Ye shall kindle no fire.
Biblical Museum.In the old time it was a law that each night, at a prescribed hour, a bell should be rung, on hearing which the people were to put out their fires. This a law not about putting fires out each day, but against lighting a fire on one particular day. Why this law?
I. TO SHOW THAT ON THE SABBATH, ESPECIALLY, MEN SHOULD ATTEND TO THE INTERESTS OF THE SOUL RATHER THAN TO THE COMPORTS OF THE BODY.
II. TO REMOVE FRIVOLOUS EXCUSES FOR NON-ATTENDANCE ON RELIGIOUS WORSHIP.
III. TO GUARD THE TIME OF FEMALES OR SERVANTS FROM UNRIGHTEOUS INVASION; and teach men that women had religious rights and duties equally with themselves.
IV. TO INCULCATE IN ALL THE DUTY OF SELF-SACRIFICE IN MATTERS RELATING TO THE SOUL AND GOD.
Scientific Illustrations.All creation seems to possess the instinct of rest. We well know how eagerly the human heart sighs for rest. But it is not so well known that even plants sleep. Their strange sleep, says Figuier, vaguely recalls to us the sleep of animals. In its sleep the leaf seems by its disposition to approach the age of infancy. It folds itself up, nearly as it lay folded in the bud before it opened, when it slept the lethargic sleep of winter, sheltered under the robust and hardy scales, or shut up in its warm down. We may say that the plant seeks every night to resume the position which it occupied in its early days, just as the animal rolls itself up, lying as if it lay in its mother's bosom. All the world seems to express the sentiment contained in the words uttered by one of old, who desired the wings of a dove in order to seek and obtain rest.
A willing offering.
I. Having received largely and freely, then, to give is first to GIVE ONE'S SELF. And I would advise you, before you make any gift whatsoever, to go through an express act of surrender of yourself to God. That done, then make your gift, whatever it be, that you have in your heart to give — make it a solemn, consecrated gift. By some special acts of prayer, dedicate it to God. Then make your act of charity, to the Church or to your fellow-men.
II. And now the practical question comes —HOW MUCH OUGHT WE TO GIVE? A question which, in the freeness of the gospel, it is impossible to answer. The answer would vary according to many circumstances, so that it would be impossible to lay down one abstract law. The line has too often, perhaps, been drawn, that it becomes a Christian to give one-tenth of his income to God. But if a man with small means ought to give one-tenth, then a man with double the means ought to give a fifth; because the rate of giving ought to rise in proportion to the income. And, again, the rate of the giving must be according to the demands and the claims which are upon the Christian. So that those who have families — wives and children — depending upon them, ought not to give in the same proportion to their income as those who have none. So that should it be that any person, either of his own fault or other's fault, is involved in debt, then that person should consider first the justice of paying the debt, and then go on to the luxury of giving to God or to the Church. I do not say that a person who is in debt should be deprived altogether of the privilege of giving to God. Because, if he make his gift to God a thing taken out of that which he would certainly otherwise have spent upon himself, then he is not injuring his creditors, though he gives part of his income, and though he be in debt, to God. But then he must be careful that by that gift he does not defraud his creditors, because there must be perfect justice before charity.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. THE LORD'S OFFERING SHOULD BE IMMEDIATE. The people in this instance were sufficiently informed of the need. They had time to learn how far they could individually meet it, and then they returned with their presents. A simple, practical reply this, to the Divine call. "He gives twice that gives quickly." Emergencies are not continuous.
II. THE LORD'S OFFERING MUST BE VOLUNTARY.
III. THE LORD'S OFFERING IS TO BE OF SUCH AS WE HAVE, Good wishes and approving words bring down no scales which turn with deeds. " Most men," said Sydney Smith, "are ready to act the good Samaritan without the oil and the two pence."
IV. THE LORD'S OFFERING MAY BE COMPLETE (chap. Exodus 36:5, 6).
(De Witt S. Clarke.)
The Preacher's Monthly.I. A GREAT DEMAND.
1. God sometimes makes demands upon His people. Sometimes by providential calls for help. Our brother dies suddenly and leaves his orphan children dependent on our care. In these children God comes to us and says — Give!
2. The demands which God makes upon His people are sometimes apparently harsh and unreasonable. Here, from these newly-escaped slaves, He demands a Tabernacle which cost, it is computed, at least £250,000.
