The Best Things in Life

J. R. Miller

Chapter 14. Christ's Body and Its Members

Paul speaks of the church as the body of Christ. He had his own body, in his incarnation. Now his body is the whole great company of his people—all who love him, trust him, and are faithfully following him. Every believer is a member of this body, and has some function to fill in it. Paul uses the human body and its members, in a very effective way in illustration of important spiritual truth. "As the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ." "You are the body of Christ, and each members thereof." "The body is not one member—but many." All that any Christian can be, is one of the members of Christ's body. He is not everything. The hand is not the body. The eye is not the body. The lungs are not the body. The most that any believer can be—is a hand, a foot, an eye, an ear.

Imagine the hand getting the thought that it is the whole body, ignoring all the other members, setting up for itself, and trying to get on independently. What could the hand do without the brain, without the lungs, without the heart? Or think of the brain asserting its independence, or claiming to be the body. Suppose that it really is the fountain of thought, and that in a way it directs all the movements of the body. Still, what can the brain do without the hand to carry out its plans; or the tongue, to speak the thoughts that are born in its mysterious folds? The same is true of each member of the body—it is nothing by itself; it is dependent on the other members; it can fulfill its functions only by accepting its place and trying to do its own little part. Alone, it is nothing, and can do nothing. "You have seen a hand cut off, or a foot, or a head, lying apart from the rest of the body. That is what the man becomes when he separates himself from others, or does anything to make himself unsocial." He is of use only in his own place.

The same is true in the church. We are only individual members of the body of Christ, and we can fill our place only by doing what belongs to us as individual members. If we try to cut ourselves off from the body, and live independently, our life will be a failure.

Again, the whole work of the body can be done only by a diversity of gifts in the members. Suppose there was only an eye—no ear, no tongue, no hand, no foot; could the body exist? Every member of the body has its particular function, and no member is unnecessary. The health of the body can be preserved only by every member doing its own part. This is plain enough, so far as the physical body is concerned. The same is true also of the body of Christ, the church. There are many members. There is need for wide diversity of gifts, else much of the work that the church is set to do would not be done. The foot is a useful member of the body—but the foot could not fulfill all the bodily functions. It cannot think, it cannot smell, it cannot see, it cannot hear. It is good to have eyes. Blindness is the sorest of all physical losses. But deafness is also a grievous affliction, and if you had good eyes and no ears, your life would be very incomplete. Your eye could not hear for you. Every member of the body has some use which no other member can supply.

So it is in the church. No one person can do everything that needs to be done. The fullest life, is only a fragment. Jesus Christ had in his life, all virtues and graces. He was perfect man, not sinless only—but complete. The only other perfect and complete life is found in the other body of Christ, the church. That is, if it were possible to gather from all earth's redeemed lives, through the ages, the fragments of spiritual beauty and good in each, and combine them all in one life, that too would be found to be full and perfect. No one Christian can do everything that the church is required to do. One has one gift of usefulness, and another a different gift. There are a thousand different kinds of usefulness needed, and there must be a life for each.

Here we see the wisdom of variety and diversity in human gifts and capacities. It is said that no two human faces in the world are identical in every feature. Just so, no two human lives are just the same, with the same ability, the same talents, the same power of usefulness. This almost infinite diversity in capacity is not accidental. The world has a like variety of needs—and hence the necessity for so many kinds of gifts. There must be a hand for every task—or not all the tasks could be performed, not all human needs could be met. Some things would have to remain untouched, some needs unmet.

The Master tells us that to each one is given his own particular work. It is no illusion, to say that God has a plan for every life. He made you for something all your own. He thought about you before he made you, and had in his mind a particular place in his great plan which he made you specially to fill, and a piece of work in the vast world's scheme which he made you to do. That place no one but you can fill, for every other person has likewise his own place and work in the great divine plan. No one can do the work of any other. If you fail to do your particular duty, there will be a blank in the world's work, where there ought to have been something beautiful, something well done.

"To each one, his work." It may be only a little thing—but the completeness of the universe will be marred if it is not done, however small.

The particular thing that God made us to do, is always the thing we can do best, the only thing that we can do perfectly. We are not to suppose that this is always necessarily a large thing, something brilliant, something conspicuous. It may be something very small, something obscure. Indeed, the things which seem most commonplace, may be most important in their place in the great plan of God, and may prove of greatest value to the world.

Helen Keller writes suggestively on this subject: "I used to think that I would be thwarted in my desire to do something useful. But I have found that though the ways in which I can make myself useful are few—but yet the work open to me is endless. The gladdest laborer in the vineyard may be a cripple. I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. It is my service to think how I can best fulfill the demands which each day makes upon me, and to recognize that others can do what I cannot."

Every member of the body of Christ has something to do. Some members do great things, some only small things. Every Christian has a work all his own. It is not precisely the same as the work of any other—but it is his own, and he fills his place in the universe best when he does just that. There is no Christian who has nothing to do. Each one is to find what his part is—and then do it. Sometimes people attempt to do things they cannot do—leaving untouched, meanwhile, things they could do beautifully. If one has not been able to do what he has been trying to do, he is not to conclude that there is nothing for him—there is some other work which he can do, and which is waiting somewhere for his coming.

No one should ever despise another's work, or his way of doing it. We dare not call any work lowly or insignificant. Besides, we really have nothing to do with anyone's life's tasks, but our own. "The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; or the head to the feet, I have no need of you." Some people in their confidence in their own way of doing things, have no patience with the way other people do things. There is a need for different methods, if we would reach the needs of people and do all kinds of necessary work. Let us judge no other man's way—and no other man's work. Paul suggests also that the dull and less showy manner of some other people's way of working, may be more effective than the brilliant way we do things. "Nay, much rather, those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary; and those parts of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor." For example, the brain, the heart, the lungs, and other organs which work out of sight, may not get so much attention as the face, the eyes, the hands, and yet they are even more necessary than these. One may lose a hand, a foot, an eye, and still live and make much of his life. But when lungs or heart are destroyed, the life is ended.

There are showy Christians, active and valuable in their way, who might be lost to the church, and yet their loss not be felt half so much as that of some of the lowly one, who by their prayers and godly lives help to keep the church alive. We dare not look with contempt upon the lowliest person. We do not know who are dearest to God among all his children. It was a poor widow in the temple one day, who won the highest commendation from him who looks upon the heart. There is no part of the body, however unseemly and unhonored, which is not essential, whose function, perhaps, is not of even greater importance than the showiest member. So it may be that the plain Christians whom some people laugh at—are they to whom the church is indebted for the richest spiritual blessings it receives.

