Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might, for in Sheol, where you are going, there is no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.
I. RELIGION HAS REGARD TO MAN'S PRACTICAL NATURE. The hand is the instrument of work, and is accordingly used as the symbol of our active nature. What we do is of supreme importance, both by reason of its cause and origin in our character, and by reason of its effect upon ourselves and upon the world. Religion involves contemplation and emotion, and expresses itself in prayer and praise; but without action all is in vain.
II. RELIGION FURNISHES THE LAW TO MAN'S PRACTICAL NATURE. We are expected to put up the prayer, "What wilt thou have me to do?" in response to this prayer, precept and admonition are given; and so the "hand findeth" its work.
1. True religion prescribes the quality of our work - that actions should be just and wise, kind and compassionate.
2. And the measure of our work. "With thy might" is the Divine law. This is opposed to languor, indolence, depression, weariness. He who considers the diligence and assiduity with which the powers of evil are ever working in human society will understand the importance of this urgent admonition.
III. RELIGION SUPPLIES THE MOTIVES TO DILIGENCE IN THE EMPLOYMENT OF THE PRACTICAL NATURE.
1. There is the very general motive suggested in the context, that what is to be done for the world's good must be done during this present brief and fleeting life. There is doubtless service of such a nature that, if it be not done here and now, can never be rendered at all.
2. Christianity presents a motive of preeminent power in the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to work the work of him who sent him, who went about doing good, who found it his food to do his Father's will, whose aim it was to finish the work given him to do.
3. Christianity enforces this motive by one deeper still; the Christian is inspired with the desire to live unto the Lord who lived and died for him. Grateful love, enkindled by the Divine sacrifice, expresses itself by consecrated zeal.
APPLICATION. Let the hand first be stretched out that it may grasp the hand of the Savior, God; and then let it be employed in the service of him who proves himself first the Deliverer, and then the Lord and Helper of all those who seek him. - T.
I. CONSIDER THE MATTER OF THIS COUNSEL AND EXHORTATION; and that is, that we would use great diligence and industry about that which is our proper work and business in this life; and this may very probably comprehend in it these two things —
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.
1. Industry doth befit the constitution and frame of our nature; all the faculties of our soul and organs of our body being adapted in a congruity and tendency thereto: our hands are suited for work, our feet for travel, our senses to watch for occasion of pursuing good and eschewing evil, our reason to plod and contrive ways of employing the other parts and powers; all these, I say, are formed for action; and that not in a loose and gadding way, or in a slack and remiss degree, but in regard to determinate ends, with vigour requisite to attain them; and especially our appetites do prompt to industry, as inclining to things not obtainable without it; wherefore in not being industrious we defeat the intent of our Maker; we pervert His work and gifts; we forfeit the use and benefit of our faculties; we are bad husbands of nature's stock.
2. In consequence hereto industry doth preserve and perfect our nature, keeping it in good tune and temper, improving and advancing it towards its best state. If the water runneth, it holdeth clear, sweet, and fresh; but stagnation turneth it into a noisome puddle: if the air be fanned by winds, it is pure and wholesome; but from being shut up, it groweth thick and putrid: if metals be employed, they abide smooth and splendid; but lay them up, and they soon contract rust: if the earth be belaboured with culture, it yieldeth corn; but lying neglected, it will be overgrown with brakes and thistles; and the better its soil is, the ranker weeds it will produce: all nature is upheld in its being, order, and state, by constant agitation; every creature is incessantly employed in action conformable to its designed end and use; in like manner the preservation and improvement of our faculties depends on their constant exercise.
3. As we naturally were composed, so by Divine appointment we were originally designed for industry; God did not intend that man should live idly, even in his best state, or should enjoy happiness without taking pains; but did provide work enough even in paradise itself.
4. By our transgression and fall the necessity of industry (together with a difficulty of obtaining good, and avoiding evil) was increased to us; being ordained both as a just punishment for our offences, and as an expedient remedy of our needs.
5. Accordingly our condition and circumstances in the world are so ordered as to require industry; so that without it we cannot support our life in any comfort or convenience.
6. Industry hath annexed thereto, by Divine appointment and promise, the fairest fruits, and the richest rewards: all good things are the fruits of industry; ordered to sprout from it, under the protection and influence of God's blessing, which commonly doth attend it. God indeed could not well proceed otherwise in dispensing His favours to us; not well, I say; that is, not without subverting the methods of things which Himself hath established; not without slighting and voiding His own first bounty, or rendering the common gifts of nature (our reason, our senses, our active powers) vain and useless; not without making us incapable of any praise, or any reward, which suppose works achieved by our earnest endeavour; not without depriving us of that sweetest content, which springeth from enjoying the fruit of our labour. Nothing is more grateful to men than prosperous success in their undertakings, whereby they attain their ends, satisfy their desires, save their pains, and come off with credit; this commonly is the effect of industry, and scarce ever is found without it: nothing of worth or weight can be achieved with half a mind, with a faint heart, with a lame endeavour. Plentiful accommodations for our sustenance and convenience all men will agree to be very desirable; and these are indeed the blessings of Him, who "visiteth the earth and enricheth it": who "crowneth the year with His goodness," and "whose clouds drop fatness": but they are so dispensed by Heaven that industry must concur therewith in deriving them to us, and sloth will debar us of them. Another darling of human affection is honour, or reputation among men: this also plainly, after the common reason and course of things, is purchased and preserved by industry: for he that aspireth to worthy things, and assayeth laudable designs, pursuing them steadily with serious application of heart and resolute activity, will rarely fail of good success, and consequently will not miss honour, which ever doth crown victory; and if he should hap to fail in his design, yet he will not lose his credit; for having meant well, and done his best, all will be ready to excuse, many to commend him: the very qualities which industry doth exercise, and the effects which it doth produce, to beget honour, as being ornaments of our person and state. Another vet more precious good, far surpassing all external advantages of our state; wisdom, I mean, or a good comprehension, and right judgment about matters of highest importance to us, is the prize of industry, and not to be gained without it; it is the offspring of watchful observation