3. God sometimes makes demands upon His people which cannot be met without real self-sacrifice.
4. He demands that these sacrifices shall be made with good will (chap. Exodus 25:2; 35:5; 1 Corinthians 8:12; 1 Corinthians 9:7). God makes such demands upon His people —(1) Not because He needs anything at their hand (Psalm 50:9-12).(2) But solely for their welfare.(a) They need to be saved from covetousness, which is idolatry.(b) They need to have their character ennobled, and this can be accomplished only by the exercise of self-denial.(c) They need channels for the expression of gratitude and joy. By those who truly love God, opportunities by which they may honour Him are welcomed with eager joy.
II. A GLORIOUS RESPONSE. The demand for contributions for the erection of the Tabernacle was more than met (Exodus 36:5-7). How did this come to pass?
1. A spirit of holy enthusiasm possessed the people.
2. This spirit of holy enthusiasm possessed not a few wealthy men only, but the whole people (vers. 21, 29).
3. This spirit of holy enthusiasm moved them to give not only of their superfluity, but also things needful to them in daily life (vers. 22-24); and not only to give, but also to labour (ver. 25).
4. This spirit of holy enthusiasm transformed every sacrifice that was made for God into an occasion and cause of great joy. So, again, was it at the erection of the Temple (1 Chronicles 29:9). Finally, this glorious response on the part of the people was gloriously acknowledged by the Most High (chap. Exodus 40:34, 35).
(The Preacher's Monthly.)
I. We have set forth here THE TRUE MOTIVE OF ACCEPTABLE SERVICE. "They came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing." There is a striking metaphor in that last word. Wherever the spirit is touched with the sweet influences of God's love, and loves and gives back again, that spirit is buoyant, lifted, raised above the low, fiat levels where selfishness feeds fat and then rots. The spirit is raised by any great and unselfish emotion. Continual contact with Jesus Christ, and realization of what He has done for us, is sure to open the deep fountains of the heart, and to secure abundant streams. If we can tap these perennial reservoirs, they will yield like artesian wells, and need no creaking machinery to pump a scanty and intermittent supply. We cannot trust this deepest motive too much, nor appeal to it too exclusively. Let me remind you, too, that Christ's appeal to this motive leaves no loophole for selfishness or laziness. Responsibility is all the greater because we are left to assess ourselves. The blank form is sent to us, and He leaves it to our honour to fill it up. Do not tamper with the paper, for remember there is a Returning Officer that will examine your schedule who knows all about your possessions.
II. We get here THE MEASURE OF ACCEPTABLE WORK. We have a long catalogue, very interesting in many respects, of the various things that the people brought. Such sentences as these occur over and over again — "And every man with whom was found" so-and-so "brought it"; "And all the women did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun"; "And the rulers brought" so-and-so. Such statements embody the very plain truism that what we have settles what we are bound to give. Or, to put it into grander words, the capacity is the measure of duty. Our work is cut out for us by the faculties and opportunities that God has given us. The form as well as the measure of our service is determined thereby. "She hath done what she could," said Jesus Christ about Mary. We often read that, as if it were a kind of apology for a sentimental and useless gift, because it was the best that she could bestow. I do not hear that tone in the words at all. I hear, rather, this: that duty is settled by faculty, and that nobody else has any business to interfere with that which a Christian soul, all aflame with the love of God, finds to be the spontaneous and natural expression of its devotion to the Master. The words are the vindication of the form of loving service; but let us not forget that they are also a very stringent; requirement as to its measure, if it is to please Christ. "What she could." The engine must be worked up to the last ounce of pressure that it will stand. All must be got out of it that can be got out of it.
