Living Without Worry
J. R. Miller
The New Kind of Love
Why should Jesus have called his commandment of love a
new commandment? There was an old commandment that ran, "You shall love
your neighbor as yourself." Some people suppose that this is the same as the
commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples. But there are two differences.
The old commandment referred to your neighbor—that is, to everybody; the new
refers to your brother, your fellow-Christian. The other difference is in
the measure of the love—"as yourself"; "as I have loved you."
The world never knew what love meant, until Jesus came
and lived among men. "As yourself" —this puts self and others side by side;
"as I have loved you" —this carries us away beyond that, for Jesus made
sacrifice of himself in loving his disciples.
And so this touches our lives at very practical points.
"Love is patient, and is kind." The trouble with too many of us is that our
kindness is spasmodic, is shown only when we feel like it, and is checked
continually by things which happen. But nothing ever stopped the flow of
Christ's kindness; nothing ever should check the flow of a Christian's
"Love… does not behave itself unseemly." That is, it
never forgets itself, is never crude. All uncharitableness is unseemly.
Nothing is more remarkable in the story of Christ's life, than his unfailing
respect for people. He seemed to have almost reverence for everyone that
came before him, even the poorest, the lowest, and the worst. The reasons
were, that he loved everyone, and that he saw in each the glorious
possibilities of heavenly sonship. If we had our Master's lofty regard for,
and his deep interest in, the lives of men, we would never act in an
unseemly way toward even the unworthiest. The poet said he would never have
for his friend, that man who would needlessly set his foot upon a worm. If
it befits us to treat considerately, a mere worm—how should we treat even
the poorest, the lowliest, who wears the divine image, and is "but little
lower than God"?
"Love is not provoked." That is, it does not become vexed
or irritated at what another may say or do. Yet many people seem to overlook
this line of the picture. Nothing is more common that ill-temper. Some
people get provoked even at things. A boy the other day flew into a rage at
his bicycle from which he had fallen, and beat the machine unmercifully. A
man stumbled over a chair, and in a violet passion kicked the chair all
about the room. No other infirmity is so often confessed as bad temper. Many
people will tell you that they find no other fault in themselves so hard to
overcome. Nor do they seem ashamed to make the confession; apparently they
do not consider the fault a serious one. They speak of it apologetically, as
an infirmity of nature, a family failing, a matter of temperament, certainly
not a fault to be taken seriously. Bad temper has been called the vice of
the virtuous. Men and women whose characters are noble, whose lives are
beautiful in every other way, have this one fault—they are sensitive,
touchy, easily ruffled, easily hurt.
But we make a grave mistake when we let ourselves think
that ill temper is merely a trifling weakness. It is a disfiguring blemish.
Jesus set for us the perfect model of living, and he was never provoked. In
all his experience of persecution, wrong, mocking, and injustice—he was not
once provoked. He would have us live the same life. When he bids us love one
another as he has loved us—this is part of what he means.
Loving one another as Christ loves us, makes it easier
for others to live and work with us. A minister tells of some people in his
church who are excellent workers, full of zeal and energy—but he says they
will not drive double. There are horses of this kind; they will not pull in
a team—but have to be driven single. So it seems there are people who have
the same infirmity. They want to do good—but they cannot work with others.
There is a kind of carriage which has only two wheels and a seat for one. It
is suggestively called a sulky, because the rider rides alone. Some
people seem happiest when they ride alone.
The love of Christ teaches a better way. We need to learn
to think of others, those with whom we are united in Christian life and
work. It is so in all associated life. It is so in marriage. When two
lives are brought together in close relation, after having lived separately,
it is evident that both cannot have their own way in everything. There is
not room for any two people to have their own way in the marriage relation.
They are now one, occupying only the place of one, and they must live as
one. There must be either the entire displacement of one by the other, the
losing of the individuality of one in that of the other, the entire giving
up of one to the other—or else there must be the mutual blending of the one
in the other. Love unites them, and they are no longer twain—but one.
The same principle must prevail in Christian life and
work. Headstrong individualism must be softened and modified by love. Jesus
sent forth his disciples by two by two. Two working together, are
better than two working separately. One is strong in one point and weak in
another; the second is strong where the first is weak, and thus the two
supplement each other. Paul speaks of certain Christians as yoke-fellows.
Yoke-fellows draw together patiently and steadily, two necks under the same
yoke, two hearts pouring their love and fellowship into one service.
We know the importance in Christian life, of being
pleasant to live with and work with. It never should have to be said of us
that other people cannot work with us. The secret of being agreeable
yoke-fellows, is love. This means self-losing, self-forgetfulness.
The Christian who is always wanting to have positions of prominence, to be
chairman or president, first in something, has not caught the spirit of the
love of Christ, who came not to be ministered unto—but to minister. Love
never demands the first place—it works just as enthusiastically and as
faithfully at the foot of a committee, as at the head of it.
It is content to be overlooked, set aside—if only Christ is exalted. It is
patient with the faults of fellow-workers.
We are called to a love like Christ's, in building up his
kingdom. He loved and gave himself; we must love and give
ourselves. We can serve Christ and our fellow men, only in a sacrificial
service. "As I have loved you" means loving to the uttermost.
This is a love which is not affected by the character, or
the past life of the person we love. To love as Christ loved—is to love the
worst, the least worthy; to love them until they are lifted up, cleansed and
transfigured. To love as Christ loved—is to let his love into our own lives,
to learn to live as he lived—in gentleness, in patience, in humility, in
kindness, in endurance, in all sweetness of spirit, in all helpfulness and
self-denial. It is not easy; but it was not easy for Christ to love as he
The trouble with too much of what we call love—is
that it costs nothing, is only a sort of gilded selfishness, is not ready to
sacrifice anything, to give up, to suffer, or to endure. Let us not profane
the holy name of love, by calling such life as this love. To love as Christ
loves, is to repeat Christ's sacrifice continually, in serving, in
forgiving, bearing, enduring, that others may be helped, blessed and saved.
As I Have Loved You
The art of living together is not easily learned.
Indeed, it is the one lesson of life—and it takes all life to learn it. We
cannot evade the lesson, for we cannot live apart. We are not made for
solitariness. We need continual contact with others, in order that we may
have the benefit of the impact and discipline of life on life. We are made
to love together, and the ideal is very high. Christ gave the secret to his
disciples. They were to love one another, and the measure of
their love should be, "As I have loved you."
When we have learned to live in this way, we shall have
no trouble in living together. It is worth our while to study the Master's
rule of love, that we may know how to make it our own. How did he love his
disciples? We have it in his every-day life with his disciples.
In the broadest sense his love was unselfish. SELF never
thrust itself into any thought of his. It is selfishness which so often mars
men's treatment of each other. "How will this affect me?" is the question
which rises first in deciding what to do. It never rose at all in Christ's
dealing with others. He thought only and always of what he could do to give
pleasure or do good.
The spirit of unselfishness showed itself first of all,
in unvarying kindness. His heart was sensitive to every pain or
suffering in any life. He was touched with the feeling of every human
infirmity, and longed to help or strengthen or comfort. He was ever ready to
do gentle or obliging things. He did not expect others to help or serve
him—he came not to be ministered unto—but to minister.
We cannot love as he loved, in the great infinite ways of
his divine power. We cannot imitate his miracles of mercy and helpfulness.
We cannot feed multitudes with our little loaves and fishes, or go along the
streets and heal sick people by hundreds. But for every miracle that Jesus
wrought, he did a thousand simple deeds of kindness, just such deeds as we
can do. "As I have loved you" means therefore no impossible thing in our
daily life. The divinest thing in the world is love shown in unselfish
kindness. It may be only a gentle word, the commonest act of helpfulness
to a lowly one, a bit of cheer to one who is discouraged. We cannot know the
power of helpfulness there is in the commonest kindnesses we may do.
The love of Christ was always patient. Impatience
mars a great deal of human love—but he never showed the slightest impatience
to anyone. He did not fly into a temper as we do so often when people try
us. His disciples were dull and slow learners. It seemed as if they never
would learn the lessons he wanted to teach them. But he did not chide them.
