Vision and Service

Isa. 6:1,8.---' I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne . . . and I heard the voice of the Lord . . . Then I said, Here am I; send me.'

The more I think of it, I find this conclusion more impressed upon me, that the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk, for one who can think; but thousands can think, for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion all in one. On all sides men today are straining their eyes for fresh vision. The constant threat of war let loose so many questions and upset so many established things that there are few intelligent people now who are not conscious of the need of it. Of course it is a dominant fact in a great seat of learning. But one of the most hopeful facts of the life of our great cities today is the extraordinary craving of Labor for education; not as a mere means to power, though that is there, but as a means to an increase of seeing the truth of things, and so of a fuller life. And those who know the world far afield tell us of the amazingly widespread desire in the races of the East, and even among the races of Africa, for the knowledge which we in the west can give them. "Give us vision." That cry is certainly a cry for much more than the knowledge of how to make life more interesting and comfortable. It is a cry for a vision of the Unseen in this world of sense and time, a cry for God and things eternal.

That is one fact whose influence we cannot fail to see at work around us. And with it there is another equally evident. The world today resounds with the demand for service. It never stood in greater need of devotion and the practical pursuit of great ideals. It is too dangerous a world for anything worth preserving to be safe in it without the resolute self-giving of devoted men and women. Any man with his eyes open must needs agree with that great pioneer of women's education, Miss Dorthea Beale, when she said that "Service is the rent we pay for our room on earth." We have grown to the conviction that there is no room in our world for anyone who imagines that he has inherited or can purchase the freehold of some place in life that carries with it no liability to give the world something in exchange for his tenure of it.

And yet, with all this, with our lip-service to the duty and the ideal of service, the world is being starved for lack of the practice of it. In every direction and sphere of life there is a call for the worker who will take his life in both hands and offer it to God and his fellow-men. Fine ideals are great things, but they are only gilded idols unless the homage we render to them is the homage of a whole life's service. And the service of ideals cannot go very far before it becomes a sacrifice. Every ideal has its price, and before it can become practical the inevitable payment must be made.

What is there, then, that is strong enough to discipline us to the practical service of others but the vision of God? There is so much in this world and in ourselves which invites to selfishness that for the majority of men the temptation proves all too strong. We may successfully repel the worst things that conscience condemns, the appeal of the world, the flesh, and the devil to follow the desires of the senses in the quest of a false freedom, though nearly all men at some time or other have to meet and master it. We may do that and still lie open to the subtler appeal to be false to the higher things by which alone man really lives. Good causes flame up and become popular for a time, and many acclaim them. But when progress is seen to be slow, and they come up against the obstinate blindness of mankind to its own best interests, the fire in those causes dies down and burns low for lack of the support and inspiration of a living and abiding purpose and enthusiasm in men to support them and see them through. How long do we really face the toil and sacrifice of service unless we see God in it, and unless we believe that the nature of things is with us in rendering it? Only a vision like that of Isaiah can sustain a man to renew again and again the consecration which it always brings with it---'Here am I, send me.'

Every leader of mankind, every man who has deeply influenced his generation, and has accomplished great acts, whatever the admixture of good and bad in his composition, must have had before him, perhaps frequently, perhaps only at times, some sense of the Divine Purpose and Mission entrusted to him. Men of thought, men of imagination, like the great poets; men of action, not to mention some of our own day---yes, and men of business too, who without much show and demonstration have devoted themselves to the betterment of humanity in such directions as come within their scope---all these, in one form or another, must have been inspired by a feeling of responsibility, by a realization that there must be some worthy outcome, in the fulfillment of which they were privileged to share, for which all their efforts were asked and needed. Such a faith adds greatly to human power; without it the individual is helpless and alone; with it he can do his duty. And those who have that faith in large measure are helpers of the race.

This is a view of religion which is very different from what many who delight to think themselves practical take of it. Many look upon religion either as a pleasant sedative for people who lead a busy life and need occasionally some high emotional relaxation, or as a comforting background to the awkward facts of existence, or as a charmed enclosure into which only those can enter who have plenty of leisure for spiritual culture. Sometimes religious people are themselves responsible for creating such impressions. But there are none who try, however feebly, to live the Christian life---and there are many more of them in the world, than we are often inclined to think---who do not know that it is from their personal vision of God---Father, Son, and Holy Spirit---that there flows out all that they try to do for the Kingdom of God. They live 'as seeing him who is invisible.' These escape the futility and purposelessness of a life that wanders from pillar to post and achieves nothing, because their eyes have been opened to see God in Jesus Christ through His Spirit. In the strength of that inward vision they maintain their vocation in single-hearted service.

To see that vision and to obey it---that is the pathway of a life which fulfills itself and shines more and more unto the perfect day. It cannot leave us impassive and inert. No man can truly see God in Jesus but he must be moved by the impulse to offer and to act. He will make it his prayer that, wherever God may lead him and open up he knows not yet what opportunities of serving Him, therefore that he may not be disobedient to the heavenly vision.

In Christ, timothy. our Lord comes