A Volume of Confidential Talks
on the Problems, Privileges, and
Duties of the Christian Life, Designed
to Comfort, Encourage,
Strengthen and Instruct
by C. W. Naylor
Reprinted 1982 by
Faith Publishing House
Concerning The Author Preface Reprint Publisher's Foreword (February, 1982) Talk One. What It Means To Trust The Lord Talk Two. The Blessing Of Dissatisfaction Talk Three. Why I Believe The Old Book Talk Four. He Maketh Me To Lie Down Talk Five. Blighted Blossoms Talk Six. Meeting The Lions Talk Seven. Egg-Shell Christians Talk Eight. Two Ways Of Seeing Talk Nine. The Living Bible Talk Ten. Heeding Intuitional Warnings Talk Eleven. Doing Something Worth While Talk Twelve. Home-Made Clouds Talk Thirteen. It Pleased The Lord To Bruise Him Talk Fourteen. Putting Clouds Over The Sun Talk Fifteen. What Is Your Word Worth? Talk Sixteen. How To Keep Out Of Trouble Talk Seventeen. What The Redbird Told Me Talk Eighteen. What Old Bill Could Not Do Talk Nineteen. Divine And Worldly Conformity Talk Twenty. Baptized With Fire Talk Twenty-One. What To Do With The Devil Talk Twenty-Two. Waiting On The Lord Talk Twenty-Three. Three Necessary "Rations" Talk Twenty-Four. A Retreat, Or A Rout? Talk Twenty-Five. My Dream Message Talk Twenty-Six. When God Withdraws Himself Talk Twenty-Seven. What Happened To Solomon Talk Twenty-Eight. Fighting The Good Fight Of Faith Talk Twenty-Nine. How Are Your Ear Connections? Talk Thirty. Fret Not Thyself Talk Thirty-One. Being Easily Entreated Talk Thirty-Two. Following "Whithersoever" Talk Thirty-Three. Paul's Persuasion Talk Thirty-Four. In Christ And In Ephesus Talk Thirty-Five. The Practical Side Of Religion Talk Thirty-Six. Do You Need Patience? Talk Thirty-Seven. Stumbling-Stones, Or Stepping-Stones? Talk Thirty-Eight. Use What You Have Talk Thirty-Nine. Where The Joy Is Talk Forty. Blowing The Clouds Away Talk Forty-One. How To Fertilize Love Talk Forty-Two. How To Overcome Disappointment Talk Forty-Three. The Big End Of Trouble Talk Forty-Four. Self-Made Barriers Talk Forty-Five. How To Work God's Joy-Machine Talk Forty-Six. Be Brave Talk Forty-Seven. "But Jesus Sent Him Away" (Luke 8: 38) Talk Forty-Eight. Getting The Kernel Talk Forty-Nine. Two Sunsets Talk Fifty. The Sculptor's Work Talk Fifty-One. The Helplessness Of The Gospel Talk Fifty-Two. He Careth For You Talk Fifty-Three. Three Tests Of Love Talk Fifty-Four. Two Ways Of Rising Talk Fifty-Five. Getting Even Talk Fifty-Six. Do You Know Yourself? Talk Fifty-Seven. Balkers Talk Fifty-Eight. Sponges And Watering-Cans Talk Fifty-Nine. The Final Retrospect Footnotes
CONCERNING THE AUTHOR
C. W. Naylor
The author of Heart Talks has been peculiarly qualified for his task by a training of the soul in the school of suffering. After thirteen years in the ministry, as a result of an internal injury he has been compelled to spend the last thirteen years in his bed day and night, a constant sufferer. He has known the experience of long and intense suffering with no hope of relief from any human source, and with no other prospect for the future than that of remaining a helpless invalid for life and without a means of earning a livelihood. He has learned to trust God for the supply of his temporal needs because there was no other to trust. He has learned to commune with God by being deprived of the opportunity of mingling much with his fellow men.
Yet he has not lost the joy out of life. He still does what he can to build up the kingdom of God and bless his fellow men by his words of good cheer. He is still interested in the events of the world, and especially in the progress of God's work. He has demonstrated the efficacy of God's grace to sustain one and give joy in the very discouraging circumstances of life. Though a firm believer in divine healing, and instrumental in the healing of those who kneel at his bedside for prayer, yet he has not received permanent healing, because, as he believes, this is God's method of developing his heart and making him more useful in helping others.
During the last five years, especially, he has contributed regularly to a religious periodical articles on subjects similar to those in this book, besides conducting a "Questions Answered" and information department, and writing a number of books.
—Gospel Trumpet Company Publishers 1922 A. D.
Most of the miscellaneous writings of which this volume is composed appeared originally in serial form. The widespread interest produced by them, the hundreds of letters of appreciation, and the numerous earnest requests for their publication in permanent form have been the moving cause for their presentation in this volume. They cover a very wide range of topics, are written in a popular style, and deal with phases of life and personal experience that are all too much neglected but which every Christian needs to understand. Each paper is complete in itself, though all have a general relation. They are pastoral in nature and have by the blessings of God comforted, encouraged, strengthened, and enlightened many souls. That they may by divine help continue to be a blessing to many is the earnest desire of the Author.
Anderson, Ind., May 14, 1920
REPRINT PUBLISHER'S FOREWORD (FEBRUARY, 1982)
This excellent volume, Heart Talks, by C. W. Naylor, has been out of print many years. The cloth-bound book, from which this reprint edition was produced, is the property of Sister Fern Stubblefield of Earlsboro, Okla. Originally owned by the late Nellie Poulos, the book was given in 1978 to Sister Stubblefield by T. Gus Poulos, the son of deceased Nellie Poulos.
This volume has been read by a number of saints and ministers who have recommended that it be reprinted with a very few footnote corrections and deletions. Therefore, we submit this book to the reading public with the prayer that the Lord will make its contents a blessing to many precious souls.
—Lawrence D. Pruitt Faith Publishing House Publishers
TALK ONE. WHAT IT MEANS TO TRUST THE LORD
Throughout the Bible we are exhorted again and again to trust in the Lord. We are warned against trusting in princes, in riches, or in ourselves; for all such trust is vain. Trusting in the Lord is represented as being safe, as blessed, and as producing very desirable results. In it is our hope, our strength, our safety, and our help.
But what does trust mean? It does not mean carelessness or indifference. Just to let things go and say, "Oh, I guess it will come out all right," is not trusting. Just drifting heedlessly with the tide is not trust. Neglect is not trust. Trust is something positive. It is a real something, not a mere happen-so or maybe-so. It is a definite attitude of soul and mind, a realization of our own need and of God's sufficiency. It is the reaching out and anchoring of ourselves in God.
The soul who really trusts is not driven about by every wind. The waves beat against him as they beat against the anchored ship, but they can not dash him upon the rocks; for he who trusts in God is strong, because he has the strength of God.
Trust does not mean shutting our eyes to facts. There is no such thing as "blind faith." Trust looks at things as they are. It sees the dangers that threaten, and assesses them at their true value. It sees the need, and does not try to disguise it. It sees the difficulties, and does not discount them. But seeing all this, it looks beyond and sees God, its all-sufficient help. It sees him greater than the needs or the dangers or the difficulties, and it does not shrink before them.
There is no fear in trust: the two are opposites. When we really fear, we are not fully trusting. When we trust, fear gives way to assurance. Fear is tormenting. How many there are who are constantly agitated by fear! They fear the devil, trials, temptations, the wind, lightning, burglars, and a thousand other things. Their days are haunted by fear of this thing or that. Their peace is marred and their hearts are troubled. For all this, trust is the cure. I do not mean to say that if you trust, nothing will ever startle you or frighten you, or that you will never feel physical fear in time of danger; but in such times trust will bring to us a consciousness that the Lord knows and cares, and that his helping presence is with us.
When John Wesley was crossing the Atlantic from England to America to become a missionary to the Indians, the ship on which he was sailing encountered a terrible storm. It seemed that those on board would be lost. Many were much alarmed and were in deep distress. Wesley himself was one of this number. In the midst of the storm his attention was attracted to some Moravians who sat calm and undisturbed by the dangers about them. Wesley greatly wondered at their untroubled appearance. He inquired why it was. Their reply was that they were trusting in the Lord and that they had in their souls the consciousness of his protecting presence and care. They felt no fear because there was nothing threatening that a Christian had need to fear. Mr. Wesley did not have such an experience, but what he learned from those simple-hearted people caused him to seek a similar experience.
