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a chaos or a desert. We should not love the flowers if it were always spring; and our purest pleasures would pall did not pain and loss come to teach us their worth.
Life is action; but to be passive, awaiting the utterances of God, through whatever medium they may come, is often the highest wisdom. To souls that are calmly expectant, whisperings become audible, as in the silence of serene nights, which tell of diviner worlds, where it is eternally well with the gentle, the loving, and the pure of heart.
There is no worse perversion of Christian truth than to maintain that the Savior taught that to make one's self miserable here is the means of attaining future blessedness. They who follow Him walk in the way of peace and joy. They are unafraid. They dwell in a heavenly kingdom. The Omnipotent is their father, with them in death as in life. They need little, nor fear to lack that little. Suffering makes them wise and strong. They are able to be of help, for they think not of themselves. They do no evil, and therefore can suffer none. They despise not this present life, for they are conscious that even now they are with God and are immortal. Since universal love is the law of Christ's religion, they thrust forth whatever may foster the spirit of distrust and alienation. It is weakness and ignorance to imagine that to dislike those who have a creed or a country other than ours, is proof of piety and patriotism. The bitterness we cherish against others makes our own lives bitter; the wrong we do them we ourselves must suffer. We play the Pharisee when we think or believe as though we were superior to the rest of men.
The followers of the Divine Master best know that true men need not great opportunities. He himself met with no occasions which may not be offered to any one. His power and goodness are most manifest amidst the simplest and lowliest surroundings. To beggars, fishermen, and shepherds He speaks words which resound throughout the ages and still awaken in myriad hearts echoes from higher worlds. Whether He walks amid the cornfields, or sits by the well, or from a boat or a hillside speaks to the multitude; whether He confronts the elders who bring Him the guilty woman, or stands before Pilate, or hangs on the cross, He is equally noble, fair, and God-like. The lesson He teaches by word and deed is that we should not
wait for opportunity, but that the secret of true life and best achievement lies in doing well the thing the heavenly Father gives us to do. He who throws himself resolutely and with perseverance into a course of worthy action will at last hear the discords of human existence die away into harmonies; for if the voice within whispers that all is well, it is fair weather, however the clouds may lower or the lightning play. What we habitually love and live by, will, in due season, bud, blossom, and bear fruit.
Whatever opportunity is favorable to genuine life, to its joy, purity, beauty, and power, is good; whatever occasion is hurtful to such life is evil. In each one's path through the world there are a thousand pitfalls, into any one of which he may step unawares. Let us take heed therefore and choose our way.
Let a man have a purpose, let him resolve and labor to make of himself a good mechanic, or merchant, or farmer, or lawyer, or doctor, or teacher, or priest; but first of all let him have the will and the courage to make of himself a true man, for else there shall be no worth in him. On the miser, the drunkard, the liar, the lecher, the thief, no blessings can fall. Our value is measured by that of the things we believe, know, love, and strenuously strive to accomplish. Make no plans,
no plans, entertain no schemes. Think and do day by day the best thou art able to think. and do. This is the open secret, which all might learn and which only a few know. But to them it reveals the way to the highest and the holiest.
Busy thyself not with what should be corrected or abolished; but give thyself wholly to learning, loving, and diffusing what is good and fair. The spirit of the creator is more joyful and more potent than that of the critic or reformer. Budding life pushes away the things that are dead; and if thou art a wellspring of vital force, thou shouldst not be a grave-digger. The test of a man's strength and worth is not so much what he accomplishes as what he overcomes. When circumstances favor, the lesser man may do the greater work, as cowards who are armed conquer heroes who are weaponless. He who has made his own the spiritual wealth of all the ages, knows more and can do more than the mighty men of the past, who excelled him in natural endowment and in virtue,
The wise therefore are not exalted in their own conceit by the advantages and opportunities they enjoy, but they are made humble rather when they remember the greater and worthier men who, lacking all save honest minds and true hearts, hewed their way through a thousand obstacles to freedom and light.
