The Every Day of Life
J. R. Miller, 1892
The Blessing of Patience
Patience and passion are near of kin. A
fragment of etymology will shed light on the meaning of the words. Says
Crabb, in his English synonyms: "Patience comes from the active
participle to suffer; while passion comes from the passive
participle of the same verb; and hence the difference between the two names.
Patience signifies suffering from an active principle, a determination to
suffer; while passion signifies what is suffered from lack of power to
prevent the suffering. Patience, therefore, is always taken in a good sense,
and passion always in a bad sense."
Patience, therefore, is the spirit of endurance,
without complaint or bitterness, of whatever things in our life are hard to
endure. It is a lesson which is hard to learn—but which is well worth
learning, at whatever cost. So important is it that our Lord himself said of
it; "In your patience—you shall win your souls." That is, life is a battle
in which we fight for our soul. The battle can be won only by patience. To
fail in this grace is to lose all. This suggests how necessary it is that we
learn the lesson, however hard it may be. Not to learn it is the battle of
life, and that is the losing of the soul.
In one of Paul's epistles is a blessing, which in the
Revised Version reads, "may the Lord directs your hearts—into the patience
of Christ." This is a blessing which all of us would like to bow our heads
low to receive. In Christ's own life, patience, like all virtues, had its
perfection. And his was not a sheltered life, without such trials of
patience as we must endure—but one exposed to all that made it hard for him
to live sweetly. He met enmities, antagonism, and un-congenialities at every
step. Besides, his nature was one that was sensitive to all rudeness and
pain, so that he suffered in his contacts with others, far more than we do.
Yet his patience was perfect. "He came unto his own, and
his own received him not." He pressed upon them the gifts of love—but they
rejected them. Yet he never failed in his loving, never grew impatient,
never wearied in his offers of blessing, and never withdrew his gracious
gifts. He stood with his hands out-stretched towards his own until they
nailed those hands to the cross, and even then he let drop out of them, from
their very wounds, the gifts of redemption for the world.
His patience appears also in his dealings with his own
disciples. They were very ignorant and learned their lessons very slowly.
They tried him at every point by their lack of faith, their lack of
spirituality, and their weak, faltering friendship. But he never wearied in
his love for them nor in his teaching.
His patience is seen; too, in his treatment of the people
who pressed about him wherever he went, with their clamors for healing. We
have only to think what a motley mass an oriental crowd is, at its best, and
then remember that it was the very wreckage of misery and wretchedness who
came to him, if we would get a thought of the wearisomeness of moving day
after day among these poor sufferers as Jesus did. Yet he never showed the
slightest impatience with any of them, however loathsome or repulsive—but
gave out freely and lovingly of the richest and best of his own precious
life to heal and comfort them, even the vilest and most repulsive of them.
His patience with his enemies is also wonderful. It was
not the patience of weakness; for at any moment he might have
summoned legions of angels from heaven to strike down his opposers. Nor was
it the patience of stoicism, which did not care for nor feel the
stings of hate and persecution; for never was there another life on earth
that felt so keenly, the hurts of human enmity. Nor was it the patience of
sullenness, such as is sometimes seen in savages, who bear torture in
grim, haughty silence. Never did the world see any other patience so sweet,
so gentle. He prayed for his murderers. He gave back gentlest answers to
most cruel words. His response to the world's enmity was the gift of
salvation. From the cruel wounds made by nail and spear—came the blood of
We see his patience also in his work. He saw very few
results from his preaching. He was a sower, not a reaper. Multitudes flocked
after him and heard his words—but went away unimpressed. Yet he never lost
Thus to whatever phase of Christ's wonderful life we
turn, we see sublime patience. He was a patient in accepting his Father's
will, patient toward the world's sin and sorrow, patient with men's
unreasonableness, uncharity, unkindness, patient in suffering wrong.
Marvelous, indeed, is this quality in our Lord's life. Who is not ready to
turn the blessing into a prayer, saying: "Lord, direct my heart—into the
patience of Christ?" We all need patience. It is one of the rarest
adornments of character. "Patience," says one, "is like the pearl among the
gems. By its quiet radiance it brightens every human grace and adorns every
In the work of our life, too, and in our contacts
with others, patience is essential. We need it in our homes. The very
closeness and the familiarity of the relations of the lives within our own
doors, make it hard at times for us to preserve perfect sweetness of spirit.
There is much harshness as yet, in most earthly families! We too easily
throw off our reserve and our carefulness, and are too apt now and then to
speak or act disagreeably, unkindly. We assert ourselves, and are willful
It is easy in the frictions that too often are felt in
our homes, to lose patience and speak unadvisedly and unkindly. Husband and
wife in their mutual relations do not always exercise patience. They seem to
forget that love should never be ungentle—but should be thoughtful, kindly,
and affectionate in look and word and manner. Parents fail sometimes in the
duty of patience with their children. The children of a household, in too
many cases, do not live together in that lovingness which belongs to the
ideal Christian home. Many words are spoken which show irritation, and even
bitterness. Such words hurt gentle hearts, sometimes irreparably. But
family life ought to be free from all impatience. Wherever else we may
fail in this gentle spirit—it should not be in our own home. Only the
gentlest life should have place there. We have not long to stay together in
this world, and we should be patient and gentle while we may.
We need the patience of Christ also, in our mingling with
others, in our business associations and contacts, in our social relations,
and in all our dealings with our neighbors. Not all people are congenial to
us in spirit and manner. Some want their own way. Some are exacting and
unreasonable. Some fail to treat us kindly. Possibly in some cases the fault
may be ours, at least in part. Others may think of us as we do of them, that
is hard to live peaceably with us. However this may be, the patience of
Christ will teach us to bear sweetly and lovingly with even the most
unreasonable people. He was patient with all, and we are to be like him. It
is not for the gentle only, that we are to show this grace; anyone can be
patient with loving and gentle people—but we are to be kind to the harsh and
the evil. If we are impatient with any one, however unworthy or undeserving,
we fail to be true to the interests of our master, whom we are always to
We need the patience of Christ in meeting the trials of
life. We have but to remember how quietly he himself endured all wrongs, all
pain and suffering, to get a vision of a very beautiful idea of life set by
him for our following. The lesson is hard to learn—but the Lord can direct
our hearts even into this sweetness of spirit. He can help us to be silent
in the time of distress. He can turn our cry of pain—into a song of
submission and joy. He can give us this gentle peace, so that even in the
wildest strifes—our heart shall be quiet.
We need the patience of Christ to prepare us for his
service. The moment we enter the company of his disciples—he gives us work
to do for him. We are sent to find other souls, to bind up broken hearts, to
comfort sorrow, to help lost ones home through the gloom. All this work is
delicate and important, and we need for it the patience as well as the
gentleness of Christ. It must be done lovingly, in faith, unhurriedly, under
the Spirit's guidance.
Mothers need the lesson—that they may wisely teach and
train their children and not hurt their lives by impatience. All who are
dealing with the young, with inexperience, all who work among the ignorant
and the lost—need the patience of Christ. Those who would put their hands in
any way to other lives need a large measure of the patience of Christ. We
must teach the same lessons many times over and over, and if we grow
impatient, we may never see any result. If we become vexed with those we are
striving to help, we hinder and spoil the beauty we are seeking to produce
in their lives. Nothing but patience in the Christian worker, fitly
represents the Master. That is the way he would work. He would never show
petulance or irritability, or any lack of perfect lovingness, in dealing
with even the most trying life. In no other spirit or temper—can we do this
work for him. They are Christ's little ones with whom we are dealing—and we
must seek to do his work for them as he would do it with those gentle hands
and that gentle heart of his—if he were here.
We need Christ's patience also in waiting, as we
work for God. We are in danger, continually, in our very interest in
others, of speaking inopportunely, of trying to hasten our work. Eager,
loving words, must wait the true time for speaking them, else they may do
harm. There are many who speak too soon to young souls, and only close the
heart they sought to open. Even in our hunger—we must not pluck the fruit
while it is yet unripe.
