The Building of Character

J. R. Miller, 1894, Philadelphia

Christ's Withheld Lessons

"I have much more to say to you—more than you can now bear." John 16:12. All learning is slow. This is true in proportion to the importance of the lessons. We learn some things quickly—but they are not the things which are of greatest value. Mere head-lessons are gotten more easily than heart-lessons. We may memorize the beatitudes in a few minutes—but it takes many years to learn to live them! And in spiritual and moral lessons—living is the only learning which counts. Anyone can memorize a code of ethics by heart, without much effort. But to get the faultless code wrought into conduct, disposition, spirit, and character—is the work of a lifetime!

In life-teaching, the lessons are given only as fast as they are learned. Our Master will not teach us more rapidly than we can take his lessons. It was in the midst of his most confidential talk with his disciples, that he said he had much more to say to them—more than they could now bear. All wise teaching must be from the simplest rudiments, up to the more complex knowledge. The mind is not capable of comprehending the higher elements, until it has been developed and trained. Truth itself is progressive, and the pupil is not prepared to receive the advanced lessons, until he has mastered the rudiments.

Spiritual truths can be received—only as we come to the experiences for which they are adapted. There are many of the divine promises which we can never claim, and whose blessedness we cannot realize—until we come to the points in life, for which they were specially given. For example: "He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock." This word can mean nothing to the child playing amid the flowers, or to the young man or woman walking in sunny paths—without a care or a trial. It can be understood only by one who is in trouble.

Or, take Christ's word: "My grace is sufficient for you." It was given first in place of an answer to a prayer for the removal of a sore trial. It meant divine strength to offset human weakness; and it cannot be received until there is a sense of need. Christ stands beside a happy young Christian and says, "I have a precious word to give you, one that shines with the beauty of divine love; but you cannot bear it yet." The disciple moves on along life's sunny path, and by and by comes into the shadows of sorrow of trouble. Again the Master stands beside him and says, "Now I can give you the word I withheld before. It is this: 'My grace is sufficient for you.'" Then the promise glows with light and love.

There is a large part of the Bible which can be received by us, only when we come into the places for which the words were given. There are promises for weakness—which we can never get, while we are strong. There are promises for times of danger—which we can never know, in the days when we need no protection. There are consolations for sickness whose comfort we can never get while we are in robust health. There are promises for times of loneliness, when men walk in solitary ways, which never can come with real meaning to us, while loving companions are by our side. There are words for old age which we never can appropriate for ourselves along the years of youth, when the arm is strong, the blood warm, and the heart brave.

God cannot show us the stars—while the sun shines in the heaven; and he cannot make known to us the precious things of love which he has prepared for our nights—while it is yet day about us. Christ says to us then, "I have much more to say to you—more than you can now bear." We could not understand them. But by and by when we come into places of need, of sorrow, of weakness, of failure, of loneliness, of sickness, of old age—then he will tell us these other things, these long-withheld things, and they will be full of joy for our hearts! When night comes, he will show us the stars.

Older Christians will understand this. There are many things in the Bible which had little meaning for them in life's earlier day—but which one by one have shone out bright and beautiful along the years, as stars come out in the evening sky when the sun fades from the heavens. Even in childhood the words were said over and over; but they were repeated thoughtlessly, because there had been no experience to prepare the heart to receive them. Then one day there crept a shadow over the life, and in the shadow the long familiar words began for the first time to have meaning. Other experiences of care, trial, and loss followed, and the precious words became more and more real. Now, in old age, as the sacred texts are repeated, they are the very rod and staff to the trembling, trusting spirit.

Thus, as life goes on, the meaning of Christ's words come out clearer and clearer, until the child's heedless repetition of them, becomes the utterance of the faith and trust of the strong man's very soul.

We cannot bear now the revealing of our own future. Christ knows it all. When a young Christian come to the Master's feet and says, "I will follow you wherever you lead," the Master knows what that promise means. But he does not reveal the knowledge to his happy disciple. People sometimes say they wish they could look on into the years and see all that will come to them. But would this be a blessing? Would it make them happier? Could they shape their course better if they knew all that shall befall them—the struggles, the victories, the defeats, the joys and sorrow, the failures of bright hopes—just how long they will live? Surely it is better we should not know our future.

So the word of the Master is continually, "I have much more to say to you—more than you can now bear." Only as we go on, step by step, does he disclose to us his will and plan for our life. Thus the joys of life do not dazzle us, for our hearts have been chastened so that we have learned how to receive them. The sorrows do not overwhelm us, because each one brings its own special comfort with it. But if we had known in advance—the coming joys and prosperities, the exultation might have made us heedless of duty and of danger. We might have let go of God's hand and have grown self-confident, thus missing the blessing which comes only to simple, trusting faith. If we had known of the struggles and trials before us, we might have become disheartened, thus failing of courage to endure. In either case we could not have borne the revealing, and it was in tenderness that the Master withheld it.

