One of the later Old Testament prophets predicts a coming golden age when the bells of the horses shall be as sacred as the garments of the high priest, and the common cooking utensils in the people's homes as holy as the vessels of the temple. Paul teaches this lesson when he says, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." This covers all our acts and all our words. It applies to our Bible reading--but not less to our other reading. We must read our morning newspaper, our Tennyson, our school text books--in the name of the Lord, so as to honor him, and to get knowledge that will add to the beauty and the strength of our life. We are to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus--but we are also to go to our business in the same blessed name. We regard the Lord's house as holy, and say that we should do nothing in it but that which is reverent, which yields honor and praise to God. True; but the house we live in is sacred also, and nothing ever should take place in it which would not be fitting and proper to do in the presence of Christ himself.
We think of certain acts as worship, and as we enter upon them we hear a voice saying, "Take off your shoes from your feet, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground." But where is God not present? Where shall we go any common day that it is not holy ground? There may be no burning bush--but God is there as really as he was when Moses came suddenly upon the symbol of his presence in the desert. We believe that we are doing good work when we are teaching a Sunday school class; but are those doing God's work any less truly, who on weekdays teach classes of little children or young people in public or private schools? We consider it a most sacred duty to sit down at the Lord's Table, at the service of the Holy Communion; but have you ever thought that there is also a sacredness scarcely less holy--in sitting down together at our family meals? In the ideal religion, the bells on the horses' bridles are holy unto the Lord, as well as the high priest's garments; and the pots used in the people's houses are as sacred as the vessels used in the temple.
When we learn this lesson, Christian life will have its true meaning and glory for us. Nothing will then appear common-place. We never think of our occupation as lowly--for the lowliest work, if it is God's will for us for the hour, will be heavenly in its splendor, because it is what we are commanded by our Master to do. Our God is not only the God of the sanctuary and the solemn worship--he is just as much the God of the workshop, the factory, the sewing room, and the kitchen. We please him just as well when we live sweetly, and do our work faithfully in the lowly place, amid temptation, care, and weariness--as we do when we honor and worship him at the communion.
We think we are in this world to attend to a certain business, to perform certain professional duties, to look after certain household affairs--to be a carpenter, a stonemason, a painter, a teacher, a housekeeper--we call these our vocations. But as God thinks of us, we are in these occupations to grow into noble and worthy character. While we are making things--God is making men. With him a carpenter shop is not merely a place for making doors, sashes, and banisters, and to plane boards--it is a place to build character, to make men. A home is not merely a place for doing beautiful housekeeping--it is a place to develop fine womanhood.
Dr. R. F. Horton, of London, has suggested that the names of the days should be changed, since they are all called by ancient heathen names. He would have them renamed after great and good Christian men. It may not be possible to do anything of this kind--but it ought to be possible for every Christian to write the name of Christ at the head of every day. Some people seem to think that if they keep the Lord's Day holy in a fashion, they may stain Monday and the other weekdays with all manner of evil. But we are learning that Monday belongs to God, just as truly as Sunday. The ancient commandment reads, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." The new commandment, however, reads, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God's glory!" 1 Corinthians 10:31
True Christian consecration, will make all business holy. It has been said that the application of the Ten Commandments to business and to politics, is only an gleaming dream, something entirely impossible. Nevertheless, there the commandments stand, given not for Sundays only--but for weekdays as well; not for the quiet life of the home alone--but just as truly for the marts of trade, for the mill, the factory, the shop, the business meeting. "Do not trouble yourself too much," said Michael Angelo to a young sculptor who was anxious about the light for the proper exhibition of his piece of statuary, "do not trouble yourself too much about the light on your statue; the light of the public square will test its value." It would be easy in the studio to pose the marble so as to bring out its fine qualities and conceal its faults; but the statue will have to be set up on the street by and by, and there no posing, no arrangement of light and shade, will hide its defects. It is not enough that in the church on Sunday, that men appear good, true, honest, and devout. Our Christian profession must stand the light of the street, of the public square. We must have our honesty tested in our business transactions, our truthfulness tried and proved in our common fellowship with men, our devoutness of manner subjected to the sneers and profanities of ungodly people.
