I served as eyes to the blind and as feet to the lame.
I. RIGHTEOUSNESS CLOTHES A MAN AS WITH A GARMENT.
1. It covers. If a man has but a good character, we can pardon much else in him. He may be weak, foolish, unfortunate. He may have failed in the world, and have come down to poverty. Yet he is not in rags. A royal robe covers him, and, in the eyes of those who can appreciate true worth, this is the one thing seen about him.
2. It protects. The garment is to keep off the chill winds and damping mists and scorching sun. Righteousness is more than a stout garment. It is a piece of armour - a breastplate, protecting the heart (Ephesians 6:14). When once a man is assured of the integrity of his cause he can look the whole world in the face; he can dare to go through fire and water; he is strong and safe where one with an evil conscience may well tremble and cower.
3. It adorns. This righteousness is not only decent and comforting, like a thick, warm, homespun garment; it is more beautiful than a king's clothing of purple and silk and gold embroidery. There is no beauty so fair as that of goodness.
4. It cannot be hidden. It is not a secret confined to the heart. It must be there first, it must spring from the heart. But it is not hidden within. Character is visible, like a garment worn in the street.
II. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH THUS CLOTHES MUST BE REAL. It is only the perversity of an erroneous theology that could ever make it necessary to utter so obvious a sentence as this. There is a way of referring to the imputed righteousness of Christ as though this dispensed with the necessity of our being ourselves righteous. Surely such a doctrine would be immoral. In what respects could this so-called robe of righteousness be distinguished from the hypocrite's cloak? If Christ's righteousness were only to hide our unrighteousness without curing it, not only would a great deception be practised, but no real good would be done. The result would be an unmitigated evil. For what is our curse and our ruin? Is it not our sin? If so, nothing can benefit us that does not destroy that sin. Therefore an attempt to cover it up and leave it unaltered will do us no good, but will injure us by drugging our conscience and giving us a false assurance. In Eastern cities an open drain runs down the middle of the street, and is not so offensive as one might think, because it is always being oxidized and purified by the fresh air. We cover over our drains, but make ventilating holes in our streets, through which gases of concentrated foulness, unmixed with pure air, are continually rising among the passers-by. Have we gained much?
III. ONLY CHRIST CAN CLOTHE US WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS. Self-righteousness is a delusion. We cannot make ourselves righteous, nor can any law put us right with God. St. Paul demonstrated this in the opening chapters of his Epistle to the Romans. But he also showed that God had given us righteousness in Christ (Romans 3:21, 22). Now, this comes first of all in forgiveness. We are then put in a right relation with God, before we have overcome all the sin that dwells within us. Christ is the promise of our future righteousness. In this way his righteousness means much to us. God cannot be taken in by any fiction. He can only regard us just as we are. But he can treat us for Christ's sake better than we deserve. So through Christ we are placed in right relations with God, and those right relations are the channels through which real righteousness comes into us. - W.F.A.
The most beautiful invention of the poet Dante is not his picture of Beatrice, nor of Francesca, but his description of the river Eunoe, in whose waters having been immersed, one recalls at once all the good actions and thoughts of his past life. Long before the time of Dante, the poets of the heathen world had sung about a stream called Lethe, in which if one plunged he forgot the sorrows of the past. The one was the outgrowth of heathen, the other of Christian thought. The heathen could hope for nothing better than oblivion. Complete forgetfulness was all the sinful heart dared hope for. But Christianity not only points with hope to the future, but sanctifies the past. It fills men's lives with kindly deeds and blessed memories, never to be forgotten. And in the eternal future, God's children with memory quickened will praise Him for the past.
I was eyes to the blind.
Are not my eyes my own? No, nothing is your own; and until you get that truth driven into your very soul you cannot be a Christian. May not a man do what he will with his own? Yes, when he gets it. Your hand is not your own, so what about the little thing that is in it? The greater includes the less. Not a hair upon your head is your own, not a breath in your body is your own; the blood of Christ bought you every whir and every fibre, or He bought none of you. If a man has vision he holds that vision for the sake of him who has none. That is the New Testament law of property. Every man who has need of your help you can make part of yourself, and by a transmigration of souls, which has nothing to do with the old fables of metempsychosis, you can take other men into you, put yourselves into other men, and live the public life, the life philanthropic, without many people knowing much about it. Does he give nothing who is eyes to the blind, who reads the small print for those whose eyes are dim? They say, we can make out these large letters, but what is all this small writing? Is it nothing to read the Bible to a person whose eyes are failing and who cannot any longer see the sweet revelation of God in dim type? Is it nothing to sit for an hour beside some poor solitary soul on a Sunday evening and read to that soul words from heaven? Does he who does this do nothing because his name does not appear in this list or in that? The difficulty which all men have to contend with is that they cannot get away from their own little narrow conceptions of what things are. If you do not do exactly as I do and when I do it, then the enemy suggests to me that you are doing nothing, whereas you may be doing ten thousand times more than it ever entered into my imagination to conceive it possible for a man to do. Thus — There are some persons who cannot get away from the idea that unless a ministry be associated with thousands upon thousands of conversions it is doing nothing. Blessed be God, they are not judges, they are only critics. Does he do nothing who stimulates the whole humanity that is in a man? Does he do nothing who makes the coward say, "God help me to be brave, and when the enemy comes in again I will stand up against him with full-toned strength"? Do not attempt to write another