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A Man's Value to Society
By NEWELL DWIGHT HILLIS
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A Man's Value to Society
Studies in Self-Culture and Character
Newell Dwight Hillis Author of "The Investment of Influence," "Foretokens of Immortality," etc.
"Spread wide thy mantle while the gods rain gold." —FROM THE PERSIAN.
Chicago New York Toronto Fleming H. Revell Company MCMII
Copyright, 1896, by Fleming H. Revell Company
Copyright, 1897, by Fleming H. Revell Company
TO MY WIFE
I The Elements of Worth in the Individual 9
II Character: Its Materials and External Teachers 33
III Aspirations and Ideals 55
IV The Physical Basis of Character 77
V The Mind and the Duty of Right Thinking 99
VI The Moral Uses of Memory 123
VII The Imagination as the Architect of Manhood 143
VIII The Enthusiasm of Friendship 165
IX Conscience and Character 189
X Visions that Disturb Contentment 213
XI The Uses of Books and Reading 235
XII The Science of Living with Men 259
XIII The Revelators of Character 281
XIV Making the Most of One's Self 301
THE ELEMENTS OF WORTH IN THE INDIVIDUAL
"There is nothing that makes men rich and strong but that which they carry inside of them. Wealth is of the heart, not of the hand."—John Milton.
"Until we know why the rose is sweet or the dew drop pure, or the rainbow beautiful, we cannot know why the poet is the best benefactor of society. The soldier fights for his native land, but the poet touches that land with the charm that makes it worth fighting for and fires the warrior's heart with energy invincible. The statesman enlarges and orders liberty in the state, but the poet fosters the core of liberty in the heart of the citizen. The inventor multiplies the facilities of life, but the poet makes life better worth living."—George Wm. Curtis.
"Not all men are of equal value. Not many Platos: only one, to whom a thousand lesser minds look up and learn to think. Not many Dantes: one, and a thousand poets tune their harps to his and repeat his notes. Not many Raphaels: one, and no second. But a thousand lesser artists looking up to him are lifted to his level. Not many royal hearts—great magazines of kindness. Happy the town blessed with a few great minds and a few great hearts. One such citizen will civilize an entire community."—H.
THE ELEMENTS OF WORTH IN THE INDIVIDUAL
Our scientific experts are investigating the wastes of society. Their reports indicate that man is a great spendthrift. He seems not so much a husbandman, making the most of the treasures of his life-garden, as a robber looting a storehouse for booty.
Travelers affirm that one part of the northern pineries has been wasted by man's careless fires and much of the rest by his reckless axe. Coal experts insist that a large percentage of heat passes out of the chimney. The new chemistry claims that not a little of the precious ore is cast upon the slag heap.
In the fields the farmers overlook some ears of corn and pass by some handfuls of wheat. In the work-room the scissors leave selvage and remnant. In the mill the saw and plane refuse slabs and edges. In the kitchen a part of what the husband carries in, the wife's wasteful cooking casts out. But the secondary wastes involve still heavier losses. Man's carelessness in the factory breaks delicate machinery, his ignorance spoils raw materials, his idleness burns out boilers, his recklessness blows up engines; and no skill of manager in juggling figures in January can retrieve the wastes of June.
Passing through the country the traveler finds the plow rusting in the furrow, mowers and reapers exposed to rain and snow; passing through the city he sees the docks lined with boats, the alleys full of broken vehicles, while the streets exhibit some broken-down men. A journey through life is like a journey along the trackway of a retreating army; here a valuable ammunition wagon is abandoned because a careless smith left a flaw in the tire; there a brass cannon is deserted because a tug was improperly stitched; yonder a brave soldier lies dying in the thicket where he fell because excited men forgot the use of an ambulance. What with the wastes of intemperance and ignorance, of idleness and class wars, the losses of society are enormous. But man's prodigality with his material treasures does but interpret his wastefulness of the greater riches of mind and heart. Life's chief destructions are in the city of man's soul. Many persons seem to be trying to solve this problem: "Given a soul stored with great treasure, and three score and ten years for happiness and usefulness, how shall one kill the time and waste the treasure?" Man's pride over his casket stored with gems must be modified by the reflection that daily his pearls are cast before swine, that should have been woven into coronets.
Man's evident failure to make the most out of his material life suggests a study of the elements in each citizen that make him of value to his age and community. What are the measurements of mankind, and why is it that daily some add new treasures to the storehouse of civilization, while others take from and waste the store already accumulated? These are questions of vital import. Many and varied estimates of man's value have been made. Statisticians reckon the average man's value at $600 a year. Each worker in wood, iron or brass stands for an engine or industrial plant worth $10,000, producing at 6 per cent. an income of $600. The death of the average workman, therefore, is equivalent to the destruction of a $10,000 mill or engine. The economic loss through the non-productivity of 20,000 drunkards is equal to one Chicago fire involving two hundred millions. Of course, some men produce less and others more than $600 a year; and some there are who have no industrial value—non-producers, according to Adam Smith; paupers, according to John Stuart Mill; thieves, according to Paul, who says, "Let him that stole steal no more, but rather work." In this group let us include the tramps, who hold that the world owes them a living; these are they who fail to realize that society has given them support through infancy and childhood; has given them language, literature, liberty. Wise men know that the noblest and strongest have received from society a thousandfold more than they can ever repay, though they vex all the days and nights with ceaseless toil. In this number of non-sufficing persons are to be included the paupers—paupers plebeian, supported in the poorhouse by many citizens; paupers patrician, supported in palace by one citizen, generally father or ancestor; the two classes differing in that one is the foam at the top of the glass and the other the dregs at the bottom. To these two groups let us add the social parasites, represented by thieves, drunkards, and persons of the baser sort whose business it is to trade in human passion. We revolt from the red aphides upon the plant, the caterpillar upon the tree, the vermin upon bird or beast. How much more do we revolt from those human vermin whose business it is to propagate parasites upon the body politic! The condemnation of life is that a man consumes more than he produces, taking out of society's granary that which other hands have put in. The praise of life is that one is self-sufficing, taking less out than he put into the storehouse of civilization.
