The Grace of Continuance
George H. Morrison
It is perilous to judge a person by one action. Life is too complex and intricate for that. It is as if one were to judge a countryside by a single and isolated clump of trees. Ruskin has it that if out of a Turner landscape you cut a quarter of an inch of sky, within that single quarter of an inch you would feel the infinity of heaven. It may be there are lives like that, so penetrated with purpose or with passion, that wherever you touch them you get the real character. As a general rule, however, it is a perilous thing to judge a man by any single action. In his great hours he may be greater than himself; possibly he may be less than his true self. And always it is wisest, if you would judge a person not by the tenor of his life but by an action, to take an action of a usual kind. There was an hour, for instance, when Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the priest's servant with it. There was another hour-never to be forgotten-when, panic-stricken, he denied his Lord. But if I wished to know the real Peter, I should not turn to either of these hours; I should rather choose an action such as this-Peter continued knocking. Shall I tell you what it reveals in the apostle? Three things that are well worth observing.
In the first place, this common act shows Peter's courage. It makes that unmistakable. Whoever it was who stood there in the street, it was not a panic-stricken man. When Peter broke prison we know what hour it was; it was the fourth watch of the night. This indicates that it was no longer dark; the day was beginning to glimmer in the east. The smoke of the household fires was mounting heavenward, and the first footfalls were echoing on the pavements, and Peter continued knocking. Shrouded in the darkness of the third watch, he might have been reasonably safe out in the street. But in the fourth watch, when the sun was rising, it was at his peril that he delayed a moment. Yet Peter, w ...
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