“And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet.” II Samuel, 9:3.
We often hear David ridiculed and sneered at, and yet, with the exception of one act of iniquity, it is hard to find a lovelier character in the Bible. I wonder, leaving out this one great sin of his life, how his critics would look when measured by him and his life which was so filled with beautiful and noble deeds. Where will we find a more courageous man, who feared not bear, lion or giant? Who of our acquaintances ever equaled his liberality? In his one gift to the temple he gave more than all the churches of the United States combined in a year. Then what loyalty to God, what devotion to a friend and what magnanimity to an enemy who was placed in his power! In addition to all these graces of his character, I have been deeply impressed with the kindness of the man. It is this that the text speaks of.
By kindness I mean the outward expression of a heart that is filled with love. It is not only a spirit of interest in people, with a manner of gentleness, but a life filled with deeds of benevolence. The heart is not only pitiful, but goes forth in acts of mercy and help of every kind. Kindness shows itself in deeds of consideration for others, and stands continually revealed in deportment, disposition, language and action.
It is not the practice of saying oily, pleasant things. I have known such people, and their hearts knew not the love I am speaking about, and their lives proved it. The smooth, inoffensive speech of worldly policy is not kindness. Many deeds done and paraded in the newspapers is not kindness. There must be a union of heart and hand for the birth of this beautiful spirit of which I am speaking. Many acts of private and public benevolence claimed to be the offspring of the kind heart will have the veil stripped from them at the last day, and we see that which looked so well outwardly was done through fear, or self-interest, or hope of reward, or for public recognition and favor.
The Bible puts kindness down as a fruit of the Spirit. It is undoubtedly an outflow of the character, and represents the habitual poise and condition of the soul. There were some striking peculiarities about the kindness of David, to which I call your attention.
1. IT WAS AN EVIDENCED KINDNESS
There is a good deal in this thought. I hear many people saying of themselves and others that they have kind hearts, when there is nothing in the life to prove it. If we must believe the statements made about us, there are more kind hearts than kind lives. As I once heard a young man in my theological class say to the examiner, “I have the answer in me but cannot get it out;” So there seems to be a kindness that abides within and is unable to come forth. Decidedly unlike the life of Jesus, who went abroad doing good.
A gentleman who had been much in the world said he had lived in twenty different families, and in only three did he see kindness practiced. Seventeen of them doubtless thought they had it, but believed in keeping it out of sight.
The remarkable feature of David’s kindness was that it became visible. When a certain neighboring king died he sent messengers at once to offer sympathy and consolation to the son. When Abner was murdered he even fasted and wept over the untimely death of the great warrior. And here in the text and chapter we see him interested in and helping a poor, unfortunate cripple, the son of Jonathan. His kindness showed itself.
I, for one, say, let me have a kindness that is visible, audible and tangible. Save me from a love that says it exists but stands off and does not reveal itself. Truly such was the pity of the priest and Levite who looked at the wounded traveler, sighed, shook their heads and went on. This world wants, and you and I desire and need a kindness that picks us up, pours wine and oil into our wounds, puts us on the beast, carries us to the inn, and pledges itself to still further assistance in case of continued need and helplessness.
2. IT WAS A KINDNESS THAT SOUGHT FOR OBJECTS.
Hear the text: “Is there not one” whom I can help? Where is he? And then David sends for him.
There is a love in this world that is only stirred when the object of pity is before the eyes. We have all seen this love. It lets men starve and freeze around us, and then sigh over it as we read the morning paper account of how individuals were found frozen to death in garrets, or on door-steps in the street. It allows the heathen to go without the Gospel, when if they could see them this help would be given.
Mr. Beecher, by causing a slave girl to stand by his side in the pulpit, raised over a thousand dollars to redeem her, when the plain statement of the case without the object lesson would have failed. David did not wait for the poor, crippled Mephibosheth to stand before him to give him help, but sent messengers to find him.
I wonder if any of you ever started out some day determined to find and relieve any suffering that might be about you–a regular crusade against misery and trouble? You have heard of people going out for a day of sport, to find pleasure. But think of going forth to discover cares of need and sorrow. It would be a Christlike, though a very unusual proceeding. Listen to me! I have seen people go out to seek pleasure and come back in sorrow, and I have known them to go forth to find sorrow in order to relieve it and return overflowing with joy. This is one of the paradoxes of the spiritual life.
