
is always need of those who understand the art of comforting. Not many do.
Job spoke of his friends, who came to offer him consolation in his great
trouble, as "miserable comforters." They certainly were. Their words as he
heard them, were like thorns. They only added to his suffering. There
are those in every place who want to be comforters. When they see one in
pain or in tears they think they must comfort him. So they begin to say
things which they suppose they ought to say. They are sincere enough—but
they do not know what they should say. Their words give no strength; they
only make the grief seem deeper, sadder, and more hopeless. They are mere
empty platitudes; or they misinterpret the sorrows of their friends. That
was what Job's "comforters" did.
There is constant need for true comforters. Barnabas is
called, a "son of consolation." No doubt he was a sunshiny man. No other one
can be a consoler. When Barnabas went into a sick room, we are quite sure
his presence was a benediction. When he visited the homes of those who were
sorrowing, he carried the light of heaven in his face, and his words were
full of uplifting. It is a great thing to be a son or daughter of
consolation. Christ himself was a wonderful comforter. The words he spoke
were words of eternal truth on which we may lay our heads, and find that we
are leaning on the arm of God. No doubt, too, the Holy Spirit is a
comforter. He brings the truth of eternal life to those who are bereft. He
brings the gentleness and healing of divine love to hurt hearts. The name of
Comforter describes well one kind of work the Spirit does in the world.
But the best scholars agree that "comforter" is not the
word which most fully and clearly gives the sense of the Greek word which
our Lord used. It is Paraclete. The word is used only a few times in the New
Testament, and only by John. In the Fourth Gospel it is always translated
Comforter. Then in John's First Epistle, it is translated Advocate.
Advocate is perhaps the more accurate translation—not merely a comforter who
consoles us in trouble, and makes us stronger to endure sorrow—one who
stands by us. The word Advocate is very suggestive. One of its meanings is a
person who stands by; strictly, a person called to the side of another. The
thought of one who stands by is very suggestive.
It may be said that this is one of the finest definitions
of a friend that could be given. He must be one who always stands by you.
This does not mean in a human friend that he must always be close to you,
always manifesting affection in some practical way, always speaking words of
cheer. He may be miles away in space—but you know that he is always loyal to
you, true to you, your friend wherever he may be. He always stands by you.
He may not be able to do many things for you. Indeed, it is but little that
a friend, your best friend, really can do at any time for you. He cannot
lift away your load—no other one can bear your burden for you. Each one must
bear his own burden. Each one must meet his own life's questions, make his
own decisions, endure his own troubles, fight his own battles, and accept
his own responsibilities. The office of a friend is not to do things for
you, to make life easy for you.
But you know that he always stands by you. You know that
if ever you need him in any way and turn to him, that he will not fail you
nor disappoint you; that if you do not see him for months, or even for
years, nor hear from him, and if you then should go to him with some
question or some appeal, you will find him unchanged, the same staunch,
strong, faithful friend as always. Though your circumstances have changed,
from wealth to poverty, from influence to powerlessness, from popular favor
to obscurity, from strength to weakness, still your friend is the same,
stands by you as he did before, meets you with the old cordiality, the old
kindness, the old helpfulness. Your friend is one who stands by you. That is
the kind of friend the Holy Spirit is. You are sure he is always the same,
always faithful and true.
Jesus said the Father would give "another Comforter,"
that is, one like Jesus himself. He was an advocate for his disciples, who
always stood by them, their comrade, their defender, and their shelter in
danger. His friendship was unchanged through the years. "Loved once" was
never said of him. Having loved, he loved unto the end. His disciples failed
him, grieved him, disappointed him—but when they came back to him they found
him the same, waiting to receive them. Peter denied him in the hour of his
deepest need, saying he did not know him; but when Jesus was risen again,
the first one of his disciples he asked for was Peter, and when Peter found
him, he was still standing by, the same dear, loyal friend.
Jesus said that they would receive another comforter,
when he was gone. He wanted them to understand that he was not really going
away from them. They would not see his face, would not feel any hands—but he
would be there, as he always had been—still standing by. They would lose
nothing by his going away. Indeed he would not be gone from them at all. In
the Paraclete he would still be with them and would still be their
Comforter, their Comrade.
Jesus tells us that the Comforter is more to us—than he
himself was to his disciples. He said that it was expedient for them that he
should go away, for then the Comforter would come. Think what it was to have
their Master for a personal friend. There never was such another Friend.
