By Sabine Baring-Gould
12th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Mark vii., 37. "He hath done all things well."
INTRODUCTION.--It was said by an old heathen writer that God cares for Adverbs rather than for Substantives. That is to say, God had rather have things done well, than that the things should be merely done. He had rather have you pray earnestly than pray, communicate piously than merely communicate, forgive your enemies heartily than say you forgive, work diligently than spend so many hours at work, do your duty thoroughly than solely be content with discharging your duty.
Of Christ, observe what is said. It is not "He hath opened the eyes of the blind, He hath unstopped the ears of the deaf. He hath loosed the tongue of the dumb, He hath healed the sick," but--"He hath done all things well." The eyes do not become dull again, nor the ears again lose their power of hearing, nor the tongue stutter once more, nor the sick relapse into their sickness--what He hath done He hath done well and thoroughly.
SUBJECT.--This, then, is what God desires of you--whatever you undertake, to do it well. Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well. It is not sufficient for us to coldly perform our duties, we must perform them with zeal and thoroughness.
The prophet Amos was one day shown a vision. "Behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in His hand. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel; I will not again pass by them any more."
In this vision we have the work of God, as carried out by the Israelites, represented under the form of a wall. God had given them certain duties to perform, so much work in this world to be done for Him, and He left them to themselves for a while. Then they thought, "God is not here, He is not a hard overseer, we will work as we like, and take it easy. So long as the thing is done, it does not matter very much how it is done." So they did every thing in a careless, slovenly manner. They neglected their duties or carried them out in a bare formal manner. If we come back to the comparison of a wall, it was just as though masons engaged on one put in any sort of stones, any how, and did not trouble whether they built it in line and upright, whether some of the stones stuck too far out, and some were too far in.
Then God appears to Amos and says, "I will not again pass by them any more; there has been too much of this sort of work. I will not overlook it, I will try it with the plumbline of My justice, and the bad work shall be pulled down, the jutting stones knocked away, and the crooked wall made straight."
This vision applies to you quite as much as to the Jews. You have got a set task: you have to build up the wall of the Lord, that is, day by day you have to work at your salvation, and put in at least one stone so as to raise the work, and what you build must be good, and upright, and in line. You have a prayer to say, say it well, say it with devotion. Then it is a stone put on the wall in its right place, and it is a good stone of the right quality. You have quarrelled with a neighbour, you have made it up, heartily and bear no more malice, that is a good stone;--forgiveness of injuries--a capital stone that won't let the water through. Lay it level, and lay it upright. You have a chance of showing a kindness to someone who needs, do it quietly and without fuss or show. That will stand. It was otherwise with the Pharisees. When they did their alms, they made a noise and called attention to it. That was like putting a stone in the wall that stuck a long way out, so that all might see it. When the Lord comes with His plumbline, He will knock it off with His trowel, and it will go all to pieces like a bit of slate, and be no good at all. You come to church, and you take my sermon home. What will you do with it? Toss it away on your road home, and make no use at all of it? I hope not; build the lesson I am giving you tight into your lives, and it will raise your wall, and you can lay other good lessons on top of it. What do you do with your Sunday? Is it wasted in lounging about, ferreting rabbits, idle talking? If it be so, then it will add nothing to the wall of your salvation. It will be like a mere lump of earth put in where there should have been a stone; it will wash out and leave a hole.
Now remember that our great architect, Jesus Christ, is the man with the plumbline, and He will go over all our work and try how it is done, and whether it is upright and likely to stand.
II. S. Paul gives another help to us to understand the parable of the wall. He says that we are building the wall of our salvation on the cornerstone of Christ, and he goes on to say, "Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereon, he shall receive a reward."
S. Paul, you see, says that the wall will be proved with fire, that is, that God will try all men's work and see of what sort it is--good, moderate, or worthless. The worthless will disappear in the judgment, the moderate will be seen in its faulty condition, but the good will last for ever.
CONCLUSION.--Try, then, to look upon your life as a time of building up the work of your salvation, and at every day as contributing something towards it. Ask yourself each day, What have I done to-day towards this work set me? And if I have done anything towards it, how has it been done? Moreover, try to do all things well, to be zealous and thorough in every thing you undertake.
Also, offer all you do to God, and ask Him to prove it, and to cut off from it all that is faulty, and to enable you to do better in time to come.
When Nehemiah had rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, and restored much that was cast down, and put right many abuses, he prayed, "Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done." Let this also be your prayer, that He may look on all you do for Him and bless it, and remember it for good, in the day when He tries every man's work of what sort it is.