There is no worry in trust. When we worry about anything, we have not committed it to God. Trust takes away the anxiety. So many people use up a large portion of their energy in worry. There is always something troubling them. Their days and nights are full of anxiety. Worrying becomes a fixed habit with them. Peace and calmness and assurance find but little room in their lives. The cure for all this is trust. Trust brings confidence. Trust whispers to our souls that there is no cause to worry. It tells us that God holds the helm of our vessel. It bids us to be of good courage, assuring us that God is our refuge and strength, that our lives and all are in his hands, and that he will work out for us the things that are best.
O soul, stop worrying, and trust. It is so much better. If you find yourself worrying, stop right there. Take your eyes off the things that trouble you; look up, and keep looking up till you see God and his infinite care for you. Remember that when you worry you are not trusting, and that when you trust you are not worrying. Worry depresses, discourages, and weakens. It never helps us in any way. It is always a hindrance to us. God wants to bring into our lives a peaceful calm like that of a summer evening. He would have us without anxiety, as care-free as the birds or the lilies. It is trust that brings us this experience. Will you not learn to trust? "Casting all your care on him; for he careth for you."
There is no murmuring in trust. When all is trusted into God's hands, it brings to us a feeling of satisfaction concerning God's dealings with us. We can sing from our hearts, "God's way is best; I will not murmur." When we trust, it is easy to praise. When we trust, the heart is full of thankful appreciation. If you are inclined to murmur, it is because you do not trust.
There is no feeling of bitterness when things do not go as we think they should, if we are trusting. Bitterness comes from rebellion, and there is no rebellion in trust. Trust can always say, "Not my will, but thine, be done."
In trust there is peace, the peace of God which passeth understanding. There is calm in the soul of him who trusts. There is no doubt in trust, for doubt is swallowed up in assurance, and assurance brings calmness and peace.
Trusting brings confidence. It permits us to see God in his true character. It causes us to realize the greatness and tenderness of his love. It gives us a consciousness of his might, and through it we are sheltered under his wings. By it our enemies lose their power; our dangers, their terrors. We have a consciousness of safety, and that brings rest. He has said, "Ye shall find rest unto your souls." He who trusts finds this soul-rest. God has not given us turmoil and trouble. He has said, "In me ye shall have peace"; and again, "My peace I give unto you." Are not these precious promises? Are they true in your life? God means that they shall be. Trust will make them real to you. They never can be real until you learn to trust. Trust is the root that upholds and nourishes the tree of Christian life. It is trust that causes it to blossom and to bring forth fruit, and the more fully you trust, the greater and richer and more profuse will be the fruits of your righteousness.
I have told you something about trust, but I now wish to speak of some other things that belong to trust. Trust implies submission. Very often God fails to do things for us because we do not permit him to. We want to plan for ourselves. We want things to be done in the way that seems best to our finite wisdom.
Too many of us are like a woman whose husband recently said that they had often gone driving together, that their horse would sometimes become frightened, and that when it did, his wife would also become frightened and would almost invariably seize the lines. Thus, he would have to manage both his wife and the horse, making his task doubly difficult.
How many of us are just like that woman! When anything threatens, we become alarmed and try to help God. We feel that it is not safe to leave all in his hands and let him manage the circumstances. Our failure to submit to him often complicates matters, and it is harder for him to manage us than it is to manage the difficulties. To trust God means to keep our hands off the lines. It means to let him have his way and do things as he thinks best. It may be a hard lesson to learn, but you will hinder God until you learn it.
"It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2: 13). If your life is submitted to him, he will work in you to will as well as to do. He will help do the planning as well as the working out. He will aid you in the choosing, no less than in the doing. If you can not submit to him thus, you have not reached the place where you can trust. You must first learn to take your hands off yourself and off circumstances; then trust will be natural and easy. How can you trust him if you are not willing for him to do just as it pleases him? When you have submitted all and he has his way fully with you, then the blessed fruitfulness of trust will come into your life.
Trust also implies obedience. It means working with God to produce the results. We can not sit down and fold our hands in idleness and expect things to work themselves out. We must be workers, not shirkers. The man who prays for a bountiful harvest but prepares no ground and plants no seed will pray in vain. Faith and works must go together. We must permit God to direct our efforts and command our efforts. We must be willing to work when he wants us to work and in the way he wants us to work. Our attempts to trust will amount to nothing if we are not willing to obey. Right here is the secret of many people's trouble; they are willing to obey so long as the thing commanded is what they themselves would choose, but when it is otherwise they are not so ready. Our obedience must be full and willing, or we can not trust.
Trust implies patience. Even God can not work everything out immediately. We are told that "ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Heb. 10: 36). So many times we want the answers to our prayers right away. If they do not come thus, we grow impatient and think God is not going to answer. There is no use trying to hurry the Lord; we shall only hinder him if we do. He will not work according to our plans, but according to his own. Time does not matter so much to the eternal One as it does to us.
A brother once came to the altar in a meeting I helped to hold. In telling his trouble he said, "When I want anything done, it has to be done in a hurry." Many other people can not be patient and wait. They want it now. This is a great hindrance to their faith. The Psalmist says, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him" (Psa. 37: 7). We are not only to wait patiently for him to work out his purpose, but we are at the same time to rest in him. Some people can wait, but they can not rest at the same time. They are uneasy and impatient; they want to hurry the Lord all the time. The result usually is that their faith does not last very long. You must add patience to your faith to make it effective. If you really trust, you can be patient. It may not always be easy, but the more perfect your trust, the easier it will be to be patient.
When Luther was summoned to meet the diet for trial on a charge of heresy, his friends, fearing for his life, tried to persuade him not to go; but he declared that he would go even if there were as many devils there as there were tiles on the housetops. He trusted God, and that trust gave him an unwavering courage. Three Hebrews trusted God, and the fiery furnace could not even singe their garments. Daniel trusted God, and the hungry lions could not touch him. Many thousands of others have trusted God with similar results.
But trusting God is an active, positive thing. A passive submission or surrender to circumstances is not trust. Trusting the Lord to save us means to definitely rely on him to do it; to confidently expect that he will do it. This leads directly to the confident trust that he does do it. It brings the conscious assurance that it is an accomplished fact. We are not left to doubt, to hope, or to guess; but we have a positive trust that brings a positive result.
The same is true of sanctification. A positive faith brings a positive experience; and so long as our faith remains positive, the experience remains positive. It is only when faith begins to waver and doubts appear that the experience becomes uncertain. If you will maintain a positive faith, God will take care of your experience. Here lies the secret of continuous victory. There may be conflicts, but faith is the foundation of sure victory.
Trusting the Lord for healing means more than refusing to employ a physician and to take drugs. People who do not trust God at all often refuse to use drugs. They may at no time during their sickness really exercise an act of faith for healing. They simply surrender to existing conditions and hope that it will come out all right. In many such cases nature will overcome the disease, and the person will recover. The "prayer of faith," however, is positive; it saves the sick; it brings healing. Sometimes the sick person, because of the mental effects of his sickness, is not able to exercise faith; but when he is able, faith will be an active, positive thing with him, if the desired results are to follow.
It is safe to trust in the Lord. Isaiah says, "I will trust and not be afraid" (Isa. 12: 2). That is the way God wants us to trust. He would have us be confident in him. But sometimes we get to looking at circumstances, and they loom up so threateningly before us that in spite of ourselves we tremble and shrink before them. We believe that God will take care of us and help us, but we can not quiet our fears. Our feelings are very much as they are when we stand just outside the bars of the cage of a ferocious wild beast. We know it can not reach us; we know we are safe from those powerful teeth and claws; but still we can not help having a feeling that we should not have were we somewhere else. When he comes to our side of the cage, we shrink involuntarily, but still we trust the iron bars and do not run away.
The Psalmist tells us what to do when we have such fears. "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee" (Psa. 56: 3). Still keep trusting. God will not chide you for the fears you can not help, but only for those that come from unbelief. Trust in God. It is the safest thing you have ever done; and he will never fail you.
TALK TWO. THE BLESSING OF DISSATISFACTION
A young sister sat in a room one beautiful summer afternoon. The sound of the birds chirping on the lawn and other noises of the out-of-doors came in through the open window to her. There was a look of melancholy upon her face, and her gaze rested steadily upon the floor. It was clear that she was troubled about something. Just then a minister entered the room. Noticing her forlorn appearance, he said cheerily, "What is the matter, sister?"
