« PreviousContinue »
he is ready to ask, Has this courage all perished from the world? No, it has not. It still comes at the call. It has reappeared in China and Turkey and Madagascar in our times. We may well believe that many of those our countrymen who died for their country would have died for their God. Doubtless some died for both in one act. True, even now we sometimes hear of men who face death in the duel, and oftener by their own hands. But the duelist does it because he is a coward, and the suicide because he is a greater coward ; the one cannot face a wicked scorn, the other cannot face a hard lot, or perchance his own folly.
The Christian courage now demanded is not that which met the lion in the arena or the inquisitor in the dungeon. Thumbscrew and rack and pincers can now only be applied to the soul, thank God! but they can rend there. In our modern civilization and sensibilities Christian heroism is as precious and priceless as ever. It were easy to draw a dark picture of the times. There are organized forces of public sentiment, warring agencies of political life, batteries of social influence, and fortresses of entrenched evil practice, formidable even to some who might have faced the dragoons of Claverhouse or the troops of Alva. The howl of the press at times would gladly become the roar of the lion. A vast iron network of relationships
Never could such a converging pressure be brought upon a man in active life. Never was
a the courage of conviction more hard beset. Frauds, trusts, rings, combinations and strifes of classes, and
reckless speculation make business difficult and precarious. The legislator is besieged by the brewers, distillers, saloon keepers, grangers, trades unions, foreigners, Romanists, fanatics, and impracticables of every description. The politician is threatened by the men of the dishonest dollar and of fraudulent elections, and a strong Chief Magistrate is constrained by the two great parties combined to sign an unjust Chinese exclusion bill — though all honor to the twenty-eight representatives who stood manfully against it. Gambling is rife. The most innocent sports are saturated with betting. Agricultural fairs often degenerate into horse
Legal technicalities and blunders are flung around the vilestof murderers. The preacher is tempted to suppress all utterances that could disturb the consciences or the practices of his hearers. Comparative religion is the order of the day, and Christianity, which even the Roman persecutor recognized as unique and exclusive, has now got into the Pantheon and is patronized as best, on the whole, although the excellences of Mohammedanism and Mormonism have their apologists. Secret societies compete with Christian churches and clubs with homes. In science men require one to accept their unproved notion that man and the jellyfish, the beetle and the rhinoceros all started from exactly the same kind of germ and call him a “fossil” otherwise. In Biblical literature the men routed in their onset upon the New Testament require him to join them in putting the Old Testament on the rack and dislocating ell its joints and call him otherwise “no scholar.” In short, things are in no little confusion and upheaval ; as I think, the upheaval of growth and progress.
It seems to many, as it has always seemed to some, that the times are at their worst. It is not true. The world is growing better all the time. Yet none the less, but all the more, does it call for the man of Christian courage, and to him the promises are outstanding in full force. And never before in the history of the world have they been more manifestly fulfilled, whether in the time of Abraham, Joshua, David, or Nehemiah.
For, dark as is the picture I have outlined, far brighter is its pendant. Never could good men be so combined for a good work; witness the great missionary and philanthropic associations of our time. Never did the public conscience so respond to righteous utterances. Witness the bold British lawyer putting the Prince of Wales on an apology and his good behavior, and the veteran statesman forcing the adulterer from the Irish leadership. Never was avowed infidelity so fettered and handcuffed by the morality of the gospel. Witness the contrast between the life of Bolingbroke, Rochester, or Paine, and that of Ingersoll. Never could one devoted person lead off such enterprises of good : the Massachusetts youth of humble origin starts Christian Associations for the world, and the native of New Hampshire and graduate of Dartmouth originates thousands of bands of Christian Endeavor from Maine to Australia. The American woman goes through the zenanas of India, and eleven “King's Daughters," as they call themselves, sail on the steamer Island with funds for the starving Russians. Buttons built Williston Seminary, soap endowed Colgate Academy, food and lodging founded a hospital. Any and every form of Christian activity and courage may count on its harvest. Never was Christendom so rapidly encroaching on heathendom.
And never was there a time when the conscientious and heroic man was so irrepressible and inextinguishable. Of abounding instances in every walk of life let me pass by all — philanthropists, missionaries, and the rest — to take one, objectionable, perhaps, because of the kind of sphere and the almost unparalleled success, but known to the world rather as a lesson than example.
. It shall be of one who testifies that “circumstances always did shape my life different from my plans." He longed for a home in an Ohio village, and again in the West and in California; he was jostled about from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He hoped to be some time a professor of mathematics, but he never taught a day. He sickened at a Mexican bullfight and withdrew, and was as distressed in an enemy's hospital as though they were his friends; yet he was destined to see scores and scores of thousands wounded and slain by his orders. He loved and longed for peace; he was forced to become a man of war. He was sent to West Point against his will, and went longing for a steamboat or railway accident to arrest the journey. He remained, wishing the bill to abolish the academy might pass.
He was in rank but twenty-first of thirtynine, though near the head in "conduct." He did not expect at first to graduate, but he did. He entered the army intending shortly to withdraw, but he did not. He remained eleven years, and rose only from brevet second lieutenant to be captain. When fighting began he was “sorry he had enlisted,” and was borne on in a regimental charge to which he was not assigned because he “had not moral courage” to withdraw ; but he learned later to hear unconcerned the balls whistle around him, break the scabbard of his sword, and kill the horse he rode. When the civil war broke out his offer of service was ignored by the government, and the letter lost for years. In his modesty he felt doubtful whether he were equal to the position of a colonel, and for long his highest ambition was to command a brigade of cavalry; but he did what he could and did it always well. He held on his way, going and growing as he went. He became a colonel, to be restrained, suppressed, misrepresented, rebuked, virtually arrested, and removed by his superior ; but he held on.
He rose stage by stage, often disobeyed by his subordinates, disparaged by his equals, and berated by the press on the eve of his greatest achievements; but he held on. He was outvoted in the only council of war he ever held; but he held on and succeeded. He was distrusted and savagely criticized to the very end of his career, but he held on. The details of his plans were often frustrated by disobedience and incompetence, sometimes by Providence; but he held on, developing a marvelous power of combination, concentration, and determination, till this brevet second lieutenant of infantry, now become lieutenant-general of the United States, with a vast body of troops to direct, a vast territory to subdue, and a vast destiny in his