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Bible in family and individual worship, such easy and frequent introduction of religion into our ordinary conversation, such manifest regulation of our lives by religious principle as will cause all the household, and all who visit the house, to think of God as real and present, and live as being constantly in His sight-this course will, for us, correspond to having the ark in the house. And if we do thus feel and live, we too shall be blessed; and men will see it, and will tell it to the praise of God, that blessed is the family wherein the Lord makes His abode.
1. The ark in the house will promote temporal prosperity. Other things being equal, the most truly and intelligently pious family will be most industrious. Whatever other motives to industry may influence them, in common with their fellow-men, they will have this further motive, that they labour "as ever in the Great Taskmaster's eye." Not merely slothful servants, but the most active and faithful, will work better if the master is standing by. The best soldiers will be better than ever if their great leader looks on as they charge, yea, leads them into the fight. The familiar and cherished thought of God as near, as completely perceiving our course, and thoroughly understanding our character and motives, will help us to work.
And not only industry, but economy will be thereby promoted. John Wesley's three heads in a sermon on "Giving," are worth remembering: First, make all you can; secondly, save all you can; thirdly, give all you can. A young man wrote the other day, that the young men around him in business seemed all surpassingly eager to make money; but few of them were anxious to save money. Be sure, they are seldom spending it on good objects. Other things being equal, he who most truly fears God, and lives as in His
sight, will be most economical. The money which religious people spend in the maintenance of religion, even where they do their duty far better than common, is as nothing when compared with the money which irreligious people spend on things needless or hurtful.
In the management, also, of business, or of domestic affairs, they are apt to be most judicious whose minds are cleared of perturbation, and sustained in steady firmness by living trust in God's providence.
The ark in the house will promote family affection. The instinctive affections of the family, existing rudimentally even in the lower animals, are often very strong in persons destitute of piety. But they are apt to be, in many respects, capricious, irregular— often failing to hold their own against the impulses of selfish passion. Even where domestic piety is cherished, these sweet and blessed affections sometimes fail to exercise their rightful sway. But, other things being equal, they will be strongest, steadiest, healthiest in the most pious homes. The collisions which sometimes mark conjugal life, through differences of judgment, or taste, or preference, will be most easily managed where husband and wife fear God. When they kneel together with their children around them, and seek the great Father's blessing, and then, rising, they give one tender look into each other's eyes before turning away to their separate toils and cares, how is their mutual love heightened and strengthened; how much better prepared they are to be considerate and unselfish helpers of each other
-to divide the sorrows and double the joys of life. Religion can shed new lustre over the brightest homes, can lend an added joy to the most loving hearts. The brothers and sisters of a large family, with those wide differences of
mind, temperament, and taste which often strike us as so very strange in children of the same parents, are very apt to make their home-life inharmonious, painful, and unhealthy. But just in proportion as they are truly pious, they will be sure, other things being equal, to have most of the true fraternal affection which can render them forgiving, forbearing, and self-controlled. Sweet to those who are growing old is the memory of the domestic scenes of their youth, of the sweet affections that bound them to brothers and sisters now scattered far, and to parents now "passed into the skies." Let the toiling, burdened fathers and mothers, and the eager, impetuous elder brothers and sisters of a family, make every needed sacrifice to maintain genuine domestic piety, for each other's sake, and for the sake of the little ones that are springing up around them. Will any child of Obed-edom's household ever forget, through all eternity, that the ark was in their house.
3. The ark in the house will tend to the improvement of individual character. All things besides the things we have, and know, and gain, and lose, derive their chief importance from their effect on character. Similar actions, often repeated, grow into habits for good or ill; and habits harden into character. The task of self discipline, difficult enough for all, is for many persons so hard as to leave them often well nigh hopeless. A lone child, running in the dark night over unknown places, and falling again and again amid rocks that bruise, and mud that defiles, will sometimes be tempted to despair of all farther progress. But where we
dwell amid the influence of God's recognized presence; where we are often reminded, by worship and conversation, by the things read, and the silent impressions of countenance and action, that we
are in God's presence; it must surely be more practicable to maintain our efforts at self-improvement, and carry them on towards
4. The ark in the house will make the family a greater power for good. The light of piety need not be flaunted at the door in a spirit of display, but only set on the lampstand within, just where it belongs -and it will make the window shine, to cheer and guide those who journey in the darkness without. Next to the power of a Church, in promoting all that is highest and best, is the power of a truly devout family. Often has one family gradually transformed a whole neighbourhood. And where there are many combined, how mighty and blessed must be their influence! We live in an age of great plans, and grand organizations for combined effort. Let us be thankful that we do, and embrace joyfully the larger opportunities thus afforded for usefulness. But let us remember that Christianity regenerates by units, and not in the mass; and that there will never be a Christian nation, save in proportion as there are Christian families, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,"
JOHN A. BROADUS, D.D.
