By S.D. Gordon
One Hank Over For the Candle.
The light of a common candle in the window of a little cottage near the coast shone far out over the sea. It was up north of Scotland, in one of the Orkney Islands. Near the window sat a frail, gray-haired woman with cheery, thoughtful face. She was busy working at her spinning-wheel, and watching the candle, turning now and again to trim it. All night long she sat at the spinning-wheel and watching the candle. Fishermen out on the water, heading for home, knew that light could be counted on, and came safely in, past all the dangers of their coast.
For more than fifty years that woman tended her little lighthouse. When she was a young girl there had been a wild storm, and her father, out in his fisherman's boat, lost his life. There were no shore-lights. His boat had struck a huge, dangerous rock called Lonely Rock, and been wrecked. The father's body was found in the morning washed up on the shore. She watched by her father's body, as was the habit of her people, until it was laid away. Then she laid down on her bed and slept the day through. When night came she rose, lit a candle, put it in the window, drew up her spinning-wheel, and began her night vigil for the unknown out at sea.
All night long, and all her life long, her vigil of love and light continued. From youth to old age, through winter and summer, storm and calm, fog and clear, that humble lighthouse beacon failed not. Each night she spun so many hanks of yarn for her daily bread, and one hank over for the candle. She turned night into day, reversing the whole habit of her life, and holding every other thing subject to her self-imposed task of love. And through the years many a fisherman out at sea, and many an anxious woman watching by hearth and crib, sent up heart-felt thanks to God for that little, steady light. And many a life was saved, of which no record could be kept.
That tells the whole story of sacrifice. A need, nobody to meet it; the need passing into an emergency; and that into the tragedy of an unmet emergency; a heart sore torn to bleeding by the tragedy thrust bitterly home; then sacrifice, lifelong, that others might be saved where her loved one was lost, and still others spared what she herself suffered. And that story has been repeated with endless variations, and is being repeated, in every land, on every mission-field, home and foreign, and in almost every home of all the world.
Sin's Healing Shadow.
Sacrifice has come to be a law of life. Wherever there is sin there will be a call for sacrifice. For sin makes need, and need intensifies into emergency. And need and emergency mean sacrifice thrust upon some one in peril. And they call for sacrifice, volunteered by some one, who would save the man in peril. And wherever there are true men and women, as well as need, there will be sacrifice.
And sin is everywhere. Even nature is full of evidence of a bad break in all of its processes. The finger-marks of decay and death are below and above and all around in all its domain. That is sin's unmistakable ear-mark. Man's mental powers, and his loss of a full knowledge of his powers, tell the same story. And so there is need. Everywhere you turn need's pathetic face, drawn and white, looks piteously into yours, pleading mutely for help.
And so there is sacrifice. Sacrifice is sin's healing shadow. It follows sin at every turn, binding up its wounds, pouring in the oil and wine of its own life, and taking the hurt victims into its own warm heart. Nothing worth while has ever been done without sacrifice. Every good thing done cost somebody his life. The life was given out with a wrench under some sharp tug. Or it was given in the slower, more painful, more taxing way of being lingeringly given out through years of steadfast doing or enduring.
Every man who has done something worth while for others has spilled some of his life-blood into it. His work and name may have become known. Or he may belong to the larger number of blessed faithfuls whose names are unknown here, but treasured faithfully above. Either way, the tinging red of his life is upon the thing he did. The nations that are freest cost most in the making, in the lives of men. Every church, and every mission station, has had to use red mortar as its walls went up.
Every bit of advance ground gained for liberty and truth has been stained with the life-blood of the advance-guard. You can depend upon it that whatever you are to do that will really help must have a bit of your own self, your very life in it. Immortality of action comes only by the infusion of human blood.
Sacrifice attends us faithfully from the cradle to the body's last resting-place. The giving of one's self for others begins with the beginning of life, and never ends till life ends. Each of us comes into life through the sacrifice of the mother who bore us. That love-service of hers would not have been a sacrifice, but only a joy, had sin's cramping, restricting atmosphere not been breathed into all life. Now, with much pain, and great danger, and sometimes at the cost of life, it becomes a sacrifice. Yet it is a sacrifice of great sweet joy to her.
And that same spirit of sacrifice attends our baby years, and childhood experiences, and school-days, and times of sickness, and our matured years. The more faithfully those who make up your life-circle yield to the law of sacrifice, and give of themselves out to you, the finer and stronger you grow to be, and the sweeter life becomes to you. And every selfish shirking and shrinking back by some one impoverishes your life by so much.
