WHAT wonders men can do when they are influenced by enthusiastic love for a Leader! Alexander’s troops marched thousands of miles on foot, and they would have been utterly wearied had it not been for their zeal for Alexander. He led them forth conquering and to conquer. Alexander’s presence was the life of their valor; the glory of their strength. If there was a very long day’s march over burning sands, one thing they knew, — that Alexander marched with them; if they were thirsty, they knew that he thirsted too, for when one brought a cup of water to the king, he put it aside, thirsty as he was, and said, “Give it to the sick soldier.” Once it so happened that they were loaded with the spoil which they had taken, and each man had become rich with goodly garments and wedges of gold; then they began to travel very slowly with so much to carry, and the king feared that he should not overtake his foe. Having a large quantity of spoil which fell to his own share, he burned it all before the eyes of his soldiers, and bade them do the like, that they might pursue the enemy and win even more. “Alexander’s portion lies beyond,” cried he, and seeing the king’s own spoils on fire his warriors were content to give up their gains also and share with their king. He did himself what he commanded others to do: in self-denial and hardship he was a full partaker with his followers. After this fashion our Lord and Master acts towards us. He says, “Renounce pleasure for the good of others. Deny yourself, and take up your cross. Suffer, though you might avoid it; labor, though you might rest, when God’s glory demands suffering or labor of you. Have not I set you an example?” “Who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich.” He stripped Himself of all things that He might clothe us with His glory. When we heartily serve such a Leader as this, and are fired by His spirit, then murmuring, and complaining, and weariness, and fainting of heart are altogether fled: a divine passion carries us beyond ourselves.
I believe great numbers of working men — I am not going to judge them for it — always consider how little they can possibly do to earn their wages, and the question with them is not, “How much can we give for the wage?” that used to be; but, “How little can we give? How little work can we do in the day, without being discharged for idleness?” Many men say, “We must not do all the work to-day, for we shall need something to do tomorrow: our masters will not give us more than they can help, and therefore we will not give them more than we are obliged to.” This is the general spirit on both sides, and as a nation we are going to the dogs because that spirit is among us; and we shall be more and more beaten by foreign competition if this spirit is cultivated. Among Christians such a notion cannot be tolerated in the service of our Lord Jesus. It never does for a minister to say, “If I preach three times a week it is quite as much as anybody will expect of me; therefore I shall do no more.” It will never be right for you to say, “I am a Sabbath-school teacher; if I get into the class to the minute — some of you do not do that — and if I stop just as long as the class lasts, I need not look after the boys and girls through the week; I cannot be bothered with them: I will do just as much as I am bound to do, but no more.” In a certain country town it was reported that the grocer’s wife cut a plum in two, for fear there should be a grain more than weight in the parcel, and the folks called her Mrs. Split-plum. Ah, there are many Split-plums in religion. They do not want to do more for Jesus than may be absolutely necessary. They would like to give good weight, but they would be sorry to be convicted of doing too much. Ah, when we get to feel we are doing service for our Lord Jesus Christ, we adopt a far more liberal scale. Then we do not calculate how much ointment will suffice for His feet, but we give Him all that our box contains. Is this your talk, “Here, bring the scales, this ointment cost a great deal of money, we must be economical. Watch every drachma, yea, every scruple and grain, for the nard is costly?” If this be your cool manner of calculation your offering is not worth a fig. Not so spake that daughter of love of whom we read in the, gospels, for she brake the box and poured out all the contents upon her Lord. “To what purpose is this waste?” cried Judas. It was Judas who thus spoke, and you know therefore the worth of the observation. Christ’s servants delight to give so much as to be thought wasteful, for they feel that when they have in the judgment of others done extravagantly for Christ, they have but begun to show their heart’s love for His dear name.
Thus the elevating power of the spirit of consecration lifts us up above the wretched parsimony of mere formality. “Is the work good enough?” said one to his servant. The man replied, “Sir, it is good enough for the price: and it is good enough for the man who is going to have it.” Just so, and when we “serve” men we may perhaps rightly judge in that fashion, but when we come to serve Christ, is anything good enough for Him? Could our zeal know no respite, could our prayers know no pause, could our efforts know no relaxation, could we give all we have of time, wealth, talent, and opportunity, could we die a martyr’s death a thousand times, would not He, the Best Beloved of our souls, deserve far more? Ah, that He would. Therefore is self-congratulation banished for ever. When you have done all, you will feel that it is not worthy of the matchless merit of Jesus, and you will be humbled at the thought. Thus, while doing all for Jesus stimulates zeal, it fosters humility, a happy blending of useful effects.
The resolve to do all as unto the Lord will elevate you above that craving for recognition. which is a disease with many. It is a sad fault in many Christians that they cannot do anything unless all the world is told of it.
