By S.D. Gordon
A Day off.
One morning toward the end, in the midst of His busiest campaigning, Jesus was very tired. It is one of the touches of His humanness. So He said to His disciples, "Let us take a day off." And they could see the sense of it. They were tired too. So they got a boat, and boarded her, and set sail, and headed out across the lake. And meanwhile a crowd of people had come down to the beach to be talked to, and healed, and helped in various ways.
And you can just see the look of disappointment in their faces as they say, "Why, He's going away." And for a few moments they stand there utterly dejected. Then somebody--for a long while I have thought it was a woman--somebody with eyes keenly watching the direction of the boat, said, "I believe He's going so and so"--naming a place across the lake--"let's run around the head of the lake, and meet Him when He gets out."
And the crowd was taken with that. And they ran--literally ran--around the head of the lake. And as they went they spread the word, "The Master's going so and so. Come along with us." And the people came eagerly out of the villages and cross-roads. And the crowd thickened and the longer way around in distance proved the shorter way there in time. For by and by when Peter ran the nose of the boat into the sand on the other side, and the Master got out for a day off, there were five thousand men, maybe ten thousand people waiting to receive Him.
Do you think that Peter scrooged down his eyebrows, and in a jerky voice said, "They might have given Him one day to Himself. Can't they see He's tired?" Do you think that likely John chimed in, with that fire in his voice which the after years mellowed and sweetened but never lost,--"Yes, how inconsiderate a crowd is!" Do you think so? I do. Because they were so much like us. But He--the most tired of them all--"was moved with compassion," and spent the whole day in teaching, and talking personally, and healing. And then when they had gone He went off to the mountain for the quiet time at night He could not get in the daytime.
Moved with Compassion.
There is a great word used of Jesus, and by Him, nine times in these brief records, the word compassion. The sight of a leprous man, or of a demon-distressed man, moved Him. The great multitudes huddling together after Him, so pathetically, like leaderless sheep, eager, hungry, tired, always stirred Him to the depths. The lone woman, bleeding her heart out through her eyes, as she followed the body of her boy out--He couldn't stand that at all.
And when He was so moved, He always did something. He clean forgot His own bodily needs so absorbed did He become in the folks around Him. The healing touch was quickly given, the demonized man released from his sore bonds, the disciples organized for a wider movement to help, the bread multiplied so the crowds could find something comforting between their hunger-cleaned teeth.
The sight of suffering always stirred Him. The presence of a crowd seemed always to touch and arouse Him peculiarly. He never learned that sort of city culture that can look unmoved upon suffering or upon a leaderless, helpless crowd. That word compassion, used of Him, is both deep and tender in its meaning. The word, actually used under our English means to have the bowels or heart, the seat of emotion, greatly stirred.
The kindred word, sympathy, means to have the heart yearning, literally to be suffering the same distress, to be so moved by somebody's pain or suffering that you are suffering within yourself the same pain too. Our plain English word, fellow-feeling, is the same in its force. Seeing the suffering of some one else so moves you that the same suffering is going on inside you as you see in them. This is the great word used so often of Jesus, and by Him.
There never lived a man who had such a passion for men as Jesus. He lived to win them out of their distressed, sinful, needy lives up to a new level. He died to win them. His last act was dying to win men. His last word was, "Go ye and win men." And His first act when He got back home, all scarred and marred by His contact with earth, was to send down the same Spirit as swayed Him those human years to live in us that we might have the same passion for winning men as He. Aye, and the same exquisite tact in doing it as He had.
I said the last act was dying to win men. And you remember that even in the act of dying, He forgot the keen pain of body, and the far keener pain of spirit, to turn His head as far as He could turn it, and speak the word to the fellow by His side that meant the difference of a world to him. Surely it was the ruling passion with Him to win men, strong in death, aye, strongest in death, and finding its strongest expression in His death.
Counting on Us.
Somebody has supposed the scene that he thinks may have taken place after Jesus went back. The last the earth sees of Him is the cloud--not a rain cloud, a glory cloud--that sweeps down and conceals Him from view. And the earth has not seen Him since. Though the old Book does say that some day He's coming back in just the same way as He went away, and some of us are strongly inclined to think it will be as the Book says in that regard.