She looked up at him and answered wearily, "O Brother A, I am so dissatisfied."
"Well," he replied, "I am glad of it."
She almost gasped with astonishment, and exclaimed, "Why, Brother A! what do you mean?"
He then sat down in a chair near her and explained to her the substance of what I am going to say to you.
We have all thought how good it is to be satisfied. How many times we have heard people testify and rejoice that they had reached this experience! I would not depreciate this sense of satisfaction, for out of it come many enjoyable things. It is a very pleasurable feeling and one that most people very earnestly desire. There are times, however, when such a feeling would be anything but a blessing. Perhaps this surprizes you as it did the sister. God has made provision to satisfy us. Christ said that he who would drink of the water of life should thirst no more; for it should be in him a well of water, and thus his thirst should be continually quenched. So there is a continual satisfaction in God. It is a good thing to be thus satisfied with God and his plans and ways and with our salvation, and dissatisfaction with any of these, if we are saved, is an evil to which we should not give place; but hardly any greater evil could come upon us than a complete and constant sense of satisfaction relating to our attainments in grace, the development of our spiritual powers, or the measures of our service to God.
Dissatisfaction is the mother of progress. The Chinese for centuries have been taught to be satisfied with having things like their fathers had. As a consequence they have almost entirely lost the inventive faculty. Long ago they were an inventive nation, but now an invention among them is a rarity. As long as people are satisfied, they are content to remain as they are. Satisfaction is the foe to progress. As long as you are fully satisfied, you are like a sailing-vessel in a dead calm. The sea about you may be very smooth. Everything may be very peaceful and serene. But all the time this calm prevails you are getting nowhere; you are at a standstill. It is only when the wind rises and the swells begin to move the vessel up and down and the sails begin to strain that good progress begins. You may feel very comfortable in your satisfaction. It may be very delightful and dreamy, but it may be dangerous also. Those who are fully satisfied for very long may be sure that there is need for an investigation. It is only when we become dissatisfied with present conditions and attainments that we are spurred to effectual effort to make progress.
Suppose God had been satisfied with the world-conditions before Christ came. We should now have no Savior and no salvation. He was dissatisfied, thoroughly dissatisfied, and so he made the greatest sacrifice that he could make to change existing conditions. Paul was once very well satisfied with his place in the Jewish religion; he was not looking for anything better. His dissatisfaction arose from the fact that some other people were not satisfied thus but were finding and advocating something different. This aroused his severest condemnation. What he had was good enough for him and ought to be good enough for them.
There are many today who are just like Paul was. They are fully contented in their present situation, and should any one try to show them its insufficiency and the need of higher attainment, it would only arouse their opposition and indignation. That is why so many people oppose holiness. Just as soon as Paul saw Christ and the higher and better things for which Christ stood, he suddenly lost his satisfaction and became an earnest seeker for those better things. Sometimes it takes a rude shock to break through our self-satisfaction and to show us our true needs; but when it comes and arouses a dissatisfaction, it is truly a blessing.
Suppose Luther had been satisfied to continue in the Romish church, approving and submitting to her teachings and practices. Where might the world have been today? He became dissatisfied and gave voice to that dissatisfaction. Others heard and became dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction made their hearts hungry for God, and out of that heart-hunger came the Reformation.
Dissatisfaction has brought us the multitude of new things which we have to use and enjoy. It has been because men became dissatisfied with old methods and old implements and old ideas and customs and old attainments that they have toiled in painful research, that they have labored night and day to invent new things. In some places, people still plow with a crooked stick and grind their flour in hand-mills. What their fathers had is good enough for them. Some people are like that about religion. What their fathers had is good enough for them, and they are indignant if we even suggest something better; they are satisfied. There are others who sought and obtained a real experience of forgiveness, but right there they stopped. Years have passed. They were satisfied when they were first saved (which was a very good thing); the only trouble was that they remained satisfied and never made any further progress. They hear entire sanctification preached, they accept the doctrine intellectually, but they can never be persuaded to press on into the experience themselves. They go on from year to year to year and never make any real spiritual advancement. What is the trouble? Oh, they are just satisfied, that is all; and they will never get any further till their sleepy satisfaction is rudely broken in upon by something that startles them out of their security and awakens them to their needs. That will bring dissatisfaction and that in time will set them to seeking to have those needs supplied.
Some people are content just to drift with the tides. They go along with the crowd, whichever way sentiment goes, and are quite content. They are no real moral force in their community or in the church. They are aware of the fact, and they seem to be satisfied to have it so. They will never amount to very much so long as they are thus satisfied. Getting dissatisfied is the only thing that will ever make anything worth while of them.
There are those who know that they are less spiritual than they used to be; still, they are not much concerned about it. They are resting very easy. Such satisfaction is a curse. What such folks need is a good case of dissatisfaction; for that is the only thing that will keep them from drying up and withering away. I know of people who once had a glorious experience but who for years have been so satisfied with themselves that they have not progressed an inch. Instead, they have gone backwards, with the result that today they are cold and formal. They are still satisfied, they still profess to be justified and sanctified, but they amount to practically nothing for God or the church. There is no moral force radiating from their lives. To such persons the coming of dissatisfaction would be a great blessing. So long as they are satisfied with their present condition, so long they will be cold formalists.
Some people know that they are coming short both of their duty and of their privileges in the Lord, but in spite of this they seem content and are making no effort—at least no effective effort—to do better. O brother, sister, if you are satisfied where you ought to be dissatisfied, it is time you awakened, it is time you looked toward better things until your hunger for them stirred you to action to obtain them.
To those who are dissatisfied, who realize your needs and lacks, I say: Do not be discouraged. God means by this very feeling of dissatisfaction with yourself to spur you on to seek diligently for higher and better attainments. If you allow yourself to be discouraged, it will only hinder you. God will help you to obtain that which you need. Do not falter because your need seems great; God's supply is more abundant than your need. Cast off every weight. Press forward. God will help you. When once he has aroused you to effort, you will find him ready to help. Your dissatisfaction is most encouraging. Do not stay dissatisfied; press on till you obtain what you need. You will never attain your full measure of desire in this life, but you may obtain much, and what you do obtain will prepare you for that fulness and satisfaction which only eternity can bring you.
Dissatisfaction is never welcome, but it is a true friend. Through it you may reach blessed attainments and soul-enriching grace. Value it and use it rightly, and it will prove a great blessing, though it may often be a blessing in disguise.
TALK THREE. WHY I BELIEVE THE OLD BOOK
Do I believe the old Book? Do I really believe it? My heart answers that I do. The deepest consciousness of my soul testifies that it is true. I will tell you some of the reasons why I believe it.
The Oldest, and Still the Newest, of Books.
God's book written in the rocks is old, exceedingly old, but God's book the Bible reaches back still farther. It goes back not only to the "beginning" of this terrestrial world, but into eternity; for the expression, "in the beginning," used by John, reaches back long before this world was. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." From past eternity its majestic sweep covers the whole range of being and reaches into the future eternity. It is, in fact, the book of eternity, and within its folds lie the grandeur and sublimity of the great unknown future. It never gets out-of-date. Other books have their run of popularity and are forgotten, but the Bible never grows old; no matter how familiar we become with it, it is ever new. To the Christian it never grows stale, but is always fresh and always satisfying. It ever reveals new depths that we fail to fathom, new heights that we can not scale, and new beauties that enrapture our vision.
We read it over and over, and ever and anon we see new jewels sparkling within its pages, jewels that delight the eye and reflect the light of God. From it refreshing waters break out where we least expect them, and our souls are refreshed like a thirsty man who suddenly finds water on the desert. We may have read a text a thousand times, yet when we look at it again it opens up and presents to us a vista of marvelous truth of which we were before entirely unconscious. What other book can do these things? When we read a book written by man, however interesting it may be, it soon loses its interest and its charm; we do not find new beauties in it as we do in the Bible. Its treasures are soon exhausted, but the Bible is ever new, and so I do not believe that the Bible is man's book nor that it could be man's book. Its depths are too deep to come from the heart or mind of man; its heights are too great for him to reach; and its wisdom is more than human. It can but be divine.
The Most Loved of All Books.
