In His Steps
J. R. Miller, 1897
"Leaving you an example, that you should
in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21
Chapter 1. Uniting with the Church
To unite with the church is to take one's place among the
followers of the Master. It is a public act. It is a confession of Christ
before men. It is not a profession of superior saintliness; on the other
hand, it is a distinct avowal of personal sinfulness and unworthiness.
Those who seek admission into the church come as sinners, needing and
accepting the mercy of God, and depending upon the atonement of Christ for
the forgiveness of their sins.
They come confessing Christ. They have heard his call,
"Follow me," and have responded. Uniting with the church is taking a place
among the friends of Christ; it is coming out from the world to be on
Christ's side. There are but two parties among men. "He who is not with
me is against me," said Jesus. The church consists of those who
are with Christ. This suggests one of the reasons why those who love Christ
should take their place in the church. By so doing they declare to all the
world where they stand and cast all the influence of their life and example
on Christ's side.
Secret discipleship fails at this point. However much we
may love Christ, however intimate our fellowship with him may be, however
sincere our friendship for him, he misses in us the outspoken loyalty of a
true confession which proclaims his name in its every breath. Secret
discipleship hides its light and fails to honor Christ before men.
Uniting with the church is a declaration that one has
joined the company of Christ's disciples. Disciples are learners.
Young Christians have entered the school of Christ—have only entered it.
They do not profess only to have attained perfection; they profess only to
have begun the Christian life.
Jesus took his first disciples into his school and for
three years taught and trained them. He made known to them the great truths
of Christianity which he had come to reveal—truths about God, about his
kingdom on the earth, about duty. Then he taught them how to live.
In like manner the Disciples of Christ who enter his
church now become his scholars. They may be very ignorant—but this is
no reason why they should not be admitted to the school of the great
Teacher. They should not wait to increase their knowledge before they become
his disciples. The very purpose of a school is to take those who are
ignorant, and teach them.
But one condition of admittance as a scholar is, a desire
to learn and a readiness to be taught. Of the first Christians, after the
day of Pentecost, it is given as one of the marks of new life in them that
they continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching. They were eager to
learn all they could hear about Jesus, and therefore they lost no
opportunity of listening to the teaching of the apostles, who had been with
Jesus for three years. Young Christians should always be eager to learn.
This is one of the objects of church membership.
In different ways is this instruction given. A
Christian home should be a school of Christ. The Christian mother is
Christ's first apostle to her children who should learn from her lips the
great lessons of life. Home teachings come first when the mind is
open and the heart is tender and sensitive to impressions. The
Sunday school is designed to do an important work in teaching the young
the truths of Christianity. The pastor is a teacher. He has been
trained to be an instructor of others in knowledge of God and in the way of
life. He expounds the vital truths of the Scriptures and also interprets
them for daily life. The private reading of the Bible is another way
of learning the things we need to know to make us wise unto salvation.
But knowledge is not all. Even Bible knowledge is not
all, does not alone make one a godly Christian. One might know all the great
facts and doctrines of the Word of God, might be a profound Bible scholar
and a wise theologian, and yet not be an advanced or even a
growing Christian. We are to learn to live Christ as well as to
know the truths about Christ. Jesus in his teachings makes a great
deal of obedience. We are his friends—if we do whatever he commands
us. We are to learn to be patient, meek, gentle, long suffering,
compassionate. We are to learn to be humble, kindly affectioned, unselfish,
We enter Christ's school, to be trained in all the
qualities which make up the true Christian life. Jesus is not only the
teacher—his life is the text book which we are to study. Part of his mission
to this world was to show us in himself—a pattern of a godly life. He was
sinless, and he realized the full beauty of obedience to the divine will. We
are to look to his life to learn just how to live, the kind of character we
are to seek to have, the meaning of the lessons which his words set for us.
We are in the school of Christ to be trained in all Christian life and duty.
The lessons the Bible sets for us—we are to learn to live
out in common life. Every word of Christ sets a copy for us, as it were, and
we are to learn to write it in fair and beautiful lines. For example, it is
not enough to learn from the Beatitudes that certain qualities are praised
by the great Teacher; we are to get the Beatitudes into our own life as
quickly and as perfectly as we can. So of all the teachings of Christ—they
are not for knowing merely, as one learns the fine sayings of
favorite literary writers; they are for living. They are to become
lamps to our feet and lights to our path, and they are to be wrought into
the web of our character.
The object of the church in this training of disciples is
well expressed in the words of Paul, "to prepare God's people for works of
service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity
in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature,
attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ!"
This thought of the church as the school of Christ
and of young Christians as entering the school, is very suggestive. We are
not to expect perfection—but we have a right to expect an
increasing knowledge of spiritual things and also spiritual growth in
all the qualities which belong to Christian character. We should become more
patient, more loving, more unselfish, more helpful, and more faithful in all
duty, more like Christ.
Uniting with the church, brings its duties. It
allies us with Christ and makes us coworkers with him. We are not to think
merely of what the church may do for us—but also of what we may do for the
church. Church loyalty is a mark of true and wholesome Christian life. One
need not be a narrow sectarian to be a good church member; but one will
always be the better Christian for being entirely devoted to his own church
and enthusiastic in all its life and work. Anything that weakens a man's
loyalty to his own particular church, hurts his spiritual life and lessens
his usefulness as a Christian.
In many ways church members may serve their church. They
should be interested in all its work of saving souls and promoting the cause
of Christ. They should regularly attend its services. They should contribute
for its support. They should study its interests and seek in every way to
extend its influence. They should keep the church in their prayers, daily
making supplication for it. They should bring to it always the best they
have to bring, not of gifts and service only—but also of love and personal
It is a high privilege to be a church member, and one who
has such honor—should seek to be worthy of it, as the church is the body of
Christ in this world.
Chapter 2. Beginning Well
A good beginning is half. Many people spend the
latter part of their years—in correcting the errors of the earlier part, and
by the time they are ready to live—the end has come! A good beginning at
once turns all the energies into the right channels. No golden years need
then be wasted in unlearning false lessons, in revising unwise or
impracticable plans or in retracing one's steps.
Many a career of brilliant possibilities is marred by a
wrong beginning. There are mistakes of early life which men never get over.
A bad foundation has caused the wreck of many a noble building.
Inadequate preparation for a business or a calling leads, at the best—to
impaired success—and most frequently results, in the end, in utter failure.
These principles apply in Christian life. It is of the
utmost importance that we start well. Many Christians walk in doubt
and shadow all their days, never entering into rich joy and peace—because at
the beginning they failed to realize the blessedness of the privileges to
which, as children of God, they are entitled. Many others never attain
anything noble and beautiful in Christian life and character because at the
beginning, they did not wholly disentangle themselves from their old life
and fully consecrate themselves to Christ!
A good beginning, therefore, involves two
things—clearness and definiteness of aim, with intelligent views of the
nature and meaning of the Christian life; and completeness of consecration.
Many men fail in life because they have no settled
purpose, no well defined plan. They have no goal set before them which with
all their energies they strive to reach. There is in their mind no clear and
distinct idea toward which they struggle. They merely drift on the
current, and are borne by it withersoever it flows. They are not masters
in life—but poor slaves. They conquer nothing—but are the mere
creatures of circumstance. Such lives, however, are unworthy of intelligent
beings endowed with immortal powers, and they never reach any high degree of
nobleness or success.
No sculptor touches the marble—until he has in his
mind a definite conception of his work as it will appear when it has been
finished. He sees a vision before him of a very lovely form, and then sets
to work to fashion the vision in the stone. No builder begins to
erect a house until a complete plan embracing every detail has been adopted.
Before he strikes a stroke—he knows precisely what the finished structure
will be. No one would cut into a web of rich and costly cloth, until he had
before him the pattern of the garment he would make. In all work on material
things, men have definite aims before they begin their work, and know
precisely what they intend to produce.
But in life itself and in living, in
character building, in destiny shaping—many fail to exercise such
wisdom. Multitudes never give one earnest thought to such questions as
these: "What is my life? For what purpose is it entrusted to me? What ought
I to do with it? What should be the great aim of my existence? What should I
strive to be and to do?" Thousands live aimlessly, having no true sense of
the responsibility of living, never forming a resolute purpose to
rise to any noble height, or to achieve any worthy thing. An immortal
life should have its aim ever shining before it—as bright and clear as a
star in the heavens. To grow up as a plant—without thought or
purpose—is well enough for a plant—for God clothes it and shapes it
into marvelous beauty. But men with undying souls and measureless
possibilities, should have a purpose worthy of their immortality, and should
strive with heroic energy to attain it!
In entering the Christian life there should be
a clear aim. We should know definitely what this new life is, which we
have now to live. With only vague ideas of the meaning of a Christian
life—its ideal, its requirements, its privileges, the duties which belong to
it—no one can begin well. All is vague and misty, and while it is so, we
cannot put any purpose or energy into our life. We need to understand the
new relations into which we come as children of God, in order that we
may realize the privileges of our position. We need to have a clear
conception of the final aim of all Christian attainment and aspiration, in
order that we may strive toward it! We need to know what is required of a
Christian toward his God, and toward his fellow men—in order
that we may faithfully and intelligently perform all our duties. We need to
know the conditions of Christian life—its needs, its dangers—in order that
we may avail ourselves of the necessary helps provided for us. Thus a clear
and intelligent aim—is essential in beginning well as a Christian.
The other essential thing in beginning well is the
devotion and consecration of ourselves to the new life we have
chosen. A good ideal is not enough. One may aim an arrow with perfect
accuracy—but the bow must also be drawn and the cord let fly—if the arrow is
to reach the mark. A vision in the brain is not enough for the sculptor—he
must hew and chisel the marble into the form of his vision. The architect's
plan is only a picture, and there must be toil and cost until the building
stands complete in its noble beauty.
A good aim is not all of a Christian life. It is nothing
more than an empty dream—unless it be wrought out in God-like
character and Christ-like ministry. Every earnest Christian looks much at
the glorious Master, and, as he looks, visions of wondrous beauty fill his
soul—glimpses of the loveliness of Christ; and he must then seek with
patient yet intense purpose—to reproduce these heavenly visions in his own
Many people have sublime aspirations and wishes—and
even form their aspirations and wishes into intentions and
resolves—who yet never take a step toward realizing them! Mere knowing
what it is to be a Christian—makes no one a Christian! Many perish with the
glorious ideal shining full and clear before their eyes! Merely seeing the
beauty of Christ, as it is held before us for our copying—will never fashion
us into that beauty. Our knowledge must be wrought into life.
The image our souls see, must be fashioned into
character. Our good intentions must take form in daily deeds.
Knowing God's will, we must do it with willing heart and
Chapter 3. The Ideal Christian Life
What is it to be a Christian? What is that change which,
wrought in a natural man, make him a Christian man? What are a Christian's
new relations to God and to his fellow men? What is Christian character? How
should a Christian live? What is the pattern on which his life should be
fashioned? If we would make our Christian life what it ought to be—we must
find plain, clear answers to these questions.
A Christian is one who believes on Christ. He has
entrusted his whole life, with its sin, its guilt, its ruin, its need its
security for eternity, its redemption, cleansing and transformation—into the
hands of the might Savior, the strong Son of God. A Christian is therefore a
saved one, a redeemed one—saved, redeemed, by Christ. He is no longer guilty
and condemned; he is acquitted, justified, restored to such relations before
God that he is as if he had never sinned, so fully are his sins put
away! He is God's lost and wandering child brought home, received,
reconciled, restored to all a child's privileges!
But this is not all; it is not merely a change of
relations. Those who believe on Christ are born again; the Scriptures
say—born from above, born of God; that is—there is a new, a divine life in
the regenerated soul. Christ speaks of it as a well of water in the
believer, springing up into everlasting life. The result is shown in new
affections, new desires, new hopes, and new aims.