Think of his gentleness, his tenderness, his sympathy, his kindness, the
inspiration of his life. Think of the shelter he was to them, the strength,
and the encouragement. Then remember what he said the Holy Spirit would
be—"another Comforter," one like Christ, and that it would be more to us to
have the Holy Spirit for our friend than if Jesus had stayed with us. He is
everything to us that Jesus was to his personal friends. He is our Advocate.
He always stands by us, and for us. His love is unchanging.
We talk of the love of the Father. We are his
children. He loves us. He comforts us with his wonderful tenderness. We talk
and sing of the love of Christ as the most marvelous revelation of
love the world ever saw. But we do not speak or sing so much of the love of
the Spirit. Yet the Spirit's love is just as wonderful as the
Father's or the Son's. For one thing, he loves us enough to come and live in
our hearts. Does that seem a little thing? We speak a great deal, especially
at Christmas time, of the condescension of the eternal Son of God in coming
to earth, to be born in a stable and cradled in a manger. Is it a less
wonderful condescension for the Holy Spirit to make your heart his home, to
be borne there, to live there as your Guest? Think what a place a human
heart is. The stable where Jesus was born was lowly—but it was clean. Are
our hearts clean? Think of the unholy thoughts, the unholy desires, the
impure things, the unlovingness, the jealousy, the bitterness, the hate, all
the sin of our hearts. Then think of the love of the Spirit that makes him
willing to live in such a foul place, in order to cleanse us and make us
upright and holy.
The love of the Spirit is shown in his wondrous patience
with us in all our sinfulness, while he lives in us and deals with us in the
culturing of our Christian life. We speak often of the patient love of
Christ with his disciples the three years he was with them, having them in
his family, at his table, enduring their ignorance, their dullness, their
narrowness, their petty strifes, and their unfaithfulness. It was a
marvelous love that never grew weary of them—which loved on in spite of all
that so tried his love, which endured the hate of men, their plotting, their
treacheries, and their cruelty. We never can understand the depth of the
love of Christ in enduring all that he endured in saving the world. But
think also of the love of the Holy Spirit in what he suffers in his work
with us. Paul beseeches us that we grieve not the Holy Spirit. The word
"grieve" in the original is from the same root as the word used in the
Gospel when we are told that the soul of Jesus in the Garden was
exceeding sorrowful. Think of that. We make a Gethsemane in our
heart for the Holy Spirit every time we doubt him; or grieve him by our
thoughts, our disobedience.
A young Christian woman relates an experience which
greatly saddened her. She had a girl friend that she had long loved deeply.
The two were inseparable. They trusted each other implicitly. One who tells
the story says she had regarded her friend as like an angel in the truth and
beauty of her life. She never had had a shadow of doubt concerning her
character and conduct. Then she learned that this girl had been living a
double life for years. The discovery appalled her. At first she refused to
believe it—but the evidence was so clear, so unmistakable, that she could
not but believe it, and it almost killed her. It was painful to hear her
words and see her distress. Then she wrote: "I understand now a little of
the bitter sorrow of my Savior in Gethsemane, as he drank the cup of his
If a human friend can be thus brokenhearted over the sin
of a friend, how the Holy Spirit must suffer in his nourishing of us, in his
watching for our sanctification, in his wondrous brooding over us—but how he
must grieve when we fall into sin!
Love's Best at Home
In the home, love should come to its best. There it
should reach its richest beauty. The song it sings there, should be its
sweetest. All love's marvelous possibilities should be realized in the life
of the home. Whatever love may achieve in any other relation or condition,
home is the place where its lessons should be most perfectly learned. Home
ought to be the holiest place on earth. It is to be a place of confidence.
We are to trust each other perfectly there. There is never to be a shadow of
doubt, suspicion, or lack of confidence in the home fellowships. There
should need to be no locked doors, no hidden secrets, no disloyalties, no
enmities, and no diverse interests, in the home relations. We should
understand each other there. We should live together in perfect frankness
and confidence. Each should honor the other. We should see good and never
evil, in the others. We should trust each other. Our life together in the
home should be characterized by perfect truth. Familiarity should never make
us treat one another in any way which would give offence. The most familiar
intimacy should not permit us ever to disregard the proprieties and
amenities of the truest refinement. We should be more courteous in our
homes, than anywhere else in the world.
All the Christian virtues should find their
exemplification in the home life. "Love suffers long, and is kind." That is,
love never wearies in suffering whether it be in its service of others or in
the enduring of unkindness at the hands of others. Love continually demands
self-denial and sacrifice, for the sake of others. When we say to another in
whatever relation, "I am going to be your friend," we do not begin to know
what it is going to mean to us to keep our word. We have to be always
denying ourselves, giving up our own way, sacrificing our rights, giving our
friend the pleasures we had expected to enjoy ourselves.
