Miller's Year Book—a Year's Daily Readings
J. R. Miller, 1895
JANUARY to JUNE
A verse of Scripture in the morning, may become a blessing for all the day. It may sing in the heart as a sweet song, from morning until evening. It may become a liturgy of prayer in which the soul shall voice its deepest needs and hungers—amid toils, struggles, and cares. It may be a guide through perplexing tangles, 'God's voice' whispering cheer, a comforter breathing peace in sorrow.
"May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace."
In the first days of a new year, we all say to our friends and neighbors, "Happy New Year!" Our hearts are full of generous feelings and wishes for all we meet. But what can we do to give them a happy new year? We cannot compel their circumstances into fortunate adjustments, so as to produce happiness. Besides, we cannot know what would be the truest and best blessings for our friends.
After all, the only really safe thing is to pray that God may be with them through the year, and may bless them in his own best and truest way. He knows better than we do—what is the best blessing.
"You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north." Deuteronomy 2:3
We ought never to be willing to live any year—just as we lived the last one. No one is striving after the best things—who is not intent on an upward and a forward movement continually. The circular movement is essential too, the going around and around in the old grooves, routine work, daily tasks; yet, even in this treadmill round, there should be constant progress. We ought to do the same things, better each day. Then in the midst of the outward routine—our inner life ought to be growing in earnestness, in force, in strength, in depth.
Yet there are some people whose life year by year is only a going around and around in the old beaten paths, with no onward movement. They are like men who walk in a circular course for a prize, covering a thousand miles, perhaps, but ending just where they began. Rather, our daily walk should be like one whose path goes around a mountain, but climbs a little higher with each circuit, until at last he gains the clear summit, and looks into the face of God. While we must do in a measure the same things every day—we should do them a little better with each repetition.
"The jar of flour was not used up—and the jug of oil did not run dry." 1 Kings 17:16
There was always just a little flour and a little oil—but the supply never grew any less. After each day's food had been taken out—there was another day's left. There was never a month's supply ahead, nor even two days' supply. The added provision came—only as there was need. Thus there was in that household, a continuous lesson in faith. But the food of no day failed.
The lesson is, that God wants us to live by the day. The same truth is taught us in the prayer Christ gave: "Give us this day, our daily bread." Enough for the day is all we are to ask. God does not promise supplies in advance. If we have only bread for today, and are doing our duty faithfully, we may trust him until tomorrow, for tomorrow's food. And it will surely come, for God's Word fails not.
It is well that we get this lesson fixed in our heart at the beginning of the year. As the days come, each one will bring with it its own little basket, carrying a day's supplies—but no more!
"If you continue in My Word, then you really are My disciples." John 8:31
It is not enough to begin; continuance is necessary. Mere enrollment will not make one a scholar; the pupil must continue in the school through all the long course, until he has mastered every branch. One who has observed the course of men for many years, says that success in life depends upon staying power. The reason for failure in most cases—is lack of perseverance. Men get tired and give up. There are thousands who begin to follow Christ—but who, when discouragements come, faint and drop out.
To continue in Christ's word—is to obey him. We must do it continuously too; not today only—but tomorrow as well, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, unto the end.
There is another way of abiding in the word of Christ. Many of his words are promises. The forests in summer days are full of bird-nests. They are hidden among the leaves. The little birds know where they are; and when a storm arises, or when night draws on, they fly each to his own nest. So the promises of God are hidden in the Bible, like nests in the great forests; and there we should fly in any danger or alarm, hiding there in our soul's nest until the storm be over and past. There are no castles in this world so impregnable, as the words of Christ.
"We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work." John 9:4
We are all in this world on divine missions, are all sent from God to take some specific part in blessing the world. To do this—we have just a day of time. A day is a brief time. It is a fixed time. When the sun comes to his going down, no power in the universe can prolong his stay for one minute.
Yet the day is long enough for God's plan. The sun never sets too soon for his purpose. Each life is long enough for the little part of the world's work allotted to it. This is true even of the infant that lives only an hour, merely coming into this world, smiling its blessing, and flying away. It is true of the child, of the young man or young woman, of him who dies in the maturity of his powers with his hands yet full of unfinished tasks. No one can ever offer as an excuse for an unfinished life-work, that the time given to him was too short. It is always long enough, if only every moment of it is filled with simple faithfulness.
To have our work completed at the end, we must do it while the day lasts, for there will be no opportunity afterward. If we are living earnestly, we shall live all the time under the pressure of the consciousness, that the time is short. We must not waste nor lose a moment. Soon it will be night—when we cannot work!
"The pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and stood behind them." Exodus 14:19
It is not always guidance that we most need. Sometimes we must stand still, with danger all around us, and then God goes behind us to shelter us. He always suits himself to our need. When we require guidance—he leads us. But when we need protection—he puts himself between us and the danger.
There is something very striking in this picture the divine presence moving from before, and becoming a wall between Israel and their enemies. There are some mother-birds, storks for instance,
which cover their young with their own body in time of peril, to shield them, receiving the dart themselves. Human love often interposes itself as a shield to protect its own. On the cross, Jesus bared his bosom to receive the storm of wrath—that on his people no blast of the awful tempest might strike!
But not only does Christ put himself between us and our sins; he puts himself also between us and danger. The Lord God is our shield. Many of our dangers come upon us from behind. They are stealthy, insidious, assaulting us when we are unaware of their nearness. The tempter is cunning and shrewd. He does not meet us full-front. It is a comfort to know that Christ comes behind us—when it is there we need the protection.
"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Matthew 6:20
Saving, in order to "lay up for a rainy day", is universally commended. By just so much more as the object is higher, is it commendable to economize in order to "lay up treasures in heaven." We really have—only what we have used well for Christ. When one has learned this secret of banking in heaven, one has the true philosopher's stone which turns everything to gold. The simplest possessions, are transformed into eternal treasures. A threadbare coat becomes a robe of righteousness, a last year's bonnet a crown of glory, when worn in self-denying economy for Christ's sake. We should live always for the highest and best things!
"You are my friends—if you do whatever I command you." John 15:14
There is something very sweet in the thought, that we may be Christ's friends, and that he opens all his heart to us. "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him." This means that if we are Christ's friends—he takes us into the closest intimacy. Not many of us realize all that is possible, in the way of companionship with Christ. If we are on terms of unhindered friendship with him—we can indeed talk with him freely, intimately, as friend with friend.
"How does he talk with us?" some one asks. A heathen convert said, "When I pray—I talk to Christ! When I read my Bible—Christ speaks to me!" If we live close to Christ—the words of Scripture are very plain to us; Christ himself indeed speaks to us in them.
There was a godly man in Germany, named Bengel, who was noted for his intimacy with Christ. A friend desired to watch the saintly man at his devotions. So he concealed himself one night in his room. Bengel sat long at his table reading his New Testament. The hours passed. At length the clock struck midnight, and the old man spread out his hands, and said with great joy, "Dear Lord Jesus, we are on the same old terms." Then closing his book he was soon in bed and asleep. He had learned the secret of friendship with Christ.
"So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" Luke 19:13
We are doing business in this world for Christ. Each one of us has something of His—a pound which He has entrusted to us to trade with as his agent. Our life itself, with all its powers, its endowments, its opportunities, its privileges, its blessings, its possibilities—is our pound. Our life is not our own. We are not in this world merely to have a good time for a few years. Life is a trust. We are not done with it either, when we have lived it through to its last day. We must render an account of it to him who gave it to us. Our business is to gather gains through our trading with our Lord's money. We are required to make the most that is possible of our life!
People often speak of the solemnity of dying. It is a grave and serious matter—but it is a great deal more solemn thing to live. Dying is but giving back into God's hand his own gift—life. If we have lived well, dying is victory, glory, the trampling of life's fragile vanities to fragments, as our soul bursts into real and full life and blessedness.
It is living then, which is serious and solemn. Life to its last particle is our Lord's property, entrusted to us to be used so that it shall grow. Then comes the judgment. We shall have to look up into our Lord's face, and tell him what we have done with his pound. We shall be expected to return our trust, not , only kept safe—but enhanced in value!
"The first came forward and said—Master, your pound has earned ten more pounds!" Luke 19:16
We always find these ten-pound servants among the followers of Christ. They are those Christians who, from the very beginning, strive to reach the best things attainable in life—through divine grace. They are not content with being merely saved from sin's guilt, with being mere members of the church. They make their consecration to Christ complete, keeping nothing back. They set their ideal of obedience to their Lord at the mark of perfectness, and are not slack in their striving, until they reach the mark in heaven. They seek to follow Christ wholly, fully, with their whole heart. They accept every duty—without regard to its cost. They seek to be like Christ, imitating him in all the elements of his character. They give their whole energy to the work and service of Christ. They lie, like John, on the Master's bosom, and their souls are struck through, as it were, with the Master's loving spirit.
So these men and women grow at last into a saintliness, a spiritual beauty, and a power of usefulness and influence, by which they are set apart among Christians, shining with brighter luster than other stars in the galaxy of the church. Their one pound has made ten pounds more! Their high spiritual attainment has been won by their diligent and wise use of the pound with which they began!
"The second came and said—Master, your pound has earned five pounds!" Luke 19:18
Christ gives into no man's hand at the beginning of his life—a finely trained, fully developed mind. The great poets and writers of the world, began with only one pound. There was capacity for growth—but that was all. Christ gives to no one at the start a noble, full-statured, rich, transfigured Christian character, with spiritual graces all blossoming out. The most saintly Christians began with very little saintliness, very little spiritual power. The most useful men in the church, began with a very small and imperfect sort of usefulness.
Those whose influence for good now touches thousands of lives, and extends over whole communities, or fills an entire country—had nothing to begin with—but one little pound of capacity which the Master entrusted to them. This is the principle on which all our Lord's gifts are distributed. He puts into our hands a little at first; and as we use what we have, and gain experience, and show ability, and prove faithful to our trust—he adds more and more, giving us all we can use well, and as fast as we can use it!
"Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint!" Isaiah 40:31
The source of strength in any life—must be God. It is only when we are co-workers with him—that we are unconquerable. If we would be strong, therefore, able to resist sin, able to do valiant battle for the truth, able to touch other lives with healing, uplifting influences—we must abide in Christ. Then his strength shall be in our heart and in our arm.
It is told of General Gordon, that each morning, during his journey in the Soudan country, for half an hour there lay outside his tent a white handkerchief. The whole camp knew well what it meant, and looked upon the little signal with the utmost respect; no foot dared cross the threshold of that tent while the little guard lay there. No message, however pressing, was to be delivered. Matters of life and death must wait until the white signal was taken away. Everybody in the camp knew that God and Gordon were communing together. Sweet is the communion of the spirit—which obtains nearness to its God. Powerful is the influence of the soul that hourly longs to draw near to its God and drink in the inspiring draughts of his presence.
"Whoever is fearful and trembling—let him return!" Judges 7:3
Through God wanted only a few men—he wanted the best. So the first thing was to weed out the incompetent. The army would be stronger with all these sent home—rather than with them all straggling along. There were twenty thousand cowards; and the ten thousand brave men would be stronger alone than the thirty thousand, having the timid thousands among them.
Timidity is infectious. Many a church would be stronger if it were weeded out—just as Gideon's army was. Its weakness lies in its great numbers, not because numbers necessarily weaken—but because there are so many half-hearted people on the church roll. They have lost their interest, if they ever had any, and are indifferent, without thorough consecration. They add no strength—but only hinder the other members and dampen their zeal.
"I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth." Genesis 9:9-10
It is strange how God's care extends even to animals. This covenant was not with man only—but with all the animal creation as well. Think of God making a covenant with the cattle that roam in the valleys, the sheep that graze in the meadows, the birds that fly in the air, and even with the insects that chirp in the fields. Yet that is what he did! We know, too, that this divine care is real. There are other promises which contain the same assurances.
"He feeds the wild animals, and the young ravens cry to him for food." Psalm 147:9. Our Lord said, "Look at the birds. They don't need to plant or harvest or put food in barns—because your heavenly Father feeds them!" Matthew 6:26. God cares for birds. There is a promise, too, for the flowers, "Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are!" Jesus says.
Of course the lesson for us from all this, is the one which Jesus taught. If God cares for the birds and flowers—how much more will he care for his own children! Therefore we ought to trust him without fear!
"I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth." Genesis 9:13
There can be no rainbow—unless it is raining. So we cannot see the brightest glory of God's grace, without entering into the experiences of trial. We can learn the full preciousness of the divine promises, only in the circumstances of need for which they were given.
A young friend told me that she had seen richer revealings of the love of Christ in the weeks she had been in her sick-room, than in all the former years of her life. Words of God which she had known from childhood, had flashed out then for the first time in the rich splendor of their meaning! There had been no clouds in her life before—all was health and happiness, and she had not seen the rainbow hues.
The same is true of all the divine comforts; we never can know the best of their meaning—until the sorrow comes in which they are meant to give strength. A beatitude reads: "Blessed are those who mourn—for they shall be comforted." We cannot receive the comfort—until we mourn. Every Christian who has passed through sorrow understands this. In the deepening darkness—the lights in the heavenly promises flashed out bright and clear, showing him for the first time—the fullness of their blessed comfort.
"I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be perfect." Genesis 17:1
"Perfection is impossible!" we are in the habit of saying; and therefore we do not try to reach perfection. It is better for us always to keep our aim high, although we cannot hope to reach it. If we have low ideals and aims—our attainments will be low. We cannot look with approval upon anything lower than the perfect beauty of God Himself, and not have the beauty of our own life dimmed thereby. We should always keep perfection before us—as our aim. We should keep our eyes ever fixed upon the perfect model, Jesus Christ!
Jesus taught, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48. We are always to seek to model our life upon the divine pattern. Of course we cannot reach this lofty standard in a day—but the way to Christlikeness, is to strive toward it.
When a child begins to write, his scrawling lines fall far short of the beauty of the original at the top of the page. Book after book he fills with his scribbling—but if he is diligent, each new page shows a little improvement, and by and by his writing rivals the original. We can learn to live holy and sweetly, only in the same way. Begin where you can, no matter how imperfect or faulty your life—but strive always toward perfection, and at last you shall be like Christ! That is the hope which shines before us—when we shall see Him as He is—and shall be like Him!
"Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things!" Psalm 103:2-5
What an enumeration of divine blessings this is! Any one of them is worth more than all earth's treasures combined!
If we are not forgiven—we must rest forever under the burden of sin, a weight greater than all the Alps! But God forgives—and forgives all our sins—and forgives freely, fully and forever!
If we are not healed—we must be sick forever, sick with the plague and leprosy of sin! But God heals—and heals all our evils, and heals completely!
If we are not saved from the dangers of this ensnaring world—we never can reach heaven! But God keeps, rescues, and saves our life from all impending destructions!
Earth's crowns are made of thorns, and at the best are only what the children call, 'play-crowns', for they are but of leaves that wither, or of gold and gems that will not last. But God crowns His people with crowns of love and compassion, which are real and radiant, which shall never fade—but shall shine forever, becoming crowns of eternal life and glory in heaven!
This world cannot satisfy a heart's deepest cravings. Its possessions only make the hunger more intense! But God satisfies the souls of His people, and meets all their cravings and hungers with truly good and eternal realities!
"Cast your burden upon the Lord—and He shall sustain you!" Psalm 45:22
There are some mistaken notions current concerning the ways in which God would help us. People think that whenever they have a little trouble, a bit of hard path to go over, a load to carry, a sorrow to endure—all they have to do is to call upon God, and He will at once take away their sorrow, or free them from the trouble. But this is not the way God helps us! His purpose of love concerning us is—not to make all things easy for us—but to make something of us!
When we ask God to save us from our trouble, to take the struggles out of our life, to make the paths mossy, to lift off every heavy load—He will not do it! It would be most unloving in Him to accommodate us. We must carry the burden ourselves! All God promises is, to sustain us—as we carry it! He wants us to learn life's lessons, and to do this—we must be left to work out the problems for ourselves.
There are rich blessings which can be gotten, only in sorrow. It would be short-sighted love indeed—which would heed our cries, and spare us from sorrow—and thus deprive us of the wonderful blessings which can be gotten only in sorrow! God is too good to us to answer our prayers—which would save us from pain, cost, and sacrifice today—at the price of holier, better, truer life in the end. He would not rob us of the blessing that is in the burden—which we can get only by carrying it!
"He knows our frame; He remembers that we are but dust!" Psalm 103:14
God does not treat us as if we were strong, holy, and unfallen angels! He does not forget that we are weak, that it is hard for us to live right, that we are easily tempted and overcome. He is very patient and gentle with us when we have sinned—binding up our wounds, restoring our soul. He does not lay upon us loads too great for us—for He knows how weak we are! He gives us help, too, with our burdens—that we need not faint under them.
We ought to get a great deal of comfort out of these words.
You say you are so weak that you cannot resist temptation. Does not God know it? Will He not help you to overcome?
You are weary through trouble or burden-bearing—but God knows all about it! You find your work hard, and cannot see how you are ever to get through with it; but God understands. He knows how frail you are; He remembers that you are only dust. He is pitiful, and gives always needed help!
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart—and you will find rest for your souls!" Matthew 11:29
We have to learn to live—if ever we are to live worthily. No one becomes a fine musician, without much learning. Nor can anyone take a piece of canvas, with palette, paints, and brushes—and at once paint a masterpiece.
Learning to live beautifully—is harder than learning music or art. We must learn to live—and the lessons are hard, requiring long years of patience and practice. But we ought to learn the art of living, whatever the cost may be!
Life is a sacred trust. We are accountable for it to God, who gave it to us. We are required to make the most of our abilities, training them to their best capacity. By self-discipline, we are to get the perfect mastery of our being—and then do the things which we were made to do.
Yet many people never seriously try to learn to live! This is unworthy a being endowed with immortality, and sent forth on a divine errand. We should live in a way, which will not shame us when we come to the end.
"Whoever wants to become great among you—must be your servant; and whoever wants to be first—must be your slave." Matthew 20:26-27
There are some people with a little measure of "position" who seem to accept all favors shown to them, and all services rendered to them by others, as due to them because of their exalted rank, or their exceeding importance among men. They stand upon their dignity, and in effect demand attention, and a degree of subserviency from their plain, ordinary fellow-men. They complain, if by any accident they appear not to receive their due quota of honor. They seem to feel that their high place among men—entitles them to a great deal of consideration; and they are offended if they do not get it!
It would seem, however, in the light of our Lord's teaching, that the truly greatest among men—are those who are most ready to serve. The haughty spirit described above, is scarcely, therefore, a mark of real greatness in Christ's eye—but really, a mark of littleness. All self-seeking is littleness. The law of service is taken from the very heart of God; nothing else is truly great.
"The Son of Man did not come to be served—but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many!" Matthew 20:28
The art of photography is now so perfect, that the whole picture of a large newspaper can be taken in miniature so small, as to be carried in a little pendant—and yet every letter and point be perfect.
Just so, the whole life of Christ is photographed in one little phrase, "not to be served—but to serve." He came not to be served; if this had been His aim—He would never have left heaven's glory, where He lacked nothing, where angels praised Him and ministered unto Him. He came to serve. He went about doing good. He altogether forgot Himself. He served all he met—who would receive His service. At last He gave His life in uttermost service—giving it as a sin-atoning ransom for others. He came not to be served—but to serve.
You say you want to be like Christ. You ask Him to print His own image on your heart. Here, then is the image! It is no vague dream of perfection that we are to think of—when we ask to be made like Christ. The Catholic monks thought that they were becoming like Christ—when they went into the wilderness, away from men, to live in cold cells. But that is not the what this picture suggests. "To serve"—that is the Christlike thing! Instead of fleeing away from the world—we are to live among men, to serve them, to seek to bless them, to do them good, to give our life for them!
"No longer do I call you servants . . . I have called you friends." John 15:15.