Some one gave Mr. Wesley five pounds one evening. He immediately went out on the streets of London, asking God to guide him to those who needed relief. The result of that evening’s walk forms one of the most entertaining passages in the history of the founder of our church. It is all described in his journal. Suffice it to say, among a number of things, he kept a man from being imprisoned for debt and restored him to his weeping wife, and saved a man from dying in a tenement house, where he was rapidly sinking from lack of food and attention. The man proved to be a merchant who had been ruined by a false friend. Mr. Wesley secured him business again, the man prospered, became wealthy, and founded in his old age an asylum for broken-down and ruined business men. Strange to say, one of the first men admitted into it was the man who had caused his bankruptcy in former years.
As we look upon these things we say, Lord, give us a kindness like that of Wesley, and like that of David, who went forth to seek objects of need. Both got their kindness from the Lord. They learned it from Him. In fact, the text calls it the kindness of God.
There is a rocking-chair kindness, which sighs and is so sorry to hear of the want and woe of the world, and wipes its eyes and–rocks on. It is all very nice, but may the good Lord grant a human kindness that, like that of Jesus of Nazareth, does not stop with weeping over Jerusalem, but goes abroad everywhere doing good.
3. IT WAS A KINDNESS THAT AROSE SUPERIOR TO REMEMBRANCE OF PAST INJURY.
Who was this Mephibosheth that David proposed to help. The Bible tells us the direct descendant of Saul, a man who had taken away his wife, driven him from his home, kept him starved in the mountains and had tried continually for years to take his life. All those pitiful laments in the Psalms, those wails over persecution and wrong and violence were extorted from him by the relentless and unreasonable hatred of Saul.
And yet here is David saying, “Are there any of the house of Saul that I can shew the kindness of God unto him.”
My brethren this man lived away back in the world’s twilight, and we are Christians in the full noon of the dispensation of the Holy Ghost, and yet he is a rebuke to many of us. Men have laughed and sneered at David and yet his example here covers with shame many of his critics and judges. Doubtless some of you before me have been appealed to in behalf of certain cases and individuals, and you said, “No, his family had injured you, his people had talked about you; or their father had hurt your father; or you had helped the man once and he proved ungrateful. So that you washed your hands of the whole matter.”
How beautiful and Christ-like David’s course appears by such conduct: “Is there not yet any of the house of Saul that I may shew the kindness of God unto him.” The words sound lovelier to me every time I read them. They are worthy of being placed in the living rock.
You and I have heard of such a motto as this, “Never forget a friend or forgive an enemy.” I have heard it uttered by members of the church. I need hardly say that it is worthy of an Indian on the plains, or a Hottentot in his jungle, but hardly fitting from the lips of one saying he knows, loves and follows Christ. Jesus long ago said if we were kind to those who were kind to us we have done nothing more than heathens or publicans; then added, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect”–and shows the perfectness He is speaking of is love when He says “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil–and sendeth rain on the unjust.”
You have heard some of you the saying that is as true as the Gospel: “To return good for good is human-like; to return evil for evil is beast-like; to return evil for good is devil-like; but to return good for evil is God-like.”
This last was David’s kindness. In fact he called it the kindness of God. He got it from God, and we can do the same, and must do the same if we say we are Christians and expect to see Christ in glory.
4. IT WAS A KINDNESS EXHIBITED TOWARD A PITIABLE AND HELPLESS CASE.
This Mephibosheth whom David helped was friendless, penniless, homeless, throneless, and in addition to all that, a cripple. And yet this poor creature without influence and power, who could never return a single benefit, this almost last descendant of his enemy he takes to his own home, has him to eat at his table and becomes a father to him. Where are you my brethren who have been sneering at David. Do you not see now why God said, “He was a man after his own heart.”
Now please look and see what is considered, labeled and called kindness by people that you and I know.
Here is a wealthy gentleman living in your neighborhood in an elegant home. With his ample means he can command anything he desires, he does not need you or anything you can do and yet hearing of some slight indisposition on his part you go over anxiously inquiring after his health, and say, “Colonel, if there is anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to call upon me.” He thanks you, but does not call on you. He does not need you, and you go away thinking you have a kind heart. But just the same distance from your house to the Colonel’s residence is another dwelling quite humble and unpretentious. In it is a man who straightened for means and out of work, really needs a number of things you could do for him. But you somehow fail to knock at his door and anxiously inquire after his health, and say, “If there is anything I can do for you please do not hesitate to call on me.” Perhaps you are afraid he will call on you is the reason you do not go over to see him.