The story of friendship anywhere, is a story of cost and
suffering—but it is in the home that it must suffer the most, make the
greatest sacrifices. When husband and wife clasp hands at the marriage
altar, they can fulfill their covenant of love only by mutual loving unto
death. It may cost either of them a great deal to love as they have promised
to do, until death separates them. Here is a man who loves his wife with a
devoted affection. For ten years she has been a helpless invalid, and he has
carried her from the bed to the chair, and up and down stairs, and has
ministered to her in a most beautiful way, failing in nothing that she
needed or craved, pouring out his life's best treasures to give her comfort
or pleasure. This is ideal. So it should be in all the home relations. Love
that stops at no cost, at no sacrifice, should be the law of the home life.
It should be the same with all the qualities of love. We
are to exercise patience with every person we may meet, in all the relations
of life—but we should show the sweetest and most Christlike patience in our
own homes. Kindness is the great law of Christian life. It should be the
universal law. We should be kind to everyone, not only to those who treat us
with love—but also to those who are ungentle to us, returning to them love
for hate. But in our own home and toward our own, our kindness should not
only be unvarying—but be always exceptionally tender.
A writer suggests that members of a family, when they
separate for the night or even for the briefest stay, should never part in
any way but an affectionate way, lest they shall never meet again. Two
incidents illustrate the importance of this rule. A distinguished man, when
much past middle life, related an experience which occurred in his own home
in his young manhood. At the breakfast table one morning he and a younger
brother had a sharp quarrel about some unimportant matter. He confessed that
he was most unbrotherly in his words, speaking with bitterness. The brother
rose and left the table and went to his business, very angry. Before noon
the younger man died suddenly in his office. When, twenty years afterward,
the older brother spoke of the occurrence, he said that it had cast a shadow
over all his life. He could never forgive himself for his part in the bitter
quarrel. He had never ceased to regret with sore pain that no opportunity
had come to him to confess his fault and seek forgiveness and
The other incident was of the parting of a working man
and his wife. He was going forth to his day's duties and there was a
peculiar tenderness in his mood and in their good bye that morning. He and
his wife had their prayer together after breakfast. Then he kissed the
babies, sleeping in their cribs, and returned a second time to look into
their sweet faces. The parting at the door never had been so tender as it
was that morning. Before half the day was gone, he was brought home dead.
The wife got great comfort in her sorrow from the memory of the morning's
parting. If their last words together had been marked by unkindness, by
wrangling or quarreling, or even by indifference, or lack of tenderness, her
grief would have been harder to bear. But the lovingness of the last parting
took away much of the bitterness of the sorrow.
If we keep ourselves ever mindful of the fragility
of life, that any day may be the last in our home fellowships, it will do
much to make us gentle and kind to each other. We will not act selfishly any
hour, for it may be our last hour together. We will not let strife mar the
good cheer of our home-life any day, for we may not have another day.
Not much is told of our Lord's home life—but the few
glimpses we have of it assure us that it was wondrously loving. Jesus was
sinless, and we are sure, therefore, that nothing he ever said or did caused
the slightest bitterness in any home heart. He never lost his temper, never
grew angry, never showed any impatience, never was stubborn or willful,
never was selfish, and never did anything thoughtless, never failed in
kindness. We have enough hints of his gracious love for his mother down to
his last kindly thought of her on his cross, to make us sure that he
continued to the close, to be to her the perfect son.
It will help us in learning our lesson in its details if
we will look at some Scripture words about love and apply them to the life
of the home. "Love suffers long, and is kind." There come experiences in the
life of many homes in which one has to suffer, make sacrifices, endure pain
or loss, and bear burdens almost without measure, for the sake of the
others. This is Christlike, though costly. "She is wasting her life," said
one, indignantly, of the eldest daughter of a family. "She is denying
herself all leisure, all good times, staying at home, working for the other
children and her little mother, while they go out into society and have
their pleasures. She is pouring out her life to give them the privileges
they crave." Yes—but always some must toil while others rest; some must bear
burdens while others go tripping along without question or care; some must
sacrifice to the uttermost, while others indulge themselves. It may seem
unfair, unjust—yet that is love, and it is by love that the world lives. The
oil is consumed in the lamp—but the room glows with light. One life is
consumed in service, misses the world's pleasures, goes without rest—but the
home is made joyous and all things go smoothly. It scarcely seems fair to
the one who sacrifices so—but that is love, and love is the greatest force
for good and blessing in the world.
