GIVERS AND RECEIVERS BY REV. W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, M.A. LL.D.

THAT humanity may be parted easily into the two classes of givers and receivers is a fact which is written plainly on the very face of life. There is no such thing as fair exchange. The broad truth about some is that their lives have been spent in loving and imparting ; the broad truth about others is that they have throughout coveted and received. Take, for example, the fortunes of love. Does it not seem as if the most royal faculty of the soul were often the most disordered and vagrant ? How much love runs to waste, meets with no answer, is bestowed foolishly, madly ! To the most loving the world is often loveless, and they are forced to think that they have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Even when there is a response, it is meagre and unsatisfying. Sydney Dobell, in his poem, " The Captain's Wife," tells suggestively

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the story of an affection returned and yet not returned.

" Yet there is something here within this breast, Which, like a flower that never blossoms, lieth. And though in words and tears my sorrow crieth, I know that it hath never been expressed. Something that blindly yearneth to be known, And doth not burn, nor rage, nor leap, nor dart ; But struggles in the sickness of my heart As a root struggles in a vault of stone."

For multitudes of men and women the chief bitterness of bereavement is the remorse for misprizing the treasure of a heart. Only when death has snapped the bond do they understand that what they miss and must miss all the days is the touch, the breath, the tread of love.

The same is true of impulse and service. The palmary instance for Christians is that of the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. It is
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true that Our Lord came to confront the empire of evil. He did not shrink from the shock of battle, but He came loving and seeking love. " He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." If there had been given to Him no vision of a harvest in the far future, might He not have looked upon the travail of His soul as vain ?

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What was true of the Master is true of the disciples. It was true for St. Paul, it is true sooner or later for every faithful minister. No life of Christian service but is to be known by the mark of the nails. One of the most successful and beloved of modern preachers wrote : "I have much observed of late how the afternoon of life seems to lose part of its natural, well-deserved recompense. I know and have heard of a good many personal experiences of this kind both in Church and State. The real spirit and character
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of the persons affected are brought out by such trials." In the sphere of public life no tmth impresses itself more deeply on the close observer than this. The reader of Mr. Morley's often finely felt pieces on political leaders must be familiar with the French saying, which comes in so often as a gloomy refrain : "In order to love mankind one must expect little from them." Early in life Burke warned a young man entering public life to regard and see well to the common people, whom his best instincts and his highest duties led him to love and to serve, but to put as little trust in them as in princes. The same statesman elsewhere describes an honest public life as carrying on a poor, unequal

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conflict against the passions and prejudices of our day, perhaps with no better weapons than passions and prejudices of our own. How rarely does a great leader witness the final triumph of
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the cause to which he has given his life ! Even if many years are granted him, and he attains the glory of a feeble victory, in the height of the sunshine the shadow is rapidly stealing on. The scene often undergoes a strange transformation, final for this life. By the time the splendid career is closed, men have forgotten it in the worship of other luminaries.

There is something difficult and strange about all this. It would be far more difficult if it were not that, after all, the givers and not the receivers are the blessed. Our Lord, the great Giver, left His witness to this. " It is more blessed to give than to receive." Men, in spite of themselves, are compelled in their secret souls to admit that His judgment was right, only they will not act upon it. The great ambition of life for the vast majority is to receive. They give grudgingly, they accept eagerly; and they fancy that the more they possess the more joyous, peaceful, secure their life will be. Yet who does not know that to bear all things, to believe all things, to

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hope all things, to meet every defeat and refusal with an unfailing and Christlike sweetness, is the true path of peace ? Who does not know that there is something better than possession ?

" The strength and the loving to gaze on each thing That they have not, with joy in its beauty, and sing, To some He hath given."

Upon these, as the beautiful German saying has it, the sun smiles, while it only shines upon others. They who love, and they only, live the true life of humanity. Better to be the loving mother than the unloving son. Demas forsook Paul because he loved this present world, but St. Paul, passing through the chequered scenes of a career full of triumph and of failure, missing love where he loved abundantly, and dying in poverty and solitude, was happier than Demas in Thessalonica, whatever his possessions were. Even men of the
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world know this to be true in every hour that holds the soul above itself.

For the givers receive the best. What is denied by their fellows is bestowed by God, or rather God has provided some better thing for them. If the horizon were closed by the world of sense and time, it might seem as if the receivers had the best of it, but the homely saying holds — " It was

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never yet loving that emptied the heart, nor giving that emptied the purse." Why ? Because there is a miraculous divine supply, which counteracts and reverses the forces that might impoverish and drain. We cannot give, it is obvious, without first of all receiving. The givers have the richest hearts to begin with ; the more they give, the richer their hearts grow, the sweeter and fuller is their life. They pass from duty to duty, from experience to experience, living heartily in them
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all, bearing everywhere a sweet savour of Christ, with an influence pervasive in proportion as they have grace to pass through worldly solicitations unaltered and unbeguiled.

How does Christ give to and bless His givers ? Not so much by the permanent alteration of their circumstances, though He sometimes memorabl}^ blesses even in outward ways those who keep an open heart. More often, however, the circumstances remain, and Christ's gift is victory over them. The ultimate promise stands, " Verily thou shalt be fed." To this there is oftentimes no addition, because no addition is needed. It is still as it was in Our Lord's time. Those who have the royal heart are never left without the means of giving, never left unhappy. " He said

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unto them, When I sent you forth without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And
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they said. Nothing." It is a hopeful sign of reaction against the hungry materialism of the times that so many Christian people are turning their thoughts to the inner, present, spiritual blessings, that lift us above circumstance, that may be ours for the asking, that are bestowed instantly, in their beginnings at least, and that lift the soul into the royalty of inward happiness. We cannot live and be blessed as we are. There the givers and receivers agree. But for the receivers the blessing is found in the outward, for the givers the true riches are an inward possession. " Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit " wherein there is no excess. The condemnation of the outward is in this, that it ever tends towards excess. The craving is increased by that which feeds it, the stimulations that thrill the heart for a moment need to be made stronger, and the reaction steadily becomes swifter and more complete. But the gift of the Spirit, which raises us above time and nature, brings enduring strength and peace, and can never be sought or bestowed in over-measure. It will be poured into the open thirsty heart,
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filling it with unstinted joy and love and energy, putting within our reach all the resources of God, making us rich to enrich the world. Time and circumstance, sorrow and impoverishment — over these we may be more than conquerors.

" One eve, 'mid autumns far away, I walked alone beside a river ; grey And pale was earth, the heavens were grey and pale, As if the dying year and dying day Sobbed out their lives together, wreaths of mist Stole down the hills to shroud them while they kissed Each other sadly ; yet behind this veil Of dreariness and decay my soul did build. To music of its own, a temple filled With worshippers beloved that hither drew In silence ; then I thirsted not to hear The voice of any friend, nor wished for dear Companion's hand firm clasped in mine ; I knew.
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Had such been with me, they had been less near."

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