A great teacher said he never could forget how a boy whom he had rebuked for
his dullness in not understanding some lesson, looked into his face and
said, "Indeed, sir, I am doing the best I can!" The teacher said it shamed
him to think how he had wronged and hurt the boy by his impatient and
unworthy outbreak. Jesus never did anything like that. He had infinite
patience with the slowest scholar he was trying to teach.
He had patience also with his disciples in their many
failures in faithfulness and obedience. We are very exacting in our
friendships; making large demands upon those we call friends, impatient even
of the slightest lack of devotion; quick to resent any lack in loyalty or
service. But Jesus bore with his friends in all their lack of faithfulness,
never rebuking them and never withdrawing the rich grace of his love from
them. They slept, when he had asked them to watch beside him while he was
enduring his agony. Their failure grieved him sorely—but he uttered no word
of complaint or chiding. It hurt him to have them so misunderstand his
teaching about himself—but the only word he spoke was, "Have I been so long
time with you—and have you not known me?" He was patient with their faults,
their failures, their fears, their doubts, their denials, and all their
unfaithfulness. They made friendship very hard for him—but he never failed
nor faltered in his loving—he loved them unto the end.
Think what it would mean if we were to live together in
this patient and forbearing way as Christians. Is not impatience one of the
faults in our ordinary fellowship, which do most to mar the perfectness of
our relations as Christians? Do we not too easily grow weary of the dullness
of those we ought to help? Do we not chafe at the slowness of those who are
walking with us? Do we not fail continually in sympathy with those who are
weak and faint, with those who are feeble in body or mind? Do we not show
irritation when others misunderstand us, when one doubts the sincerity and
the reality of our friendship, or when those who we have trusted prove
unworthy of our confidence? No doubt there are sore testing of love—but
remember what "As I have loved you" means to us. The law of love is not "Do
to others—what they have done to you," but "Do to them—what you would have
them do to you."
Few of us go through life without being unjustly treated.
The teacher was wise who exhorted those he taught, to accustom themselves to
injustice. It is not an easy lesson to learn—but it is part of "As I have
loved you." We must keep our love sweet, patient, forgiving, bearing all
injury and wrong, if we would obey the Master's word and follow his example.
"As I have loved you." How small and inadequate much of
our loving of each other is, when we lay it alongside this pattern! Christ
loved men because he was their Friend. He never asked whether they were
worthy or unworthy. He despised no one—but saw in every meanest wreck of
life—a possible child of God and sought to lift the unworthiest to glory. In
living together as Christians, we are to love all whom Christ loves. Not
everyone is beautiful, holy, or a saint—but love makes us gentle with
rudeness, harshness, or unkindness; patient with faultiness, pitiful toward
weakness. Whatever others may do to us or fail to do—we must always love
F.W. Robertson tells of a friend who had failed to speak
a word for him when he was falsely charged, leaving him defenseless against
a slander. But he did not complain. He only says, "How rare it is to have a
friend who will defend you thoroughly and boldly!" Yet that is what a friend
should do. If you hear a word spoken against your friend, your
fellow-Christian, if you love him as Christ loves you—you will defend him,
stand between him and the false thing charged against him. That is the way
the Master did, when any of his disciples were maligned. We cannot be too
ready to speak for others, when they are criticized or calumniated. Too
often we forget this requirement of Christian love. Some even seem to be
glad to hear evil of others, and to believe it, and to allow suspicion to
poison their friendship. This is cowardly, as well as unchristian. The true
course regarding evil spoken of others, if possible, is to refuse to hear
it; if we must hear it, to refuse to believe it; if it is so
plain that we cannot but believe it, then to cast the mantle of charity
over it and seek in every way to save the person against whom the evil
is proved. "If any man is overtaken in any fault, you who are spiritual,
restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself, lest you
also be tempted." That is loving as Christ loves us.
Is Christ-love the master-passion of our life?
Divine Use of Human Cooperation
The human part in grace is always important. A study of
our Lord's miracles illustrates this. The divine power was imparted,
usually, through human cooperation. For example, the man with the withered
hand was bidden to stretch forth his hand. This was precisely what the man
could not do, and had not been able to do for many years. Yet if he was to
receive the healing, this was the way it was to come to him. Had he replied
that obedience to the command was impossible; his arm might not have been
restored. This would have been unbelief in him. But he instantly made the
effort to obey, thus magnifying faith; and as he tried to stretch forth the
withered hand, the divine power was exerted, and his arm was restored to
Ten lepers, huddled together in their camp, cried to
Jesus, as they saw him passing by, imploring him to have mercy upon them.
His compassion was stirred at sight of their abject misery—but him manner of
answering their pleading, seemed remarkable. He bade them go and show
themselves to the priests. This was what the law required a cleansed leper
to do in order to receive a certificate of healing, that he might be
admitted back into society. There would be no use in their showing
themselves to the priests while they were still lepers. So they might have
said, waiting to be cleansed before starting toward the priests. But if they
had done this they might never have been healed. The cure of their disease,
though wrought by Jesus, was to come to them through their own faith, and
their faith must show itself in obedience. The men seem to have asked no
questions. They took the bidding of the great Healer as an answer to their
beseeching, implying an assurance that when they had come to the priests
they would find themselves cleansed. So they set out at once, and eagerly,
on their journey.
Very strikingly runs the record: "As they went—they were
cleansed." The healing was divine—but it was dependent upon human
cooperation. If the men had not gone on their way, the cure might never have
been wrought. As they believed and obeyed—the healing of Christ swept
through them, and their flesh came again as the flesh of a little child.
These illustrations suggest a law of the divine working
which is general in its application. Divine grace does not act in a life or
through a life independently of the person's own consent and cooperation. It
stands at the door and knocks—but it never lifts the latch nor forces an
entrance; he who is within must rise and open the door. It is ready to
impart strength and new life—but there is something for us to do before the
divine power will become efficient. We may be as utterly unable to do the
thing which is commanded, as was the man with the withered arm to obey the
Master's bidding—but, like him, we must assent in our heart, and must exert
our will in the effort to obey. The doing of the impossible thing is
not ours—but the willing to obey is ours. If we say we cannot do it,
we are showing unbelief.
Some people think that it is the part of humility, to
confess weakness and inability in the presence of divine commands. They
suppose that God is pleased with such lowliness of spirit. But this is not
humility, it is unbelief, and God is never pleased with unbelief. He is
never so unreasonable as to give us any command we cannot obey, for with the
divine bidding is included also and always, divine power sufficient to
enable us to obey. "Command what you will—and give what you command," was an
ancient prayer of faith which was not presumptuous. Paul understood it when
he said, "I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me."
Yet there is a vast amount of failure just at this point
in human experience. Men hear the divine bidding, and they understand
vaguely, at least, that they ought to obey. But they suppose that they must
wait for the power before they can obey, and get the blessing. So they sit
down in what seems to them the attitude of faith, expecting to receive an
inflowing of grace to enable them to do that which they desire to do. But
the grace does not come. The mistake they make, is in not instantly willing
to do the will of God. If they would assent to the divine command, and
attempt to stretch forth their withered hand to do the Lord's work—the hand
would become living and strong.
Countless Christian people never do anything worth while
for Christ, because they think they cannot do anything. They say they have
no ability, no skill, no training, for service. Really, however, they need
only to begin to do the duties which come to their hand day by day; if they
would will to make the effort, power and skill would be imparted. They do,
indeed, need the help of Christ—but that help is always waiting to be given
if they will begin to do their part.
There are many who do not enter upon a Christian life
because they are waiting for something which they think they must have
first—some feeling, some experience, before they can really become Christ's
disciples. They want to know that they are forgiven, or to have in them
evidences that their life has been changed, before they set out to follow
Christ. But they will never find the blessing they expect, until they have
entered on a life of obedience, just as the lepers would not have been
cleansed, if they had not started on the way to the priest. Those who hear
Christ's call, and wish to be his disciples, should wait for nothing. They
should begin immediately to follow him. As they go on, they will receive
grace, and blessings will be given.