III. Notice, again, how in this list of offerings there comes out the great thought of THE INFINITE VARIETY OF FORMS OF SERVICE AND OFFERING, WHICH ARE ALL EQUALLY NEEDFUL AND EQUALLY ACCEPTABLE. The list begins with "bracelets, and ear-rings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold." And then it goes on to "blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and red skins of rams, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood." And then we read that the women did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun — namely, the same things as have been already catalogued, the blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. That looks as if the richer gave the raw material, and the women gave the labour. Poor women, they could not give, but they could spin. They had no stores, but they had ten fingers and a distaff; and if some neighbour found the stuff, the ten fingers joyfully set the distaff twirling, and spun the yarn for the weavers. Then there were others who willingly undertook the rougher work of spinning, not dainty thread for the rich soft stuffs whose colours were to glow in the sanctuary, but the coarse black goats' hair which was to be made into the heavy covering of the roof of the Tabernacle. No doubt it was less pleasant labour than the other, but it got done by willing hands. And then, at the end of the whole enumeration, there comes — "And the rulers brought precious stones, and spices, and oil," and all the expensive things that were needed. The big subscriptions are at the bottom of the list, and the smaller ones are in the place of honour. All this just teaches us this — what a host of things of all degrees of preciousness in men's eyes go to make God's great building! All the things that are given, and the works that are done from the same motive, because of the willing heart, stand upon the same level of acceptance and preciousness in His eyes, whatever may be their value in the market-place.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. CO-OPERATION IN FREE GIVING.
1. The men brought their gifts (vers. 23, 24).
2. The women brought their gifts (vers. 25, 26).
3. The rulers brought their gifts (vers. 27, 28).
II. GIVING BASED ON AN ACCEPTABLE PRINCIPLE.
1. Its motive was right (ver. 29).
2. Its judgment was correct.
(1) (2) III. FREE GIVING, IN ITS INFLUENCE UPON GOD (vers. 30-35). 1. If the gifts had not been forthcoming, the special skill would not have been brought into requisition. 2. The gifts, without the skill to use them, would have been of no account. 3. A Divine law is here discovered — God ever imparts to a willing people every needed grace for complete success.Lessons: 1. The contrast between the children of Israel bowing before the calves of gold and bearing cheerful offerings for God's sanctuary, is marked and suggestive.(1) It suggests the power of a sentiment for good or evil.(2) It suggests the responsibility of leaders of the people. The few create the sentiment, the many adopt it. 2. The contrast between the feelings of their covenant God toward them in these opposite attitudes. (1) (2) 3. Suggestive also is the contrast between the joy and peace of a disobedient and an obedient people. 4. We have here an instructive example of how much can be accomplished by a willing and united people in a short time. (1) (2) (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
(2) III. FREE GIVING, IN ITS INFLUENCE UPON GOD (vers. 30-35). 1. If the gifts had not been forthcoming, the special skill would not have been brought into requisition. 2. The gifts, without the skill to use them, would have been of no account. 3. A Divine law is here discovered — God ever imparts to a willing people every needed grace for complete success.Lessons: 1. The contrast between the children of Israel bowing before the calves of gold and bearing cheerful offerings for God's sanctuary, is marked and suggestive.(1) It suggests the power of a sentiment for good or evil.(2) It suggests the responsibility of leaders of the people. The few create the sentiment, the many adopt it. 2. The contrast between the feelings of their covenant God toward them in these opposite attitudes. (1) (2) 3. Suggestive also is the contrast between the joy and peace of a disobedient and an obedient people. 4. We have here an instructive example of how much can be accomplished by a willing and united people in a short time. (1) (2) (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
III. FREE GIVING, IN ITS INFLUENCE UPON GOD (vers. 30-35).
1. If the gifts had not been forthcoming, the special skill would not have been brought into requisition.
2. The gifts, without the skill to use them, would have been of no account.
3. A Divine law is here discovered — God ever imparts to a willing people every needed grace for complete success.Lessons:
1. The contrast between the children of Israel bowing before the calves of gold and bearing cheerful offerings for God's sanctuary, is marked and suggestive.(1) It suggests the power of a sentiment for good or evil.(2) It suggests the responsibility of leaders of the people. The few create the sentiment, the many adopt it.
2. The contrast between the feelings of their covenant God toward them in these opposite attitudes.
(1) (2) 3. Suggestive also is the contrast between the joy and peace of a disobedient and an obedient people. 4. We have here an instructive example of how much can be accomplished by a willing and united people in a short time. (1) (2) (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
(2) (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
(2) (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
I. ART SHOULD BE CONSECRATED TO THE SERVICE AND WORSHIP OF GOD. Emptiness and gloom do not honour Him whose are the silver and the gold, and whose handiwork is manifest in star and crystal, flower and feather. We cannot go far wrong when the Word of God encourages us in chaste use of symbols, making art the handmaid of religion, and every avenue to the soul a highway to God.
