God intends that improvement shall be the lifework of all His followers and that it shall be guided and controlled by correct experience. The true man is one who is willing to sacrifice his own interest for the good of others and who exercises himself in binding up the brokenhearted. The true object of life has scarcely begun to be understood by many, and that which is real and substantial in their life is sacrificed because of cherished errors.
Nero and Caesar were acknowledged by the world as great men, but did God regard them as such? No; they were not connected by living faith to the great Heart of humanity. They were in the world, and ate, and drank, and slept, as men of the world; but they were satanic in their cruelty. Wherever these monsters of humanity went, bloodshed and destruction marked their pathway. They were lauded by the world while they were living; but when they were buried, the world rejoiced. In contrast with the lives of these men is that of Luther. He was not born a prince. He wore no royal crown. From a cloister cell his voice was heard and his influence felt. He had a humane heart, which was exercised for the good of men. He stood bravely for truth and right, and breasted the world's opposition, that he might benefit his fellow men.
Intellect alone does not make the man, according to the divine standard. There is a power in intellect if sanctified and controlled by the Spirit of God. It is superior to riches and to physical power, yet it must be cultivated in order to make the man. The right which one has to claim to be a man is determined by the use made of his intellect. Byron had intellectual conception and depth of thought, but he was not a man according to God's standard. He was an agent of Satan. His passions were fierce and uncontrollable. Through his life he was sowing seed which blossomed into a harvest of corruption. His lifework lowered the standard of virtue. This man was one of the world's distinguished men; still the
Lord would not acknowledge him as a man, but only as one who had abused his God-given talents. Gibbon the skeptic, and many others whom God endowed with giant minds, and whom the world called great men, rallied under the banner of Satan and used the gifts of God for the perversion of truth and the destruction of the souls of men. Great intellect, when made a minister of vice, is a curse to the possessor and to all who come within the circle of its influence.
That which will bless humanity is spiritual life. If the man is in harmony with God, he will depend continually upon Him for strength. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." It is our lifework to be reaching forward to the perfection of Christian character, striving continually for conformity to the will of God. The efforts begun upon earth will continue through eternity. God's standard of man is elevated to the highest meaning of the term, and if he acts up to his God-given manhood he will promote happiness in this life, which will lead to glory and an eternal reward in the life to come.
The members of the human family are entitled to the name of men and women only when they employ their talents, in every possible way, for the good of others. The life of Christ is before us as a pattern, and it is when ministering, like angels of mercy, to the wants of others that man is closely allied to God. It is the nature of Christianity to make happy families and happy society. Discord, selfishness, and strife will be put away from every man and woman who possesses the true spirit of Christ.
Those who are partakers of Christ's love have no right to think that there is a limit to their influence and work in trying to benefit humanity. Did Christ become weary in His efforts to save fallen man? Our work is to be continuous and persevering. We shall find work to do until the Master shall bid us lay our armor at His feet. God is a moral governor, and we must wait, submissive to His will, ready and willing to spring to our duty whenever work needs to be done.
Angels are engaged night and day in the service of God for the uplifting of man in accordance with the plan of salvation. Man is required to love God supremely, that is, with all his might, mind, and strength, and his neighbor as himself. This he cannot possibly do unless he shall deny himself. Said Christ: "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
Self-denial means to rule the spirit when passion is seeking for the mastery; to resist the temptation to censure and to speak faultfinding words; to have patience with the child that is dull and whose conduct is grievous and trying; to stand at the post of duty when others may fail; to lift responsibilities wherever and whenever you can, not for the purpose of applause, not for policy, but for the sake of the Master, who has given you a work to be done with unwavering fidelity; when you might praise yourself, to keep silent and let other lips praise you. Self-denial is to do good to others where inclination would lead you to serve and please yourself. Although your fellow men may never appreciate your efforts or give you credit for them, yet you are to work on.
Search carefully and see whether the truth which you have accepted has become a firm principle with you. Do you take Christ with you when you leave the closet of prayer? Does your religion stand guard at the door of your lips? Is your heart drawn out in sympathy and love for others outside of your own family? Are you diligently seeking a clearer understanding of Scriptural truth, that you may let your light shine forth to others? These questions you may answer to your own souls. Let your speech be seasoned with grace and your demeanor show Christian elevation.
A new year has commenced. What has been the record of the past year in your Christian life? How stands your record in heaven? I entreat you to make an unreserved surrender to God. Have your hearts been divided? Give them wholly to the Lord now. Make a different life history the coming year from that of the past. Humble your souls before God. "Blessed
is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him." Put away all pretense and affectation. Act your simple, natural self. Be truthful in every thought and word and deed, and "in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Ever remember that the moral nature needs to be braced with constant watchfulness and prayer. As long as you look to Christ, you are safe; but the moment you think of your sacrifices and difficulties, and begin to sympathize with and pet yourself, you lose your trust in God and are in great peril.
Many limit divine Providence and divorce mercy and love from His character. They urge that the greatness and majesty of God would forbid His interesting Himself in the concerns of the weakest of His creatures. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."
It is difficult for human beings to give attention to the lesser matters of life while the mind is engaged in business of vast importance. But should not this union exist? Man formed in the image of his Maker should unite the larger responsibilities with the smaller. He may be engrossed with occupations of overwhelming importance and neglect the instruction which his children need. These duties may be looked upon as the lesser duties of life, when in reality they lie at the very foundation of society. The happiness of families and churches depends upon home influences.Eternal interests depend upon the proper discharge of the duties of this life. The world is not so much in need of great minds as of good men who will be a blessing in their homes.