So it is in every phase of Christian life—the divine
working waits for human assent and effort. We must keep ourselves in the
attitude of obedience, quick to do whatever our Lord may command. Then, as
we strive to do his will, thus showing our faith, the power of God will be
imparted to us.
There is one class of our Lord's miracles, which
illustrates our responsibility for the work of God in others as well as in
ourselves. It is said that Jesus could do no mighty work in Nazareth—nothing
more than the curing of a few sick folk—because of the people's unbelief.
Thus the blessing of healing was kept from many sick and suffering ones,
because men disbelieved. A father besought Jesus to cure his demoniac
son—but the father's faith was imperfect. Jesus told him that, if he could
believe, the cure would be wrought, implying that it would not be wrought
with the father's faith weak as it then was. Thus the imperfection of the
man's believing, prevented the child's restoration to sanity. When at length
the father's faith became stronger, the boy was healed.
Thus on every side, this truth has most serious bearing
on our life. There never can be a failure in the divine blessing—but the
receiving of blessing is with us. We need to give most earnest heed to
ourselves, that we may not be wanting in cooperation with the divine
working, so as to miss blessing for ourselves, or to fail to be God's
messenger of good to others.
The power to communicate good which God has lodged in the
human tongue, is simply incalculable. It can impart knowledge; utter words
which will shine like lamps in darkened hearts; speak kindly sentences which
will comfort sorrow or cheer despondency; breathe thoughts which will
arouse, inspire, quicken, animate heedless souls; even whisper the secret of
life-giving Gospel to those who are dead. What good we could do with our
tongues, if we would use them to the limit of their capacity—no human being
can compute. The opportunity does not lie alone in formal speech, as in the
sermon, or the lesson, or in the occasional serious talk—but it extends to
all conversation, even to the most casual greeting on the street.
A godly man once wrote to some friends: "I long to see
you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift." He knew the value of
the gift of speech, and sought in every sentence he uttered to impart some
help, some comfort, some warning or cheer. How it would change the current
of conversation in parlor, office, shop, on the street, in the railway-car,
if all Christian people were to utter only such words as would convey some
spiritual blessing to those to whom they speak!
What is the staple of conversation now among average
Christian? Listen for a day, and make careful note of every word you hear.
How much of it is worth recording? How many sentences are spiritually
helpful, calculated to kindle higher aspirations or start upward impulses?
How much of it is utterly empty and idle, mere chaff that feeds no
heart-hunger, inspires no energy, kindles no joy, and helps no one to live
better? How much of it is careless scandal, unjust and injurious criticism
of the absent? How much of it that flatters and pleases is hypocritical and
It is startling to think of what Christian conversation
might be, and ought to be—and then of what it is.
Surely this matter demands the careful attention of every Christian man and
woman. Why should such a power for good be wasted? Why should our Christian
development be retarded by the misuse of the marvelous gift of speech? It
were infinitely better that one was born dumb, than that, having a tongue,
one should use it to scatter evil and sorrow, or to sow the seeds of
bitterness and pain. What is it that our Lord says about having to give
account for every idle word? And if for the idle words we must
give account, how much more for the words which stain, or injure, or fall as
a destructive blight into other hearts!
When we give ourselves to Christ, we must give him our
tongues. It was not without significance that, when the Holy Spirit came
down on the day of Pentecost, the manifestation was in "tongues like as of
fire." Fire signifies purification. And one of the first
results of this heavenly baptism, was that the disciples began to speak with
other tongues. One meaning of this certainly was that true conversion
converts the speech that a Christian must speak with a new tongue.
We are not left without inspired instructions as to the
kind of words we should speak. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of
your mouth—but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may
minister grace unto the hearers." In these words there are two features of
purely Christian speech, which are enjoined. One is purity, absolute
purity. No corrupt communication is to flow from a consecrated tongue. There
is a great deal of impurity in the speech of some professors of religion.
Filthy stories are repeated, and there are vile allusions and innuendoes
which stain the lips that utter them, and the heart of him who hears.
Christian speech should be white as snow. In familiar conversation, nothing
should be uttered which would not be spoken in the presence of the most
refined and honored ladies. How does our everyday speech stand this test?
Then look at the other requirement. "Let only such
communication proceed out of your mouth as is good to the use of edifying
that will minister grace unto the hearers." Christian speech,
every sentence of it, must be such as will edify those who hear, and
minister grace to them. Purity is only negative—but more is required.
Each word must be fitted in some way to build up character, and add to its
Words uttered fall, and are forgotten, as their echo dies
away—but they leave their mark. They either beautify or mar. They either
make the life brighter or they sully it. They either build up or they tear
down what before was built. A warm breath upon the mystic frost-work on the
window-pane on a winter's morning, causes all its glory to vanish. So before
the breath of impure speech, the soul's glory melts into ruin. The
Christian's speech must edify and minister grace. On how many lips which are
now garrulous with flippant words, would this test lay the finger of
silence! Yet this is the rule, the standard, by which, according to the
apostle, all Christian speech is to be tried.
This does not imply that only solemn words may be
spoken. There is nothing gloomy about the religion of Christ. You look in
vain through our Lord's own conversation for one gloomy sentence. He
scattered only sunshine. But all his words were fitted to be
helpful words. He sought to leave some gift or blessing with everyone he
met. He spoke words which made the careless thoughtful, which kindled hope
in despairing souls, which left lights burning where all was dark before,
which comforted the sorrowing and cheered the despairing. For everyone he
met, he had some message. Yet there was no cant in his speech. He did not go
about with a long face, uttering his messages in sanctimonious tone and
phrase. Like all his life, his speech was sunny.
He is to be our model. The affectation of devoutness
never ministers grace. It only caricatures religion. We are not to fill
our speech with solemn phrases, and deal them out to everyone we meet. Yet
with Christ in our hearts we are to impart something of Christ to everyone
to whom we converse.
There are a thousand ways of giving help. There are times
when humor ministers grace, when the truest Christian help is to make a man
laugh. Infinite are the necessities of human lives. Our feeling toward
others is ever to be a strong desire to do them good. We have an errand with
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
heart, 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 which will lift a burden, or strengthen a fainting heart,
or inspire a new hope.
"Yes, find always time to say some earnest word between
the idle talk." So we may leave blessings at every step of our way. Our
words in season, throbbing with love, and wafted by the breath of silent
prayer, shall be medicine to every heart into which any simplest sentence of
our speech may fall.
Speak It Out
No doubt there is a duty of silence. There are
times when silence is golden. But there is also a duty of speech.
There are times when silence is sin. There are times when it is both
ungrateful and disloyal to God—not to speak of his love and goodness, or
witness before men in strong, unequivocal words.
We ought to speak out the messages given us for others.
God puts something into the heart of every one of his creatures, that he
would have that creature utter. He puts into the star, a message of
light; you look up into the heavens at night, and it tells you its secret.
Who knows what a blessing a star may be to a weary traveler who finds his
way by it, or to the sick man lying by his window, and in his sleeplessness
looking up at the glimmering point of light in the calm, deep heavens? God
gives to a flower, a message of beauty and sweetness, and for its
brief life it tells out its message to all who can read it. Who can count up
the good even a flower may do, as it blooms in the garden or as it is
carried into a sick-room or into the cheerless chamber of poverty?
Especially does God give to every human soul a message to
deliver. To one it is some revealing of science. A great astronomer spoke of
himself as thinking over God's thought after him, as he traced out the paths
of the stars. To the poet God gives thoughts of beauty which he is to speak
to the world; and the world is richer, sweeter, and better for hearing his
message. We do not realize how much we owe to the men and women who along
the centuries, have given forth their songs of hope, cheer, comfort, and
We cannot all write poems or hymns, or compose books
which will bless men; but if we live near the heart of Christ, there is not
one of us into whose ear he will not whisper some fragment of truth, some
revealing of grace or love, or to whom he will not give some new experience
of comfort in sorrow, some new glimpse of glory. Each friend of Christ,
living close to him, learns something from him, and of him, which no one
ever has learned before, which he is to forth tell to the world.
