Story – The Fence Story

A man who prided himself on his morality, and expected to be saved by it, was constantly saying, “I am doing pretty well on the whole. I sometimes get mad and swear, but then I am strictly honest. I work on Sabbath when I am particularly busy, but I give a good deal to the poor, and I never was drunk in my life.”

This man hired a wise Scotsman to build a fence around his lot. He gave him very particular directions. In the evening, when the Scotsman came in from his work, the man said, “Well, Jock, is the fence built, and is it tight and strong?”

“I canna say that it is all tight and strong,” replied Jock, “but it is a good average fence, anyhow. If some parts are a little weak, others are extra strong. I don’t know, but I may have left a gap here and there, a yard wide, or so; but then I made up for it by doubling the number of rails on each side of the gap. I dare say that the cattle will find it a very good fence, on the whole, and will like it; though I canna just say that it’s perfect in every part.”

“What!” cried the man, not seeing the point. “Do you tell me that you have built a fence around my lot with weak places in it, and gaps in it? Why, you might as well have built no fence at all. If there is one opening, or a place where an opening can be made, the cattle will be sure to find it, and will go through. Don’t you know, man, that a fence must be perfect, or it is worthless?”

“I used to think so,” said the dry Scotsman, “but I hear you talk so much about averaging matters with the Lord it seems to me we might try it with the cattle. If an average fence won’t do for them, I am afraid an average character won’t do for you in the day of judgment.

“When I was on shipboard, and a storm was driving us on the rocks, the captain cried: ‘Let go the anchor!’ but the mate shouted back: ‘There is a broken link in the cable.’ Did the captain say when he heard that: ‘No matter, it’s only one link. The rest of the chain is good. Ninety-nine of the hundred links are strong. Its average is high. It only lacks one percent of being perfect. Surely the anchor ought to respect so excellent a chain, and not break away from it?’ No, indeed, he shouted, ‘Get another chain!’

“He knew that a chain with one broken link was no chain at all. That he might as well throw the anchor overboard without any cable, as with a defective one. So with the anchor of our souls. If there is the least flaw in the cable, it is not safe to trust it. We had better throw it away and try to get a new one that we know is perfect.”

Storytime Treasury, Harvestime Books, ©2008, 442, 443.