The Shining Life
J.R. Miller, 1911
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
"Leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." 1 Peter 2:21
A little child, when asked what it was to be a Christian, replied, "For me to be a Christian is to live and behave as Jesus would live and behave — if He were a little girl and lived at our house." No better definition of practical religion could be given.
Each one of us is to live just as Jesus would, if He were living out our little life in the midst of its actual environment, standing all day just where we stand, mingling with the same people with whom we must mingle, and exposed to the very annoyances, trials, and provocations to which we are exposed. We want to live a life that will please God, and that will bear witness on its face to the genuineness of our piety.
AFTER HIS LIKENESS
"As for me, I will behold Your face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied, when I awake with Your likeness!" Psalm 17:9
No sooner do we begin to behold the fair face that looks out at us from the gospel chapters, than a great hope springs up in our hearts. We can become like Jesus! Indeed, if we are God's children — we shall become like Him. We are foreordained to be conformed to His image. It matters not how faintly the Divine beauty glimmers now in our soiled and imperfect lives — some day we shall be like Him. As we struggle here with imperfections and infirmities, with scarcely a trace of Christlikeness yet apparent in our life — we still may say, when we catch glimpses of the glorious loveliness of Christ, "Some day I shall be like that!"
"For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son!" Romans 8:29
"He who was seated on the throne said: I am making everything new!" Revelation 21:5
There are some everywhere who in the discouragement of defeat and failure, feel that it is now too late for them to make their character beautiful. They have lost their opportunity. But this is never true for those whom Christ died.
A poet tells of walking in his garden and seeing a bird's nest lying on the ground. The storm had swept through the tree and ruined the nest. While he mused sadly over the wreck of the bird's home, he looked up and there he saw them building a new one amid the branches.
The birds teach us immortals a lesson. Though all seems lost, let us not sit down and weep in despair — but let us rise and begin to build again. No one can undo a wrong past. No one can repair the ruin of years that are gone. We cannot live our lives over again. But at our Father's feet we can begin anew and make all our life new.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
"Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path!" Psalm 119:105.
The law of Divine guidance is "Step by step." One who carries a lantern on a country road at night, sees only one step before him. If he takes that, he carries his lantern forward, and thus makes another step plain. At length he reaches his destination in safety, without once stepping into darkness. The whole way has been made light for him, though only a single step of it at a time.
This illustrates the usual method of God's guidance. His Word is represented as a lamp unto the feet. It is a lamp — not a blazing sun, nor even a lighthouse — but a plain, common lamp or lantern which one can carry about in the hand. It is a lamp "unto the feet," not throwing its beams afar, not illumining a hemisphere — but shining only on the one little bit of road on which the pilgrim's feet are walking.
THE REFUGE OF THE SOUL
"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!" Deuteronomy 33:27
"You are my refuge — my portion in the land of the living!" Psalm 142:5
Often we do not learn the depth and riches of God's love, and the sweetness of His presence — until our earthly joys vanish out of our hands, and other beloved presences fade away out of sight.
The loss of temporal things seems often to be necessary to empty our hearts — that they may receive unseen and eternal realities. The heart's door is never fully opened to Him — until the soul's worldly joys are removed; then, while it stands open, He enters bearing into it immortal joys!
How often is it true, that the sweeping away of our earthly hopes reveals the glory of our heart's refuge in God! Someone has beautifully said, "Our refuges are like the nests of birds: in summer they are hidden among the green leaves — but in winter they are seen among the bare branches." Worldly losses but strip off the foliage, and disclose to us our heart's warm nest in the bosom of God!
"The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble!" Psalm 9:9
"God is our refuge and strength — a very present help in trouble!" Psalm 46:1
"You are my strong refuge!" Psalm 71:7
"He who believes shall not make haste." Isaiah 28:16
We should always wait for God. Too many of us run before we are sent. In our zeal for God's cause and kingdom, we do not wait for Divine direction. We speak words out of season which, despite their earnestness and sincerity, do harm rather than good. We address men before they are prepared to hear, and oft-times in words that drive them beyond our reach. We hurry out to preach, when we ought ourselves to be sitting quietly at our Master's feet as learners.
The most common fault among Christians is that they are too slow in doing Christ's work and in heeding His calls; but it is a fault also to go too fast for God, to go before He sends us. He must prepare us for the work before we are ready to do it, and then He must prepare the work for our hand. In Christian work we need patience and self-restraint — as well as zeal and earnestness.
Though the mills of God grind slowly
— yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting,
with exactness grinds He all.
"It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2
It is not great things that God requires of us — unless our mission is to do great things. He only asks that we be faithful in the duties that come to our hand in our commonplace days. That means:
1. that we do all our work as well as we can;
2. that we serve well in the varied relationships of life in which from time to time we find ourselves;
3. that we stand heroically in our lot, resisting temptation and continuing true and loyal to God; and
4. that we fulfill our mission in all ways according to the grace given unto us, using every gift and talent for the glory of God and the good of others.
The world crowns success.
God crowns faithfulness.
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10
CHRIST COMES TO US
"When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It's a ghost!' they said, and cried out in fear." Matthew 14:26
Christ comes to us — He is continually coming. Do we really take from the hand of Christ, all that He offers us? Do we not daily rob ourselves of blessings by declining what He brings?
Especially do we reject Christ, when He comes to us in the garb of pain or sorrow. Many times the blessings He brings to us then, are the very richest and the most precious in all His store. But how many of us receive Christ as gladly, and take the gifts from His hand as cheerfully and gratefully when He comes in grief or suffering — as when He comes in the garb of joy or worldly prosperity?
FATHER KNOWS BEST
"He led them forth by the right way." Psalm 107:7
God leads every one of His children by the right way. He knows where and under what influences, each particular life will mature best.
One tree grows best in the sheltered valley, another by the water's edge, another on the bleak mountain-top swept by storms. Every tree or plant is found in the precise locality where the conditions for its growth exist.
And does God give more thought to trees and plants, than to His own children?
He places us amid the circumstances and experiences in which our life will grow and mature into Christlikeness. The peculiar discipline to which we are each subjected, is the discipline we each need to bring out in us the beauties and graces of true spiritual character. Our heavenly Father knows what is best — He makes no mistakes!
"We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son!" Romans 8:28-29
CHRIST IN THE HOME
Some people like to gather beautiful things into their homes — paintings, sculptures, rare things from foreign lands, objects of interest and attractiveness. Some pride themselves on the elegance of their furniture and the fineness of the decorations in their houses.
But in no other way can the Christian bring into his home so much beauty, so much joy and comfort, so much true peace — as by having Christ as the abiding guest. The neighbors will soon know it, and they will also get the benefit and blessing of it; for from a home where Christ abides, there always go forth a fragrant influence and a loving, helpful ministry.
"Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me!" Matthew 25:40
There is something inexpressibly beautiful in the revelation which these words of our Lord bring to our hearts. Christ Himself is ever standing before us, appealing to us for love, for sympathy, for ministry. How all human lives about us are transfigured by this word, which tells us that, in the lowliest Christian — Jesus Himself waits!
No wonder this sweet truth has wrought itself into numberless legends, telling how abject forms, when served in the Master's name in time of need, suddenly changed into radiant loveliness, revealing themselves as Jesus the glorious One.
"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me!" Matthew 16:24
"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow Me,' Jesus said to him; and Levi got up, left everything and followed Him." Luke 5:27-28
"We have left everything to follow You!" Mark 10:28
To follow Christ is to go where He leads, without questioning or demurring. It may be to a life of trial, suffering, or sacrifice — but no matter; we have nothing whatever to do with the kind of life to which our Lord calls us. Our only simple duty is to obey and follow.
We know that Jesus will lead us only in right paths, and that the way He takes slopes upward and ends in eternal glory!
Each new day on which we are about to enter is unopened, and we know not what shall befall us; but if we follow Christ, we need have no fear. So let us leave the old day with gratitude to God for its mercies, with penitence for its failures and sins — and let us enter the new day with earnest resolve in Christ's name to make it the holiest and most beautiful we have ever lived, as we follow Him.
"My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:27-28
WE MUST DO OUR LITTLE NOTHINGS FOR HIS GLORY
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do — do it all for the glory of God!" 1 Corinthians 10:31
The moralist does right things — but without any reference to Christ, not confessing Him or loving Him.
The Christian does the same things — but does them because the Master wants him to do them.
As one has beautifully said, "What we can do for God is little or nothing — but we must do our little nothings for His glory." This is the motive that, filling our hearts, makes even drudgery divine, because it is done for Christ. It may be but . . .
to sweep a room,
or rock an infant to sleep,
or teach a ragged child,
or mend a shirt,
or plane a board;
— but, if it is done as unto the Lord, it will be owned and accepted by Him.
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward!" Matthew 10:42
THE BANE OF SPIRITUAL GOOD
Unbroken worldly prosperity is the bane of spiritual good. For one thing, it hinders growth in knowledge and experience. There are truths that can be learned better in darkness, than in light. We would never see the stars — if there were no darkness to blot out the glare of the day. Just so, there are truths in the Bible which are perhaps never learned in the brightness of human joy. There are Divine promises which by their very nature, are invisible in the noonday of gladness, hiding away like stars in the light, and revealing themselves only when it grows dark around us. The deeper, richer meaning of many Scriptures, is learned only amid life's painful changes.
"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes!" Psalm 119:71
WORK WORTH DOING
"He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him!" Psalm 126:6
Work for others that costs nothing — is scarcely worth doing! At least, it takes heart's blood to heal hearts. Too many of us are ready to work for Christ and do good to our fellow-men — only so long as it is easy and requires no sacrifice or self-denial; but if we stop there, we stop just where our service is likely to become of use. This saving of life proves, in the end — the losing of it. It is those who sow in tears — who shall reap in joy. It is he who goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed — who shall come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him! We may take easy work if we will — work that costs us nothing, that involves no pain or self-denial — but we must not then be surprised if our hands are empty in the great harvest-time!
"Cast your burden upon the LORD — and He will sustain you." Psalm 55:22
The promise is not that the Lord will remove the load we cast upon Him, nor that He will carry it for us — but that He will sustain us so that we may carry it.
He does not free us from the duty — but He strengthens us for it.
He does not deliver us from the conflict — but He enables us to overcome.
He does not withhold or withdraw the trial from us — but He helps us in trial to be submissive and victorious, and makes it a blessing to us.
He does not mitigate the hardness or severity of our circumstances, taking away the difficult elements, removing the thorns, making life easy for us — but He puts Divine grace into our hearts, so that we can live sweetly in all the hard, adverse circumstances.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" Philippians 4:13
THE PRESENCE OF JESUS
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
What a life of blessing and joy we would live, if we realized that He was indeed always with us? Unbroken communion with Him, would hold Heaven close about us all the while, and thus these sordid earthly lives of ours would be permeated and struck through with the sweetness and fragrance of holiness, and transformed into the likeness of Christ Himself! Then all life's experiences would be transfigured. Joy would be purer, and even sorrow would be illumined. Then in death, our earthly communion shall brighten into heavenly glory.
THE UNSEEN WATCHER
"My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you — the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore!" Psalm 121:2-8
Some people laugh at the simple faith of childlike believers in God, and say that it is all imagination — that there is no one in Heaven taking care of us. But we need not be worried by such skeptical ones. There is a God in Heaven — and He is our Father! He never sleeps. He has charge of all the affairs of this universe, and is always at the helm.
This should give us all confidence. Our whole duty is to be ready always to obey our heavenly Father. The place of duty is always the place of safety.
THE LOVE THAT GIVES
"And this commandment have we from him — that he who loves God love his brother also." I John 4:21.
Do we understand what love is? Do not many of us think only of its earthly side? We like to be loved, that is, to have other people love us, and live for us, and do things for us. We like the gratifications of love. But that is only miserable selfishness, if it goes no further. It is a desecration of the sacred name to think that love, at its heart, means getting, receiving. No, love gives!
Getting is earthly; giving is divine. That is what God's love does — it finds its blessedness in giving. "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son." That is what Christ's love does — it pours out its very life-blood, to the last drop. The essential meaning of loving, must always be giving, not receiving.
"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners!" Isaiah 61:1
This is the mission of Christianity in the world — to help men to be victorious, to whisper hope wherever there is despair, to give cheer wherever there is discouragement. It goes forth to open prisons, to unbind chains, and to bring out captives. Its symbol is not only a cross — that is one of its symbols, telling of the price of our redemption, telling of love that died; but its final symbol is an open grave, open and empty. We know what that means. It tells of life, not of death; of life victorious over death. We must not suppose that its promise is only for the final resurrection; it is for resurrection every day, every hour, over all death. It means unconquerable, unquenchable, indestructible, immortal life — at every point where death seems to have won a victory!
"So is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11
No true work for Christ has been in vain. On earth many a seed is dropped which dies in the soil; but no seed of heavenly truth which is sown in faith and watered with tears, ever fails to spring up somewhere and sometime into a plant of righteousness. It may not always grow as the sower hoped, nor always just where he hoped, nor when; yet no living Word of God can ever die. We should notice the kind of wages God gives His reapers. He does not pay them in gold and silver — but in life — life eternal. Those who work in God's harvest-fields may not grow rich in men's eyes — but they themselves grow into richer, riper, holier spiritual blessedness.
CHRIST OPENING THE SCRIPTURES
"And they said one to another: Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us along the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" Luke 24:32
A young lady purchased a book and read a few pages — but was not interested in it. Some months afterwards she met the author, and a tender friendship sprang up, ripening into love and betrothal. Then the book was dull no longer. Every sentence had a charm for her heart. Love was the interpreter.
Just so, to those who do not know Christ personally, the Bible seems dry and uninteresting. But when they learn to know Him, and to love Him, all is changed; and the deeper their love for Him becomes, the more do the sacred pages glow with beauty and light.
THE HEAVENLY INTERCESSOR
"Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them!" Hebrews 7:25
If we would pray acceptably, it must be in dependence on Jesus Christ, our High Priest in Heaven, who shall take the petitions from our stained and unholy lips, cleanse them of their sin and fault and defilement, and then add to them the pure incense of His own holy offering and intercession — and present them to the Father. That is what praying in the name of Christ means.
Praying thus, our prayers are sweet fragrances to God. The thoughts and words that leave our hearts and lips spotted and unholy, without any beauty or sweetness — when they come up before God have become precious perfumes!
WHEN WE ARE TIRED
"Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well." John 4:6.
Do we get all the blessings we might get from the truth of our Lord's actual human experiences? When we have been working hard all day and are weary and faint, let us remember this picture — Jesus, footsore and dust-covered, sinking down in sheer exhaustion on the stone curb of Jacob's well.
He has not forgotten even in His glory, how He felt that day, and as He sees us in our weariness, His heart feels tenderly for us. He looks down upon us in compassion, and sends to us a blessing of strength and cheer. Let all the people whose work is hard, and who often are very tired, frame this picture in their memory and keep it always hanging up on the wall of their heart.
THE SATISFACTION OF JESUS
"He shall see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities." Isaiah 53:11
The sowing is often in tears — but the reaping is always in joy. Christ Himself found the sowing hard and sorrowful — but He has never been sorry in Heaven for what it cost Him here. The old prophet having spoken of the sorrows and sufferings of Christ's life, said, "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied." As He sits now on His throne and sees the millions of the redeemed coming home to glory, all saved through His sufferings — He never regrets that He gave such a price for their redemption — but rejoices and is satisfied with the wages that He receives.
So it will be with all His followers who are permitted to suffer in any way in bringing lost ones home. The wages will a thousand times compensate for all the sacrifice and cost!
THE WORD WAS GOD
"Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying: Truly You are the Son of God!" Matthew 14:33
Look at the footprints of Christ, and see whether they are a man's or God's.
Whose prints are those by the gate of Nain, and by the grave of Bethany, and coming away from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea? Whose prints are those by the doors of sorrow, along the path where the leper, the blind, the lame, the demoniac waited for Him?
Or look around at what you see now — churches, missions, hospitals, asylums, sweetened homes, cleansed sinners, renewed lives, comforted mourners — whose prints are these?
These works, wrought by Christianity, are the best evidences of Christianity. Christ needs to be judged, not by His claims — but by His works. The world is full today of the proofs of Christ's divinity.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
"Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you!" Matthew 6:33.
It is never right for us to starve our spiritual nature, to get bread for our bodies. It is our first duty to keep God's commandments, and obedience is the highest good that we can attain in this world. Sometimes the best thing that we can do for our life is to lose it; we had better any day starve to death, than commit the smallest sin to get bread.
Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Getting bread should not be our first object in living, and is really not our business at all. We are to be true to God always and everywhere, and then leave to Him the caring for our bodies.
THE STANDARD OF HOLINESS
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48
Christ never lowered, by so much as a hair's-breadth, the perfect standard of holiness by which He measured all men and all life. Nor must we. We are ever to keep living in our souls, the pure and unspotted ideal. We are not to look upon any sin leniently or apologetically — and yet we are to love the sinner, to pity him and have compassion upon him; and, instead of turning away from him in horror and self-righteous pride — we are to seek by every means to lift him up and save him. Under all the ruin of his sin, is the shattered beauty of the Divine image, which the gentle fingers of love may repair and restore.
GOD THE HEALER
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit!" Psalm 34:18
The God of the Bible, is the God also of the brokenhearted. There are Divine words which tell us that, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
The world cares little for broken hearts. Indeed, men often break hearts by their cruelty, their falseness, their injustice, their coldness — and then move on as heedlessly as if they had trodden only on a worm! But God cares. The broken-heartedness attracts Him. The lament of grief on earth, draws Him down from Heaven.
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3
A FULL SURRENDER
"You are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." 1 Corinthians 6:20.
Christian consecration is a transfer of one's plans and ambitions, into the hands of Christ. It is a solemn pledge, too, to accept the plans of the Master for the occupation of the day, no matter how much they may interfere with arrangements we have already made, or how many pleasant things they may cut out of the day's program. We will answer every call. We will patiently submit to every interruption. We will accept every duty. We will go on with the work which seems best to us, if the Master has nothing else for us to do. But, if He has, we will cheerfully drop our own and take up that which He clearly gives instead.
CHRIST THE WAY
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father — but by me!" John 14:6
A ladder is a way for feet to climb; Christ is the way, therefore, by which sinners can go out of their sins — to the purity and blessedness of Heaven. One thing to mark specially is, that there is but one way. Christ is the only Mediator. We can enter the Father's family, only through Him. Grace can come to us only through Him. There is, then, no choice of ways. If we do not go by this one way, we can never reach home. Nor must we forget that a way is meant to be walked in. We must put our feet on this ladder and go up rung by rung until we reach the topmost step, which will be Heaven!
THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST
"That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death!" Philippians 3:10
It is possible to be with Christ a long time, and to know very much about Him — without knowing Him in the true sense of the word.
Philip knew Jesus as a man, as a worker of miracles, as having a very beautiful character; but he seems never to have gone below the surface in understanding Him. He did not know Him as the revealer of the Father. He never saw Divine glory in the radiance that streamed from that blessed life. And not to know Christ in this aspect, to know Him only as a man — is not to know Him at all. To leave out the Divine in our thought of Christ, is not to have any Christ at all.
THE HAND OF MERCY
"Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed!" Matthew 8:3.
There is no danger of receiving defilement from touching the worst outcasts, if you go to them with the love of God in your heart, yearning to do them good. Do not stand far off and toss the bread of life to them as men throw gifts into leper hospitals. Do not slip your tract under the door and hurry away — as it you were ashamed of what you had done. Go to the homes of the worst people, give them your hand; it will not soil it to clasp theirs, and you never can know what a thrill of new life it may start in hearts long unused to tenderness — yet yearning for sympathy. Put heart and inspiration into all you do. You never can know what a thrill of inspiration and life may give to weary and disheartened ones.
"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33
True victory is not found in escaping or evading trials — but in rightly meeting and enduring them. The questions should not be, "How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper, or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the troubles which continually harass me?" There is nothing noble in such living. The soldier who flees when the battle approaches, is no hero; he is a coward.
The questions should rather be, "How can I pass through these trying experiences — and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles — and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these reproaches and testings of my temper — and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?"
"He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be My son!" Revelation 21:7
PEACE THROUGH SUBMISSION
"Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Nevertheless, I want Your will to be done, not Mine!" Luke 22:42
The best thing possible for us, is always what God wills for us. Sometimes God's will may be pain, or worldly loss, or sore bereavement. Yet His will is always love, and in simple acquiescence to this will, we shall always find our highest good. No prayer, therefore, is pleasing to God which does not end with this refrain of Gethsemane, "Nevertheless, I want Your will to be done, not mine!"
This is also the way to peace. As we yield with love and joy, and merge our own will in our Father's — the peace of God flows like a river into our souls.
"Let the Lord's will be done." Acts 21:14
"It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him." 1 Samuel 3:18
REPROVING IN LOVE
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted." Galatians 6:1
Great wisdom is required in those who would point out faults to others. They need deep love in their hearts, that they may truly seek the good of those in whom they detect flaws or errors, and not criticize in a prideful spirit. Too many take delight in discovering faults in other people, and in pointing them out. Others do it only when they are in anger, blurting out their keen criticisms in fits of bad temper. We should seek to possess the spirit of Christ, who was most patient and gentle in telling His friends wherein they failed.
THE DAY SHALL DECLARE IT
"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." 1 Corinthians 13:12
Somewhere in the long years to come, we shall find that not the smallest deed done for Christ, or the feeblest word spoken, or the faintest touch given — has been in vain. In the highest sense — higher than the old artist dreamed of — do we work for eternity. In a truer and deeper way than we know, and in remoter ages than we can count — shall we find our songs from beginning to end in the hearts of our friends.
In frescoing, when the artist puts on his colors, they sink away and leave no trace — but they reappear by and by in beauty. Just so, we touch lives today, and there is no impression that we see. The very memory seems to fade out. But in eternity it will be manifest.
"This fellow began to build — and was not able to finish!" Luke 14:30
We are all builders. We may not erect any house or temple on a city street for human eyes to see — but every one of us builds an edifice which God sees!
Life is a building. It rises slowly, day by day, through the years. Every new lesson we learn, lays another block on the edifice which is rising silently within us.
every touch of another life on ours,
every influence that impresses us,
every book we read,
every conversation we have,
every act in our commonest days —
adds something to our invisible building.
All of life furnishes the materials which add to our life-wall.
Many people build noble character structures in this world. But there are also many who build only base, shabby huts, without beauty — which will be swept away in the testing fires of judgment!
There are many, too, whose life-work presents the sorry spectacle of an unfinished building. There was a beautiful plan to begin with, and the work was promising for a little time — but after a while it was abandoned and left standing, with walls halfway up — a useless fragment, open and exposed, an incomplete inglorious ruin — telling no story of past splendor — as do the ruins of some old castle or coliseum — a monument only of folly and failure!
Sin in some form draws many a builder away from his work — to leave it unfinished.
It may be the world's fascinations, which lure him from Christ's side.
It may be evil companions, which tempt him from loyal friendship to the Savior.
It may be riches, which enter his heart and blind his eyes to the attractions of heaven.
It may be some secret debasing lust, which gains power over him and paralyzes his spiritual life.
Many are those now amid the world's throngs — who once sat at the Lord's Table and were among God's people! Their lives are unfinished buildings, towers begun with great enthusiasm — and then left to tell their sad story of failure to all who pass by. They began to build — and were not able to finish.
It is sad to think how much of this unfinished work, God sees as He looks down upon our earth. Think of the good beginnings which never came to anything in the end. Think of the excellent resolutions which are never carried out. Think of the noble life-plans entered upon by so many young people with ardent enthusiasm — but soon given up. Think of the beautiful visions and high hopes which might have been splendid realities — but which have faded out, with not even one earnest attempt to work them into life!
In all aspects of life — we see these abandoned buildings. Many homes present the spectacle of abandoned dreams of love. For a time, the beautiful vision shone — and two hearts tried to make it come true — but they gave their dream up in despair, either enduring in misery — or going their own sad and separate ways.
So life everywhere is full of beginnings, which are never carried on to completion.
There is . . .
not a soul-wreck on the streets,
not a prisoner serving out a sentence behind prison bars,
not a debased, fallen person anywhere —
in whose soul, there were not once visions of beauty, high hopes, holy thoughts and purposes, and high resolves of an ideal of something lovely and noble. But alas! the visions, the hopes, the purposes, the resolves — never grew into more than beginnings. God bends down and sees a great wilderness of unfinished buildings, bright possibilities unfulfilled, noble might-have-beens abandoned; ghastly ruins now, sad memorials only of failure!
The lesson from all this, is that we should . . .
finish our work,
allow nothing to draw us away from our duty,
never become weary in following Christ,
persevere from the beginning of our ideals — steadfast unto the end.
We should not falter under any burden, in the face of any danger, before any demand of cost or sacrifice.
no worldly attraction,
no hardship —
should weaken for one moment our determination to be faithful unto death! No one who has begun to build for Christ — should leave an unfinished, abandoned life-work, to his own eternal grief!
"This fellow began to build — and was not able to finish!" Luke 14:30
WALKING IN THE LIGHT
"You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light." 2 Samuel 22:29
We can learn the path of duty, only by walking in it. There is no promise of anything more than this. The Word of God is a lamp unto our feet; not a sun to light a hemisphere — but a lamp or a lantern to carry in our hand, to give light unto our feet, to show us one little step at a time. If we move on, taking the step that lies full in the light — we carry the light forward too, and it then shows us another step — that is, we learn to know the road, only by walking in it. If we will not take the one step that is made clear, we cannot know the part of the way that is hidden in the shadow.
BLESSINGS IN RESERVE
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9
The principle of reserved goodness runs through all God's economy. Blessings are laid up, and are given to us as we need them. Every experience brings to us its own store. Sorrow comes; but, veiled in the sorrow, the angel of comfort comes too. It grows dark, and then the lamps of promise shine out. Losses are met — but there is a Divine secret that changes loss into gain. A bitter cup is given — but it proves to be medicine for our soul. Death comes, and seems the end of all; but, lo! it is only the beginning of life, for it leads us away from empty shadows to eternal realities.