If we ask, "What is the best that Christ's friendship can be to any soul?" We may answer, "It is shelter, comfort, rest, inmost refreshment, guidance, and far more. Christ is an atmosphere about us—an atmosphere of love, warm with all tender influences, all healthful inspirations, all holy impulses. Christ comes into all our life—as our friend—so really, so fully, that he becomes "an unconscious part of every true beat of our heart." As the summer sunbeams enter into the flowers, and reappear in their lovely hues and sweet fragrance—so does Christ enter into the lives of his people, and permeate and transform them, until they become like him in spirit, in character, in disposition, in every feature. "Christ, who is our life." Colossians 3:4. "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27. "Until Christ is formed in you." Galatians 4:19
We know what Christ's friendship was to his disciples. He found them crude—and left them refined. He found Matthew a publican, unjust, grasping, an outcast—and made him an apostle, then a writer of a Gospel. He found Peter profane, rough in manner, impetuous—and made him an eloquent preacher, a man of marvelous power, whose influence lives today wherever the Christian church has gone. He found John a son of thunder, with a strong, fiery temper—and made him the apostle of love, the human embodiment of all the sweet, gentle, tender graces of his own life. The friendship of Christ, can do the same for us!
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." Luke 10:28
That is just the trouble with a great many people—they can answer correctly. They know all about their duty. They can repeat with glib tongue, text after text of Scripture. They can recite catechism and creed without missing a word, and like to boast of their thorough familiarity with these sacred formularies. But it is the doing that they fall short in.
They know the commandments—but they fail to keep them. They can quote any number of Bible texts about honesty and truthfulness—yet they are neither honest nor truthful. They like to talk about the love of Christ, which is meek, gentle, patient, and compassionate—but they do not think of getting any of this spirit into their own life!
They recite texts about sending the gospel to the heathen, and make speeches about saving the lost—but neither give money nor make any personal effort to save others!
If doing were as easy as knowing—how blessed we would all be! Would it not be a beautiful thing for us—to try to live all the duty we know?
"Now that you know these things—you will be blessed if you do them!" John 13:17
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father—I have made known to you." John 15:15
One of the marks of a noble nature, is open-heartedness. Jesus gave it as the chief privilege of friendship with him that he would make known to his friends—all that his Father had taught him. That is, full, trusting confidence is the deepest, truest thing—in the highest and best possible friendship. Soul and soul should be thoroughly united in two friends.
Two gentlemen lived in houses adjoining each other. Their back yards were separated by a fence. A warm friendship grew up between the two families; and soon that fence came down, and the children played together alike in both yards. True friendship pulls down the fences between lives.
Therefore a secretive man can never be a friend—nor have a friend at more than a few points. He is afraid to let his friend know what he knows, what he has been doing, what he is intending to do. Secretiveness is narrow, hindering, cramping. It is like living in a closed cell. It robs one's own life of sweet blessings which it might get from others—and it robs others of pleasures and benefits which it might give to them. The secretive man has not yet learned the meaning of the sweet word about the open-heartedness of the Master toward his friends, which he would have them repeat toward other Christians.
"Unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" Ephesians 3:20
God often does better for us—than we ask.
We go to Him—with our little requests.
We are in need—and ask for temporal relief.
We are suffering—and ask that our pain may cease.
We are poor—and ask Him for more money.
We are just like the beggar, holding out our hands for paltry alms to eke out the day's need. Then God looks down upon us and says, "My child, are these little trifles all you want Me to give to you—daily bread, clothing, fuel for your fire, medicine for your sickness, comfort for your grief? The small things to supply your common needs—are these the only gifts and blessings you want and ask from the hand of your heavenly Father, who has infinite treasures to give to you?"
Yet thousands never get beyond just such requests in their praying! Bowing daily before a God of infinite power and love, in whose hands are unsearchable riches—they never ask for anything, but fleeting earthly comforts and worldly trinkets! They ask only for things for their bodies, or to beautify their homes—making no requests for the heavenly and spiritual gifts God has for their souls! We should learn to ask for the best things in all God's treasure house!
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2
"Happy is the man who finds wisdom!" Proverbs 3:13
It is worth our while to study what the Bible says about happiness, and how to get it. All people want to be happy—but most miss the mark.
Yet those who follow the Bible rules for happiness, will never be disappointed. "Happy is the man who finds wisdom."
WISDOM is a large word. It is not merely knowledge. A man may know so much, that he is a walking encyclopedia, and yet not be happy. He may pursue knowledge into all its nooks and hiding-places, dig it out of the rocks, extract it from the minerals, gather it from flower and plant, draw it down from among the stars—and yet not find happiness. Knowing a great many things—does not make one wise!
Wisdom is knowledge applied to life. He has found wisdom—who has learned to live well. To live well—is to live according to God's laws, which are summed up in one word, love—love to God and love to man. No one is happy who does not recognize God and do His will. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
Likewise, no one can be really happy who does not love his fellow-men. Happiness never is found in selfishness. Those who seek happiness in thinking, toiling, and striving only for themselves—will have a vain quest! It never lies that way. He only has found wisdom—who has found rest in Christ.
"The angel of God . . . went before the camp of Israel." Exodus 14:19.
This angel was revealed in the form of cloud and fire. It was wonderful guidance which God gave to his people in their marches. By day the pillar of cloud sheltered them—and then by night the same cloud was light. By day it was shelter—by night it was light. And always it was guidance. When they were to move, it lifted and went in advance, to lead them. When they were to halt and rest, it settled down, thus giving them the signal to pitch their tents.
This was miraculous guidance; but we have God's presence just as really, though without a visible 'pillar' to lead us. God guides his people by his Word, by his providence, by his Spirit. If we are willing to follow unquestioningly, we shall never be left long in perplexity, as to the way we should take. Our guidance is given to us only as we will accept it and shape our course by it.
Nor is the guidance given in maps and charts, showing us miles and miles of the road; it is given only step by step as we go on.
"And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off, and stand up in a heap." Joshua 3:13
There must be faith first. The priests must take up the ark and walk with it down into the flowing stream—before the waters would be cut off. They did not see a path across the river before they started. They broke up their camps and began their march while there was no sign of any crossing-place. If they had walked down to the edge, and then stopped to wait for the path to be opened, it would not have been opened. If they had lifted their feet and held them over the water, waiting for its flow to cease, they would have waited in vain. They must take one step into the water—before the current would be cut off. They must move on as if the way were open, believing that it would be open.
Likewise, we must learn to take God at his Word and go forward in duty, though we see no way by which we can go forward. The reason we are so often balked by difficulties, is because we expect to see them removed before we venture to pass through them. If we would move right on in faith, as soon as our feet touch the brim, the waters would flow away and leave a path. A great many people stand on the edge of the Christian life, waiting for feelings, before they will begin to follow Christ. If they would but begin to follow him, the way would open before them.
"All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created." John 1:3
We like to look at a beautiful piece of workmanship, and remember that some beloved friend of ours fashioned it. This makes it more precious and sacred.
Some orphan children had been received into an institution, and were exchanging their old garments for new ones. One poor boy was seen picking up the wretched cap he had been wearing, and tearing out of it a piece of faded silk that had been sewed into it. He was asked why he wanted to keep the patch; and he said, his eyes full of tears, that his mother had sewed it into his old cap with her thin frail fingers when she was on her death-bed, and he wanted to keep it in remembrance of her.
Men prize old paintings, and pay large prices for them, because they were painted by some famous master. All the works of nature would be sacred to us—if we but remembered that our Savior made them. The sweet flowers in the field would be all the sweeter—if we only thought as we look upon them, "The hands of Christ painted these!"
"In him was life; and the life was the light of men." John 1:4
Life is a mystery. We can note its manifestations—but we cannot find its source. We see that a man lives—we see it in his actions; but we cannot tell what it is, that keeps the heart beating, beating, beating, without pause, for sixty, seventy, years. We can read the poet's lines, and look at the artist's pictures, and hear the musician's songs; but what do we know of the inner mental life that produced the poem, the pictures, the songs? It is hidden life.
So spiritual life is hidden. We see one supported in quiet peace, amid great trial; another comforted into sweet acquiescence in a bitter sorrow; another living purely and nobly amid sore temptations; another lifted up out of degradation, and transformed. We cannot understand the processes; we see only the effects. So all life is mysterious.
But we know that it all comes from Christ. He is the fountain of all life. No human genius, skill, or power has ever been able to produce life of any kind, even a living blade of grass or a little violet. Still less can any human power give new life to a dead soul. Only Christ can do this. We must get our life from him.
"I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." Genesis 9:11
Science now explains so many things, which devout people in the past loved to look upon as the very acts of God, that some have begun to wonder whether after all our Father really has anything to do with nature. But what is nature? It is God's handiwork. The powers that work so mightily in earth and air—God put there. Can these powers be greater than he who lodged them in his works? We need never fear that any scientific discovery shall show us a universe without a God. We know, too, that the God who controls all the forces and energies of nature, holding all in his hands—is our Father!
During a great flood, when houses, barns, outbuildings, and fences were swept away in the wild current, some men in a skiff saw a baby's cradle borne along in the stream. Rowing to it, they found in it, sleeping as quietly and sweetly as it had ever slept in its mother's bosom, a little baby. So, in the wildest floods of earth, God cares for his little ones. He is Lord of all the forces of nature. Not a drop of water, even in angriest billows, ever breaks away from the control of God! Natural law! Yes—but natural law is only the leash of divine control which is held firmly in the hand of God. No wild tempest ever sweeps beyond the "Hitherto" of our Father!
"When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds" Genesis 9:14
So always, too, in spiritual life, whenever a cloud is in the sky—the rainbow appears on the cloud, the rainbow of divine promise, of God's love and grace. We are accustomed to say that every cloud has a silver lining, and the saying is true. In other words, every dark providence has a bright, shining side. As God sees it, there is a blessing in it. It is not always true that we can see the rainbow on the cloud; sometimes we can see only gloom and shadow. But faith can always be sure of good in every trial, in every sorrow, in every loss, even when the natural eye cannot see it. "We know that all things work together for good—to those who love God."
Someday we shall know that many of our best blessings have come to us out of our sorrows. In the Book of Revelation we are told that there is a rainbow about the throne of God and the Lamb in heaven, which would seem to be a suggestion that God's covenant is not for earth only—but also reaches forward into the blessed life beyond. Perhaps our richest blessings in heaven—will be from earth's sorrows!
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!" Romans 11:33
Our knowledge is limited. We see only little fragments of truth. We are like children on the shore of the sea, gathering a few pebbles and shells—while the ocean's depths are hidden from us. Says Zophar: "Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know?" Job 11:7-8
Job himself, speaking of God's works in nature and in providence, adds: "And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?" Job 26:14
We ought to learn the lesson. God is not a man—not one of ourselves. If we could understand him, he would not be God. His greatness puts him beyond our comprehension. We cannot hope to know the reasons for his acts. Some of his ways with us are mysterious. We are perplexed; we say, "God cannot love me—or he would not do these things." We should learn to trust God even in the deepest mysteries, not expecting to understand—but sure of his love and goodness—even when it is darkest and when his face is veiled in most impenetrable mists. We should be silent unto God, when we cannot fathom Him. That is the truest faith.
"Do not be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them!" 2 Kings 6:16
It is not enough just to put on a bold face and compel ourselves to be brave or appear brave. It will not do merely to try to make ourselves think there is no danger—when we know very well that there is danger. We cannot play tricks on ourselves. The true secret of confidence and fearlessness in danger—is faith in the divine keeping, not in thinking there is no peril. "I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world." John 16:33
The great truth to be learned by all who would acquire true moral courage—is the reality of God's care for his people in all their dangers. The ninetieth and the one hundred and twenty-first Psalms describe this care. "The Lord is your keeper." "The Lord shall keep you from all evil." "He who keeps you will not slumber." I have slept in a camp with armed enemies on all sides; but I was not afraid, for I knew that waking sentinels formed a complete circle all around the camp. Likewise in any danger we may feel safe—because God wakes and watches!
"Go and see how your brothers and the flocks are getting along," Jacob said. "Then come back and bring me word." So Jacob sent him on his way, and Joseph traveled to Shechem from his home in the valley of Hebron. Genesis 37:14
Joseph left his home in good spirits. We can imagine his good-by as he set out. The family would see him off, expecting him to fare well and to return again in good time. Not one of them dreamed that it would be twenty years before they should see his face again! If they had imagined this, then their parting that morning would have been very tender.
We never know when we say farewell at our door to the friends we love, as they or we go out for a time, that we shall ever see them again. We should always say good-by, even for the briefest parting, with thoughtfulness and with love's warmth, for we may never clasp hands with them any more.
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11
HUMILITY is an excellent grace. It is the empty hand which God fills. Self-conceit is weakness. We are strongest, when we distrust ourselves, and are thus led to lean upon God. Emptiness is the cup into which God puts blessing. Pride leaves no room for the divine strength. But there is a danger also in self-distrust. It sometimes makes a person shrink from duty. It almost wrecked the mission of Moses. A little more excusing of himself, and God probably would have left him with his sheep in the wilderness, seeking some other man to bring Israel out of Egypt. No doubt many people have failed altogether of the mission for which they were sent into this world, through a like feeling of unfitness for the work. When God clearly calls us to undertake any task, we should never raise the question of ability. He would not call us to it—if He did not equip us for the task.
"You will have tribulation in this world." John 16:33
The word tribulation is very suggestive. It comes from a root which means 'a flail'. The thresher uses the flail to beat the wheat sheaves, that he may separate the golden wheat from the chaff and straw.
Tribulation is God's threshing—not to destroy us, but to get what is good, heavenly, and spiritual in us—separated from what is wrong, earthly, and fleshly. Nothing less than blows of pain will do this. The evil so strongly clings to the good; the golden wheat of goodness in us is so closely wrapped up in the strong chaff of sin, that only the heavy flail of suffering can produce the separation!
Suffering is like John the Baptist, wearing grim garments, with stern visage and rough hands and a baptism of bitter tears, uttering sharp, harsh words, going before Christ to prepare us for his gentle coming and his message of love. Many of us would never enter the gates of pearl—were it not for this unwelcome messenger, pain.
"Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God . . . " Romans 12:1
A Christian man had quoted this verse, urging those whom he had addressed to present their bodies to God as a living sacrifice. When he closed, a good friend who sat beside him said, "John, the next time you quote that verse, you would better quote all of it."
"Didn't I quote it all? "
"No; you left off the last words, 'which is your reasonable service.' That is very important."
The old Quaker was right. We had better quote the whole verse. It is not an unreasonable thing that God asks us to do when he beseeches us to present ourselves to him as a living sacrifice.
He is our Father, and we are his children; is it unreasonable that a child shall be asked to do a father's will?
We may think of our redemption, and remember at what tremendous cost Christ bought us, and then of all the blessings and hopes that are ours through his sacrifice for us. Is it unreasonable that we should be asked to consecrate our lives to God when he has done such things for us?
We may think, too, of what will be the result if we do not yield ourselves to God—that our lives will be lost in sin's darkness; and of the good that will come to us through devoting ourselves to him eternal life and blessedness. Is it, then, unreasonable that we should be called to make this presentation of ourselves to God?
"If only we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!" Exodus 16:3
It is a sad thing when we allow life's disappointments to make us despondent! The problem of Christian living in this troublesome world, is not to escape experiences of hardship—but to retain sweetness of spirit in all such experiences.
You must have hardships, losses, sorrows. But see to it that you retain through all these—a gentle heart, full of trust and hope. Then when the harsh adversity is past—you will emerge unharmed, with even richer life, tenderer beauty, and deeper joy! The secret of such victorious living—is a trust in God which never fails.
"She has done what she could!" Mark 14:8
A child offered her teacher a handful of weeds and grass, wilted and soiled, and said, "Here is a bouquet for you!" The teacher saw the love in the child's eyes, and accepted the gift with sincere gratitude. Just so, Christ accepts our smallest gifts or services—if He sees love in our heart.
This is the spirit with which Christ receives the gifts and services of those who love him. The gifts may be worthless, and the services may avail nothing—but for the love that prompts them, he accepts them with real gladness, and richly rewards them.
"Every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought what she had spun—blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen." Exodus 35:25
Many young ladies make beautiful things—but do not bring them to Christ. They keep them for their own adornment. But these women brought their fine handiwork to the Lord. They spun beautiful threads to be woven into the curtains and embroideries of the tabernacle. Christian girls and women may help in many ways in preparing dwelling-places for God. They can make a place for him in their own heart. They can put touches of beauty into the lives of others. It needs not great things—but only service of truth filled with love, to please God. The threads may be coarse—but in God's eye they will be beautiful—if love spins them.
"I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." Exodus 16:4
Everything God gives or sends to us—tests us in some way.
Trials test us, whether we will submit with humility and patience to the experiences that are sore and painful, and learn the lesson set for us in them.
But none the less do the blessings of life test us. They test our gratitude. Do we remember God all the time—as the Giver of each new blessing? They test our faith. Do we still lean on him while we have plenty? Oftentimes the trust that turns to him when help is needed—fails to look to him when the hand is full. They also test our obedience. Sometimes when our needs are all supplied, we forget our obligation to serve God. Thus every day is a probation. We are always on trial.
"Stand still before the LORD as I remind you of all the great things the LORD has done for you." 1 Samuel 12:7
It is good to stand still sometimes, and look back over the way by which God has led us. Of one thing we may always be sure—all God's dealings with us are right. Some of them may seem hard. We all have our trials, disappointments, sorrows, sufferings, our cups of bitterness. There is no way in which we can see goodness in all these experiences, except by faith in the unfailing righteousness of God. Yet a firm conviction of this truth brings peace in the darkest hour. God cannot be unloving. He is our Father.
It does us good to stand still before God at times, and look back over our life—and see all our experiences in the light of the love that streams from his face. We cannot understand all seems mysterious and dark; yet we know God is righteous, and righteousness is goodness. If we firmly believe this all through life, whatever may come, faith will live, and its light will shine as a bright star in the blackest midnight.
"You are my hiding place." Psalm 32:7
God is a hiding-place from all sorts of dangers. He is a hiding-place from sin. His mercy is an eternal refuge. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
God is a refuge from trouble. "God had one Son without sin—but he has none without sorrow." Where shall we go to get away from sorrow? There is no place on earth into which it never enters, no Eden bower, no Paradise, where grief never, comes. But there is a hiding-place to which sorrowing ones can flee, and where they will find comfort that shall give them peace. "In the world you shall have troubles; in Me you shall have peace," said Jesus. The sorrow may not be shut out—but the divine peace comes into the heart and calms it. Sorrow is seen then, as God's messenger of love, sent by him on some good errand, and is accepted in faith. So in the pain and loss—there is no more fear. The sufferer has found a hiding-place in God.
God is a hiding-place from danger. In the wildest terrors and alarms—we can run to Him, and, lying down in his bosom, be safe. A Christian sailor said that even if his ship went down into the sea—he would be safe; for God holds the waters in the hollow of his hand, and he would only fall into his Father's hand.
"The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day!" Lamentations 3:22-23
It is the glory of God's love, that it is always fresh and new. It is never the same in its expression in any two days. We have to patch up our old things and keep them, using them again and again; but God never does. He never gives us the old leaves a second time; each spring, every tree gets new foliage, new garments of beauty. He does not revive last year's withered flowers, and give them to us again for this year; he gives us new flowers for each summer.
So he does with his messages of love; they are not repeated over and over again, always the same old ones. Every time the reverent heart reads the Bible, its words come fresh from the lips of God, always new. They never get old. They are like the water that bubbles up in living streams from the depths in the wayside spring—always fresh, sweet, and new.
So it is with the blessings of prayer. Morning by morning we kneel before God, seeking his blessing and favor. He does not give us always the same blessing—but has a new one ready for each new day. Our needs are not the same any two mornings when we bow before him, and he always suits the blessing to the need. We are taught to live day by day. God's goodness comes to us new every morning.
"The king and his men marched to Jerusalem, to fight against the Jebusites who inhabited the land." 2 Samuel 5:6
The Jebusites still held a stronghold in the heart of the country, never having been dislodged. There are 'Jebusites' in every Christian community, and also in every Christian heart. For example, there is worldliness, which has its Jebusites everywhere.
In the midst of a community containing its beautiful Christian homes, sanctuaries, and refinements, one finds a licensed drinking-saloon. It is so entrenched there, too, that it seems impossible to dislodge it. There are many other such citadels of evil, which rear their proud towers and defy conquest.
In every heart, there are little 'Jebusite strongholds', which it seems impossible for us to conquer. Sometimes it is a secret sin which lives on, unconquered, amid the general holiness of a life. Sometimes it is a remnant of the old nature—such as pride, worldliness, selfishness, lust, or bitterness.
"We all have our faults!" we say, and under this 'cloak'—we manage to tuck away a large number of dear idols that we do not want to give up!