Wherever the Bible goes, people learn to love and to treasure it above all other books combined. It is the one book that people love; it is the treasure that people hold fast even at the risk of their lives. In past ages when wicked rulers tried to keep it from the people, they could not. At the peril of their lives people would have it. They underwent dangers and tortures, and shrank not from anything, that they might possess this wonderful book. It is not for what it claims to be—though it claims much—nor for what men claim for it, but for what it is to the individual himself that it is so dearly loved. There is that in the Bible which endears itself to the human heart, and no other book has that quality. Other books are enjoyed and admired and praised and valued; but the Bible, in this respect, stands in a class by itself.
The educated and the ignorant, the high and the low, all races in all climes, when they learn to truly know the Bible, and when they submit themselves to the God of the Bible, learn to love it and to delight in it and are enriched and blessed by it; and because I too feel this deep love in my heart for the old Book, I believe it. I believe that, in some way, it was made for me by One who knew my needs, and that it corresponds to the very essence of my inner self; and I believe that I could not love it as I do if it were not God's book and if it were not true.
The Most Hated of All Books.
Not only is it the best-loved book, but it is also the most-hated book. No other book has had so many nor such bitter enemies. I suppose more books have been written against the Bible than against all other books combined. Men do not hate Shakespeare nor Milton nor Longfellow; they do not hate works on science nor philosophy; they do not hate books of travel or adventure or fiction; they do not hate the other sacred books of the world; they hate only the Bible. Why this hatred? It can be only because they find in the Bible something that they find nowhere else. What they find there is a true picture of themselves, and the picture is not pleasant to look upon, so they turn away their faces and will have nothing to do with it except to vilify and condemn it. They deliberately misrepresent it and write falsehoods about it; they satirize and ridicule it, using all sorts of weapons and all sorts of methods to combat it, and for only the one reason—that its truth pricks them in their consciences and they can by no other means escape from it.
It is judged by a standard far more stringent than any other book, not excepting the other sacred books. No critic would think of treating any other book as he treats the Bible, nor of requiring of any other book what he requires of the Bible. The more men hate God, the more they hate his Word; and this has a deep, underlying reason, and that reason, I believe, is that the Bible is God's book and that in it there is so much of God himself.
It Has Withstood All Assaults.
But though so bitterly assailed through all the ages, the Bible has withstood the assaults of all its enemies and stands victorious still. The Greek philosophers, with all their skill, were vanquished. The greatest intellects of modern times find themselves given pause before it. The sharpest arrows that unbelief could forge have not pierced it; the assaults made upon it have resulted only in the destruction of the weapons used. All through the ages countless theories—religious, philosophic, scientific, or other—have been used against the Bible, only to fall in ruins at last before it and to be rejected even by those who once advocated them. The Bible endures an amount of criticism that no other book could endure, and instead of being destroyed, it is only brightened and made better known. Could such a thing be truly said of error? Could error endure what the Bible has endured, and live? It is the law of nature that error is self-destructive, but that truth can not be destroyed; and according to this law, the Bible must be true because of its indestructibility.
It Tells Me of Myself.
My deepest emotions and longings, my highest thoughts and hopes, are mirrored there, and the more settled inner workings of conscience are there recorded. It speaks to me of my secret ambitions, of my dearest hopes, of my fears, of the love that burns within me. My desires are pictured in the Book just as I find them working in my heart. Whatever picture it draws of the human soul I find within myself, and whatever I find within myself I find within its pages, and thus I know that it is true. No man can know me as the Bible knows me nor picture out my inner self as the Bible pictures me; and since no work of man could correspond with my inner self as the Bible corresponds with me, I know that it did not come from man.
It Is the Book of Conscience.
It is as a mirror into which every man, when he looks, sees himself. It speaks to his conscience, not as a man speaks, yet with a potency unknown to any other book. It is preeminently the book of the conscience. Other books appeal to men's consciences, but not with the appeal of this book. Other books mirror men, but not like the Bible. In the silent watches of the night, in the lonely depths of the forest, upon the expanse of the sea, or wherever man may be, how frequently is it the case that this book speaks into his conscience in a silent yet thundering voice, and before it he is awed and silenced and oftentimes terror-stricken. It speaks to the conscience as only God can speak, and therefore it must be God's book.
It Gives Comfort and Hope.
To what book do those in sorrow turn? To Voltaire? to Ingersoll? to Haeckel? Do they turn to science or philosophy or poetry or fiction? There is but one book that is the book of comfort. The sad and desolate heart turns to its pages, and as it reads, the consolation of the Holy Spirit, which fills the book, comes into that heart, and it is comforted. It is as the balm of Gilead; it is as a letter from home to the wanderer; it is as a mother's voice to the child. Friends may speak words to comfort us, but they can not comfort us as does the Book; its words seem to enter into our innermost sorrows with a healing touch. God is the God of all comfort, and it is the comforting God in this comforting book that comforts the soul.
It is also the book of hope. Sometimes man despairs, and he looks here and there for hope, finding none; but there is one book in which hope may always be found. It always has something to offer him to inspire hope with new courage. Therefore it is the hope of the hopeless; since in the troubled soul it brings a calm, brightening dull eyes and causing them to look beyond. It lifts up the bowed head, strengthens the feeble knees, renews the courage, and takes the sadness out of the voice; it is therefore truly the book of hope.
The Book of the Dying.
A soldier, desperately wounded, lay in a trench. The shells were bursting around him; the bullets and shrapnel were whistling through the air; the roar of the guns shook the ground. He was going down into the valley of the shadow of death. Knowing that he must pass over to the other side, he reached into his pocket with his little remaining strength and pulled therefrom a soldier's Testament. Handing it to a comrade he said, "Read to me." His comrade opened the book and began to read—"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." A smile overspread the face of the dying soldier as he listened to the words amid that solemn and terrible scene. He closed his eyes and lay quite still smiling, then he murmured, "It is well." And with a smile still upon his face he passed across to the other side.
For what book do the dying call? For just any book? What words do they wish to hear in the final hour? There is but one book for that hour; but one that can throw light into that shadowy valley. That is the Bible. It is the book of the living and of the dying, the book of the sorrowing and of the hopeless. It is just such a book as the loving Father would give to the children whom he loves, and it meets their need in all the details of their lives as only God could meet it, and therefore I can but believe that it is the book of God.
Only Answer to the Enigma of Life.
The "why" of life is found nowhere else. Other books tell us many truths about life, yet its depths and meaning find expression and answer in only one book. It interprets life; and he who reads the interpretation knows that it is true because it is the story of himself, and in himself is the witness of its truth. Men have sought everywhere the secret of life and the things that pertain thereto, but everywhere, save in the Bible, they find only darkness and obscurity and uncertainty. The Bible, however, speaks in no uncertain terms. It speaks the language of him who knows, and if we reject its voice we are left in a tangled maze, out of which we can not find our way.
The Bible outlives all its critics and is triumphant when they are forgotten; it has many times been pronounced dead, but still it lives; it has been called "exploded," but its power is not dissipated; it has seen all antagonistic theories of the past, one by one, destroyed and rejected, but it still stands in spite of the critics, in spite of its enemies; and those who anchor their faith upon it need not fear what voice is raised against it. Neither need they fear what weapons are brought to bear upon it; for it is truth, and those who fight against it fight against God and are themselves ruined.
It is adapted to all people of every race and clime, to the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant. Of no other book can this be said. It is the Book of books, the book of God. In it God speaks, and my inmost heart knows that it is the voice of my Beloved, and leaps for joy.
TALK FOUR. HE MAKETH ME TO LIE DOWN
The Psalmist says of the Lord, his Shepherd, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures," or, as the Hebrew has it, "in pastures of tender grass." What a world of significance there is in this little sentence: "The Lord is my shepherd."
"He maketh me to lie down." He doth not compel me. That is not the Lord's method; he findeth a better way. If he compelled me to lie down, there would be no pleasure in it. When a sheep is compelled to lie down, it is in fear; it can not but dread what is to happen to it. So the Lord doth not compel me. He leadeth me in the pastures of tender grass, and I eat until I am satisfied, and being satisfied with the sweet and luscious pasturage, I lie down, content. While the sheep is hungry, it will not lie down in the pasture; it desireth to eat. But when it hath eaten its fill, it lieth down and resteth and is satisfied. So he feedeth my soul day by day; the good things of his kingdom doth he give unto me. He satisfieth my soul with fatness. My soul desireth nothing more than what he giveth. If I hunger, he hath a supply, and he giveth me, and that with a generous hand. He knoweth all my needs. He supplieth every one, that I may be "fat and flourishing, to show that the Lord is upright."