How can we learn the lesson? Some of us find it very hard
to be patient. Can we ever get the gentle grace into our life? Yes! Christ
can teach it to us.
Hurting the Lives of Others
It seems to have been the nurse's fault. Perhaps she was
only careless. However it may have been, the maiming that came to the child
that day was something he never got over. Down along the years we see a man
lame, that he had to be carried about by attendants—crippled, unable even to
walk, because that day the nurse tripped and fell with the baby. No doubt
there are many people continually in the world who carry scars and injuries
which mar their usefulness and cause them suffering or loss—simply through
the negligence of those who in childhood were set as their guardians and
But there are other hurts besides bodily ones,
which come to people's lives through the fault of others. There are
woundings of children's minds, which stunt or cripple them all their
days, limiting or marring their development and hindering their usefulness.
There are marrings of character which leave child-life distorted,
wounded, scarred, deformed, sending men and women into the world unfitted
for duty; to be a curse, not a blessing; to do harm, not good, to their
fellows all their days. There are maimings of immortal souls in the home, in
the school, which leave their sad mark on lives for all eternity.
George MacDonald says, "If I can put one touch of a rosy
sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked
with God." That is very beautiful: but suppose it not be a rosy sunset—but a
touch of wounding, or marring, of defiling, that we put into a life—have we
not wrought with the enemy of souls, in the harming of immortalities?
We all know, too, that it is easier to do harm—than
good to other lives. There is a quality in the human soul, which makes it
take more readily, and retain more permanently, touches of sin—than
touches of holiness. Among the ruins of some old temple there was found a
slab which bore very faintly and dimly the image of the king, and in deep,
clear indentations the print of a dog's foot. So human lives are apt to take
less deeply the image of the Father's face, and more ineffaceably the
impressions of evil things. It needs, therefore, in us, infinite carefulness
and watchfulness, as we walk ever amid other lives, lest by some word, or
look, or act, or disposition, or influence of ours, we hurt them
The lesson touches home-life. It is sad if the harm be
only in their bodies, making them lame or infirm through all their years;
but it is sadder still when their characters are marred through faulty
education or training; when they are sent into life unfitted for its duties,
unprepared for meeting its responsibilities, only to fail in its struggles,
because we were negligent in our training of them. Saddest of all is it when
by sinful example, or by the lack of pious culture, we maim their souls,
wound or scar their spiritual natures, and send them, moral cripples, into
life. The greatest of crimes—is the hurting of a child's soul.
But parents are not the only people who may harm the
lives of others. There is not a fallen life anywhere in the depths of sin
and shame—which once was not innocent and beautiful. Somebody whispered the
first unholy thought in the unguarded ear. Somebody started the first
suggestion of evil and kindled the first wrong desire in the breast.
Somebody led the unwary feet into the first steps of wandering. Somebody
first caused the little one to stumble, and after that, through all the
years—the life was deformed. There is always a first tempter, one who causes
the innocent to stumble. The tempter may go his way, and may walk among
honorable men with no brand upon his brow, with no finger pointed at
him—while the victim of his tempting, moves in weakness and sadness toward
deeper shame and utter ruin. Society is full of such moral tragedies. But
God does not forget. The hidden things shall be brought to light. The
maiming or hurting of a soul, though no man knows now whose the sad work
is—some day will reveal its own story. Its secret will be declared in the
glare of noon.
It is stated that within ten years a certain merchant in
a great city lost six bookkeepers by death. He could not understand the
strange fatality attending these young people. The symptoms were similar in
all the cases, and all of them finally died of consumption. An investigation
at last convinced the merchant that the room in which the bookkeepers worked
was unhealthy. It was a small office in the back part of the building, into
which no sunlight ever came. The merchant then prepared another room, high
up in his store, where the sunlight streamed in all day—and almost instantly
the health of his staff became better. Unconsciously he had been committing
a great wrong against the lives of his clerks. We may say this was only a
bodily hurt; but does God not care for our bodies? Is it no sin to injure
the health of another, to send men and women down their years with broken
constitutions, unable for the tasks and duties that God assigns to them? Is
there not a commandment against murdering the body?
The time must come when the law of Christian love shall
assert its sway over all the relations of life. Employers must recognize it,
and must properly treat every man, woman, and child in their service.
Business must recognize it, and the Golden Rule must become its basis,
instead of the hard, soul-less, god-less, grinding law of greed and gain,
which yet in too many establishments has sway. Men cannot afford to get rich
by oppressing the hire-ling in their wages, by grinding the poor into the
dust, by doing injustice to the least of God's little ones. With the New
Testament in our hand, containing the Sermon on the Mount, the twenty-fifth
chapter of Matthew, and the thirteenth of First Corinthians, we dare not
forget that all men are brethren, and that he who hurts the least or the
weakest hurts Christ himself, and smites God in the face.
There is need for plain teaching all long the line of the
great burning question of capital and labor. Men must learn that money,
which comes into their hands through the slightest wronging or harming of
another life—brings a curse with it. Or an employee may be unjust to his
employer, and the law applies equally to them. None are exempt from the law
We may hurt our neighbors in many ways. We may do injury
to their business, to their influence, to their good name. We may treat them
rudely, unkindly, or we may do them harm by neglecting to do the good we owe
to them. "It was an hungry—and you gave me no food; I was thirsty—and you
gave me no drink." All about us are human needs—which are silent prayers to
us for help. We may shut our eyes, if we will, and say it is no affair of
ours, and these suffering or imperiled ones may go down in the current,
while we go on in our busy life and prosper. But we cannot thus get rid of
the responsibility. They are our brethren, these hurt ones. Christ died for
them. To pass them by is to pass him by. "Inasmuch as you did it not to one
of the least of these—you did it not to me."
Then the lesson has another side. It is not enough that
we do not hurt the lives of others; we must do the part of Christ in
healing the hurts, which have already been given. Everywhere they
move—children with pinched faces and sad eyes; young people wounded in their
souls by sin, victims of evil habits; lives crippled and maimed; the poor,
hurt by man's oppression and greed.
A workman with a gentle heart told recently, with
pathetic detail, how he had once saved the life of his canary-bird. The bird
had escaped from it cage into the room, and had flown against the surface of
some boiling water. There seemed little hope of saving the poor-suffering
creature. But this kindly man quickly applied soothing remedies, and, with
womanly gentleness, nursed the bird for many weeks, until at last he saw it
fully restored, and heard again its sweet songs.
That is like Christ, who did not break a bruised reed.
That is what we should do in Christ's name with the hurt lives about us,
whether hurt by the wrong of others—or by their own sin. We should pray for
gentleness—nothing but gentleness can perform such holy ministry. Then we
should seek to be restorers of lives that are wounded or bruised. That is
Cost of Being a Friend
We use the word friend very lightly. We talk of
our "hosts of friends," meaning all with whom we have common friendly
relations, or even pleasant acquaintance. We say a person is our friend when
we know them only in business or socially, when their heart and ours have
never touched in any real communion. There may be nothing amiss in this wide
application of the word; but we ought to understand that in this use of it,
its full sacred meaning is not even touched.
To become another's friend in the true sense—is to take
the other into such close, living fellowship that their life and ours are
knit together as one. It is far more than a pleasant companionship in
bright, sunny hours. It is more than an association for mutual interest,
profit, or enjoyment. A true friendship is entirely unselfish. It seeks no
benefit or good of its own. It loves not for what it may receive—but for
what it may give. Its aim is "not to be ministered unto—but to minister."
There are many people who take others into what they call
relations of friendship—but who think only selfishly of what these people
may be to them. They seek social advancement and hope to enter new circles
through certain friends. Or they aspire to enter some brilliant intellectual
clique and seek the entrance by forming a friendly connection with one whose
name is on the honored list. Or they wish to win business success, and they
spare no cost to make friends of those who are influential in the community
and can help them in the achieving of their ambition. Or they seek merely
passing enjoyment, and choose for companionship, one which seems amiable,
kindly, congenial, with a good measure of sweetness and power to please—and
thus minister to their own cravings. In all these instances there is nothing
but selfishness, not one trace of true affection. To apply to them the name
of friendship is to degrade and desecrate a sacred and holy word. The
friendship which is true—"seeks not its own."