We could not bear the many things which Christ has to tell us about heaven, therefore he does not tell them to us. The blessedness, if disclosed now, would dazzle and blind our eyes; the light must be let in upon us, little by little—so as not to harm us. Then if heaven were within our sight, as we toil and struggle and suffer here—the bliss would so excite us that we should be unfitted for duty. A traveler tells of returning to France after a long voyage to India. As soon as the sailors saw the shore of their own land—they became incapable of attending to their duties on the ship. When they came into port and saw their friends on the dock, the excitement was so intense that another crew had to be found to take their place. Would it not be thus with us—if heaven were visible from earth? Its blessedness would steal us away from our duties. The sight of its splendors would so charm and entrance us—that we would weary of earth's painful life. If we could see our loved ones on heaven's shore—we would not be content to stay here to finish our work.

Surely it is better that more has not been revealed. The veiled glory does not dazzle us; and yet faith realizes it, and is sustained by the precious hope in its struggles in the night of earthly life, until at last the morning breaks.

This is the great law of divine revealing. We learn Christ's teaching—as fast as we are able to bear it. So we may wait in patient faith when mysteries confront us, or when shadows lie on our pathway, confident that he who knows all—has in gentle love withheld from us for the time the revealing we crave, because we could not yet endure the knowledge. Ever, therefore, our prayer may be—

"Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead me on.
Keep my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step's enough for me."

For the Days of Darkness

"Then Jesus told them—You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you." John 12:35

We are not to anticipate trial. God wants us to take the days as they come, building little fences of trust about each one, shutting out all that does not belong to it. We are not to stain today's blue sky—with tomorrow's clouds. We are not to burden today's strength with tomorrow's loads. We are not to walk sadly in bright youth, when we have no sorrows, because we know that later in life we must meet pain and grief. "Sufficient unto the day, is the evil thereof." Yet we should live in the glad days, so that when the bad days come, they will not overwhelm us. For no matter how brightly the sun shines about us today—it will some time grow dark. No holy living, no kind of preparation beforehand, can keep the affliction away. That is not the way God blesses his children. There are ways of living in the sunny days—so that when the night comes we shall not be left in utter darkness.

One way is by storing our minds with the promises of God. We may get a lesson here, from our geology. Ages ago vegetation grew thick and luxuriant. Wisely our earth piled away all the vast debris of the falling and decaying forests, and covered it up. It seemed a foolish sort of carefulness and economy. Of what use would all this mass of dead trees and vegetation ever be? But it is now earth's coalbeds, and it is lighting our homes in the dark night. In the days of gladness, when there is no trouble, no pain, there are many of God's Words which seem to have no meaning for us. We do not need them. They are for times of sorrow—and we have no sorrow. They are lamps for the darkness—and we are not walking in darkness. They are for days of pain and loss—and we have no pain, and are called to endure no loss.

But if we are wise, if we would be ready for whatever the future may bring to us, we will not leave these unheeded words unappropriated. We will take them into our heart and fix them there, as one would fix lamps in a house during the daytime, to be ready to shine when night comes. Then when the sorrow comes, as it surely will come, we shall not be overtaken by the darkness. These promises for which we had no use in the days of human joy—but which we took into our heart against the time of need—will now shine down upon us and fill our gloom with sweet light from heaven. That is one way of walking while we have the light—so that the darkness will not overtake us and overwhelm us. Hang the lamps all about your heart's chambers during the day.

Another way is by keeping the vision clear all the time, between our souls and heaven. It is not easy in the time of unbroken worldly prosperity—to maintain unbroken communion with God. Prosperity fosters many things which serve to cut off our spiritual outlook. A man built a house on a spot which commanded a beautiful view of distant mountains and a great stretch of sky. Then he said, "I must have trees to shelter the house. Trees make any place more lovely." So he planted a number of fine trees, and they grew up, and were much admired. But the trees were close together, and, as they grew, their branches interlaced; and by and by they shut out the distant view, so that the mountains were no longer visible from the house, and scarcely a glimpse could be had of the sky.

So it is often with men's lives. In their prosperity men gather about them many worldly interests and pleasures. These are very sweet; but sometimes they shut out the view of heaven's glorious mountains, and of the blessed spiritual things which are the realities of Christian faith. Many a life thus loses its familiarity with Christ, and the invisible things of God become less and less clear to the vision. Earthly interests absorb the thought and the affections. Then when sorrow comes and it grows dark, the heart cannot find its refuge, and goes uncomforted. The familiar joys have lost their power to bless, and the soul has no experience of the higher joys.

Walk while you have light—that the darkness does not overtake you, nor swallow you up. That is, in the days of earthly joy and prosperity, keep the view between your soul and heaven clear and open. Do not let the trees grow up about your life's home, so as to shut out your view of the mountains of God. Keep on intimate and familiar terms all the time with Christ. Then when night comes the lights from your Father's house will shine down upon your darkness. Bereft of human companionship, the consciousness of the presence, the companionship, and the love of Jesus Christ, your unseen Friend, will become more and more real to you. Thus walking while you have the lights, the darkness when it comes will not overwhelm you.

