And you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
The tower of a lofty Christian character and life is not going to push itself up in a night like Jonah's gourd. You cannot wake up some fine morning, in glad surprise, to find it finished to the turret stone. To build that tower costs. It costs sacrifice. It costs skill. It costs patience. It costs resolution. As gravitation pulls stones downward and glues them to the earth, and as, if they go into the tower at all, they must be lifted there with wrench and strain, so this tower of a noble Christian life must be builded in the face of opposition, and at the cost of fight with it. But history has borne out the words of Christ. In other times it has come to that. The Inquisition made it come to that. The massacre of St. Bartholomew, for which Rome sang Te Deums, made it come to that. Philip the Second of Spain made it come to that. The Duke of Alva, during his government of the Netherlands, made it come to that. Thank God, Torquemada cannot torture now! Thank God, there is no fuel for Smithfield fires now! But still now, in our time, in this worldly world, no man can give himself in utter consecration to the unworldly Christ, and put his feet squarely in His exemplifying footprints, and go on in resolute practice after Him, and not meet various opposition. It is well worth noting how constant is the insistence of the Scripture on, not simply foundation laying, but also on turret stone lifting, on finishing. "I have inclined mine heart to perform Thy statutes always, even unto the end," sings David. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope unto the end," urges the Apostle Peter. "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end," declares the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. And the Epistles to the Seven Churches in the Revelation are full of this doctrine of the importance of the end. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." This, I am certain, is one of the commonest assaults of evil; this toward discouragement, toward despondency in the practice of the true life; this toward letting go and giving up. "Well, you have laid the foundation," Satan says; "you have accepted Christ and been baptized and joined the church, and professed yourself a Christian. You have started, but think how long it is before you can come to that turret stone. You are a fool to try. Give up. Have done with it. Anyway, you are a fool to try in your circumstances; or certainly you are a fool to try with your disposition. What may under more favourable circumstances, or with another sort of inherited disposition, be possible for others, is surely impossible for you. Why strain and struggle and wrench at the impossible? Don't! Quit!" Who has not felt the subtle acid of this temptation eating out the substance of his high endeavour? Some time since, I was talking with a young Christian business man in another city. He was troubled with the very problem which tormented the Psalmist long ago: "For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." That is precisely what he was saying: "Here am
I. I have determined to be straight and true, and Christian in my business; and I have been. But look at that man; he isn't, but see how he gets on. What's the use of my toiling at this tower of a Christian business integrity, when it is work so hard and slow? Why wouldn't it be better for me to stop toiling at this Christian tower, and go on with one which men would call — well, at least measurably decent, like that man's, but which mounts into the sky of success in such swift and easy fashion?" It was only a momentary temptation. But I am sure he is not the only Christian business man, be he young or old, who has felt the force of it. Or, here again, is a young Christian. He has laid the foundation of this Christian tower well and thoroughly in prayer and penitence and faith in Christ. He is full of the beautiful enthusiasm of the new life. He has confessed his Lord and is going on in the rejoicing purpose of building a life his Lord can smile on. And then, as sometimes in the early summer the flowers come upon a frost that bites and draggles them, the chill of the inconsistencies of some older Christians smites all his beautiful enthusiasm down. Why am I under obligations to be any better than they, the older, more experienced, more prominent Christians? Why cannot I at least loosen the tug of my endeavour, if I do not altogether give up and let go?"Or, here is a Christian wife and mother. To be the sole source and centre of religious influence in the home is very hard; to seek to breathe about the home a Christian atmosphere, when the husband, if he do no more, does meet and chill it by the icy air of his indifference; to have to train the children away from, instead of towards, the example of the father in the topmost and most important thing, the matter of religion; to have to meet this objection, falling from the lips of her own child: "Father never prays; why should I? Father never cares much for Sunday; why should I? Father never says he loves the Saviour; why should I try to?" — well, I do not wonder that she feels sometimes like letting go and giving up. I do not wonder that sometimes her cross seems too rugged and too heavy. And now that we may arm ourselves against this so common temptation of letting go and giving up, let us attend together to certain principles opposed to it.