We ought to give attention to these unsubdued parts of our life—that every thought, feeling, and temper may be brought into subjection to Christ. It is perilous to leave even one such unconquered stronghold in our heart. "We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ!" 2 Corinthians 10:5
"He asked this to test him, for He Himself knew what He was going to do." John 6:6
Jesus is continually testing his disciples, putting them to the test to draw out their faith. He is constantly bringing before us cases of need, sorrow, and trial—to test us. He wants to draw out our love, our sympathy, our tenderness, and train us to do the works of love which he leaves us in this world to do.
The disciples thought they could not feed the multitude before them—yet Jesus meant that they should do it. Their 'little', blessed and then used, proved quite enough. We think we cannot answer the needs, sorrows, and hungers that appeal to us; but we can if we will. Christ wants us to go forth to minister in his name to all whom he sends to us. We do not appear to be able to do much. But even our few words spoken kindly, our tears of sympathy, our expressions of love—Christ can use to do great good to the faint and the weary hearts before us. We must never say of any appeals that come to us, "We cannot do anything!" To our word of powerlessness, when we have a bidding of duty, Jesus only answers, "Give them something to eat!" and we must go out to feed them, though we seem to have only a crumb or a crust to give.
"Gather the fragments that are left over. Let nothing be wasted!" John 6:12
It seems remarkable, that he who so easily could multiply the five loaves into an abundant meal for thousands, should be so particular about 'saving the fragments'. But Jesus would teach us economy. No matter how great our abundance, we should take care of the 'fragments'. After we have eaten at our tables, there are hungry people who would be glad for the pieces that are left over.
This applies also to the fragments of time. Many busy people waste whole years of time in their life—in the minutes which they lose every day! If at the end of a year they could gather up all these 'fragments', they would have many basketfuls of golden time in which they might do much good.
Likewise, we should not waste our strength. Many people waste their bodily energy, using it in play, or useless amusements, when it belongs to God—and ought to be employed to its last particle for His glory!
Likewise, we should not waste our affections by allowing them to be given to unworthy objects, or people.
There is no limit to the application of this principle. We must give account of everything we have, even the minutes of time, the little fractions of strength, and the smallest bits of bread on our tables!
"Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those who were seated—so also with the fish." John 6:11
Jesus himself wrought the miracle—but he did it through his disciples. That is his usual way. When he wants to take care of a little baby, and train it for a worthy mission, he puts a portion of his own love and gentleness into a mother's heart, and commissions her to train the child for him.
When he wanted to give his Word to the world, he did not speak directly from heaven—but put His thoughts into the lips of holy men to speak them for him. When he wants now to send his grace to a sinner, he does not command an angel from his throne, nor come himself in form of majesty—but sends the message through a saved one.
The disciples that day stood between Christ and the multitude, and so Christ's disciples always do. If they had merely eaten of the bread themselves, and had not passed it to the hungry multitude, the people would have starved, though provision was in the disciples' hands, enough to feed them all. If we who have the gospel bread only feed ourselves with it, and do not carry it to perishing sinners, they will die in their sins, because we have not taken the salvation to them.
"Lord, give us this bread always!" John 6:34
That was a good prayer. It is just the prayer for each one of us—every day! But the people who made it first, did not know what they were asking.
It is often so in our praying. We have a dim, glimmering vision of something very beautiful—but it is only a shadowy vision to us. The thing we think we want, is not the thing at all that God had in mind in his promise. He meant something most worthy—but we have in our mind the thought of something material and earthly. It is well that we have an Intercessor into whose hands all our requests must pass, who will take our poor, mistaken prayers—and interpret them aright for us, giving us, not what we thought we would get—but something better, diviner!
Abraham sought all his life, for a country which he never received. But he got something better in his unavailing search—his faith was growing all the while; his thoughts and hopes were turned to spiritual things, of which the earthly possessions he sought were only shadows. So it is in the disappointments of our praying: what we seek—we find not—but meanwhile we are getting blessings a thousand times better. On weary paths of earth where we toil in search of supposed blessings, we are really rising step by step on invisible stairs, and reaching blessings of which the earthly illusions were only pictures.
"Then the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil. He still retains his integrity, even though you incited Me against him, to destroy him without just cause." Job 2:3
It is a noble thing, when a man stands steadfast and faithful to God in the midst of trials and adversities. Such a man is like a mighty rock under the beatings of the angry waves of the sea.
Thus Job stood. Trial after trial came. His property was swept away by marauders and by fire, and his children were crushed by falling walls, until in a little while he was stripped of all he had, and left a childless man! His heart was broken with sorrow—but his faith failed not. The Lord kept his eye upon his servant, and was pleased to see how trustingly he endured his losses and sorrows.
The affliction of Job, as described here from the divine side, suggests to us, what may ofttimes be the reason for trouble in the lives of God's children. Job suffered in order to prove to a scoffing adversary, the genuineness of his religion. Job did not know why these sore losses came upon him. Likewise, we do not know, when we are in trouble, why God sends or permits the affliction. But we should always bear ourselves so as to honor God, and prove the reality and sincerity of our faith. We are set to witness to the power of divine grace in trial, and should not fail God nor disappoint him. No duty of ours is more sacred—than being true to God in pain and trouble. To murmur or complain—is to sin.
"What? Should we accept only good things from the hand of God—and never anything bad?" Job 2:10
So often weak faith is moved from its steadfastness, by trials. People say, "God cannot love me—or he would not send this affliction upon me!" Job's answer, however, shows nobler faith. We take good, earthly good, from God's hands. We believe that God loves us—so long as he showers upon us favors, and gives us pleasant things, joys and prosperities. Very well. But when he changes the form of his providence, and gives us troubles instead of favors, should we conclude that he no longer loves us?
In the case of the change in his treatment of Job—we are permitted to look within the heart of God, to learn what his feelings were, and we see that he had never loved his servant more than when he was allowing him to suffer so sorely!
At the close of the first trial, Job said, "The Lord gave—and the Lord has taken away." The same Lord who gave—took away! Yes, and the same love! God knows best, what we need any particular day, and what will most advance the kingdom of Christ; and we ought to trust him so implicitly, so unquestioningly, that whether he gives a new favor—or takes one away; whether he grants us our request—or withholds it; whether he bestows upon us earthly good—or causes us to suffer loss and adversity—we shall still believe and say, "God loves me, and he is blessing me!"
"Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return! The Lord gave—and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" Job 1:21
"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects!" Job 5:17
He is not happy at the time! No one enjoys having troubles, sufferings, sorrows. Therefore this verse appears very strange to some people. They cannot understand it. It is contrary to all their thoughts of happiness. Of course, the word happy is not used here in the world's sense. In the world's estimation, "happiness is the pleasure that comes from the things that happen. It depends on personal comfort, on prosperous circumstances, on kindly and congenial conditions. When these are taken away the happiness is destroyed."
But the word here means blessed; and the statement is, that blessing comes to him who receives God's correction. To correct is to set right that which has been wrong. Surely if a man is going in the wrong way, and God turns his feet back and sets him in the right way, a blessing has come to him. Afflictions are God's corrections. They come with a purpose of love in them. They are hard to accept—but afterward the blessing is revealed. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11
"I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted!" Job 42:2
We cannot do what we desire to do. Many of our purposes are thwarted. We desire to do good and beautiful things, and we try—but our achievements fall far below our thought. Our clumsy hands cannot fashion the loveliness which our hearts dream of. Our faltering weakness cannot do the brave things our souls aspire to do. No artist ever paints on his canvas—all the beauty of his ideal. No singer ever expresses—all the music which burns within him as he sings. No eloquent orator ever utters—all that he feels as he pleads for truth or for justice.
So in all our life—we do only a little of what we strive to do. We set out in the morning with purposes of usefulness, of true living, of gentle-heartedness, of patience, of victoriousness; but in the evening we find only little fragments of these good intentions actually wrought out.
But God's plans and intentions are all carried out! No power can withstand Him—or frustrate His will. It was in this thought, that Job found peace in his long, sore trial. All things were in God's hands, and nothing could hinder His designs of love. Our God is infinitely strong. In all earthly confusions, strifes, and troubles—His hand moves, bringing good out of evil for those who trust in Him. He executes all His purposes of good. He is never hindered in blessing His children.
"I would state my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments!" Job 23:4
Job had confidence that God was his Friend, and that if he could stand before Him and tell Him all about his life—it would be well with him. Every Christian may have the same confidence. This does not mean that we have no sins, and that we can appear in God's presence and explain our acts to Him and show Him that we have done nothing wrong. We are sinners, and we can come before Him only with penitence and confession. But when we come thus, and cast ourselves on His love and mercy—we may state our case before him without fear—not pleading innocence, but pleading the grace of Christ. We know that God is pitiful toward our infirmities. Knowing all about us—He yet loves us with a love that is infinitely gracious! "Like a father pities his children—so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame—He remembers that we are but dust!"
A still sweeter truth than that which is uttered here—is that we have One who can order our cause before God, and who will always find acceptance for us. "If anyone sins," said the beloved disciple, "we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous." We may go to God always in His name, sure that in His hands all our interests will be safe, for He ever lives to make intercession for us! Our cause will never suffer—in the hands of Him who died for us!
"Would he oppose me with great power? No, he would not press charges against me!" Job 23:6
Job was sure that if he could only get to God, that he would find in him a friend. He had been learning more and more of God's real nature, and had at least some thought of the true character of the mighty God. Especially does he seem to have gotten some glimpses of the divine Redeemer, who was his Friend. Thus a few chapters back he says: "But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!" Job 19:25-27
Just how much Job really did know of the character of God—we cannot tell. He certainly believed now that if he could come before God, that he would meet a friend.
But we live in full gospel light, and we know that God is our truest and best friend; that he is our Father; that we need never fear to make an appeal to him. He is not against us. His almighty power is not used to oppose us, to break us and crush us. He gives heed unto our cry. He loves us. All his omnipotence is on our side. No mother's heart was ever so full of love for her child—as is the heart of God for us, his children. We know that God's thoughts toward us are kindly thoughts of peace.
"He hides Himself—that I cannot see Him. Yet He knows the way I take; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold!" Job 23:9-10
God is invisible—and we cannot see Him. We know that He is working here and there, and we turn quickly to find Him—but our eyes get no glimpse of Him. We cannot lay our hand upon Him. We cannot see His face. Yet we know that while He is not visible to our sight—that He sees us always and knows our way where we are, what we are doing, what our circumstances and experiences are. "He knows!"
One evening Jesus sent his disciples out upon the sea in the boat, to go to the other side—but He did not go with them. In the night a great storm arose, and the disciples were alone. They were in sore distress—but they could not find their Master. Meanwhile, however, though unseen by them—He was looking down upon them in tender love from the mountain-top. He knew the way that they took, in the darkness on the sea.
In our experience, it may often be that we cannot find God; that we cannot see Him; that He shall elude our search, not answer to our cry, and not come when we call for Him. Yet it is a precious comfort that in all such cases—He knows the way that we take, where we are, and what we are suffering. We are never out of His sight! Always, "He knows!" and that is enough!
"After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions." Job 42:10
A great many people who try to be comforters, only lay thorns under aching heads. No art needs a more delicate touch, than the comforter's. The hands of most of us are too rough to be laid on throbbing hearts. No wonder Job felt that his friends were miserable comforters, or that he was not at first in a mood to pray for them. But until he could pray for them—blessing could not come to him.
The lesson is for us. Others may have injured or grieved us in some way, and we may not be ready to forgive them. But while we feel so, we are shutting out divine blessing from ourselves. Job's praying at length for his friends, showed that his heart was now softened toward them, that he had forgiven them. Then blessing came to him. When we can pray for one who has wronged us, misjudged us, or said unkind things of us or to us, hurting us in some way—we are in a condition to receive blessing from God.
Job was also ready now to come out of his own sorrow—to try to help others. We do not find comfort by staying in the darkness of our own grief, by thinking only of it; we must forget ourselves, and begin to serve others and seek their good, before we can find the light of God's comfort. Selfishness in sorrow is selfishness, and selfishness in any form misses God's blessing.
"I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect." Acts 24:14
It is easy enough when we are in meetings of Christians—to be known as one of them. But Christ wants us to confess him just as distinctly when we are among his enemies. If anyone sneers at us as Christians, we should not blush and hang our head, and stammer out an apology, or, far worse, a denial. We should be ready, without bravado, modestly and humbly—yet boldly, to admit that we are Christians, and to do it in such a way as to show that we rejoice in our relation to Christ, and in confessing it.
Miss Havergal tells of going into a boarding-school as a pupil just after she had united with the church. She was startled to find that in a school family of a hundred, that she was the only Christian. Her first feeling was that she could not avow her love for Christ, with all that company of worldly girls around her. But her second thought was that she could not but avow it, since she was the only one Christ had there to represent him. This thought was most strengthening, and from that hour she quietly took her place as a friend of Christ. It ought to help us, whenever we stand amid enemies of Christ, to remember that he has put us there to represent him, and that if we are ashamed or afraid—we shall be sadly failing and disappointing him.
"Be men of courage; be strong." 1 Corinthians 16:13
Gentleness and good temper are not all. One may have these qualities, and yet be lacking in the completeness of well-rounded Christian character. There must be strength as well as beauty. Love is the fulfilling of the law; all the commandments being summed up in one, "You shall love." But love is a large word. It is like one of those composite pictures, into which many pictures are blended. All the elements of duty to God and to our fellows—are wrapped up in the divine conception of loving.
It will not do, therefore, for us to take merely the things that belong to the gentle side, and think of these as the whole of Christian character. Christ was infinitely gentle. The warmth of his heart made a tropical summer all about him. But behind the gentleness, was also infinite strength. We must be like him, not only in gentle warmth—but also in truth and strength and righteousness. We must be to others, not only tenderness—but also strength to lean upon, and stability in which they may find refuge.
"You are light in the Lord; walk as children of light." Ephesians 5:8.
The tendency to morbidness which shows itself in some people, is most unhealthy. In some it is habitual; a disposition to gloom has been permitted to have its way so long—that now the feelings run, even unimpeded, in melancholy grooves. In others it is incidental, caused by loss or trial, the life requiring some time to react after its shock of grief, and rebound to its wonted cheerfulness. The latter experience is not so unwholesome, because it is transient; but the former, wherever it exists, should be treated as a mental disease, and subjected to the wisest processes of cure. It is destructive of the life's beauty. It mars one's usefulness. It grieves God, for it is practical unbelief.
Why should one persist in refusing the blessing of God's bounteous sunshine, and walk only in gloomy paths? Why should one close windows and doors and live in darkness—when God's glory of light flows everywhere? The morbid person should heroically set himself the task of getting rid of his miserable gloom! It may take time; for when darkness has become ingrained in the soul—it can yield but slowly to the influence of light. Yet the task should be achieved. To stay in the shades of melancholy is most unchristian.
"May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's patience." 2 Thessalonians 3:5
We need the patience of Christ to keep us from over-helping others. No peril is greater than this too eager love, when brought close to those who are in need. We would help too much—or too soon. We would lift away burdens—that God would have the person carry longer for his own good. We would make the way easy—that would better be left hard. We would hasten the learning of the lesson—that could far better be learned slowly. We would force the bursting of the flower—before the time God has appointed, thus spoiling his perfect work.
We want to hurry the spiritual development of lives, not content to wait until the development comes naturally. There are hundreds of lives hurt by the impatience of good people, who desire to do them good.
If we would be truly helpful to others, we must never try too hard to help. It is hard for us, in our eagerness to help, just to do our little—and then stand aside and let God work. We feel we ought to be doing something; but in truth our doing is only hurtful intermeddling, and we would far better keep our hands off!
"Jesus did not answer a word!" Matthew 15:23
Who has not come to Christ with a burden, crying out for help or for relief—only to find him silent? To many of our earnest supplications, he seems not to answer a word. We are told to ask—and we shall receive, to seek—and we shall find, to knock—and it shall be opened unto us. Yet there come times when we ask imploringly, and do not seem to receive; when, though we seek with intense eagerness, we do not seem to find what we seek; when we knock at the door of prayer until our hands are bruised and bleeding, and there is no opening of the door.
Sometimes the heavens seem to be brass above us; and we ask, "Is there anywhere, an ear to hear our pleadings? Is there anywhere, a heart to feel sympathy with us in our overwhelming need?" Sometimes God seems to be far off—so far that our cries cannot reach him. Nothing is so awful as this silence of God—the feeling that communication is cut off. Few prayers in the Bible are more pathetic than that in the psalm: "Be not silent to me, lest I become like those who go down into the pit!" Anything from God, any punishment, is better than his silence!
Oh, it would be a dreary world, if the atheist's creed were true, that there is no God, no ear to hear prayer; that no voice of answering help, or love, or comfort, ever comes out of the heavens.
"He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick." Matthew 12:20
It is a high honor that is conferred upon us—when God sends to us human hearts to be comforted, or human souls to be helped. Yet every thoughtful person must tremble as he accepts the responsibility of such delicate and holy work. It is a serious moment when there is brought to a surgeon a case, on the skillful treatment of which, a life depends; or when a physician stands by a bedside to administer remedies at critical illness. But it is a far more serious moment, when a human life is put into one's hands to be cured of its faults—or comforted in its sorrow—or to have its heart's wounds healed. We need divine skill and wisdom, and great delicacy, for such sacred work! Only Christ can teach us how to deal with human lives, in their need and sorrow. He has a most gentle touch. He binds up with infinite skill the wounds that sin or grief have made. He never breaks a bruised reed. He will give us skill in dealing with hurt lives.
"I long to see you—so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, to make you strong." Romans 1:11
We ought always to desire to be a blessing to those we love. God sends many of his best spiritual gifts, through human hearts and hands. There could be no fitter morning prayer, as we go out for the day, than that we may be permitted to carry some help, comfort, instruction, inspiration, courage, or cheer—to every life that our life touches. There are always those who need such help. No aim in life is nobler—than to be a help to others in all gentle, quiet ways.
We should make sure, too, that it is the best we have, that we impart to others. There are times when the best thing we can do for a man is to make him laugh. But there are other gifts which we should seek to impart. Sometimes it is cheer to a disheartened spirit. Sometimes it is comfort for sorrow. Sometimes it is the inspiration of a fresh thought which we have found. We should make sure at least that to everyone we meet—we are ready to impart some gift which will do him good.
"When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." John 10:4-5
It is true of sheep in the East, that while they quickly respond to their names when their own shepherd calls them, because they know his voice—yet if a stranger comes to the door of the fold and calls them by the same names, they will be alarmed and will turn and run. It ought to be so with Christ's sheep. They should be quick to hear and know their own Shepherd's voice whenever he calls. They should never be afraid when they recognize his call, though it be in the darkness of sorrow or of trial. But they should also be quick to detect any voice that is not their own Shepherd's.
Such voices do fall continually upon the ears of Christ's friends. There are temptations which would lure them away from the truth—into paths of wandering, which lead to sin and end in death! There are false guides who profess to be true, and to be very much wiser than the old-fashioned, true guides whom Christ has set to be under shepherds; and they want to turn the sheep away from the old paths. Everywhere the "voice of strangers" is heard. The true sheep flee from the voice of strangers, knowing it is not their shepherd's. Every voice which is not known to be Christ's, should alarm the Christian, causing him to run quickly to his own Shepherd for shelter and protection.
"So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran." Genesis 12:4
That was faith. Obedience proved it. Abram did not know where he was going; he had simply the call of God and a promise. But he asked no questions. He did not insist on knowing how his journey would come out, how profitable it would be, just what he would get in exchange for the land he was leaving and the sacrifice he was making. Quietly, without question or hesitation, he arose, cut the ties that bound him to his old home, and departed.
That is the kind of faith all of us should have, whenever God gives us a call and a promise. Some people want to see where they are going before they will begin to follow Christ; but that is not walking by faith at all.
We should not trouble ourselves to know where we are to be led, if only we know that God is leading us. His guidance is safe; and we should be willing to trust him, do precisely what he says, and go just where he leads, without asking any questions. Abraham's life is a picture of a true "walk with God."
But Jesus told them—"You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I am about to drink?" "Oh yes," they replied, "we are able!" Matthew 20:22
It was an ignorant prayer which the two brothers had offered. They did not know what they were asking for. We know that one dark day two malefactors had the places on the Lord's right and left hand. We all ask many a time for things which we would not dare to seek—if we knew what they would cost.
