The Unfailing Moral Standard

- from "Toleration" by John Bigelow

CHAPTER IV - Part 2
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It is not until the ruling affection which inspires, and which we term the final motive known only to the Searcher of all hearts, is reached, that the real or ultimate purpose of any act is attained. What we do bears much the same relation to our final motive in doing it that the husk bears to the corn; that the church bears to the worship within it; that the altar bears to the sacrifice upon the altar; that the printed page bears to the ideas expressed by the words on it; that the alphabet bears to the Decalogue; that the body bears to the soul that inhabits it. Every motive, in the last analysis, is an exercise of the will either in harmony or in conflict with the most universally accepted principle of duty, which principle is sometimes and very appropriately designated as Divine.

Naaman was allowed to bow down in the house of Rimmon because his heart was right and his motive was good. The slave need not fear, "knowing that whatever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the world whether he be bond or free." ("Julius Caesar" Act 1, Sc. 3). So every bondman in his own hand bears the power to cancel his own captivity. The vital question was not whether the disciples ate the shewbread or plucked the corn on the Sabbath, but why they did it. The widow's mite counted for more in the Lord's treasury than all the contributions which the wealthy made from their abundance, not because she was a widow, but because she gave all she had. And she alone of them all, in thus doing, starved every selfish inclination and dedicated every pure affection of her heart to her Master.

The man who had but one talent was not condemned because during his master's absence he had not gained as much as the man who received ten, but because he had not used nor tried to make productive the one he had.


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