You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes but never get warm. You earn wages to put into a bag pierced through."
John 4:23, 24). He taught that place has but little to do with worship, and that there is no spot we may not consecrate by our praises and prayers, and render to us "hallowed ground." Still, he constantly resorted to the temple, and we read of his apostles how that they went up to the temple "at the hour of prayer" (Acts 3:1). The erection and maintenance of Christian sanctuaries is most thoroughly in harmony with his will, and is calculated to promote the truest interests of the race. Close all such sanctuaries, and
(1) good men would be left to sigh for the holy fellowship they had lost;
(2) spiritual darkness would steal over the land;
(3) the streams of true benevolence would rapidly diminish;
(4) men in general, losing sight of the common relationship they sustain to the Eternal, would also overlook the interest they ought to feel in each other's weal;
(5) iniquity would pass unreproved, and vice unchecked. As lovers of God, our country, and our fellow men, we do well to sustain Christian sanctuaries, and not to allow them to "lie waste." Notice, "the house of the Lord" may "lie waste" -
1. IN THE SENSE OF THE MATERIAL STRUCTURE BEING NEGLECTED. There should be correspondence in respect of beauty and adornment, comfort and cleanliness, between the houses in which we live and the sanctuary in which we meet for worship, and where this is lacking, the want indicates a wrong state of mind and heart.
II. IN THE SENSE OF ITS PECUNIARY RESOURCES BEING OVERLOOKED, AND THERE BEING THUS STRAITNESS IN RESPECT TO MEETING THE EXPENSES NECESSARILY INCURRED IN ITS MAINTENANCE. Giving should be regarded as an act of worship. "Bring an offering, and come into his courts" (Psalm 96:8). Contributions for the maintenance of the worship of God ought not to be regarded in the light of charitable gifts, but as the discharge of bounden obligation.
III. IN THE SENSE OF ITS SEATS BEING UNOCCUPIED. There is far too much of "waste" in this respect. The growing habit of attending only one of the services on the sabbath, and none during the week days, needs to be checked Personal influence should be brought more to bear upon the inhabitants of a locality with a view to securing their presence. "Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord" (Psalm 122:1).
IV. IN THE SENSE OF THE EXERCISES CONDUCTED THEREIN BEING MARKED BY BALDNESS AND INEFFICIENCY. The services should be marked by culture, variety, heart; the worshippers should throw their whole souls into all its engagements, and render each part of the service "heartily" and as "unto the Lord."
V. IN THE SENSE OF PAUCITY OF SPIRITUAL RESULTS. With a view to the prevention of this, let us "pray for Jerusalem," that its services may yield comfort to the mourning and guidance to the perplexed, and that through these the cold in heart may regain the fervour of their "first love," and "the dead in trespasses and sins" be quickened to a new and heavenly life. "Save now, O Lord; O Lord, we beseech thee send us now prosperity" (Psalm 118:25); "Repair the waste places of Zion" (Isaiah 58:12); "Build thou the walls of Jerusalem" (Psalm 51:18). - S.D.H.
He that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
1. Those persons come under this description who pride them, selves on the accumulation and possession, of wealth.
2. That man is dropping his money into a "bag with holes," who is spending any large proportion of it in things which minister chiefly to pride and vain glory. Ruskin says, "A tenth part of the expense which is sacrificed in domestic vanities, if not absolutely and meaningly lost in domestic comforts and incumbrances would, if wisely employed, build a marble church for every town in England.
3. Those persons are putting their wealth "into a bag with holes," who are robbing God's Church of her lawful tithes, that they may have the more to leave to their children. Inherited wealth is as often a curse as a blessing. Idleness is a source of misery, and there is no deadlier bane of character. The wise father will give his son the education which will fit him for the trade or the profession which he may prefer, and then allow him the privilege of pushing his own fortune in the world. Bishop Doane said of the men who should "make a State," that "they are made by self-denial." Instead of the selfish question of the votary of the world, How much can I get out of this life in the way of dress, high-living, envy, admiration, amusement?" may our endeavour be this, "How much shall this life of mine (so short and so uncertain) get out of me in loving devoted service to my Lord?"
(John N. Norton, D. D.)
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
(W. L. Blackley, M. A.)
Homiletic Magazine.I. With respect to MUCH OF THE MONEY MEN GAIN we may say it is put into a bag with holes. Look at one man who is a type of those who put earnings into a bag with holes. He works hard. With the dawn he arises. He eats the bread of carefulness. He is ever on the watch for the "main chance," that is, for increasing the accumulations of No. 1. He does not trouble always as to the methods by which he gains. He cares only to see his balance increase. He is never known to be taken with a fit of generosity. He stints himself, and it may be his family, of all pleasures that he may increase his savings. Thus grubbing and grasping, puffing and lying, he makes the mickle into muckle. He finds the pennies become pounds, the tens grow to hundreds, and the hundreds to thousands. He gets respect, is favoured with applications for help. But he has been putting his gain into a bag with holes, if he has wrongly gained his wealth, and if he has bowed down to that, worshipping it alone. Remember that he cannot take it with him at death. It were useless if he could. There are many who, even without gaining much, make themselves slaves to their particular line of work. They give no thought to the higher concerns of life. But all their Life they toil without content; they have murmured and fretted, envied others, even misrepresented them. Into a "bag with holes" they have placed all they have so hardly gained. Then there are many who really could earn and do earn much, but they waste it. They know not where the money has gone, and if they knew where it has gone they would not confess it to themselves or to others.