MEANS OF GRACE
"But he gives more grace. Wherefore he says, God resists the proud — but gives grace unto the humble." James 4:6.
Anything that helps to interpret Christ to us, and to bring us into closer relations with Him; anything that becomes to us a disciplinary experience, drawing out and strengthening our life in any of its elements; anything that makes us better, holier, sweeter in spirit — is to us a means of grace.
Under this head, therefore, we may put work, which develops our powers; the struggle with trial and temptation through which our natures are disciplined; the enduring of sorrow and pain, by which we are made more pure; and all experiences of life which result, or are designed to result, in the growth of our spiritual life.
THE SECRET OF KNOWLEDGE
"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." John 7:17.
We never get to understand the Bible, merely by studying it. It will not reveal itself to us — until we begin to do what it teaches. He who seeks to obey it, shall know it. Many people have the impression that there is something mysterious about the words of the Scriptures. But this impression vanishes if they accept the Divine teachings and begin to fashion their lives according to them.
Many Christians will readily recall how dim and obscure faith in Jesus Christ seemed to them, before they believed, when they were trying to find the way — and then how simple and clear it appeared after they had begun to follow the Savior.
THE LOVE THAT IS REAL
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and every one who loves is born of God, and knows God." 1 John 4:7
Love is the fulfilling of the law — not selfish love — but the love that goes out in self-denial, in sympathy, in kindness, in continual thought and effort and sacrifice for others. Such love builds beauty for its home, just as the chaste and delicate flower by its own nature fashions for itself a form of exquisite shape and hue. "The angels are beautiful because they are good, and God is beauty because He is love." Men and women grow lovely even in outward feature just in the degree in which they become filled with the love of God.
Life everywhere is full of beginnings never carried on to completion. There is not a soul wreck on the streets, not a prisoner serving out a sentence behind prison bars, not a debased, fallen one anywhere — in whose soul there were not once visions of beauty, high hopes, holy thoughts and purposes, and high resolves — an ideal of something lovely and noble. But, alas? the visions, the hopes, the purposes, the resolves — never grew into more than beginnings. God's angels bend down and see a great wilderness of unfinished fabrics, bright possibilities unfulfilled, noble might-have-beens abandoned, ghastly ruins now, and memorials only of failure.
HERALDS OF HOPE
"For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." Galatians 5:5
If we are true and loyal messengers of Christ, we can never be prophets of gloom, disheartenment, and despair. We must ever be heralds of hope. We must always have good news to tell. There is a gospel which we have a right to proclaim to every one, whatever be his sorrow. In Christ there is always hope, a secret of conquest, a power to transmute loss into gain, to change defeat to victory, to bring life from death!
We are living worthily, only when we are living victoriously ourselves at every point, when we are inspiring and helping others to live victoriously, and when our life is a song of hope and gladness, even though we sing out of tears and pain!
SINS OF OMISSION
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" Matthew 25:34-40
Love always gives. If it will not give, it is not love. It is measured always by what it will give. The needs of other people, are therefore Divine commands to us, which we dare not disregard or disobey. To refuse to bless a brother who stands before us in any kind of need, is as great a sin as to break one of the commandments of the Decalogue.
We like to think there is no sin in mere not doing. But Jesus, in His wonderful picture of the Last Judgment, makes men's condemnation turn on not doing the things they ought to have done. They have simply not fed the hungry, nor clothed the naked, nor visited the sick, nor blessed the prisoner.
"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus!" Acts 4:13
It is not only our elaborately wrought deeds that leave results behind. Much of the best work we do in this world, is done unconsciously. There are many people who are so busied in what is called secular toil, that they can find few moments to give to works of benevolence. But they come out every morning from the presence of God, and go to their daily business or toil and all day — and as they move about, they drop gentle words from their lips, and scatter seeds of kindness along their path. Tomorrow flowers of the garden of God spring up in the hard, dusty streets of earth, and along the paths of toil in which their feet have trodden.
LIGHT IN THE NIGHT
"Even in darkness, light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man." Psalm 112:4
The light of human joy wanes; health gives way; disappointment comes; sorrow breaks in upon us; some human trust fails; the sunlight that flowed us yesterday has gone out, and our path lies in darkness. Then the words of God that have lain so long in memory, without apparent brightness, flash out like heavenly lamps, and pour their welcome radiance all around us.
Did those words have no light in them before? Yes, the lamps were shining all the while — but our eyes did not discern the brightness — until this world's lamps went out and it grew dark around us. The goodness was laid up, reserved until we needed it.
THE PRICE THAT JESUS PAID
"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!" 1 Peter 1:18-19
We sometimes forget, while we pillow our heads on the promises of God, and rest secure in Christ's atonement, and enjoy all the blessings of redemption and the hopes of glory — what these things cost our Redeemer.
In those long years of poverty, those sharp days of temptation, those keen hours of agony — He was laying up treasures of blessing and glory for us. There is not a hope or a joy of our Christian faith, which does not come to us out of the treasures stored away by our Redeemer during the years of His humiliation and the hours of His agony.
"Every day I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever!" Psalm 145:2
Religion and common life are not two different and distinct things. We may not cut our existence in two parts, and say, "Over this Christ shall rule — but over that He shall have no control." True religion knows no difference between Sunday and Monday, so far as the ethics of life are concerned. Each day brings its own specific duties; but there are not moral precepts for Sunday, which are suspended when its sun sets, that for six days a mitigated or less holy law may prevail.
Holiness is to be the Christian's dress all the week through in every hour's conduct. All pleasures and amusements must be tested by the unvarying rule of Scripture truth. The standard of perfect purity cannot be lowered.
"You ought to live holy and godly lives" 2 Peter 3:11
THE LIFE THAT LASTS
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18
Jesus appeared to Mary after He had come again from death; yet death had not extinguished one beam of His brightness. The resurrection was a type and prophecy of the future resurrection of all who believe in Him and sleep in Him. It shows us, therefore, that death does not mean destruction, is not the end of life. It is but an incident, an experience, and life goes on afterward without loss or marring.
We ought to try to learn this blessed truth. Life is not worth living which is bounded by earth's little horizon and does not reach out into immortality. Indeed, we do not really begin to live, until we are living for immortality!
MY OWN FAULT
"So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another." Romans 14:12-13
We read that Pilate took water in the presence of the Jews and washed his hands — thus by symbol declaring that he was not responsible for the sentencing of Jesus to die. But the water did not wash away one particle of the stain of the guilt of that terrible sin! Pilate had the misfortune to be the only man in all the province who could send Jesus to the cross. Upon him, therefore, the final responsibility rested, no matter what the pressure that was brought to bear upon him by the enemies of Jesus.
The fact that others urge us to sin does not take away our guilt for that sin. No being in the universe can compel us to do wrong: if, then, we do wrong, the sin is our own.
THE OPEN PATH
"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying: This is the way — walk in it!" Isaiah 30:21
God always opens the way of duty for us, if we quietly move on in obedience to Him.
This applies to those beginning a Christian life. They say, "I never can be faithful. I never can do the duties. I never can bear the burdens." But as they enter and go on, they find that an unseen and almighty Helper goes on before and prepares the way. Walls of stone seem built across the path we are required to walk over. But as we go, the commandment is easy, and a gateway is opened in the wall. Faith and obedience always have an advance guard of angels to roll away stones.
The practical lesson is, that we are never to hesitate nor shrink back, because obstacles seem to he before us; we are to go right on, and God will take them away for us. When He needs us to go anywhere, He will open the path for our feet. Knowing this we may go on, feeling confident of our own safety.
THE SUFFICIENCY OF GRACE
"Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves! About three o'clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the water!" Matthew 14:24-25
God adapts His grace to the peculiarities of each of His children's necessity. For rough, flinty paths — He provides shoes of iron. He never sends anyone to climb steep, sharp, rugged mountainsides — wearing silken slippers. He always gives sufficient grace.
As the burdens grow heavier — His strength increases.
As the difficulties thicken — He draws closer.
As the trials become sorer — the trusting heart grows calmer.
Jesus always sees His disciples when they are toiling in the waves, and at the right moment comes to deliver them. The sharper the temptations — the more of Divine grace is granted. There is, therefore, no environment of trial or difficulty or hardship — in which we cannot live beautiful lives of Christian fidelity and holy conduct.
"My grace is sufficient for you!" 2 Corinthians 12:9
THE MIND OF JESUS
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5
Before we can be in the place of Christ to sorrowing, suffering, and struggling ones, we must have the mind in us that was in Him. When Paul said, "The love of Christ constrains me," he meant that he had the very love of Christ in him — the love that loved even the most unlovely, that helped even the most unworthy, that was gentle and affectionate even to the most loathsome. We are never ready to do good in the world, in the truest sense, or in any large measure, until we have become thus filled with the very spirit of Christ.
THE MINISTRY OF CHEERFULNESS
"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart." Proverbs 15:30
"All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast." Proverbs 15:15
There is a ministry in our handshaking, in our greeting, in the most casual conversation, in the very expression we wear on our faces as we move along the street, in the gentle sympathy that adds such a thrill of strength to fainting weariness.
To meet some people on the side-walk and have their cheery "Good morning!" makes one happier all day. To encounter others is as dispiriting as meeting a funeral procession!
A joyful person scatters gladness like song-notes. A consecrated Christian life sheds a tender warmth wherever it moves. What a wondrous sphere of usefulness is thus opened to every one of us!
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22
THE GREATNESS OF GIVING
"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35
God does not like to bestow His blessings where they will be hoarded or absorbed. He loves to put His very best gifts into the hands of those who will not store them away in barns, or fold them up in napkins and hide them away. He puts songs into the hearts of those who will sing them out again. This is the secret of that promise that to him who has, shall be given; and of that other little understood, little believed word of Christ, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Heaven's blessing comes, not upon the receiving — but upon the dispensing. Men are good and great before God, not as they gather into their hands and hearts the abundant gifts of God, whether temporal or spiritual — but as their gathering augments their usefulness and makes them greater blessings to others.
LIFT UP YOUR EYES
"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help." Psalm 121:1
This is a wonderful secret, which all of us ought to learn — not to think so much about the toil and hardness of the way — but to look beyond to the brightness of the end. No matter how rough the road is — if it only brings us home at last.
Many of us go worrying all through this life, keeping our eyes always downcast on the path we are treading. We see all the troubles, the difficulties, and discouragements — but we never raise our eyes to see the joys and the blessings that are waiting for us. We ought to learn this life-secret, which made Christ forget the shame and sorrow of His cross — and see only the glory beyond.
Learn to look up toward Heaven. Think of its joys, its blessedness — until earth's trials shall melt away in the brightness, and its griefs and losses be forgotten in the hopes of glory!
"As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." John 9:4
There is no such thing as a consecrated life, which is not consecrated to service. The way to spiritual health lies in the paths of toil. The reason of so much doubt and discontent in the hearts of Christian people, is that so many sit with folded hands, with no occupation, but brooding over their own cares. If they would but go out and begin to toil for others, they would forget themselves, and the joy of the Lord would flow into their souls. There is no way to fulfill life's grand meaning, and to enter at last into fullest joy — but by living lives of devotion to duty.
THE THORN IN THE FLESH
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." 2 Corinthians 12:7
Many of God's noblest servants have carried "thorns" in their flesh all their days — but meanwhile they have had spiritual blessings and enrichment which they never would have had if their cries for relief had been granted. We do not know what we owe to the suffering of those who have gone before us.
Prosperity has not enriched the world as adversity has done. The best thoughts, the richest life-lessons, the sweetest songs that have come down to us from the past — have not come from lives that have known no privation, no adversity — but are the fruit of pain, of weakness, of trial. Men have cried out for emancipation from the bondage of hardship, of sickness, of infirmity, of self-denying necessity — not knowing that the thing which seemed to be hindering them in their career, was the very making of whatever was noble, beautiful, and blessed in their life!
THE REWARD OF SERVICE
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
Christ takes into His confidence those who serve Him. Those who do Christ's will know of His doctrine and see His ways of working.
If we would see Christ's power and glory, we must enter heartily into His service. Often it is in the lowliest ways, and in the paths of humble, self-denying service, that the most of His glory appears.
The ruler did not know whence the wine came. People do not know whence the blessings come which glide so softly into their hearts. Many a troubled Christian kneels in prayer in great fear, and rises with new, rich joy in his heart — yet knowing not whence the strange sweet blessing came. We drink the cups which God fills for us with heavenly sweetness, we receive the gifts which are brought down to us from the very throne, and yet at times we do not know whence these things come, nor recognize the Divine presence that works so close beside us.
THE RELIGION OF DUTY
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27
When we get to Heaven we shall find heavenly work to do — but for the present, our duty is here, and he is the best Christian who does it best. We want a religion, not that will lift us up into a seventh Heaven of rapture, making us forget our duties to those around us — but a religion that will bring God down to walk with us on all the hard paths of toil and struggle, and that will lead us out into all sweet ministry of love.
It is the fashion to praise Mary, and censure Martha. Jesus blamed Martha's worry — but not her service. It is good to sit at the Master's feet. The piety which best pleases Christ is that which waits most lovingly at His feet to receive blessing and strength — and then goes about, diligent in all love's duties and fidelities.
FORGING OUR OWN CHAINS
"Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom." Song of Songs 2:15
It is said that one of the great prisons of this country was built by the prisoners themselves. They dressed the stones and built the walls which afterwards shut them in.
The legend is familiar, too, of the man to whom the devil came, ordering a chain of a certain length. Returning at the appointed time, he ordered the chain made longer, and then went away. When at last it was finished he came again, and with it bound the poor man who had fastened its links at his command.
Just so, sinners are everywhere building their own prison walls, and with their own hands fashioning the chains to bind them forever. We need to be on our guard perpetually against little sins of thought, of habit — mere gossamer threads at first, which will become cables at last if we allow them to be enrapt about our souls.
THE LIGHT BEYOND
"LORD, now let you your servant depart in peace, according to your word — for my eyes have seen your salvation!" Luke 2:29, 30.
The aged Simeon's "let" means "set free." "Set Your servant free to depart." This implies that what Christians call life — is like the imprisoning of the eagle; and what we call death — is blessed and glorious emancipation. What a beautiful thought of dying!
On the gravestone of a little child are the words, "Out of the darkness into the marvelous light!" All we need, then, is truly to see Christ before we die. When He has lifted away the curse of sin, and put His own holy life into our souls, we are already in the portal of Heaven while in this world. Dying will be but entering in, to behold Christ face to face forever!
THE PLACE OF PRAYER
"But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:6
There are some people who claim that they can pray and commune with God just as well in one place as in another. They do their praying while they walk about and while they do their work. They see no use in going alone to pray. Yet if anyone could pray well in a crowd, or while engaged in work — Jesus could. No doubt He did hold communion with His Father even in His busiest hours — but this did not meet all the needs and longings of His soul. He left the crowd, left even His own disciples, and retired into places where no eye but God's could see Him, where no human footfall or voice could interrupt the quiet of His soul. Surely, if He required such conditions in praying, we do too!
THE EVIDENCE OF GRACE
"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." James 3:17
One of the first results of grace in the heart — is sweeter, kindlier, truer, more helpful living, in all life's common relations. It makes a man a kinder neighbor, a more thoughtful husband, a gentler father.
A Christian girl whose religion does not make her a better daughter and a more loving, patient sister — has not rightly learned Christ. A wife and mother shows the beauty of holiness not only in her earnestness in prayer and church work — but in her devotion to the interests of her home. Mrs. Prentiss said, "A mother can pray with a sick child on her lap more acceptably than if she left it in order to go and pray by herself."
LOOK AT THE BRIGHT SIDE
"The cheerful heart has a continual feast!" Proverbs 15:15
We pretty much see just what we are looking for. If our mind has become trained to look for troubles, difficulties, problems, and all gloomy and dreary things — then we shall find just what we seek. On the other hand, it is quite as easy to form the habit of looking always for beauty, for good, for happiness, for gladness — and here too we shall find precisely what we seek.
It has been said that the habit of always seeing the bright side in life, is worth a large income to a man. It makes life a great deal easier.
None of us are naturally drawn to a gloomy person, who everywhere finds something to complain about — but we are all attracted to one who sees some beauty in everything. Joy is a transfiguring quality. Its secret is a glad heart.
whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable —
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy —
think about such things!" Philippians 4:8
THE SECRET OF BEAUTY
"A joyful heart makes a cheerful face." Proverbs 15:13
There is no cherished sin which does not work up out of the heart, however deeply it is hidden there, and reveal itself in some way in the face. In like manner, good in the heart works its way up into the face, and prints its own beauty there.
Love in the life softens the features, and gives them a warmth like the gentle beauty of spring flowers.
Peace in the heart soon gives a quiet calm to the countenance. Many a perturbed, restless face grows placid and reposeful under the influence of inner peace.
Purity in the soul shows itself in the upward look and the thoughtful reverence which tells of communion with God.
Benevolence writes its autograph on brow and cheek.
Thus, in a sense, even the physical features share in the transfiguration of the life of faith and holiness.
Bodily health is beautiful, mental vigor is beautiful — but heart purity is the charm of all. All spiritual loveliness begins within. That the beauty of the Lord our God may be on us, that the winning charm of God's loveliness may shine in the features of our life which men can see — we must first have the Divine beauty in us. A holy heart will, in time, transfigure all the life.
"The cheerful of heart has a continual feast!" Proverbs 15:15
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22
THE FAITH THAT ACTS
"And the LORD said to Moses: Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward." Exodus 14:15
God can see faith. He can see it in the heart where it is exercised, even before there has been any expression of it in word or act; but here the emphasis lies on the fact that He sees it in act. He is pleased when we show our faith by our works. There are many prayers without words, and God sees them when He does not hear them. There is in the Bible at least one instance of God forbidding spoken prayer and commanding action instead. At the edge of the Red Sea he said to Moses, "Wherefore cry you unto Me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward." So we should learn to put our faith into instant act. There are times when we should stop praying, get up from our knees, and hasten out to duty.
THE FOLLY OF GRIEVING
"At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised!" Job 1:20-21
There are troubles or misfortunes which have already passed — so why should we vex ourselves over these? We cannot help sorrowing when a loved one has been taken from us — but why should we refuse to acquiesce in the will of God? When some misfortune has taken money from us, or when some turn in affairs has hurt our worldly interests — why should we sit down and grieve over the loss?
Worry will not retrieve it, nor give us back the old favorable conditions! It is a great deal more sensible for us to face the fact of our diminished resources, or to accept the new and changed conditions — adjusting ourselves to them, and go right on with our life.
He was a wise traveler who, when his horse died, said, "Well, I must walk now," and traveled on with cheerful energy.
"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 3:13-14
GOD'S WILL IS BEST
"Though he slays me — yet will I trust in him!" Job 13:15
There are few entirely unbroken lives in this world; there are few men who fulfill their own hopes and plans without thwarting or interruption at some point. Now and then there is one who in early youth marks out a course for himself and then moves straight on in it to its goal.
But most people live very differently from their own early dreaming. Many find at the close of their career, that in scarcely one particular have they realized their own life-dreams; at every point God has simply set aside their plans and substituted His own. There are some lives whose plans are so completely thwarted, that their story is most pathetic as we read it; yet we have but to follow it through to the end, to see that the broken life was better and more effective than if its own plans had been carried out.
JESUS AT THE FEAST
"On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding." John 2:1-2
Christ's ministry opened amid scenes of human happiness. We need to learn that Christ is not merely a friend for our sorrow hours — but also for our times of joy. We do not think enough of this. We regard religion too much "as a lamp burning dimly in a sepulcher," and not as a sun shining amid the brightness and the radiance of the fairest day. No doubt it is when trouble comes that Christ seems most precious to us — but He is a Friend for our gladness as well.
This lesson from the Cana wedding we should not lose. Our Lord does not frown upon pure, innocent pleasures. Mirth is a duty in its place, as really as prayer. We need not be afraid to invite Christ to our social enjoyments; indeed, if we cannot invite Him, something must be wrong with the pleasures themselves.
THE USE OF SICKNESS
"The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed, and restore him from his bed of illness." Psalm 41:3
The furnace fires of sickness burn off many a bond of sin and worldliness. Many now in Heaven will thank God forever for the invalidism in this life, which kept them from sin. We may be sure that God never calls any of His children apart into the sick-room, without a purpose of blessing. There is some lesson He needs to teach them, some new glimpse of His love He needs to show them, some beauty in them He needs to bring out. Sick-rooms should always be to us sacred places, as we remember that God has summoned us there for some special work upon our souls.
THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST
"You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever!" Psalm 45:2
"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16
Every true Christian life is beautiful — so far as it fairly and truly represents Christ. Anything in religion that is not beautiful — is not a just or adequate expression of our precious Lord Jesus. Holiness of character is simply the reproduction of the likeness of Christ in human life. Any feature that is not lovely and winning is not truly Christlike, misrepresents Christ. It is not the Christian religion itself that is unlovely in any case — but the human interpretation of it in disposition and conduct.
"He who says he abides in Him, ought himself also to walk just as He walked." 1 John 2:6
PERILS OF PRAYERLESSNESS
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2
There are times when every star seems to have gone out, and when clouds and darkness appear to have gathered about us, hiding every waymark — so that we cannot see any way out of the gloom and perplexity. We need then to have God's direction, or we shall perish.
In the darkest hour of Christ's life, when He could not see even His father's face, and cried out like one forsaken — He still kept His faith in God firm and strong. It was still, "My God, my God."
But while there are times when we need guidance in an unusual way, there is no day in all our brightest year when we do not need it, when we dare to go forward one step without it. The day we do not seek and obtain God's leading, will be a day of disaster for us. The day we go forth without prayer for Divine blessing, when we do not lay our hand in Christ's as we go out into the great world — is a day of peril for us!
JOY AFTER SORROW
"I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy!" John 16:20
Along the shore one sometimes comes upon fresh-water springs, which bubble up on the edge of the salt sea. The tides roll over them and bury them out of sight for the time — but when the brackish floods ebb again, the springs are found sweet as ever.
Just so, after the deepest sorrow, should the heart's fountains of joy be found, still pouring out their streams of gladness.
Christ says much about the people having His joy, a joy which the world can neither give nor take away. He says, too, that their sorrow shall be turned into joy, meaning that the deepest joy in this world is transformed sorrow, and not the joy which has never known pain.
CHERISH NO RESENTMENT
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13
Sometimes men insist on using our life or our work as a footpath to some goal or ambition of their own. Naturally we resent such injustice. But, after all, need we vex ourselves overmuch about such treatment?
If only we keep sweet, not allowing the wrong or the injustice to embitter us, cherishing ever the spirit of cheerful, patient love — we are the gainers. The man who does the mean or oppressive thing, is the man who loses. We need only to watch that no bitterness enters our heart, enduring the wrong as our Master endured, patiently committing ourselves to Him that judges righteously.
"When He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously!" 1 Peter 2:23
THROUGH LACK OF THOUGHT
"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another." Romans 14:19.
No doubt much evil is wrought by lack of thought. Many people with kindly heart continually cause pain to others by mere heedlessness. They seem to have no perception of the sensibilities of those around them. They have never trained themselves to think at all of others, in connection with their own words and acts. They have accustomed themselves to think only of their own pleasure, and to say and do only what their own impulses prompt — without asking whether others will be pleased or displeased. They think only of their own comfort and convenience, and never of how the thing they wish to do may break into the comfort or convenience of others.
PAYING THE PRICE
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17
To love always involves suffering, sooner or later, for one or other of the friends, for there must some time be separation. One must be taken — and the other left. To have known of the sorrow and loneliness, and to have shut one's heart against the friendship in dread of its loss — would have been to rob one's life of its best blessing.
Even grief is not too great a price to pay for love. Love's blessing stays in the life, when the beloved one is gone. Its influence is permanent. The work it does is on the soul's very substance, and abides forever. Its impression is ineffaceable.
JESUS OUR EXAMPLE
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew 11:29
"You are absolutely beautiful, my Beloved; there is no flaw in You!" Song of Songs 4:7
Plato expressed a desire that the moral law might become a living personage, that men seeing it thus incarnate, might be charmed by its beauty. Plato's wish was fulfilled in Jesus Christ! The holiness and the beauty of the divine law were revealed in Him.
The Beatitudes contain an outline of the ideal life — but the Beatitudes are only a transcript of the life of Christ Himself! What He taught about love — was but His own love stated in a course of living lessons for His friends to learn. When He said that we should be patient, gentle, thoughtful, forgiving, and kind — He was only saying, "Follow Me!"
If we could gather from the most godly people who ever have lived, the little fragments of lovely character which have blossomed out in each, and bring all these fragments into one personality — we would have the beauty of Jesus Christ! In one person you find gentleness, in another meekness, in another purity of heart, in another humility, in another kindness, in another patience. But in the holiest of men, there are only two or three qualities of ideal beauty — along with much that is stained and blemished, mingled with these qualities. In Christ, however, ALL that is excellent is found — with no flaw!
"You are absolutely beautiful, my Beloved; there is no flaw in You!" Song of Songs 4:7
THE BEST THINGS!
"But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way!" 1 Corinthians 12:31
The first thing is to gather into our life all the truly great and noble things of character. Here are two texts to ponder, because they settle this question:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things!" Philippians 4:8
"Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!" 2 Peter 1:5-8
"Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption!" Psalm 130:7
Christ ever calls His people to hope. He bids us rise again from the worst defeat. In the kingdom of grace there is always margin enough to start again, and to build up a noble life. Even down to life's last hour, this remains true.
The door of opportunity opened to the penitent even on the cross in his dying hour; there was no time to make anything good or beautiful of his life on the earth — except in his dying confession and testimony; but the eternity into which he passed is very long, with time enough for a glorious career! So it is always. In this world, blessed by Divine love and grace — there is never any need for despair. The call after any defeat or failure still is, "Rise up, let us go!"
WILLING TO RECEIVE
"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I win fill it!" Psalm 81:10
There is never any lack of power in Christ to bless us — and yet we may be near Him and still receive no blessing from Him. He may have come to us eager to impart the rich gifts of strength, comfort, joy, help, wisdom — and yet we may not receive them. We ourselves must be in condition to receive what He has to give, or the blessing cannot be bestowed.