man's subscription list for him. Every man shall give account of himself to God. Enough! God is love. There are others who cannot get away from the idea that unless you have endless organisations, a whole tumult of mechanisms, you are doing nothing. Does the blind man play no part in all this wondrous drama of love? Why, the blind man should never forget who it was that led him across the thoroughfare. Even a blind man is not exempted from gratitude; even the man who has been helped ought to remember the man who assisted him; even God sits that He may receive our tributes of thankfulness, — need of them He has none, but He knows it is good for us to cleanse our selfishness by allowing to be poured through it our streams of gratitude. Have you recognised all the men who were eyes to you? I fear not. Who was eyes to you in business, when you were a young man, and could see very little? Who was that strong man with the piercing eyes that saw miles beyond the line where your vision failed, and who said to you, Thus and thus lie the horizon of destiny and the sphere of commercial possibility? You profited by that man's eyes and that man's guidance: what have you done for him? Are you aware that some of his children are in difficulties? Do you know that his widow would be almost happy if she had but one pound a week more than she has? Do you know that that man, then so good and strong, has not a gravestone to mark where his bones lie? You might put up one and write upon it, "He helped me, he was eyes to me; but for that man whose body lies here I should have died in the nighttime without ever having seen the light"; and that Bible passage men might read, and reading might begin to feel, and feeling might begin to pray, and praying might begin to help other young men. Who was it that counselled you when you were in difficulty? But what money value attaches to good counsel? Who cares to pay for ideas? Pay for bricks and stones, iron pillars and gaslight and painted glass, but never, saith the miser, pay for soul, mind, blood, the fury of high inspiration. Many men do not see the blind, or they would help them. Shall I tell you why many men do not see the blind? The answer is, because they do not look for them; and it is amazing how much you can miss if you never look for it. There are souls that are telling this lie to themselves, namely, Now, if only I had the opportunity I could do a good deal, but people that need this sort of help never seem to come in my way: no doubt there are many deserving cases in the world if one only knew them. How dare you go to rest in darkness after telling that falsehood? Out upon such hypocrisy! This I am prepared to say, that some of us have larger opportunities of seeing than other men have. That is of necessity true: but the other men ought to say to those who have the larger outlook, Spend this money for me; I would give it with my own hand if I knew the cases, but you have larger opportunities of seeing them: spend two hundred pounds a year for me. Think of a man having his ten thousand, fifteen, twenty thousand a year, and never making any man who has large vision of society his treasurer or his trustee. Let us remember that there is other blindness than that of the body. Here is the larger field, here is scope for genius and sympathy and prayerfulness and love. "I was eyes to the blind" — the ignorant; I taught them their letters, I gave them the key of knowledge, I showed them how to read a little for themselves, and then I gave them a book or two; and now they are reading and mentally growing; they are thinking deeply upon practical questions, and are themselves teaching other people to read. "I was eyes to the blind" — to those who were labouring in the darkness of superstition, thinking of omens, and being frightened by suggestions of spectral presences; not the great spirituality which fills the universe with the Holy Ghost, but afraid of witch and demon and imp and fairy: for them I purged the air, I made them feel that the air was a great wind of health from heaven, meant to rejuvenate men, to make men young and cheerful, glad with a solemn merriment; and now they ate telling other people that God is light, God is love, and that they who fear the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ have nothing else to fear, for they stand in the light of love.
THE PECULIARLY DEPENDENT CONDITION OF THE BLIND.
1. As to spiritual things, the blind are peculiarly dependent. In spiritual things all men are dependent. Sometimes blindness is sent in judgment. How many are the books which the blind do not possess. From how many objects of sight the Scripture draws lessons of faith. These must be more difficult to the blind than to others.
2. As to temporal things. So few professions and trades the blind can follow.
II. THE DUTY AND MODE OF BECOMING EYES TO THE BLIND. It is our duty to study the mind of God towards the blind, and to pray, and to endeavour with His help, to be like-minded, according to our opportunity. As to mode, this will apply to individuals. All should maintain the sincerest sympathy, all should be ready to give their practical help; but different individuals may help in different ways.
Job was evidently a common friend and benefactor, a lover of mankind, one that cheerfully employed his time, his labour, and his substance in promoting the welfare and happiness of others.
I. JOB WAS EYES TO THE BLIND." This is commonly understood of intellectual blindness, of those whose minds are darkened. Being eyes to them must consequently mean the enlightening those dark minds by the beams of knowledge and instruction. This figurative sense of the words need not exclude the literal one. The loss of eyesight is so touching a calamity, so irksome and comfortless a state, as to raise compassion in some breasts not apt to be much affected by other objects. The rational powers of a man, which is the inward eyesight, may be blinded by sin, by ignorance, or by distraction.
II. JOB WAS FEET TO THE LAME. Soundness of body, and a hale constitution, with all the limbs entire, and capable of exerting their respective functions, is all the inheritance the great number of mankind is born into. Hard indeed is their lot, and very severe the dispensation under which they are fallen, who have neither bread to eat, nor hands wherewith to work for it; who are sorely maimed and crippled in their limbs, racked with tormenting pains, or wasted with lingering diseases. For such, special hospitals are provided.
III. JOB WAS A FATHER TO THE POOR. He had too enlarged and generous a soul to let his bounty flow merely in the channel of his family. He is in this a very noble pattern for imitation.
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