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come to do Thy will, O my God; I am content to do it ; yea, Thy law is within my heart ” (Ps. xl. 9, 10).
But St. Paul says that simplicity is specially to characterise our giving. You give in two ways : out of your own purse, your private gift, and as almoner of the Church, any public funds entrusted to your distribution. You will not give your own alms to be seen of men; that would be rather duplicity than simplicity before Him who judges the heart; and in distributing the alms of the Church, you will not have favourites on whom you lavish more than is due, nor take dislikes, and so withhold from others more than is due. You will not give to those who cringe, because you like a little court being paid to yourself; nor pass over the claims to charity of some man in distress, because he happens to be brusque and forbidding in manner. Simplicity requires that you should give the alms entrusted to you, so as most to glorify God and benefit the poorer brother.
The weak point in all voluntary agency is want of diligence. Men put their hand to the plough, and in a few days look back; they begin to build without counting the cost, and very soon, nothing is to be seen but a few unsightly and hardly distinguishable heaps of materials grown up with weeds.
With them the seed is received with joy, and forthwith springs up; but sometimes it has no deepness of earth ; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth-the small tribulation of having to get up earlier by half an hour on Sunday morning than you used to do; or the delicate persecution of having to encounter a smile from your old
friend as you decline, for God's sake, his proffered Sunday hospitality-immediately they offended. Hence diligence soon fades off into irregularity, and irregularity into giving up altogether.
But the Apostle says, “ He that ruleth, with diligence.” All of you are in office ; and, therefore, in some sort bear rule. Now my experience is, both in my own failures, and, excuse me adding, in those of my Church helpers, also, that more harm has come to parochial institutions from letting things drift little by little, than from any great catastrophe that has overtaken them. Ruling on a very mild scale, be it only applied with diligence, will keep matters in good order ; where the most summary measures, taken later on, would prove ineffectual to retrieve the fortunes of the work. It is so in families, the daily nurture and admonition effects far more than the exceptional cane and horsewhip.
But to heads of various departments among us this specially applies, Church warden, School Superintendent, Choir-master, Chairman and Secretary of Committees, and the Rector himself—whose very name signifies Ruler—to these the Apostle's command comes with double force; and if obeyed brings double reward with it; for he says to Timothy (1 v. 17), “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour.”
No doubt the task is more difficult the higher one ascends in the scale of rule ; for the ruler has to weigh, appreciate, and make allowance for the various rights and duties of the various positions of those subordinate to him ; so that the highest rule in the Church, that of a Bishop, is proverbially most difficult to fulfil. But it is
worthy of note that the Apostle does not say “rule with decision," "rule with authority," or “ rule with dignity," but "rule with diligence." Decision, authority, dignity are to some extent dependent upon natural gift ; diligence is what every man with common care ind the grace of God may acquire and practice. And surely what gives your subordinates confidence in you, is not a master stroke here and there with sad intervals of negligence between ; but it is the assurance that they will always find you punctually in your place at the ordered time; sufficiently posted up in the necessary details of your department; cool and sympathetic in dealing with any little hitch that may have occurred; painstaking to investigate all the bearings of a question and find a just solution.
Remember that all authority is from God, and is in its degree a reflection of that supreme authority which He wields over all. In the last resort, recollect that God is a righteous Judge, strong and patient, and God is provoked every day; and he who would rule well, though he cannot possess himself of the righteousness and strength which God possesses, should at least imitate God in his patience; for patience bears to the passive side of a ruler's character the same relation which diligence does to the active.
The wise man, noting the qualities which raise a man to rule in a kingdom says, not he that is clever, but, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business ; he shall stand before kings;" and the Christian minister, speaking to the Christian ruler, may add, he shall stand in the kingdom before the King of kings !
of wild flowers or a cheque for a thousand pounds, it is the feelings and motive of the giver which gives the true value to the gift. If I send my child an errand, and he goes not grudgingly or of necessity, but with a good will and alacrity, though the service rendered has no intrinsic value, still the cheerful way in which it was done has a value for the father's heart above gold or precious stones. And so it is with our Father which is in Heaven: we cannot make Him richer to Whom all things belong; yet he who goes on one of God's errands of mercy, and does it with cheerfulness, pleases our Father's heart, for God loveth a cheerful giver.
Yet how often do we see a Christian man doing the work of mercy (all your Church-work, my brethren, is of this character) in a mere perfunctory manner.
“Oh dear, there's a collection to-day, and I must give something." “ To-morrow is that Sunday School, and I shall have to be there.” “I must go round my district before the next meeting, and call at those dirty houses." “Oh, there's that choir practice." "I have promised God a tenth part of my income, but it's a tremendous tax.”
Notice, the work of mercy is present, but where is the cheerfulness? Can God take pleasure in such a sacrifice as this?
But what is the effect upon our fellows? We churchhelpers stand forward, as office-bearers in the Church of God, a step or two nearer Him. Our true office is to do Him honour and advance the love of Him among men. But if I give a sixpence of my own, or a ticket from the church's alms, to a poorer neighbour with disdain or want of sympathy, just as I might fling a bone to a dog---with cheerfulness neither towards God, my own feelings, or him -how far have I spread the love of God in my poorer neighbour's heart, and helped him to realise that we are all one in Christ ?
The sufferer considers that the cheerful way in which he is relieved is one great part of the mercy shown.
Whatever, then, your work for God is, do it with simplicity, having no by-end, no second thought for self, and especially in the matter of giving. Whatever office you fulfil, do it regularly, attentively, with diligence; and especially if you bear rule, remember that administrative rigour for a week must not be followed by anarchy, or the abeyance of rule for a fortnight, for that will wreck the finest institutions in Church or State. Rule, if
you have to rule, with diligence.
Lastly, in all your works of mercy show cheerfulness. It is not the work done, but the manner how it is done that counts most with God. Our results to Him are nothing (He can do what He will); but our temper of mind is, for that gives quality to the action.
Go forward, then, my brothers and sisters, each in the allotted task which God has set you in His Church, and let your motto for this next year be, “Simplicity, Diligence, Cheerfulness."