A man's original capital comes through his ancestry. Nature invests the grandsire's ability, and compounds it for the grandson. Plato says: "The child is a charioteer driving two steeds up the long life-hill; one steed is white, representing our best impulses; one steed is dark, standing for our worst passions." Who gave these steeds their color? Our fathers, Plato replies, and the child may not change one hair, white or black. Oliver Wendell Holmes would have us think that a man's value is determined a hundred years before his birth. The ancestral ground slopes upward toward the mountain-minded man. The great never appear suddenly. Seven generations of clergymen make ready for Emerson, each a signboard pointing to the coming philosopher. The Mississippi has power to bear up fleets for war or peace because the storms of a thousand summers and the snows of a thousand winters have lent depth and power. The measure of greatness in a man is determined by the intellectual streams and moral tides flowing down from the ancestral hills and emptying into the human soul. The Bach family included one hundred and twenty musicians. Paganini was born with muscles in his wrists like whipcords. What was unique in Socrates was first unique in Sophroniscus. John ran before Jesus, but Zacharias foretold John. No electricity along rope wires, and no vital living truths along rope nerves to spongy brain. There are millions in our world who have been rendered physical and moral paupers by the sins of their ancestors. Their forefathers doomed them to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. A century must pass before one of their children can crowd his way up and show strength enough to shape a tool, outline a code, create an industry, reform a wrong. Despotic governments have stunted men—made them thin-blooded and low-browed, all backhead and no forehead. Each child has been likened to a cask whose staves represent trees growing on hills distant and widely separated; some staves are sound and solid, standing for right-living ancestors; some are worm eaten, standing for ancestors whose integrity was consumed by vices. At birth all the staves are brought together in the infant cask—empty, but to be filled by parents and teachers and friends. As the waste-barrel in the alley is filled with refuse and filth, so the orphan waifs in our streets are made receptacles of all vicious thoughts and deeds. These children are not so much born as damned into life. But how different is the childhood of some others. On the Easter day, in foreign cathedrals, a beauteous vase is placed beside the altar, and as the multitudes crowd forward and the solemn procession moves up the aisles, men and women cast into the vase their gifts of gold and silver and pearls and lace and rich textures. The well-born child seems to be such a vase, unspeakably beautiful, filled with knowledges and integrities more precious than gold and pearls. "Let him who would be great select the right parents," was the keen dictum of President Dwight.
By the influence of the racial element, the laborer in northern Europe, viewed as a producing machine, doubles the industrial output of his southern brother. The child of the tropics is out of the race. For centuries he has dozed under the banana tree, awakening only to shake the tree and bring down ripe fruit for his hunger, eating to sleep again. His muscles are flabby, his blood is thin, his brain unequal to the strain of two ideas in one day. When Sir John Lubbock had fed the chief in the South Sea Islands he began to ask him questions, but within ten minutes the savage was sound asleep. When awakened the old chief said: "Ideas make me so sleepy." Similarly, the warm Venetian blood has given few great men to civilization; but the hills of Scotland and New England produce scholars, statesmen, poets, financiers, with the alacrity with which Texas produces cotton or Missouri corn. History traces certain influential nations back to a single progenitor of unique strength of body and character. Thus Abraham, Theseus, and Cadmus seem like springs feeding great and increasing rivers. One wise and original thinker founds a tribe, shapes the destiny of a nation, and multiplies himself in the lives of future millions. In accordance with this law, tenacity reappears in every Scotchman; wit sparkles in every Irishman; vivacity is in every Frenchman's blood; the Saxon is a colonizer and originates institutions. During the construction of the Suez Canal it was discovered that workmen with veins filled with Teutonic blood had a commercial value two and a half times greater than the Egyptians. Similarly, during the Indian war, the Highland troops endured double the strain of the native forces. Napoleon shortened the stature of the French people two inches by choosing all the taller of his 30,000,000 subjects and killing them in war. Waxing indignant, Horace Mann thinks "the forehead of the Irish peasantry was lowered an inch when the government made it an offense punishable with fine, imprisonment, and a traitor's death to be the teacher of children." A wicked government can make agony, epidemic, brutalize a race, and reaching forward, fetter generations yet unborn. "Blood tells," says science. But blood is the radical element put out at compound interest and handed forward to generations yet unborn.
The second measure of a man's value to society is found in his original endowment of physical strength. The child's birth-stock of vital force is his capital to be traded upon. Other things being equal his productive value is to be estimated mathematically upon the basis of physique. Born weak and nerveless, he must go to society's ambulance wagon, and so impede the onward march. Born vigorous and rugged, he can help to clear the forest roadway or lead the advancing columns. Fundamentally man is a muscular machine for producing the ideas that shape conduct and character. All fine thinking stands with one foot on fine brain fiber. Given large physical organs, lungs with capacity sufficient to oxygenate the life-currents as they pass upward; large arteries through which the blood may have full course, run, and be glorified; a brain healthy and balanced with a compact nervous system, and you have the basis for computing what will be a man's value to society. Men differ, of course, in ways many—they differ in the number and range of their affections, in the scope of conscience, in taste and imagination, and in moral energy. But the original point of variance is physical. Some have a small body and a powerful mind, like a Corliss engine in a tiny boat, whose frail structure will soon be racked to pieces. Others are born with large bodies and very little mind, as if a toy engine were set to run a mudscow. This means that the poor engineer must pole up stream all his life. Others, by ignorance of parent, or accident through nurse, or through their own blunder or sin, destroy their bodily capital. Soon they are like boats cast high and dry upon the beach, doomed to sun-cracking and decay. Then, in addition to these absolute weaknesses, come the disproportions of the body, the distemperature of various organs. It is not necessary for spoiling a timepiece to break its every bearing; one loose screw stops all the wheels. Thus a very slight error as to the management of the bodily mechanism is sufficient to prevent fine creative work as author, speaker, or inventor. Few men, perhaps, ever learn how to so manage their brain and stomach as to be capable of high-pressure brain action for days at a time—until the cumulative mental forces break through all obstacles and conquer success. A great leader represents a kind of essence of common sense, but rugged common sense is sanity of nerve and brain. He who rules and leads must have mind and will, but he must have chest and stomach also. Beecher says the gun carriage must be in proportion to the gun it carries. When health goes the gun is spiked. Ideas are arrows, and the body is the bow that sends them home. The mind aims; the body fires.
