Grace—with a Grain of Salt


AMONG the cunning frailties of human nature might be noted the tendency towards hoodwinking the heavenly omniscience. A pertinent illustration comes to my mind as I recall the rejoinder of an insane woman, who, having been frustrated in an attempt to drown herself, was asked if she did not know that such an act was “ wicked in the sight of God.” “ Yes ; but I just sat down on the bank, and slid in, and I thought that God would think it was an accident! ” Now, it seems to me that not all of us who are accounted sane are quite free from a like shrewd design upon Heaven’s high simplicity and credulity. It is said that men would be ashamed if the substance of their petitions to God were revealed to their fellow-beings. There are, perhaps, occasions when men might be ashamed on as good ground, if those who listen to their audible and public invocations could probe to the gainsaying and reservative clauses of the inner petitioner. Indeed, who has not at some time listened to prayers, the utterer of which appeared to approach Providence with well-studied diplomacy, avoiding to dwell upon the ills and griefs of human life, as though mention of them might excite choler and retaliation, or as though he were of the temper of the earthly despot, who, at all events, demands crouching and obsequious submission in the lot assigned! Such prayers may obtain, if the court of heaven welcome the flatterer and the coward. There’s a nobler ring in the old defiant strain, Let the gods side with the victor, Cato favors the conquered still! A certain passage in Job is frequently cited as a supreme expression of faith and resignation : “ Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” It may be owing to a somewhat stiff and incorrigible spirit that I am never content to let the quotation rest at this point in the passage (as it is commonly cited), hut insist upon the entire text: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” Though it may savor of irreverence, I am bound to say that it has always seemed to me, that the Almighty could not but approve this resolute and courageous attitude of his servant Job. I may add, moreover, that Job’s bold avowal was recently paralleled in the reported prayer of an esteemed old friend of the writer. This friend is a rosy-cheeked, clear-minded octogenarian, erect and energetic both in physical and mental habit, — an offshoot of New England stock, and related to one of New England’s sages. His usual excellent health being impaired by a slight cold, and patience in petty details of affliction not being among his virtues, he achieved a few mornings since the following remarkable grace : “ O Lord, make us thankful for that measure of health, though very limited, which Thou hast bestowed upon us ! ” The effect of this invocation upon those gathered at the table is easily imagined. How it was received elsewhere, I should not be disposed to question. So divine a thing is humor in the human, we must needs think that the Perfect is not without it; and if so, the grain of salt with which my old friend’s grace was seasoned did but sweeten and preserve the same.