PRAYER IN THE HOME
"Come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker!" Psalm 95:6
Much is said and written of religion in the home, and yet it may be that there is not always a clear conception of the meaning of the term. It is sometimes supposed that the requirement is fully met when family devotions are regularly maintained. This is of vital importance. Household religion certainly implies the daily family worship. I cannot think that any home realizes the true ideal, or can have Heaven's richest blessings upon it — in which this is omitted or neglected. God blesses and shelters the household in which He is honored.
"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hidden!" Matthew 5:14
We should never lose an opportunity to say an inspiring word. We do not know how much it is needed, or how great and far-reaching its consequences may be.
One night long ago, during a terrible storm on the coast of England, a clergyman left his own cosy home, hurried away to the headland and lighted the beacon. Months afterwards, he learned that that light had saved a great ship with its freight of human life.
Just so, we know not to what imperiled interests and hopes our one word or act of encouragement may carry rescue and safety. Nor do we know what destinies may be wrecked and lost by our failure to speak cheer.
"How precious also are your thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand!" Psalm 139:17, 18
How many of us find all the good there is in our lot? Do we extract the honey from every flower that blooms in our path? Do we find all the gold that lies in the hard rocks over which our feet stumble? Do we behold all the beauty that glows along the ways of our sore toil? Do not many good things pass through our hands and slip away from us, forever before we even recognize their loveliness or their worth? Do not angels come to us unaware in homely disguise, walk with us, talk with us, minister to us — and then only become known to us when their place is empty and they have spread their radiant wings in flight which we have no power ever to recall?
HE IS NEAR YOU
"The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach." Romans 10:8.
Human souls in this world are like blind men, groping in the darkness, trying to find some hand to lead them, some path to take them home. We are without God in this world, like,
"An infant crying in the night,
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry."
Without the Gospel we cannot find God. At the same time, He is not far from any one of us.
There is a story of a returning prodigal seeking his father's house and unable to find it, wandering wearily along the highway, and at last in his faintness falling down on the threshold of a cottage which was his own father's house. Inside sat the father and mother for whose love he was so hungering; yet he knew it not. So near to every one of us in our need and craving, is our heavenly Father.
HELP IN NEED
"As your days — so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:25.
Many people are afraid to set out on a Christian life because, foreseeing its dangers, they dread them, and fear that they will not be able to stand faithful and true to the end.
They need only to be faithful day by day, trusting God. They will obtain help for every duty, for every hour of danger, for every struggle. The help will come silently, secretly, just as it is needed, always grace sufficient — so that they shall be able to stand unto the end.
The way to obtain help of God, is to go faithfully and promptly forward in the way of duty, asking for the help, and sure of getting it. It will come only as we do His will.
GROWING IN BEAUTY
"Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." Psalm 90:17
Paul enjoins that, "whatever things are lovely" shall be in the vision of life, into which we aim to fashion our character.
We are to follow in the footsteps of our Master. Jesus Himself was, "Altogether lovely!" Song of Songs 5:16
Humanity was made to be beautiful. God's ideal for man was spotless loveliness — man was made at first, in God's image. But sin has left its foul trail everywhere! We see something of its debasement, wherever we go. What ruins sin has wrought!
All of Christ's work of grace — is towards the restoration of beauty of the Lord in His people.
Spiritual beauty is holiness. Nothing unclean is lovely. Character is Christ-like, only when it is beautiful.
All the precepts of the Bible are towards the fashioning of beauty in every redeemed life. We are to put away . . .
all that is sinful,
every blot and blemish,
every unholy desire, feeling and affection,
everything that would defile —
and put on whatsoever is lovely and Christ-like.
The one great work of Christ in Christian lives — is the fashioning of holiness in them. We are to grow away from . . .
our poor dwarfed stunted life
— into spiritual beauty!
The mark set before us is the likeness of Christ, which, at last, we shall attain! "We know that when He appears — we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is! And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself — just as He is pure." 1 John 3:2-3
"God Himself has said — Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
This truth ought to bring unspeakable comfort to God's children, who are called to suffer earthly losses. If they have GOD left to them — no other loss is irreparable!
A wealthy man came home one evening with a heavy heart, and said that he had lost everything. Bankruptcy had overtaken him. "We are utterly beggared!" he said. "All is gone; there is nothing left! We must leave our home, and beg for tomorrow's bread!" His little five year old daughter crept up on his knee, and, looking earnestly into his despairing face, said, "Why, papa, you have mamma and me left!"
Just so, what are temporal and worldly losses of the sorest kind — while God remains? Yes, what is the loss of money, houses, costly furniture, and other possessions, while God's love remains? There is surely enough in Him — to compensate a thousand times for every earthly loss!
Our lives may be stripped bare — home, friends, riches, comforts — gone; every sweet voice of love, every note of joy — silenced; and we may be driven out from brightness, tenderness and shelter — into the cold ways of sorrow! Yet if we have God Himself left — ought not this to suffice? Is He not in Himself, infinitely more than all His gifts? If we have Him — can we really need anything else?
"The Lord is my Shepherd — I have everything I need!" Psalm 23:1
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:26
TRUE WORK NEVER FAILS
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain!" 1 Corinthians 15:58
The old water-wheel turns round and round outside the wall. It seems to be idle work that it is doing. You see nothing accomplished. But its shaft runs through the mill wall and turns a great system of machinery there, and makes bread to feed many a hungry mouth.
Just so, we toil away, many of us, and often see no rewards or fruits. But, if we are true to God, we are making results somewhere for His glory and the good of others. The shaft runs through into the unseen, and turns wheels there, preparing blessings and food for hungry lives.
No true work for Christ can ever fail. Somewhere, sometime, somehow — there will be results. We need not be discouraged or disheartened, for in due time we shall reap if we faint not. But what if we faint?
RESTING A WHILE
"My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places!" Isaiah 32:18
There never is a moment without its duty; and, if we are living near to Christ and following Him closely — we shall never be left in ignorance of what He needs us to do.
If there is nothing — absolutely nothing — for us to do at any time, then we may be sure that the Master needs us to sit down a moment at His feet and rest. For He is not a hard Master, and, besides, rest is as needful in its time as work. We need to rest in order to work. So we must not worry when there come moments which seem to have no task for our hands. The next thing, then, is to sit down and rest a while.
THE POWER OF HIS PRESENCE
"But they urged him strongly: Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over. So he went in to stay with them." Luke 24:29
Christ can never be hid. He can be in no place in this world very long, and His presence not be recognized. You may hide sweet flowers so that they cannot be seen — but soon the fragrance will disclose their hiding-place. So the sweetness of the Savior's life and love will always be manifest, when He is near.
When He enters a human heart He cannot be hidden, for soon His spirit begins to breathe out in all the words, actions, and life of the new follower. When He enters a home He cannot long be hidden, for the home is changed — worldliness, bitterness, and sin — giving place to prayer and praise, to the spirit of love and gentleness, and to purity and holiness. When He enters a community He cannot remain concealed. Christ will always reveal His presence in this world!
WHERE IGNORANCE IS BLISS
"Jesus replied: You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." John 13:7
Only as we go on, step by step, does God disclose to us His will and plan for our life. Thus the joys of life do not dazzle us — for our hearts have been chastened to receive them. The sorrows do not overwhelm us — because each one brings its own special comfort with it.
But, if we had known in advance of the coming joys and prosperities, the exultation might have made us heedless of duty and of danger. We might have let go God's hand and grown self-confident, thus missing the blessing that comes only to simple, trusting faith. If we had known of the struggles and trials before us — we might have become disheartened, thus failing of courage to endure. In either case we could not have borne the revealing, and it was in tenderness that the Master withheld it.
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions!" Psalm 51:1
We sin against God continually, and His mercy never fails. His love bears with all our neglect, forgetfulness, ingratitude, and disobedience, and never grows impatient with us. We live only by His forbearance.
The wrongs He endures from us are infinite in comparison with the trivial grievances we must endure from our fellow-men. When we think of this, can we grow impatient of the little irritations of daily life? We are taught to pray every day, "Forgive us our debts — as we forgive our debtors." How can we pray this petition sincerely, and continue to be exacting, resentful, revengeful, or even to be greatly pained by the unkind treatment of others?
THE PROFIT OF PAIN
"He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross!" Malachi 3:3
Many of the finest things in character, are the fruits of pain. Many a Christian enters trial as cold, worldly, unspiritual, with the best possibilities of his nature still locked up in his life — and emerges from the experience a little later with spirit softened, mellowed, and enriched — the lovely graces and virtues matured.
A photographer carries his picture into a darkened room, that he may bring out its features. He says the light of the sun would mar the impression on the plate.
Just so, there are features of spiritual beauty which cannot be produced in a life, in the glare of human joy and prosperity. God brings out in many a soul its loveliest virtues and graces, when the curtain is drawn and the light of human joy is shut out.
"I will refine them like silver and test them like gold." Zechariah 13:9
"I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10
"When He has tried me — I will emerge as pure gold!" Job 23:10
THE SWEET WILL OF GOD
"So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." 1 Peter 4:19
We can easily obey "the sweet will of God" when this will is indeed sweet to our natural taste. But how is it when God directs us to go the way we do not want to go — to do the thing that is unpleasant, or will cause pain or require sacrifice or loss? How is it with us, when God bids us to . . .
take the path that leads to a cross;
turn away from the pleasant thing that we desire;
give up the friendship that has grown dear to our heart — but is drawing us away from Him;
give into His hand, the child or the loved one whom we so desire to keep with us?
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
"In all your ways" means . . .
the hard ways — as well as the easy ways;
the thorny path — as well as the path of flowers;
when it breaks our heart — as well as when it gives us joy or gladness.
CHRIST'S GREAT PASTURE LAND!
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever!" Psalm 23
The shepherd looks well to the feeding of his sheep. He leads them into green pastures.
The Bible is Christ's great pasture land. Every chapter is a field of rich grass. There are also trees, with abundance of fruits. If any Christians are not well fed, it is because they do not hunger for the food which the Good Shepherd provides.
In the common ways of life, God's sheep find food waiting for them. Sometimes the shepherd leads his flock through dark valleys, to get to a bit of pasture on some hillside. Sometimes Christ leads his people through sorrow, struggle, trial; but it is because on the other side of these rough and hard ways, there is rich pasture to which He would take them.
Wherever a Christian is led in God's providence, he will always find nourishing spiritual food somewhere. Christ never allows His people to suffer hunger.
"Where streams of living waters flow,
My ransomed soul He leads,
And where the verdant pastures grow
With celestial food He feeds!"
THE TEST OF FRIENDSHIP
"Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel." Proverbs 27:9
There are better things to give than gold and silver. If we can put new life and hope into the heart of a discouraged man, so that he rises out of his weak despair, and takes his place again in the ranks of active life — we have done a far better thing for him than if we had put our hands into our pockets and given him money to help him nurse his miserable and unmanly despair a little longer.
The truest sympathy is not that weak emotion which only sits down and weeps with a sufferer, imparting no courage or hope — but that wiser love which, while it is touched by his pain and grief, and feels tenderly toward him — seeks to put new strength into his heart, to enable him to endure his sufferings in a victorious way.
STRENGTH IN STILLNESS
"Their strength is to sit still." Isaiah 30:7
"Does it hurt you badly?" one asked of a friend who lay with a broken arm.
"Not when I keep still," was the answer.
This is the secret of much of the victoriousness we see in rejoicing Christians. They conquer the pain and the bitterness — by keeping still. They do not question their all-wise and all-loving Father, nor demand to know why they have trials. They believe in their heavenly Father, and are so sure of His love and wisdom, that they are not pained by doubt, or fear, or uncertainty. Peace is their pillow, because they have learned just to be still in God's loving embrace. Their quietness robs . . .
trial of its sharpness,
sorrow of its bitterness,
death of its sting, and
the grave of its victory!
"Be still, and know that I am God!" Psalm 46:10
"When you can't trace God's hand — then trust His heart!"
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward!" Matthew 10:42
There are great multitudes of lowly lives lived on the earth which have no name among men, whose work no pen records, and no marble immortalizes — but who are well known and unspeakably dear to God, and whose influence will be seen, in the end, to reach to farthest shores.
They make no noise in the world — but it needs not noise to make a life beautiful and noble. Many of God's most potent ministries are noiseless.
How silently all day long the sunbeams fall upon the fields and gardens — and yet what cheer, what inspiration, what life and beauty they diffuse?
How silently the flowers bloom — and yet what rich blessings of fragrance do they emit?
How silently the stars move on in their majestic marches around God's throne — and yet the telescope shows us that they are mighty worlds or great central suns representing utterly incalculable power!
THE CRY OF THE SOUL
"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42:1-2
Longing is the very soul of all true prayer. If we desire nothing more — we will ask nothing more. Longing is . . .
the empty hand reached out to receive new gifts from Heaven;
the heart's cry which God hears with acceptance, and answers with more and more;
the ascending angel that climbs the starry ladder to return on the same radiant stairway with blessings from God's very throne;
the key that unlocks new storehouses of Divine goodness and enrichment;
the bold navigator that ventures out on unknown seas and discovers new continents;
nothing less than the very life of God in the human soul, struggling to grow up in us into the fullness of the stature of Christ!
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water!" Psalm 63:1
THE WORD IN SEASON
"A word spoken in due season — how good is it!" Proverbs 15:23
We have a service to render to each one with whom we are permitted to hold even the briefest and most casual conversation. What it is, we may not know; but, if the desire is in our hearts, God will use us to minister blessing in some way. Opportunities for such ministry are occurring continually.
In a morning's greeting we may put so much heart and so much Christ into phrase and tone — as to make our neighbor happier all the day. In a few moments' conversation by the wayside, or during the formal call, or in the midst of the day's heat and strife — we may drop the word that will . . .
lift a burden,
or strengthen a fainting heart,
or inspire a new hope,
or give warning of danger!
THE DAILY ROUND
"He who is faithful in little things — is also faithful also in much." Luke 16:10
One's vocation is never a far-off possibility; it is always for the present, the simple round of duties that the passing hour brings.
Someone has pictured the days as coming to us with their faces veiled — but, when they have passed beyond our recall, the draped figures become radiant, and the gifts we rejected are seen to be treasures fit for kings' houses.
No day is commonplace, if only we had eyes to see the veiled splendors which lie in its opportunities, and in its plain and dull routine. There is no duty that comes to our hand, but brings to us the possibility of kingly service, with Divine reward.
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward!" Matthew 10:42
THE STRENGTH OF WEAKNESS
"God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." 1 Corinthians 1:27
You think that your weakness unfits you for noble, strong, beautiful living — or for sweet, gentle, helpful serving. You wish you could get clear of it. It seems a burden to you — an ugly deformity. But really it is something which, if you give it to Christ, He can transform into a blessing and a source of power.
The friend by your side, whom you envy because he seems so much stronger than you are, does not get so much of Christ's strength as you do. You alone are weaker than he; but your weakness draws to you Divine power, and makes you strong!
"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong!" 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
THIS TROUBLED LIFE
"These are those who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Revelation 7:14
Much of the most beautiful life in this world, comes out of sorrow. As "fair flowers bloom upon rough stalks," so many of the fairest flowers of human life grow upon the rough stalk of suffering.
We take our place with the beloved disciple in glory, and we see that those who in Heaven wear the whitest robes, and sing the loudest songs of victory, are those who have come out of great tribulation.
Heaven's highest places are filling, not from earth's homes of glad festivity and tearless joy — but from its chambers of pain, its valleys of struggle where the battle is hard, and its scenes of sorrow, where pale cheeks are wet with tears, and where hearts are broken.
WE KNOW IN PART
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts!" Isaiah 55:8-9
We cannot expect to know all God's thoughts. We cannot expect to know God's design in the providences that touch human affairs and affect our own lives. We cannot trace the results of His acts through centuries to come, to know what the final outcome will be.
We cannot tell what beautiful trees, with full rich fruitage, will grow from the rough dark seeds which today the Master plants in our life-garden. We cannot tell what blessing will come in the long future from the sorrow that now lays its heavy hand upon us.
STRONG IN THE LORD
"Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might!" Ephesians 6:10
When we are strong, or deem ourselves strong, we are really weak, since then we trust in ourselves, and do not seek Divine help. But when we are consciously weak, knowing ourselves unequal to our duties and struggles — then we are strong, because then we turn to God and get His strength.
Too many people think their weakness a barrier to their usefulness, or make it an excuse for doing little with their life. Instead of this, however, if we give it to Christ He will transform it into strength. He says His strength is made perfect in weakness; that is, what is lacking in human strength He fills and makes up with Divine. Paul had learned this when he said he gloried now in his weaknesses, because on account of them the strength of Christ rested upon him, so that when he was weak then he was strong.
"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord." 1 Corinthians 12:4-5
The bird praises God by singing.
The flower pays its tribute in fragrant incense as its censer swings in the breeze.
The tree shakes down fruits from its bending boughs.
The stars pour out their silver beams to gladden the earth.
The clouds give their blessings in gentle rain.
Yet all fulfill their mission with equal faithfulness.
Just so, among Christ's redeemed servants . . .
one serves by incessant toil in the home, caring for a large family;
another by silent example as a sufferer, patient and uncomplaining;
another with the pen, sending forth words that inspire, help, cheer, and bless;
another by the living voice, whose eloquence moves men, and starts impulses to better, holier living.
Yet each and all of these may be serving Christ acceptably, hearing at the close of each day the whispered word, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
WE FALL TO RISE
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10
Defeats in life should never detain us long, since only faith and courage are needed to change them into real victories. For, after all, it is character we are building in this world. And if we use every experience to promote our growth, to make us better, if we emerge from it stronger, braver, truer, nobler — then we have lost nothing — but have been the gainer. In reverses and misfortunes, then, we have but to keep our eyes fixed on Christ, caring only that no harm comes to our soul from the loss or the trial — and thus we shall be victorious!
"But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the LORD — and rejoice before him!" Psalm 68:3-4
There is no inconsistency between holiness and laughter. It is no sin to smile. Indeed, a somber religion is unnatural. Gloom is morbidness. Our lives should be sunny and songful. The type of religion in the New Testament, is joyous even amid sorrows. There is not a tinge of ascetic severity or misanthropic hardness in one of the saints whose pictures are preserved. We hear songs in the night.
There is a flower that is most fragrant when the sun has set, and in the darkness pours its richest aroma on the air. Just so, true religion grows in sweetness as shadows deepen. He misrepresents Christianity and the likeness of the Master — whose piety is cold, rigid, colorless, joyless, or who frowns upon innocent gladness and pure pleasure.
STRENGTH IN QUIETNESS
"In quietness and confidence is your strength." Isaiah 30:15
In all departments of life, it is the quiet forces that effect most.
The sunbeams fall all day long, silently, unheard by human ear — yet there is in them a wondrous energy and a great power for blessing and good.
Gravitation is a silent force, with no rattle of machinery, no noise of engines, no clanking of chains — and yet it holds all the stars and worlds in their orbits, and swings them through space with unvarying precision.
The dew falls silently at night when men sleep, and yet it touches every plant and leaf and flower with new life and beauty.
It is in the lightning, not in the thunder-peal, that the electric energy resides.
Thus even in nature, strength lies in quietness, and the mightiest energies work noiselessly.
THE PATIENCE OF JESUS
"Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust!" Psalm 103:13, 14.
We are half the time perplexed about something — full of worries. These doubts, fears, and anxieties get into our prayers. They take the joy out of our worship, and the faith out of our supplications, and give a sad tone to our devotions.
Does Jesus ever get tired of such prayers? No, no! He listens, and hears all the discords made by the murmurings. His heart must be pained by them too; but He answers us nevertheless. He is very patient with us — He never chides. He remembers how frail we are, and sends the sweetest answers that His love can give.
"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.
The body that is sown is perishable — it is raised imperishable;
it is sown in dishonor — it is raised in glory;
it is sown in weakness — it is raised in power;
it is sown a natural body — it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body — there is also a spiritual body!" 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
The resurrection body will be forever free from disease and pain. There will be no decrepitude, no bowed forms, no pale cheeks, no wasting or decay. How pleasant it is to the elderly to know that they will get back their bodies with all the marks of old age removed, and will begin life again with all the glow of immortal youth?
Not only does age leave no marks or traces of wasting — but the immortal life is a growth ever toward youth and freshness of existence, rather than toward senility and decay.
THE UNEXPECTED CHRIST
"Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them." Luke 24:13-15
The way of duty is always the surest place to come upon Christ. No one ever yet found Him in the path of disobedience. The Samaritan woman was unaware of the glory of the presence beside her. Jesus met her in the form of a weary and way-worn man, and won His way to her conscience and heart before He revealed to her the glory of His personality.
Christ continually comes in unrecognized ways, getting near to us and drawing out our love and trust, before we know that it is Christ we are loving and trusting; then He drops the veil and shows us His blessed face!
THE NEED FOR CLEANSING
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow!" Psalm 51:7
We must be cleansed ourselves — if we would seek the cleansing of others. What if our own hands, with which we would wash the feet of other disciples, are not clean — but are themselves covered with sin? Instead of cleansing the lives we touch, we shall then leave stains upon them! So we must see that our own hands have been washed in the blood of Christ, before we undertake to wash the feet of others.
Then we must be willing to yield over our own feet to the water. The washing is to go all around; we are to wash one another's feet. The secret of all must be genuine love for others.
DEATH, THE GATE OF LIFE
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
If we are true believers in Christ, dying is but leaving darkness and sin and danger — to pass into light and holiness and safety.
A poet represents one coming up to a gate on a mountain-side, over which were written the words, "The Gate of Death!" But when he touched the gate it opened, and he found himself amid great brightness and beauty; then, turning about, he saw above the gate he had entered the words, "The Gate of Life!"
If we are in Christ, then death is abolished, and the point which earth calls the point of death, is really the point of life. We need then to make sure of only one thing — that we are truly Christ's by living faith and loving obedience.
CHARACTER NEVER DIES
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal!" Matthew 6:19-20
There are things, qualities, fruits of character, gains, treasures, spoils of moral conquests — which men do carry with them out of this world.
Someone says, "The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried, is character." This is true. What a man IS, survives him. It never can be buried. It stays around his home when his footsteps come there no more. It lives in the community where he was known. And that same thing — what a man IS — he does carry with him into the eternal world.
Money and rank and circumstances and earthly gains he leaves behind him — but his character he takes with him into eternity!
THE SUMMER OF YOUTH
"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say: I find no pleasure in them!" Ecclesiastes 12:1
Youth is the summer of life. It is a time for education, for receiving instruction, for gathering knowledge. It is a time for the formation of habits, for the knitting of the thews and sinews of character. It is a time for the choosing of friends and the making of friendships. Then the days are long, and quiet, and free from care, burden, and responsibility. Other hands toil then, other brains think and plan, other hearts love and suffer — that youth may be happy and unanxious.
Later comes "real life" with its duties, its responsibilities, its cares and struggles, its sorrows, its burdens. But he who has gathered in the summer days of youth, does not lack in the winter of old age. A youth-time diligently improved, prepares one for whatever may come in the stern days of old age.
"Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city!" Proverbs 16:32
One minute of unbridled passion, has often left consequences of shame and sorrow which years could not undo! Our aim should be to obtain perfect self-mastery, and never to lose it. Then shall our rule over our turbulent life keep it from folly and sin.
Not our tongue only — but our temper, and all the lower qualities of our being shall be then held in control. Everything in us is meant to be under control of conscience and will, and to be used to honor God and bless the world.
Men found a wild torrent in the mountains; they made a channel for it, and it turned a thousand wheels and spindles. That is what God wants us to do with the torrents we find in our being. Self-control is having the mastery; it is ruling all the life's powers for Christ.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control." Galatians 5:22-23
THE CONSECRATED LIFE
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God." Romans 12:1
If we learn the lesson of consecration well — it takes the drudgery out of all duties.
It lifts up the commonest thing of life, into blessed service at Christ's feet.
It makes us patient and gentle, when dealing with the most disagreeable people.
It imparts a high, a divine motive to all friendship and companionship.
It teaches us patience amid the interruptions and disarrangements of our plans.
It disciplines our wayward wills in little things, and brings them into subjection to Christ.
It takes the frivolity out of our conversation.
It makes us ever watchful of our influence over others, and of our treatment of them.
It makes us ever ready and eager both to receive and impart help and blessing.
THE PURE HEART
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!" Matthew 5:8
There is no beatitude in the Bible for anything unclean. We are told also that there is no room in Heaven for anything that defiles. Therefore if we hope to enter Heaven, we must prepare for it here.
To a child who expressed the wonder how he could ever get up to Heaven, it was so far away, a wise mother's reply was, "Heaven must first come down to you — Heaven must first come into your heart." The words were very true. Heaven must really be in us, or we can never enter Heaven. And just as we become pure in heart is Heaven entering into us.
"Without holiness no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14
THE INDWELLING CHRIST
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God." 1 Corinthians 2:12
Transfiguration is wrought in human life by the indwelling of Christ. In what measure Christ enters into us, and fills us, and abides in us — depends upon the measure of our surrender to Him. He is ready to fill us and live in us.
A perfumer bought an earthenware vase and filled it with attar of roses. The rich perfume entered into the material of the vase, and completely permeated it. Long after it ceased to be used, it still carried the fragrance of roses. Even when it was old and broken, its shattered and worthless fragments retained the sweetness.
Just so, it is when the love of God has been shed abroad in a human heart by the Divine Spirit, and the earthly life has been struck through with the life of Christ. It is all Christ; self dies. Christ lives in the soul, and His beauty shines out in the life!
THE ORNAMENT OF MEEKNESS
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight!" 1 Peter 3:3-4
Meekness is not a popular word. Many of us do not like it. We pronounce it weakness. We say that we ought not to submit so easily to wrongs; we ought not to allow others to rob us of our rights; we ought not to give place so readily to selfish people who do us injustice, who crowd us aside, who use us as stepping-stones on which to climb upward.