There is more of the picture. There are few more hateful
things in the world than envy, and in no other place is envy so hateful as
when it appears in the home. Love drives out envy. "Love does not boast, is
not puffed up." Love is humble, lowly, does not strut, does not assert
itself, and does not assume superiority. There are homes in which there is
too much pompous vaunting, where one lords it over others. But it is most
unbeautiful, most utterly unloving.
"Love does not behave unseemly." Anything that is crude,
ungentle, unrefined, discourteous, is unseemly, unfit. So love takes note of
coarseness in behavior, of bad manners. "I am not required to mind
everybody's tender points," one may say. "I cannot be ruled by other
people's sensitiveness." Yet one who loves as Jesus loved—is considerate of
others even if others are over sensitive. That is what thoughtfulness
teaches. Boorishness in others never makes it right for us to be boorish in
return. It is in the home that this refinement is most beautiful and does
most for making happiness. The love that is most divine, does not behave
itself unseemly. Godly people may be awkward, may not understand the rules
of etiquette, may unconsciously violate the dictates of fashion at table or
in society, and yet not behave unseemly. What is required is the gentle
spirit in the heart that would not give pain to anyone, though it may know
nothing of the arbitrary rules of fashion. For one may never fail in the
smallest things of society manners, and yet in heart may be most unrefined
The lesson runs on. "Love seeks not its own." This is the
heart of the whole matter. Seeking its own is the poison of
all life. Love never seeks its own—but it always thinks of the other person.
If this were the universal rule in our homes there would be no disputes, no
strifes, no asserting of ourselves; each would serve the other. "Love is not
easily provoked." Getting provoked is the danger always in every place where
lives meet and mingle. Many people are touchy and fly into anger at the
slightest provocation. This is the bane of too much home life—it is hurt
ofttimes by impatience and irritability. It is given to quick retorts. It
resents suggestion and question. It does not restrain itself nor check its
bitter feeling. It is given to hasty speech. The love that is not provoked
gives only gentle replies, however crude and irritating the words spoken may
be. Such loving, with its soft answers which turn away wrath, is a prime
secret of home happiness.
These are only a few of the specific qualities of love
which are mentioned in a few verses of one chapter of the New Testament.
Many more might be cited. These rules of love were not given specifically
with reference to home life—but as to the way a Christian should live
anywhere. They are suggested here as touching the home, because home is
where love should always reach its best. Home should be love's school;
there we should learn love's lessons. Then when we go out into the
world and take up our tasks and duties—we will be ready for them, and the
lessons we have learned in the school of home we shall go on
practicing in daily life.
Is it not time we tried to make more of our homes? It is
not time we got more love into them? For one thing, there is pitiful need of
cheer and encouragement in most homes. There is more blame heard than
praise. There are those who give their lives without reserve for the
good of the household, and scarcely ever hear a word of thanks. How much
comfort and help it would give, to hear now and then a word of appreciation!
How it would cheer many a wife and mother whose life is given out in
untiring work, if she heard words of praise from those for whom she lives!
It is not monuments when they are dead that women want—but they would
rather a thousand times have a simple word of kindness and appreciation, day
by day, as they toil.
Says Hugh Black: "In our relation with each other, there
is usually more advantage to be reaped from friendly encouragement,
than from friendly correction. There are more lives spoiled by undue
harshness, than by undue gentleness. More good work is lost
from lack of appreciation than from too much of it; and certainly it is not
the function of friendship to do the critic's work."
No crowns in heaven will be brighter than those shall
wear who have lived out love's lessons in their own homes. Nearly everyone
has known some home, in which nearly all of whose light has come from one
member of the household. Frederick W. Robertson, referring to such a life,
asks: "What was the secret of her power? What had she done? Absolutely
nothing; but radiant smiles, beaming good humor, the tact of knowing what
everyone wanted, told that she had got out of self and had learned to
think of others; so that at one time it showed itself in deprecating the
quarrel, which lowers brows and raised tones already showed to be impending,
by sweet words; at another by smoothing an invalid's pillow; at another by
soothing a sobbing child; at another by humoring and softening a father who
had returned weary and ill tempered from the irritating cares of business.
None but she saw those things."
What About Bad Temper?
What about bad temper? An English writer said that more
than half of us are bad tempered. He gave the figures. He arranged to have
about two thousand people put unconsciously under espionage as to their
ordinary temper, and then had careful reports of the results tabulated. The
footing up is decidedly unflattering to the two thousand people who were
thus treated. More than half of them—to be entirely accurate, fifty two
percent of them—are set down as bad tempered in various degrees. The
dictionary has been well near exhausted in giving the different shades of
badness. Acrimonious, aggressive, bickering, captious, choleric,
contentious, crotchety, despotic, domineering, easily offended, gloomy,
grumpy, harsh, huffy, irritable, morose, obstinate, peevish, sulky, surly,
vindictive—these are some of the qualifying words. There are employed, in
all, forty six terms, none of which describes a sweet temper.