and experience, of serious meditation and study; of careful reflection on things, marking, comparing, and weighing their nature, their worth, their tendencies and consequences; these are needful to the getting of wisdom, because truth, which it seeketh, commonly doth not lie in the surface, obvious to a superficial glance, nor only dependeth on a simple consideration of few things; but is lodged deep in the bowels of things, and under a knotty complication of various matters; so that we must dig to come at it, and labour in unfolding it: nor is it an easy task to void the prejudices springing from inclination or temper, from education or custom, from passion and interest, which cloud the mind, and obstruct the attainment of wisdom. What should I speak of learning, or the knowledge of various things, transcending vulgar apprehension? Who knoweth not that we cannot otherwise reach any part of that, than by assiduous study and contemplation? Who can be ignorant that no wit alone, or strength of parts can suffice, without great industry, to frame any science, to learn any one tongue, to know the history of nature, or of providence? But farther yet, virtue, the noblest endowment and richest possession whereof man is capable; the glory of our nature, the beauty of our soul, the goodliest ornament and the firmest support of our life; that also is the fruit and blessing of industry; that of all things most indispensably doth need and require it. It doth not grow in us by nature, nor befall us by fortune; for nature is so far from producing it, that it yieldeth mighty obstacles and resistances to its birth, there being in the best dispositions much averseness from good, and great proneness to evil; fortune doth not further its acquists, but casteth in rubs and hindrances thereto, every condition presenting its allurements, or its affrightments from it; all things within us and about us conspire to render its production and its practice laborious. Indeed the very nature and essence of virtue doth consist in the most difficult and painful efforts of soul; in the extirpating rooted prejudices and notions from our understanding; in bending a stiff will, and rectifying crooked inclinations; in overruling a rebellious temper; in curbing eager and importunate appetites; in taming wild passions; in withstanding violent temptations; in surmounting many difficulties, and sustaining many troubles; in struggling with various unruly lusts within, and encountering many stout enemies abroad, which assault our reason, and "war against our soul": in such exercises its very being lieth; its birth, its growth, its subsistence dependeth on them; so that from any discontinuance or remission of them it would soon decay, languish away, and perish. Lastly, the sovereign good, the last scope of our actions, the top and sum of our desires, happiness itself, or eternal life in perfect rest, joy, and glory; although it be the supreme gift of God, and special boon of Divine grace, yet it also by God Himself is declared to be the result and reward of industry; for we are commanded "to work out our salvation with fear and trembling," and to "give diligence in making our calling and election sure," by virtuous practice. It is plainly industry which climbeth the holy mount; it is industry which taketh "the kingdom of heaven by force": it is industry which "so runneth as to obtain" the prize, which so fighteth as "to receive the crown," which so watcheth as to secure our everlasting interest to us. Thus do the choicest good things of which we are capable spring from industry, or depend on it; and no considerable good can be attained without it: thus all the gifts of God are by it conveyed to us, or are rendered in effect beneficial to us; for the gifts of nature are but capacities, which it improveth; the gifts of fortune or providence are but instruments, which it employeth to our use; the gifts of grace are the supports and succours of it; and the very gift of glory is its fruit and recompense.
(Isaac Barrow, D. D.)
1. We may consider that industry is productive of ease itself, and preventive of trouble. Sloth, indeed, affects ease and quiet, but by affecting loses them: it hates labour and trouble, but by hating incurs them; but industry, by a little voluntary labour, in due place and season, saves much labour afterwards and great distress.
2. Industry begets ease by procuring good habits, and a facility of transacting things expedient to be done: it breeds assurance and courage needful for the prosecution of business and the performance of duties.
3. We may consider that it will sweeten all our enjoyments, and season them with a grateful relish.
4. Especially those accommodations prove most delightful which our industry hath procured to us; for we look on them with a special affection, as the children of our endeavours.
5. The very exercise of industry immediately in itself is delightful; the very settlement of our mind on fit objects, whereby we are freed from doubt and distraction, ministers content; the consideration that we are spending our time and talents to good advantage, in serving God, benefiting our neighbour, and bettering our own state, is very cheering and comfortable.
6. Industry affords a lasting comfort, deposited in the memory and conscience of him that practises it.
7. Industry argues a generous and ingenuous complexion of soul: it implies a mind not content with mean and vulgar things, but aspiring to things of high worth and pursuing them with courage: it signifies a heart not enduring to owe the sustenance and convenience of life to the liberality of others.
8. Industry is a fence to innocence and virtue; a bar to all kinds of sin and vice, guarding the avenues of the heart, and keeping off occasions and temptations to Vicious practices; whilst idleness is the nursery of sin.
9. Industry prevents the sins of vain curiosity, pragmatical troublesome impertinence, and the like pests of common life, into which persons not diligently following their own business will assuredly fall.
10. Industry is needful in every condition and calling of life; in all relations for our good behaviour and right discharge of our duty in them. Are we rich? then is industry requisite for keeping and securing our wealth, or managing it wisely. Are we conspicuous in dignity, honour, and good repute amongst men? then is industry requisite to keep us fast in that state; since nothing is more frail than honour, which must be nourished by worthy actions; otherwise it will languish and decay. On the other hand, are we poor and low in the world? then do we much need industry to shun the extremes of want and ignominy, and to improve our condition.
11. It may also deserve our consideration, that it is industry, to which the public state of the world, and of each commonweal therein, is indebted for its being advanced above rude barbarism: also for the invention and perfection of useful arts and sciences, the stately fabrics which we admire, and the commodious habitations which we enjoy.
12. Industry is commended to us by all sorts of examples, deserving our regard and imitation: all nature is a copy thereof, and the whole world a glass, wherein we may behold this duty represented to us: examples of all the creatures around us, of rational and intelligent natures, of our blessed Saviour, of the inhabitants of heaven, yea of God Himself. And shall we alone be idle, whilst all things are so busy?
13. If we consider, we shall find the root and source of all the inconveniences, the mischiefs, the wants of which we complain, to be our sloth; and there is hardly one of them which commonly we might not prevent or remove by industry.
(Isaac Barrow, D. D.)
