Active in Duty
“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4)
How constant and unremitting was Jesus in the service of his heavenly Father! "He rose a great while before day” (Mk. 1:35), and, when His secret communion was over, His public work began. It mattered not to Him where He was: whether on the bosom of the deep, or a mountain slope, in the desert, or at a well-side, the "gracious words” ever "proceeded out of his mouth” (Lk. 4:22). We find, on one touching occasion, exhausted nature sinking, after a day of unremitting duty, in crossing in a vessel, the Lake of Tiberias—"he fell asleep” (Mt. 8:24). He redeemed every precious moment. His words to the Pharisee seem a formula for all, "Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee” (Lk. 7:40).
Oh, how our most unceasing activities pale into nothing before such an example as this! Would that we could remember that each of us has some great mission to perform for God, that religion is not a thing of dreamy sentimentalism, but of energetic practical action; moreover, that no trade, no profession, no position, however high or however humble in the scale of society, can disqualify for this life of Christian activity and usefulness! Who were the writers in the Bible? We have among them a king, a lawgiver, a herdsman, a publican, a physician! Nor is it to high spheres, or to great services only, that God looks. The widow’s mite and Mary’s alabaster box of ointment are recorded as examples for imitation by the Holy Spirit, while many more generous deeds are passed by unrecorded. We believe that God says, regarding the attempt of many a humble Christian to serve Him by active duty, "I saw that effort, that feeble effort to serve and glorify Me; it was the very feebleness of it I loved!”
Did it never strike you, notwithstanding the dignity of Christ, and the activity of Christ, how little success comparatively He met with in his public work?
We read of no numerous conversions, no Pentecostal revivals in the course of His ministry. May not this well encourage us in the absence of great outward results? He sets up no higher standard than this — "She hath done what she could” (Mk. 14:8). An artist may be great in painting a peasant as well as a king — it is the way he does it. Yes, and if laid aside from the activities of the Christian life, we can equally glorify God by passive endurance. "Who am I,” said Martin Luther (1483-1546), when he witnessed the patience of a great sufferer; "who am I? A wordy preacher in comparison with this great doer.”
Reader, forget not the motive of our motto verse, "The night cometh!” Soon our tale shall be told; our little day is flitting fast, the shadows of night are falling. "Our span length of time,” as Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) says, "will come to an inch.” What if the eleventh hour should strike after having been "all the day idle”?
A long lifetime of opportunities allowed to pass unemployed and unimproved, and absolutely nothing done for God! A judgment day come — our golden moments squandered, our talents untraded on, our work undone — met at the bar of heaven with the withering repulse, "Inasmuch as ye did it not” (Mt. 25:45). “The time we have lost,” says Richard Baxter (1615-1691), "cannot be recalled; should we not then redeem and improve the little that remains? If a traveler sleeps or trifles most of the day, he must travel so much the faster in the evening, or fall short of his journey’s end.”