There is a heathen story which tells us that once a man asked for the gift not to die; and it was granted him by the Fates. He was to live on forever. But he had forgotten to ask that his youth and health and strength also might last forever, and so he lived on until age and its infirmities and weaknesses were weighing him down, and his life grew to be a weariness and a burden to him. Existence, for it could hardly be called life, was one long torment to him; and then he wished to die—and could not. He had asked for a thing which he was totally unfit to enjoy—but he had to take the consequences of it when it was once given.
In our prayers we seek things which we might shrink from seeking, if we knew that they must come to us through pain, tears, and loss. The better way to pray, however, is to let God choose for us, and to give what he sees best for us, and in the way that he knows to be the best.
"When Solomon was old, his wives seduced him to follow other gods. His heart was not perfect with the Lord his God." 1 Kings 11:4
The Arabs have a tradition that for a long time a little worm was gnawing in the staff on which Solomon leaned, until at last the staff broke and the great king fell. It was at the king's heart—that the worm was really gnawing.
A perfect heart does not mean a sinless heart—but a heart wholly devoted in its aim and motive to God. Solomon had a corner in his heart for the Lord, and then other corners for the gods of other nations. The Savior's words come in here: "You cannot serve both God and Money."
We need to be on our guard against this Solomonian religion. There is plenty of it. It is very broad church. It abhors the preaching of the stern truths of God's Word about sin and holiness. It sends well-near everybody to heaven, and regards hell as a mediaeval fable. It calls strict Christians, intolerant and narrow-minded. It calls great sins 'escapades', and finds no use for such psalms as the fifty-first. It is not hard to see in the story of David and Solomon, however, which of the two kinds of religion pleases God the better, and which leads to the nobler end. If what his religion did for Solomon is a fair sample of the outcome of that sort, it does not appear to be quite satisfactory.
"As for the other events of Solomon's reign—all he did . . . are they not written in the book of the annals of Solomon?" 1 Kings 11:41
They are all written! They are not all written in the Bible—but they all went down in the chronicles of the kings. Nor was that all. When their ancient paper was used, the impression of the writing goes through and is traced on underlying sheets.
Just so, our life makes its records in the chronicles of the times; but the writing also goes through, and every line and word goes down on pages invisible to our eyes the pages of God's book. We read in the Bible, that the books will be opened for final judgment; and Solomon himself tells us that "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
Solomon is gone, and his record cannot now be changed; but we are concerned with our own lives. The young have the chief portion of their life yet before them. It is important that they remember that all their acts are written; that things which are hidden from the eyes of the world—are yet written down on the Book within the veil; and that some day—all secret things shall be manifested, brought fully to the light, before all the universe. It is important, therefore, that they do, along the common days, only the things which they will be glad to see revealed when all secret things shall be uncovered. When the day of judgment comes, we shall be asked how holy were our lives—and not how fine our words!
"The sweet psalmist of Israel." 2 Samuel 23:1
Think of the influence of David's psalms. Take one for example, the twenty-third. Who can count up the blessings it has left, in its wanderings through the world? How many children have learned to say it almost with their first efforts at speech! How many sick people have listened to its sweet, musical accents, as it has been read in softened tones in the hushed chamber! How many dying ones have lisped the beautiful sentences as the gloom gathered about them, especially lingering on the words: "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me." This precious psalm has been like a beautiful angel, flying up and down through the world, bearing its joy and gladness to hearts of young and old, of rich and poor.
I would rather have written the twenty-third psalm—than have been the greatest emperor this world ever saw! Yet this is only one of many. The psalms contain the records of men's heart-life, and heart-life is the same in all ages; hence people will always find here words which will interpret their own feelings. There never can be another such a prayer-book as the Psalms.
"He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness."
"Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the hem of his cloak. She said to herself—If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." Matthew 9:20-21
The 'cloak of Christ' still trails nearby us. It is by us, when we open the Bible and read His words. It is by us, when we feel the presence of the Holy Spirit with us. It is by our beds of pain, when we are sick. It is by us, when it grows dark around us with the gloom of sorrow. It is by us in our busiest days, amid the tasks and toils and cares of our life. We never get anywhere but 'that mystic cloak' trails close to us—so that we can reach out and touch it with our hand, and have the feeling of our heart's cry conveyed to the very soul of Christ. If there is in us only a sense of our need, and a turning, with even feeblest faith, to Christ—our touch is instantly felt in heaven, and a voice of love calls, "Who touched Me?"
"It is the Lord who judges me!" 1 Corinthians 4:4
There is a story of a young composer whose music was being performed. The audience was enthusiastic, applauding wildly as the composition was played. But the young man seemed utterly indifferent to all this applause. He kept his eye fixed intently on one man in the audience, watching every expression that played upon his features. It was his teacher. He cared more for the slightest mark of favor on his face—than for all the applause of the great company.
Likewise, in all our life we should watch the face of Christ, caring only that he should be pleased. It matters far more what he thinks of our performance, than what all the world besides thinks. If we live to win his approval, we shall not be afraid to have all our deeds laid bare at the last, before the judgment throne.
You who see my soul within,
You who know my unknown sin,
Through your holy eyes let me
Learn what sin is unto Thee.
Make me, Pure One, as you art,
Pure in mind and soul and heart;
Never satisfied with less
Than your perfect holiness.
"Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" Ephesians 4:26
The only way to make our life continuously beautiful, and to keep it ever sweet with love—is to insist on judging ourselves day by day. Old accounts are hard to settle. Each setting of the sun, should be a signal to us to apply the law of Christ to all our life for the day. The hour of evening prayer, should always be a time for getting right all that may have gone wrong in us during the day. Then every feeling of bitterness against another should be cast out of our heart. Life is too critical for us to venture into any night's darkness, nourishing anger or envy. "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" is a wise counsel.
The anger left in the heart tonight—will be harder to overcome tomorrow, than it is today; for bitter feelings grow more bitter as they are cherished and nursed, and who knows what the end may be? They may grow into crimes—unless quickly put out of the heart. Evening prayer should bring love's flood into all the life.
"I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do." John 17:4
Jesus is the only man who has ever lived—so as to be able to say this!
The best lives are but fragments, leaving many things unfinished. Yet we ought to take a lesson from Christ's finishing of His work. He did it, simply by doing each day—the will of His Father for the day.
He was a young man when He died—only thirty-three. We think of those who die young—as dying before their work is completed. We learn, however, that even a young man, dying, may leave a finished work.
The truth is, enough years are given to each one—in which to do our 'allotted work'. Even a baby that lives only a day, merely looking into the mother's eyes and then going away, does the work that was given it to do. The young man who dies at thirty-three, with his hands full of tasks—if only he has lived faithfully, has finished the work which God gave him to do. Not years—but faithfulness, counts with God!
"Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro. He went deep into the wilderness" Exodus 3:1
For forty years Moses had been shepherding sheep in the wilderness. It appears to us as if all those years were lost. We can see how profitably the first forty were spent. Those earlier years under his mother's influence—he carried their lessons and impress to the end. Then those years in the schools of Egypt and in the palace he learned much there which was essential to his mission. But what did that long period in the desert do toward fitting him to be a leader, a lawgiver, the builder of a nation? Far more, no doubt, than we can tell. All that while, his character was knitting itself into strength. He was learning self-discipline. In the wilderness, he was taught many a lesson which made him more fit for his work—lessons he could never have learned in the busy life of Pharaoh's palace.
Nowadays, boys can scarcely wait until they are out of their teens to begin their life-work. Some of them think it a waste of time to take a regular college course before they enter a profession. They think they must get at once into the ministry, or into the medical or legal profession. They cannot afford the time to study through all the long course. No wonder such boys fail as men. When God trains a man for any great work—he always takes plenty of time. No boy acts wisely who is in such a hurry to get to work that he cannot wait to prepare well.
Now the Lord had said to Aaron, "Go out into the wilderness to meet Moses." Exodus 4:27
God always knows where to find the man he wants. Indeed, he trains men while they know it not—for the work he means them to do by and by. For eighty years Moses had been in special preparation for his great mission as leader. Aaron also had been in training for the particular part of the work he was to do. He did not know what he was being prepared for—but God knew. Probably Aaron had naturally a fine voice. Then we may suppose that while in Egypt he was led to give much attention to elocution and oratory. He did not know what special use was to be made of his power—but God knew. Then when the time came for him to enter upon his work, he was ready.
The young man does not know what work God may have waiting for him to do. But he possesses certain talents and gifts. These he should train to the very highest degree of efficiency. Then when God wants him—he will be ready.
It was the daily prayer of a young Christian girl, that God would prepare her for whatever he was preparing for her. Many lives are failures, because when God wants them they are not ready. Many a young man enters a profession without qualification, having squandered his opportunities. Is it any wonder he makes a failure? We should train ourselves to proficiency in something, and God will want us by and by, and we shall be ready.
"And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses." Exodus 4:30
One of the excuses Moses offered when God bade him go to be the deliverer of his people—was that he was not a good speaker. God met his difficulty by telling him that he would provide a speaker. Aaron would be his mouthpiece. So all along the history, Moses is a silent man, and Aaron's is the voice we hear. Each did his own part.
It is just in this way that God's work is always to be done. No one person has universal gifts. One man is a poor talker—but has brains and heart, and can make plans, and impart energy and inspiration. Another is an eloquent speaker—but lacks in the very points in which the first excels. Put the two together, and they can achieve great results.
In a church, some can sing well; some cannot sing—but can teach; some can do neither—but can carry comfort to the sick; some can manage business affairs; some can make money—and give it. There is a diversity of gifts, no two having the same; but if all work together, each doing his own part, the church is not only a power—but there is no necessary work which is not done. Never worry because you have not the gift some other one has; you have some gift, and that is the one God wants you to use!
"Moses made an end of speaking." Deuteronomy 32:45
So we all shall do some day. Moses knew it was the end for him; we may not know when our end is at hand. Any word of ours, spoken amid glee and merriment, may be our last!! If we always thought of this—would it not make us more careful? Would we ever say an unkind word to a friend, if we felt that we may never have an opportunity to unsay it or repent of it? Would we ever utter an angry, untrue, or unclean word—if we only remembered that it may be the last utterance our lips shall give forth?
We want to have beautiful endings to our life, to leave sweet memories behind us in the hearts of those who love us. We want our names to be fragrant in the homes on whose thresholds our footfalls are accustomed to be heard. We want the memory of our last words in our friends' ears—to live as a tender joy with them as the days pass away. We can be sure of all this—only by making every word we speak beautiful enough to be a last word. For with any sentence—we may come to the end of our speaking.
"On that same day the Lord spoke to Moses—Go up Mount Nebo . . . You must die there on the mountain" Deuteronomy 32:48-50
To each of us the summons will sometime come: "Go away from your farm, your store, your desk, your books, your pleasure, into the silence of your own room—and die." We may not hear the voice, when we lay down our work at nightfall, nor be conscious that we are going away to die; but this will not alter the fact. We will come to our last hour—when the voice none can resist will call us from earth.
Moses was to die alone. None of the people accompanied him. Every one of us really has to die alone. Our friends may gather around us; they may hold our hand; they may sing or pray with us; they may drop their tears on our cold cheek, and print hot kisses of farewell on our lips—yet we must die alone. No one can accompany us beyond the foot of the mountain. This is a point at which the tenderest affection can give no help. It is like one going out on the sea in a ship. Friends come to the shore and wave their farewells as we go out—but not one of them goes with us. We must die alone!
"So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there . . . just as the Lord had said." Deuteronomy 34:5
"After the death of Moses the LORD's servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant. He said—Now that my servant Moses is dead—you must lead my people across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them." Joshua 1:1-2
Sorrow came to you yesterday—and emptied your home. Your first impulse now is to give up and sit down in despair amid the wrecks of your hopes. But you dare not do it. You are in the line of battle, and the crisis is at hand. To falter a moment, would be to imperil some holy interest. Other lives would be harmed by your pausing. Holy interests would suffer—should your hands be folded. You must not linger even to indulge your grief. Sorrows are but incidents in life, and must not interrupt us. We must leave them behind, while we press on to the things that are before.
Then God has so ordered, too, that in pressing on in duty—we shall find the truest, richest comfort for ourselves. Sitting down to brood over our sorrows, the darkness deepens about us and creeps into our heart, and our strength changes to weakness. But if we turn away from the gloom, and take up the tasks and duties to which God calls us—the light will come again and we shall grow stronger!
"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." John 17:15
Christ does not wish that we shall be kept from suffering—but that in our suffering, we shall not sin. He does not wish that we may never have sickness—but that in our sickness, we may not fail of patience, sweetness, and trust. He does not wish that we may have no trials or struggles—but that in our trials and struggles, we may not be overcome and our lives hurt or marred.
There is only one evil in the world—SIN, and it lurks everywhere! It comes even in our purest joys; we may forget God in them. The happiest home may become a place of peril to us, leading us to self-indulgence, love of ease, forgetfulness of the world's need and sorrow, neglect of duties, even to forgetfulness of God.
There is no sin in our being hated by the world, in our being wronged or injured by others; but if we endure the hatred and the wrong resentfully, if we grow angry and seek to avenge ourselves—we have sinned. There is no sin in our being assailed by temptations, we cannot live a day without being tempted—but the moment we yield to the temptation, we have sinned. There is no sin in our suffering adversity, disappointment, loss, need; but the moment that in any such experience we repine, doubt God, or rebel against his will—we have done evil and sinned.
"Dear friends, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is!" 1 John 3:2
Think of the possibilities of man, in the light of the revealings of Christianity. You know what the Christ says of the future of everyone who believes in him—but have you ever thought deeply about it?
Have you ever thought seriously about the word 'eternity', as a definition of the duration of your own life? Jesus tells us we shall have eternal life, and that means not endless existence only—but endless growth, development, progress. The New Testament tells us that we know now only in part, only little fragments of any knowledge—but that some day we shall know perfectly. It tells us also that there will be the most wondrous moral development in these lives of ours.
There is a glory in the Christian's soul, which is not yet revealed. The Bible lifts the veil, and shows us a glimpse of our eternal stat, "We shall be like Him!" I cannot explain that. It is too high for any human thought to comprehend it. But surely it tells of marvelous possibilities in men. That is the future of every one who will link his life to the life of Christ.
"For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." 2 Corinthians 4:5
It is said of a great artist, that when painting his immortal pictures on the ceiling of St. Peter's Cathedral, he carried a little lamp fastened to his cap on his forehead, so that no shadow of himself should fall on his work. It would be well if we should learn always so to carry the light by which we work, that SELF shall never in any way come between our lamp and our work. We should so relate our own personality to our serving—that it shall never cast a shadow on the things we are doing for Christ.
It is not easy so to move through life that no mood or feeling of our own, shall ever affect our spirit or temper as we go on with our duty. Ofttimes the temptation is strong. Things do not go altogether to our mind. Other people do not accord to us the honor or respect we think we deserve. The tendency is to feel hurt, and then to allow our hurt consciousness to affect our interest in the work or our relations with our fellow-workers. But this is not the Christian way—not the way Jesus would act. No apparent or real slighting of us—should make us less faithful. Touchiness is not among the fruits of the Spirit.
"You wicked servant! I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" Matthew 18:32-33
Though the servant had been forgiven all his vast debt, he had not been willing to forgive a fellow servant a mere trifle of debt.
No Christian precept is urged more repeatedly and more earnestly than this. In the form of prayer which our Lord taught his disciples, he linked together divine and human forgiveness: "Forgive us our debts—as we forgive our debtors." Then he added a clear and unmistakable word, emphasizing the lesson: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Paul enjoins, "Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." This is but one of many repetitions of the solemn lesson. If we are not ready to forgive those who do us little injuries—it is proof that we ourselves are not forgiven of God. If there be not in the heart the spirit of forgiveness, evidently it has not yet experienced the mercy of God.
It was said of one: "His heart was as great as the world—but there was no room in it to hold the memory of a wrong."
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
We are always coming to points we have never passed before. Every new temptation is such a point. We cannot get through it unless we have a guide.
Some of you know how dark and strange it seemed to you, the first time you had to enter the valley of sorrow. A godly man says: "I shall never forget, while memory lasts, the strangeness of the experience through which I passed, when first the reaper whose name is Death came into my home, and with his sickle keen cut down at one thrust, two of my children! The stroke blinded me for the moment; but when at length I opened my eyes, I saw the ark in the river, and that instantly steadied me. I knew then where I was."
Every new duty brings us also to a way we know not. Every fresh responsibility calls us to walk in an unfamiliar road. All of life is untrodden, and we cannot find the way ourselves.
Then there is that last walk on earth—into the valley of shadows. We never can get any experience in dying; for no feet ever walk twice on that way, nor has any friend ever come back to tell us what it is like. When we come to die, we shall find ourselves in an experience we have never known before. If we have not Christ in the strange, unfamiliar path, we shall not find the way.
His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." John 9:2-3
Are troubles sent to punish us for our sins? The people in Christ's day thought so. But Jesus gave a different explanation. He said the man was blind—that the works of God should be displayed in his life. His blindness led him into contact with Jesus—and thus brought him a double blessing, the opening of his natural eyes, and the opening of his soul's eyes. Probably he would never have met Jesus—but for his misfortune of blindness. If he had not been blind, this miracle of his healing would never have been wrought!
A great many revealings and blessings come through troubles. Jesus said the sickness of Lazarus was for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. No doubt every sickness is an opportunity for a blessing of some kind, both to the person who is sick and to his friends. Every loss we have, is meant to be the revealing to us of a gain which would more than make compensation. Every disappointment in our life, is intended to give us a better thing than that which we have failed to get.
"Be imitators of me—even as I also am of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1
You may think you have no influence over any other lives—but you have. There are those who will do what you do, and be what you are. If you are reverent, they will be reverent; if you are false, they are false. Your influence touches many other lives, and leaves either blessing or curse.
A gentleman told the story of his conversion to Christ: "If I had been going to damnation alone," he said, "I would have gone on. But one night I came in from the wine-table, and looked at my sleeping babes as they lay in their holy innocence amid the snowy pillows. I held the lamp so that its beams fell full upon their sweet faces. As I stood there in the awful silence, unbroken, save by the ticking of the clock on the mantel, and the soft breathing of my little ones, there arose a terrifying vision before my eyes. I saw myself sweeping down toward perdition, and these, my precious children, clinging to my garments. I could not stand that. I could go to ruin myself—but to drag my angel babes there with me oh, I could not do that! So right there beside the crib, I fell on my knees before God, and asked him to save me for my children's sake."
Few motives in life could be stronger than the consciousness that the career and destiny of other lives will depend on what we do with our own life! We should be able always to say, "Imitate me—and you will live nobly!"
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42
We never can know what the full outcome of our simplest kindnesses will be. We speak a cheerful word to one who is discouraged. We pass on, scarcely giving another thought to the matter. Yet perhaps our word has saved a life from despair, helped a fainting robin back unto its nest again, or changed a destiny from darkness to light.
Nor can we know how far the influence of our word shall extend. A pebble dropped into the sea, starts wavelets which go around and around the world. A word spoken into the air, goes pulsating in the atmosphere forever. So it is with the things we do for Christ. We cannot follow them, to trace their story; but their blessing shall never cease from the world's life. There will be many surprises in heaven, when we learn the effects of our words and deeds of love.
"Having loved His own who were in the world—He loved them to the end." John 13:1
Follower of Jesus—you may write your own name into this verse, and it will be as true as it was of the company at the table that night! Having loved you—Jesus loves you unto the end!
It was the night before Jesus died. He was with His disciples at the Passover. Holy memories filled His mind. But amid these, His love for His own people lost none of its warmth. His "hour" of sorrow and shame was come. But with all this before Him, He did not forget "His own." He gathered them about Him, and spent the last evening with them. He had no thought for Himself; He thought only of "His own." His personal grief and bitterness were kept in His own heart, while He gave them joy. His love over-mastered His sorrow.
Then there was something else. The words read: "His hour had come to leave this world and return to His Father." So there was glory for him beyond His cross! There were a few hours of darkness, woe, and anguish—and then He would leave this world and be at home again! His heart must have been full of rapture and expectancy as He looked forward, knowing that He would shortly be home with His Father. Yet even this blessed consciousness did not make him forget His friends. "Having loved His own who were in the world—He loved them to the end."