A hush of awe comes over one's spirit as we recall that even for the Son of God there was no exception to this law, as He took His place down among human conditions. It was by His own blood that He saved men, and saves men. It was the spilling out of His own life that brings such blessed newness of life to us. His was a living sacrifice through all the years, and then greatest when that life, so long being given, was given clean out.
That sacrifice of His stands unapproached, and can never be approached by any other. His relation to sin was different from that of all other men. He made a sacrifice for men in a sense that no other can. Yet, while that is true, it is equally true that every man who follows Him will drink of His cup of sacrifice.
But it's a cup of joy now, for His drinking drained out all the bitter dregs. He asks us into the inner fellowship of His suffering. The work He began isn't yet done. He asks our help. We may fill up the measure of His sacrifice yet needed, in healing men's wounds and in throttling sin's power.
The Underground Way Into Life.
The request of the Greek pilgrims, that last tragic week, drew out of Jesus wondrous words about the law of sacrifice. Their request made the necessity for His coming sacrifice stand out more sharply to His view--with edgy sharpness. The realness of that sacrifice of His stands out very vividly in the intensity of His feelings, of which we get only glimpses.
Listen to Him talking: 'if the grain of wheat doesn't suffer death, it lives; but it lives alone. But through death it may live in the midst of a harvest of golden grains. The man who turns away from the appeal of need will live a lonely life, both here and in the longer life. (Is there anything more pathetic and pitiable than selfish loneliness!) He who feels the sharp tug of need, and can't resist the appeal that calls for his life-blood, rises up through that red pathway into a blessed fellowship with the lives that owe their life to his.'
He goes on: 'he that clingeth with strong self-love to his life will find it slipping, slipping insistently out of his fingers, leaving a dry husk of a shell in his tenacious clutch. But he who in the stress of the world's emergency of need, and in the thick of the subtlest temptations to put the self-life first, treats that life as a hated enemy, to be opposed and fought, as he gives himself freely out to heal the world's hurt, he will find all the sweets and fragrance of life coming to him. Their unspeakable refreshment will ever increase, and never leave.'
Then follow the words that go so deep: 'if any man would serve Me, let him come along, putting his feet into my prints. Let him come through a long Nazareth life of common toil in home and shop, then along the crowded path of glad service for others, responding to every call of need. Let him come down into the shadowed olive-grove beyond Kidron's waters, up the bit of a hill outside a city wall, and deep down into the earth-soil of men's needs.
'And where I am there I will surely have that faithful follower of Mine up close by my side. He shall find himself rising up out of the common earth-life into a new life of strangely strong drawing power. And, while he will be all wrapped up in love's service, My Father will give special touches of His own hand upon his person, and upon his service.'
In one of his exquisitely quiet talks, Henry Drummond used to tell the story of a famous statue in the Fine Arts Gallery of Paris. It was the work of a great genius, who, like many a genius, was very poor, and lived in a garret which served as both studio and sleeping-room.
One midnight, when the statue was just finished, a sudden frost fell upon Paris. The sculptor lay awake in his fireless garret, and thought of the still moist clay, thought how the moisture in the pores would freeze, and the dream of his life would be destroyed in a night. So the old man rose from his cot, and wrapped his bed-clothes reverently about the statue, and lay down to his sleep.
In the morning the neighbors found[B] him lying dead. His life had gone out into his work. It was saved. He was gone. But he still lived in it, and still lives in it. He saved not his life, and he found a new life in the world of his art. He that saveth his life shall surely lose it. He that gladly giveth his life up for the Master's sake, and for men's sake, will find a wholly new life coming to him.
A Rare Harvest.
There is a strange winsomeness about sacrifice, peculiar to itself, and peculiarly strong in its drawing power. Everywhere men acknowledge the peculiar fascination for them of the man who is not only wholly unselfish, but who utterly forgets himself in doing for others. The feeling is very common that the man in public life is chiefly concerned with what he can get out of it for himself. And when, now and then, the conviction seizes the crowd that some public man is not of that sort at all, but is devoting himself unselfishly and unsparingly to their interest, their admiration and love for him amounts to a worship and enthusiasm that knows no stint.
There's a something in unselfish sacrifice in their behalf that draws the crowd peculiarly and tremendously. Jesus said that if He were lifted up He would draw men. And He has. He was lifted up as none other, and He has been drawing men ever since as none other ever has or can. Quite apart from other truths involved, that sacrifice of His had in itself the tremendous drawing power of all unselfish action.
