The Sculptor's Work!
Charles Naylor, 1920
One day many years ago, as I was walking along in the suburbs of a city, I came to a large shed with wide-open doors. My attention was attracted by the sound of blows; and as I came near the door, I saw some workmen at the back end of the shed busily at work. Near the door on a small platform stood a large irregular piece of stone. Standing by it was a man with a large chisel in one hand, and a heavy mallet in the other. As I looked he walked up to the stone and began to knock great pieces off it with chisel and mallet. I paused to watch him — my curiosity aroused to know what he was doing in his apparently aimless work.
As I watched, he continued breaking large chunks and pieces from the stone; and so far as I could see, he was just simply breaking it to pieces. I wondered what he wanted such pieces of stone for. But presently he began to kick them out of the way as if he had no use for them, and so I wondered still more what he was doing. After a time he stepped over to his work-box, took another chisel and a lighter mallet, and began to knock off smaller pieces of the stone. For a long time this continued. I could not tell what the outcome would be. So far I had seen nothing but destruction. From time to time he changed tools — but still he cut away pieces of stone in the same seemingly aimless fashion. At length he began to cut depressions into the stone here and there.
A long time I watched him, still wondering. At last he made a few quick strokes on one end of the stone, and I saw the outline of a head appear. A few more strokes, and I exclaimed within myself, "A lion!" I watched until the head became more distinct and life-like. Then under the quick strokes of the biting chisel, one paw appeared, then another; and as I watched, the whole figure took outline, and I knew that what seemed to be only an aimless work of destruction — was instead the skilled work of a sculptor.
I had seen only the block of stone — but within that block of stone he had seen the beautiful figure of the king of beasts. The work that seemed to me to be without purpose, now proved to have been full of purpose. The pieces of stone cut off were merely so much waste-material that hid the beautiful statue.
I knew now that what would be left of the stone after the sculptor had completed his work would go to adorn some fine building and to be looked upon and admired by many people. No one had admired it in its former state. It was only a block of stone, unattractive and of little value. But it would now be a thing of beauty to be treasured. Yet that change could take place only when the sharp steel had smitten away all useless parts.
I went away thoughtful. I realized that that was a great allegory of life. The great Sculptor sees in every Christian, no matter how rough and irregular, great possibilities. Whereas we can see only the exterior, he sees within the potential image with which he would adorn his glorious building above. Man was created in the image of God — but that image is now obscured by sin and its results.
And so the divine Sculptor must do with us, as the sculptor did with the stone. He must bring to bear upon us — the sharp chisel of affliction, of disappointment, of trial. It seems that these things will destroy us. It seems that these things are evil, and we shrink from them. Some think that God is not just toward them. Some cry out in pain. Some mourn and lament. Some cry to God to stay his hand. And many, oh, how many rebel! They cannot see what all this sculpting means. They feel that it is all wrong. Sometimes they murmur against God and their hearts grow bitter; but all the time, the Master Sculptor with his sharp chisel of pain, is only carving his own image in their natures and characters.
You want to be in his image, do you not? You desire the beautiful lines of holiness, purity, truth, meekness, faithfulness, and kindness to appear in you. You want to be a part of the adornment of the heavenly temple. If you would be not a mere block of stone without form or beauty, but the image of the Creator — then you must let affliction do her work sculpting on you — that is only one way. Christian character comes only through affliction. If you shrink and murmur or if you rebel — then your character may be marred forever.
Do not thing that God will let your life be ruined. He wants you for the adornment of his palace. So when affliction comes — the pain of sorrow, of bereavement, of temporal loss, of being reproached and having your name cast out as evil, of being wounded by the tongue of slander — in whatever form affliction comes to you, hold still; bear it patiently; it will work out in your life God's great design!
Would you have patience? Then you must have many things to try your patience.
Would you have meekness? You can obtain it only through endurance.
Would you have faith? You must meet and overcome many obstacles.
Our graces and virtues can be brought to view in the solid structure of Christian character — only by long and continued chiseling. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you" (1 Peter 4:12). "Which IS to try you" — did you ever notice that? It does not say which 'may' try you — or which 'probably' will try you; it says, "Which IS to try you." That signifies that it was 'intended' to try you. It was meant for that purpose; it does not come by accident.
Trials are necessary. If you are ever to be what God wants you to be — then you need trials, you must have them; you can never be strong or patient or meek or brave or possess any other virtue God wants you to have — unless you stand the test. "Many shall be purified, made white, and tried." God will do the purifying — and he will also see that we get our "trying." "After you have suffered a while," Peter says, God will "make you perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you!"
The chisel pain must do its work. Even Jesus was "made perfect through suffering." Let us bear it manfully, yes, joyfully — knowing that it will leave its mark upon us, even the mark of our Lord Jesus Christ. It will bring out the beauty and richness of the Christ-life, and fit us to be in His presence forever!