Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1844
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Think About Your Creator in the Days of Your Youth
- REMEMBER ALSO your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, "I have no pleasure in them"; Ecclesiastes 12:1 RSV
- p. 231
- There is a truth, the greatness and the grandeur of which we are accustomed to praise by saying admiringly that it is indifferent, equally valid, whether anyone accepts it or not; indifferent to the individual’s particular condition, whether he is young or old, happy or dejected; indifferent to its relation to him, whether it benefits him or harms him, whether it keeps him from something or assists him to it; equally valid whether he totally subscribes to it or coldly and impassively professes it, whether he gives his life for it or uses it for ill gain; indifferent to whether he has found it himself or merely repeats what has been taught. […] There is another kind of truth or, if this is humbler, another kind of truths that could be called concerned truths. They do not live on a lofty plane, for the simple reason that, ashamed, as it were, they are conscious of not applying universally to all occasions but only specifically to particular occasions. They are not indifferent to the single individual’s particular condition, whether he is young or old, happy or dejected, because this determines for them whether they are to be truths for him.
- p. 233
- There is nothing in the wide world that is able to compensate a person for the harm he would inflict on his soul if he gave up the thought of God; but the person who demanded the highest, blinded though he was, still let it be understood that in a certain imperfect sense he grasped the significance of what he was abandoning.
- p. 235
- Think about your Creator in the days of your youth. One does this best and most naturally in youth, and if anyone kept the thoughts of youth through all the rest of his life-well, then he would have accomplished a good work.
- p. 240-241
- There was a thinker who became a hero by his death; he said that he could demonstrate the existence of God with a single straw.
- p. 243
- When a person grows older he often scrutinizes his thoughts and retards himself.
- p. 245
The Expectancy of an Eternal Salvation
- For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4.17-18
- p. 253
- It may be a merit of our present age that in many ways it has known how to work the wish weary and in that way to wean the soul from wishing; it may be to its advantage if it thereby has developed an honest earnestness that for the good renounces the fraudulence of wishes. We do not reproach the age for having made the idea of the power of the wish into playing with words if it thereby motivates someone to work with his own hands instead of with the borrowed energy of the wish. But the wish for heaven’s salvation-is this, too, a play on words, as wishing for heavenly help has become for the frivolous, who thinks that we ought to depend on God the way we depend on people –that is, if you help yourself then God does the rest. And if the wish for heaven’s salvation has become playing with words, has the aim in it been to incite people to work all the harder to gain it? This seems not at all to be the case.
- p. 254
- Salvation is a matter of course; nothing follows in turn from it. Therefore, let us not waste time by first making doubtful something that is a matter of course, and then by allying the doubt that never brings the assurance one has when one lets it come as a matter of course, this point of view still does not deny that heaven’s salvation is a good and can disapprove of the wish for it only insofar as the wish already is a kind of unnecessary concern, since salvation is a matter of course whether one wishes it or not.
- p. 256
- The thought of heaven’s salvation dare not become a matter of indifference to a person. How would salvation become a matter of indifference to him for whom the discourse need not venture out to the outermost boundary of thoughtlessness, but whose soul is well educated to hear the serious words of earnestness “that God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7), whose soul is prepared by considering what presumably would completely overwhelm the confused, “that no one can serve two masters, since he must hate the one and love the other” (Matthew 6:24), whose soul is fully awakened from sleep to understand what presumably would hurl the sleepwalker into the abyss, “that love of the world is hatred of God!” (James 4.4) has the spiritual sense to be disgusted at the thought that heaven’s salvation, despite it gloriousness, could be nonsense, has the maturity of understanding to grasp that heaven’s salvation can no more be taken by force than it can be redeemed like a fine in a game of forfeits. Such a person has the time to consider the one thing needful, the heart to wish for heaven’s salvation, the earnestness to reject the flirting of light-minded ideas, the fear and trembling in his soul to be terrified at the thought of breaking with heaven or of taking it in vain.
- p. 258
- Experience certainly has long known how to think of some cheer for the troubled, but, as is natural, it does not know a joy that passes all understanding. Experience knows all the many inventions of the human heart, but a rapture that did not arise in any man’s heart it does not know.
- p. 263
- The expectancy of an eternal salvation will reconcile everyone with his neighbor, with his friend, and with his enemy in an understanding of the essential.
- p. 265
- Even though the concern did not provide a person humble entrance, it is still worth endeavoring to gain it so that there may be an inwardness, a hallowed place in the soul, where the consciousness retreats, lets the world go, incloses itself in itself, becomes reconciled with itself and thereby with the differences in life, an inclosure where thoughts of finitude, insofar as they presumptuously want to force entry, are found every morning to be overthrown, like Dagon’s statue at the foot of the Ark of the Covenant, before the sublimity of the concern that is solely concerned about the intrinsically valid, and that is not the expectation that wants to enter heaven triumphantly and wants its festive entrance to be decisive for others.