And sacrifice brews a subtle fragrance of its own that clings to the person as the soft sweet odor of wild roses. No one is ever conscious that there is any such fragrance going out to others. He knows the inner sweets that none know but they who give sacrifice brewing room within themselves. Such folks don't stop to think about themselves, except to be thinking of helping and not hindering.
The very winsomeness of the sacrifice spirit has led men to the seeking of sacrifice. It seems strange to us that earnest men in other generations have sought by self-inflicted suffering to attain to the power that goes with sacrifice. And even yet some morbid people may be found following in their steps.
Don't they know that out in common daily life the knife of sacrifice is held across the path constantly, sharp edge out, barring the way? And no one can go faithfully his common round, with flag at masthead, and needs crowding in at front and rear and sides, without meeting its cutting edge. That edge cutting in as you push on frees out the fine fragrance. Whenever you meet a man or woman with that fine winsomeness of spirit that can't be analyzed, but only felt, you may know that there's been some of this sort of sharp cutting within.
Blood is a rare fertilizer. They tell me that the bit of ground over in Belgium called Waterloo bears each spring a crop of rare blue forget-me-nots. That bit of ground had very unusual gardening. Ploughed up by cannon-and gun-shot, sown deep with men's lives, "worked" never so thoroughly by toiling, struggling feet, moistened with the gentle rain of dying tears, and soaked with red life, it now yields its yearly harvest of beauty. All life's a Waterloo and can be made to yield a rich growth of fragrant flowers.
The Fellowship of Scars.
And there's yet more of this winsomeness. There's a spirit power that goes out of sacrifice. It reaches far beyond the limited personal circle, out to the ends of the earth. It can't be analyzed, nor defined, nor described, but it can be felt. We don't know much about the law of spirit currents. But we know the spirit currents themselves, for every one is affected by them and every one is sending them out of himself.
You pick up a book, and suddenly find there's a something in it that takes hold of you irresistibly. A flame seems to burn in it, and then in you. Invisible fingers seem to reach out of the page and play freely up and down the key-board of your heart. Why is it? I don't know much about it. It's an elusive thing. But I can tell you my conviction, that grows stronger daily.
There's a life back of that book; there is sacrifice in that life of the keen, cutting sort; and Jesus is in that life, too, giving it His personal flavor. The life back of the book has come into the book. It's that life you are feeling as you read. Spirit power knows nothing about distance. The man who yields to sacrifice has a world-field, and is touching his field in a sense far greater than he ever knows.
And there is still more. The Master knows our sacrifices. He keenly notes the spirit that would give all, even as He did. He can breathe most of His own spirit into such a life. For it is most open to Him. He can do most through that spirit, for it comes nearest to His own. His own winsomeness breathes out of that life constantly.
There's a simple little tale that comes dressed in very homely garb. The story has in it a bit of that that makes the heart burn. It has all the marks of real life. It runs thus:
"In one poor room, that was all their home,
A mother lay on her bed,
Her seven children around her;
And, calling the eldest, she said:
'I'm going to leave you, Mary;
You're nearly fourteen, you know;
And now you must be a good girl, dear,
And make me easy to go.
'You can't depend much on father;
But just be patient, my child,
And keep the children out of his way
Whenever he comes home wild.
'And keep the house as well as you can;
And, little daughter, think
He didn't use to be so;
Remember, it's all the drink.'
The weeping daughter promised
Always to do her best;
And, closing her eyes over weary life,
The mother entered her rest.
And Mary kept her promise
As faithfully as she might.
She cooked, and washed, and mended,
And kept things tidy and bright.
And when the father came home drunk,
The children were sent to bed,
And Mary waited alone, and took
The beatings in their stead.
And the little chubby fingers lost
Their childish softness and grace,
And toughened and chapped and calloused,
And the rosy, childish face.
Grew thin and haggard and anxious,
Careworn, tired, and old,
As on those slender shoulders
The burdens of life were rolled.
So, when the heated season
Burned pitiless overhead,
And up from the filth of the noisome street
The fatal fever spread,
And work and want and drunken blows
Had weakened the tender frame,
Into the squalid room once more
The restful shadow came.
And Mary sent for the playmate
Who lived just over the way,
And said, 'The charity Doctor,
Has been here, Katie, to-day.
'He says I'll never be better--
The fever has been so bad;
And if it wasn't for one thing,
I'm sure I'd just be glad.
'It isn't about the children;
I've kept my promise good,
And mother will know I stayed with them
As long as ever I could.