We may settle it, therefore, that everyone has his own place and his own part in the body of the church. Some are to preach with eloquent tongue the gospel of Christ. Some who have not the gift of eloquence are to pray beside the altar. If we cannot preach—we can pray; and there may be more power in the praying than in the most eloquent preaching we could do.

Our little part is all we have to do in the Master's work—but we must make sure that we do that. To fail in the lowliest place is to leave a flaw in God's great plan. All duty is summed up in one—that we love one another. We are bound up in the bundle of life in most sacred associations with our fellow men. Whenever, through willfulness or through neglect, we fail in any duty of love, we leave someone unhelped, who needed just what we could have given him.

It will be pathetic for any redeemed one to come home with no fruit of service. A guest at the Hospice of Bernard in the Alps tells this incident of one of the noble St. Bernard dogs that have saved so many men. This dog came struggling home one morning through the snow, exhausted and faint, until he reached the kennel. There he was wildly welcomed by the dogs. But sad and crest-fallen, he held his head and tail to the floor, and crept away and lay down in a dark corner of the kennel. They explained that he was grieved and ashamed, because he had found no one to rescue that morning from the storm drifts. How shall we feel, we whom Christ has redeemed, if we come home at last, ourselves, without having brought anyone with us?

Chapter 15. Reserve

An onlooker could not have told in the early hours of the evening, which were the wise virgins, and which the foolish. It was not until midnight that the difference became apparent. Even then, for a moment, the ten virgins seemed all in the same plight. They all had been asleep, and when they were suddenly awakened the lamps of all were going out. The difference then appeared—five had no oil with which to refill their lamps; the other five had made provision in advance, and were quickly ready to go out to meet the bridal procession.

Life is full of just such tragedies as occurred that midnight. Thousands of people in all lines of experience fail because they have neglected their preparation at the time when preparation was their one duty. The reserve of oil was the central feature in the preparation of the wise virgins—that was what made them ready at midnight. The lack of this reserve was the cause of the failure of the other five. The teaching is—that we should always make even more preparation than what seems barely necessary. Our safety in life, is in the reserve we have in store.

The other day a physician gave it as the reason of the death of one of his patients in typhoid fever, that the young man had no reserve of vitality, and could not make the fight. He had no oil in his vessel with his lamp. Reserve in character is also important. It is not enough that you shall be sufficiently strong to meet ordinary struggles or carry ordinary burdens. Any hour you may have to endure a struggle which will require extraordinary courage and power of endurance. If you are ready only for easy battling, you will then be defeated. Tomorrow you may have to lift a load many times heavier, than you carry in your common experiences. If you have no reserve of strength, you must sink under the extra burden.

We must build our lives for emergencies, if we would make them secure. It is not enough for a soldier to be trained merely for dress parade. It requires no courage to appear well on the drill ground; it is the battle, which tests the soldier's bravery and discipline. A writer tells of watching a ship captain during a voyage across the Atlantic. The first days were balmy, with no more than a pleasant breeze. The passengers thought the captain had an easy time, and some of them said that it required little skill to take a great vessel over the sea. But the fourth day out of a terrific storm arose, and the ship shivered and shuddered under the buffeting of the waves. The storm continued, and in the morning the captain was seen standing by the mainmast, where he had been all night, with his arms twisted in the ropes, watching the ship in the storm, and directing it so as to meet the awful strain in the safest way. The reserve was coming out in the dauntless seaman. He had oil in his vessel with his lamp.

We see the same in life's common experiences. Here is a young man who seems to get on prosperously for a time. All things are easy for him. People prophesy hopefully for him. Then life stiffens and burdens increase. Complications arise in his affairs. He fails. He had no reserve—and he went down in the stress. On the other hand, there are men who move through life quietly and serenely in times of ordinary pressure, revealing no special strength, skill, or genius. By and by they face a new order of things. Responsibility is increased, there are dangers, difficulties, struggles—and it does not seem that they can possibly weather the stormy gale. But as the demands grow greater, the men grow larger, braver, wiser, and stronger. Emergencies make men. No man ever reaches any very high standard of character, until he is tried, tried sorely, and wins his way to the goal.

Young people ought to form their life and character not merely for easy things, for common experiences and achievements—but for emergencies. When they build a ship, they build it for the fiercest tempests which it may ever have to encounter. That is the way young people ought to do with their lives. Just now, in their sweet homes, they do not have a care or an anxious thought. Everything is done for them. Flowers bloom all about them, love sweetens all the days. They hope to have the same sheltered life all their years, and they may never need to be strong. They may never have a struggle, nor know a need, nor have to face adversity, nor be called to fight hard battles for themselves. It is possible that no sudden midnight call, may ever cause fear or consternation in their hearts. But they are not sure of this. Before them may lie sorest testing. At the least, they will repeat the folly of the foolish virgins—if in the days of education and training, they prepare only for easy experiences, unburdened days, and do not build into their life sound principles, staunch character, indomitable courage, invincible strength—so as to be ready for the most serious possible future.

What is true of life in its equipment for success in other departments, is quite as true of spiritual preparation. It is not enough to be a good Christian on Sunday and in church. It is not enough to seek a religion that will keep us respectable, decorous, and true in life's easy, untested ways. You may never have to meet severe trials, or be called to endure persecution for your faith. You may never have to take up the burdens of great responsibility. Your life may always be easy. But the chances are, that you will come into times of trial. Therefore you must prepare yourself now, so that whatever you may be called upon to meet hereafter, in the way of duty, struggle, endurance, or testing of any kind—you may not fail. Build your ship for the roughest seas. Have you any reserve of oil, so that if ever your lamps are going out, you can refill them, and keep the light shining through the darkest midnight hours.

Another lesson from our Lord's parable—is that each must have his own lamp, and must keep it filled with his own oil. The foolish said to the wise, "Give us of your oil; for our lamps are going out." But they answered, "Perhaps there will not be enough for us and you; but go those who sell, and buy for yourselves." Has it ever seemed to you that the wise ought to have granted the request of their sisters in their distress, sharing their oil with them? Some think they were unfeeling and cold in their refusal. But even on the ground of right and justice—the answer of the wise virgins was right. We are not required to fail in our own duty—in order to help another do his duty. But there is a deeper meaning which our Master would teach here—that the blessings of grace cannot be transferred. That which the oil represents, cannot be given by anyone to another. "Each one must bear his own burden." One cannot believe for another. One cannot transfer the results of one's faithfulness to another.

