« ForrigeFortsæt »
1-13) agrees with Elisha. "We know that an idol is nothing in the world." The process of reasoning by which the apostle justified the Christians who ate meat offered to idols would excuse Naaman bowing in the house of Rimmon and justify the judgment of the prophet. On the whole, taking all their circumstances into consideration, it is sometimes better that godly men should suffer certain social compromises than that they should violently and abruptly sever themselves from the familiar circle of life and duty. We say, "suffer" certain social compromises, for if they desired or welcomed them the whole case would be changed.
In dealing with a dilemma of duty let us not forget the extreme seriousness of any kind of concession to unrighteousness or ungodliness. Even when for the sake of "the present distress" we permit the compromise, our feet stand in slippery places. Charles Reade justly discriminates on this delicate matter: "Mr. Eden's anxiety to be back among his prisoners increased daily, but his nurses would not hear of it. They acted in concert, and stuck at nothing to cure their patient. They assured him all was going well in the prison. They meant well; but for all that, every lie, great or small, is the brink of a precipice the depths of which nothing but Omniscience can fathom." Christian men will not lie, yet that reserve and finesse which the situation demands incline to the same brink of peril, and so do most other compromises.
Remembering the inevitableness of compromise, let us be comforted in the fact that perfect sincerity on our part implies a rare gift of discrimination. "There
are instincts for all crises," and no doubt, entirely truthful souls possess wonderful intuitions of leading. The single eye ensures a body full of light. Everything, however, must not be trusted to mystic insight and impulse; a cultivated judgment ought to accompany entire sincerity. "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment." Survey the whole situation, weigh conflicting claims in delicate balances, exercise a practical judgment on particularly perplexing questions, and the Spirit of God will not permit us greatly to err. Having come to a thoughtful and prayerful conclusion, for the rest "think noble thoughts of God," who will render you immune in half-lawful places, and in His good time and wonderful working lead you out of them. It may be that we suffer these painful compromises in the interest of larger and higher issues, as Naaman's continuance with the Syrian gave the true religion a standing in an idolatrous court: the tares were spared in the interest of the wheat. Our spirit and action, too, in ambiguous situations may furnish more impressive evidences of our integrity than sharp, definite paths of duty can evoke. And the zone of dubiety and suspense implies precious discipline. Make the Divine Spirit your counsellor, and He shall guide into the whole truth.
THE TYRANNY OF TIME
In your patience ye shall win your souls.-LUKE xxi. 19.
T is easy to become impatient in regard to the development of our own character. Whilst sincerely and earnestly striving to outlive our faults, and attain a worthier life, we are sometimes almost heartbroken by the absence of any striking signs of progress. Yet it is unreasonable to lose hope and courage. The growth of any seeker after a high ideal will seem slow to the enthusiastic mind, and when we aim at a lofty moral ideal we must specially remember the stubbornness of constitutional faults to which heredity has perhaps given the sanction of centuries. Our improvement may be real whilst it is imperceptible. An artist recently took at short intervals a hundred photographs marking the various stages of a rapidly growing plant. Now, it would require a fine eye to distinguish progress in the successive pictures of the long series: so imperceptible would be the changes of the plant, that any two closely following plates would be indistinguishable, and progress would be evident only when somewhat distant pictures of the series were compared. Yet personally we often lose heart by comparing our present selves with our
moral and spiritual history of yesterday. How impossible to gauge moral movement! But even when onward and upward movement is really slender, has not modern thought recognized the immense importance of even the most trifling variation? If we are living rightly, the deepest changes are being silently wrought in the depths of our nature, and the faintest of these is a cause for infinite gratitude. The plant was steadily on its way to the consummation of its glorious flower, even when the photographic film failed to register its too delicate progress; and with true men the soul grows in the power of holiness, even when crude self-examinations fail to discover the delightful transformation. No impatience will accelerate the unfolding of flower or soul, it can only retard. Nor let us be impatient with the circumstances which discipline character; God knows best how long the gold ought to remain in the furnace, how long the jewel must suffer the grinding of the wheel.
We become weary waiting for the renewal of the world. Yet the kingdom of God is coming, however deeply sometimes its development may be veiled. Nature moves slowly, advancing by hairs'-breadths, augmenting by the scruple. If we had lived on this earth from its very beginning until now, we should have thought it standing still, so tardy its action and minute the individual result; but if we recall the geological age when not a plant was on the earth, and then compare that barren epoch with the modern world blushing like a rainbow with ten thousand flowers, it is patent after all that the development of the planet has gone on unrestingly, however silently and deliberately.
It is the same with the history of civilization. Had we lived through the long ages since man first appeared on the earth until now we should have thought him ever standing still, so gradual and insignificant have been the successive changes and transformations of which he has been the subject; but compare the flint instruments, the rude vessels, and the grotesque decorations of a primitive kitchen midden, with the splendid treasures of an International Exhibition, and the progress is as indisputable as it is glorious. So with the spiritual development of the race; we cannot mark the steps of its onward march, but the moral barbarism of the ages by fine degrees, which escape our eye, passes into the pure splendour of the millennial world. "What is to last for ever takes a long time to grow."
We must be struck with the spirit of patience displayed everywhere in the New Testament. The patience of our Lord is remarkable. Isaiah prophesied of Him: "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for His law." Nothing is more wonderful than the serenity of our Lord in the prosecution of His great mission. His zeal was a flaming fire, and His desire to see the travail of His soul in the establishment of His kingdom of universal righteousness and peace was intense, with an intensity into which we cannot enter; but the calmness with which He carried out His purpose was that of the measured and majestic movements of nature. Never flurried nor betrayed into the agitation of hurry, but whilst kindling with sublime and mighty enthusiasm He proceeded to fulfil His destiny without haste and without pause. The