There are many such experiences of sorrow. They come, perhaps suddenly, to some Christian who has known only gladness before; but the life is not crushed. In the darkness the face of Christ appears in beauty which was never seen before, and the sad heart is comforted.

Still another way in which we may be prepared in the light for the darkness, is suggested by our Lord himself in one of his teachings. "While you have the light, believe on the light, that you may become sons of light." There is something very beautiful in this. If you walk in the light, the light will enter into you, and you will become a son of light. If a diamond lies for a while in the sunshine, and then be carried into a darkened room, a soft light will pour out from it. We know how it was with John, for example. He walked in the light of Christ for three years, and the light entered into him, into his very soul, until he became a shining light. So it was with all who were close friends of Christ.

And we may walk in the light of Christ, just as truly as did those who knew him in the flesh. Christ is not a mere historical figure of long centuries past. He is now with us, as really present by our side as he was by Mary, when she sat at his feet; or by John, when he lay upon that blessed bosom. So we can walk in the light of Christ; and as we do so, we shall become light ourselves, filled with his light.

But how can we get the light into our own life? Only by opening our heart to the love of Christ. There were a great many people in those ancient days who saw Jesus, who met him ofttimes, who heard his wonderful words, who beheld his sweet life, who were witnesses of his patience, his gentleness, his gracious kindness, his unselfish ministry—but who never became children of light. Their lives remained dull and cold and dark—as though they had never seen him. On the other hand, there were a few people who walked in the light of Christ, and became themselves transfigured, bright, shining children of light.

What was the cause of this difference, in the influence of Jesus upon different lives? It is very plain to one who understands the law of spiritual impression. The people at large saw Christ, heard his words, beheld his sweet life, walked beneath his influence—but kept their hearts shut against him. Christ's life flowed all about them—but found no entrance into them. The friends of Christ, however, believed in him, loved him, opened their souls to him, came into intimate communion with him, received his words, let his Spirit pour into their hearts. The divine life which flowed about them, filled them. There is the same difference always among those who live under the influence of Christ. Not all take the blessing into their souls. Thousands know the truth of Christianity—who have not received the spirit of Christianity. But those who receive Christ himself, become Christians, Christ's men, children of light, and shine themselves with the same light.

That is what our Lord means for us when he says, "You are the light of the world." We are lighted at the flame of his life. Then as he was in the world—so are we in the world. Our lives shine too. In our little measure, we become Christs to others. We, in turn, are comforters of the sorrow of the sorrowing, inspirers of hope in the despairing, and of strength in the weak. There is no other secret in the art of comfort. There is no use in your saying over verses of Scripture to those who are in darkness of trouble, if that is all you do. You must have light in yourself. The sorrowing must hear the heart-beat in your words. The life of Christ must flow through your lips and shine in your face. Walk in the light until you became a child of light, and then you can go out to shine for Christ in the world.

If we are children of light—no darkness can overwhelm us. Night does not quench the lights which shine in our streets and in our homes; they appear only the brighter as the darkness deepens. So, if we are children of light, the darkness of sorrow falling about us will not overwhelm us. It will not be dark in our soul, however deep the gloom outside. In the time of the three days darkness in Egypt, God's people had light in their houses. Thus it is in the Christian home in the time of sorest and most sudden sorrow. This is the secret of comfort. Be filled with Christ. Open your heart to his love, to his Spirit, to his peace, to his joy, to his life. Abide in Christ until Christ abides in you, until you are filled with all the fullness of God. Then you need not fear any sorrow, for the comfort is in yourself. No darkness can make it dark in your soul, because the light of Christ shines there.

Then in your own sorrow—you will be a comforter of others. Jesus, in his darkest hours, forgot himself and sought to comfort others. On the night of his betrayal, when the shadows were deepening about him, he took the disciples into the upper room, and comforted them in their deep and bitter grief, with the most precious words of comfort earth's sorrowing ones have ever heard. Let those who are themselves crying out for consolation, go out into the sad world, and forget their own affliction—as they seek to lift up other mourners. The words which Christ has spoken to them in their hour of darkness—let them speak forth again. Let the mother wither with the empty crib and the empty bosom—go to the home where white crape hangs on the door, put her arm around the mother who sits there in her bitter grief, and tell her she understands the pain of her heart, and then whisper to her the comfort of God's love. In trying to console others, the mourner will find consolation for herself.

There is no other secret of comfort like this. Walk in the light while you have the light—and you shall become the children of light. Then no darkness can overtake you, nor quench the light which shines in you. Then you will be a light in the world—to brighten other lives in their sorrow.

Hidden Words in the Bible

There is a great deal of beauty in the world, which lies too deep for our eyes. There are millions of stars in depths of the heavens which no telescope reveals. Night unveils to us, the splendors which lie hidden in day's glare.