Yet, it remains true that meekness shines as one of the brightest qualities in the character of Him whose life was perfect. "Who, while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously." In His teaching, too, our Lord gave high commendation to meekness. He put it among the beatitudes, with a promise of great blessing. Meekness makes a life beautiful, radiant, Christly!
"God is a Spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." John 4:24
The music of splendid choirs, and the repeating of creeds and prayers — do not make worship. Worship is heart adoration, and the only true homage that rises from an assembly, or from a private closet where one bows alone — is just the love and praise and prayer and devotion of hearts ascending in the words of human lips. No mere forms of worship are acceptable. No offerings or gifts avail in worship — unless they are the expression of holy affections.
The teaching is not that we are not to use forms of worship; we cannot worship well without forms. The simplest rituals will be pleasing to God — if the heart's love fills them. But the most magnificent ritual will be empty of real worship, and will be an abomination to God — if there is no true worship of the heart in it. All depends upon what we put into the forms.
"And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God." Luke 9:2
Apostles are not the only people to whom Christ gives this same commission. He wants every one whom He saves, to go out and preach the gospel to others.
Christian boys and girls can preach, by living a sweet and beautiful life at home, at school, among companions. Beautiful living is the most eloquent of all preaching!
There is a story of one who became a Christian; and when asked under whose preaching he had been converted, he replied: "Under nobody's preaching — but under Aunt Mary's practicing!"
Every Christian ought to preach by faithful practicing!
"So that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive!" Titus 2:10
"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God!" 1 Peter 2:12
"By this all men will know that you are My disciples — if you love one another!" John 13:35
FAITH IN JESUS
"For the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Romans 3:26
When God laid the sins of men on Jesus, and when Jesus had made expiation for them, the law was satisfied. No one can say that God is not just, since Christ died for man's sins.
Yet there is something for us to do. Forgiveness is offered to all. But there must be an individual acceptance of it on the part of each sinner who would receive its blessing. This is faith. It is faith in Jesus which is required — not merely believing in God's mercy — but receiving Christ as the Savior, and resting upon Him alone for salvation.
This implies a great deal. If we take Christ as our Savior — we must take Him also as our Master. That means that we forsake our sins; that we devote ourselves to Him, and follow Him with love and obedience.
THE ART OF ENCOURAGEMENT
"Encourage one another daily." Hebrews 3:13
It is right to praise people when they do well. Hearty, cheerful, sincere commendation is good everywhere. It is good in homes. Approval encourages and stimulates to better service in the future.
Too many people seem afraid ever to say a kindly word to others about what they have done.
When a person dies there is no lack of commendation; but what does the dead man care for such words? Many a time along his years, when he was weary and over-burdened — if the thousandth part of the kindly things spoken by his coffin, had been spoken in his ear — he would have been cheered and strengthened by the encouragement!
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
THE DIVINE HELPER!
"As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you." Isaiah 46:13
When we know that Jesus is the Son of God, with all divine attributes — the comfort from the truth of His Humanity is immeasurably enhanced.
While He knows all about us, understands our experiences, and sympathizes with us in every varying mood and phase of life — He is also able to help us! He is our companion all the way. The arm that is so much comfort to us in its embrace — is an everlasting arm. The Friend who is so close, whose love means so much to our hungry heart — is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Man whose feet walked over these earth-paths, and marked out the way for us — is on Heaven's throne, King of kings and Lord of lords!
We need never fear to trust this divine sympathizing Savior!
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are." Hebrews 4:15
JOY IN SORROW
"And when they sang a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives." Matthew 26. 30.
This is the only record of our Lord's singing when He was on the earth. It is worthy of special notice that it was just as He was starting out to Gethsemane, that He sang a hymn with His disciples.
It would not have seemed so strange to us, if He had sung that night on the Transfiguration Mount, or the day He entered Jerusalem amid the people's hosannas, or on some other occasion of great gladness and triumph. But that the only time we hear Him singing should be in the darkest night of His life, is very suggestive and instructive.
GOD'S MARVELOUS CONSTANT GOODNESS!
"The day is Yours, and Yours also the night — You established the sun and moon. It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth — You made both summer and winter!" Psalm 74:16-17
Someone has said that if only once or twice in a century, God were to unveil the starry heavens, showing us the glory of their splendors — all men would look up in awe to adore and worship! But because every night the sky is unveiled to us, and its wondrous beauty shown, we walk about on the dark earth and scarcely ever see the stars!
If there were breaks sometimes in the flow of God's marvelous constant goodness — we would better appreciate its wondrous meaning. But living perpetually beneath its blessings, we do not realize its fullness and blessedness.
Yet surely, with such a Father, caring for us more constantly and more tenderly than any human mother cares for her child — we ought never to worry. Anxiety is not merely an allowable weakness; it is sin, for it is doubting God!
THE NEW HEART
"No man also sews a piece of new cloth on an old garment." Mark 2:21
Christ did not come into this world to patch up an old religion, merely to mend a hole here, and beautify a spot there, and add a touch to this part or that. He came to make all things new!
And when He saves a sinner, He does not propose merely to mend him up a little here and there, to cover over some bad spots in him, and to close up tears in his character by strong patches of the new cloth of grace. Gospel work is not patchwork! Christ does not sew on pieces; He weaves a new garment without seam throughout!
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and cause you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws!" Ezekiel 36:26-27
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect!" Romans 12:2
It is wonderful how love transfigures a life! It changes all the world to our eyes. People are not seen now, with critical spirit, watching for faults; nor with sensitive spirit, shrinking from every unkindly touch, and resenting every rude, disagreeable, or even unjust thing in their treatment of us; not, with exacting spirit, demanding attention, claiming rights, and measuring and counting favors due.
Love sees in every other person one to be served, to be ministered unto, to be helped, to be patiently borne with, to be treated kindly in spite of his faults. Thus it makes the whole life bright and radiant. Love is a transfiguring quality.
"The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation!" Exodus 15:2
We have no power in ourselves to do Christ's will, but, as we begin to obey — the needed grace is given. People often say that they are afraid to enter upon a Christian life because they cannot do what will be required. They say that it would be as easy for them to climb to the stars as, unaided, to live a noble and lovely Christian life. Human strength in itself is inadequate to life's sore needs.
But the Christian who sets out in obedience to Christ, depending upon Him to open the path of duty, will never fail of needed help at the moment of need.
Christians also often shrink from duties, because they have not the ability to perform them; but, for them and for all who attempt any work or service in obedience to Christ, it is true that the effort to obey, will always bring with it the strength to obey.
"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is!" 1 John 3:2
The highest reaches we can attain here in this present world, are but broken fragments of the full Divine beauty. At the best, we can only become dimly transfigured — only faintly does the beauty of the Lord appear in us.
The last design made by the great painter, Albert Durer, was a drawing showing Christ on His cross. It was all completed, except the face of the Divine Sufferer, when the artist was summoned away by death.
Just so, at the end of the longest and holiest life, we shall have but a part of the picture of Christ wrought upon our soul. Our best striving shall have attained but a fragment of the matchless beauty. The glory of that blessed Face, we cannot reproduce. But when we go away from our little fragment of transfiguration on earth, we shall look a moment afterward upon the Divine features, and, seeing Jesus as He is, shall be like Him!
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 3:12-14
THE BLESSEDNESS OF GIVING
"Freely you have received — freely give!" Matthew 10:8
It is a desecration of the sacred name to think that love, at its heart, means getting, receiving. Nay, love gives. Getting is earthly; "as it is in Heaven" is giving. That is what God's love does — it finds its blessedness in giving. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." That is what Christ's love did — it poured out its very life-blood to the last drop. The essential meaning of loving, must always be giving, not receiving.
THE WORLD'S TOUCH
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." John 17:16
We are here for our Master, to do His work, to reveal Him to men — to do in our little measure, the things He would do if He were here in our place. We are therefore to be in the world — as Jesus was in it. He maintained the heavenly life, without spot, in the midst of all the sin there was about Him. The world made no impression on His holiness, His purity.
We need to guard our lives, against the unholy influences of the world. We are in danger of lowering our standard of conduct and character, to be more in harmony with the people about us. We are in danger of slackening the restraints of virtue, and falling in with the easy-going morality of the times. But that is not the way to the transfigured life. The world's touch tarnishes and dims the luster of holiness!
"I helped those without hope, and they blessed me. And I caused the widows' hearts to sing for joy!" Job 29:13
There are those who live to give cheer and encouragement. They may have burdens, or even sore griefs, of their own — but they hide them away in their own hearts, not carrying them so as to cast their shadows on any other life. When you meet them, it is as when you go out on a June morning under a cloudless sky, with dewy fragrance breathing all around, and bird songs filling the air. There is a loving radiance in their countenances. Even if you do not know them personally, and merely meet them without salutation on the street, there is something in their expression that leaves a blessing on you, whose holy influence follows you all day like the memory of a lovely picture or the refrain of a sweet song.
WITNESSES FOR THE LORD
"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ!" Romans 1:16
Some people are ashamed of the Gospel. They profess to be Christians — but they have not courage to confess Christ out in the world. It is easy to confess Him where everybody is Christ's friend, and where all are confessing Him. But the fewer Christians there are in a place or company — the more reason is there for the few to be courageous for Him.
Miss Havergal tells of going to a boarding-school just after she had confessed Christ. She was young and timid, and was startled to find that in a school of a hundred students, she was the only Christian. Her first feeling was that she could not avow her love for Christ, with all that company of worldly girls around her. But her second thought was that she was the only one Christ had there to represent Him. This thought was most strengthening, and from that hour she quietly but firmly took her place in the school as a friend of Christ.
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you!" Isaiah 60:1
In one of the pictures of the Christ-child in the stable, it is night, and there is no light in the place except for a little crude lamp hanging from the roof. Yet the whole place is filled with a soft, gentle light. When we look for the source of this light, we find that it streams from the Child in the manger.
Thus it was in all Christ's life — He had light in Himself, and when He was in dark places, the darkness was illuminated by the brightness which shone out from Him. So it should be with those who are truly following Christ.
One who went with fear and hesitation to see a friend who had just passed through a great sorrow, dreading the meeting, and wondering what she could say to give comfort — was surprised to have her friend meet her with shining face — the shining of the peace and love of God. When it grew dark about her, the light within her own soul streamed out.
SPEAK OUT THE MESSAGE
"Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!" Nahum 1:15
Each one should speak out his own message. If it is only a single word, it will yet bless the earth.
If only one of the flowers that bloom in summer days in the fields and gardens had refused to bloom, hiding its little gift of beauty, the world would be poorer and less lovely.
If but one of the myriad stars in the heavens had refused to shine, keeping its little beam locked in its heart — the nights would be a little darker than they are.
And every human life that fails to hear its message and learn its lessons, or fails to speak it out, keeping it locked in the silence of the heart — leaves this earth a little poorer. But every life, even the lowliest, that learns of God, and then speaks out its message, adds something to the world's blessing and beauty.
THE FRUIT OF PAIN
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
We need never be afraid of suffering. "Hereunto were you called." There must be a reason for this suffering, in God's thought of us. We know, at least, that we never can reach the best things in life, but by the paths of pain. All the richest blessings of grace lie beyond lines of suffering, which we must pass to get them.
Even of Jesus it is said that He was made perfect through suffering. There were attainments which even He could reach in no other way. All that is worthiest and most Christlike in holy men, bears the marks of pain upon it. We must pay the price — if we would get the blessing.
ACT IN THE LIVING PRESENT
"As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said: That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you." Acts 24:25
Felix was not true to his own best interests. He was not honest with himself. He saw the wrong in his own life; he had a glimpse of the judgment; he was terrified; he knew what he ought to do — yet he put the matter off.
This is a well-trodden highway, and there are always thousands upon it. They believe everything in Scripture, and are terrified when they think of the awful facts of eternity. They mean to turn and be saved — but they put it off. There will be a more convenient season by and by. It is a terribly mistaken way to go. The best time to repent and be saved, is always now. A more convenient season will never come.
THE ATTRIBUTES OF LOVE
"God is love" 1 John 4:8
"Love is patient." That is, patience in enduring painful or unreasonable things from others.
"Love does not envy." Love is the spirit that gets as much enjoyment from seeing others have things — as if you had them yourself.
"Love is not rude." That means good manners. Someone defines a gentleman as one who will never give pain to another. Love has regard for the feelings of every one, no matter who it is. This spirit makes one always gentle, thoughtful, kind.
"Love seeks not its own." That means unselfishness. Even that which it might claim as a right, it does not seek its own way. It has learned the sweet lesson that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."
"Love is not easily angered." That means good temper. A great many people seem not to regard bad temper as anything worse than a pardonable weakness — but really it is a sad blot on a disposition!
ARMED FOR THE FIGHT
"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." Ephesians 6:13
God's purpose always is to make something of us — to bring out the best that is in us. Hence He does not clear the forest for us — but puts the axe into our own hands, and bids us to cut it down for ourselves. And while we prepare the ground for tillage, we grow healthy and strong ourselves through the toil.
God does not drive out the enemies for us. He puts the sword into our own hands, and sends us to drive them out. The struggle does us good. The wrestling makes us strong.
NEED OF REPENTANCE
"In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying: Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near!" Matthew 3:1-2
Repentance must always come before forgiveness and peace. Perhaps we need to be reminded of this in these days. We are in danger of making salvation too easy a matter, and of being altogether too tolerant with ourselves. We forget, some of us, that sin is such a terrible thing, and we are too careless about getting rid of our sins. We misunderstand God's forgiveness, if we think of it merely as a mere intellectual faith.
Jesus did not come to save us merely from sin's penalties; He came to save us from the sins themselves, by leading us to forsake them forever. Unless we repent of our sins, we never can have forgiveness.
"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins!" Matthew 1:21
"Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water'; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, 'Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.'" They did so" John 2:7-8
The servants' part in this miracle was important: they had to carry the water and fill the vessels, and then draw out and take the wine to the guests. Thus they became co-workers with Christ in His miracle.
Just so, our Lord calls His people always to be His helpers in blessing the world. We cannot do much. The best we can bring is a little common water; but if we bring that to Him, He can change it into the rich wine of Heaven, which will bless weary and fainting ones. If we take simply what we have and use it as He commands, it will do good.
Moses had only a rod in his hand — but with this he wrought great wonders. The disciples had only five barley loaves — but these, touched by Christ's hand, made a feast for thousands! So the common water carried by these servants, under the Master's blessing, became wine for the wedding.
THE UNSEEN ANGEL
"And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." 2 Corinthians 1:7
There is a picture of a woman seated on the rocks, looking out upon a wild sea, down into which the treasures of her heart have gone. Her face is stony with hopeless, despairing grief. Almost touching the bleak robe of the mourner, hovering over her shoulder, is the shadowy form of an angel softly touching the strings of a harp. But she is unaware of the angel's nearness. She bows in speechless unconsciousness, with breaking heart and unsoothed sorrow — while the heavenly consolation is so close.
Just so, many of God's children sit in darkness, crushed by their sorrows, yearning for comfort and for an assurance of the Divine love and sympathy, hearing no soft music, no whisper of consolation — while close beside them the Master Himself stands unperceived, and Heaven's sweetest songs float unheard in the very air they breathe.
CHRIST THE JUSTIFIER
"By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." Romans 3:20
Some people imagine that their morality is enough to save them. We mas as well hope to climb to the stars by going up the highest mountain — as to gain Heaven by the best moralities. No man can live well enough to merit salvation. No man can live without sin, and "the wages of sin is death." There have been some very holy people in this world, who have lived very close to God — but there never has been one who was received into Heaven on the ground of his own good works.
The law of God is so broad and deep, extending not only to acts and words — but to thoughts, motives, feelings, and affections — that it is utterly impossible for any fallen being perfectly to meet all its demands.
Not the labors of my hands,
Can fulfill Your law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow —
All for sin could not atone,
You must save, and You alone!
"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5
The religion of Christ teaches the most beautiful humility. We are not to seek to be ministered unto — but to minister; not to get distinction and praise — but to live quietly.
Kossuth said that of all natural emblems he would choose for his life, is the dew. It makes no noise, seeks no praise, writes no record — but is content to sink away and be lost in the flowers and grass blades, to be remembered only in the new beauty and sweetness it imparts to nature.
Those who always demand that they shall be recognized, and their name attached to everything they do — have not learned the mind of Christ as well as have those who are content to have Christ honored, to do good to others, and to be remembered only in the new blessing and good which they leave in other lives!
NO QUEST, NO CONQUEST
"And you will seek Me and find Me — when you search for Me with all your heart!" Jeremiah 29:13
Not literally all who seek, find. The seeking must be earnest.
The seeking must also be for good things. If our quest is for sinful things, or for worldly good that would work in us spiritual harm — God will not give us what we seek.
Then we must live right. "No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."
The thing itself must be good; and we must walk in paths of obedience — or there is no promise of reward for our quest.
"It is the Lord's will. Let Him do what He thinks best." 1 Samuel 3:18
The heart of consecration is not devotion to this or that kind of service for Christ — but devotion to the Divine will, whatever God may ordain. It may not be any form of activity — sometimes it is quiet waiting. Consecration is not bringing a great many souls to Christ, attending a great many meetings, or teaching or preaching.
Some weary one, shut away in the darkness, in the chamber of pain, may be illustrating true consecration far more beautifully than those whose hands are fullest of Christian activities in the bustling world.
Consecration is devotion to the will of Christ. It is readiness to do, not what we want to do in His service — but what He gives us to do. When we reach this state, we shall not need to wait long to find our work.
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away! Blessed be the name of the LORD!" Job 1:21
"Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Nevertheless, I want Your will to be done, not Mine!" Luke 22:42
"Let the Lord's will be done!" Acts 21:14
Your way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be,
Lead me by Your own hand,
Choose out the path for me.
I dare not choose my lot,
I would not, if I might;
Choose for me, my God;
So shall I walk aright!
"Then He climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down!" Mark 6:51
When Jesus comes to us, our trouble ceases. At His bidding, the wildest storm instantly becomes a calm. The trouble itself may not go away from us — but it is no longer a trouble, when He is with us. The wind may not cease to blow and beat upon our lives — but He makes peace within. It is far better to have so much grace, that our hearts shall be calm and quiet in the fiercest storm — than to have the storm itself quieted, while our hearts remain restless as ever. Peace within is far better than any mere calm without.
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful!" John 14:27
"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." John 12:24
Every call to a hard or costly duty is a seed. It lies in our hand — what shall we do with it? Shall we keep our little ease, our piece of money, our pleasure, our quiet hour? Or shall we let it fall into the ground?
Someone puts it thus: "I was given a seed to keep as mine. When I most loved it, I was bidden to bury it in the ground. I buried it, not knowing that I was sowing."
We know what comes from sowing — the seed springs up into a plant, beautiful, fragrant; or into grain that waves in a golden harvest; or into a tree, on which grow luscious fruits.
KEPT FROM EVIL
"He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the King for his friend!" Proverbs 22:11
It is an evil world in which we live; but if we faithfully follow Christ, doing His will, keeping our hearts open to every influence of the Divine Spirit — we shall be kept by Divine power from the corruption that flows about us.
As the lily remains pure and unstained amid the soiled waters of the bog in which it grows — so does the lowly, loving, patient heart of the Christian disciple, remain pure in the midst of all this world's corruption. Over such a heart God's face beams in perpetual blessing.
TELL ALL TO JESUS
"Bring the boy here to Me!" Matthew 17:17
That is just what every one of us should do, when perplexities of any kind arise in our lives or affairs. The true way for us, is just to tell Jesus whenever anything appears to go wrong, or when anything happens which we cannot understand.
That is the rule Paul gives for keeping clear of worry. "Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Then He promises that If we only do this we shall never have worry, for "The peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds."
GIVING THAT COSTS
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me!" Matthew 16:24
We cannot live a Christian life that will please Christ, without some cost to ourselves. It can never be an easy thing to be such a disciple as Christ needs you to be. An easy, self-indulgent life never can be a deeply Christlike life.
It was not easy for Christ to redeem the world. Virtue went out of Him continually to supply the needs in other lives. At last He literally opened His heart and poured out the last drop of its rich blood to become life for dead souls.
Christ's sufferings were finished when He bowed His head on the cross — but now it is ours to suffer for Him. We need never think that we can do anything to really profit this world, otherwise than as Christ wrought. Nothing but the giving of life will ever save the world. Nothing but love will uplift men and transform them.
"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him!" Philippians 1:29
THE GRACE OF ENCOURAGEMENT
"Encourage one another daily." Hebrews 3:13
Encouragement is the sunshine which most lives need. Childhood, youth, struggling manhood, fainting energy, wearied hope, tempted virtue, breaking hearts — all are waiting for sympathy and cheer. Those who would do good must learn this secret — pastor, teacher, friend, parent. Disheartening words anywhere are treasonable words. They cause fear, anxiety, and disheartenment. There are discouragements enough in most lives already. Let us never add to life's burdens — but let us rather at every possible opportunity breathe cheer, fresh incitement, new courage. He who lives thus, even in the lowliest walk, will make brightness and song wherever he goes, and will have a choral entrance into joy at the end.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
"Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away." Luke 8:13
Emotional religion is not apt to be permanent. It bursts up into great luxuriance today — but we are not sure that it will be found tomorrow in healthy life. Too often the enthusiasm is but transient. In the heat of trials, temptations, toil, or sorrow — the rootless graces will droop down and die.
Usually the religious life that is most permanent, is that which springs up naturally, and grows slowly to strength and luxuriance. It has good soil, and the roots go down deep into the earth, and are unaffected by the frequent changes in temperature, by heat or cold, by rain or drought.
WALKING BY FAITH
"For we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7
You cannot see Christ — but you believe that He is true, loving, faithful, touched with sympathy when you suffer.
You believe that He knows all about you, and loves you with a personal, deep, tender, strong, everlasting love!
You know, too, that He has all power, and that all His power is yours to support, keep, bless, deliver, protect, and save you.
You know that He has all wisdom — wisdom which never errs, which never does anything rashly, indiscreetly, short-sightedly — and that all this wisdom is for the guidance of your life, the ordering of your steps.
As we think along these lines, the unseen Christ becomes very real to us.
HOW TO READ THE BIBLE
"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105
"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them!" John 13:17
It is necessary to read the Bible, not just to know the will of God — but that we may do it. If it is not the guide of our life — it is nothing to us.
Its truths are to be applied. If we read the Beatitudes, we are to compare ourselves with their Divine requirements, and seek to be conformed to them. If we come upon a verse that rebukes any habit or sin of ours — we are immediately to make the needed amendment.
We are to accept its promises, believe them — and act as believing them.
We are to allow its comforts to enter our hearts and support us in sorrow.
There is nothing written in the Bible merely for ornament or beauty. Every word is practical! There is no truth in Scripture which has not some bearing upon actual living. When we come to it eager to know how to live, and ready to obey its precepts — we shall find it opening to us its inmost meaning!
"If you love Me, you will obey My commandments." John 14:15
"We know that we have come to know Him IF we obey His commands. The man who says, 'I know Him,' but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him!" 1 John 2:3-4
THE DIGNITY OF LABOR
"The sleep of a laboring man is sweet!" Ecclesiastes 5:12.
There really are no pictures of Christ. Yet there are on the pages of the evangelists, pictures of Christ in certain attitudes, which have their deep meaning for us.
Once we see Him with a whip in His hand driving the temple-profaners.
Another time we see Him with a basin and a towel.
Again we see Him on a cross dying.
And again we see Him as a carpenter, with the saw and the chisel in His hands. This picture is rich in meaning — it teaches us that there is no disgrace in working at a trade, since the Son of God labored as a carpenter.
No hands are so beautiful as working hands! Marks of toil are brighter insignia of honor — than jeweled rings on delicate white fingers.
The picture shows also the condescension of Christ. Though He was rich, He became poor, and even toiled for His daily bread. It assures us, therefore, of His sympathy now with those who toil.
It is a pleasant thought, that the hands which now hold the scepter of the universe — once wielded the hammer and the saw!
"If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat!" 2 Thessalonians 3:10
"Then Agrippa said to Paul: You almost persuade me to become a Christian!" Acts 26:28
"Almost" is a hopeful condition — yet it is not a safe condition.
There is a story of a prodigal who turned homeward and traversed weary miles, until he had his hand on the knocker of his father's door, and then withdrew it and turned away again, plunging into deeper sin and shame.
A woman was lost on the mountain. All night she wandered, seeking the way home. At length she sank down and died as the dawn was breaking. In the morning they found her but a few steps from the door of the hotel which she was struggling to reach, almost saved — yet lost!
We are to be altogether Christians. Almost will not avail.
TARNISHING A GOOD NAME
"The words of a talebearer are as wounds!" Proverbs 18:8
"A lying tongue hates those it hurts!" Proverbs 26:28
There is one way in which very many evil stories about people are started. Somebody "supposes" something about another, and tells his suspicion as a fact, and it goes forth on its ruinous errand.
A man does an entirely harmless and proper thing — but someone imagines something wrong at the back of it, and tells the creation of his imagination as a fact — and a character is blackened.
Many a scandal grows out of what some evil-disposed person "supposes." We must sacredly cherish the honor and purity of the good names of others. We have no right to "suppose" that another has done a wrong thing, and then start our supposition as a fact.
"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18
"Lying lips are abomination to the LORD!" Proverbs 12:22
"Save me, O LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues!" Psalm 120:2
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship!" Romans 12:1
Surrender to God is always the beginning of spiritual transformation. We must get our life into the Divine hands — before the heavenly beauty can be wrought upon it by them. Mark well, too, that you must present yourself to God, bring the offering to His altar with your own hands. No one can do it for you, no saintly mother, no godly friend. We are our own in a strange, mysterious way. We are sovereigns of our own lives. But we are our own with the obligation to give ourselves to God.
