“Why Should the Work Cease?”
by Louise Knight Wheatley
Many centuries ago, a little company of workers decided to attempt something apparently so far beyond their power of accomplishment that they were the object of much derision among their neighbors. They were starting to rebuild the great wall of Jerusalem, which, because of neglect and selfish indifference, had broken down in so many places that the holy city itself was no longer safe from attack.
Again and again false arguments were sent forth, all with one intent — to worry and harass the workers so that the work would be hindered. Letters were written, messengers sent, the real motive underlying the undertaking was intentionally misjudged, and even bodily injury was threatened. But nothing daunted “these feeble Jews,” as their enemies mockingly called them. They worked steadily on under the wise guidance of the intrepid Nehemiah, who absolutely refused to be drawn into an argument. So intensely was he imbued with the spirit of a mighty purpose, that he recognized every approach of the enemy as having but one intent, to stop the work — which was precisely the one thing which Nehemiah had determined should not happen.
Four times, in desperation, Sanballat and his fellow-conspirators urged Nehemiah to make a temporary truce, just long enough to come down to the plain of Ono and talk things over; and four times Nehemiah stopped only long enough to send the following reply: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”
Does it not sometimes happen that a suggestion comes from some modern-day Sanballat to distract us from the work God has given us, by tempting us to react to some situation? We have a work before us today that makes the building of the wall of Jerusalem look like child’s play. Our work is to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth through the “signs following” which Jesus promised. About three centuries after the Christian era, the element of healing, practiced by Jesus and his disciples — and an inseparable part of his teachings — was temporarily lost; and through Mary Baker Eddy, this “pearl of great price” was rediscovered and restored to its rightful importance.
Yet, how can we be in the plain of Ono, discussing matters with Sanballat, and at the same time be at our post of duty building the wall, quiet, serene calm, and untroubled? “The most Christian state is one of rectitude and spiritual understanding,” because, as Mrs. Eddy says, this state “is best adapted for healing the sick.” (S&H) A disturbed Christian Scientist cannot heal.
It would be well if we would all ponder these things; and the next time an opportunity presents itself to indulge in one of those “doubtful disputations,” why not reply, “Why should this high and holy work be neglected while I come down to your level? I cannot, and I will not, let myself become indignant and resentful. My business is to heal the sick, to comfort the sorrowing, to reform the sinner. How can I do this if I am constantly being called into the plain of Ono, leaving me in a mental state of unrest and turmoil, which is far from that mental attitude which quickly and spontaneously heals? Why should I seemingly give life to error by quarreling with it?”
Even when his enemies said that Nehemiah was building the wall for his own aggrandizement, and that he might later on be made a king over the Jews, the lying innuendo did not touch him. He was so far above it that it never even stirred him. He only quietly said, “There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine heart,” and went steadily and peacefully on with the work.
May the calm directness of Nehemiah’s words and the unflinching steadfastness of his purpose be to all of us today a source of constant inspiration! He was “a man of one idea.” May we have this also said of us, since this one idea — the Christ-idea — is that which will save and revolutionize the world.
If any Sanballat under a more modern name ever tries to thwart and hinder that upon which the proof of our whole religion rests — the healing — shall we not ask, with the same quiet simplicity which characterized Nehemiah, “Why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”