The language used in the Scriptures for this sort of thing is full of intense interest. Some time ago I was reading in the old prophecy of Daniel. I was not thinking of this matter of winning men but simply trying to get a fresh grasp of that wonderfully fascinating old bit of prophecy. And all at once I came across that gem in the last chapter. I knew it was there. You know it is there. Yet it came to me with all the freshness of a new delightful surprise. |They that are wise shall shine with the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.|
Four times in those last two chapters of Daniel it refers to those that are |wise|; literally, those that are teachers. Those who have themselves learned the truth and are patiently, faithfully, winsomely telling and teaching others. The word used for influencing the others is full of practical picturesque meaning. |They that turn many.| As if a man were going the wrong way on a dangerous road. And I know it's the wrong way. There's a sharp precipice ahead. But he is going steadily on, head down, all absorbed, not noticing where the road leads.
I might go up to him, and strike him sharply on the shoulder to get his attention, and say, |See here, you're going the wrong way; can't you see the danger ahead there? Come this way,| with a vigorous pull. I have sometimes seen that done, in just that way. And if the man is an American, or an Englishman, or a German, -- we're all very much alike, -- he will say coldly, |Excuse me. I think I can take care of myself. Thank you. I'll look out for this individual.|
Or, I might slip gently up to the man, and get my arm in his, and begin to turn, very gently at first, and turn, and turn, and then turn some more, and then farther around still, and walk him off the other way. You will have to get close to a man to do that. Some folks never do. And you'll have to be at least half-way decent in your life to get close. Some folks never can. And you will need to be warm enough all the time inside, to melt through the icy cloak of indifference beneath which his heart may be wrapped up. But I can tell you this: the old world where you and I live is fairly hungry at its heart, with an eating hunger for turners of that sort.
And the promise of that old prophetic bit is this: |They shall shine.| You know everybody wants to shine. It is right to be ambitious, with a right ambition. But if any of you are ambitious to shine in some other sky than this, in your profession, in social life or in some firmament lower than this, may I gently make this suggestion to you? Do your best shining now. Get on the brightest shining surface possible now. For this is your shining time. This is the sky-time for that sort of thing. It won't last long, I must tell you frankly. And at the end a bitter biting at your heart.
I am fond of watching a display of fireworks on a Fourth of July night. Perhaps the night is clear, the sky full of stars, bright and sparkling. A sky rocket is sent off. It goes up with a rush and a noise. There is a dash of many colored beautiful fire-stars. And a murmur of admiration from the crowd. For a few moments you can see nothing as you look up but this handful of fire-stars. The clear quiet stars beyond are eclipsed for a narrow circle of space, and for a few moments of time.
It doesn't last long. A small fraction of a minute at the most. Then it's all over. And all that is left is a charred stick that sticks in the mud, nobody knows where, nor cares. But look up yonder, the stars you could not see a moment ago for these momentary ones are shining more brightly than ever by contrast,
|... And singing as they shine.
The hand that made us is divine.|
You shine in the lower skies if you will. And of course you will if you will. You will do as you will to do. But, at the end -- a charred stick, a bad taste in your mouth, a sharp tugging at your heart. And the story's told. The last chapter's ended. The book is shut. But they whose one absorbing ambition it is to turn others to righteousness may not shine much here in earth's skies. And they may a bit, and it recks precious little either way. But they shall shine as the stars, as bright and as long.
It does not mean Atlantic coast stars. It means desert stars, Babylonian stars, where one can see so many more than here. They shake their wondrous fire-light down into your face, and fairly dazzle your eyes. You |shall shine as the stars,| as bright and as long.