Each one helps the other, and says to his brother, "Be strong!"
is - Helpfulness. Not mere help, but fulness of help. There may be a help that is tardy, that is somewhat sparse and stingy; and there may be help which is not helpful in the best sense. This help to which our text refers was accompanied by encouragement - that truest and wisest of all help, which, by giving courage, gives strength. Buildings cannot be built by an architect alone. The inferior hand is as needful as the superior. Read the description: "So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the soldering." Each man in his place, and fit for his place. So it must be in human life; and, as civilization develops, each man must attend more and more upon one thing. It will not do to play at art, or architecture, or merchandise, or ministry. Each in his place. So it must be in the Church - there must be mutual help, mutual encouragement. We ought to feel indebted to each other. We ought to be inspirational to each other.
I. HELP IS TO BE UNIVERSAL. They helped "every one." It will not do to evade our own share of toil. Work cannot be done by command or contrivance, but by the constraint of a ready mind. Socialism seems to be disturbing the Continent. It may be a destructive power, but never can be a constructive one. If human beings were machines to be set in order by one hand, it might be so; but they are not. See how Proudhon and Fourier adjust all the social arrangements to a nicety; the Phalange, or the body of associated labourers; the Phalanstere, or the habitation assigned to each, where the four great departments of nature - the material, the organic, the animal, and the social - are provided for. What a scheme! How philosophic it looks - on paper! But what madness to try and make it work, when the derangement of one part would be the derangement of the complicated whole! Who is to restrain the leaders and organizers from craft and selfishness and guile? Difficult as it is to secure good government in general functions in society, who could secure it in a ramified system? Then one will not work, and another will drink, and another will laugh, and another will sleep, and in one brief day some will be better off than others, and the perfect arrangements will fly to pieces before the touchstone of actual life. No; God meant diversity. God meant diligence to be rewarded. Riches and honour come of the Lord, and if there were no incentives to progress and culture and invention, there would be no advancing civilization. Socialism cannot make men work; it would want an army to compel them. The right way is Christ's way. Look every man also on the things of another. Use ability, genius, education, wealth, honour, well, so as to bless others. None are more despicable than those who look alone to being helped. Everything must be ready for them. The way they speak to servants is detestable. They complain if the physician does not come at once - if they are not the first considered by others. Don't they pay? Terrible neglect; they are not helped. Money does not satisfy their indebtedness. Let us see whom they help - if they are swift to speak the generous word, to perform the brave and noble deed. There are, however, some lives - and they must be dread histories - which are spent in fashionable gossip and superficial pleasure-seeking, with no care for others. We see, then,
(1) there must be mutuality;
(2) there must be energy.
Not the help which is mere gift, perhaps easy and costless, but the help which costs service and sacrifice.
II. HELP IS TO BEGIN AT THE NEAREST POINT. "His neighbour" - the nearest person to him. The gospel teaching is to begin at Jerusalem. Home, for instance, is to be a scene of help. There are occasions every day in which we can help each other's comfort, growth, education, freedom from anxiety, and increase in the pleasure of life as life. A man's character is judged of in his home, his Church, his village, his town, his neighbourhood. The eloquent assailer of public wrongs may be other than a patriot at home.
1. This is the help which only he can render; being the neighbour, he is the nearest.
2. This does not bind him by religious "views" or party spirit. He is to help in the great temple of humanity as well as the temple of the Lord God. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them." There are charities, I find, which, not content with being Christian, wish to know what people's "views" are! What an atmosphere! No. Christ did not ask who were Samaritans, Syro-phoenicians, Greeks, or Jews. "He went about doing good."
III. HELP IS TO BE INSPIRATIONAL, That is to say, it is not to assist laziness or to excuse mere incompetence. "Every one said to his brother, Be of good courage."
1. Courage; for fear is weakness. Those who expect failure court failure. I am wonderstruck at Stanley's courage at the Falls, especially after Pocock was dead. It is marvellous! Think of that poor native who rushed from the presence of the dreadful roaring river into the wilderness.
