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his weakness and incompetence. Throughout our education are endless fault-seeking, fault-finding, faultmagnifying, fault-remembering. The effect is unquestionably hurtful. Hearing only of our bad points, and always hearing of them, of our ignorance, idleness, stupidity, and failure, we are terribly discouraged, and the marvel is that we turn out half as well as we do. This is not the method of the divine education. If it were, the spirit would fail before Him. He ever gives us assurances of His sympathy and stimulates us to effort. His Spirit speaks in the sinking heart words of cheer, affection, approbation, and hope, of sweet refreshment, of strong consolation. When a picture by a great master is to be restored, it is not entrusted to an amateur; it is not a fitting subject for turpentine, sandpaper, and pumice-stone. A great restorer must be found, and such a restorer is as rare as an original artist. But think of restoring a soul, of bringing out the possible grace and glory of the human spirit! Only He who created the soul can restore it, and He can restore it only in infinite tenderness. If He were harsh the spirit would fail before Him, but gently He removes each spot and stain until the image of His own immortal beauty shines forth again. "Thy gentleness hath made me great."

The divine graciousness softens all the discipline of life. Some write and speak as though there was nothing else in the world but law, logic, and force, and as though all must go to the wall that cannot bear the ruthless ordeal. Hence the dictum of Diderot: "The world is the abode of the strong." But there is something else in the world beside law and force; pity,

sympathy, and love assert themselves-there is the heart. An illogical something, known as compassion and tenderness, works in human life; or, if not illogical, having a transcendent logic of its own. There is a sublime tempering element, perpetually saving a race trembling on the brink of destruction. "The world is for the strong"; yes, and for the humble, the meek, the pure, for those who are crucified through weakness, all of whom God cunningly hides in His secret place. Do not be afraid; terrible as life may often seem, there is a genius of grace in it, converting its severity into a mode of salvation and perfecting.

XLIX

SPASMODIC PIETY

O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth early away.-Hos. vi. 4.

LL kinds of workers are conscious of moments in which they awake to uncommon power and excellence. These inspired moments are rare, wonderful, delightful episodes of the intellectual life. Similar seasons occur in our mortal and spiritual experience. We see the ideal, are visited by high and holy thought and feeling, are ashamed of our inferiority, vividly see what we ought to be, receive a sudden influx of power, and resolve to lead a worthier life. The greatest villains are not strange to these hours. The ordinary sinner also knows these special times of illumination and conviction. The covetous are ashamed of their selfishness, and startle everybody, by unwonted acts of generosity; the angry see the miserable character of their impatience, and become unnaturally amiable; whilst the intemperate take the pledge, and even become intemperate on water. Above and beyond all this, the worldly and unsaved are aroused, and, realizing the guilt and misery of their godless days, resolve upon a new life of spirituality

and consecration. They reflect, they repent, they amend. This gracious state is brought about in various ways-by calamities and sorrows, by special mercies and blessings, by the message of the pulpit, and often simply by the direct action of the Spirit upon the conscience and heart. Much that is mysterious pertains to the higher moods of artists, poets, and musicians, they cannot explain the sudden illumination and impulse; and the spiritual agitation is still more mysterious. But, however brought about, the sinner is aroused and more or less sincerely repents.

Yet all these exercises of mind, these stirrings of the heart, these good resolutions prove vain. Nothing permanent comes of it. The villain who gives a transient glimpse of nobility is again a villain. The reformed miser, tyrant, drunkard, or sensualist returns to his wallowing in the mire. The worldling once more surrenders himself to the carnal elements. Thus multitudes are inconstant, fitful, wavering. Their goodness never lasts: ever beginning anew, then relapsing; ever making a show of leaves, good feelings, aspirations, resolves, and yet bearing no fruit unto everlasting life. Mark,

1. The extreme unsatisfactoriness of fitful piety. It is rather the fashion to regard such piety with some degree of appreciation. We are thought to be not altogether bad when good days and deeds are placed to our credit. These flashes of a higher self and life are supposed to signify and atone for much. But it is a perilous mistake. When we are told that a person has "lucid moments," we know that he is in a parlous condition; if he is not in an asylum, he ought

to be. And it is much the same with those who have lucid moments of the spiritual and moral life. Their fits of goodness show their capacity to be noble, their character to be base. It has been urged apologetically that "We are all good sometimes"; but the inmates of an asylum might plead that "We are all sensible sometimes." Neither party is redeemed by such interludes. Lucid moments only accentuate the tragedy of madness; and spasms of goodness in a bad life only demonstrate and intensify the tragedy of sin.

No, there is no value in transient goodness; it lacks the main characteristic of the essential thing. The charm of certain sights lies in their fugitiveness. The momentariness of the bubble is the secret of its delight; a snowflake is lovely in its exquisite frailty; we sing of never-withering flowers, but we should care little for them if they bloomed at our feet; and as Goethe says, no one would linger over a rainbow that stood for a quarter of an hour. The source of the fascination of these things lies in their perishableness. Goodness, however, belongs to an altogether different sphere. He who is alone good knows no shadow of turning, and the more stable our goodness the nearer it approaches the absolute standard. To play fast and loose with the fear and service of God is repeatedly reprobated by the Old Testament. In the New Testament our Lord teaches the obligation of permanence. "Abide in Me, and I in you." It is not enough to enjoy blest moments; He must abide in us, and we in Him, for all time, and when time shall be no longer. Revelation puts no value on sudden exuberance of feeling, on surprised confession, on temporary panic

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