We do not like to believe that the case is so serious—but
most of us are unnamiable and offensive, in some degree. It is much easier
to confess our neighbor's faults and infirmities, than our own; so,
therefore, quietly taking refuge for ourselves among the forty eight percent
of good natured people, we shall probably be willing to admit that a great
many of the people we know have at times rather uncommendable tempers. They
are easily provoked. They fly into a passion on every slight occasion. They
are haughty, domineering, peevish, fretful, or resentful.
What is even worse, most of them appear to make no
effort to grow out of their infirmities of disposition. The unripe fruit
does not come to mellowness in the passing years. The roughness is not
polished off to reveal the diamond's lustrous beauty. The same impetuous
pride, vanity, selfishness, and other disagreeable qualities remain in the
life year after year. The person does not seem to grow any sweeter.
When there is a struggle to overcome one's faults and grow out of them, and
where the progress toward better and more beautiful spiritual character year
after year is perceptible, though the progress is ever so slow—we should
have patience. But where one appears unconscious of one's blemishes, and
makes no effort to conquer one's failings, there is little ground for
encouragement. Hope starts in a life when one begins to try to overcome the
evil, to cast out the wrong, to strive for the likeness of Christ.
When a man thinks he is perfect, he is not only pitifully
imperfect—but he is in a condition in which no one can do anything to help
him. He is unconscious of any lack, and his lack is hopeless. But when a man
begins to realize that he is weak and faulty and incomplete, he is ready to
begin to grow out of his faults and is at the beginning of a struggle which
will end in the victory over himself and growth into completeness of
Bad temper is such a disfigurement of character, and
besides works such harm to oneself and one's neighbors, that no one should
spare any pains or cost to have it cured. The ideal Christian life is one of
unbroken kindliness. It is dominated by love, the love whose portrait is so
exquisitely drawn for us in the immortal thirteenth chapter of First
Corinthians. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not
boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not
easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always
hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." That is the picture.
Then we have but to turn to the Gospel pages to find the
story of a Life in which all these beautiful things were realized. Jesus
never lost his temper. He lived among people who tried him at every point,
some by their dullness, and others by their bitter enmity and
persecution—but he never failed in sweetness, in patience, in self-denying
love. Like those flowers that give out their perfume only when crushed,
like the odoriferous wood which bathes with fragrance the axe that hews
it—the life of Christ yielded only the sweetest love to the rough impact
of men's rudeness and wrong. That is the pattern on which we should strive
to fashion our life and character. Every outbreak of violent temper, every
shade of ugliness in disposition, mars the radiant loveliness of the picture
we are seeking to have fashioned in our souls. Whatever is not lovely—is
There is another phase; bad tempered people are
continually hurting others, ofttimes their best friends. Some people are
sulky, and one person's sulkiness casts a shadow over the whole household.
Other people are over sensitive, ever watching for slights and offended by
the merest trifles, so that even their closest friends have to be always on
the watch, lest they offend them. Others are despotic and will brook no
kindly suggestion nor listen to any expression of opinion. Others are so
quarrelsome that even the meekest and gentlest person cannot live peaceably
with them. Whatever may be the special characteristic of a bad temper, it
makes only pain and humiliation for the person's friends.
Usually, bad temper is accompanied by a sharp
tongue. A brother and sister are said often to have passed months
without speaking to each other, though eating at the same table and sleeping
under the same roof. There recently died a man who, for twelve years, it was
currently said, had never spoken to his wife, nor had she to him, although
three times every day they sat at the same table. She would serve him with
his coffee and he would serve her with the meat—but their glumness never
relaxed into a word of courtesy. Bad temper sometimes runs to unyielding
silence. Such silence is not of the kind the proverb calls golden. Usually,
however, a bad tempered person finds a tongue and speaks out the hateful
feelings of his heart. There is no limit to the pain and the harm which
their words produce in gentle hearts.
Is there no cure for this? Must a bad tempered person
always remain bad tempered? Or is there a way by which the evil may be
transformed? No doubt the grace of God is able to make the old, new. There
is no temper so obdurately bad, that it cannot be trained into sweetness.