THE STEWARDSHIP OF WEALTH
"Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity." 2 Corinthians 8:2
A visitor made an appeal to a generous man on one occasion for missions, and he made out a cheque for five pounds. Before the ink was dry, a telegram was handed to him. He said to the visitor, "I have received bad news. I have lost a great deal of money. Give me back the cheque." The visitor expected the cheque now to be cancelled. But the gentleman, on receiving it, altered the five pounds to fifty pounds, saying, "God has just taught me that I may not much longer possess my property, and that I must use it well while I have it." The only money we keep, is that which we give to God.
THE THINGS THAT DEFILE
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin." Hebrews 4:15
The suggestion of wrong-doing is not a sin — until the suggestion is accepted and entertained. Temptation to sin — is not itself sin. Jesus was tempted. Suggestions of evil were made to Him by Satan; yet He never sinned, because these suggestions never found any lodgment in His heart, and therefore never found any expression in word or act, or even in thought.
So temptations come to us from without. These things we cannot help; we are not responsible for them; there is no sin in merely having these suggestions. But the sin begins the moment we open the door to one of these sinful solicitations.
SOWING AND REAPING
"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Galatians 6:7
The Golden Rule rests upon a deep principle in life: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." What we do to others — they will do to us. That is the principle. If we want mercy — we must be merciful; if we expect sympathy and help — we must give both sympathy and help. We have only to change places with people, and then ask them how we would want them to do to us.
As a rule, people do not give . . .
warmth for coldness,
courtesy for rudeness, or
kindness for unkindness.
The principle applies even to the Divine treatment of us. In God's judgment, we receive according to our deeds. He who obtains divine forgiveness — is he who forgives others. He who finds divine mercy — is he who shows mercy to others. He whom Christ will confess before His Father — is he who here before men confesses Christ. So for eternity we shall reap what we have sowed, and gather what we have scattered.
THE LONELINESS OF LIFE
In a certain sense, all of life is lonely. Even with sympathetic companionships all around us, there is an inner life which each of us lives altogether alone. We must make our own choices and decisions. We must meet our own questions, and answer them ourselves. We must . . .
fight our own battles,
endure our own sorrows,
and carry our own burdens.
Friendship may be very close and tender — but there is a sanctuary of each life, into which even the holiest friendship may not enter. Blessed are those who in loneliness can say, "Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me." God's friendship is the only one that can really meet all our soul's deep needs and cravings.
SPENDING AND SAVING
"For whoever will save his life shall lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it!" Matthew 16:25
The great Teacher said that he who saves his life shall lose it. He meant the man who withholds himself from hard toil, self-denial, and service — who will do only easy things. He said further, that he whoever loses his life, that is, who lavishes it in duty, who shrinks from no cost, no labor, no sacrifice in obeying love's behests — saves it.
The only way to make life truly worth while is to empty it out, as Christ emptied out His most precious life for sinners. Only the grain of wheat which falls into the ground and dies, grows up into beauty and fruitfulness. The grain which is kept warm and dry and safe, comes to nothing.
THE THINGS WORTH WHILE
"Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity!" Ephesians 5:15-16
Over the doorway of the Cathedral of Milan is the inscription: "Only the eternal is important!"
There are a great many things it is not worth our while to do. Some of us spend our days in poor trivialities which bless no one, and which will add no luster to our crown.
"Only the eternal is important!" Therefore, waste no opportunity. Despise no privilege. Squander no moment. There is just time enough in God's plan for you to live your life well, if you spend every moment of it in earnest, faithful duty. One hour lost will leave a flaw. A life thus lived in unbroken diligence and faithfulness, will have no regrets when the end comes.
IN HIS STEPS
"His mother said to the servants: Whatever He says to you, do it." John 2:5
Every word in this sentence is emphatic and intense in its meaning.
"Whatever He says." There is no other one who has a right to command us. We belong to Christ because He has redeemed us. He is our only Lord and Master.
"Whatever He says." We may not choose some of His commands for obedience, and some for neglect, inattention, or rejection. We are not to do the pleasant things He bids us to do — and leave undone the things that are not according to our own taste and feeling. We are to do even the things that cost pain and personal sacrifice.
It was thus that Jesus Himself did the will of His Father. That will took Him to His Cross; but He did not shrink from accepting it when He saw the way growing dark before Him, or when He felt the thorns under His feet, and the burdens increasing into crushing weight upon His shoulders. If we would walk in His steps, our obedience must be complete.
THE LESSON OF THE LILIES
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these!" Matthew 6:28
God clothes the lilies in loveliness far surpassing any adornment which the finest looms or the rarest skill of art can produce.
We are better than flowers. They live but a day, and their beauty fades. They are lovely — but they have no soul, no mind, no future. If our Father lavishes so much beauty on plants that last but a day and then perish — then need we fear that He will fail to provide for us, His own children, who are to live forever?
"Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you." Peter 5:7
THE HAPPY LIFE
"Then Jesus said to His disciples: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me!" Matthew 16:24
We must live a useful life. Nothing good ever comes out of idleness or out of selfishness. The standing water stagnates and breeds decay and death. It is the running stream which keeps pure and sweet. The fruit of an idle life is never joy and peace. Years lived selfishly never become garden-spots in the field of memory. Happiness comes out of self-denial for the good of others.
Sweet always, are the memories of good deeds done and sacrifices made. Their incense, like heavenly perfume, comes floating up from the fields of toil and fills old age with holy fragrance. When one has lived to bless others — one has many grateful, loving friends whose affection proves a wondrous source of joy when the days of feebleness come. Bread cast upon the waters is found again after many days.
THE NARROW WAY
"For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matthew 7:14
All truly valuable things cost much. Such a glorious privilege as the Christian's, therefore, cannot be gotten without effort. To open the way, and to purchase for us the privilege of becoming children of God — the Son of God had to come from Heaven in condescending love and give his own life. Jesus said, too, that any who would reach the glory of His kingdom, must go by the same way of the cross by which He went. He said that he who will save his life — that is, keep it from self-denial and sacrifice — shall lose it; and that only he who loses his life, gives it out in devotion to God and to duty, shall save it.
THE WAY OF GOD'S WILL
"Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God." Psalm 143:10
The way of God which He would make us know, is always the way of His will. The one business of life, is to learn to do that will. We say it lightly in our prayers, "Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven." If our prayer is answered, our whole life will be drawn into the Divine way. What effect, for example, will God's way have on our grudges, our unbrotherly feelings, our jealousies, our resentments, our selfishness? They must all come into tune with the law of love.
So in all life. The way on which God guides us is a way of holiness. It is an ever-ascending way, for its terminal is Heaven. No matter how holy you are today, you should be somewhat better tomorrow.
CHRIST AND AMUSEMENTS
"Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate!" Luke 15:23
Christ does not frown upon pure and innocent pleasures. He went Himself, when He was on the earth, to places of enjoyment and festivity. He attended a marriage feast, and contributed to the gladness of the guests. He accepted invitations to family feasts. There is not a trace of asceticism in all the story of His life. And He would do the same, if He were here now. Pleasures that are pure, innocent, and helpful, or that contribute to the joy and good of others — He would enjoy.
And what He would do if He were in our place — we, as His followers, may do.
But there are amusements in which we may be sure He would not indulge. A tender spiritual instinct will readily discriminate between those in which He would, and those in which He would not engage.
THE CALL OF DUTY
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped!" Psalm 28:7
When duty calls — we have nothing whatever to do with hindrances and difficulties. It is ours only to obey, even though obedience seems impossible. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
God waits to come to us with Divine help. He will not come while we sit still in weakness and fear; but the moment we begin to try to obey His voice — His power begins to flow into our heart. Then, as we go on, He works in us and with us. He prepares the way for us. The obstacle gives way, to the pressure of our feet. The gate opens, when we put the key of faith into the lock. The river sinks away, as we tread the edge of its waters. The mountains are leveled, as we move on. We pass to the radiant heights that beckon us, and possess our land flowing with milk and honey, in whose hills are rich treasures.
THE DIVINE TEST
"If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." 1 John 4:20
Love for God is only a vaporous sentiment, a misty emotion — unless it manifest itself in love for men. Our Lord gave us a picture of the last judgment which at first almost startles us; for, instead of making faith in Himself or love for God the test of men's lives, He makes all turn, in that great final day — upon the way they have treated others in this world. Those who have used their gifts to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to relieve the distress of the poor, the prisoner, the sick, are welcomed into eternal joy. Those who have shut up their hands and hearts, allowing human need and suffering to go unrelieved — are themselves shut away from eternal blessedness.
THE WORDS OF GOD
"We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it!" Hebrews 2:1
The Bible is simply a book of words; but every word contains a revelation of some beautiful thing in character or attainment which we should strive to reach. We should always gladly, because we may always safely and profitably, hear the words of God. Then we should open our ears to the voice that speaks in every good book. We should take heed what we hear. Then we must not forget the Master's other counsel, "Take heed how you hear." We should hear thoughtfully, reverently, obediently, receiving the good words of God into our heart, that they may transform our life!
THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35
Jesus would always find time for prayer, or make time for it. If His days were full of excitement and toil, He would take time out of His nights for communing with God. At least He never allowed Himself to be robbed of His hours of devotion.
There are some Christians who think they are excused from prayer and meditation in secret, because they are so busy. Their work presses them so in the morning that they cannot possibly get time to pray. Their cares occupy them so all day, that they do not find one quiet moment to go apart with God. In the evening there are so many social or other engagements — meetings, societies, parties — or they are so tired, that prayer is crowded out.
The example of Christ speaks its solemn rebuke of all such trifling. We must find time for communion with God, or God will not find time to bless us.
THE MINISTRY OF SORROW
"Now is your time of sorrow, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." John 16:22
One tells of a company of tourists on the Alps who were overtaken by night; and after groping in the deep darkness for a time, were compelled to settle down and wait until morning. A thunderstorm arose during the darkness, and a vivid lightning flash showed them that they had stopped on the very edge of a precipice. Another step forward and they would have fallen to their death!
Just so, the lightning flashes of sorrow often reveal to Christian people the peril in which they are living, and lead them to turn to safer paths. Many a redeemed one in glory will look back to the time of a great sorrow, as the time of seeing God which led to penitence and faith.
THE TRANSFIGURED FACE
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory" 2 Corinthians 3:18
Good in the heart works its way up into the face and prints its own beauty there.
Love in the life softens the features and gives them a warmth like the gentle beauty of spring flowers.
Peace in the heart soon gives a quiet calm to the countenance. Many a perturbed, restless face grows placid and reposeful under the influence of inner peace.
Purity in the soul shows itself in the upward look and the thoughtful reverence which tells of communion with God.
Benevolence writes its autograph on brow and cheek.
Thus, in a sense, even the physical features share in the transfiguration of the life of faith and holiness.
WORKING OUT SALVATION
"To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations" Revelation 2:26
Each one's battle must be a personal one. We may decline the struggle — but it will be declining also the joy of victory. No one can reach the summit, without climbing the steep mountain-path. We cannot be borne up on any strong shoulder. No one can carry us up. God will not carry us up.
God does not put features of beauty into our lives as the jeweler sets gems in clusters in a coronet. The unlovely elements are not removed and replaced by lovely ones, like pictures in a frame. Each must win his way through struggles and efforts to all noble attainments. The help of God is given only in cooperation with human aspiration and energy. While God works in us, we are to work out our own salvation.
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling!" Philippians 2:12
RELIGION IN COMMON LIFE
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27
Many people think that being a Christian is to pray a few moments morning and evening, to read a daily chapter or two in the Bible, and to attend church on Sunday. These duties are important as means of grace — but they are not saving religion.
True religion is living out the principles of Christianity, in one's ordinary week-day life. It is getting the Bible and the prayers and the services into thought, and act, and character. We must not cut our lives in two, and call one part secular, governing it by one set of principles — and regarding the other part as sacred, to be controlled by another set of rules. All of life is to be made religious, in the sense that everything is to be done in such a way as to please God, under the direction of His counsel.
ON BEING GOOD LISTENERS
"He who belongs to God, hears what God says." John 8:47
It has been said that we have two ears and only one mouth, to teach us that we should hear twice as much as we speak. We miss a great deal by not being good listeners. The world is full of sweet music — bird-songs, the chirping of insects, the sweet murmur of all nature, the breathing of the wind through the trees, the plashing of the waters; and yet some people never hear one melodious sound as they go through the fields and forests!
Just so, God is ever speaking in our ears — in conscience, in His Word, in the gentle voice of His Spirit; but many of us miss all this wonderful Divine speech! Unless we go about ever listening, we may miss many a valuable lesson, turning away unawares many an angel who comes from God with a message for us.
WHERE PATIENCE IS PERFECTED
"But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:4
We all need patience. Without it we never really can make anything of our life. We need it in our homes. The very closeness and familiarity of the relations within our own doors, make it hard at times for us to preserve perfect sweetness of spirit. There is much irritation in most earthly families. We throw off our reserve and our carefulness — and are too apt now and then to speak or act disagreeably. We assert ourselves, and are willful and exacting. It is easy, in the frictions that too often are felt in our homes, to lose our patience and speak unadvisedly and unkindly. Such impatient words hurt gentle hearts, sometimes irreparably. But wherever else we may fail in patience, it should not be in our own homes!
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Matthew 22:37
We are to notice, first, that it is love which God wants. We may give him our life's highest honor — but he is not satisfied with honor. We ought to obey him. He is our God and our King, and we owe him the fullest obedience. But obedience is not enough. We owe Him service also, for we belong to Him, and we ought to pour out our lives for Him. But it is neither honor, obedience, nor service that this command requires. We are to love God. It it were possible for us to render such honor, obedience, and service as the angels give, and yet not love him — he would not be satisfied. Nothing but love will satisfy Him.
CHRIST OUR REFUGE
"When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death!" John 4:47
The trouble in his home sent this man to Christ. Perhaps he never would have gone to Jesus at all, had it not been for his son's sickness. Many of those who went to Christ in the olden days, were driven by their distress of heart. They tried everything else first, and then at the last moment they hurried to Jesus.
The same is true in these days. Many people who have never prayed before, have gotten down upon their knees by the bedside of their sick and dying children, and cried to God on their behalf. Many people have first been sent to God, by their own troubles. It was not until the prodigal was in great need, and every other resource had been exhausted — that he said he would arise and go to his father!
THE SABBATH UPLIFT
"For this world in its present form is passing away!" 1 Corinthians 7:31
Artists tell us that a picture with no sky in it — with only earth — always needs something. A life with no Heaven in it, with only this world, its hopes, its joys, its inspirations — lacks the elements of noblest grandeur. Yet the burdens, the toils, the cares, the struggles, the trials which fill up the days and nights of most of us, tend to make life narrow for us and to keep us in the low, dusty valleys, where we get but few glimpses of the deep, wide, open sky.
One reason why our Sabbaths are given to us, is to lead us up out of our dull earthly rounds, once in seven days, to a hilltop where we may get glimpses of the blue heavens, so that we shall not forget God and our glorious heavenly home.
ONE STEP ENOUGH FOR ME
"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there." Acts 20:22
We never know what lies before us. Sorrow may be waiting — or sore temptation — or death! We cannot see a step before our feet. But that does not matter; if God is leading, for He knows all that lies before us.
A young man had almost decided to become a Christian. But one doubt held him back; he did not see how he could continue faithful all through his life. He spent an evening with his minister, and they talked long on the subject. Still his fears and his indecision remained. As he left, the pastor observed how dark it was, and getting a lantern, handed it to the young man, saying, "This little light will not show at once, the whole way to your home — but only one step at a time; yet take that step, and you will reach home in safety." As the young man walked homeward he pondered, "Why can I not trust my heavenly Father, even if I can't see my way clear to the end, if He gives me light for each step?"
"Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand?" Mark 4:21
No one would think of doing such a thing. People always set a lamp where it will give the most light. It would be very absurd to cover it up so that its beams could not pour out. Yet that is just what a great many people do with their Christian life.
It is a very striking figure this that our Lord uses when describing Christians. He calls them lights, lamps, candles, which He lights with the fire of His own life when they believe on Him. There is much difference in the brightness of the light in different believers. Some are only little candles; others are great lights. But even a candle makes one spot a little brighter.
"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of covetousness; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15
"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry!" Colossians 3:5
This is one of the red flags our Lord hung out which most people nowadays do not seem much to regard. Christ said a great deal about the danger of riches; but not many people are afraid of riches. Covetousness is not practically considered a sin in these times. If a man breaks the sixth or eighth commandment, he is branded as a criminal and covered with shame; but he may break the tenth commandment, and he is only enterprising. Few people think of the danger of getting rich.
To look around him, one would think a man's life did consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. Men think they become great just in proportion as they gather wealth. So it seems, too; for the world measures men by their bank account. Yet there never was a more fatal error.
A man is really measured by what he IS, and not by what he HAS. You may find a shriveled soul in the midst of a great fortune, and a grand, noble soul in the barest poverty.
"How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" Mark 10:23
"Watch therefore; for you know not what hour your Lord will come. Matthew 24:42
What Christ needs us to do is so to live at all times, that His coming at any moment of the day or night will not find us unready. We should keep our work faithfully done, day by day, leaving nothing unfinished any evening; for before morning He may come. We should live at peace with all men, never allowing the sun to go down on our anger or on any enmity or bitterness; for before another day dawns He may come, and we would not want Him to come and find us in strife and bitterness. We should be careful what we do any hour; for He may come suddenly and find us in sin. We should watch where we go, lest His coming may surprise us in some place where we would not want Him to find us.
THE SPIRIT OF CONTENTMENT
"Godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6
Nothing is lovelier in life, than the spirit of contentment.
Fretting mars the beauty of many a face. Discontent spoils all one's world. Out of whatever window he looks, the discontented person sees something that is not pleasing.
To a contented person, there is only good seen everywhere. The happiest homes in the world are not those in which are the finest carpets, the costliest pictures, the most luxurious furniture — but those in which glad, peaceful hearts dwell. A contented mind beautifies the plainest surroundings, and even the hardest conditions.
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength!" Philippians 4:11-13
"Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also!" Matthew 5:39
Some of us meet injustice, wrong treatment, harshness, rudeness, unkindness, from those among whom we live and work. It is not easy to keep our hearts sweet and loving all the while in such experiences. It is easier for us to do as the world does — harden ourselves against the injustice or rudeness, or grow bitter, resentful, soured. That is what too many do in the midst of the selfishness, harshness, and wrong they meet in their condition.
But this is not the transforming that is toward Christlikeness. The struggle between the good and the evil in us goes on continually; but when the world is getting the better of us, when the good in us is being smothered, when the lamp within our bosom is being quenched, when its flame is growing dimmer — we are losing in the struggle. Instead of being transformed, our life is being darkened.
HOW TO DEAL WITH OUR SINS
"Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry — but that you sorrowed to repentance." 2 Corinthians 7:9
In every life there are mistakes and sins.
The holiest do not live perfectly.
The strongest are liable to fall in sudden and unexpected temptation.
The wisest will commit grave errors and follies at the same time.
We should know well in such cases, how to deal with our sins. They must not be simply left lying in the path behind us, while we hurry on; nor must they bring despair to our hearts as we sorrow over them; they must be sincerely and heartily repented of, and forgiveness for them sought at the feet of Him we have offended and grieved. Then we must rise from disaster and defeat stronger, purer, nobler, through Christ victorious over our own sins, and a conqueror over our own defeat.
THE WAY OF PEACE
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27
A great many people think that the Christian life is hard and unpleasant, that it is a rough and steep road; but truly it is a way of pleasantness and peace.
The only really happy people in the world, are those who are following Christ along the way of redemption. They have their share of troubles, disappointments, sorrows — but all the time in the midst of these, they have a secret peace of which the world knows nothing.
There are paths in the low valleys, among the great mountains, which are sweet pictures of the Christian's way of peace. High up among the peaks and crags the storms sweep in wild fury — but on these valley-paths no breath of tempest ever blows. Flowers bloom and springs of water gurgle along the wayside, and trees cast their grateful shadow, and bird-songs fill the air. Such is Christ's "way of peace" in this world.
GRAIN OF GOD
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life!" Matthew 19:29
People will say you are foolish to waste your golden life, to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others, or in Christ's cause. But was Christ Himself foolish when He went to His cross? Let the redeemed Church be the answer. Were the martyrs foolish when they threw their lives away for Christ's sake? Ignatius said, when facing the fierce lions in the arena, "I am grain of God. Let me be ground between the teeth of lions, if I may thus become bread to feed God's people!" Were such martyred lives wasted, thrown away? Is any life wasted that becomes seed to produce bread by and by for the world? The way to make nothing of our lives — is to be very careful of them. The way to make our lives eternal successes — is to do with them just what Christ did with His.
LET LOVE RULE
"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10
So uncertain is life, and so manifold are the vicissitudes of human experience, that any leave-taking may be forever. We are never sure of an opportunity to unsay the angry word, or draw out the thorn we left rankling in another's heart. The kindness which we felt prompted to do today — but neglected or deferred, we may never be able to perform.
The only way, therefore, to save ourselves from unavailing sorrow and regret, is to let love always rule in our hearts and control our speech. If we should in a thoughtless moment speak unadvisedly, giving pain to another heart, let amends be made upon the spot. The sun should never go down upon our anger. We should never leave anything over night, that we would not be willing to leave finally and forever just in that shape, and which we would blush to meet again in the day of great disclosure.
THE GOLDEN RULE
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12.
This is a wonderfully comprehensive rule of action. It bids us to consider the interests of others, as well as our own. It bids us to set our neighbor alongside of ourselves, and think of him as having the same rights as we have, and requiring from us the same treatment that we give to ourselves. It gives us a standard by which to test all our motives, and all our conduct bearing on others. We are at once in thought to change places with the person toward whom duty is to be determined, and ask, "If he were where I am, and I were where he is — how would I want him to treat me in this case?"
The application of this rule would instantly put a stop to all rash, hasty actions; for it commands us to consider our neighbor and question our own heart, before doing anything. It would slay all selfishness; for it compels us to regard our neighbor's interests as precisely equal to our own.
HE CARES FOR YOU
"Your mercy, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." Psalm 36:5
An Arctic explorer was asked whether during the long months of slow starvation which he and his companions had endured — if they suffered greatly from the pangs of hunger. He replied that these pangs were forgotten in the feeling that their friends at home had forgotten them and were not coming to rescue them.
There is no suffering so bitter as the sense of abandonment, the thought that nobody cares. But however painful and hard our condition may be, however men may wrong us and injure us — Christian faith assures us that God loves us, that He has not forgotten us, that He cares!
CHRIST'S ENCIRCLING ARMS
"Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms" Mark 9:36
This picture of Jesus with the little one in his arms is very beautiful. In all the Bible there is scarcely another which so well represents the attitude both of the soul and of the Savior in salvation and in all Christian life.
Jesus takes the child in His arms — there is love, tenderness, protection. The bosom is the place of warmth, of affection, of intimacy, of confidence. The encircling arms imply safety, support, shelter.
He lifted up the child and held it in His arms. Just so, He carries His people through this world. He does not merely tell them how to go — but He takes them on His shoulders, carrying not their burdens only — but themselves. Thus He bears them on through life and through death.
"And why behold you the mote that is in your brother's eye — but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3
Instead of keeping our eye ever on others, looking for faults and mistakes in them — we are to look to our own self, lest something we do may hurt their lives or cause them to do wrong. We easily get into the habit of overlooking our own faults, while our life is full of inconsistencies which do irreparable harm to the cause of Christ, and to the lives of His people. The first duty of every Christian is to make sure that he lays no stumbling-blocks in others' way.
A prominent man said: "I am fond of wine, and I believe I could drink moderately without danger to myself — but I never touch any kind of wine. I might set the example for some who could not drink moderately without becoming drunkards. My liberty would thus become a stumbling-block to others."
OUR DAILY BREAD
"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11
This seems a very small thing to ask — only bread for a day. Why are we not taught to pray for bread enough to last a week, or a month, or a year?
For one thing, Jesus wanted to teach us a lesson of continual dependence. He taught us to come each morning with a request simply for the day's food, that we might never feel we can get along without our Father.
Another lesson He wanted to teach us was that the true way to live, is by the day. We are not to be anxious even about the supply of tomorrow's needs. When tomorrow comes, then it will be right for us to take up its cares. The same great lesson was taught in the way the manna was given — just a day's portion at a time.
WAITING FOR GOD
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6
Is not God wise enough to manage the problems and complications of our lives, and to bring order and beauty out of them? Has He not skill enough? Is He not our Father? Will He not always do the very best and wisest thing for us? Should we not trust Him — and cease to be anxious about anything that we have committed to Him? Is not anxiety, doubting God — and is not doubt sin?
We are to commit our way to the Lord, trust Him, and be at peace. The only thing that concerns us is our duty. God will weave the web of our life into patterns of beauty — unless by our follies and sins we mar it. But we must not hurry Him. His plans are sometimes very long, and our impatience may mar them, as well as our sins. The buds of His purposes must not be torn open. We must wait until His fingers unfold them.
THE HOLY LIFE
"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Psalm 19:12
The life must be holy, that Christ will employ.
The vessel must be clean, that the King will use.
The heart must be broken, through which God's love may flow.
Someone gives a consecration prayer: "Lord, take me, break me, make me," and tells the story of a golden cup which had been made out of old gold coins. These had lost the image and superscription originally upon them, and were then thrown into a melting-pot and wrought into a beautiful cup. So often a human life has lost its beauty; and then the Master takes it, breaks it, and makes it over again in form of beauty. Then the King will use it.
PERSEVERANCE IN WELL-DOING
"To those who by persistence in well-doing, seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." Romans 2:7
There is an inspired word which says: "Let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not." What is meant by "well-doing"? It is doing right, obeying God's commands, fashioning our life after the pattern revealed by Him in His Word.
It is not easy to do right. It costs us many a struggle. A life of well-doing implies a continual crucifying of self. Sinful inclinations must be restrained. Selfish desires must be curbed. The will must be yielded to God's will. The whole life must be brought into subjection to a law which is spiritual and heavenly.
SHARING THE LOAD
"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." Proverbs 22:9
The world is very full of sorrow and trial, and we cannot live among our fellow-men and be true, without sharing their loads. Selfishness must die. We begin to felicitate ourselves on some special prosperity, and next moment some human need knocks at our door, and we must share our good things with a suffering brother.
