Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

partakers of a new life that that life may prompt us to and tlcvelope itself in all holy activities. We are enlisted in the Lord's army that we may fight the Lord's battles. We are made members of the Lord's household that we may do the Lord's work. We are ransomed by His blood and made partakers of His grace that we may serve Him with all our powers. And proportioned to our diligence and activity in His service is the amount of joy which His service yields. Thus, even as regards God's free gift, there is an intimate connection between our happiness and our wrork.

Perhaps nothing so clearly shows how much our enjoyment is identified with our efforts as the fact that the reward of working is an increase of work. How significant are those words of our Lord, "Every branch in me that bringeth forth fruit, he purgeth that it may bring forth more fruit." The reward of work is not cessation from work, but an increased capacity for working. God expresses His approval of what we have done not by bidding us cease to do, but by giving us the power and opportunity of doing greater things still. And with good reason; for there is nothing better which He can bestow upon His chosen, nothing more to be desired than the enjoyment which flows from activity in His service. We sometimes say, "Work is worship." Whether it be so on earth or not, it is so in heaven. Work is worship there, and blessedness too; for the redeemed that are before the throne serve God day and night in His temple. Their highest honour—to be employed by Him; their greatest enjoyment—the pleasure which flows from the harmonious exercise of all their powers in the fulfilment of His righteous will.

Ootid works are valuable because of their durability. They abide with us for ever. The time comes when of all we have inherited or acquired, or even wrought, nothing will remain to our advantage, but the goodness which has been produced, not indeed by our own strength, but certainly through our own instru

mentality, in ourselves or others. A man's riches then will consist not in the worldly advantages which were bequeathed to him, nor in the worldly success with which fortune has favoured him, nor in the worldly fame which he has won, but solely in the good works which he has done. It is possible for some men, by skilfully planning and laboriously toiling, and carefully saving and hoarding, to become immensely rich. Like the fool in the gospel, they may add house to house, and field to field, and barn to barn, saying, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine case, eat, drink, and be merry." But what will such possessions be worth when God shall say, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee '".' Bank-notes have no current value in tho invisible world. The cheque has not yet been signed which shall be honoured there, Even sterling gold is treated as worthless dross; and boundless worldly wealth can purchase no portion in the inheritance of the just. Others, directing their attention to art, may acquire for themselves an enviable renown. They may chisel the rough stone into forms of beauty and grandeur, and cause the canvas to glow not only with blended colours, but with forms and features expressive of lofty thought and emotion; so that men shall be held spell-bound before their magnificent productions, and the voice of fame shall extol their genius, and hand their names down to successive generations. But if their works awaken no holy feeling in the beholder, and incite to the performance of no holy deed, what of all they have done will remain to them when

"The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
And all that it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like the baseless fabric of a vision,
Leave not a rack behind V"

Others, devoting themselves to literature, may produce a treatise or a poem, evolving principles which will regulate the polities or the commerce of nations, striking out great thoughts which shall flash like electric fire through other minds. But even these, if they contain nothing morally good, will yield them no profit throughout future ages. The time comes when the ears shall be deaf to the voice of fame, and the soul shall have no taste for worldly renown, when of all the riches which a man has gathered he will have nothing which he can call his own. Yea, a time comes when all earthly things—books and parchments, titledeeds, bank-notes, all material wealth, all works of art, however magnificent, all that man values, all that he cleaves to, all that he covets or admires, however valuable, shall perish in one general conflagration. Not so the good works that we have done. Death can neither destroy nor snatch them away. Even the commotions and convulsions of the day of doom cannot destroy them. In the fires of that day not one atom of virtue shall perish. True goodness is indestructible. There is no force in the universe which hath power to destroy it. God values it more than all material things, and will care for it more. These are nothing to Him who has heaven for His throne, and the earth for his footstool; that is His own image. He beholds in it the reflection of Himself. His complacent regard rests on it. And when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the earth and all that is therein shall be burned up, He will extend His protection to all in whom it is found, claiming them as His jewels, and sparing them as a man spareth his own son who serveth him.

Concerning the holy dead, it is written that " their works do follow them." The}- are never done with them. They follow them for ever. In their memory they follow them, yielding them as much, or more, delight in the retrospect than in the performance; the vivid recollection even of struggles once painful, proving a source of holiest joy. The rude stone, little noticed by the mountain traveller as he trudges on amid rain and storm, appears, when in the sunshine, he looks back upon 'it, to be suddenly transformed.