Jesus himself gave as the rule of his life, "I always do those things which please my Father." Every friend of Christ, should be able to say the same things. All who bear Christ's name, should live so carefully in their business affairs, that no reproach ever shall come back to the name of the church from anything any of them may do during the week, in their common work. It never should be said of nay of them, "He is an enthusiastic Christian on Sunday--but on Monday he drives hard bargains, he takes advantage of others, he does not pay his debts, he is not honest, he oppressed the poor, he does not live a clean, pure life." Ruskin found on a church in Venice these words engraved, "Round this temple let the merchant's weights be true, his judgments just, his contracts honest." This is a good motto for all Christian men in their business affairs.
Even the play and the amusement of a Christian, are part of his Christian life. They must be as holy as his devotions. We need not wear long faces. Nor need we condemn pleasure. The Master did not. His first public act after his baptism and temptation, was to attend a wedding feast, and we know he cast no shadow over the gladness and festivity of that occasion. He smiled on the children's play--they never were afraid of him, nor did not run and hide when they saw him coming, as some children used to do when they saw the minister riding up to their house. He was not like the Pharisees who posed as saintly, and made their religion unbeautiful and unwinsome. He wants us to be happy, to have his joy fulfilled in us. But our pleasure, our amusement, must always be pure, holy, unselfish--as sacred as our worship.
Someone gives this singular definition: "Temperament--an excuse for character." A man is gloomy and pessimistic, and he blames it on his temperament--he was born that way. One person always finds faults and disagreeable things in people and in circumstances, and excuses himself for this unhappy characteristic on the ground of temperament. Another man has a fiery temper, which flares up at the slightest provocation. He received the Holy Communion on Sunday and then on Monday was seen in a terrible rage. "It is my temperament," he says, "I can't help it."
All of this is pure fiction! Temperament is no excuse for faulty character, for un-Christian disposition, or for ungoverned temper. Because we are Christ's, we must see that we never dishonor his name by such outbursts. He is always with us, and is grieved when we fail to keep our lives holy. What did you do yesterday, when you were out among people? How did you treat those with whom you work? What beauty of Christ did you show in your conduct, in your disposition, in your behavior? What patience did you exercise? What thoughtfulness did you manifest? What unkindness did you endure quietly? What rising anger did you restrain? Was your day full of words, acts, and dispositions which were as holy as a prayer?
One asks: "Do we want to know ourselves? Then let us ask everyday: 'How have I met the drudgery of my regular work? How have I treated those who work beside me or who have claims upon me? How have I kept my temper over little worries? How often have I looked to God and toward high ideals? What thoughts have been my companions?' Here are the real, accurate tests of character. They do not give us an easy time of it. But they are true. According as the answers to them are satisfactory or not, we are growing or weakening in character and becoming fit--or unfit--for the revealing crisis when it comes."
Home tests us. It ought not to be so--but perhaps no other place tests our Christian consecration more accurately, than our home. Its very sweetness seems to free us from the restraint we feel in the presence of strangers. Those who do not love us--would not endure the words and acts, which we sometimes compel our dearest relatives to bear from us. It is pitiful to think how often those who stand for Christ in his church, and who elsewhere witness a good confession for him--in their own homes seem to feel themselves absolved from all the courtesies and amenities of love, and even of good manners!
It ought not to be hard to love our own, and to show our love to them in all sweet and gentle ways. Surely we ought to love our own family best. Yet Christians, those bearing the name of Christ, have been known to go right from the Holy Communion to their own homes--and instantly to break out in bitter words, in carping and criticism, in blame and fault finding, in ill temper, and disgraceful accusations. If there is any place in this world which should be sacred to us, which should be like the very house of God to us, as sacred as the Lord's Supper, and which should call out our deepest reverence, our warmest love--it is our own home. If we are Christians anywhere in this world--let it be in our own home, where we are so loved and trusted. If we must be sullen, bitter, gloomy, selfish, and sour, somewhere--let it not be where our loved ones wait for us, and where their hearts cry out for tenderness!
On of the most pathetic sentences George Eliot ever wrote is this: "Oh, the anguish of the thought that we can never atone to our dead, for the stinted affection we gave them, for the little reverence we showed to that sacred human soul that lived so close to us, and was the divinest thing God had given us to know." Let us not fail to make our home life sacred and holy. If even on the bells of the horses we write, "Holy unto the Lord," let us not neglect to make the home in which we dwell, pray, live, and love--a fit place for Christ to tarry in, a sweet and gentle place for our dear ones to grow up in.