"She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." Mark 14:8
Many people would have kept the jar of perfume until Jesus was dead, and would then have broken it to anoint his cold body. At least, that is the way too many of us do in these days. We wait until our friend dies—and then send our flowers and speak our words of appreciation. Should we not learn a lesson from Mary? The kind words we mean to speak when our friends are dead—let us speak while they can hear them! The flowers we mean to send for their coffin—let us send to brighten the rough paths for their feet. The epitaphs we mean to put upon white marble—let us carve in deeds of gentle love while our friends are with us. Words of cheer today—are what people crave.
"Withhold all eulogies when I am dead,
All noisy sorrow;
Give me the tender word today
Instead of tears tomorrow."
"Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." Isaiah 53:4
Whatever the cause of grief may be, there is rich comfort in the remembrance of the sorrows of Christ. It assures us that Christ understands our pain. In the garden he went a stone's cast farther than any of his disciples went. The picture is a parable to us. It is always so. Wherever you bow in the deep shadows of grief, you have but to lift up your eyes, and you will see Jesus in still deeper shadows—a stone's cast beyond you. His sorrow was sorer than yours.
There is comfort also in the remembrance that blessing comes out of suffering patiently endured. All the world's peace and hope, and all heaven's joy and glory—are fruits of a great sorrow—the sorrow of Christ. Blessing will come always out of sorrow, if we but accept it submissively and reverently.
While we think of the sufferings of Christ, we must remember also that he came from them all unharmed, his life shining in divine radiance, lifted to glory, too, as a fruit of his suffering. This reminds sorrowing believers, that they too shall pass through their time of tribulation, that no scars and no manner of hurt shall be upon their souls because of their sufferings—but that they shall shine in fairer beauty and diviner glory, and shall be lifted up to higher honor, because of what they have suffered with Christ.
"Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures." I Corinthians 15:3
There have been great days in the history of the human race, days of triumph whose victories have enriched the world; days of honor whose brightness has made the world lighter; days of great deeds which have lifted man to loftier, diviner heights; days of heroic, self-forgetful love which has made the air sweeter with its odorous perfumes. But the day of all days in fruit of blessing and good in the world's story, was that holy Friday when the Son of man gave his life on the cross to save men!
There could have been no rising again, without the dying on the cross. Christ must die—before he could offer deathless life to every man. The touch of the cross is on every hope of Christian faith. The light that shines in soft luster throughout all the world—streams from the cross. The sorrow of Calvary is that which is softening all human hearts, and making all life gentler and sweeter. The power that is drawing all men upward—is the Christ lifted up.
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!" Matthew 27:46
There is a picture which represents the after-scenes on that day of the crucifixion. It is all over. The crowds have gone away. The evening sun is shining out again on Calvary. The body of the Savior has been borne to the sepulcher. The cross has been taken down, and lies on the ground. A company of little children, bright with the glow of childhood's innocence, led to the place by accident or curiosity, are seen bending over the signs of the day's terrible work. One of the children holds in his hand a nail which a little time before, had pierced a hand or a foot of the patient Sufferer, and stands spellbound with horror as he gazes at it. His gentle heart is shocked at sin's dreadful work! On all the children's faces, the same expression of horror is depicted.
No one with pure and gentle heart, can ever look at the death of Christ on the cross—with any but feelings of amazement and horror at sin's awfulness!
It was sin that nailed Jesus on the cross!
It was sin that wreathed the circlet of thorns for his brow!
We say the Jews crucified Christ; yes—but WE helped to do it!
Our sins drove the nails!
Would you see what sin is? Stand by the cross and ponder its terrible work, there in the death of the Redeemer. See what it cost the Lamb of God, to take away sin!
"He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:4
If your faith stops at the cross—it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ!
You need a Savior who not merely two thousand years ago went to death to redeem you—but one who also is alive to walk by your side in loving companionship.
You need a Savior who can hear your prayers, to whose feet you can creep in penitence when you have sinned, to whom you can call for help when the battle is going against you.
You need a Savior who is interested in all the affairs of your common life, and who can assist you in every time of need.
You need a Christ who can be a real friend—loving you, keeping close beside you, able to sympathize with your weaknesses.
You need a Savior who will come into your life, and will save you, not by one great act of centuries past—but by a life warm and throbbing with love today, and living again in you.
It is for love that our hearts hunger. The bread that will satisfy us, is not the bread of memorial merely—the memory of a great devotion of love long, long since—but the bread of love—living, present, warm and throbbing! Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us!
And that is the Christ the gospel brings to us: one who was dead—and is now alive for evermore!
"I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" Revelation 1:18
"Why do you seek the living—among the dead?" Luke 24:5
A DYING Christ alone, will not satisfy your heart. While you praise the love that was crucified for you—you crave love from a Savior who lives. Memories of a friend who has died, may be very sweet. The fragrance of 'departed love' stays in a home, like the perfume of sweet flowers, when the flowers have been borne away. But how unsatisfying are the mere memories of your friend—when your heart hungers for love's real presence, and touch and tenderness! No more will the mere memories of the Love that died on the cross for you—satisfy your cravings for Christ. You must have the living One for your friend!
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God!" cried the psalmist, and cries every redeemed soul. It is only as we realize the truth of a living Christ—that our hearts are satisfied. We crave love—a bosom to lean upon, a hand to touch ours, a heart whose beatings we can feel, a personal friendship that will come into our life with its sympathy, its inspiration, its companionship, its shelter, its life, its comfort. All this, the living Christ is to us, if we but learn the blessed truth of his resurrection. "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" Revelation 1:18
"Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb" Mark 16:2
The women did not find the body of Jesus in the grave. Suppose they had found it there, still held in the power of death; suppose that Jesus had never risen; what would have been the consequences? It would have been as if the sun and moon and stars were all to be blotted from the sky, or as if they had all set one day and never risen again.
Paul tells us in his immortal chapter on the resurrection, what our loss would be, should it be found that Christ did not rise. "If Christ has not been raised, then is our preaching vain; your faith also is vain. ... You are yet in your sins!" Paul had preached of a Savior who died for men's sins—and then rose for their justification; but if Christ yet lay in the power of death, his sacrifice for sin had not availed.
If you were imprisoned in some great fortress, and one who loved you went forth to try to rescue you, and fell and died fighting upon the walls, you would cherish the memory of your friend's valiant effort on your behalf—but you would still remain undelivered. So would it have been with those whom Christ came to save, if he had perished in death and had not risen. He would have been defeated in his great effort, and those for whom he died would have remained without deliverance!
"But go, tell his disciples and Peter" Mark 16:7
The joyful news must not be kept—but must be carried to the other sorrowing friends of Jesus, and must be carried 'quickly'. There must not be a moment lost. The happy women must not sit down together in mere personal enjoyment of the blessed news; there were others in the darkness of sorrow—and to these they must hasten with the gladness. We must not forget in our joy of Christian faith, that there are others who have none of this joy; our mission is to carry the good news, and to rejoice as we go on our way.
"Tell his disciples and Peter." Why was Peter specially named? It was because he was the saddest of all, the one who most needed the comfort. He had sinned, and was weeping in penitence. This showed the tenderness of the heart of Christ toward all penitents. It must have given Peter unspeakable joy to get this message. Jesus then had not cast him off. He would now have an opportunity to weep on his Lord's bosom, confess his sin, and crave and obtain pardon.
"And Peter" has its gracious message for every penitent soul. Have you grieved Christ by sin, by denial, by any unfaithfulness, and are you weeping in sorrow over your sin? Those who have fallen are the very ones that lie most heavily on the heart of Jesus, just because they have fallen. "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:31-32
"Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight!" Luke 24:31
Anniversary days always bring back the memories of those who have died. Out of what home, has not some beloved face vanished? You are thinking of these departed ones. If they died in Christ—the gospel of these Easter days lifts the veil, and shows them to you away beyond death, unhurt by death, living still, the same gentle friends they were when you knew them here and clasped them in your arms.
I had a letter the other day from Rome, written by a dear friend who is journeying abroad in search of health. The letter was full of bright words which reminded me of my friend's beautiful life. There was the same old warmth, the same eager interest in things and people, the same kindly thoughtfulness. "Just like my friend!" I said, as I read the letter. Being in Rome has made no change in his gentle spirit.
It is just so with our friends in heaven. My father and mother are there. If I were to go to my 'long home' today, I know I would see them unchanged. Of course the marks of care are gone, or have become transfigured, and are now marks of beauty. They have not their earthly bodies—but then, those worn and weary bodies were not my real father and mother. Death ended nothing beautiful in them. I would see them living in new and richer life, engaged, as they used to be on earth, in loving ministries.
"Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, 'Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?' But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away!" Mark 16:2-4
This stone had worried the women, as they hurried toward the grave. They knew it was there, that it was too heavy for them with their frail hands to roll away, and they wondered how they could get it removed. But now, when they came in sight of the tomb—they looked up and saw that the stone was rolled away!
This incident illustrates many experiences in our common life. We worry about difficulties and obstacles which lie in our path—and seem to block our progress. But when we move on obediently, and come to the place of the supposed hindrance or obstacle—it is gone, or it was never there, except in our imagination! We all know that very many of our anxieties prove to be really groundless in the end.
Here, we ought to learn the lesson once for all—when God sends us anywhere, that He also makes it possible for us to go. Duty's paths always open for us, as we go on—not before we start—but as we obey and move forward. Yet we must not expect there will never be any difficulties to meet, or obstacles to surmount. God never has promised that! Too easy a path is often a bane in life—not a blessing! The difficulties and obstacles that remain, may be made stepping-stones by which we shall rise to nobler and higher Christian character!
"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go." Matthew 28:16
We should always keep the appointments Jesus makes with us. If we fail—we shall surely be the losers. Suppose some of our Lord's disciples had stayed away, for some cause, from this meeting in Galilee. Think what they would have missed! They might have said: "It is such a long distance;" or, "The mountain is steep, and I will have difficulty climbing it;" or, "I fear it will rain or be stormy;" or, "Perhaps Jesus will not be there; I cannot understand how he can be risen from the dead."
For any of these, or for other similar reasons, some might have been absent that wonderful day. But they would have missed a glorious sight of the risen Jesus, and would not have heard his words of commission and promise. To the end of their life, they would have regretted that they had not kept their Lord's appointment that day.
Christ makes many appointments for us. Sometimes we do not think them very important, and are easily hindered from keeping them. But we never can know what we lose by these neglects. Jesus always comes where he asks us to meet him, and gives blessings there to those who have been faithful in gathering to wait for him. We do not know what we may miss, any common Sunday—by staying away from the services appointed by Christ.
"I have the same hope in God as these men—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked!" Acts 24:15
A hope of resurrection to a believer in Christ—ought to be a wonderful inspiration in the earthly life. The grave is not the end; we shall come again from it in new beauty, and shall live on forever. Not only did Christ teach that the dead shall rise again—but he himself went down into the grave and then came out again, after three days, alive! Thus he showed the reality of resurrection; one man died and rose again, and may not all? But his resurrection meant more than that. He was the head of his people, and as such—his victory was for them. He met and conquered death for them.
Now death is a vanquished foe. Paul puts it very strongly, and says that Christ abolished death. Jesus himself put it no less strongly when he said, "I am the resurrection and the life . . . whoever lives and believes in me—shall never die!" There is no break, no interruption, in a Christian's life, in what we call dying. The spirit lives more really, fully, gloriously, a moment after death—than ever it lived before. Then the body which goes down into the grave, 'sleeps'—that is the Christian word—sleeps in Jesus, until the resurrection, when Christ will come and call it up; not the old earthly, worn-out, sin-corrupted, mortal flesh and blood—but a new, strong, glorious, incorruptible, immortal, spiritual body, to live with Christ forever!
"I do not practice what I want to do—but I do what I hate!" Romans 7:15
Think of the brokenness, the incompleteness, the littleness, of these lives of ours! We get glimpses of beauty in character, which we are not able to attain! We have longings which seem to us too great ever to come true. We dream of things we want to do; but when we try to work them out, our clumsy hands cannot put them into realizations! We have glimmerings of a love that is very rich and tender, without a trace of selfishness, without envy or jealousy, without resentment—a love that seeks not its own, is not provoked, and bears all things. We get the vision from the life of Christ Himself. We say, "I will learn that lesson of love; I will be like that!" But we fail.
We strive to be sweet-spirited, unselfish, thoughtful, kind—but we must wet our pillow with tears at the close of our marred days, because we cannot be what we strive to be! We have glimpses of a peace which is very beautiful. We strive after it strive with intense effort—but do not reach it!
So it is in all our living. Life is ever something too large for us. We attain only fragments of living. Yet take heart, "The desire of the righteous shall be granted!" Proverbs 10:24
"We know that when He appears—we shall be like Him!" 1 John 3:2
"Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain!" 1 Corinthians 15:58
Jesus walks no more among men, doing his deeds of love—but he sends his followers forth to do the works in his name. We ought to abound in all loving ministry just as he did. It is not enough to be good, gentle, sweet, amiable, kindly, patient. It is beautiful to live such a life; and its influence is far-reaching, like the fragrance of Mary's ointment. But we must also be full of good works. We must be winners of souls. We must live to do good to men, to comfort sorrow, to feed hunger, to relieve distress, to cheer the disheartened, to break chains and liberate sin's captives, to stand up for the truth, to do battle for the right. We are to be like Christ, and we begin to be like Christ—only when we begin to be useful.
It ought to be a wondrous inspiration to us, in our work for Christ—to read that our labor for God is not in vain. No word of truth spoken in this world is ever lost. On the rocks we find the impressions left ages since by leaves that fell on the soft clay and seemed to perish. So somewhere every word we speak for God, and every smallest deed we do for the love of Christ, leave their immortal record.
"Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter—It is the Lord!" John 21:7
One compares the character of John, in its mellow ripeness, to an ancient, extinct volcano. Where once the crater yawned—there is now a verdurous, cup-like hollow on the mountain summit. Where once the fierce fires burned—lies a still, clear pool of water, looking up like an eye to the beautiful heavens above, its banks covered with sweet flowers. "It is an apt parable," he says, "of the apostle John. Naturally and originally volcanic, capable of profoundest passion and daring—he is new-made by grace, until in his old age he stands out in calm grandeur of character, and depth and largeness of soul, with all the gentlenesses and graces of Christ adorning him a man; as I imagine him to myself, with a face so noble that kings might do him homage, and so sweet that little children would run to him for his blessing." This is a true and striking portrait of this disciple of love.
What was it that wrought this transformation in John, that changed the "son of thunder" into the apostle of Christly affectionateness? It was leaning upon the Master's bosom that did it. The lump of common clay lay upon the perfumed rose, and the sweetness of the rose entered into it. John lay on Jesus' bosom, on the bosom of the all-loving One, and the love of Jesus passed into John's soul and transformed it. That was the secret of John's sanctification.
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love Me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love You." John 21:16
We are striving to follow Christ—but we are weak. We intend to be loving—but we mar our days with unhappy tempers and selfish strivings. We intend to be strong in faith—but many times our trust fails us. We bow our heads to take the Master's blessing, "Peace be unto you;" but again and again—the peace is broken. We intend to show the world a pattern of Christlikeness, but the temptations about us are so sore, that every day we are conscious of having failed to be true. We set out in the morning brave and confident; but alas! how often does the evening find us defeated!
What shall we do? There stands the Master, patient, unwearied in His love, asking, "Do you truly love Me?" Dare we say, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love You." If He were but a man like ourselves, we could not; for our failures would seem to disprove our word, and He could not read the love in our secret heart, under all our inconsistency. But He knows all the truth about us. He knows we are sincere and loyal in heart, though so unworthy. He sees the love—amid the broken vows and the failures. Therefore, we can look up out of our deep humiliation, and say with inexpressible comfort, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love You!"
The third time He said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love Me?" Peter replied, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You!" John 21:17
You look into your life today and what do you see there? Failures, broken purposes, promises not kept, commandments violated, purity stained, everything sullied! Jesus comes and looks into your face, with that calm, holy, searching gaze of His, and says, "Do you love Me?" As you are about to answer, you think of all you have done that has been dishonorable and sinful. You are speechless before Him. Yet you are conscious that you do love Him; that in your heart, beneath all your sins, failures, and faults—there is love for Him. What a comfort it is to cast yourself on His knowledge of what is in you! Perhaps men sneer, and say that one who has stumbled as you have done—surely cannot love Christ. But Christ knows the love, even amid the sins and failures.
I am glad that perfection is not the test of discipleship. We may be full of faults. We go on stumbling every day. We do nothing beautifully. We misrepresent the Christ whose name we bear. We hurt the friends we want to help.
Christ knows all these sad failures. He looks at the stained scroll we fold up at the close of the day—with the blots on it. But while He sees the worst, He sees also the best; and He loves on loves unto the uttermost! "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You!"
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again!" John 11:23
There is wondrous music in these words, as they are spoken in the ears of sorrowing ones beside the coffin and by the new-made grave. It was a dim teaching in Martha's time—but soon afterward that occurred which made it bright and clear as day. Jesus himself lay in the grave, and then rose from death, walking forth in the light and radiancy of immortal youth.
Christ was the first fruits of resurrection; that is, his resurrection was a pledge as well as an example of the coming resurrection of all who believe on him.
We have a right to lay flowers on the coffins of our Christian dead. They will come forth in the beauty of new life. We open our New Testament and see Jesus, after he had risen, away beyond death. He has not been harmed by dying. No beam of the beauty of his life is quenched. The threads of the earthly life are not severed. He has not forgotten his friends—but takes up again the old companionships and friendships. So will it be with our beloved ones who sleep in Jesus. They will rise—and they will be the same people we have known here, only they will be cleansed of their earthliness, mortality and sinfulness. And they will not have forgotten us. Love never fails. We shall resume friendship's story on the other side!
"Take away the stone," Jesus said. John 11:39
We find in all our Lord's life, an economy of miracle. He never put forth supernatural power, unless it was necessary. Could not Jesus have taken away the stone himself? Certainly he could. The power that could call the dead to life, could easily have lifted back the piece of rock from the door of the tomb. But there is always something left for human hands to do.
God honors us by making us co-workers with himself, both in providence and grace. He feeds us—but ordinarily we must toil to earn and gather our own food. He saves people's souls; but he uses men to speak the message, and then to help in winning the lost. He makes his work dependent, too, upon our fidelity in doing our part. He still wants us to take away the stones that shut our friends in their prison.
This command also exercised the faith of the friends. If they had refused to do what he bade them do, the miracle could not have been wrought. "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" Had not the unbelief given away to faith, Lazarus would not have been raised. May it not be that many times, in our own days, and in the experiences of our own lives, great works of divine power which Christ stands ready to perform, are not wrought because we do not believe?
"As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." John 20:21
The Son of God came down and lived in human form on the earth—that men might see God in the flesh. He said, "He who has seen me, has seen the Father." All the love, the gentleness, the patience, the compassion, the purity, the truth, the righteousness, which people saw in the life of Jesus—was simply a revealing of God. That is what God is like.
Now the Christ sends us out to reveal God to men. We are to show to them in our character, disposition, spirit, and temper—the qualities of God. If anyone asks us to tell him what God is like, we ought to be able to say humbly and yet truthfully, "I am trying to be like God. He lives in me, and his qualities shine out in my life. Look at me—and you will see what God is like."
I know how dimly the beauty of God shines in us, even at the best; but we cannot get away from the truth that if we are indeed Christ's, he lives in us. Paul said more than once: "Be imitators of me—even as I am of Christ." We must be able to say the same.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
It is better that we should not know our future. If we did, we would often spoil God's plan for our life. If we could see into tomorrow, and know the troubles it will bring, we might be tempted to seek some way of avoiding them, while really they are God's way to new honor and blessing. God's thoughts for us—are always thoughts of love, good, promotion; but sometimes the path to the hilltop lies through dark valleys or up rough paths. Yet to miss the hard bit of road is to fail of gaining the lofty height. It is better, therefore, to walk with God, not knowing the path ourselves, than it would be to see the way and choose for ourselves. God's way for us—is always better than our own.
"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16
God leads often to good ends—through ways which to us seem dark. He can make crooked things, straight for us. Perhaps we shall find at the last, that many of the best things of our life, are things over which we grieve now as blunders. We do the best we can, and yet we fail, or seem to fail; but in God's eyes, the effort tells of love and of desire to please him, and thus wins from him warmer commendation than does many a piece of elaborate work, wrought in most intricate way.