Each one should speak out, therefore, his own message. If
it be only a single word, it will yet bless the earth. If 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 breast—the nights
would be a little darker than they are. And any human life that fails to
hear its message and learn its lesson, 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.
We ought to speak our heart's joy. There is something
very strange in the tendency, which seems so common in human lives, to hide
the joy—and tell the misery. Anyone who will keep an account
of what people he meets say to him, will probably find that a large
proportion of them will say little that is pleasant and happy, and much that
is dreary and sad. They will tell him of their bodily aches, pains, and
infirmities. They will complain bitterly of the heat if it is warm—or
of the chill if it is cold. They will speak of the discouragements in
their business, the hardships in their occupation, the troubles in their
various duties, and all the manifold miseries, real or imagined, that have
fallen to their lot. But they will have very little to say of their
prosperities, their health, their three good meals a day, their
encouragements, favors, friendships, and manifold blessings.
Yet it is of this latter class of experiences that the
world ought to hear the most. There is no command in the Bible which says we
should empty the tale of all our woes into people's ears. It would be far
sweeter service if we were to speak only of the pleasant things. And there
always is something pleasant even in the most cheerless circumstances, if
only we have an eye to find it.
There is a legend that says that once Jesus and his
disciples, as they journeyed, saw a dead dog lying by the wayside. The
disciples showed disgust and loathing—but the Master said, "what beautiful
teeth the creature has!" The legend has its lesson for us. Miss Muloch tells
of a gentleman and a lady in a lumberyard, by a dirty, foul-smelling ruin.
The lady said, "How good the pine boards smell!" "Pine boards!" exclaimed
her companion. "Just smell this foul ruin!" "No, thank you," the lady
replied; "I prefer to smell the pine boards." She was wiser than he. It is
far better for us to find the sweetness that is in the air than the
foulness. It is better, also, to talk to others of the smell of pine boards,
than of the heavy odors of stagnant ruins.
There is a large field of opportunities for saying good
to others. Many people seem too dilatory of words of encouragement. They
have the kindly thoughts in their hearts—but they do not utter them. Of
course, there are things in many a heart, which had better not be expressed.
There are silences which are better than speech. We should never speak
harsh, uncharitable, hurtful words, which will only give needless pain,
break hearts, and sunder friendships, and which can never be unsaid. It is
bad enough in ill-temper, to have even bitter thoughts of others, of
our friends, of any who bear God's image—but it is far worse to let such
thoughts find utterance! Then the injury done is irreparable.
But we should never fail to speak out kindly thoughts and
feelings. Some people seem to think that the utterance of complimentary
words, however well deserved, is weak, sentimental, and unworthy. But it is
not, if the things said are sincere and altogether true. Others fail to
recognize the value of cheerful, hopeful words—and do not understand that it
is worth while to speak them. The truth is, however, that words of
encouragement, of inspiration, of cheer—are better ofttimes than angels'
visits to those to whom they are spoken. We ought not to withhold that which
is in our power to give without cost, and which will so richly bless hungry
hearts and weary spirits.
Your neighbor is in sorrow. It is known for days and days
that a loved one is hovering between life and death. Then the crape on the
door announces that death has conquered, that the home is darkened. You want
to help—but you shrink from intruding upon the sorrow. With a heart full of
affectionate longing to be of use—you yet do nothing. Is there no way by
which your brotherly love might make your neighbor's load a little lighter
or his heart a little stronger? Are we not too timid in the presence of
other's sorrows? God wants us all to be true comforters. Sorrow is very
sacred, and we must enter its sanctuary with reverence. But we must beware
that we do not fail in affection's duty, in the hour when our brother's
heart is broken. The tenderest sympathy locked up in the heart, avails no
more than if our heart were cold.
Perhaps it is in our homes that the lesson is most
needed. There is a great deal of sweet love there, which never finds
expression. We keep sad silences ofttimes with those who are dearest to us,
even when their hearts are crying out for sympathetic words. In many homes
that lack rich and deep happiness, it is not more love that is needed—but
the flowing out of the love in little words, acts, and expressions. A
husband loves his wife, and would give his life for her; but there are days
and days that he never tells her so, nor reveals the sweet truth to her by
any sign or token. The wife loves her husband with warm, faithful affection;
but she has fallen into the habit of making no demonstration, saying nothing
about her love; going through the home life almost as if there were no love
in her heart. No wonder husbands and wives drift apart in such homes.
Hearts, too, need their daily bread, and starve and die if it is
withheld from them.
There are parents who make the same mistake with their
children. They love them—but they do not reveal their love. They allow it to
be taken for granted. After infancy passes, they quietly drop out of their
fellowship with their children—all tenderness, all caresses and marks of
fondness. On the first intimation of danger of any kind, their love reveals
itself in anxious solicitude and prompt efforts to help—but in the daily
life of the home, there is no show of tenderness. The love is
unquestioned—but, like the vase of ointment unbroken, it sends out no
perfume. The home life may be free from all bitterness, all that is unloving
and unkind—and yet it has sore lack. It is not in what is done that
the secret of the lack of happiness must be sought—but in what is not done.
It is not enough to love—the love must find expression.
We must do it, too, before it is too late. Some people wait until the need
is past, and then come up with their laggard sympathy. When the neighbor is
well again, they call to say how sorry they are he has been so sick. Would
not a kindly inquiry at the door, or a few flowers sent to his room where he
was ill, have been a fitter and more adequate expression of brotherly
interest? When a man without their help has gotten through his long battle
with business difficulties or embarrassments, and is well on his feet
again—then they come with their congratulations. Would it not have been
better if they had proved their care for him in some way when he needed
strong practical sympathy? The time to show our friendship is when our
friend is under the shadow of enmity, when evil tongues misrepresent him—and
not when he has gotten vindication and stands honored.
There are those, too, who wait until death has come,
before they begin to speak their words of appreciation and commendation.
There are many who say their first truly generous words of others, beside
their coffins. They bring their flowers then, although they never gave a
flower when their friends were living. Many a person goes down in defeat,
under life's burdens, unhelped, uncheered, and when the eyes are close and
the hands folded, then comes, too late—love enough to have turned the battle
and given victory, had it come a little earlier.
Life is hard for many people, and we have no right to
withhold any word, or touch or act of love, which will lighten the load or
cheer the heart of any fellow-struggler. The best use we can make of our
life is to live so that we shall be a blessing to everyone we meet. Then we
shall make at least one little spot on this earth more sweet and beautiful,
and shall leave a few flowers blooming in the desert when we are gone.
The Summer Vacation
When the vacation season comes, some seekers of rest will
settle down in one place for a quiet summer; others flit here and there,
from shore to mountain, from mountain to spring, from spring to lake. Some
cross the sea and climb the Alps, and hurry through foreign villages and
cities. Some go into a secluded spot, away from the distracting noise and
noxious smells of the city, and rest where the music of birdsongs breaks
continually upon their ears, and the breath of summer flowers sweetens the
air about them.
Among these refugees are many thousands of the best
Sunday-school workers—pastors, superintendents, teachers, and officers. If
they have earned their vacation rest by nine, ten, or eleven months of
honest, earnest work—the Master will not blame them for taking it. There is
no one who does not need hours and days of pause in his busy life. A few
weeks of rest should fit all for better service when they return.
Now, of course, all these Christian workers take their
religion with them wherever they go. It is sometimes charged that Christian
people leave their religion at home, when they go away for summer vacation
or summer travel. But this charge is manifestly untrue. True religion is not
like a cloak, something which can be laid off. It is something which begins
in the heart and permeates the whole life, weaving its thread into the warp
and woof of the character, permeating the disposition, shining in the face,
gleaming in the eye, uttering itself in the speech. It is absurd then, to
talk about leaving one's religion at home when one travels. All the religion
one really has—he will carry with him wherever he goes. People who leave
their religion at home, will not have much trouble in laying it off, for it
is precious little they can have to leave, and it must be only an outside
cloak at the best.
