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In romance, even, how different the atmosphere that breathes through the manly, healthful pages of Walter Scott from the keen but caustic, cynic, and depressing air of Thackeray! In theology, morals, and life what a difference between the bracing, uplifting work of Lyman Beecher and the uncertain flights of his more brilliant son !
Yes, wherever found, it is the nature of light to shine. Cicero well said that a lighted torch can kindle many other torches without dimming its own light. Yet that is but half the truth. For when that torch is a human soul it not only burns none the dimmer, but evermore the brighter for all the light it sheds. And so the enlightened Karen, Hawaiian, Nestorian, Dakota, and Japanese become missionaries to the benighted. Two years ago, Tsong, a poor Chinaman in the Cheh-piang province, went to a hospital at Ningpo, and was cured of opium eating. While sitting in the dispensary he heard the gospel, and exclaimed: “That is just what I want!” He seems to have accepted it instantly with his whole heart and soul. When he returned to his home he bore witness to his friends and neighbors of the truth of which he was so full; and last December the missionary was summoned thither to examine thirty candidates for baptism.
Yes, “shineth " is the word. Said the old clergyman to the young and flighty preacher: “Give us what you believe, and keep your doubts and difficulties to yourself.” Even so. All through life give us the believers and not the doubters, the creators and not the critics,
the builders and not the destroyers, the helpers and not the hinderers, the cheerers and not the carpers, the singers and not the croakers. Away with gnostic and agnostic, and give us the man who knows and sees sees spirit, heaven, and God as clearly as body, earth, and dust. Up with the optimist and down with the pessimist! It is the light, and never the darkness, that shineth. III. Its progress.
· More and more.” The good life grows as it goes.
The first streak of dawn may be faint and dim, but it heralds the day. In a little seed in California, thinner than a grain of mustard, it would have been impossible to discern a tree four hundred feet in height and a hundred feet around, but it was there. No man knows the possibilities that are in him. Others seldom see them. Philip Doddridge was the tiniest of infants ; he was laid aside for dead at his birth, and his little life flickered doubtfully in its socket; but it shone. The youth of Washington seems to have been encouragingly crude. At least, the young women of his day saw in him no beauty that they should desire him. Vainly did the one poem of his life plead with Mary Cary Ambler for his "poor resistless heart,” which “lay bleeding every hour,” and complain, “She will not on me pity take.” She never did take pity. And equally in vain did he write to Miss Bettie Fauntleroy, imploring a "reconsideration of her cruel sentence." She did not reconsider. But he became somewhat.
High character and noble influence always accrue by slow and steady gain. Men sometimes leap into notoriety or reputation at a bound, but not into the momentum of goodness and true greatness. It is oftenest the harvest of a lifelong growth. Not seldom its chief power is posthumous. The good do not all “die young." Indeed many a precocious promise is harvested and saved by “the reaper Death.” It had been well for the ancient Saul and for the modern Henry VIII had they died after the first year's reign. The best life takes time for its oak-like strength. As in many a military conflict the only question is, Which will hold out longest ? so in the battle of life “he that endureth to the end” shall be victor.
For though it be — as it will — by little and little, it is always "more."
“more.” Nulla dies sine linea was the good maxim of a great painter. And the most beautiful fact about such a growth in any sphere is its quiet unconsciousness. It does not, Jehu-like, boast what it is and what it will do, “ Come and see my zeal.” Nor does it like a Beaconsfield defiantly and dangerously avow to what it will attain. All unambitiously it does its work and bides its destiny. With the polestar of duty full in its eye it unfurls its sails to the breezes of Providence. So noiseless is the mechanism and so quiet is the gliding that often only by gazing back at intervals on the headlands left behind is the progress seen.
Yet it is as sure as it may be slow. Not only more,” but “ more and more.” The crafty Jacob refined at last to a venerable and beautiful old age ; and the early “son of thunder,” ready to invoke "fire from heaven on his foes, is last seen on earth as a son of consolation, with the ceaseless message, "Little children, love one another." There was one of whom it was said, whether truly or otherwise, “He started to get on, then to get honor, and finally to get honest.” It was a poor start, but a commendable progress. It was great gain for James Lick when he changed his project of a huge marble pyramid on San Francisco Bay for a great telescope on Mount Hamilton. His memory, that would have gone down loaded with tens of thousands of tons of solid, stolid stone, is now in some degree illuminated by the great object glass of his own equatorial as he sleeps beneath it. Everywhere growth, expansion, is the law of life, and stagnation the forerunner of death. The great painter Raphael twice changed his style in his short life; and Angelo in his old age retained his motto, “Learning still.” The Venerable Bede passed away with the last words of his translated Gospel falling from his lips. There was a devout Christian woman, just gone to heaven, who after the age of sixty learned to read her New Testament in the original Greek. As there are young men beset with the infirmities of age, and old men who were always old, so there are old men and young men alike who in heart, thought, and act never grow old. The only “dead line" is death. It is "more and more," adding and adding while life lasts. Even so has the apostle set forth the round of Christian growth as a great problem of addition or enlargement. “Add to your faith virtue ; - or, in your faith supply virtue - and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”
IV. See now the issue of the good life. « Unto the perfect " or completed “day.”
day.” Dawn tends to noon, Faith and patience inherit the promises. All true vitality tends to maturity, and no other harvest is so absolutely sure as the moral harvest. One of the satisfactions in a career of moderate length is to watch the success of those who are struggling manfully upward and onward. I mean genuine success not place or wealth or fame, but the value and power and appreciation too of a good life.
Would that every young man might stand for one hour on some Pisgah in prospective vision and see from the beginning as he will see from the end! Instead of the sad message that fell on the ear of the Sinaitic lawgiver, “I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither,” he would hear the apostolic promise, “ Let us not be weary in well doing : for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” Outer life has indeed its ups and downs, its accidents and incidents, but through them all, or over them all, the inner worth holds on its way unhindered. They neither mar nor make the true man.
“Pygmies are pygmies still, though perched on Alps,
A nobody raised to the presidential chair in four years becomes a nobody again. A Webster proves too great for the chair to hold.