If you have lived well through your years, and have won honor by your good deeds—you cannot give any portion of that honor and good name to another who has lived foolishly and begs you to share with him the fruits of your faithful life. If one woman has improved her opportunities, and has grown into a strong, self reliant, refined, and disciplined character, while her sister with like opportunities has been negligent and has developed a weak, uncultured, and unbeautiful womanhood, the first cannot impart any of her strength, her self control, her disciplined spirit to the other, to help her through some special emergency. If one man has studied diligently, and mastered every lesson, at length reaching a position of eminence and power, of splendid manhood and character, he cannot give of his self mastery, strength, and right living—to his brother who has trifled through the days which were given for training and preparation. A brave soldier in the day of battle, cannot share his courage with the trembling comrade by his side. The same is true of all virtues, qualities and attainments—they cannot be transferred.

So it is also in the receiving of grace. The holiest mother cannot share her holiness with her child who is defiled with sin. David would have died for his son Absalom—but he could not. We cannot take another's place in life. We cannot give another our burden; it is ours and is not transferable. In temptation, one who is victorious cannot give part of his victory or part of his strength—to the friend by his side, who is about to fall.

There is no more solemn truth concerning life than this, of the individuality of each person. Each one stands alone before God in his unsharable responsibility and accountability. No one of us can lean on another in the day of stress and terror and say, "Help me!" We may want to help others. We ought to want to help others. We are not Christians if we do not have in our hearts a passion for helpfulness. But there are limits to helpfulness. There are things we cannot do for others, even for those nearest to us. A mother cannot bear her child's pain for it. A father cannot help his boy to be a man, except through persuasion and influence—he cannot make his boy good and noble. Then when his son comes to him in great spiritual need, he cannot give him divine grace. The wise virgins were right when they said, "We cannot give you any of our oil."

When we come to our times of sorrow and need, we cannot then get from our friends, the help we shall require. If you would be brave and soldierly in life's struggles and dangers, you must acquire your courage and soldierliness now for yourself, in the days of training and discipline. Too many young people do not realize what golden opportunities come to them in their school days. They make little of the privileges they enjoy. Sometimes they call them anything but privileges. They think school life wearisome. They waste the days, and shirk the lessons. Then by and by, the school door closes—shuts upon them. Now they must face life with its responsibilities and they are not ready for it. Through all their years they may move with limping step, with dwarfed life, with powers undisciplined, unable to accept the higher places that would have been offered to them if they had been prepared for them. They fail in their duties and responsibilities—all because they wasted their school days. Napoleon once said to a boy's school, "Remember that every hour wasted at school, means a chance of misfortune in future life." Never were truer words spoken; and their application reaches through all life.

"Those who were ready went in." That is always true of blessing, of privileges, of honors. Those who are ready go in; not he unprepared. Young men must be ready for life's places, if they would enter into them, when they offer themselves. The unready are barred out—and they are countless. Make yourself ready for life's best places, and you will be wanted for them in due time.

There is no such thing as chance. Men get only what they are ready for. Many young men depend upon influence—they think friends can put them into good places. Friends have their use, and do what they can. But no friend, no favoritism, no influence, can make a man ready for a place. That is his own matter. There are no good places for incompetence. The bane of life everywhere, is unreadiness. Don't be a smatterer. If you are going into business, begin at the bottom and patiently master every detail—no matter how long it may take or how much it may cost you. If you are a student, miss no lesson, for the one lesson missed today may be the key—ten, twenty years hence—to open the door to a place of honor, and you cannot go in if you do not have the key.

Chapter 16. A Program for a Day

We ought to make our days symphonies. Someone says, "There is no day born but comes like a stroke of music into the world, and sings itself all the way through." That is God's thought for each one of our days. He would not have us mar the music by any discords of our own. He wants us to live sweetly all the day—without discontent, without insubmission, without complaining, without unlovingness or uncharitableness. Each one of us is playing in God's orchestra, or singing in God's choir, and we ought not to strike a wrong chord or sing a discordant note all the day. We need the divine blessing in the morning, to start the music in our hearts. It is always a pitiful mistake to begin any day without heaven's blessing.

The program for the day, should always open with a prayer. In one of the Hebrew Psalms, we have a suggestion of the way we should begin each morning. The first petition of this old liturgy is, "Cause me to hear your lovingkindness in the morning." This is a prayer that the first voice to break upon our ears at the opening of the day shall be the voice of God. It is also a request that the first voice we hear in the morning shall be a cheerful one—a voice of hope, of joy, of loving kindness.

It is sad when the first sounds a child hears when wakening in the morning—are sounds of anger, ill temper, blame, or complaining. A gentle-hearted mother takes pains, that her child never shall be frightened or shocked by harsh or bitter words. She seeks to keep the atmosphere of her home, her baby's growing place, sweet and genial. It is a great thing when the voice of God's loving kindness falls upon our ears the first of all voices when we wake. It makes us stronger for the day to have God's "Good morning" as our earliest greeting. It starts our thoughts in right channels to open our Bible and hear God's word of command and Christ's "Peace be unto you," before any news of the day, or any earthly calls or greetings, break upon our ears. If the first thoughts of the morning are cheerful, heartening, encouraging, then the day is brighter, sweeter, to its close.

It will be a great thing for us if we will take a new thought from God each morning, and let it be our guide, and inspire us for the day. We may be allowing our minds to run in unwholesome ways—ways of discontent, of envy, of baseness, or forgetfulness, of selfishness in some form or other. We may travel in these tracks persistently. If we are ever gong to reach a beautiful and joyous Christian life, we must have these thought tracks vacated, fenced across, abandoned. The way to do this is to listen to God's voice every morning, as we read his Word—and let it start our minds in new and better paths.

The next item in this program for a day is the seeking of divine guidance. "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk." We cannot find the way ourselves. The path across one little day seems a very short one—but, short as it is, it is tangled and obscure, and we cannot find it ourselves. An impenetrable mist covers the field of the sunniest day, as well as that of a moonless and starless night. When clouds are hanging over you, you ask guidance. You pray when you are in trouble—but in happy times and when all things are going well with you, it does not seem to you that you need help and guidance. Yet you really know no more of the way through the bright days—than through the dark nights. When one is walking in a forest and sees a little path turn away from the main road, he does not know where that path will take him if he follows it. Just so—we don't know what the plan we are considering, the business venture we are entering upon, the friendship we are just forming—will mean to us in the next ten, twenty, fifty years. We need divine guidance every inch of the way. Our steps, unguided, though now starting among flowers may lead us into bogs, thorns, and darkness. We need every morning to pray this prayer, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk."

Then, God will always find some way to direct us. He guides us by his Word. He guides us through our conscience. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." He guides us also through the counsel and influence of human friends. He guides us by his providence. Sometimes this guidance is very strange. One said the other day, in great distress, "A year ago I was in trouble, and I prayed to God most earnestly to help me. Instead of this, he has let the trouble grow worse through all the year." But God is not yet through answering this prayer. His guidance has not reached its conclusion. This deepening of the mystery, this increasing of the pain, this extending of the trouble—have you thought that that is part of God's way of answering your prayer and helping you?