'But you know how it has been, Katie;
I've had so much to do,
I couldn't mind the children
And go to the preaching, too.
'And I've been so tired-like at night,
I couldn't think to pray,
And now, when I see the Lord Jesus,
What ever am I to say?'
And Katie, the little comforter,
Her help to the problem brought;
And into her heart, made wise by love,
The Spirit sent this thought:
'I wouldn't say a word, dear,
For sure He understands;
I wouldn't say ever a word at all;
But, Mary, just show Him your hands!'"
Jesus knows every scar of sacrifice you bear, and loves it. For it tells Him your love. He knows the meaning of scars, because of His own. The marks of sacrifice cement our fellowship with Him. The nearer we come to fellowship with Him in the daily touch and spirit the more freely can He reach out His own great winsomeness through us, out to His dear world.
"Won't You Save Me?"
To outsiders, who don't know about the thing, that word "sacrifice" has an ugly sound. It drives them away. But to the insiders, who have come in by the Jesus-door, there is a joyousness of the bubbling-out, singing sort, that makes the word "sacrifice," and the thing itself, clean forgot even while remembered. It is remembered as a distinct real thing, but it is pushed away from the centre of your consciousness by this song that insists on singing its music into the ears of your heart.
I said a while ago in these talks that it would be an easy thing for the whole Church, or even half of the Church, to take Jesus fully out to all the world. But may I tell you now plainly that it won't be an easy thing? Somebody will have to sacrifice if the thing's to be done. And that somebody will be you, if you go along where the Master calls. If you count on the Church doing it, or on anybody else doing it, you may be sure of one thing: some part of what needs doing won't be done.
But if you and I will reckon that this thing belongs to us, as if there were nobody else to do it, and push on;--well, there'll be sacrifice of the real sort and, too, there'll be all of sacrifice's peculiar winsomeness going out to draw men. And there will be men changed where you live, and out where you will never go personally.
And there will be a great joy in your heart, but with the greater joy breaking out in the Morning, when the King comes to His own.
"I hear the sob of the parted,
The wail of the broken-hearted,
The sigh for the loved departed,
In the surging roar of the town.
And it's, oh, for the joy of the Morning!
The light and song of the Morning!
There'll be joy in the Christmas Morning
When the King comes to His own!
"Now let our hearts be true, brothers,
To suffer and to do, brothers;
There'll be a song for you, brothers,
When the battle's fought and won.
It won't seem long in the Morning,
In the light and song of the Morning
There'll be joy in the Christmas Morning
When the King comes to His own!
"Arise, and be of good cheer, brothers;
The day will soon be here, brothers;
The victory is near, brothers;
And the sound of the glad 'Well done!'
There'll be no sad heart in the Morning
No tear will start in the Morning;
There'll be joy in the Christmas Morning
When the King comes to His own!
"We're in for the winning side, brothers,
Bound to the Lord who died, brothers,
We shall see Him glorified, brothers,
And the Lamb shall wear the crown.
What of the cold world's scorning?
There'll be joy enough in the Morning
There'll be joy in the Christmas Morning,
When the King comes to His own!"
Years ago a steamer out on Lake Erie caught fire, and headed at once for the nearest land. All was wild confusion, as men and women struggled for means of escape. In the crowd was a returning California gold-miner. He fastened the belt containing his gold securely about his waist and was preparing to try to swim ashore. Just then a little sweet-faced girl in the crowd touched his hand, and looked up beseechingly into his face, and said, "Won't you please save me? I have no papa here to save me. Won't you, please?"
What would he do? He gave the belt of gold, that meant such a hard struggle, one swift glance. But that soft child-touch on his hand, and that face and voice strangely affected him. He couldn't save both;--which? The quick-as-flash thoughts came all in a heap. Then he dropped the gold, and took the child, made the plunge, and by and by reached land, utterly exhausted, and lay unconscious. As his eyes opened the child he had saved was standing over him with the tears of gratitude flooding her eyes. And a human life never seemed quite so precious. He had lost his gold, and his years of toil, but he had saved a life, and in saving it had found a new life springing up within himself.
As we close our talk together will you listen very softly. Listen: out of the distance comes a murmur of voices, like a low, long heart-cry. It comes from near-by, where you live. It comes most from far-away lands. Its words are pathetically distinct: "Will you save me? I have no one to save me. Won't you?" And we can do it. But the gold and the life must go. Shall we do it, hand in hand with Jesus, the only Saviour? Shall we not do it?