There are many enemies about, but "he maketh me to lie down." I am in quietness. My heart is not afraid. The Shepherd standeth between me and those ravening wolves. The lion and the bear can not harm me, for the Shepherd standeth as my protector. His eye shall watch while I lie down. His ear shall hearken and shall hear the sound of their footsteps if they come near. I trust the Shepherd; therefore my heart is not afraid, and I shall lie down safely. It is trust that enableth me to lie down. If I were afraid, I could not thus rest. I should be watching and fearing and trembling. Every noise would alarm me. I should forget about the green pastures. I should forget the tender grass. But he is watching. He hath his weapon in his hand. He doth not fear my enemies, and while he is watching I do not fear them, for he is strong and mighty. He is greater than my foes. They know it and are afraid. They tremble at his voice. They flee away, but I lie safely. He hath said, "I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel: ... in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel."
"He leadeth me beside the still waters." When I grow thirsty, the river lieth at the foot of the mountain, and down the slope he will lead me, and there in the shade, in the quiet, restful coolness, I shall drink of the waters of quietness and shall be satisfied, and my soul shall delight in him. The path down which he leadeth me may be steep; there may be thorns along the way; but so long as I permit him to lead me where he will, he will lead me safely. I must not choose my own way. I must not run ahead of him. I must not leave the path. I must follow close to him. I must listen to his voice, and then he will lead me to the still waters, and there I shall rest in his love. Then as the evening falleth, he will lead me to his fold, and inside its walls of security I shall rest during the hours of the night. I shall not fear the darkness, for the Shepherd is watching. I shall not fear the wild beasts round about, for they can not harm me. He will watch over me and bear me up when I am weak. I can rest secure. My shepherd is the Good Shepherd. He loveth his sheep. They are a pleasure to him.
Though he sometimes may needs lead by a rugged way, yet I am safe, for he careth for me. He will lead me in the way that I should go. He will enrich my soul with his goodness. Yea, "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
TALK FIVE. BLIGHTED BLOSSOMS
In our yard, a few feet from the door, stands an apple-tree. In the early spring I watched its swelling buds from day to day. Soon they burst forth into snowy blossoms, beautifying the tree, and filling the air with their fragrance. There was the promise of a bountiful crop of fruit. In a few days the petals had fallen like a belated snow. As the leaves unfolded and grew larger, there appeared here and there a little apple that gave promise of maturing into full-ripened fruit. But, alas! how few apples there were compared with the number of blossoms with which the boughs had been laden! Most of the blossoms had been blighted, and had fallen to the ground leaving nothing behind.
"Ah," thought I, "how like these blighted blossoms are so many of the desires and hopes and plans of our lives! How many of our aspirations are never realized! How many of our plans fail! How scanty the perfectly matured fruit in our lives, when compared with the blossoms!" When we consider this, how barren our lives often seem! How little we seem to accomplish! How little our lives seem to amount to!
Every truly saved heart longs to serve. The redeemed heart loves, and love finds its joy in service. How much there is to be done all around us! and how eagerly we would take up the task of doing it! How much we want to accomplish for the Lord! but ah, how little we do really accomplish! How many blossoms of desire we possess! but how little fruit of real accomplishment! Seeing this, we sometimes become discouraged. It does not seem worth while to try to do the few little things that we actually can do. Do the best we can, so many of our blossoms will be blighted—so many of our plans will fail; so many of our hopes will not be realized; so many of our desires will not be fulfilled. We can rejoice in those that are brought to fruitage; we can rejoice in those that do mature; but how about the blossoms that fall and seem to leave nothing behind them? Do they bud in vain? Do they serve no good purpose in our lives? They are not in vain. The blossoms on that apple-tree which were blighted, and died, were just as beautiful and just as fragrant as those which bore fruit. They served a very real purpose, and so do the hopes and purposes that we cherish in our hearts, even though we never see their fruitage.
David was a man who loved the Lord, and out of that love came a desire to build the Lord a house. That desire was never realized by David. Making it a reality was left to others. Nevertheless, David's purpose was pleasing to the Lord. In his prayer at the dedication of the temple, Solomon said: "And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. And the Lord said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart" (1 Kings 8: 17, 18). God did not despise the desire, even though he did not permit David to carry it out. As God was well-pleased with the desire of David to build him a house, so he is well-pleased with those worthy desires and purposes of our hearts that are never carried out. Whether it be circumstances or surroundings that hinder us, whether it be a lack of wisdom or of ability, whether it be the pressure of other duties, or even if God gives the task to some one else, there is, nevertheless, beauty and fragrance in the desire that is in our heart to do him service.
We must not become discouraged and give up hoping and desiring and planning to do something for the Lord, even though so many of our plans fail and our hopes become blighted. We know that it is the sap flowing upward through the tree that produces the beautiful fragrant blossoms. Likewise God knows that it is the love in our hearts that produces the desire for service; and that love is precious in his sight. Do you sometimes feel that there is so little, oh, so little! that you can do for the Lord? Does your life seem to count so little for his kingdom? and do you long to be more useful? That very longing is as the odor of sweet incense before the Lord. If you are prevented from doing the things that you would gladly do, if circumstances shut you in like a hedge, if you seem weak when you would be strong, you can still do something. The more of those blossoms of desire you have, even if they never reach fruition, the more your life is beautified, and the more the Lord is pleased. These unfulfilled desires work to ennoble our character and to enrich us, provided we do not spend our time mourning and lamenting because we can not put them into action.
There is, however, one danger which we must be careful to shun. Sometimes people have their hearts so set on doing some great thing that they miss the little things, the little opportunities that lie close to their hands. Life is made up of a round of little things. The great things only happen at rare intervals. But it is being faithful in the little things that makes us ready for our opportunities for the great things when they come. Christ said "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much." The little things are not spectacular, they do not attract much attention, but they are the things that make up life; and if we are true in these little things, God will trust us with some greater things by and by. It is not wrong to yearn to do more; but that longing works evil if, in our reaching forward to greater opportunities, we neglect what opportunities we have. It is the fruits we are able to produce, not their blossoms, that count at the harvest.
Let us, therefore, strive to do all that we can; and if we can not do all that we would, let us remember that the blossoms that are blasted are not in vain. They serve their purpose. They are well worth while; and if we go resolutely and stedfastly on, we shall at last hear the Master's voice say to us, "It is good that it was in thine heart." How sweet these words will sound in our ears! How they will soothe our feelings of disappointment at not having done more! Let us press on, therefore, and not be discouraged because we do not see our hopes and plans realized in this world. Let us be strong and of good courage, knowing that God knows all about it. Let us thank him for such privileges as we have, and make the best of our opportunities.
TALK SIX. MEETING THE LIONS
The Bible recounts some interesting stories of lions. They are interesting, not simply because they are stories of animals, but because there are things in connection with them from which we may draw some very striking lessons. We all remember the story of Daniel—how he was cast into the den of lions, and how during the long watches of the night he sat there in their den unharmed. What was expected to be the tragedy of his life proved to be his most glorious victory. The expected triumph of his enemies was turned into their utter defeat, and Daniel, stronger and more courageous than ever, came forth to continue his service to God.
Samson too had an experience with a lion. As he was going along the road one day he met a lion, and it attacked him. He had no weapons, yet he met it courageously. We are told that "the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid." Some time later he was passing that way and found that a swarm of bees had entered the dried carcass of the lion and made their abode there, and he took of the honey and went on his way.
In the thirteenth chapter of 1 Kings we find another lion story. Here a prophet sent of God went to Samaria and prophesied as God had commanded him, and according to the commandment he started back on his way to Judea. God had told him not to eat or drink there, but to go back immediately by a different way from that by which he came. He started to obey, but sat down to rest by the wayside. While he was here, another prophet came and persuaded him to go back and dine with him. Then, as he went upon his way, a lion met him and slew him.
