Friday, March 12, 2010
the nearer it approaches to perfection...
"The Christian is very frequently disheartened, not only at finding less excitement and rapturous enjoyment in the religious life than he expected, but also at not discovering such obvious marks of progress in the advancing stages as at the commencement. But it is a very important truth for him who is going forward in the Christian life to remember, that the growth of character follows, in many respects, the analogy of all other growth. In its beginnings it is more perceptible ; its progress in its first stages is more striking : an extraordinary difference is in a very short time noticed, after a man has positively changed from worldliness to religion. But the succeeding steps become by-and-by less perceptible; and though actual, perhaps equal progress may be made in a more advanced state of the Christian course, yet the work may seem to be almost stationary. An illustration of this may be found in the different appearances of motion in the rising and the meridian sun; the former seeming to advance with rapidity, the latter hardly to move. Or take, for comparison, a work of art, a painting. The artist takes a blank and unmeaning canvass. He sketches the outlines of his beautiful subject. A very short time suffices to exhibit great progress. The whole form and features come rapidly into view. But, as he approaches towards the finishing of his work, he labors the more delicate parts — he retouches, refines, perfects; but it all makes little show : in truth, there may be more and more careful study, and anxious toil, and the highest efforts of his genius, and yet the amount of labor and thought, and the degree of improvement, be perceptible to none but a most observing and practised eye. So it is with the Christian character the nearer it approaches to perfection : there may be great watchfulness, laborious self-discipline, toil for advancement, and a perpetual addition of those delicate strokes, those hues and shades of spiritual beauty, by which perfection is attained ; but no change shows itself, meanwhile, to the common observer; the Christian seems to others precisely where he was a month ago, and he himself may be dissatisfied at not perceiving any obvious marks of growth corresponding with his arduous labors."