2. Courage; for God is your Helper. Man is weak! Yes; but read the tenth verse: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee." That is an inspiration indeed - God in Christ working in us and with us. He who gave himself' for us, now working in and with us. What courage this inspires! "In me is thine help found." "Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help!" We shall find all worldliness to be weakness in the end.
3. Courage; for no work is so hard as it looks. There are creative times. What is the dreamer worth when difficult duties have to be done?
4. Courage; for cowards make cowards. Live with persons constantly afraid of fire, of midnight marauders, of infection, of disease, and you will become nervous yourself. If children grow up amid the timorous, they become timorous. But born in the fishing-cove on the beach, how they pull out the boat into the wild sea! accustomed to scenes of courage, they learn courage. Never dispirit others. Say not, "This sum will never be raised. These schools can never be built. This class will never prosper." But say rather, "Be of good courage."
5. Courage; for hindrances will flee before faith. Say to the mountain, "Be thou cast into the sea." Strange that it should obey thee! But it does, for it was a mountain of the mind. Courage is not quixotic; it is founded on faith - on the Word, and cross, and throne of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mutual hell) is what we want. Not the sentimental grievance from some that they are not the subjects of perennial attention and ever-delicate consideration, but the help which is the spirit of all Christian life, because it was the law of his life" who came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister." - W.M.S.
They helped every one his neighbour.
(J. A. Alexander.)
I. It affords an illustration of THE WAY THE WICKED COMBINE IN THEIR FIGHT AGAINST THE RIGHT. Jeremiah gives us a picture of this combination in the family (Jeremiah 7:17, 18). Isaiah, carrying it up higher, here shows how the different crafts cheer and help each other. Take the history of the world; follow the struggle between the powers of light and the powers of darkness, and you will find that this has always been the case. When Jesus Christ made His appearance upon the earth for the purpose of inaugurating the overthrow of paganism and planting His kingdom on its ruins, witness what varied and unhallowed combinations arrayed themselves against Him. See how the liquor-dealers are now banded together in that strong association, which has for its object the protection and perpetuity of their iniquitous traffic. And if certain questions are touched there are manifested some strange combinations.
II. We see the importance of UNANIMITY OF FEELING AND CONCERT OF ACTION IN CHURCH WORK.
1. This should be true in the individual Churches. The various ages, classes, and organisations of a Church ought to work for the same ends.
2. On the great leading questions there must be co-operation between the various denominations.
III. We have a suggestion as to THE MUTUAL DEPENDENCE OF MEN. Notice how many crafts the idols passed through before they were finished. Take any article in your possession, and a great many different persons and trades have contributed to its production. No profession or trade is independent of other professions and trades; no class is independent of other classes.
IV. We are reminded that OUR AIM IN LIFE SHOULD BE TO HELP THOSE WITH WHOM WE COME IN CONTACT. "They helped every one his neighbour." Jesus Christ came into this world not to seek His own ease or profit or pleasure, but to help the needy sons of men. Have we caught anything of His spirit? There are many ways in which we can help.
1. Like these idolaters, we can do it by our words of cheer. We are too chary with our praise.
2. Help by our deeds.
(J. W. Rogan.)
I. ENCOURAGEMENT MUST BE LIVED AS WELL AS SPOKEN. We are to give courage through the possession of it. It will not do for those who are to inspire others to whimper over their troubles! If the general is beaten the army is often defeated.
II. ENCOURAGEMENT MUST BEGIN AT THE NEAREST POINT. "Everyone said to his neighbour." The man next to me is to catch the influence. If I do not encourage him it is a poor compliment to encourage somebody in Spain or Jerusalem. It is of no use for me to write the foreign letter to my friend far away, if I do not encourage the charwoman who comes for a day's work. All these splendid heroics of distance are mere romance. Your neighbour nigh you often needs encouragement, and God has placed you there to give it.
