1 Cor. 7:24--"Brethren, let every man wherein he is
called therein abide with God."
Such was Paul's memorable decision in reply to certain
questions proposed to him by the Church of Corinth. It had become matter of
doubt with the early converts--who were few in number, and thinly scattered
throughout society--who were, besides, exposed to much and bitter
persecution from their relatives and neighbors--what was the true line of
Christian conduct. "Was the believing wife to forsake the unbelieving
husband? or the believing husband to forsake the unbelieving wife? Was the
believing child to desert the unbelieving parent?--the believing slave to
sever all connection with an unbelieving master? Were they to break asunder
all family and social ties--to form themselves into a separate and distinct
community, and live apart from the world's society--presenting a united
front to the world's persecutions?" The apostle says, "No; Christianity was
never intended to interfere with existing relationships; it was no part of
the religion of Christ to alter the forms of civil government. On the
contrary, it even set itself to the support of existing institutions, by
requiring of its disciples that they should be content, whatever their
condition." Christian men were to remain in those relationships in which
they were, and in them to develop the inward spirituality of the Christian
life. No doubt, Christianity would gradually tell upon the politics, as well
as the morals of a land. It would, if thoroughly followed out, abolish war
and slavery, and every form of oppression; but not by exciting prejudice, or
attempting to overturn existing institutions. The slave, who had with joy
embraced a religion which taught the worth and dignity of the human soul--a
religion which declared that rich and poor, king and peasant, master and
slave, were equal in the sight of God--the slave, who had come to know that
there was such a thing as brotherhood and Christian equality, and who might
thus be tempted and excited to throw off the cruel and oppressive yoke by
force, was not taught to labor for the acquisition of his freedom. No; but
he was told of a higher feeling--a feeling that would make him free, even
with the chain and shackle upon his limbs. He was told of the possibility of
being a high and lofty Christian, even though in bondage--told of his true
dignity as a man, as a child of God, an heir of glory. Were he to have his
choice, then, indeed, Paul bids him prefer liberty. But the great Christian
rule was this, "Let every man wherein he is called therein abide with God."
Now, this great truth cannot be too frequently insisted
upon, that it matters not what a Christian's walk in life may be, he has
opportunities, if he only takes advantage of them, of truly serving and
honoring his Divine Master. And one great reason why religion does not
advance more rapidly, may be found in this, that Christian men and women,
albeit they are earnest and sincere, do not realize the fact, that they can
labor for God, and advance His cause, even in the midst of the most common
and menial occupations--that Christianity does not call a man away from his
occupation or residence; but in these to adorn the doctrine of God his
Savior in all things.
The Savior likened His kingdom to good seed. It was to
spring up and grow, raising up other plants to scatter forth seed also,
until the whole land should become one fruitful field. He likened it to a
grain of mustard seed--the least of all seeds--which when it is grown,
becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches
thereof. He likened it to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three
measures of meal, until the whole was leavened. It was by the leaven coming
into contact with the meal that the whole became leavened; and so the
followers of Christ, coming into contact with the children of the world, are
to commend His religion, and spread its influence wider, by their pure,
earnest, and Christlike temper and bearing. Their daily lives, so to speak,
are to be perpetual pleadings with man for God; and, by exhibiting the
softening power of Christ's grace, by holding up the mirror of a life bright
with purity and love and goodness, they are to attract those around them,
and win them to the Savior--they are to let their "light so shine before
men, that they seeing their good works, may glorify their Father in heaven."
It is true that, in every age, some have imagined that
religion must best thrive in retirement, far from the din and bustle of the
world--that, in some convent's quiet gloom, away from the dwellings of
careworn men, the soul would attain a deeper devotedness and higher
sanctity, and cultivate closer and more uninterrupted communion with things
above. But experience has proved all this to be mere fancy. The growth of
character which is there promoted is stunted and unhealthy. Outward
temptations may be avoided; but, from the sinful heart there is no escape.
The eye may never gaze on the world's wealth and grandeur, and, by penance
and fasting, the body may be bruised and broken; but, to the eye of the
soul, other and equally seductive pleasures may be presented, and, while the
flesh is writhing beneath the lash, the heart may be lifted up with
spiritual pride, and the faith of the enthusiast be a faith on works, and
not on Christ.
