Are we to fritter away our brief hour on life's stage?
(J.R. MacDuff, "Influence!" Preached Before a Young Men's Christian Association)
"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed." Acts 13:36
In deducing from these words moral and spiritual lessons, I would observe generally, that each individual in this life has some great purpose to fulfill. "David served God's purpose in his own generation." He has left his indelible footprints on the sands of time!
Everything in the wide universe has its special mission.
The flower fulfills its design by unfolding its colors or scattering its sweet fragrances wherever it blooms. As we see it dropping its decayed and withered leaves one by one, we feel its little destiny in its own little world has been attained.
The lark as it mounts in the air, and chants its carol ("singing up to Heaven's gate") fulfills its mission by these tuneful melodies.
If we take a loftier survey, and ascend amid the glories of the firmament, we see the sun fulfilling his great appointment to give light to the system: coming forth "like a bridegroom from his chamber, and rejoicing as a strong man to run his race." Or the moon, that faithful sentinel, lavishing her nightly care on the earth — a majestic beacon-light to land and ocean.
Turn to whatever page we may in the vast volume of creation, we shall find in each, the record of some peculiar office and vocation. Mountains and seas, fire and hail, snow and vapor, stormy wind — all fulfill the word and decree and design of God.
And is it different with man?
Has he alone no momentous work to perform in the economy in which he is placed?
Is our whole earthly destiny to eat and drink, and sleep and die?
Are we to fritter away our brief hour on life's stage; to be ushered in with a few rejoicings at our birth, followed by a few tears at our departure? And when our sun has gone down, when the grass of the grave covers our resting places — shall we be as if we never were?
How many there are who, to all appearance, think so! They have never yet awakened to a sense of their high destiny, as having a part to play, and a sphere to occupy. Their inward feeling seems to be that in this great world, with its teeming millions, that . . .
it signifies nothing how they live;
they soon shall be as though they never existed;
when they sink into the tomb — it will be like the vessel going down in mid-ocean. There will be a few plungings and heavings as it momentarily wrestles with the storm; but the tempest sweeps, the sea opens its yawning mouth, the waves close over it — and then resume their usual play! Not a trace or vestige remains; the place that once knew it, knows it no more!
My brethren, that solemn, that momentous reality they call life, is no plaything! It was given as the mightiest of possessions, and loaded with immeasurable responsibilities. The weighty saying, which many a tongue was taught earliest to lisp was this, "Man's chief end is to glorify God!"
Oh, truly it is a solemn thought that each one of you is exercising some influence — either for good or for evil. If you are not serving your day and generation for the better — then you must be serving it for the worse. There can be no such thing as mere neutral influence. You must either, like the aromatic plant, be diffusing a grateful fragrance — or, like the fabled lethal Upas tree, be casting a deadly shadow all around. And if so, it well befits us individually to address to ourselves the personal question: "Am I fulfilling the great end and design of my being?"
Yonder fig-tree on the way to Bethany is a parable designed to warn and instruct in every age. See it — stinted, shriveled, withered. It had borne no fruit. It had not fulfilled the design of its creation; and a tender, gracious Savior pronounces upon it the cumberer's sentence and the cumberer's awful doom!
Happy are those who have been led to regard life as a golden talent — who have realized its momentous requirements and stern responsibilities!
Even the lowliest and humblest, can help directly or indirectly to untie the bandages from a sin-stricken, woe-worn world, and send it forth from its fevered couch, walking and leaping, and praising God. If from peculiarity of disposition or situation, some may feel as if they were unequal to the outward activities of Christian work and service — theirs may be the silent but equally potent example of a holy, meek, loving, peaceful life.
We are all able to influence others, by the quiet unostentatious influence of a pure, consistent, godly life.
Be it yours not only to serve your God, but so to live that the world may be the better because of you; and that when you die and your hand lies withering in the grave — the seed dropped by that hand, years on years before, may spring up bearing fruit to the glory of God!