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INCENTIVES TO EFFORT.
BY REV. SAMUEL P. SKINNER.
“For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes ? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that +hresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.”
1 Cor. ix. 9, 10.
The injunction, referred to in the text, was originally designed to secure humane treatment to the serviceable animal, which was the chief dependance of the Hebrews in their agricultural pursuits. The Apostle employs it, however, to illustrate the care of Providence. He was writing to the Christians at Corinth, who had relapsed into a state of inactivity, and had suspended the measures necessary for the support of the ministry among them, - apparently under the impression that their efforts were thrown away, or, that if the Gospel were really a divine truth, it ought to support itself, and make its way in the world, without human co-operation. The Apostle thought differently, and wished to convince the Corinthians of their error. He believed that God is not indifferent to the welfare of his creatures; and that every well-meant labor of man would be blessed. Hence, he refers to this provision in the Law of Moses, securing humanity of treatment to the ox, and asks,“ Does God take care for oxen?” That is to say, is He especially mindful of His inferior creation, and unconcerned in regard to man? And he continues, “ For whose sake is this written? For ours, no doubt, that he who ploweth should plow in hope; and that he who thresheth in hope, should be partaker of his hope.” As if he had said, “ God takes care of the lowest order of created beings.” Does He not also care for man? Is not this written that we might have hope in our labor, and expect a recompense for our toil?
The Apostle had probably in more immediate view, the support and encouragement due to ministers of the Gospel; but his language is not restricted to this application. It applies to any effort, by any persons, to sustain the cause of re
ligious truth, and to give it energy and scope in society. He tells us, that in God's concern for the inferior creation, we have the strongest assurance that the interests of the superior are not left out of view, and that every work of goodness we attempt shall be prospered. The work may seem unpromising to us; it may appear that our labor has been undertaken in vain ; yet, it is not so. God takes note of our efforts, and will ripen fruits from what we perform. He who is not forgetful of what is due to the patient labor of the ox, will not be forgetful to compensate the well-directed labors of man.
Such is the Apostle's use of the text. His argument is of the same character with that of the Saviour, when he refers to the beauty in which God has arrayed the lily, and the grass with which He has clothed the field, drawing from the reference the forcible appeal, “ Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, will He not much more clothe you?” And another similar instance is, when he directs attention to the birds of the air, saying, “Not a sparrow shall fall to the ground without your Father ; ” and then
presents the emphatic inference, “ Are ye not of more value than many sparrows?" It is an argument from the less to the greater
from God's known interest in inferior things, to the certainty of his care over the superior.
It is a magnificent truth, this which the Apostle asserts in the text; and, could we receive it so as to make it practically ours, it would give us heart and nerve in many a season of difficulty and doubt.
I. The great evil with us is, we expect to realize too soon the results of our labors. We cannot wait for the reward. We want it at once, measured out to us day by day, according to our estimate of our merits. When this cannot be, we become disheartened, and give over the effort If a man engages in trade, he does so, with the expectation of making his fortune speedily. He has no disposition to be content with moderate gains to submit to long years of frugal painstaking, before the sun-shine of wealth shall fairly dawn upon him. To his eager expectancy, the reward is near. Bright visions float before him, of an independence almost within his grasp. A
few bold and resolute movements, if they do not crown him with success, will put him in a position from which to command it. If these calculations fail him, as they are very likely to do, he loses heart. He feels that fortune is not worth the having, if it is to be won in littles, and only after
many years of self-denial. And from the lofty views with which he commenced life, he sinks — sinks, perhaps, into the cheat, or, without any settled aim, wanders from one scheme to another, accomplishing nothing. Such are the men who are envious of the prosperity of others, and who are perpetually complaining of the inequalities of Providence. God, they think, in their case, at least, muzzles the ox that treadeth out the corn.
It is the same with the man who is ambitious of fame or power. Your politician, for example, commences his career with ever so many fine and fondly-cherished notions of human rights, of the people's sovereignty, of the public weal, and so
But he must see his labors rapidly blossoming into substantial honors, or his great heart, so richly crowded with noble sentiments, becomes as empty as a tenement to let; and perhaps, in