Christ's Practical Sympathy with Suffering Humanity.
MARK Vii. 34.
"And looking up to heaven, He sighed."
EVERY incident or word that brings Christ near to us as a man with human affections and experience, is inestimably precious, and deserves our thoughtful study. We want, not only to believe as an article of our creed, but to realize in the very depth of our heart, that His sympathies and ours are one. As His nature was a wondrous union of the glory of God with the frailty of man, so the
story of His actions and words is also a combination of the two. We cannot omit the consideration of either side of that complex nature, yet we are glad that so much is told us concerning Him which touches us, which bids us remember that "6 He was bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." It is noteworthy that many of the most touching revelations of His humanity are given in what seem like incidental phrases, sentences on which the historian lays no particular stress, since they are but details needed for the completeness of the narrative. But it is just in those details, and by those vivifying strokes, that the Christ Himself is most perfectly made known to us as a man among men, and the brother of us all. So we read that He was wearied, that He sighed, that He looked round in anger, that He wept. We catch in all this the likeness of a true man. What was the meaning of Christ's sigh?
I. THE SIGH DENOTED SYMPATHETIC SORROW.
The occasion for the expression of this sorrow was His seeing a poor man, waiting for the power which should restore his lost faculties of hearing and speech. It was evidently the man's need and helplessness that touched His heart and awakened His tenderest sympathies. And we are not surprised at this. What is more pitiful than to see an intelligent soul in a human body imprisoned as in a dungeon, unable to communicate with other souls by speech, unable to hear an accent of love or a word of truth. The deaf and the dumb are prisoners, longing for the liberty which others enjoy; spirits to whom is denied the most blessed privileges of life. Such a spectacle fills us with profound sadness, and therefore we do not wonder that Christ sighed as He looked at the man.
But this surely was not the only time when Christ sighed. The emotion of which it was the touching utterance was common enough to Him. This was an outburst of that feeling with which He often regarded the world into which He had come. Sorrow for suffering, for the miseries of humanity, constantly oppressed His soul. And in this sense He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. They were always on His heart.
Let us try to understand this more thoroughly by one or two considerations. Think, for instance, of the mass of suffering which was perpetually presented to His view. His very mission to the world, His power as the Healer and Comforter of men, opened this side of life to Him. He came not to spend His days amid scenes of comfort and pleasantness, but to search out want, to alleviate wretchedness, to cure disease of the mind and body. And people understood this, so that wherever He went, all who were afflicted with disease in the locality were brought to Him for healing.
But remember, also, how sensitive His nature was! There was no hardness or indifference to what He constantly beheld. Familiarity with misery did not blunt His finer feelings. Such experience only made Him more susceptible to sorrow. But we may go deeper still. Jesus Christ traced back the causes of pain and privation beyond those natural laws with which the physician has chiefly to do. He saw that sin was at the root of suffering; that in some form or other all pain and sorrow among men had sprung out of disobedience to God; that they were the consequences of a violation of Divine law at some time or another. And it was this aspect of it which filled Him with unutterable sadness.
Further, Christ saw in every form of bodily disease a type of moral
disease. The leprosy of the body, the deafness of the ear, the silence of the tongue, the paralysis of the limbs, the disorder of the mind, the decay of death, were all indications to Him of the far more terrible diseases which destroy the souls of men. He saw men cut off from communication with God, as this man was cut off from communication with his fellows; and that made Him sigh.
Remember who He was, remember the power He possessed of knowing all things and the condition of all men, and then think that to His vision the mass, the whole mass, of human misery in the earth was revealed; that He could look into the fearful abyss of human wretchedness which is hidden from merely mortal eyes. We see, even the most experienced of us, only the merest fragment of the sorrow of the world, but all, all was clear to Him. Therefore, I ask again, can you wonder that He was a Man of sorrows and that He should sigh? The marvel is that He was not utterly crushed by such terrible knowledge. And He would have been, but that He was the Son of God.
"But that in such communion high
He hath a fount of strength within, Sure His meek heart would break and die, O'erburthened by His brethren's sin."