Every drop of rain that trickles down its sides sparkles like a diamond in the sun; and the rough grey stone appears to be a monument of flashing glory. And that stone which the good man erects in his pilgrimage as the memorial of some painful struggle, bedewing it with the tears with which he performed his difficult and sorrowful task — difficult and sorrowful because of the sacrifice of feeling with which it required to be done—that memorial stone will appear all glorious when seen in the light of a better world. The tears which bedewed it, sparkling like gems, clothe it with rainbow brightness. It stands as a monument to his honour, on which he reads with unspeakable delight, "Here I fought and conquered. Here I wrestled and overcame. Here I engaged in conflict with the powers of evil, and toiled to advance my Master's cause. Here I sowed in tears the harvest I now reap in joy." Thus in their memory their works do follow them. They follow them in their influence*. Sometimes our efforts are attended with few or no tangible results. In so far as others are concerned we toil almost or altogether in vain. And those who look only at such results are apt to conclude that their labours are fruitless. Let such, however, be assured that on the worker at least holy effort exerts an influence which can never be lost. That racer, toil as he may, may not secure the coveted prize. A more able competitor may bear it away, But you cannot on that account deprive him of the benefit of the race and the previous training. You cannot rob him of the broader chest and compact muscle, and more elastic step, and increase of capability and health. And so, though our efforts may not have been so successful as we could have desired in promoting the welfare of our fellow men; though looking at the few they have influenced some may be disposed to pronounce them failures; they are not lost if they have made — as they could not fail to make us—better men. If I have become more godlike through the godlike endeavours, if my mastery over myself has been increased by self-sacrifice, if my heart has been enlarged by the cultivation of generous feeling, if my prayer has strengthened the devotional element of my nature and brought me into more harmonious fellowship with God, these things will abide with me yonder; and, apart from any reward that may be conferred upon them, will constitute to some extent at least the blessedness of my immortal life. They follow them in their rr.iiilts. Not only does every good work exert on the man who performs it a salutary influence, the Scriptures teach that in addition to, and apart from, that influence every such work receives a Divine reward. This is true even of those works which have not been successful in influencing others for good; for God looks to the motive rather than to the result, and will reward with some token of His approval the act which has made us holier and better, whether it has had the same effect on others or not. But especially is it true of those works which have issued in the salvation of others. We have spoken hypo thetieally of such works as failing in their immediate object. Not that we think they can altogether fail. Faithful labour for others' good, will, we believe, be rendered, through the Divine blessing, more or less successful; and whenever it succeeds a joy follows which only the successful labourer knows. Others receive a reward, but no one else attains to the fulness of his j&y or the brightness of his crown who succeeds in saving souls from death.

The same law operates in this as in lower things. The man who does his utmost to save a fellow creature from drowning or to rescue him from a burning house, is rewarded "i some measure, though he does let succeed. He enjoys the satisfaction of knowing that he has done 'us duty, and the moral elevation which is the result of his heroic Wtempt. But he has not the peculiar joy which success yields—the joy of

looking on the fellow mortal whom he has rescued, and beholding his gratitude and joy, with the supremely blissful consciousness—I have been instrumental in saving his lite; but for me he would have been burned to death, or have found a watery grave. We can very well conceive that such a thought would yield a man a joy so long as life or consciousness lasted; a joy for the lack of which nothing else would compensate.

And inasmuch as the soul's welfare is more precious than the bodily life—inasmuch as the jeopardy is greater, and the consequences of deliverance still more important—a still higher joy attends the consciousness—I have been instrumental in saving that soul from death; but for me he would have been dishonouring God, and enduring the agonies of hell. Blissful surely must that thought be above every other. Nor can any one realize the blessedness it yields save he who has been honoured with such success.

Let the reader cast his thoughts upward for a moment to the final blessedness of the glorified, and try to imagine what must be the feelings of the man who knows that through his instrumentality they are where and what they are. Suppose that their entrance to heaven has preceded his own. Then what a joy must it be to receive their greetings as he enters—to be told that while all they enjoy is the gift of God's grace, and the fruit of the Saviour's mediation, they owe it instrumcntally to him; that he first made them acepjainted with the Saviour's love, and led them to the fountain where they have washed their robes and made them white; and taught them, to sing that new song which now they shall sing for evermore. And what a joy to be led by them to the foot of the throne, where, amid their glad acclamations, the Saviour's lips shall pronounce his eulogy, and the Saviour's hand place on his brow the brighter crown of those who turn many to righteousness, and shine as stars in the kingdom of heaven for ever! Or, supposing

him to have entered first; what joy, what rapture, will it be to witness their entrance, or to be told when he meets them how much they are his debtors, how much, under grace, they owe to his labours and his prayers; and when, taking no credit to himself, he presents them to the Saviour as the fruit of his life's labours; and, realizing all the blessedness of what he has done, he ascribes to Christ all the glory, bowing with them before the throne and saying, "Here am I, and the children whom thou hast given me."