II. With respect to MANY OF THE PLEASURES men seek, the truth of the text is manifested. We say "many," because all pleasure is not sinful, and seeking it at times may be a strong duty. Alas! some spoil lawful and sufficient recreation by taking unlawful pleasure. They are certainly putting their efforts into a "bag with holes." Thus also with stolen, secret pleasures. Souls yield to the desires of the heart, the lusts of the flesh, and because the thing is hidden up they rub their hands and say I have done no wrong. In no sinful indulgence can we find a gratification that shall be enduring. That deed, the memory of which causes the face to crimson, has no quality in it that can be really satisfactory.
III. With respect to OUR UNAIDED EFFORTS AT REFORM OF LIFE, the truth of the text applies. We find out that the devil is a bad master, that the wages of sin is death. We begin to see that this life has been wasted, that we have lived for self. We then begin to struggle, in our own strength, to improve character and conquer sins. Perhaps we do make some little progress for a time. Soon we discover that it has been only for a time, and that the root of sin is still in our soul. Then the fact begins to stare us in the face, that if we could avoid all sin in the future, if we could conquer all tendency to sin in our hearts, we have yet a great account of sin which is unforgiven. Law must not be violated and dishonoured. Hence He takes up, in the Person of Christ, our sins and bears them. "He magnifies the law." He then freely forgives us for Christ's sake. The whole past can be as though it had not been. All sin can be fully expunged. God in Christ has provided a way of dealing with sin such as we cannot understand, but which we can accept. Confucius said, "A blemish may be taken out of a diamond by carefully polishing it, but if your words have the least blemish there is no way to efface them." This is true of the sinful dispositions of the soul. Only Christ can efface them. Our self-righteousness, which is effort to atone in our own strength, is like wages put into a bag with holes.
IV. With respect to ATTEMPTS OF MANY TO GAIN VARIOUS KINDS OF KNOWLEDGE we may assert the principle of the text. There are those who are incessantly inquiring, reading, and yet who know but very little. They go about, but although seeing much, they retain little. Many hear abundance of lectures, of sermons, but seem to know little more. They read their Bibles, but they increase little in knowledge of it. Now, just look back and see how much you have read and heard and known. What has been the effect on the character, the heart, the life? Has it not been put into a bag with holes T How often have you heard of the sacrifice of Christ and the infinite love of God. Has it had any effect? Has there been any effect on the life? Bitter was the wail of the mother who after ten years of care of an imbecile child said to me, "After all my love she never seems to notice me more readily than she would a stranger." Ah! that is just what Jesus has to say of us. His love has been thrown away upon us, it has been put in a "bag with holes."
I. EXTRAVAGANCE is such a bag. I mean the spending more on a thing than our income justifies. Bishop Patrick begins a chapter with a notable warning, "Consider thine own sufficiency." Weigh well what you are equal to, and this may as well apply to our income as anything else. If we allow ourselves in any instance an expenditure, no matter what be the subject of it, which is unsuitable to our circumstances and inconsistent with our means, there is no other name for this that I know of than extravagance; i.e (to trace the word to its derivation) a wandering beyond the just limits within which our course should lie. There is a certain suitableness between our position and circumstances on the one hand, and our expenses on the other, which good taste will discern instinctively; any squandering in one direction must involve poverty in the other: I do not say a "bag with holes," but a bag with one hole will let out all the money, that which is for necessary wants, as well as that which is spent upon the luxury. Is not extravagance the fault of the age? Do not men of all classes live so near to their income that it is hardly possible to avoid going beyond it? There are but two ways of meeting that difficulty: we must earn more or spend less.
II. There is another bag with holes — WASTE. This, though it resembles extravagance in some respects, is a different thing, for extravagance is in superfluities; waste may be of things necessary. I fear this is an in. creasing fault. I see it wherever I go: waste of fuel and of food, waste of money, waste of land, waste of its produce. Yet He who, by a miracle twice repeated, made bread enough and to spare for thousands in the wilderness, had an eye to what was over; and left us a memorable lesson: "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost." Young people hardly know how much can be done simply by wasting nothing. I have an honest shepherd near me who once offered me a loan of £200. I know another who has saved enough to buy him a little farm. What was their secret? They wasted nothing. They have had enough for livelihood, enough for health, for comfort, and this to spare when the day of feebleness and dearth shall come. Their bag was not one with holes.
III. Akin to extravagance and waste is EXCESS. This does, indeed, partake of the character of the other two; but it has this element in addition, that it is extravagance and it is waste, both employed on self, and both to the detriment of self. If you will just call to mind some of the calculations which are now familiar to us all you will see what a bag with holes this is for the earnings of the nation at large. More than 100 millions are spent in the kingdom every year on drink! This is the great bag with holes into which skilful earnings, hard earnings, costly earnings, are too apt to be put. That dreadful, that pitiable habit of intemperance is a solvent which will melt down a fortune however great, and a man however strong. No matter what is put into the bag, through that one hole it disappears, and leaves the owner of it like the tattered bag itself.
(A. C. Bishop, M. A.)
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