But--have you ever tried to think of what took place on the other side of that cloud? He has been gone down there on the earth thirty-odd years. It's a long time. And they're fairly hungry in their eyes for a look again at that blessed old face. And I have imagined them crowding down to where they may get the first glimpse of His face again. And, do you know, lately I have been wondering, with the softening of awe creeping into the thought, whether--the Father--did not come the very first of them all and--touch His lips up to where--the scars were in Jesus' brow and cheeks--yes, His hands--and His feet, too. Tell me, you fathers here listening, would you not have done something like that with your boy, under such circumstances?
You mothers, wouldn't you have been doing something like that with your boy? And all the fatherhood of earth is named after the fatherhood of heaven, we're told. And with God fatherhood means motherhood too, you know. I do not know if it were so. But I think it's likely. It would be just like God.
But this friend I speak of has supposed that, after the first flush of feeling has spent itself--the way we speak of such things done here, the Master is walking down the golden street one day, arm in arm with Gabriel, talking intently, earnestly. Gabriel is saying,
"Master, you died for the whole world down there, did you not?"
"You must have suffered much," with an earnest look into that great face with its unremovable marks.
"Yes," again comes the answer in a wondrous voice, very quiet, but strangely full of deepest feeling.
"And do they all know about it?"
"Oh, no! Only a few in Palestine know about it so far."
"Well, Master, what's your plan? What have you done about telling the world that you died for, that you have died for them? What's your plan?"
"Well," the Master is supposed to answer, "I asked Peter, and James and John, and little Scotch Andrew, and some more of them down there just to make it the business of their lives to tell others, and the others are to tell others, and the others others, and yet others, and still others, until the last man in the farthest circle has heard the story and has felt the thrilling and the thralling power of it."
And Gabriel knows us folk down here pretty well. He has had more than one contact with the earth. He knows the kind of stuff in us. And he is supposed to answer, with a sort of hesitating reluctance, as though he could see difficulties in the working of the plan, "Yes--but--suppose Peter fails. Suppose after a while John simply does not tell others. Suppose their descendants, their successors away off in the first edge of the twentieth century, get so busy about things--some of them proper enough, some may be not quite so proper--that they do not tell others--what then?"
And his eyes are big with the intenseness of his thought, for he is thinking of--the suffering, and he is thinking too of the difference to the man who hasn't been told--"what then?"
And back comes that quiet wondrous voice of Jesus, "Gabriel, I haven't made any other plans--I'm counting on them."
The Secret of Winsomeness.
That's a bit of this friend's imagination, it's true. But--it's the whole Gospel story, through and through. Jesus has made that plan. He has not made any other plan. He's counting on us, each of us, each in his own circle, in his own way, as comes best, most natural to him tactfully, quietly, earnestly--simply that, but all of that. And--if--we fail--Him--let me be saying it very softly so the seriousness of it may get into the inner cockles of our hearts--if we fail Him, just that far we make Jesus' dying a failure so far as concerns those whom we touch.
Yes, I know that sounds very serious. I'd rather not be saying it. I'm sure, by the Book, it is so. And so, do you see the genius--may I use that word very reverently of Him who was a man and far more than man--the genius of His plan? He sent down the same Spirit that swayed Him those human years to live in us, and control us, that we might have the same fine passion for men as He, and the same exquisite tact in winning them as He had.
It must be a passion; a fire burning with the steady flame of anthracite fed by a constant stream of oil. If it be less we will be swept off our feet by the tides all around, or sucked under by their swift current. And many a splendid man to-day is being swept off his feet and sucked under by the tides and currents of life because no such passion as this is mooring and steadying and driving his whole life.
It must be a passion for winning men; not driving nor dragging, drawing. Not argument nor coercion but warm, winsome wooing. Today the sun up yonder is drawing up toward itself thousands of tons' weight of water. Nobody sees it going, except perhaps in very small part. There's no noise or dust. But the water rises up irresistibly toward the sun because of the winning power in the sun for the water. It must be something like that in this higher sphere. A winsomeness in us that will win men to us and through us to the Master.