We may build up our fine theories of taking care of ourselves, of living for the future, of laying up in the summer of prosperity for the winter of adversity, of providing for old age or for our children; but often all these frugal and economic plans have to yield to the exigencies of human need.
The love that seeks not its own — plays havoc with life's hard logic. We cannot say that anything is our own, when our brother is suffering for what we can give.
LED BY THE HAND
"He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town." Mark 8:23
That was a very gentle thing to do. Look closely at the picture — Jesus leading a poor blind man along the street. What thoughts does it start in our minds?
The blind man represents each one of us in our sinful state. We are in the midst of a world of spiritual beauty — but seeing nothing. We are groping in the gloom, unable to find the way alone. We are doomed to perish in the darkness, unless someone takes us by the hand and lead us.
As Jesus came to this man in his blindness, so He comes to each one of us, offering to take us by the hand and be our guide, to lead us, through the gloom and the dangers — home to light and glory. We can never stumble in the darkness, if He leads us!
LOVING THE UNLOVELY
"If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." 1 John 4:20
We all know that love is a transfiguring quality. But what is the love which is a fruit of the Spirit? Love for lovely or lovable people? Yes — but love for all sorts and conditions of people as well. Anybody can love those who are kind, sweet, spirited, and unselfish.
The love which the Holy Spirit kindles, is love for unlovely people as well as lovely; love for those who are not gentle and kindly, love for enemies. Love for rude, selfish and disagreeable people. It is a love that is stirred by human need, wherever it appears, and that rests not in mere sentiment — but reaches out its hand to help and bless.
"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" Matthew 5:44-47
"Blessed . . . Blessed . . . Blessed . . ." Matthew 5:3-10
The Blesseds of the Scriptures shine all over the inspired pages, like stars in the midnight sky. The Bible is a book of beatitudes and blessings. God's mercies lie everywhere.
Wherever we see Christ, He is imparting blessings, as the sun imparts light and warmth. While He was here on the earth He was always reaching out His hand to give a blessing to some life that sorely needed it.
Now it was on the children's heads,
now on the leper,
now on the blind eyes,
now on the sick,
now on the dead —
that He laid those gracious hands, and always He left some rich gift of blessing.
Then we remember one day when those gentle hands were stretched out by wicked enemies, and with iron nails fastened firm on the cross. Yet even then, it was in blessing that they were extended, for it was for our sins they were transfixed thus on the cruel wood!
DARING TO FAIL
"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy!" Psalm 126:5
It would be easy to fill pages with the names of individuals who have gone down in defeat — but who in their very failure have started influences which have enriched the world. In the center of this great host, is Jesus Christ. The story of His blessed life is a story of failure and defeat according to the world's estimate. But did the Cross leave a blot on His name? Is it not the very glory of His life, that He died thus in the darkness that day? Was His career a failure? Christianity is the answer.
He is the Captain also and Leader of a great host who like Him have been defeated and have failed — but have made the world richer by their sacrifice. Let no one speak of such defeats as blots on fair names; rather they are adornings of glory. In all such failure there is divine beauty.
PEACE ON EARTH
"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" Isaiah 26:3
Christ came to bring peace to the earth. He would make peace between man and man. The influence of His life, is softening all life. The world yields very slowly, to the gentle influence of love — but it is yielding nevertheless. Christian civilization, with its institutions of philanthropy and charity, all its refinement of feeling and all its gentle humanities — is the fruit of Christ's life, teaching, and redemption.
Peace is one of the great key-words of the Bible. It has many shades of meaning. There is peace with God, which comes to all who receive forgiveness through Jesus. There is the peace of God, which possesses the heart of him who has learned to entrust his life, with all its perplexities and cares, in the hands of God. Christ left His own peace as a bequest to His disciples, and we know what wonderful peace His was. He was never worried. Nothing ever disturbed for a moment the quiet of His heart. This peace He gives to His friends, if they will receive it.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27
"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." 1 Peter 3:18
When God laid the sins of men on Jesus, and when Jesus had made expiation for them, the law was satisfied.
Forgiveness of sin is offered to all. But there must be an individual acceptance of it on the part of each sinner who would receive its blessing. This is faith. It is faith in Jesus that is required, not merely believing in God's mercy — but receiving Christ as the Savior, and resting upon Him alone for salvation. This implies a great deal. If we take Christ as our Savior, we take Him also as our Master. That means that we forsake our sins; that we devote ourselves to Him, and follow Him with love and obedience.
A TRUE CHRISTIAN
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
A Christian man must be strong — as well as tender. His word must be as pure as gold. His lightest promises must be as sacredly kept as his most solemn engagements. He must be a large-hearted, generous man — unselfish, noble spirited, above all suspicion of baseness. He must be scrupulously honest in all his dealings — promptly returning what he has borrowed, paying his debts the very day they are due, never seeking to evade them, never forgetting them, nor postponing payment until the very latest time. He must not be a hard man — unreasonable, oppressive, domineering, despotic.
In a word, he must combine unflinching integrity, unvarying fidelity, and conscientious truthfulness — with generosity and liberality.
"Jesus said to her: Mary!" John 20:16
Jesus had not forgotten Mary's name in His experience of death.
It was the ancient heathen belief that death washed from the soul all memory of the earthly life — its loves, its sorrows, all its recollections. But here we see Jesus on the other side of death — and the old affections are found unchanged in Him. He met Mary and His other friends, and took up the threads of the tender story of love, just where they had been broken off three days before, when He died.
This fact ought to be very comforting. Love is stronger than death. When our friends pass through death, whatever changes may be wrought in them or upon them, we know that there will be no change in their love for us. Death will not sever the ties that bind Christian hearts together on the earth. We shall meet our believing friends again in Heaven, and remember each other and love each other as before, and take up the old threads of affection and go on weaving love's web forever.
DOING GOD'S WILL
"The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever!" 1 John 2:17
Knowing that we should love our enemies, is not the ultimate thing — actually loving our enemies is. Knowing that we should be patient is not all — we are to practice the lesson of patience until it has become a habit in our life.
Knowing that we should always submit our will to God's — is to have a clear mental conception of our duty in this regard; but this is not true religion. There are many who know well this cardinal duty of Christian life, who yet continue to chafe whenever they cannot have their own way, and who struggle and resist and refuse to submit to the Divine will whenever it appears to be opposed to their own will. They know their lesson — but they have not learned to live it. It is living it, however, that is true religion.
SOWING FOR ETERNITY
"Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life." John 4:36
Those who work for this world, often fail of obtaining just reward; but those who do God's work, are sure of good wages and of glorious harvest.
"The wages of sin is death," and the wages of much of earth's toil is disappointment; but the wages of doing good is life, and the joy is sure and eternal.
The sowing is often in tears — but the reaping is always in joy. Christ Himself found the sowing hard and sorrowful — but He has never been sorry in Heaven for what it cost Him here on earth. The old prophet, having spoken of the sorrows and sufferings of Christ's life, said, "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." As He sits now on His throne and sees the millions of the redeemed coming home to glory, all saved through His sufferings — He never regrets that He gave such a price for their redemption — but rejoices and is satisfied with the wages which He receives.
"I have food to eat that you know nothing about." John 4:32
The disciples had left Jesus hungry when they went away to buy bread; they came back to find His hunger departed, and in these words we have the reason He gave for it. He was intently engaged in His Father's work, doing His will — and in this He found perfect satisfaction. He had found spiritual refreshment, and His bodily weariness and hunger had vanished. His joy in saving a poor lost soul was so great, that it made Him forget His hunger.
But the joy was not the only food which Christ had; while doing His Father's work — special Divine grace was imparted to Him from Heaven, which nourished and strengthened Him. He literally fed on bread from heaven — spiritual bread.
I know not what may soon betide,
Or how my needs shall be supplied;
But Jesus knows — and will provide.
CHRIST IN THE SICK-ROOM
"Jesus went about all Galilee . . . preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness.! Matthew 4:23
It is sometimes charged that religion is only for people's souls, that it gives no care to their bodies. But the charge is without foundation. The most casual glance over the gospel story, shows that Jesus Himself was deeply moved by the people's sufferings, and was continually putting forth His power to heal them. Nearly all His great works were miracles of healing.
Then it should be remembered, that the whole system of institutions for the relief of suffering and for the care of sufferers — hospitals, asylums for all classes of unfortunate people, and homes for the orphaned and the aged and the insane — is the fruit of Christianity. Wherever Christians go among the sick, the wounded, the suffering, ministering in any way to their comfort — there Jesus goes about with sympathy and healing. He cares not alone for men's souls — but for their bodies as well.
THE LAST RESORT
"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." James 4:8.
Many of those who went to Christ in the olden days, were driven by their distress of heart. They tried everything else first, and then at the last moment, they hurried to Jesus. The same is true in these days. Many people who have never prayed before, have gotten down upon their knees by the bedside of their sick and dying children, and cried to God on their behalf. Many people have first been sent to God by their own troubles. It was not until the prodigal was in sore need, and every other resource had been exhausted, that he said he would arise and go to his father.
Many sinners never think of Christ until they are in despair under the sense of guilt. Not until they see the storm of wrath gathering, do they seek the shelter of the Cross. But what a comfort it is that even going so late to the Savior, He does not reject or cast away those who come.
THE HOLY NAME
"Hallowed be your name." Matthew 6:9
The name "Father" over the gate of prayer assures us of loving welcome and of all tenderness, thoughtfulness, and care.
The words, "Who is in Heaven" remind us of the surpassing glory and majesty of God. We should not rush into His presence as we do into the presence of an earthly parent. We should remember His infinite greatness and holiness, and should come always with reverence. His is a name to be hallowed. "Holy and reverend is his name." Of this, this petition reminds us. It checks the flow of our thoughts and feelings, and bids us approach God with a suitable sense of our unworthiness and of His holiness. It bids us be reverent, though bold.
"Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in Heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." Ecclesiastes 5:1-2
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33
There is no life into which do not come many things calculated to cause anxiety and distraction of mind.
There are great sorrows;
there are perplexities as to duty;
there are disappointments and losses;
there are annoyances and hindrances;
there are chafings and irritations in ordinary life;
and there are countless petty cares and frets.
All of these tend to break the heart's peace, and to disturb its quiet — yet there is no lesson that is urged more continuously or more earnestly in the Scriptures, than that a Christian should never worry or let care oppress his heart. He is to live without distraction and with unbroken peace — even in the midst of the most trying experiences!
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
A COMPLETE GOSPEL
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life!" John 3:16
This verse is a little Bible in itself, for it contains the whole gospel.
It shows us the source of man's redemption — God's love.
It shows us the measure of this Divine love — God SO loved, as to give His one and only Son.
It shows us how redemption was accomplished — by the sacrifice of Christ.
It tells us how to be saved — by believing in the Son of God.
It tells us who will be saved — whoever believes on Christ.
It shows us what salvation is — deliverance from perishing, and the gift of eternal life!
"Every man serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the best wine until now!" John 2:10
The world gives its best first — and the worst comes afterwards.
It is so in all sinful pleasures: first exhilaration — and then bitter remorse.
It is so in the chase for wealth, power, fame: gratification first — and then painful disappointment.
At first money brings gladness, a sort of satisfaction; but as time rolls on and wealth increases — cares multiply, anxieties thicken, burdens grow heavier, and at last the rich man finds that in all his riches he has less comfort than he had in the days when he was a poor boy!
It is so in all mere worldly ambitions. The first cups of fame are sweet — but soon they pall upon the taste.
This truth holds especially in the sinful life. We need not deny that at the beginning, sin is sweet — but bitterness is found at the bottom of the cup!
In grace, however, this is reversed — the best wine is kept to the last! Christ Himself had humiliation, darkness, and the shame of the cross — then exaltation, power, glory!
The same law holds in the Christian life:
First there comes bitterness — but out of the bitterness sweetness flows.
There is now the deep sorrow of penitence — but this gives way to the blessed joy of forgiveness.
Sorrows are now to be endured — but the good wine of divine comfort is poured into the empty cup.
Now we have a life of self-denial and cross-bearing — but out of these experiences comes joy in God's presence, with eternal pleasures at His right hand!
CONQUEROR OF DEATH
"I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades!" Revelation 1:18
Christ can open the doors of death's prison-houses when He will, and bring up the bodies of His people that are yet under death's power. It seems hard to put the bodies of our dead away in the grave, and have them shut up there. But they will not always stay in the gloom. Christ Himself lay in the grave, and then arose and burst open the doors and came forth. In like manner, at the right time, He will call up all those who sleep in Him.
He also is the Guide of His people in their lonely walk through the valley of death. He knows the way by experience and is thus prepared to conduct them through it. In the dark valley, we are sure of the presence with us of this experienced and faithful Guide, and no harm can touch us.
CHRIST'S CARE FOR HIS OWN
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." John 10:11
"I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me. I lay down My life for the sheep." John 10:14-15
Does God know me among the millions of His angels?
Does He ever fix His thought on me as an individual?
Does He have a distinct and personal affection for me, like that of a mother for her child?
Does Christ, the Good Shepherd, give care and thought to each particular sheep, so that He knows each one's present condition and circumstances? Does He know when one of His people is in trouble, is sick or suffering, when one has been hurt in some way, or when one is in danger? Does He know when one strays from the safe enclosure of the fold and wanders off into peril?
The answer to all these questions is the same. Every redeemed one has his own place in the heart of Christ. Paul put this truth most strikingly in a sentence when he said of Christ: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20
"My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:27-28
GOD'S OWN PEACE
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Christian peace is a holy calm that stays in the heart, when the external conditions are antagonistic. There is a picture which represents it — a storm-swept sea; waves rolling high and strewn with wrecks, here and there a drowned human form appearing; above, a sky filled with dark clouds, rent and torn by fierce lightnings; then, rising up out of the wild waters, a great rock, and above the waves, in a cleft of the rock, in the midst of a clump of ferns and herbage and flowers, a dove sitting quiet and peaceful on her nest.
Christian peace is the calm of the heart which is not dependent on any circumstances, and which no circumstances, however full of danger or alarm, can break. Its secret is perfect trust in God.
The lesson of peace is one that has to be learned in the school of life. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. "The peace of God shall guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus."
HOW TO HELP OTHERS
"She opens her mouth with wisdom; and on her tongue is the law of kindness." Proverbs 31:26.
Do not keep the alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up, until your friends are dead. Fill their lives with sweetness. Speak approving, cheering words — while their ears can hear them. The things you mean to say when they are gone — say before they go. If a sermon helps you — it will do the preacher good to tell him of it. If the editor writes an article that you like — he can write a still better one next week if you send him a note of thanks. If a book you read is helpful — do you not owe it to the author to write him a word of acknowledgment? If you know a weary or neglected one, or one overwrought — would it not be such work as God's angels love to do, to seek to put a little brightness and cheer into his life, to manifest true sympathy with him, and to put into his trembling hand the cup filled with the wine of human love?
BRIGHTNESS OR GLOOM?
It is a sore misfortune when one has formed the habit of seeing the dark side — the blemishes, the spots, the unpleasant things; while his eyes have become blind to the loveliness, the happiness, the goodness. It is largely a matter of habit. We see always what we are looking for.
If our mind has become trained to look for ugliness, trouble and difficulty, and all dark and dreary things — we shall find just what we seek.
On the other hand, it is quite as easy to form the habit of looking always for beauty, for good, for happiness, for gladness — and here too we shall find precisely what we seek.
whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable,
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy —
think about such things!" Philippians 4:8
"He will beautify the meek with salvation!" Psalm 149:4
There is a meek spirit which makes the plainest face radiant, and the homeliest features lovely. There is a beauty of soul which shines like a star in this dark world of sin. It is for this beauty that we are taught to pray, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." Psalm 90:17
It is not the beauty . . .
which fades when sickness smites the body,
or which is lost in the withering touch of years,
or which blanches when death's pallor overspreads the features.
It is the beauty . . .
which grows lovelier in pain or suffering,
which shines out in sorrow like a star in the night,
which transfigures the wrinkled and faded features of old age,
and which bursts out in death into the full likeness of Christ!
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight!" 1 Peter 3:3-4
We need to remember that this world is not so much a place for doing things — as for developing Christly character.
Household life is not primarily a sphere for cooking, keeping things tidy, sweeping and dusting, nursing and training of children, hospitable entertainment of friends, and the thousand things that must be done each day. It is a sphere for transforming women's souls into radiant Christly beauty!
The shop, the mill, the factory, the store, the office, the farm — are not primarily places for making machines, selling goods, weaving cloths, building engines, and growing crops. They are, first of all, places for making Christly men, and building holy character.
Right in the midst of what some people call drudgery — is the very best place to get the transformed, transfigured life!
BLESSINGS OF SICKNESS
"One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years." John 5:5
That was a long time to be sick! It is very hard to be an invalid year after year.
This day's reading may come to some who have been thus afflicted, and we may as well stop a minute to think about their case. Christian invalids have many comforts, if they will but take them to their hearts.
God makes no mistakes in dealing with His children. He knows in what school they will learn the best lessons, and in what experiences they will grow best into Christly character.
Richard Baxter has a strange note on this passage:
"How great a mercy it was to live thirty-eight years under God's wholesome discipline? O my God, I thank You for the like discipline of fifty-eight years! How safe a life is this, in comparison with full prosperity and pleasure!"
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11
A TRUE CONSCIENCE
"I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Acts 24:16
We need to learn how to live conscientiously. We should train ourselves to do it, by hard discipline, until at length we shall unconsciously obey every gentlest impulse of conscience. Some people are devout toward God, and yet selfish and base toward men. Others are philanthropic and benevolent toward men — and yet pay God no homage, no love, no service. Both these are wrong ways of living. If we love God, we will love our brother also; if we love our brother truly, we will love God also.
THE WAGES OF SIN
"For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." Romans 3:28
Some people imagine that their morality is enough to save them. They might as well hope to climb to the stars by going up the tallest mountain — as to gain Heaven by the best moralities. No man can live well enough to merit salvation. No man can live without sin, and "the wages of sin is death."
There have been some very holy people in this world, who have lived very close to God — but there never has been one who was received into Heaven on the ground of his own good works. God's law is so broad and deep, extending not only to acts and words — but to thoughts, motives, feelings, and affections — that it is utterly impossible for any fallen being perfectly to meet all its demands.
"As your days — so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:25
Strength was not promised in advance — enough for all life, or even for a year, or for a month. The promise was, that for each day, when it came with its own needs, duties, battles, and griefs — enough strength would be given. As the burden increased — more strength would be imparted. As the night grew darker — the lamps would shine out more brightly.
The important thought here is, that strength is not emptied into our hearts in bulk — a supply for years to come — but is kept in reserve, and given day by day, just as the day's needs require.
"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11
DEATH NOT THE END
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable!" 1 Corinthians 15:19
What a dreary thought it is, that the dead rise not! Think what it would mean to us. Would it be worth while to take such pains with our lives as many of us do, if death ended all? There are many people who give up pleasure, ease, and comfort to serve others. Would this pay if at death all goes down into the grave never to come up again? There are thousands who live lives of self-denial. They crucify their natural desires, that the better part of them may be developed. Would this pay if the grave is the goal of life? Think, too, of Christian love. Souls are knit together in this life in union which makes them as one. How terrible if love is only for the earth, if it goes out at death! Thank God, there is not a shadow of truth in it. The disciplined nature is fitted for honor in Heaven. Love never fails. The grave ends nothing. We shall rise again!
"But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him." Luke 10:33
Now we must not conclude that the half-heathen Samaritans were better as a class than the highly favored Jews. Our Lord uses a Samaritan in His parable because He needs to impress the law of love. No matter who the sufferer is that we come upon in any of life's paths, he is our neighbor. He may be a very worthless sort of man; but no matter, he is our neighbor. As we look closely at him, we may see that he is an enemy. Once he did us a bitter, cruel wrong, and he has no claim whatever on us for sympathy or for help; but no matter, he is our neighbor. The person of the human race that we find suffering or in need of any kind, becomes for the time our neighbor — the one neighbor to whom for the present we owe love.
"I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me!"' Matthew 25:45
In our Lord's description of the judgment, those on the left hand are condemned, not for evil things which they had done — but for their neglect of love's duties. "I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me." Matthew 25:42-43
They had not oppressed the poor, they had not robbed men, they had not gone about wounding others. Nothing whatever is said of their sins, except that they had not done the deeds of love to those who needed such ministries. They had left undone, things which they ought to have done.
"A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped! Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him: Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" Mark 4:37-38
These words imply that the disciples thought Jesus was indifferent to them in their danger — that He was neglecting them by sleeping while they were exposed to such peril. But how unjust was this reproach! They were never safer than they were that moment, in the midst of the wild tempest. The bark that bore the Lord, could not sink in the sea. Faith should have trusted in the darkness.
Yet do we never, at least in our hearts — make the same complaint of our Lord? When we are in some sore trial, and the trial grows very sore, and He does not come to deliver us; when we seem about to be engulfed by the waves of adversity, and no relief comes down from Him — do we never say, "Jesus does not care that I perish"? When we pray long and with importunity for the lifting away of some heavy cross, or the lightening of some sore burden — and no answer comes, does the thought never arise in our minds that Jesus does not hear us, or that he does not come to us?
But such complaint is never just. Sometimes he may seem not to care. The disciples had some lessons to learn. One was, how helpless they were in themselves in the world's dangers. Another was, that Christ alone could deliver them. They could not learn these lessons — except in the storm with the Master asleep. So there are similar lessons that we never can learn — until Christ withholds his help for a time. And sometimes He hides Himself for a season just to teach us faith. But He is never indifferent to us. He never neglects nor forgets us. His heart ever wakes and watches, and at the right moment He comes and brings deliverance. We should learn to trust our Lord so confidently, that in any hour of danger we can nestle down in his bosom, without fear or anxiety, and let Him take care of us.
"If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." Matthew 5:41
This principle applies to everything in life.
A good many people want to go only one mile in consecration, in praying, in loving others, in doing God's will. But mere one-mile following of Christ is pitifully inadequate.
What kind of a friend do you like — one who will go just the easy one mile with you, while the path is flowery and the air full of sweet odors, and then drop off when the road gets steep and rough, and the winter winds begin to blow?
Or do you like the friend who stays by you when it costs to be your friend, when he has to carry burdens for you, has almost to carry you sometimes?
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." John 10:27
It is easy enough for us to understand how the Syrian shepherd knows each of his sheep by name. His flock is small, and he can readily know the name of each. But when we think of the millions who are in Christ's flock, it seems strange to us that He knows and calls each one by name. Yet the truth is made very clear in the Scriptures.
Every mother knows her own children by name, and it is just as easy for the Good Shepherd to know each of His millions by name, as for any human mother to know each of her little group of children. There is comfort in this teaching. We are not lost in the crowd. Each one of us is individualized in God's love and thought and care.
"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone" James 1:13
Do not think that God is to blame for your temptations. Some people get tangled up in their theology, and have the impression that God tempts them. But the evil is in ourselves, never in God. He sets us to live in a world where sin is, and where we cannot miss being tempted.
But temptation is not sin; Christ was tempted. The sin comes in, when we yield to temptation. Paul shook off the viper that fastened upon his hand, and was not harmed in the least by its fangs. So may we do with temptation through Christ's help.
"But why does not God keep us from falling when we are tempted? Surely He is strong enough," says someone. God never compels us to be resist temptation — but helps us to meet and overcome temptation if we look to Him for help.
THINGS LEFT UNDONE
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former!" Matthew 23:23
We have left undone, those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things, which we ought not to have done." Perhaps we do not often think of it, however, as really sinful, not to do things. We admit that it is wrong to treat another unkindly — do we understand that it is wrong also not to show the kindness we had the opportunity to show? We know it is sinful to speak a harsh or bitter word to another — do we always remember that it is a sin not to say the word of cheer or comfort we had the opportunity to say, and which our neighbor so much needed and longed to hear? If we must give account for idle words — we must also give account for idle silences.
"Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven." Matthew 5:16
God desires our lives to be bright. He desires them to shine like the stars in the darkness. The world needs nothing so much as light — no light blazing in the far-off sky — but light pouring out softly, low down, close by, from human lives which have been kindled at the heart of God. The aim of the gospel of Christ is to make human lives bright with the brightness of God's own holiness. There is a word in one of Paul's letters which puts this truth in the form of an exhortation: "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
CHRIST LIVING IN US
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me!" Galatians 2:20
These words reveal the secret of Paul's wonderful life. It was Christ living in him, which made him the man he was. This is the secret of every transfigured life. There is no other way to get it. To be a Christian, is to have a new life in the soul. Christ Himself lives in each one who believes in Him.
"Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Mark 6:31
God has provided for many pauses along our days, when we shall lay down our tasks and unload our burdens and cease our work. These quiet resting-places are necessary.
Our bodies would break down and our minds would become deranged if we had to go on forever with life's grind and toil. But night comes, and we leave our shops and stores and offices — and find rest in our homes or in pleasant companionships. We lie down in sleep, and in a strange, mysterious way, our exhausted life-fountains are replenished.
Sundays are another of these quiet resting-places which God has provided on our journey. He needs us to drop all our week-day toil and care, and spend the day in such a way that when Monday morning comes we shall be strong for its work.
A REASON FOR HAPPINESS
"We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!" Romans 5:2
It may seem often that the present gains of faith in Christ, are not very great. But this present world is not the end. There is a future in which there shall be compensation for earth's sorrows and losses, to all who are in Christ. We are some day to be like Christ, and to be with Him in glory!
Here is a man journeying along a lonely road at night. The storm beats about him. He is weary and faint — but in his heart there is the vision of a beautiful and happy home to which he is going. Loved ones are there, waiting for him. There he will find shelter from the storm, food for his hunger, and rest to relieve his weariness. This vision of happiness a little way before him, makes him forget the hardness and discomfort of the journey.
So it is that the "hope of the glory of God" should cheer us as we move through the world's darkness and sorrow and trial.
