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IT has sometimes happened, even in these busy days, that there are dreamy people who would hail such words as these with a joy that springs, however little they may know it, from their fallen nature. The Lord has given them, it may be, some moments of His presence, and because they cannot but know that such moments are worth, as the Master said, a year of the labour and toil of man, they begin to despise and neglect the common, it may be the low and earthly work, the Lord has given them to do.
Or more commonly they despise it in their neighbours.
For such people are generally to be found amongst those who are not obliged to earn their bread, or to be at the beck and call of others. And if they cannot deny that the poor have to earn their living, or that a wife, or a daughter, or a mother must of necessity be at the service of others, they pity such people, and feel assured that they must be less spiritual, and have less communion with God, than if they could have all the day their own, and no need to be busy.
And in their inmost hearts they are apt to think of themselves as Mary, sitting at the feet of the Lord, whilst the poor neighbour at her wash tub, or the mother with her children, are Marthas who have failed to choose the better part.
Such “worm-eaten people,” as the Master would say, were assuredly to be found in the city of Strasburg five hundred years ago. For the Master found that it was needful to explain, in very homely words, that he by no means intended his dear children to sit down and do nothing, and imagine themselves to be thereby more holy and more spiritual.
That which he desired them to understand was this — that great works done for God are a very different thing from works great and small which God does by us. And if the natural heart is busy or idle, it matters not, it is always ready to pride itself upon the one or the other. But if we yield ourselves to God, it does not follow that He will do nothing by us. He may do a great work, or a very small one, which seems low and common.
“Sometimes,” said the Master, “the Holy Ghost does great and marvellous things, in and by His friends in whom He dwells. He made some to be great prophets, and some to be martyrs, but great works such as these are not needed at all times. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit, and different ministries, but the same Spirit worketh all in all. Children, you see with your eyes, that one body has many members, and various senses, and each one has its own work. None can do the work of the other, nor can any be what God has made the other to be.
“So are we, dear children, if we have that true and living faith (which, however, some people called Christians have as little of as heathens or Jews). For those who have believed are one Body in Christ — and each one a different member. One is an eye, and one an ear, one a foot, and one a hand. And some are members that have small and common work to do, but the small and common work is needful also.
“Now, dear children, it may be God has given you only common work. One has to spin, and another to make shoes, and some are clever, and some are stupid. God gives to all the gift for the work He gives them to do. If I had not been called to minister among you, and were one of the working men of the town, I should be very thankful to the Lord if He made me able to be a shoemaker. It should be a pleasure to us to earn our bread with our own hands.
“Children, if you are only feet or hands, do not aim at being eyes. Let every one do the work the Lord gives; very common rough work it may be. He knows how to give the fit work to each.
“Our sisters, too, they have their own work given them by the Lord, and their own gifts. To some He gives a sweet and tuneful voice, let such sing psalms. Some have smaller gifts, but no good gift is so small that it can come from any but God. And it is a great and precious gift of God that some can do for others that which the others cannot do. If there is one of you who is of no use to his neighbours, that man will have to account to God for his useless life. For God gives to each member something which the other members have not, in order that each may be for the good of all.
“And yet how comes it that I hear so many grumbling and complaining that their common daily work is a hindrance to them? You may be quite sure that the work the Lord gives you, He does not give in order to hinder you. Whence comes that lamentation over it? And how comes it you have conscientious objections to doings it?
“Dear children, be sure it is not your work that is the hindrance, but your discontent, and the want of a single eye in all that you do.
“If you did your work, as you ought to do it, for the Lord, and not for yourselves — if you neither aimed at pleasing yourselves, nor mortifying yourselves, but did it simply for the Lord, fearing Him and loving Him alone, you would never have a reproachful conscience at being obliged to do common things.
“If you are a spiritual man, be ashamed only of doings your work badly, or not simply and honestly for the Lord.
“The Lord never reproved Martha for her work, for it was a holy and good work; He reproved her only because she was doing it in a careful and anxious manner. We should take the work just as God gives it, and commit it all to Him, and do it quietly and with a restful heart, and be sure that we are doing it to Him. Let us work or rest, just as He desires it, and be at peace either way.