God can use our poorest efforts ofttimes to greater purpose, than our finest and most polished endeavors, because they are less spoiled by human pride. Self-consciousness always mars human work. The things we do which satisfy us—are not likely to satisfy our Master. Many times the piece of work which we think very fine, which pleases us well, turns put to be of little use. God cannot use it because we have left no place in it for him. Then, ofttimes something which we think of no account—God uses to accomplish great results. The less of SELF there is in our service—the more is the service worth. There is room then in it for more of God, and it is the divine in what we do—that alone gives it efficiency and value.
"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it!" Isaiah 55:10-11
Everyone knows the effect of the rain, especially when it falls on a field that has been parched and withered. Its drops go down to the roots of the dying grass, the fading flowers, and the drooping trees—and soon new life appears everywhere. The grass is greener. The flowers revive and pour out fragrance. All vegetation is renewed. So it is when God's Word comes to a fainting, failing human life.
Sometimes rain comes in storms, with black clouds and fierce lightnings and thunders. People tremble and are afraid as they look on. But the storm passes, pouring out rich blessings of rain, which make all the fields rejoice. God sometimes sends his Word to us in dark, portentous forms—sickness, loss, disappointment, sorrow, trial. At first we are terrified; but in the end, when the storms have cleared away, we find that the dark clouds we so dreaded—were but God's messengers to bring to us rich blessings of grace.
"As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants." Matthew 13:4-7
From the heart trodden down by passing feet of pleasure, business, or care—the birds carry off the seeds the moment they are cast from the sower's hand.
On the heart with a thin, emotional stratum on its surface, the seed seems for a time to make a deep impression. The hearer weeps under the sermon. He is amazed at the coldness of ordinary Christians. But in a little time, it is all over. He has no depth of conviction, and the quick growths of his first faith, are soon withered in the heat of life's trials.
In the heart filled with the briers and thorns of earthly care, ambition, and pleasure, the seed has little chance to grow. All around the feeble stalks, grow the hardier briers and thorns, whose hungry roots and stems absorb the soil's nourishment, leaving the wheat robbed and starved. There is much of such Christian life as this. Its possibilities are withered, stunted, choked to death by worldliness or by care. No fruit comes to anything beautiful in such lives.
It is discouraging to think that so much of the good seed sown comes to naught, fails through unfavorable conditions. Yet we should never falter in our sowing, praying for God to watch over his own holy seed.
"Consider carefully how you listen." Luke 8:18
We hear a great deal about the "fearful responsibility" of those who preach and teach the Word of God. No doubt it is a solemn thing to speak for God to men. Those who are called to this duty, should be very faithful. But there is also a "fearful responsibility" attached to hearing the Word. One of our Lord's most earnest words was: "Consider carefully how you listen."
When the preacher's work is done in the right way, his responsibility ceases, and that of the hearer begins. He has heard the truth; what will he do with it? Will he believe it and accept it? Or will he reject it? He cannot be again—as if he had never heard it. It must be either a savor of life, or a savor of death, to him. Not only must he account for the opportunity of hearing—but he is also affected in his own spirit by the hearing. If he listens and yields to the influences of the truth, his heart grows softer; but if he rejects it, he is hardened by it.
No sermon or other message of truth, heard or read—leaves a man as it finds him. It makes some impression, that is determined by what the hearer does with it. We need to think a little of this side of the responsibility. We are hearing much that is good these passing days; it would be sad if nothing came of it all.
"Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side—and light to the other side." Exodus 14:20
God appears different to his friends and to his enemies. To his own people he is light, comfort, joy, protection, and gladness; but to those who reject him—he is darkness, dreadful terror, and stern judgment. The thought of God's presence, fills the Christian with confidence and peace, with the warmth of love; but the same thought makes the unreconciled sinner tremble! "I thought upon God, and was troubled."
The providence of God, too, has this same double aspect. The Christian sees God's love everywhere. He sees his Father's hand ordering all things with loving wisdom. When he cannot understand, he can trust and wait in confidence. But to the unreconciled man, the same providence is a dark mystery, full of dread and alarm. He has no sense of safety anywhere he may go. There is no assurance of protection, no consciousness of God's love, anywhere in the universe for him.
Death to the ungodly is a heavy cloud, charged with lightnings and thunders; but to the Christian it is a glorious blaze of divine love pouring brightness and peace all about his bed.
It will be the same on the day of judgment. To his own people, Christ on his throne will be all glorious, and his appearance will give unspeakable joy; but to the ungodly, his presence will be an appearance of the most appalling terror!
"Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Genesis 18:25
Some people worry about the fate of the heathen, and ask if God can is just and do so and so. A great deal better solution of such perplexities is Abraham's: "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Surely we can trust him with all such things, and leave them in his hands.
Others have perplexity concerning the apparent lack of justness in the allotments of earth. Some good people have nothing but trouble here in this world, and some wicked people have very much worldly blessings. We have the same truth on which to rest all such seeming inequities. God will surely do right. What we call trouble may have more real blessing in it—than what we call prosperity. Then, the end of life is not here. God has eternity in which to adjust the equities.
There are other people who think that their own lot is very hard. They complain about their trials and disappointments, and are discontented with what God does for them and gives them. They say God is good; yet they imply by their complaining, that he is not good. This word of Abraham's should rebuke all such complaints. Sooner might the heavens fall—than that in any smallest thing, God could do anything but what is absolutely right and just.
"Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. So the people crossed over." Joshua 3:15-16
God does not open paths for us—in advance of our coming. He does not promise to help—before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way—before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need—God's hand is stretched out to help us.
Many people forget this, and are forever worrying about difficulties which they foresee in the future. They expect that God is going to make the way plain and open before them, miles and miles ahead; whereas he has promised to do it only step by step as they move on.
There is a Scripture promise which reads: "When you go through deep waters and great trouble—I will be with you." You must get into the deep waters—before you can claim this promise. Many people dread death, and lament that they have not "dying grace." Of course they will not have dying grace—when they are in good health, in the midst of life's duties, with death far in advance. Why should they have it then? Grace for duty is what they need then—living grace; then dying grace—when they come to die. When their feet are dipped in the brim of Jordan, the torrent will sink away!
Joshua replied, "If the hill country of Ephraim is not large enough for you—then clear out land for yourselves in the forest where the Perizzites and Rephaites live." Joshua 17:15
It is the part of true wisdom—to live our life in its actual conditions, not calculating what we could do or could be—IF we had certain other circumstances; but rather accepting the conditions in which we must live, and making them serve us with opportunities for being noble and doing worthy things.
The learning of this bit of practical wisdom, will be worth more to many of us than any change of circumstances or conditions could be.
"One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was leaning on Jesus' bosom." John 13:23
I like the word leaning. John leaned his weight on Jesus, on his bosom, near his heart. We need to learn better our privilege of leaning, nestling, in the bosom of divine love. We think of giving a few of our burdens to Christ; but he wants to carry both us and all our load!
A gentleman was moving his library, and his boy was helping him. The child had gathered his arms full of books, and had gone off proudly with his load. Presently, however, the father heard a call for help. The little fellow had gotten half-way up the stairs when the load proved too heavy, and he sank down. The father heard the call, and, coming up the stairs, lifted and carried both the boy and his load.
That is like what Jesus will do for us. He takes our sins—and forgives them. He takes our wicked heart—and changes it. He takes our ruined life—and restores it. He takes all our mistakes and faults—and corrects them. He takes into his hands the ordering of our steps, the shaping of our circumstances, the ruling and overruling of the events of our days, our deliverance in temptation. We really have nothing whatever to do with our own life—but our simple duty day by day, hour by hour.
"Do this in remembrance of me." Luke 22:19
A young man came to me one morning, holding a letter in his hand. Opening it, he showed me some pressed flowers and leaves. "My sister gathered these from my mother's grave," he said, with a voice soft and tender. Then he told me about his mother, her beautiful life, her deeds of self-denial, her loving counsels, her prayers, lingering especially on her long illness, when she faded like a flower.
"It was ten years ago," he said, "ten years ago, this very day, that she died; but it seems as if it were only yesterday." The faded flowers and leaves from her grave, had brought back the memories in all their vividness.
Perhaps you have in your home, some memento of a departed friend. Every time you see it—it recalls your friend. This suggests why Jesus gave us the Last Supper. He would keep his love and death always fresh in our mind. "My people will forget me, and what I have suffered for them. The memory of my sacrifice will fade out as the years pass. I will give them this memorial, so that each time they take the bread and the cup, they may freshly remember me." So all these centuries, the Lord's Supper has kept the memory of the love and sacrifice of Christ fresh in the hearts of his people, and this memory has made all the world sweeter and gentler.
The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household—and go to the land I will show you." Genesis 12:1
All noble life begins with sacrifice. To gain the higher—the lower must be given up. We must leave our own country—before we can get into God's country. We can have the better—only by giving up the less valuable. God calls us all to leave the old—in order to enter the new. It may not be literally to leave country, kindred, and home—and go out into a strange land; but in a spiritual sense it always is just this. If we would follow Christ—we must cut loose from the world, and go out with him.
Perhaps there is too great a tendency in these days—to try to follow Christ without cutting loose from the world. Too many people imagine that they can take the pilgrimage to Canaan—without leaving Ur! But this is quite impossible. We can get to our land of promise—only by leaving all, and following where Christ leads. This means that we must give up this world as our portion, and take the heavenly inheritance instead; we cannot keep both. The rich man who came to Christ could not sacrifice his earthly possessions, and therefore could not get the heavenly riches.
"I will bless you; and you will be a blessing." Genesis 12:2
This God's offer and message to all of us. He wants to bless us, and then he wants us in turn to be a blessing to others. God's way is to send very many of his good things, through human mediators. When he would bless a little child, he puts a gift of wondrous love into a mother's heart. When he would bless a class of young people or children, he sends a teacher with a heart full of warm sympathy and earnest interest in life. When he would bless a community, he raises up a good man, and touches his heart, that he may scatter benefits among the people.
When God enriches us with gifts of whatever kind, he wants them to be blessings to others. Nothing that we have, is ours for ourselves alone; we receive—that we may dispense. When God gives a man money—he intends him to use it so as to make it a blessing to the world. When God bestows upon anyone the gift of song, of eloquence, of the artist's power—he desires these gifts to be used to make men better and happier. We should never live for ourselves. We should seek always to live—so as to make the world purer, truer, holier, sweeter.
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak." Genesis 32:24
We are all having our Jabboks continually. We are coming face to face with wrestlers in the darkness. We go away from our wrestling, too, many a time, carrying the marks of wounding; and yet in the experience, we have gotten blessing.
That touch on the hollow of Jacob's thigh—was the touch that withered the old boasted strength. You say Jacob was victorious. Yes; but when? Not while he wrestled—but after his thigh was out of joint and he could wrestle no more. He clasped his sinewy arms about the neck of his antagonist, and clung, saying, "I will not let you go—unless you bless me." That was the way he prevailed; not in the old way of cunning—but by having the old man crippled, defeated, and then by the new way of trust and clinging.
"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you—unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Matthew 18:35
If we have truly received divine forgiveness—we will be forgiving toward others. As one says, "If you get pardon from God, you will give it to a brother; if you withhold it from your brother, you thereby make it manifest that you have not gotten it from God."
So we are brought face to face with a most solemn practical teaching which we dare not ignore. Have we the forgiving spirit? Can we sincerely pray, "Forgive us our sins—as we forgive those who sin against us"? No doubt the lesson is hard, for it is so against nature; yet we all know by experience that the cherishing of resentment never brings peace to our hearts. People say, "Revenge is sweet;" but it is not true. It really makes bitterness for him who cherishes it. The gratification of a moment, becomes pain afterward.
"Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume?" Mark 14:4
There are some who think that every sacrifice for Christ's sake, is a waste. They think that money which is given to build churches, or to send missionaries to the heathen, is wasted. They think that lives are wasted which are devoted to Christ and sacrificed in his service. But is it so? Is it really the money that is spent in advancing Christ's kingdom, which is wasted? Are they the wasted lives, that are emptied out in love for Christ?
There is money that is wasted; but it is that which is used for selfish and sinful purposes, or squandered in the mere extravagances of worldliness. There are lives that are wasted; but they are those which are thrown away in evil courses, sacrificed in pleasure, in dissipation, in lust, in passion's fires.
Indeed, all lives are wasted—which are not lost for Christ's sake; for did he not say, "He who saves his life—shall lose it"? To withhold one's life from Christ—is therefore to waste it. It has been noted as very suggestive, that our Lord uses the self-same word for "wasted" when he describes Judas as a "son of perdition." Judas had wasted that which was more precious than the ointment of spikenard, even the gift of eternal life which once had been within his reach. What we give to Christ—is indeed all that we do not waste of our life and of our substance.
"Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
The Bible insists upon JOY as an element of Christian life. Christ spoke of his desire that the disciples should have his joy fulfilled in themselves. Paul exhorts Christians to rejoice always, and speaks of joy as one of the fruits of the Spirit.
Christian joy is not hilarity. One maybe sorrowful, and yet have the joy of the Lord in the heart. It is an inner joy—a fountain in the heart, supplied from heaven. Every Christian should have this joy. It belongs to the ideal of the complete Christian character. It is very evident, however, that there are many Christians who do not have it. Their spirits go up and down like the mercury in the thermometer, varying with the atmosphere. When things are pleasant—they have joy. When circumstances are hard or painful—they have no joy.
We ought to know how to get the joy of Christ. One secret is absolute devotion to the will of God. Another is serving others. Only as we learn to live the life of love, "Not to be ministered unto—but to minister" can we find true, deep joy. Every self-denial or sacrifice of love for another's sake, adds to the Christian's joy. We reach the ideal life—only as joy lives in our heart, and shines out in our life.
"See how the lilies of the field grow." Matthew 6:28
God looks up at us—from every sweet flower that blooms. The beauty that fills our earth—is a pledge to us of God's thought and love for us. We all know the familiar story of the great traveler who was saved from perishing on the desert where he had fallen, faint and famishing for water, by seeing a little speck of green moss peeping up out of the hot sand. This gleam of life assured him that God must be near, thus putting new hope into his heart, and giving him strength to rise and struggle on until he found water. Every plant or flower should remind us of God, and make us reverent.
"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God." Isaiah 40:1
Comfort is a very sweet word. It has music in it—for those who are in trouble. And most people have some trouble. This verse was spoken first to captives. There are a great many captives—people carried away from home into a strange land. Many people are in bondage of sorrow; it is hard to find a home without its grief. Many are in bondage of circumstances; life is too hard for them. There is a great deal of poverty in the world.
But here is God's gospel: "Comfort my people." Few words are more misunderstood, however, than the Bible word 'comfort'. Many people think it means mere condolence to sit down with sufferers and weep with them, pitying them—but doing nothing to lift them up. But God's comfort is no such weak, sentimental thing as this. He never merely sits down with us, in passive yielding to trouble. He comes to deliver us, to lead us out of our bondage, to make us victorious over trial or sorrow. There is always in Bible comfort, the thought of strength. No bondage is hopeless, under the skies of divine love. The stars shine into the deepest dungeon. There is not in any prison in this world, a captive to whom the gospel does not come with its "Speak comfortably."
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways. For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts!" Isaiah 55:8-9
It is well indeed, that God's ways differ from ours. For example, if God's forgiveness were like ours—it would do us little good. We hold our petty grudges and resentments; we remember men's smallest unkindnesses to us, allowing them to embitter our love, and stop the flow of our affections. We profess to forgive—but retain the grudge in our heart.
But God's ways of forgiving are not as our ways. He forgives the worst of sinners, the greatest of sins, and the largest number of transgressions. In the parable, it was God who forgave the ten thousand talents; and it was a man who would not forgive his fellow, a miserable pittance. The most wonderful thing in this universe, is God's forgiveness. We ought to be thankful for it; for if it were less—we could not be saved. Then, when we have received it, we ought to let its spirit work in our heart, to change us into its own image. We pray, "Forgive us—as we forgive others." If we mean this, we should look well to the kind of forgiveness we show to others.
"For I was hungry—and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty—and you gave Me nothing to drink;
I was a stranger—and you did not take Me in;
I was naked—and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not take care of Me." Matthew 25:42-43
The 'not doing' of things they ought to have done—here determines the doom of the unrighteous. They had not been cruel or unkind to any of Christ's little ones—no such charge is made. They had not wronged anyone. Only neglects are mentioned. They had seen "little ones" hungry, and had not fed them; thirsty, and had not given them drink; naked, and had not clothed them; sick, and had not visited them. They had merely "passed by on the other side" when they saw human need and misery which they might have relieved. Yet their omissions and neglects, count as actual sins.
Many of us are apt to neglect opportunities of helping others, and of relieving distress, never thinking that we are sinning against Christ; that is, are leaving him unhelped and unrelieved in distress, when we might have given him comfort. The result of the teaching should be to make us more thoughtful of others, and more alert to embrace every opportunity of ministry to others in Christ's name. It is because we do not think—that we fail so often in love's duty.
"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." Romans 14:13
Instead of keeping our eye ever on others, looking for faults and mistakes in them—we are to look to our own example, lest something we do may hurt others' lives, or cause them to do wrong. If everyone would do this, it would go far toward making a paradise of this world of thorns and briers. We easily get in the habit of overlooking our own faults, or imagining that we are well-near perfect, while in reality our life is full of inconsistencies. We poke at our neighbor's eye, to pull out some little mote we imagine we see in it, while at the same time we have a great beam in our own eye which sadly disfigures us, and is a reproach to us in the sight of others! "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3
The habit of judging and condemning others—is usually a great deal more serious blemish, than are the things we so glibly point out as flaws or faults. The first duty of every Christian is to make sure that he lays no stumbling-block in others' way. It is said that Rutherford Hayes did not carry a watch. When he was a young man his watch was twice stolen, and the thief each time was arrested and imprisoned. Mr. Hayes then resolved never to wear a watch, because twice his carrying one had made a temptation for another. We may call this excessive conscientiousness—but we can scarcely overdo in this duty.
"An inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:4-5
It is related of a saintly man, that by his own request his only epitaph was "Kept!" All Christians are kept by the power of God unto final salvation. Only those who overcome at last get home to glory. Only Christ can help us to be conquerors. And important as was his death for us, his real work in saving us is that which he does with us, one by one, in keeping us, guiding us, giving us grace for living, lifting us up when we have fallen, bringing us back when we have wandered away. Were it not for the patient, watchful, never-wearying love of Christ—not one of us would ever get home. We are kept!
This divine keeping comes to us in many ways. We believe in angel guardianship. Then there is human guardianship. The mother is her child's first keeper. The old rabbis used to say that God could not be everywhere present, and therefore he made mothers. All through life God gives human guardians who become helpers of our faith. Then we have ever the real divine presence in which we find perfect keeping. "The Lord is your keeper." Psalm 121:5
"I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey." Exodus 3:8
"Weeping may endure for a night—but joy comes in the morning." The night may grow very dark—but the morning will break. "We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God;" but notice the word "through." "The valley of the shadow of death" lies in the path; but we are to pass through it, and beyond comes, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!" After Egypt and its bondage—comes the "good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey." So it is always. After winter, with its death and desolation, comes spring with its flowers, fruits, harvests, and life. After earth with its sorrows, comes heaven, where joy shall be eternal!
"Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there." Judges 7:4
The way the men drank water from the brook, was the test of their fitness for the work of conquering the Midianites. It seemed to make the smallest difference in the world whether a soldier drank by bowing down with his face in the water, or by lapping up the water with his hand as he knelt; yet it was a difference that settled the question of fitness or unfitness for the great work before the army.
It is in just such little ways, and in such matters of everyday and commonplace action, conduct, and manner—that God is always testing us and deciding whether we are fit or unfit for the greater work for which he is seeking men. By the way a boy lives at home, by the way he treats his parents, by the way he performs his duties at school, by the spirit he shows on the play-ground, by the diligence which he displays in the store or office in which he is first employed—by the way he acts in all these relations and duties, the question is being settled to what greater responsibilities the Lord will call him in after-days. Every young girl, by the way she deports herself in her girlhood, at home, at school, at play, and in all the days of youth—is settling the place in life she shall fill in full womanhood and strength. We cannot know what future honor, may depend on the way we do the simplest, most commonplace thing today.
"Therefore the children of Israel cannot stand before their enemies." Joshua 7:12
This is the only record in the Book of Joshua, of a lost battle. The word "therefore" tells us that it was a sin that caused this defeat, a secret sin, and the sin, too, of but one individual. How little do we know of the real causes of the failures we see about us!
