For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.
Patience is not one of those stupid experiences which have been sometimes in vogue. It is not the grace of indifference or of laziness. Neither is it a kind of dogged obstinacy under difficulties. It is the sequence of enterprise and of endeavour, and is an act of self-control. In the text the teacher points to a very common experience, namely, impatience because labour does not bring forth its results immediately. Divine providence is conducting a double system in this world, or rather a single system with two developments. Constantly these two elements in it are clashing, by reason of men's misunderstandings; but they are co-operative and harmonious in the plan of God. He is perpetually administering His government as we that are wise parents administer ours in the family. We take care of our children's bodies, of their food, of their dress, of their physical comfort. At the same time it is with reference to an ulterior manhood. And in every instance, if there is a choice in reference to truth-telling, purity, delicacy of mind, and generosity of love, we teach the child to sacrifice the lower for the sake of keeping the higher. We are in our households carrying on a duplex education, which is at its base physical and in its higher developments moral and social; and that which we are doing in the small God is doing in the large sphere. And the human race are being developed at the bottom physically and at the top spiritually. There is, however, one element which runs through both parts of this providence, viz., the time element. In general, the time legitimately required for the accomplishment of an end or the production of an effect measures the value of that effect; or, in other words, the things that you can do very quickly are usually of the least value. Physical qualities and physical objects are very near at band. A man clears up a forest, and lays down his farm, and sees from day to day what he is doing. We raise our harvests in the same way. The distance between the establishment of the cause and the reaping of the effect is very short in physical things; and we can see from hour to hour, from week to week, the results of our work. The lowest sphere is the place where we can quickest realise the fruits of our labour. As when you touch powder to fire there is an instantaneous explosion, so there is the greatest instantaneity between cause and effect the lower down you go toward base matter; and the higher you go above base matter, the wider is the interval between cause and effect. Next above the physical department of life is the intellectual. This is far higher. A man can learn to use his body in a day or two, or in a few weeks, and, in complex trades, in a few years; but a man does not learn how to make use of his intellectual faculties in that length of time. And we call it the education, the developing of our faculties, and the teaching them comprehensive philosophy — the knowledge of how to use themselves so that they shall control the natural globe. This is a slower work. If we regard the perception of the beautiful, the fine, and the harmonious as a higher development of the intellectual or as dependent on a yet higher class of faculties, we shall find that this test which I have employed is still true, viz., that no man can produce the beautiful (the beautiful in truth, I mean) half as fast as he can the lower elements. In other words, truth, in its higher and finer elements, is a product that requires more time for development than truth in its lower forms. But moral qualities stand higher than even the intellectual and artistic in their higher forms. Love (not that instinct which comes to all, but spiritual love, comprehensive, discriminating, fine), joy (not that giggling joy of the senses, but the inspiration of the spirit, joy in the Holy Ghost, that high and blessed enjoyment which comes with faith and with hope) — love, joy, peace, faith, gentleness, goodness, truthfulness — how few there are that possess these! How rare is it to see men who are fully armed with them! And where they are possessed, how long a discipline it was that produced them! It is a long trial that makes strong, impetuous, rude, harsh, cruel men gentle — sweetly gentle — voluntarily gentle. How long it takes to subdue power to humility I How long it takes to turn a man's self-esteem into a patronising magnanimity! How long it takes to transform man's native conception that he is born and built for his own using into the conception that he is born and built to use himself for others, "in honour preferring others, and pleasing others to their edification"! As you go higher, the work is more difficult. It is larger, it is finer, and the period of time between the starting and the ending is longer. The journey between a man's volition and his higher moral traits is a very long one, ordinarily speaking. Here, then, is a brief delineation of this spiritual law of growth and labour. I will make some applications of it.
1. In a new religious life all reformations which are physical in their nature should be speedy. Evils in this sphere are to be cured at once. Absolute and total discontinuance is the law for the flesh. A man who begins a Christian life must recollect that, so far as the body is concerned, the law is that there is but a very short space between cause and effect in the lower elements of it.