Again, here is a wealthy, fashionable lady who has a slight headache from being up too late at an evening entertainment. Over you float, my sister, in becoming attire, with a silver waiter bearing some delicacies that you have prepared with your own hands, and with a face full of solicitude about this society invalid before you. You are admitted into an elegant bed room with thick carpets and lace curtains and sit down in a rose-wood rocker costing fifty dollars. The imaginary invalid with smelling salts at the nostril and buried in downy pillows languidly receives your voluble expressions of concern, and when you leave sends the waiter with what you call delicacies upon it down to the kitchen and the servants eat the “delicacies” or they are thrown into the slop. They have a cook over there that as a caterer and preparer of elegant dishes is far your superior. Meantime you wend your way with a pleased smile thinking you have shown “kindness” when the light of the Great Day will reveal that you exhibited ” toadying.”
Just a few blocks from your house, and not as far as the home of the society invalid, resides a woman who is really sick. With a low, consuming fever and constant cough and bare larder and empty purse, she certainly needs help, sympathy, cheering words and “delicacies,” whether brought on a silver or iron waiter. But while you know about the case you do not go. It seems that your “kindness” cannot flourish in a place where the floors are bare, the chairs are rickety and things have a scraped and empty appearance. It does not like untidy surroundings and persons who are really sick. It thrives best when people have not much the matter with them, and where flowers, bird-cages, cushions, ottomans, lace and dumask curtains abound. This kind of kindness is very delicate and cannot survive the odor of hovels and the sight of rags. But we read that Jesus laid his hand upon the leper and those diseased in every way, and went among the abodes of squalor and vice; while David is here seen bringing close to himself a poor cripple. Surely there must be different sorts of kindness, and I cannot but pray for the kind that will stand the test of the Judgment Day.
I have seen this so-called kindness appearing in another form. I have seen certain families in the church greatly given to running after and entertaining Bishops and other prominent men of the church. What royal dinings and feasts were prepared in their honor, while these Christian hosts and hostesses deluded themselves with the thought that this was Christian kindness.
Jesus has long ago spoken on the subject and given particular direction, saying, “when thou makest a dinner or supper call not thy rich neighbors, lest they also bid thee again and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
This is true kindness, while the other is an exchange of civilities and worse still an actual investment with the certain expectation of being repaid in human favor, social influence and other like things.
Christ does not mean to say we cannot entertain our friends and have them eat with us; but he does not want us to be deluded with the idea that this is Christian kindness, and so try to deceive God and fool our own souls.
How many beautifully written and elegantly perfumed notes have been sent to families of wealth and position “expressing hopes” and “deeply regretting” and “always remaining,” etc., etc., and the writers thought the note was a piece of materialized kindness. In a few months these same prominent families have been plunged into bankruptcy and are filled with sorrow and despair. Now is the time for the notes. This is the moment they want human presence and sympathy; but alas, this is also the time those little perfumed notes cease to come; they can only fly to homes where plenty and prosperity reside. Hear a parable said Christ and told of a man who fell among thieves and lay wounded on the highway, and how he was treated by different people. Christian kindness follows up the ruined family and picks up the wounded traveler.
I once saw another form of so-called kindness. A rich man was going North to be absent about a month or so, and left his dog with a family to take care of for him. That dog fairly took the house, he tore up and down the stairs, upset the furniture, and selected the divans and sofas for his beds. Meantime the family praised the dog; he was so cunning, so lovely, so sagacious, so nice and so everything. Sometimes these praises would be interrupted by a crash produced by this same canine mischief maker, and there was considerable skepticism in the minds of visiting neighbors about the degree of devotion to that dog felt by his entertainers. There was a lurking suspicion that no one but a rich man’s dog would be allowed to upset things is that tidy home. And yet they were trying to persuade themselves that it was pure kindness at the bottom of the whole affair.
