Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

to be caught rather from these ancient words of God: “ Fear not: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.”

It may be felt by some that this matter of divine reward is, after all, a vague thing. What is it ? Where is it? How does it come about? Is it a direct gift, or is it wrought out through laws ? It is vague because it is a matter of trust and gradual realization. What God has in reserve for those who believe on Him, cannot now be measured. Nor do we know through what new conduits the rewarding joys of eternity may flow into us, nor what fresh fountains of bliss may be unsealed within us. The spirit of man is an unsounded, perhaps fathomless depth, a store-house of measureless possibilities. To assert what man will do or not do, what he will become or cannot become, is to assert a knowledge of the infinite; we have no knowledge of man that wholly defines and compasses him. Here all the beauty of the earth and the majesty of the sky come to us through one sense, all the sweetness of melody through one sense, all the lusciousness of fruits through one sense, all the fragrance of odors through one sense, - small inlets and few for things so many and vast. But as we know through science that there are sounds we do not hear, and colors that we do not see, and odors that we do not smell, it is not improbable that we shall be opened wider, and at more points, to the wonders and delights of the universe ; for it were unreason. able to suppose that the head of creation does not at last comprehend creation, making gains as we go hence like that of the embryo, which, when born into the world, finds its one sense of feeling supplemented by sight and hearing. So, also, the few faculties through which we now receive pleasure, intellectual, social, physical, may be increased, so that, instead of touching the external world at these few points, we may touch it at a thousand, and every point of contact be an inlet of joy. Or these present faculties may be enlarged to an immeasurable capacity. But these things are matters neither of knowledge or faith ; they are the wise dreams of the “prophetic soul” that may turn to reality.

It is as far as we can go in this matter to say that God rewards in two ways: by the results of obedience, and, in a less clear but no less real way, by the direct gift or impartation of Himself. They are not distinct, but stand in the relation of process and end, or condition and result.

Forever and forever is it true that reward follows obedience, tritest yet truest of all words. It is the one all embracing, unfaltering truth, the gravitation of the moral universe, — Obey and be blest!

Obedience does not merely avoid the suffering of broken law, but it yields a positive reward. Every act of obedience, if consciously rendered and so becoming an act of faith, has a reward commensurate with the act. It might have been otherwise, and obedience had for its only end the cold result of suffering avoided. But we are made on a more generous plan. Whenever, anywhere in this universe, any soul hears the divine voice saying, “ Thou

shalt” and reverently obeys, it finds, however it be with other results, this unfailing one, a deep and peaceful satisfaction in having obeyed. And so it is that a life of humble, honest labor may have overspreading it a steady sense of reward. The man goes to his daily toil and comes home at night, with small returns perhaps that are quickly spent, a somewhat weary and rather hopeless tread-mill it seems, but he says, “I have at least the reward of doing my duty.” Without it he would despair; without it humanity would not tolerate the burden of existence. This reward can be greatly heightened by getting clear sight of such duties as they are related to God's will. The unconscious reward is real and large; no little child ever returned from a wearying errand without it; no savage in Africa ever obeyed the inward voice whispering in his dull brain, “ thou oughtest,” but God dropped the reward of peace into his heart. The inner life of heathendom has not yet been presented to our thought. When will missionaries tell us of the good they find as well as the evil? It is the struggling and overborne goodness that would most appeal to our sympathy; it is the smouldering embers of not yet burnt out virtues that would stimulate us to add the gospel flame. One has recently spoken: “Call them heathen who will; but from what I know of their hearts, they do not seem to be forsaken by the Divine Spirit.”1 As deep calls unto deep, so every loyal heart, touched by God's Spirit, goes

1 See letter from a missionary in India to the Rev. Newman Smyth, D. D., in The Independent, Jan. 18, 1883.

out in yearning, helpful love towards these heathen who pray as they best know, and not wholly in vain.

But a clear view of life as reflecting God's will, lifts the obedience into the consciousness where all the faculties play upon it.

The reward of simple, daily duty is sometimes best seen in the dark contrast of disobedience, as the stars shine fairest upon the blackness of empty space. We often grow dull to the value of our virtues, we forget the rewarding power of our habitual obedience. We are temperate, industrious, thrifty, patient, kind, true, faithful, wise, reverent, but forget that home, love, respect, peace, health, strength, property, and perhaps honors are their rewards, paid at the counter of God's daily reckoning. Hence, when duty grows dull, it is well to look off into the black regions of disobedience. Alas! we seldom have need to look far. Lust, with its satiety or disgrace or corruption; drunkenness with its tyranny, and waste and poverty and disease; selfishness come at last to despairing solitude; dishonesty breeding suspicion and alienation; avarice with its heart of ashes; folly with its harvest of bewilderment and blindness; impiety standing on the bor. der of life, nothing behind or before and despair within; — in the gleams of such black flames we read again the lesson of obedience and shudder at the thought of ever having doubted its rewards.

Still the positive view is the better one, for we must learn to value goodness in its own light and by its own weight. There will thus come about at last, as in the Christ, a joy that is independent of the on-going world, that is not heightened by the sense of external evil, but is the straight outcome of a heart entranced with goodness. When one thus fills every mould of duty with sympathetic obedience, he is doing more than pleasing God and blessing man, he is unsealing hidden depths within himself that are stored with God's own eternal joy. I beg you to think of this; it is not so trite as you may suppose. In our iterated appeals for duty we commonly base them upon pleasing God and blessing man, that is, on its inherent rightfulness and its beneficence, leaving out the profounder argument that it sets one's own nature in order so that by its very law it evolves joy, for no harp was ever strung capable of uttering such music as the soul of man attuned to righteous obedience. It is hearing such music that makes men willing to die for a cause, to live patiently under wrong, to plead for the reform for which the age is not ripe, to stand true while evil corrupts the world. The New Jerusalem lieth four-square; so stands he who has learned to render a trustful obedience to his God; he stands true to the world, true to himself, true to the eternity about him, and true to God.

If there were not such a reward as this, there would be no motive sufficient to propel man on this long voyage of existence. For the reward or motive must be within and have its play within the circle of his own being simply because he has no permanent relations to anything without. There are but two abiding realities, God and self; all else

« ElőzőTovább »