The grace of God can take the most unlovely life—and make it into the image
of Christ. As in all moral changes, however, grace does not work
independently of human volition and exertion. God always works helpfully
with those who strive to reach Christ-likeness. We must struggle to obtain
the victory over our own evil disposition and habits, although it is only
through Christ that we can fully succeed. He will not make us conquerors,
unless we enter the battle. We have a large and necessary share in the
culture of our own character. The bad tempered man will never become good
tempered, until he deliberately sets for himself the task and enters
resolutely and persistently upon its accomplishment. The transformation will
never come of itself, even in a Christian. People do not grow out of an ugly
temper into sweet refinement, as a peach ripens from sourness into
What is it exactly that is to be accomplished? It is not
the destruction of the temper. Temper is good in its place. The task to be
achieved is to win self-control. The truly strong man is he who is strong in
temper, that is, which has strong passions and feelings, capable of great
anger, and then has perfect self mastery. The task to be set, therefore, in
self discipline, is the gaining of mastery over every feeling, and emotion,
so as to be able to restrain every impulse, and never to act unadvisedly.
"The best characters are made by vigorous and persistent resistance to evil
tendencies; whose amiability has been built upon the ruins of ill temper,
and whose generosity springs from an overmastered and transformed
selfishness. Such a character, built up in the presence of enemies, has far
more attraction than one which is natively pleasing."
Then there is need of a higher standard of attainment in
this regard, than many people seem to set for themselves. We never rise
higher than our ideals. The perfect beauty of Christ should always be
visioned in our hearts, as that which we would attain for ourselves. The
honor of our Master's name should impel us to strive ever toward Christ
likeness in spirit and disposition. We represent our Master in this world.
People cannot see him, and they must look at us to see in our
lives a little at least of what he is like. Whatever great work we may do
for Christ, if we fail to live out his life of patience and forbearance, we
fail in an essential part of our duty as Christians. "The Lord's servant
must be gentle."
We never can be greatly useful in the world while our
daily conduct is marred by frequent outbursts of anger and other exhibitions
of temper. Only as our own lives shine in the brightness of holy
affectionateness, and our hearts and lips distill the sweetness of patience
and gentleness, can we fulfill our mission in this world as Christ's true
messengers to men. The thing in others which irritates us is ofttimes
balanced by something in us which looks just as unlovely in their eyes, and
which just as sorely tries their forbearance toward us.
If we think our neighbors are hard to live with—they
probably think the same of us; then who shall tell in whom lies the greater
degree of fault? It is certain at least that a really good natured person
can rarely ever be drawn into a quarrel with anyone. He is resolutely
determined that he will not be a partner in any unseemly strife. He would
rather suffer wrongfully, than offer any retaliation. He has learned to bear
and to forbear. Then, by his gentle tact—he is able to conciliate those who
The fault must never be ours, if there is a
difference or a quarrel which we cannot ward off. "As much as in us lies,"
Paul tells us, "we should be at peace with all men." A wise man says, "Every
man takes care that his neighbors shall not cheat him—but a day comes when
he begins to take care that he does not cheat his neighbors." So long as a
man sees only the quarrelsome temper of his neighbor, he is not far toward
saintliness; but when he has learned to watch and to try to control his own
temper, and to weep over his own infirmities—he is on the way to God, and
will soon conquer his own weakness. We find in the end—that it is
ourselves which needs watching.
Life is too short for us to spend even one day or one
hour of it, in bickering and strife. Love is too sacred to be lacerated and
torn by the ugly briers of sharp temper! Surely we ought to learn to be
patient with others, since God has to show every day—such infinite patience
toward us. Is not the very essence of true love, the spirit that is not
easily provoked, that bears all things? Can we not, then, train our lives to
sweeter gentleness? Can we not learn to be touched even a little roughly
without resenting it and growing angry? Can we not bear little injuries and
apparent injustices, without flying into an unfitting rage? Can we not have
in us, something of the mind of Christ which will enable us, like him, to
endure all wrong and injury—and give back no word or look of bitterness? The
way over which we and our friend walk together—is too short to be spent in
The Engagement Ring
No hour in all a woman's life means more to her—than the
hour when she knows that she is loved, and that she loves. Her heart has
found its home. She has been chosen from among all women in the world by a
noble and worthy man—to be the queen of his life. Her heart responds to the
affection which has poured itself upon her. She is very happy. Her happiness
makes her face radiant.
This hour ought to be with her a time of deep
thoughtfulness. It should be a time of fearlessness. Perfect love
casts out fear. No girl is ready to announce her engagement, if she is
anxious and afraid in any degree concerning the matter. She must have
perfect trust in the man to whom she has pledged her love. If she has not,
she should wait longer until she is sure.