It costs to be a friend. "For better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health," runs the marriage
engagement, and true marriage is a type of all the true friendships.
When we take a person into our life as a friend we do not
know what it may cost us to be faithful to our trust. Misfortune may befall
our friend, and they may need our help in ways that will lay a heavy burden
upon us. It may be in their business or in their secular affairs that they
Timely aid may enable them to overcome their difficulties
and attain to prosperous circumstances. It is in our power to render them
the assistance that they need, without which they must succumb to failure.
It will cost us personal inconvenience and trouble to do this. But they are
our friends. We have taken them into our life, thus becoming partners in all
their affairs. Can we withhold from them the help which they need and which
we can give, without breaking the holy covenant of friendship and failing in
our sacred obligations to them?
Or it may be the misfortune of sickness—broken health
which falls upon our friend. They are no longer able to be helpful to us, as
they were in the days when the compact of friendship was first formed. Then
they could contribute their part in the mutual ministering, giving as
well as receiving. Then friendship for them brought us no care, no
anxiety; exacted from us no self-denial, no sacrifice; laid on us no load,
no burden. On the other hand, it was full of helpfulness. It brought
strength to our heart by its loving cheer. It was a blessing to our life, in
its warm inspirations, in its sweet comfort, in its satisfying affection. It
stood beside us in all our times of trial, with full sympathy, putting its
shoulder under our burdens, aiding us by its counsel, its encouragement. It
brought its countless benefits and gains. But now in its feebleness and
brokenness it can give us no longer this strong helpfulness and uplifting.
Instead, it has become a burden. We must carry the loads alone, which their
friendship so generously shared previously. They need our help, and can give
in return only a weight of care.
For example, a wife becomes an invalid. In the early days
of her wedded life, she was her husband's true help-mate, his royal partner
in all duty, care, toil, and burden-bearing. Her friendship brought back far
more than it received. But now she can only lie still amid the cares, and
see her husband meet them alone. Instead of sharing his burdens, she herself
has become an added burden, which he must carry. But his love falters not
for a moment. He loved her, not for the help she was to him—but for her own
dear sake. Hence his love changes not, when she is no longer a strong
help-mate—but a burden instead, which he must carry. His heart only grows
more tender, his hand gentler, and his spirit braver. He finds even deeper,
sweeter joy now in serving her—than he found before in being served by her.
That is the meaning of true friendship wherever it
exists. It is not based on any helpfulness or service, which it must receive
as its condition. Its source is in the heart itself. Its essential desire is
to help and serve. It makes no nice calculation of so much to be given and
so much to be received. It stops at no cost which faithfulness may entail.
It hesitates at no self-denial, which may be necessary in the fulfillment of
its duties. It does not complain when everything has to be given up. It only
grows stronger and truer and more constant, as the demands for giving and
serving become larger.
There is another phase of the cost of friendship which
must not be overlooked—that which comes with the revealing of faults and
flaws and sins. We see people at first only on the surface of their life,
and we begin to admire them. We are attracted to them by elements that win
our attention. As we associate with them we become interested in them. At
length our affection goes out to them, and we call them our friends. We walk
with them in pleasant companionship that makes no demands on us, and that
discloses but little of their inner life. We know them as yet, only on the
surface of their character, having no real acquaintance with the self that
is hidden behind life's conventionalities. Nothing has occurred in the
progress of our friendship to bring out the things in their disposition,
which are not altogether lovely.
At length, closer intimacy or ruder contacts reveal
faults. We learn that under the attractive exterior, which so pleased us,
there are blemishes, spots, flaws, and infirmities, which sadly disfigure
the beauty of the life. We discover in them elements of selfishness,
untruthfulness, deceitfulness, or meanness which pain us. We find that they
have secret habits, which are repulsive. There are uncongenial things in
their disposition, never suspected in the days of social fellowship, which
show offensively in the closer relations of friendship's intimacy.
This is sometimes so in wedded life. The longest and
freest acquaintance previous to marriage, reveals only the better side of
the life of both. But the same is true in greater or less degree in all
This is oftentimes a severe test of love. It is only as
we rise into something of the spirit of Christ that we are able to meet this
test of friendship. He takes us as we are, and does not get weary of us,
whatever faults and sins he discovers in us. There is infinite comfort in
this for us. We are conscious of our unworthiness and of the unloveliness
which is in our souls. There are things in our lives, which we would not
reveal to the world. Many of us have pages in our biography, which we would
not dare to spread out before the eyes of anyone.
There are in our inner heart feelings, desires, longings,
cravings, jealousies, motives, which we would not feel secure in laying bare
to our dearest, truest, and most patient and gentle friend. Yet Christ knows
them all. Nothing is hidden, from his eyes. To him there is perfect
revealing of the innermost springs of our being. Yet we need not be afraid
that his friendship for us will change, or grow less, or withdraw
itself—when he discovers repulsive things in us.
Yet, what we would not reveal to gentlest-hearted friend
of the innermost things of our life, not daring to trust the strongest,
truest, most compassionate human friendship, lest the discovering of our
faults, blemishes, and infirmities should cost us our friend, Christ knows
continually, and his eye sees always. Yet he loves us, loves unto the
This is the ideal human friendship. The finding of
blemishes does not repel it. Even if the friend has fallen into sin, the
love yet clings, forgiving and seeking their restoration. No doubt there are
such friendships. A gentleman had a friend whom through long years of
intimacy he had learned to love deeply and to trust implicitly. A sacred
covenant of friendship had passed between them and had been sealed and was
regarded as inviolable. One evening he found his friend in great distress,
and pressing to know the cause, he received at last the confession of a
series of sins, involving debasement and dishonor of a very grievous kind.
The revelation almost killed him. After the first shock came revulsion. He
would thrust his friend from him forever. But after a struggle, love
triumphed. There were extenuating circumstances. His friend was weak, and
had fallen under sore temptation, and was now penitent, crushed by a sense
of shame and sorrow.
The sin was forgiven and put away forever, and the friend
restored to the old sacred place. From that time their relations were closer
than ever until the friend died; and since death the love is cherished most
This was Christ-like friendship. He loved his own in
spite of all there was in them to hinder or check his love. We are apt to
complain if our friends do not return as deep, rich, and constant love as we
give them. We feel hurt at any evidence of the ebbing of love in them, when
they fail us in some way, when we think they have not been altogether
faithful and unselfish, or when they have been thoughtless and ungentle
toward us. But Christ saw in "his own" a very feeble return for his deep
love for them, a most inadequate requital of all his wondrous goodness and
grace. They were inconstant, weak, and unfaithful. They were ungentle. Yet
he continued to love them in spite of all that he found unbeautiful and
unworthy in them.
And this is the friendship he would teach his disciples.
As he loves us—he would teach us to love others. We say men are not worthy
of such friendship. True, they are not. Neither are we worthy of Christ's
wondrous love for us. But Christ loves us not according to our
worthiness—but according to the richness of his own gracious heart. So
should it be with our giving of friendship; not as the person deserves—but
after the measure of our own character.
These are illustrations enough to show what it may cost
to be a friend. When we receive another into this sacred relation, we do not
know what responsibility we are taking upon ourselves, what burdens it may
be ours to being faithful, what sorrow our love may cost us. It is a sacred
thing, therefore, to take a new friend into our life. We accept a solemn
responsibility when we do so. We do not know what burdens we may be engaging
to carry, what sacrifices we may unconsciously be pledging ourselves to
make, what sorrow may come to us through the one to whom we are giving our
heart's love. We should choose our friends, therefore, thoughtfully, wisely,
prayerfully; but when we have pledged our love we should be faithful
whatever the cost may be.