I. LET US GET CHEER FOR OURSELVES BY REMEMBERING THAT THE WORLD'S BEST WORK HAS BEEN DONE AND THE NOBLEST LIVES HAVE BEEN LIVED BY MEN AND WOMEN WHO, LIKE OURSELVES, HAVE SOMETIMES FELT LIKE LETTING GO AND GIVING UP. There is a verse of Scripture which many a time has been to me both a comfort and a girding. It is written in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in the tenth chapter and at the thirteenth verse: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." "So I am not," I have said to myself, in darker and more despairing moments, "one singled out for unusual and separate trial; others have been wrapped in clouds similar, others have stood in ways as thorny." That is a twisted and bubble-blown and distorting glass, which trial so often bids us look through, out upon the landscape of our lives — that nobody else has ever had to meet such chastening discipline as our own. Why, there was Moses; he had just this very feeling toward letting go and giving up. It was immensely hard to satisfy those Israelites. There was David, hunted and hounded; turned against and betrayed by his trusted counsellor, Ahithophel. "Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh! that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." There was Elijah under the juniper tree, "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life." What failing feeling toward letting go and giving up in him! And if you leave the Scripture and turn to the record of great lives anywhere, you shall find that in them, too, feeling faltered, and suggestion came to cease from their great tower building this side the turret stone. I suppose a sermon scarcely ever did more, both for the man himself and the great cause it advocated, than Dr. Wayland's sermon on the Moral Dignity of the Missionary Enterprise. But the evening of its preaching was chill and rainy, and possibly fifty persons made up the audience, and the church was so cold that the preacher had to wear his great coat throughout the service, and nobody seemed to listen, nor anybody to care; and the next day the discouraged preacher, throwing himself on the lounge in the house of one of his parishioners, in one of his most despairing moods, exclaimed: "It was a complete failure; it fell perfectly dead!" I am sure he felt like letting go and giving up, when he remembered that he had rewritten that sermon eleven times that he might make it more worthy, and that such was the outcome of it. But that sermon, published, made him, and, more than any other influence in those beginning days of the Foreign Missionary enterprise, made the cause. The Duke of Wellington, when a subaltern, was anxious to retire from the army, where he despaired of advancement, and actually applied to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for the poor post of a commissioner of customs. And his great antagonist, the great Napoleon, was in early life tempted to commit suicide because he could do nothing and could get no chance, and was only saved from it by a cheerful word from somebody. Oh! friend of mine, you are not the only person in the world who has been assaulted by this suggestion of letting go and giving up. There has never been a noble or achieving life anywhere that has not had to push its tower up in spite of it.
II. Let us remember that this failing to endure to the end, this giving up and letting go, must NECESSARY CARRY WITH ITSELF A COMPLETE FORFEITURE OF THE PAST. If our Past has been true and noble, we may be helped by it in the Present. But we cannot live upon the Past. The tower is unfinished if we stop this side of the turret stone. It is but an unturning and useless wheel if we do not take advantage of the present water. All its previous turning helps it not. There at Muckross Abbey I saw a yew tree hundreds of years old, as old as the crumbling abbey rising round it, yet still growing bravely on. It was growing, because, standing on the Past of gnarled trunk and spreading branches, it was using the Present, forming its leaf buds every season, and drinking in the dew and light. But the abbey in whose court it stood was only a disintegrating pile of crumbling stone, because it had ceased relation with the Present. It had no use for the Present, nor the Present for it; no longer were busy hands of inmates putting it to function, keeping it in repair. It was a Past thing, so the severe Present was treading it under foot. To give up and let go is to forfeit what we have done and have been. The Past is useful only as a preparation for the Present; and if in the Present we will not steadily push on toward the finishing, we lose the value and meaning of the Past. Resist, therefore, the temptation of letting go and giving up.
