The Book of Comfort
by J. R. Miller, 1912
There is something in bereavement, which makes it
mean a great deal in a woman's life. It is a sore disappointment. Dreams of
love's happiness are shattered. The beauty which had only begun to be
realized in her home, in her wedded joy, in her social life, in the
development of her plans and hopes—is suddenly left to wither. Very great is
the sorrow—when one of two lovers is taken and the other left. Widowhood is
very desolate and lonely. When she has been a wife only a brief time, there
is special loneliness in her case. The experience is particularly perplexing
and trying. For one thing, she has probably had no training in the affairs
of life. She has never learned a trade. Her husband, in the gentleness of
his manly love, has sought to spare her from everything hard and rough. He
has never permitted her even to know of the struggles and perplexities of
his daily business life. He has sought to carry home in the evening, only
the bright things, the cheerful things, with not a breath of anything that
would give pain. He has not permitted his wife to know the smallest things
of business. She had no bank account. She did not know how to write a check.
She never knew how much money she might properly spend in a month. She had
no more idea of business, than a child. The day after her husband's funeral,
she saw herself utterly unprepared for the duties and responsibilities which
she found suddenly devolving upon her.
Just how shall she meet her perplexities. She is a
Christian. She knows that her husband was God's child, and she is comforted
by the thought that he is not dead—but has only passed into the immortal
life. She is comforted also in her own grief, by the truth of the divine
love, that her sorrow was no accident, that her bereavement was not the plan
of God to break up the goodness and beauty of her life, that nothing has
really gone wrong in the plan of Christ for her. But the question presses
itself upon her mind—I am sure it has done so a thousand times—How am I to
go on in this broken life of mine? What am I to do in my shattering and
Her life is not finished. She is only a girl in years.
She may live—she probably will live—forty years or more. What does Christ
want her to do with her life? What does he want her to do with the broken
dreams that lie shattered about her feet? These questions, and questions
like these—are coming to her every day and every night. This is the deeper
meaning of her sorrow. Sometimes women in her position see no brightness,
find no hope, think the story all written out to the finish, their dream
only shattered, and sink away into despair. But that is not the way to meet
a sorrow like this. The story of her life is not finished. God's plan for
her was not spoiled, when her sorrow came and interrupted everything,
leaving her in darkness. The sorrow was only an accident in the plan.
It was not a surprise to God, and his plan for her life runs on to the end
of her years.
What the remainder of the plan is, she does not know for
the present. She must not know. It is not best that she should know. Her
faith must not fail, she must not despair. She must go on in trust and
confidence. What then is her part?
First, faith in Christ. Believe that all these broken
things are in his hands. Let her remember what he said after the miracle of
the loaves—"Gather up the broken pieces which remain, that nothing be lost."
That is what he is saying to her today. Let her gather up the broken pieces,
from this miracle of love and happiness. Let nothing she has had these days
of joy, of blessing, of experience, be lost. Let her keep all the fragments.
The next thing is for her to recommit her life—with its
grief, its disappointments, its desolation, its broken things—all to Christ.
She must not herself undertake to rebuild it. She must not make plans of her
own for the years to come. She never needed Christ more than she needs him
now, and will need him in the days and the months before her. She must let
him lead her, let him plan for her, mark out the way. He must build the life
for her. He must have much of the love she has to give.
Bereavement is common. No family long misses a break in
its circle. Let the break be met with courage! Courage and
unselfishness are developed by great sorrow or suffering.
In times of overwhelming danger and disaster, people rise to unusual
heroism. George Kennan tells of the remarkable exhibition of courage and
generous characteristics shown by the people of San Francisco during the
great earthquake and fire. The behavior of the population after the disaster
impressed those who witnessed it. One thoughtful and undemonstrative man
said he was glad he had lived to see the things that happened the first ten
days after the great catastrophe. Those days were the best and most
inspiriting, he said, of all his life. Cowardice, selfishness, greed, and
all the baser emotions and impulses of human character, practically
disappeared in the tremendous strain of that experience; and courage,
fortitude, sympathy, good-will, and unbounded self-sacrifice took their
places. Men became and for a short time, continued to be all that we may
suppose the Creator intended them to be, and it was a splendid and inspiring
thing to witness.
A like display of the finer and nobler qualities of human
nature, was witnessed that terrible night on the sea, when the Titanic went
down. The majority of the passengers and crew behaved with the most
remarkable courage, and the most noble unselfishness.
Let God—through your bereavement—bring out the finer and
nobler qualities in you.
Comfort Through Personal Helpfulness
Every true Christian desires to be helpful. He longs to
make his life a blessing to as many people as possible. He wishes to make
the world better, his neighborhood brighter and sweeter, every life he
touches, in even casual associations, somewhat more beautiful. It is worth
while that we should think just how we must live if our lives—if we would
reach this ideal. We cannot come upon this kind of a life accidentally.
We do not drift into a place and condition of great usefulness.
The secret of personal helpfulness—is love in the heart.
No one can be a blessing to others—if he does not love. Nothing but love
will make another person happier, will comfort sorrow, will relieve
loneliness, will give encouragement. You never can be of any real use to a
man—if you do not care for him, and you care for him only so far as you are
willing to make sacrifices to help him, to go out of your way to do a favor.
It is never by chance, therefore, that one finds himself living a
life that is full of helpfulness. Such a life comes only through a
regeneration that makes it new. That is what it meant to become a Christian.
The secret of Christ, was abounding personal helpfulness.
We say he gave his life for the world—and we think of the cross. But the
cross was in his life from the beginning. He never had a thought or a wish
for himself. He never pleased himself. Ever he was ready to give up his own
comfort, his own ease, his own preferment, that another might be pleased or
helped. With this thought in mind, it will be a most profitable piece of
Bible reading, to go through the Gospels just to find how Christ treated
the people he met. He was always kind, not only polite and courteous—but
doing kindly, thoughtful, helpful things. His inquiry concerning every
person was, "Can I do anything for you? Can I share your burden? Can I
relieve you of your suffering?"
