When Mrs. Eddy says, "The error of the ages is preaching without practise" (Science and Health, p. 241), she gives expression to a vital truth which we all recognize, but which perhaps we do not readily appropriate to our own use. How far-reaching in effect are good deeds! How tame and weak are mere words in comparison! Perhaps in every pulpit of the land ministers are uttering truisms about goodness and honesty, and fathers are repeating similar words of advice to mold the characters of their sons, but one strong example of fidelity to Principle leaves a deeper imprint for good than many sermons.

If Jesus had not lived the truth he taught, does any one imagine that his words would be repeated in the churches of every land as they are today? On the other hand, the influence of a life of such purity and goodness could but have been felt far and wide, to the betterment of mankind and the exaltation of ideals, even though no word of advice or counsel had been given by him. "But," says some one, "it is so easy to preach and so hard to practise!" This is of course only one of the multifarious lies of mortal mind. There can be no doubt that the criminal whose career comes to a tragic end, after he has wound his devious way through the subterranean passage of sin and crime, has not found so easy a path even in this world as he would have had he taken the straight and narrow one. The fact that the shortest distance between two points is by a straight line is as correct a guide in moral and religious life as when applied to the problems of geometry.

We often attribute our failure to render perfect obedience to God's laws to the fact that we do not understand them. Doubtless if we did fully understand those laws, and were in perfect accord therewith, it would be as impossible for us to sin as it would be for the wheel to run off its axle when securely fastened thereon. But a failure to comply with the laws of harmony which we already know is not going to attune us to higher symphonies. It is a beautiful and consoling thought that if we are living in strict and thoughtful obedience to the best that we know now, it is sure to follow that we shall become better able to distinguish between good and evil, between wrong thoughts and deeds which lead to distress and suffering and right thoughts and deeds which lead to peace and harmony. We are always ready to contemplate the magnitude of the success that would have been ours in material or spiritual attainments if only our environments had afforded us the same chances and opportunities that some others have had. We feel that if we had not been deprived of certain educational or other advantages, we might today grace some position of dignity and power far above our present one. Perhaps this is true. Yet, many of those who have left us the most admirable examples have been men and women whose childhood was spent in watching the hillside flock or splitting the rails of the backwoods. The crown of triumph and achievement was placed upon their brow after they had traversed the long road of quiet doing and being and living, of putting into practise all of the good and beautiful and true which fleeting glimpses into books and into nature had revealed to them. We must practise what we know if we would gain even worldly success, and this is no less true with respect to our spiritual progress.

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December 21, 1912

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