"Oh! well," some one says, "if you put the thing that way you'll have to count me out. I'm not winsome that way." Well, maybe you need not have bothered to say it. We could easily know that without your saying it. We are not winsome this way, any of us, of ourselves. But when we allow this Jesus Spirit to take possession of us He imparts His winsomeness. For the real secret of a transfigured life is a transmitted life. Somebody else living in us, with a capital S for that Somebody, looking out of our eyes, giving His beauty to our faces, and His winningness to our personality.
"As the Stars."
The language used in the Scriptures for this sort of thing is full of intense interest. Some time ago I was reading in the old prophecy of Daniel. I was not thinking of this matter of winning men but simply trying to get a fresh grasp of that wonderfully fascinating old bit of prophecy. And all at once I came across that gem in the last chapter. I knew it was there. You know it is there. Yet it came to me with all the freshness of a new delightful surprise. "They that are wise shall shine with the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever."
Four times in those last two chapters of Daniel it refers to those that are "wise"; literally, those that are teachers. Those who have themselves learned the truth and are patiently, faithfully, winsomely telling and teaching others. The word used for influencing the others is full of practical picturesque meaning. "They that turn many." As if a man were going the wrong way on a dangerous road. And I know it's the wrong way. There's a sharp precipice ahead. But he is going steadily on, head down, all absorbed, not noticing where the road leads.
I might go up to him, and strike him sharply on the shoulder to get his attention, and say, "See here, you're going the wrong way; can't you see the danger ahead there? Come this way," with a vigorous pull. I have sometimes seen that done, in just that way. And if the man is an American, or an Englishman, or a German,--we're all very much alike,--he will say coldly, "Excuse me. I think I can take care of myself. Thank you. I'll look out for this individual."
Or, I might slip gently up to the man, and get my arm in his, and begin to turn, very gently at first, and turn, and turn, and then turn some more, and then farther around still, and walk him off the other way. You will have to get close to a man to do that. Some folks never do. And you'll have to be at least half-way decent in your life to get close. Some folks never can. And you will need to be warm enough all the time inside, to melt through the icy cloak of indifference beneath which his heart may be wrapped up. But I can tell you this: the old world where you and I live is fairly hungry at its heart, with an eating hunger for turners of that sort.
And the promise of that old prophetic bit is this: "They shall shine." You know everybody wants to shine. It is right to be ambitious, with a right ambition. But if any of you are ambitious to shine in some other sky than this, in your profession, in social life or in some firmament lower than this, may I gently make this suggestion to you? Do your best shining now. Get on the brightest shining surface possible now. For this is your shining time. This is the sky-time for that sort of thing. It won't last long, I must tell you frankly. And at the end a bitter biting at your heart.
I am fond of watching a display of fireworks on a Fourth of July night. Perhaps the night is clear, the sky full of stars, bright and sparkling. A sky rocket is sent off. It goes up with a rush and a noise. There is a dash of many colored beautiful fire-stars. And a murmur of admiration from the crowd. For a few moments you can see nothing as you look up but this handful of fire-stars. The clear quiet stars beyond are eclipsed for a narrow circle of space, and for a few moments of time.
It doesn't last long. A small fraction of a minute at the most. Then it's all over. And all that is left is a charred stick that sticks in the mud, nobody knows where, nor cares. But look up yonder, the stars you could not see a moment ago for these momentary ones are shining more brightly than ever by contrast,
"... And singing as they shine.
The hand that made us is divine."
You shine in the lower skies if you will. And of course you will if you will. You will do as you will to do. But, at the end--a charred stick, a bad taste in your mouth, a sharp tugging at your heart. And the story's told. The last chapter's ended. The book is shut. But they whose one absorbing ambition it is to turn others to righteousness may not shine much here in earth's skies. And they may a bit, and it recks precious little either way. But they shall shine as the stars, as bright and as long.
It does not mean Atlantic coast stars. It means desert stars, Babylonian stars, where one can see so many more than here. They shake their wondrous fire-light down into your face, and fairly dazzle your eyes. You "shall shine as the stars," as bright and as long.
