BY SISTER JANE ROBERTS
Life Towards Others
"Our Works" • A Fine House and Wasted Time
The "holy women of old" were wont to illustrate their faith by their works outside their own home. They sought and found a variety of ways in which to forward the work of the Lord, each in her own generation. The fear of the Lord was the moving spring of action with all of them, prompting the service which the surroundings of each required. We may be thankful for the record of their deeds. They are recorded for our instruction and encouragement, that we also in our own later days may emulate them in their love and service.
Our manner of life is different from theirs in some respects. The usages of the countries in which we live are widely different from those of our Eastern sisters of old. Yet there are many points of resemblance to be traced between our experiences and theirs. We stand related to the many present things, in the same way as they did. We have the same natural sympathy with things seen and temporal which they had. We also have their hope of something gloriously better in the days yet to come. They endured as seeing Him who is invisible, because of their hope in his word of promise; we also are called upon to do the same. They experienced the faithfulness of "a faithful Creator" when they cried unto Him, and obediently walked in His ways. It will be our fault if we do not the same. We may share the blessings they enjoyed if we share their faith, and toil for the same noble end.
We may not be called, like Miriam or Jael, to sing the song of victory over the proud foe slain and vanquished, and the hosts of the Lord triumphant; but we may bring their spirit into play in vanquishing other foes, who, if not met in the name of the Lord and His strength, will be too much for us. There were those who laboured privately, whose work was approved when brought to the priest for the service of the tabernacle. God gave them wisdom, and the wisdom they received they devoted to His service with acceptance. The spreading of the table for the prophet, or the refreshing water hospitality brought for the feet of the stranger, were simple acts, but accepted; and that is all the greatest among those born of women can hope to attain unto- acceptance before the Lord.
When we consider what the equivalent in our own country and mode of life would be to the many simple but loving services rendered by the God-fearing women of old, we can see that the difference between their mode of service and ours is only a difference of form. Had we been in their circumstances, we should have done as they did. Had they been in our surroundings, they would have found our way to serve the Lord. The impelling motive in the saints of all ages is the same. The aim is one; the triumph the same except in form: the triumph is one of faith and obedience over unfriendly circumstances. When the company of the redeemed is completed and mustered, they will be of one heart and one mind, in this, that they will have been all tried and purified, and perfected by the discipline to which their faithful service subjected them.
We are, in a sense, permitted to come nearer to God-the great object of our fear and love-than they were. This approach is through Christ, of whom they had not heard except in promise. His manifestation of the Father has drawn us, as it were, more closely into the attitude of children; and with Christ as our elder brother, occupying the position of high-priest and advocate at God's right hand, our confidence is greatly sustained. He knows what our difficulties are as "daughters of the Lord God Almighty," living in an evil world. He has experienced them. He has gone through the preparatory ordeal of trial and endured it as we are called upon to endure it, in view of the joy awaiting victory. In Him we have a helper such as those in the days of old knew not of, for he lives, having been tempted, to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18). We are even better off than those who lived contemporarily with Him, and companied about with him; for they were not able to appreciate Him as we are enabled to do in the full light of apostolic revelation. They did not understand His mission as we can now, looking back upon the fulfilment of much that was inexplicable to them. In the study of His sayings and doings, we have much of the love of God to contemplate that was before hidden. Thus, though we have no visible manifestation of His power in the earth, nor of His presence among us personally, yet by the exercise of faith in what He has caused to be written of His mind and will, we can steadily pursue our way, toiling on in a hope well founded, that at the time appointed, He will reveal His son to bring about that glorious state of things so long promised, and the hope of which has animated the saints in all generations.
Having, then, the hope that inspired the holy women of old, let our works be of the same character. In the days of the tabernacle, the wise-hearted women busied themselves in weaving the variegated and significantly-designed curtains to enclose it, and the various coverings required, internally and externally, for the hallowed place. They worked skilfully and with willing hands, and their service was accepted. It must have been a delightful occupation, so directly identifying the workers with the service of the Most High, and yet we know from Paul's teaching that whatever service is undertaken as unto God, is accepted, however obscure. "Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall be received of the Lord, whether he be bond or free" (Eph. 6:8).
There is much for us to do that will identify us with God's work in His sight (and it is enough that He recognise our work). Wherever there are brethren and sisters, there ought to be (and if they are true, there will be) a light stand in the midst of the surrounding darkness, and the service of this light-bearing will afford interest and work for each one that bears not the name of Christ in vain. There is first the duty of assembling together on the first day of the week, to break bread in remembrance of him.