The lions of these stories may be likened to our trials. We meet trials every now and then in life, and some of them seem very much like lions. They seem very threatening and very dangerous. Sometimes we try to run away from a trial, but as surely as we do, we meet another in the pathway in which we go. We are certain to have trials. The important thing is that we meet them properly. Some people imagine that if they live as they should they ought not to have trials. But trials often come when it is no fault of ours. Daniel was not thrown into the lions' den because he had not lived right or because he had been unfaithful in something. No; it was his faithfulness that resulted in his meeting the lions. It will be that way in our lives. If we are true and loyal to God, that very loyalty is sure to bring us trials sometimes. Daniel had his choice in the matter. He could have been disloyal and escaped the lions, but he chose rather to be loyal and take the full consequences, whatever they might be. God wants you and me to dare to be Daniels too. He does not want us to swerve an inch from the truth in order to evade any sort of trial. If we are true, and as a result of that trueness a great trial like being thrown into a den of lions comes upon us, and every earthly hope seems shut off, and there is no help from anywhere, what shall we do? Despair? Ah, no. God will send his angel and shut the lion's mouth for us, just as he did for Daniel. Dare to be true. God will stand by you even in the most trying and desperate hour.
It was not a test of his standing true that brought Samson face to face with the lion. He met the beast just by accident. He got into the trouble unwittingly. He had no expectation of it whatever, but the first thing he knew, he was face to face with it. That is just the way it happens with us sometimes: we get into a trial without any seeming reason for it; we are not expecting anything of the kind.
If the prophet in Samaria had gone in the way that God commanded him, he would not have met the lion that slew him. It was his disobedience that caused the trouble. Sometimes when we are in trials, we realize that it is our own fault that we are tried. Sometimes we may be disobedient, sometimes we may be careless, sometimes it may be this or that; but whatever it is, we realize that it is our own fault. That makes the trial harder to bear. But however trials come, whatever is their cause, we must meet them. We have no choice in the matter. The important thing is to meet them right. Daniel knew that he had done right and pleased God; and, furthermore, he met his trial with a calm peace and full assurance that God would take care of him, and God did take care of him, and he came through the trial. He was peaceful through the trial and triumphant after it, because God was his helper.
Some one has said that our trials make or mar us. This is true. Either we come out of them stronger than we went in or we come out of them weaker. We have either joy or sorrow from them. We should meet our trials as Samson met the lion. Face them boldly. Do not run or shrink. If you seem to have no adequate weapon to use against them, trust in God and meet them boldly anyway. That is the way Samson did, and do you remember what happened? Why, after a while he got honey out of the carcass. Do you want honey out of your trials? You would rather have that than bitterness. Well, you may have the honey if you will face the trial and overcome it. Conquer in the name of Christ. Do not whimper or whine; do not lament or murmur; do not fear or tremble. Face your trials boldly, and the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you as it did upon Samson, and you will conquer. And then, ah, it is then that the sweetness will come: after you have mastered the trial, in the days that follow, sweetness will come, and you will bless God that he ever permitted you to be so severely tried.
Conflict must always precede victory. The lion must be killed before the bees can build the honeycomb in the carcass. So face your trials boldly and kill them. Then you may taste the sweets of victory. This is the only way, and you are not too weak to take this way. God has promised that he will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able to bear. If you will believe it and do your part, God will do his, and you will triumph.
TALK SEVEN. EGG-SHELL CHRISTIANS
You have sometimes heard it said of people that "they have to be handled like eggs"; eggs must be handled carefully, or you are likely to break them. Some people are super-sensitive: you have to be very careful what you do or say, or they will be hurt or offended; you can never be sure how they are going to take anything. Such people are much of the time suffering from wounded feelings, are displeased and offended. It is true that some are of a highly nervous temperament and naturally feel things more keenly than others, but it is not this natural nervous sensitiveness that leads to the results above mentioned, it is a morbid and unnatural state into which people allow themselves to enter. The natural feelings may need restraint and careful cultivation, but these morbid feelings need to be got rid of.
Sometimes people can bear to hear others ridiculed or talked about in a gossiping way, or see them slighted, and think nothing of it or even be amused; but when they themselves become the target for such things, it almost kills them, or at least they feel almost killed. What makes this great difference in their feelings? Why do they feel for themselves so much more than they do for others? Trace the feeling back to its origin, and you will find that their self-love is the thing that has been hurt. If they loved others as they love themselves, they would feel just as much hurt by that which was directed against the other as by that which was directed at themselves. It is self-love that makes people easily offended and easily wounded; and the more self-love they have, the easier they are hurt and the quicker their resentment is aroused. Self-love begets vanity; it quivers in keenest anguish at a sneer or a scornful smile; it is distressed by even a fancied slight. Self-love throws the nerves of sensation all out to the surface and makes them hyper-sensitive, and so the person feels everything keenly. He is constantly smarting under a sense of injustice. He feels he is constantly being mistreated.
Oh, this self-love! How many pains it brings! how many slights it sees! how often it is offended! Reader, are you a victim of self-love? If you are so sensitive, always being wounded and offended, self-love is what is the trouble. If you will get rid of this self-love, you will be rid of that morbid sensitiveness; that is, you will get rid of that morbid sensitiveness that makes people have to be so careful with you.
Self-love makes a person wonder what others are thinking and saying about him. It makes him suspicious of others, suspicious that they are saying or thinking things that would hurt his feelings if known. If two others talk in his presence and he can not hear what is said, he is afraid lest the talk is about him or he is hurt because he is not taken into the confidence of the others. If others are invited to take part in something while he is omitted, he feels slighted and hurt, and can hardly get over it. I have often heard people make remarks like this: "We shall have to invite So-and-so, or he will feel hurt." Self-love is a tender plant; it is easily injured. We may make all sorts of excuses for such sensitiveness; but if we will clear away these excuses and dig down to the root of the trouble, we shall find that God has it labeled "self-love."
Another thing that increases sensitiveness is holding a wrong mental attitude toward others. This attitude manifests itself in a lack of confidence in the good intent of others. If we are looking for and expecting slights, ridicule, and like things, it means we take it for granted that others are holding a wrong attitude toward us. We do not really believe that they love us and have kindly feelings toward us, or that they will be just and kind and sympathetic in their actions that affect us or relate to us. Have you not seen children who, when one would hurt another and say, "Oh, I did not mean to do it!" the other would retort, "Yes, you did; you just did it on purpose"? There are many older persons who are always ready to say, "It was just done on purpose; they just meant to hurt my feelings!" This is childish, but alas, how many professed Christians hold such an attitude! This is a sure way to destroy fellowship and to take the sweetness out of the association with God's people. It is unjust to our brethren. It is the foe of unity and spirituality. Were it not for self-love, we would not think of attributing to others an attitude different from that which we feel that we ourselves hold toward them.
This self-love crops out in all our relations. It constantly exalts us and as constantly depreciates our brethren. God's saints are animated with a spirit of kindness and brotherly affection for each other, and this does not manifest itself in wounds and slights, and if we are looking for such manifestations it is because we do not believe that they have Christlike feelings toward us. God wants us to have more confidence in our brethren than to be looking for them to misuse us.
If we are looking for slights, we shall see plenty of them—even where none exist. If we are expecting wounds, we shall receive them even when no one intends to wound us. Self-love has a great imagination. It can see a great many evils where none exist. It is like a petulant and spoiled child. I remember one child of whom it was said, "If you just crook your finger at him, he will cry." Thinking that this was an exaggeration, I tried it, and the boy cried. There are some people six feet tall who are hurt just that easily. They are truly "lovers of their own selves." Paul said, "When I became a man, I put away childish things." It is high time others were doing the same thing. Suppose Christ had been as sensitive as you are, would he have saved the world? If Paul had been like you, would he have endured the persecution and dangers and tribulations and misrepresentations that he bore to carry the gospel to the world? He was not so sensitive. He was not looking for slights. He was a real, full-sized man for God. The secret is that he loved Christ and others more than he loved himself; therefore he could endure all things for his brethren's sake, that they might be saved.
The cure for self-love and the sensitiveness that comes from it is to turn your eyes away from self to Jesus Christ, and look upon him until you see how little and insignificant you and your interests really are. Look upon him until you see how high above all such narrow pettishness he was, until you see that his great heart was so overrunning with love for others that he had no time to think of himself. Then ask him to revolutionize you and fill your heart with that same love till your eyes and your thoughts and your interests are no longer centered upon yourself, and self no longer fills your horizon, but your heart goes out to others till it quite draws you away from yourself. You will find this the cure for your sensitiveness; and when you are thus cured, you will no longer be an egg-shell Christian, and people will no longer have to be afraid of wounding or offending you.