Good health may be better than genius or wealth or honor. It was when the gymnasium had made each Athenian youth an Apollo in health and strength that the feet of the Greek race ran most nimbly along the paths of art and literature and philosophy.
Another test of a man's value is an intellectual one. The largest wastes of any nation are through ignorance. Failure is want of knowledge; success is knowing how. Wealth is not in things of iron, wood and stone. Wealth is in the brain that organizes the metal. Pig iron is worth $20 a ton; made into horse shoes, $90; into knife blades, $200; into watch springs, $1,000. That is, raw iron $20, brain power, $980. Millet bought a yard of canvas for 1 franc, paid 2 more francs for a hair brush and some colors; upon this canvas he spread his genius, giving us "The Angelus." The original investment in raw material was 60 cents; his intelligence gave that raw material a value of $105,000. One of the pictures at the World's Fair represented a savage standing on the bank of a stream, anxious but ignorant as to how he could cross the flood. Knowledge toward the metal at his feet gave the savage an axe; knowledge toward the tree gave him a canoe; knowledge toward the union of canoes gave him a boat; knowledge toward the wind added sails; knowledge toward fire and water gave him the ocean steamer. Now, if from the captain standing on the prow of that floating palace, the City of New York, we could take away man's knowledge as we remove peel after peel from an onion, we would have from the iron steamer, first, a sailboat, then a canoe, then axe and tree, and at last a savage, naked and helpless to cross a little stream. In the final analysis it is ignorance that wastes; it is knowledge that saves; it is wisdom that gives precedence. If sleep is the brother of death, ignorance is full brother to both sleep and death. An untaught faculty is at once quiescent and dead. An ignorant man has been defined as one "whom God has packed up and men have not unfolded. The best forces in such a one are perpetually paralyzed. Eyes he has, but he cannot see the length of his hand; ears he has, and all the finest sounds in creation escape him; a tongue he has, and it is forever blundering." A mechanic who has a chest of forty tools and can use only the hammer, saw, and gimlet, has little chance with his fellows and soon falls far behind. An educated mind is one fully awakened to all the sights and scenes and forces in the world through which he moves. This does not mean that a $2,000 man can be made out of a two-cent boy by sending him to college. Education is mind-husbandry; it changes the size but not the sort. But if no amount of drill will make a Shetland pony show a two-minute gait, neither will the thoroughbred show this speed save through long and assiduous and patient education. The primary fountains of our Nation's wealth are not in fields and forests and mines, but in the free schools, churches, and printing presses. Ignorance breeds misery, vice, and crime. Mephistopheles was a cultured devil, but he is the exception. History knows no illiterate seer or sage or saint. No Dante or Shakespeare ever had to make "his X mark."
When John Cabot Lodge made his study of the distribution of ability in the United States, he found that in ninety years five of the great Western States had produced but twenty-seven men who were mentioned in the American and English encyclopedias, while little Massachusetts had 2,686 authors, orators, philosophers, and builders of States. But analysis shows that the variance is one of education and ideas. Boston differs from Quebec as differ their methods of instruction. The New England settlers were Oxford and Cambridge men that represented the best blood, brain, and accumulated culture of old England. Landing in the forest they clustered their cabins around the building that was at once church, school, library, and town hall. Rising early and sitting up late they plied their youth with ideas of liberty and intelligence. They came together on Sunday morning at nine o'clock to listen to a prayer one hour long, a sermon of three hours, and after a cold lunch heard a second brief sermon of two hours and a half—those who did not die became great. What Sunday began the week continued. We may smile at their methods but we must admire the men they produced. Mark the intellectual history of Northampton. During its history this town has sent out 114 lawyers, 112 ministers, 95 physicians, 100 educators, 7 college presidents, 30 professors, 24 editors, 6 historians, 14 authors, among whom are George Bancroft, John Lothrop Motley, Professor Whitney, the late J.G. Holland; 38 officers of State, 28 officers of the United States, including members of the Senate, and one President. How comes it that this little colony has raised up this great company of authors, statesmen, reformers? No mere chance is working here. The relation between sunshine and harvest is not more essential than the relation between these folk and their renowned descendants. Fruit after his kind is the divine explanation of Northampton's influence upon the nation. "Education makes men great" is the divine dictum. George William Curtis has said: "The Revolutionary leaders were all trained men, as the world's leaders always have been from the day when Themistocles led the educated Athenians at Salamis, to that when Von Moltke marshaled the educated Germans against France. The sure foundations of states are laid in knowledge, not in ignorance; and every sneer at education, at book learning, which is the recorded wisdom of the experience of mankind, is the demagogue's sneer at intelligent liberty, inviting national degeneration and ruin."
Consider, also, how the misfits of life affect man's value. The successful man grasps the handle of his being. He moves in the line of least resistance. That one accomplishes most whose heart sings while his hand works. Like animals men have varied uses. The lark sings, the ox bears burdens, the horse is for strength and speed. But men who are wise toward beasts are often foolish toward themselves. Multitudes drag themselves toward the factory or field who would have moved toward the forum with "feet as hind's feet." Other multitudes fret and chafe in the office whose desires are in the streets and fields. Whoever scourges himself to a task he hates serves a hard master, and the slave will get but scant pay. If a farmer should hitch horses to a telescope and try to plow with it he would ruin the instrument in the summer and starve his family in the winter. Not the wishes of parent, nor the vanity of wife, nor the pride of place, but God and nature choose occupation. Each child is unique, as new as was the first arrival upon this planet. The school is to help the boy unpack what intellectual tools he has; education does not change, but puts temper into these tools. No man can alter his temperament, though trying to he can break his heart. How pathetic the wrecks of men who have chosen the wrong occupation! The driver bathes the raw shoulder of a horse whose collar does not fit, but when men make their misfits and the heart is sore society does not soothe, but with whips it scourges the man to his fruitless task. This large class may be counted unproductive. John Stuart Mill placed the industrial mismatings among the heavier losses of society.