Besides, the world is our appointed sphere of action;
there, we are not merely to cease to do evil, but learn to do well; there we
are to be proof against temptation, and to fight the good fight; there, we
are to maintain, not a negative, but a positive character; and, as the
servants of Christ, we are to be blameless, not through freedom from
temptation, but through overcoming it by His imparted grace. Christian! you
are called to carry your religion into the world; and in the performance
even of its lowest and most trivial duties, to serve God. You are to strive
by His help to "make a bad world better;" and, so to live in it, that men
may honor you, and, when you die, that they may miss you. Do not think, that
yours is a calling in which you cannot "abide with God." If it is lawful,
however humble it may be, therein you may conform to the apostolic
injunction, and be a faithful and diligent servant of Christ.
Religion does not demand the forgetfulness of our worldly
duties. It is not to be confined to the Sabbath day or the house of prayer,
but is to be diffused through all our week-day employments and occupations.
It is true, that these must be attended to--true that business, with its
manifold requirements, must be attended to--true, that we must labor
diligently for our daily bread--true, that we must associate with our
fellow-men, and take part in the secularities of life. But into all these
religion may, and if we would "abide with God" must, accompany us. We may
ply the busy hand through the hours of labor--prosecute our daily
employment--relax our feelings amid the enjoyments of the domestic
circle--indulge in the prattle of infancy, and in all the joyousness of an
innocent heart--yet carry religion with us into all, and diffuse it as a
coloring through all the substance of life. Our commonest daily occupation
may thus be sanctified--the spirit of our inner life may run through all our
words and actions, and while "diligent in business," we may yet be "fervent
in spirit, serving the Lord." We may discharge every duty--partake of every
innocent joy--engage in every honest and lawful occupation, in the spirit of
the Lord, whose "food and drink it was to do the will of God." There is not
one of us--no matter what be his situation in life--but may thus "abide with
God." And, so far from religion being incompatible with a due regard to the
just interests and engagements of the present life, it will ever be found
that a proper attention to them is secured by religious principles; for, it
is by a "patient continuance in well-doing," that we are to "seek for glory,
honor, and immortality."
Reader! be active, be industrious, be diligent in your
ordinary pursuits. This is your Father's will. Be an example of blameless
integrity and of self-denying benevolence--be faithful in the discharge of
all the duties which are lawfully required of you, belonging to the station
which God's providence has called you to fill. Do all this from a purer and
higher principle than worldlings do it, on the high principle of approving
yourself to your "Father in heaven." Do it with a view to glorify God on
earth--that the religion you profess may be honored--that Christ may be
glorified--that the cause of the gospel may be advanced. While you aim, as
you may lawfully aim, at success in the business of this life--never forget
that your birthright it eternal life--that heaven is the home for which you
are summoned to prepare--that immortality is the prize for which you ought
to be seeking. And be this your prayer–
"O God, You who alone work in Your people, both to will
and to do of Your good pleasure, grant me grace, at all times, to abide with
You. In all my wanderings here upon the earth, may I seek Your glory, and
steadfastly look up to heaven as my eternal home."
"Abide with me! fast falls the eventide;
The darkness thickens--Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
"Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O You, who change not, abide with me.
"Not a brief glance, I beg, a passing word;
But as You dwell with Your disciples, Lord–
Familiar, condescending, patient, free,
Come, not to sojourn, but abide with me.
"Come, not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Your wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea–
Come, Friend of sinners, and abide with me.
"You on my head in early youth did smile,
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile
You have not left me, oft' as I left Thee;
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me."
–H. F. Lyte
"Why thus longing, thus forever sighing,
For the far off, unattained and dim,
While the beautiful, all round you lying,
Offers up its low, perpetual hymn?
"Would you listen to its gentle teaching,
All the restless yearnings it would still;
Leaf and flower, and laden bee, are preaching.
Your own sphere, though humble, first to fill.
"Poor indeed you must be, if around you
You no ray of light and joy can throw
If no silken cord of love has bound you
To some little world through weal and woe.
"If no dear eyes your fond love can brighten,
No fond voices answer to your own;
If no brother's sorrow you can lighten,
By daily sympathy and gentle tone.
"Not by deeds that the crowd applauses,
Not by works that give the world renown,
Not by martyrdom, or vaunted crosses,
Can you win and wear the immortal crown.
"Daily struggling, though enclosed and lonely,
Every day a rich reward will give;
You will find, by hearty striving, only,
And truly loving, you can truly live."