Forgiveness of sins is not enough. A man's lies and dishonesties may be
forgiven; but, if that is all, he is still a liar and dishonest. God's
forgiveness regenerates. A Christian life is the setting up of the
kingdom of God in a human heart.
A child was troubled at the thought that heaven was so
far away, and was perplexed to know how he could ever get up to that bright
home. His mother explained to him that heaven must first come down to
him—must first enter his heart. A Christian is one into whose heart the
spirit of heaven has entered. The new life is like that which they live in
heaven. We are taught to pray, "May your will be done in earth, as it is in
heaven." The one place in all the earth in which it most concerns each
Christian to see that God's will is done as it is in heaven—is in his own
If we are truly born again, the life of heaven has really
begun within us. It may be very feeble in its beginning, like one little
seed only, planted in a garden; but the one seed is from heaven, and the new
life in us has truly begun. "That which is born of the Spirit," said the
Master, "is Spirit." It is the life of the Holy Spirit in a human soul. Paul
put this truth in a very striking way when he said, "I live; yet not I—but
Christ lives in me." Our Lord said a Christian is "a branch" of the true
Vine. This suggests what Christian life and character should be, before the
world. Every true Christian is a new incarnation. Christ showed the world in
his own person, the life of the invisible God. No human eye ever saw God in
his glory; no one could ever have seen him—had not Christ come down, and in
a plain, simple, and real, human life which men could see and understand,
lived out the divine life which in its glory, men could neither see
nor understand. He interpreted the invisible things of God—in act and speech
which the common people could read. He said, when he was asked about God,
"Look at me and see God. I and my Father are one. He who has seen me—has
seen the Father."
In like manner, in his own small measure, every one who
is truly a Christian, is an incarnation of God, and should be able in
humility to say, "Look at me—and you will see a dim but faithful
representation of God." This puts a very solemn responsibility on every
Christian. He represents God in this world, and is to live in such a
way that from his life, men shall learn the truth about God. If Christ lives
in us, men must see Christ in our faces, and hear him in our words,
and learn of him in our acts!
The ideal Christian life, is a growing likeness to
Christ. Christ is the pattern after which we are to strive to fashion our
life. As we study Christ in the Gospels, there rises up before us the vision
of His matchless beauty. We go over the chapters, and we find one fragment
of His loveliness here, and another there. And as we read the story through
to the end—beauty after beauty appears, until at length we see a full vision
of our blessed Redeemer. This is the pattern we are to follow in fashioning
our lives. This is the vision we are to seek to carve into reality in our
own character. All our acts we are to bring to the example of Christ,
testing each one by that infallible standard.
The Gospels should be studied by the Christian, as a
builder studies the architect's drawings—that every minutest detail may be
exactly reproduced, so far as in a faulty and sinful human life, the
character and conduct of the faultless and sinless Jesus can be reproduced.
The perfect pattern is ever to be held before us for imitation, and as we
look at it glowing in all its marvelous beauty, yet far above us and beyond
our present reach, we are to comfort ourselves and stir our hearts to the
noblest efforts and highest attainments by the thought, "That is what I
shall one day be!" However slow may be our progress toward that perfect
ideal; however sore the struggles with weakness and sin; however often we
fail—we are never to lose sight of the distant goal, nor cease to strive and
press toward the mark. Some day, if we are faithful to the end and faint
not—we shall emerge out of all failure and struggle, and, seeing Jesus as he
is—shall be fully transformed into his blessed image!
Such is the aim of the Christian life. "We shall be like
him"—that is the final destiny of every redeemed life. This should be
inspiration enough to arouse in the dullest person—every sluggish hope and
every slumbering energy—and to impel to the highest effort and the most
heroic struggle. This assurance should perpetually shine like a bright star
beyond the fields of toil and battle, forbidding discouragement in any
temporary failure or defeat—and cheering all faintness and weariness into
buoyant strength and enthusiasm.
The goal of blessedness, is not to be reached at one
bound—it is the work of long and painful years, and the progress is slow and
the transformation gradual and almost imperceptible.
It will help us, in striving after the perfected
beauty—to remember that we can best attain it, by carving each moment's line
with care. God gives us life by days and hours, not by months and years. The
way to have his purpose for us fulfilled in us—is to fill each minute with
simple faithfulness. Doing God's will for one moment not only lights the
path for the next—but prepares us for its responsibility. Charles Kingsley
said, "Do today's duty, fight today's temptation, and do not weaken or
distract yourself by looking ahead to things which you cannot see, and could
not understand if you saw them."
Character is a mosaic, in which each day has its
little stone to set; we need only to look well to each day as it comes, and
to print on each its record of beauty—and the whole will be beautiful in the
end. This living simply by the day—is one of the royal secrets of a
beautiful life which every young Christian should learn.
A life thus lived—each day made beautiful with the beauty
of holiness and of usefulness, will in the end give a record of duty well
done, of work completed, of blessings left behind at each step, and a
character transfigured by the indwelling divine Spirit, and the outworking
of love—until it shines in the full likeness of Christ himself!
Chapter 4. Consecration to God
It is not enough to cut loose from the old life—the young
Christian must enter the new life. Leaving the service of one master—he must
enlist in that of another. Withdrawing his heart's affections from one class
of objects—he must fix them upon another class. Ceasing to do evil—he must
also learn to do good. No longer a servant of sin—he must become a servant
of righteousness. Mere turning from sin is not enough—giving up one's
wicked ways is but half of conversion—there must also be a devotement
of the life to Christ. The heart cannot be left empty.
"When Boniface had hewn down the sacred oak worshiped by
the savages in the tangled forests of Germany, he did not stop with
destroying it—but when it was felled, built out of its fallen and splintered
fragments, a Christian chapel, and in the place of the worship of Thor
the Thunderer—left the worship of Christ the crucified."
When we break with the world—we must straightway bow
before Christ! Indeed, we can be freed from the dominion of the old
master—only by the coming into our hearts of the new Master. The only way we
can turn from sin—is by turning to Christ. He then becomes both Deliverer
and King; both Savior and Lord. As such he must be accepted, and the whole
allegiance of the life should instantly be transferred to him.
This is conversion; it is going over to Christ fully,
wholly, freely and forever. It is not merely attaching ourselves to the
church—it is attaching ourselves to Christ. It is not merely
entering upon a good moral life—pure, honest, clean; not merely engaging in
active Christian work—it is the acceptance of Christ, first as a personal
Savior—then as a personal Lord. It is coming to Christ himself—believing
on him, following him, loving him, obeying him.
It is important that the young Christian shall understand
this, and that his devotion to his Lord must be real and complete. No man
can serve two masters. A divided allegiance will not do. True
consecration carries all over to Christ.
For one thing, this means holiness—"You are not
your own, for you are bought with a price—therefore glorify God." Holiness
means separation for God. The life which belongs to Christ must be kept from
sin. The hands which are held up in prayer and that take the
sacramental emblems, must not touch any unclean thing. The lips which
speak to God, sing his praise and pronounce his name, must not be stained by
any sinful or bitter words. The heart which is the dwelling place of
the Holy Spirit, must not open to any thought or affection which would
defile God's temple. The feet which Christ's pierced hands have
washed, must not walk in any of sin's unhallowed paths. A consecrated life
must be holy.
Unholiness is very subtle. It creeps in when we are not
aware. It begins in the heart. At first it is but a thought, a
moment's imagination, a passing emotion, or a desire. Hence the heart should
be kept with unremitting diligence. Only pure and good thoughts should be
entertained. It is in the thoughts, that all acts begin. All acts are first
thoughts. Our thoughts build up our character, as the coral
insects build up the great reefs. As a man thinks in his heart—so is he. If
we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, as we pass through its
foul streets—we must see to it that no unholy thing is for a moment
tolerated in our heart. A crime stains one's name before the world; a sinful
thought or desire stains the soul in God's sight and grieves the divine
Spirit within us. "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and
faultless is this—to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James
But the keeping of the life from being polluted by the
world, is not the whole of living for God—there must be service also.
When young Christians are received into the church, they profess to dedicate
themselves and all they have—time, talents, money, every power of body,
soul, and spirit—to the service of Christ forever. This means that they will
no longer claim mastership over themselves; that henceforth they are
Christ's servants; that they will live for Christ alone, all their
days; that they will listen at each step for his command and promptly obey
it; that they will devote all their possessions to him, using them
for him and at his bidding; and that they will employ their talents
and influence to advance his kingdom.
Daily duty in the common relations of life, is as much
part of a true consecration—as are praying, reading the Bible, and attending
church services. If the heart is given to Christ, the whole life is
holy. After we become Christians, we do not live two lives—one religious
and one secular. We are always to do God's will, and it is as
much his will that we should be diligent in business—as that we
should be fervent in prayer.
When young people yet in school become Christians, they
are not to drop their secular studies and read the Bible all the time—they
are to go on with their lessons—only with new motives, for Christ
now—faithfully using every moment, diligently striving to get the greatest
possible benefit and improvement from their education to fit them for the
life and work before them. When religion makes a pupil less diligent, less
studious, less earnest—there is something wrong. When a young man in a trade
or business gives himself to Christ, unless his occupation is sinful, he is
ordinarily called to continue in it, carrying his Christian principles
into it and doing business now for Christ.
Secular work is not unholy. All duty is sacred
in God's sight. The hands of Jesus swung the ax and pushed the
saw—and he pleased the Father just as well then—as when he was praying and
reading the Scriptures. Paul's hand sewed tents, and he was just as near to
God when thus at work—as when he was preaching in the synagogue.
Of course the motive of life is changed when we
truly belong to Christ. SELF comes down from the throne—and we do everything
for the Master—"Whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do—do all the
glory of God!" We train our powers to greater efficiency—that we may be more
useful in Christ's work. We live carefully—that in the smallest things we
may honor him. We see increased influence that we may do more to bless the
world and advance the glory of Christ's name. The world is reading our
lives—and it reads no other Bible! We must make sure, therefore, that
our daily actions spell out the true gospel, so that no one who sees us may
ever get from us a wrong thought of Christ, or a wrong sense of his pure
We do not understand one half the blessing to others, and
the influence for religion there is—in simply being godly. We
struggle to be active and to do many things. We run everywhere to work for
Christ. We think that unless we are always doing something, or
talking to somebody, or holding a meeting somewhere, or
visiting the poor or the sick—that we are not useful. This is a great
mistake! There is no other such power for real usefulness and helpfulness;
there is no other such glorifying of God—as in simply being godly.
A holy life itself is highest service.
Hence there should be in every young Christian, the most
conscientious watchfulness over the early growths of spirituality in
his own heart. These growths are tender and easily destroyed, like the young
plants which the gardener keeps in his nursery through the winter and cool
The whole matter of heart culture requires the
utmost diligence. All life—business and social as well as religious—must be
made to contribute to it. We should form our friendships and choose
our amusements—with reference to their effect on our heart life.
Someone has given this true test, and the application should be wide as life
itself—"Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your
conscience, obscures your view of God or takes off the relish of spiritual
things—in short, whatever increases the authority of your body over
your mind—that is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself."
A life so regulated, so watched, so ruled by conscience
and by the Word and Spirit of God—will grow into a living power of real
holiness—the value of whose ministry will be incalculable in its silent
There is until another part of all true
consecration—besides living a pure and godly life; and besides doing
all our daily work for Christ—we should also embrace every opportunity of
doing good to others in Christ's name and for his sake.
There are needy and suffering ones all about us, and we
are to do Christ's errands to these, performing for them the ministries of
kindness and mercy—which Jesus would render, if he were here
in person. There are weak and fainting ones about us who find
life hard and who need sympathy and help. To all these we have errands of
love! We should share their burdens and put strong, sustaining arms
around them in their weakness.