How vast, how pure, how elevated this joy, he must die to ascertain. But even this will be augmented and intensified by the influence exerted on other beings through all the ranks of sinless intelligence, from the lowliest ministering spirit to the cherubim who stand with veiled face in the blaze of the Divine glory, and even to Him who sits upon the throne. For He knows that of every one who has been saved through his instrumentality their conversion first, and their entrance to heaven afterwards caused joy among the angels of God, and their presence there adds to the brightness of the Redeemer's crown, and forms pin t of the fruit of His soul's travail, and the joy which was set before Him when on our account He endured the cross and despised the shame. And even this is not all, good works as well as bad works have a tendency to reproduce themselves. The j)robahility is that the souls he has won have been instrumental in saving others; and these again in saving others; and those others still beyond, and so on through link after link in ever lengthening and ever multiplying chains, so that the influence of his good deeds is flowing out in ever widening circles, and will continue to flow while the world endures. And when he knows that their salvation also gave joy to angels through all their shining ranks, and to the universe of holy worlds, and that their entrance into heaven will minister joy again; and, above nil, when he knows that their presence there will also through eternity

augment the Redeemer's joy and the brightness of His crown while it adds to the splendour of his own —it seems little to say then that his joy will be full; it seems little to say that ecstatic pleasure must thrill through every part of his being, and the full heart overflow with rapture. We say all this, we might say more than all this; but after we had done so. we should still come far short of the reality. Words cannot describe, thought cannot picture the reward of the man whose works do thus follow him in their results.

Good icorks are the sole ground of reward in the day of final reckoning. Other things materially influence the estimate which men form of us now: other things will not affect the verdict which God pronounces on our character, or the reward which He bestows at last. Great opportunities are sometimes mistaken for great virtues. The man of affluent means or lofty position, or superior talents and attainments, is thought worthy of honour now. Then he will only be deemed worthy of honour in so far as he is found to have used them well. Of themselves they will only cause us to be judged by a higher standard, and in case of their having been neglected or misused expose us to a severer condemnation. Great pretensions frequently impose on others here. The assumption of importance, a lofty tone and manner, if well sustained, albeit there is little or no real worth to back it, will secure for you the deference of many; for there are men who judge of us according to the estimate which we form of ourselves. Hereafter such assumption will go for notliing. except that it will render us more contemptible when the reality is found to come so far short of the pretence. Now men are often judged less by their efforts than by the success which attends them. Men look for visible and tangible results before they will give one credit for what he does. The preacher who can draw a large congregation and preach in a manner which impresses many, the tradesman who has succeeded in business so that he can give large contributions to the cause of God; these are the heroes of the modern Church. And certainly such results are not to be made light of. But O, it is not by these things that God will regulate the final reward. The man who has toiled in obscurity, his talents fitting him only to address a few, may receive more than he who has attracted and impressed thousands. The poor man's mite may count for more than the munificent offerings of the rich. For neither the material nor the spiritual results of an effort determine its value; but the amount of soul which enters into it, the sacrifice of comfort and of feeling with which it is done. If we labour earnestly and faithfully, whether our opportunities and talents be few or many, whether the risible result be great or small, great and glorious will be our reward. We may not have the peculiar joy of seeing many saved by our instrumentality, but our labour will not be lost, God will render to us, not according to our success but according to our works. He will not suffer the smallest effort to be unrecompenscd or unnoticed. "The cup of cold water given to a disciple in Christ's name shall not lose its reward." And while the smallest shall not be unrequited, the reward shall rise in proportion to the effort. He who honours every righteous work will shower the highest honours on those who work most diligently. Where the efforts are but occasional and the contributions stinted, it were madness to expect the reward of

those who are instant in season and out of season, and abounding in every good work. They must emulate Paul's zeal and devotedness who would share at last in his honours and his joys.

The moral of our paper then is, Let us be up and doing. Let us work while it is day. Christian work may bo painful; it may demand struggle and entail sacrifice, but the blessing which it brings is worthy of the price. Has the reader soul enough for the conflict? Have you counted, and are you willing to bear the cost? O, let not craven fear or lazy self-indulgence debar you from the glorious prize. Determine, rather, in God's strength to fight and conquer, to work and win, cost what it may. Let this be your resolution, "I will engage in the struggle that I may gain the victory. I will bear the present hardship for the sake of the final triumph. I will cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye, feel the iron enter into the soul, if at the last I may stand in God's presence a conqueror, bearing the scars of conflict but crowned with the garland of victory; happy in the consciousness that my struggles have made me strong, that by pain I have been purified, and by efforts ennobled: happy in the acclamations of those who hail me conqueror, and the gratitude of those whom my labours have won; happy most of all in the approval of Him who sits upon the throne, and who in the hearing of the heavenly host will say, " Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

THE STORY OF THE

THTItD

Many a school-boy has quickened his sauntering footsteps at the sight of something bright and glittering in his path. It seemed to be a silver coin, but after rubbing and looking carefully for the image and superscription, he was compelled to resign himself to disappointment; he had found only the remains of a bright

'LD SOHO FACTORY.

RTICI.E.

button. The large metal buttons with which our grandfathers decorated themselves a century ago, required for their manufacture presses that were capable of being used for making counterfeit coin. The Birmingham button makers wore sharpwitted men. The shortest road to wealth has many attractions, and it

« ElőzőTovább »