II. THE ARTIZAN'S CALLING IS HONOURED OF GOD AND HIS LAWGIVER. He who is diligent in business and fervent in spirit serves the Lord, and even in our manual occupations we may be fellow-workers with God. He who works rightly is so far God-like.
III. GIVING, WHEN RIGHTLY DONE, IS AN ACT OF WORSHIP. To hear the Word without an offering is to be a hearer of it and not a doer. Stinginess in a Christian contradicts the cross and its lesson. We are to give promptly and regularly. Zeal cools by delay. Ideas shrink and vision shortens when the heart is not roused. Like the willing people before Moses, let us give now and see the good of our gifts while we live. Better be our own executors, writing our wills on living human hearts rather than on the skins of dead sheep or lawyers' foolscap.
IV. IMPULSIVE GENEROSITY IS NOT TO BE CONTEMNED. Sentiment is more powerful than logic, and every minister of Christ and leader of men should imitate Moses, who proved himself, under God, a heart-rousing, pocket-compelling preacher. To thrill the money-nerve unto good ends is a noble achievement. Then the maid forgets her ornaments. The lady's jewels are cast into the molten mass that is to make a church bell, supply the needs of the battle-field, the hospital, or the famine-stricken land.
V. THE PATH OF SACRIFICE LEADS US TO CHRIST AND HIS CROSS. The heart that prompts the offer of the cup of cold water, when cultivated by Divine grace to highest possibilities, rests only under the cross of Calvary.
(William E. Griffis.)
I. THE MATERIALS OF WHICH THE TABERNACLE WAS MADE.
1. Various. Nothing is too good for God's service. Common things are useful, and not to be despised. The meanest things may be sanctified to God's service. In the Church of Christ we find persons of all nations and stations. Sinners of every degree, colour, character, and size; redeemed, called, sanctified, and blessed, are the materials with which God builds His spiritual house.
2. Suitable. We cannot improve on God's Choice, nor conceive of a better plan. So in the Church of God perfect wisdom is seen. His glory is great in our salvation. Christ will have a revenue of praise from every soul He rescues from hell. Great sinners are just suitable for a great Saviour.
3. Very costly. Who can tell the value of one soul?
4. Mostly from Egypt. God gathers all the materials for His sanctuary out of the house of bondage.
II. THE WILLING PEOPLE WHO BROUGHT THE MATERIALS. A beautiful illustration of the fruit and effect of God's forgiving love. Having willing hearts, the people brought willing offerings. All classes had a share in the giving — poor as well as rich — and all their gifts were accepted.
III. THE SKILFUL WORKMEN WHO BROUGHT THE MATERIALS INTO BEAUTEOUS FORM.
(R. E. Sears.)
I. LET US COMPARE THEIR DESIGN IN ERECTING THE TABERNACLE WITH OURS. It was to establish a religion which, when we consider, we cannot but rejoice that we live in brighter days. Not that we would speak disrespectfully of a system which God Himself instituted; but we may safely say that it was inferior to ours. When the Jews laboured to build the Tabernacle they laboured to establish a religion that was —
1. Obscure. There was some light, but it was mingled with much darkness. The truths taught were enveloped in obscurity.
2. Their system was contracted. When they sought to build a Tabernacle, it was only for the use of a million or a million and a half of people. Theirs was a spirit of sectarianism. It was wisely appointed, indeed, to keep them from mingling with the heathen around them. But we cannot help rejoicing that we are not thus shut up. The gospel is designed for all nations, tongues, and people.
3. Their system was burdensome. Their observances were pompous, their rites were numerous and costly. But our yoke, in this respect, is easy, our burden is light. Here are but few institutions, and those are simple and efficient.
4. Their system was temporary. It was only suited to the Jewish meridian, it was only adapted to the service of the Tabernacle. Whereas the Christian system is adapted to every government, for it interferes with none; to every climate, for it is not regulated by the usages of country; to all people, for it is alike friendly to all.
II. LET US COMPARE THE EXERTIONS OF THE JEWS WITH OURS, IN REFERENCE TO THESE RESPECTIVE SYSTEMS.
1. Their exertions were prompt.
3. Proportionate.All seemed to ask, "What talent have I by which I may promote this cause?" If our Churches were possessed of this spirit, how much more would be done: ministers can preach and speak, but there must be collectors also, distributors of reports, etc. Those who have not a ready tongue, may have a flowing pen.
