All men are tempted to take a census—that is, to number their own virtues, graces, accomplishments, resources, and thus draw the heart away from God. But what ground can there be for our counting or for our pride? Are we proud of our talents? But what have we that we have not received from God? Are we proud of our wisdom or knowledge? A brick falls on our head, a machine strikes us on the street, and then where is the vaunted knowledge of the mind ? Are we proud of our beauty? A wasting sickness smites us, and then where is beauty? Are we proud of our riches? A revolution breaks out in the country, and then what are our riches?
As we take a census of our virtues, let us remember these lines of William Knox, which were so often upon the lips of Abraham Lincoln:
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-flitting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
He passes from life to his rest in the grave.
It is said that the angels were once moved by the godly and beautiful life of a saint on the earth who, wherever he went, diffused goodness as a flower diffuses the sweetness of its odor. Gready interested, they came down to investigate the secret of his power. So impressed were the angels with the life of this saint that they summoned him to them and offered him the gift of miracles. By the touch of his hand he would be able to heal the sick or raise the dead. But the saint declined the gift, saying that God alone could heal the sick. Then they offered him the power to convert sinners and turn men unto repentance. Again the saint declined, saying that only the Holy Spirit could work the grace of repentance in human souls. The angels then offered the saint the power to become a model of goodness, so that men might be drawn to him by the virtue of his life. But this, too, the saint declined, declaring that if men were drawn to him they might be estranged from God. Perplexed, the angels then asked him what he desired. The saint answered, "That I might have His grace, so that I might do good to men without knowing it." Then the angels decreed among themselves that wherever the shadow of this saint fell where he himself could not see it, the shadow should cure disease and heal broken hearts and wipe away tears.
On one occasion Lincoln called at McClellan's home to consult him about a military matter. The general had gone to a reception. Lincoln waited for a considerable time, and finally the general returned. He walked down the hall and ascended the stairs to his bedroom, although word had been given him as to his visitor. After some minutes a second message was sent. Word came back that General McClellan had gone to bed.
Lincoln never spoke of that incident, but he did not call again on McClellan until the great crisis of September, 1862, when he and Halleck went to McClellan's house and asked him to take charge of the defeated and disorganized army of the Potomac, which Lee had defeated in the second Battle of Bull Run. When Lincoln's friends expostulated with him because of his toleration of the attitude of McClellan, Lincoln said, "Why, I would be willing to hold McClellan's horse, if only he will give victory to our army."
The world does not commonly associate humility and courage. It likes to listen to the man who gives himself out to be somewhat, and it discounts the humble man. Yet how often, when it comes to taking a stand for principle, and enduring the taunts and ridicule of the people, it is the meek and unassuming man who surprises us with the greatness of his courage. In some pathway through a deep glen of the forest you have come upon a jutting rock, covered with green moss, and through it there trickles a tiny cascade. Nothing on earth is softer than that moss, but when you tear away the moss you come upon the cold, naked rock. So underneath John's humility was the cold, naked, adamantine rock of incorruptible and indomitable courage.
The highest lesson a believer has to learn is humility. Oh, that every Christian who seeks to advance in a holy life may remember this well! There may be intense consecration and fervent zeal and heavenly experience, and yet, if it is not prevented by very special dealings of the Lord, there may be an unconscious self-exaltation with it all. Let us learn the lesson—the highest lesson in the holy life is the deepest humility; and let us remember that it comes not of itself, but only as it is made a matter of special dealing on the part of our faithful Lord and His faithful servant.
Humility isn't thinking meanly of oneself—it isn't thinking of self at all. The truly humble man does not know he is humble: Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone.—Andrew Murray.
Among those who visited Dr. Carey, the missionary, in his last illness was Alexander Duff, the Scotch missionary.
On one occasion he spent some time talking chiefly about Carey's missionary life, until the dying man whispered, "Pray." Duff knelt down and prayed and then said "Goodbye."
As he passed from the room, he thought he heard a feeble voice pronouncing his name, and turning, found that he was recalled. He stepped back accordingly, and this is what he heard, spoken with gracious solemnity: "Mr. Duff, you have been speaking about Dr. Carey! Dr. Carey! When I am gone say nothing about Dr. Carey—speak about Dr. Carey's Saviour."
Duff went away rebuked and awed, with a lesson in his heart that he never forgot.—Scattered Seed.
Robert Morrison, the noted missionary to China wrote to his friends in England, asking for an assistant. In response a young man from the country offered himself. After an interview, the members of the board decided that though he was an earnest Christian he was too rough and unpolished and they gave him this decision: "We do not think you fit to be a missionary, but if you would like to go out as a servant to the missionary, we will send you."
After hearing this answer, he said, "Well, sir, if the gentlemen don't think me fit to be a missionary, I will go as a servant. I am willing to be a hewer of wood and a drawer of water or do anything to help the cause of my Heavenly Master."
He was sent out as a servant, but he soon became a missionary and turned out to be Dr. Milne, one of the best missionaries that ever went to that country.—Selected.