If this memorial is celebrated in true love and remembrance of an absent one whose return is greatly longed for, it will be truly a "time of refreshing." To none will it prove more so than to the sister whose toil during the week interferes, to some extent, with the realisation to her own mind of the joy which lies hidden in the comforting words of promise to all the faithful who are in Christ Jesus. Her toil, and labour, and anxieties are known above and provided for; but she requires a little quiet to recall the blessings which are hers. She forgets sometimes, in the multiplicity of her duties as a wife, as a mother, as a sister, and as a friend, that there is cause for joy even now amidst the toil and the darkness. This is brought anew to her mind in the quietude of the morning meeting-the silent communing, the word of brotherly exhortation, the song of praise and thanksgivings, the united prayer. Her mind is tranquilized and once more reassured of the good hope, and she is made to realise more vividly the connection between present toil and future glory. She will not be true to herself, if she allows trifles to detain her at home; she will rather plan her arrangements with the view of securing this season of soul-reviving, that she may, by its aid, renew her journey like the weary traveller, after he has rested and partaken of the brook by the way. Christ has indicated the manner in which he wishes us to manifest our love to him. He says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." In his absence, if we love him, we shall delight to think about him, and call to remembrance what he did and said when he was here, and shall be most anxious to comply with his own prescribed mode of remembering him.
We feel the dying wish of a dear friend to be imperative and sacred, and is not this the dying wish of our best friend and brother, that we should break bread and drink wine in remembrance of him, till he come again? It is. And in the observance of this dying request, we are reminded of the depth of his love, which culminated in the shedding of his blood for us; and we have also in it a pledge of his return-a link that binds us to him "till he come." Who then would be absent, when this ordinance of his own appointment is being observed? The very engagement itself reminds us that he really lives, that though unseen by us, he is cognisant of all our thoughts and deeds. It is worth considerable sacrifice to be there. We should think so, if he were personally and visibly present, and it is, doubtless, well pleasing to him that we show our faith in him, by thus recognising him, and doing him honour in his absence.
If it is difficult for a sister to attend the meeting, the more will she please him in overcoming difficulties for his sake. Then, in the gathering together of brethren and sisters, there is the opportunity afforded of shewing our mutual interest in each other's welfare, and, by this means, increasing our love and sympathy as members of the same family. This knowledge of each other, and the circumstances to which each stands related, will furnish us with a clue to the best means of serving the Lord in the persons of His representatives-His brethren and sisters. He has given us to understand that whatever is done to them, He will consider as having been done to Himself. Some stand in need of comfort and encouragement in difficult surroundings: some want to be helped out of the snares by which they may be entangled; some want a little sunshine thrown upon their solitary path; and others stand in need of the practical aid that goes further than saying, "Be warmed; be filled." In all these phases of life, we discern the opportunity providentially afforded to all that exercise themselves unto Godliness, according to the ability which God his given them. One is gifted after this manner, another after that. Let us all be fully persuaded that we have something to account for, and, from this point of view, let us do whatever is within reach, however small, whether direct or indirect, that will minister to the profit of the brotherhood, or further the work of the truth.
There are many claims upon the loving heart and hands of a married sister with a family. Yet, let her use the situation wisely. Let her not make her household duties a reason for neglecting spiritual duties, but rather a reason why she should strive and contrive to avail herself of all opportunities of improvement such as are presented in meetings of the brethren, whether for the proclamation of the truth to the public, or for mutual edification in the word.
We cannot sustain vigorous spiritual life without spiritual sustenance. The things of the spirit must be brought under our especial and frequent notice. They will not come to us spontaneously. We, therefore, ought to give the more earnest heed, availing ourselves of every help. Therefore, in addition to private study of the word, the busy sister-wife will once a week be glad to spare an hour from the work which would otherwise engage her attention at home, for the exclusive contemplation of those things which are at present unseen, but more real than domestic realities, and the true appreciation of which requires the concentration of our thoughts upon them.
She will be glad of such an opportunity to aid the inmost desire of her heart, which is that she may do honour to Christ now, and render herself worthy of his acceptance when he comes. In this condition of mind, how well will she fit herself for the many duties required of her in filling up the measure of her days. In the pleasant duty of visiting among her brethren and sisters, her influence will be healthful. She will be a blessing. She will present a contrast to the tattler and the busy-body, who forgetful of the spirit of her calling- -if she was ever brought under its power delights to go and rehearse the latest gossip, or to pull her neighbour to pieces; for whom the Master has in reserve no word of commendation.