One may write with invisible ink, and the words fade out after the pen, leaving no trace. Yet they remain in the paper, hidden there, unseen and unsuspected by any eye which scans it. But if one day the paper is exposed to heat—the hidden words come out in all clearness, every line appearing in distinctness.

There is a sense in which the revealings of God in the Bible are hidden. They are not hidden because God seeks to keep them from us—but because we must be brought into a certain condition before we can receive them. One said the other day, "Why did I never see the rich meaning of that Psalm before?" We had been going over one of the psalms together, as I sat at my friend's bedside, and we had seen many sweet things in some of the verses. My friend almost chided herself with dullness of vision, or with carelessness in reading, in not having seen the precious meanings before. "I have read that Psalm hundreds of times," she said. "These sweet thoughts were lying in the verses all the while—but I never saw them until now! Why was it? Did God mean to hide them from me?"

The answer to these questions, is that the revealings are really made, and the blessings bestowed—at the earliest possible moment. The stars are in the sky all day—but we cannot behold them until night comes. My friend could not have seen the precious thought in the Psalm six months before. Then she was in health, active, swift in movement, strong, with no consciousness of weakness, rich in human hopes and expectations. And she found very many precious things then, in the Bible. It had its lessons, its encouragements, its interpretations. Just what she needed and craved in those active days—the book had for her. But the particular revealings which she gets now from its words—she did not then find. Now she needs comfort for weakness; strength to endure pain patiently; grace to enable her to readjust her life to its new conditions, assurance of divine love and care in her experience of feebleness. She did not need these special revealings in the time of health and activity, and they were not then available to her.

The experience is a very common one. A happy young girl may sing sweetly the hymn, "Jesus lover of my soul—let me to your bosom fly." And yet it may mean almost nothing to her. She feels no need to fly to the divine bosom. She is conscious of no danger, of no enemy pursuing, of no storm gathering. The words ripple from her tongue in musical measure and tone—but there really is no experience in her heart to interpret them to her! A few years later she is a woman, with many cares, burdens, trials, and sorrows, and again she sings the song,

"Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to your bosom fly;
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high.

Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Until the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide,
Oh, receive my soul at last!"

And now she feels each word as it drops from her lips in pleading accents. Every syllable is now a prayer from her heart. On the wings of her song, her heart rises, "As storm-tossed bird beats with weary wing the air." What makes the song such a new song to her? New experiences have come into her life, and amid these she has learned her own insufficiency, and her need of divine shelter, and has learned also of the preciousness of the refuge in the bosom of Christ.

The same is true of very many divine comforts. There are Bible texts which open to the young. They read the sacred book in the bright years when there is no care, no sense of weakness, no consciousness of need—and many of its words speak to them in thoughts of gladness and cheer. Meanwhile there are other words which read sweetly enough—yet over which they do not linger, out of which comes to their heart no soothing voice. Then they go on for a few years, and at length the way slopes into gloom. A child is sick, and the strong man is watching beside its bed, with heart burdened and anxious. Or he is brought down himself to a sick-bed, where he has time for thought. He knows his illness is serious—that he may never recover. Now he is ready for some new Scriptures! He needs some of the comfort that thus far has been hidden from him in the Words of God, whose deeper meaning he could not receive until now.

For example, there are the opening lines of the Forty-sixth Psalm, "God is our refuge and strength—a very present help in trouble." He felt no need of a refuge in the sunny days, and never availed himself of it. Indeed, the door did not seem to open to him at all. But now in his weakness and fear—he seeks a refuge, some place to hide; and, coming upon this Word of God—it opens at once to him, and he runs into it and finds warmth, shelter, love, safety—all within its gate!

He had not felt the need of God's help and companionship when human friendship seemed so all-sufficient, and the verse about "a very present help in trouble" had no personal meaning for him then. Now, however, the human friendships, sweet as they are—are inadequate, or they are far away. In this condition, the assurance that God is "a very present help" is a blessed revealing, and it is the opening to him of a new secret of blessing. When he knows this, all the way of life seems lighted with a new and strange illumining. He fears no dangers, no trials, no battles—for with God for a very present help—and he can never fail nor falter.

It is thus that all the Bible words must be gotten into our lives and experiences. There are many precious promises for those who are tempted; but until you are in the grip of temptation, you cannot draw the blessing from the quiver which God binds on his tempted ones. There are tender and precious words for the widow; but while the beloved wife has her husband by her side—strong, brave and true—these words are yet closed storehouses to her. They can become hers only when she wears the badge of widowhood, and sits lonely by the coffin of her dead husband, or amid the cares and burdens which her bereavement has cast at her feet. There are sweet words for orphan children; but while the children have both father and mother with them, and are dwelling in the shelter of a happy home—they cannot draw upon this reserve of divine goodness. Only when they have lost one or other or both parents—can they quote such a Bible promise as this, "When my father and my mother forsake me—then the Lord will take me up."