TALK EIGHT. TWO WAYS OF SEEING
The appearance that things have to us depends, to a great extent, upon the way that we look at them. Sometimes our mental attitude toward them is largely responsible for their appearance. Often two or more persons look at the same thing, and each one sees something quite different from what the others see. Persons who see the same thing will often have very different stories to tell about it afterwards, and will be very differently affected by what they see. This is not because their eyes differ so much, but because their mental attitude affects the interpretation of what they see.
A notable example of this is seen in the twelve spies sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan. The Israelites had crossed the Red Sea. Their enemies had been destroyed behind them. They had come at God's command almost to the borders of the Promised Land. Here the people camped while the spies went to see the country. They passed through it and viewed the land and the people, and presently came back with their report. It was a wonderful land, they agreed, a land flowing with milk and honey. The samples of the fruit they brought back were large and fine specimens. Of course, the people were at once very eager to possess such a land, but the question came up, Are we able to do so? What kind of people are they over there? Are they good fighters? Are they courageous? Do they have strongly fortified cities? As soon as this question was broached, there was a difference of opinion. Caleb said, "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it" (Num. 13: 30). The others, however, did not agree with him, except Joshua. They said, "We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we ... and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight" (vs. 31-33).
Now, what made the difference in their views? They all saw the same things; they all saw the same people; but when it came to telling of them, they told very different stories. The difference must have lain in the men themselves. When the ten saw those sons of Anak, they felt that they were as grasshoppers in comparison with such giants. "Why, we amount to nothing at all," the ten spies thought. "Those great big fellows could walk right over us." And when they recalled their sensations, the land did not seem so fine, either, and they said, "It is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof." They did not stop to consider that their own words condemned them. How could a land be such a bad land and yet the people who lived in it be so strong and so great?
Joshua and Caleb, however, were not to be frightened by the stories that the others told. So they said, "The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land" (chap. 14: 7). They also held fast their confidence in the ability of Israel to gain the land saying, "If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us; fear them not" (vs. 8, 9).
Now, all these men were probably honest. They probably described things just as these appeared to them. What was the difference? The difference was not in their eyes, but in that which was back of their eyes. When the ten went through the land and saw the giants, they forgot all about God. It was themselves against the giants, with God left out; and when we leave God out, things look very different. How big those giants looked! "We poor grasshoppers had better be getting out of here quickly. We do not stand any show at all," they thought. "How could Israel fight with such fellows, anyway?" The ten were full of doubts, and they looked through their doubts, and their doubts magnified the Anakim.
But Caleb and Joshua had no doubts. They had faith in God—faith that did not waver. They remembered the Red Sea. They remembered the manna from heaven. They remembered the other things that God had done. They looked at the situation through their faith; and instead of feeling as if they were grasshoppers, they felt themselves more than a match for the giants. The two were not at all frightened. "Why," they said, in effect, when they came back, "they will be only bread for us. We shall just eat them up. They have heard what God has done among us, and they are too scared to fight. Their defense is departed from them." Then these men of faith began talking about the other side. "The Lord is with us; fear them not. What do those fellows amount to, since God is not with them? What do their fortresses amount to? Let us go up at once," said they. "Why, we can whip them with ease."
But the people listened to both sides, and their ears heard; but instead of listening through their faith to Joshua and Caleb, they listened through their doubts to the ten and believed them and became very much frightened; and in consequence they went to murmuring and complaining because Moses had brought them out there to face such a situation. The result was that they were turned back, defeated by their enemies, and had to wander forty years in the wilderness until all the old ones perished.
Now, that is just the difference between faith and doubts. Looking back from the present time, we can easily believe that God would have conquered the land before them. Yes, we can believe that. We can see how foolish it was for them to turn back and to be afraid and to murmur. That all looks very plain to us now. We say, "How foolish and how full of unbelief they were!" But the question is, Are we doing any better than they did? When we look at the obstacles in our way, when we look at the troubles that seem to be coming, when we look at the things that are before us, do we look through faith, like Caleb and Joshua, or do we look through doubts, like the ten? Do your trials and difficulties make you feel like a grasshopper? Does it seem that you would surely be overwhelmed? Does it look as though you could never get through, that you might as well give up? If so, you are looking at things through your doubts just as the ten did.
The people who win, the people who are victorious are those who look at things through their faith. They do not compare their troubles and trials and difficulties with themselves; they compare these with God. They behold God's greatness. They behold the things that he has done in the past. They see how he has helped others. They see that they have been helped in the past, that God has stood right by them and helped them through. They get their faith and their eyes working together, and then they can see a way out of their difficulties, just as Caleb did. "They shall be bread for us," faith says. "No use to be afraid. Giants don't count. What is a giant beside God?" Doubts say, "Oh, what shall we do?" Faith takes a new grip on its sword and says, "Come on; let's go and conquer them."
Your eyes are all right; they will see things all right, but the question is, What is behind your eyes—doubts, or faith? That is the thing that really counts. Doubts will magnify your troubles, will make them look very great. Doubts will make your power look very small. They will make your ability to fight look as nothing. They will make you feel like running or surrendering. Faith will not work that way. It will fill you with courage; it will put the song of victory in your heart. Get faith behind your eyes. Look out by faith. Remember that God will fight your battles. Be strong and of a good courage, and you will overcome your foes. But doubts will spoil things for you. Doubts will take away what courage you have. Doubts will ruin you if you let them. So get rid of your doubts. Look to God, believe in him, trust in him, and the victory will be yours. Take your stand with Caleb and Joshua. Do you remember what became of the spies? The ten doubters died in the wilderness, and their bodies were left there; but the two who had faith went on into the Promised Land and died full of years and of honors.
TALK NINE. THE LIVING BIBLE
The Bible is a living book. What it is to us depends on what we are to it. If we approach it with unbelief and sneers, it shudders like a wounded thing and closes up its heart, and we gaze only on a cold and gross exterior. We behold the form of its words, but discern not the treasures hidden in them. It appears cold and lifeless and repellent, and we go away depressed and unbelieving.
If we approach it reverently, trustfully, and confidently, it opens up to us its hidden depths. It shows to us its wonders. We may see in it unequaled beauties, unfading glories, magnificent vistas of thought; we may hear its voice of love, tender beyond words; we may feel the warmth of its affection, be uplifted by its hopefulness, and thrilled with the tones of its joy-bells.
If we open to it our heart's door and pour out our treasures of affection, it in turn opens to us a great storehouse, and we may eat and be satisfied, and drink and thirst not. We may revel in its rich perfume, the rhythmic cadences of its music, the splendor of its heavenly light, and to us there is no question whether it is the living truth.
The Bible is to the Christian what the forest is to him who delights in nature. He who walks through the forest laughing, talking, and singing, hears not the sweet notes of the songster nor sees the wild things. He who would see and hear the things that delight the nature-lover must steal softly and silently along, watching his footsteps, hiding in the shadows, and thus he may see nature as she is. Likewise he who comes to the Bible full of self-importance with mind and heart self-centered sees not the natural beauty of the Bible. We must come to it effacing self, seeking not our own but the things of Christ, and we shall find it a mine of spiritual gold, a fountain of living water, a balm for every sorrow, a light in every dark hour—the one and only book that meets and satisfies the needs of the human soul.
TALK TEN. HEEDING INTUITIONAL WARNINGS
There are things which we know and feel but which do not result from our own study. We have a consciousness that there is some supreme power over us, and we are conscious of a certain responsibility to, and a dependence upon, this higher power. Reading the Bible and reasoning may give us clearer ideas of this power and our relations to it, but we have the consciousness of its existence without being taught.
This is never more clearly seen than in the case of the man who denies the existence of a personal God. As surely as he rejects the God of the Bible, he sets up something else in His place, and though he may call it by some other name than God, he will, nevertheless, attribute to it the powers and actions that belong to God. These intuitions by which we know without being conscious of how we know are given us by God for our protection and safety, and we ought to give careful heed to their testimony.
Sometimes our reason sees no harm in a thing, but we do not feel just right about it. A doctrine may look ever so plausible and be ever so interesting; but if we feel an inward uneasiness after consideration of it, there is a reason why we should be careful. Our intuition will often detect something wrong when our reason has not yet done so. These intuitions are not to be disregarded. They are God's means of warning us against unseen dangers.