The visit of a true sister will turn to good account in those mutual visitations and rejoicings in the truth, which are natural among those of like precious faith. Such interchange of hope in the things promised, and shortly to be realized, will greatly quicken faith and courage in both visited and visitor. Specially will this be the case in visiting the sick and afflicted. The sister who knows experimentally the sweetness of the promises, both as regards His paternal care of us in this life, and of what He has in store for us in the future, can from the treasury of the Spirit created within her by the word, follow the apostolic example of ministering the same comfort wherewith she herself is comforted of God. Where material help is needed, she will be ready, and if not sufficient of herself for the occasion, she will seek the co-operation of others like- minded, and be able to relieve the immediate wants of the afflicted. The poor among us we shall always have. Our Lord has told us so, perhaps to test our loyalty to him who deigns to acknowledge, in every poor brother who is rich in faith, a representative of himself. The people of the Lord, in the days of old, were required to give so much of their substance to Him according as He prospered them. The claims of the cause of Christ, at present entrusted to the Saints, require a similar sacrifice and service. We are not called upon to bring it openly to the tabernacle or temple. We live under a different dispensation, when we are called upon to do good continually, as we have opportunity. And this gooddoing, a true woman will do privately as the Lord has commanded. She will avoid the publicity of "subscription lists," which are on a par with the ostentatious almsgiving of the Pharisees in our Lord's day. His exhortation to his disciples, in contradistinction to such practices is, "Let not your right hand know what your left hand doeth."
In this spirit much service will be performed which only the judgment seat will reveal, and, it may be, that such service may often be misinterpreted by contemporaries. To this we must be indifferent. They are unaware of the secret motives which would explain all. They may suspect a lack of taste where the surroundings are due to a decision to avoid spiritual hindrances. Ornaments for person and house might be not less gratifying to the obedient sister than to her carnally-minded critics, but she, refrains from the purchase, believing she will better do her part as a steward, by using her lord's property in some other way than merely pleasing the eye.
There is great danger in "the lust of the eye and the pride of life." These lusts which are followed so entirely in the world, we are to crucify. They are not conducive to the development of the mind Godwards, but the reverse. A wise sister will not make it an object to acquire the gewgaws which, as a rule, are only used by their possessors to excite, by their exhibition, the admiration of her visitors. Visitors who can be entertained in this way are dangerous, and their commendation a snare. Rather let us, by the absence of such ornaments be set down as boors by those who don't know the truth, than endanger our standing with the King, who esteems "of great price" the ornaments of a meek and quiet spirit. Let us be misunderstood by our fellows, but not by Him who has written our name in His book of remembrance.
A FINE HOUSE AND WASTED TIME
Let us choose to deny ourselves the questionable pleasure of surrounding ourselves with household ornaments, which consume such an amount of precious time in the taking care of them. We can spend the time to better purpose. We need not seek to please our neighbours in the keeping of our houses. Our standard differs from their's. A sister's calling requires her to regard her house as a convenience in this wilderness state, and not as a thing she is to live for. It is not with her a principal object of attention. She will be careful to keep a clean house and a comfortable house, but a stylish house she has neither time nor taste for. What God requires of her will demand the time, and the skill, and the means, which a fine house would consume at her hands. The will of Christ has the first place in her affection. She looks at some women who profess to be Christ's, and yet have no time for anything beyond the demands of the house; things of God find no place with them. Bright furniture and spotless carpets seem more to them than Christ fellowshipped in deeds of kindness to comfortless hearts, and the gospel preached to the perishing. The true daughters of Sarah reverse all this, and dispense with much that is considered indispensable in worldly households, because they find that to give such things the attention considered genteel, they must neglect the claims of higher things, Their principle is pre-eminence to the things that belong to God. This, indeed, is the only safe rule to follow. It may separate us oftentimes from the "respectable" people so called, but it will place us in the company of apostles and prophets, who were at a discount in their day, because they esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. And we have the joy of knowing that if it gives us their company in the present bitterness, it will ensure for us their glorious society in the day of the manifestation of the sons of God. If we have now the answer of a good conscience, we may indulge in the glorious hope of sharing the honour which awaits all who have in like manner laboured and not fainted. Where then will be the plans and patience bestowed upon the frivolties of fashionable life?
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