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The Builders

Our todays and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.
—Longfellow

In a fair garden full of rare fruits and flowers men and women were engaged in building towers of various sizes and shapes. Widely different in plan and execution were the structures, but all were intended to serve the same purpose, namely, to add to the beauty of the garden according to a scheme devised by its owner (the full understanding of this was, however, partially concealed from the workers), and to test the characters of the builders themselves.

Some of these, as could be seen, eagerly and gladly attacked their appointed work. Indeed, they had no eyes or ears for anything that went on outside it. Not even appeals for help moved them.

"Our duty," said they, "is clear enough to us. Let all who do not know theirs find it out for themselves. Everyone must act independently." So the towers which these workers built grew rapidly, and aroused the envy of many. Not of all, however, for there were some of the builders who had a totally different idea of what was expected of them.

"What does it matter," they asked, "if we do not make as good a show as others? Let us give time to realizing and absorbing the beauties around us. Let us help others to realize them as well. Then our work will be more likely to be in harmony with the mind that planned all."

Thus it came to pass that, although the towers which these builders made did not arouse envy by the rapidity of their growth, there was a most beautiful completeness about them. Here and there were dwellers in the garden who were too idle to make the effort to begin their work. These were loud in their complaints of the hard task set them, and of the folly of those who had preceded them in not leaving behind fuller information as to the scheme to be followed in building. Naturally, while complaining they did no work. "Had we," they said, "the opportunities granted to the favored ones, how much we would do!'

Then there were the sad, sad faces of those who, while longing to work, were unable to do anything effective by reason of heavy weights that were laid upon them which they could not shake off.

"Oh!" said these, almost fainting under the loads that oppressed them, " were we but free as others are how beautiful we would make our buildings!" Then because of their strong desire to do their utmost they struggled on in spite of their pain, and when night fell the Master, who sympathized with them, sent His angels to continue their work. All of the burdened ones were not patient, however. The sadness of some turned to bitterness, and as their hearts grew hard all desire to work left them.

"What a cruel taskmaster we have," said they. "He gives us work to do and knows well that it is impossible for us to do it."

Yet other workers were busy advising and criticizing their neighbors or enjoying the pleasures that were within their reach." Building was crowded out of their lives, and they even appeared to forget that it was expected of them. Timid and fearful souls in there were, too, who, distrusting their own powers, shrank from their individual tasks. Still, having hit upon the expedient of banding themselves together, they, by dint of united effort and mutual encouragement, had made so much progress that they were now able to boast of the success their combined labor had secured. Between boasting, complaining, and thoughtless revelry the garden had become a very Babel of discordant voices!

Suddenly among the workers there appeared one whose face was radiant with spiritual beauty. Wherever His glance fell there peace was instantly restored.

Workers, wranglers, and revelers all alike lapsed into silence. "The Master!" was whispered on every hand.

It was the Master, and with sorrow He looked upon His garden. Had all been true to their appointed tasks how fair it would have been! At the reproachful gaze of the Master many faces were downcast, for no words were needed to convey to them His thoughts.

"Can you not understand," He said at last, "that it is the spirit in which my work is done that makes it beautiful. Right cannot result from wrong. Evil does not spring from good. Cleanse then your hearts from pride and selfishness, for it is these sins that blind you so that you cannot understand my will."

Then the Master withdrew, leaving the whole garden enveloped in thick darkness—not the soft luminous darkness of a summer night, but a dense, black darkness which shut each inhabitant of the garden in with his own soul.

To those who had done well and wisely the season was one of rest and peace. To the others it was full of terror and anxiety, for they knew that in this way their Master was forcing them to consider their ways.

When light returned even the most frivolous began work with a chastened heart, and henceforth all knew for a certainty that each individual was responsible for his own work, and that whatever the Master's plan might be, none could hope to carry it out who did not live in charity, purity, and peace.

Anyone who gives himself up for the good of others, who takes up his cross, will find heaven on this earth.
—Professor Jowett

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