- p. 267-268
- Is not heaven’s salvation so great a good that it needs no increment by means of some external circumstance? The person who has salvation certainly can neither wish to become more blessed by some irrelevant thought nor wish to be disturbed by any irrelevant thought. If a person thinks that his salvation is assured nevertheless thinks something like this, it simply shows that he is not thinking about salvation, and this other thought may very well make him lose salvation, just as the consciousness of the good deed causes one to lose the reward.
- p. 270
- If one was not what in a more elevated way is called a simple man, but what in plain, everyday speech is called a real simpleton, and you, my listener, were a wise person who profoundly asked, “What is truth?” and restlessly pondered the question with competence and success-do you suppose it would disturb you if he became just as blessed as you and heaven’s infinite salvation made you both equal?
- p. 271-272
He Must Increase; I Must Decrease
- He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3.29-30
- p. 275
- A person should not, if life is to have deeper meaning, become accustomed to understanding everything in general, should not be in a hurry to understand everything, but should patiently follow the pointer that continually points to himself. And even though in every other sense it is just a figurative expression to say that we see the finger of God in life, a person who is concerned about himself understands it quite literally, because all deeper and more inward self-knowledge sees the finger of God that points to him. To miss one letter confuses the whole world, and yet this confusion is nothing compared with the confusion that occurs when a person, in understanding life in its totality and the history of the human race, skips over one human being-himself-since the individual human being is, after all, not like a single letter, in itself a meaningless part of the word, but is the whole world. And yet this happens very frequently, and therefore very little is learned from life.
- p. 275-276
- The same thing that happened to the greatest among those born of women also happens to lesser ones; what happens in the unique decision also happens in the lesser ones, and the words are not profanely used by learning from them to compose oneself in the lesser situation of one’s own life.
- p. 278
- We shall not decide which life fights the good fight most easily, but we all agree that every human being ought to fight the good fight, from which no one is shut out, and yet this is so glorious that if it were granted only once to a past generation under exceptional circumstances-yes, what a description envy and discouragement would then know how to give! The difference is about the same as that in connection with the thought of death. As soon as a human being is born, he begins to die. But the difference is that there are some people for whom the thought of death comes into existence with birth and is present to them in the quiet peacefulness of childhood and the buoyancy of youth; whereas others have a period in which this thought is not present to them until, when the years run out, the years of vigor and vitality, the thought of death meets them on their way.
- p. 280
- Every human being is only an instrument and does not know when the moment will come when he will be put aside. If he himself does not at times evoke this thought, he is a hireling, an unfaithful servant, who is trying to free himself and to cheat the Lord of the uncertainty in which he comprehends his own nothingness. That much in life is empty and worthless, people certainly do know, but how frequently the single individual makes an exception, and even the highest mission in the spiritual world is only an errand, and one who is equipped for it with all spiritual-intellectual gifts is only on an errand-but why is the sending out of angels so beautiful, inasmuch as they return again to God’s throne so speedily that they have no time to be tempted by the thought that they are taking care of their own affairs!
- p. 282
- John remained true to himself; precisely when his disciples’ news seemed to call for a different response, he gave witness to them of that which he had proclaimed in the wilderness before the coming one appeared and had preached to the people. He requested them to witness along with him that this had been his witness from the beginning, and the disciples had to witness along with him that this witness was his conclusion, his yes and amen.
- p. 284
- How many roads there are in the hour of decision! And yet, there is only one road; the others are wrong roads, whether they lead to the place where envy concocts its plans, where grief has its haunts, where the worm of desire does not die, where disconsolateness stares at its loss, where mockery alarms others with its vile wisdom, or where the tongue of slander betrays the abundance of the heart-all these roads lead away, far away, and thought does not even dare to follow them.
- p. 285
- He must increase-who is this “he”? In the sense in which we have used the word, everyone can identify him with another name; this is how change occurs here on earth; one increases and another decreases, and today it is I and tomorrow you. But one who in humble self-denial and with genuine joy saw another increase-his mind will be turned into a new joy, and this new joy of his will surely be full. … An old saying states that everyone would rather see the rising sun than the setting sun. Why everyone? Do you suppose this includes someone whose sun it is that is setting? Yes, for he, too, ardently desires to rejoice just as the bridegroom’s friend does when he stands and hears the bridegroom’s voice.
- p. 289
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