1. Diligence in our great work and business, that which equally concerns every man; I mean the business of religion, in order to the eternal happiness and salvation of our souls. This consists in these two things —(1) In a sincere care and endeavour of universal obedience to God by the conformity of our lives and actions to His laws.(2) In case of sin and miscarriage, in a sincere repentance for our sins, and a timely care to be reconciled to God.
2. Diligence in that province and station which God hath appointed us, whatever it be; whether it consists in the labour of our hands, or in the improvement of our minds, in order to the gaining of knowledge for our own pleasure and satisfaction, and for the use and benefit of others; whether it lie in the skill of government, and the administration of public justice; or in the management of a great estate, of an honourable rank and quality above others, to the best advantage, for the honour of God, and the benefit and advantage of men, so as, by the influence of our power and estate, and by the authority of our example, to contribute all we can to the welfare and happiness of others.
II. SOME CONSIDERATIONS TO EXCITE OUR CARE AND DILIGENCE IN THIS GREAT WORK WHICH GOD HATH GIVEN US TO DO IN THIS WORLD, I mean chiefly the business of religion, in order to the eternal happiness and salvation of our souls.
1. Consider the nature of our work, which is such as may both excite and encourage our diligence and care about it. It is indeed a service, but such as is our perfect freedom; it is the service of God, whom to serve is the greatest honour that man or any other creature is capable of; it is obedience, but even obedience, considering our ignorance and frailty, is much wiser and safer for us than a total exemption from all law and rule; for the laws which God hath given us are not imposed upon us merely for His will and pleasure, but chiefly for our benefit and advantage. So that to obey and please God is in truth nothing else but to do those things which are really best for ourselves.
2. Consider how great our work is, and then we shall easily be convinced what care it requires, what diligence it calls for from us.
3. Consider what incredible pains men will take, what diligence they will use, for bad purposes, and for ends infinitely less considerable. "Thieves will rise and travel by night to rob and kill, and shall we use no care, no vigilance, to save ourselves?"
4. Consider that when we come to die, nothing will yield more true and solid consolation to us than the remembrance of a useful and well-spent life, a life of great labour and diligence, of great zeal and faithfulness in the service of God; and, on the contrary, with what grief and regret shall we look back upon all these precious hours which we have so fondly misplaced in sin and vanity I
5. Consider that the degrees of our happiness in another world will certainly bear a proportion to the degrees of our diligence and industry in serving God and doing good. And it is an argument of a mean spirit not to aspire after the best and happiest condition which is to be attained by us.
6. Consider that this life is the time of our activity and working, the next is the season of retribution and recompense; we shall then have nothing to do, but either to reap and enjoy the comfort of well-doing, or to repent the folly of an ill-spent life, and the irreparable mischief which thereby we have brought upon ourselves.
(J. Tillotson, D. D.)
I. First, I shall explain THE PREACHER'S EXHORTATION. I shall do so by dividing it into three parts. What shall I do? — "Whatsoever thy hand findeth." How shall I do it? — "Do it with thy might." And then, why shall I do it? — "For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest."
1. Are there not some who say, "I hope I love Christ; I desire to serve Him, for I have been saved by His work upon the cross; what then can I do?" The answer is — "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do." Here we will observe, first, that this refers us to the works that are near at hand. Many a young man thinks if he could stand up under a banyan tree, and discourse to the black faces in India, how eloquent he might be. My dear fellow, why don't you try the streets of London first, and see whether you are eloquent there? Many a lady imagines that if she could move in a high circle she would no doubt become another Lady Huntingdon, and do wonders. But why cannot you do wonders in the circle in which God has placed you? He does not call you to do that which is leagues away, and which is beyond your power; it is that which your hand findeth to do. I am persuaded that our home duties — the duties which come near to us in our own streets, in our own lanes and alleys — are the duties in which we ought most of us mainly to glorify Christ. Many say, "I wish I could become a preacher." Yes, but you are not called to be a preacher, it may be. Serve God in that which your hand findeth present. Serve Him in your immediate situation, where you now are. Begin at home. When Jerusalem was built, every man built before his own house. Do you the same. Again, "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," refers to works that are possible. There are many things which our heart findeth to do that we never shall do. It is well it is in our heart; God accepts the will for the deed. But if we would be eminently useful, we must not be content with forming schemes in our heart, and talking of them with our lips. We must get plans that are tangible, schemes that we can really manage, ideas that we can really carry out; and so we shall fulfil the exhortation, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it." Do what you can, in your workshop, or shed, or with a needle in your hand; anal if ever you have a sceptre — which is not likely — and you use your needle well, you would be the most likely person to use your sceptre well also. There is another word of exhortation which seems to strike me as being very necessary when addressing God's people, it is this: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do." Whether it be the visitation of the poorest of the poor or the teaching of the most ignorant, whether the hewing of wood or the drawing of water, the very lowest work in the Lord's house, if thy hand findeth it to do, do it. There is a story told in the old American war, that once upon a time George Washington, the commander-in-chief, was going around among his soldiers. They were hard at work, lifting a heavy piece of timber at some fortification. There stood the corporal of the regiment calling out to his men, "Heave there, heave ahoy!" and giving them all kinds of directions. As large as possible the good corporal was. So Washington, alighting from his horse, said to him, "What is the good of your calling out to those men, why don't you help them yourself and do part of the work." The corporal drew himself up and said, "Perhaps you are not aware to whom you are speaking, sir; I am a corporal." "I beg your pardon," said Washington; "you are a corporal, are you; I am sorry I should have insulted you." So he took off his own coat and waistcoat and set to work to help the men build the fortification. When he had done he said, "Mr. Corporal, I am sorry I insulted you, but when you have any more fortifications to get up, and your men won't help you, send for George Washington, the commander-in-chief, and I will come and help them." The corporal slunk away perfectly ashamed of himself. And so Christ Jesus might say to us, "Oh, you don't like teaching the poor; it is beneath your dignity; then let your Commander-in-Chief do it; He can teach the poor, He can wash the feet of the saints, He can visit the sick and afflicted — He came from heaven to do this, and He will set you the example." Surely we should each be ashamed of ourselves, and declare from this time forward whatever it is, be it great or little, if it comes to our hand, and if God will but give us help and give us grace, we will do it with all our might.
