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always needed was to understand, better than man is able naturally, the moral purpose of life and providence. The world still needs this interpretation. Let us so imitate the holy example of Jesus that in us also the Divine work and will may become manifest. For religion is a life, as the gospel is an appeal, and Christianity the doctrine of both,—God's message to the world, for ever repeated in the holy and trustful life of His children.
THE HOLY WORK OF GIVING.
BY EDWIN CHAPMAN,
MATTHEW x. 8:
“Freely ye have received, freely give."
The whole gospel is a system of giving and receiving, -a new covenant, wherein our Heavenly Father engages every one of us in some part of His holy work of giving.
It is, in this, entirely opposed to a merely meditative and contemplative religion; to a simply selfish anxiety about securing our own salvation; and, also, to occupying ourselves about daily frames and feelings, instead of imparting daily good to others, in which work frames and feelings are pretty sure to become right and blessed.
Individual improvement and individual advancement in all holiness are indeed to be earnestly sought; but one main object of such improvement and advancement is, that we may better fulfil our duties to others. “Covet earnestly,” says St. Paul, “ the best gifts, and yet I shew unto you a more excellent way.” That more excellent way is charity-kindness in every form that human grief or calamity may require. Again he says, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Faith and hope are of the inner man, the strengtheners and supporters of our own souls ; but it is charity which comes actively forth, pouring wine and oil into men's wounds, and saying to all turbulent passions, “ Peace—be still."
The gospel, then, is an active, doing, energetic system; sending men out into the world to heal infirmities, to cure diseases, to banish ignorance, to subdue iniquity, to promise pardon, to cherish hope, to give a healthful assurance of the everlasting world.
Nor, in this, does it do any violence to God's natural laws. It is a continuation of their teaching, an enlargement of their lessons, a carrying out further their beginnings. The manner of our birth and nurture—the growth of our affections—the being placed in families, gathered into communities, and governed by national institutions, prove that we are intended to do good to others, as well as to get good for ourselves.
In all these ties and associations of life, God has established what Christ preached—“Freely ye have received, freely give.” It is the teaching of universal experience, as well as the command of authority-it is the deduction of practical wisdom, as well as the dictate of inspiration—it is the echo of innumerable voices of good men in all ages of the world, as well as the saying of the everlasting Word made flesh.
1. The gospel recognizes the great truth, that God, our Father, is the only original source of all good, of all blessing, of all bounty. Our Lord Jesus Christ replied to the ruler who came and kneeled before him, saying, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life ?" Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God.”
This revelation of God as the one great Giver, is the grand central doctrine of the gospel, the common source out of which proceeds whatever else is holy in principle, touching in example, and fervent in zeal. It is a doctrine, too, which meets with an ever-ready acceptance—its proofs are open to every man's search, and are level to every man's understanding. No one can say that he has received nothing from the hands of his Maker, nor can any one measure the vast extent of the blessings which he has received. Some may try to forget them—some may receive only to abuse them—some may, in their agony or their hardness of heart, say that they are more evil than good ; but the true-hearted, whether wise or simple, whether ignorant or learned, whether rich or poor, will confess, with lowly gratitude, that “God is good to all,” and that “ His tender mercies are over all His works."
What simple teaching concerning God, as the great Giver, is contained in the narrative of the creation! How full of acknowledgment for His unceasing goodness are the histories of the patriarchs of Israel! How is the whole sacred poetry of the Hebrews pervaded by a deep feeling of gratitude for multiplied favours! Our Lord, too, teaches us to pray, saying, “Give us this day our daily bread,”—a gift of far more necessity and worth to us than the signal mercies, as we call them, which occasionally call forth our songs of praise. Daily bread is daily life, and all that hangs upon that life. Christ has taught also, does now teach us—for his words are not dead words, but spirit and life—that, more ready than we are to give good gifts unto our children, is our Heavenly Father to give good things to them that ask Him.
But a word here about our methods of asking. It is not enough, with God, to ask in words of prayer. Prayer and work too are required by Him. We must ask by the labour of our hands for such blessings as labour is the appointed means of seeking. We must ask, by temperate use of His bounties, the health and strength which He giveth in that way only. We must ask for stores of wisdom and knowledge by the diligent application of the understanding which He has put within us, as the instrument by which they are to be gained. We must ask the respect and love of our fellow-men by those deeds of uprightness and kindness which are their true and only source. We must ask for the spread of knowledge, civilization, prosperity and happiness, by making such efforts towards them as will continually open themselves to our inquiring eyes; for men's efforts are God's instruments. We must ask, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven," by entering ourselves through the straight gate into the narrow way; for it is the faithful who are at once the salt of the earth and the seed of the church.
The summary of our Heavenly Father's bounties, found in the Epistle of James, is worthy of all acceptation-"Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
God is the one great Giver.
2. The crowning gift of God's mercy is that of his wellbeloved Son, our Lord. And, in conferring this unspeakable gift, God and Christ are one. Christ is the brightness of the Father's glory, the express image of his perfections ; so that he could say, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” But, as he also said, his word, his work, his glory, were given him by the Father, together with persecution, suffering and death. And that which he received from the Father he gave unto men. “My Father,” he said, “worketh hitherto, and I work.” There is, in these words, a fulness and depth of meaning which could not be appreciated by those to whom they were first spoken. They thought that the question between our Lord and themselves was simply a question of working or not working upon the sabbath-day ; but it was rather a question of doing good, of giving of such things as men have, whenever opportunity offers or necessity demands, without regard to those merely outward forms which are good in their true office, but become positively evil if they stand in the way of some deed of kindness, some word of mercy, some look of gentleness, compassion or affection, which might uphold a sinking or prevent a hardening heart.