In the immediate neighborhood, a gentleman picked up a poor little deserted child and carried it to his home and cherished it as one of his own, when lo, this family that entertained the dog were the first to criticize and condemn the proceeding. But which of the two deeds was kindness? The family that entertained the dog knew that his rich owner would bring them a handsome present; while the man who took care of the waif was perfectly aware that there could and would be no earthly pay or compensation for what he did. The child had been completely abandoned and was utterly friendless.
The kindness which God loves and promises to reward is that, where we help those who in their misery and poverty cannot recompense us. It is a ministry to the “poor, maimed, lame and blind.” It is well called the kindness of God, for this is like God. Hence Christ says, Be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect who sends the rain on the unjust, and giveth to all men and upbraideth not.
5. IT WAS A KINDNESS EXERCISED IN THE LIFETIME OF THE RECIPIENT.
This is an exceedingly important feature of the grace I am talking about, and is always the mark of real kindness. I notice that David did what he could for the poor, crippled Mephibosheth while he was alive. He did not wait for him to die before becoming interested in him as we have seen some people do.
If ever we are to help broken-hearted people it must be now and here, for in Heaven they have no sorrowing spirits. If ever we are to give material aid and sympathy and comfort it must be on earth, for in the skies there is no lack of bread, and God has wiped the tears from all faces. They do not need our comfort up yonder. The earth, with its widespread misery, and time, with its countless woes and afflictions, is the place and hour for the exercise of the love we profess to have for individuals and the whole human race. The Georgia evangelist, speaking of heavenly recognition, said it was earthly recognition he wanted, and that it must be given now, for when he was in heaven he would be in such a blessed condition he would not care whether he was recognized by people or not.
Everything points to this earth and the time in which we live to prove our love in the exhibition of kindness; and yet some people are letting this one opportunity of eternity go by unimproved forever. It can never be recalled. This is our only probation. We pass this way no more forever. And yet these classes I speak of are allowing this one chance to do good and be kind to pass by eternally.
Many wait for people to die before suddenly getting interested in their troubles, struggles, reverses and calamities. When the news gets out what a burden the man had, and how he finally sunk under it, oh! the subdued whispers around the coffin, or the remark in the street, “Poor fellow! I would have helped him if I had only known it.” Well, why did we not know it? The reason is we have the funeral kindness instead of the kindness David possessed. We wait for the man to die, while David sought the man to help him many years before his burial.
There was once a suicide of one of my church members. He could not meet his obligations, and in despair took his own life. I heard several well-to-do men remark, I wish I had known it, I would have helped him. They suddenly became kind while looking at the silent form of what was once a fellow church member and steward, who, in the weary struggle for bread, could not keep up, and so fell.
I have noticed at the funerals conducted by societies and fraternities that they march around the dead body of their dead comrade, and, each one throwing a piece of arbor vine or cedar into the grave, will say, “Alas, my brother!” I have thought as I witnessed this scene of hollow and belated pity, and looked at the white face in the coffin and the unmistakable lines showing what a struggle life had been to him–I have thought that if these same men had taken the time to have said this to the man when alive, “Alas, my brother!” and grasped his hand in encouragement and help, that likely he would not be in the coffin, but still in the world, the bread-winner and loving central figure of the family circle.
I have known a church to allow its pastor to suffer for the needful things of life, and when his wife and child died from the result of a life of hardship, immediately became kind and paid all the funeral expenses!
I have known a husband to neglect his wife in his pursuit of pleasure or business, and when finally she died he wrung his hands over her dead body, called her his angel wife, said his heart was broken and home desolate, and climaxed the whole by having a very costly funeral and having built over the unconscious body the finest marble monument in the graveyard.
She asked for love and he gave her a stone. And I thought as I pondered over the whole scene that if some of the loving words he was pouring into the dead ear had been uttered in life, and if some of the dollars he had spent on the coffin had been invested in a way to make life and body easier and less toil-worn, she would have been the happy-faced wife and mother of the home circle instead of sleeping alone under the cedars and among the white monuments on the hillside.
What we want is kindness in life and not in death. It is not flowers scattered on her coffin-lid that will make a woman happy, but a bunch of them tied together in the form of a bouquet and given her with the words “I love you.” That makes her pulses leap, the crimson come into her cheek, the light into her eye and the warm happy feeling rush to her heart.