The Good Samaritan was Christ's illustration of love—and
the illustration was a picture of his own life. There is no other way of
personal helpfulness—but this way, and there is no other secret of attaining
it—but his secret. You cannot learn it from a book of rules. It is not a
system of etiquette. It is a new life—it is Christ living in the heart.
It is personal helpfulness of which we are thinking. A
man may be useful in his community, may even be a public benefactor, may do
much for the race—and yet may fail altogether to be a real helper of the
individual lives he touches in his daily associations. A man may do much
good with his money, relieving distress, founding institutions, establishing
schools, and may not be a helper of men in personal ways. People do not turn
to him with their needs. The sorrowing know nothing of comfort ministered by
him. The baffled and perplexed do not look to him for guidance, the tempted
for deliverance, the despairing for cheer and encouragement.
It is this personal helpfulness, which means the most in
the close contacts of human lives. So far as we know—Jesus never gave money
to any one in need. He did not pay rents for the poor, nor buy them food or
clothes—but he was always doing good in ways which meant far more for them
than if he had helped with money. There are needs which only love and
kindness can meet. Countless people move about among us these days starving
for love, dying with loneliness. You can help them immeasurably by becoming
their friend, not in any marked or unusual way—but by doing them a simple
kindness, by showing a little human interest in them, by turning aside to do
a little favor, by manifesting sympathy, if they are in sorrow. A little
note of a few lines sent to a neighbor in grief, has been known to start an
influence of comfort and strength that could not be measured.
It is the little things of love, which count in
such ministry—the little nameless acts, the small words of gentleness, the
looks that tell of interest and care and sympathy. Life is hard for many
people—and nothing is more needed continually than encouragement and cheer.
There are men who never do anything great in their lives, and yet they make
it sunnier all about them, and make all who know them happier, braver,
stronger. There are women, overburdened themselves, perhaps—but so
thoughtful, so sympathetic, so helpful, so full of little kindnesses, that
they make the spot of the world in which they live, more like heaven.
How can we learn this lesson of personal helpfulness? It
is not merely a matter of congeniality of disposition; it is not a matter of
natural temperament. A selfish man can learn it—if he takes Christ for his
teacher. Self must be displaced in the thought and purpose and
affection—by "the other man." If love fills the heart—every expression of
the life gives out helpfulness.
A young woman, speaking of the way different people had
been a comfort to her in a great sorrow, said: "I wish some people knew just
how much their faces can comfort others." Then she told of an old
gentleman she sometimes sat beside, on the bus. He did not know her—but she
was always helped by just seeing his face. There is a great deal of this
unconscious helpfulness in the world. Indeed many of the best things we
do—we do without knowing we are doing them. If we are full of love—we will
be helping others wherever we go—and the things we do not plan to do when we
go out in the morning—will be the divinest things of the whole day!
Not only is the life of personal helpfulness most worth
while in the measure of good it does, in its influence upon others—but no
other life brings back to itself such rewards of peace, of strength, of
comfort, of joy. What of love you give to another—you have not really given
away—you have it still in yourself in larger measure than before! No gain
one gets in this world—is equal to the love of hearts that one receives,
from those one serves in unselfish love!
Christ and I are Friends
If we ask what was the beloved disciple's
religion, we may put the answer into phrase—Christ and John were friends.
It was a great, all-absorbing, overmastering friendship, which transformed
John. This friendship began that day when the Baptist said to two young men,
as Jesus passed near: "Behold the Lamb of God!" The two young men followed
Jesus and were invited to his lodgings, spending the afternoon with him.
What took place during those hours we do not know—but we do know that a
friendship began between John—then scarcely more than a boy—and Jesus, which
bonds have never slackened since. For three years this friendship grew in
sweetness and tenderness, and during those years it was that the wonderful
transformation took place in the disciple.
We know a little about the power of a strong, rich, noble
human friendship—in shaping, inspiring, uplifting lives. There are many
lives that are being saved, refined, sweetened, enriched—by a human
friendship. Here is one of the best of the younger Christian men of
today—who has been lifted up from a life of ordinary ability and
education—into refinement, power and large usefulness—by a gentle
friendship. The girl he loved was rich-hearted, inspiring, showing in her
own life the best ideals and attainments, and her love for him and his love
for her lifted him up to love's nobility. She stayed with him only a few
years and then went home to heaven—but he walks among men today with a
strength, an energy and a force of character born of the holy friendship
which meant so much to him.
Silas Marner was a miser who hoarded his money. Someone
took away his hoard, and his heart grew bitter over the wrong to him. Then a
little child was left at his door. His poor starved heart, took in the
little one, and love for her redeemed him from sordidness, bitterness, and
anguish of spirit.
God has saved many a life by sending to it a sweet human
friendship. A Christian lady climbed the rickety stairs to the miserable
room where a woman lay in rags on a pile of straw. She bent over the poor
woman, all vile with sin, said a loving word and kissed her. That kiss saved
her. Christ comes to sinners and saves them with love. That is the way he
saved the prodigals of his time. He came to them and became their friend. It
is to a personal friendship with himself, that Christ is always inviting
men. He does not come merely to make reforms, to start beneficent movements,
to give people better houses, and to make the conditions of life better. He
does not try to save the world by giving it better laws, by founding
schools, by securing wholesome literature. Christ saves men by becoming
John surrendered his heart and life, to this friendship
with Jesus. He opened every window and door to his new Master. The basis of
John's friendship with Christ, was his trust. He never doubted. Thomas
doubted and was slow to believe. This hindered the growth of his friendship
with Jesus. We cannot enter into the joy and gladness of friendship, unless
we believe heartily. Peter was one of Christ's closest friends—but he was
always saying rash words and doing rash things which interrupted his
fellowship with Christ. Such a spirit as Peter's, however loyal and
courageous, cannot realize the sweet and gentle things of the holiest
But John loved on in silence and trusted—his friendship
was deep and strong. At the Last Supper he leaned on the Master's bosom.
