WHAT is exaggeration? One dictionary defines it this way: "The act of in creasing the bounds of truth by overstatement. The act of increasing or heightening immoderately or of heaping up."
When we think of exaggeration our mind usually is turned to an acquaintance we have had with someone who has made himself well known for telling tall tales. Thus, our emotional response to the word is negative rather than positive.
But for the scope of this article I would like to think of a positive application for exaggeration. For a Christian this should not be too difficult, because he would have to greatly exaggerate his conceptions in some areas in order to even slightly comprehend the full meaning.
For instance, let us think in these four areas: (1) The vastness of the universe, (2) the matchless love of God, (3) the value of a soul, and (4) the beauty of heaven.
A Big Universe
The finite mind of man cannot begin to comprehend the vastness of the universe. This fact can be seen easily by just the consideration of light. Light travels at the unbelievable rate of 186 thousand miles per second, or 6 trillion miles per year. When we are told that at this incredible rate it would take 100,000 years for the light from a distant star to reach this planet, we wonder whether it can be true. Actually, from Palomar Observatory it has been reported that it would take 600 million years for the light from some distant stars to reach the earth. Unbelievable, it seems!
The heavens sparkle with billions of galaxies, some of which contain millions of stars, yet there is no congestion. Someone has said that if everything in Europe could be blotted out, leaving millions of miles of barren territory, and then three tiny insects were placed in that vast area, Europe would be more congested than the universe of God with its billions of galaxies.
The second thing that man cannot exaggerate is the love of God. In Testimonies, volume 5, page 740, Ellen White pays this beautiful tribute to the love of God:
All the paternal love which has come down from generation to generation through the channel of human hearts, all the springs of tenderness which have opened in the souls of men, are but as a tiny rill to the boundless ocean when compared with the infinite, exhaustless love of God. Another has expressed God's love in these lines:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
-F. M. LEHMAN
Mrs. White continues her beautiful tribute: "Tongue cannot utter it; pen cannot portray it." Regarding her own inability to describe God's love she says:
I walk with trembling before God. I know not how to speak or trace with pen the large subjects of the atoning sacrifice. I know not how to present subjects in the living power in which they stand before me. I tremble for fear lest I shall belittle the great plan of salvation by cheap words. I bow my soul in awe and reverence before God and say, Who is sufficient for these things. --Letter 40, 1892.
It will be the privilege of the redeemed to study that love for ages to come. But we will never fully comprehend the breadth, the depth, and the height of the love of God in giving His Son to die for the world.
One writer speaks of a man named Nansen who was taking soundings in the Arctic Ocean. His line was too short, so he wrote in his diary, Deeper than that. The next day he lengthened his line, but still it was insufficient. The entry in the diary again was, Deeper than that. The following day he gathered all the line on board the ship and took his third sounding; still it failed to reach the bottom. He made a final entry in his diary, Deeper than that. God's love is like that.
He will lower the golden chain of His mercy to the lowest depths of human wretchedness, and lift up the debased soul contaminated with sin. --The Ministry of Healing, p. 161.
When we see the length of the chain that was let down for us, when we understand something of the infinite sacrifice that Christ has made in our be half, the heart is melted with tenderness and contrition. --Steps to Christ, p. 36.
With David every redeemed sinner can say:
He raised me from a lonesome pit, a muddy bog, he set my foot on a rock and steadied my steps; he put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God, that many might see this, and be awed, and trust in the Eternal (Ps. 40:2, 3, Moffatt).
Worth of a Soul
The third fact that we cannot exaggerate is the value of a soul. Few men realized this more than did the two great evangelists Charles Spurgeon and Dwight L. Moody. Millions of people flocked to hear Spurgeon preach during his long and fruitful ministry. For many years 10,000 attended his service every Sunday, including Gladstone, Ruskin, Shaftesbury, and Queen Victoria. During his ministry he baptized 10,800 people. Thousands of others were added to the church by profession of faith and by letter. When he cast out the net, it would return filled.
In spite of his great success with vast audiences, he never lost sight of the value of a single soul. He said: "Did you ever think of the tremendous value of a single soul? My hearers, if there were but one man in Siberia unsaved, and all the world were saved besides, if God should move upon our minds, it would be worth while for all the people in England to go after that one soul." --Spurgeon's Sermons, vol. 1, p. 342.