If Joseph, the morning he left home to go to find his brothers, prayed, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk today," he would have wondered, on his way to Egypt as a captive, whether that was really the answer to his morning prayer. It certainly did not seem that it could be. He would probably have wondered why God had not heard his request. But as years went on, Joseph learned that there had been no mistake in that guidance. If he had escaped from the caravan on the way, he would only have spoiled one of God's thoughts of love for him. When we pray in the morning that God will show us the way—we may take the guidance with implicit confidence.

Another item in this program for a day, is defense, "Deliver me, O Jehovah, from my enemies; I flee to you to hide me." The day is full of dangers. We do not know it. We see no danger. We go out, not dreaming of any possible peril. All seems fair and safe—yet everywhere there are enemies and dangers. How can we be sure of protection? We can commit our lives into the care of God. We have no promise that prayer will remove the dangers out of the path—that is not the way God usually makes our days safe for us. Prayer brings divine blessing down into our lives, so that we shall not be hurt by enemies. The problem of Christian life—is not to get an easy way—but to pass over the hardest way, and through its worst perils, unhurt. To omit prayer, is to face the world's dangers unprotected. To pray is to commit ourselves to the keeping of Almighty God.

The next item of this program for a day—is the acceptance of God's plan for our life. "Teach me to do your will." No truth means more, if it is properly understood, than that God thought about us before we were born, and had a distinct divine purpose in our creation. We read of John the Baptist that he was a man sent from God. His mission in the world was down among God's long plans, as part of the Messianic prophecy. But John was not exceptional among men in the regard. Our life and work may not be as important as his—but God had a plan for us, too, before we were born. Each one of us was made to attain a certain character to fill a certain place, and to do certain work. The noblest use we can make of our life—is to fill out God's plan for us. If we fail in this, no matter how great we may seem to be, we are not so great as we would have been—if we had fulfilled God's thought for us. Browning, who puts so many great Scriptural truths so forcefully, writes:

"Before suns and moons could wax and wane,
Before stars were thunder girt, or piled
The heavens, God thought on me, his child;
Ordained a life for me, arranged
Its circumstances—everyone
To the minutest."

Our morning prayer is, "Teach me to do your will." If God has a plan for our life, he will not hide it from us so that we cannot learn what it is. Nor would he have a will for us, for the doing of which he holds us responsible, if it were impossible for us to do that will. How, then, does he make his will known to us? It is the work of all life. We chafe at sorrow—but in sorrow God is leading us to accept his way. We murmur when we have to suffer—but pain is God's school in which he teaches us the lessons we cannot learn in any other way. We begin at the foot of the class, and patiently pass upward, not easily, ofttimes painfully.

A good woman who has had a long experience of trouble, said that she was losing her faith in God. "If God is my Father," she said, "why has he permitted me to suffer so at the hands of one who had sworn to love, honor, and cherish me until death?" Her question cannot be answered. We may not presume to give God's reasons for allowing his child to endure such wrong year after year. But we may say with confidence that in all our experiences of pain and suffering, of loss and disappointment, of sickness and privation, the Master is teaching us to do his will. We should never lose faith. We should keep love and trust in our hearts, whatever may come.

The last item in the program for a day is a prayer for help. "Quicken me, O Jehovah, for your name's sake." To quicken is to give new life, to strengthen. That is just what we need if we would learn to be beautiful in our Christian life. This is also just what God has promised to do for us. He knows our weakness, and would give us strength. The tasks he sets for us, he would help us to do. He wishes us to attain loveliness of disposition, until he own sweetness of spirit is ours, and he will help us to attain it. The beauty we long to have in our life—he will help us to fashion. He will take even our failures and make them into realizations, for the things we try, with love for Christ, to do and cannot—he will work out for us. When we have done our best, and nothing seems to come of our effort, and we sit penitent and weary beside our work, he will come and finish it himself. What we really try to do is what he sees in our life and work. Our intentions, though we seem unable to carry them out, he will fulfill. Let us not be afraid. We have a most gentle and patient teacher. If only we sincerely try to do his will and learn the lessons he sets for us—he will bring us through at last to glory, with honor.

"I asked for strength; for with the noontide heat
I fainted, while the reapers, singing sweet,
Went forward with the ripe sheaves I could not bear.
Then came the Master, with his blood stained feet
And lifted me with sympathetic care.
Then on his arm I leaned until all was done,
And I stood with the rest, at set of sun,
My task complete."

Chapter 17. Let Us Love One Another

People are beginning to understand that there is only one lesson in life to learn—to love. This was John's lesson. Tradition says that when they carried him for the last time into the church, he lifted up his feeble hands and said to the listening congregation, "Little children, love one another." The words are echoing yet throughout the world. This is the lesson we all need to learn.

The place to begin practicing this lesson is at home. Someone tells about a bird that had two voices. When it was out among other birds its voice was sweet. It sang only cheerful, happy songs then, without ever a harsh note. The birds all thought it was one of the sweetest singers they had ever heard. But when that same bird went back to its own nest, its voice instantly lost its sweetness and became rough, rasping, croaking, and fretful. Perhaps being out all day, singing sweet songs everywhere, and made the poor bird so tired in the evening when it got home that it could not be sweet any longer. But really if a little bird cannot be sweet both in its own nest, among its dear ones, and out among neighbors and strangers, would it not better be sweet at home, anyway?

It is sad that there are some people who, like this strange bird, have two voices. When they are away from home they are models of amiability. They are so polite and courteous that everybody admires them and loves them. They are most gentle and kind to everyone. They are always doing favors. They will go all lengths to show a kindness. They are always happy, cheerful, patient, and are ever encouragers of others. They are always saying appreciative things. They see the best in their friends and neighbors, and praise it, not seeing faults, certainly never exposing them or reproving them. But it is said that when these people get back home, and are alone with their own families—that this sweet, gracious voice at once changes, becomes dull, harsh, severe—and sometimes petulant, impatient, even angry. This is so sad!

It has been remarked by a careful observer that almost anyone can be courteous, patient, and forbearing in a neighbor's house. "If anything goes wrong, or is out of tune, or disagreeable there—it is made the best of, not the worst. Efforts are made even to excuse it, and to show that it is not anyone's fault; or if it is manifestly somebody's fault, it is attributed to accident, not design. All this is not only easy—but natural in the house of a friend."

Will anyone say that what is easy and natural in the house of another, is impossible in one's own home? It certainly is possible to have just as sweet courtesy, just as unvarying kindness, just as earnest efforts to please, just as tender care not to hurt or give pain—in the inner life of our own homes as it is in outside social relations. That is a part of what John means when he says, "Beloved, let us love one another." "One another" certainly includes our home loved ones. It is not intended that we should treat our neighbors in a kindly Christian way—and then treat our own family members rudely, discourteously, and in an irritating, unkindly fashion.

