There are many kinds of employment, or services on earth. There are numbers of them which, while perfectly proper, legitimate and honorable, will do nothing for the soul in the way of enlargement and improvement. Cotton picking, corn pulling and selling goods are all right in themselves, but there is nothing in them to develop the intellectual and spiritual nature. If nothing besides these as factors are introduced into the life, that life is compelled to be an arrested one. Hence all of us have seen the man of the desk or counter remain the same little, narrow, shut up and shut in individual; twenty and thirty years seeming to make and mark no change.
Different from all the employments of earth is the service of God. To enter upon it is to feel at once its ennobling, transforming and transfiguring influence and power; and as the years roll on, the moral elevation, the spiritual broadening, the heart cultivation and the whole uplifted life is not only a conscious fact to the Christian himself, but equally evident to the outside world.
Two sisters may be born and raised about the same hearthstone, and up to the age of nineteen possess similar advantages in the way of education and accomplishments. Now, let one of them be converted to God and be parted for a year. One goes into the world and becomes the refined, polished woman of society. She never says or does a single coarse or inelegant thing. And yet with all the social culture she possesses, in spite of all her pleasant speeches and affable manners, there is a painful sense of the artificial, a hollowness in the voice; a lack of sincerity, and absence of real heart and soul under the elegant bearing that makes one think of veneering on furniture, marble statues and moonbeams on an icy surface. On the other hand, the converted sister has been for twelve months in the service of God, and it has left its unmistakable mark in the life, in the gracious beautiful lines on her face, expression in the voice, light in the eyes, soul in all that is said and done, and God’s transforming grace evidently in complete possession of the woman. The difference between social and soul culture would be evident at a glance, and the remarkable superiority of the latter over the former unquestionable.
So great is the reflex benefit of the Christian service upon the soul that no man can afford not to enter upon it. It is to rob one’s self of that spiritual development which can only come that way. In the study of the causes of this life transfiguration we find the following explanations:
The first reason is to be found in the constant spiritual contact with Jesus Christ.
A service which throws us with the Saviour is bound to tell on the appearance, manner, conversation, spirit, profoundly affect our hearts and lives. It is not more sure with refined, cultivated people will change our manners for the better, than frequent touch with Christ will profoundly affect our hearts and lives. It is not more sure that when one passes through a garden filled with flowers that a perfume will be brought out on the garments, than if we come in daily contact with Jesus we will bear away with us some of the fragrance of His beautiful, perfect character and life.
It is said of the disciples that when arrested and stood before the Sanhedrin that “they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” The aroma of His life was in their lives, the gleam of His holy nature was reflected in their faces, the calmness of His spirit was felt in their presence, and the sublime fearlessness of the crucified rang out in their voices. In a word, it is impossible to be with Christ, to talk, to walk with and work for Him without its being recognized in face, voice and actions of the life.
In the South before the war we had two kinds of slaves the field hands and the house servants. The latter were selected from the former. They were brought up to what was called “The Big House,” or the family mansion, and entered upon their domestic duties. In a few weeks the difference would be manifest to all between them and the class they left. They not only purposely patterned after the master and mistress in manners, speech and dress, but almost insensibly became more refined in many respects. It was these same house servants that the hotels and steamboats wanted as cabin boys, chambermaids and waiters.
So we are brought from the field to the Big House. We talk and walk with God. The eye continually rests upon Jesus. We drink in His spirit, while we follow, obey and imitate Him. Who can wonder at the soul improvement and its ever-growing likeness to Jesus under such circumstances?
The second reason for spiritual development can be found in the contact by the worker with human souls.
That the soul is beautiful we doubt not. That it is not only a treasure but a treasure house we are equally certain. That it is the most wonderful of God’s creations we feel assured from plain statements in the Bible and the study of its nature and never ending possibilities Christ speaking of it says that it would be better that a man lose the whole world than his soul. Its value far transcends the worth of this globe, though the earth may wave with harvests, be robed with gold and silver and sprinkled with rubies and diamonds.
