« PreviousContinue »
How innumerable are the pathways through which divine purposes are displayed ! Verily, as we look into and back upon our careers every man's life appears a plan of God, and, if we take by-paths for ourselves, He so patiently makes His path cross again and again as if He would say: “This is the way, walk ye in it.”
Notice the unsuspected purposes that underlie all our daily living. Heredity is the most universal of all human assets. Yet not all have the same physical, intellectual, or financial heritage. But these initial endowments tell very largely in determining the direction and height of our attainment. Often greatness in the son can be explained by the greatness in the parents. Witness music and poetry in the Lanier family, eloquence in the Randolphs, military genius among the Lees, science in the Darwins and Lecontes, and legal excellence in the Lamars. Paul recognizes the value of heritage in religion. How earnestly he exhorted Timothy to be worthy of his sweet Christian mother and grandmother.
Temperament and gifts God gives to us without our choosing and He sets them as guide posts pointing the way to the work of the farmer, the merchant, the banker, the lawyer, the teacher, the nurse, the home-maker, the minister, the artist, the poet. Training and education He gives for making the most of heritage and gifts. And right here do we see how beneficently He has girded us against the effect of bad heritage. He makes possible by
proper surrounding to keep under and counteract evil tendencies in our nature.
Struggle against hardship and failure does God use as the means of girding to greater richness and strength. Here is a disappointed young teacher, Phillips Brooks, but how he was girded for a monumental success. Here is David Livingstone, refused license for preaching because of his poor exhibition of himself; but yonder he goes, the first explorer of his time, carrying the beam of Christlight through the midnight of a dark continent. How sadly John Milton sang of his lost eyesight, yet what glorious visions he could see in the paradise of God. Tennyson and Carlyle were once looking upon a bust of Dante and Goethe. “What is there in Dante's face that you miss in Goethe's?”
God,” answered Carlyle, without a moment of hesitation. Yes, it was God, and God he found in the bitter loneliness of exile.
Out of the very train of circumstances so often come results little dreamed of. A Hebrew boy, sent to his brothers by his father, is treacherously sold as a slave and taken to a foreign land. There is evidenced here only a life of hardship and misery. But lo, this slave lad becomes the saviour of a nation and the blessing of the very brothers who betrayed him. A Hebrew mother hides her little babe in a basket in the midst of the river flags because she loves him, and the deliverer of an enslaved people one future day has given him a
from a college mate, Secretary of the Shang-Hai Y. M. C. A., reports that a party of Los Angeles travellers passed through Shang-Hai. The letter reveals how a casual visitor through a willing heart and pocketbook was the means, under God, of saving an important Christian enterprise. The Christian traveller from California little realized that the great purpose of his trip was with God to do just that very thing. The same thing is true in church enterprises. God often puts it in the way of man to do for a church what he little expected to do.
Indeed, we do not know what part of our life, what of the things we have done or shall do, will tell most upon the sum of things. It is often when we are doing a thing we least understand, when on the track that seems a blind one, that the issues are the greatest.
Even the by-products of our lives are girded for telling purposes. With some, it has been a difficult thing to discover what was their real life task and what was the incidental thing. In some, there has been such a splendour and variety of gift that we are left to wonder where their chief interest lay. What shall we call Benjamin Franklin? Was he a printer, agriculturist, journalist, great organizer, statesman? Was he not also the first electrician of his age? Verily, it is difficult to determine where his vocation leaves off and where his avocation begins. Cardinal Newman produced countless essays and sermons, but he doubtless will be remembered
longest by his loved “ Lead, Kindly Light.” “One wonders how Paul compared his epistles with the other output of his life. How small an output were these letters, dashed off in the heat of controversy and distractions of travel and other work, and yet it was by the girding of these that his name was to live. It was these scraps from his pen that were to build up doctrine and to furnish the pulpit with texts for centuries." So does God use our daily companionships and pursuits for purposes far greater than we ever conceived.
Even the turning of the pages of a book is fraught, under God's girding, with tremendous possibilities. Amid the classic shades of Christ College, Oxford, which have been, and were to be illuminated by the presence of Sir Philip Sydney, Locke, Camden, Ben Jonson, Wellington, Peel, Ruskin, and Gladstone, there studied an eager band of youth in the religiously dead days of the early eighteenth century. One of these youths chanced to read William Law's “ Serious Call,” and John Wesley went forth as a flaming evangel to kindle anew fires of religious devotion, and became one of the greatest forces of Christian history.
Spanish annals record many romantic stories, but none more adventurous nor entrancing than that of the gay young cavalier who was wounded at Pampeluna and for weeks lay abed while his broken leg was mending. Into his hands fell a book, “ The Lives of the Saints." Because he read these pages,
the soldier of fortune was transformed into a soldier of religion, and Ignatius Loyola gave the Roman Catholic Church the powerful society of the Order of the Jesuits.
Our discussion suffices to show that there is nothing in history, nothing in nature, nothing in our individual lives that does not throb with the very purposes of God. The ancient confession of the Psalmist is still the wisest expression of modern philosophy, modern experience, modern science: “Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me." All splendid visions, all great endeavours, all isolated events, all intricate problems, all successes, all failures and sorrows and troubles are strands, necessary strands of the mighty garment of destiny woven by the purpose of God. Man's necessity is God's opportunity.
What a well-spring of comfort, what a dynamo of power, is the voice of the Eternal, whispering in regard to all of the small things as well as the great things of the universe and of our individual lives: “I have girded thee, though thou hast not known me."
Our part is to recognize and to act upon the reality of these unsuspected divine purposes in a twofold degree-His unsuspected purposes in the extraordinary things of life and in the ordinary things. This recognition shall be achieved by culti