To this element of wisdom in relating one's self to duties must be added skill in maintaining smooth relations with one's fellows. Men may produce much by industry and ability, and yet destroy more by the malign elements they carry. The proud domineering employer tears down with one hand what he builds up with the other. One foolish man can cost a city untold treasure. How many factories have failed because the owner has no skill in managing men and mollifying difficulties. History shows that stupid thrones and wars go together, while skillful kings bring long intervals of peace. Contrasting the methods of two prominent men, an editor once said: "The first man in making one million cost society ten millions; but the other so produced his one million as to add ten more to society's wealth." A most disastrous strike in England's history had its origin in ignorance of this principle. The miners of a certain coal field had suffered a severe cut in wages. They had determined to accept it, though it took their children out of school, and took away their meat dinner. When the hour appointed for the conference came, prudence would have dictated that every cause of irritation be guarded against. But the employer foolishly drove his liveried carriage into the center of the vast crowd of workmen, and for an hour flaunted his wealth before the sore-hearted miners. When the men saw the footman, the prancing horses, the gold-plated harness, and thought of their starving wives, they reversed their acceptance of the cut in wages. They plunged into a long strike, taking this for their motto: "Furs for his footmen and gold plate for his horses, and also three meals a day for our wives and children." Now, the ensuing strike and riots, long protracted, cost England L5,000,000. But that bitter strike was all needless. These are the men who take off the chariot wheels for God's advancing hosts. When one comes to the front who has skill in allaying friction, all society begins a new forward march. Skill in personal carriage has much to do with a man's value.
Integrity enhances human worth. Iniquities devastate a city like fire and pestilence. Social wealth and happiness are through right living. Goodness is a commodity. Conscience in a cashier has a cash value. If arts and industries are flowers and fruits, moralities are the roots that nourish them. Disobedience is slavery. Obedience is liberty. Disobedience to law of fire or water or acid is death. Obedience to law of color gives the artist his skill; obedience to the law of eloquence gives the orator his force; obedience to the law of iron gives the inventor his tool; disobedience to the law of morals gives waste and want and wretchedness. That individual or nation is hastening toward poverty that does not love the right and hate the wrong. So certain is the penalty of wrongdoing that sin seems infinitely stupid. Every transgression is like an iron plate thrown into the air; gravity will pull it back upon the wrongdoer's head to wound him. It has been said for a man to betray his trust for money, is for him to stand on the same intellectual level with a monkey that scalds its throat with boiling water because it is thirsty. A drunkard is one who exchanges ambrosia and nectar for garbage. A profligate is one who declines an invitation to banquet with the gods that he may dine out of an ash barrel. What blight is to the vine, sin is to a man. When the first thief appeared in Plymouth colony a man was withdrawn from the fields to make locks for the houses; when two thieves came a second toiler was withdrawn from the factory to serve as night watchman. Soon others were taken from productive industry to build a jail and to interpret and execute the law. Every sin costs the state much hard cash. Consider what wastes hatred hath wrought. Once Italy and Greece and Central Europe made one vast storehouse filled with precious art treasures. But men turned the cathedrals into arsenals of war. If the clerks in some porcelain or cut-glass store should attend to their duties in the morning, and each afternoon have a pitched battle, during which they should throw the vases and cups and medallions at each other, and each night pick up a piece of vase, here an armless Venus and there a headless Apollo, to put away for future generations to study, we should have that which answers precisely to what has gone on for centuries through hatreds and class wars. An outlook upon society is much like a visit to Lisbon after an earthquake has filled the streets with debris and shaken down homes, palaces, and temples. History is full of the ruins of cities and empires. Not time, but disobedience, hath wrought their destruction. New civilizations will be reared by coming generations; uprightness will lay the foundations and integrity will complete the structure. The temple is righteousness in which God dwelleth.
"Have life more abundantly." Man is not fated to a scant allowance nor a fixed amount, but he is allured forward by an unmeasured possibility. Personality may be enlarged and enriched. It has been said that Cromwell was the best thing England ever produced. And the mission of Jesus Christ is to carry each up from littleness to full-orbed largeness. It has always been true that when some genius, e.g., Watt, invents a model the people have reproduced it times innumerable. So what man asks for is not the increase of birth talent, but a pattern after which this raw material can be fashioned. Carbon makes charcoal, and carbon makes diamond, too, but the "sea of light" is carbon crystallized to a pattern. Builders lay bricks by plan; the musician follows his score; the value of a York minster is not in the number of cords of stone, but in the plan that organized them; and the value of a man is in the reply to this question: Have the raw materials of nature been wrought up into unity and harmony by the Exemplar of human life? Daily he is here to stir the mind with holy ambitions; to wing the heart with noble aspirations; to inspire with an all-conquering courage; to vitalize the whole manhood. By making the individual rich within he creates value without. For all things are first thoughts. Tools, fabrics, ships, houses, books are first ideas, afterward crystallized into outer form. A great picture is a beautiful conception rushing into visible expression upon the canvas. Wake up taste in a man and he beautifies his home. Wake up conscience and he drives iniquities out of his heart. Wake up his ideas of freedom and he fashions new laws. Jesus Christ is here to inflame man's soul within that he may transform and enrich his life without. No picture ever painted, no statue ever carved, no cathedral ever builded is half so beautiful as the Christ-formed man. What is man's value to society? Let him who knoweth what is in us reply: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
 Northampton Antiquities. Clark.
CHARACTER: ITS MATERIALS AND EXTERNAL TEACHERS
"Character is more than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think. Goodness outshines genius, as the sun makes the electric light cast a shadow."—Emerson.
"What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others."—Confucius.
"After all, the kind of world one carries about in one's self is the important thing, and the world outside takes all its grace, color and value from that."—James Russell Lowell.
"Sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny."—Anon.
"So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."—Psalm 90.
