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It was at Blantyre, in Scotland, that a lad of ten started as a piecer in a cotton mill, spent his first week's earnings for a Latin grammar, snatched a few words as he journeyed round the room, and so journeyed on through Africa till he slept, the revered and beloved Livingstone, in Westminster Abbey. It was from Denbigh, in Wales, that a boy left the poorhouse, crossed the ocean as a cabin boy, was adopted and left penniless in New Orleans, and emerged to be the greatest living explorer and costliest lecturer of our time. And it was about the same time, but across the Pacific Ocean, that another penniless lad stole away at midnight from the port of Hakodadi, at the peril of his life, covered up in the bottom of a boat and hidden beneath a pile of clothing in a schooner, to return in ten years with influence to affect the future of an empire. These men made the way they did not find ; and so did Alexander Mackay, when in 1876 he set forth in the novel work of an engineering missionary, and that to the realm of the savage African Mtesa, saying in his parting speech, “ In six months you will probably hear that one of us [eight] is dead. It may be I. Send some one at once to take his place.” In three years seven of the eight were dead and he alone was left. So he toiled on, carpentering, forging, turning, boatbuilding, well-digging, brickmaking, type-cutting, printing, practicing medicine and surgery, translating, expounding, preaching, refuting the Mohammedan, coping with the priest, defeating the conjurer, awing the savage king, till his fourteen years' work was equal to many a long life.
just twenty-five years since two unlearned persons, a man and his wife, took their stand on Mile-end Green to begin a work for the rescue of the degraded and the outcast. They were persons of clear heads, true hearts, and bad taste. Against the sneers of the cultivated, the jeers of the wicked, and the fears of the good they made their way till the Salvation Army with its income of nearly four million dollars has sung its hymns to the nations and has startled England and the Marquis of Queensberry with its vast schemes. Thirty thousand persons formed the funeral train of that unlearned woman, and five thousand had been led by her toward a better life. Of Booth himself it was an eminent British politician and freethinker who said : “We have all of us been on the wrong track ; the whole of us have less to show than this one man Booth.” “ Whom do you call 'we'?” “Oh,” with a laugh, “ we children of light - Herbert Spencer, Matthew Arnold, Frederic Harrison, and the rest of us who have spent our lives in endeavoring to dispel superstition and to bring in a new era. But this man Booth has produced more direct effect upon this generation than all of us put together. But,” he added, true to his banner, “it is a driveling superstition.” “Driveling" is a marked improvement since Tacitus called Christianity a “ruinous superstition,” Pliny a “noxious” superstition, and Suetonius a "perverse "superstition. The world moves.
Such instances in other lands, however extreme and rare, suggest the still more abundant possibilities of our own land. The doors are wide open.
I will not
speak of public or political life. The changes have been sufficiently rung upon the poor boy's chances for a governor's chair or a seat in Congress. We have heard more than enough of " log-cabin,” “rail-splitter,” and “canal-boy” Presidents; and it is a fresh recollection, for it is but eighteen years since a native of this state, a farmer's eleven-years bound apprentice and then a maker of shoes, passed with a splendid record into the Vice-Presidency of the nation; and fresher yet, for it is less than three years, since a poor minister's son, born but seventy miles away and starting as a small trader not seventy rods away, reached the same high place.
And we have heard enough too of the "scholar in politics." He might perhaps be in better business and sometimes in better company. Doubtless he is neither to seek nor to shun it. He belongs there when the place stands candidate for the man and not the man for the place. Otherwise let him pray for the wings of a dove that he may fly away and be at rest. The greed of office, if not an apple of discord in the seeking, is too often an apple of Sodom in the eating. The brilliant Sherman refused the bait.
It is to posts of usefulness and not to spheres of ambition I would direct your minds. And here where shall I begin and where shall I end? In every direction and to every watchful eye there opens out a long clear vista of telling toil — above all, to the young man of broadly trained powers. We may take him abroad as Abraham was taken and may say to him: “ Look forth
to the stars, and tell what under these wide heavens canst thou do; then go and do it." There is not only room at the top- that was always so — but there is room all the way up. What now is wanted is not only the best things of the best man, but every man's best.
Is it practical life in its cruder forms? How the air is laden and the earth's surface upheaved with schemes of modern enterprise, calling for practical skill and executive force !
Have you the money-making gift? Never was there such a call and such chances to make money for God and man, and never such a boundless
of with such tangible results. And the time is fast coming, if it have not come, when no rich man's memory can be honored except as it is embalmed in some charity and when there is occasion for deathbed repentance, if he have waited for death to unlock his coffers.
Is it some form of business activity, no matter what ? Now is a time when the Christian layman is coming to the very front, a Gates, a Hammond in the west, a Cooper or a Pratt in the east. And such also is the nexus of relationship in modern times that through all the warp and woof of a business career there may run the silver thread of thoughtful culture and the golden thread of Christian beneficence.
Is it the teacher's work to which he looks forward ? Conspicuous and abundant as has been the supply from this ancient institution, the demand has never been exhausted. There are continual inquiries for special qualities that cannot be met.
And for the reverent scholar and earnest student what vast fields of research and what a boundless range of choice lie open! The critical discussion of the sacred books themselves, pursued for a hundred years and unfinished still; the careful editing of their ancient versions, scarcely attempted; the ever-widening investigation of collateral antiquities in Egypt, Chaldea, Cyprus, Palestine, Assyria, and that old Hittite empire with its records yet unread; the rewriting of the whole world's history from newly discovered documents, monuments, and recent excavations; the analysis and comparison of the nine hundred languages of man; the great problem of the races, their affinities and their genesis; the unsolved questions of electricity and magnetism, of light and the spectrum ; the boundless range of astronomy, with its meteoric and nebular and ether hypotheses; the true geological history of our earth; the career of prehistoric man; the mooted questions of evolution, revolution, and creation; the inmost secret of life itself; the unsolved relations of mind and matter; the problems of disease and the influence of bacteria ; the grave matters of sociology and of political science, — these and a multitude of specialties are holding out their invitations, not alone to brilliant genius but to plodding industry. Meanwhile for the ardent philanthropist some new charity seems to be born with every new moon, till no man can recount the catalogue. Somewhere, if not everywhere, is the opening for every reverent thinker and every philanthropic worker.