From a Doctor’s Note-Book: “Maistly Praise”
In the year 1866, I was House Physician in the old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and there came under my care a middle-aged man for a most rare, and withal incurable, skin malady, that really rendered his life a burden. It was not long ere I found out that he loved the Lord and knew His love too. As a consequence he patiently accepted the trial his malady carried daily with it, and we often had nice talks together about the Lord, and His wise and loving ways towards us.
Finding that Edinburgh’s best physicians could give him no cure, John returned to his home in the Shetlands. In 1910 I visited those islands for the first time. Through a mutual friend I found that John yet lived—some seven miles from where I was staying, and he, hearing of my visit, begged that I would see him.
This I was truly glad to do, and great was the delight of the old fisherman when he heard my voice, and warm the welcome he gave me. “I’m glad indeed to see you, doctor,” were his words, though his sightless eyes told the sad tale that he saw me not, but I understood what he meant. Taking a seat by his poor box-bed he told me what had happened since last we really saw each other. His malady had long since affected his eyes, and he had for many years been blind, and confined to bed in the veriest hovel, with earthen floor, and minus every comfort, while many diseases racked his body with pain.
His wife did her best to keep him alive on the three shillings a week—their only assured support—which the local poor rates yielded to him. ’Twas indeed a piteous case!
But his face was radiant with joy, and “Praise the Lord” fell from his lips again and again as we talked of Him, His grace, and His ways with us both. At length, rising to go to address a gospel meeting which had been arranged in the village, I said, “Now, John, would you like me to pray with you?
“Oh I thank you, sir; that indeed I would, but, doctor, IT MAUN BE MAISTLY PRAISE,” was the old saint’s instant and fervent reply; and praise the Lord together we did, I can assure you.
I have been in thousands of poor sick-rooms in my day, but nothing ever touched me as did dear John’s, “It maun be maistly praise,” in the dire poverty in which he was, and cut off from a thousand comforts that most of us enjoy.
There is a moral to this true tale. It tells of the sufficiency of Christ to sustain the believer’s heart in every possible circumstance of earthly pressure, poverty, and pain. The secret of John’s joy was Christ, well known. He had drunk into the spirit of Philippians 4:4-9. I commend these verses afresh to my readers’ notice: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (v. 4). Our joy is to be in the Lord, not in our circumstances, but spite of them, if they be adverse. They change. He does not. Hence our spring of joy can never vary. Does our joy wane, or ebb and flow? It is because we have forgotten Paul’s double exhortation (Phil. 3:1; 4:4).
In his day Nehemiah was animated by the same spirit, as he said to the returned remnant at Jerusalem, “Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Note well that spiritual axiom. You show me a joyful Christian and I will show you a vigorous, strong, and useful one, who is “sending portions” to others. On the other hand, you show me a joyless Christian, and I will show you a weak one, who is usually looking for something for himself, has nothing to give to others, and is in perilous danger of being a witness against, rather than for Christ. What heavenly unction and wisdom are found in these two words, “Rejoice. Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).
But doubtless what leads to the maintenance of this blessed joyful state is the moral condition which verse 6 enjoins: “Be careful for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” How simple: (1) careful for nothing, (2) prayerful for everything, (3) thankful for anything. RESULT: “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (v. 7).
Nor is it only that “the peace of God” will garrison our hearts and minds, but, if the lovely traits of Christ, to be seen in other Christians (v. 8) now, and seen in Paul then (v. 9), command our thoughts, the company of God Himself is secured.
What a wonderful privilege, though, indeed, a conditional one, “The God of peace shall be with you.” Could anything be more blessed?
Peace with God is gotten by simple faith in the Lord Jesus, now known to be risen from the dead. The peace of God is secured by a prayerful, thankful attitude towards Him. The God of peace as your companion in life’s pathway is an added blessing and joy. His company can only be secured by our complete occupation with the things that suit Him.
Well, indeed, said a servant of Christ, over sixty years ago: “For a Christian the secret of peace within and power without is to be always and only occupied with good.”
To any young Christian, on the outlook for a motto for life, I would give this.