The Finest Wisdom.
James, the head of the Jerusalem Church, closes up his letter to the dispersed Jews with this same word as Daniel uses. He would have all to whom he is writing understand that he that turns another from the wrong way will save a soul from death and hide away out of sight and reach a mass of sin. The old world needs more saving societies and saving individuals of this sort.
We have gotten great skill in saving dollars. Men give their whole strength and time to that. There is something much higher, infinitely higher, saving souls, rescuing lives, treasuring up precious men and women. These people, James says, are famous for their use of the fine cloak of charity. They make the best use of it in hiding away beyond any chance of being found a great mass of ugly, crooked, poisonous sins.
The man with the reputation of being the wisest man gives a special definition of wisdom. The old version runs, "he that winneth souls is wise." This is a great statement from Solomon's pen. He had searched into all the avenues of men's pursuits. He was a great experimenter. Everything was put to a personal test. He amassed wealth beyond all others. He delved into the fascinations of intellectual delights, of deep intricate philosophies and problems.
He knew the subtle appeal to strong men that there is in deftly handling and controlling men, personally and in large numbers. He had tasted the rich wines of pleasure as had few. This is his conclusion: the wise man is he that gives his strength with all of its fine-grained cunning to wooing men back, through the old Eden gate, up to the tree of life.
This is the finest fruitage any life can yield. This will be to the bearer of it a tree of life giving twelve crops of fruits, a crop of every month, a perennial, alike in heat and frost, in storm and drought, and with a peculiar healing quality in its green leaves for all men.
The revised version gives a fine turn to this old bit, exactly reversing the first statement. "He that is wise winneth souls." The old philosopher says that here is the real test of wisdom. He that is a wise man gives the cream of his thought and wisdom to personal influence with men. He thinks the thing best worth while is drawing a man through the inner reach upon his thinking and affections and will away from the impure and ignoble and deceptive up into touch with his first Friend.
And he finds too that nothing he has ever undertaken calls for a finer play of all his powers at their best. All the diplomacy and fineness and tact and keen management at his command will be called upon. He must be a wise man to do such work. It is no fool's errand this. It demands the best in the best.
There is no body of men more keen or skilled in the handling and influencing of men, than the politicians. And I use the word in its fine meaning, as well as in its cheaper meanings. As democracy has won its way increasingly among the governments of earth these politicians have increased in number and in influence. Great measures of government have depended on their skill in manipulating men. Rarest subtlety and adroitness and rugged honesty have blended in the strongest of these leaders.
The fishing simile so commonly used in the winning of men over to one's side is a peculiarly attractive, a matchless simile. And all of this handling of men has often been for personal ends, often for wholly selfish ends, often for strong national ends. Almost never has it been for the benefit of the man being won, save at times very remotely.
But Jesus would have us become skilled diplomats in winning men for their own sakes. Getting them to climb the hills for the sake of the air and view they will get, and enjoy. We are to win strong men full of life and vigor and manly force up into touch with their Friend, Himself.
There is too a most attractive winsome phrase on the Master's lips at the close of that fishing story in Luke's fifth chapter, "From henceforth thou shall catch men" is the reading. But the revised margin gives this added bit of color: "Thou shalt take men alive." They should get, not dead fish, but living men. Men full of vigor and life--thou shalt have power to sway these and induce them up to the highlands of a new life.
There are three simple essentials here for the man who would be following his Master fully. The first is that a man shall surrender himself wholly to Jesus as a Master. That so Jesus may have the full control of all. Maybe some one thinks, "There is that strong word surrender again. Cannot I help a man be better without going so far as that word seems to imply?"
Will you kindly notice that the Spirit of Jesus fills the surrendered man? And it is only as that Spirit does fill and sway that there can be any such passion for men as Jesus had, and, too, the fine tact that He always used. This is the first simple indispensable essential.