That is the place of confidence—the bosom is only for those who have
a right to the closest intimacy. It is the place of love, near
the heart. It is the place of safety—in the secret place of the
Most-High. The bosom is the place of comfort too. It was the darkest
night the world ever saw, that John lay on the bosom of Jesus. But he found
comfort there. The bosom is the place of trust also. That is what
leaning on Christ's breast means. Do not think that that place of innermost
love, was for John only—and has never been filled since that night. It is
like heaven's gate—it is never closed, and whoever will may come and lie
down there. The bosom is also a place for those who sorrow—oh, that
all who have known grief, knew that they may creep in where John lay—and
John's transformation is the model for all of us. No
matter how many imperfections mar the beauty of our lives, we should not be
discouraged. But we should never consent to let the faults remain. That is
the way too many of us do. We condone our weakness and imperfections;
we pity them and keep them. We should give ourselves no rest until
they are all cured. But how can we get these evil things out of our lives?
How did John get rid of his faults? By letting the love of Christ possess
him! Lying upon Christ's bosom, Christ's sweet, pure, wholesome life—
permeated John's life and made it sweet, pure and wholesome.
It is the friendship of Christ—which alone can transform
us. You are a Christian, not because you belong to a church, not because you
have a good creed, not merely because you are living a fair moral life—you
are a Christian because you and Christ are friends. What can a friend be to
a friend? Let us think of the best that earth's richest-hearted friend can
be to us and do for us. Then lift up this conception, multiplying it a
thousand times. If it were possible to gather out of all history and from
all the world—the best and holiest things of pure, true friendship, and
combine them all in one great friendship, Christ's friendship would surpass
the sum of them all. Even our human friendships, we prize as the dearest
things on earth. They are more precious than rarest gems. We would lose
everything else we have—rather than give them up. Life without friendships,
would be empty and lonely. Yet the best earthly friendships, are but little
fragments of the friendship of Christ. It is perfect. Its touch is always
gentle and full of healing. Its help is always wise. Its tenderness is like
the warmth of a heavenly summer. If we have the friendship of Christ, we
cannot be utterly bereft, though all human friends be taken away. To be
Christ's friend—is to be God's child, with all a child's privileges. This is
one essential in being a Christian.
We could not say that Paul is our friend, or John—but
Jesus is living, and is with us evermore. He is our Friend—as really as he
was Mary's or John's.
Christ is our Friend. That means everything we need, will
be supplied. No sorrow can be uncomforted. No evil can overmaster us. For
time and eternity—we are safe. It will not be the streets of gold, and the
gates of pearl, and the river and the trees—which will make heaven for us—it
will be the companionship, the friendship of Christ!
But we must not forget the other part of this friendship.
We are to be Christ's friends too. It is not much we can give to him,
or do for him. But he would have us loyal and true. Surely the
consciousness that Christ is our friend and we are his—should check every
evil thought, quell every bitter feeling, sweeten every emotion—and make all
our life holy, true and heavenly!
More than Conquerors
"In all these things we are more than conquerors—through
him who loved us!" Romans 8:37
It is better that we should not sing of sadness.
There are sad notes enough already in the world's air. We should sing of
cheer, of joy, of hope. This is what Paul did when he said: "We are more
than conquerors through him that loved us!" We do not need to be defeated
in our battles, to sink under our loads, to be crushed
beneath our sorrows. We may be victorious. We all have our
struggles. Life is not easy for any of us; or if it is—we are not making
much of it. A useful life is never easy. It must be from first to last, in
the face of opposition.
Jacob saw life visioned as a ladder, its foot resting in
the earth, its top reaching up to heaven, into God's very glory. That meant
that man could go up from his earthliness, his sinfulness, into nobleness
and holiness of character, gaining at last likeness to God and a home with
God. But it meant also that the ascent never could be easy. A ladder
bids us to climb, and climbing is always toilsome. It is slow, too, step by
step. It never becomes easy, for heaven is ever above us and the climbing
cannot cease until we enter the pearly gates.
Paul constantly pictured life as a battle—a
warfare. We are soldiers with enemies to fight. The enemies are
strong, not flesh and blood—but evil angels, spiritual foes, wicked
spirits. They are invisible. They lurk in the darkness. They hide in
ambush. Too often they nest in our own hearts! They take forms of good
angels, to deceive us. The battle is great—and it never ends until we
overcome the last enemy and pass within the gates of blessedness.
Every life has its cares, its duties, its
responsibilities. There are sicknesses and sorrows and
pains and losses—and a thousand things, which make it hard to
live victoriously. It is possible for us, if we are Christians, to overcome
in all these struggles and trials.
"In all these things we are more than conquerors." To be
more than conquerors is to be triumphant conquerors, not
merely getting through the battle or the trouble—but coming out of it with
rejoicing, with song and gladness. Some people bear trial and are not
overcome by it—but bear it without any glad sense of victory. Others
conquer their sorrow, and all through it you hear as it were, the notes
of triumph. Paul himself was this sort of conqueror. His life was one
unbroken series of struggles. It never became easy for him to live
nobly. He gives us glimpses sometimes of his experiences. He was beaten
with rods. He was stoned. He was shipwrecked. He was in perils of robbers,
in perils in the wilderness, in the sea, among false brethren, in watchings,
in fastings, in cold and nakedness. He spent years in prison. Then he had
enemies in his own heart—read the seventh of Romans to find what it cost
him to live right. But in all these things he was "more than conqueror."
Someone compares Paul's life to one who goes along the
street in a dark stormy night, singing sweet songs; or to a whole band of
music moving through the rain and darkness, playing marches of victory. That
is the way we should all try to live as Christians, not merely enduring
our trials and coming through our struggles—but doing so
enthusiastically—"more than conquerors." Not only may we be
conquerors—but if we are Christians we must be conquerors. We dare
not yield. We believe that we should be conquerors in temptation, that we
should not sin. We know that the evil in us, and the evil around us—should
not be allowed to overcome us. We know that appetites and base passions and
bad tempers should not be permitted to rule us. But this is not the only
phase of life, in which we meet resistance and opposition, and must be
conquerors, if we would live nobly.