III. LET US CONSIDER THE OBLIGATIONS UNDER WHICH THEY WERE LAID, AND UNDER WHICH WE ALSO ARE. LAID.
1. They had received a revelation from heaven. If they who received a revelation under the influence of terror did so much, we ought surely to do more! If they did so much under the smoke of Sinai, ought not the droppings of the cross to influence us? Oh, let us feel ashamed that we have made so few exertions.
2. They had experienced merciful deliverances from heaven.
3. They had enjoyed merciful supplies from heaven.
1. The answer of the people was marked by the spirit of willinghood. Some form of the word willing occurs again and again: "Every one whom his spirit made willing"; "As many as were willing-hearted." God will have nothing out of the reluctant hand. We may throw an offering down, but it is not taken up by heaven. It evaporates downwards; it is not received by the condescending and sympathetic sun.
2. The answer was the deepest and truest cure of all murmuring. The people had been murmuring again and again, but the moment they began to work they ceased to complain. You would murmur less if you worked more. An evil thing is idleness. It must always sit with coldness, and the two must keep one another in evil countenance. The one thing to be feared is stagnation. Hear heaven's sweet appeal for service, for sacrifice, and know that the appeal is not the demand of exaggeration, but that it is inspired by the very spirit of consideration for human feeling, and expresses the very philosophy of human spiritual education.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. The spirit of the people was thoroughly DEVOTIONAL. It will result in no success whatsoever to attempt to manage the Lord's interests in a merely mercenary and marketable way. Any Church enterprise will fail if it only seeks to please a crowd, to fire the ambition of a denomination, or become a monument of personal pride. For this is not its end; its purpose is salvation of lost souls, and anything short of that is simply waste of money and zeal. We have heard it said that once the venerable keeper of the Eddystone lighthouse was completely prostrated by the wild conflict of the ocean during a violent storm which threatened to destroy the slender shaft of stone out in the midst of the waves. He joined the small company of his helpers in guarding the windows, defending the doors, saving the boats, fastening the broken chains, till he used up his infirm strength completely. They laid him down in one of the little chambers to die, for no one could be spared to watch. After a while they came to tell him the storm was abating; but, left for a moment, he had crept up the stairs to the lantern, and was there feebly trimming the lamps. "I was afraid some vessel might miss the light," he said in explanation. They told him, a little petulantly, that he might have spared his strength to help preserve the building. "No, no," he answered, with an anxious look out over the offing; "I was not put out here to save lighthouses, but to save ships!"
II. The spirit of the people was universally INDUSTRIOUS. Personal labour is more valuable often than money in the Lord's service, for it more surely carries the heart with it. There is an exquisite little story told us in the classics, of one Cressinus, whom the Romans arrested for witchcraft because he grew opulent on so small a farm. But he came to the judgment producing his tools, and displaying his hardened hands: "These are my sorceries," he exclaimed; "these implements of honest toil are all the witcheries I know of!" And they freed him on the plea. The eight fingers and two thumbs of Christians are the best ten friends that any congregation in difficulties ever has found under God.
III. The spirit of the people was self-sacrificingly LIBERAL. There was once a man who was prospered in business and grew wealthy. Then he lavished his fortune in house and equipage, and in all personal indulgence of self. He suddenly failed, and in shame and sorrow stood by while his furniture and pictures, his horses and plate, were scattered among strangers by the glib auctioneer. Some days afterwards he happened to be present at the dedication of a mission chapel for the poor, which a Christian friend had just erected. "Ah, how I wish," said he, as his memory told him of his improvident excesses in former times — "how I wish now that some of the wealth I wasted was invested here with yours in this building, which will be doing God's service long after I am forgotten!"
IV. The spirit of the people was prayerfully INGENIOUS. The principle of division of labour was carried into use among the people so that every sort of fitness should be put into service. Really, the rule appears to have been that every one should do the exact thing he could do the best, and give all he was able to offer in the line of unobtrusive contribution. There was certainly something for each man and each woman to do; and they all became alert to find out their vocation. It is remarkable to see how unconscious they are of any claim to special praise. There is no clapping of hands for each other; there is no plaudit from the skies. The famous statue of Phidias, called the Olympian Jove, was reckoned one of the wonders of the world; and the Grecian orators used to declare that on its completion Jove himself struck the pavement in front of it with glorious lightning in token of his approbation. This will do very well as a tale for a superstitious and self-seeking multitude. But our God never compliments human industry, nor flatters his creatures for simply doing their duty. They must be content to wait with the approval of their own consciences, and watch the rising of each fair enterprise like a tabernacle for God's dwelling.