Our Unsuspected Perils
"Because they have no changes; therefore
they do not fear God." Psalm 55:19
Many of life's worst dangers are unsuspected. Where we
suppose there is good and blessing—there is hidden peril. Disease lurks
oftentimes in a soft, still, dreamy atmosphere—which we think delicious with
its sweet odors; while the chill, rough, wintry blast, from which we shrink
as too severe—comes laden with life and health. Most of us think of a life
of ease, leisure, and luxury—as the most highly favored lot, one to be
envied. We are not apt to think of it as one of danger. Yet there is no
doubt that a life of rugged toil, hardship, and self-denial, which we took
upon as almost a misfortune, is far safer than one of ease.
It is said that there was laid one morning on the
minister's pulpit a little folded paper which, when opened, contained the
words, "The prayers of this congregation are requested for a person who is
growing rich." It certainly seemed a strange request for prayer. If it had
been for a person who misfortune or calamity had become suddenly poor; or
for a person who was suffering in some great adversity; or for one who was
in sorrow and distress, who had met with sore loss or bereavement, every
heart would at once have felt deep sympathy. Such experiences as these are
thought to be trying and perilous ones, in which people need special grace.
We instinctively pray for those who are in trouble. We think these need our
prayers. We regard such conditions as fraught with danger. But to ask
prayers for a person who was growing rich, no doubt too many people in the
congregation, seemed incongruous. Where they not indeed specially favored?
Were they not receiving peculiar blessing? Should it not rather have been a
request for thanksgiving for this person's success?
Yet when we open our Bible we find that the experience of
growing rich is indeed set down as one full of spiritual peril. It
was Jesus who said, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the
kingdom of God!" And Paul said, "Those who want to be rich fall into
temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge
people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all
evil." There is no doubt that when a Christian is prospering and growing
rich, is indeed a time when he needs the prayers of God's people, whether
they are requested and offered for him or not.
True, this is an experience, which but few people are
known ever to have dreaded. It is not often that people are heard to say,
that they are afraid to get rich. It is not the popular impression, that
wealth is a condition in which danger lurks. Yet thousands of souls have
been lost in the valley of gold! Countless men have buried their manhood in
the fabrics of earthly prosperity, which their hands have reared. Many a
man's envied fortune, is in God's sight, but the splendid mausoleum
of his soul. We do indeed need the prayers of God's people if we are growing
rich, that our hearts may be kept warm and soft; that the fires may not be
allowed to go out on the secret altar; that we may continue humble and
simple with all divine simplicity; that we may be held ever near to the
heart of Christ, and that we may be sheltered by the love of God from all
the insidious dangers and hurtful influences that belong to the experience
of growing rich.
Another kindred condition, which, according to the
Scriptures, hides an unsuspected peril, is one of unbroken prosperity.
"Because they have no changes; therefore they do not fear God." Psalms
55:19. Those who are thus described, are free from trouble. They do not
suffer from adversity, from misfortune, from losses, from disappointments.
They move along, year after year, without any breaks in their human
It is not usual that such an experience as this, is
regarded as one of danger. Indeed, we naturally consider such people
peculiarly favored. For example, here is a home, which has gone on for a
long time without saddening changes. Business has been prosperous, and the
circumstances of the household have become more and more easy. Additions
have been made to the comforts and luxuries enjoyed in the home. There have
been no long, serious illnesses, causing pain and anxiety, and draining the
resources of the family. There have been no deaths, breaking the happy
circle of loved ones.
No one naturally looks upon such a household as in any
peculiar danger. The neighbors do not have special prayer requested
for it in the church. Friends do not feel distressed about its condition.
Yet there is no doubt that insidious moral dangers do lurk in such an
experience of unbroken prosperity.
Oftentimes it is true that God has less and less welcome
in such a home. The fires burn low and then go out upon the altar. The voice
of prayer dies out of the home. Christ is lost out of the household life.
And beneath the bright earthly prosperity, God sees spiritual death.
The same is true of individual life. Unbroken worldly
prosperity is the bane of spiritual good. For one thing, it hinders growth
in spiritual knowledge and experience. There are truths which can be learned
better in darkness, than in light. We would never see the stars—if there
were no night to blot out for the time the glare of the day. And there are
truths in the Bible, which are perhaps never learned in the brightness of
human joy. There are divine promises, which by their very nature are
invisible in the noonday of gladness, hiding away like stars in the
light, and revealing themselves only when it grows dark around us. The
deeper, richer meaning of many a word of Scripture, is learned only amid
life's painful changes.
There are also developments in spiritual growth, which
cannot come in time of unbroken prosperity. The artist was trying to improve
on a dead mother's picture. But the son said, "No; don't take out the
wrinkles; just leave them—every one. It wouldn't be my mother if all the
wrinkles were gone."
It was well enough, the son said, for young people who
had never known a care to have faces free from wrinkles; but when one has
lived seventy years of love and service and self-forgetfulness, it would be
like trying to cover up the tracks of one's realest life, to take out the
marks. The very beauty of that old face was in the wrinkles and the lines,
which told of what her brave heart, and strong hands had done for love's
There is a blessing in such a life. But in the life of
ease and luxury, which many of us experience, especially in woman's lives,
there hide sore perils.
Another of the unsuspected perils of "no changes"—is in
the lessening of our dependence upon God. While all things go well with us,
and there are no breaks in the flow of blessings—we are apt to forget that
all our good gifts come from our Father's hand. It is a sad hour in any life
when consciousness of the need of God fades out of it. It seems pleasant to
be able to go on, making plans of our own, and carrying them out without
check or defeat. We like to be victorious. We like to say that we are
masters of our circumstances, which we make all things serve us, that we
turn obstacles into stepping-stones, climbing continually upward upon them.
But a little thought would show the peril which hides in this having always
one's own way. It is not our own will—but God's will which leads to perfect
character and blessedness. Unless therefore, we are doing always God's will,
filling out his plan for our life, the unbrokenness of prosperity is not an
Most of us need to be baffled oftentimes in our schemes,
to be defeated in our projects, to have our plans fail, to be compelled to
yield to a stronger will. In no other way can the sense of dependence
and of obligation to God, be kept warm in the heart. If we
always get our own way, we are apt, being human, to grow willful, proud, and
Quiet trust in God and unswerving obedience and
submission to his will, can be learned at least by most of us, only through
long discipline and much thwarting of our own will. It is a sore misfortune
to any of us—if in having our own way we forget God and cease to love and
follow Christ. Says Farrar—and we had better read the words twice: "God's
judgments—it may be the very sternest and most irremediable of them—come,
many a time, in the guise, not of affliction—but of immense earthly
prosperity and ease."
Another unsuspected peril of prosperity lies in its
easy circumstances, which make toil and severe exertion necessary. It is
the young who are most exposed to this danger. They are not required to work
to provide for themselves. All that they need comes to them without effort
of their own. Such young people are envied by their companions and
neighbors, who have to work hard to earn their own bread and to win whatever
opportunities for improvement they may gain. The latter do not suspect that
there is any peril lurking in the easy condition of those they envy.
They suppose it is in their own poverty and hardship, and in the necessity
in their life for pinching economy and unceasing toil. They do not dream
that theirs is really the safer condition, that there is a blessing in
work and self-denial and care—and that there is always danger in
ease and luxury.
The story of the outcome of life, shows that early
disadvantages, instead of being a hindrance to the development of
godly character, are helpful and stimulating. Most people are naturally
indolent, indisposed to exertion, needing to be impelled to it by the
pressure of necessity. No greater blessing can come to young people than to
be compelled to endure hardship, to bear the yoke in their youth, to have
their demanding tasks to perform, their heavy burdens to carry, their
responsibilities to meet, their own way to make.
Another hidden peril of continuous prosperity, is the
dropping of God out of the life-plan. The years pass without break, and all
things go on well and prosperously, until at length we begin to grow content
with earth, and lose our hunger, our homesickness for our heavenly abode.
Spiritual things begin to have less and less interest for us, and power over
us. We grow materialistic, if not in our creed, yet in our life. Our
souls begin to cleave to the dust, no longer flying aloft like the eagle—but
groveling like the worm!