So we may consider this point settled—that all true
Christians will take their religion with them. They will be as sincere,
faithful, watchful, reverent, prayerful, Bible-reading Christians, by the
seashore or on the country farm, as they are at home.
Now let them carry also with them, their Christian
activity. After the hard work of nine or ten months some good people think
that they should have an absolute rest for the few weeks they spend away
from their own fields. So they drop everything. They give up their
lesson-study. They keep away from the Sunday-school. They attend church on
Sunday mornings—but manifest no interest in the people with whom they
worship, or in their work. They make no effort to be helpful to others. They
give their hands and hearts a vacation. The result is they leave no
impression for good in the place where they have tarried. They fail to let
any light shine to cheer or bless other hearts. They fail to bear any
positive witness for Christ. They leave no one blessed by their stay.
There is a better way. It is for the Christian worker to
continue his active ministry for Christ, wherever he goes. It will not
diminish in the smallest degree the benefit he will derive from his
vacation. It never aids one's resting or recuperation to be selfish
meanwhile. It does one's brain no good to shut up one's heart and stop the
outflow of its kindness and beneficence. On the other hand, it makes a
vacation all the richer in its results of rest, health, and new vigor—to
keep the heart ever open, and to scatter blessings all along one's path.
There are a great many ways in which earnest Christian
people can do good in vacation. You are stopping for a few weeks in a
country village, or on a farm near a country church. You can enter at once
with heartiness and sincerity into the interests of the little congregation.
If teachers are needed, you can take a class. If there are young people who
are not in the Sunday-school, you may gather a few of them together and form
a Bible-class. If no such work seems to be needed, you can enter a class
yourself, thus attesting you love for the Bible and your eager desire to
know more of it.
At the same time you can make yourself one of the people,
showing kindness on every hand, and trying in a simple, Christlike way to
touch as many lives as possible with the blessing of your own loving,
unselfish spirit. All work for Christ, is not that which we do as officers
in church or school. Our unofficial ministry is ofttimes far more
productive of good results, than that which is formal and official. What we
do as Christian men and Christian women, is far more important than what we
do as pastors, superintendents, and teachers. There is always a field
therefore, and an open door, for the wayside ministry.
Let the spirit of Christ in your heart flow out in
gentleness toward all. If you hear of a sick person in the neighborhood,
find some way of showing Christian sympathy, by calling, by sending a few
flowers, or some choice delicacy, or a little book. If sorrow enters a home
while you stay, although you are a stranger, there is nothing improper in
your manifesting your interest in some gentle way. You can notice the
children whom you meet, win their confidence, and leave blessing in their
hearts. If there is a poor family in the vicinity, a widow with orphaned
little ones, or a household struggling with adversity—you can prove God's
angel to carry help, cheer, and strengthening sympathy.
Or if you are spending the summer in a large
boarding-house or hotel. You can gathers the children of the house into a
pleasant little Sunday-school which they will greatly enjoy. Or you may
arrange for a Bible-reading or a song service on Sunday evenings. There are
many Christian ladies and gentlemen who every summer, do such work as this
at the boarding-houses or hotels where they spend their vacations; and great
good comes from their quiet efforts. In such resorts, too, there is constant
opportunity for personal ministry. There are heavy hearts in every such
circle as gathers in a large summer boarding-house. There is need for the
ministry of sympathy and comfort. There are some who are thoughtless and
worldly, who may be impressed, if not by spoken words, at least by the
influence of a genuine Christian life, lived out close beside them, in
patience, gentleness, and unselfishness, all the summer through.
These are hints only of the ways without number in which
true Christian workers may carry on their work through all their summer
rest. Wherever they go they will find opportunities, if not for formal,
official service, yet always for that better service of heart and tongue and
hand to which every Christian is chosen and ordained. They can so witness
for Christ in every place—as to win friends for their Master. They can so
give out the sweetness of Christian love—that every life which touches
theirs shall receive a blessing, and shall bear away an inspiration for
better living thereafter. They can so seek to do good to the poor, the
sorrowing, the disheartened, that their memory shall be cherished for years
in the spots where they tarry.
Is it not better to spend a vacation thus—than in
idleness and selfishness, or in worldly gaiety and dissipation?
Launch Out Into the Deep
The deep sea hides great treasures. It is full of
wonderful things. It contains a world of beauty. Yet he who only walks along
the shore and looks at the shining sands, or picks up here and there a
beautiful shell, or watches the waves break on the cold, grey rocks, or he
who sails merely along the coast, not venturing out upon the deep
waters—knows but little of the wonderful secrets of the sea, which fill its
The BIBLE is a great ocean. On one shore it breaks
on the earth, rolling close to our feet; on the other it dashes up its
silver spray on the golden street of heaven. It hides in its depth, the most
glorious secrets. The bottom of the sea must hold vast treasures. Ships have
gone down with their freightage of gold and silver and precious stones. But
in the depths of the Holy Scriptures, are treasures infinitely richer than
any which the sea contains. All the wealth of redemption is hidden
there. There are promises there, and title-deeds to most glorious
inheritances, and crowns brighter than any that ever rested on the brow of
earthly king, and gem and jewels more brilliant than any that were ever worn
in this world. In the depths of Holy Scripture, lie all the riches of God's
love and all the treasures of divine knowledge.
But we can never find the wonderful things of the Bible
by merely searching along its shores. Newton, after all his discoveries in
science, spoke of himself as but a little child playing along the edge of an
ocean, finding here and there a brilliant shell, while the ocean itself,
with all its great depths, lay before him unexplored. This is still more
true of the most diligent researches of the Bible. It is an inexhaustible
book. Yet there are those who toil away and draw their nets through it, and
find nothing. It is because they search only along the shore. Does the bible
yield but little blessing or comfort to us? Do we fail to find in it, the
precious things of which we hear others speak? Is it because we have not yet
sounded its depths? Its best things come not to mere surface readers; they
must be sought for with diligence, with eagerness, with love, with strong
faith, with heart-hunger. "Put out into the depths, and let down your
net," is Christ's word today to us as it was to his disciples.
The same is true of PRAYER. It has its great ocean
depths. No one has begun to realize the possibilities of prayer. Well says
the English poet: "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams
of." Scientific men are busy measuring the forces of nature. They tell us of
the energies of light, of heat, of gravitation, of electricity, and they
think they have catalogued all the forces that are at work in this world.
But last night a million women were on their knees praying to God for
husbands and sons and fathers and brothers, and through the darkness and the
silence their pleadings went up to God, and a new power was felt upon a
million lives all over the world.
Today, in hundreds of thousands of sanctuaries, devout
believers meet and mingle their hearts' breathings in prayers for the
outpouring of God's Spirit, and all these importunities are heard in heaven
and will bring down upon men's hearts and lives, a spiritual energy that
shall be felt in penitences and repentings and new consecrations and
obediences, in new holiness and love.
There is something overwhelming in the thought of the
things which are wrought by prayer in this world. Think of all the secret
prayers which rise from heart-closets, of all the supplications which go up
from family altars, of all the pleadings which ascend from worshiping
assemblies; and then remember that no true prayer of faith remains
unanswered. Truly "more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams
Yet the great mass of Christian people are only sailing
along the shore of the boundless sea of prayer. Take one or two of the
promises: "Whatever you shall ask in my name—that will I do." Did Christ
mean that? Who will say he did not? "Whatever you shall ask in my name!"
Have we sounded that promise to its depths? Have we put it to its full and
finest test? Have you brought all your desires to Christ and poured them all
out before him? Have we done anything more than walk along the edge of that
promise, and picked up a few of the treasures which lie in the shallows?
"Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or
think." What a marvelous ocean of prayer, does this promise unveil to our
eyes! Able to do all that we can ask. What can we ask? How much prayer can
we put in words? When friends plead for friends; when mothers cry to God for
their sick or dying children, or for their children imperiled, unsaved; when
pastors supplicate for lost souls perishing in their sins; or when, under
sense of need, beseech God for themselves, what desires can they express in
words? Then what prayers can we think, which are too great to put into
language! We never pray long for anything in deep earnestness, until we find
our desires too big for words. We try to tell God of our sorrow for sin, of
our weakness and sinfulness; of our desires to be better, to love Christ
more; of our hunger after righteousness, after holiness. But with what
faltering tongues do we speak! We can put only the merest fraction of our
praying into speech. But what prayers can we think, as we bow
before God and breathe out our soul's longings and sighings and hungers and
aspirations! "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or
think." What a measure of the possibility of prayer does this word
Then have we exhausted the blessing of prayers? Have we
sounded its utmost depths? Have we drawn up its richest and best treasures?
Do not many of us at times come back from our hours of devotion feeling that
nothing has been accomplished? We ask and receive but small
blessings; we seek and find but little gifts; we knock, and
the door does not seem to open. We hunger and get but little bread
for our souls. We plead for comfort in our sorrow, and receive only faint
gleams of light and mere hints of what we know to be possible. We beseech
God to give up his Spirit, and yet how little of the Spirit comes into our
life! Is it not true that we have tried only the shores of prayer?
There are depths into which we have not yet cast our nets. "Launch out into
the deep, and let down your nets for a catch." We have only to obey
his bidding to draw up blessings which shall overwhelm us by their richness
Shall we not learn to take God at his word in whatever
promises he gives us for prayer? If only we have strong faith, there is no
limit to the possibilities of answers to our supplications. Then every
pleading will bring down a heavenly benefaction. Mothers will pray—and their
children will be circled around with divine grace. Teachers will pray—and
their pupils will come asking how to be Christians. Pastors will pray—and
souls will be saved by scores and hundreds, flocking like doves to their
windows. Congregations will pray—and the Spirit will come again as on the
day of Pentecost, with mighty, resistless power. Mourners will pray—and the
sweet comfort of God will come down into their hearts in heavenly
blessedness. Christians will pray—and will be filled with all the fullness
God wants to give us infinite blessing. The clouds above
us are big with mercy. Let us not hinder the divine blessing, by our
prayerlessness, or limit it by our coldness and lack of faith in prayer. Let
us launch out into the deep sea of prayer and let down our nets, that
they may be filled with the best and richest things God has to give.
The same thing is true of Christian experience.
There are few who really attain to deep and joyous personal experience.
There are few who possess a calm and triumphant assurance. The Word of God
promises perfect peace to those whose minds are stayed on Christ; but are
there are many Christians who realize this deep, tranquil, unbroken peace?
Most believers have occasional seasons of joyful, assurance and holy
confidence—in the closet, at the communion table, in the house of prayer.
Now and then gleams of heavenly sunshine break in upon them and irradiate
their souls for a moment—and then the old doubts and fears fill their sky
again and shut out the light. The mass of Christian people know but little
of abiding spiritual joy—joy which lives on through sorest trials and which
nothing can quench. Too much of the joy of Christians, is like summer
flowers which the first autumn frost kills.
Have we ever thought much of the possibilities of
Christian experience? Suppose we take a few Scripture words which describe
the privileges of the believer in Christ, and see how much or how little we
know by experience of these privileges. "As many as are led by the Spirit of
God, there are sons of God. For you received not the spirit of bondage again
unto fear; by you received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba,
Father! The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are
children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs
That is one of Paul's pictures of the believer's
privilege. Then here is John's inimitable picture of the same privilege:
"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should
be called children of God—and such we are!" We know something of what
childship means. We have learned it in our own homes. What on earth is more
beautiful than childhood in a true, ideal home! How many of us have the
child-feeling toward God—perfect love, perfect trust, perfect peace, sweet
obedience, filial devotion, and unquestioning acquiescence!
Here is one of Paul's prayers for Christians: "That
Christ may dwell in you hearts through faith; to the end that you, being
rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of
Christ, which passes knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fullness
of God." Here again we have hints of what is possible in Christian
experience—Christ dwelling in the heart, rooted and grounded in love, strong
to know the love of Christ, filled unto all the fullness of God. Have we
sounded the depths of such spiritual blessedness as this? Too many of us
scarcely ever dare claim to be Christians. We never get beyond "hoping" that
we are forgiven and saved. We do not rise to the joy of assurance. We do not
exalt and rejoice as God's children, and if children, then heirs. We are not
filled with all the fullness of God. We do not know the love of Christ, in
the sense that we are conscious ourselves of being loved by Christ with all
No doubt many of us have truly blessed experiences in our
Christian life. We know something of the love of God, of loving him whom we
have not seen, of believing in Christ and clinging to him in the darkness.
We know something of communion with God, of fellowship with Christ, of
heavenly comfort in sorrow.
This is not questioning the reality of the spiritual life
of the humblest believer; it is only saying that most of us have only
tasted the joy of being Christians. There are far deeper joys within our
reach than we have yet experienced. Indeed many of us seem to get very
little out of our religion. It does not seem to help us in our struggles
with temptation. It does not keep us from being discontented and fretted. It
does not light up our sick-rooms. It does not make us victorious in
disappointments and sorrow. It does not soften our hearts and make us gentle
toward the erring and toward those who injure us. It does not make us brave
and heroic in our loyalty to Christ and to the truth. The beauty of the Lord
does not shine always in our faces and glow in our characters and appear in
our dispositions and tempers. Is this your Christian experience? Is this
ordinary Christian life the best that Christ is willing to help us to live?
Surely not. We are like the Galilean fisherman—toiling and taking nothing.
Is it any wonder some of us are discouraged and are almost ready at times to
But listen to the Master's voice as it breaks upon our
ears: "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch." The
trouble with us, is we have been living in the shallows of God's love. We
have been like timid seamen, not venturing out of sight of land, merely
dropping our nets along the shore. We have a little faith, a little
consciousness of God's love, a little feeling of assurance, a little measure
of peace, a little of the child-spirit. But the depths of love, the fullness
of joy and peace, the fullness of the blessing of adoption and childship, we
have not yet learned. Shall we not strive for richer and more blessed
Christian experience? Shall we not push out into the wide sea of God's love?
Half consecration knows nothing of the best things of divine grace. We must
cut the last chain which binds us back to the shore of this world, and, like
Columbus, put out to sea to discover new worlds of blessing.
It is more love we need—more love for Christ. Then more
love will give us more faith, and more faith in turn will give us more love.
Christian experience begins when we first accept Christ and believe that he
loves us, and then commit our lives to him. We begin to trust him, and peace
comes as we learn to believe in him and to lay our burdens on him. We know
him better and better as we go on trusting him, venturing on him and for
him, and following him. So there grows between us and him—a close, tender,
intimate fellowship, a friendship more precious than the sweetest of human
friendships. The limits of this experience of Christ's love, no one can set.
There have been those who have indeed found heaven on earth in their
communion with Christ. Let us seek for this today!
What should we do? There is only one thing. We must give
ourselves to God as we have never done before. We must open all our soul to
the divine Spirit that he may come in and take full possession. We must put
away our doubts and fears. We must crucify self—that Christ may be all and
in all. We must arouse our spiritual energies until our lives shall be like
flames of fire in devotion to God.
The Basis of Helpfulness
There are many people who want to be helpful to
others—but who find insuperable obstacles in the way. There are some to whom
they find it easy to minister—those of lovely character, those who are their
friends and who really reciprocate any favors shown to them. But they must
not confine the outgoings of their helpfulness and ministry to such small
classes. Even the ungodly do good to those who do good to them, and give to
those of whom they hope to receive again. And the Christian must do more. He
is to do good to those who hate him, to bless those who curse him, and to be
kind to the evil. Even toward unworthy and disagreeable people—he is to
manifest that love that is full of gentleness and beneficence.
