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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

96                   A  CHRISTMAS SERMON

may have never been remarked upon the breach at the
head of the army ; at least he shall have lost his teeth on
the camp bread.

The idealism of serious people in this age of ours is of
a noble character. It never seems to them that they
have served enough ; they have a fine impatience of their
virtues. It were perhaps more modest to be singly thankful
that we are no worse. It is not only our enemies, those
desperate characters—it is we ourselves who know not what
we do ;—thence springs the glimmering hope that perhaps
we do better than we think : that to scramble through
this random business with hands reasonably clean, to have
played the part of a man or woman with some reasonable
fullness, to have often resisted the diabolic, and at the end
to be still resisting it, is for the poor human soldier to have
done right well. To ask to see some fruit of our endeavour
is but a transcendental way of serving for reward ; and
what we take to be contempt of self is only greed of hire.

And again if we require so much of ourselves, shall we
not require much of others ? If we do not genially judge
our own deficiencies, is it not to be feared we shall be
even stern to the trespasses of others ? And he who (look-
ing back upon his own life) can see no more than that he
has been unconscionably long a-dying, will he not be
tempted to think his neighbour unconscionably long of
getting hanged ? It is probable that nearly all who think
of conduct at all, think of it too much ; it is certain we all
think too much of sin. We are not damned for doing
wrong, but for not doing right; Christ would never hear
of negative morality ; thou shalt was ever his word, with
which he superseded thou shalt not. To make our idea
of morality centre on forbidden acts is to defile the
imagination and to introduce into our judgements of our
fellow-men a secret element of gusto. If a thing is wrong
for us, we should not dwell upon the thought of it; or we
shall soon dwell upon it with inverted pleasure. If we
cannot drive it from our minds—one thing of two : either
our creed is in the wrong and we must more indulgently
remodel it; or else, if our morality be in the right, we are
criminal lunatics and should place our persons in restraint.