2. How are we to do it? "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." First, "do it." That is, do it promptly; not fritter away your lives in setting down what you intend to do to-morrow as being a recompense for the idleness of to-day. No man ever served God by doing things to-morrow. If we have honoured Christ and are blessed, it is by the things which we do to-day. For after all, the ticking of the clock saith — to-day! to-day! to-day! We have no other time in which to live. The past is gone; the future hath not come; we have, we never shall have, anything but the present. This is our all; let us do what our hand findeth to do. "Procrastination is the thief of time." Let him not steal thy time. Do it, at once. Serve thy God now; for now is all the time thou canst reckon on. Then, the next words, "Do it with thy might." Whatever you do for Christ, throw your whole soul into it. Christ wants none to serve Him with their fingers. He must have their hands, their arms, their hearts. We must not give Christ a little slurred labour, which is done as a matter of course now and then; but when we do serve Him, we must do it with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and might. Serve the Master and spend yourself in your strength. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." But where is the might of a Christian? Let us not forget that. The might of a Christian is not in himself, for he is perfect weakness. His might lieth in the Lord of Hosts. It will be well for us if all we attempt to do is done in God's strength, or else it will not be done with might: it will be feebly and badly done.
3. Why? We are to do it with all our might because death is near; and when death comes there will be an end to all our serving God on earth, an end to our preaching, an end to our praying, an end to our doing aught for God's glory among the perishing souls of men. There is an old monkish legend told of a great painter, who had begun a painting, but did not finish it; and, as the legend went, he prayed that he might come back on earth that he might finish that painting. There is a picture, now extant, representing him after he had come back to finish his picture. There is a solemnity about that man's look, as he paints away with all his might, for he had but little time allowed him, and a ghastliness, as if he knew that he must soon go back again, and wanted his labour to be finished. If you were quite sure of the time of your death, if you knew you had but a week or two to live, with what haste would you go round and bid farewell to all your friends; with what haste would you begin to set all matters right on earth, supposing matters are all right for eternity.
II. I endeavour to STIR UP ALL PROFESSORS OF RELIGION HERE PRESENT TO DO WHATSOEVER THEIR HAND FINDETH TO DO, TO DO IT NOW, AND WITH ALL THEIR MIGHT. If Christ Jesus should leave the upper world, and come into the midst of this hall this morning, what answer could you give, if, after showing you His wounded hands and feet, and His rent side, He should put this question, "I have done all this for thee, what hast thou done for Me?" Let me put that question for Him, and in His behalf.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. An exhortation to present activity — "Whatsoever thy hand findeth," etc.
1. Based on the fact that particular work is allotted to each life. In the Divine economy nothing has been created without some sphere of usefulness.
2. Urged by the fact that opportunity once lost can never be regained.
3. Limited by the truth that the work appointed to each will take the whole season of life; hence no man can do another's work.
II. A RECOMMENDATION TO EARNESTNESS — "Do it with thy might." Because —
1. To the earnest life the forces of darkness yield.
2. The work of life is of such infinite importance.
3. The workers of iniquity labour in this spirit, and set an example.
4. In proportion to our earnestness is our real success in life.
5. By this means will human attention be excited, and men be brought to thoughtfulness.
6. In proportion as we are earnest shall we be imitators of the perfect life. "I have finished the work," etc.
III. A SOLEMN CONSIDERATION — "There is no work," etc.
1. The season for active work is limited.
2. In what state death finds our work will it be sealed, after which no alteration can be made. If incomplete, so will it remain to all eternity.
3. This life is a season of probation; hence our everlasting weal or woe depends upon its actions.
(J. F. Pridgeon.)I. A SERIOUS EXHORTATION.
1. The extent of the duty.
2. The manner of performing it.
II. THE ARGUMENTS TO ENFORCE THIS EXHORTATION.
1. From the incapacities that will befall us in the grave.
2. From our hastening to it.
(J. Guyse, D. D.)I. THE SINGULAR MOMENT AND VAST IMPORTANCE OF THIS WORK. It is not possible for the mind of man to conceive a more important event than the gain or loss of a blesssed immortality.
II. THE EXTENT AND COMPASS OF IT. It comprehends a great variety of particulars, none of which can safely be neglected; and requires constancy and perseverance to our lives' end.
III. THE SHORTNESS AND UNCERTAINTY OF THIS PRESENT LIFE.
IV. HOW PRONE WE ARE TO DECEIVE OURSELVES DOUBLY IN THIS IMPORTANT AFFAIR — not only about the sufficieney of our preparation, but also concerning the security of our title.
V. LET IT BE SUPPOSED THAT A MAN HAS GONE FURTHER IN THE PRACTICE OF VIRTUE THAN WAS STRICTLY NECESSARY TO SECURE HIS SALVATION; how will the consequence affect him: has he misspent his time, and lost his labour? No worthy action can be fruitless to the agent, whatever it may be in other respects. Not even a pious thought or a benevolent wish can fail of some good effect.
The Evangelist.Soul-work is at once the most difficult, the most important, and the most urgent.
I. OF THE THINGS WHICH YOUR HANDS SHOULD FIND TO DO.
1. The first thing that should engage our attention, because it is the most momentous of all, is the salvation of our souls. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," is a Divine command. There is indeed something for you to do, to secure the salvation of your soul from misery and ruin.
2. The next consideration relates to the covenant of redemption. Have you paid close and serious attention to this? Do you know what it expresses and conveys of the Divine mercy to sinful men who repent and believe? What it reveals of the Divine will for our salvation?
3. Observe, you have much to do for the glory of God, for the advancement, of your Saviour's honour, and for the good of your fellow-men. You must not live to yourselves, but unto Him who died for you and rose again. You must strive to become examples unto others, patterns of purity and goodness.