But how can I help a man whom I cannot respect? How can I
be useful to one who treats me with insults or slights? How can I continue
to do good to one who only curses me? How can I minister to those who are
repulsive in character?
There is a way of relating ourselves to all men, which
solves these difficulties. So long as we think of ourselves, and of what is
due to us from others, it will be impossible for us to minister to any large
number of people. But when true Christian love reigns in the heart, the
center of living is removed outside the narrow circle of self. Those who
study our Lord's life carefully, will be struck with what we might call
his reverence for humanity. He looked upon no one with scorn or
contempt. The basest fragment of humanity which crept into his
presence—trampled, torn, stained, and defiled—was yet sacred in his eyes. He
never despised any human being. And further, he stood before men, not as a
haughty and imperious king, demanding attention, reverence, honor, service,
ministry—but as one who wished to serve, to help, to lift up, to comfort. He
said, indeed, that he had not come to be ministered unto—but to minister,
and even to give his life for others. He never thought of what was due from
men to him, of the attention they ought to show to him, or the honor they
ought to accord; but always of what he could do for them, of how he could
help or serve them. The more repulsive the life that stood before him—the
more deeply, in one sense, did it interest him and appeal to his love,
because it needed him and his healing help all the more because of its
repulsiveness. And there is no other true basis of helpfulness.
We can learn to do good to all men—only by putting
ourselves in the same attitude to them in which our Lord stood to those
about him. We must not think of ourselves at all as deserving attention from
others, and chafing and fretting if we do not receive it. We are to esteem
others better than ourselves, in this sense, especially, that instead of
asserting our own superiority and demanding respect, reverence, submission,
and service from them—we are in a sense to forget ourselves, and think how
we can minister to them. We are not here to be waited upon, honored, and
served. The moment we put ourselves in this attitude—we cease to be helpful
to others. We then measure everyone by his ability and willingness to serve
us. We rate others as they are in our estimation, agreeable or disagreeable.
Repulsiveness repels us because we think only of its effect upon our tastes
or feelings—and not of what we can do to render it less repulsive. And the
result is that we love pleasant people only, are kind to those only who are
kind to us, and minister only to the good and gentle. Crude treatment and
lack of respect from others—shut our hearts toward them. This may make us
very pleasant and agreeable in the small circle of our personal friends, and
even in our business and social life, wherever there is room for the play of
self-seeking—but it is infinitely removed from the spirit of Christian love
Our Lord drew two pictures, showing the difference
between the spirit of the world, and the spirit of Christian life. In the
world—men regard greatness as ruling over others, exercising authority,
receiving reverence and submission. But in the Christian life—greatness lies
in serving. "Whoever will be great among you, let him be your servant." We
are to regard ourselves as the servants of others for Jesus' sake. We are to
look upon every other person—as one to whom we may render some service.
It will be seen at a glance, that if we look upon others
in this purely unselfish way, the whole aspect of the world is changed. We
are not here to receive and to gather—but to give and to scatter; not to be
served, and exalted, and treated royally—but to serve, regardless of the
character of men, or of their treatment of us. This invests every human life
with a wondrous sacredness. It brings down our pride, and keeps it under our
feet. It changes scorn to compassion. It softens our tones, and divests us
of any haughty, imperious, dictatorial manner. Instead of our being repelled
by men's moral repulsiveness, our pity is stirred, and our hearts go out in
deep earnest longing to heal and to bless. Instead of being offended by
men's rudeness and unkindness, we shall find it easy to bear patiently even
with ill-treatment, hoping to do them good. We shall continue to seek their
good despite their slights, insults, and wrongs. That was the spirit of
Christ. Amid human neglect, rejection, persecution, and cruelty—he went
right on, thinking only of doing good to others, and never of receiving from
them; ministering to the worst, to enemy and friend, with a love which no
hate nor malignity could quench, until he poured out his blood upon the
Remembering this, it will no longer be hard for us to do
good to the most disagreeable people, to try to help the most unworthy, to
be kind to those who are unkind to us, and to spend and be spent for
others—even though the more abundantly we love them—the less they love us.
It will be easy then to love our enemies, in the only way it is possible for
us to love them. We cannot love them as we love our dearest friends. We
cannot approve their faults nor commend their immoralities, nor make
black in them appear white. We cannot think their characters
beautiful, when they are full of repulsiveness; or their conduct right, when
it is manifestly wrong. Love plays no such tricks with our moral
perceptions. It does not hoodwink us, nor make us color-blind. It does not
make us tolerant of sin, or indifferent to men's blemishes. And yet if fills
our hearts with melting tenderness toward all men. In the vilest person, is
an immortal soul that Jesus valued so that he did not think his own life too
great a price to give for it. And can we be cold toward one in whose life is
such worth such possibility of restoration?
Helping by Not Hindering
There are people who only hinder others. Instead of
lightening their burdens, they add to them. Instead of being a comfort, they
are a constant trial to their friends. Instead of giving cheer, they give
disheartenment. They make life harder for others, rather than easier. When
such people would heed the counsel, "Bear one another's burdens," the first
thing they must learn to do—is to help by not hindering. If they will do
this, even though they give no positive help, they will be of much service
to those who know them. They will at least cease to be a burden to others,
will cease to discourage and dishearten, will cease to impede and tax their
There are a great many hinderers. There are those who are
always seeing the dark side. No matter how bright a thing may be, they are
sure to find a gloomy view of it. You may paint your hope in most radiant
colors—but they will blotch it all with black when they come to look at it.
They are always seeing difficulties in the path, lions in the way. They do
nothing but prophesy evil, and find out and foretell difficulties and
obstacles in the way of others.
Such people are grievous hinderers. They chill ardor and
quench enthusiasm in all those whose lives they touch. Nobody feels quite
happy after meeting them; for they manage, even a moment's hurried greeting,
to say some cheerless word which leaves an unpleasant impression that
one cannot shake off. You try to say some pleasant things—but they spoil it
by some unfavorable comment. You speak of some bright expectations—but they
have a doubt ready to darken your clear sky with clouds. You refer to
some difficult task before you, which you purpose to accomplish, not
thinking of failure; but your hindering friend is prompt with
suggestions which make you feel that you are not competent to its doing, and
when you part from him you have lost your courage and hope, and perhaps you
abandon the undertaking which you might otherwise have achieved.
So these people live to make life a little harder
for all whom they meet. It is impossible to estimate the influence which
they exert in retarding, discouraging, and hindering their fellows. This is
a miserable and sinful use to make of one's influence to others. Life is
hard enough, at best, for everyone; and he who needlessly causes it to be
harder for any person—is guilty of wrong to his fellow-man. Instead of
making life's load heavier, and the spirit less brave for duty, we should
seek to lighten a little of everyone's burden, and to put fresh hope and
courage into everyone's heart. We ought at least—to cease to hinder!
We can never know what the final result of a
discouraging influence may be. When the Israelites were on the edge of
the land of promise, ten men came back with a disheartening story of fierce
warriors and great giants, and by their cowardly and unbelieving report they
started a wild panic of terror among the people. The end of it all was forty
years' wandering in a wilderness, and the death there of a whole generation.
One discourager may always do immeasurable harm—turning courage to fear,
hope to despair, and strength to weakness, joy to sorrow—in many lives. One
gloomy prophet, ofttimes retards the progress and hinders the prosperity of
a whole community.
These dishearteners will do a great service to
those who know them—if they will simply cease hindering! Of course, this is
only a negative way of helping others; and if the same people would throw
all their influence into the other side of the scale, becoming inspirers and
strengtheners of others, they would do incalculably more for the good of the
world. Yet even this negative helping by not hindering would prove a
blessing to many lives, although no positive help were thereby given.
Another class of hinderers consists of those who are
unnecessarily laying their burdens on others. They have trained themselves
into such a condition of dependence, that they can scarcely take a step
alone. They want to advise with all their friends, and get a symposium of
counsel on everything they do. At the first indication of difficulty or
trouble—they fly to someone for help. In cases of real trial, they break
down altogether, and have to be carried through on the strong arms of
unselfish friends. They are a constant burden to those upon whom they call
for sympathy and aid.
