DORCAS. BY REV.

WILLIAM ARNOT

" Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good work: and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber" etc. ACTS IX. 36-42. AT this point Saul disappears for a time from the hori zon of our history. He is left unnoticed in his native city, and Peter reappears upon the scene. In those days he seems to have found a most appropriate field for the exercise of his energy in making tours of in spection throughout all Judaea. Here is the true work of a primitive bishop. How welcome would the ven erable form of the aged apostle be in each of the small Christian communities scattered through the towns and villages of the land. Lydda was a small village west ward from Jerusalem, and not far from the shore of the Mediterranean. In that place Peter performed a mira cle of healing. The mighty work was first and last employed in the service of the gospel. The formula employed was, "Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." These men now were full of the Holy Ghost, and so had power to be witnesses to their Lord. The result corresponded with the design: the miracle was effectual in winning souls. All that dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw the restored paralytic, "and turned to the Lord." In the neighboring sea-port of Joppa another mira-

Dorcas. 209 cle was performed, greater in itself, and more interest

ing in its circumstances. This work accordingly is more fully detailed. A disciple, named Dorcas, who had endeared herself by her skilful benevolence to the whole community, grew sick, and died. The sorrowing neighbors thereupon sent express to Lydda for Pe ter, and Peter came at their call. It pleased the Lord, through means of Peter, to restore the dead to life. The fact became known to all the citizens, and "many believed in the Lord." The character and special work of Dorcas are full of interest and instruction for us. She was probably unmarried, for nothing is said of husband or of widow hood. She probably lived alone, for nothing is said of father or mother, sister or brother. She seems to have been one of those "honorable women," of whom not a few have arisen in every country and every age, who, having no family to care for, adopt the poor as their children, and in this form devote their time, and skill, and resources to the service of the Lord. She was not a nun. In order to devote a life to the service of the poor, it is not necessary to renounce, by an irrevocable vow, the privileges, joys, and duties of family life. The relations and affections of nature are God s workmanship, and do not necessarily hinder any good work. Dorcas was a disciple full of good works. One phrase indicates the well-spring, and the other indicates the refreshing stream that overflows. She was a "disciple" behold the root ! She was "full of good works" behold the fruit-bearing branches ! God hath joined these two; men should never and nowhere put them asunder. The one is faith, and the other good works. These two are beautiful in unity; but either wanting its mate "is dead, being alone." People who have a smattering of religious knowledge, but have not been taught of the Spirit, fall alternately

into two opposite errors in regard to the place and worth of good works in the Christian system. In the first instance the crude conception of self-righteousness springs up: Let me crowd in as many good deeds as I can, in order that I may thereby make my peace with God, and have a good case against the great day. But

2io The Church, in tJie Plouse. when this man hears the gospel, and especially the doctrine of justification by faith alone, he begins to think that in this way of salvation there is no place left for a good life that the gospel is jealous, not zeal ous of good works. When the work of the Spirit advances another step in his heart, when he is convinced of sin, and brought to the blood of Christ for pardon, this man gets a new view-point, and consequently a different view. Good works, as a justifying righteousness, he not only does not value, but loathes as filthy rags; yet, as fruit to his Redeemer s glory, he lives and labors in them all his days. Such was the place of works both in the profession and the practice of this honorable woman. The branch was full of grapes, sweet, and ripe, and beautiful; but the branch was in the vine, and that accounts both for its beauty and its fertility. When she was raised to life, they gave her back to the saints and widows. She was their property, and their property was restored. Such a working Christian belongs to the neighborhood, and is their richest treas ure. The work of Dorcas was personal. This is the most precious kind of benevolence, both to the giver and receiver. She knew each widow whom she clothed, each child whom she fed. Possibly she had not much

money to bestow; but she contributed visits of sympa thy, looks of love, and works of skill. There is no coin more welcome in the treasury of the Lord. The coats and garments made by her hands, and exhibited by the poor after her death, were monuments to her memory. Perishable monuments, you may think. Think of an inscription to commemorate a great life sewed with thread in garments for the poor ! written, not in brass or stone, but on the smooth sea-sand, ready to be blotted out by to-morrow s tide ! Nay, but this woman s eulogy has, in point of fact, been more se curely preserved and more widely published than the victories of Rome or the art of Greece. .All genera tions read her praises, and call her blessed. She has been greatly honored. In one point she has been made like the Lord, she has left us an example that we should follow her steps. Many are treading in her track to-

Dorcas, 2 1 1 day; and the world is greener for us because of the footsteps that she left imprinted on its sand. Some monuments, such as that of Sir Walter Scott at Edinburgh, when they have obtained a high place in the judgment of educated men, are reduplicated in pictures, and spread in many specimens throughout the civilized world. The one original monument- raised to Dorcas in the sacred record has in like manner been many times copied. Societies which are constituted for continuing her work frequently adopt her name: and thus she lives to-day in the world. Being dead, she yet speaketh through the manifold energies of Christian women in all the Christianized countries of the world. This kind of charity was new in the world when