II. LET ME NOW EXPLAIN AND APPLY THE EXHORTATION TO DO THESE THINGS WITH YOUR MIGHT.
1. Do them cordially. Put your heart into them.
2. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it promptly. Why should you delay? There is no promise of Divine assistance, no certainty of success, unless you begin at once to act with decision and earnestness.
III. CONSIDER THE SOLEMN AND IRRESISTIBLE ARGUMENT BY WHICH THE ADMONITION OF THE TEXT IS ENFORCED — "for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou geese." If in the day of life you will not do your proper work for your salvation, then night cometh — the dark night, when no man can work.
(The Evangelist.)John 9:4): — I have taken these parallel texts because the second supplements and completes the first.
1. I want to dwell upon the first verse: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it 'with thy might'," etc. We cannot read these words without feeling that they dwell very forcibly upon man's capacity for work, and his opportunities for service, in this life. The very mention of the word "hand" is significant. The hand is one of the distinguishing gift's of man. It is his hand that represents much of his power and the secret of many of his triumphs. The hand is pre-eminently the instrument for work: that with which a man tunnels the mountains, steers the ships across the mightiest seas, builds his monument's, wields the pen. The hand ought to be restless until it has found it's work. It' has been given to man wherewith to work. The "loafer" tells us that he has not been able to find work. Yet, after all, even his hollow excuse tells us that down deep in his heart is the consciousness that there is a work: that it is his duty to be dissatisfied until he finds it; and that the hand is that which should find it. It is the instrument not only for work, but that of exquisite feeling and touch. Thus the figure is doubly used here — "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to de," or, "reacheth out so as to find." The human arm comes in here in its usefulness. "Reacheth out so as to find" — whatsoever work that hand of yours, with all the advantage that the human arm gives to it, can find in its search for toil and service, do it, and "do it with thy might." Now, man's energy or might can express itself in the hand as it cannot in any physical part of his nature. No member of man's body can express human might like the hand. The hand with the arm as its lever is the universal symbol of power. This is applied even to God. The inspired writers do not hesitate to speak of "the right hand of the Most High": and no one can mistake what is meant by that. Again, the phrase "thy might" is significant. It is the strength of your body, the force that is behind the hand, and to which the hand gives expression. Only by the dignity of labour can man rise to the true level of manhood; only by using the hand as the instrument of human industry and toil can he fulfil his mission. Observe next the hint given here concerning the transient opportunities of life in respect to life's work — "For there is no work nor device in the grave whither thou goest." We are here urged to work while we have the opportunity. The opportunity is transient and will soon be gone. When once allowed to slip, it never comes again in the same form. The greatest sorrow possible to man at the close of life is to realize that he has done nothing worth the doing, that his life is worse than a failure, and that the record of so many years does not include any service which has enriched his nature and prepared him for the higher and nobler service yonder.
2. I have taken the first words as an introduction to those still nobler words uttered by our Lord Himself: "I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work." Jesus Christ here identifies Himself with man in view of this common responsibility of toil. He does not claim exemption. When we view the life of Christ, even as a human life among men, we are greatly impressed with the amount of work which He condensed into so brief a space of time. Here and there, in the record of one day's toil, we gain a truer conception than we 'otherwise should have had of the nature of that ministry that extended over a few brief years; but which was so full of activity and so rich in toil. Moreover, we learn that in all this Christ identified Himself with our race, and thus left us an example that we should follow His steps. When the Son of God became the Son of Man, in no instance did He more fully identify Himself with us than in His consecration to duty and His consciousness of the incessant claims of service. This brings us to a new truth which is here brought into prominence by our Lord — namely, the consciousness of a mission — "I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day." Now, the consciousness of a mission is a different thing even from the consciousness of labours crowding upon one and demanding one's attention. Our Lord here emphasized the truth that there was One who had sent Him. There was not only a work awaiting Him, but that work awaited Him which the Father, who had sent Him, had given Him to do. And so there is given to life a motive force which otherwise it would lack. Now it is this consciousness of a mission — not only the consciousness that there is a work to do, but also that this work is that which the Master has appointed for him — that gives an irresistible power to the life of every consecrated man. It behoves us, therefore, not only to realize the truth which is enforced in the verse taken from Ecclesiastes, but also the supplementary truth given us by Jesus Christ in the second text — that we must not only work, but also do the works of Him who has sent us. Now what follows? If the work that we have to do is the work of Him who has sent us into this world; if the service, therefore, that we have to render is a Divine service, or is a human response to a Divine claim, then how dignified does life become, and how noble does all labour appear! Now if you and I could only master this one truth, all our grumblings at the hardness of work would vanish; and we should for ever cease to talk about our self-denials.
Homilist.I. LIFE IS FOR LABOUR. We are not here merely to theorize, sentimentalize, dream — but to work.
