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154

XLIV

HEROIC GOODNESS

“He was a burning and a shining light.”—John v. 35.

IT is the combination of the two words “burning” and “shining” which portrays so distinguished and powerful a character. If either word be bereaved of the other the character it describes is ineffective. Light without heat! Who has not met the impotence? Heat without light! Who has not met the terror? It is the fellowship of the two which generates a fruitful power. The two together produce a luminous enthusiasm. We have zeal wedded to knowledge. We have an enlightened faith in communion with a passionate love. It is only when our souls have the double guardianship of light and heat that our life can be said to be safe. If I may so put it, we have the security of incandescence.

Now I think that the element which is 155more commonly absent from our religious life is the element of heat. The majority of us know all that we need to know to be in the heavenly way, but we do not make much pace or progress. We are short of heat. There is nothing more annoying than to have to maintain a smouldering fire. It is always just on the point of going out. We stir it up and it sputters and flickers for a moment, but it soon becomes dull again. It is something like trying to keep the dormouse awake in Alice’s Wonderland. On the other hand, a big, well-fed fire maintains its life by its own fervour. Its very passion is its defence. Its heat is its security. And so it is with the aspirations of the soul. So it is with all piety and devotion. If they are of the smouldering order our religious life will be more an annoyance than a strength and comfort. We shall always have to be attending to it, just as we watch an invalid. But if our religious life is of the burning and shining order, blazing with holy consecration and enthusiasm, the fire itself will be our best protection. Our ardour will be our friend.

Here is a sentence of Coventry Patmore’s, 156one of the many jottings which were found in manuscript after his death:—“If you wish to be good, the easiest, indeed, the only way, is to be heroically so.” That is profoundly true. We are not going to be commonly good until we are uncommonly devoted to goodness. That is to say, the easiest way to do God’s will on the ordinary road is to bring to each task and duty a life of uttermost consecration. It is only the really full life that will make little things live. If there is to be the heroic flavour in our ordinary fellowships it must be born out of a supremely surrendered life to the fellowship of God in Christ our Lord. We are too prone to try to be good on a perilously low pressure, and we cannot get along. There is no strength in our goodness. We are not impressive. It makes no mark. It cannot burn a trail! There is not heat enough. If we had more heat, if we were baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, the ordinary things of the ordinary day would pulse with the power of holy consecration.

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