This is a most serious peril. A picture, which has no sky
in it, and is without the highest beauty. "It is the horizon which gives
dignity to the foreground." A life without sky in it—is most unworthy and
A person who sees only bonds and stocks and deeds, bales
of goods and blocks of houses, stores and factories and machinery and
chimney tops—with no gleams above and beyond all these, of stars and blue
skies and a Heavenly Father's face—is not living as an immortal being should
live. There is no sky in this person's vision of life. This world is very
beautiful in its place and God means us to enjoy it and do faithful,
earnest, and beautiful work in it; but it is only one little part of our
Father's house. When in our thinking, planning, and doing—we do not look
beyond this world, we are not living worthy of our high calling. When we
lose the sky out of our life-vision, the glory fades from it. The only
secret of spiritual safety in prosperous times—is in keeping the eye fixed
These are a few illustrations of the truth that the best
things of life are oftentimes found in conditions which are not thought to
be kindly or congenial, while in conditions regarded by men and women as
exceptionally favorable and desirable—there often lurks subtle perils to
life's highest good. This truth lets in strong light upon some of God's ways
with his people. He does not allow them to be hurt, even by temporal
blessings. He breaks the prosperity, that its bane may not leave poison in
our lives. He gives us adverse changes, that we may not forget him—but that
the consciousness of our dependence upon him may never fade out. He thwarts
us when we would let our own folly rule us; and baffles us when our selfish
ambitions would only work our ruin. He breaks into our plans and schemes,
with the resistless requirements of his own will—to save us from the
willfulness, which would destroy us. He lets us have hardship and toil—that
our lives may be disciplined into spiritual strength and energy.
These are not pleasant interferences, for they break into
our cherished hopes, and cut oftentimes into our heart! But they are
blessings, which some day in the clearer light of eternity—we shall
recognize, and for which we shall give thanks.
Bearing of Our Burdens
"Put any burden upon me—only sustain me.
Send me anywhere—only go with me.
Sever any tie—but the one that binds me
To your service and to your heart."
Fly-leaf, Miss Brigham's Bible
We all have our burdens. Of course they are not the same
in all of us. Some are more evident than others. There are people whose
burdens we all see. These get our compassion and our sympathy. We come up to
them with love's warmth and help. There are others however, whose burdens
are not visible or apparent. These seem to us to have no trouble, no
struggle, and no load to carry. We envy their lot. But probably if we knew
all about their condition which God knows, our envy would change to
sympathy. The burdens which the world cannot see—are often the heaviest. The
sorrows which wear no mourning clothes, are oftentimes the bitterest and the
hardest to endure.
It is not wise for us to think that our load is greater
than our neighbor's. Perhaps theirs are greater than ours are, although to
us they seem to have none at all. We sometimes wish we might change places
with some other people we know. We imagine that our life would be a great
deal easier if we could do this, and that we could live more sweetly and
beautifully than we do, or more usefully and helpfully. But most likely we
are mistaken. If we could change places with anyone, the one who seems to
have the most favored lot; if we could take this person's place, with all
its conditions, its circumstances, its cares, its responsibilities, there is
little doubt that we would quickly cry out to God to give us back our own
old burdens. It is because we do not know all—that we think our neighbor's
load lighter and more easily carried than our own. We all have our own
There are three Bible verses about the bearing of
burdens. One tells us; that "every person shall bear their own burden."
There are burdens which no one can carry for us, not even Christ, and
which no one can share with us; we must carry them ourselves alone. This is
true in a very real sense of life itself, of duty, of personal
responsibility. No one can live your life for you. Friends may help you by
encouragement, by sympathy, by cheer, by affection's warm inspirations, by
counsel, by guidance; but after all, in the innermost meaning of your life,
you must live it yourself. No one can make your choices for you; you must
make them for yourself. No one can have faith in God for you. No one can
believe in Christ for you. No one can meet the obligations of Scripture for
you. No one but yourself can get your sins forgiven. No one can do your duty
for you. No one can meet your responsibility for you. A thousand other
people all around you may be faithful to their trust; but, if you fail in
faithfulness, their faithfulness will not be any avail to you. There is no
vicariousness of this kind in life. You must live your own life.
No one can come up in loving interest and unselfishly
take your load and carry it for you. A friend may be willing enough to do
it—but it is simply impossible. David would have died for Absalom; he loved
his erring son well enough to do it—but he could not do it. "The soul that
sins—it shall die." Many a mother would willingly take her child's burden of
pain as she sees it in anguish—but she cannot do it. There is a burden,
which everyone must carry for themselves.
Then there is a second Bible verse, which tells us that
"we should bear one another's burdens." So there are burdens in the
carrying of which, others can help us. No one can suffer for us—but true
human friendship can put strength into our hearts to make us better able to
endure our own sufferings. No one can do our duty for us—but human sympathy
can nerve us for greater faithfulness and heroism in duty. Sympathy does not
take away the pain, nor lighten the load; but it gives companionship, and
puts another shoulder under the burden.
It is a great thing to have brotherly, sisterly help in
life. We all need each other. Not one of us could get on without others to
share our loads. We do not begin to live truly—until we begin to put of our
own strength into the hearts of others. We should notice that "Bear one
another's burdens" is called "the law of Christ." We begin to become like
Christ only when we begin to be of use, when we begin to help others, to
make life a little easier for them, their weakness, something of our joy in
their sorrow. Even the smallest ministries of unselfish helpfulness redeem a
life from utter earthiness.
The third Bible verse about burden is, "Cast your burden
upon the Lord—and he shall sustain you." There are burdens we must carry
ourselves. There are others, which our friends may help us to carry. Then
there are those, which we can cast only upon God.
This promise discloses special preciousness when we study
it closely. In the margin of our common Version we find gift "gift" as an
alternative reading for "burden." Then in the Revised Version the marginal
reading is, "what he has given you." "Cast what he has given you, upon the
"What he has given you." It may be duty.
Oftentimes the burden of duty is heavy. It is heavy with the fathers, who
must provide for their families, and hold and fill their places in the
world's busy life. It is heavy with mothers, who have the home-care in their
hand, with the training of their children. It is heavy with those that have
large business interests entrusted to them, which they must manage wisely
and faithfully. It is heavy with the minister who watches for souls.
Duty is always enough to fill heart and hand, and
sometimes it seems a greater burden than can be borne. But it is "what he
has given you," and therefore it may be cast upon God. He will help us in
it, and then, we know it comes only for one little day at a time.
It may be struggle with our sinfulness. Life is
not easy for any of us. Every day is a prolonged conflict. We desire to live
godly—but there is a law of sin in our members, which contests every
holy advance. We want to live lovingly—but the natural heart's
bitterness keeps breaking out in us continually, in bad tempers, in ugly
dispositions, in envies, jealousies, selfishness, and all hateful things. We
wish to live purely—but the dark streams of lust ever well up out of
the deep, black fountains of our being; staining the white flowers that
Christ has planted in our life's garden. Thus the days are full of struggle
and conflict, and sometimes we feel that there is no use trying to be godly.
Yet this burden is "that he has given you," and therefore we may cast it
Or sorrow may be the burden. God has no children
without sorrow, and in many cases the load seems too heavy to be borne; but
again it is "what he has given you," and we may lay the burden on him who is
Or your lot in life may be your burden. It is
uncongenial. The circumstances are unkindly. It seems to you impossible to
live lovingly, to grow up into spiritual beauty, and to ripen into
Christ-likeness in your environment. But against it is "what he has given
you." God planted you just where you are, and when he did it—he knew it was
the place in which you could grow best into godly character. He gives you
this burden of environment, and you may cast it again upon him.
Our burden, whatever it is, God's "gift," and has a
define blessing in it for us, if we take it up in faith, in love. "What he
has given" we may always bring to him again, seeking his help in hearing it
We need to notice also, the precise form of the promise.
It is not that the burden shall be lifted away from our shoulder, or that it
shall be borne for us—but that we shall be sustained in carrying it
ourselves. If it is God's gift, it is his will that we should keep it, at
least for the time. There is some blessing in it for us, and it would not be
kindness to us for God to take it away, even at our earnest pleading. It is
part of our life, and is essential to our best growth. This is true of
duty; however hard it is, to relieve us of it would be to rob us of the
opportunity for reaching larger usefulness. It is true of struggle;
all nobleness and strength of character come out of conflict. It is true of
suffering; it is God's cleansing fire, and to miss it would be a sore
loss to us.