1. The training of Our own spirits for heaven.
2. The training of others for heaven.
II. LIFE IS FOR EARNEST LABOUR. "With all thy might."
1. This work of all works is the most momentous.
2. This work cannot be performed in eternity.
3. Man is on his journey to eternity.
1. It has passed into a kind of proverb amongst us that whatsoever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. You frequently meet with persons wile on extraordinary occasions, or stimulated by some special inspection, will exert much diligence and take great pains to produce something excellent and commendable, but who at all other times are slatternly and indolent, caring nothing, so long as a duty be performed, how slovenly may be the performance. It is against this temper that our text delivers its injunction, requiring the putting forth of "might," whether it be a great thing or a small which "the hand findeth to do." In place of being content, provided there be diligence where there is a loud call for diligence, it demands that the diligence should be actually the habit, and seems to argue that indolence must be wickedness, let it be ever such trifles on which we are employed. And it is not by reasons of mere human policy that we must defend this position; for our text reasons, as you perceive, exclusively from the future. But there is no difficulty in making the future — the world beyond the grave — demand diligence and denounce indolence even in trifles. The truth is that what a man is in one thing, that in the main will he be in another. If industrious only by fits and starts in business, he will be industrious only by fits and starts in religion. The habits which he contracts in an unconverted state will be almost sure to stamp on him corresponding habits when he is brought to the providing for eternity; so that having become sluggish and desultory, except on great occasions, in his worldly employments, he will in the main be sluggish and desultory in the high duties of piety. There cannot be an individual less fitted for the message or the business of religion than one who has formed habits of indolence and sloth; for the message is one which asks for its auditory a gathering and a centring of the mental faculties, which can hardly be obtained from the habitually indolent; and the business is one which is wholly impracticable, unless there be that individual putting forth of industry, which it is a contradiction in terms to expect from the slothful. There cannot, we are persuaded, be a greater mistake than that of dividing employments into secular and spiritual, if we mean by the division that the secular has no mixture of the spiritual, or that the spiritual would be defiled through association with the secular. The ordinance of labour, as we have shown you, is of Divine institution; and though, beyond question, our chief business on earth is the seeking the salvation of the soul, it is utterly insupposable that God would have imposed on us the necessity of labouring for the support of the body, if this business were unavoidably a hindrance to the chief — nay, if it were not even an auxiliary and an instrument. There cannot be inconsistency — there must be thorough harmony between the Divine appointments. God is served through the various occupations of life as well as through the more special institutions of religion. It needs only that a man go to his daily toil in simple obedience to the will of his Maker, and he is as piously employed, aye, and is doing as much towards securing for himself the high recompenses of eternity, as when he spends an hour in prayer, or joins himself gladly to the Sabbath-day gathering. I love to consider the manufacturer as he plies the shuttle, the statesman as he guides the wheel of government, the tradesman as he serves his customers, the sailor as he steers his vessel, the ploughman as he turns the ground, as each busied with an employment which may be virtually spiritual if he do not perversely frustrate its design: employment, which may be followed with a spiritual mind, and which, if so followed, has about it all the sanctity, and prepares for all the glory of heaven.
2. There are, unquestionably, duties which are more openly and visibly connected than others with the saving of the soul; and we may justly employ our concluding remarks in urging our hearers to industry in these. It is not the representation of Scripture, however it may be the imagination of numbers in the world, that religion is an easy thing: so that immortality may be secured with no great effort on the part of the sinner. The Christian life is likened to a battle, in which we may be defeated; to a race, in which we may be outstripped; to a stewardship, in which we may be unfaithful. Who, indeed, that thinks for a moment of the virtues required from us as Christians charity, temperance, meekness, patience, humility, contentment — will imagine that a believer may be idle, finding nothing in his spiritual calling to exercise his diligence? These virtues, we may venture to say, are all against nature; only to be acquired through strife with ourselves, and preserved by continued war. "Whatsoever," then, "thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Is temptation to be resisted? Resist it "with thy might": a half resistance courts defeat. Is prayer to be offered? Pray "with thy might": a languid prayer asks to be unanswered. Is a sacrifice to be made? Make it "with thy might": a tardy surrender is next akin to a refusal. Be industrious in religion. We can tolerate indolence anywhere rather than here — hero where an eternity is at stake, here where an hour's sluggishness may be fatal. An indolent Christian — it is a sort of contradiction. Christianity is industry spiritualized. The sluggard in religion would be the sluggard in escaping from the burning house or the sinking ship; and who ever loiters when death is at the door? Work, then, "with your might," if you profess to work at all; "giving diligence "as an apostle exhorts, "to make your calling and election sure." "There is no work, no wisdom, no device, in the grave." The separate state, into which you will enter at death, is a state, whatever it's employment, whatever its happiness, in which nothing can be done towards gaining heaven or avoiding hell. Your portion must be fixed here; your actions here, and these alone must determine on which side of the Judge you shall stand, and what your exact place in the kingdom, if you inherit it at all.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
1. We want more earnestness in the reading of the Bible. What is the Bible? It is a prescription for the worst of all illness. Here is a Divine prescription. Take it and live; refuse it and die. How we ought to hold on to it, and with what earnestness we ought now to take it. It is more than that. Suppose a captain is awakened in the night. The men who have had the management of the ship have been asleep, and not minding their business. The vessel is among the breakers. The captain comes on deck with the chart. With what earnestness he looks at it now. Here is a rock and there is a rock; there is a lighthouse; here is a way of escape. So here is a map setting forth the perils of the sea in which we are voyaging: there are dangers all round about us. If the following of that chart does not get us out of the breakers, nothing will. With what earnestness we ought to examine it, and feel that it is a matter of heaven or hell whether or not we read it, and whether we read it right or wrong.
2. We need more earnestness in the matter of prayer.
3. We want more earnestness in the matter of Christian work.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)I. WE HAVE MUCH WORK TO DO. "Yes," some may be ready to say, "we have to labour for our temporal subsistence, we have to provide for our families, we have to push our way to wealth and station in the world, and that in the face of many obstacles, so that there is no room for trifling. But there is a work greater, more worthy of the powers of a rational and immortal being; it is that by which we may obtain deliverance from future and endless woe, and an entrance into the rest and blessedness of heaven.
1. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is here no work to be done by you, as that by which you may merit reward. There is nothing but the acceptance of a free gift. It does not, however, follow that faith in Christ is not in any sense a work, because it is not in reward of its performance, but on the ground of the righteousness which it receives, that we are justified. Must we not labour to get right views and humbling impressions of our wretchedness and danger as sinners? Will it cost us no struggle with our pride, self-confidence, or indifference about our spiritual interests, no watchful care lest we take up with any refuge of lies, no inward and earnest exertion of soul to place an enlightened and firm and entire reliance on Him who hath made atonement by His blood? "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." The avenger of blood is behind you — hasten to the city of refuge.
2. Endeavour to make progress in holiness. Labour to get a deeper, more contrite sense of sin, of your own sins, and a heart turned to hate and to forsake it in all its ways, and at the same time labour to call into exercise holy principles. Is there not much here which you may find to do? This work and warfare is Within; there let the fervent spirit labour.
3. Give yourselves to the works of piety and benevolence. Is there not yet much knowledge to be acquired? Should you not then give yourselves to the study of God's Word? Is there nothing to do in your families, by the religious instruction of children and servants, by the Christian discipline maintained, by the just and equal yet affectionate treatment of all under your care? Are there no poor or afflicted by you to whoso wants you ear in any way minister, or whom you may cheer by your sympathy in their sorrow?