Sometimes when we come in contact with people, we see nothing outwardly wrong, but we have an inward feeling that all is not well. We feel that there is something wrong somewhere, even though we may be at a loss to know what it is. Sometimes we come in contact with a company of people and at once feel a strange something that we can not analyze; but we can not always trust our feelings. There are many things that influence us, and it is very easy to misinterpret them. Nor should we conclude that there is something very badly wrong with anyone merely because we have peculiar feelings when in his presence. There may be something wrong, however, and it behooves us to be on our guard. Sometimes it happens that such feelings arise when we are in the presence of people who are deeply tried, or discouraged, or suffering under the assaults of Satan.
There are many evil spirits at work in these days among professors of religion, and especially is this true among the various holiness factions. Have you ever gone into a meeting and felt that some way you did not "fit" there? The worshipers may have seemed joyful and may have said many good things, but all the while you felt an inward uneasiness. There was some reason for this, and whether the reason was spiritual or merely human, it was wise to exercise carefulness. It is usually best to refrain from trying to make yourself blend with anything when you have that internal sense of protest against it.
Fellowship is natural and spontaneous. It can not be forced. If you are straight and true and your heart is open and unprejudiced, you will usually have fellowship with whatever is of God. Most sectarian holiness people are so broad that they can take in almost anything and call it good. Beware of this spirit. God's Spirit accepts only the good. If you have ease and freedom with true, established, spiritual people of God, and are free in meetings where the whole truth is preached and the Spirit of God works freely, and then when you come in contact with other professors you fail to have that freedom, do not accuse yourself nor try to force yourself to have fellowship with them.
A preacher once came into a certain community and began to preach. He was quite enthusiastic; he praised the Lord and shouted. He preached much truth and professed to be out clean for God. It was afterwards discovered that he was very crooked and wholly unworthy of confidence. I asked a number of the congregation later how it came that they received him. Their answer was that, as he came recommended by some good brethren and preached so much truth, when they did not feel right about him they came to the conclusion that they must be wrong and he right. So they accused themselves and went on through the meeting suffering under a heavy burden. They knew they had no such feelings when other ministers came into their midst, nor did they feel that way in their own ordinary meetings. But in spite of this, they took the wrong course, and the result was that the congregation received much harm both spiritually and financially. The same thing happened with this preacher in other places, till at length he came to a place where some refused to ignore their feelings or to accuse themselves of being in the wrong. Instead, they sent at once for two well-established ministers, and as soon as they came into the community, the crooked preacher fled and was seen no more in those parts.
Sometimes some one will come around making a high profession, and while we can see nothing wrong, we do not feel free with him, or, in other words, we have a sense of uneasiness. We feel at home with other saints, but not so with this person. Beware. If you are in fellowship with those whom you know to be true saints, look out for those with whom you do not have inward harmony. Do not blame yourself nor disregard the warning. Isolated Christians naturally become hungry for spiritual association. Sometimes they go to meetings where, while they find some good things, they also see other things and feel things that grate upon their spiritual sense of propriety. In such cases one should be guarded and should not try to "fit" with these things. To blend with them you must become like them; and if you become like them when they are not right, you will find that when you come into an assembly where the truth and Spirit have freedom, you will not blend there. If you ignore those inner warnings and accept something contrary to them, you will soon find yourself out of harmony with God's church and without the liberty you used to have among the children of God.
Do not follow your intuitions blindly, but do not go contrary to them. Let your reason find out the way of action before you act, so that you may act wisely. But when that inward sense says to us, "Stop, look, listen," we shall do well to heed its warning.
TALK ELEVEN. DOING SOMETHING WORTH WHILE
We all like to feel that what we are doing counts for something, that it is really worth while. We like to see practical results. We know that much labor is lost in the world, and we do not want ours to be lost. The ordinary things of life seem to amount to so little. They are not spectacular; no one pays very much attention to them; and we naturally feel that when we do something, we want it to be something that people can see and that they will think is worth while, and something that we ourselves can feel is worth while. Some think: "If I could just preach, I shouldn't mind working for the Lord. But, oh! I can do so little—nothing worth while at all, nothing worth the effort. What can my feeble efforts accomplish, anyway?"
Others think that if they could go to a foreign land and work among the heathen, draw people to Christ there, send back home great reports of what they have accomplished, have their names published in the paper, and have people talking about them, then that would be worth while. But since they are only ordinary people and can do only ordinary things, it seems to them that it hardly pays to try. They will just follow the line of least resistance and do things the easiest way. Of course they want to do what they can for God, but they want to do something really worth while.
And now, reader, what is really worth while in life? Is it only those things that make a great show? is it only those things that the world counts great? A sister said to me recently in a letter, "I used to think that I could do nothing worth while, but I have found that just simply living salvation before people is a great work." Now, that sister has learned a wonderful lesson. She has found a truth so great that most people do not recognize it as truth when they do find it. It is one of those truths that have the peculiarity of seeming small and insignificant though they are the very fundamentals of truth.
Just simply living salvation before people—yes, that is what counts, and it counts more than anything else. That is one of the very greatest things that an individual has ever done in this world. Talk is cheap, and many people can talk all day and say scarcely anything either. Some people can sway great crowds by their eloquence, they can accomplish wonderful things, but still they can not live salvation, or, at least, they do not. There is no power so great in this world as the simple power of a holy, quiet life. The sister mentioned can never hope to do great things as other people might count them. She is in frail health; she is isolated from other saints and can not attend meetings as can many others; she has not the ability to preach or to do anything very great, as greatness is usually reckoned; but she has learned the great fact that she is not shut out from doing a grand work.
If all God's people could learn this lesson—if they could learn that it really counts just simply to live right, just simply to be an ordinary every-day Christian; if they could once get that thoroughly fixed in their minds and hearts—it would glorify their lives, it would exalt the common service, it would shed a halo over their lives, and they would not feel discouraged.
When Moses was at Pharaoh's court, I suppose he thought that he was doing something really worth while. He amounted to something there. But when the Lord let him be driven, or rather frightened, away from that court and he went out into the wilderness, I suppose he thought his occupation there was hardly worth while. Why, what was he doing, anyway? Just taking care of the sheep, leading them out in the morning to the pasture, bringing them back to the fold at night, seven days in the week—just doing this and nothing more. I suppose it did not look very big to Moses, but it did to God. God thought it worth so much that he kept him at that work for forty years. Then Moses, at the age of eighty, when it looked as if he were about done with this world, was called to go to do something for the Lord. That forty years in the wilderness counted now. It had given him experience that helped to qualify him for the work to which God had called him. He came out of there worth while because he had done something worth while in those years. He had learned about God—oh, so many things he had learned! and now he was ready to put that knowledge into practise.
Sometimes we have wilderness periods in our lives, when God lets us be shut up in a corner, as it were, and do the little things that do not seem to count. But they count on us if they do not count anywhere else. There is one thing—and just one—that stands out above all other things in the human life, and that is faithfulness. No matter what our life may be, nor where we may be, nor what is our situation, if we are just faithful it is sure to count, and to count a great deal. That is one thing that you can do: you can be faithful to the Lord. You can do what he wants you to do. You can live pure, holy, undefiled, and keep shining every day, no matter what the circumstances may be. Just remember to keep shining. That is the thing that counts. Keep living clean and as God wants you to live. If you do this, he will know where he can find somebody who is faithful when he wants something else done. But ever keep this before you: there is no greater nor more necessary work in the world than putting the truth of God into visible form in a pure and quiet life.
TALK TWELVE. HOME-MADE CLOUDS
Louise stood looking out of the window with unseeing eyes. There was a troubled expression upon her face. There were tears in her eyes, and a lump in her throat. What was the trouble? An hour before she had been singing as blithely as a song-bird. Her morning devotions had been sweet. The presence of God had been with her. The day had started out full of sunshine, but alas! now her sky was clouded.
It had all happened in a moment. Her younger brother had been playing with his dog and had carelessly run against the stand upon which her flower-pots were sitting and had upset one of the choice plants, breaking the pot and ruining the flower. Louise saw the happening. How careless it was of the boy! Quickly a feeling of impatience arose, and before she realized what she was doing, she had spoken sharply to her brother and had said hasty words that she immediately regretted. Her conscience quickly reproved her. She felt bad over the loss of the flower, but she felt much worse over her hasty words. A dark, heavy cloud settled down upon her. The sunshine was all gone; there was no longer any song in her heart, but heaviness instead.