The second is this: a bit of quiet time alone with Jesus daily over His Word. The door should be shut. Outside things shut outside. And one's self shut in alone with the Master. This is not a good thing--merely. I am not recommending it to you. I am saying very much more. It is an essential thing with every one who would follow the Master simply and fully. It is time spent in coaling up, taking out the dead ashes, and readjusting the drafts, so the fires will be kept burning steadily and clearly. This is the second great essential.
The third essential is this: a purpose, deep-seated, rock-rooted, underlying every other purpose, taking precedence of every other, of trying to win others, one by one, bit by bit, over to knowing Jesus personally. I say "trying." I like that word. There may be some blunders, some bad steps, some untactful work. But these will not turn one aside from this purpose but simply make him more determined to become skilled in this finest art.
I mean something like this. Here is a young woman moving in a social circle, just as bright and winsome as God meant every young woman to be. And as she moves about, she is thinking--no, it is thinking itself out, underneath in her subtle sub-consciousness,--"How can I drop the word here, and touch there, and leave the light impress here, that shall count with these lives for my Master?"
Here is a man transacting business with another. And even while he is dealing with figures, and contract terms, he is thinking,--no, again,--it is so deeply rooted in that the thought, like the fine trendils of a plant, is ever weaving itself intangibly but surely into the web of his passing mental operations, "How can I tactfully leave the impress here, perhaps speak the direct word, that shall be a doorway for Jesus into this life?"
A Blessed Library Corner.
I think I might tell you best just what I mean by a bit from a real life. The bit that has been such a real inspiration to myself. It is about a friend of mine, a business man, with large responsible interests, keen and shrewd in his business dealings, a very earnest Christian man, with a delightful, winning personality, and I am grateful to say who was a warm friend of mine. He is in the presence of his Master now. He was a man much my senior in years, who helped me very greatly. Whenever we chanced to meet in our travels I would drop my affairs as far as I could to spend all the time possible with him, both for the delight of his presence, and for the practical help he always was. The last time we were ever together was in Columbus, Ohio. We met there to attend an anniversary meeting of the Young Men's Christian Association, in Dr. Gladden's Church, on the Capitol Square. And Monday morning before taking our trains away in different directions we went for a drive, to get the air, and talk a bit. I made the suggestion of driving, for I knew I would get something from him. And I was right. I did get something that I never forgot, and never shall.
As we were driving, and talking, by and by, in a little lull of the talk, he said very quietly, "Gordon, do you know what I have been doing lately?" And I said, "No." "Well," he said, "it's been the delight of my life," and I could see the gleam of light in his eyes. And I said, "Tell me what it is that has been such a pleasure to you." And he said, "Well, I will." Then he went on in a very taking way he had to tell this simple story. And he was speaking as to a friend, for he was very modest, and would not have spoken of the thing; except to help; that would always bring anything he had.
He said when he was at home--he travelled much--he would think about the young men whom he knew who were not Christians. Splendid men, some of them; full of power; clubmen, some of them. But who did not know Jesus personally. And he would think, "Now there's such a man. I wonder what's his easy side of approach." And he would think about him, and pray some about him. And then make an opportunity to ask him up to his home for dinner some evening. His position in the city would make any young man feel honored with such an invitation.
He said to me, "We have a pleasant time at the dinner table with the family, and afterwards, a bit of music and so on. Then," with a quiet smile he said, "I ask him into my library corner, my little study den, and by and by we come to close quarters. I tell him what I'm thinking about. I tell him what a Friend Jesus is. And how it helps to have Him in all of one's life as a Friend and Master. Then I ask him softly if he won't let Jesus be his Friend."
He said, "I try to be as tactful as though I were selling a contract of cars. Though there's a fine reverence here that never gets into business talk. And then if it seems good, without causing him any embarrassment, we have a bit of prayer together. Not always, but often." And he said to me, with a tender eagerness in his voice, "Gordon, it's been the delight of my life to have man after man accept Jesus in my library corner."
And I looked at him. We were driving along the busiest block of the busiest street in Columbus. The Capitol building on this side. And the old Neil Hotel on this. And all around us were the electrics, and wagons and carriages; so much noise and dust. And there that man sat by my side so quiet, with his eyes dancing as they looked off at something I could not see. And if ever Moses' face shined or Stephen's, his did that morning.