There are very loving promises, too, for the old; but the man or woman in youth or mid-life cannot take them. There are beatitudes for certain conditions. "Blessed are those who mourn—for they shall be comforted." But only those who are in sorrow, can experience the blessedness of divine comfort. It never can be learned while the heart knows not grief. Another beatitude is, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled." But there must first be hunger and thirst, before there can be heart-filling.

Thus all the treasures of the Bible are ready to open to us the moment we have the experience which the particular grace in them is intended to supply. Hence it is that the Bible is never exhausted. Men read it over and over again, and each time they find something new in it—new promises, new comforts, new revealings of divine love. The reason is, they are growing in experience, and every new experience develops new needs, and brings them to new revealings.

Another feature of this truth, is that the revealings are made only as we enter upon the needs. The blessing for each day is locked up in the little circle of that day, and we cannot even get to it until we come to the place. But when the need comes—the supply is always ready. Nor is it mere chance which brings the supply, the help, the light, thus, just at the right moment. The hand of God guides all such 'chances'. It is divine thoughtfulness which watches and always has the goodness ready at the instant of want. As the nature awakes, and its needs begin to express themselves in hungerings and cravings, God brings to us in his own way that which our newly awakened craving requires. He watches us—and at the right moment has ready the blessing for the moment.

Every new providence which opens before us—has in its own little circle, its own supply if goodness. Take, again, for illustration, the case of the young friend who was sick. She had never been ill before. When the sickness came on—the experience was altogether new and strange. At first it seemed mysterious to her, and she was alarmed; but soon she began to realize what while the experience was new and painful, she was receiving new blessings, and had come upon new revealings of God's goodness. For one thing, she had never before experienced such tenderness of love in her own home, as now came to her from all her loved ones. The whole household life began to turn about her sick-room. The love was all there before in the hearts of father, mother, sister, brother—they loved her no more than before; but in her happiness and health, the love had never shown itself as it did now—when she lay among the pillows, pale and weak and suffering. Now each vied with all the others—in the expression of kindly interest.

Also, never had she known before that she had so many friends outside her home. There had always been kindness and courtesy—but now there seemed to be a hundred who wanted to show their love in some tender way. Still another new blessing that opened to her in her sickness, was her Bible. She had always been a Bible reader, and the book has meant much to her in the bright, sunny days of life. But now she found precious love-thoughts, shining like diamonds, in words which had meant but little to her before. Nor was that all; she found revealings of the love of God which she had never experienced in her days of strength. The friendship of Christ never before had seemed so close and real—as it now became. Thus the providence of God which had brought her into a darkened sick-room, had brought her also to a new unfolding of divine goodness, to which she could not have come—had not the illness been experience.

So it is continually in life. The things we dread—the losses, the sorrows, the adversities—bring us to new goodness and blessing—which we would have missed if the painful trial had not come. Close beside the bitter fountain of Marah—grew the tree which sweetened the water. Nearby every sorrow—waits the comfort needed to alleviate it. Every loss has wrapped up in it—some compensating gain. It is in human weakness—that God's strength is made perfect.

We may set it down as a principle, a law of Christ's kingdom, which has no exceptions—that for every new condition or experience in any Christian life, there is a special reserve of divine goodness, whose supply will adequately meet all the needs of the hour. We need never fear, therefore, that we shall be led to any place in which we cannot have grace to live sweetly and faithfully. "As your days—so shall your strength be," is the unfailing divine promise. But the grace is hidden in the need—and cannot be gotten in advance. The grace for sorrow cannot be given—when we are in joy. The grace for dying we cannot get—when we are in the midst of life's duties. And surely that is not the help we need then—but, rather, wisdom and strength to live nobly, lovingly, truly. Then when we approach death—we shall be sustained and led through the valley into life.

Getting the Joy of Christ

The ideal life—is one of joy. The face ought to be shining—shining even in darkness. People say that this is a sad world. Yes, for those who have eyes only for shadows. What we see in the life around us—is the colors of our own inner life. He who has the bird in his eyes—sees the bird in the bush. He who has songs in his heart—hears songs wherever he goes. This is a sad world—for the sad man. Darkness within—finds only darkness without. But if one carries a lantern when he goes out at night, one finds light wherever he goes. If one's face shines with an inner joy—one finds joy even in the deep night of sorrow.

Christ said a great deal about desiring joy in his disciples. He put it both in sermon and in prayer. He said he had spoken to them certain things—in order that they might have his joy in them. It is clear that joy was his ideal for Christian life. "I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you—and your joy may be complete." John 15:11

It is remarkable, too, that most of his words about joy were spoken in the night before he died (John 16:20-24). "I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy." John 16:20. This suggests that he meant his followers to have this joy—not only in their happy days—but when they were in sadness. It is evident, also, that it is not earthly gladness which he desires his friends to have—but a joy which dwells deep in the heart—too deep for any earthly pain or sorrow to touch!