In her thought of what she is about to do, she must think
much on the question, whether the man who asks her hand will meet all the
needs of her nature. It is not enough that he is able to provide a home
of comfort for her to live in. This is not all that is requisite for her
happiness. She may have a palace of luxury and may not lack anything that
money can provide—and yet be miserable.
It is not enough, either, that he is a man of ability
and rank. He may stand high among men and may appear to be in
every way noble and worthy. He may be gifted, talented, and brilliant. He
may seem to have in him all the essential qualities of manliness. He may be
brave and strong and true. Women are attracted by greatness. They
worship the heroic. They admire men who can do great things. Weakness
and timidity they dislike. They are not won by cowardice and inefficiency.
The man who is bold, fearless, who is not intimidated by danger, whom no
difficulty can daunt and no obstacle can defeat, appeals to them
But strength is not all a woman needs in the man
to whom she would commit herself for the keeping and cherishing which a
husband promises in the marriage contract. He may be brave and powerful, and
yet may lack tenderness. Strength and tenderness are united in the
ideal life—but strength without gentleness will make no woman happy.
She craves love. Her heart needs tenderness. There will come days in her
life when her heart is hungry, when she is in sorrow, when she is suffering,
and when even the noblest strength will not be to her, all that she craves.
The most brilliant natural gifts will not then satisfy her. She wants then
to be loved. She must have the gentle word, the kindly sympathy, the
soothing touch. Courage is a fine quality—but courage may be brutal.
It may be crude, tyrannical, and pitiless. True, manly courage—is as gentle
as a mother with her child.
Jan Carlyle said, "I married for ambition; and my
husband has exceeded all that my wildest hopes ever imagined of him—but I am
miserable!" She married a genius, and got a husband who broke her heart by
his churlish tyranny. The world praised him, and wrote his name high up on
fame's column; but what comfort was that, to the gentle woman who was
crushed by his miserable ungentleness, and never heard a kindly word from
his lips? The ideal man is brave. He is true. He is strong. He is upright.
But if a man is brave and true and strong and upright—and yet is crude,
unfeeling, and ungentle—he is not going to be a comfort to his wife through
the varying experiences of her life. There will come days when amid all the
luxury and splendor her husband will provide, her heart will cry out for
simple tenderness. There will be hours when she would give all the
wealth, the honor, the brilliant name, the world's adulation, which her
husband brings to her—for something of the sweetness of common kindness.
The girl should think of this when she is planning for her marriage.
She must ask another question—whether she is able to
fulfill her part in the marriage compact into which she is about to
enter. Can she meet the needs of the man who asks her to be his wife? Can
she inspire in him the latent qualities of nobleness and power which wait
for the touch of a woman's hand? Can she do her part in making him the man
he ought to be, the man he may be? It will not be enough that
she has the expectation of fine social position, of a brilliant marriage. If
she has in her mind the true thought of the matter, that which will press
most heavily upon her heart will be what she is going to make of herself,
the woman she is going to be. She is loved, and love should wake up in her
all the slumbering powers of her being.
In one of the Psalms there is a suggestive prayer:
"Awake, my glory. Awake, psaltery and harp. I myself will awake right
early." There is a glory in everyone of us, some power of nobleness, some
hidden beauty, some possible worth, some seed which may grow into a heavenly
plant, and some bud which may open into a wondrous flower. The commonest
life has glory in it—but it may yet be sleeping. It is a holy moment when we
become even dimly conscious that we have any measure of glory in us, and
begin really to pray that it may be awakened. It is a blessed hour when a
young person for the first time prays, "Awake, my glory," and then declares,
"I myself will awake right early." In too many, the call to awake is never
heard and the glory sleeps on.
Love is an experience which, if allowed to work itself
out freely, calls for the awakening of the best that is in the life. It
stirs the whole being. The prayer in the old Psalm reveals the consciousness
of music slumbering in the soul, and calls for its awakening. "Awake,
psaltery and harp." There are strings with marvelous capacity for music
which have never given out a note. The poet calls upon these to awake. There
is music in our lives which is sleeping, and never has been awakened. Love
should awaken every sleeping chord. When love has come into a girl's heart,
she should become aware of a thousand possibilities of beauty, of sweetness,
of noble character in herself. She is not yet the girl she may
become, and ought to become. Love is waking her up, and she begins to
feel a thousand longings for the lovely things she sees in her vision. The
revealings she has, are glimpses of what she may be, of what God wants her
to be, and she should strive at once to reach them.