All of us have our Ais, too, our defeats in battle; and very often they come just after our Jericho, our victories. It was only a little town, too, at which this disaster occurred, so small that it was thought unnecessary to send more than a handful of soldiers to take it.
Is it not often just so in our spiritual warfare? One writes, "Our greatest failures often happen in the little things of life. We miscalculate the strength of the foe; we fail to spy out the reserved forces. Indeed, we mistake, when we think it an easy matter to subdue any enemy. How often has it happened that he who has won his most signal victory in some great crisis of the church, who has rescued the truth from the teachers of false doctrine, or stormed the entrenchments of vice—has forthwith failed in some petty domestic disturbance, in some social duty, or in a trifling claim of common charity? If there is a time in life when we need more than ever to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation, it is in the hour of success."
"The Lord has heard all your grumblings against Him!" Exodus 16:8
Does God really hear every discontented word which I ever speak?
Does He hear when I grumble about the weather . .
about the hard winter,
about the late spring,
about the dry summer,
about the wet harvest?
Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about the frosts,
about the drought,
about the high winds,
about the storms?
Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about my circumstances,
about the hardness of my lot,
about my losses and disappointments?
If we could get into our heart, and keep there continually, the consciousness that God hears every word we speak—would we murmur and complain so much as we now do?
We are careful never to speak words which would give pain to the hearts of those we love. Are we as careful not to say anything that will grieve our heavenly Father?
"I tell you this—that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak!" Matthew 12:36
"He who complains of the weather—complains of the God who ordains the weather!" William Law
"Every skilled woman spun with her hands—and brought what she had spun—blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen." Exodus 35:25
It didn't harm their hands a bit either! Some dainty women are like the lilies, "They do not labor or spin!" They keep their hands soft and white. They think any kind of work would mar the delicate beauty of their fingers. But they make a great mistake. The hands that are beautiful in heaven's sight—are not the dainty ones that are never roughened or hardened by toil. Anything is beautiful, just in the measure in which it fulfills the mission for which it was made. Hands were made to work; and an idle, useless hand, no matter how delicate and fair, is not a lovely hand!
These ancient women had learned to spin, and now they spun for God. Here we see how everyday talents and occupations, may be turned over into God's service. The young women of today do not spin much; many of them never saw a spinning-wheel; but they have other common talents and abilities which they may consecrate to Christ.
"Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: Whoever does not work—should not eat!" 2 Thessalonians 3:10
"All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: medallions, earrings, rings from their fingers, and necklaces. They presented gold objects of every kind to the LORD." Exodus 35:22
When the ancient Hebrews were preparing to make a tabernacle for God, they brought the richest and best things they had. They looked on their heirlooms and their most prized possessions, and brought the things which were dearest and most sacred, to God.
WE should follow the same rule when we are giving to God. When we make presents to those whom we love tenderly, we are at great pains to get the best and loveliest gifts we can find.
But do we always bring Christ the best?
Do we give Him the best of our heart's affections?
Do we bring Him the best of our life, our time, our energy?
Do we do our best work in His service?
Are our gifts for Him—the most precious things we possess?
These Israelites brought their gold jewelry of all kinds: medallions, earrings, rings from their fingers, and necklaces. They had nothing that was too good or too precious to be offered to God.
Is it thus with, us? Do we not sometimes bring to God—the very smallest gifts we can find? We keep the bright gold and the large bills for ourselves—and give Him the dimes and nickels!
Just so of our time, of our thoughts, our skills, our energies. We put Him off too often with what is left over—after we have served ourselves!
"Clothe Aaron with the holy garments, anoint him, and consecrate him, so that he can serve Me as a priest." Exodus 40:13
One feature of the high priest's dress was very suggestive. On each shoulder, in the golden clasp that fastened together the two parts of the ephod, was an onyx stone, on which were engraved the names of six of the tribes of Israel. Thus, in an emblematic way, the high priest bore the people on his shoulder, the place of strength. He was a type of Christ; who thus Christ carries His people on His shoulder—bearing them and their burdens.
Another feature of this dress, was the breastplate which was worn by the high priest. It had in it twelve precious stones, with the names of the twelve tribes engraved on them. This the priest wore over his heart. When he went in before God, he thus represented all the people. He not only carried them on his shoulder, for support and upholding—but near his heart, for affection.
Just so does Christ carries His people in His heart—in deep, tender, unchanging love. Thus we are sure of both the strength and the love of Christ, are engaged for His people!
"As dead flies give perfume a bad smell—so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor." Ecclesiastes 10:1
It is sad to see how some holy and noble characters are marred by little—yet grievous, faults and blemishes!
One man is generous—but he desires always to have his charity praised.
Another is disposed to be kind and helpful—but by his manner, he hurts or humiliates the one he befriends.
Another is unselfish and devout—but is careless of promises and engagements. He makes appointments, and never thinks of them again. He borrows money, and does not repay it. His friends say, "He is so forgetful!" Yes; but how his forgetfulness mars his character and hurts his influence! Forgetfulness is worse than an acceptable weakness; it is a sin!
Untruthfulness is a blot in all eyes.
Whenever SELF leaks out in conduct or disposition—it is a dead fly in the perfume!
It makes little difference, that a person is not intentionally at fault in the things which so mar his life. Carelessness and thoughtlessness are themselves such serious moral blemishes—that they make impossible, any excuse for delinquencies resulting from them. We need to look to "the littles" which either make or mar godly character. No fault is too small to be worth curing, and no fragment of beauty is too small to be worth setting in the mosaic of character.
"He heals the brokenhearted—and binds up their wounds!" Psalm 147:3
It is said that when one branch of a tree is bruised, the whole tree begins to pour of its life toward the wounded place, to restore it. It is in this manner, that Christ heals His people when bruised by sorrow. "Blessed are those who mourn—for they shall be comforted."
There are fields where once fierce battles raged, great armies contended, and blood flowed—but where now the birds sing sweet songs, in summer days flowers bloom, meadows are green with waving grass, and ripening harvests bend. So there are homes where once sorrow's dark clouds hung, tears flowed, and cries of grief were heard—but where now joyous songs ring out, and glad faces smile. God's comfort has healed the brokenhearted home.
There are many ways in which God restores sorrow's devastation. He sends new blessings instead of the old ones, which he took away, as new flowers come in place of those that fade. He hides a blessing, too, in the very heart of the sorrow itself!
Grief is like the cloud which comes with its dark portents, into the blue summer sky. It blots out the blue, and fills the air with terrors. The lightnings flash, the thunders roll; but out of the bosom of the blackness—pours the soft rain. So sorrow's cloud comes with dark, portentous aspect; but it empties blessings upon the life, thus carrying in itself—its own power of restoration.
Then the righteous will answer Him, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?" Matthew 25:37-39
True goodness is not conscious of itself. Moses did not know that his face shined. The noblest Christians put the lowest value on their own good works. No doubt many of the commendations and rewards of the righteous in the judgment, will be surprises to them. They keep no record of their own good deeds. Their own sense of personal unworthiness, hinders their seeing anything worthy in their humble services.
Besides, we do not see Christ in the lowly and the suffering ones who come before us needing our love and help; we see only poor, sick, unfortunate people, with no outshining of glory, no hints of nobility, no marks of heavenly beauty.
There is a picture which, seen in ordinary light—shows only a very poor man dying in a miserable, garret, with tokens of abject poverty on all sides; but seen in another light—it shows a throng of angels waiting to bear a child of God up to glory!
Just so, we do not see things as they are! Jesus Himself is ever before us in lowly disguise! We are unconsciously serving the Master Himself, whenever we do any humble service of love in His name. Every true Christian is preparing for himself many a blessed surprise of reward and glory—when he enters the fuller, richer life of heaven, where all the results of service, and all the fruits of kindness—shall be revealed!
Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" Matthew 25:34
"Whatever is born of the flesh—is flesh; and
whatever is born of the Spirit—is spirit." John 3:6
Like produces like. To be born of the Spirit—is to have a
new life imparted by the Spirit. This new life will be like that which
produces it. Everyone who is born of God—will have some features of God's
likeness. He will love the things that God loves, and hate the things that
God hates. In some measure, he will be like God . . .
If we would know what God is like—we have only to look at Jesus Christ, for He was the image of God; and if we are born again, we shall have the same features in our lives! They will be dim at first; but they will come out clearer and clearer each day, as we grow in grace.
We can tell whether or not we are born again—by looking closely at ourselves to see if we have the marks of the Spirit in our life. Do we hate sin? Do we love holiness? Do we love the Bible and prayer, and fellowship with the Lord's true people?
We have the same thought presented by Paul under the figure of the seal of the Holy Spirit. All Christians are sealed by the Spirit. The seal impresses its own features on the wax. So the Holy Spirit seals believers—by stamping His own image on their hearts. Those who have received the Spirit—will bear the marks of His beauty in their lives!
"The fruit of the Spirit, is love." Galatians 5:22
The sum of all practical religion is love. "Love is the fulfilling of the law." All Christian growth is to be toward the likeness of Christ, and all His character is summed up in LOVE. Whatever is unloving in us—is unlike Jesus; and we should seek to overcome the evil with good.
Perhaps the ordinary Christian conscience has not been sufficiently exacting on this line of character and duty. Scripture demands truthfulness, justice, honesty, purity; but it does not tolerate bad temper, resentment, unkindness or other phases of unamiableness, in those who profess to follow Jesus!
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." Revelation 1:10
We should all seek to be in the Spirit on the Lord's day. During the week we have our cares of business, and our hands are full of work that must be done. The world is apt to get into our heart during the week-days; and if there is no break in this secular life, we are apt to become secularized in spirit, losing interest in spiritual things. The trouble is not that we are in the world—but that the world too often gets into us. It is a proper enough thing for a ship to be in the sea; but when the sea gets into the ship—that is an end of sailing, and the ship sinks into the waters! Christ wants us to be in the world—but he does not want the world to get into us!
On the Lord's day, therefore, we should run our ship just as completely as possible out of the world's troubled waters into the peaceful bay of spiritual rest and enjoyment. We should think on spiritual things, and seek to have our heart thoroughly cleansed of worldliness and filled with God. One who thus faithfully uses the Lord's day each week—will be safe amid the world's unspiritual influences. A well-spent Sunday, will keep up the spiritual tone of the life amid the most intense pressure of week-day duty. But there is no other antidote to worldliness; and no Christian who desires to be faithful, dare lose the Sundays out of his week.
"I am not praying that You take them out of the world—but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world." John 17:15-16
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God!" James 4:4
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him!" 1 John 2:15
"Learn this parable from the fig tree." Mark 13:28
The parable of the fig-tree, teaches that we should not shut our eyes to the foreshadowings of future things. We are taught not to be anxious about tomorrow. But there is also a duty of looking ahead—as well as not looking ahead. The good sailor watches the skies, and he would be criminally foolish—were he to pay no heed to the foretokens of storm. The prudent farmer watches the forerunners of winter, and gathers in his fruits, houses his cattle, puts wood and coal in his bins, when he can do so easily—and is ready before the snows and the bitter cold come. So in all our life we should watch the "signs of the times," and shape our course accordingly.
Young people, as they feel the impulses of life in their souls, and hear the calls of God sounding in their ears, should be reminded of the duties and responsibilities of life, toward which they are moving, and should diligently prepare themselves for filling well their place. Each period of life brings its own special work; and there are always forecasts which, if heeded, will enable us to prepare ourselves for what God is preparing for us. If we are faithful, one day will prepare us for the next, and we shall never be found by any event, however sudden, unprepared to meet it.
Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, "Do you come in peace?" Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace!" 1 Samuel 16:4-5
God's messengers do not all wear gentle faces; ofttimes they come in a garb of sternness. Yet they come always with a blessing. Sickness is one of these dark-visaged prophets. We cannot welcome it. Yet if we ask this messenger, "Do you come in peace?" the answer is, "Yes, in peace." Sickness always brings messages of peace, of good—if only we have grace to receive them.
The same is true of all the hard trials of life. We would rather have easy times. Boys and young men who are poor, think ofttimes that they have scarcely a fair chance in life, when they see the sons of rich fathers reveling in luxury, with plenty of money. Yet really the stern prophet of poverty brings ofttimes a holier message and a richer, truer blessing—than the smiling-faced, silken-robed messenger brings to the youth in the fine mansion.
The best things in life, can be developed only by work and discipline. Hence, whatever compels a boy or a young man to toil, to deny himself, to make strenuous efforts—is a blessing to him. The 'prophet of necessity' therefore comes to him peaceably. We should never turn from our doors any prophets which God sends, however stern they may appear. They all come with a good message.
The LORD said to Samuel, "Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king." 1 Samuel 16:1
The Lord is never at loss for a man. When one fails—he has another ready. His plans and purposes go on—in spite of human failure, and through all seeming disaster.
Here was a boy, keeping the sheep in the fields, probably not dreaming of greatness, and yet God had him marked out to be king! The boys do hot know what God has in mind for them. They may be sure, however, that for every one of them—God has some plan. It may be a great place or a small one, as the world rates greatness or smallness; but every boy should feel that to be just what God made him to be—is the grandest, noblest, best thing possible for him. If God made him to be a carpenter, and by his own restless strivings he gets to be a member of Congress or Parliament, or President of the United States, his place is not half so high and great in the angels' sight—as if he had been the carpenter he was meant to be.
The greatest place anyone can attain—is the place God intended him to fill. How can we know what God wants us to do and to be? By doing his will, day by day, with quiet fidelity, wherever we find ourselves. God's will for each day—is God's plan for us for that day. Thus God will lead us continually to that which he has for us to do. Failure in the lowlier duties—will hinder our promotion to the higher.
"Since he had no sword, he ran over and pulled Goliath's sword from its sheath. David used it to kill the giant and cut off his head!" 1 Samuel 17:50-51
If he had not cut off the giant's head—the old Philistine champion would have gotten up by and by, and walked away; for he was only stunned, not killed, by the stone. David made sure work of his victory!
A great many of our attacks upon sin in our own hearts, and in the world—only stun, and do not kill the evil. We walk away, thinking we have done a fine thing. But shortly, we meet the 'old giant' again, stalking abroad as before! He soon recovers from our blow, and we have to fight the battle over; and perhaps we fight it again in the same half-hearted way—and thus on and on, to the end of life!
Most of us have had just such experience as this, with our own evil lusts and passions. We overcome them very often, and think each time that we are through with them—but soon again they are as active as ever.
We need to learn a lesson from David—and finish our victories by cutting off the head of every giant we strike down!
There is no other way of killing sins!
The life is in the head—and the head must be struck off—or the enemy will be facing us again in a day or two, with but a scar on his forehead!
The only way to get a real victory over vices—is to decapitate them! Bruises and wounds are not enough. There must be thorough work done, in the name of the Lord. Half-way measures will not avail.
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5
"Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord." 1 Samuel 15:33. Like Samuel, we must hew our Agags to pieces!
"Then David went to Jonathan and asked—What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?" 1 Samuel 20:1
A true friend is a refuge. We all have troubles at some time. For many years we may get along quietly, and without sore trial; but the day will come to all of us—when we shall be in sorrow or danger. It may be in such an experience as David's, when people shall misjudge us, or become our enemies without cause, and may seek to harm us. It may be sickness that comes upon us, or bereavement, or severe loss of some kind. Whatever the trouble may be, a true friend will prove a great comfort to us in the experience.
It is a blessed thing to have one friend that we are sure of, though all others fail us. We can go to him then as David went to Jonathan, telling him all our heart's burden. Young people should seek to have a friend older than themselves, to whom they can fly in trouble or in danger, and in whose faithful love they can find a sure and safe refuge. There is a wonderful strength in the confidence that one has such a friend.
"There is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24. Christ is the best, strongest, wisest, truest, most helpful friend anyone can have. His friendship is a refuge indeed. We can flee to him in any danger, and find him ready always to comfort, shelter, and bless. However many human friends we may have—we all need Christ.
Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, "Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly." 1 Samuel 19:4
One quality of true friendship, is the loyalty which speaks out for one's friend in his absence, when derogatory things are said of him. In few ways is human infirmity shown in worse light—than in the too common willingness to hear evil things even of one's friends. We must confess that there is something evil in a great deal of human nature—which delights in learning of faults, mistakes, or lapses in others. At least we must admit that there is a strong tendency in this direction.
But we ought to set the world the example of a friendship free from such malign weakness. We ought to refuse to believe evil of our friend, or even to listen to whispers or insinuations against him. Instead of being delighted at hearing injurious things about him, hints of wrong-doing in him, or of flaws in his character, such things should grieve us. The law of Christian love requires us to defend the character of our friend—as we would our own character. We are our brother's keeper.
Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do—I will do for you." 1 Samuel 20:4
Friendship is helpful. We never know what our friends do for us. They are advocates for us, speaking strong, earnest words for us to others. They defend us from false things which others may speak of us. Since I began to write this paragraph, I have had an opportunity to tell the truth about one of my friends to another who had heard certain charges against him, thus removing the false impression concerning my friend—at least from one man's mind. None of us know how much of our success, we owe to the loyal words of our friends.
Friends help us in our personal life. A pure-hearted friend is continually leaving touches of beauty on our character. We get from him good thoughts, wholesome influences, fresh inspirations, continual incitements. Longfellow tells us of a song breathed in the air which he found long, long afterward in the heart of a friend. So it is continually with the sweet songs, good words, and holy influences of friendship.
Friends are helpful also in the ministry of kindness which they render as two walk on together. A true friend is unselfish, thoughtful, ready always to render aid in every possible way. Especially should friendship show itself in time of trouble. "A friend is born for adversity."
The men said, "This is the day the LORD spoke of, when he said to you, 'I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.'" 1 Samuel 24:4
So far as we know, the Lord had not said this at all. The men put their own interpretation on the opportunity, and called it providential. We are all too apt to interpret providences in accordance with our own wishes. When we are desiring to be led in a certain manner, and there is one way we desire very much to take—we are quite sure to find providences that seem to favor our preference.
But opportunity does not always indicate duty. When the merchant by mistake gives back a dollar too much change, there is an opportunity to make a dollar; but who will say that we ought to accept it? When you find in trouble, one who has done you a wrong, there is an opportunity to have revenge. But does the opportunity justify retaliation? The duty in the former case is honesty, arid in the latter is the showing of love to an enemy.
In reading providences, we must remember that no opportunity to do anything in itself wrong—is ever to be regarded as a divine leading. It is a sin to take revenge, no matter how much our enemy deserves punishment, or how good a chance we have for punishing him. It is a sin to steal, even though an opportunity makes it very easy to do it. God leads us by his providence—but never into sin!
David said to Saul, "Why do you listen when men say?" 1 Samuel 24:9
There was someone who in the dark, was stabbing David's name. It is probable that Saul was made to believe that David was his bitter foe, and was plotting all manner of evil against him. There are people in every community who are slanderers. They go to this one and that one, and drop dark insinuations about some other person, whose shoe's latchet they are not worthy to unloose. They come to one of two friends, and let fall some hint only that the other is not faithful as a friend, perhaps relating something in a perverted way, so as to leave an impression of faithlessness. "A whisper separates chief friends." The ruin wrought by the slanderer in this world, cannot be computed, characters blackened, friendships broken up, jealousies aroused, homes destroyed, hearts broken. Slanderous words have measureless power for evil.
"The Lord forbid that I should do this thing!" 1 Samuel 24:6
"Would it not be human to resent it?" said one who had received an insult. "Yes," was the reply, "but it would be godlike to forgive it." David did the godlike thing. He had a chance to avenge himself. He had his cruel enemy in his power. One stroke, and Saul would never have troubled him any more. David's life would then have been safe. He would have become king at once. His men were urging it, and he himself was tempted to do it. Yet he overcame the temptation, and allowed Saul to pass out of his hand unharmed. He listened to the voice of God speaking in his own conscience, and restrained the impulse to avenge himself.
The first impulse of a child, when wronged or hurt by another, is to seek revenge. Sometimes older people encourage this evil spirit in children, by telling them to whip the chair or the rocking-horse by which they have chanced to be hurt. In older people, too, the desire for revenge is natural, and can be repressed only by the higher law of love which Christ teaches. The lesson is, that the punishment of sin must be left in God's hands. Our duty is to bear patiently the wrongs and injuries others may inflict upon us, not giving reviling for reviling, to repay unkindness with kindness, to overcome evil with good.