CHARACTER: ITS MATERIALS AND EXTERNAL TEACHERS
Dying, Horace Greeley exclaimed: "Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer to-day will curse to-morrow, only one thing endures—character!" These weighty words bid all remember that life's one task is the making of manhood. Our world is a college, events are teachers, happiness is the graduating point, character is the diploma God gives man. The forces that increase happiness are many, including money, friends, position; but one thing alone is indispensable to success—personal worth and manhood. He who stands forth clothed with real weight of goodness can neither be feeble in life, nor forgotten in death. Society admires its scholar, but society reveres and loves its hero whose intellect is clothed with goodness. For character is not of the intellect, but of the disposition. Its qualities strike through and color the mind and heart even as summer strikes the matured fruit through with juicy ripeness.
Of that noble Greek who governed his city by unwritten laws, the people said: "Phocion's character is more than the constitution." The weight of goodness in Lamartine was such that during the bloody days in Paris his doors were unlocked. Character in him was a defense beyond the force of rock walls or armed regiments. Emerson says there was a certain power in Lincoln, Washington and Burke not to be explained by their printed words. Burke the man was inexpressibly finer than anything he said. As a spring is more than the cup it fills, as a poet or architect is more than the songs he sings or the temple he rears, so the man is more than the book or business he fashions. Earth holds many wondrous scenes called temples, battle-fields, cathedrals, but earth holds no scene comparable for majesty and beauty to a man clothed indeed with intellect, but adorned also with integrities and virtues. Beholding such a one, well did Milton exclaim: "A good man is the ripe fruit our earth holds up to God."
Character has been defined as the joint product of nature and nurture. Nature gives the raw material, character is the carved statue. The raw material includes the racial endowment, temperament, degree of vital force, mentality, aptitude for tool or industry, for art or science. These birth-gifts are quantities, fixed and unalterable. No heart-rendings can change the two-talent nature into a ten-talent man. No agony of effort can add a cubit to the stature. The eagle flies over the chasm as easily as an ant crawls over the crack in the ground. Shakespeare writes Hamlet as easily as Tupper wrote his tales. Once an oak, always an oak. Care and culture can thicken the girth of the tree, but no degree of culture can cause an oak bough to bring forth figs instead of acorns. Rebellion against temperament and circumstance is sure to end in the breaking of the heart. Happiness and success begin with the sincere acceptance of the birth-gift and career God hath chosen.
Since no man can do his best work save as he uses his strongest faculties, the first duty of each is to search out the line of least resistance. He who has a genius for moral themes but has harnessed himself to the plow or the forge, is in danger of wrecking both happiness and character. All such misfits are fatal. No farmer harnesses a fawn to the plow, or puts an ox into the speeding-wagon. Life's problem is to make a right inventory of the gifts one carries. As no carpenter knows what tools are in the box until he lifts the lid and unwraps one shining instrument after another, so the instruments in the soul must be unfolded by education. Ours is a world where the inventor accompanies the machine with a chart, illustrating the use of each wheel and escapement. But no babe lying in the cradle ever brought with it a hand-book setting forth its mental equipment and pointing out its aptitude for this occupation, or that art or industry. The gardener plants a root with perfect certainty that a rose will come up, but no man is a prophet wise enough to tell whether this babe will unfold into quality of thinker or doer or dreamer. To each Nature whispers: "Unsight, unseen, hold fast what you have." For the soul is shadowless and mysterious. No hand can carve its outline, no brush portray its lineaments. Even the mother embosoming its infancy and carrying its weaknesses, studying it by day and night through years, sees not, she cannot see, knows not, she cannot know, into what splendor of maturity the child will unfold.
Man beholds his fellows as one beholds a volume written in a foreign language; the outer binding is seen, the inner contents are unread. Within general lines phrenology and physiognomy are helpful, but it is easier to determine what kind of a man lives in the house by looking at the knob on his front door than to determine the brain and heart within by studying the bumps upon face and forehead. Nature's dictum is, "Grasp the handle of your own being." Each must fashion his own character. Nature gives trees, but not tools; forests, but not furniture. Thus nature furnishes man with the birth materials and environment; man must work up these materials into those qualities called industry, integrity, honor, truth and love, ever patterning after that ideal man, Jesus Christ.
The influences shaping nature's raw material into character are many and various. Of old, the seer likened the soul unto clay. The mud falls upon the board before the potter, a rude mass, without form or comeliness. But an hour afterwards the clay stands forth adorned with all the beauty of a lovely vase. Thus the soul begins, a mere mass of mind, but hands many and powerful soon shape it into the outlines of some noble man or woman. These sculptors of character include home, friendship, occupation, travel, success, love, grief and death.
Life's first teacher is the external world, with its laws. Man begins at zero. The child thrusts his finger into the fire and is burned; thenceforth he learns to restrain himself in the presence of fire, and makes the flames smite the vapor for driving train or ship. The child errs in handling the sharp tool, and cuts himself; thenceforth he lifts up the axe upon the tree. The child mistakes the weight of stone, or the height of stair, and, falling, hard knocks teach him the nature and use of gravity. Daily the thorns that pierce his feet drive him back into the smooth pathway of nature's laws. The sharp pains that follow each excess teach him the pleasures of sound and right living. Nor is there one infraction of law that is not followed by pain. As sharp guards are placed at the side of the bridge over the chasm to hold men back from the abyss, so nature's laws are planted on either side of the way of life to prick and scourge erring feet back into the divine way. At length through much smiting of the body nature forces the youth into a knowledge of the world in which he lives. Man learns to carry himself safely within forests, over rivers, through fires, midst winds and storms. Soon every force in nature stands forth his willing servant; becoming like unto the steeds of the plains, that once were wild, but now are trained, and lend all their strength and force to man's loins and limbs.
Having mastered the realm of physical law, the youth is thrust into the realm of laws domestic and social. He runs up against his mates and friends, often overstepping his own rights and infringing the rights of others. Then some stronger arm falls on his, and drives him back into his own territory. Occasional chastisement through the parent and teacher, friend or enemy, reveal to him the nature of selfishness, and compel the recognition of others. Thus, through long apprenticeship, the youth finds out the laws that fence him round, that press upon him at every pore, by day and by night, in workshop or in store, at home or abroad. Slowly these laws mature manhood. When ideas are thrust into raw iron, the iron becomes a loom or an engine. Thus when God's laws are incarnated in a babe, the child is changed into the likeness of a citizen, a sage or seer. Nature, with her laws, is not only the earliest, but also the most powerful, of life's instructors.
