"I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly."
Life is a gift of very unequal distribution. I am not speaking merely of length of life, though that is an important element in the case: there may be sad and quiet years which do not count: we have known existences which crept on in one dull round, from petty pleasure to petty pleasure, from monotonous occupation to monotonous occupation, never roused to storm by any noble passion, never thrilled by an electric touch of sympathy. Some lives are complete within narrow limits: in the few years which are all they have, they ripen into perfect sweetness, or expend themselves in such a flash of heroism, as would make subsequent days, were they given, mean and poor by contrast. What shall we say of that nameless engine-driver in America, who last week, measuring his own life against six hundred more, rushed through the flames and saved them? Dead of his glorious wounds, who would dare to pity him, or to think his end untimely? Life may be measured by its breadth as well as by its length: by the number of its intellectual points of contact with humanity, by the width of its sympathies, the largeness of its hopes. Still more, there is a quality of intensity in which lives differ: some live more in a week than others in a year: it is not that they are consuming themselves under stress of circumstance or in agony of passion, but that their fibre is stronger, their central flame brighter, their power of endurance larger. This inequality of gift may be a religious difficulty, but it fits in with the whole economy of Nature, who is a Mother at once bountiful and prodigal, and while careful of the type, careless of the individual life; bidding one soul but open unconscious eyes upon the world and close them again, while another moves through the slow changes of ninety years. But it is easier to understand when we remember that a just God asks account only of what He has given. Within the narrowest fate is yet room to round off the perfect sphere. Of the lily that blooms to-day and fades to-morrow, He demands only that it shall be sweet and beautiful in its season.
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