A life for Christ must always be a life of love, of
usefulness and of helpfulness. No true Christian lives for himself. We have
our model in him who came "not to be ministered unto—but to minister." We
need not wait for great opportunities –these come but rarely; the
common days are full of opportunities for little kindnesses,
thoughtfulnesses, and unselfishnesses, and in order to write bright
records for ourselves, we have only to seize these and stretch out our
hands to render the ministries to which God thus invites and calls us.
Doing the thing which Christ himself would do if he were precisely in our
place—that is the rule for Christian living.
Thus consecration becomes very real. It is
living for God—day by day, hour by hour. It is nothing strained or
unnatural; it does not wrench us out of our place, nor disturb our
relationships, unless they are sinful. It is the simple living out in true
devotion to Christ, in unquestioning obedience and in quiet faithfulness—the
life he gives, in whatever sphere our lot may be cast.
Chapter 5. Meeting Temptation and Conflict
The experience of temptation is universal. Every
life must grow up amid unfriendly and opposing influences. Some of them are
subtle and insidious, like a pestilence in the air. Some of them fierce and
wild, like the blast of storm, or the rush of battle.
Much is said in sermons about the solemn nature of
death; yet really it is not half so perilous a thing to die as it is to
live. No child of God was ever lost, or even harmed, in the experience of
dying. But life is full of peril. To live truly—we must battle
day by day. Satan is no medieval myth—but an actual foe—powerful, cunning,
treacherous, and dreadful! Danger lurks in every shadow!
The question in life is not how to escape
temptation—but how to pass through it so as not to be harmed by it.
Christ's way of helping us is not by keeping us out of the conflicts.
This would leave us forever weak, untried, and undisciplined. The price of
spiritual attainment and culture is struggle. Jesus himself was made
perfect through suffering.
All the best things in life—the only things worth
obtaining—lie beyond fields of battle, and we can get them only by
overcoming. It would be no kindness to us—were God to withdraw us
into some sheltered spot whenever there is danger, or if he were to
fight our battles for us, thus freeing us from all necessity to struggle.
"He who has never a conflict has never a victor's palm,
And only the toilers know the sweetness of rest and
We must meet temptation, and we must fight. Not to fight
is to lose all. Nor is there really any need for yielding. The weakest child
may move unharmed through the sorest strifes. It is possible to meet the
strongest temptations, and not be hurt by them. It has been done. Men have
met the fiercest enemies, the most unrelenting oppositions, passing through
the hottest flames—and have come out, like the three Hebrew children from
the king's fiery furnace, without even the smell of fire on their garments!
Whatever may be said of the weakness of human nature
unhelped and unsustained, there still is no need for any trembling soul to
faint or to fail in the strife.
There is a divine Helper who himself went into the
thickest of the struggle, and passed through it unharmed. He was "in all
points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." That is, he met all life
victoriously; and because he was thus victorious he is able, not only to
understand human struggles and to sympathize with everyone who is
tempted—but also to give "grace to help in time of need." We have the
assurance that the faithful God will not allow us to be tempted above that
which we are able; but will with the temptation make the way of escape, that
we may be able to endure it.
There is, therefore, a way of so living in this world—as
not to suffer harm in even the fiercest temptations—to pass through
them and not be damaged by them. There is even a way of so meeting
temptations as to get benefit and blessing from them. An
apostle said, "Count it all joy when you fall into manifold temptations;
knowing that he proof of your faith works patience." "Blessed is the man who
endures temptation—for when he has been approved, he shall receive the crown
of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him."
Rightly meeting and victoriously resisting temptation,
puts new fiber into the soul. The Indians say that when a warrior
kills a foe—the spirit of the vanquished enemy enters the victor's heart and
adds to his own strength. This is true in spiritual warfare. We grow
stronger through our struggles and victories! Each lust conquered, each evil
subdued, adds to the strength of our soul.
The question, then—is how to meet temptation so as to
overcome it, and thus win the blessing there is in it. We must remember,
first of all, that we are not able in ourselves successfully to fight
our battles. If we think we are, and go forth in our own name and strength,
we shall utterly fail. Life is too large, and its struggles and conflicts
are too great—for the strongest human, unaided by divine power.
We must settle it once for all—that we can conquer only
in the name and by the help of the strong Son of God. We may come off the
field more than conquerors—but only through him who loved us. We can pass
safely through all the fierce dangers of this world and be kept unspotted
amid its sin and foulness—but only if we have with us him who is able to
keep us from stumbling, and set us before the presence of his glory without
blemish in exceeding joy. Self-confidence in our own ability to overcome
temptation—is fatal folly!
Also, we must be sure that the temptation we are meeting,
really lies in the path of our duty—that God calls us to meet it. Some
temptations must be overcome by avoidance, by not meeting them. We
pray each morning, "Lead us not into temptation;" we must, then, be sure
that we are following our Father's leading when we enter any way of
temptation. Only when the temptation comes in the path over which the divine
Guide takes us—have we the assurance of divine protection in it.
Macaulay tells us that at the siege of Naumur, while the
conflict was raging, William, prince of Orange, who was giving his orders
under a shower of bullets, saw with surprise and anger among his staff
officers, Michael Godfrey, the chairman of the Bank of England. He was
curious to see real war.
"Mr. Godfrey," said Prince William, "you ought not to run
these hazards. You are not a soldier; you can be of no use to us here."
"Sir," answered Godfrey, "I run no more risk than Your
"Not so," said William. "I am where it is my duty
to be, and I may without presumption commit my life to God's keeping; but
you . . ."
Before the sentence was finished—a cannonball laid
Godfrey dead at the king's feet!
The Prince's words were true, and the truth is just as
applicable to temptations and spiritual dangers as to the perils of war.
When duty calls us into any place, we are safe—God will protect us; but
otherwise we venture without any promise of divine protection. We must face
danger—only when God and duty unmistakably lead.
Also, when we find ourselves in the presence of
temptation, we must not forget that we have something to do ourselves in
getting the victory. Men and devils may tempt us—but men and devils
cannot force us to yield! We are sovereigns in our choices, while the
right and the wrong stand before us. Other wills than ours may seek to
influence us—they may plead, entreat and persuade—but they cannot compel
We cannot avoid being tempted—but we ought to
avoid yielding to temptation. Luther used to say, "We cannot keep the
birds from flying over our heads—but we can prevent them building their
nests in our hair!" We cannot keep temptations away from our ears, nor
prevent them whispering their seductive words close by us—but we can hinder
them making their nests in our hearts!
We are not to be passive in this matter. We must not
expect God to fasten the door, and hold his hand upon the lock. The shutting
and opening of the door is our part of the responsibility. Even God himself
will never come into our heart unless we voluntarily open it to him. Christ
stands outside and knocks, waiting with all his wealth of love and all his
power to bless until we bid him welcome. We with our frail weakness can keep
even Omnipotence outside. So, as divine grace cannot enter to do us good
unless we open, neither can satanic evil enter to work ruin in our own
heart. Thus the final responsibility is with ourselves. Hence our duty in
temptation is unwavering resistance—an irreversible "No!" to every
solicitation to sin. If we settle this point, we have learned one of the
greatest lessons in spiritual warfare—"having done all, to stand."
Besides this, nothing more is needed but faith and
prayer. When the temptation comes in the path of duty, and when we
resist it with unflinching determination, we may with simple confidence
commit the keeping of our life to God. No evil can ever harm us if we cleave
unfalteringly to Christ—"He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep
you in all your ways." Still better—"The Lord is your keeper."
There come times in every life, when all we can do is to
shut our eyes and let God lead us. Indeed, in all hours of darkness and
danger, this is both our privilege and our duty; and if we
thus commit our way to God, he will bring us safely through the last peril
and the last struggle—into the light and joy of victory on the heavenly
Then it will be seen that it has been no misfortune that
we have had to fight sore battles on the earth. Old war-veterans are not
ashamed of their scars—they are marks of honor; they tell of wounds received
in battling for their country. In heaven the soldier of Christ will not be
ashamed of the scars he has gotten in his warfare for his Lord on the earth;
his crown will be all the brighter for them. They will shine as the King's
medals, decorations of honor—"the marks of the Lord Jesus."
When an army marches home from a victorious field, it is
not the bright, clean, untorn flag that is most wildly cheered—but the flag
that is pierced, riddled and torn by the shot and shells of many a battle.
So in the homecoming in glory it will not be the man who bears fewest marks
of suffering and struggle and fewest scars of wounds received in Christ's
service, who will be welcomed with the greatest joy—but the man who bears
the marks of the sorest conflicts and the greatest sufferings for the honor
of his Lord and for his kingdom.
Chapter 6. Working for Christ—SERVICE
Every truly consecrated life, with all its faculties, has
been given over to Christ. Faith implies full surrender, "You are not your
own." "You are Christ's." Christ owns us first by right of creation,
then by right of purchase; and we acknowledge his ownership and all
that it includes, when we receive him as our Savior and Lord. The first
question, therefore, of the new believing heart is, "What will you have
me to do, Lord?" We want to begin to work for our new Master.
We belong to Christ; we are his slaves—that is the
word Paul used so much, and with such a thrill of joy, as the thought of the
honor it denoted. He was Christ's slave. "Whose I am, and whom I
serve," was his working creed. "Your will—not mine," is henceforth the only
true law of life for us. We are to wait at each step for Christ's bidding.
Our very thoughts must be brought into captivity to him.
This ownership covers and embraces all of life. A
heart of love for Christ makes the sweeping of a room, the ploughing of a
field, the sawing of a board, the making of a garment, the selling of a
piece of goods, the minding of a baby—all actions, as fine as the ministry
One way of working for Christ, therefore, is to be
diligent in the doing of life's common daily tasks. The true giving
of ourselves to God exalts all of life into divine honor and
sacredness. Nothing is trivial or indifferent, which it is our duty to do.
We are never to neglect any work, however secular it may seem—in order to do
something else which appears to be more religious. There are some
people who would be better Christians if they paid more heed to their own
daily business, attended fewer church meetings and did less religious
gossiping. Ruskin says, "The best prayer at the beginning of a day is that
we may not lose its moments; and the best grace before eating, is the
consciousness that we have justly earned our dinner."
We need a religion which puts itself into everything we
do. The old shoemaker was right when he said that when he stands before the
great white throne God will ask, "What kind of shoes did you make down on
the earth?" We must do all our work for the judgment day, our common
everyday tasks—as well as our religious duties. The carpenter
must get his religion into the houses he builds, the plumber into his
plumbing, the tailor into his seams, the merchant into his
sales. All our work—we must do for God's eye!
But, besides this living of the whole life for
Christ, there is a specific work for him in which every Christian has
a part to perform. Everyone who is saved, should do something toward saving
others. The first thought of a truly saved person is of some friend or
friends who are still in peril; and the first impulse of renewed heart is to
try to bring these lost ones to the Savior. The cause of Christ in this
world needs assistance in many ways, and it is the will of the Master that
this cause should be advanced, not by the ministry of angels, not by Christ
himself immediately and directly—but by his people—those whom he has
redeemed and saved. The story of salvation must be told by lips that have
first uttered the cry for mercy. The lost must be won by the love of hearts
that have first been broken in penitence. The divine blessing of salvation
must be carried in earthen vessels to the perishing.
Every Christian has something to do for Christ in this
world. The fullest hands must make room for some little part of the Master's
work. Even the child that loves Christ may at least carry a cup of the water
of life to some thirsty soul.
Every Christian should be deeply imbued with the
missionary spirit. A portion of the responsibility for carrying the news
of salvation to every creature rests on each follower of Christ. In these
days of missionary activity there is no one who cannot do something to help
send the gospel to heathen lands. Every young Christian should consider
himself, from the moment of his consecration to Christ, a debtor to all men,
near and far, who are not yet saved—and in prayer and work and gift he
should seek to pay that debt to the last atom of his ability.