Surely here is a secret worth learning. There are a thousand things in this world which tend to disturb or destroy human happiness. If there is a way to live beyond the reach of these things—to live a life calm, serene, rejoicing, victorious, songful, in the midst of sorrow, loss, struggle, pain, and wrong—we ought to learn it!

It is certain that we cannot get this joy—by finding a place where the world's cares and hurts cannot reach us. There is no such place on this earth. No walls can shut out pain and suffering. Christ did not ask that his disciples should be taken out of the world. They must live, as he did, in ordinary human condition. The wind blows no more softly for you—because you are God's child. Christ does not give us his joy by sheltering us from the things which might disturb the joy.

Nor does he give it by so changing our nature—that we shall not feel the griefs and pains of life. To do this he would have to rob our hearts of the very qualities in them that are noblest and divinest. Powers to enjoy and to be happy would also be destroyed with the power to suffer; for our joys and pains grow on the same stalk. Rack, stocks, and prison chains hurt the disciples no less—because they had the love of Christ in them.

We must get Christ's joy—as he got it. One secret was his unbroken consciousness of his Father's love. When men hated him, when the world assaulted him—he fled to his Father, and found a refuge into which none could follow him, whose calm peace none could disturb. We, too, must keep ourselves in the love of God—if we would find this abiding joy.

Absolute submission to the divine will, was another of the secrets of Christ's joy. He never did his own will. In this way alone, can we find joy.

Another secret of the joy of Christ—was in his service and sacrifice of love. Christians find joy on earth—not where men seek for happiness of their own, not where they are striving to find their own good and pleasure—but where they are toiling and denying themselves to give happiness to others. Christ's whole life was devoted to ministry for others, and every service of love yielded him joy. His death, too, was the voluntary giving of himself for others.

The deepest joy Christ's life—must have been in his dying—for this was his greatest sacrifice and service. We get a glimmering of this experience, "for the joy set before him—he endured the cross, despising the shame." And we have its foreshadowing in the prophetic assurance that he should see of the travail of his soul, and should be satisfied. We can get this joy of Christ—only as we enter into his life of self-giving love. Selfishness yields no true joy. Serving raises songs in the heart. If we would have the joy of Christ—we must enter into the spirit of the life of Christ. He was in this world to bless and save it. We can share his joy only as we share his love for the world, and love to bless and help to save it.

Another secret of the joy of Christ, was in his always keeping his face toward the light. His look was ever upward. His eye was ever turned toward his Father and toward heaven. He saw only brightness. Many Christians need to learn this lesson. They look too much at the darkness of the world. They think of their sorrow, not of their joy. They let fear drive out courage and hope. If we would have Christ's joy we must train ourselves persistently—it is matter of training and habit largely—to look toward the light. There are flowers which keep their faces always turned toward the sun. That is the way we should learn to live. If we look ever toward the light, the light will enter into us, and fill us with its own radiance.

In another of our Lord's sayings to his disciples—he tells us that Christian joy is 'transformed sorrow'. "Your sorrow shall be turned into joy." He did not tell them that their sorrow would be taken away—and joy given in its place—but that the sorrow itself would be turned into joy. When there has been a bereavement, he does not comfort—by giving back the loved one. When there has been a disappointment, he does not undo it, and put into the life the dear thing which was so much desired. The trouble is not removed—but it is turned into joy. This was fulfilled literally in respect to the cross, whose utter blackness became, later, the most glorious blessing the world has ever seen.

The same transformation takes place in Christian sorrow—it is turned into joy. In the depths of every dark thundercloud, there is a rainbow hidden, which will break forth when the sun smites upon the cloud. Likewise, there is no trouble which comes to any Christian—which has not, lying concealed within its folds—a divine blessing of joy, which will be revealed when the love of Christ shines upon it. You bow low in sorrow when death has touched a loved one of yours, and the circle is broken. The loss seems irreparable. The grief appears too deep ever to receive comfort. But the Comforter comes, the consolations of divine love are given—and the sorrow is turned into joy. The loss is not taken away. The friend is not given back. The keenness of the grief is not softened. But the love of Christ is revealed. The truth of immortal blessedness becomes a window through which faith's eyes sees into the heavenly glory, beholding, not death—but radiant life. The will of God, which seemed to crush the heart's frail joys like a falling avalanche, appears now as the very hand of love and blessing. The sorrow becomes deep joy.

In every life that has passed through such experiences and has kept its faith, the sweetest, richest joys—are always 'transformed sorrows'. The best things in any life, are not things born on summer days, the things that come without cost or effort.

The things which we prize most—are not those we have gathered, as one plucks flowers on a summer hillside, from the gardens of ease and worldly pleasure. They are things which have become ours through pain, struggle, self-denial, and tears. The lessons learned with greatest difficulty, are the ones which are most to us in value and profit. Out of the hardest experiences of struggle and sacrifice—we get the qualities which are the brightest ornaments of our character, and the noblest elements of our strength. The lenses through which now we see deepest into heaven—once were salt tears. The treasures we hold now with firmest clasp—once seemed marred things, unsightly and unlovely, things which we shrank from receiving. The points in our past which now appear to have been fullest of outcome of good for our life—are those which at the time seemed God's strange ways with us. Christian joy is 'transformed sorrow'.