V. The spirit of the people was enthusiastically AFFECTIONATE. Over and over again we are reminded that their hearts were in every case "stirred up," and their spirits were made "willing-hearted." It is not even worth while to delay in illustrating this point; for the whole after history shows that their success in such a vast undertaking came from the same temper as that which actuated the nation in after times when building the Temple: "The people had a mind to work." Therein is our very best lesson for modern endeavour.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Biblical Museum.I. DESCRIBE THE WILLING OFFERER. He is one who gives —
1. As much as he can.
2. Of the best he has.
3. Cheerfully, as to the Lord.
II. OFFER SOME REASONS FOR WILLINGNESS IN THE SERVICE OF GOD.
1. The Lord loves a cheerful giver.
2. The value of what is given in enhanced by the manner of the bestowment.
3. The willingness of one stirs the liberality of others.
4. Good works are often delayed, fatally, by the slowness of giving.
5. We are not our own, and all we have is God's.
6. God gave "this unspeakable gift" willingly.
(Lewis, Missionary in New Guinea.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
— A few months before the death of Miss Frances Ridley Havergal, the sweet and accomplished missionary poetess, she sent to the Church Missionary Society her jewels, value £50. Had she been strong enough, she herself would have gone to India. Consecrated plate: — Lord Shaftesbury, on one occasion, said to me, "I am going to build a schoolroom in your parish." I knew that he had a good many claims on him, and I said "Let me help you to collect the funds." But he would not, and he built schoolrooms in two of the parishes on the estate. Afterwards he said to me, "You asked me to allow you to help me in collecting funds, but I thought it was not my duty to do so. Do you know how I got the money?" I said, "No, of course I do not." "Well," he said, "I found I had so much more plate left me by my father than I wanted, that I thought I would sell enough to build these two schoolrooms."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. We will all give something.
2. We will give as God has prospered us.
3. We will all give willingly.As soon as the meeting was over, a leading man took his seat at the table, with pen and ink, to put down what each came to give. Many came forward to give, some more and some less. Amongst those that came was a rich old man, almost as rich as all the others put together, and threw down upon the table a small silver coin. "Take dat back again," said the man that received the money; "dat may be according to de first resolution, but it not according to de second." The rich man accordingly took it up, and hobbled back to his seat in a great rage. One after another came forward, and as almost all gave more than himself, he was fairly ashamed of himself, and again threw down a piece of money on the table, saying, "Dare! take that!" It was a valuable piece of money: but it was given so ill-temperedly, that the man answered again, "No! dat won't do yet! It may be according to de first and second resolutions, but it is not according to de last"; and he was obliged to take up his coin again. Still angry at himself and all the rest, he sat a long time, till nearly all were gone, and then came up to the table, and with a smile on his face, and very willingly, gave a large sum to the treasurer. "Very well," said the man, "dat will do; dat according to all de resolutions." Whatever we do for the worship and service of God, we should do it freely, cheerfully, and cordially. "God loveth a cheerful giver." If cheerful giving to God's cause was required under the old dispensation, how much more is it required under the new!
To devise curious works.
I. ART AND CHRISTIANITY BOTH IMPLY WORK. Indolence is disgrace. Work is honourable, whether it be the work of the horny hand, the skilful touch, or the busy brain. There is no curse upon work, unless when poorly paid. Indeed, the world would be accursed if there were no work, no art, no skill.
II. ART AND SCIENCE, LIKE RELIGION, STIMULATE THOUGHT. Man, weak in bodily frame, is to be strong by the exercise of mind. Thought is to overcome force, and ingenuity inertness. We believe that Christianity will flourish best where there is truest art culture and deepest reverence arising from contemplation of God's works.
III. ART, SCIENCE, AND CHRISTIANITY ALIKE TEACH US THAT WE ARE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT. The comforts and joys, as well as the necessaries of life, are the result of much thought and care on the part of others.