In nearly every church there are missionary organizations
for the cultivation of the missionary spirit, the diffusing of information
and the gathering of money for the work of missions. Every young Christian
should be identified with one of these organizations, thus imbibing the
missionary spirit and preparing for active interest and service in the
There is also very much sorrow and suffering in this
world, and every Christian should do all in his power to comfort the
sorrow and alleviate the suffering. Here, as in all things, Jesus
himself is our example and his life is our pattern. We represent him in
this world! He has gone away to heaven—but he has left his people here
to carry on his work.
Here is a wide field for Christlike and most helpful
ministry. What we need for it, is a spirit of sympathy and
kindness that shall never fail. We may not be able to do much to relieve
those who are troubled—we certainly cannot work miracles as Christ did; but
we may have a heart of love which shall manifest itself toward
everyone in a spirit of patient gentleness and kindly
Sincere sympathy is oftentimes better than money.
People in distress generally need a friend more than they need gift or
miracle. God sends to earth no angels whose ministry leaves more
benedictions of joy, of help, of inspiration, of uplifting, of
restoring—than are left by the ministry of the angel of true human
For this service we need only to have in us the true
spirit of Christ, a spirit of unselfish love—and then blessing will
flow from our life even without effort or purpose; unconsciously, as
fragrance pours from a flower, as light streams from the sun.
Christ did other kinds of work—but it was the same
spirit which wrought in all his ministry. He taught the people; he
scattered the words of truth; he lifted up his voice against wrong and sin;
he sought the lost and led them back to the Father; he went to the cross in
the place of sinners. In all forms of personal ministry we are to strive to
follow in his steps. The golden seeds of heavenly truth which his lips
dropped, we are to seek to scatter everywhere in life's desert fields.
The very best thing we can do for people, in this world
of sin and sorrow—is to get the words of Christ into their hearts. It is
like scattering flower seeds on the black lava beds about the fiery
mountain's base—in the crevices the seeds will root and grow, and sweet
flowers will bloom by and by. Christ's words are living seeds from which
spring up heavenly plants to beautify and bless bleak and dreary lives, over
which sin's fires have rolled. The tiniest hand and the weakest
Christian can scatter these good seeds in some bare spot, where they
It is the little things that all of us can do in
Christ's name, which in the end leave the largest aggregate of blessing in
the world. We need not wait to do great and conspicuous things. One Amazon
River is enough for a continent—but there is a place for a million little
rivulets and purling brooks. A life that every day gives its blessing to
another, and adds to the happiness of some fellow being, by only a word
of kindness, a thoughtful act, a cheering look, or a
hearty hand grasp—does more for the world than he who but once in a lifetime
does some great thing which fills a land with his praise. Nothing that is
done for Christ is lost! The smallest acts, the quietest words, the
gentlest inspirations which touch human souls, leave their impress for
Then while we are giving out blessing to help and to
enrich other lives—we are receiving also into our own heart. The words of
the Master are literally true—"It is more blessed to give than to
receive." He did not say it is more pleasant, more agreeable—but
more blessed. The song we sing to cheer a weary spirit—echoes back
new cheer into our own soul. The sacrifice we make to help one in
distress—leaves us not poorer—but richer. Love's stores are not
wasted by giving—the more we give—the more we have. The way to grow rich in
the treasures of kindness and affection—is to show kindness and
affection to all who need. If we find our spiritual life languishing, its
resources growing less, the true way to refresh it is not by closer economy
in giving to others—but by greater generosity.
In every living church, there are various organized forms
of Christian activity; in some one or more of these, every member
should be engaged. Let the young Christian at once choose the particular
class of work in which he decides that it is best for him to engage, and
promptly identify himself with the organization, society or group which has
in view the special work he has selected. There should not be one idle
Christian in any church! One of the most withering curses uttered in the
Scriptures, is against uselessness—against those who do not come up to help
against the enemy.
Thus Christian work is not only a duty—but a
means of grace. It is not the rest of inaction to which Christ
calls us—but the rest of loving service. Every power of our being, we
should give to him to be used. Every gift we possess should be employed in
doing good. That day is a lost day—in which we do nothing to bless some
other life in the name of Christ.
Chapter 7. Helps—Personal PRAYER
"Hear my prayer, Lord, and listen to my cry for help; do
not be silent at my tears!" Psalm 39:12
We all need helps in our Christian life. Of
course, all the help we require, we can find in God. His is the almighty
arm on which we should ever lean in our weakness; his is the infinite
life from whose fullness we should ever draw for the refilling of our
own exhausted life pitchers; his is the light that should ever shine upon
our darkness for cheer, for comfort, for guidance, for joy. God is all we
But we cannot see God with these mortal eyes; we cannot
feel his bosom when we need to lean upon it; we cannot hear his voice when
we listen for the word he may have to speak; we cannot carry our empty
pitchers up to heaven, where God dwells, to have them refilled. We are
life vines torn off the trellis—and trailing on the ground amid the dust
and the weeds; and we cannot lift ourselves up to twine about the unseen
supports which God's grace provides. We need something to help our dull
senses—something we can see or hear or touch; something to interpret to our
souls and bring near to them the spiritual things of divine love; something
to which the tendrils of our life can cling, and which well lift them up and
fasten them on the invisible realities of the spiritual world.
And in loving mercy, in condescension to our weakness and
spiritual dullness, God has provided for us such helps as we need. He brings
us his blessings in ways that are adapted to our earthly state and capacity.
He puts the rich supplies of his heavenly grace in cups from which we can
drink—and sets them low down where we can reach them!
One of the helps which God has provided is prayer.
Without prayer no Christian life can exist. There are other spiritual helps
from the lack of which we may suffer—but without which we may still live
near to God; but to give up prayer—is to die.
Why should we pray? Because God is our Father—and we are
his children. It would be a most undutiful, unfilial, ungrateful child—who
would live in a good and beautiful home, enjoying its comforts, blessed by
its love—and who would never have anything to say to the father whose heart
and hand make the home, and who provides its comforts and pleasures.
We should pray, also, because we need things which we
can get only by prayer. Some things we can pick up with our hands in
this good world of our Father's—or buy with our money—or receive through our
friends. But there are some things which we can get only directly from God
himself, and only by asking him for them. He alone can forgive our sins;
and unless we are forgiven, life is not worth living. He alone can give us a
new heart; and unless we have a new heart, we can never enter heaven.
He alone can give us grace to live a holy life, and keep us from
sinking back into sin. He alone can help us to fight life's battles, and
come out victorious at the end. He alone can lead us through death's
valley—to glory. Indeed, we can do nothing without God. The leaf
quivering on the bough is not more dependent upon the tree for its
greenness and life—than we are dependent upon God for our very existence and
for all blessings. We must pray—or perish!
But may we pray? We look up, and we see no face in
the heavens, no eye gazing down—nothing but sky and clouds or stars. We
speak and then listen—but no answer comes to us; all is silence
around us. Is there really anyone to hear? Or if there is—will he hear?
There are millions of people on the earth, and there are
millions of other worlds besides this. Astronomers tell us that our globe,
if it were suddenly destroyed, would not be more missed in God's vast
universe, than one leaf which you might pluck off a wayside bush would be
missed from all the leaves on all the trees and forests of the earth! It may
be that, like our planet, these other countless worlds have their millions
of inhabitants. Will God hear the cry of one person among so many? Does he
take notice of individuals? Does he have particular thought and care for
The Bible plainly answers these questions. It tells us
that God is our Father; that He loves us as individuals—that He loves each
one with special personal affections—as a human father loves each one of his
children, though he have many. Yes—God thinks of His children, giving to the
smallest, humblest of us—individual thought and care, watching over us,
listening for our cry, ready always at any moment to give the help we need
A little child imagined, that when she began to pray, God
asked all the angels to stop singing and playing on their harps while he
listened to her prayer, until she said "Amen." She was not far wrong in her
imagination! God does not need to hush the angels' songs, to hear his
child's prayer; but he hears it, nevertheless, amid all the noises of this
great universe, just as truly and clearly as if every other voice was
One of the Psalms represents God as inclining his hear to
the suppliant on the earth to hear his cry, as a man bends down so as to
bring his ear close to one who speaks, that he may catch every word. In
another psalm are these remarkable words—"The Lord looked down from his
sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of
the prisoners." The Bible is full of just such human representations of
God's interest in his children on the earth, and of his loving attention
when they cry to him. We may pray—there is One who hears us! "Because he
bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath!" Psalm 116:2
How shall we pray so as to be heard and to receive help?
For one thing, there must be real desire in our hearts. Forms of
words, do not make prayer—we must really desire something, and must
realize our dependence upon God for it. Then we must come to him as his
children. It was Christ himself who taught us to pray to "Our Father,
who is in heaven." If we have the true child spirit which the using of this
invocation implies, we shall make our requests with confidence, believing
that our Father loves us, and will deny us nothing that is for our real
Of course, we must remember that God knows better than we
do—what is best for us, and we must be willing, even when our desires are
strongest and most impetuous, to say, "Nevertheless not my will—but yours,
be done." We must let our Father decide whether the thing we ask is the
thing we need. The thing we want might be poison to our life; if so,
God will not give it to us—but, instead, will give us grace to do without
it, which is an answer to our desire, and a far better answer than the thing
Prayer should also be earnest. Two of our Lord's
parables were spoken to impress this duty. If an unjust judge could be so
moved by importunity, how much more will the loving heart of the heavenly
Father yield to repeated supplication! The man at whose door the friend
knocked at midnight gave the loaves—not because it was his friend who asked
them—but because the friend would not go away without them. God is not moved
by such base motives—but the parable is meant to show the power of
persevering importunity in prayer. God wants to see his children in
earnest; he loves to hear from suppliants, the burning words which tell of
intense desire. One fervent, impassioned "I will not let you go—unless you
bless me!" has more power with God—than whole years of cold, heartless,
Of course, importunity must not become
rebelliousness—in the greatest intensity of our praying we must ever be
ready to acquiesce to God's will. Importunity has its limits. It may at
length become evident that God does not want to give us what we desire; then
we should cease to plead, with submissive faith accepting our Father's
refusal. Thus our Lord himself in the garden was importunate—but from first
to last he deferred all to his Father's will; and after having prayed three
times—he ceased to plead, taking the bitter cup held out to him. Paul
was importunate in pleading for the removal of the thorn which so troubled
him—but, like his Master, he also was acquiescent; and after pleading three
times he too ceased to urge his plea.
There is little danger that we ever too earnestly or
importunately press our desires for spiritual blessings, either for
ourselves or for others. We know it is always God's will to give us more
grace, to make us holier and purer, to bring out in us
more clearly the features of the divine image, to give us more of the
influence of the Holy Spirit—these are always blessings. But in prayer for
temporal things, it is safer and wiser to ask humbly and with
diffidence, laying our desires at God's feet, without anxious pressure,
without too much urgency, trustfully submitting all to his unerring wisdom.
The true goal of Christian living, is not to grow
rich, or to be clothed in earthly honor, or to have mere worldly happiness,
or to be free from suffering and loss—but rather to grow rich in spiritual
graces, to be made more and more like Christ, and to live out God's purpose
and plan for our life.
When shall we pray? When the spirit of prayer
is in the heart, there is little need to say just how or when prayer should
be offered. Still, there must be habits of prayer. Merely to trust to
the feeling or desire, and to have no fixed time for devotion, praying only
when the heart prompts—is not safe. The end would be a prayerless life. The
lamps in the temple burned continually—but they were trimmed and refilled
every day. Just so, the flame of devotion in a Christian heart, should never
go out—this lamp too must be replenished continually.