I was caught as I looked. That was the delight of his life. Not his money, nor his business, nor his social relations, though he took keen interest in all of these, but this. And the sound of his voice, and the sight of his face that morning, seemed to kindle the fires in my heart that I might, in my own way, as came best to me, be doing something of that same sort. That is what I mean by a deep-seated purpose, under every other, to try to win men.
I was telling this story one night to some people in his state, not thinking that I was within maybe two hundred miles of his home. And as the audience was dismissed I saw a man coming up the aisle toward the pulpit, apparently to meet me. So I went down his way. He looked like a business fellow, with a clean-cut way about him, and a strong manly face. Before we met I noticed something glistening in his eye, and yet a smile across his lips.
And he gripped my hand. I can feel that grip now. And he half-blurted out, "I'm one of those fellows! And there are a lot of us that are thanking God with full hearts for that man's library room." And the grip of that hand seemed to make the fires within burn just a bit stiffer.
In an after conversation this friend told me how he had wanted to be a Christian, but didn't seem to know just how. And nobody had ever spoken to him about it, he said, though so often he had wished somebody would. There are a great many just like him in that.
"Two Missing"--"Go Ye."
Same years ago I was a guest at a small wedding dinner party in New York City. A Scotch-Irish gentleman, well known in that city, an old friend, spoke across the table to me. He said he had heard recently a story of the Scottish hills that he wanted to tell. And we all listened as he told this simple tale. I have heard it since from other lips, variously told. But good gold shines better by the friction of use. And I want to tell it to you as my old friend from the Scotch end of Ireland told it that evening.
It was of a shepherd in the Scottish hills who had brought his sheep back to the fold for the night, and as he was arranging matters for the night he was surprised to find that two of the sheep were missing. He looked again. Yes, two were missing. And he knew which two. These shepherds are keen to know their sheep. He was much surprised, and went to the out-house of his dwelling to call his collie.
There she lay after the day's work suckling her own little ones. He called her. She looked up at him. He said, "Two are missing"--holding up two fingers--"Away by, Collie, and get them." Without moving she looked up into his face, as though she would say, "You wouldn't send me out again to-night?--it's been a long day--I'm so tired--not again to-night." So her eyes seemed to say. And again as many a time doubtless, "Away by, and get the sheep," he said. And out she went.
About midnight a scratching at the door aroused him. He found one of the sheep back. He cared for it. A bit of warm food, and the like. Then out again to the out-house. There the dog lay with her little ones. Again he called her. She looked up. "Get the other sheep," he said. I do not know if you men listening are as fond of a good collie as I am. Their eyes seem human to me, almost, sometimes. And hers seemed so as she looked up and seemed to be saying out of their great depths--"Not again--to-night?--haven't I been faithful?--I'm so tired--not again!"
And again as I suppose many a time before, "Away by, and get the sheep." And out she went. About two or three, again the scratching. And he found the last sheep back; badly torn; been down some ravine or gully. And the dog was plainly played. And yet she seemed to give a bit of a wag to her tired tail as though she would say, "There it is--I've done as you bade me--it's back."
And he cared for its needs, and then before lying down again to his own rest, thought he would go and praise the dog for her faithful work. You know how sensitive collies are to praise or criticism. He went out and stooped over with a pat and a kindly word, and was startled to find that the life-tether had slipped its hold. She lay there lifeless, with her little ones tugging at her body.
That was only a dog. We are men. Shall I apologize for using a dog for an illustration? No. I will not. One of God's creatures, having a part in His redemption. That was to save sheep. You and I are sent, not to save sheep, but to save men. And how much then is a man better than a sheep, or anything else!
And our Master stands here to-day. Would that you and I might see His face with the thorn marks of His trip to this earth. He points out with His hand. And you can't miss a peculiar hole in its palm. He says, "There are two missing--aye, more than two--that you know--that you touch--that you can touch--that I died for--go ye."
Shall we go? For Jesus' sake? Yes, for men's sake; splendid men, befooled about Jesus, who can get Him only through us in touch with Him--for men's sake, in Jesus' great Name.