II. THE SIGH PRECEDED THE HEALING POWER.
This fact makes this emotion of Christ's impressive and instructive. It is not the expression of one who regrets that he is called to help; it was not in Him to do that. Nor is it the sigh of one who knows that it is out of his power to assist. How often we men and women come into the presence of poverty, and pain, and disease, to stand before it, longing to do something, yet conscious that we can do nothing! It is this, in part, which causes our bitterest grief. If we could be useful, if we could only alleviate the distress, remove the
sorrow, there would be some comfort. But it is impossible, and so we weep over our helplessness. But Christ had power: He knew that He could cure this deaf and dumb man, He knew that it was His intention to do so, yet He sighed. It is very strange. Still, I would lay special emphasis upon the fact that His sympathy with sorrow was of the most practical character. He did not brood over it simply: He brought the remedy for it. He had the right to sigh, because it was His purpose to bless. Now, in this He stands forth as an example to those who profess themselves profoundly grieved by the ills they witness around them. There are plenty of people who talk and write about human misery who never attempt to lessen it. There are schools of philosophers who treat it as a subject for speculation, and theologians who elaborate most logical theories to account for it. There are many persons who brood and sigh over it; some write books, others read papers at social science congresses about human misery, and they are often clever at discovering at whose door the blame lies. Some of them, indeed, impugn the conduct of Christians and the callousness of the Church, and tell us that the fault rests with these. They boldly assert that religious people have ignored their duty, that they do not obey the example or commands of their Master; otherwise much of the physical and moral wretchedness which abounds in society would have been removed long ago.
It is possible that there may be more than a little truth in this. Evils have been tolerated and fostered, nay, are tolerated and fostered, that should arouse indignant protests from the Church, and inspire its mightiest energies to sweep them away. There are miseries wrought at this hour, in this city, on every hand, that could be met and healed, had
Christian men but exerted their powers to meet and heal them.
If these miseries of human na
ture do not concern us, His disciples, whom do they concern?
As Christians we ought to be concerned about such matters, and not leave them to the haphazard chances of legislation, or the exigencies of political parties.
I do not forget that though much has been left undone, what has been done has been effected chiefly through Christian instrumentality, and because of the influence of Christian truth. From no other hands have such help and healing come as have come from the Christian Church. You will find no society established, no philanthropic effort put in motion, but the inspiring cause of it all has been Christian sentiment. But I turn upon our writers and theorists who are so busily attacking us, and ask them what they are doing to cure the disorders of the world. Where is their practical work? It is all very well to grow melancholy, and to sigh over the evils around us, but that will not remove them. I urge such to get beyond sentimentalism; not to waste their feelings over the wrongs that exist, but to stretch out willing and earnest hands to help. For, “the end of man is an action, and not a thought, though it were the noblest."
Yet, the attempt to do good, and the knowledge that you can relieve some of the necessity around you, will not stay the sigh. Does it seem strange? Perhaps it does at the first glance. Why should Christ sigh when healing was to be the result?
before Him. And I believe that the sigh was natural and inevitable; and every worker in this world of many sorrows knows a similar experience. The thought that you can do but little towards healing the miseries of your brethren, and, after all is done, how much remains undone, will sometimes almost paralyse your efforts, and make you sink back in despair.
What shall we do when this sigh breaks from us? Simply that which we are compelled at all times to do--turn and look at Christ. He sighed-yes, and we sympathise with His emotion; but He cured the man. He could not then reach the whole world-that was not His mission at that moment; but the single object that then sought His help received it. He did the work He could do--the work close to Him. Christ's sympathy was practical, and yours must be the same.
Remember there is something you can do; there is some one you can touch with healing mercy. It may be a little child, or a poor woman, or your neighbour who is sick. Do your duty of kindly service to that one, and do not sigh because you cannot save the world. III. THE SIGH WAS ACCOMPANIED BY PRAYER.
Well, probably He sighed because such a healing was necessary. It was the need that made Him mourn, and perhaps mingled with this was the consciousness that while He cured this one man there were multitudes beyond His touch as stricken and distressed as the man
'He looked up to heaven, and sighed." Is not this significant? Was not that glance an intercession? Did it not say, "Strengthen Me, O Father, in this great work of love"? We hear no words; but who shall say what was in His heart? Now, it is worth remembering that, even when about to cure bodily disease, He sought help of God. This fact applies to all who are engaged in similar work, though not using miraculous means. It is a lesson to those whose profession it is to attempt to heal. No man loses power by asking God to help him. I take it with a wider sweep, and include all who are trying to