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strife and envy, or they lead us into the pitfalls of sensuality, taking us away from ourselves to make us the sport of the mob of time-servers and idlers. To live for an hour alone with God gives us a more intimate sense of the value and sacredness of life than to dwell for years in the company of worldlings. O highest and best, source of all, of all father, guide, and nourisher, from out the midst of infinite mystery and suffering we look to Thee! On Thee our faith and hope and love, on Thee our need and despair still call. We cannot grasp Thy being or comprehend Thy ways. We can but know Thy truth, Thy goodness, and Thy beauty. It is enough: Thou art with us; in Thee we live. What Thou doest is eternally right; on Thee we throw the burden of our lives. Thou art, Thou hast ever been, Thou shalt be forever; Thou holdest us in Thy sight whether we live or whether we die.
The measure of the value of opportunity is its influence on religious and moral life. We are athirst for God, and finding Him not we harden to mere materialists, or sink into lethargy, or drown consciousness in the sloughs of sensuality. In the end, each one has but himself, and if God be not in that self, he is poor and wretched, though he possess a universe; for with a few spadefuls of earth on his head it will all be over, forever. The vanity, the nothingness of the individual, when his existence is thrown against the background of eternity and infinity, is appalling, but when it is lifted into the light and life of the Almighty Father, who is truth and love and righteousness, it acquires divine meaning and worth.
To throw away life is the greatest crime we can commit. It is our duty to live; therefore it is our duty to live in ever-increasing completeness of faith and love, of wisdom and power; for if we cease to grow, we begin to die. The body indeed is doomed to decay, but the soul was made to rise toward God throughout eternity. The only right opportunities, then, are those which help to make us god-like-strong, patient, active, fair, wise, benevolent, useful, and holy.
Genuine progress is spiritual. The man has higher value than the machine. Nietsche holds that it would be right and admirable to sacrifice all men actually existing, if it were possible thereby to originate a stronger species.
This, he says, would be real progress. But if there is no divine Being, no immortal life, this mightier superhuman, who would also have keener insight, would but see more clearly the misery and futility of existence. Let us rather listen to Matthew Arnold, when he declares that whatever progress may be made in science, art, and literary culture, however much higher, more general and more effective than at present the value for them may become, Christianity will be still there, as what these rest against and imply; as the indispensable background, the three-fourths of life. It is only when we walk in the spirit and follow in the footsteps of the Son of God, that we come to understand that life is opportunity, rich as earth, wide as heaven, deep as the soul.
We weary of everything, -of labor, of rest, of pleasure, of success, of the company of friends, and of our own, but not of the divine presence uttering itself in hope and love, in peace and joy. They who live with sensual thoughts and desires soon come to find them a burden and a blight; but the lowly-minded and the clean in heart, who are busy with whatsoever things are true and fair and good, feel themselves in a serene world where it is always delightful to be. When we understand that all is from God and for Him, and turn our wills wholly to Him, trouble, doubt, and anxiety die away, and the soul rests in the calm and repose that belong to whatever is eternal. He sees all and is not disturbed. Why should we be filled with apprehension because there are ripples in the little pond where our life-boat floats?
Since He has made us for everlasting bliss, He has made us to be happy now in the work that lies at our hand or in the sorrow and suffering we must bear. Whatever brings a high thought or a gentle or a generous mood is consecrated as though wafted to us from the wings of angels. Had we the power to gratify every wish and whim, human life would become impossible. God's love is as manifest when He hems us in as when He enlarges the bounds in which He permits us to move. We ask blindly for many things, when all that we need is that He guide us. “Thy will be done,” is the sum of all true worship and right prayer. The rest is aside from the divine purpose, and could it be realized would make the world
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, 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 wliat 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 virtut.
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
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