An English paper recently had an article on Home Manners. A young girl boarded with an elderly woman, who took a maternal interest in her. One evening the young girl had been out rather late, and a fine young man brought her home. The boarding house woman asked the girl who the young man was. "He is my brother," replied the young woman. "Your brother!" exclaimed the somewhat cynical old lady, in a rather doubting tone. "Why, I saw him raise his hat to you as he went away." The courtesy seemed to be to the older woman, impossible in a girl's own brother. Is it so? Do brothers not usually practice good manners toward their sister? Every young man with even the smallest pretensions to gentlemanliness will take off his hat to any other young man's sister. Does he not also to his own?

Another incident in the same article is of a young man entering a reception room with his wife. He carelessly stepped on her gown and stumbled. "Mary," he said impatiently, "I wish you would either hold your dresses up, or have them made short." The wife said nothing for a moment, and then she asked very pleasantly, "Charles, if it had been some other woman whose dress you had stepped on, what would you have said?" The young man was honest with himself. He bowed and said frankly, "I would have apologized for my awkwardness, and I do now most humbly apologize to you, my dear. I am truly ashamed of myself."

The lesson of loving one another, means that children should be affectionate to each other in their own home. Because you are older than your brother and sister, you will not feel that it is your privilege to rule them, command them, dictate to them, to make them give up everything to you and serve you, to please you and mind you always. That is not the way love does. Jesus tells us that love gives up, that it does not demand to be served, to have things done for it by others—but rather delights to serves, to do things for others. One of the most beautiful sights one sees among children, is that of an older child playing the maternal part with one who is younger, patiently humoring her, trying to comfort her, doing things to soothe her, carrying her when the little thing is tired, keeping sweet and loving when the child is fretful and irritable.

But it is not only among children that there is need for the cultivation of love in home relations. There are older people who would do well to heed the lesson. Some people seem to think of their home as a place where they can relax love's restraint, and work off the bad humours and tempers which they have been compelled in other place, to hold in check. But, on the other hand, home ought to be a man's training place, a place in which he may learn all the sweet and beautiful ways of love. One says, "The fittest and most practical place for the conquest of anger, selfishness, rudeness, and impatience—is in a man's own home. Be a saint there, and it does not matter so much what you are elsewhere."

According to Paul's teaching, love "is patient"—it never gets tired doing things, making sacrifices, even enduring rudeness and injustice. Love is also "kind"—it is always doing little, obliging things. Love "is not proud"—it does not pose or strut as if wiser and superior, it is not self conceited, masterful, tyrannical. Love "seeks not its own." This is the secret of it all. Too many people do seek their own, and never the good of the other. It is self-love, which makes so many of us hard to get along with, exacting, touchy, sensitive to slights, disposed to think we are not fairly treated, and which sends us off to sulk and pout when we cannot have our own way. What does it really matter—whether we are fairly treated or not? Love does not give a thought to such questions. It does not think at all of itself.

There is a story of two brothers who were crossing a lake one day, on the ice. They went on together until they came to a crack. The bigger boy leaped over easily—but the little fellow was afraid to try it. His brother sought to encourage him—but he could not put nerve enough into the boy to get him to make the attempt. Then he laid himself down across the crack in the ice, making a bridge of his own body, and the little fellow climbed over on him. That is what older boys should always be ready to do for their younger brothers—make bridges of their superior wisdom, strength, courage, experience, on which the little fellows may be helped over and on.

Older girls, too, have fine opportunities for helping younger brothers and sisters. They should be sure to show their love, in all self forgetful ways. A gentleman tells of seeing a half grown girl carrying a large over grown baby almost as big as herself. She seemed to be entirely unequal to her task, and yet she was as happy as a lark. "Well, little girl, is not your load too heavy for you?" he asked. "Oh, no, sir," she cheerfully replied, "it is my brother." That made the burden light. Love made the task easy. God bless the little girl mothers. They can be sweet influences in the home. They can do a thousand little things for their younger sisters and brothers. They can be patient and gentle with them. They can teach them many lessons. They can show them how to be sweet and brave. They can carry little burdens for them, and help them along the hard bits of path. Let the older girls be guardian angels for the younger ones in the home.

One beautiful thing about loving, is that it brings its own reward. We say it costs to love, and so it does. We must forget self. We must give up our own pleasure, our own way, and think only of others. But it is in this very cost of loving, that the blessing comes to us. We do not exhaust our store of loving, in giving and sacrificing. The more we give—the more we have. Instead of leaving us poor—it makes us rich. It is like the widow's meal and oil. If she had refused to share her little with the prophet's need, she would have had only enough to last her own household one day. But she gave to the prophet, and the little supply lasted for herself, her son, and the man of God, through years.

How can we learn the lesson? It takes patience and long practice to learn any lesson. The lesson of love is very long, and takes a great deal of patience and very much practice. It begins in the heart. As Christ dwells in your heart richly—he will sweeten your life. One day at an auction a man bought a vase of cheap earthenware for a few cents. He put a rich perfume into the vase. For a long time the vase held this perfume, and when it was empty it had been so soaked through with the sweet perfume, that the fragrance lingered. One day the vase fell and was broken to pieces—but every fragment still smelled of the rich perfume.

We are all common clay, plain earthenware—but if the love of Christ dwells in our hearts, it will sweeten all our life and we shall become loving as he is. That is the way the beloved disciple learned the lesson and grew into such lovingness. He leaned on Christ's breast, and Christ's gentleness filled all his life.

Chapter 18. Praying Without Ceasing

How can we pray without ceasing? Are we to spend all our time on our knees? This certainly is not the meaning. We have our work to do. We are set in our places in this world to toil. A little bit of garden is given to everyone of us—to tend and keep. Our duties fill our hands every hour. We sin when we neglect any allotted task. We can conceive of praying which would be wrong—praying when some imperative duty is calling us out, kneeling in our closet in devotion when some distress needs our help outside. When a sick child requires a mother's care and devotion some Sunday morning, she would not please God if she left her child and went to a church service. When a physician is needed at a sufferer's bedside, he would not please God by leaving his place to attend a communion service. So there are times, when prayer is not the duty of the hour.

What, then, are we to understand by the counsel to pray without ceasing? For one thing we know that prayer is part of the expression of the Christian's very life. One who does not pray—is not a Christian. We are God's children, and if we always keep ourselves in the relation of children to our Father, loving, obedient, trustful, submissive to his will—we shall pray without ceasing. Our communion with him never will be broken. That was the way Jesus lived. He was not always on his knees. His days were filled with intense activities. Often he had not time to eat or to sleep. Yet there was never any instant of interruption of his fellowship with his Father. He was in communion with him even in his busiest hours. And he would have us live in the same way. We shall then pray at our work. Our heart will be in communion with Christ even when our hands are engaged in the day's duties.