Human love, in its short-sightedness, often seeks to lift
away the burdens which seem heavy; but this is not God's way. He bids us
keep our load, and then he gives us grace to bear it. He does not, every
time we groan under a burden, run up to us and lift it away. This is often
our way—but it is never God's.
Parents oftentimes think they are showing deep and true
affection for their children when they make their tasks and duties seem easy
for them; but really they may be doing them irreparable harm, dwarfing their
life and marring their future. So all tender friendship is in danger of over
helping in the lifting away of loads, taking hindrances out of the way—when
it would help far more wisely, by letting God's arrangement of burden alone.
That is not the greatest kindness to us, which seeks to make life, as easy
as possible to us—but that which inspires us to do our best, and so to make
something of us. Not an easy life—but a God-like character, is the only true
aim for a life. Hence, while God never fails us in need, he loves us too
well to relieve us of weights, which are essential to our best growth and to
the largest fruitfulness of our life. He does not take the load from our
shoulder—but instead he puts strength in us to enable us to carry the burden
and thus grow strong.
This is the secret of the peace of many a sick-room,
where one sees always a smile on the face of the weary sufferer. The pain is
not taken away—but the power of Christ is given, and the suffering is
endured with patience. It is the secret of the deep, quiet joy we see
oftentimes in the home of sorrow. The grief is crushing; but God's blessed
comfort comes in gentle whispers, and the mourner rejoices. The grief is not
taken away. The dead is not restored. But the divine love comes into the
heart, making it strong to accept the sorrow and say, "May Your will be
Influence of Companionship
The power of one life over another life, is something
almost startling. There have been single looks of an eye, which have changed
a destiny. There have been meetings of only a moment, which have left
impressions for life, for eternity. No one of us can understand that
mysterious thing we call influence. We read of our blessed Lord that
virtue went out of him and healed the timid woman who came behind him in the
crowd and touched the hem of his garment. Again, when the throng surged
about him and sought to touch him, that virtue went out of him and healed
them all. Of course there never was another such life as Christ's; yet out
of everyone of us continually virtue goes—either to heal, to bless, to leave
marks of beauty; or to wound, to hurt, to poison, to stain other lives.
We are forever either adding to the world's health,
happiness, and good—or to its pain, sorrow, or curse. Every moment's true
living, every victory we win over self or sin, every fragment of holy life
we live—makes it easier for others to be brave and true and sweet. We are
always giving out of influence.
Thus it is, that companionship always leaves it impress.
Eye cannot even look into eye, in one deep, earnest gaze—but a touch has
been left on the soul. An artist of distinguished rank would not permit
himself to look at any but good pictures. He said the mere seeing of
inferior pictures hurt the tone of his own conceptions. If this were true,
how we should guard our hearts and minds against the receiving of any
impression which is not refining and elevating. The reading of a book which
is unworthy, the indulgence in thoughts or imaginations which are
unwholesome, the admitting into the life even for a little time of a
companionship, which is not what it should be, cannot but lower the tone of
A man well past middle life said, that in sensitive
youth, another young man drew him aside and furtively showed him a vile
picture. He looked at it just for one moment and then turned away. But a
spot had been burned upon his soul. The memory of that glance he had never
been able to wash out. It had come back to him along all the forty years he
had lived since, even breaking in upon him in his most sacred moments, and
staining his most hallowed thoughts.
We do not know what we are taking into our life when we
admit into companionship, even for one hour, one who is not godly, nor pure,
nor true. Then, who can estimate the debasing influence of such
companionship when continued until it becomes intimacy, friendship; when
confidences are exchanged, when soul touches soul, when life flows into and
blends with life?
When one awakes to the consciousness of the fact, that he
has formed or is forming a companionship with another whose influence cannot
but hurt him and may perhaps destroy him—there is only one true thing to
do—it must instantly be given up. A rabbit's foot was caught in the hunter's
steel trap. The little creature seemed to know that unless it could get
free, its life must soon be lost. O with a bravery, which we cannot but
admire, it gnawed off its leg with its own teeth, thus setting itself free,
though leaving its foot in the trap. But who will say that it was not wiser
thus to escape death, even with the loss of its foot—than it would have been
to keep the foot and die?
If anyone discovers that they are in the snare of evil
companionship or friendship, whatever it costs them, they should tear
themselves away from it! Better enter into pure, noble, and worthy life,
with one hand or one foot, or with both hands and feet cut away—than to save
these members and be dragged down to eternal death! Young people should
beware of the beginnings of evil companionship. It is like the machinery in
the mill, which, when it once seizes the outmost fringe of one's garments,
quickly winds in the whole garment and whirls the person's body to swift and
But a godly and true character has also its influence.
There have been mere chance meetings just for the moment, as when
ships meet at sea, and pass each on its course, never to meet again, which
yet have left blessings whose influence shall never perish. So it is with
the influence of godly lives. Words, thoughts, songs, kindly deeds, the
power of example, the inspiration of noble things, drop out of the heaven of
pure friendship into the depths of the heart; and, falling, are folded there
and become beautiful gems and holy adornments in the life.
If even brief moments of worthy companionship leave their
mark of blessing—then, who can tell the power of a close and long-continued
friendship, running through many happy years, sharing the deepest
experiences, heart and heart knit together, life woven as it were into one
web? There is a little poem by a gentle writer, which asks, "What is the
best a friend can be? And answers it. A friend is not only shelter, comfort,
rest, refreshment, a guide—but also an atmosphere warm with all kindly
inspirations of pure life, which has no taint of sin. This is not
sentimental exaggeration. Life indeed flows into life in true sympathetic
union, and the two, blend as the fragrance of the flowers blends with the
air into which it is diffused. And ever after, each life carries something
of the other in its very fibre and tissue, something ineradicable. No one of
us is ever altogether the same again—when we have had a friend or even an
intimate companion for a time.
Our friends are also our ideals. In every godly friend's
life, we see a little fragment of the beauty of the Lord, which becomes part
of the glory into which we should fashion our lives.
When we truly love a friend, we unconsciously reach
toward what he is, and grow into or toward his likeness. Thus as a father
and mother are models to their child who copies their life, their speech,
their faults as well as their virtues. The same is true in all friendships
and close companionships. If these were not godly, the influence can be only
hurtful and evil.
There is a wonderful restraining and
constraining power over us—in the life of one we love. We dare not do
wrong in the sacred presence of a pure, gentle friend. Everyone knows how
unworthy they feel when they come, with the consciousness and recollection
of some sin or some baseness, into the companionship of one they honor as a
friend. It is a kind of "Jesus-presence" that our friend is to us, in which
we dare not do evil things.
One says: "A friend has many functions. They come as the
Brightener into our life—to double our joys and halve our griefs. They come
as the Counselor—to give a wisdom to our plans. They come as the
Strengthener—to multiply our opportunities and be hands and feet for us in
our absence. But above all use like this comes as our Rebuker—to explain our
failures and shame us from our sins; as our Purifier, our Up-lifter, our
Model, whose life to us is a constant challenge in our heart."
Even when they leave us in death—the influence of our
friends and companions abides upon us, like an afterglow when day is done.
The memory of their purity is a gentle restraint upon us, when we would sin.
Many a mother is more to her children when she is in heaven—than she was
when with them on the earth. Whether those sainted ones in glory ever see
us—we know not—but there is an influence ever in which inspires us to noble
Thus, the influence of companionship projects even far
beyond the earthly story of those who touch and impress our lives. Indeed,
we can never get away from it, and can never be as though we had not
If these things are true—and no one can doubt their
truth—this matter of companionship is one of vital importance. Especially is
it important for young people to give most watchful thought and care in
choosing of their associates and friends. Of course, they cannot choose
those with whom they shall mingle in a general way—at school, or in work or
business. One is compelled oftentimes to sit or stand day after day, beside
those who are not godly or worthy.