Life thus grows serious to the girl to whom love has
come. She must set herself the task of becoming the woman God wants her
to be. Love is calling for her best. Life is trivial and unworthy, if it
calls her only to an empty happiness such as sometimes young people think of
as life's best. If she is worthy, and if she has any true conception of the
finest possibilities of life, the vision which love wakes in her soul is of
the blossoming out of all the richest things until they have reached their
best and highest. One writes, "The only conceivable thing that can be named
as the object of life is character; for the simple reason that it is the
only thing which lasts—but to take this self, made up of heart and mind and
will, and train it in the line of its creative design, bring out all its
powers, train it away from its faults and defects, make it strong and
compact and substantial—but a real thing, harmonious, true, the very thing
that it was designed to be." Nothing less than this should be the aim of the
girl who is dreaming of her marriage.
This is the call of the deepest heart of every true man
to the woman he has chosen to be his wife. This is the vision that rises in
his soul when he thinks of her. No less radiant and lovely should the vision
in her own soul be, as she thinks of the woman she would be when her
marriage day comes.
The girl who has accepted love, and announced her
engagement, should consecrate her life anew to Christ and commit herself to
him in a very special and sacred way. She has always needed Christ. She has
needed his protection. Through the days of her childhood and young girlhood,
her life has been like a sweet flower exposed to danger and harm of every
kind, in peril of being spoiled and crushed, and only the shelter of the
strength of Christ has kept her. The warmth of his love has been the summer
of her life. The shadow of his might, has been her defense. All that she is
and has become she owes to his gentle care through the years of her
childhood and youth. But she never needed Christ before, as she needs him
now. Life is growing more and more serious to her. New questions are coming
to be answered. New responsibilities are arising before her. She is
preparing for marriage, and marriage will bring her into new relationships
where great wisdom will be required, where mistakes will be perilous, and
where only God can do for her, what she needs.
Marriage is thought of by most people entering it as
something very beautiful and very happy. It is thought of as a dream of
delight—but ofttimes as too much of a dream, with not enough
reality. Very soon the two who have begun their wedded life with this
dream vision in their minds, find that after all marriage is something
very serious. No matter how sweet the happiness, how exalted and ethereal
the experiences, they cannot live in the skies—but must come down to common
earth—the man to business, tasks, wages, regular hours, unreasonable
people, complications, competitions; the woman to housekeeping,
meals, domestic cares and frets, questions of income and expense, clothes,
neighbors, society, and a thousand things which may be so tactfully met as
to make the daily life a beautiful song—or may be so untactfully experienced
as to result in the worst kind of discordance.
Wedded life has in it splendid possibilities of
happiness—the dream continuing amid all the confusing realities of
mundane affairs—but it has in it also distressing possibilities of
wrangling, disputing, frets, tears, unhappiness, and all manner of
bitterness. Those who marry need large measures of patience, good nature,
gentleness, and self-control. It requires only a few minutes to go through a
ceremony and to be pronounced married—but it takes a good while to be really
married—married through and through, so that two lives actually blend in
The lesson of self forgetfulness has to be
learned—love that wearies not, that is not provoked, that thinks no evil,
that suffers long and is kind that never fails. Almost never do young people
enter the wedded life with no further discipline necessary to prepare them
for living together in complete happiness. The time never comes when
patience, self restraint, and love in its spirit of mercy, humility, and
endurance—are no longer required in living together in unbroken peace.
Happiness in marriage is not the result of a ceremony, the putting on of a
ring, a honeymoon tour, a beautiful home, and a circle of delightful
friends; it is a lesson which must be learned in joy and in
sorrow, a lesson which only Christ can teach.
All this the girl who is planning to marry needs to think
of, in the days before the wedding day. She sorely needs Christ in those
days. He alone can give her the love which will make her ready to do her
part. If she is wise and thoughtful, therefore, she will take Christ into
her life, into every phase of it, and will learn to live so sweetly that
when she enters the experience of marriage, there will be no fear that it
will fail of happiness.
These are only a few suggestions that looking at the
engagement ring on the hand of a happy girl, start in the mind. Of course an
engagement ring is not the only preparation a girl needs to ensure a
joyous wedded life; it is not a charm with magical power; she needs a
preparation of mind and heart. She needs a self discipline which will bring
all the powers of her being into harmony and under a self-control which will
make her safe from all impatience, whatever the experience may be. She needs
an assimilation of her life and character to Christ's—so that in her soul
the image of Christ shall shine. She needs a trust in Christ which
will lead her to him for strength in every time of need or of danger. She
needs a consecration to Christ which will keep her faithful to him in
all her life. If she thus consciously belongs to Christ—she will take him
into her home as her abiding Guest; and where Christ lives—love will live.