Page images


Christian is the only watcher; " knowing the time alive to its lessons and looking for its end.

And so let it be with us. May the grace be ours to take as a lifetruth, and to live under its inspiration and power every day, the solemn and suggestive thought of the Apostle—" Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed: the night is far spent, the day is at hand, let us therefore cast of the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

11 “The past is gone beyond recall, With all its hopes and fears,

iis, With all its bright and gladdening smiles,

With all its mournful tears :
From evil deeds which stain the past

We now desire to flee;
And pray our future life may all
Be spent, dear Lor), for Thee.”


[ocr errors]

His rare

Thoroughness. The word "thorough” had an ominous meaning in the days of Charles J. It is said that the Earl of Strafford, the President of the Council of the North, and Deputy-Lieutenant of Ireland, adopted it as the motto of his principle of action. The briefest survey of his life discloses a daring energy of conduct, and an occasional defiance of Parliamentary authority which alarmed the House of Commons and the nation at large. talents, his powers of oratory, and his pathetic appeals to his judges could not protect him from the indignation which at length consigned him to a violent death on Tower Hill.

The quality of thoroughness, which means the persevering concen. tration of our powers to attain a special end, is so valuable, when rightly applied, that a few remarks upon its influence-where it is found, and upon the lamentable results of its absence, especially in the sphere of godliness, may not be unprofitable.

1. It is the absolute condition of success. Many things must concur to the attainment of our hopes both with respect to the life that now is and that which is to come. There must be time and opportunity in which the work may be done. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.” There must be knowledge of the right method of working, or we shall labour in vain and spend our strength for nought and in vain." In the circle of Christian life there must be unlimited dependence upon the presence and power of the Holy

[ocr errors]

“ great

Spirit to give us stimulus and impulse, infuse 'energy into our endeavours, and sustain that patience which shall be content to make slow yet certain advances in the Divine life. With all these there must be a hearty surrender to the work itself. It must be considered a work" from which we cannot come down. If it shines before the eye of the mind with warmth and splendour, and there be the steady flow of our sympathies and energies toward it, there will be the thoroughness which will ensure some success. This leads us to notice a phrase of frequent occurrence. Men speak of the "secret of success.” If it is a a secret, it is “an open secret." Indeed, there is scarcely anything more plain and obvious than the conditions of its attainment. If we survey the history of men who have risen to distinction in any department of life, it will be quickly ascertained that it was by no occult methods, no legerdemain, no waft of poetic fancy, and no happy combination of circumstances that they reached their pre-eminence ; but by the thoroughness which used opportunities or made them, by the vigour of their will, which suffered no paralysis, and by their unwearied activity that they have won an immortal name. “This one thing I do,” said a Master in Israel, who compared his life to the agony of battle and to the strife of those who with heaving breast and straining eye contended for the prize in the arena.

2. It suggests the importance of choosing a right sphere for its exercise. That some make deplorable mistakes in the objects to which this thoroughness is applied, is too common a fact to need any verification. There are pursuits which men follow with unwearied effort, that as soon as the light of Scripture falls upon them, appear as a species of mischievous vanity, and justify the line of Baxter—“They run fastest who leave truth behind.” Our present life is, as we often hear, momentous in its influences and effects upon ourselves. Our minds are constantly affected by the impressions we allow to touch them. If we expose them to the full and unchecked influence of this world, they will become insensible to the “powers of the world to come.” Our life is an influential life, and will affect all around us just in proportion to the activity and force of our own character. It is, therefore, worth serious inquiry whether we have chosen that “good part " which deserves and will

repay all the energy we can put forth. Our Lord walked through Palestine, and noted the thoroughness with which men sought the pleasures and possessions of the present life. He saw the shepherd with his flock, the fisherman launching into the deep, the ploughman or reaper in the field, the vine-dresser in the vineyard, the merchant seeking goodly pearls, or trading in purple and fine linen, the Centurion and his band, the tax-gatherers at the receipt of custom, and the ships


with out-spread sail crossing the Mediterranean sea ; and as he viewed the toil of men, and heard the throb of human desire for wealth and pleasure, cried with compassionate earnestness—" Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you ; for Him hath God the Father sealed.”

If we choose the service of Christ, then all thoroughness of devotion to it is justified by conscience, and Scripture now, and will be, more than justified when the hand ceases to toil below, to begin a higher and sweeter service above.

It directs us to a special aspect of the ministry of Christ. There are occasional intimations in the Gospels that such was the attractiveness of our Lord's presence and words that many were disposed at once to follow him. He required those who showed eagerness to be enrolled among his disciples to sit down and count the cost of the undertaking, Under the image of a battle waged by a monarch and his troops, and the building of a tower which should have broad foundations, massive walls and lofty battlements, he urged them to pause and deliberate before they attempted the sacred enterprise. A kind of enthusiasm awakened, and prompted many to offer themselves as the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Had our Lord been like some leaders, he would have accepted without inquiry and caution all who were willing to swell his ranks. “ He knew what was in man.” His “ kingdom was not of this world." He knew what would be the trials which would overtake his disciples; He foresaw the storms of persecution, the rain upon the roof, the wind at the sides, and the flood at the foundation of the edifice of their Christian profession. He foretold the rupture of tender natural ties, the accusation, and appearance of his disciples before unjust judges, and their exposure to a violent death,

