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The Promise of Incompleteness.

The Promise of Incompleteness.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY MARVIN R. VINCENT, D.D.




"And these all, having had witness borne to them through
their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some
better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not
be made perfect." — Heb. xi. 39, 40.
BY MARVIN R. VINCENT, D.D.




"And these all, having had witness borne to them through
their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some
better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not
be made perfect." — Heb. xi. 39, 40.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jun 12, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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THE PROMISE OF ICOMPLETEESS. BY MARVI R. VICET, D.D. "And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." — Heb. xi. 39, 40. THERE was a plain mechanic in a little town in Scotland, who feared God, and built houses for a livelihood. He never had more than three months of schooling in his life. Let us draw a circle round the seventy-five years of that life, and look at it merely by itself. Measured by the ordi- nary standards of the world, how cramped it is ! how short in its range ! how insignificant ! What does one builder of peasants' cottages, more or less, matter ? But, then, can we look at that life in that way? Can we look at any life in that way? It is plain to us all that we cannot; for every life everywhere establishes connections and creates consequences. The statement of Scripture, " o one of us liveth unto himself," may be said to be self-evident; and, therefore, no man's life- account can be made up at his death. It is with a life as it is with a large estate. It cannot be closed up at once upon the death of the testator. 343 344 THE PROMISE OF ICOMPLETEESS. Certain obligations have a given time to run. Cer- tain outstanding amounts of capital may not be
 
paid in for years. Certain lands or houses cannot be sold until certain other persons die. And we all know, moreover, that an estate may depreciate after the testator's death. His investments may not turn out well in the end. Indeed, it is doubt- ful if the real sum total of any man's life can be stated until the end of all things. This humble mechanic, for instance, was the father of a son whose name is known and honored wherever the English language is spoken. To James Carlyle's narrow life in the village and in the kirk and in his own cottage, must be added the sum of Thomas Carlyle's life, and the influence of his writings, and the influence of the men whose thought has been stimulated or shaped by those writings. And so the son himself says, "Let me not mourn for my father ; let me do worthily of him : so shall he still live even here in me, and his worth plant itself honorably forth into new generations." I have taken this familiar illustration as con- taining in itself the substance of my text to-day. The truth it gives us is, that no man's life can be estimated by itself, but helps to complete the past, and is completed by the future. o man's life can be judged as an isolated unit ; it must be judged as part of a whole : and therefore every man is a debtor to the past and to the future. This is a peculiar text. These people — Abra- ham, Jacob, Moses, and the rest — were the spir- itual heroes of an earlier time, representing the THE PROMISE OF ICOMPLETEESS. 345 nation's moral high-water mark. They were pow- ers, and society acknowledged and bore witness to their power. Yet there was a good in store,
 
which, though they contributed to it, did not come to them. There was a promise infolded in their life which was not fulfilled to them, but to those who came after them. We should naturally say, that, if there were any large and healthful result to follow the sacrifice of home, the surrender of royal splendor and culture for the desert and the society of a slavish rabble, the dangers of the lion's den and of the fiery furnace, it ought to have fallen to the lot of those who made these sacrifices, and faced these dangers. But it was not so. They bore themselves, in these hard conditions, in such a way as to call forth the admiring witness of their time, and of later times ; but " they received not the promise,*' and the better thing provided was for those who came after them. If their life is to be estimated only in itself, if its record is to cover only the sum of its years, then this state of things seems unjust and cruel, and the life itself of little account. But you at once see that the writer is taking a far wider view than this. He is contemplating these early heroes, not only by themselves, but as links in a great succession of men of faith. He is viewing the results of their life as parts of the great development of humanity at large. What they received or enjoyed of ease, pleasure, or suc- cess is not the question ; but in what relation did they stand to the world's welfare ? 346 THE PROMISE OF ICOMPLETEESS. ow, the recognition and acceptance of this as a law of life has a vast and decisive influence upon any man's character. It shapes a man of a differ- ent type from one who regards his life as an end to itself; and it is here set down to the credit of

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