“It is unfortunate,” said A. J. Balfour, “considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.” Another British prime minister, George Canning, made similar pessimistic comment on things not always being what they seem, when in New Morality (sic—and 150 years ago) he spoke of someone who “finds with keen discriminating sight, black’s not so black—nor white so very white.” The ability to recognize and cope with grays might be considered one of the marks of maturity.

Peculiarly appealing, nonetheless, is the challenge of a clear-cut issue. In our youth many of us responded sympathetically to words such as those of Miss V. H. Friedlaender: “When we are grown, we know it is for us to rend the flowery lies from worlds foul with hypocrisy; to perish, stoned and blinded in the desert, that men unborn may see.” Few of us have not at some time gone further, and felt that if only we could fix the circumstances of our own martyrdom, there would be no sacrifice we would not be prepared to make for our faith.

Love of spectacular activity is not, of course, exclusive to the Christian. Long before the days and dreams of Walter Mitty, Naaman showed he had anticipated something very different when he was referred humiliatingly for his cure to the Jordan. Yet the words of the Syrian’s servants have lost none of their ringing relevance down through the centuries to our own age of headline-hitting demonstrations. “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?”

In working out his purposes, God may call and deal with his people in ways that surprise us. (There is something basically ...

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