Character is measured by aspiration. In desire alone is the true standard of moral manhood, of spiritual growth. We rightly hold religion to be the highest governing ideal of mankind, but too often we forget that our religion is defined, not by our creeds, but by our desires. A noble aspiration is true worship, but a selfish purpose betrays hypocrisy. Our fundamental conception of prayer is that it is a desire worthy to be held in the presence of God. Yet the words of prayer are often but a screen which hides unworthiness of thought. The true significance of sacrifice is its acknowledgment that all we have, or are, or can be, is derived from God; is His, and is held subject to His command. Yet superficial gifts are laid upon the altar, with the hope thus to find exoneration from the penalty of our wrong-doing; and when this sacrifice offends, men, like Cain, loose upon their brothers the hate and envy that their self-love has nourished. Thus do thoughts deny the God that lips confess. Thus do desires escape concealment, proclaim to all the world their father, and brand their possessors with the mark and nature of the evil which they serve.

Our desires are our prayers; they are our sacrament, our offering, our religion; in them we offer worship; and by them we declare for God or for mammon. They establish our citizenship. They give us fellowship with angels or with fiends. The good that is in our desires is a treasure of which no fate can rob us; and from the evil inherent therein no power of earth or heaven can redeem us, unless it first redeem our desires. Our creeds are worthless save as they define the desire that is, or indicate that which is to be. As others read our desires by our acts, so we by our desires may know our inmost growth; but if we call that desire which is only an admired ideal, we deceive ourselves. Desire carries with it willingness to pay the price. The miser thinks that his desire is to bless his fellow-men. He seeks gold, and for it pawns his brother's blood and his own soul. The drunkard will tell you that his greatest joy would be to see his children clothed and fed. This half truth is a whole lie. His first desire is bought with their poverty and tears. The murderer believes that he seeks only justice. He desires revenge; buys it at a price unspeakable; and in the payment of that price finds what he did not desire—justice.

Men are measured by their desires. They will not rise above them, and cannot sink beneath them. They are the rock or the sand upon which destiny is reared. Our desires determine for us the littleness or the greatness of the universe. By them we judge all things, and we select from about us that which fits our nature; just as the rootlet pressing the soil finds its proper food and rejects all else. More, they are the standard by which we must be weighed in the balance of the infinite. For when our deeds, like the hands that wrought them, have dissolved in dust, then must the spirit that prompted them stand unmasked and receive in turn what measure it has given; must find its heaven limited by the boundaries it has given earth. What need of an angel pen to write upon enduring page the deeds of men! Our deeds are but as the determinative of a moment. The nature of our desires is the determinative condition. Immortality carries with it perpetuity of exalted character. And what is character? It is the pure metal, upon which noble desires have stamped their image in that beauty and perfection which give to heaven its sanctity. Character unmasked will ever proclaim, as from the house-tops, our secret worship; the glory or the shame the flesh may conceal but cannot destroy.

Enjoy 1 free Sentinel article or audio program each month, including content from 1898 to today.

August 15, 1908

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.