Few can utter words of wisdom, but opportunity to speak kind words is offered to every one; and they are more helpful. When we are thrown with persons who have feeble mental culture, but who are mild, simple, and true, we feel how little intellectual accomplishments contribute to form what is best in man. They who have the mother virtues are not injured by their ignorance of the objections which would discredit all virtue. The best is within the reach of all; therefore it is not to be found in great possessions or exalted position or abstruse thoughts. The reward of all right life is increase of the power of living rightly. The world can give to the hero or the saint nothing that is comparable to the growing strength and joy there is in being a hero or a saint. “To be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Opportunity for many things may be lacking, but it is always possible to do what belongs to one's condition; and if it be only to wait and suffer, the right spirit will make this enough.
Whatever is inevitable or irremediable is, in so far, part of the divine purpose, and to accept it with a grave trustfulness is the only wisdom; but let us be slow to believe that a thing is inevitable or irremediable. Walk perseveringly in the light of a great purpose, and difficulties shall disappear, even as the horizon recedes before the advancing step. Have faith in thyself and in God, and thou shalt be borne upward and onward as by invisible tireless wings fanning the ethereal element, where the soul breathes its proper atmosphere and knows nor doubt nor fear. If small things are given thee to do, do them as though they were great, since for thee their significance is infinite.
We are the slaves of our needs—the fewer they are, the freer are we; the higher they are, the nobler the masters we serve. Not independence, but interdependence, is the law of our life. It is only in ministering to one another, in bearing one another's burdens, in sharing one another's
joys, that we become human and truly live. Let us draw closer together, that we may feel the pulsings of divine sympathy and love in one another's hearts. If we stand apart we shall be stranded in the great river, we shall miss the good of living, we shall lose God. Life is communion and helpfulness; death is disintegration and impotence. A spiritual empire, a heavenly kingdom can be constituted and sustained only by the moral and mental union and communion of its citizens, and this can be brought about and kept vital only by right education. When a noble faith and great thoughts strike root in the heart and mind of a people, it is held together by bonds which no catastrophe, no conquest, no dismemberment or dispersion can loosen; and without a noble faith and great thoughts neither military power nor vast territory nor wealth can give to a people a permanent place in history or a lasting influence on the progress of the race. All else passes and becomes as though it had not been, but what the world once recognizes and accepts as a vital truth, as an ideal of human perfection which cannot be outgrown, remains a possession forever to purify and enrich life.
Opportunity in the highest sense of the word is opportunity for education, for making ourselves men. This end every occasion should serve, since for this we are born. “We should, as far as it is possible,” says Aristotle, “make ourselves immortal, and strive to live by that part of ourselves which is most excellent.” Now, the testimony of the wise of all ages agrees that a virtuous life is the best and the happiest. Choose and follow it then though thou find it hard; for custom will make it easy and pleasant. Piety nourishes faith, hope, and love, and therefore sustains life. If thou seekest for what is new and also permanently interesting, live with the old truths, until they strike root in thy being and break into new light and power. The happenings of the day and year are but novelties, but bubbles that burst in the vacant air ; that which is forever new is ancient as God. It is that whereby the soul lives. It was with the first man when first he blossomed forth from eternity; it is with thee now and shall be with all men until the end. It is the source whence thy being springs: its roots dip into infinity; its flowers make the universe glad and sweet; it is the power
which awakens the soul to the consciousness of its kinship with Him who is all in all, who is life and truth and love, who the more He is sought and loved doth seem to be the more divinely beautiful and good. Learn to live with the thoughts which are symbols of His Eternal Being, and thou shalt come to feel that nothing else is so fresh or fair. As a sound may suggest light and color, a perfume recall forgotten worlds; as a view, disclosed by a turn in the road may carry us across years and oceans to scenes and friends long unvisited; as a bee weaving his winding path from flower to flower may bring back the laughter of children, the songs of birds, and the visionary clouds fallen asleep in the voluptuous sky of June; so the universe will come to utter for us the voice of the Creator, who is our Father. Nothing touches the soul but leaves its impress, and thus, little by little, we are fashioned into the image of all we have seen and heard, known and meditated; and if we learn to live with all that is fairest and purest and best, the love of it all will in the end become our very life.