We want kindness shown us in life. This is what our friends want; this is what our servants look for; this is what the children need–they crave to be treated gently and kindly in life, not wept over in death. Hearts everywhere, cry “treat me lovingly now.” When dead we do not hear the cries of affection around the coffin, or feel the tears dripping from overflowing eyes on our faces. Be kind now.
There are some people who, if they had heard of Mephibosheth, would have said, “Poor fellow!” and that would have been all; and when he died would have spoken again and said, “Poor soul, he is at rest!” But David tried to give him some rest before he went to heaven. He believed in lightening his burdens and brightening his life while he had life to receive and appreciate such treatment.
Some of you have taken notice of the invalid who falters on the street or gets feebly on the cars. Now is the time to speak kindly to him and offer him your hand or arm. He will soon be gone; we had better be quick or it will be too late. You have noticed a sad-looking woman at the church. Offer her some gentle courtesy before she passes out of your life. She is part of a vast procession constantly moving on, and it is now or never with us if we desire to make a heavy heart a little lighter and brighter.
You have an old father or mother at home. Be kind to them. Run and open the door or gate for them. Leap to bring them a chair. Their lives need human cheering. They have seen many sorrows, wept over many dear dead faces, seen the friends of youth disappear, and are feeling lonelier every year that passes. Be loving to them and brighten their few remaining days; they will soon be gone.
You have a little boy or girl at home. You have been thinking for some time you would be kinder, stay home of evenings, take part in their games, and make their little lives happier. You had better be quick about it, for the little fellows will not be with you long.
I read once a paragraph clipping called “Our Dear Boy.” It was a pen picture of a father and mother sitting by the fireside alone listening to the autumn winds outside, while the little boy, who was once the light of the home, was asleep in the cemetery. They used to think he was noisy and in the way, but how they now wanted him back. Oh, if he was only there to tease them for his knife again, or to beg them to fly his kite, or to tie the door-knob up with cords and strings, and track the hall with his little muddy shoes. Sometimes the father would start up with his heart beating, thinking that he had heard the precious voice outside on the street, but would sink back again with a groan, remembering the little grave on the hillside.
There are some men listening to me today whose hearts are going to be wrung this same way one of these days. You do not go home and spend the evenings with your family as you once did. The politics club, the social club, the secret society and fraternity are drawing you away from the family circle that loves you better than any one else in the world. Your little boy often asks for you in the evening. “Where is papa, mamma” “Will papa come home tonight, mama?” And when he is going to bed, and kneels down to say his prayers, he say “God bless papa,” and that night dreams of you.
They will tell you all these things about him when he is dead; how he used to talk about you, sit up with heavy eyelids for you, miss you and go to bed disconsolate without you. Oh, how I pity you, my brother, when these things come to pass in your life and make a burden of sorrowful memory that you will bear the rest of your life!
In the name of God I arraign the saloon, the political club, and the secret societies, lodges and fraternities for the cause of such loneliness on the one side and misery on the other. I accuse them as being the cause of lonely, neglected and deserted homes all over the land.
God help us to be kind to those who have a claim upon our love in this present world. They do not need our attentions in the world to come. God save us from throwing anything of this world between us and the love and duty we owe to our homes and loved ones.
6. IT IS SUCH A KINDNESS AS MAKES BELIEVERS OUT OF SINNERS.
Mere civilities, attentions, and general politeness will impress men agreeably, but never convince them of the truth, presence and power of Christianity. What is needed is more than this. It is kindness, and the text says the kindness of God. That is a kindness like that of God. A loving heart going forth on a life of sympathy; consolation, benevolence and assistance of every kind.
Politeness is of this world, but the kindness I speak of is of Heaven. Men know it intuitively, and God likewise testifies to it. Moreover it invariably impresses the world.
When Stephen, who was being stoned, cried, “Lord lay not this sin to their charge,” he did more to convince the world of the truth of Christianity than by all the many sermons he had preached in his ministry prior to this time.
When Robert Raikes gathered the poor and ragged children of his town about him and taught them the Bible on Sunday; when Muller took care of two thousand helpless children in his homes of relief; when Wesley lived on one article of food for many months in order to feed the poor; then these men did more to prove that Jesus had arisen from the dead and was living in human hearts and had all power on earth, than any volumes of Christian evidence that was ever written. God’s best volume of Christian evidence is six feet long, eighteen inches broad, and bound in human skin. When this book is filled with kindness it is simply overwhelming in convincing power.
