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And is it that noblest work, the Christian ministry? The demand to-day for strong men and sound men for posts of power is far beyond the supply. Not chiefly for showy or show men. Merely brilliant men are at a growing discount as erratic and unsafe. Faithful, earnest, spiritual men are wanted more and more. And how many a man of but fair abilities, yet of the clear head and the right heart, that is better still, — has in
our day been making his deep and lasting mark for the kingdom of Christ! I need not cite names of the living. Within a twelvemonth I passed the old mansion of one whom I remember well, a former Dartmouth graduate, whose name is found in no dictionary of biography, but who with a salary never more than three hundred dollars and a parsonage, helped a hundred young men on their way to college, fifty persons on their way to the teacher's work, and nearly five hundred into the kingdom of heaven.1 And a few weeks since I read the death of one who, with sight always so dim that he could with difficulty follow a winding path, recited well in college, preached well in the pulpit, wrought well in the parish, and after a life of brightness and sweetness went at the age of seventy to his reward.2 Outside of Christendom where is the region that is not inviting the Christian teacher, preacher, physician, and renovator? While horror-stricken, bloodstained Africa, where every pound of ivory exported means a human being slaughtered, opens her earth's
1 Rev. Samuel Wood, D.D., of Boscawen.
2 Rev. Guy C. Strong, Arvada, Col.
mouth that has drunk up this blood and calls for missionary help, so also do hidebound Spain, Austria, and Mexico join the cry.
The chief difficulty which the young man encounters as he looks out on his career is the embarras de richesses, the diversity and multiplicity of the paths opening before him like the corridors of some vast labyrinth, till he can scarcely guess which will first lead him to the light. But while he works and waits and watches, let him know assuredly that there is somewhere a place waiting and watching for just such a man as he. Sooner or later the two are apt to find each other. There are more "mute inglorious Miltons" and bloodless Cromwells in poetry than in prose. It is chiefly the question of the force that is in the man. For Beaconsfield was surely right when he said, "The spirit of the age is the very thing that a great man changes," and that his "success does not depend on adopting but on comprehending it."
While most men find their opportunities, some men seem to make them. Think of Pasteur and Koch in physico-medical research, of Edison and Field in practical art. But whether making or finding, work wins. The man whose brain teems with phonographs, telephones, and the like has for his law of labor "never to look at the clock"; and the man who connected two continents with transmitted speech did it at the cost of thirteen years' struggle, two failures, fifty crossings of the ocean, and the intermediate loss of the public confidence. But he did it.
In special cases Providence seems to smile on the man who is ready and to open the way. The boy Davy was brimful of chemistry when the president of the Royal Society accidentally saw him leaning on his father's gate and soon took him to London to his brilliant career. When from the brain of Ericsson there sprang, all armed, like Minerva from the brain of Jupiter, that Monitor which saved our fleets and harbors and revolutionized naval warfare, we are apt to think but of the hundred days of the contract; whereas it was but the birth travail of long years of pregnant invention. Not seldom the waiting seems longest and weariest for the best things. Havelock, but seven years before his name became a household word, could write as a subordinate officer: "I was purchased over by three sots and two fools." But Cawnpore and Lucknow told his tale to the world.
I say work wins, and one of the best forms of genius is a genius for wise work. Without it all other genius is little worth. The paintings of Meissonier of enormous prices are the fruit of enormous work. Some of his minor pieces were painted with a brush of one bristle. He told a theater manager that to paint him a drop-curtain would require, at his usual working speed, a hundred and ninety years. For his famous "1814," which money cannot buy, he painted before a mirror in an open room on his roof in a snowstorm, with an exact duplicate of Napoleon's gray overcoat mounted on a "lay" horse before him.
Work wins. Nothing without it now in business,
The great nov
science, art, literature, invention even. elist studies up like a German professor. Bushels of rhyme and acres of novels wither away because they have no deepness of earth. The architect must be half engineer. The professional man must read forward or drop behind. The farmer must figure better than he plants. Men cannot take all their astronomy in Verne's voyage to the moon, their political economy in "Looking Backward," nor their ethics and theology from "Robert Elsmere." Things have passed from the molluscous to the vertebrate.
Providence often guides the seeker and even the wanderer to his sphere. James Montgomery could look back to the time when, as a truant with a pack on his back and a sorry heart in his breast, he sat down in the little inn at Wentworth and could say of it: "Had I not taken the right instead of the left hand road, had I not crossed over, I knew not why, to Wentworth, it is quite certain that not a single occurrence of my life, perhaps not a single thought, would have been the same."
Untoward events may become to the right man the right way. Loyola's career, whether we call it success or no, had never been but for a broken leg badly set. Twelve years in Bedford jail gave the Christian world one of its few deathless books. William Goodell's feeble childhood determined that forty years in the Turkish empire. But for Samuel Williston's failing eyesight Amherst College and other charities would be a million and a half the poorer.
Had Grant succeeded as a farmer the nation might have missed its greatest general. God's ways are not our ways. "The greatest piece of luck I ever had," said Peter Cooper, "was investing the first surplus money I earned in a lottery ticket." "And you won?" "No; I lost." Yet it was for the opposite hint that young Richard Baxter in Ludlow Castle forswore gambling forever. Playing against a noted gamester, with a bet a hundred to one against him as a hand so green, he had such a marvelous succession of throws that he believed the devil was in the dice, rightly enough,returned the money he had won, and played no more. To such men there is no luck-nothing but perseverance, patience, prudence, and Providence.
It is an infelicity that we must draw all our illustrations from conspicuous lives; whereas this is a day of opportunity to the humble as well. When the czar and four grand dukes lately followed on foot through dirt and snow the hearse of Catherine Stratton, their octogenarian English nurse, they paid tribute to a brighter life than their own. What was strange enough in Russia is characteristic with us. The place for which a man is thoroughly equipped he may reasonably expect to find. It is useless fretting and fuming and aspiring. The small man in too large a place rattles and is rattled. The open secret is to do so well this thing as to be ready for that. "Ready" is the watchword. The boy Davy was ready for the place when the place called. The young Faraday was ready too when the place called again. Von Moltke