"Paul took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all." Acts 27:35
Honoring God in the presence of all the company, and not omitting a Christian duty even in a wild storm. This is one of the finest scenes in Paul's life. The ship is swinging by its anchors in the tossing waves. The morning is just dimly dawning. The rain is pouring down. The two hundred and seventy-six weary and despairing men are gathered on the deck. In their midst, Paul rises up and speaks to them cheering and assuring words. Then taking bread, and uncovering his head in the storm, he looks up to Heaven and gives thanks to God for the food he holds in his hand, and then begins to eat.
If there ever was an occasion when it would seem that a Christian might omit "thanking God" for his food, was it not here? But Paul did not omit it; and who can tell the influence of that act?
A MOTHER'S INFLUENCE
"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." Luke 2:40
One of the chief influences in molding Christ's life, was His mother. When God wants to prepare a man for a great mission, He first prepares a noble mother, and puts the child into her bosom to be trained. Nearly all the truly great men of the world have received the inspiration and stamp of their lives, from their mothers.
When Moses was to be trained for his work, the Lord put the little babe back in the hands of its mother as his first teacher. There is no doubt that in preparing Mary to be the mother of the Savior, the rarest and loveliest graces of womanhood were wrought by God into her nature.
"Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
Christ went about doing good; He sought to put hope and cheer into all He met. If Christ is in us, we should strive to perpetuate this Christ-ministry of love in this world. Hearts are breaking with sorrow, men are bowing under burdens too heavy for them. Duty is too large, the battles are too hard. It is our mission, if Christ is in us, to do for these weary, overwrought, defeated, and despairing ones — what Christ Himself would do if He were standing where we stand.
We are to represent Him. He fills us with His Spirit, that we may be able to scatter the blessings of helpfulness and gladness all about us. Yet one of the saddest things about life is, that, with so much power to help others by kindliness of word and kindliness of act, many of us pass through the world in silence or with folded hands.
AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
"May Your will be done on earth — as it is in Heaven." Luke 11:2
"As it is in Heaven" may seem far above us today. The song is too sweet for our unmusical voice to sing. The life is too beautiful for us, with our imperfect, inharmonious nature to live. But if only we are true to our Christian faith, if only we strive always to do our Father's will, if only we keep our heart ever open to the love of Christ and to the help and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit — we shall rise day by day toward Heaven's perfectness, until at last we shall enter the pearly gates and be with Christ and be like Him. For the present our striving and our prayer should ever be: "May Your will be done on earth — as it is in Heaven."
THE POTTER'S WHEEL
"Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction" Isaiah 30:20.
Tears are lenses through which our dim eyes see more deeply into Heaven, and look more fully upon God's face, than in any other way.
Sorrows cleanse our hearts of earthliness and fertilize our lives.
The days of pain really do far more for us than the days of rejoicing.
We grow best when clouds hang over us, because clouds bear rain, and rain refreshes.
Then God's comfort is such a rich experience, that it is well worth while to endure trial, just to enjoy the sweet and precious comfort which God gives in it.
We should pray not for the mere drying of our tears — but for grace to profit by our affliction, and to get from it the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him!" Psalm 126:5-6
ONE OF YOU IS A DEVIL!
"Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" John 6:70
In studying the character and the sin of Judas, the following lessons may be brought out:
1. We must not be surprised if some evil men enter the Church, for even among the twelve apostles, was one Judas.
2. It is no proof that Christianity is untrue, when some of its professors prove hypocrites. The defection of Judas did not leave a stain on the name of Christ, nor did it disprove the loyalty and fidelity of the other disciples.
3. One may be very near to Christ — and yet not be made holy in character. Judas was three years with Christ, heard His words, lived in the atmosphere of His love — and remained unchanged.
An empty bottle, tightly sealed, may lie long in the ocean and continue perfectly dry within. A heart sealed to Christ's love, may lie in His bosom for years and not be blessed.
4. Sin grows, and we never can know to what terrible extent a wicked thought or desire may reach!
"I love those who love Me; and those who seek me, find Me." Proverbs 8:17
How easy Christ makes it for those who set out to find Him. When we start to seek Him, ever so timidly and tremblingly — He does not leave us to seek unencouraged — but quickly turns to meet us and to cheer and help us.
Then, He does not stand apart on some lofty mountain-top far away, or hide Himself out of sight, compelling us to seek alone, and struggle through sore difficulties to get to His feet. He sees us when we take our first steps toward Him, and notes the very beginnings of our heart's longings for Him.
In the parable, the father was watching and saw the prodigal as he came painfully and wearily homeward, and when he saw him he ran to meet him. It is just in this way that Christ does when He sees a penitent sinner turn his face toward Him.
OUR SHIELD AND KEEPER
"We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield." Psalm 33:20
We are told that the peace of God shall guard our hearts and thoughts. It is a military figure that is suggested. Men sleep in quiet confidence, in their tents, with enemies all about, because waking sentinels keep watch through all the night.
Just so, our hearts may be quiet and confident in any danger, because God watches. "The Lord is your keeper." "He who keeps you shall not slumber."
It is not a mere philosophy of self-control that is taught us. There is a keeping not our own. "The peace of God shall keep your heart and thoughts."
It is possible, therefore, for us so to commit all our life's sorrows, cares, and alarms to Christ — that the divine love shall wrap us around like a blessed atmosphere, quieting all fear and filling us with holy peace.
"You who fear him, trust in the LORD — He is their help and shield." Psalm 115:11
"As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife." Proverbs 26:21
Time is too short to spend even one day of it in bickering and strife. Love is too sacred to be forever lacerated and torn by the ugly briers of sharp temper. Surely we ought to learn to be patient with others — since God has to show every day such infinite patience toward us.
Is not the very essence of true love, the spirit that is not easily provoked, that bears all things? Can we not, then, train our life to sweeter gentleness? Can we not learn to be touched even a little roughly without resenting it? Can we not bear little injuries and apparent injustices without flying into a rage? Can we not have in us something of the mind of Christ which will enable us, like Him, to endure all wrong and injury, and give back no word or look of bitterness? The way over which we and our friend walk together, is too short to be spent in wrangling.
"It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel!" Proverbs 20:3
"As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you." Isaiah 66:13
When our feet are tired after the day's tasks and journeys, it ought to be a very precious comfort to remember that our blessed Master had like experience, and therefore is able to sympathize with us.
It is one of the chief sadnesses of many lives, that people do not understand them, and do not sympathize with them. They move about us, our neighbors and companions — even our closest friends — and laugh and jest and are happy and light-hearted — while we, close beside them, are suffering. They are not aware of our pain; and, if they were, they could not give us real sympathy, because they have never had any experience of their own that would interpret to them our experience. Only those who have suffered in some way, can truly sympathize with those who suffer.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are" Hebrews 4:15
THE GRATEFUL MIND
"Owe no man anything — except the continuing debt to love one another" Romans 13:8
If we would join the ranks of those who have lived worthily in the past, and have bequeathed blessing to the world — we must live worthily ourselves, must live unto God, standing faithfully in our lot, loyal to truth and to duty, withholding no price of love in serving others.
Other men labored, suffered, and we have entered into their labors and sufferings. As we enjoy the fruits of the love and service and faithfulness of those who have gone before us — let us pay our debt to them by love and service and faithfulness, which will bless those who come after us.
"As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day." Luke 4:16
There are many evidences that Jesus had fixed religious habits. Here we have a hint of His attending the synagogue worship on the Sabbath. This had been His custom from childhood, and although He was the Son of God, Lord of earth and Heaven, and had been manifested as the Messiah — He still continued to observe the custom.
Some people are careless about church attendance. They find fault perhaps with the minister — he does not feed them, they say. They mean that he does not entertain them. Now no doubt Jesus heard a great many dull talks and sermons — but He did not on that account stay away from the synagogue. He went there to worship God, not to enjoy an intellectual entertainment.
TRUST, AND FEAR NOT
"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God!" Psalm 42:5
During the brief pauses of a great battle, the soldiers heard a bird sing snatches of song from among the branches of a tree. Then, when the awful roar burst out again, its song was hushed. Is that the full meaning of the peace that Christ promises? Is it only a sweet bird-note now and then, amid the long days and years of discontent and struggle? They sadly misread the blessed words of Divine comfort, who find nothing better than this promise.
We are permitted to roll our care entirely over to God and to let it stay there. We are to put the broken plan, the shattered hope, the tangled work, the complicated affair — into the hands of the God of providence, leaving the ordering and outcome of it to His wisdom.
LORD OF THE STORM
"He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm!" Mark 4:39
He spoke to the storm and to the tossing sea as if they were intelligent creatures — just as a man would speak to his servants. The truth we learn here is, that Jesus is Lord of nature; that the elements recognize His voice, and obey Him even in their wildest moods.
If we only fully believed this, it would bring a great deal of peace to our lives. No tempest ever breaks from the control of Him who is our Lord and Redeemer. No wave ever rolls any farther than He permits. There is nothing in this world that is not under the sway of the hand that was nailed on the cross.
THE LOWLY PLACE
"Though the LORD is on high, He looks upon the lowly" Psalm 138:6
If we cannot do the beautiful things we see others doing for Christ, and which we long to do — we can at least do some lowly work for Him.
We shall learn, too, that self-surrender to God, though our heart's fondest hope is laid down — is, in God's sight, really the most beautiful thing we can do with our life.
We shall also learn that the hands that can do no brilliant thing for God — may yet become hands of blessing in the world. If we are truly fellow-workers with God, He can use whatever we have that we really surrender to Him. And often He can do more with our failures, than with our successes!
WHERE HEAVEN IS
"The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20-21
A gentle author has recently said: "We are too much in the habit of looking forward to Heaven as something that will be . . .
an easier, pleasanter story for us to read — when we have finished this tiresome earth-narrative;
a luxurious palace-chamber to rest in after this life's drudgery is ended;
a remote celestial mountain-retreat, where the sound of the restless waves of humanity forever fretting these shores will vex our ears no longer."
We forget that Heaven is not far off yonder — at least, our Heaven is not — but begins right here in our common days, if it is ever to begin at all for us.
Is not that what the prayer means, "May Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven." "On earth" in our shops and stores and schools; in our homes and social life; in our drudgery and care; in our times of temptation and sorrow.
FOLLOWING THE IDEAL
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me!" Philippians 3:12
True longing not only sees the heavenly visions, but is obedient to them, and strives to realize them. It struggles up toward the excellence that shines before it — it seeks to attain the fine qualities which it admires. It is not satisfied with good resolves — but sets forward to make them come true.
BITS OF HAPPINESS
"I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth!" Matthew 25:25
Why should I hide my one talent in the earth — because it is not ten? Why should I make my life a failure in the place allotted to me — while I sit down and dream over unattainable things? Why should I miss my one golden opportunity, however small, while I envy some other one what seems his greater opportunity?
Countless people make themselves wretched by vainly trying to grasp far-away joys, while they leave untouched and despised, the numberless little joys and bright bits of happiness which he close to their hand.
As one has written: "Stretching out his hand to catch the stars — man forgets the flowers at his feet, so beautiful, so fragrant, so multitudinous and so various."
The secret of happiness lies in extracting pleasure from the things we have — while we enter no mad, vain chase after impossible dreams.
BRANCHES OF THE LIVING VINE
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
The Christian does not merely receive blessings from Christ; does not merely enjoy His friendship, have His help, and live under His protection. This would be a high privilege, even if it were all. To have the Son of God for Friend, Helper, Keeper, and Guide — brings unspeakable good into a sinful, frail, imperiled human life. But the believer is a branch of Christ, one with Him. Christ's life is his life. Christ's fullness flows into his heart. Christ's joy and peace and strength are his. Apart from Christ, he can do nothing — but in Christ he can do all things.
JUST AND DEVOUT
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was just and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Luke 2:25
He was just in all his dealings with men — and devout in his feelings toward God. It takes both these elements to make true religion.
Some people are just — and not devout. They are scrupulously honest in all their dealings — yet they never think of God or of their duties to Him. They do not bow to Him in prayer; they never lift their hearts to Him in praise. They do not love Him. They confess no obligations to Him. Their whole religion simply is honesty toward their fellow-men, while they utterly ignore God, their Creator and Sustainer, in whom they live, from whose grace every hope in their lives flows, and upon whom they are dependent every moment for breath, for protection, and for all the blessings of life. It is readily seen that such religion is no religion at all. While we are just and honest in our transactions with men, it is to God that we owe the first and highest duties.
THE OPPORTUNITY OF YOUTH
"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth!" Ecclesiastes 12:1
In the bright sunny days, the young should gather into their life stores of moral and spiritual strength from which to draw when they go forth to encounter the world's fierce temptations.
Memory should be filled with the words of God. The great essential principles of Christianity should be so fixed in their minds, that no assaults of scepticism can make them doubt. The fundamental laws of morality should be settled in their very soul — as the laws of their own life. Their spiritual habits should be so firmly fixed that they will carry their religion with them out into the world as they find their way. Into the ship of their life and character — they should pile massive strength which nothing can possibly overcome!
"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them: Sit here while I go over there and pray." Matthew 26:36
We see the Master at prayer in Gethsemane. It was here that He prepared for His Cross. We should notice that His refuge in His exceeding sorrow, was prayer; and that as the sorrow deepened, the refuge still was prayer. "Being in an agony — He prayed more earnestly."
Just so, prayer is our only refuge in sorrow.
The lesson from the garden prayer, is that we should take . . .
all the hard things,
all the anguishes,
all the insufferable pains,
all the bitter griefs of our lives
— to God in prayer.
We may be sure, too, that God will answer. If He does not relieve us of the suffering — He will strengthen us so that we can keep it, and still go on trusting and singing!
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Matthew 5:6
It is the nature of the soul, to feed upon immortal things. Its hungers and cravings are . . .
for pardon of sin,
for peace of mind,
for communion with God,
for holiness of character,
for restoration to the Divine favor.
The bread for these spiritual hungers, must come down from Heaven. It must come in the form of mercy, of grace, of love, of Divine friendship. Such food is found on no table on earth; it grows in no earthly climate; it can come only from God. It is for God, the living God, that our souls hunger and thirst.
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water!" Psalm 63:1
"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God!" Psalm 42:1-2
THE NEW DAY
"You have not passed this way before!" Joshua 3:4
All of life is new. There is not a step of it of which it may not be said to us: "You have not passed this way before." Every day's path is new to each one of us.
We say that our life is only dull routine. We rise each morning to go through the same round we went through yesterday. We walk along the same roads every day for years. Life seems to us to have no variety.
Yet really each day is new and peculiar. We do not know what experiences it will bring to us . . .
what new joys or sorrows,
what new struggles,
what new responsibilities,
what new revealings,
what new duties.
Each morning the voice of God whispers to us: "You have not passed this way before!"
"So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12
AFIRE FOR SERVICE
"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel" Ephesians 6:19
There is no use in our trying to imitate Paul's zeal — unless we can first get his spirit.
Here are two locomotive engines. They are precisely alike — but one of them rolls over the rails at fifty miles an hour, drawing its immense train — while the other stands quiet and motionless at the station. The difference is that the one has a heart of fire, which gives it power, while the heart of the other is cold.
It was a heart of fire that made Paul the great missionary he was. There are plenty of people of the other kind in the churches, lacking only the fire to make them mighty workers for Christ.
"Whoever commits sin is the slave of sin." John 8:34
Everyone is a servant of some master — the only difference being in the master. There is no dishonor in having a master, if the master is worthy, and able to lead us up to glory. The Christian has Christ for his master; while he who lives in sin has sin for his master.
Christ is a blessed Master; serving Him lifts one up to eternal glory.
What sort of a master is sin? We need but to look about us to see. What does sin do for its slaves? What life did it ever ennoble or lift up?
THE GRACE OF FORBEARANCE
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2
There are at least two motives which should be sufficient to lead us to cultivate the grace of forbearance.
One is that no insult can do us harm — unless we allow it to irritate us. If we endure even the sorest words as Jesus endured His wrongs and revilings — they will not leave one trace of injury upon us. They can harm us only when we allow ourselves to become impatient or angry. We can get the victory over them and utterly disarm them of power to do us injury — by holding ourselves superior to them.
The second motive is that the feeling of resentment will change to pity — when we remember that not he who is wronged — but he who does the wrong, is the one who suffers.
And to help in bearing with disagreeable people or those with unamiable qualities, there is nothing better than a sincere wish to do them good. "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink." Romans 12:20
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14
VEILING THE FAULT
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8
Does Christ look upon us sharply, critically, suspiciously? He sees every infirmity in us — but it is as though He did not see it. His love overlooks it. He throws a veil over our faults. He continues to pour His own love upon us — in spite of all our blemishes and our ill-treatment of Him.
Just so, the law of Christian forbearance requires the same in us. We must not keep our selfish suspicions ever on the watch-tower or at the windows — looking out for neglects, discourtesies, wrongs, or grievances of any kind. We must not be hasty to think evil of others. We had better be blind, not perceiving at all the seeming rudeness or insult. It is well not to hear all that is said, or, if hear we must — to be as though we heard not!
THE BEAUTY OF THE LORD
"And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us!" Psalm 90:17
This is not too high a prayer for any one of us to use every day. Christ came into this world, and lived and died, to make it possible for us to wear the Divine beauty. We may wear it not merely as a holiday dress or high priest's garment, when we are engaged in some religious service.
The beauty of the Lord shines just as bright in homespun attire, in the midst of the dust and clatter of the shop or the mill, or in the lowly duties of the kitchen — as it does in the special dress of the Sunday, in the sacredness and quietness of the sanctuary. The transfigured life is not a matter of place, or time, or occupation; it is a matter of character. Many of the world's most radiant saints, walk the earth in lowliest disguises.
THE POWER OF SILENCE
"Study to be quiet" 1 Thessalonians 4:11
All true spiritual culture, is toward the control and the restraining of speech. Christian faith gives a quietness which in itself is one of life's holiest blessings. It gives the quietness of peace — a quietness which the wildest storms cannot disturb, which is a richer possession than all the world's wealth or power.
"Study to be quiet." The lesson may be hard to many of us — but it is well worth all the cost of learning. It brings strength and peace to the heart.
Speech is good — but often silence is better. He who has learned to hold his tongue, is a greater conqueror than the warrior who subdues an empire! The power to be silent under provocation and wrongs, and in the midst of danger and alarms — is the power of the noblest, most royal victoriousness!
"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak" James 1:19
"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise!" Proverbs 10:19
"Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3
PAYING THE PRICE
If we would be truly and deeply helpful, we I must be willing to pay the price of the costly tuition. We must learn deeply and long, before we can teach well. We must listen intently, before we are ready to speak to others. We must be willing to endure temptation, conflict, and struggle with sin, and to get the victory — before we can be succourers to those who are tempted. We must be content to suffer, and must learn to suffer patiently — before we can sing the songs of Christian joy and peace in the ears of the weary. Our own hearts must break — to fit us for giving comfort, for only with heart's blood can we heal hearts. God is ready always to anoint for the holy office of helping their fellow-men — those who can pay the price.
THE THORN IN THE FLESH
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Our "thorn" may either be a blessing to us, or it may do us irreparable harm. Which result, depends upon ourselves. If we allow it to fret us, if we chafe, resist, and complain, if we lose faith and lose heart — our thorn will spoil our life. But if we accept it in the faith that in its ugly burden it has a blessing for us, if we endure it patiently, submissively, unmurmuringly, if we seek grace to keep our heart gentle and true amid all the trial, temptation, and suffering it causes — our thorn will work good, and out of its bitterness will come sweet fruit.
The responsibility is ours, and we should so relate ourselves to our "thorn" and to Christ, that growth and good, not harm and marring, shall come to us from it. Such weakness is blessed, only if we get the victory over it through faith in Christ.
CHRIST'S HEART OF JOY
"God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." Hebrews 1:9
Amid all His sorrows, under all the deep shadows that hung over His life, Christ carried ever a heart of joy. Exteriorly His life was hard and full of grief — but the hardness did not crush His spirit. His heart was like one of those fresh-water springs that burst up in the sea — ever sweet under all the salt bitterness. Not one cynical word ever fell from His lips. He did not frown upon the children's plays, upon the marriage festivities, or upon the sweet pleasures of home. A benignant joyfulness plays over nearly every chapter of His blessed life.
The true conception of Christ's character is of a deeply serious man, earnest, thoughtful, living an intense life — but never somber, gloomy, or cynical, the deep earnestness of His character struck through with a quiet joy, and a calm, steady light of a holy peace.
THE HEAVENLY VISITOR
"He has visited and redeemed his people." Luke 1:68
What a beautiful thought it is, that God pays visits to His people in this world! We remember a number of visits He made in the olden times — to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, to Joshua, and to others. But the most wonderful visit He ever made, was when Christ came and stayed so long, and did so much to bless the world.
Every time any of His children are in trouble, He comes to help them. They do not always know it; for He comes unseen, and often so softly and silently, that people do not know they have such a glorious visitor within their doors. When we are in great danger, He visits us to deliver us. When we are sick or suffering, He visits us to give us grace to bear our suffering.
"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18
There are many words spoken, which ought never to pass the door of the lips. There are people who seem to exercise no restraint whatever on their speech. They allow every passing thought, to take form in words. They never think what the effect of their words will be — how they will fly like arrows shot by some careless marksman, and will pierce hearts they were never meant to hurt. Thus friendships are broken and injuries are inflicted which can never be repaired. Careless words are forever making grief and sorrow in tender spirits. We pity the mute whom sometimes we meet. Muteness is more blessed by far than speech, if all we can do with our marvelous gift is to utter bitter, angry, abusive, or sharp, cutting words.
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer!" Psalm 19:14
"He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." Matthew 10:38
It is his cross, and not some other man's — that each one is to take up. It is the particular cross that God lays at our own feet, that we are to bear.
We are never to make crosses for ourselves — but we are always to accept those which are allotted to us.
Sometimes we think our lot is peculiarly hard, and we compare it with the lot of this or that other person, and wish we had his cross instead of our own. But we do not know what other people's crosses really are. If we did, we might not want to exchange. The cross that seems woven of flowers — if we put it on our shoulders we might find filled with sharp thorns under the flowers. The cross of gold that seems so bright — we would find so heavy that it would crush us. The easiest cross for each one to bear is his own.
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." Luke 9:23
"The woman said to Him: Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." John 4:15
There is said to be a strange plant in South America which finds a moist place, and sends its roots down and becomes green for a little while, until the place becomes dry; when it draws itself out and rolls itself up and is blown along by the wind until it comes to another moist place, where it repeats the same process. On and on the plant goes, stopping, wherever it finds a little water, until the spot is dry; then in the end, after all its wanderings, it is nothing but a bundle of dry roots and leaves.
It is the same with those who drink only of this world's springs. They drink and thirst again, and go on from spring to spring, blown by the winds of passion and desire, and at last their souls are nothing but bundles of unsatisfied desires and burning thirsts. We must find something better than this, or perish forever.
THE BEST WINE LAST
"The wine supply ran out during the festivities" John 2:3
"Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now!" John 2:10
The best wine of life and of love will fail. If there were nothing better in this world, how sad it would be! But it is here that we see the glory of Christ's gospel. Jesus comes when earth's wine fails, and gives Heaven's wine to supply the lack. How beautiful and how true is the picture — the failing wine — and then Jesus coming with power and supplying the need!
That is what He is doing continually. He takes lives which have drained their last drop of earthly gladness, and He satisfies them with spiritual good and blessing, so that they want nothing more. When human joy fails, if we have Jesus with us, He gives new joy, better than the world's, and in unfailing abundance!
How sad it is for those who have not taken Christ into their lives, and who have nothing but the empty cup when earth's wine gives out!
CHOOSE FOR ME
"I delight to do Your will, O my God. Your law is within my heart." Psalm 40:8
There is a little fable which says that a primrose, growing by itself in a shady corner of the garden, became discontented as it saw the other flowers in their mirthful beds in the sunshine, and begged to be removed to a more conspicuous place. Its prayer was granted. The gardener transplanted it to a more showy and sunny spot. It was greatly pleased — but there came a change over it immediately. Its blossoms lost much of their beauty, and became pale and sickly. The hot sun caused them to faint and wither. So it prayed again to be taken back to its old place in the shade. The wise gardener knows best where to plant each flower.
Just so, God, the divine Gardener, knows where His people will best grow into what He would have them to be.
OFFERING OUR BEST
"She has done what she could!" Mark 14:8.
This was wonderful commendation to come from the lips of the Christ. Mary could not have done better than this, if she had been a thousand times as gifted.
One lesson that we get, is that all Christ wants, is what we have ability and opportunity to do.
A child in a mission-school offered her teacher a handful of weeds and grasses, wilted and soiled, which she called a bouquet. Did the teacher refuse the gift, and criticize the poor withered weeds? No, she accepted them with as sincere gratitude and as many thanks as if some wealthy friend had offered her an elegant bouquet of flowers. The child did what she could; and the teacher saw the love in the little heart, and that transfigured her poor gift.
So it is, that Christ accepts our poorest work or our homeliest offering if it is our best.
OUR BLESSED DEAD
"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
A large part of the blessed hope of Heaven is its re-unions. The Bible gives us many glimpses of the glory and beauty of the heavenly home which awaits us. We are told of streets of gold, of gates of pearl, of a river of the water of life, of a crystal sea — all that earth can find of splendor is brought into the picture to heighten our conception of the glories of Heaven. But that which makes Heaven dear to those who have loved ones there, is not so much the promise of all this splendor of beauty, as the hope of again getting with the dear friends who are in the midst of all this incomparable beauty.
HEARING AND DOING
"Whatever He says to you, do it." John 2:5
How can we know what Jesus says to us? We cannot hear His voice as those in the gospels heard it. He speaks now in His Word, and the reverent heart may always hear what He says as the sacred pages are prayerfully pondered. He speaks in the conscience which is kept tender by loyal obeying. He speaks in the providence that brings duty to our hand. There never is any real uncertainty as to what He says, if we are truly intent on knowing His will.
"Whatever He says to you, do it." It is the doing that is important. We should never ask questions nor make suggestions when Jesus has spoken — the one thing for us, is obedience. We should never ask what the consequence may be, what it may cost us — we are simply to obey. Christ knows why He needs us do to the thing, and that should be reason enough for us.