Certainly, there should be a season of secret prayer at
the opening, and again at the close, of every day. "In the
morning it seems a hem and border to each day's life, and in the evening it
brings down the dew on the Spirit, to wash off the stain and dust, and to
feed and refresh." In the morning the day lies before us with its
unforeseen and untried experiences. It may bring painful duty, sore
struggle, hard task, keen suffering, sharp temptation, or perhaps death! How
can we go out into the opening day which may have such experiences for us,
without seeking the guidance and help of God? In the evening we bring
the day's history for review. There are sins to be confessed; there is work
to be blessed; there are thanks to be spoken for mercies; there is weariness
to be refreshed; there is hunger to be fed. Then, as we go into the darkness
and defenselessness of the night, there is protection to be invoked, and new
life for a new day.
We need to watch always that our prayers are real,
fresh from our heart—and that they never degenerate into mere
formalities, words without desires, petitions without wishes and without
faith. True prayer is talking to God—as one talks to a friend. Mere
words—are empty mockeries of God. We pray best in secret—when we tell
out to God, all our soul's deepest needs in the simplest phrases. As we grow
in Christian life, prayer becomes more and more real to us.
Phelps says, "Three stages of growth are commonly
discernible respecting prayer in the Christian consciousness. They are:
1. prayer as a resource in emergencies,
2. prayer as a habit at appointed times,
3. prayer as a state in which a believer lives at all times."
In this last and highest development, stated times of
prayer are not abandoned—but the heart does not limit itself to these, in
communing with God. The spirit of devotion overflows the fixed
hours of prayer, and holds fellowship with God continuously. Even the
busiest hours of work, are brightened by many a moment of heavenly
communion. This is what is meant by walking with God. Men talk to him
while at their work, in a spirit of prayer.
Thomas á Kempis says, "God
alone is a thousand companions; he alone is a world of friends. That man
never knew what it was to be familiar with God, who complains of the lack of
friends while God is with him." It is this state of constant and unbroken
communion with God, toward which we should all strive.
Let the life of the closet, flow out into all the
busy hours of the busiest days. It will be defense for us amid temptations.
It will give us power in Christian service. It will hallow all our
influence. It will make holy and pure—every nook and cranny of
our life! It will give us peace in the midst of dangers. It will hold us
apart from the world—and near to God, wherever we go. Like the beloved
disciple, our habitual place will then be on the bosom of Jesus, and our
heart will become filled with the brightness and the sweetness of his love!
Thus prayer is indeed—the Christian's very vital breath.
To cease to pray is to cease to live. The gate of prayer is never
shut! We should keep the path to it, well trodden. We can there find help
in all weakness, light in all darkness, comfort in all
sorrow, companionship in all loneliness, friendship in all
heart hunger. If we know how to get help in prayer, we need never fail at
any point in life; for then all God's might of love, is ever back of
our weakness, as the great ocean is back of the little bay.
Chapter 8. Helps—The BIBLE
Another indispensable help in Christian life is the
bible. In prayer—we talk to God; in the Bible—God speaks to us. The first
disciples heard the words of divine truth as they dropped directly from the
lips of the great Teacher. They could bring their questions right to him,
and he would answer them. They could ask him what he wanted them to do, and
he would tell them. When they were in sorrow, the words of comfort fell,
warm and tender, from the very lips of the Son of God into their sad hearts.
One of his friends sat at his feet and listened reverently and lovingly to
his instructions; another leaned his head on the Lord's bosom, and whispered
his confidential questions, and received answers; an inquirer came by night
to him and had a long talk with him about the way to be saved.
Those were wonderful days when God himself was on this
earth in human form, speaking in the tones of actual human speech the words
of life, and answering men's questions with his own lips. We cannot any more
hear the divine voice—as men heard it then. Yet God still speaks! We
can still bring our questions, and he will answer them. We can still sit at
the Teacher's feet—and hear his words. We can still rest our head on his
bosom in our sorrow—and listen to his assurances of love. We can still ask
him how to be saved, and get a plain, clear answer. God speaks to men—in his
The question is—how to get help from the Bible. We
know the help is there. Others find it, and we see their face glow, or the
tears glisten in their eyes as they read its pages. But somehow it does not
open to us, as it does to others. We cannot say, "Oh how love I your
law! It is my meditation all the day!" We try to make ourselves love the
Bible, and to find its words sweeter than honey and more precious than gold;
but, to be perfectly honest—we do not love it, nor do we find in it either
the honey or the gold. Yet we know that the sweetness and the
richness are there—if only we could find them. How may we read the book, so
that it will open to us and show us its wondrous treasures of light, of
love, of comfort, and of help?
For one thing, we must rid
ourselves of all superstitious notions about the Bible. It is not
a "lucky charm". Merely having a Bible in one's possession, or on one's
person—will neither drive away evil nor bring good. Soldiers entering battle
sometimes throw away their pack of cards, and put their Bible
into their pocket—they imagine that then they will be safer in danger; but a
Bible in a soldier's pocket—is in itself no more protection than a pack of
cards. Nor, if he has it in his pocket only, will it be of any more
use to him if he is killed in battle. The mere owning of a Bible or
having one in the house, does no one any good. It would be just as well to
wear the crucifix, or to nail a horseshoe over the door. We
must get clear of superstitious impressions respecting the holy Word
We must remember, also, that the
mere reading of a certain portion of the Bible every day, will
not make us wise unto salvation, nor purify our heart, nor give us comfort
in sorrow, nor put a staff into our hand to help us along life's rough, step
paths. The Bible does not yield its blessing to such reading.
Then, further, it is not enough to understand the
words, or even to memorize them. There are many people who have many
Bible texts at their tongue's end—who never get any real help from them, nor
make any practical use of them. There are those who know the promises and
can quote them to others—who are not able to apply one suitable promise to
their own personal needs, and who get no benefit for their own lives from
the texts they remember! Hiding the bible in the memory, is not all that is
necessary to make its treasures of help availing.
Just what is the office of the Bible, with reference to
our personal life? There are books which it is necessary merely to read—they
have no office or errand to us, beyond the pleasure or instruction which
their pages may impart, as we go over them. We listen to a lecture on
astronomy, and we hear many interesting things about the sun, the planets,
or the stars. We believe what we hear, and we may remember the facts; but it
is not expected that the knowledge of these scientific facts will make any
change in our conduct or character tomorrow. If we are in
trouble, these truths will not comfort us. We cannot pillow our heads upon
them in sorrow. If we are perplexed about duty, we shall not get any light
from them—the stars are too far away, and too cold. The same is true of all
similar knowledge; our whole duty with regard to it, is to receive it and to
lay it up among our mental stores.
But there is more than this to be done with the truths of
the Bible. They are the words of God, and as such they are meant to
be obeyed. They reveal to us invisible things—things which no natural
human eye can ever see—and we are to believe in these unseen things,
as eternal realities—and to live with reference to them. Every truth
in the Bible has a practical bearing upon life in some of its phases.
The Bible is therefore a book for practical living—not merely for
An illustration or two will make this plain. The first
word that comes to the inquirer is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and
you shall be saved." It is not enough to know—or even to
understand—this word. It calls for an act—the committing of the soul,
utterly and forever, for salvation, for life, for glory—into the hands of
the only Redeemer and Savior.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart."
It is easy to memorize these words—but that is not all we are
expected to do with them. They have their proper outcome only when they draw
out our heart's holiest affections, and fasten them upon God in loyal,
"This is my commandment, that you love one another." The
sentiment, men say, is admirable. It is extolled by many on whose heart
and life it makes no impression whatever! No doubt the "sentiment" is
very beautiful—but its true office is intensely practical—to kindle
in every Christian heart a deep, generous, unselfish affection which shall
bind and hold together all believers in a common and holy brotherhood.
To make proper use of such words as these, we must not
only understand them and admire them as ethical teachings—but
must also submit our life to them—to be influenced, molded, colored,
and directed, by their requirements. That is—we are to receive them as God's
words of command to us—and obey them accordingly. We are using the precepts
and counsels of the Scriptures aright—only when we are implicitly,
unquestioningly, and loyally—walking in the way which they mark out
for our feet.
The true outcome of the Bible as a book of
commands—is a holy personal life—and a Christ-like personal character. The
way, then, to get help from the Scripture—is to come to it as to Christ
himself, asking what he would have us to do—and then, as we read, we are to
submit to its directives. Thus, the Bible will become to us a personal
guide—the voice of Christ, ever saying, "This is the way—walk in it!"
Thus, the Scripture will be the hand of Christ, ever leading us in
There is another class of bible words—the promises.
These do not so much call for active obedience—as for implicit
belief and restful trust. They contain assurances of divine help
and blessing in certain circumstances. They tell us of things which we
cannot see. Thus they call for the exercise of faith, and therefore it is
not easy to make them available. Many who are faithful in performing every
required duty—fail to get such help from God's promises in the hours of
darkness, as these promises are intended to give.
How can Bible promises be made available in times of
need? How can we get from them, that help which they are intended to give us
living? We must recognize and accept them as the sure and faithful words
of God—words that will be fulfilled to the letter, in the experience of
every child of God who rests upon them. They must be hidden in the heart and
kept always ready for instant use. Then, when the need comes for which these
promises make provision, they must be personally appropriated and
trusted in as God's fresh and explicit words of assurance to his love
It is, in fact, only in the experiences of real need,
that the value of the divine promises can be realized. One may greatly
admire a lifeboat as he looks at it hanging in its place above the ship's
deck on a fair morning—but he does not know its true worth—until the ship is
going down and the lifeboat is his only hope of rescue. It is just so with
Bible promises. We do not know their worth—until we enter upon the
experiences in which we are helpless without them! We may admire them when
all is fair and calm about us—but it is only when the shock of the tempest
is on us, and our earthly trusts are shattered, that we can realize the
value of the truths which have God's arm underneath them. It is only when
our path leads down into some dark gorge of trial, where no earthly
sunbeams fall—that we learn the worth of the lamps of heavenly promise.
Thus the Bible is a book for life, and only when we
submit our life to it—can we get its help. The hungry heart will
always find the bread. The sincere and simple hearted seeker
after truth will always find the truth. The submissive spirit
will receive guidance. The believing soul will find the arm of
the Eternal God, under every word of promise.
As to the manner of reading the Bible—but few
suggestions may here be given. The heart is the great matter! If the
heart is right, God's Spirit will guide, and will not only open the
treasures of the Scriptures and reveal their sweetness—but will also open
the reader's eyes to behold the wondrous things which the sacred book
The Bible should certainly be read every day; our soul as
well as our body needs daily bread. It should be read, too, in
connection with secret prayer; the two exercises mutually help each
other. Devotion without the Word to feed upon—is inadequate for our soul's
needs. And without prayer—the Bible does not open to us nor yield the
blessing we seek. We should always keep the Bible lying open on the
With regard to the method, the Bible may be read in
course, or read by books, or read by topics, or read to meet the
needs of the day, or read fragmentarily without order or plan. Some people
read the Bible through every year. Too many read without system or
method of any kind, beginning wherever the book opens; and as a result
they read certain portions many times over—but leave whole sections unread
and unexplored. Every intelligent Christian should seek to become familiar
with all parts of the Bible, and therefore it is well to read it through
regularly, and in order.
Besides this, however, it is well to read also by
topics, searching the volume through with a concordance, to know what
the Holy Spirit teaches on all phases of a particular subject. It is
profitable, too, to read individual books, if possible at one sitting.