This is true in physical life. Health is simply
victory over disease and weakness. It is true in mental life. It is
never easy to have a trained mind. It can be gotten only through long and
patient study and severe discipline. It is so in all experiences in life. We
should never yield to discouragement or depression, for there is no reason
that we should. In the description of the godly man, in the first Psalm,
where he is compared to a tree planted by streams of water, we read: "And
whatever he does shall prosper." There is no real failure possible in
a true Christian life. There may be seeming failure; indeed oft-times
there is. Christ's life failed, as it appeared to men. Paul's life
failed. Henry Martyn's life failed. But you know what glorious successes all
these lives were in the end.
If we are truly Christians, in Jesus Christ, it is
impossible for us to fail. Hence in all adversity, in all loss, in all
feebleness of health, in all persecution, injustice, wrong—we have but to
remain true to Christ, and we cannot fail. "Whatever he does shall prosper."
Hence we should never yield to discouragement. We should be more than
The same is true in sorrow. Sorrow comes into
every life. We cannot shut it out. But we can be conquerors in it. When the
snows melt away in the springtime, I have often seen under them sweet
flowers in bloom. The very drifts were like warm blankets to keep them safe.
So it is in sorrow. Under the cold snows of sorrow—the flowers of the
Christian graces grow unhurt. We can overcome in sorrow; we ought to
overcome. This does not mean that we should not shed tears in our sorrows.
The love of Christ does not harden the heart—it really makes it more
sensitive. The grace of Christ does not save us from suffering in
bereavement. Yet we are to be conquerors. Our sorrow must not crush
us. We must go through it victoriously, with sweet submission, and joyous
In the same way must we meet worldly losses and
adversities, the failures in our human plans and hopes, the fading of our
human joys. "More than conquerors" is the motto which is written upon our
But do not forget the closing words of Paul's statement:
"In all these things we are more than conquerors—through him who loved
us!" The text would not be true if these last five words were left off.
We cannot leave Christ out of life—and in anything be true overcomers. The
Roman Emperor saw the symbol of the cross blazing in the sky and over it the
legend: "By this shall you conquer!" Before every young soldier of the
cross, as he goes out to begin life's battles, shines the same symbol, with
the same legend. "By this shall you conquer!" "We are more than
conquerors—through him who loved us." It is only through Christ, that any of
us can overcome sin or sorrow or trial.
Some of you may be asking, with deep eagerness—in what
way Christ helps us in our battles and struggles. How can we overcome
through him? One part of the answer is, that he has overcome all things
himself. He came in the flesh for us. He was the captain of our salvation.
He entered into life for us. He met every enemy that we have ever
met. And he was more than conqueror in every struggle. He was tempted
in all points like as we are—yet without sin. That is, he conquered all sin.
Then he met poverty, and was victorious in that,
living sweetly, patiently, trustingly, in it, without discontent, without
envy, without repinings. He worked as a carpenter—but he never chafed at the
hardness of the work or the smallness of the pay. Later, he had nowhere to
lay his head, even the foxes and the birds being better homed than he—but he
never complained. When the people scattered off to their homes in the
gathering shadows, leaving him alone, he quietly climbed the mountain and
spent the night under the stars in peace. Thus he was more than conqueror in
So he was victorious in all the wrongs he had to
endure. From enemies and from friends, he suffered wrongs. His enemies
pursued him with hate and persecution, and at last nailed him on the cross.
His own chosen friends did many things to pain and trouble him—one of them
at last betraying him for money, another denying him in his
darkest hour. Enmity and hate and wrongs cannot hurt us—unless they rouse us
to resentment, to anger, to bitter feelings, to acts of revenge. But Jesus
was victorious in all his endurance of injury. His love never once failed in
any of its sore testings.
He was also conqueror in his struggle with death—the last
enemy. It did not seem so at first. Death overcame him on the cross, and
bore him captive into its dark prison. But it could not hold him. He burst
the bars of death and triumphed over the grave. He came forth a glorious
conqueror, out forever from death's power, with all the radiancy of life.
Thus Christ is universal conqueror. There is no enemy we shall
ever have to meet—that he has not met and vanquished. If we are in
his army—he will lead us also to victory. We cannot overcome ourselves—but
he will fight the battles for us. We are more than conquerors, but only
through him who loved us.
But again—he does not merely fight our battles for us; he
helps us to become victorious. "We are more than conquerors, through
him." We must not get the impression that Christ merely wraps us up in the
folds of his mighty love, and carries us over the hard places in life. When
we are in the presence of temptation, he does not with his divine hand smite
down the adversary. We must fight the battle—and he will
strengthen us. There is a verse which says, "The Lord will bruise Satan
shortly," but that is not all of it. "The Lord will bruise Satan—under your
feet shortly." You must tread down the enemy beneath your feet—but the Lord
will bruise him. We must become the conquerors, through him. He wants
to make us strong and therefore he does not do all things for us, and fight
all our battles. He sends us out to meet the enemies, the trials, the
oppositions—and then he goes with us to help us. He does not take the
burdens off us—but he sustains us in bearing them.
What then is our part? It is implicit, unquestioning
obedience. Do you remember those cases in the gospels when people were
healed, as they obeyed? The man with the withered arm was bidden to stretch
it out—an impossible thing, in a human sense; but as he sought to obey—he
was enabled to do it. Health came into his shriveled arm. The ten lepers
were bidden to go away and show themselves to the priest. "And as they
went—they were cleansed." Obedience made them overcomers.
So it is always in the receiving of divine help. We stand
in the presence of some opposition, some hindrance, some trial. We say we
cannot go through it. But we hear the voice of God commanding, "Go—and lo, I
am with you always!" If we quietly and believingly go forward—the
difficulties will melt before us; the sea will open and make a path
for our feet; the mountain will remove and be cast into the sea; the
enemy will flee as we advance. Christ never gives a duty—but he will
give also the strength we require to obey.