IV. ART AND SCIENCE, LIKE CHRISTIANITY, ARE USEFUL IN FOSTERING PURER AND HIGHER TASTES, God intended that we should be educated in this way to appreciate something higher in the better world.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
by which the thing is done. I don't know, I don't believe that any one wants to try to prove atheism. But we might almost as well doubt the very existence of our God as fail to reap the great harvest of privilege which springs from this great seed truth, "in Him we live and move and have our being." Oh, if all the thinkers and workers in the world, our fellows and associates in the office and the warehouse, in the factory and in the foundry, could be brought to feel this, what a power for good would grow! If men and women went into each day's toil with not a vague, shadowy idea, but a great and vivid conviction that the strength, the skill, the ingenuity, power of adroit and delicate touch, power of fanciful and beautiful designing, strength to sling the hammer and make the anvil ring, delicacy, deftness, knack, that indescribable way of doing just the right thing at the right time, which is so marvellous to watch — that all this is a Divine gift bearing the seal of the Most High God, the pledge of His thought and care and love, a holy trust to be used for Him — would not such a conviction be as good as it was great, as redemptive as it was real? It makes all the difference between drudgery and duty, between toil and work. It changes hard labour, recompensed by coin of the realm by which a man's debts are paid and his needs met, into an exultant exercise of power, recompensed by the approval of a conscience void of offence, recompensed more gloriously by the approval of the Master who was once Himself a workman and is eternally a worker: "Well done, good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." I appeal to those who listen to me to get rid of the fallacy and to get hold of the fact. The call to labour is a summons to high privilege. The inspiration to true labour has its origin in God. Take the truth with you tomorrow, friend, and it will lift your life out of its monotony and rid it of any aspect of dreariness. It will put a soul into what has, perhaps, been a lifeless thing. It will send a glow to you through what, perhaps, hitherto has chilled your very heart. It was the Lord God who put wisdom and understanding into every wise-hearted man "to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary," and He, the Lord, is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." This brings me naturally to the emphasizing of another point illustrated here: that the power, the disposition to use the skill is also a Divine gift. I say use, for misuse and abuse are of a man's own selfishness. Often do we hear the question, "What will he do with it?" Now I imagine that a man who has felt the pressure of the solemn fact of which I have spoken, namely, that power of hand and brain is of and for God, will be found looking for this second fact — that power to use the skill is also a gift from Him. If I discover that I am in possession of some precious thing which has come to me from God, the natural and immediate impulse will be to look to Him for guidance and power in the use of it. I am anxious not to misuse it. I fear to make a mistake. A man makes a sorry bargain who sells himself for money or for the passing gratification of his senses. Yet men have been tempted to abuse their skill, intelligence, strength, by the doing of a deed, one result of which was the enabling them to say, "That pile of gold is mine," a saying which could only be true for a time, and another result of which was the withering and maiming of their very soul. I believe in the possibility of consecrating all endeavour. I believe that daily labour in any man's lawful calling may be ennobled with the grandeur of Divine service. If, then, you and I feel gracious influences and powers leading and qualifying us to use our force and skill in this highest way, "not with eye-service as men-pleasers," but with "singleness of heart" as reverencing God, thankfully may we recognize the influence as His influence, the power as His power, the grace as His grace. Mental endowment and power of speech, physical endowment and power of handicraft, are high gifts, and the generosity is meant for good.
(D. Jones Hamer.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
(W. E. Griffis.)
Christian Journal.— A young painter was directed by his master to complete a picture on which the master had been obliged to suspend his labours on account of his growing infirmities. "I commission thee, my son," said the aged artist, "to do thy best upon this work. Do thy best." The young man had such reverence for his master's skill, that he felt incompetent to touch canvas that bore the mark of that renowned hand. But "Do thy best "was the old man's calm reply; and again, to repeated solicitations, he answered, "Do thy best." The youth tremblingly seized the brush, and kneeling before his appointed work, he prayed: "It is for the sake of my beloved master that I implore skill and power to do this deed." His hand grew steady as he painted. Slumbering genius awoke in his eye. Enthusiasm took the place of fear. Forgetfulness of himself supplanted his self-distrust, and with a calm joy he finished his labour. The "beloved master" was borne on his couch into the studio, to pass judgment on the result. As his eye fell upon the triumph of art before him, he burst into tears, and throwing his enfeebled arms around the young artist, he exclaimed, "My son, I paint no more!" That youth, Leonardo da Vinci, became the painter of "The Last Supper," the ruins of which, after the lapse of three hundred years, still attract large numbers annually to the refectory of an obscure convent in Milan.