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Another excuse more nearly resembles the excuses made by the men in the parable:you do not attend to the call of God, because there is some other call which you like better. You complain, or rather you say to yourselves, that the work is very irksome to you, and you cannot see the use of it. It is likely enough that the work is irksome; for so corrupt is our nature that God's will is generally irksome to us, because he is good and we are evil. The cultivation of your understandings is irksome to you; and be assured that you will find hereafter the cultivation of your spirits quite as irksome : neither the labours, indeed, of the body or the mind, can be compared to the long and painful struggles with our bad passions and moral corruptions with our pride, our lust, our covetousness, our worldly-mindedness. In doing God's will, and striving to purify ourselves from these, there is enough that is irksome, and ever will be, to our natural inclinations and feelings. But is this such an excuse as God will allow for not doing what he has commanded us? Is it not here rather, that we should learn to practise our Saviour's command—“Let a man deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me?" What is denying ourselves, but
doing what we do not like, because it is the will of our Master? What is to take up our cross daily, but to find and to bear daily some difficulty or other, some hindrance in ourselves or others, which besets and would close up our path of duty ? But it may be said, and said truly, that we cannot go on for ever doing what is irksome to us; that we may try for a time, but to continue such painful efforts is absolutely impossible. It is so,--and what, then, is the consequence of this truth? The Apostle's words will tell us : “ That which the law could not do, because it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” He means, that the love of Christ, and the aid of his Spirit, make us able to do what of ourselves we could not do, because they help us to love what by nature we esteem but do not love. We all know, and some may remember the beautiful words in which the heathen poet * has * σκληραν μεν, οίδα, παίδες· αλλ' εν γαρ μόνον
τα πάντα λύει ταύτ' έπος μοχθήματα:
Sophocles, Ed. Colon. v. 1615.
expressed the fact, that love makes the hardest task easy. Even so, he who loves God and Christ, finds in himself a stronger motive to please Him, than his natural dislike to what is good : and though the struggle never ceases altogether till the day of the redemption of our bodies, yet the victory is no longer with sin, but with grace. The natural evil inclination, the weak and corrupt flesh, still finds duty painful; but the regenerate Spirit, born again of the Spirit of God, and sharing in its Father's likeness, finds the will of its Father more pleasant than the flesh feels it painful: and so the will of God is done, and the man is redeemed from the bondage of sin and misery. This is the case with one duty as well as with another: whatever we have to do at God's call, which we find irksome to us, it is by the love of Christ, and by the help of his Spirit, that we shall find the pleasure greater than the pain. Therefore, against idleness, no less than against other sins, the Christian has the only sure means of victory: and he who lives without God in the world cannot be surprised, if he finds his natural inclinations to evil too strong for any lower motives to conquer.
Thus much for the excuse of the irksomeness of your school
duties : do them earnestly, and pray for God's help, and think what Christ has done for you, and what he promises to you; and
, you will find that if idleness be sweet, the pleasure of doing the will of God, and keeping the commandments of Christ, is sweeter.
But you may say also, that you do not see the use of the work which you are employed in. This, too, is very likely; and, indeed, few but the oldest amongst you, or those endowed with the strongest natural abilities, and who have most carefully cultivated them, are capable as yet of seeing it. When our missionaries first introduced wheat into some of the South-Sea islands, the natives, who had been accustomed to get all their food from the roots of plants, and in a much quicker time than that in which wheat ripens, began with great curiosity, after a certain time, to pluck up the corn, thinking that the root from which they doubted not but that the promised bread was to come, must, by this time, be quite ready to dig up. But when they found nothing at the root, and were told that they must wait some time longer, and would get their bread, after all, not from the root, but from a few little seeds, which, when ripe, must be ground into flour,—the thing was wholly
beyond their comprehension; and nothing but their strong faith in the superior knowledge and experience of the missionaries, prevented them from pulling up the whole crop, as occupying the ground uselessly. So it is with the fruit of your studies here: it neither shows itself so soon as you expect, nor is it, after all, of the kind that you can now most readily understand; so that all that can be said to you is, work on in faith, as you must hereafter, even to the end of your lives, live by faith. Believe the experience and knowledge of others, who have lived to see the harvest, and who know and most deeply feel its value. But so far is true, that the fruit of your studies here will be absolutely nothing,—that the time spent upon them will be utterly lost,-if you do not exert yourselves heartily, and enter into them with spirit. Nothing can be so useless as the peculiar studies of this place, if done in a bondman's temper,-if attended to only so far as you must, if learnt as lessons, with no efforts of your own to understand and enter into them. As I believe that nothing is more truly profitable to those who do enter into them thoroughly, so I am sure that nothing is a more complete waste of time to those who