II. WE HAVE BUT A LIMITED TIME FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF THIS WORK.
III. IF OUR WORK BE NOT DONE, THE WORK GIVEN US TO DO ON EARTH, BEFORE WE COME TO THE GRAVE, IT MUST REMAIN FOR EVER UNDONE.
(James Henderson, D. D.)
I. THIS IS THE WORLD OF SERVICE. This idea involves necessarily these things —
1. Subordination. I remember that mine is a subordinate position. I am here to do something, and not to talk about doing it. "I must Work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work."
2. Work. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it." It is a doing world. "Man goes forth to his labour, and to his work, from the morning until the evening." Spiritually we need this world; all the varied scenes which make up our life were needful to the right training of our minds into that attitude of creaturely dependence, which not only befits us, but into which, by the very force of circumstances, we shall sooner or later be driven; and which, therefore, we had better make our own by voluntary choice.
II. THE SERVICE OF THIS WORLD IS BUT FOR A SHORT TIME. Learn, then:
1. Moderation in all our earthly pursuits.
2. Earnestness in our religious life. Let us not throw our souls into our business, and our sleep into our religion.
(W. G. Barrett.)
I. First, we shall give this passage AN EVANGELICAL VOICE TO THE UNCONVERTED; and it will be necessary for us to say that there is nothing for the unconverted man to do, by way of work or device with his hand, in order to his being saved, Salvation from sin and justification before God come to us in connection with the work of the Holy Spirit within us leading us to faith in Jesus; and so salvation is entirely and alone of the grace of God. We would say to every unconverted person, "It is high time that you should begin to think about the solemn in crests of your soul, for you will soon pass from the place of saving knowledge and heavenly wisdom into the shades of forgetfulness."
II. But now I have another task, and that is, to set forth my text as A STIMULATING VOICE TO GOD'S OWN PEOPLE. You have not the work to do of saving yourselves. "It is finished," says the Saviour, and that is joy for you: but now you have another work to do because you are saved. The love of Jesus to us must provoke love in our heart to Jesus, and that love must show itself by deeds of service for His name. Our text indicates the" wisest course to follow. It is — Do it, do it at once. If you have not done what you should, up, man, and do what you can! Our text exhorts us to do our work now. Do not talk about doing it to-morrow, do it at once. The impetus of the text carries the thought as far as that; seeing that death may come to-night, do it now, even now. But Solomon says, "Do it with thy might." There are several ways of doing the same action. One man will do a thing, and he has done ii; another has performed the same action, but has practically done nothing. Jesus Christ ought never to have our second best things — never. Our best is all too poor for Him, let us never put Him off with our inferior fruits. Do it — "do it with thy might." And, once more, do it all; for the text says, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it": that is to say, do it all. The pith of the text lies in the next thought, namely, that there is an argument to every earnest Christian for intense zeal in the fact of the certain approach of death; "for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest." I have read of Dr. Chalmers that one evening he stayed with a company of friends at a gentleman's house, and they spent the evening, as we are too much in the habit of doing, very pleasantly, but not very profitably, talking upon general subjects, not at all to be forbidden, but at the same time not much to be commended. There was among the number a Highland chief, who had attracted Dr. Chalmers' notice, and he had talked with him, but nothing was said about the things of God. In the middle of the night a bitter cry was heard in the hospitable habitation, and there was a rush to the bedroom, where it was found that the Highland chief was in the agonies of death. Dr. Chalmers expressed (and he was not the man whom we could blame for laxity in that direction) his bitter regret that he had allowed that last evening of the man's life to pass over without having spoken to him concerning the things of God. The regret was most proper, but it had been better if it had never been necessary. Such a regret may have occurred to ourselves; do not let it occur again. If you do not die, the person whom you are concerned about may die, therefore, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it," for death may come on a sudden.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. W. Beecher.)I. HOW MEN OUGHT TO FIND OUT THEIR DUTY.
1. By reading the Word of God, which points out the duty of all persons in every relation of life, and is able to make all wise unto salvation.
2. By hearing the Word of God explained and enforced by religious instructors.
3. By duly regarding the dispensations of Divine providence towards them.
4. By asking counsel of God in prayer.
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN MEN'S DOING THEIR DUTY, WHEN THEY DISCOVER IT, "WITH THEIR MIGHT." Might signifies power, strength and ability of every kind.
1. Men ought to employ all their powers and faculties in doing what they find they have to do. If it requires bodily strength, then they must exert their bodily strength; if it requires knowledge, then they must exercise the knowledge they possess; if it requires wisdom, then they must exercise their wisdom; if it requires prudence, then they must exercise prudence; if it requires authority, then they must exercise authority; if it requires influence, then they must exercise all the influence they have; or ii it requires the exertion of all their natural and moral abilities, then they must exert them all to their utmost extent.
2. Men's doing with their might what they find to do implies that they should surmount all the difficulties that lie in the way of doing their duty.
III. WHY MEN SHOULD THUS EXERT THEMSELVES TO DO WHATSOEVER THEY FIND TO DO IN THE WORLD.
1. Because God has given them all their mental and corporeal powers and faculties for use.
2. Because He has a great deal for them to do on the stage of life — for Him, for their fellow-men, and for themselves.
3. Because they have but a short and uncertain time to do it in. They have no time to lose, nor talents to bury. Let them work while it is day, for the night of death is at hand.
1. If men may always find out what they have to do in this world, then they have no right to plead ignorance for the neglect of a duty.
2. If men ought to employ all their powers and faculties in doing what they find to be duty, then they have no right to do anything but what they know to be duty. Whatsoever is not of duty is of sin.
3. If God requires men always to know and do their duty, then they can never retrieve any of their lost time, opportunities, or advantages of doing good.
4. If God requires men to employ all their time and talents in doing their duty, then none can be released from duty as long as their active powers and faculties are graciously continued to them.
5. If God requires men to employ all their time and talents in doing their duty, then there is reason to think they are guilty of more sins of omission than of commission.