There is a blessed secret in this very simple teaching.
If we do God's will—we are invincible, and shall always be more than
conquerors. You stand face to face with a sorrow or a discouragement or
some adversity. The problem now, is to overcome in this
experience—not to get rid of the experience—but to meet it and pass
through it victoriously, so that it shall not hurt you—but that you shall
get blessing out of it. Now, how can you do this? Never by resisting
and rebelling. You cannot by doing this, repel the trial or evade it.
You might as well try to fight a cyclone, and by resisting it, turn it back.
Your resisting can only hurt and bruise your own life! But if you sweetly
and quietly yield to the trial or the sorrow and bow before it—it will pass
over you and you will rise again unhurt.
Such meeting of trial changes the curse in the
bitter cup—to blessing. He who overcomes in temptation, gets new
strength out of his conquest. He who is patient and submissive in the sick
room, gets a blessing out of the pain. He who overcomes in adversity and
keeps faith and love bright, has changed its loss into gain. So it is in all
things. To be conqueror in the battles and struggles of life—is to climb
ever upward toward glory and blessedness.
God so shapes all our life's events and experiences, that
in everyone of them there is a blessing for us. We miss it if we resist and
rebel, and thus fail of victoriousness. But if we let God's will be done in
us, some good will come out of every cup he puts into our hand. So we shall
go on, conquering and to conquer, overcoming in all life's sorrows and
getting blessing out of them. So we shall go on, victorious over sins and
rising into sainthood out of them, as lilies spring up out of black bogs;
putting the old nature under our feet more and more as the new nature grows
in us into strength and beauty. So we shall go on, triumphing over all the
ills of life, over all adversities, until at last, rising out of death, we
shall stand before God, without spot or blemish, wearing the image of
Reaching for the Mountain Splendors
Christ clearly stated the purpose of his mission to the
world when he said: "I came that they may have life—and may have it
abundantly." We do not begin to understand the possibilities of our lives in
the hands of Christ—what he will make of us if we truly submit ourselves to
him. There are enemies about us. The thief comes to kill, to destroy. Christ
comes to give life and to give it in fullness. When the English laureate was
asked what Christ was to him, he replied by pointing to a rose-bush, full of
glorious roses, and said: "What the sun is to this rose bush, Christ is to
Think what Christ was to John, the disciple, whom
he found resentful and virulent—whom he made into a disciple of love,
and whose influence fills the world today like a holy fragrance. Think what
Christ has been to believers in all the Christian centuries, what he is to
the saints who today are living in the world. Think what it is to have the
life of Christ in you. One of Paul's remarkable words is, "Christ
lives in me," and the words mean a literal indwelling of Christ. That is
what it is to be a Christian.
Christ wants us to live richly, abundantly.
He is ever calling us to something larger and better. Looking
back over our life at the close of a year, we see how often we have failed.
But failures, if we are faithfully following Christ—are not final.
They are but beginnings which are left for completion in the future.
We say that we find these high things unattainable, and
that we never can reach them. No—we shall reach them if we continue to
strive. We are at school, only learning, and learning is always slow. We try
to get the lesson, and we fail—but that is not defeat. We will try again and
again, and at last we shall master the hard lessons. Nothing we can think
of, is beyond ultimate possible attaining. Last year's failures were not
final; they were only things we tried to do—and did not quite master. Some
day we shall finish them. We are immortal. Our failures now are only
immaturities; some day they will reach maturity.
Paul gives us a good lesson for progress, when he
counsels us to leave the things that are behind, and to stretch toward the
things that are ahead. Some things, of course, we are not to forget. It
would be a sin to forget our mercies—the kindnesses we receive, the
self-denials and sacrifices others have made for us. We should cherish with
most sacred regard and gratitude, the memory of friendships that have meant
so much to us. But there are some things which we should resolutely and
determinedly forget and leave behind.
We should forget our worries. We see afterward how
foolish they were, and how useless. Some of the things we
fretted about a year ago, and allowed to vex and harry us—we now thank God
for! They were among the best things of the whole year.
We should forget our sorrows. "No," we say, "we
never can. They were too bitter." Yes—but they brought blessing in
their bitterness. It may be too soon yet for us to give thanks for
them—but some day we shall. At last we shall see that the greatest good to
our lives—has come out of the things which at the time, seemed disastrous.
We should forget the sins of our past. Should we
indeed? Should we ever forget our sins? Not until we have confessed them and
given them up. But when they have been forgiven, we should forget them in
the love and praise of our hearts. We must not make light of sin—it is an
exceedingly bitter thing. Sin has filled the world with ruin. It blots and
stains and spoils, everything which it touches. We need to make very sure
that we have repented of our sins—and that they have been forgiven. It will
never do merely to forget them, to cover them up and pass them by. Only God
can safely cover sins. Sins which only men themselves cover, will plague
them afterward. But the sins which God has blotted out and ceased to
remember—we may forget while we go on in the joy of our new life.
We should not drag our old habits with us. There
are habits which marred last year—which we should leave behind amid the
There are companionships which we should give up
today. Only at our soul's peril—can we continue them. Our friendships, if
they are pure and good and uplifting, we should nourish—they are making our
lives rich, strong, true, beautiful. But if they are unholy, if they are
corrupt in their influence, if they are hurting us in our character, drawing
us toward evil—the only true thing to do is to break them off, not to carry
them with us into the new, bright, clean life of the new days.
One is grieving over a lost friendship. Once it was
everything to you. It was in all your thoughts. You built no dream
fabric—but this friendship was in it. You made no plans for the future—but
this friend and you were close, side by side. How can you go on without this
friendship but of your life? How can you begin the new year and know that it
has forever passed away? Let Christ answer your questions. Let him take your
life, and he will give you a joy that will fill your heart. He will be
better to you than all the earth. You ask "How? "I do not know. Trust the
way with him. He came to give you life abundantly.
