“If you have money and health, what more do you need,” said an elderly lady in another compartment of the railway carriage by which I was yesterday travelling.
The train had pulled up at a quiet country station, and I readily overheard the remark. A feeling of mingled surprise and sorrow filled my heart as I heard the statement, for, whatever benefit may attach to health and wealth, yet to possess only such things was to lack the greatest. “What shall it profit a man if be gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” came to my mind. I turned to Luke 12 and refreshed my memory with the well-known story of the rich man, who could boast, apparently, of health as of wealth—could speak of the “many years” to come as of the “much goods” laid up for them, but who clearly possessed nought beside. He was “rich to himself”—poor otherwise. “This night” put a sudden and unexpected period to his “many years,” and the hand of death scattered to the winds his “much goods.”
It maybe the speaker had forgotten this story, for, heard it and read it she, doubtless, had.
I longed for close quarters. These were soon granted me. And, my Christian reader, my fellow-labourer unto the kingdom of God, allow me to urge on you the importance of using each opportunity to warn, to encourage, to comfort and to help the souls around you in these days of “running to and fro” seek to walk for Christ, to drive for Christ, to breathe for Christ. “Redeeming the time because the days are evil.” You and I spend hours in the train, and how do we spend them? A railway carriage makes a capital field of labour. A word spoken, or a tract or book kindly and politely given, is frequently used of God in such circumstances.
Well, we reached a certain junction where the usual—“All change here!” had to be obeyed, and in due time I found myself exactly in front of the lady, and alongside of the gentleman to whom her remark was made.
In the same compartment sat a young man whose left hand was bandaged, and placed in a sling. The hand had been badly cut, and the sufferer was on his way home after having seen his doctor. This was communicated to me by the gentleman referred to.
I saw the opportunity was come, and in the hearing of the time-serving lady I said, “It is a sad thing to lose health and wealth, but the loss of the soul is greater. Health and wealth are only for time—may be lost in a moment—they are to be valued and used for God if granted, but after all they do not form the secret of true happiness. If Christ be unknown life itself is a burden—a daily fight for those that have not wealth, and a daily vexation to those that have it; whilst, on the other hand, where Christ is known and enjoyed, health and wealth are really of little moment, useful if given back to God in devoted service, a snare and source of trouble otherwise.”
To this line of Christian philosophy I noticed that the lady strongly objected. Her “health and wealth” system was being roughly shaken by the truth. Her only idea of happiness was being proved false. Another and altogether different secret of joy—one to which she, and all such, are total strangers, came before her mind to her bitter chagrin. “He that drinks of this water shall thirst again,” may safely be applied to the principle of happiness apart from God—but, “Whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” to this in which Christ and His interests fill the heart. “His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all His paths are peace.”
“You are right,” said the gentleman, the soul is precious, and if we can be the means of leading one soul to Christ, our heaven will be the happier.” He was a Christian, not a mere professor to whom the doctrine professed for the sake of respectability, gain, &c., are utterly powerless—but a living soul, to whom they are spirit and life. Strangers hitherto, we now found a theme common and sweet. The new birth, the love of God, the work of Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, mutual love as children of God, crucifixion to the world, with its “health and wealth” principle, and such like subjects, until we had to part, when he said, “We’ll meet again.” “Yes,” said I, “through grace, in glory, farewell.” Sweet meeting-place! blessed friendship! Oh! for the day when all the children of God shall meet to part, and be parted, no more.
Though a fellow passenger, and, so far, a friend of the lady, I could see that he had no sympathy with her worldly Christless principles of selfish, sordid, money-loving, self-indulging carnality. During our conversation, which, because of our proximity, she was compelled to overhear, she endeavoured to engage herself otherwise as best she could. The mere professor may talk on doctrine, may be crammed with it intellectually, but he cannot endure what is vital. The accessories may be tolerated, but Christ Himself is hated. Oh! what would heaven be to such people, when the presence of God is the spring of His people’s joy! and yet they “hope,” forsooth, to go there.
My reader, if you cannot endure—and have no relish for—the presence and truth of God on earth, how can you think of enjoying it in heaven? “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Many have seen without health or wealth, and without the desire for it too, who yet were happy.
It is Christ and not health, Christ and not wealth, that is the secret of joy—as thousands of souls can attest.
“In pining sickness or in health,
Christ for me;”
In deepest poverty or wealth,
Christ for me.
Thank God the Christian does not wait for heaven in order to learn that secret. He knows it already.
True, alas, the fact is belied by the daily life of many true Christians. This to their shame! They need the knife of circumcision to “roll away” such a “reproach of Egypt” (Jas. 5), and failing this they will suffer.
But, thank God, there are many, many others who have counted, and are still counting, all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.