His counterpart, Dwight L. Moody, was experiencing similar success in the United States. He, too, held high the value of a soul. He said:
It is a great thing to lead one soul from the darkness of sin into the glorious light of the gospel. I believe if an angel were to wing his way from earth up to heaven, and were to say that there was one poor, ragged boy . . . with no one to ... teach him the way of life; and if God were to ask who among them were willing to go down to this earth and live here for fifty years and lead that one to Jesus Christ, every angel in heaven would volunteer to go. Even Gabriel . . . would say, "Let me leave my high and lofty position, and let me have the luxury of leading one soul to Jesus Christ." There is no greater honor than to be the instrument in God's hands of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan into the glorious light of heaven. --Church Officers Gazette, Dec. 7, 1929.
Ellen White has well said: "In comparison with the worth of one soul, the whole world sinks into insignificance." Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 614. "At the foot of the cross, remembering that for one sinner Christ would have laid down His life, you may estimate the value of a soul." --Christ's Object Lessons, p. 196.
Another vista that man cannot over estimate is the beauty and glory of heaven. Paul says: " 'Things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by Cod for those who love Him' " (1 Cor. 2:9, N.E.B.).*
In this present life man has gazed with rapture on beautiful and unforgettable sights, but how far short they are of the glories of heaven. Millions have stood with reverential awe before the giant redwoods or before the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. We have thrilled at the sight of Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Old Faithful, and Niagara Falls. In all parts of the world the beauties appear. Switzerland has its Alps, Norway its fjords, Africa its Victoria Falls, and Japan its Fujiyama mountain.
Hawaii was especially impressive to Mark Twain. "For me," he says, "its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf-beat is in my ears; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore. ... I can hear the plash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago." --Watchman, November, 1922.
But for many the most glorious sights are in the heavens. "No sight that hu man eyes can look upon is more provocative than is the night sky scattered thick with stars." Llewelyn Powys.
To the astronauts has been granted an unusual privilege. Major L. Gordon Cooper expressed his sentiments in the prayer: "Father, thank You . . . for the privilege of being able to be in this position; to be up in this wondrous place; seeing all these many startling, wonderful things that You have created. . . ."
But even these glorious sights will not equal the glories that await the redeemed in the life to come.
As your senses delight in the attractive loveliness of the earth, think of the world that is to come, that shall never know the blight of sin and death; where the face of nature will no more wear the shadow of the curse. Let your imagination picture the home of the saved, and remember that it will be more glorious than your brightest imagination can portray. In the varied gifts of God in nature, we see but the faintest gleaming of His glory. --Steps to Christ, pp. 86, 87.
H. M. S. Richards in his delightful volume What Jesus Said, page 17, writes:
When Marco Polo, the famous Venetian traveler of the thirteenth century, came back and told people of the wonders he had seen in the faraway kingdoms of the East, very few people believed him. Later when he lay dying, he was urged by his attendants to recant, to withdraw all the false statements he had made about China and the lands of the Far East. But he said, "No, I have nothing to recant. It's all true every bit of it. In fact, I have not told half of what I saw." So it is with the subject of heaven, the half has never been told. . . . No matter what heaven is like, it is beyond our imagination. It cannot be judged by this life. We shall never be able to tell half, nor a hundredth, nor a thousandth part of what heaven really is.
These are but a few of the many things that the most brilliant minds cannot now fully comprehend. What joy awaits us in that glad tomorrow!
With unutterable delight we shall enter into the joy and the wisdom of unfallen beings. We shall share the treasures gained through ages upon ages spent in contemplation of God's handiwork. And the years of eternity, as they roll, will continue to bring more glorious revelations. -Education, p. 307.
What this quotation really says is that there is no way to exaggerate when speaking about the vastness of the uni verse, the love of Cod, the worth of a soul, or the beauty of heaven, for in these realms it is impossible "to in crease the bounds of truth by overstatement."
It is possible then is it not, to credibly exaggerate?
* From The New English Bible. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1970. Reprinted by permission.