III. ENCOURAGEMENT MUST NOT BE MERELY SEASONAL. Because you do not know when a man wants you! It is to be the atmosphere of duty; you are to live in it. We need encouragement when things are bright with us to stimulate us to make a right and thankful use of our mercies. We need encouragement in adversity, for patience needs sustaining in long hours of pain, in mysteries we cannot fathom, in paths where we see no turning. You can encourage someone best of all when you can say, Thus and thus it has been with me.
IV. ENCOURAGEMENT MUST NOT BE WITHDRAWN BY FREQUENT FAILURES. Do not say, I will give it up, it is a bad job. As the R.V. says, "Despairing of no man." What do you say? Am I to encourage the man who has broken so many vows? Yes. His next step may be on to the rock. Am I to be the one to bear upon my heart the responsibility of cheering those who never seem to cheer me? Yes. Your relation to me is not to affect my relation to you. Encourage the doubter, the erring, the deserter, as you would be encouraged yourself.
V. ENCOURAGEMENT MUST BE TRUE, BASED ON REASONS. No one can really encourage me unless he speaks on the ground of truth. For truth will not encourage me by hiding my symptoms and using soft, seductive words! Encourage one another, because the work in which we are engaged is the only immortal work of the ages, and to unite in Christian work is to lay hold of the "everlasting."
(W. M. Statham.)
2. The very composition of the earth we walk over offers a strong hint of this intention. You read it in the beautiful balancings of clouds and tides, the equations of astronomy, the adjustments of growth and climate, all the musical accord by which the Divine Spirit has attuned His creation to an everlasting anthem. Sky and water, vapour and vegetation, earth and sun are ever friendly and hospitable; they are perpetually running on some missionary errand on each other's behalf.
3. Indeed, It is most interesting to see how liberally the Creator has given hints and illustrations of this social principle by His own arrangements, even in what we call the humbler departments of His creation. For society does not stand apart from nature, but interlinks its laws with hers. Very wonderful it is, and very beautiful, to see how God twines together, into a system of mutual benefits, the operations that different creatures carry on for their own advantage, thus revealing His intention that they should be fellow-helpers, even these dumb and soulless things. He scarcely lets any good end with the being that produced it, but carries it over into some wider usefulness. He pushes out the doings of each animal and person into results that help other animals and other persons. The silkworm, with no thought of a charity, spins for himself an elaborate and complicated coffin, to hold the chrysalis, till its resurrection with wings. But the strands of that delicate fabric, the ingenuity of man winds off into the material of his costliest and most durable vestures. Coral insects build their reefs with the slow toil of ages, not certainly as philanthropists, but simply by the instinct that bids living things provide a habitation. Yet they are all the time laying the foundations of islands that men will some time inhabit, when overpopulated continents shall send out their swarming colonies, and thus God "layeth the beams of His chambers in the waters." The spider weaves a web, out in the air, for certain economical purposes of his own. But God bathes it overnight in drops of dew, and in the morning sun it hangs like a silver shield, with miniature rainbows for its quarterings, "a thing of beauty" at which children clap their hands with rapture, and which every beauty-loving passenger is the better for. The spider had no thought of being an artist; but the Creator made him one to shed delight unconsciously. Or else astronomy stretches one of those slender fibres across the glass in her telescope to mark the passage of a star, and the little insect under a clover leaf gives a measuring line to science to tell the august motions of the constellations of the sky.
4. So in another and higher grade of creation. When men forget to help each other, God overrules their plans, and makes them do it, to a certain extent, in despite of themselves. He is for ever defeating the plots of selfishness. He suffers no immunities to be strictly personal. It is the settled policy of Providence, so to speak, to break up monopolies. He regards always the good, not only of the greatest number, but of the whole. He allows no mortal to live for himself alone, however much disposed to. A capitalist, without the remotest intention of being a public benefactor perhaps, founds a factory, to enlarge his private fortune. But the enterprise calls into employment an army of labourers, and the wages forestall their starvation. A few men, in a corporation, as the ease may be, build a railway, for the sake of the dividends; but it becomes an immeasurable facility of travel and transportation, and while it enriches a few is a convenience to millions.
(F. D. Huntington, D. D.)
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