The law of Christian love requires that in all such
cases, the utmost courtesy and kindness shall be shown. But this may be done
and the heart not be opened to real companionship. It is companionship that
leaves its mark on the life, that is, the entering into relations in which
the hearts blend. Jesus himself showed love to all men and women—but he took
into companionship only a few chosen ones. We are to be like him, seeking to
be a blessing to all—but receiving into personal relations of affection and
confidence only those who are worthy, and whose lives will help in the
up-building of our own life.
As it is in Heaven
"As it is in heaven" is the standard of the doings of
God's will on earth, which the Lord's Prayer sets for us. It is a high
ideal, and yet there can be no lower. The petition is a prayer that heaven
may begin in our hearts right here on the earth. Indeed, it must begin in us
here—or it will never begin at all for us. None can ever enter heaven—but
those whom heaven has first entered. Heaven only can be a wing to lift us to
heaven. "The kingdom of heaven is within you," was the Master's own word.
Everyone of us goes at last "to his own place," the place for which his
character fits them. There can be no heaven for people of un-heavenly mind.
It is time that we had right views upon this subject. We must have the life
of God in us—before we are ready to dwell in blessedness with God.
A gentle author once said: "We are too much in the habit
of looking forward to heaven as something that will be an easier, pleasanter
story for us to read when we have finished this tiresome earth-narrative; a
luxurious palace-chamber to rest in after this life's drudgery has ended; a
remote celestial mountain-retreat, where the sound of the restless waves of
humanity forever fretting these shores will vex our ears no longer."
We forget that heaven is not far off yonder—but begins
right here in our common days, if it is ever to begin at all for us. Is not
that what the prayer means—"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,"
"On earth" —that is, in our shops and stores and schools; in our homes and
social life; in our drudgery and care; in our times of temptation and
sorrow. It is not a prayer to be taken away out of this world into heaven,
to begin there the doing of God's will; it is a prayer that right here on
the earth and now we may learn to live as they do in heaven.
When we think a little of the true mission of Christian
lives in this world—to make at least one spot of it better, changing briers
to roses, darkness to light, hate to love, we see how important it is that
our prayer be not, "Lord take me home out of all this sorrow and sin;" but,
"Lord, let me stay here longer and do your will and bless a corner of
How do they live in heaven? What is that sweet, beautiful
life into whose spirit we ask now to be introduced and ultimately to be
altogether transformed? There, all wills are in perfect accord with the
divine will. We begin our Christian life on earth with hearts and wills
estranged from God, indisposed to obey him. Naturally we want to take our
own way—not God's. The beginning of the new life is the acceptance of God as
our King. But not at once does the kingdom in us become fully his. It has to
be subdued, and the conquest is slow. Christian growth is simply the
bringing of our wills into perfect accord with God's. It is learning to do
always the things which please God.
The giving of our wills unto God, must be our act, must
be voluntary. Yet until we make this surrender, we have not begun to live
the Christian life, nor have we begun to grow into that ideal holiness which
is heaven's common life. We begin making our wills God's—when we first begin
to follow Christ. But it takes all of life to make the surrender complete.
Taught of God and helped by the divine Spirit, we come every day, if we are
faithful, little nearer doing God's will on earth as it is done in heaven.
"Your will be done." That means obedience, not
partial—but full and complete. It is taking the word of God into our heart,
and conforming our whole life to it. It is accepting God's way always,
cheerfully, quietly, with love and faith. This is not easy. Our natures do
not incline us to do God' will. We like to have our own way. To obey God is
oftentimes to take up a cross. Much of the doing of God's will is
passive—letting the divine will be done in us. Sometimes this is like
driving a plough-share through our life's fair garden. It cuts into our
plans and destroys our cherished expectations. Still, whatever this will may
require, whatever it may crush—we know it is ever preparing us for the
In the wasting of the marble under the chisel—the image
grows more and more into the beauty of the sculptor's thought. When God's
will cuts away our cherished things we know it is well, and that we are
being fashioned into the beauty of the divine thought for us.
What is the heavenly pattern after which our lives are to
be fashioned? Can we know what we are to be? We get the answer in what God
has given us as the rule of our life—his law.
The divine law is summed up in one word—love. "You shall
love." God is love. "As it is in heaven" means love wrought out in all pure,
beautiful, holy life. "Your will be done on earth" means therefore love in
all earthly life. All the lessons may be gathered into one—learning to love.
Loving God is first. Then loving God, begets in us love to all people. We
cannot have the love of God in our heart—and not love our fellow-men.
If, then, we know what love really is, we can readily
find our pattern for life "as it is in heaven." What is love? We have a
portrait of it in Paul's wonderful thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does
not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is
not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in
evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always
hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Then we see the perfect incarnation of this vision of
love—in our blessed Lord's human life, as portrayed for us in the Gospels.
"As it is in heaven" is like Christ.
But what is the love, which is the whole of the will of
God? Do we really understand it? Do not many of us think only of its earthly
side? We like to be loved, that is, to have other people love us and live
for us and do things for us. We like the gratifications of love. But that is
only miserable selfishness, if it goes no further. It is a desecration of
the sacred name to think that love, at its heart, means getting, receiving.
Nay, love gives. Getting is earthly; "as it is in heaven," is giving. That
is what God's love does—it finds its blessedness in giving. "God so loved
the world that he gave his only begotten Son." That is what Christ's
love did—it poured out its very life-blood to the last drop. The essential
meaning of loving must always be giving, not receiving.
Perhaps our thought of the heavenly blessedness is often
a selfish one, that it will be all enjoyment, all receiving. But even heaven
will not be an eternity of self-gratification, of the bliss of receiving.
Even there, especially there, where all imperfections will be left behind,
love must find its supreme blessedness in giving, in serving others, in
pouring out into other lives. It will forever there be more blessed to give
than to receive, to minister rather than to be ministered unto.
"On earth as it is in heaven," means therefore not merely
the gratification of being loved—but the blessedness of loving others and
giving out the richest and best of one's life for others. Sometimes we hear
people sighing to have friends, to be loved. This is natural. We all hunger
for love. But this craving may become unwholesome, even miserably morbid. A
great deal more wholesome desire, is the craving to give love, to be a
blessing to others, to pour out the heart's sweet life to refresh other
It is God's will that we should love; it may not always
be God's will that we should be loved. It seems to be the mission of
some in this world to give—and not to receive. They are set to shine in the
darkness, burning up their own life as the lamp's oil burns, to be light to
other souls, while no one gives light to them. They are called to serve, to
minister, to wear out their life in giving sweetness, comfort, and help to
others—while none come to minister to them, to pour loves sweetness into
their hearts, and to give them daily bread of affection, cheer, and help.
In many homes we find such lives—a patient wife and
mother, or a gentle, unselfish sister—blessing, caring for, serving, giving
perpetually love's richest gifts—herself meanwhile, unloved, un-served,
unrecognized, and un-helped.
We are apt to pity such people; but may it not be that
they are nearer the heavenly ideal of doing God's will, than are some of
those who sit in the bright sunshine of love, receiving, ministered unto—but
not giving or serving. Was it not thus with our Lord himself? He loved and
gave and blessed many, at last giving his very life—but few came to give him
blessing and sweetness of love in his own soul. It is more divine to
love—than we should to be loved. At least God's will for us is that we
should love, pouring out our heart's richest treasures upon others, not
asking meanwhile for any return. Loving is its own best return and
Thus "as it is in heaven" shines ever before us as the
ideal of our earthly life. It is not a vague, shadowy ideal, for it is
simply the complete doing of God's will. Perfect obedience is heaven.
Sometimes it is serving others; sometimes it is quiet, patient suffering, or
The one great lesson to be learned is, perfect accord
with the will of God for us every moment, whatever that will may be.