To pray without ceasing, is to do everything with prayer. This does not mean that every separate piece of work we undertake, shall be begun with a formal act of prayer, stopping, kneeling, and offering a petition in words. This would be a physical impossibility. But we may keep our heart always in converse with God, never out of tune with him. We may live so near to God that we can talk with him wherever we are, ask him questions and get answers, seek his wisdom in all perplexities, and his help in al experiences, and have his direction and guidance at every turn. We like to go to some human friend in whose love and wisdom we have confidence, and talk over matters that are causing us anxiety, or about which we are uncertain. We sit down with our friend and consider the case and get advice, at least get light. Have you ever thought that you can do just this with Jesus Christ? You cannot see him and cannot hear his voice—but he is as really with you as was the human friend with whom you took counsel yesterday. He listens to every word you say, as you falteringly tell him of your difficulties, your perplexities, your fear, and as you ask him what you ought to do. He is interested in all the things on which you desire light and wisdom. Nothing in your life is too small for him to talk over with you, on his busiest day.

You say, "Yes—but I cannot hear what he says in answer to my questions, and how can I get advice or direction from him?" You believe that Christ is able to find some way to make you understand whatever he wants you to know. He may whisper in your heart a suggestion as to your duty, or he may speak to you in his Word, which is meant to be a lamp to your feet. Or the advice may come through a human friend. He can find some way at least to make his will known to you. No joy in the world is sweeter than the joy of being trusted, of having others come to us in their needs or sorrow, that we may help them. One of the saddest things we can conceive of is not to be needed longer by anyone, to have no one turn to us any more for help or love or friendship. It strengthens us to have another lean on us and need us. To have Christ empower us in guiding and blessing others is the deepest, sweetest joy of earth. We need to pray without ceasing if we are to be wise helpers of others. We dare not give advice to anyone in perplexity without first asking Christ what to say. We might say the wrong word. It is his work, not our own, that we are doing, and we must have him tell us what to do. Wrong or mistaken advice has wrecked many a destiny. Ofttimes a life's whole future depends upon the word we say at some critical point. We must first get wisdom ourselves, before we can give wisdom to others.

Sometimes we wonder how the great God, with all the worlds in his hands, can give attention to a little worry of ours today. We are even amazed to learn that some great man with a thousand responsibilities can think of us, be interested in us, and take time to do things for us. How then can our Master, with the countless worlds in his thoughts, keep us in his heart, and be interested in the minute things of our lives?

One writes: "One day last week I was exceedingly busy. A score of things lay on my table, each one seeming to demand instant attention. It seemed that nothing else could be thought of. Just then a stranger came in and asked for assistance, stating in a sentence or two the nature of the matter on which advice and help were desired. I saw at once that the visitor was in great distress and needed instant help. God had sent the person to me. 'Have you time to give me—twenty minutes or a half hour?' was asked. My answer was, 'Yes, I have nothing whatever to do now, but to listen to you and to try to help you.' My answer was true. Listening to this stranger was God's will for me at that hour, a bit of God's work clearly brought to me to be done, and I literally had nothing to do but that." God's will is always the first thing any day, any moment, and the only thing we have to do at that time. Nothing else can be so pressing, that that may be declined. It is the same with Christ himself. When you take to him any need, any question, any trouble, everything else is laid aside for the time.

To pray without ceasing, means also that we are always to be in the spirit of prayer. There never should be a moment any day or night, when we cannot at once look into God's face without shame, without fear, without remorse, without shrinking—and ask his blessing on what we are doing. This is a searching test of life. We cannot ask a blessing on any wrong thing. If a man is dishonest in his business transactions, he cannot pray until he makes things right. Paul gives a similar test in his exhortation, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." The counsel covers all life—our words as well as our acts. Think what it would mean to have every word that drops from our lips winged and hallowed with prayer, always to breathe a little prayer before we speak and as we speak. This would make all our words true, kindly, loving, gentle—speech that will cheer and help those who hear. We can scarcely think of one using bitter words, angry, vindictive words, while his heart is filled with prayer.

Think of a man doing all his day's business in this spirit—breathing a little prayer as he commends his wares, as he makes a bargain, as he measures his goods, as he dictates his business letters, as he talks with men. Think of a woman busied with her household cares, literally taking everything to God for his counsel, for his approval, for his direction. These are not by any means impractical or impossible suppositions. Indeed, that is the way a Christian always should live—doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus, praying without ceasing.

"But we have not time in this busy life," someone says, "to pray so much." We have time for everything else we want to do; have we not time then to look into God's face for five minutes before we begin a new day? We do not know what the day may have for us—what temptations, what sudden surprises of danger, what sorrow; what would we do if we did not have God to guide us and help us in all this maddening maze of things? Dare we fail to ask God's blessing on the journey we are about to take, on the piece of work we are about to begin, on the investment we are about to make, on the new friendship we are just forming, on the new home we are going to move into tomorrow? Time is never wasted that is spent in getting God's blessing upon our life.

Then, really, it does not require time. We can pray as we work, and—work as we pray. It is only looking into God's face every little while, and saying, "Father, bless me in this piece of work that I am about to begin; sweeten this friendship that I am forming; strengthen me for this struggle upon which I am entering; guide me through this tangle in which I am enmeshed; keep me sweet and patient in this annoyance, this irritation which has come to me."

Francis of Assisi was said to live a life of unceasing prayer. A friend desired to get the secret of his devotion, and watched him to see how he prayed. All he saw, however, was this—no long hours spent in prayer, no agonies of supplication on his knees—but, again and again, as he went on with his duties, he was heard saying, with bowed head and clasped hands, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" That was the way he prayed. He did everything in the name of Christ. He and Jesus walked together continually—they were never separated. Francis did not need, when he felt the pressure of weakness, when the burden was growing too heavy, when he was in danger of falling—he did not need in any emergency to leave his work and hurry away to pray. He prayed just where he was; he talked to Christ about everything, as familiarly as he would have done with a friend.

This is the kind of Christian life our Master would have us live. We are not to pray merely at certain hours, nor in formal acts of devotion; every breath is to be a prayer. Nor is our prayer to be only coming to God with requests, asking him to do things for us. Request is really the smallest part of true praying. What do you and your close and trusted friend do, when you are together? What do you talk about? Is the burden of your conversation asking favors? May you not be with your friend for hours and never make a single request? You talk of things that are dear to you. Sometimes indeed you may not speak at all—but sit in silence, your hearts flowing together in love and fellowship. Prayer to God—is not all clamor for favors. Much of it is love's tryst, sweet communion without words—as when John leaned his head on Jesus' breast, and loved and rested in silence.