Temptation is another teacher. Protection gives innocence, but practice gives virtue. For ship timber we pass by the sheltered hothouse, seeking the oak on the storm-swept hills. In that beautiful story of the lost paradise, God pulls down the hedge built around Adam and Eve. The government through a fence outside was succeeded by self-government inside. The hermit and the cloistered saint end their career with innocence. But Christ, struggling unto blood against sin, ends His career with character. God educates man by giving him complete charge over himself and setting him on "the barebacked horse of his own will," leaving him to break it by his own strength. Travelers to Alaska tell us that the wild berries attain a sweetness there of which our temperate clime knows nothing. Scientists say that the glowworm keeps its enemies at bay by the brightness of its own light. Man, by his love of truth and right, becomes his own castle and fortress. Cities no longer depend upon night-watchmen to guard against marauders and burglars. Once men trusted to safes and iron bars upon the windows. Now bankers ask electric lights to guard their treasure vaults.
For centuries Spain's paternal laws have compelled each Spaniard to ask his church what to think and believe. This method has robbed that people of enduring and self-reliant manhood, and made them a race of weaklings. For over-protection is a peril. Strength comes by wrestling, knowledge by observing, wisdom by thinking, and character by enduring and struggling. Exposure is often good fortune. Every Luther and Cromwell has been tempted and tempered against the day of danger and battle. As the victorious Old Guard were honored in proportion to the number and severity of the wars through which they had passed, so the temptations that seek man's destruction, when conquered, cover him with glory. Ruskin notes that the art epochs have also been epochs of war, upheaval, and tyranny. He accounts for this by saying that when tyranny was hardest, crime blackest, sin ugliest, then, in the recoil and conflict, beauty and heroism attained their highest development.
Studying the rise of the Dutch republic, Motley notes how the shocks and fiery baptisms of war changed those peasants into patriots. This explains society's enthusiasm for its hero, all scarred and gray. We admire the child's innocence, but it lacks ripeness and maturity; it is only a handful of germs. But every heart kindles and glows when the true hero stands forth in the person of some Paul or Savonarola, some Luther or Lincoln, having passed through fire, through flood, through all the thunder of life's battle, ever ripening, sweetening and enlarging, his fineness and gentleness being the result of great strength and great wisdom, accumulated through long life, until he stands, at the end of his career, as the sun stands on a summer afternoon just before it goes down. All statues and pictures become tawdry in comparison with such a rich, ripe, glowing, and glorious heart, clothed with Christlike character.
Life's teachers also includes newness and zest. First, man lives his life in fresh personal experiences. Then, by observation, he repeats his life in the career of his children. A third time he journeys around the circle, re-experiencing life in that of his grandchildren. Then, because the newness has passed away and events no longer stimulate his mind, death withdraws man from the scene and enters him in a new school. Vast is the educational value therefore attaching to the newness of life. God is so rich that no day or scene need repeat a former one. The proverb, "We never look upon the same river," tells us that all things are ever changing, and clothes each day with fresh fascination. "Whilst I read the poets," said Emerson, "I think that nothing new can be said about morning and evening; but when I see the day break I am not reminded of the Homeric and Chaucerian pictures. I am cheered by the moist, warm, glittering, budding, melodious hour that breaks down the narrow walls of my soul, and extends its life and pulsations to the very horizon."
Thus, each new day is a new continent to be explored. Each youth is a new creature, full of delightful and mysterious possibilities. Each brain comes clothed with its own secret, having its own orbit, attaining its own unique experience. Ours is a world in which each individual, each country, each age, each day, has a history peculiarly its own. This newness is a perpetual stimulant to curiosity and study. Gladstone's recipe for never growing old is, "Search out some topic in nature or life in which you have never hitherto been interested, and experience its fascinations." For some, once a picture or book has been seen, the pleasure ceases. Delight dies with familiarity. Such persons look back to the days of childhood as to the days of wonder and happiness. But the man of real vision ever beholds each rock, each herb and flower with the big eyes of children, and with a mind of perpetual wonder. For him the seed is a fountain gushing with new delights. Every youth should repeat the experience of John Ruskin. Such was the enthusiasm that this author felt for God's world, that when he approached some distant mountain or saw the crags hanging over the waters, or the clouds marching through the sky, "a shiver of fear, mingled with awe," set him quivering with joy—such joy as the artist pupil feels in the presence of his noble master, such a kindling of mind and heart as Dante felt on approaching his Beatrice. Phillips Brooks grew happier as he grew older, and at fifty-seven he said: "Life seems a feast in which God keeps the best wine until the last." Up to the very end the great preacher grew by leaps and bounds, because he never lost that enthusiasm for life that makes zest and newness among life's best teachers.
By a strange paradox men are taught by monotony as well as by newness. Ours is a world where the words, "Blessed be drudgery," are full of meaning. Culture and character come not through consuming excitements nor the whirl of pleasures. The granary is filled, not by the thunderous forces that appeal to the eye and ear, but by the secret, invisible agents; the silent energies, the mighty monarchs hidden in roots and in seeds. What rioting storms cannot do is done by the silent sap and sunshine. All the fundamental qualities called patience, perseverance, courage, fidelity, are the gains of drudgery. Character comes with commonplaces. Greatness is through tasks that have become insipid, and by duties that are irksome. The treadmill is a divine teacher. He who shovels sand year in and year out needs not our pity, for the proverb is "Every man has his own sand heap." The greatest mind, fulfilling its career, once the freshness has worn off, pursues a hackneyed task and finds the duties irksome. It is better so. A seer has suggested that the voices of earth are dulled that we may hear the whisper of God; earth's colors are toned down that we may see things invisible.