Another class of things we should not carry forward into
a new life is our quarrels, our angers, our resentments,
our grudges. "Do not let the sun go down upon your anger," says the
inspired teaching. We may not live over night, and we may never have a
chance to ask forgiveness, if we do not do it before we sleep. Most positive
is the Master's teaching—that we must forgive, if we would be forgiven.
"When you stand praying, forgive." The prayer the Master taught us is,
"forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against
us." If it was wrong to carry the unforgiveness for one day, and through the
night—it must be still worse to carry the resentments, the quarrels, the
angers, over into the new year.
We should carry nothing but love with us into any
tomorrow. Bitterness is most undivine; only love is divine. If any one has
wronged you, and a bitter feeling has lingered in your heart toward
him—forgive the wrong and let love wipe out the bitterness! If you remember
before God, that you have done an injury to another, spoken some angry word,
spoken anything unloving, hurt a life by anything you have done—do not enter
the new year without seeking forgiveness.
These are suggestions of what Christ means by abundant
life. He came that we may have life—and that we may have it abundantly. Have
you noticed that to live and to love seem to be parts of the
same verb? To live is to love. Loved is the perfect of live.
Christ is love. Abundant life is abundant love. A new year calls us to
better life, that is, to love better. When Jesus bids us to be perfect, he
means perfect in living. " If you love only those who love you, what good is
that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your
friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that." The
Pagans go that far. "But you are to be perfect, even as your Father
in heaven is perfect." You say, "I never can be perfect." True, the lesson
is hard, and it will take you a long time to learn it. It is hard to learn
to love unreasonable people. It is hard to love your enemies.
It is a long lesson to become perfect in loving; nevertheless, there the
lesson stands —"But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in
heaven is perfect." And it must be learned—not in a day, or in a year—but
like all great lessons, slowly, today a little, and tomorrow a little.
Someone writes among New Year's resolutions: "Speak
a shade more kindly. Pray a little oftener. Love a little
more. Cling a little closer to the Father's love." This is the way in
all our learning and growing. It is thread by thread—that makes the spider's
web. It is note by note—that makes the thrilling music of the great
oratorio. It is block by block—that builds the majestic temple. It is touch
by touch of the brush—that paints a marvelous picture. It is line by
line—that makes the beautiful life.
"Speak a shade more kindly" until you have learned
always to speak kindly. "Pray a little oftener," until your whole
life becomes a prayer. "Love a little more," until you have learned
to love every sort of person, and can give your life in loving, serving the
We must remember that it is not in any easy or
self-indulgent life—which Christ will lead us to greatness. The easy
life leads not upward—but downward. Heaven always is above us, and we must
ever be reaching up toward it. There are some people who always avoid things
which are costly, which require self-denial or self-restraint and sacrifice.
But toil and hardship are the only way to nobleness. Greatness comes not by
having a flowery path made for you through the meadows—but by being sent to
hew out a roadway by your own hands.
Are you going to reach the mountain splendors?
Life's Open Doors
Life is full of doors. A door is a very simple thing. It
may be only a plain, unadorned piece of board. Its significance is not in
the material of which it is made, or in its costliness or its artistic
beauty—but in the fact that it is a door which opens to something. One door
may open to a noble gallery of pictures; enter, and you stand amid the
finest works of art. Another door opens into a great library; enter, and you
find about you the works of the wise men of the ages. Another door opens to
a school, a great university; enter, and you are listening to distinguished
teachers whose learned teachings will enrich your mind. It is not the door
itself that matters—but that to which the door is the entrance.
Life's doors are not shut and locked. They may not be
ornate, and they may not invite to ease and pleasure—but they open to the
truest and best things, to the finest possibilities of character and
attainment, and to the noblest ultimate achievements. There are doors which
open to good. They may not invite us to easy things. The best things do not
offer themselves to us as self-indulgences. The doors which we ought
to enter may not be attractive—but they open to the truest and best life, to
the finest possibilities of character and attainment and to the noblest
There is the door of education. All life is a
school. People may have graduated from college and university—but their
education is not finished. This should go on in the occupations and
struggles that follow. It is there, that we learn the real lessons of life.
There is the door of hardship and pain. One
of our newspapers pays tribute to one unnamed man who died recently after
years of intense suffering. He never asked pity or any concessions because
of his suffering—but grew more and more devoted to his work. There are many
people who permit their pain and misfortune—to make constant appeal to human
sympathy, instead of bearing these burdens quietly and heroically.
Suffering, properly endured, develops power and adds to usefulness. The
school of hardship and pain is where we learn many of the finest
Another of the doors which opens to us in life, is the
door to kindness. Many people think of kindness as only a
kindergarten lesson—but one who accepts the task, finds it very long.
Kindness begins in unselfishness, the crucifying of self. It is sacrificial
in its every feeling and act. Wherever self reigns in the heart—there
will be unkindness in the life, in some form. To be kind is to be gentle.
Kindness will not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking wick.
Kindness is thoughtful, so sensitive of other people's conditions, that it
refrains from every act, word or look that would give pain. Kindness is
sympathetic, touched by suffering and quick to give comfort. It is a
wonderful door, which opens into the school of kindness.
Another of life's doors opens into the school of
helpfulness. When we begin to be like God—we begin to be helpful. We
think we love each other—but the love is only mere sentimentality, until it
has been wrought into sacrificial act, into service which costs. Personal
helpfulness is the test, as well as the measure, of the quality of the mind
of Christ which is in us. Evermore people need to be helped. This does not
mean that we are to carry their burdens, pay their debts, do their work,
fight their battles. Such helpfulness does evil—rather than good. We help
others truly when we make them strong and brave, that they may carry their
own burdens and meet their own struggles! Helpfulness should cheer,
encourage, inspire, impart larger visions and greater hope and confidence.
There are men everywhere who are pressed down, beleagured, ready to sink and
perish, whom strong brotherly sympathy would save. They are in sorrow,
disappointment has staggered them, or they have been defeated in their
purposes. To be able to help these is the highest service which we can
render to the world. "To be a strong hand in the dark to another in the time
of need," says Hugh Black, "to be a cup of strength to a human soul in a
crisis of weakness, is to know the glory of life." There would seem to be no
limit to the possibilities of this higher helpfulness.
