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2 COR. X, 7. " Do ye look on things after the outward appearance ? " (A. V.) "Ye look at things that are before your face." (Revised Ver.)
Thousands of us do this. When we are in shallow and foolish moods of minds we do so. We forget that glitter and varnish are not pure gold and solid oak.
Thus, two men — I mention a real case — were traveling through some fine scenery. One of them had three thousand pounds a year : the other not so much. Had you seen them that morning, you would, perhaps, have said : " There is a man worth three thousand a year — how free from care he must be." But the outward appearance is deceptive, for he suddenly says to his friend, " I have seven separate worries gnawing at my heart." You see he counted his " worries." He had seven, the perfect and mystical number. Is that your experience ? If so, then hear the words which are in the Book of Job : " Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth : therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty : for He maketh sore, and bindeth up : He woundeth, and His hands make whole. He shall deliver thee in six troubles : yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee." Bind that promise to your heart, and rest in the Lord for ever. And, henceforth, when you see a rich man, envy him not, but wait upon God.
Thus, again, a merry company once assembled in the house of a quaint and learned man. There were present — travelers, antiquarians, linguists, actors, clergymen, financiers, and senators. A merry company were they ! Yes ; but roses have thorns, harps get out of tune, banks fail, costly pearls decay, summer storms make fair gardens a desolate wilderness, and many folks often go home to weep alone in the bitterness of their hearts. And that night saw another scene. One of that company went — not home — but to a beautiful common, a few miles
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from St. Paul's. There he poured some deadly poison into a silver claret jug, and drank it to the dregs, and in a few moments he lay dead, with his white face under the solemn gaze of the great stars of God. His fate was foretold long, long ago when an inspired prisoner in Rome wrote these words : " For the love of money is the root of all evil ; which, while some have coveted after, they have erred from the truth, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Judge not, then, the reveller by his outward appearance ; for he is often the most miserable of men.
There is sometimes a painful silence in prayer-meetings when brethren are requested to offer prayer. Whence that silence ? Is it because you can not offer a fine and a long prayer ? Alas ! Is it so ? Is God
then pleased with only fine prayers and long prayers ? Surely God, the merciful and gracious, will listen as of old to the prayer, " God, be merciful to me a sinner ? " A simple prayer is sweet to Him. A loving prayer is all He wants. A believing prayer will move Him as a child's cry to its father. Does the Lord, think you, desire glitter and varnish in our prayers ?
Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odours of Eden, and offerings divine ? Gems of the mountain, and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine ?
Vainly we offer each ample oblation ;
Vainly with gold would His favor secure : Richer by far is the heart's adoration ;
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
Pour out, then, your simple prayers. Tell God, in childlike phrase, your daily wants, and He will answer you. And, brethren, sit not in cold and critical judgment on each other's prayers, but say " Amen ! " to every simple petition which you may hear from unfeigned lips.
There are those in our churches who are well-known to all. Their voices are heard in the streets. Pulpits and platforms know their footsteps. Their names are in the Times, in denominational journals, on flaming posters, and they are called " the leaders of men." Are they, therefore, the chiefest of all saints ?¦ I judge them not. Only let me say that, when I look for the most perfect exemplars of a divine life I
138 Glitter and Varnish.
go not to peers, parliaments, platforms, and pulpits. No ; I go into a humble home, where the loaf is small, the wages low, the child sick, the parents honest and devout and filled with the love of Christ ; and I say to myself : " Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Yes ; this humble home is the gate of heaven.
There is a rage just now for " big things " in Christian work. Hence, a well-known temperance advocate demanded a carriage and pair to meet him at the railway station. Noise, reporters, banners, uniforms, tambourines, choirs, and testimonials are things prized by some who call themselves " the Lord's workers." Ah! glitter and varnish, publicity and glare, processions and trumpets, are not always best for the soul. Quietness of life, private prayer, silent deeds of love, patience in affliction, and diligence in home duties are, in the sight of God, of great
price. " Show piety at home," said the Apostle Paul.
Much importance is sometime attached to demonstrative conversions by not a few of our sensational orators. I believe in the miraculous conversion of Saul of Tarsus, but I believe also in the conversion of Mary who sat still at the feet of Jesus, and simply "heard His word." The dew makes no noise as it falls on the tender grass, and maketh it fresh and green ; and " I will be as the dew," saith the Lord. Fear not, therefore, ye humble souls, because you were not converted in the midst of thunder and lightning, trumpets and crowds. The "clean heart " and the " right spirit " are of God, and not of men. " The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," and no conversion so-called, is a true conversion when these " fruits " are absent. Do you love Jesus ? That is the question.
Any one can gild a piece of iron, and varnish over a slab of wood, but real work, honest work, enduring work is what God requires. Jacob's well is — say — four thousand years old, and it gives sweet water still. Never consent then, in business, to do wretched work. Be a true artist even in humble things. Even a cheap thing should be a good thing. But, in God's workshop there must be no cheapness, no scampering, no hurry, no failure, if by any means perfection be attainable. Mere glitter and varnish must have no place there.
What a perfect worker is Christ ! " The blood of Jesus Christ
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cleanseth us from all sin." "All sin?" Yes, "all sin." If not," all sin," then was the Lord's work not "finished ; " and that can not be, for He brought in an everlasting righteousness. Be like Him,then. Do real work. Do some " finished "thing. Do not bring glitter and varnish to Jesus. He asks for your whole heart. We are to be His alone. Yes ; He waits for some beautiful thing, like unto " an alabaster box of ointment — veryprecious," and nothing less than our entire life will be acceptable in His sight.
It is well for us to do something in the sight of all. We have these words to guide us : " Let your light shine before men." Yes ; let it shine like a candle, a lamp, a beacon, a sun. It cannot shine too splendidly in dark places. And yet beware of glitter and varnish, of the ostentatious and superficial even then. Who can tell how Jesus esteems the private deeds of love, the secret tear of penitence, the gentle word spoken alone to some erring one, the unseen struggle against sin, or, the unknown spiritual martyrdom, that we may " live " unto God? Yes; who can tell? Surely, He who commanded "secret" fasting, alms, and prayer, will know all about our " secret " love to Himself, and all we are, and do, and suffer for His dear sake. Does Jesus know ? Then, that is enough for me.
See, then, that we all think more of the kingdom of God within us than of the applause of the world without us. The Lord is our Judge ; Jesus is our Saviour ; the Word is our guide ; the Holy Spirit is the keeper of our infirmities. The world is nothing to us. Reality — eternal reality — aim at that. My message this morning is ended.
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