Goodness pure and simple is very much misunderstood; we speak of this or that as being good, but do not give a second thought as to whether we are using the word rightly or wrongly. A little time ago a man, speaking about an acquaintance, said it that he was "a downright good religious man." It is certainly very easy for one to make use of such words as these, and it is decidedly pleasing to hear a man speaking so much in praise of another, but before we can correctly and truthfully make such a statement it is absolutely necessary that we should ourselves be downright good and truly religious, or otherwise our judgment is bound to be at fault, for in strict accordance with God's universal law of Justice, our opinion of others must depend entirely upon the position in which we individually stand in the sight of God. For instance, a good man would naturally see far more goodness in the world generally than a bad one, and a man who was continually doing things that were wrong would consequently form the opinion that most people were doing like-wise. In order to make this point perhaps a little more clear, suppose we put it into figures and say that a man being absolutely perfect would register one hundred; this would mean one hundred percent, or, in other words, every little thing that he thought, said, or did would be perfectly good and actually correct; his judgment of others would be exactly true, and he would make no mistakes or blunders either in business or out of business, for his judgment in all cases would be simply perfection and everything in every little way would be bound to go well and satisfactorily with him, for it would be utterly impossible for them to go otherwise. His actions and general ideas would, no doubt, be very much questioned by others, and the worldly man would profess to find many faults in his daily conduct, but he himself would know in his own mind that this was simply due to their wrong judgment, and he would naturally make all due allowance, taking kindly, calmly, and good humouredly, all that others might say against him.
Perfection is undoubtedly a very high standard to place in front of us, but if we are to accept Christ's teaching as being possible then we are bound to admit that it is within our power to attain to a perfect life even in this world, for does it not say in the last verse of the 5th chapter of Matthew, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect?" To think or to imagine for one moment that it is impossible would either misunderstand or totally disagree with. By this illustration we see pretty clearly how it is that there are so many different opinions upon the self-same subject, for each one must judge everything exactly in accordance with how they individually stand. When we come to the man who only stands at twenty-five percent good, then we see again even a worse state of things, for only one-quarter of this man's ideas and actions would be true, and the remaining seventy-five percent would be naturally false. In such a case trouble must undoubtedly predominate, and we should find such an individual constantly blundering and making mistakes, both in business and in private life; his opinion upon any subject would be of very little value, and he would be continually finding fault with everything and everybody, and would consider himself badly treated. Being largely wrong himself he would consequently believe almost everyone else to be wrong, and if any one spoke to him about God's wonderful Law of justice which is constantly at work, he would immediately deny its existence. He might admit that we shall get in the next life what we justly deserve, but that we are receiving it now, hourly and daily, he would certainly dispute. If such a man as this read carefully the Sermon on the Mount, he would at once say that it was totally inapplicable to human life and unworkable in a world like ours, and he would possibly go so far as to put the whole three chapters down as a lot of rubbish, all right to preach, but of no earthly good for practice, and the very fact of this man standing at only twenty-five percent good, it must inevitably follow that three parts of his circumstances would be bad and only the remaining quarter good and satisfactory.
By this illustration of the percentage of goodness, we may be better able to understand how it is that there are so many different sects and denominations, for we must all form our ideas of religion, our faith and belief, like everything else, purely and simply in exact accordance with how we individually stand. It is utterly impossible (whether we know it or not) for us to do otherwise. A man absolutely perfect would find good in every religion, for he would not be narrow minded, and would not restrict himself to one particular creed, but seeing things exactly as they are, and not as they appear, he would naturally be altogether charitable and forbearing in his manners and ideas. Such a man would not talk about "luck" or "misfortune," neither would he rave as some do about things being unjust, for he would know in his own mind that no such thing as injustice could possibly exist in any part of God's Universe. The Maker of this world being Perfection itself, could not and would not do otherwise than create the laws which govern human life on absolutely perfect lines.
There is round and about us all the material for a blessed life, and everything that we can possibly require, and if things are not today exactly as we would have them, then it is certainly not God's fault, but purely and entirely our own. If we fail to see, understand, and make use of God's bountiful and wonderful blessings, it is due to the one great fact that we are individually much below the standard of perfection, and consequently do not realize all the opportunities that God in His Love and Mercy has placed around us. To blame the Creator or our fellow-man or circumstances for our present position is only to heap fire upon our own heads. It is we who are wrong, and it is for us to put ourselves right. Improvement can only come from within, never by any means from without. We may secure financial assistance or help in various ways from our friends, but there will be no alteration for the better in our general circumstances until we make some improvement in our own daily conduct, for good can only come to those who are good, and bad to those that are bad, and we must admit that this is exactly as it should be, for we cannot truly expect to have in this world or any other more of God's good things than what is strictly in accordance with the exact amount of goodness that is within us, and this is precisely what we are getting today—no more and no less. It therefore behooves us to make at once daily improvements in our thoughts, words, and actions, and thus lift ourselves to a higher standard of goodness, which will consequently mean that we shall not be making so many blunders and mistakes as we are making today, and the general result of our actions will be more satisfactory; but in endeavoring to replace bad actions by good we must always bear well in mind that goodness must be done for its own sake, and not with any thought or hope of reward, otherwise we destroy the very goodness of our actions.