Solitude is a wise teacher. Going apart the youth grows great. Emerson speaks of sailing the sea with God alone. The founders of astronomy dwelt on a plain of sand, where the horizon held not one vine-clad hill nor alluring vista. Wearying of the yellow sea, their thoughts journeyed along the heavenly highway and threaded the milky way, until the man became immortal. Moses became the greatest of jurists, because during the forty years when his mind was creative and at its best, he dwelt amid the solitude of the sand hills around Sinai, and was free for intellectual and moral life. History tells of a thousand men who have maintained virtue in adversity only to go down in hours of prosperity. That is, man is stimulated by the crisis; conflict provokes heroism, persecution lends strength. But, denied the exigency of a great trial, men who seemed grand fall all to pieces. Triumphant in adversity, men are vanquished by drudgery. An English author has expressed the belief that many men "achieve reputations when all eyes are focused upon them, who fall into petty worthlessness amid obscurity and monotony. Life's crowning victory belongs to those who have won no brilliant battle, suffered no crushing wrong; who have figured in no great drama, whose sphere was obscure, but who have loved great principles midst small duties, nourished sublime hopes amid vulgar cares, and illustrated eternal principles in trifles."
Responsibility is a teacher of righteousness. God educates men by casting them upon their own resources. Man learns to swim by being tossed into life's maelstrom and left to make his way ashore. No youth can learn to sail his life-craft in a lake sequestered and sheltered from all storms, where other vessels never come. Skill comes through sailing one's craft amidst rocks and bars and opposing fleets, amidst storms and whirls and counter currents. English literature has a proverb about the incapacity of rich men's sons. The rich man himself became mighty because he began in poverty, had no hand to help him forward, and many hands to hold him back. After long wrestling with opposing force he compacted within himself the strength and foresight, the frugality and wisdom of a score of ordinary men. The school of hard knocks made him a man of might. But his son, cradled in a soft nest, sheltered from every harsh wind, loving ease more than industry, is in danger of coming up without insight into the secrets of his profession or industry.
Responsibility alone drives man to toil and brings out his best gifts. For this reason the pensions given to scholars are said to have injured some men of genius. Johnson wrote his immortal Rasselas to raise money to buy his mother's coffin. Hunger and pain drove Lee to the invention of his loom. Left a widow with a family to support, in mid-life Mrs. Trollope took to authorship and wrote a score of volumes. The most piteous tragedy in English literature is that of Coleridge. Wordsworth called him the most myriad-minded man since Shakespeare, and Lamb thought him "an archangel slightly damaged." The generosity of his friends gave the poet a home and all its comforts without the necessity of toil. Is it possible that ease and lack of responsibility, with opium, helped wreck him? What did that critic mean when he said of a rich young friend, "He needs poverty alone to make him a great painter?" It is responsibility that teaches caution, foresight, prudence, courage, and turns feeblings into giants.
The extremes and contrasts of life do much to shape character. Ours is a world that moves from light to dark, from heat to cold, from summer to winter. On the crest to-day, the hero is in the trough to-morrow. Moses, yesterday a deserted slave child, to-day adopted by a king's daughter; David, but yesterday a shepherd boy with his harp, and to-day dwelling in the King's palace; men yesterday possessed of plenty, to-day passing into penury—these illustrate the extremes of life. These contrasts are as striking as those we find on the sunny slopes of the Alps. There the foothills are covered with vineyards, while the summits have everlasting snow. In Wyoming hot springs gush close beside snowdrifts. During man's few years, and brief, he experiences many reverses. He flits on between light and dark. It is hard for the leader to drop back into the ranks. It is not easy for him who hath led a movement to its success to see his laurels fall leaf by leaf. After a long and dangerous service men grown old and gray are succeeded by the youth to whom society owes no debt. Thus man journeys from strength to invalidism, from prosperity to adversity, from joy to sorrow, or goes from misery to happiness, from defeat to victory.
Not one single person but sooner or later is tested by these alterations. God sends prosperity to lift character to its highest levels. It is an error to suppose that the higher manhood flourishes in extreme poverty. Watkinson has beautifully said that "humility is never so lovely as when arrayed in scarlet; moderation is never so impressive as when it sits at banquets; simplicity is never so delightful as when it dwells amidst magnificence; purity is never so divine as when its unsullied robes are worn in a king's palace; gentleness is never so touching as when it exists in the powerful. When men combine gold and goodness, greatness and godliness, genius and graces, human nature is at its best." On the other hand, adversity is a supplement, making up what prosperity lacks. The very abundance of Christmas gifts ofttimes causes children to forget the parents who gave them. Some are adorned by prosperity as mountains are adorned with rich forests. Others stand forth with the bareness, but also with the grandeur and enduring strength, of Alpine mountains. Character is like every other structure—nothing tests it like extremes.
When friendship and love have enriched man, and deepened all the secret springs of his being, when grief hath refined and suffering mellowed him, then God sends the ideals to stimulate men to new achievements. An ideal is a pattern or plan held up before the man's eye for imitation, realization and guidance. In the heart's innermost temple of silence, whither neither friend nor enemy may ever come, there the soul unveils its secret ideal. The pattern there erected at once proclaims what man is and prophesies what he shall be. In old age men think what they are, but in youth, what we think, we come to be. Therefore must the pattern held up before the mind's eye be of the highest and purest. The legend tells us of the master's apprentice, who, from the small bits of glass that had been thrown away constructed a window of surpassing loveliness. The ideal held up before the boy's mind organized and brought together these broken bits, and wrought them into lines of perfect beauty.
Thus by his inner aspirations, man lives and builds. The inner eye reveals to the toiler a better tool or law or reform, and the realization of these visions gives social progress. The vision of conscience reveals new possibilities of character, and these give duty. The vision of the heart reveals new possibilities of friendship, and these give the home. As the sun standing upon the horizon orbs itself, first in each dewdrop, and afterward lifts the whole earth forward, so the ideal repeats itself, first in the individual heart, and afterward lifts all society forward. Thus unto man slowly building up his character comes the supreme ideal, when Jesus Christ stands forth fully revealed in His splendor. He is no empty abstraction, no bloodless theory, but bone of our bone, brother of our own body and breath, yet marred by no weakness, scarred by no sin, tossing back temptations as some Gibraltar tosses back the sea's billows and the bits of drift-wood. Strong, He subdued His strength in the day of battle, and bore Himself like iron. Yet He was so gentle that His white hand felt the fall of the rose leaf, while He inflected His gianthood to the needs of the little child. Nor could He be holden of the bands of death, for He clove a pathway through the grave, and made death's night to shine like the day. "I have but one passion," said Tholuck. "It is He! it is He!" As Shakespeare first reveals to the young poet his real riches of imagination, as Raphael first unveils to the young artist the possibilities of color, so man knows not his infinite capabilities until Jesus Christ stands forth in all His untroubled splendor. Having Him, man has not only his Teacher and Saviour, but also his Master and Model, fulfilling all the needs of the highest manhood and the noblest character.
