« PreviousContinue »
Through the whole circle of human activity the great law holds good, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," but most of all in the harvest of character and its fruits. There seems to be somehow an independent and transcendent vitality in character, so that it will thrive almost like an airplant, with scarcely a root to be seen. Professor Samuel Lee, one of the great Oriental lights of his day, had been pronounced by the master of the Charity School one of the dullest boys that ever passed through his hands. Wellington's mother thought him adunce and only “food for powder.” A theological student who was advised by his instructors to discontinue his studies was afterwards specially approved of God as a spiritual harvester. Of a medical student no longer living, who afterward became a successful practitioner and surgeon, a brilliant young clergyman remarked: “I would have him called to attend on me in case of one fracture only, and that a broken neck.” I have known a penurious man, who confessedly at first gave with pain, to give and give till he gave with pleasure; and his final record was a long story of beneficence.
A pleasant and an impressive thing it is to see a youth of fair parts, un blemished character, and unflinching faithfulness to his work, beset, it may be, with difficulties, struggling with diffidence, early crudeness, and possibly with ridicule, all unambitiously keeping the even tenor of his way, and almost unawares emerging at last into a weight of influence and a power of efficiency of which he never dreamed — sometimes from the most forbidding of early associations, as the lotus springs forth, beautiful and pure, from the mud of the Ganges. Of necessity these steady growths, though their name is legion, are not often under the eye of the great public. Yet for our enlightenment the ages are dotted with the names of men who have made their way out of the depths to stand on the heights - Bernard of Clairvaux, vassal of Burgundy, monk in a convent, rising even more by his singular goodness and lofty example than by his superior intellect or energy, to the molding of Europe and the elevating of his generation ; Schwartz in India, a humble missionary, by his piety, integrity, warm heart, and clear head, gaining the confidence and the mastery alike of British officers and British soldiers, of the East India Company, of Hindu natives of every degree, from the beggar to Hyder Ali and the Rajah of Tanjore, till his death was mourned by them all as a public calamity; Peter Cooper learning three trades in his boyhood, attending school but half of each day for a single year, coming forth as a broad and practical philanthropist, kindling a great light for his own and future generations; George Peabody emerging from poverty to enrich England and America by twelve millions in public benefactions ; Garfield, wood chopper, canal boy, farmhand, and carpenter, then student, teacher, lawyer, general, representative, senator, President, martyr; the peerless Lincoln, born in a shanty, environed by the lowest forms of border life, disappointed in his earlier aspirations, yet with his noble integrity, his boundless application, his kindly heart, and his ever-open intellect, moving steadily along till he stands on a pedestal by the side of our Washington. Why enlarge the catalogue ? How they illuminate the missal wherein it is written “the light shineth more and more unto the perfect day”; and how do they illustrate the great truth of painstaking elaboration, even as the lump of iron, a pennyworth at first, transmuted into steel, wrought into hair springs, becomes worth eight hundred times its weight of pure native gold !
So surely does the good life tend toward consummation that men place the broken shaft as the fit emblem over the grave of beloved youth. They count it a disappointed hope. Their thoughts dwell on a future frustrated. As the sweet infant lies, his eyes closed in a death so sudden that the bloom has not gone from his fair round cheek, the bereaved mother mourns not alone what he was but what he was to be to her. In the brave young lad that is gone the father laments also the joy of his advancing years and the staff of his old age. As there rises to my mind's eye the college classmate first starred upon the catalogue I see him not alone as the genial companion and true friend with the athletic form, the vigorous movement, the clear blue eye, the pleasant smile, and the melody of his flute, but I seem to see him as the thwarted candidate for even a higher life and a more noble career than that of his brother, senator and cabinet minister though he became, who laid him to rest in a solitary grave on the island of Cuba. In the distant west, at Gravelly Ford
on the Humboldt River, a lonely spot, once lonelier still, may be seen a small stone enclosure, surmounted by a
It was made by the rough hands of graders and masons of the Pacific Railway to save from oblivion the spot where sleeps the young Lucinda Duncan, torn from the embrace of loving parents on the way to a new home. It is the tender memorial of a blighted hope.
But early departures are not always broken shafts. “That life is long which answers life's great end.” Many a dutiful child, many a beloved son or loving daughter, many a young man in opening manhood has left behind a blessed record and a finished work. He who accepted the laborer that lingered till the eleventh hour will not be displeased with him who began at the first. For, be it remembered, the final issue, the truly “ "perfect” and absolutely cloudless day, comes only when the sun of this life has set.
Beautifully comes on our solar day: the first faint tint of light deepening to the warm glow and the living flush, the sun just edging over the hills, tinging the mountain tops, sparkling on the water sheets, pressing on through the scudding cloud, then rising in majesty and strength to shed down the full benignity of its broad glory from the zenith of heaven. It is God's own emblem of the good and godly life.
Young Gentlemen of the Graduating Class: After the lapse of many months I am glad to look upon your pleasant faces once more, and to bid you Godspeed before you go on your several ways. Though far away from you, following the sun on his three-hours journey to the Pacific coast, I have not been beyond the precincts of Dartmouth College. I passed through states that were empires in extent. I dwelt where the orange ripens and the roses bloom throughout the year, while the distant mountains look on from their snowy crests; I returned by a path where the railway climbed two miles above the sea, and threaded the chasm nigh half a mile in depth, where subterranean fires poured forth their hot springs and where the primitive rocks, upheaved, cleft, and contorted, bear their exhaustless burden of gold and silver, of copper and iron, of lead and coal ; but never long from under the shadow, or rather the sunshine, of the old college, and from the contact of its living graduates. I found them at San Diego, Pomona, Riverside, San Bernardino, Sierra Madre, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Benicia, Salt Lake City, Denver, St. Louis, and as I looked out through the Golden Gate I could seem to see a little company of four, “a bulwark diamond square," at their work in Japan. I found them in the pulpit, at the bar, in the medical profession, in the editor's chair, in the high school, the academy, the college, in the bookstore and the city library, in business, in the senate of California, and at the head of her whole system of public schools ; I found them superintending great Sunday-schools of a thousand children each, pushing societies of Christian Endeavor, sharing in all the plans and enterprises for the uplifting