EPHESIANS 6:7 THE Holy Spirit does not bid us leave our stations in order to serve the Lord. He does not bid us forego the domestic relations which make us husbands or wives, parents or children, masters or servants; He does not suggest to us to put on a peculiar garb, and seek the seclusion of a hermitage, or the retirement of monastic or conventual life. Nothing of the kind is hinted at, but He bids the servant continue in his or her service — “with good will doing service.” Our great Captain would not have you hope to win the victory by leaving your post. He would have you abide in your trade, calling, or profession, and all the while serve the Lord in it, doing the will of God from the heart in common things. This is the practical beauty of our holy faith, that when it casts the devil out of a man it sends him home to bless his friends by telling them how great things the Lord has done for him. Grace does not transplant the tree, but bids it overshadow the old house at home as before, and bring forth good fruit where it is. Grace does not make us unearthly, though it makes us unworldly. True religion distinguishes us from others, even as our Lord Jesus was separate from sinners, but it does not shut us up or hedge us round about as if we were too good or too tender for the rough usage of everyday life. It does not put us in the salt-box and shut the lid down, but it casts us in among our fellow-men for their good. Grace makes us the servants of God while still we are the servants of men: it enables us to do the business of heaven while we are attending to the business of earth: it sanctifies the common duties of life by showing us how to perform them in the light of heaven. The love of Christ makes the lowliest acts sublime. As the sunlight brightens a landscape and sheds beauty over the commonest scene, so does the presence of the Lord Jesus. The spirit of consecration renders the offices of domestic servitude as sublime as the worship which is presented upon the sea of glass before the eternal throne, by spirits to whom the courts of heaven are their familiar home.
Whether we are servants or masters, whether we are poor or rich, let us take this as our watchword, “As to the Lord, and not to men.” Henceforth may this be the engraving of our seal and the motto of our coat-of-arms; the constant rule of our life, and the sum of our motive. In advocating this gracious aim of our being, let me say that if we are enabled to adopt this motto it will, first of all, influence our work itself; and, secondly, it will elevate our spirit concerning that work. Yet let me add that if the Lord shall really be the all-in-all of our lives, it is after all only what He has a right to expect, and what we are under a thousand obligations to give to Him.
If we do indeed live “as to the Lord,” we must needs live wholly to the Lord. The Lord Jesus is a most engrossing Master. He has said, “No man can serve two masters,” and we shall find it so. He will have everything or nothing. If, indeed, He be our Lord, He must be sole Sovereign, for He will not brook a rival. It comes to pass, then, O Christian, that you are bound to live for Jesus and for Him alone. You must have no co-ordinate or even secondary object or divided aim: if you do divide your heart, your life will be a failure. As no dog can follow two hares at one time, or he will lose both, certainly no man can follow two contrary objects and hope to secure either of them. No, it behooves a servant of Christ to be a concentrated man: his affections should be bound up into one affection, and that affection should not be set on things on the earth, but on things above; his heart must not be divided, or it will be said of him as of those in Hosea,” Their heart is divided; now shall they be found wanting.” The chamber of the heart is far too narrow to accommodate the King of kings and the world, or the flesh, or the devil, at the same time.
In the service of God we should use great care to accomplish our very best, and we should feel a deep anxiety to please Him in all things. There is a trade called paper-staining, in which a man flings colors upon the paper to make common wall decorations, and by rapid processes acres of paper can be speedily finished. Suppose that the paper-stainer should laugh at an eminent artist. because he had covered such a little space, having been stippling and shading a little tiny piece of his picture by the hour together, such ridicule would itself be ridiculous. Now the world’s way of religion is the paper-stainer’s way, the daubing way; there is plenty of it, and it is quickly done; but God’s way, the narrow way, is a careful matter; there is but little of it, and it costs thought, effort, watchfulness, and care. Yet see how precious is the work of art when it is; done, and how long it lasts, and you will not wonder that a man spends his time upon it: even so true godliness is acceptable with God, and endures for ever, and therefore it well repays the earnest effort of the man of God. The miniature painter has to be very careful of every touch and tint, for a very little may spoil his work; let our life be a miniature painting: “with fear and trembling” let it be wrought out. We are serving the thrice Holy God, who will be had in reverence of them that come near to Him, let us mind what we do. Our blessed Master never made a faulty stroke when He was serving His Father; He never lived a careless hour, nor let drop an idle word. Oh it was a careful life He lived: even the night watches were not without the deep anxieties which poured themselves forth in prayer unto God; and if you and I think that the first thing which comes to hand will do to serve our God with, we make a great mistake, and grossly insult His name. We must have a very low idea of His infinite majesty if we think that we can honor Him by doing His service half-heartedly, or in a slovenly style. No, if you will indeed live “as to the Lord and not unto man,” you must watch each motion of your heart and life, or you will fail in your design.