2. But the strictly religious elements go on. These are the elements of negation — those which involve leaving off and not doing. The moment you enter upon the sphere of the higher elements of religious experience, which is the sphere of change or development, the results cannot be immediate. The term between cause and effect will vary in duration with the peculiar advantages which different persons have; with the peculiar susceptibilities of different persons; with the intensity of inspiration which is brought to bear upon them, and under which they are called to act; yet growth in grace is, in the nature of things, a gradual growth. Every single step upward implies and requires the harmonisation of all the elements below in a man's nature and in his surroundings, and that often is comprehensive and very difficult. Not only is all growth in grace gradual which implies development of the higher nature, but you must make up your mind that you will oftentimes set in operation courses which will finally fulfil themselves and disclose beneficial effects. You will set them in operation; and then you will have to wait a great while before you come to the result. And you are not to be discouraged because in labouring for spiritual qualities you do not find them as soon as you could wish. A man cannot say to his temper what he can say to his body. A shrew, being converted, can hold her hand so as not to beat the child, and a little later she can control her tongue, so as not to scold the servant, perhaps; and by and by she can manage her temper, but that takes much longer; and at last she develops a spontaneous emotion of kindness where before there was temper, and that takes longer yet. But still there is a regular progress all the way up; and although there seems to be but little progress made, many persons actually cover a sphere so much wider, and there is so much contained in the little which they do that they really, in the sight of God, are lifted far higher than they are in their own sight, because they are always looking to see physical results — results that the eye can measure, or that the outward senses can recognise, instead of the hidden elements of moral excellence. We have need of patience, after we have done the will of God, before we reach the results. God is dealing with men by difficulties, by tasks, by bereavements, by sorrows, by trials, to prove the higher part of their nature. Give me, now, a bit of wax, and see how soon I will take it in my hand and mould it into any form that I want. Give me a bit of alabaster, and I cannot work that as I can the wax, because it is harder. Give me a bit of marble, and that must be cut more slowly. But give me a diamond, rough and rude, and tell me to cut the faces on that by which it shall reflect all the rays of light and show its hidden powers of beauty, and it is a long task. Yet though it is a long task to cut a diamond, when it is once cut it is worth all the labour that it has cost. Wax is quickly done, but it is of very little use after it is done. A diamond, on the other hand, is long in doing, but once done it lasts for ever. We are not, therefore, to suppose that God is angry with us because we have blow upon blow, and grinding upon grinding, and stroke upon stroke, day after day. He deals with us as with sons. How little we know about this! How little we know what is being done to us! There is a great part of God's providence that must always be mysterious to us — for that is the term by which we speak of ignorance. In labouring for others, therefore, we ought to bear in mind this principle, that perpetually we are to carry along together both the physical and the moral development of the world, and that he who lays out his work so as to see the result as he goes along must of necessity be a low worker, he that sees at the end of the day all that he has done during the day has done very little. He that is a true worker is always throwing effects over beyond himself to which he will not come for months, or for years; it may be; and he is a true worker who, after he has done the will of God, has patience till he receives the promised reward — the legitimate effect. This comes home to parents. There are parents who say: "How much I have laboured with that child! and with what discouraging results! There are my neighbours — they have no trouble at all with their children; but my children, it seems to me, are bound to the gallows or the gaol." Now, you take a child that is knit from single threads, take a child that has no particular force, and that is reasonably well balanced, and it is not hard to bring him up, for a little effort here and there is sufficient to torn him. A man can put his hand at the spout of a watering-pot and turn the stream here or there or anywhere; but let a man turn Niagara with his hand if he can. Here is a child that has intensity in him. The child would do very well if the mother would let it alone. Let her wait. It takes a great while to unfold a nature, if it be a large nature. Have patience. Believe and understand that the lower things can be speedily done, but that the intermediate affections require a long time for their development, and that the higher moral nature requires a still longer time. Have faith in God. Work, work, and wait! Do not remit any work; but the worry — remit that.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.