6. If men can do nothing for this world after death, then they ought to do all they can while they live, to leave it in a better state than they found it.
7. This subject now calls upon all to inquire whether they are prepared to leave the world, and to commit their bodies to the grave, the house appointed for all living, and where there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, but darkness and oblivion.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
1. Christ prepared for His work. The obscure years were many in comparison with the brief period of His public ministry. Yet, when at last the time came, it was found they were not lost. Every word He spoke then, and every deed He did, tells, and will tell upon the universe for ever. Many young people who wish to give themselves to Christian work are in too much haste. Let them remember how grandly Christ waited. Let them remember that there is no true call to the ministry which is not also a call to full and zealous preparation for the ministry.
2. We must do with our might the things that seem small as well as great, for in truth we do not really know what is small or what is great. Rather, in the work of the kingdom of Christ everything is great.
3. In order to do work with our might we must rest as well as work. If we are to work with our might the energies of the body and soul must not be dulled or blunted, and for that rest is needed.
4. There is all the difference in the world between work done with the might and work that is not. John Ruskin says: "We are not sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts." Charles Kingsley's testimony is: "I go at what I am about as if there were nothing else in the world for the time being. That is the secret of all hard-working men."
5. We may apply this principle to preparation and study. There is all the difference in the world between reading with your might and reading without it. The concentration of the mind on the subject enables us to take possession of something new, and to make it part of ourselves. When the mind is relaxed and wandering there is no permanent gain.
6. This applies eminently to preaching. Preaching in every form is impressive just in proportion as a man puts his soul into it.
7. Perhaps there is no more needed application of this lesson than to the business of prayer. Prevailing prayer is wrestling prayer. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." True intercession is the costliest of all things. Intercede for a soul in peril, and God will answer your petition by suggesting to you something you must do or give up for the sake of that soul.
8. For after all it is not with our might that we work. It is with God's might. Everything we do that is really worth doing is in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Yet we are to put effort, and sacrifice, and longing, and intensity, and fervour, and whole-heartedness, and allegiance into our work just as if it depended upon ourselves.
(W. R. Nicoll, LL. D.)
I. THE ELEMENTS OF AN EARNEST LIFE. They are just these two things, earnest faith and earnest love. A man's visible life is but the expression of his invisible modes of thought and feeling — the outcome of his convictions and his affections — in other words, of his faith and love. As a man loves so he lives; as he believes so he behaves. If he loves God he is godly; if he loves the world he is worldly. If his faith be bright his life will be shining; if his faith be dim his life will be dark. Earnest faith and earnest love — these are the mightiest principles that underlie every true and noble life. For example — given earnest faith in God and earnest love for God, and what a devoted follower of God will any man become I Given earnest faith in the truth and earnest love for the truth, and what a truth-seeker and truth-spreader will any man become! Given earnest convictions of man's ruin and earnest love for man's redemption, and what a Christian worker and soul-winner will surely develop! Given earnest faith in the mission of the Church and earnest love for that mission, and to what a degree of heroic self-sacrifice and endeavour will we not go! Earnest faith and earnest level These are the combined elements which make up an earnest life — that is when they are living, active union and com-reunion. But let us bear in mind that they must be combined. By itself alone neither will suffice. Faith alone makes the bigot; love alone the fanatic. The one is the engine without the balance-wheel; the other is the balance-wheel without the engine. The one is the head without the heart; the other is the heart without the head. Neither of itself produces the desirable character — neither all faith nor all love, but both. Only in the union and communion of the two will an earnest life result. There was Paul, for example. He believed man's ruin and he believed God's remedy. He believed the inevitable and irreparable destruction that hung over the sinner, and he believed, too, the atonement of Christ as the full and free and only possible salvation for him. And what then? Why, "the love of Christ constrained him" to most unceasing and almost superhuman efforts for man's salvation. These combined elements — earnest faith and earnest love — gave strength to his weakness, courage to his timidity, point to his logic and fervour to his eloquence. They enlisted him, body, mind, and soul, so that he was willing to become all things to all men that he might by any means save some. And so must it be with us all if we would accomplish much — if we would make our lives tell for God and humanity. We must have faith in something.We must have love for something.
II. THE MOTIVES LEADING TO AN EARNEST LIFE. What are they?
1. Well, first, as was intimated in the beginning, is that thought of no repair. "There is no work," no doing this life's unfinished work, "in the grave." Surely if any one thought more than another could make life seem real and earnest to us it must be found in this fact, that we can never go over the ground again to do unfinished work or rectify mistakes. As Jehovah spoke to Israel out on the road from Egypt, so He says to each of us, "Ye shall henceforth return no more that way." We are told that in one of those splendid pageants in Berlin, not long ago, the wife of the English ambassador unfortunately unfastened the necklace she was wearing and lost a costly pearl somewhere in the roadway. Perhaps it might have been regained if a serious search had been in order at such a time. But the grand procession must hurry along, and a lost place in the ranks was of more account than a lost pearl. They did not return the same way. Lost things are lost. Undone work is undone. Broken things are broken beyond repair, for there is no work, nor knowledge, nor device in the grave whither thou goest. That dropped pearl of opportunity, lost in the procession of our years, lies far back there in the dusty roadway, and we shall not return that way.
2. The second motive is the need of haste. If there is no finishing up of this life's work in the next, then how rapidly ought we to work now. Like the needle-woman sitting by her last bit of candle, how rapidly ought we to labour lest the light burn down to its socket ere the work be finished. "The King's business requires haste." "The night cometh."
(G. B. F. Halleck.)Carpe diem philosophy. Of Turner, his servant used to say, I never knew him to be idle." Oh, how some who give themselves up to what we call worldly ambitions put Christians to shame! When he got an order for a picture, he went home, and the same day on which he got the order he spread the canvas, and he had the whole thing in dead colour before he went to bed. Next morning, early, he was at it again. The Lord put into us the Holy Ghost as the Spirit, of hard work. You will not kill yourself by hard work along the lines of God's Book. "The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows."
(R. Newton, D. D.)
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