A man stood at the gate of Heaven, confidently demanding admittance.
"What about the 'Inasmuch'?" asked he who kept the gate.
"What mean you?" returned the applicant. "Am not I an ordained priest of the Church?"
"That is less than nothing!" replied Saint Peter. "I will summon hither the Recording Angel, and question him concerning thee."
Surprised, but in no way disconcerted, the man awaited the Angel's report with complacency. Scarcely, however, could he believe his ears when he heard these words:—"I see that I have recorded here one good action to this man's credit."
"Pardon me," began the man, "there must surely be some mistake—"
But the Angel, not heeding the interruption, went on:—"One morning, while he was still a poor curate, he assisted a lame woman to get home from church. Snow lay on the ground, and made walking difficult, even for the strong and whole. This man bade the woman lean upon his arm, and by his kindly sympathy brightened for her the dark, wintry day."
"Oh! you mean Mary Collins!" said the quondam priest. "I had almost forgotten her. Poor little thing! Any man in my place would have done as much. That was nothing! You must possess far more important chronicles of my life than that. I would not boast of my merits, but—I have been an energetic parish priest—never had a moment to myself! I have worked early and late, visited hundreds of sick folk, organized dozens of Sales and Bazaars on behalf of foreign missions and other charitable objects. My Temperance work was highly successful. And then my sermons—why! a leading daily paper once styled me the most eloquent preacher in London!' As I remarked before, I would not praise myself but surely—surely—all this does not count for nothing?"
"For less than nothing," replied the Angel sadly. "These things have been to you stumbling-blocks rather than aids. They were all part of your 'profession,' in which you were determined to excel. They earned for you the praise of men, not the approval of God. They brought you wealth and preferment and a high-born wife, but were unworthy of record in my book. See!" And the Angel showed the all but blank page whereon the incident of Mary Collins was the only recorded act. "That," he continued, laying his fingers upon the golden letters, "your kindness to Mary—was a simple action prompted by pure pity, sympathy, and love, done without thought of self. And Love is the only passport into the Kingdom of Heaven."
Silent and abashed, the man crept humbly through the gate, and began "with shame to take the lowest place."