Daily Reading for August 12 • Florence Nightingale, Nurse, Social Reformer, 1910
Much confusion exists in the ordinary, popular mind about the much-used and much-abused words salvation and damnation. The ordinary/popular idea seems to be that of a God who sits like a chairman of Quarter Sessions or rather like the Lord Chief Justice and deals out sentences according to the verdict of acquittal or guilt. Is not this the lowest possible idea of God? Attached to this, but unworthy even of a Lord Chief Justice, is the idea that there is a certain quantum of suffering which God chooses to dose out to His creatures—one does not see exactly why—if one does not have it, another must.
We hear much talk of a “better world.” Suppose this world is the better world. But how can this be; is hell the better world? If there is a scheme in God’s government for bringing each one of us to perfection by God’s laws in eternity, then is not each stage of this eternity a “better world,” the best of worlds? Perfection, salvation, life, eternal life, these are all synonymous. Yet few there be who find salvation or perfection (in this life), yet we are all to be perfect. As far we can understand, for human creatures perfection is only infinite capability of progress. As far as we can understand, God’s government is that of laws by which people are perpetually progressing; humankind that is, not always the individual person, is the supplying means and inducements to infinite progress. He has said humankind shall create humanity, and this humankind shall have eternity to do it in. Why should we despair? Is not all eternity ours? . . .
Salvation is not a place or a time. It is a state, a state always progressing but always here. It is represented in the scriptures by the word “life.” If anyone will take the pains of looking through all the passages where our Lord or St Paul make use of the word “life” he will perhaps be surprised to see how constantly it is used in this sense, as a thing present, a salvation not to come but here.
From Florence Nightingale’s sermon “Strait is the Gate”; found at http://www.sociology.uoguelph.ca/fnightingale/spirituality/straitgate.htm