"As it is in heaven" may seem far above us today. The
song is too sweet for our unmusical voice to sing. The life is too beautiful
for us, with our imperfect, inharmonious nature, to live. But if only we are
true to our Christian faith; if only we strive ever to do our Father's will;
if only we keep our heart ever open to the love of Christ and to the help
and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, we shall rise day by day
toward heaven's perfectness, until at last we shall enter the pearly gates
and be with Christ and be like him. For the present our striving and our
prayer should ever be: "Your will be done on earth, in us, as it is done in
Ending of the Day
There is always a sacredness about last things. We
remember the last things in the life of a loved friend who is gone—the last
walk we had together, the last talk, the last letter our friend wrote to us,
the last book he was reading, with the mark at the place where they left
off, the last piece of work the gentle hands did, the last words the dear
We are ever coming to last things—things which we shall
never meet again. Now it is the last hour of our day, the day, which
came to us new and clean in the morning, which we have spent well or ill,
and which, however, we have spent it, we cannot live over again. Now it is
the last hour of a year, which came to us with its thousand tasks and
hopes and opportunities. Now it is the last hour of a life. The
doctor says you can live but a little while, and if there are any matters
you ought to attend to, you would better not put them off any longer.
But it is not death only, which ends things. Each period
of life has its closing which is as final and irrevocable in its place, as
death in its place.
Childhood has its last hour. Childhood is the great
sowing-time of life. Seed should then be sown in the tender soil, seeds
which will grow into beautiful things in the after years. This is the
parents opportunity. While it lasts, love should be alert to pour into the
young mind and heart—the germs of all true and beautiful things. It is also
the child's opportunity. A wasted childhood is apt to mean a marred, if not
a maimed, manhood or womanhood. There are things that can be gotten into the
life—only in childhood; not to get these lessons, or qualities, or impulses,
or tendencies, into mind and heart in the bright, sunny days—is to go
through all the after years without them. Childhood has its last hour; then
the veil drops and we are done forever with that period of life. It never
will come again to us.
Then, in turn, has youth has its last hour. Youth
is wonderful in its opportunities and possibilities. It is the time for
training and storing the mind, the time for forming the habits, the time for
the selection of friends, the time for choosing of a calling, the time for
the shaping of character. There are things which can be gathered into life,
only in this period. Few of us have any adequate conception of the crippling
of lives, the marring of characters, the spoiling of careers, the poverty of
the results of toil along the after years, the failure of splendid hopes and
possibilities, because of the misimprovement of youth. There are thousands
of men who struggle helplessly with the responsibilities and duties of
places they were meant to fill—but which they cannot fill because they made
no preparation for them in the days when preparation was their only duty.
There are countless women in homes, with the cares and
tasks of households now upon their hands, failing in their lot, and making
only unhappiness and confusion, where they ought to have made happiness and
beauty, because in their youth they did not learn to do the common things on
which in home-making so much depends. Whether it is their fault, or the
fault of others depriving them of the opportunity, when the last hour of
youth is gone, with its opportunities for preparation neglected and
unimproved, there is nothing that can be done to repair the harm. "Some
things God gives often. The seasons return again and again, and the flowers
change with the months; but youth comes twice to none."
Thus each period of life has its own closing—its
last hour, in which its work is ended, whether well done or neglected.
Indeed, we may say the same of each day; its end is the closing of a
definite season through which we can never pass again. We may think of each
single day as a miniature life. It comes to us new; it goes from us
finished. There are three hundred and sixty-five days in a year. The only
way to have a well-finished year—is to finish the tasks and duties of each
day as it passes. A marred or a lost day anywhere along the years, may lead
to loss or even sore misfortune afterward.
A student missed learning but one single lesson. At the
end of the year the principal problem given to the student in the
examination fell in the lesson the student had missed, and he failed the
exam. Then a hundred times in after years did this same person stumble and
make mistakes in problems and calculations, because he had lost that
particular day's lesson. Thus failure in any duty, any day, may fling its
shadow to the close of life.
We are thus ever in last hours, because no hour is
without its importance in its relation to other hours, and because no hour
comes twice to us. Every hour is a last hour—because we can never live it a
second time. Then it is true, too, that any day or hour may really be our
last. We are never sure of any tomorrow. One of the best measures and
standards of living—is to live each day as if it were the last we should
Supposing that one morning we were told that we should
have but one day now before us—how would we pass the day? Would we not be
very careful not to grieve God? Would we not be faithful in all duty and all
tasks, which nothing should be left undone, nothing unfinished, when the day
closed? Would we not bear ourselves very lovingly and gently toward all of
us, that the last day's memories might be kindly, without bitterness, or
anything to cause regret?
If we knew that this present day were our very last, we
would certainly strive to make it a most beautiful day. We would fill it
with all loving service and gentle ministries. We would not mar it with
selfishness and ugly tempers. We would awaken every energy of our being to
its best power, and would work with all our might. We would not have one
moment to spare for discontent, for idle dreaming, for complaint or
murmuring, for pride, for regret; we would crowd the day to its last moment
with love's fidelities and duties.
Since any day may really be our last, we should
live continually as if it were the last. We should make each day that God
gives us, beautiful enough to be the end of life. How may we do this?
We should keep all our work completed as we go on. This
applies to our business and all our routine task-work. The weekday portion
of our life, has a great deal more to do with our spiritual life, with the
building of our character, with our growth in grace—than many of us think.
Some people seem to imagine that there is no moral or spiritual quality
whatever in life's common task-work. On the other hand, no day can be
made beautiful whose secular side is not as full and complete as its
religious side. If we have read your Bible, and have been loving toward our
neighbor all the day, and yet have been indolent or negligent in our
business, letting things run behind, putting off important duties until
tomorrow, not paying debts that fell due, not keeping engagements or
promises, leaving affairs tangled and in confusion, at the going down of the
sun—we cannot call our day's work well done.
Therefore, to be beautiful enough for the last day of
life—each day must see all its work done with painstaking carefulness and
fidelity. No piece of work must be slighted or done in a slovenly way. No
duty, which belonged in the day, must be postponed. Especially should all
matters of business affected or involving others be attended to, so that if
we never come again to our desk—there shall be no confusion, no
entanglement, and no hurt done to anyone. People have died suddenly, and
their affairs have been left in so rough shape, that they never could be
straightened out. Others with large plans for philanthropic bequests have
deferred the writing of their will until death snatched them away, leaving
all their liberal intentions to fail through their own negligence.
There should never be an hour in any person's life when
instant dying would leave any of their matters in confusion, or in a shape
which would cause litigation or controversy after they matured purposes
concerning the distribution of their property shall come to naught. We
should finish each day's work and close its business affairs—as carefully
and conscientiously as if we knew it to be our last day.
The same rule should be observed in all our relations
with others. Long ago Paul taught that we should never let the sun go down
upon our anger. If frictions occur in our busy days, and strife mars the
pleasure of our fellowship with neighbors or friends, we must make sure that
before the setting of the sun, that all bitterness shall pass out of our
heart, as we pray, "Forgive us our sins—as we forgive those who sin against
This is a lesson we would do well to carry into practice
with very literal application. No resentment should ever be allowed to live
in our heart over night. Every feeling of bitterness, of anger, of malice,
of envy or jealousy that the day may have aroused in our breast—should be
put away before the last hour passes. If we have injured another by a word
or act, we should hasten before we sleep, to make amends and seek the
restoration of the peace of love, which we have broken. If we have omitted
any duty of kindness, any ministry of affection, which we ought to have
rendered, we should hasten to do, even so tardily, the neglected service,
before the day altogether closes.
We should never lay our head on the pillow, while any of
the day's duties of love remain not done. We should never sleep with
any friend's heart carrying hurt from us, which we have not sought to heal
with love. We should never let a day end with record of duty to one of the
least of Christ's little one's neglected. God hears the cries of his
children, and knows of their sufferings and their tears, when the help or
the comfort they needed from us, came not.
We need only, therefore, to make each day complete and
beautiful with the completeness and beauty of fulfilled duty. There
will always be sins and faults and mistakes—in even the best day's record;
but if we have been truly faithful, doing what we could, God will receive
our work, blotting out its stains, filling up its defects, and correcting