This is especially helpful to the understanding of the Epistles. As
experience ripens and the book becomes more familiar, it is pleasant and
helpful to turn each day to passages which meet the peculiar needs of the
day. Young Christians will usually find it profitable to begin with the
story of Christ in the Gospels, studying the life and words of the
Master—until their hearts are filled with thoughts and memories of him whose
life is their pattern, and whose words are to guide their
The system of Sunday school lessons, affords and
excellent opportunity for thorough and consecutive Bible study. In seven
years, the student is carried through the whole Bible. Of course many parts
of it are not taken up in the lessons; but if the portions thus omitted
between the Sunday sections are carefully read each week, the entire Bible
will be studied in the seven years. The daily "home readings" indicated in
connection with the lessons form in themselves an excellent Bible reading
course, covering every day in the year. For most young people there is
perhaps no better system of Scripture study, than that which follows the
order of the Sunday school course—the lessons, the home reading, and the
connecting portions. If this is closely and conscientiously followed, day
after day and year after year—it will in the end yield a full, intelligent
and systematic knowledge of the Word, which makes wise unto salvation.
But, in whatever order the Bible may be read—let it
surely be read. There are now so many commentaries and other writings upon
the Scriptures, that we are in danger of reading a great deal about
the Bible—while the book itself is neglected! It is important that we search
the Scriptures themselves! Each Christian should search the Scriptures, for
himself. It is not enough to take the golden findings which another
has dug out—we must dig for ourselves!
Above all, we must pray for light while we
read—that we may discover the precious things which God has stored away in
his Word. We must also pray for submission, that we may be able to
yield our life to every influence of the truth. We must also pray for
faith, that we may be able to realize the invisible things of God, which
the holy Word reveals—and get their support and their blessing
for our soul.
Chapter 9. Helps—The CHURCH and its ministries
Besides the help received in private devotion
(prayer and Scripture reading,) every young Christian needs the aid which
the public services of the church are designed to afford. We were not made
to live alone. We lean upon and cling to each other "like trailing flowers
which grow by interlacing." The necessities of our being require
companionship. The mind grows and develops best—in contact with
other minds. One log will not burn—if it is by itself. In a sense—God
himself is all we need, and in communion with him, every need of our soul is
met. Yet his glory is so great, and his splendor is so dazzling—that we need
human hands to bring the divine blessing down to us. Besides, the
heart does not rise to its highest fervor, in the solitude of the closet.
Our warmest feelings of devotion are drawn out—when we unite with others
in associated service. The consciousness that a whole congregation of
worshipers around us, is moved by the same emotion that we experience,
whether it is gratitude, confession of sin, or prayer for mercy—deepens the
emotion in us!
Then there are special promises to those who unite in the
services of God's worship. In times of great spiritual defection, particular
mention was made by the prophet, of those "who feared the Lord and spoke
often one to another." It was said that "the Lord hearkened, and heard it,
and a book of remembrance was written in his presence, concerning those who
feared the Lord and honored his name." Jesus gave a special promise of
answer to prayer—when his people shall agree in asking; implying that, as
added strands make the cable stronger, so added hearts make the
supplication more availing. He also gave a definite promise of his own
presence—where even two or three of his disciples shall meet
together in his name!
There is no doubt, that there are blessings which we can
obtain in the public worship, where many hearts mingle their homage
and their prayers—which we cannot find in secret. Private devotion is
indispensable and cannot be replaced by the public services; yet, in
addition to all the aid we can get in our pious life in secret prayer and
Bible reading—we need, and cannot afford to neglect, public worship. To do
so is to deprive ourselves of one of the greatest helps in Christian life.
We can better understand the nature of the help we may
receive from the church services—if we have definite conceptions of the
objects of public worship.
One object, is to honor God—by bringing to him our
heart's homage. This element of worship is one that needs to be
strongly emphasized. Many people have the impression that the sermon
is the most important—even the all important—feature of the service. Too
little is made of the devotional part. The error is a grave one. In
the divine intention, the primary object in the public service—is to worship
God—to bring to him our heart's love and adoration, our gratitude and our
confession, and to renew before him our personal consecration.
Another object in the public service is instruction.
The minister has been trained to be an expounder of the Word of God. He has
spent years in preparation for his work. He devotes the golden hours of
every day to special study and thought, so as to be able each week to bring
to his people, and clearly and impressively put before them—some important
truth of Holy Scriptures. The people come to the church to be instructed in
things concerning God's character and will— and concerning
their own needs and duties.
A third object in the public service is spiritual
growth and nourishment. We learn about God's character—that we
may adore and worship him more fervently. We learn about God's
will—that we may obey him more implicitly. We learn about
God's promises—that we may trust him more confidently. We
learn about our duty—that we may practice it more faithfully.
The object of worship, also, so far as its influence upon ourselves is
concerned—is the spiritual blessing and strength which come from communion
with God and the opening of the heart, in the warmth of his presence.
These public services are designed, therefore, and are
adapted—to impart help to the sincere worshiper. No one can spend an hour in
God's presence, looking up into his face and occupied with thoughts of him
to the exclusion of worldly thoughts—and not experience a cleansing of
heart and a kindling of soul which will prove a great enriching
of the life! All that is holy in us—receives quickening and new
impulse, in such an atmosphere. All that is evil in us—is checked and
The influence of fellowship in worship with other
Christians—is also of great profit. We are lifted up on the tide of
spiritual emotion. Our affections are purified. The bonds of
Christian love are strengthened.
There is the benefit, also, derived from the
instruction in God's Word which we receive. Now we are warned
against some danger; now some sin in us is rebuked; now it is a word
of comfort which comes to cheer us in sorrow; now it is a new thought
about God, the unveiling to us of an attribute in his character,
which draws out in us fresh adoration and love; now it is a call to some
Besides all these benefits, there is the renewal of
spiritual strength which we find in the house of God, "Those who wait
upon the Lord shall renew their strength." Life consumes our vigor. Its
duties and struggles exhaust us. The weekly services bring us again into
communion with God—and our emptied pitchers are refilled. No one can
spend an hour in God's house in true and sincere worship—and not be better
and stronger for it for many days.
How to get from the church services, the help they have
to give to us—is one of the most important practical questions in
It is quite possible to attend these services, even with
regularity—and yet receive but little spiritual profit. There is no
holy atmosphere in the house of God—which is necessarily medicinal
or nutritious to our soul. There is no automatic implantation
of grace into our lives—which goes on while we sit with hard hearts in
our soft pew in the sanctuary, and dream through a service. Forms
of worship, whether plain or elaborate, are empty and worthless—without
the sincere homage and faith of a loving heart. They carry up to God—just
what we put into them! They bring to us from God—just what with prayer and
faith, we draw out of them.
Two people may sit side by side, and take part outwardly
in the exercises of devotion—yet from one there will rise to God pure
incense and an acceptable offering; and from the other the empty mockery of
a heartless and formal service! The one worshiper goes away, spiritually
strengthened and blessed; and the other carries away nothing but an empty
hand, and a cold, unblessed heart. Whatever the forms of public service may
be, the heart must be truly engaged—or the worship will be vain and
To make this chapter as helpful as possible to young
Christians, a few definite practical suggestions are offered.
To begin with, thoughtful preparation for church
services, will greatly increase their profitableness. The very best ordinary
preparation, is a season of private devotion before going to the house of
God. The heart is thus cleansed of its worldly thoughts; is opened and
warmed toward God; and is in a suitable condition to enter earnestly and
reverently into the acts of public worship.
A reverent approach towards our Christian
meetings, further aids to blessing in the services. We should at least
remember—that we are going to meet God! We should also know and
consider well—the purpose on which we are going—to worship God, and receive
help and sustenance for our own spiritual life. We should also have our
expectations aroused in anticipation of communion with God and his people,
and our heart eager with desire for the holy meeting.
Many people enter God's house with as little
thoughtfulness and seriousness—as if it were a concert or a literary
entertainment which they had come to hear. Such people are not prepared
either to render acceptable worship—or to receive needed help in the
service. We shall find in God's house and in his ordinances—just what we are
spiritually prepared to find. God must be in the heart—or we shall
not see God in the exercises of worship. We shall never find in the
sanctuary, that which we do not earnestly seek. If we enter careless and
indifferent, with no spirit of devotion—we shall carry away no blessing. If
we come with longing and earnest desire to meet God and lay our burdens at
his feet—to rest and refresh ourselves in his presence—and to receive new
strength from him for duty—we shall find that all we wish for!
Another condition of help—is earnest personal interest in
each part of the service. There is no automatic blessing, in our merely
being among true worshipers, and in the presence of God. A throng was close
about Jesus one day—but only one of them was healed; she was healed
because she reached out her trembling finger, and in faith touched the hem
of Christ's garment. The multitude thronged Jesus—but only one
touched him in faith. This situation is repeated every Sunday, in every
congregation. While many crowd close around Christ, only those will receive
blessing, who by faith, touch the hem of his robe.
Even in public services, we do not worship in
companies—but as individuals. One sitting close beside us may hold
delightful communion with God and receive rich spiritual refreshment, while
our heart remains like a dry, parched field; in the midst of the showers,
yet receiving not one drop of rain from the full, overhanging clouds. No
matter what others may or may not do or receive, our business in God's house
is personal. There is blessing there for us if we will take it. Suppose the
minister is a little dull and the service a little wearisome; yet is not God
present? The blessing is not in the minister nor in the service—but in God
himself, who is ready always to dispense to the tired and the hungry the
rest and the bread they crave.
Then, after the service, we should go away as
thoughtfully and reverently as we came. The custom which prevails in some
churches, of lingering a moment in silent prayer after the benediction, is
very beautiful and impressive. Let the last minute be spent looking into
God's face, for a parting benediction.
Church aisle sociability, so often commended, no
doubt has its disadvantages and its grave dangers. We may without spiritual
harm greet one another cordially and affectionately in quiet tones as we
pass out—but too often the conversation runs either into criticism of
the preacher and the sermon—or off on trivial and worldly
themes. The consequence is, that the good seed sown—is picked up and
devoured by the birds, before it has had time to take root. It would
be better if we would go away, quietly pondering the great thoughts which
the church service has suggested to us, seeking to deepen in our heart
the impressions made, and to assimilate in our life the truths of
God's Word which have fallen upon our ears.
From the church gate back again to the closet whence we
set out is the best walk to take after the service has closed. A few moments
of secret prayer will carry the blessings of the sanctuary so deep into our
hearts that thereafter they will be part of our very life.
A special word may fitly be spoken of the Lord's
Supper and of the way in which we can get spiritual help from it. In the
minds of many people, a great deal of unnecessary mystery hangs about
this ordinance. That which sets it apart from other services, is that it is
a memorial feast appointed by Christ himself, in which our thoughts
and faith are helped by visible elements which represent to us the great
spiritual facts of our redemption.
The help which this service gives, is not different from
that received from other ordinances, unless it be that the use of the
visible symbols brings Christ and his sacrificial work more vividly before
our dull eyes, than where words alone are used to picture the same truths.
In this sense it is a greater aid to faith than a sermon or a hymn; but, as
in all worship, so in the Lord's Supper, the blessing comes, not from the
ordinance itself—but from Christ.
How, then, can we get from the Lord's Supper—the help
which it has to give? Only by finding the way to Christ—and
submitting our heart to the tender influences of his love.
The Lord's Supper is a memorial; we should
remember Christ—as we come to his table. It is a memorial especially of
Christ's sufferings and death. We should recall his
humiliation, his obedience, his agony, his crucifixion, and think of the
love which led him voluntarily to make himself an offering for our sin. But
memories alone will not bless us—there must be appropriating faith.
"Broken for you," said the Master; "Broken for me" should be
There should be in the heart of the sincere Christian no
more dread in going to the Lord's Supper than in going to any other service.
Paul's word "unworthily"—which has been misunderstood by so many—has
reference entirely to the manner in which people observe the
ordinance, not to the people themselves.
The Corinthians to whom Paul was writing made the Lord's
Supper into a common feast, with reveling—even with drunkenness. Of course,
anyone who would observe it in such a way, or anyone who would sit at the
table without really loving Christ, without believing on him,
without truly worshiping him and submitting to him, or who
would act irreverently or with levity—would be "guilty of the body and blood
of the Lord." But in the apostle's word, there is not the slightest allusion
to those who feel themselves to be unworthy, yet who are sincere and
true Disciples of Christ. A sense of personal unworthiness, is part
of all true faith in Christ.