"I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD's anointed." 1 Samuel 24:10
David seemed now to have a short, quick way to the kingdom—but he would not dare to take it. Now the throne was Saul's—he was the Lord's anointed. David would not lift a finger to hurry God's providence, and to become king before God made him king. There often are things that God intends to give us—but which we must wait to receive in his way. Short-cuts in life's paths are always mistakes in the end. Jacob's mother knew that Jacob was to have the blessing of the firstborn—but if she had waited it would have come to him without being stained, as it was by her own and Jacob's deception.
Young men are ambitious, and their ambition may be right; but too often they are in such feverish haste to reach what they wish—that they take the shortcut of dishonesty to get the sooner to the coveted place. It never pays.
David could have been on the throne the next day—but he would have left stains of guilt on the steps as he ascended; it was better far for him to wander on in exile for a time longer, and then reach the throne by a clean path. It is pleasant to see young men get on in life; but we must always ask how they have gotten on, to know whether their elevation is really an honor. The only way to true success—is God's way. We must learn to wait for God.
"May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me—but my hand will not touch you." 1 Samuel 24:12
There are apt to be wrong views about bearing injuries. People ask, "Is there to be no justice in cases like David's? Must we quietly bear wrong? and must the person who does the wrong never receive any punishment?" Our sense of right is sometimes so outraged, that our soul cries out in remonstrance, when we are told that we never should resent nor resist—but turn the other cheek when one cheek has been smitten. The Bible teaching is, that it is not our part to punish those who wrong us. Our clumsy hands are not skillful enough to adjust such delicate matters.
We are not required to say that a certain person's treatment of us was right, when it was manifestly wrong—but we are to recognize the truth that the question of justice is God's matter, not ours; that our part is to be patient and meek, leaving in God's hands the whole adjustment of right and wrong.
Two Scripture passages help to make this plain: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." Romans 12:19. "When reviled, He did not revile in return; when suffering, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to the One who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:23.
"Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed." 2 Samuel 7:18
We can get before the Lord anywhere—by shutting our eyes to the world and looking up into our Father's face. Even in a crowd we can be really alone with God.
We can commune with him, too, in his works:
Sweet wayside flowers whisper to us tender thoughts of God.
The sea tells us of his power.
The deep blue sky has its suggestions of God's peace.
The mountains speak of his stability and unchangeableness.
But there are other ways of going in before God.
We open our Bible, and look into its pages with reverent heart and with open ear; and as we read the sacred words, God talks to us.
When we enter into our closet of prayer and shut the door—we are in a very real sense sitting before him. We bow in prayer; and we are lying at Christ's very feet, so close to him that we can reach the hem of his garment, and feel the touch of his hand upon our fevered hearts. How near we get to our Savior in such moments, and how his touch thrills us!
"I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are innocent—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family." 2 Samuel 24:17
It is human and very common to try to lay the blame on others—when we have sinned. Compare Saul's conduct when Samuel accused him of disobedience in sparing the king and the best spoil of the Amalekites: he charged the blame on the people. How much nobler is David's behavior in this case! The sin had not been his alone—but he sees only his own share in it. He sees the people suffering under a heavy stroke which he feels he ought to be bearing himself, and he cries to God to lift his hand from them—and let it fall upon him.
The lesson is for all of us. We should never try to shift the blame of our sins or mistakes upon others—but should take it upon ourselves. If penalties or sufferings come through our mis-doings we should bear them, and not allow them to fall upon innocent people while we escape.
Another thing to notice here is, that David's penitence deepened under the divine judgment. Some people grow rebellious when chastened; but the true way, when we have sinned and when punishment comes, is to creep closer to God, and to get down lower before him. This is the spirit that pleases God and receives blessing from his hand.
"The Lord ... who had appeared unto him twice." I Kings 11:9
Matthew Henry says: "God keeps account of the gracious visits he makes to us, whether we do or not. He knows how often he has appeared to us, and for us, and will remember it against us, if we turn from him." Every such gracious visit to us, adds to our responsibility for obedience and holy service.
When Solomon had seen the Lord in vision, he should have been forever a consecrated man. The eyes which had looked upon the Lord, should never have lusted after earth's pleasures. The hands which had fashioned a temple for God, should never have built chapels and altars for heathen deities. Solomon's sins were far greater, because of the special favors God had granted to him. Seeing Christ should set us apart forever for holy living.
"But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son." 1 Kings 11:12
In this Word of God, we have a double illustration of the way our lives cast shadows. A godly man transmits blessings to his children; and godless man robs his children of blessings that ought to be theirs. David's godly life kept from Solomon, the visitation of the full consequences of Solomon's sin.
There are many of us who are enjoying blessings, which have come through the faithfulness of our fathers. But there are many who, like Solomon, live so as to rob their children of the honors and privileges which they ought to transmit to them.
Solomon's son did not get the kingdom of all Israel. He received but a fragment of it, and it was his father's fault that the kingdom was divided. The man who by indolence or extravagance wastes the fortune which God has given him, and transmits poverty or beggary to his children, is guilty of a like sin. Still more guilty is he who by wrong or shameful living, brings dishonor upon his own name, and thus bequeaths a heritage of dishonor to his descendants. It is not merely our own life which is affected by our conduct; we are so tied up in bundles that others are made or unmade, by our making or unmaking of ourselves. We are under the most sacred obligations to live worthily, so that we hurt not—but bless those coming after us.
"I will sing a new song unto you, O God!" Psalm 144:9
Ruskin says, "Many mighty harmonies have been discoursed by instruments that had been dumb or discordant." This is very true, and is most encouraging to those who are conscious of the imperfection of their own lives. One says, "I never can live a truly sweet or beautiful life, for sin has so marred my soul and jangled all its chords." True—but God can take the instrument with the broken keys and the discordant strings—and put it in perfect repair. "He restores my soul;" and under his touch and his breath—it may give out music that will thrill men's hearts, and delight the angels and God himself.
Some of the worst tempered people may be made gentle and loving in speech, act, and disposition, by the transforming power of divine grace. The selfish nature may be tuned into sweetest unselfishness and charity. So with all jangled life-keys. God can put them in tune—if we will but leave them in his skillful hands. The possibilities of beautiful living, in even the most marred and imperfect souls—are almost infinite. None need ever despair, who will accept the divine grace, and profit by the divine teaching and discipline.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul." Psalm 19:7
The works of God declare his glory—but not his will. We could never learn—by studying the stars, the flowers, or the rocks—how we ought to live, what is right, and what is wrong. We could never learn what God himself is, what his attributes are, how he feels toward us. We may learn from his works—that he is great, wise, unchanging, good; but we could not learn that he loves us with a tender, personal affection. We could never find a gospel of salvation for lost sinners—in the works of God.
How thankful we should be for his Word, which tells us all these things! It teaches us how to live. It is a perfect law; not perfect only in that it is without flaw or mistake—but also in that it is complete as a revelation, containing all we need to know to be saved and to reach the full stature of godly men. We may turn to the law of the Lord with every question of duty, and we shall always find the right answer.
"The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart." Psalm 19:8
Many people think that a godly life—must be a sad and gloomy life. They suppose that Christians have no joy. They have to deny themselves many pleasures. They have to live strictly and soberly. They have to follow the Scriptures. Life must be dreary and joyless to Christians.
So the people talk, who boast of being free from the restraints of the Bible. But, as a matter of fact, the happiest people in this world are those who are keeping God's commandments. Who ever heard of sin "rejoicing the heart"? Disobedience never made anyone happy—but obedience always gives peace.
There are fresh-water springs in the sea, which continually pour out sweet water beneath all the brackish tides. So in the obedient heart, under all self-denials, there is a spring of joy ever flowing. It is the peace of God which nothing can disturb, a holy fountain whose flow nothing can ever check.
"Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done."
"I am poor and needy—yet the Lord thinks upon me." Psalm 40:5, 17
Does the great, glorious, eternal God ever think of us—of us sinful, unworthy beings? We admit that he may think of our earth, for that is something large enough to be worthy of divine thought. He may give thought, too, to some distinguished man, who rises above the masses, as Mont Blanc towers above the common hills of earth. But here am I, a little child, living in a lowly street in a great city with its teeming millions; surely he never thinks of me. Of course my mother thinks of me, because she is my mother, and she has only me; but God has millions more children; it cannot be that he ever gives any particular thought to me, one of the least of these.
The Bible says that he does! Think of a parent's thoughts of his child, a father's, a mother's thought. Just so, does God love, watch, think, plan, and care for each one of his children.
Then, his thoughts are both loving and wise. He says, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of evil." There is not a moment when we are not in God's thought. He has plans for each life, taking in its smallest events as well as its greatest. How secure it should make Christians feel at all times—to know that God is thinking of us, caring for us!
"Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts." Psalm 51:6
No doubt being is better than doing; that is, if it were possible to separate the two. The worth of a deed, depends largely upon who does it. The force of a word, depends upon the character and standing of the speaker. We must be good, before we can do good.
Yet to be good is not a sufficient aim in life; there must also be the desire to do good. We are never to live for ourselves alone, even in the seeking of good. We are to desire to be blessed—that we may be a blessing to others. Everything of good we receive from God, should make us able to do more good. It is a new trust from God which we are to hold for him. If our heart is right, then our work, little or much—will have a blessing in it for the world.
"This is how Aaron is to enter the sanctuary area: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering." Leviticus 16:3
The high priest must make an offering for himself—before he could present the sacrifice for the people. The lesson is for all who would intercede with God for sinners, or engage in any way in the Lord's work. They must strive that their own life may be unspotted and their own sins put away—before they go to God for others.
A painter noticed some little blotches on the wall he had painted in delicate tints. Taking a wet cloth he sought to remove the spots; but he only made them worse, for the cloth in his hand was soiled and unclean. So it is when one with spotted hands seeks to remove the faults and blemishes of other lives.
A little child reached out his hand to his mother to receive a present she was about to give him; but his hands were soiled, and his mother said she could not give him what she had for him until they were washed clean. We cannot cleanse the lives of others, nor minister in their behalf, nor can we receive gifts and blessings from God for ourselves or others—if our own hands are foul. We must seek forgiveness first for ourselves.
"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come." Ecclesiastes 12:1
It is easier to begin a Christian life in youth, than at any other time. It is easy to train the heart's affections around the cross—before they have learned to cling to earth's sordid things. It is easy to teach young fingers to play on the piano or organ—but it is next to impossible to train the stiff fingers of old age to do it. So it is easy for the young to learn to strike the harps of heaven. It is easier to keep the heart pure and tender, than to get back its purity and tenderness when once they have been lost.
"Strengthening the hearts of the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith, and by telling them, 'It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.'" Acts 14:22
The best things of life—come out of wounding. Wheat is crushed—before it becomes bread. Incense must be cast upon the fire—before its odors are set free. The ground must be broken with the sharp plough—before it is ready to receive the seed. It is the broken heart, which pleases God. The sweetest joys in life—are the fruits of sorrow. Human nature seems to need suffering, to fit it for being a blessing to the world.
"The man who does the will of God lives forever." 1 John 2:17
God's will is always the best; it is always divine love. A stricken wife, standing beside the coffin of her husband, said to a friend: "There lies my husband, my only earthly support, my most faithful human friend, one who has never once failed me; but I must not forget that there lies also the will of God, and that that will is perfect love." By faith she saw good and the blessing, in what appeared to her, to be the wreck of all her happiness. But truly the good and the blessing are in every dark providence which comes into the life of God's child. Our Father never means us harm in anything he does or permits. His word is, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you . . . thoughts of peace."
"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." James 1:19
We miss a great deal—by not being good listeners. The world is full of sweet music, bird songs, the chirping of insects, the sweet murmur of all nature, the breathing of the wind through the trees, the rippling of the waters; and yet some people never hear one melodious sound as they go through the fields and forests. God is ever speaking in our ears, in conscience, in his Word, in the gentle voice of his Spirit; but many of us miss all this wonderful divine speech. We ought to train ourselves to listen, to hear, to be "quick to listen." We learn by hearing. Truth comes to us from all sides. There is nothing so lowly, that it may not have some message for us.
Unless we go about ever listening—we may miss many a rich lesson, turning away unaware, many an angel who comes from God with a message for us.
"Unto you who believe—He is precious!" 1 Peter 2:7
The close friends of Christ have found no other influence in their life, so strong as his precious friendship, in forming and transforming their lives. Continually before them in all its purity and spotlessness, in all its strength and heroism, in all its gentleness and beauty—that fair life has shone, a pattern in the mount, let down from heaven, brought close to them, and winning them by its loveliness. The vision has hung before them continually, and has lifted them up. No one who has had Christ for a friend, in any true, real, vital sense—has failed to be blessed by him, in the way of growth into nobler, richer life.
Gentle, sympathetic, strong human friendships can do much for us. You can tell me how in your life, in some time of grief, certain friends came to you, and how by their sweet sympathy, their quiet peace, their strong comfort, they helped you through some valley of trouble. But tell me, rather, what Christ did for you, in your hours of sorrow. When the shadows hung over your home, when your heart was bowed in grief, when a life dearer to you than your own hung trembling in the balance, when at last death came and your heart was broken—what was Christ to you then? Was he not precious to you in those dark experiences? We find the best things of Christ's grace and love—only in life's experiences of trial.
"Do you see a man diligent in his work? He will stand in the presence of kings." Proverbs 22:29
Men like to rise in the world; but there are different kinds of elevation. One is that which money gives. Then, there is elevation which comes through social recognition. But true elevation is of character and worth. It can be obtained only by being diligent. We are not to wait idly for promotion—but are to be busy at our lowlier duty until the larger is ready for us. Because Moses could not be an emancipator at once, he did not spend his time in idleness—but was faithful as a shepherd; and when God wanted him, he found him at his work. Jesus found Peter, James, and John fishing. The way to make sure of being needed for a greater work—is to do well your plainer work. Diligence makes men ready to go up higher. Do well today's work, however lowly; perhaps tomorrow God will have something larger for you.
"He summoned the priests and Levites and gave them these instructions: Go at once to all the towns of Judah and collect the required annual offerings, so that we can repair the Temple of your God. Do not delay!" But the Levites did not act right away." 2 Chronicles 24:5
The Levites seem to have been indifferent and negligent. No reason is given for their lack of energy—but we see its consequence. The house of the Lord remained year after year in its condition of decay, a standing dishonor to the name of God, and a reproach to those who had been commanded to repair it.
This is quite an old story; but we may take for ourselves a lesson on the sin of indolence in doing God's work. Whatever we are bidden to do—we should do at once. Promptness is half of obedience. Procrastination is a sad sin. It takes out of life much of its power for good. It grows into a fearful habit, if it is encouraged. A boy who is slow and loitering, will always be behind time, and when he becomes a man will accomplish but little. Many men, even good men, fail to do all that they might do with their life—if only they were always prompt. They lose time, not by being idle—but by loitering, by failing to work intensely.
"Then He said to Moses—Come up to the Lord." Exodus 24:1
God is always far above us. We can get nearer to him only by rising out of sin and earthliness, into holier, purer life. It was not easy to climb up the steep side of Sinai; it is not easy to rise nearer to God. It costs pain and struggle. We must make stepping-stones of our dead selves—if we would ascend in life and character. We must climb upward step by step.
Jacob saw life visioned before him as a ladder. That is the true vision in every case, not a level path, through grassy meadows—but rocky steps up a mountain-side. We sing:
"Nearer, my God! to you, Nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross, That raises me!"
A child lay dying, and said plaintively, "Lift me higher! Lift me higher!" The father took the little one in his arms, and lifted her up high as he could raise her, as she continued to plead, with failing strength, "Lift me higher!" Soon she was gone, lifted out of her earthly father's trembling arms, into the bosom of her heavenly Father. On the child's grave they cut her name and the words: "Lifted higher!" God wants us all to come up to him, to get closer to him, to be lifted higher into life's better things.
"As a man thinks in his heart—so is he." Proverbs 23:7
Our thoughts make us. They are the silent builders on the 'temple of character' which we are constructing. They give color and form to the whole building. If we think purely and truly, we are rearing up a holy fabric. If our thoughts are evil, the fabric that is rising within us is blemished.
The inner and the outer life will always correspond in the end. A bad heart—will work through to the surface. If a man's life is righteous, you know his thoughts are holy. Unholy thoughts will never yield righteousness in conduct.
Thoughts seem mere nothings; flecks of cloud flying through the air; flocks of birds flitting by, and gone. But they are the most real things about our life. All things we do—are thoughts first. Our thoughts fly out like birds, and take their place in the world. Then our heart is still their home-nest, where they will return at last to dwell.
"A good man obtains favor from the LORD, but the LORD condemns a crafty man." Proverbs 12:2
It is certainly worth while to have the Lord's favor. If we know that he is smiling upon us, we need not much mind what the world thinks. Christ's commendation sweetens even the bitterest of unjust blame. It was very comforting for Mary when the disciples were finding fault, to have Jesus say, "She has wrought a good work." This approval healed the hurt the disciples' unfit words had caused.
A good man obtains God's favor. A good man is one who loves God and does his will. The Scripture does not say a great man, a rich man, a strong man, a man of rank. If any of these were the qualification required, there would be very many people who never could obtain the divine favor; for not many of us are either great, rich, strong, or noble. The qualification is a "good" man. Goodness is within the reach of all of us. If only we are good, it matters little what our condition in other regards may be.
The other side of this proverb is also instructive: "but the LORD condemns a crafty man." Again, it is not poverty, nor ignorance, nor commonplace condition, which misses the Lord's favor—but a bad heart, one full of deceit, scheming, and evil designs against others. If we would have God's favor—we must keep a sincere and pure heart.
"The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. "My head! My head!" he said to his father. His father told a servant, "Carry him to his mother." After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died." 2 Kings 4:18-20
The child went out with glee from the home door into the harvest-field, where his father and the reapers were busy. The sun was hot, and it was not long until the little one was crying in great pain. The father was too busy to give much thought to his sick child. The mother was the person to do that, and he sent the boy home by a servant. The mother was not too busy to attend to her child—mothers never are. With maternal tenderness she took her stricken boy on her knees, doing all in her power to restore him. But when noon came—he was dead in her arms!
What a change a few hours made in that home! We are never sure when we leave the breakfast table and scatter to our several tasks, that our merry laughter shall not be turned to grief before nightfall. This consciousness should make our home fellowship very affectionate, since any hour we spend together, may be the last. The scene in this old Shunammite home, is one which has been repeated in so many households, that, as we linger on it, it touches all hearts, and makes this ancient mother kin to thousands of other mothers. No matter that she lived twenty-seven hundred years ago. To us she is a mother with her dead child in her arms, and our hearts are touched by her grief down through all these centuries!
"O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way." 1 Kings 8:23
Prayer is not all request and supplication. We ought not to speak to God merely and only—when we want some favor from his hand. Much of all true prayer is adoration and praise. A loving child-heart always seeks to express its love and confidence.
"There is no God like you." The heathen have their idols—but our God is not like them. They see not, hear not, love not, care not for those who worship them. Our God loves and keeps covenant. What he promises he performs. His Word never fails, is never broken. What a strong confidence it gives us—to be sure that the God in whom we trust always keeps his Word! Not a promise of his ever has been broken.
There is something else here which we must not overlook. We should never cut Bible sentences in two in the middle, for if we do we shall get only half truths. God keeps covenant; but to every covenant there are two sides, and we have something to do to secure what he has promised. He keeps covenant with those who "continue wholeheartedly in your way." That is our part, and it should be our continual care to be faithful to God in all our ways. There is no danger that he will fail us; let us take heed that we do not fail in our part.
"Listen as wisdom calls out! Hear as understanding raises her voice! My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse." Proverbs 8:1, 7-8
In this world's counsels—there is a great deal of guessing and speculating. Friends advise us, and intend to speak only what is true; yet by reason of the limitation of their knowledge, they may often give wrong counsel. Bad advice, though well meant and honestly given, has wrecked many a life. But here is counsel that is always absolutely true. The words that this divine Wisdom speaks to us—are always infallibly right words. Here is a Guide, in whose leading we may put implicit confidence. Here is a Counselor, whose counsel is always safe, because always right and true.
Those who abandon themselves utterly to the Word of God, follow its counsels and obey its every precept, are sure of blessedness in two worlds. It never has been heard that the Bible took any person on a course which ended in disaster, or in any loss or dishonor. It always leads in right paths; and these right paths are safe throughout, and have their unvarying destination in the highest good and blessedness of those who pass over them.