Christ's Deposit with Us
J. R. Miller, 1902
Saving faith—is the committing of the life into the hands of Christ. It is spoken of in the Scriptures, as the depositing of all life's interests, with One who is surely able to keep them safely until the day of final revealing. The thought is very beautiful. Our life is hid with Christ in God.
Then, there is something else to correspond with this. There is another deposit. Christ commits something to us, something which we are to keep and care for and use, bringing it home and restoring it to Him at last unblemished, unwasted. In one of Paul's letters to Timothy we have an illustration: "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." 2 Timothy 1:13-14. Timothy was a young minister; and Paul, who was his spiritual father, and had taught him the truths of the gospel, is exhorting him to be careful and faithful in his holy trust. The preacher's work is very sacred. What if he should not deliver his message correctly?
In transmitting a telegraphic dispatch, the operator made a mistake, and left out just one little word. But the omission of that one word, changed the sense of the whole message. A large business transaction was involved, and great financial loss resulted. The company transmitting the telegram, was held responsible for the consequences of the mistake.
The preacher stands between God and human souls. If in delivering God's message, he makes mistakes, leaving out words, or inserting words of his own, or putting the emphasis in the wrong place, thus changing the meaning of the message, who can tell what the consequences may be? It is of vital importance that the preacher should hold the pattern of sound words which he has received.
An edition of the Bible was once printed; and when it was ready to be distributed it was discovered that the word "not" had been left out of one of the Ten Commandments. All the printed copies had to be destroyed.
Like care has not been exercised always by those who have undertaken to interpret the Words of God to man. Sometimes they have left out words, or added words, not giving their message as God delivered it to them!
People hang on the preacher's utterance to learn how to live, so as not to fail of eternal life. But suppose that the teaching is wrong—what will the consequences be? The minister's half hour on Sunday before a listening people—is a holy time. Not a moment of it should ever be wasted. Not a word should ever be spoken which is not after the pattern of sound words which God has given. A wrong interpretation, may start a soul on a course of fatal error!
A Christian woman has told how all her life has been over-shadowed by the effect of the preaching which she heard in her girlhood. Only the sterner aspects of truth were preached—God's justice and wrath. So she was made to dread God! His name meant terror to her! No thought of love, found a place in the conception of the Deity which the preaching of those early years left on her mind. Later, the truth of God's Fatherhood, with all that fatherhood, interpreted by the life, teachings, and death of Jesus Christ, means—was brought to her. But the early teaching had so wrought itself into the very fibre of her life, into all her thoughts, feelings, and motives—that its effect never has been altogether neutralized. Her life still suffers—from the mistaken teachings of her girlhood years!
Countless lives have been hurt or marred—by unfaithful or mistaken handling of God's Word—in those who were truth's ordained guardians!
The teacher of the young comes under the same responsibility.
The writer of books, to whom the gift of composition is entrusted, is charged with a sacred duty in this regard. There is no distinction of moral and secular, in the matter of authorship. It is just as important that the novelist, the romancer, and the poet shall follow the pattern of sound words—as that the writer of books of devotion or religious instruction shall do it. This puts a most serious responsibility upon everyone who writes—what people will read. Many a popular story has carried in its pages perversions of truth, misinterpretations, errors, insidious scoffs or sneers, which have marred life and wrecked destinies!
It is a serious thing to give a traveler who asks the way—a careless or mistaken direction by which he is led out of his course, perhaps to his own great loss or disadvantage. It is a serious thing to give unwise advice to a young person, or to anyone who is seeking guidance in perplexity. Wrong advice has wrecked many a destiny! We cannot too carefully weigh our speech—when we are speaking words which may influence or shape the lives of others, or determine the course they shall take!
All our influence over others is included in the deposit committed to us. Every person has his influence. God puts into the hands of each one of us, something which belongs to Him, which we are to carry through this world for Him, and bring at last to His feet. When a little child is laid in a young mother's arms, something of God's work which no other one can do, becomes hers. She is charged to guard the precious life in its journey across this world, and to lead it safely home to heaven. Her keeping includes far more than the child's body. Its whole being is entrusted to her—that she may develop beauty and strength in its immortal soul; that she may train the life for its eternal mission, and develop in it all its possibilities of ability and usefulness.
This work requires the best that is in the mother. She must teach her child the truth of God. In the ancient Jewish law—the greatest stress was laid upon home instruction. Parents were commanded to teach the Words of God continually to their children, until their very souls were saturated with the spirit of the holy precepts. Then, there was but one book—now there are many; but the duty of home instruction remains. No book should be permitted in the hands of children, which would bring to them anything that is not consistent with the Word of God. The mother should read the book before her child reads it, since she is set to hold for it the pattern of sound words in faith and love.
The home where children are growing up—should be made as beautiful, as sweet, as pure, as full of love and gentleness and all holy inspirations, as it is possible to make any spot in this world! The good thing committed to the mother—she is required to guard through the Holy Spirit. She cannot do her sacred work alone—without Divine help; she needs the help of God continually, and must live near the heart of Christ—if she would be fitted for her holy ministry.
The same is true of all influence. It is part of the deposit which the Master has made with us, something which we are to cherish and guard most sacredly, and use to its last particle for the bettering, sweetening, and enriching of other lives!
A godly man on his last day wrote: "I die tonight; but the members of my own family and of my own circle of acquaintance will never be again as if I had not known them. My influence upon them for evil or for good—will be perpetuated in them—and through them to others, modifying distant generations! My influence will live for evermore, enduring as the waters of the deep, with countless changes, a power throughout all ages!" Such a trust as this—we must use with holy reverence.
This lesson has its bearing also upon friendship. When a man takes a new friend into his life—he has received a new deposit from Christ. A good thing has been committed unto him, and he is bidden to guard it. Many people believe in guardian angels—that one of these heavenly ministers is appointed to attend each life from infancy to the grave. The thought is very beautiful, and it may be that such guardianship is assigned to each Christian in his passage through this world of danger. But there are also human angels set to guard our steps on the earth. When a new friend comes into our life—we are ordained to a guardianship which is very sacred.
Perhaps we are not apt to think of the responsibility of being a friend. We find pleasure in friendship; and we are apt to welcome eagerly, those who come to us with trust and regard, not thinking what we owe to them, or must do for them, if we accept their confidence. We find cheer, inspiration, stimulation, and help in congenial companionship. Our friends meet our needs, satisfy our cravings, do us good. But we do not always think of the other side—what we are to them. The essential thing is not to have friends—but to be a friend; not to receive—but to give; not what we get—but what we give.
We are seriously concerned, therefore, with the question: What kind of guardian angel are we to be—to the person whose life God has committed to us in friendship? We must bring our charge back to God, not only unblemished and unhurt—but also enriched and helped in every possible way. We dare not take a life into our hands—unless our hands are clean! What if we should put a stain upon the trusting soul—instead of a touch of beauty? What if we should guide the feet into wrong paths, paths leading to ruin? What if our influence should be hurtful—instead of helpful?
It is our responsibility, as far as it lies in us—to keep our friend from falling, and to present him faultless before the presence of God's glory. We can do this with joy—only by being faithful in every thought, word, motive, and influence. "That good thing which was committed unto you—guard through the Holy Spirit." We are fit to be a friend—only when our own life is under the power of the Divine Spirit!