4. Our Lord directs many solemn warnings respecting failure through want of thoroughness. These are probably more frequent than some persons imagine, and deserve the serious attention of all readers of the New Testament. In our remarks on the imagery of the following parables we do not assume to give an exhaustive view of their mean ings, nor would we impugn the opinions of others who see in them prophetic pictures of future events ; but we state what appears on the reading of them as one of the most obvious lessons which they were designed to convey. When the guests are assembled at the feast for the marriage of the king's son, there was found one who had not on a wedding garment. This part of the parable is full of significance. It was the custom to send with the invitation to the feast a suitable and ornamental robe, that there might be some uniformity and beauty in the appearance of the guests. If this man accepted, he certainly did not wear, the robe which was sent. He had no hostility to the king or his son, and came as readily and took his place at the board as cheerfully as any present. But the quick eye of the king instantly discerned the exception to the general costume of the guests, and after a question in which his anger righteously flamed, the offender was ignominiously expelled from the joy, music and splendour of the feast, where his own folly became his fiercest torture. He was not thorough.

Jesus Christ presents the same topic in Matthew xxv., the whole of which chapter seems to repeat the same needed warning. In it we see the five foolish virgins prepare to meet the bridegroom. They put on their beautiful garments, and adorn themselves with all care and taste for the happy occasion. Their sandals are on their feet, the jewels gleam upon their neck, the garland is on the brow, and the delicious odours crown the preparation. They have their lamps; but took no oil with them. They go forth in the hope of sitting in the radiant society of the Bride, the Bridegroom, and their feastful friends. They have no hatred, no envy, no dislike to the happy pair ; but go with the hope and purpose of increasing the joy and enthusiasm of the occasion ; but they fail because they are not thorough, and knock hopelessly at the door, which is finally closed against them. The parable of the talents follows in the same track of thought. The servar ts each received a number of talents according to the will of their Lord. One of the servants receives a talent, hides it in the earth, and at the appointed time restores it without increase, and with words that seem to accuse the owner of soverity, if not of injustice. But he did not consume the talent in riotous living, neither did he fling it away in proud refusal to be in some sense a steward. The Lord calls him a slothful servant, because he made no profitable use of his talent. He was not thorough, and was condemned to a pitiful and dishonourable poverty. Then follows the session of the Judge before whom appear two classes, which are symbolized as sheep and goats. The sheep are often taken as the image of the righteous, and here the unprofitable are set forth by the figure of goats. Our Lord does not select wolves, lions, leopards of the evenings-ranging bears nor the despised dogs of Eastern cities to indicate the nature of these men, but the goats of the flock and of the pasture. They are not charged by the King with the fierce persecution of his people. He does not accuse them with wielding the fatal sword, lifting the gleaming axe, or burning brand against his followers. They are charged with pot doing, and leaving the righteous to thirst, nakedness, disease, and imprisonment. Whatever they were they were not thorough, and are dismissed with the frown and condemnation of the Judge.

As we are approaching the close of the year, it is natural to review the experiences of the past twelve months. Some slackness we must lament; and yet we may hope that some things have been done heartily unto the Lord. If so, we have contributed something to that mass and variety of spiritual agency, through which the Holy Spirit will bless the Church and the world. Jesus Christ observes and will reward all vigorous exertion for His glory.

It is impossible for us to look forward to 1877 without some desire for more thoroughness in onr spiritual life and movements. The world around us requires all fervour and constancy of spiritual exertion. To produce thoroughness there is no need of additional revelations, profound insights into prophecy-new motives and untried methods, but the vigorous use of existing agencies. All is provided which we can require. We have the example of Him who clad Himself" with zeal as a cloak -the lights of Scripture, the renewing of the Holy Ghost, the ministry of angels and of Providence and the intercession of the High Priest and A postle of our profession. If we allow the influences which flow from these objects to act with undiminished force upon our spirits, our Christian life will be more thorough and complete.


The Great Want of the Time. It is not knowledge of duty or of the way of life that is now needed. The Bible, religious books and papers, are everywhere. Preaching of all sorts is abundant enough ; and still, with restless energy and enterprise, we are crowding truth upon men. We try to make it palatable and attractive by every art of man's device ; by brilliant rhetoric, by sensational, impassioned statement, by elaborate compounds and dilutions, by appeals to the ear in sweetest musical accompaniment, and to the eye by pictorial illustrations ; and we are ready with arguments drawn from history, philology, and natural science and metaphysics. The vast and complicated machinery for the enlightenment of men is complete ; by churches and schools of every grade, by Christian literature seeking and securing the widest circulation, by missionaries of all sorts, city, home, and foreign; and yet doubt and scepticism and superstition prevail; the multitudes about us, including many of our own personal friends and kindred, are not saved, and multitudes in mission fields, who have heard the message of life from the lips of as unselfish and devoted men and women as the Church has ever known, remain unmoved-brought up from the degradations of heathenism-intellectually convinced of the truth, but spiritually dead. Individuals here and there come out as witnesses to the reality and power of the Gospel ; witnesses of unquestioned character that thus add to the strength and clearness of the intellectual convictions of those who refuse to follow their example.

« PreviousContinue »