I have finished the work Thou gavest me to do. John xvii. 4. THE workmen's question is often called the great question of the day. Taken in its widest sense it certainly is, for it touches the interests of all mankind. All are, or should be, workmen. There is no place for drones in the human hive! We may even with reverence speak of the Creator as the Master Workman, since all things created are the works of His hands. We have, too, our Saviour's words, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," as a still further sanction for the dignity of labor. It is a low view of duty which looks forward to middle life or declining years as a time of full freedom from all care and occupation, a period of which the daily expression may be, " Soul, take thine ease; thou hast much goods laid up for many years ! " From another point of consideration we have the same lesson. How often it has

MI ISTERI G. 147 been seen that the eager toiler with mind or body, possessing at last what is to him an abundance of worldly goods becomes, in his longed-for time of rest and self-indulgence, a lethargic, a broken-down, a purposeless idler, or a slave to the pampered body, now become a brutal master.

o! .We are not made for perfect rest, but for action, for work ! We cannot always even choose the career for ourselves or our children. or have we the wisdom necessary for such a choice, since the future must always be unknown to us. Many a devout mother has set apart her infant for the ministry, and accustomed him from childhood to consider that his destined mission. Such a mother has too frequently lived to see that son performing his priestly functions without the gifts or the graces requisite for the position. Many a man has droned out his life as an unprofitable preacher of the Word, who would have instructed better by a faithful example, his hand on the plough, or guiding or constructing some intricate modern machine. That labor is truly honorable for which the instrument is fitted, and which is done conscientiously, as apportioned by the Great Euler of all things! God-granted ability and providential circumstances hedge around most human beings, and shut them up to a certain path. Many a wilful

148 OUR ELDER BROTHER, youth fancies himself, at the start, free to choose his own career. He is disappointed here, cut off there, disabled for this, proved incompetent for that, till he finds himself at last at a work he never dreamed of, and perhaps develops gifts and powers of which he himself has been hitherto unconscious. It is in vain that we imagine that we are misplaced in life, out of our proper sphere, and thus

crippled in our exertions and doomed to come short of our proper destiny. We are not put here simply to shine, but to grow nobler and better ! And who can say what is of importance in this strange world? One man's neglect of some simple duty, or unfaithfulness in some trifling detail, may be a source of appalling calamity and widespread destruction. On one honest laborer's conscientious work hundreds of human lives depend, on sea or land, in the factory, or in the far journey ! When we are discontented with our work, it is almost always because we are looking forward to a long, weary round of these uncongenial, unimposing duties. How do we know that we have any earthly future? The clock may be ready to sound out the hour for our appointed change. The trifling duty which we are now despising may have a solemn, momentous importance as our last earthly act. When death pronounces

MI ISTERI G. 149 our work finished, the awful question will be how that work was done, not how it was regarded in the eyes of men ! And if our lives are spared, how do we know that this treadmill round is really before us? It may be that, like the man who is to superintend large mechanical undertakings and must therefore himself learn practically the first humble duties of the workshop, we, too, must begin at the beginning to be able afterwards to lead and command. Be that as it may, it is ours so to labor in our appointed field that we can lay down at last our little sheaf before the Lord

of the Harvest, like the faithful reaper, who is no longer a servant but has been accepted as a son! It may be that in our humble daily work, which we think unworthy of our acquirements or abilities, there is shut up some opportunity of higher usefulness, which in our self-seeking has escaped us. There may be some soul, precious to God, in whose neighborhood we have been placed to be a comfort or stay or guide. There may be some doubter whose eyes we are to open, some timid penitent we should point to the cross, some lost sheep we should tenderly lead home to the peace and security of the fold. It may be that our faithful fulfilment of uncongenial duties is to give a testimony to the power of Christian

150 OUR ELDER BROTHER. principle, better than ten sermons. It may be that our struggle to do well where we do not want to be is to strengthen our own tottering religious life, and plant our feet firmly on the Eock of Ages. Perhaps you have never yet begun your destined, your all-important work, ever to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Perhaps you have never laid the willing hand in those blessed hands that were stretched on the cross that they might lead us to the Heavenly Kingdom . There has been but one being in human form who could look up to the Father and say, " I have finished the work Thou gavest me to do." We hear often of men cut off in the midst of their

labors, leaving in youth or in manhood an unfinished work. So the world speaks, as if alone the sudden close of an earthly career caused the incompleteness of the work. Look at the aged saint who, after a pure outward life and long years of active usefulness, lays down his hoary head in the grave. Does he presume to come before his Heavenly Master as with a finished work? He too must bow down before the throne of the All-Perfect as an unprofitable servant, a helpless sinner, a transgressor of the strict law, a banished dweller in outer darkness, but for the one faultless life, the one all-sufficient sacrifice !

MI ISTERI G. . 151 We cannot know the peace of that nature which in the presence of the Omniscient could say, "I have finished the work Thou gavest me to do." Yet we have been brought into brotherhood with the One Perfect Man. He has owned us in the words, " I go to my Father and your Father, my God and your God ! " Through Him we may draw near as welcome sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty! Our poor deeds shine with a light reflected from Him who is the Light of the World. He has been pleased to choose us as His own, and will gather us at last into His Father's House.



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