I knew a man who raised twelve orphan children in the course of his life. Somehow it was hard not to believe in Jesus in the presence of such Christlike work.
I know a physician who not only visits the poor and gives free treatment, but leaves five dollar bills under the pillow when he sees signs of financial distress. Somehow the heart feels that Christ did certainly rise from the dead when this man is around; and his beautiful life and spirit scatter doubt and infidelity before him, like fogs and vapor leave before a clear crisp morning breeze.
Two memories come forcibly to my mind. One man had greatly wronged another. The injured man after a lapse of months had suddenly disclosed to him the corrupt private life of the other. With a few words he could have driven him from his church and family. But these words he never spoke.
Again, we knew of a great injury wrought by one man on another. The injured man left it all with God. In less than two years, the injurer came to the man whom he had wronged, in great distress, and said, “You can help me.” The party addressed said, “God bless you I will do the best I can for you.”
Verily, this is the kindness of God. This is like the Being who sends his sunshine and rain upon the unthankful and evil. In fact it came from God. It is not indigenous to our nature, but is an exotic from Heaven and planted in the soil of our hearts by the hand of the Lord Himself. If anything on earth will convince men that Jesus was born in this world, died, rose again, and has returned to live in human souls, it will be the kind of life we have been trying to sketch. And verily it does convince.
Recently I heard a gentleman describe a scene that took place on a street of one of our Northern cities. He said a small lad had a basket of apples and oranges which he was trying to sell. He was a pale-faced, delicate looking boy, and as it turned out was the main support of a helpless mother, young and frail looking as he was. He seemed to be having but poor success, and the old-young face had an anxious look on it most unfitting for a child of his years. Suddenly, said the gentleman, a rough looking young man either designedly or unwittingly in passing gave the basket a rude jar, knocked it from the arm of the lad and scattered the fruit on the muddy street in every direction. With a loud laugh the young man went on, while the boy seemed paralyzed with grief while great tears rolled down his cheeks. A gentleman in passing witnessed the whole scene, when instantly he stepped into the street and began picking up the apples and oranges, and after wiping them one by one with his handkerchief, placed them al l in the basket, and capped the beautiful act by placing a two dollar bill in the hands of the astonished lad. Then patting the boy on the head he was turning to leave when the child, with his tearstained face filled with a look of wondering gratitude, and his voice shaking with the contending emotions in him, cried out:
“Sir, are you Jesus?” I remember how my eyes filled when I heard the incident related, and saw as it seems I never saw before how we can project Christ before men, and secure an instantaneous homage and recognition of Jesus from them by acts and a life of kindness that would be seen in the Saviour if he was still here in the world.
Lord make us kind.
7. SUCH KINDNESS ALWAYS RETURNS TO THE HEART AND LIFE IN SOME WAY.
The Scripture says, “Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shall find it after many days.” It always comes back in some way to body or soul, and I believe always to both.
As for this present world, if we could only know all that is going on, we would see that no man does good without being blessed. So far as the heart is concerned we cannot afford, for our own sake, not to be good and kind to all. The light in the eye, the tender feeling in the heart, the swell of spirit and conscious enlargement of the nature with every noble deed, all agree in saying it pays to be good and kind. Moreover, the temporal benefit is also so frequently seen as to convince us that we are brought face to face with the working of a law, and that we are not contemplating exceptions.
It is told of John B. Gough, that in the days of his intemperance a certain man kept lifting him up from the gutter and carrying him home with a persistent patience and love that was divine-like. The day came when Gough became a redeemed man and was sought after as a lecturer from end to end of the continent. Also the day came when the friend of John B. Gough died, and his family were left destitute. Then the tide of kindness turned the other way bringing the bread with it. This family never lacked as long as the famous temperance lecturer lived.
Forty or fifty years ago, a poor boy came to New Orleans where he tried to make his living. A certain family gave him his start. In the course of time he became a wealthy man, and owned one of the handsomest residences in the Crescent City. The house and grounds filled one entire square. He never married, and at his death left his large fortune to the family that had befriended him is the days of his poverty. The bread came back.