The true Christian life is reached—by the emptying of
self and the filling of the emptiness, with Christ. When Christ is in
us—we are able to help others with his strength. It is a wonderful door
which opens into a noble Christian life. Men are trying to make us believe
that there is nothing in Christianity, that taking Christ into one's life
does nothing for a person. But what has Christ done for the lives of his
friends along the centuries? What did he do for John and Peter? What did he
do for Paul? What is he doing continually for those who follow him in faith
Robertson Nicoll, in a recent address, referred to John
G. Paton's work in the New Hebrides. "His wife died when he and she were
laboring in a savage island and had made practically no converts. The
missionary had to dig her grave himself and to lay her there with the dark,
hostile faces round him. 'If it had not been for Jesus,' Dr. Paton says,
'and the presence he gave me there, I would have gone mad and died beside
that lonely grave!'" If it had not been for Jesus the world would never have
seen the glorious ministry of Dr. Paton. Nor is that splendid life singular
in its story. Say what we may about the failures of Christians, which so
sadly mar the beauty of the Christian life—we know that thousands of
believers have realized wonderful things, which if it had not been for
Jesus—they never could have done.
By and by, we all come to a door which opens into old
age. Many are disposed to feel that this door can lead to nothing
beautiful. We cannot go on with our former tireless energy, our crowded
days, our great achievements. But there is altogether too much letting go,
too much dropping of tasks, too much falling out of the pilgrim march—when
old age comes on. We may not be able to run swiftly as before. We
tire more easily. We forget some things. But old age may be made very
beautiful and full of fruit. This door opens into a period of great
possibilities of usefulness, a true crowning of the life. Old age is not a
blot—if it is what it should be. It is not a withering of the
life—but a ripening. It is not something to dread—but is the
completion of God's plan.
Last of all we come to the door of death. Into
what does this door lead? Is there anything beyond—anything beautiful,
anything glorious? Our Christian faith tells us that death is not a wall—but
a door. We do not in dying, come to the end of anything
beautiful and good—but only pass through into blessedness and glory! We are
immortal and shall never die! All the lessons we have been learning in
earth's schools—we shall go on practicing forever. We shall enter into the
joy of Christ—when we pass through this last door of earth!
Some Lessons on Spiritual Growth
Jesus loved nature. He saw in it—the tokens and
expressions of his Father's love and care. What could be more exquisite, for
example, than the thoughts of a little flower—as we find them expressed in
the Sermon on the Mount? He was urging people never to be anxious. Just
then, his eye fell on a lily growing in its marvelous beauty by the wayside,
and he used it to teach a lesson about the care of God. God cares even for
the smallest flower—and his hand weaves for it, its exquisite raiment. "And
why are you anxious concerning raiment?" Thus our Lord saw in every
flower which blooms, something which his Father had made and beautified,
something he cared for with all gentleness. And of whatever other use the
flowers are, he at least wants us to learn from them, this truth of trust,
so that we shall never be anxious. The flowers never worry.
One of the most suggestive of our Lord's parables of
growth, is given by Mark. "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man
scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up,
the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how." Mark 4:26-27. In
our modern agriculture we are losing much of the picturesqueness of the
farmer's life—as it was in our Lord's day. Still the lesson of the seed is
the same whatever way it may be planted. It is a very little thing—but Jesus
notes in it, and in its mode of growing, a picture of something very
wonderful, a picture of the kingdom of God. The same laws prevail in things
natural and things spiritual.
We are all sowers. We may not be farmers or gardeners—yet
everywhere we go we are sowing seeds. We talk to a friend an hour, and then
go our way, never giving thought again to what we said—but years afterward
something will grow up in the friend's life and character from the seeds we
dropped so unconsciously or without purpose, that day. We lend a friend a
book and he reads it. We never think of the book again; our friend never
tells us whether he liked it or not. But many years later there is a life
moving about among other lives, and leaving upon them its impress, which was
inspired by the book we lent, something in it which influenced the course
and career of the life.
Seeds are astonishing things. There is mystery in the
secret of life which they carry in them. Diamonds or pearls have no such
secret in them. Men do not plant them. They never grow. We do not know what
marvelous results will come from some slightest word of ours spoken any day.
It may not always be good—it may be evil; all depends upon the seed.
The farmer sowed good seed, expecting a rich and
beautiful harvest. An enemy came one night, while the farmer was sleeping,
and sowed tares, and the tare seeds grew and spoiled the harvest. We need to
watch what we are sowing, lest a trail of evil and unbeauty shall follow us.
We need to watch what we say in our little talks with the people we
meet through the days, or in our influence over them, lest we leave
stain or hurt behind.
But it is of the growth of the seed that our Lord
speaks in his parable. "A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day,
whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he
does not know how." He does not stay out in the fields and watch his seed
growing. He only casts it into the ground—and lets it grow as it will. When
the seed is once in the soil, it is out of the sower's hand forever. Good or
bad, it is gone now beyond his reach.
You may write a letter full of bitter words. You were
angry when you wrote it. Your conscience told you you ought not to send it,
for it would only cause bitterness. You went out to mail it. All along the
way as you went toward the mailbox, the voice within you kept saying, "Don't
mail it!" You came to the box and hesitated, for still there was a clamorous
voice beseeching you, "Do not send it!" But the anger was yet flaming—and
you put the letter in the box. Then you began to wish you had not done so.
You began to think of the unlovingness in the bitter words. It was too late,
now, however, for the cruel letter was beyond your reach.
So it is—when one drops a seed into the ground, whether
it be good or evil. The die is cast. The seed is in the ground. There is no
use to watch it. So it is when one has dropped an evil influence into a
life. Until the word was spoken, or the thing was done—it was in your own
power and you could have withheld it. Until then you could have kept the
word unspoken or the deed undone. But now it is out of your power. No swift
messenger can pursue it and take it back. The seed is sown—and you can only
let it stay and grow.
