HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.–Matthew 12:13
No Challenge to Handling That Which Is Easy
Few things are so attractive as those which seem impossible. The passion to achieve what seems impossible is one of the deepest passions of mankind. One might have thought that man, being a reasonable creature, would have averted his gaze from the impossible. It would seem natural that he should give his energies to things within the compass of his powers. But there is that within the human heart which is always suspicious of the easy thing and yearns for victories beyond its grasp. Tell men that a certain hill presents no difficulties, and for the climber, it loses half its charm. Men do not dream of it by night, nor resolve to gain the summit in the morning. But tell them (as climbers once were told) that it is impossible to scale the Matterhorn, and they never rest till the Matterhorn is conquered.
The Daring of Childhood
We see that curious element in childhood, and the child is the father of the man. The nearer anything approaches the impossible, the stronger its attraction for the child. Children have a way of daring one another. It is the childish challenge of the perilous. The parapet that looks impossible to walk on is more attractive to the boy than any highway. That is the real charm of fairy tales, with their seven-league boots, and fairy godmothers, and palaces erected in a night. If the heart of childhood could rest in easy things, fairy tales would lose their charm tomorrow. But that is what the childish heart can never do, in the dullest surroundings and most prosaic street. And fairy tales, where things impossible are common as berries on the rowan tree, are a refuge, in imagination, for the cravings of the childish heart.
Science Is Mastered by the Lure of the Impossible
It is very largely to this lure that we owe the conquests of our science. Great discoverers and inventors are like children and are mastered by the lure of the impossible. When Stephenson proposed to run a train at thirty or forty miles an hour, men laughed at him as an unbalanced visionary and assured him it was quite impossible. Had they only known the human heart, with its strange and undecipherable questings, they would have known that their jeering was an encouragement. It is impossible things that captivate the child, and every man of genius is a child. He dreams at night, not of the safe bridge, but of crossing the foaming torrent on the parapet. Every train running across the world, and the telegraph and the radio and the aeroplane, spring from the deep passion of humanity to achieve what duller people call impossible. It is this lure which at last discovers continents, and reaches the Pole, and finds the source of rivers. It keeps men eager, in spite of every argument, to get in touch with Mars. I fancy we all love the conjurer, though we know quite well he is deceiving us because his nightly business is doing the impossible.
Christ Used the Lure of the Impossible
It shows how perfectly our Lord knew the human heart that He loved to employ the lure of the impossible. One thinks, for instance, of the man with the withered hand. That the man had often tried to stretch his hand we may take for granted from all we know of life. His wife would say to him: “Husband, you’re looking better; don’t you think you could stretch out your arm today?” And always, though he made a thousand efforts, there was no response in that withered hand of his. The thing was found to be utterly impossible. Jesus was perfectly aware of that. He read the life of that sufferer like a book. He did not sympathise with him in words. He challenged him on the line of the impossible. And the wonderful thing is that whenever Christ does that, a faith is kindled equal to accomplishment, and things that yesterday were quite impossible to become perfectly possible today.
The Lure of the Impossible Is One of Christianity’s Strengths
This lure of the impossible is one of the great powers of Christianity. It is one of the things that sets a gulf, for instance, between Christianity and Mohammedanism. Mohammed says, “Brother, all that I ask of you are perfectly within your power. I shall give you definite rules that you must practise, and, practising them, you will be perfected.” Christ gives men an infinite ideal, beyond the grasp of any human hand, and lures them on with the lure of the impossible. That is why Mohammedanism is stagnant–it has no infinite and unattained ideals. That is why Christendom thrills and throbs with life, and has “the rapture of the forward view.” Beyond every peak, there is another peak, and though nobody wins the highest summit here, he gets higher than if he were never called to climb. The lure of the impossible, transformed by Christ, has given its zest and urge to Christendom. The more we trust and toil, the more we feel that the ideal for which we strive is unattainable. But then, thanks to that same Lord, we believe that we have forever, and there the impossible that lured us on will be ours in the perfect vision of the Father.