A Colonel in the Confederate army, whom I knew well, was falling back with his regiment after a signal defeat to our troops. It was a rapid retreat to save life, while the Federal cannon balls were plunging into their ranks. A wounded Federal soldier on the side of the road and burning up with the fever of a gun-shot wound, begged for water. To stop a minute in the wild stampede was equivalent to death or capture, which last meant a long confinement in northern prisons ending in sickness and death. But in spite of all the gallant Colonel stopped, lifted the head of the wounded man from the earth and placing his canteen to his lips let him drink to his satisfaction. Then leaping to his feet he resumed his flight and, strange to say, escaped amid a shower of balls. The wounded man got well, and finally found himself in a prominent governmental position in Washington. It was there years afterward he met the Confederate Colonel, now an applicant for an important and lucrative appointment in the South, and having great influence at the White House, he secured for him the place that otherwise he could never have obtained.
In a large camp ground in the South, there was one man who in point of labor and sacrifice in every way surpassed all the other stock and tent holders. He entertained great numbers of people free; he saw to everybody’s comfort; he kept order on the grounds; he contributed liberally to all the temporal demands of the meeting; he advanced by his faithful devoted life every spiritual interest as well; and in a word saw to the general comfort and happiness of all. Here was the bread thrown on the waters and here was the way it came back. There was no one more blessed in soul on the ground than he. His cup was overflowing all the time. Nor was this all, every one of his children were soundly converted to God on this camp ground and stayed converted.
So in some way the good deed always comes back to us. It is not only our duty to do good, but it is wise and best. It pays to be kind and good.
As for the reward in the world to come, the Bible settles the matter beyond all question.
Christ Himself tells us that not a cup of cold water given in the proper spirit shall ever lose its reward.
It will be seen in the Great Day that deeds of kindness have been transmuted into blessings for the soul and shining glory for the body. In the final day of reward it will be seen by all, who was beneficent and philanthropic, and who, like Jesus, went about continually doing good. Whether the life was prominent or obscure, whether the deed became public or remained unknown–yet recognition and the full reward shall be given in the Day of Judgment.
It will be a blessed hour to David when not only his munificent gifts to God shall be declared, but the sympathy and kindness of the man’s nature shall be revealed in his message of consolation to a bereaved neighbor, and still more clearly seen in his tenderness and care for a poor, helpless cripple, the descendant of his greatest enemy.
Many of the beautiful surprises of the Last Day will be seen along this line–of mercy given in the hour of victory, coals of fire heaped upon an enemy’s head, and persistent kindness shown toward stubborn and immovable natures. Not only God, but the gathered universe will say that such deeds and lives demand a reward, and better still, Christ Himself who is the Judge of that Day, declares that all such souls shall be rewarded.
Surely a man will not regret in that hour that he possessed the spirit of Him who sent the rain and sunlight on the unthankful and evil, and that he had that beautiful divine life which has been so strikingly pictured in the words:
“The patience of immortal love Outwearying mortal sin.”
8. HOW CAN WE POSSESS THIS SPIRIT AND LIFE OF KINDNESS?
Of course this grace is not indigenous to the heart, but is an exotic brought to us by the Spirit from the skies.
There are imitations, it is true; there is a kindness paraded among men that will not stand the searchlight of eternity. It is not a pure article; self enters in, and double motives and ultimate purposes make an alloy which robs the act of its value. The genuine article of kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is so realized by the convert, who also wonders why it is not a perfect and perpetual fruit, but that some days he is conscious not only of an antagonistic or hardening power in his heart, but feels a spirit dominant at times that is directly opposed to kindness, a positive uprising of unkindness. The same antagonism is felt occasionally to every grace and fruit of the Spirit in the regenerated heart, and is an internal argument for the Baptism of Fire as a soul-cleansing work after we have become the children of God.
When this great work is wrought we find the internal difficulty is ended, and that we have actually “Put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.”
How easy it is to be gentle and kind now with inbred sin burned out and Christ abiding within all the time! A tender feeling to enemies, a patience with opposers, a spirit of longsuffering toward those of different minds and opinions, and above all a delightful experience of love for everybody now fills and overflows the soul. We have been moved by divine power into the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians; we have obtained the perfect love that John writes so much about in his epistles, and we have received the grace which the bishops so urge upon young preachers at Conferences in the question, “Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?”
Thank God that an ever-increasing number can say today all over the land: “I have found it, I have found it, That for which I’ve been in quest; Satisfied are all my longings, Now I’ve found His promised rest.”