III. Let us resist the temptation of letting go and giving up, BY HOLDING OURSELVES TO THE SHORT VIEW OF LIFE, BY DOING THE NEXT THING. Each day's stone laid in each day's time; the short view method, the next thing method, that is the only method of strong endurance and shining achievement. Wise words those which George Macdonald puts into the mouth of Hugh Sutherland in his story of David Elginbrod; they are words worthy the careful heeding of every one of us: "Now, what am I to do next?" asks Hugh, and he goes on thinking with himself: "It is a happy thing for us that this is really all we have to concern ourselves about, what to do next. No man can do the second thing. He can do the first. If he omits it, the wheels of the social Juggernaut roll over him, and leave him more or less crushed behind. If he does it, he keeps in front and finds room to do the next again; and so he is sure to arrive at something, for the onward march will carry him with it. There is no saying to what perfection of success a man may come who begins with what he can do, and uses the means at hand; he makes a vortex of action, however slight, toward which all the means instantly begin to gravitate." True words, the very gospel of achievement, these. So against this temptation toward letting go and giving up, let me take the short view, let me seize the next thing, and not trouble myself about the fortieth thing, sure that God's grace will give the strength for the coming day to which the fortieth thing belongs; but that, if I want God's strengthening grace for that, I must use God's strengthening grace which offers itself today, and for this next thing, which belongs to no other day in all time's awful calendar but this.
IV. LET US REMEMBER THAT REFUSING TO YIELD TO THE TEMPTATION OF LETTING GO AND GIVING UP IS THE CONSTANT FIXING OURSELVES BUT THE MORE FIRMLY IN THE HABIT OF GOING ON IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. Dark law that, which through and because of momentary decisions against righteousness, ends in the awful doom, "Let him that is filthy be filthy still." But that same law has a sunward side bright as the light that flashes from God's throne, viz., that momentary and constant decisions towards righteousness end at last in that celestial turret stone, piercing the far radiances of Heaven — "Let him that is righteous be righteous still."
V. Let us remember that for us, keeping hold and refusing to let go, THERE IS THE CONSTANT HELP OF CHRIST TOWARD TRIUMPHING. That is a sweet legend hanging about an old church in England, and it tells the great truth well; how centuries ago, when the monks were rearing it, a new temple for the worship of their God, there came among the workers a strange monk, unasked, who always took on himself the heaviest tasks; and how at last, when a particularly gigantic beam was needed for a position as important as that of the keystone of an arch, and how when, with sweating strain and united effort, it was lifted to its place, it was strangely found to be some feet too short. No device of the builders could remedy it; they had tried their best with it, they had used the most careful measurement they knew, but how sadly they had failed! There it was, too short, and their utmost skill could not find remedy. The night shut down upon the tired workers, and they went to their rest with sore hearts, leaving only this unknown monk, who would go working on. But when the morning came, and the workers came forth again, they saw the sunlight falling on the beam exactly in its place, lengthened to the precise dimensions needed, and resting accurately on its supports. But the unknown monk had disappeared. let the workers knew Him now, and were certain they could carry the temple onward to its topmost turret. For He who had been working with them and supplying their lack of perfect work, they came now to know, was none other than the Lord Himself. They were not unhelped toilers. Nor are we. "Lo! I am with you always," declares our Lord! It is our privilege to answer with the apostle, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me."
VI. And now for the last word. Let us determine that as we hope to carry the tower of a Christian life and service onward to its finishing ourselves, WE WILL BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO DISCOURAGE ANYONE BESIDE US, TOILING LIKE OURSELVES AT THE SAME ACHIEVEMENT. Once a building was wrapped in flame; at a high window, a little child was seen vainly endeavouring to escape; a brave fireman started up a ladder to try to rescue it. He went up, and still further up: he had almost gained the window, but the flames darted at him and the flames smote him, and he began to falter; he hesitated, looked upward at the raging fire; he shook his head; he was just about to turn back. Just then someone in the throng below cried: "Cheer him! Cheer him!" From a thousand throats a loud heart-helping cheer went up. He did not turn back. He went on toward the finishing, and in a minute he was seen through the thick drifts of smoke, with the little child safe in his arms. So let us, everyone, see to it that we cheer on all we can who, like ourselves, are struggling upward toward any nobleness.
(W. Hoyt, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.