"Rather, as friends sit sometimes hand in hand,
Nor mar with words the sweet speech of their eyes;
So in soft silence let us oftener bow,
Nor try with words to make God understand."


Chapter 19. Roots and Roses

"I think man's great capacity for pain
Proves his immortal birthright. I am sure
No merely human mind could bear the strain
Of some tremendous sorrows we endure."

"Unless our souls had root in soil divine,
We could not bear earth's overwhelming strife.
The fiercest pain that racks this heart of mine,
Convinces me of everlasting life."

Some people dislike creeds and doctrines. "We have no time for these," they say. "Life is too short for the discussion of these abstruse matters. Give us practical duties. Tell us how to live, how to make home sweet, how to get along with people, how to act in our social relations." But we cannot have flowers without roots, and what roots are to roses—doctrines are to duties. Nearly all of Paul's epistles are illustrations of this. There is a section given up to doctrinal discussion, and ofttimes this is rather serious reading too. Then follows another section in which practical duties are taught, sometimes in a very minute way.

Thus eleven chapters of the Epistle to the Romans are filled with theology. Then, beginning with the twelfth, we have a simple and clear setting forth of duties. Love must be without hypocrisy. We are to honor others rather than ourselves. We are to bless those who persecute us. We are not to be wise in our own conceit. We are to be good citizens. We are to pay our debts—not owing any man anything but love. A whole system of beautiful Christian ethics is packed in the last chapters of this great epistle. But these two sections are one—common duties grow out of strong doctrines.

Or take the Epistle to the Ephesians. We have three solid chapters of doctrinal teaching, in which we are led up to the mountain tops of spiritual truth. Then we come down into the valleys of every day life, and are taught the simplest lessons of practical Christian living—to put away lying and speak truth, not to let the sun go down on our wrath, not to steal any more, not to let any corrupt speech come out of our mouth. Then we have, too, a scheme of Christian home ethics—duties of wives, of husbands, children, parents, servants, masters. All these practical exhortations spring out of the great doctrines of grace which are elaborated in the earlier chapters. These are the roses—the roots are in the theological section.

J. H. Jowett, in a striking sermon, calls attention to the way the sixteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians begins. The fifteenth chapter is dedicated to the subject of the resurrection. There is no sublimer passage in the Bible. Then comes in the same breath, as it were, with the last sentence, this most prosaic item, "Now concerning the collection." The artificial chapter division in our Bible hides the abruptness of the transition. Yet, when we look at it closely, is there anything incongruous in the sudden passing from the great truths of resurrection and the immortal life—to the duty of taking a collection? "Now has Christ been raised from the dead… Death is swallowed up in victory… Be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Now concerning the collection." "It feels like passing from bracing mountain heights—to sweltering valleys," says Mr. Jowett. "Say, rather, it is like passing from the springs to the river." Great doctrines first, then common duties. Roots, then roses.

Some might say that the truth that we are immortal, that we shall never die—has no practical value, can make no difference on our life in this world. Why spend time in such speculations? But that is not the view Paul took of it. He said, "In Christ shall all be made alive… The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised… Therefore, be always abounding in the work of the Lord." The fact that life will go on forever, is the reason that we should always abound in the work of the Lord. Artists think it worth while to put their noble creations on canvas, in the hope that they may last a hundred years. But when a mother teaches her little child beautiful lessons, or puts gentle thoughts into its mind, she is doing it not for a century or for ten centuries—but for immortality. Does not this make it worth while for her to do her work well?

This truth of immortality gives a wonderful motive to those who are doing spiritual work. Some of the people whom we seek to help are broken in their earthly lives. There are Christians, for example, whose bodies are dwarfed and misshapen. What does the truth of the immortal life tell us about these crippled and deformed ones? Only for a little while, shall they be kept in these broken bodies. What an emancipation death will be to them!

One tells of a little wrinkled old Christian woman, who sells newspapers at a certain street corner in a great city, day after day, in sun and rain, in winter and summer. Here is the story of this poor creatures' life. She was bereft of her husband, and then an orphaned grandchild was put into her arms by her dying daughter, and she promised to provide for the little one. This is the secret that sends her to her hard task, day after day. Then that is not all the story. Some old friends offered the woman a home with them in return for trifling services—but she would have had to be faithless to her trust. This she could not be. Her dead daughter's child, was sacred to her. So she stands there on the street corner in all weathers, selling newspapers to provide for the little child. Ah, it is a noble soul, which is in that old bent wrinkled body! No angel in heaven is dearer to God than that poor creature, serving so faithfully at her post. Think what immortality means to her!

A little child was left in the arms of a young father by a dying mother. He was thankful. "Her beautiful mother will live again in her, and I shall be comforted," he said. He lavished his love upon her. But the child developed a spinal disease, and grew to be sadly misshapen. The fathers' disappointment was pitiful. He drew himself away from the ill-favored child, neglecting her. At length the child died, and as the father sat in his room in the evening, thinking of her sad, short life—he fell asleep, and a radiant vision appeared before him. It was his daughter, straight and beautiful, more beautiful than her lovely mother ever had been. He held out his arms yearningly, and she drew near to him, and knelt, and laid her head against his breast. They talked long of things in their inmost souls, and he understood that this was his daughter in reality. This was the child as she was in her inner life—what she was as God and angels saw her. He never had been able to see her in this radiant loveliness, however, because of the physical deformity which disease had wrought, thus hiding from his blinded eyes, the real splendor of her sweet, lovely girlhood. With great tenderness he laid his hand on her head, saying, "My daughter!" Then the vision vanished—it was only a dream. But in the dream there was a revealing of the truth about her. This was indeed the child over whose disfigurement, he was so bitterly disappointed. This was the being who had dwelt in that crooked body. This was what she was now, in her immortal body.

So we begin to see that Paul spoke truly, when he said that since we are immortal, and because we are immortal, we should abound in the work of the Lord, "for as much as you know that your labor is not vain in the Lord." Those who touch children's lives with divine blessings, are putting upon them marks of beauty which never shall fade out. Be not impatient of results. The seed you sowed yesterday may not come to ripe harvest today or tomorrow—but God's years are long.

When we think of it closely, we see that the collection to which Paul refers, was not something incongruous, after the great resurrection lesson—but came most fittingly after what he had been saying. It was a collection for the poor Christians at Jerusalem. One of the first impulses of Christianity is to care for those who are poor and in need. There was something very beautiful, therefore, in this "collection." It was to be taken by Gentile Christians to be sent to Palestine for the relief of poor Jewish Christians. The feeling between Gentiles and Jews was not naturally friendly—but love of Christ brought the two races together.