Our work for Jesus must be the outgrowth of the soil of the heart. Our service must not be performed as a matter of routine: there must be vigor, power, freshness, reality, eagerness, and warmth about it, or it will be good for nothing. No fish ever came upon God’s altar, because it could not come there alive; the Lord wants none of your dead, heartless worship.
You know what is meant by putting heart into all that we do; explain it by your lives. A work which is to be accepted of the Lord must be heart-work throughout; not a few thoughts of Christ occasionally, and a few chill words, and a few chance gifts, and a little done by way of by-play, but as the heart beats so must we serve God: it must be our very life. We are not to treat our religion as though it were a sort of off-hand farm which we were willing to keep going but not to make much of, our chief thoughts being engrossed with the home farm of self and the world, with its gains and pleasures. Our Lord will be aut Carsar aut nullus, either ruler or nothing. My Master is a jealous husband: He will not tolerate a stray thought of love elsewhere, and He thinks it scorn that they who call themselves His beloved should love others better than Himself. Such unchastity of heart can never be permitted, let us not dream of it.
What a mean and beggarly thing it is for a man only to do his work well when he is watched. Such oversight is for boys at school and mere hirelings. You never think of watching noble-spirited men. Here is a young apprentice set to copy a picture: his master stands over him and looks over each line, for the young scapegrace will grow careless and spoil his work, or take to his games if he be not well looked after. Did anybody thus dream of supervising Raphael and Michael Angelo to keep them to their work?
No, the master artist requires no eye to urge him on. Popes and emperors came to visit the great painters in their studios, but did they paint the better because these grandees gazed upon them? Certainly not; perhaps they did all the worse in the excitement or the worry of the visit. They had regard to something better than the eye of pompous personages. So the true Christian wants no eye of man to watch him. There may be pastors and preachers who are the better for being looked after by bishops and presbyters; but fancy a bishop overseeing the work of Martin Luther, and trying to quicken his zeal; or imagine a presbyter looking after Calvin to keep him sound in the faith. Oh, no; gracious minds outgrow the governance and stimulus which comes of the oversight of mortal man.
God’s own Spirit dwells within us, and we serve the Lord from an inward principle, which is not fed from without. There is about a real Christian a prevailing sense that God sees him, and he does not care who else may set his eye upon him; it is enough for him that God is there. He hath small respect to the eye of man, he neither courts nor dreads it. Let the good deed remain in the dark, for God sees it there, and that is enough; or let it be blazoned in the light of day to be pecked at by the censorious, for it little matters who censures since God approves. This is to be a true servant of Christ; to escape from being an eye-servant to men by becoming in the sublimest sense an eye-servant, working ever beneath the eye of God.
Wage? Is that the motive of a Christian? Yes, in the highest sense, for the greatest of the saints, such as Moses, have “had respect unto the recompense of the reward,” and it were like despising the reward which God promises to his people if we had no respect whatever unto it. Respect unto the reward which cometh of God kills the selfishness which is always expecting a reward from men. We can postpone our reward, and we can be content, instead of receiving present praise, to be misunderstood and misrepresented: we can postpone our reward, and we can endure instead thereof to be disappointed in our work, and to labor on without success, or when the reward does come how glorious it will be! An hour with Jesus will make up for a lifetime of persecution! One smile from Him will repay us a thousand times over for all disappointments and discouragements.