“If you meet with any old helpless infirm man, there is a call from God to go and help him, and we should vie with one another in doing such works of love, and in bearing one another’s burdens. If you do not, be sure God will take the work from you, and give it to another, who will do it gladly, and the loss will be yours.
“But there are a good many amongst you who would like to be rid of all these common works of helping and serving others. You would like to be all eyes, and neither hands nor feet. You would like to be beholding high things, instead of doing low things.
“That comes, dear children, from laziness.
“I know a man, the dearest it may be of the friends of God. He has worked in the fields all his life, more than forty years, and there he is working still. This man once asked the Lord if he should give up his work, and go and sing and pray in the church, But the Lord answered, No, he should earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, and feel it an honour to do so.
“Yet you should each of you make sure of a certain time in the course of the day for simple and still and peaceful communion with the Lord. One can do this best in one way, another in another way. We ought to find at least a good hour for such intercourse with God, and turn it to account in the way which we find most profitable, for we are not all eyes, and different things help different people. But in any case it should be without images, or forms, or any outside things. The heart should turn simply to God.
“If you are serving God according to His desires, He will remember your desires; but if you are serving God according to your own desires, He will answer to it by carrying out His own, which may be very contrary to yours.
“But men, with their scrap of wisdom, are always thinking that they could manage matters better than the Lord, and choose out the right work for themselves and others, better than He can. Sometimes people ask me when they come to confess, what they are to do, but I am not a judge of that, I can only look to the Lord about it, and if He does not tell me, I say, ‘Dear children, go to the Lord yourselves, and He will tell you.’
“Yet we are often apt to judge one another, and say one should be doing this and another that, just as it seems good in our own eyes. Yes, our own wisdom is one of the worms and maggots I have told you of before, that eat up the plants in the Lord’s garden.
“Some people say this is all a part of the new-fangled teaching of these days, and only because they never heard a thing before, they cast it aside, not considering that it is not wonderful if the hidden wisdom of God is indeed a new thing to them.
“Dear children, if we do not take now, day by day, the work the Lord gives us, we shall never do it at all, and we shall suffer eternal loss.
“May He grant us to be faithful and honest in doing the work He gives, and doing it as His Spirit teaches each one for himself, and to His praise and honour.
“Under the old covenant the Levites carried the ark, but now the ark carries us — He who is the Ark of the new Covenant bears us and carries us with all our sorrows, and all our sufferings. The Lord Himself it is who bends His shoulders beneath our burdens, and therefore, dear children, to us the burden is light.
“And if you have to sit at home and mend shoes, or go out to work in the fields all day to support your wives and children, if only your heart is with the blessed Lord, your souls will be a hundred times better off than many of the spiritual people who neglect their callings.
“Poor, blind, spiritual man! whoever you are who may hear these words, set to work in good earnest at the task God gives you, and take it from Him, and let not your heart wander off after something higher. And then it will no longer be your work, but God’s work, whatever it may be. And to those who thus give themselves restfully to God, He shows Himself at all moments, and draws their hearts very near to Himself.
“Swiftly, as the lightning flashes — more swiftly yet, even as an angel flies, does the light of God shine forth, down into the depths of the soul. The more swiftly, the more is it glorious and sweet. And those who have known this, are the true worshippers of God, who worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.
“And to them all natural things of this world have become poor and empty, for that which their soul loveth is not there, and they wonder and say — ‘Where are now all my bowings before the altar, and my services, and my penances? Why is my prayer-book lying idle on the shelf?’
“For before that moment came, they loved to have something, they loved to know something and they loved to will something; and now, all that would be gain to themselves is as nothing to them, and the burdens are gone, and the eternal joy is theirs already.
“In the stillness of the night they delight their souls in God, and cast into the unfathomable depths of God their cares and sins and sorrows, asking for nothing but resting and joying in His love. But it might be at such a moment the Lord would call them to go and nurse a sick neighbour, and they would leave the rest and gladness, to go forth, and yet be glad to go. And the Lord would then give them more in this outward service, than He gave them in the stillness and the rest before.”
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