The fifteenth chapter, therefore, belongs logically before the sixteenth. They could not have had this collection before they had the wonderful teachings about the death and resurrection of Christ. There must be a spring with its exhaustless fountains away back in the hills, before there can be streams of water to pour out with their refreshment. There would never have been a collection among the Gentiles in Corinth and Ephesus for poor Jews in Palestine, if Christ had not died and risen again. Nothing but the gospel can make men of different races love each other. But as we read the great works, "Now has Christ been raised."… "O death, where is your sting?"… "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,"—it is natural and fitting, no descending from lofty peak to lowly valley, no coming down form the glorious to the commonplace, to read, "Now for the collection." It is only part of the great outflow of love.

If, after a sacred communion service, in which we have all been lifted up in blessed love for Christ, the minister should tell us of a family of Christians somewhere who were suffering and in sore distress, hungry and famishing, and ask us for a collection for their relief, we would not think he had broken in upon the sacredness of the holy service, and there would be nothing inappropriate or incongruous in his saying, after the bread and the wine had been received, "Now we will take the collection for these poor fellow Christians of ours." The collection would be almost as much of a sacrament, as the taking of the bread and the wine. Religion always kindles love. Every time we really look anew upon Christ as our suffering Redeemer, we love others more, and our sympathies come out in greater tenderness.

Chapter 20. Show Me the Path

The little prayer is singular, "You will show me the path." Does the great and glorious God actually give personal thought to individual human lives? We can conceive that he might direct the career of certain great men, whose lives are of importance in the world; but will he show common people the way? Will he guide a poor man or a little child? The Bible teaches that he will. He feeds the sparrows. He clothes the lilies. He calls the stars by their names. Then the Bible is full of expressions of God's interest in individuals. Jesus taught this truth when he said that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep. The 23rd Psalm has it, too, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He leads me."

Let no one think that he is only one of a crowd, in God's thought. Each believer has his own place, and is cared for just as if he were the only one in God's universe. God loves us as individuals—he could not really love us in any other way. He knows always, where we are—and what our circumstances are. God's will controls the smallest matters, and takes into account, the smallest events in each life. A Spanish proverb says, "A leaf stirs not on the tree—without the will of God." God's hand is in every event. We talk of the laws of nature—but what is nature? It is not something independent of God. The laws of nature are simply God's laws. Nothing takes place that is contrary to the divine will. Nothing—no storm, no earthquake, no cyclone, no tidal wave, ever gets out of God's control. Natural law rules in everything, and natural law is simply the power of God manifesting itself. This world is not controlled by chance, nor by any blind fate—but by him who loved us so much that he gave his son to die for us. W need not hesitate, therefore, to accept the truth—that God will show each one of us the path.

How can we have this guidance? If we would have it, the first thing for us is to realize our need of it. Some people do not. They think they can find the way themselves. They never pray, "Show me the path." During the past summer in Switzerland, two men who undertook the ascent of one of the mountains near Geneva, without guides or ropes or any of the ordinary appliances for safety. Their conduct attracted attention, being so foolhardy, and their progress was watched through a telescope. Soon the men were seen to be in trouble, wandering aimlessly over the ice. In a little while, one of them disappeared, and not long afterward, the other also was lost to view. A search party went out, and it was discovered that the first man had fallen into a crevasse, hundreds of feet deep, where his body was found. The other had fallen—but, more fortunate than his companion, he fell into the snow, and was able to crawl out and was found in an unconscious state.

It is foolhardy to try to climb the Alps without a guide. It is far more perilous to try to go through this world without a guide. It is one of the most assuring promises of the Bible that God himself will be our guide, not only in our mountain climbs, and through the dark valleys—but in every part of our way. But we must be willing to be led. God will not drive us, nor compel us—he will lead us. And we may take another path if we will. Many people do. If we would be shown the way—we must be conscious of our need of guidance, and must walk obediently in the path that the Guide marks out for our feet.

If we would have God show us the path, we must also trust his guidance. Sometimes we grow impatient of God's leading, because he seems to take us only along homely ways, giving us only commonplace things to do. We think we could do something larger, could make more of our life—if we could get into a wider sphere and have greater opportunities. Some people even chafe and fret, spoiling the lowly work which is given them to do, in their discontent with it, and their desire for some larger place and some more conspicuous work. If, therefore, we ask God to show us the path, we must accept his leading as it becomes clear to us.

The path may not always be smooth. It is the path of life—but the way of life ofttimes leads through painful experiences. The baby begins to live—with a cry, and in some form or other we suffer right up to the end. Sometimes there is inscrutable mystery in a particular trial through which we are led.

Heaven is the place where Christians will reach perfection, where earth's blighted things will develop into full beauty. The Christian will not be sick, nor blind, nor imperfect, there. There is comfort in this.

Does the agonies which we go through? Yes, he knows all. Has he then no power to do anything? Yes, he has all power. Why, then, is he silent? He has his reasons. Why does he allow the agony to continue?

We dare not try to answer our own questions. We do not know God's reason. Yet one thing we know—it is all right. God is love. He is never unkind. He makes no mistakes. What good can possibly come from our severe trials? We do not know—but God knows.

In one of the famous lace shops of Brussels, there are certain rooms devoted to the spinning of the finest and most delicate lace patterns. These rooms are altogether darkened, except for the light from one very small window, which falls directly upon the pattern. There is only one spinner in the room, and he sits where the narrow stream of light falls upon the threads of his weaving. "Thus," we are told by the guide, "do we secure our choicest products. Lace is always more delicately and beautifully woven, when the worker himself is in the dark, and only his pattern is in the light."

May it not be the same with us, in our weaving? Sometimes it is very dark. We cannot understand what we are doing. We do not see the web we are weaving. We are not able to discover any beauty, any possible good in our experience. Yet if only we are faithful, and fail not and faint not, we shall some day know that the most exquisite work of our life was done in those very days when it was so dark. If you are in the deep shadows because of some strange, mysterious providence, do not be afraid. Simply go on in faith and love, never doubting, not even asking why, bearing your pain in silence, and learning to sing while you suffer. God is watching, and he will bring good and beauty out of all your pain and tears. Just as truly in such experiences as this, as in the brightest and most joyous, can we say, "You are showing me the path." This very path which seems to you so dark, so hard for your feet—is the path God is choosing.

Then God's path is always the right path. "He led them forth by the right way." God never leads anyone in the wrong way. The path is steep—but it runs up the mountain of God. It may be rough—but the end will be so blessed, so glorious, that in its joy we shall forget the briers and thorns on the way.