Dorcas began at Lydda to make with her own hands garments for the poor of the neighborhood. The seed of that kind came from a far country, even an heaven ly. It was dropped from the lips of Jesus on the fur rows of some tender hearts, and it has propagated it self from generation to generation. The Lord will doubtless find some fields of it growing ripe at his second coming. Christian love is generic; it sends out many subor dinate species, all partaking of the same essential na ture, and each exhibiting particular features peculiar to itself. The species which Peter found flourishing at Lydda is not unfrequent in our own day and land. Where it is genuine it is as beautiful as the violet grow ing under the hedge; and, like it, fills the air with fra grance. Female love, working outward through female hands in making garments to clothe the naked, is a well-known and comely form of Christian benevolence. Behold, it is very good. It is Scriptural, useful, safe. It is twice blessed blessing those that give and those who receive. The resources at our disposal are much greater than those which belonged to the primitive Christians. There is a greater number of loving hearts, and there is greater power in the operator s hands. Cotton, the spinningjenny, the power-loom, the sewing-machine who shall calculate how many times these modern discoveries have multiplied love s power of doing good wherever

212 The Church in tJic House. there is a real living love ? Besides all these, we have more money in our hands, easier means of transit, and greater facilities for combination. The earth produces more, and the powers of nature perform for us all the harder portions of the labor. One Dorcas in our city

to-day could do more with her own hands than five in Lydda in the time of Peter. Yet with all these advantages we have not over taken the destitution. In some quarters it is increas ing on our hands. Widows and orphans are in want within sound of our Sabbath-bells. The state of the poor around us should put us to shame should hush our manifold divisions and dis putes, and bring us into one that we might be stronger for the Lord s work in the world. I could point to scenes of horrid cruelty which would make the blood stand still in your veins if you saw them; and yet they are at our own doors. Children in our cities are starved and killed by slow degrees for want of food and clothing. Why should this be while there are so many really benevolent hearts and so great resources at the disposal of the community ? There is a deeper thing than the hunger and naked ness of the children. There is a root which bears these bitter fruits. It is the drunkenness of the parents. This is the gulf which we are unable to fill. There it yawns, as represented by public-houses and pawn shops, between the warm hearts of Christians and the starving children. There it yawns a bottomless pit. You may throw into it all the wealth of the kingdom: the mighty contribution will sink out of sight in the quagmire, and you will be as far from the naked chil dren as before. Dorcas sits at home with a burning heart, for she has seen ragged, barefooted children on the street in the winter s cold. She sits and sews. Stitch, stitch, stitch; love makes the needle go until the garment is completed. With light feet she trips down on the morrow to the place where the naked child dwells. She clothes it, and departs. Next day she will visit

her charge and see how it fares. The child is naked again; the mother is drunk, and the house is cold. The garment that Dorcas made lies on the shelf of the

Dorcas. 2 1 3 pawn-shop, and the money in the till of the nearest public-house. Thus the mill goes round the mill that grinds little children to feed the real giants, more ter rible than all the pictured monsters that terrified the nursery. This process is conducted on a great scale, crushing the little ones into premature graves. If the geologists of a future era should dig into the strata of our ceme teries, they will be amazed to find so large a proportion of the remains to be infants bones. They will judge it contrary to nature. What can be the cause of the phenomenon ? If the history of our time shall then be extant, they will learn from it what their philosophy could not tell them that the vice of the parents slaugh tered the children ! Yet the nation looks on helpless ! It is certain, and easily proved, that the poverty which is true and natural, caused by providential cir cumstances, is small in quantity, and of a kind that is easily cured. We could relieve it and not be burdened by the effort. The exercise would be pleasant and healthful to the community. Instead of being a pun ishment it might be realized as the fulfilment of a promise, "The poor ye have always with you," that we might never lack an object to draw forth our char ity, and so might never miss the larger blessing the blessing which belongs to those who give. But the pauperism which springs from vice is not only so great that to relieve it becomes a burden it is of such a kind that to relieve it is impossible.

There is need of two things \first, a perennial spring of charity in Christian hearts, finding or forcing a way into every home of misery in the land; and, second, an effort by a united people, acting through the legislature and the government, to deal effectively with the ma terial feeders of vice, and so abate the nuisance. There is some advance in public opinion at the present day; but, alas, great bodies move slowly, espe cially against the stream. In some of our colonies vig orous experiments have been made. In one of the Australian governments, for example, a law has been enacted under which, when a man or woman has been convicted of being an habitual drunkard, society has a claim for damages against those who supply the drink

214 The Church in the House. Proposals pointing to a restraint of the traffic have been earnestly advocated in our own community, and formally submitted to the legislature. I cannot predict whether this method will be successful, or that; but the attempts are most interesting to all philanthropists, as symptoms that society is awakening to a sense of danger, and beginning to cast about for remedies. It is especially cheering to the heart of Dorcas, as she toils to roll her stone up-hill, only to see it rolling down again, to ob serve that the commonwealth is bestirring itself to put some check on the huge machinery, driven by greed of gain, which revolves night and day, summer and winter, to manufacture a wholesale pauperism. Meanwhile individual disciples of Christ, whilst they are permitted and even bound in their capacity ascitizens to lend their influence to beneficent legislative measures, should not wait on the slow movements of a nation. They should, from love to the Lord and pity for men, put their own hand to the work wherever they can

descry an opening. Dorcas enjoyed the blessed privi lege of clothing the naked who were within her reach. It was her meat to do her Redeemer s will, and her appetite was abundantly gratified. It is a beautiful feature of the Christian Church at the present day, and a symptom that the Spirit has not forsaken us, that "honorable women not a few" both lay out their means and labor with their hands to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, in loving obedience to the Word of the Lord. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

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