If the heart is sincere; if the trust in
Christ is true though trembling; and the obedience loyal though
imperfect—we have the same right to come boldly to the Lord's Table—as to
prayer or Scripture reading. We can sin in any act of worship—by
formality, by insincerity, by levity, by
cold-heartedness; and we can sin in the same ways in receiving the
Lord's Supper. In partaking of this sacred memorial feast; we need to only
be sure, that we are truly in living union with Christ, that we are trusting
him alone as our Savior, and following him faithfully as our Lord, and that
we come to his table with a sincere desire to meet him and to seek blessing
The young Christian should never stay away from the
Lord's Supper, when it is celebrated in the church. If he is conscious of
sin and failure—let him make humble confession, and start anew. The Lord's
Supper will help him to do this. We cannot afford to miss this ordinance.
The weaker we are, and the more unworthy—the more do we
need it! Besides, it is in a peculiar sense—a Christ confessing
ordinance—we take our place at his table, and thus witness to the world that
we are his. His honor therefore demands, that we should never absent
ourselves when his people thus confess him.
There are other church services which have their large
possibilities of help for young Christians. Among these are weekly meetings
for prayer. From Sunday to Sunday is a long stretch—when the
way is hard, when distractions are many, and when the
battles are sore! The prayer meeting is a little oasis, midway between
Sundays. It is a place specially for the refreshment of Christians. Every
disciple should put it down among his necessary weekly engagements. We
cannot afford to miss it—if we are at all earnest in our desire to be strong
and noble Christians.
The Sunday school is another of the church
services which no young Christian should miss. It is not for children
only—it out to be a Bible school for the whole church, with its classes of
young men and young women, and of old people with dim eyes and gray heads.
It is on God's Word—that we all need to feed more and more. It will
make us strong. It will lead us in right paths. It will beautify our
character. It will put into our hand, the sword of the Spirit for battle
with temptation. It will prepare a pillow for our head in sickness and
sorrow. It will at the last, guide us through the valley of the shadow of
In most churches there is a training school for young
Christians. They have an opportunity of learning to take part in church
services. They can begin here in a very humble and easy way and in a
sympathetic atmosphere, and by practice can overcome their natural timidity,
until at last they can rise and speak with freedom in any meeting. It is
well for many young Christians, to unite with a young people's society for
the sake of the training they will receive, not only in the prayer
meetings—but also in the work of the society.
We need the church services. We cannot neglect them—and
not suffer harm and loss. Whenever the church bell summons us to the house
of God—we should gladly respond. We should become church goers by habit.
We should reverently enter the gates of the sanctuary. We should worship God
in sincerity and in truth. We should come away thoughtfully and with prayer.
Then in the busy days which follow, will come the proofs
of the helpfulness and blessing that our lives have found in the services.
The food which is eaten today—is the strength of the laborer, the eloquence
of the orator, the skill of the artisan, tomorrow. The spring sunshine and
rain which fall upon the dry, briery rose-bush reappear in due time—in
fragrant, lovely roses. And sincere and true worship in the quiet of the
sanctuary—will show itself in the beautiful character; the sweetened spirit;
the brightened hope; the truer, more spiritual living; and the holier
consecration of the days of toil and struggle which come after.
Chapter 10. Some DUTIES
It is a high attainment to be a godly church member.
One must first be a godly Christian. Without this, church membership
counts for nothing in the life of the person. We must always put first
things first. We must be joined to Christ—before we join the
church. Church membership will not save us.
But when we have taken Jesus Christ as our Savior and
Lord, and have consecrated our life to him—the next privilege we enjoy—is
that of uniting with his church. This involves duties which the young
Christian should be ready to perform—and responsibilities which he
should humbly accept.
One of these is a continuous and consistent confession
of Christ. We speak of uniting with the church—as confessing Christ. It
is a sacred moment, when a company of young people stand up in the presence
of their friends—and make their first public confession of Christ. They have
now confessed Christ before men. Their act is very beautiful. The Master,
looking on this band of young Christians in these moments of their solemn
commitment of themselves to him—is pleased with their consecration, and with
their promise to be his and to follow him fully and forever.
This is a confession of Christ—but it is not all
of the confession; it is only the beginning of it. Those who have
made this public avowal have thus set themselves apart for God. They are not
their own. They have taken a new master. Their confession of Christ
henceforth should be continuous. "If you abide in my Word—then
are you truly my disciples," said Jesus to beginners.
Indeed, it is the profession in the daily life, among
unbelievers—which tests the reality and sincerity of the first confession.
It is easy to stand up in the midst of a company of Christians, all
sympathetic and friendly, and say, "I am a Christian!" It is not so easy,
however, on the playground, in the office, in the social gathering, in the
place of business, in the presence of those who are unsympathetic and
unfriendly, to say, "I am a follower of Christ!" Yet this is what is
expected and required, of those who have declared themselves Christians.
The daily confession need not be made always in
words—but it is to be made in the life. Those who belong to
Christ, must walk worthy of their Master. Their conduct, wherever they go,
must be such as will please him, and meet with his approval. They must do
nothing and say nothing which will bring dishonor on the name
they bear. They represent Christ in the world! "As the Father has sent me,
even so send I you," Jesus said to his first disciples.
A young girl was asked what it meant for her to be a
Christian. She replied, "I suppose it is to do what Jesus would
do—and behave as Jesus would behave—if he were a young girl and lived
at our house." No better answer could have been given. The greatest duty of
a Christian, is to do what Jesus would do—and to behave as he
would behave—if he were precisely in our place and our circumstances. We
carry in our life—the honor of Christ, and we should never fail.
There are important and specific duties which every
member owes to his church. Some of these have already been indicated in
another chapter of this book. One word, faithfulness, will cover them
all. We often speak of people belonging to the church. The phrase is
very suggestive. If we belong to the church, we owe it our best
love, our best life, our best service, our best
influence and help.
Nothing but the providence of God, should keep us away
from the meetings of the church. Then, being present at the services
is not enough. We should earnestly and heartily participate in these
services. Very chilling is the influence of those worshipers, who sit
in indifferent silence while joyous hymns are being sung, who keep
their eyes wide open and are busy gazing over the house during the prayers,
who pay no heed to Scripture lesson or sermon, and who take no interest
whatever in any of the parts of worship. The ideal church member will be
earnest and fervent in his devotions, and deeply interested in all the
services. Enthusiasm is contagious! The influence of one
warmhearted worshiper upon others in a congregation, is very great.
The social life of a church is important. There
are churches which have the reputation of being cold, unsocial, and
unsympathetic. Strangers come and go—but find no warmth, no human interest,
no kindly welcome. No one offers them a friendly hand. Then there are
churches which are known as sociable, where strangers receive hearty
greetings, and are made to feel at home. The atmosphere of the meetings is
full of cordiality and hospitality.
One of the duties of church membership, therefore, is to
exercise the spirit of love toward all fellow members, and toward all
who enter the church. Jesus said that all men should know his disciples—by
their love for one another. This was wonderfully true of the first
Christians, after the day of Pentecost. They had all things in common. The
rich shared with the poor. The strong helped the
weak. The world had never seen such love before—there had never
been such love before! "Behold how these Christians love one
another!" heathen men said in their amazement.
So should it be in every Christian church. The members
should live together as one family. When one is glad—all should
rejoice. When one is in sorrow—all should be touched with the feeling of
grief. They should bear one another's burdens. Such a church is a true home
for souls. The weary, the tempted, the baffled, the defeated, the sorrowing,
the friendless—turn to it with hunger and yearning, as they would turn to
Christ himself—if he were here.
Every member should do his part to make his church such a
Christly refuge. One harsh, unsocial person—may greatly hinder the
prevalence of the spirit of love and hospitality in a church. It takes the
hearty help of every one, to make a church at all points; and to all who
come within its doors—a place of cordial, hospitable love.
It is not necessary to go into further detail as to the
particular duties of church members. They owe their church
generous support, and every young Christian should begin at once to do
his part in giving. The church boards are organized for the purpose of
receiving money for the specific objects which they represent, and then of
carrying on the branch of work which belongs to them. Every church member's
privilege, is to help these various approved causes—as he may be able
to do, as God prospers him.
Every well organized church has its departments, with its
societies, its Sunday school, its young people's meeting, its work among the
poor. No one need lack the opportunity to do something—there is a place for
every kind of ministry and every kind of service. Even the youngest
member can find something to do—and a chance to be trained for larger work,
in years of more strength and experience.
It is not easy to be a good church member—it is not easy
to be useful and helpful anywhere. It requires the denial, the obliteration,
of SELF. If we are in the church to be served, to receive attention, to be
helped, to get promotion, to seek office, to reap benefit in any way for
ourselves—we shall fail of the blessing and good we might receive. The true
Christian seeks, like the Master, not to be ministered unto—but to minister.
This means that we must be ready always to give up our
own convenience, in order to do a kindness to another; to deny ourselves in
any matter, that we may relieve or assist one who needs our help. It means
that we must have patience with the weak and the stumbling, and be ready
always to help a "fainting robin back unto his nest again." It costs
to be such a church member—but no price is too great to pay for the
privilege of filling well, such an honored place in the kingdom of our
We need not fear about reward. Such love always
yields its own reward. The reward for good serving—is more serving,
more unselfish serving. We need not hope for ease as reward for
sacrifice, nor for a time of self-indulgence after our time of
self-denial. But the opportunity to do more and greater good—is always the
best compensation for any good which we may have done.
True, there is heaven at the end—but heaven will
not only be a place of rest—it will be a place of service
also. Still the life will be all love, and love always serves.
Chapter 11. PROVIDENCE
Many people imagine that they could live very much
better—if their circumstances were different! In their failure
to live a noble and worthy life—they find comfort in laying
the blame on some difficult circumstance in their lot in life.
This is very foolish. For one thing, it does no good.
Blaming circumstances will not change them. After all, they are
our circumstances, and we must live out our life in the midst of them.
Besides, God in his providence, has put us just where we find ourselves! And
unless we claim to be wiser than God—we must conclude that we are in the
right place–at least, that it is quite possible for us to live a true
Christian life, right where we are.
God does not choose for us the place where we can have
the most pleasant time, with the least friction and the fewest weights and
encumbrances. Life on the earth is a school—and he puts us where we
shall receive the best training. The easier place might be more
comfortable—but the harder place does the more for us—and makes the more out
Some people think that if they could get away from others
and live alone—that they would be better Christians. People irritate them,
tempt them, stir up the evil which is in them, and vex them. But we do not
grow best in solitude, and apart from others. The goodness that is good—only
because there is no friction, no provocation, nothing to try it—is scarcely
worth the name. Life needs life—to school it and develop it.
The old monks were wrong in their idea of
Christian living, when they supposed that they could reach a higher state
of holiness by withdrawing from men and dwelling alone. God's plan is to
set the solitary in families, rather than to separate families into
solitariness. We all need to be alone sometimes. There should be hours when
we enter into our closet and shut the door—that we may look in upon our own
heart and hold communion with God; but the closet is not to be our
We owe duties to others. To live only for one's self,
though the aspiration be purely for holiness—is contrary to the spirit of
true discipleship. Our duties to others are as manifold and as diversified
as the varying phases and conditions of life's reciprocal relations. We are
debtors to all men, far and near. God wants us on the earth to fulfill these
duties. We are not to serve him by devotion apart from men—but in
relationship with others. Those who leave society and flee to the
cloister, simply run away from their chief mission! We are not left in
this world after conversion, merely to pray and praise; God wants us to be
useful; to do his work; to run his errands; to help his needy, suffering
ones; to train others for his service; to fight his battles.
