Have You Finished?
James Smith, 1859
Traveling toward town in a railway carriage, two shorthand writers were copying their notes, busily they wrote on for some time, until at length one of them exclaimed, "Have you finished?"
He who wishes to improve circumstances, will never lack a circumstance to improve. What a merciful provision it is, that we are enabled to clothe our thoughts with words — that others may understand them; and then to be able to commit them to paper — that others may read them. How surprising that one man is able to note down words as fast as another speaks them, and then present them to the public with the greatest accuracy.
How many mercies we have, that we have never praised God for! Blessed be God, for the power of speech, that we were not born mute, as many poor creatures are! Blessed be God, that we were ever taught to read, so that we may profit by the thoughts of others which are made public! Blessed be God, that we ever learned to write, so that we can communicate our desires, purposes, plans, and enjoyments to friends at a distance! Blessed be God, for the art of printing, that copies of good, instructive, and profitable books can be multiplied so easily, and such multitudes be benefitted thereby! I might go on thanking God for the invention of paper, ink, pens, pencils, etc, etc — but I must not go into too many particulars. Only allow me to ask you, reader, to join with me, in blessing God for All of his mercies — the multitude of his mercies. Have you finished?
How delighted the school boy is when he has finished his lesson, or done his long sum; and often how much delighted when he has finished schooling altogether. How delighted the young man is, who has learned his trade, is just out of has time, is about to work for wages, and his liberty to choose his own employer. How delighted the journeyman is, who has finished working as another man's servant, and is just going to set up in business for himself.
Man loves change — and yet changes are not always for the best. Many a man has confessed that his school-boy days were his happiest; others have said that they were never more comfortable than when apprentices; and many a master has acknowledged that he had more real enjoyment, and much more freedom from care, when he was a journeyman, than ever he has had since.
Few rightly estimate present mercies. We are always reaching after something before us and beyond us. Few, very few of us have learned Paul's lesson; "Having food and clothing — let us be content with that." Necessary food and suitable clothing are all that we can enjoy — have what we may. More brings care, fear, anxiety, and many troubles.
Have you finished? You may perhaps have been seeking peace of conscience, and comfort of mind in the world; or by your devotions and good deeds. If so, the sooner you have finished the work the better; for you will never find either peace or comfort in that way.
If you would have peace of conscience — come to the blood of Jesus, and exercise faith in his glorious sacrifice, and peace will soon be yours.
If you would have comfort of mind — seek to know God as your father, take his precepts as your guide, and put your trust in his exceeding great and precious promises; and comfort will soon now into your soul. Finish with the law, and begin with the gospel — if you wish to enjoy peace, walk comfortably with God, act honorably with your fellow-men, and die in sure and certain hope of a resurrection to everlasting life.
Have you finished? Some are always finding fault with Divine providence, and complaining of their lot. Now the sooner this is finished, the better! We read in God's Word, that "The people began to complain about their hardship, and the Lord heard everything they said. Then the Lord's anger blazed against them, and he sent a fire to rage among them, and he destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp!" Numbers 11:1. And yet, perhaps, they had quite as much to complain of as we have. But complaining does not befit us Christians — who owe everything to God's Mercy. If we only had our desert — our lot would be truly miserable, and our final doom dreadful. As it is, we have many mercies, and all of them are unmerited; and many more may be had, if we would only seek them of the Lord. Let us, therefore, leave off murmuring and complaining, and let us look at our mercies, consider our blessings, and we shall soon praise the Lord.
Have you finished? Like the men referred to at the head
of this article, many are only copying other men's thoughts, and
giving currency to other men's ideas. They do not think for themselves,
and utter their own words. This is not manly. It is not befitting of us. If
we must copy — then let us copy the example of God's Son in our
lives. Such copying would be commendable, because it would be profitable. It
would . . .
correct our wrong views,
regulate our own thoughts,
and guide our feet into the way of peace.
Have you finished? Every one of us have a work to do, a
task to perform. We have . . .
a soul to save,
a God to glorify,
a generation to serve,
a Heaven to obtain,
a Hell to escape!
Soon, perhaps very soon, death will knock at our chamber-door, and ask, Have you finished? Suppose that was to be the case tonight — today — how would it be with us? Have we believed in Jesus to the salvation of our souls? Have we glorified God in our souls and bodies, which are his? Have we served our generation by the will of God? Do we know in ourselves, that we have in Heaven — a better and enduring substance? Have we fled for refuge to Jesus, that we may with the Thessalonians, "wait for God's Son from Heaven, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come?" O let us seek to have our work done, our evidences bright, and our prospect clear — that whenever death comes, we may say, "I am ready, I have finished!"