The hen in the farm-yard has laid an egg, and feels so proud of the achievement that he must cackle about it: everybody must know of that one poor egg, till all the country round resounds with the news. It is so with some professors: their work must be published, or they can do no more. “Here have I,” said one, “been teaching in the school for years, and nobody ever thanked me for it; I believe that some of us who do the most are the least noticed, and what a shame it is.” But if you have done your service unto the Lord you should not talk so, or we shall suspect you of having other aims. The servant of Jesus will say, “I do not want human notice. I did it for the Master; He noticed me, and I am content. I tried to please Him, and I did please Him, and therefore I ask no more, for I have gained my end. I seek no praise of men, for I fear lest the breath of human praise should tarnish the pure silver of my service.”
If you seek the praise of men you will in all probability tail in the present, and certainly you will lose it in the future sooner or later. Many men are more ready to censure than to commend; and to hope for their praise is to seek for sugar in a root of wormwood. Man’s way of judging is unjust, and seems fashioned on purpose to blame all of us one way or another. Here is a brother who sings bass, and the critics say, “Oh, yes, a very fine bass voice, but he could not sing treble.” Here is another who excels in treble, and they say, “Yes, yes, but we prefer a tenor.” When they find a tenor they blame him because he cannot take the bass. No one can be candidly praised, but all must be savagely censured. What will the great Master say about it? Will He not judge thus — “I have given this man a bass voice, and he sings bass, and that is what I meant him to do I gave that man a tenor voice, and he sings tenor, and that is what I meant him to do I gave that man a treble voice, and he sings treble, and so takes the part I meant him to take. All the parts blended together make up sweet music for My ears?” Wisdom is justified of her children, but folly blames them all round.
How little we ought to care about the opinions and criticisms of our fellow-men when we recollect that He who made us what we are, and helps us by His grace to act our part, will not judge us after the mode in which men carp or flatter, but will accept us according to the sincerity of our hearts. If we feel, “I was not working for you; I was working for God,” we shall not be much wounded by our neighbors’ remarks. The nightingale charms the ear of night. A fool passes by, and declares that he hates such distracting noises. The nightingale sings on, for it never entered the little minstrel’s head or heart that it was singing for critics: it sings because He who created it gave it this sweet faculty. So may we reply to those who condemn us, — “We live not unto you, O men; we live unto our Lord.” Thus do we escape the discouragements which come of ungenerous misapprehension and jealous censure.
If those you seek to bless be not saved, yet you have not altogether failed, for you did not teach or preach having the winning of souls as the absolute ultimatum of your work, you did it with the view of pleasing Jesus, and He is pleased with faithfulness even where it is not accompanied with success.
Sincere obedience is His delight even if it lead to no apparent result. If the Lord should set His servant to plow the sea or sow the sand He would accept his service. If we should have to witness for Christ’s Name to stocks and stones, and our hearers should be even worse than blocks of marble, and should turn again and rend us, we may still be filled with contentment, for we shall have done our Lord’s will, and what more do we want? To plod on under apparent failure is one of the most acceptable of all works of faith, and he who can do it year after year is assuredly wellpleasing unto God.
We shall have to go away from our work soon, so men tell us, and we are apt to fret about it. The truth is we shall go on with our work for ever if our service is pleasing to the Lord. We shall please Him up yonder even better than we do here. And what if our enterprise here should seem to end, as far as man is concerned, we have done it unto the Lord, and our record is on high, and therefore it is not lost. Nothing that is done for Jesus will be destroyed: the flower may fade, but its essence remains; the tree may fall, but its fruit is stored; the cluster may be crushed, but the wine is preserved; the work and its place may pass away, but the glory which it brought to Jesus shines as the stars for ever and ever.
A due sense of serving the Lord would ennoble all our service beyond conception. Think of working for Him, — for Him, the best of Masters, before whom angels count it glory to bow. Work done for Him is in itself the best work that can be, for all that pleases Him must be pure and lovely, honest and of good report. Work for the eternal Father and work for Jesus are works which are good and only good. To live for Jesus is to be swayed by the noblest of motives. To live for the incarnate God is to blend the love of God and the love of men in one passion. To live for the ever-living Christ is elevating to the soul, for its results will be most enduring. When all other work is dissolved this shall abide. Men spake of painting for eternity, but we in very deed serve for eternity.
Soon shall all worlds behold the nobility of the service of Christ, for it will bring with it the most blessed of all rewards, When men look back on what they have done for their fellows, how small is the recompense of a patriotic life! The world soon forgets its benefactors. Many and many a man has been borne aloft in youth amidst the applause of men, and then in his old age he has been left to starve into his grave. He who scattered gold at first, begs pence at last: the world called him generous while he had something to give, and when he had bestowed all it blamed his imprudence. He who lives for Jesus will never have ground of complaint concerning his Lord, for He forsaketh not His saints. Never man regretted ought he did for Jesus yet, save that he may regret that he has not done ten times more. The Lord will not leave His old servants. “O God, thou hast taught me from my youth and hitherto have I declared Thy wondrous works; now also when I am old and grey-headed, O God, forsake me not,” such was the prayer of David, and he was confident of being heard. Such may be the confidence of every servant of Christ. He may go down to his grave untroubled; he may rise and enter the dread solemnities of the eternal world without a fear, for service for Christ creates heroes to whom fear is unknown.