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On the Eternity of Goodness and How to Grow Good

I begin to see that by their nature all evil things must decay, and all good things must endure; and, indeed, in looking back over my short life's journey I see how only the essentials remain, and by saying that I do not mean that the evils have not been essentials in their way, in bringing forth the good, but that they perish when their work is over; and that in reality good things (i.e., love, faith, obedience, purity) are the only things that endure. And even in looking back on past events one only sees the pleasant things of life, the others dwindle into nothingness. Of course, one can rake up and remember bygone troubles, worries, and unpleasantnesses, but if one calmly indulges in a retrospect one sees only the pleasant things. As we get older and calmer—as in clear water—the impurities sink to the bottom. Of perhaps a better simile is, as the sunshine touches on a landscape and glorifies it, and shows no unpleasant sights or scenes, so, if we are filled with love—the sunshine of the soul—we see only the pleasant things, and the troubles, unkindnesses, and cares of all kinds, which have all added their mite to our spiritual growth, have been (now their work is over) laid aside as worthless, and only what has been built up, with their assistance, remains; in short there is nothing that can hurt us, even of evil, unless we allow it to do so. The only things that can hurt us are the noisome weeds of evil thought and evil temper that we allow to fill a place within us; if we try to train ourselves to let our thoughts only fix themselves upon good things we shall, in time, be able to root out, by slow degrees, even the deadliest and most deeply-rooted evils. And the way to set about that work, I feel convinced, is not to fix our gaze on the huge collection of worthless things and dirt and refuse that we have been harboring, that would serve only to enervate our forces and cause us to sigh despairingly, and we should not know where to begin to set to work; but to learn to look continually "to the hills whence cometh our help." By continual looking upward to God we shall gradually cease to be tempted by the evils that are around us, but will be more alive to the beauty and happiness and love that the world is just as full of; but only those that are "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity" can see these things; we must try to do as St. Paul tells us, "Walk in the Spirit," and then we "shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, "for it is only by constantly" seeking those things which are above" that we can become pure and holy. Our Lord said: "Blessed are the pure in heart! for they shall see God." That is a beautiful promise! Does it sound too distant for us, and too difficult a path to read? Well, the ways that lead to it are humility, self-denial, brotherly love, contentment with our lot, energy and conscientiousness in our work, expecting no reward; calmness, patience, obedience. If only we thought more of these things I am sure we should soon attain to higher heights, and lose our grosser and more selfish desires, but I am afraid the most of us are like a young friend of mine, who, after some short discussion on religious topics, said to me, "But I think we have talked long enough on these subjects; don't you think it is a great mistake to talk too much of such things?" and I horrified her when I answered, "I think it is an impossibility." People seem to think there is something sad about religion, instead of it being the one and only thing that can bring joy and happiness to us; but I repeat, the way to reform is to look above, not below; to "climb the steep ascent," not to remain in the valley among the shadows that we mistake for realities, and looking thus confidently upward and onward we see only what we did when taking our calm retrospect—God's beautiful sunlight flooding the landscape.

How'er it be, it seems to me,
'Tis only noble to be good.
—Tennyson

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