Another thing about this joy which Christ gives—is that it cannot be taken away from us. Independent on earthly conditions—earthly troubles cannot reach it. Very much of our worldly happiness, others can take from us. They may smite us with bodily wounding. We may lose out of our own life—many of the things which we love, the things which give us worldly comfort and pleasure. But, if we are believers in Christ, we have an inner joy which no one can touch. "Your hearts will rejoice—and no one will rob you of your joy!" John 16:22

We can conceive of a strong fortress, in time of war, all of whose outer walls may be assailed and despoiled—but within whose walls and gates there is a place of security which no enemy can enter, which no desolating hand of war can touch. There, if you were to pass within, you would find a quiet home, with music and pictures, with garden and flowers, with love and peace. Like this is the true Christian life. It has its unassailable fortress. Outside in the world, there are troubles and antagonisms, and the outer gladness may all be swept away; but, within, there is a holy place of peace—which nothing can invade. How that man is to be pitied—who has no joy which others cannot take away, whose whole life, to its innermost stronghold, is open to the tread of alien feet! It is dreadful to have no joys of which the world cannot rob us—to have all our happiness, the deepest and most sacred—within the reach of human or earthly despoiling. Yet there are many people of whom this is true. They have no inner sanctuary of life which is beyond the reach of intrusion, which no foot can invade, which no hand can desecrate. But if we are the friends of Christ, our heart's joy is inviolable. Our property, our loved ones, our health, may be taken away, and all earthly sources of happiness stripped; but deep within, untouched and untouchable, the joy of Christ ever abides.

This is the ideal Christian life. It is possible to every true Christian—the weakest, the most afflicted, the most sorely troubled. It is possible—but only in Christ. There is no self-sufficiency in us, which will give this joy to us. The dream of self-culture may appear most radiant—but it is only a dream; it never can be realized. All that self alone can build up—will be destroyed. The fairy palace of self-sufficiency which one may build—can be nothing more than a house built upon the sand—which the floods will sweep away! But if we have Christ in our heart, we have a life which nothing can touch, whose joy lives on—sweet, calm, and serene amid all earth's strifes and troubles.

This is the life everyone should seek to live. We should not carry our joy where every earthly experience can destroy it—but only where it will be safe from whatever might quench it. It is impossible to estimate the power for good, in this sad, struggling life—of a bright, glad, shining face.

One of the best things which any of us can do for this world—is to always show it a victorious life of joy—a face which shines even through tears—a beauty of the Lord which glows with radiance even in the night. That is the life the Master wants every follower of his to live; and we can live it, too, if our life is truly hid with Christ in God.

The Need of the Afterlook

"And one can well afford to wait a season,
Until all that is dark shall be made bright,
If not with earthly, then with heavenly light,
And we shall come at least to know the reason
Of all the toil, the seeming loss, the pain."

There are many things in this world, which we cannot understand. At its furthest reach—our human knowledge only skirts the outermost edge of what is known to Omniscience. We soon realize this, when we begin the study of any science. We learn a few facts, and few principles, pressing a little way into our subject—and then we become aware that there is a vast region beyond us into which we cannot enter. The philosopher's illustration is always true—at the best we are only children, standing by the shore of a great sea, picking up here and there a brilliant shell or a polished pebble, while the deep sea lies beyond our reach, filled with far more brilliant things than those we have found.

This is not surprising, when we consider our own finiteness and the narrow limitations of our powers, and the infinity of God, and the vastness of his universe. After we have studied the divine works and ways to the very uttermost of our power to understand, we can only say with Job, "These are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?" Job 26:14

A great English preacher illustrates the littleness, the fragmentariness, and the imperfectness of human knowledge of God's works—by the case of an ant crawling upon one of the pillars of St. Paul's Cathedral. What does the ant know of the architect's magnificent design in that great building? It only sees the little space of stone on which it crawls. Just so, is the wisest man in the midst of the vast universe of God. He can see only for a little space around him. He can perceive but a little glimmer of the divine meaning in the things he sees. He can have but the dimmest, faintest conception—of the wonderful plan of God which takes in all worlds, all beings, and all ages.

We cannot expect to know all God's thoughts; we would have to be equal to him in wisdom to do this. A god whom we could fully understand, and in whose words and workings we should find no mystery—could not be God to us. We cannot expect to know God's design in the providences which touch human affairs and affect our own lives. We cannot trace the results of his acts through centuries to come—to know what the final outcome of them will be. We cannot tell what beautiful trees, with full, rich fruitage, will grow from the rough, dark seeds which today the Master plants in our life-garden. We cannot tell what blessing will come in the long future—from the deep sorrow which now lays its heavy hand upon us.