Nor is it only for the sake of others, that God
has appointed us to live out our life among men—rather than apart and alone;
it is for our own sake as well. We grow best amid other lives. People
are means of grace to us. It may seem to us that if we could get away from
society—that we would escape many temptations, and be able to live nearer to
God. But we would then miss the blessing which comes from struggle
and victory. Heaven and its honors are for "those who overcome." Not
to enter the struggle—is to fail of the white robe and palm of the victor.
The best things in life are not found along flowery walks—but in the
fields of conflict. There are qualities in us—which can only be
developed in struggle. To find easy places away from the
strife of battle—is to lose the discipline which makes the grand and godly
We grow best under the pressure of duty, where we
are compelled to think of others and serve them. There are those who imagine
that if they could get away from others—and from absorbing contacts with
other lives, that they could live better. They think that they could then
enjoy unbroken communion with God. But this is not the divine plan
for a human life. Love to God does not stand alone—as life's single
duty. Love to man is always joined with it, and the two duties are so
intertwined that neither can be performed without the other. We cannot
love God—and not love our fellow men. We cannot serve God—and not
serve our brother.
Sometimes we imagine that if we could get away from
business cares, household burdens, and social obligations—that we could be
better Christians. It seems to us that these duties are not favorable to
spiritual growth—and that we could be holier and could live more as Christ
lived—if we were freed from their exacting and absorbing claims. But this is
a mistake. It is in the doing of these common duties —that our
character and faculties are best developed. God puts the new life
into our heart—but we must work it out into strength and beauty—and there is
no way to do this, but by exercise. If we would develop the love in
our heart—we must love people. The sentiment must take
practical form; the seed must be cultivated; and for
this no mere cloister will do. If we would learn patience, there is
no school but in the society of others, which requires us to exercise
Jesus said that true greatness is won by
serving; that he who serves most is greatest; that we can gain this
spiritual eminence only by filling our place in the midst of human needs and
sufferings, where continually the pressure is upon us, calling for service.
The serving must be real serving of actual living people; no fine
sentiment alone will bring us into true greatness. Good feelings and
dispositions, of whatever kind, can become part of the fiber of life—only
when they are wrought out in experience. Spiritual graces cannot be
cultivated in the abstract. Godly character is more than
sentiment—it is sentiment incarnated, grown into life and reality.
Instead therefore of being hindrances to the
development of our Christian life and character, our social and domestic
duties are in the largest measure helpful. To tear ourselves out of our
place among people, in order to get rid of these duties—would be to leave
whole fields of our character uncultivated, and many of the richest
possibilities of our regenerated life undeveloped. The common duties
that the daily round brings to our hand, although they may seem to be far
from spiritual in their influence, and may seem to draw us off from
communion with God by keeping us absorbed in and occupied with earthly
tasks—are to us really not hindrances—but rich means of grace.
We grow best Godward—when we are serving best manward, in Christ's name and
for his sake.
Therefore, in the cultivation of the Christian life and
character, we can do nothing better than attend with fidelity and
diligence—to the duties which belong to us in our varied relationships. The
head of a family should take up promptly, as the first biddings of his new
Master, his duties as a husband and father, performing them with new
faithfulness and tenderness, and with the new motive in his heart of love to
Christ. On becoming a Christian, a child in the home should accept as
the "Father's business" for him at present—his duties of obedience
and honor to his earthly father and mother. The will of God for
brothers and sisters beginning to follow Christ—is to render to
each other all the sweet and helpful service of patient, unselfish
love—which belongs to their sacred relationship.
We are called to walk with God—but not ordinarily by
withdrawing from among men. We are to walk with God in the place to
which he has assigned us. We are called to be holy—but holiness is not some
vague, nebulous thing; some abstract condition of soul attained apart from
common practical life. Holiness is obedience to duty—and no one can
be holy and neglect the service to his fellow men which his relationships
impose upon him.
Chapter 12. Preparation for TRIAL
Trial lies somewhere in everyone's path. To the young
it may seem far off—and even thinking of it may be unwelcome. "Why
should we stain the blue of our skies," they ask, "with anticipations of
trouble that may not come for years?" We are specially commanded by our
Lord himself—not to worry about tomorrow. The true rule of a life of
trust—is to live day by day.
Yet there is a sense in which even in their happiest
days—the young should anticipate trial. The man whose garners have been
filled from this year's golden harvest should not be anxious about next
year's bread—but he must forecast his future needs—by sowing in time to have
another harvest. We need not sadden our days of joy—by anticipations of
coming sorrow—but we ought, even in our sunniest hours, to be preparing
for the times of gloom, so as to be in readiness for them when they
come. We ought in our plenty years to store away provision to feed
upon, in the famine years which will follow. We ought in the glad
springtime, amid plenty—to sow the seeds whose fruit we shall need in the
dreary autumn. In the pleasant summer days, when we have no need for fuel,
we ought to gather the wood which by and by we shall need for our winter
The attendants went through the train at midday and
lighted the lamps in the cars. It seemed a strange and altogether useless
thing to do, and many facetious remarks regarding it were made by the
passengers. But soon the train rushed into a long, dark tunnel, and then the
lighting of the lamps appeared no longer either a strange or a useless
thing; nor was their light despised. Just so, it may seem idle and
unnecessary now to the young and joyous—to hang up lamps of comfort in their
hearts, while the sun of earthly blessing shines brightly upon them and
while their path lies amid the flowers and through smiling valleys; but
there are dark places farther on, unseen as even unsuspected—into which they
may plunge suddenly without time or opportunity to find the lamps of
comfort, and light them, and in which they will be left in utter
darkness if they have made no provision in advance. But if, while they moved
along in the brightness, they have wisely prepared for the dark passage,
then the lamps will pour their grateful light about them and cheer the
There is a wide difference between being anxious about
coming troubles—and being prepared beforehand for troubles which
may come. Worry is a sin; preparation is a duty. Those alone
can truly live in quiet peace, without worry—who have already made
preparation for anything which may come to them. No one can find real
pleasure on the sea in the calmest weather—who is not confident that the
ship on which he is carried has been built and rigged for the fiercest
tempest which may arise. No one can enjoy life in the fullest measure—who is
not prepared for sudden death. And no one can get the best out of joy
and gladness—who has not made provision for sorrow.
What preparation can we make in advance, for trial? For
one thing, there are certain great foundation truths which, if firmly stored
up in our minds, will prove abiding sources of comfort in any trial which
may come. One is the Christian doctrine of providence. There is no
"chance" in this universe—there are no "accidents". God's government extends
to "all his creatures—and all their actions."
So personal and minute is God's care, that
amid all the vast and complicated affairs of the universe, not one of us is
overlooked or forgotten; nor are the smallest interests of the least and
humblest of us, neglected.
The firm fixing in our minds of this great truth,
prepares us to receive without doubt or alarm, whatever God may send—and
sweetly and trustfully to submit to his will.
Preparation may also be made in times of joy and
gladness, for the days of trial—by filling our hearts with the truths of
the Scriptures. The wise virgins were not left in darkness when their
lamps had burned out, because they had a reserve of oil in their vessels. If
we have a store of divine promises and consolations hidden in our
heart during the sunny days—we shall never be left in darkness, however
suddenly the shadow may fall upon us. Words of Scripture in which we have
never before seen any special comfort—will then shine out with bright
luster, like stars when the sun has gone down, pouring heavenly light into
our souls. God will then speak to us in his own words, and we shall hear his
voice of love and be cheered and strengthened by the assurances he gives. We
shall find among the treasured comforts, the very help we need—a staff
to support us in the rough path, a lamp to lighten the bit of
dark road, an arm to lean upon if we are weak and faint, a hand
to guide if we do not know where to go, a word of hope if we are
cast down, a bosom to rest upon if we are weary and crushed, a
balm of healing if our hearts are wounded or broken!
There is consolation in the Bible for every possible
experience of sorrow. If we but have the divine words laid up in our
heart—we shall find them as we need them, and they will sweeten our
Marahs (our bitters) for us. They will come to our aid at the right
moment, and will prove God's very angels to us, with their light and their
The same is true of preparation for meeting
temptation. This is best made by storing the heart with the commands and
promises of God's Word, which may be brought out in the hour of need, and
made available for defense. When our Lord was tempted, he made use of the
words of divine truth in resisting the tempter. If we would meet and
overcome temptations, we must follow the example of our Master. But to do
this, we must have the Scripture words hidden in our heart, ready for use at
any moment of need or danger. Our Lord did not open his parchment scroll at
that moment, find, and then read, the divine sentences which drove the
tempter away. He had pondered the holy book in the quiet days, before the
enemy tried him—and had its words stored in his heart, ready for instant use
when the hour of need came.
In Holman Hunt's great picture "The Shadow of Death,"
which represents Jesus as a young man in the carpenter's shop stretching
himself at the close of a weary day, and with his outspread arms making the
shadow of a cross on the wall, there is a minor feature that is full of
suggestion. On a shelf is a collection of books. They represent the
library Jesus used—the books of the Holy Scriptures. They are there in the
shop where he worked, suggesting that in his leisure moments, he turned to
them to ponder their great truths and store away their principles in his
memory and in his heart. No doubt the picture truly represents the daily
habit of his life, in those quiet years when he was preparing for his great
public work. Thus it was that when the tempter came, there was no need for
feverish haste in preparing for defense. The weapons were ready, and
the victory was easy.
From this example of Jesus we should learn to prepare in
advance for temptation—by filling our hearts in the days of youth and early
life with the truths of God's Word. The soldier cannot learn the art of
war—when the battle is upon him; if he is not already trained—he can only
suffer defeat. When the tempter has come, there will be no time to search
out texts with which to ward off his blows; but if we have the sacred words
treasured in our heart, it will be easy to draw them forth, as arrows from a
quiver, for use at any moment of danger.
Another preparation for trial—is a close walk with God.
Nothing adds more to the bitterness of any grief—than the memory of a
careless or a sinful life; while nothing alleviates the pain of
affliction so much—as the remembrance of faithfulness in duty, and the
consciousness of divine approval. If our habitual daily life has been
near to God, we have no trouble in finding God, when in some sore distress,
we greatly need him. But if we have been living far from God in the bright
day, neglecting our devotions and our duties, it takes a long time, when
trial comes, to get into such close fellowship with God—that we can receive
the tender personal comforts which he imparts to those who in intimate
friendship, lean upon his loving heart.
Our habitual treatment of our friends in the season of
unbroken fellowship, has very much to do with the comfort we shall get, when
we are called to mourn the death of these friends. If we have been unkind,
selfish, thoughtless, or harsh; if we have failed in any duty to them; if we
have caused them pain or trouble; if we have wronged or injured them in any
way—no fullness and richness of divine comfort will altogether take away the
pang from our heart when we stand by the cold clay and it is too late to
ask, or to receive forgiveness. But if we have been faithful and true to our
friends in all ways; if we have been thoughtful and kind; if we have let our
love flow out in fond expression and unselfish ministry—when they leave us,
our sorrow at the loss may be no less sore—but it will have no bitterness
in it. Loyal and tender friendship, is a preparation for sorrow; its
memory is a sweetener of bereavement.
To all of us, sorrow will come in some form or other. But
we may so lay up in store, the resources of comfort that in whatever way
it may come, in whatever measure or however suddenly—we
shall not be crushed by it—but shall welcome it as God's messenger, and
receive the message our Father sends to us in it, and the blessing which it
brings to us from heaven.
In God's plan for each life, one step is always designed
to prepare for the next. One day's faithfulness lifts up to the next day's
duty—and fits for the next day's trial. Faithfulness—simple
faithfulness—each hour, each moment, is all that is necessary to prepare for
any future trial. Then, at the end, such a life will stand approved and
complete, ready for the crowning, at the feet of Him who is Redeemer, Lord,
Pattern, Helper, and Friend!