Of course, there are cases of real weakness which give
one a right to lean on stronger arms, and to be helped and borne along by
those who are abler and wiser. No true father or mother ever blames a little
child for its helpless dependence, nor regards it as a hinderer of its
parents in their life. Nor does anyone with a right heart find fault with
those who through disease or misfortune, are unable to toil for themselves
or to bear their own burdens, and who must therefore depend on others for
support. Nor, again, does anyone grow impatient with the dependence which
sorrow or bereavement produces. When one is overwhelmed with grief or
crushed by some calamity, there is no Christian man or woman who is not
eager to extend sympathy in whatever practical form it may be required. All
stand with gentle heart, before human weakness and human need, and are glad
to bear the burdens of those who cannot bear their own.
But there are many who are neither little children, nor
invalids, nor victims of great sorrow and trial—who yet insist on laying on
others the loads which belong to themselves. In this way they also become
hinderers instead of helpers. They think that they believe in the
inspired lesson, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of
Christ"; but they get only one side of it, availing themselves of its
privileges in their need, without ever putting themselves under its
requirement on themselves. They believe in others bearing their burdens—but
they have no thought of bearing the burdens of others. The other
burden-text, "Every man shall bear his own burden," they seem to be wholly
There are loads which none of us have a right to shift to
others shoulders, than our own. We have no right to ask others to take their
time to attend to our affairs, when we are quite able to attend to our own
affairs. We have no right to expect others to solve our little perplexities,
and help us bear our little trials, and sympathize with us in our little
disappointments, when we are just as strong for these burdens as our friends
are. We ought to cultivate self dependence, to think and plan for ourselves,
to meet our own questions, to do our own work with our own hands. Especially
should we shrink from needlessly becoming a burden to those who love us, or
who are patient enough to be willing to help us. We should at least seek to
help our friends, by not hindering them unnecessarily with our cares. We
should learn the gospel of self-help even if we do not get into our life the
other hemisphere of Christian duty—the unselfish side of brotherly help.
And there are many other hinderers rather than
helpers of others. There are those who hinder others by the
inconsistencies of their own lives, and by the wrong examples they set.
There are those who hinder by their ugly tempers, by their selfishness, by
their greed, by their thoughtlessness, by their lack of heart, by their
ambition and their pride. There are those who hinder, even when they try to
help, by their lack of delicacy and tact. There are many who try to comfort
others, who only make worse the hurt which they would heal. If it were
possible to eliminate all the needless hindering of others there is in
people's lives—this alone would add a large volume to the total of the
world's happiness. Then if all the hinderers could be made to be
helpers, a social millennium would have already dawned. Let all of us do
our part to usher in that day. At least, let us have a care to help by not
Bearing One Another's Burden
We hear many an exhortation about the duty of bearing
other people's burdens. This is a lesson we should learn. Living only for
one's self, is always sinful. At certain points in life, and in certain
experiences, it is proper also to allow others to share our burdens. We
cannot live without brotherly help. It is sad that Napoleon, on the way to
Helena, as he noted the fidelity with which everyone on the vessel did his
part, remarked that he had never before realized how dependent every man is
on others—for the comfort and safety of his life. We are so bound up
together, that countless others are continually sharing our burdens and
ministering to our needs.
Yet there is a duty of bearing our own burdens which
everyone should learn. Many people depend too much on others. They have
never trained themselves to answer their own questions, to decide upon their
own course in any mater, to attend to their own affairs. They always seek
advice and help. By and by, however, in some trying experience, they turn to
the old sources of counsel, strength or aid, and find the place empty.
Unused to act for themselves, lacking the wisdom, confidence, and ability
which training in self-dependence alone can give—they fail, and sink under
the burden. If only they had been trained to think and act for themselves,
to fight their own battles, to carry their own loads—they would not have
been so helpless when caught in the sudden stress of circumstances.
Parents who shelter their children from every rough wind,
who think and plan for them, in youth, never accustoming them to burdens, to
responsibility, to self care—are not preparing them in the wisest way for
life. This is not God's way with us. He does not save us from struggle, from
tasks, from thought, from discipline and suffering. He loves us too well for
this. He would make us brave, strong, wise, and self-reliant; and therefore
he leads us into ways in which we must use every power we have, and develop
every slumbering resource in our nature. Thus he prepares us for meeting
whatever experiences the future may bring, and trains us for the best
character and the largest usefulness.
There are those who have learned to think that others
should bear all their burdens for them. They demand service from all about
them. They expect everyone to show them attention and favor, to think of
their interests and to minister in their advancement. But the quality of
character which this spirit fashions, is by no means a beautiful one. It is
the very reverse from that which the Master sketched, when he said of
himself that "the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto—but to
minister." He, the greatest man who ever walked on this earth, exacted
nothing from others, claimed no service, and demanded no attention. He lived
to serve, to help others, to bear their burdens, to comfort their sorrows.
This is the divine ideal life. If we would realize God's
thought of beautiful character, we must not expect others to take care of
us, to do our tasks for us—but must quietly and bravely accept the
responsibility for our own life, and at the same time use our strength to
serve and help others.
There are burdens which we must bear for ourselves, or
they never can be borne. There are things which no other one can do for us.
If we do not do them, they never will be done. Even God, with his
omnipotence, will not do them for us. No other can make our choices, do our
duty, meet our responsibility, and answer to God for us. No other can pray
to our Father for us, can believe on Christ for us, can get our sins
forgiven, can receive divine strength for our weakness.
Ever individual life exists as a separate and distinct
entity, filling its own place in the universe, and running its own career.
There is something awe-inspiring in the thought of human personality, in its
isolation, its individuality, its responsibility, its independence of other
personalities while touched by them on all sides. Thousands of other people
may be close about us, sharing their life with ours in many ways—and yet in
a deep sense each one of us really dwells apart and alone. The heart nearest
to ours in love cannot live for us, cannot enter into the inner experiences
of our life. Each one must bear his own burden.
This truth is not a mere theoretical one, without
practical bearing. It lies at the basis of the only true philosophy of
living. No one can make anything of a young man's life but himself. His
intellectual powers may be great—but as yet they are only a bundle of
possibilities, folded away in his brain, as a stately oak is hidden in the
acorn you hold in your hand. These powers must be developed, and this can be
done only through a long course of education. In this the young man himself
must bear his own burden. He may be sent to the best school—but no school or
teacher can bring out the powers that are in his brain, save through his own
faithful application and diligent self-disciple. No most affectionate and
interested friend can do it. No one can study his lessons for him. No love
can relieve him of the burden and toil of the task work, which is necessary
in mastering this science of that art.
The price of education each one must pay for
himself. There is no easy way of attaining it. A rich man can buy many
things—but his gold will not purchase for him a trained mind and the
treasures of knowledge and culture. He can get these only as the poor man
must—by long, patient, unwearying study.
The same is true of character. No one can give us
the qualities of truth, courage, strength, meekness, gentleness, patience,
which belong to the worthy life. We must get them each for himself.
In experience, also, it is true that no one can
transmit anything to another. We may learn something from what others tell
us about the way they have passed over—but the actual lessons each must get
for himself. We cannot acquire sympathy, from another's suffering. We
cannot appropriate the wisdom from another's mistakes and failures, as we
can from our own. Every man must bear his own burden.
"Insist upon yourself," exhorts a wise writer. The lesson
is important. Most of us depend too little upon ourselves, and lean too much
on others. We do not care to bear our own burden. We follow in other's
paths, we thresh over and over again other's straw, we gather up the gold
which other's have dug out of the rock. Few men are original. It were better
for us all if we would insist upon ourselves, if we would let the life that
God has given us develop in its own normal way, under the sunshine of divine
love. If God has a thought for each life, he will help us to know what this
thought is, and then will give us grace to become what he would have us be.
While, then, we seek to bear one another's burdens, and cast our own burden
upon God, let us each bravely and confidently accept his own burden, and
bear it calmly and with faith.