A man goes on with his work, busy in a thousand ways, and
the seed he dropped is growing continually, he knows not how, or into what
form. The word he spoke, the thing he did, is in people's hearts and lives,
and its influence is at work, he knows not how. And no power in the universe
can arrest it—or get it back. You may pray—but prayer cannot get back the
regretted word or deed.
There is something startling in this thought—of how what
we have once done passes then forever out of our hand, beyond recall, and
how it goes on in its growth and influence in the silence, while we wake and
while we sleep. The time to check evil things, to keep them from forever
growing into more and more baleful evil—is before we cast the seed
into the ground. We need to think seriously of this truth—that there is a
line beyond which our power over our words and deeds and
influences ceases forever.
There is a marvelous power, too, in the earth, which,
when it receives the seed, begins to deal with it so as to bring out its
mystery of life. If the seed is not cast into the ground—it will not
grow. Its life can be brought out, and it can grow—only through being cast
into the ground. The planting is all we have to do—it is all we can
do. "The soil produces a crop by itself." We cannot help the soil take care
of the seed—and we do not have to help God take care of the good words we
speak to others. The seed is divine, and the influences which act upon it
are divine. So all we have to do is to get the truth into the hearts of
those we would save and build up; God will do the rest. We are not
responsible for the growth of the seed, for the work of grace in a human
Great is the mysterious power in the earth which touches
the seed, enfolds it, quickens it and causes it to grow. But this only
illustrates the power that works in human hearts and lives—the power of the
divine Spirit. This holy life receives the heavenly truth that is put into
the heart, and brings out its blessed possibilities, until we see a new life
like unto God's own life, a Christ life, blessing the world with its beauty
and its love!
The Thanksgiving Lesson
Gladness may not be thanksgiving. It certainly
is not all of thanksgiving. One may have a heart bubbling with joy,
without a note of thanksgiving. The task of happiness is one to which we
should all firmly set ourselves. To be miserable in this glorious world, is
most unfit. We should cultivate joyousness. But our present lesson is a
larger and deeper one. Thanksgiving implies thought of God. One may be glad
all the day—and never think of God. Thanksgiving looks up with every breath,
and sees God as Father from whom all blessings come. Thanksgiving is praise.
The heart is full of gratitude. Every moment has something in it to inspire
love. The lilies made Jesus think of his Father, for it was he who clothed
them in beauty. The providence of our lives, if we think rightly of it, is
simply God caring for us. Our circumstances may sometimes be hard, our
experiences painful, and we may see nothing in them to make us glad. But
faith teaches us that God is always good and always kind,
whatever the present events may be. We may be thankful, therefore,
even when we cannot be glad. Our hearts may be grateful, knowing that
good will come to us even out of pain and loss.
This is the secret of true thanksgiving. It thinks always
of God and praises him for everything. The song never dies out in the heart,
however little there may be in the circumstances of life to make us glad.
Thanksgiving is a quality of all noble and unselfish life. No man is so
unworthy, as he who never cherishes the sentiment of gratitude, who receives
life's gifts and favors—and never gives back anything in return for all he
Until we think seriously of it, we do not begin to
realize what we are receiving continually from those about us. None may give
us money, or do for us things which the world counts gifts or favors, but
these are not the best things. Our teachers are ever enriching us by the
lessons they give us. Those who require hard tasks of us and severely demand
of us the best we can do, are our truest benefactors.
Sometimes we complain of the hardness of our lives, that
we have had so little of ease and luxury, that we have had to work so hard,
bear so many burdens, and sometimes we let ourselves grow bitter and
unthankful as we think of the severity of our experience. But of all
times—it has been in these very severities that we have got the richest
qualities in our character. If we are living truly, serving God and
following Christ, there is no event or experience for which we may not be
thankful. Every voice of our lips should be praise. Every day
of our years should be a thanksgiving day. He who has learned the
Thanksgiving lesson, well has found the secret of a beautiful life.
"Praise is lovely," says the Hebrew Psalmist. Lovely
means fit, graceful, pleasing, attractive. Ingratitude is never lovely. The
life that is always thankful is winsome, ever a joy to all who know it.
The influence of an ever-praising life on those it
touches, is almost divine. The way to make others good—is to be good
yourself. The way to diffuse a spirit of thanksgiving—is to be thankful
yourself. A complaining spirit makes unhappiness everywhere.
How may we learn this thanksgiving lesson? It comes not
merely through a glad natural disposition. There are some favored people who
were born cheerful. They have in them a spirit of happiness which nothing
ever quenches. They always see the bright side of things. They are naturally
optimistic. But the true thanksgiving spirit is more than this. It is
something which can take even an unhappy and an ungrateful spirit—and make
it new in its sweetness and beauty. It is something which can change
discontent and complaining into praise; ingratitude into grateful, joyful
Christian thanksgiving is the life of Christ in the
heart, transforming the disposition and the whole character. Thanksgiving
must be wrought into the life as a habit—before it can become a fixed
and permanent quality. An occasional burst of praise, in the midst of years
of complaining, is not what is required. Songs on rare, sunshiny days; and
no songs when skies are cloudy—will not make a life of gratitude. The heart
must learn to sing always. This lesson is learned only when it
becomes a habit which nothing can weaken. We must persist in
being thankful. When we can see no reason for praise—we must believe in the
divine love and goodness, and sing in the darkness. Thanksgiving has
attained its rightful place in us, only when it is part of all our days and
dominates all our experiences.
We may call one day in the year Thanksgiving Day, and
fill it with song and gladness, remembering all the happy things we have
enjoyed, all the pleasant events, all the blessings of our friendships, all
our prosperities. But we cannot gather all our year's thanksgivings into any
brightest day. We cannot leave today without thanks, and then thank God
tomorrow for today and tomorrow both. Today's sunshine will not light
tomorrow's skies. Every day must be a thanksgiving day for itself.