When we begin to read a tale written by some great author, we cannot tell from the opening chapters, what the outcome of the story will be. Nor can we know what will be the last chapters of any story of providence beginning today in our life or in our home, perhaps in a way which seems dark and sad. For example, the first chapters of the story of Joseph's life appeared very hopeless. He was torn away from his home. He was sold as a slave, and carried to a heathen country. There we soon find him in prison on false charges. Dark providences dimmed the opening morning of this young man's life. But we know how splendidly the story ends. So it has been in countless other life narratives.

There is a story of a certain rabbi who entered a town and met a little maid carrying in her hand, a basket which was closely covered. "Tell me, my good child," said the rabbi, "what you have in that basket." The child answered modestly, "If my mother had wished that anyone should know the contents of this basket, she would not have covered it." God covers up many things from our eyes. Some of these he desires us to search out for ourselves. Men are continually thinking over God's thoughts, reading the lines of God's writing in his Word and works. But there are many things in the realm of God's providence, which we cannot know. The future is yet beyond our view, and it is foolish and wrong for us to vex ourselves with trying to find out what it has in store. If God had meant us to know what the coming years have for us, he would not have covered them up as he has done. We know one thing—that he in whose hands are the future events of our lives—is good and loving, that he is our wisest and best Friend. Instead of knowing, we may trust. There is a secret of confidence in our Master's words, "What I do—you know not now." We know the character of him in whose hand are all the affairs of our lives. His name is love. We need never fear that what he does can be either mistaken or unkind. "What I do" written on any cup of suffering which is put to our lips, ought to be assurance enough that there is a blessing in the cup for us.

"I will say it over and over, this and every day:
Whatever the Master orders, come what may,
It is the Lord's appointment;
For only his love can see
What is wisest, best, and right,
What is truly good for me."

But there is yet another word in our Master's saying—which is a window of heaven, letting in bright light. "You know not now," he says. The emphatic "now" tells us that the veiling is but for a time. This is confirmed by the assurance which he hastens to give: "but you shall understand hereafter." There are many things in our lives that we cannot understand, until hereafter. There are many things which cannot be made clear to us, until we have larger knowledge of ourselves. Many of the mysteries of childhood are as clear as day, to manhood. There are certain things that can be made known to us only at certain stages of personal experience. We cannot see the stars until night comes; there are revealings of blessing which never can be ours until we enter life's trials. Then there are things which cannot yet be understood because they are unfinished works. There are things that can be wrought out only slowly and through processes which require ofttimes long years of time.

No artist will permit anyone to judge of his picture while it is incomplete; in the preliminary stages of his work it gives no true and adequate revealing of its final beauty. Many of the providences of our lives appear at first mysterious, because they are but the beginning of the outworking of thoughts of divine love. Some day when they are wrought out in completeness, they will be as beautiful and good as are all God's finished works. "You shall understand hereafter."

Some of these dark things we may see made plain in this world. Jacob lived to understand the strange providence which took Joseph away from him. Joseph lived to understand what the Lord was doing with him in his youth, when he allowed him to be so cruelly dealt with. The disciples of Christ lived to understand the dark enigma of their Master's life which so perplexed them—the mystery of the rejected, suffering, dying Messiah. Many people live to see in their later-years, an outcome of beauty and blessing in experiences which, when they first entered them, appeared only dark and destructive. The old man sitting in the quiet of life's evening, sees bright rainbows in the very bosom of the clouds now receding, which, when they were passing over his head, were black with tempest.

The child has not yet come up to the perplexities of human experience. The old man has passed through all the mystery of life's trials, and sees now the finished work, the results of discipline, the gold purified and minted.

Thus, much of the mystery of providence becomes clear, even in the present life. We have only to be patient and wait a little while to see the unveilings of the completed work, the coming to sweet and mellow ripeness of the fruit which seemed bitter at the first—the working out in blessed beauty of the dark enigma of providence which so perplexed us.

But there are other cases in which the explanation is not made in this world. Human life is too short, for the finishing of all the work of divine love which begins in darkness. If life ended at the grave, we might not be able at all times to say that God is just and righteous in his dealings with men. Some godly people's lives seem to be all darkness and trial, with no explanation, no revealing of good. There are wrongs which are not righted here. There are godly men who are misunderstood, maligned, misrepresented, bearing the odium of false accusation, suffering for the sins of others, and waiting all their years for vindication which comes not—at last dying with the shadow upon their name. If there were no life beyond death—we could not always say that God's ways are righteous.

But life goes on—on the other side of the grave, and there will be time enough there, for the fullest outworking of all earth's unfinished providences. All wrongs will there be righted—and all perplexities will there solved. The shadows of injustice which have hung over godly men in this world will vanish, and the names bearing reproach here without cause—will shine forth like the stars. "What I do you know not now—but you shall understand hereafter."