THE SIN OF HELPLESSNESS
"Jesus said to him: 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.' And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked." John 5:8-9
The man might have said, "Why, I cannot rise. That is the very thing which I have not been able to do for thirty-eight years. Take up my bed! Why, I could not lift a feather; and as for walking, I could as easily fly! I cannot do these things until I am cured."
We have all heard people talk thus about starting in the Christian life. They plead their helplessness as reason for their delay. There is a fine lesson for such in this man's obedience. The moment he heard the command, he made the effort to rise — and as he made the effort, the strength was given. New life came with his simple obedience.
Christ never commands an impossibility. When He bids us rise out of our sin and helplessness and begin the Christian walk — He means to give grace and strength to enable us to do it.
"Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come!" Mark 13:33
It is the time of our Lord's coming again, to which these words refer. He is coming; but when, no one can know. He will come suddenly, without warning. Since, then, we cannot know what moment the Lord may appear, we must take heed, watch and pray, lest He come and surprise us unprepared.
This does not mean that we are always to be talking and thinking of the event and waiting for it in dreamy idleness and useless gazing. What Christ wants us to do, is so to live at all times that His coming at any moment of the day or night will not find us unready.
RENEWED IN MIND
"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one!" John 17:15
We are not of this world, if we are Christians; we belong to the kingdom of Heaven. It is very easy for us, being IN the world, to become OF it, to let our lives grow like the world. But this is not the way to make ourselves a living sacrifice to God.
"It is not conformity to the world that we need," says Bushnell; "it is not being able to beat the world in its own way; but it is to stand apart and above it, and to produce the impression of a holy and separate life. This only is safety and success."
Instead, then, of conforming to the world, taking the world's color — our duty is to seek to be transformed into the heavenly life. The candle is to be lighted within our hearts, that its beams may shine out through our life, making it glow.
IN DUE SEASON
"Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9.
It is not in vain, that we continue our well-doing, that we obey God's commandments, that we devote our lives in self-sacrificing service to men for Christ's sake. What seems to be loss, is gain. The godly man may seem to have more trouble than his unchristian neighbor. His business may not appear to prosper so well. His business ventures may miscarry. His faithfulness may bring him enmity, and even persecution.
But life's accounts are not always settled at once. Harvest does not follow sowing immediately. It is so in nature. There are days and months when the seed seems to have perished. Afterward, however, it yields fruit.
It is the same in spiritual life. For a time there may seem to be no blessing in well-doing. But in the end righteousness succeeds. "He who sows unto the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life." 1 Timothy 6:12.
It may be the easiest thing . . .
to have no battles in life,
to grow in some sheltered plain where the storms never blow,
to meet no hardships,
to have no burdens to carry.
But what sort of life comes in the end from such a career? If we would reach the heights of blessedness — we must be content to pass through the fields of struggle.
When armies return from victorious war, the loudest cheers are not for those who have fought the fewest battles, nor for the flags which are cleanest — but for the regiments which are cut down to a few men, and for the colors that are shot to pieces. So it will be in Heaven when the redeemed are welcomed home: those who have fought the most battles, and bear the most "marks of the Lord Jesus," will receive the highest honors!
THE ART OF SEEING
"For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." John 9:39
We miss a great deal in this world, because of our ignorance. Life is full of illustrations of loss through not knowing.
Two people walk out through the country. One has the artist's eye, and his soul is entranced by what he sees. The other has two eyes in his head — but sees nothing with them. He does not know of the beauty that glows everywhere, and misses all the enjoyment which would be his, if he had learned the art of seeing.
Two people go into an art gallery. One sees in the great pictures, nothing but patches of color. The other sees that which thrills his soul.
These are suggestions of what we miss by not knowing. One man looks at the Bible with a certain sort of superstitious reverence — but sees nothing in it. Another reads the words, and they glow with life and beauty!
RECKONING WITH GOD
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." Revelation 22:12
Reckoning with God will be a very serious matter. We are told that the books will be opened — the books which record men's acts, motives, dispositions, tempers. But we do not have to wait until the Judgment Day to have these reckonings; God reckons with us as we go along. He is continually calling men to give account to Him.
Sometimes it is by the preaching of the Word, which convicts them of sin and makes them stand trembling before the bar of conscience.
Sometimes it is by an affliction or a trial which compels them to stop and think of their relation to God.
Sometimes it is by a deep searching of heart produced by the silent inner working of the Holy Spirit.
There is no man who, some time or other in this present life, is not called up before God for a reckoning.
CHRIST ON THE CROSS
"They crucified Him!" Mark 15:25
Here we come to the mount of our Redeemer's sorrows, and we should bare our heads in holy reverence, as we stand in the silence of wondering love, and gaze upon Him on His cross. Many thoughts will come to us as we contemplate this scene.
What a terrible thing sin is, that its expiation required such a sacrifice! Shall we go on carelessly sinning when we see what our Savior suffered to save us from our sins?
What wonderful love there must be in the heart of God to cause Him to give His Son to endure such a death to save sinners!
What love there must be in the heart of Jesus, that He was willing to make such a sacrifice of His own precious and glorious life, to redeem the lost!
THE FRAGRANT PRESENCE
"When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door." Mark 2:1-2
It never can be kept quiet long, when Jesus gets into any house. The neighbors will soon find out that He is there. The people cannot keep the secret. They will let it out in a great many ways. They will show it in their faces. Those who have Christ in their home, do not look like other people. There is a radiance or sunniness about them when they come out, that tells of an unworldly source of joy. There is something about their speech, too, that lets out the secret; they cannot help talking about their Guest.
So, in spite of themselves, the family in whose house Jesus is, will disclose the secret. Fragrant flowers cannot be concealed, and there is a fragrance about Jesus that always reveals His presence.
BEHOLD THE MAN
"Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said: Behold the man!" John 19:5
We cannot do better than obey Pilate's word, "Behold the man!" and fix our eyes in loving gaze upon Jesus as He is led out from the palace and stands before the multitude.
Behold the Man enduring shame and contempt, set forth before the people as a spectacle of mockery — in order that at last we may be presented in glory, and honored before angels and the Father.
Behold the Man wearing a crown of thorns — that we may wear a crown of glory and of life;
Behold the Man robed in mocking purple — that we may wear the white garments of righteousness.
Behold the Man in the majesty of meekness — reviled — yet not reviling in return; hated — yet still loving on; wronged — yet speaking no resentful word.
"They immediately left their nets, and followed him." Matthew 4:20
Their nets were probably all they had. It was with these that they earned their living. Yet at the call of Christ, they gave up all, cut themselves off from their means of support, and in simple obedience and faith went with Him.
That is just the way we all should do, when Christ calls us. We should obey instantly and without questioning. No matter how much the sacrifice involves, we should make it cheerfully for His sake.
Christ takes care of His servants when they are faithfully doing His will. He asks for absolute surrender to Him. He wants us to trust Him while we obey Him unquestioningly.
We do many things which to our own eyes appear innocent and harmless — but which have in them a hidden evil we cannot see.
We indulge ourselves in many things which to us do not appear sinful — but which leave on our soul a touch of blight, a soiling of purity, of which we do not dream.
We permit ourselves many little habits in which we see no danger — but which are silently entwining their invisible threads into a cable which some day shall bind us hand and foot.
We spare ourselves self-denials and sacrifices, thinking there is no reason why we should make them, unaware that we are lowering our standard of living, and permitting the subtle beginnings of self-indulgence to creep into our hearts.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life!" Psalm 139:23-24
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!" Isaiah 41:10
Human sympathy in suffering is a wonderful help — but the assurance of Divine sympathy is infinitely more uplifting. Christ gives real help.
He was moved with compassion as He saw the widow of Nain in her lonely sorrow, and restored her dead son to her. He wept with Mary and Martha, and then raised their brother. He sighed as He looked on the misfortune of the deaf man, and then opened his ears. He is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and then gives "grace to help in time of need."
IN GOD'S SIGHT
"Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." Luke 1:6
This is a beautiful thing to have said of them.
Yet, after all, that is the test which every life must endure. It is not enough to have human commendation — how do we stand before God? How does our life appear to Him? No matter how men praise and commend — if as God sees us, we are wrong. The Pharisees were righteous before men; but if you would see how they stood in God's eye, read the twenty-third chapter of Matthew.
We are in reality ,just what we are before God — nothing less, nothing more. The question always to be asked is, "What will God think of this?" If we would meet His approval, we must first have our hearts right, and then we must be true in every part of our life.
"You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you." John 15:14
We are in the habit of saying that Christ saved us by dying for us on the Cross. In an important sense, this is true. We never could have been saved, if He had not died for us. But we are actually saved by our relation to a living, loving, personal Savior, into whose hands we commit all the interests of our lives, and who becomes our friend, our helper, our keeper, our caretaker, our all in all. Christian faith is not merely laying our sins on the Lamb of God and trusting to His one great sacrifice: it is the laying of ourselves on the living, loving heart of one whose friendship becomes thenceforward the sweetest joy of our lives.
"Though I cry, 'I've been wronged!' I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice." Job 19:7
There are wrongs not righted here. There are good men misunderstood, maligned, misrepresented, bearing the odium of false accusation all their days, suffering for the sin of others, waiting all their years for vindication which comes not, and at last dying with the shadow upon their name.
If there were no life beyond death, we could not always say that God's ways are equal. But life goes on, on the other side of the grave, and there will be time enough there for the fullest out-working of all earth's unfinished providences. All wrongs will there be righted, and all perplexities solved. The shadows of injustice that have hung over good men in this world will vanish, and the names bearing reproach here without cause, will shine forth like the stars.
WATCH AND PRAY
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26:41
We must learn both to watch and to pray.
It is good to watch. There is danger everywhere. An army in an enemy's country never rests a moment without its encircling line of sentinels, keeping watch against danger at every point, and reporting instantly any hostile movement. We are living in the enemy's country, and cannot safely pass an hour without watching.
But watching is not enough; for we are not able to keep ourselves when the danger comes. Hence we need also to pray, asking God to keep us.
But as watching without praying is not enough, neither is praying without watching. God means us to use our eyes and to keep our wits about us, as well as to cry to Him for help.
CHRIST THE SCULPTOR
It would not be hard to take an angel and train him into a glorious messenger. But to take such a man as Simon, or as Saul, or as John Newton, or as John Bunyan — and make out of him a holy saint or a mighty apostle — that is the test of power! Yet that is what Christ did, and has been doing ever since. He takes the poorest stuff — despised and worthless, outcast of men often — and when He has finished His gracious work, we behold a saint whiter than snow!
The sculptor beheld an angel in the rough, blackened stone, rejected and thrown away. And when men saw the stone again, to there was the angel cut from the block.
Just so, Christ can take us, rough and unpolished as we are, and in His hands our lives shall grow into purity and loveliness, until He presents them at last before the throne, faultless and perfect!
"Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault!" Jude 1:24
"Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love." John 13:1
We are apt to complain if our friends do not return as deep, rich, and constant love as we give them. We feel hurt at any evidence of the ebbing of love in them, when they fail us in some way, when we think they have not been altogether faithful and unselfish, or when they have been thoughtless and ungentle toward us.
But Christ saw in His redeemed people a very feeble return for His deep love for them, a most inadequate requital of all His wondrous goodness and grace. They were inconstant, weak, unfaithful. They were ungentle. Yet He continued to love them in spite of all that He found unbeautiful and unworthy in them. And this is the friendship He would teach His disciples.
THE SPIRITUAL ARTIST
"You also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5
We cannot measure spiritual results, as we can those that are physical. The artist sees the picture growing upon his canvas as he works day by day. The builder sees the wall rising as he lays stone upon stone. But the spiritual builder is working with invisible blocks, is rearing a fabric whose walls He cannot see. The spiritual artist is painting away in the unseen. His eyes cannot behold the impressions, the touches of beauty He makes.
Sometimes the results of work on human lives, may be seen in the conversation of the ungodly, in the comforting of sorrow, in the uplifting and ennobling of the degraded. And yet much of our work must be done in simple faith, and perhaps in Heaven it will be seen that the best results of our lives have been from their unconscious influences, and our most fruitful efforts those we considered in vain.
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." 2 Corinthians 2:14
There is something very mysterious about perfume. No one can describe it. You cannot take a photograph of it. You cannot weigh it. Yet it is a very essential quality of the flower.
The same is true of that strange thing we call influence. Influence is the aroma of a life. The most important thing about your life, is this subtle, imponderable, indefinable, mysterious quality of your personality which is known as influence. This is really all that counts in its final impression upon other lives. Whatever a man really is — is what breathes out from his life wherever he is known, that which his name suggests to people whenever it is spoken.
"When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them." Luke 7:37-38
"Jesus said to the woman: Your faith has saved you; go in peace!" Luke 7:50
Saved! This poor, shame-soiled, sin-ruined thing, whom the Pharisee would have thrust out of his house into the street! Saved! Never to go back any more to her old life! An heir of Heaven now, destined to walk the heavenly streets in white!
There is an old legend that one in passing along the way, touched a noxious weed, and it became a geranium, and has ever since been a geranium, pouring fragrance everywhere.
No matter about the legend — but Christ did something far more wonderful on the day of our story. He touched this sinful soul — and it was transformed into beauty! That woman has been in glory for eighteen centuries. That is what Christ does for every one who creeps to His feet in penitence and faith!
PAIN AND PRAISE
"After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison . . . About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God!" Acts 16:23, 25
Most people are in the singing mood, only when their circumstances are pleasant. But here were men singing in the midst of great pain and trouble.
What was the secret? It was their faith in God. The peace of God was in their hearts. They knew that all things were working together for their good. Christ was with them in their dungeon, and instead of being cast down, they rejoiced.
Just so, we should learn to rejoice in our troubles. If we are true Christians, there can come to us no experience, however sore, that ought to stop our rejoicing. There is, even in the sorest trouble, some cause for joy. We may not be able to see it — but here is where faith should come in. We know that our Father's hand is in every pain or trial — and we know that whatever He sends or allows must be a blessing!
"It is finished!" John 19:30
This was our Lord's sixth saying from the Cross. His allotted life-work was done; all his task was ended, all things set for Him to do were done, and nothing more remained for Him but to die.
Many men come to the end even of long lives and find their work far from finished when the call comes to leave this world; but though the life of Jesus had been so short, He was ready to go. He had done each day, the work given Him that day to do, and when the last hour of the last day came there was nothing that He had left undone.
We ought to learn the lesson for ourselves, and live as Jesus lived, so as to have every part of our work finished when the end comes!
HELP AT ALL TIMES
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need!" Hebrews 4:16
There is a very large part of the Bible which can be received by us, only when we come into the places for which the words were given.
There are promises for weakness — which we can never get while we are strong.
There are words for times of danger — which we can never know while we need no protection.
There are consolations for sickness — whose comfort we can never get while we are in robust health.
There are promises for times of loneliness, when men walk in solitary ways — which never can come with real meaning to us while loving companions are by our side.
There are words for old age — which we never can appropriate for ourselves along the years of youth, when the arm is strong, the blood warm, and the heart brave.
"Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." 1 Corinthians 10:24
True self-denial is the renouncing of self, and the yielding of the whole life to the will of Christ. It is self coming down from the life's throne, laying crown and scepter at the Master's feet, and thenceforth submitting the whole life to His sway. It is living all the while, not to please ourselves, not to advance our own personal interests — but to please our Lord and to do His work. It is denying to ourselves anything that is sinful in His sight. It is the glad making of any sacrifice that loyalty to Him requires. It is the giving up of any pleasure or comfort for the good of others. The essential thing, is that self gives way altogether to Christ as the motive of life.
THE NEW PATH
"You have not passed this way before." Joshua 3:4
To us, the path of each day is always new — we have not passed this way before, and we cannot tell what any hour may bring to us.
But He knows all the way, for He went over every inch of it. There is no human experience which Christ does not understand. No suffering can be ours, which He did not feel. No wrong can hurt us — but He was hurt far more sorely.
Is your burden heavy? His burden was infinitely heavier, for He bore our sins in His body on the cruel tree. There is no phase of struggle, of suffering, of pain, of temptation — with which He is unfamiliar. And knowing thus the way, from having sought it out for Himself, He is able to guide us in it.
THE TRANSFIGURED LIFE
"For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son." Romans 8:29
The object of all Christian culture, is to attain the likeness of Christ. We read the Bible to get glimpses of His beauty — that we may assimilate it in our character. We pray that our longings for this holiness may be realized. We resist temptation and seek to do what is right — that we may shape our life into the image of Jesus. In every heart in which the Spirit dwells, there is a new life seeking to express itself in new tempers, dispositions, and affections; in new developments of character, in new conduct, new aims, new service.
A transfigured Christian life is the Christ within us, so possessing all our being, that the brightness glows in the outer life and character.
SONGS IN THE NIGHT
"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4
None can rejoice in pain or loss, who has not a settled confidence in the rightness of God's ways.
Someone tells how a flute is made. Here is a piece of wood. It is solid and hard, and makes no sound. Then a workman takes it and cuts holes in it and makes a rift through it. It is by thus cutting as if destroying it, that it is made into a flute which gives forth sweet music.
Just so, God seems often to be destroying His children by tribulations — but He is really preparing them to give forth sweet music.
CHRIST IN THE SICK-ROOM
"Great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all." Matthew 12:15
It is a great comfort to know that, while we may not expect miraculous healing of our bodily illnesses, we are sure at least that our Lord is not indifferent to these distresses; that He designs to use them for our spiritual benefit; that He is ready to give us the grace we need to endure them patiently and submissively; and that He is ready to heal us when His wise purpose in these afflictions has been accomplished.
We may be sure always of the sympathy, love, and help of Christ in all our sickness. He sits constantly in every Christian sick-room, and where faith is strong and clear, He gives great comfort and peace. When He was on earth He did not go very often to the places of festivity — but whenever there was any one sick in a home, He was sure to go there. Sickness and pain draw Him to us, and whenever He comes He brings blessings.
NO MORE DEATH
It is profitable for us to contrast the death of Christ — with that of His disciples in all ages since. He shrank from the "cup of suffering" — they are eager to drink it. He seemed forsaken of God — they look with ecstasy and unclouded vision into the Father's face. Death has no bitterness for the Christian — because it was so bitter to the Redeemer. He drew the curse from it — and now it has in it only the sweetness of blessing. Indeed, there is no death any more for the Christian. Jesus abolished death. What we now call death is death no longer, since He passed through it. It is now only the shadow of death, and even the shadow is lighted up with the beams of Divine glory bursting from Heaven!
Let us never forget that we have light in our dying — because Jesus had darkness.
A SOLEMN QUESTION
"What is a man profited, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" Matthew 16:26
That is putting the case in its most favorable light. The whole world is the largest possible gain. But suppose a man does get the whole world . . .
it cannot keep him from trouble;
it cannot give him peace of conscience;
it cannot comfort him in sorrow;
it cannot make a soft pillow for him when he is dying;
it cannot purchase Heaven for him when he is gone.
All he can do with the world, after he has it, is to keep it until he dies — he cannot carry any part of it with him to eternity.
"How much did he leave?" asked one, referring to a millionaire who had just died. "Every cent!" was the reply. He left all. So it is easy to see that there is no profit — but rather a fearful and eternal loss, in gaining even all the world at the price of one's soul.
CHAINS OF GLORY
"For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain!" Acts 28:20
We are not likely to have the privilege of wearing literally chains for Christ — but there are many hindrances and limitations and hardships in every Christian life, which are really chains upon us. Sickness sometimes shuts us in. Poverty binds the hands of many. Household cares keep many a woman in chains. Few Christians are absolutely free to do what their hearts prompt them to do for Christ.
We should study Paul, and gather the lesson of rejoicing, of cheerfulness, of contentment, of usefulness. Paul's prison life was not idle. He sent out continually from his place of captivity blessings for men. The influence poured out into all the world.
THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23
One of the old legends tells of the visits of a goddess to ancient Thebes, and relates that the people always knew when she had been there, although no eye saw her — by the blessings she left behind. She would pause before a lightning-blackened tree — and the tree would be covered with beautiful vines. She would sit down to rest upon a decaying log — and the decay would be hidden under lovely moss. When she stepped on the muddy shores of the sea — violets would spring up in her tracks.
This is only a legend — but it illustrates the influence of the beautiful Christian life in which the fruits of the Spirit have full and rich growth. There are lives so full of grace and goodness, that every influence they give forth is toward cheer and hope and purity.
There are many people living in the midst of difficult circumstances, amid hardship, toil, and care, whose daily life breathes out gentle music which blesses others about them. They do no great services — but they crowd the hours with little ministries which fall like silver bell-notes on weary hearts. They are faithful in all their commonplace duties. They are patient under all manner of irritating experiences. They keep happy and contented, even in times of suffering and need. They are cheerful and trusting, even in poverty. They live in quiet harmony with the will of God, making no jarring discords by insubmission or wilfulness. Thus in their lowly sphere, they make music which is sweet to the ear both of God and man
TREASURES IN THE HEART
"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:21
It is possible to gather riches that we can carry with us into eternity.
A ship was wrecked on a desert island in ancient times. There were many merchants on board with their wealth, and they saved nothing from the sea but their own lives. They were making great lament over their losses. There was a Christian on board, however, and he was calm and at peace amid all the misery of the merchants. When asked why he bore his misfortune so calmly, he said the others had their treasures in their goods and had lost all; but that he had his treasure in his heart, and had lost nothing.
When a worldly man dies, he loses all his treasures in the wreck of his ventures on death's cold rocks. But when a godly man dies, he carries his treasures over with him into the other world.
GIVING THAT COSTS
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver!" 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
It is not enough for us to sing our songs of praise to Christ, to look up adoringly into His face, to bow before Him in reverent worship, and to speak our heart's homage in words. We should bring our gifts too, to lay at His feet.
There is a great deal of mere sentiment in the consecration of many people. When there is call for gifts of sacrifice, or for real service, it instantly vanishes. People sing missionary hymns with great warmth, and when the collection box comes to them, they have no gifts to offer.
The Wise Men not only brought presents — but they brought those that were costly. We should bring our best, our gold, our frankincense and myrrh, the alabaster box of our heart's deepest love, and the best of all our life and service.
THE NEED OF QUIET
"When you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent." Psalm 4:4
Every true Christian life needs its daily silent times when all shall be still, when the busy activity of other hours shall cease; and when the heart, in holy hush, shall commune with God.
One of the greatest needs in Christian life in these days, is more devotion. Ours is not an age of prayer, so much as an age of work. The tendency is to action, rather than to worship; to busy toil, rather than to quiet sitting at the Savior's feet to commune with Him. The keynote of our present Christian life is consecration, which is understood to mean devotion to active service. On every hand we are incited to work. Our zeal is stirred by every inspiring incentive. The calls to duty come to us from a thousand earnest voices.
THE SHADOW OF HIS WAYS
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." 1 Peter 1:6-7
Many a Christian enters a sore trial — cold, worldly, unspiritual, with all the better and more tender qualities of his nature locked up in his heart like the beauty and fragrance in the bare and frozen tree in January. But he comes out of the trial with gentle spirit, mellowed, enriched, and sweetened, and with all the fragrant graces pouring their perfume about him.
The photographer carries his picture back into a darkened room, that he may bring out its features. The light would mar his delicate work. God brings out in many a soul its loveliest beauties — while the curtain is drawn and the light of day shut out. The darkness does not tell of anger; it is only the shadow of the wing of Divine love folded close over us for a little, while the Master adds some new touch of loveliness to the picture He is bringing out in our souls.
FRIENDS OF CHRIST
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends" John 15:15
In the New Testament, the Christian's relation to Christ is represented as a personal acquaintance with Him, which ripens into a close and tender friendship. This was our Lord's own ideal of discipleship. He invited men to come to Him; to break other ties, and attach themselves personally to Him; to leave all and go with Him. He claimed the full allegiance of men's hearts and lives. He must be first in their affections, and first in their obedience and service. He offered Himself to men, not merely as a helper from without, not merely as one who would save them by taking their sins and dying for them — but as one who desired to form with them a close, intimate, and indissoluble friendship.
WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 19:19
The good Samaritan is our Lord's answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" The good Samaritan's neighbor was a bitter enemy, who, in other circumstances, would have spurned him from his presence.
Other people may not be beautiful in their character, nor congenial in their habits, manners, modes of life, or disposition; they may even be unkind to us, unjust, unreasonable, in strict justice, altogether undeserving of our favor. Yet if we persist in being called Christians ourselves, we owe them the love that thinks no evil, that seeks not its own, that bears all things, endures all things, and never fails. That is, we owe other people service.
Serving goes with loving. We cannot love truly — and not serve. Love without serving is but an empty sentiment, a poor mockery.
WHEAT OR CHAFF?
"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire!" Matthew 3:12
The illustration which the preacher of the desert here uses, is very striking. The wheat-sheaves were gathered on the threshing-floor and trodden over by oxen to free the grains from the chaff. Then came the process of winnowing, when the chaff was blown away and the wheat left on the floor ready for use. After that, the wheat was carried to the barn — and the chaff was swept up and burned.
God's penitent believing ones are wheat — and the impenitent and unbelieving are chaff.
Christ's gospel has a stern side. The same breath that cleanses the wheat — drives away the chaff. Which are we — wheat or chaff? Very evidently our eternal destiny will depend on which we are, and we ought to be very sure of it ourselves.
"Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the end of that man is peace." Psalm 37:37
We all want to have beautiful endings to our lives. We want to leave sweet memories behind in the hearts of those who know and love us. We want our names to be fragrant in the homes on whose thresholds our footfalls are accustomed to be heard. We want the memory of our last parting with our friends, to live as a tender joy with them as the days pass away. We want, if we should stand by a friend's coffin tomorrow, to have the consciousness that we have done nothing to embitter his life.
We can make sure of this only by so living always that any day would make a tender and beautiful last day; that any hand-grasp would be a fitting farewell; that any hour's fellowship with a friend or neighbor would leave a fragrant memory; and that no treatment of another would leave a regret or cause a pang if death or space should divide us forever.