Christian service brings us into the midst of souls to work for their salvation. It stands to reason that we could not labor with and for these marvellous creations of God withheld benefit. Corn, cotton and dry goods cannot communicate any good to us from their very nature, but immortal spirits made in God’s image exert a very different influence. They teach us, while we try to instruct them, and we gather profitable and eternal lessons from the humblest among them. We discover that what we have regarded simply as a field of labor is also a school of Christ. We awaken to see that men help ss while we help them, and that in a true, deep sense we are debtors to every man.
It is enough to thrill and renew the heart of every discouraged worker who is ready to give up, and craving to die, to think for a moment of the marvellous objects which claim his attention, energy and sacrifice. From the windows of moving trains that command a view of the landscape we see the farmers walking breast deep in barley, rye and wheat, and then suddenly remember with a swelling, rejoicing heart, that we toil for an everlasting harvest; for souls which God made, Christ died for, and that will flourish on the uplands of heaven in fadeless beauty and glory forever. The very thought is sufficient to revive the spirit and make the jaded servant of God push with new hope and vigor onward through the years.
The third reason for the soul’s development is to be found in the character of the service performed.
To help human spirits in the matter of salvation means a constant demand on the noblest powers which we possess. It means calls not only on our love, patience, gentleness, meekness and long suffering, but on every fruit of the Spirit in us. The faculties of the intellect, the rich sensibilities of the heart, and the regal force of the will, all are placed under tribute and called into play in the work of bringing men to Christ.
The more difficult the work, the harder and more obdurate the sinner, and the more unyielding the community, the greater the drain upon us, and the greater result therefore in good. Ingratitude, perversity, opposition, persecution, with many other forms of sin, are anything but attractive and agreeable to deal with. And yet this very state of things calls on us for greater measures of kindness, pity and forbearance, and so becomes a blessing to the soul.
As muscle is brought out by exercise, so faith is increased by use, and the character strengthened in all its virtues by the very discipline it receives and the demands made upon it.
The chiseling made upon us by the world’s treatment is anything but pleasant, but something far lovelier than a marble statue is the inevitable result. The social and domestic sand-papering which we get, not once but repeatedly, awakens a protest on the part of nerves as well as spirit, but there comes a polish and shine from it, if the trials are borne, which is seen even in this world by every eye. The constant demand on strength and time, the monopolizing of the life itself, our inability to have our own way, to follow our peculiar preferences and to advance our own interest, all this looks like a wrong and suicidal course to many sensible people; but out of it all comes the most beautiful and Christlike of characters
The breaking up of a stony, neglected field is a spectacle not to be forgotten. The rocks are broken to pieces and cast out; the stumps and logs are burned up; the great sub-soiling plows rip up its bosom; the harrows tear its breast; the hoes knock the clods to pieces; the hoofs of animals and feet of men walk over its surface in the process and progress of its improvement; the seed is sown and then there is the dragging of a heavy block up and down the rows of beds. This is followed by the cold and heat of changing seasons. There is also a time when the field seems left to itself; the laborers go away, and the farmer looks upon it from afar. But it is all right. The owner knows what he is about, and is filled with a sense of joy over the knowledge of labor well spent, and the assurance of a thirty, fifty and hundred fold yield in the crop which first heaves like a sea of green, then tosses later like a billowy yellow ocean, and still later covers the plain and hillsides in almost endless lines and rows o f stacks and shocks of material plenty. But beautiful as is the scene, it cannot itself feel the glow and sweet rapture of the man or men who lean against the fence and, looking upon the outstretched harvest field, know that this is the work of their hands. The very toil put forth has made them not only healthier and stronger, but even happier.
God is at work on us and in us while we labor for others in the Christian life. No matter what may be the strain and drain; no matter how numerous the rocky hearts we encounter and the hard conditions which surround us; no matter how trying the plowing, planting, hoeing, weeding and waiting seasons may be; yet there is certain to come a double reward. First on the outside in the human harvest, and second in ourselves in what the labor itself did for us. We under the grace of God are made by the work. A delightful spiritual strength leaps in the veins, the face shines with moral health, the lips laugh from a sweet gladness within, while upon the retina of the eyes beaming upon you one can almost see the waving, abundant harvests of redeemed lives made by this faithful workman of God.