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buried talent took no risks. The dead locomotive never jumps the track. Speed and power involve danger. Activity means liability. Wide usefulness carries broad exposure and shining virtues illuminate even small faults.
Rightfully, good men should not have faults; wrongfully, they do. And so certain are mankind of this universal fact that when they do not find they invent. And thus they have made Washington profane at Monmouth, Grant intoxicated at Shiloh, and John Howard uncomfortable in his family. Human captiousness and depreciation are no doubt often beyond all bounds unreasonable. Walter Savage Landoris reported by Caroline Fox to have said that Milton had one good line, and Dante perhaps six. The function of the faultfinder never dies. And we may even welcome him as one of nature's scavengers. While the smiting of the righteous is always an excellent oil, the smiting of the wicked is an excellent vinegar. It was certainly a very dull affair in the old Lydian monarch to employ a servant to say to him daily : “Remember, O king, that thou must die.” Poison and the dagger were abundant enough in those days to quicken a poor memory. There would have been shrewdness in keeping a keen-witted menial some ancient Wamba or Launcelot - who, instead of that diurnal humdrum, should have come to him with a fresh message each day: "Remember, O king, that you are conceited and boastful ;” “Remember, O king, that you are false and fickle ; “Remember, O king, that you are tyrannical and cruel ;” “Remember, O king, that you are hateful and hated.” This style of remark might have put him on some useful reflection and hopeful amendment. Such an application would have been, for an indolent Oriental, not only the oil and the vinegar, but the mustard too.
Such disagreeable remedies, if we are wise, are often conducive to our best health. As a man may be his own worst enemy, so his enemies may prove to be his best friends. They will be faithful to his faults. One lively foe is a better tonic than a score of phlegmatic or enthusiastic friends. He could afford to keep one or two of them on good pay. They will show him his failings under a powerful lens — though it may be chromatic and eccentric — a burning lens, that makes a hot spot, but not a consuming fire. Doubtless the great premier of England was more helped than hurt when his dashing rival called him “a sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, gifted with an egotistical imagination,” and the like, or when titled and jeweled ladies of society have termed him “that wretch Gladstone." The fire of hostile criticism has burned away the dross. Sharp watchfulness has made him watchful and almost in vulnerable.
The true man on the right path retrieves his errors, remedies his defects, rallies from his failures. Victory may be organized out of defeat, both in the military and the moral world. At Buena Vista, Taylor, because he did not know he was vanquished at noon, came out victor at night. "What think you of the day?” said Napoleon to Desaix, as he came upon the field at Marengo. “The battle,” said Desaix, “is completely lost. But it is only four o'clock: there is time to gain another.” And they gained it. Life is long enough for many such victories before and after four o'clock. At the third, the sixth, the ninth, and the eleventh hours the idlers entered the vineyard of the Lord and received their pay.
So should it be ever in the moral and spiritual world. No past shortcomings should weigh upon our future forthputtings; "forgetting those things that are behind," so far as they would hinder our progress.
It was said of the Bourbon princes that as they never forgot anything so they never learned anything. Stagnant folly! But a wise man will profit as much by his failures as by his successes perhaps more. In the true struggle of life hardships invigorate oftener than they kill. A well-fought defeat may be better than a too easy victory. “Sweet are the uses of adversity." Bad times often prove good times. Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit. There is what is called a “fatal facility," and the man who has it, not seldom needs to be drawn through some hard and narrow hole to strip him of his conceit and folly. One of the best things that ever happened to young Robert Hall was when he completely lost his self-possession in the pulpit and sat down covering his face with his hands in shame and agony. It was after this that he became the noblest preacher of his time. Many other men have passed through experiences as trying and mortifying, to their best achievements.
In the highest sphere of action, the moral and religious, the Scriptures have, for our encouragement, recorded a series of biographies full of such retrievals not alone from errors and follies but from faults and sins. Joseph and Daniel stand almost alone in unimpeached excellence. We read of Noah's disgrace, of Abraham's cowardly equivocation, of Isaac's parental weakness, of Jacob's duplicity, Moses' sin, Aaron's rebellion, and David's crimes, and of their full recovery. Yea, what magnificent characters were these! Such things are written for our instruction and emulation that we, in like manner, should rally from all our errors and falls wiser and better, if sadder, men. “Despair is the conclusion of fools."
III. Another of the guaranties of a true and noble life is steadiness and tension of effort. “Reaching forth unto those things which are before,” as the runner bends his body towards the goal he seeks. Life is a race in which there are no complete lettings up. It has no vacations that should vacate our manhood. The transient lapse too often becomes the permanent loss, Tenacity of purpose ever marks the winner. It was a favorite maxim of one of the most remarkable of modern adventurers that “patience is a necessary ingredient of genius." of genius.” And another, that “
everything comes to the man who waits.” This last maxim is true, if we read “everything that ought to come.” The question is, will we work and will we wait? We worry and hurry, we falter and flag. We relax our efforts and renounce our vigilance. The tried workman gets caught some day in his machinery. The old railway official gets killed by one of his own trains. The eager student grows tired and limp. The professionai man ceases to grow and begins to decay; for in all things intellectual and spiritual we struggle upstream or we drift downstream. Firmness of purpose is more than facilities for working. Kossuth in prison asked for an English Shakespeare, Bible, and dictionary; and he went through America speaking the language like a native. Such men hold on and hold out. When Dora Lloyd asked Sterling what Kant thought, Sterling replied : “He thought fifteen octavo volumes.”
Good men have much to learn, too, from the pertinacity of bad men and wicked schemes – how the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. And in the moral and spiritual sphere we have much to learn from the simply secular perseverance. If it takes Kinglake twentyfive years to write a history of a two years' Crimean war, we must remember that it takes longer yet to inscribe a character. Time itself is an element. We must wait ourselves; we must have patience with others. Men mature like grain - first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. They ripen like the autumn fruit or the autumn forest, mellowing and brightening day by day. Their solidity and strength must come, not with the burst of the mushroom, not with the shooting of the clematis, but with liveoak