 Modern Painters, vol. III, pg. 368.
ASPIRATIONS AND IDEALS
"As some most pure and noble face, Seen in the thronged and hurrying street, Sheds o'er the world a sudden grace, A flying odor sweet, Then passing leaves the cheated sense Balked with a phantom excellence.
'So in our soul, the visions rise Of that fair life we never led; They flash a splendor past our eyes, We start, and they are fled; They pass and leave us with blank gaze, Resigned to our ignoble days."
—The Fugitive Ideal, by Wm. Watson.
"Contentment and aspiration are in every true man's life."
"No bird can race in the great blue sky against a noble soul. The eagle's wing is slow compared with the flight of hope and love."—Swing.
"We figure to ourselves The thing we like, and then we build it up— As chance will have it, on the rock or sand; For time is tired of wandering o'er the world, And home-bound fancy runs her bark ashore."
ASPIRATIONS AND IDEALS.
Man is a pilgrim journeying toward the new and beautiful city of the Ideal. Aspiration, not contentment, is the law of his life. To-day's triumph dictates new struggles to-morrow. The youth flushed with success may couch down in the tent of satisfaction for one night only; when the morning comes he must fold his tent and push on toward some new achievement. That man is ready for his burial robes who lets his present laurels satisfy him. God has crowded the world with antidotes to contentment and with stimulants to progress. The world is not built for sluggards. The earth is like a road, a poor place for sleeping in, a good thing to travel over. The world is like a forge, unfit for residence, but good for putting temper in a warrior's sword. Life is built for waking up dull men, making lazy men unhappy, and the low-flying miserable. When other incitements fail, fear and remorse following behind scourge men forward; but ideals in front are the chief stimulants to growth. Each morning, waking, the soul sees the ideal man one ought to be rising in splendor to shame the man one is. Columbus was tempted forward by the floating branches, the drifting weeds, the strange birds, unto the new world rich in tropic-treasure. So by aspirations and ideals God lures men forward unto the soul's undiscovered country. In the long ago the star moving on before guided the wise men of the East to the manger where the young child lay; and still in man's night God hangs aspirations—stars for guiding men away from the slough of content to the hills of paradise. The soul hungers for something vast, and ideals lure to the long voyage, the distant harbor, and are the stars by which the pilgrim shapes his course.
Life's great teachers are friendship, occupation, travel, books, marriage, and chiefly heart-hungers. These yearnings within are the springs of all man's progress without. Sometimes philosophers say that the history of civilization is the history of great men. Confessing this, let us go on and note that the history of all great men is the history of their ideal hours, realized in conduct and character. Waking at midnight in his bleak garret, the vision splendid rose before John Milton. The boy of twelve would fain write a poem that the world would not willingly let die. He knew that whoever would write a heroic poem must first live a heroic life. From that hour the youth followed the ideal that led him on, pursuing knowledge unceasingly for seven years, never closing book before midnight, leaving Cambridge with the approbation of the good, and without stain or spot upon his life. Afterward, making a pilgrimage to Italy for study in that land of song and story, he heard of the civil wars in England, and at once returned, putting away his ambition for culture because he thought it base to be traveling in ease and safety abroad while his fellow-citizens were fighting for liberty at home. When he resisted a brutal soldier's attack who lifted his sword to say, "I have power to kill you," the scholar replied: "And I have power to be killed and to despise my murderer." Growing old and blind, and falling upon evil days and tongues, out of his heroic life he wrote his immortal poem. Dying, he still pursued his ideal, for moving into the valley and shadow, the blind poet whispered: "Still guides the heavenly vision!"
Did men but know it, this is the secret of all heroic greatness. Here is that matchless old Greek, Socrates, sitting in the prison talking with his friends of death and immortality, of the truth and beauty he hopes to find beyond. With one hand he rubs his leg, chafed by the harsh fetters, with the other he holds the cup of poison. When the sun touched the horizon he took the cup of death from the jailer's hand, and with shining face went down into the valley, and midst the thick shadows passed forever from mortal sight, still pursuing his vision splendid. And here is that pure-white martyr girl, painted by Millais, staked down in the sea midst the rising tide, but looking toward the open sky, with a great, sweet light upon her face. Here is Luther surrounded by scowling soldiers and hungry, wolfish priests, looking upward and then flinging out his challenge, "I cannot and I will not recant, God help me." Here is John Brown, with body all pierced with bullets and grievously sore, stooping to kiss the child as he went on to the gallows, with heart as high as on his wedding day. And here is that Christian nurse who followed the line of battle close up to the rifle-pits, and kindled her fire and prepared hot drinks for dying men; who, when asked by the colonel who told her to build those fires, made answer: "God Almighty, sir!" and went right on to fulfill her vision. And here is Livingstone, with his grand craggy head and deep-set eyes, found in the heart of Africa, dead beside his couch, with ink scarcely dry on words that interpreted his vision: "God bless all men who in any way help to heal this open sore of the world!" Chiefly, there is Christ, who, from the hour when the star stayed by His manger in Bethlehem, and the light ne'er seen on land or sea shone on the luminous and transfigured mount, on to the day of His uplifted cross, ever followed the divine vision that brought Him at last to Olivet, to the open sky, the ascending cloud, the welcoming heavens.
But God, who hath appointed visions unto great men, doth set each lesser human life between its dream and its task. Deep heart-hungers are quickened within the people, and then some patriot, reformer, or hero, is raised up to feed the aspiration. Afterward history stores up these noble achievements of yesterday as soul food for to day. The heart, like the body, needs nourishment, and finds it in the highest deeds and best qualities of those who have gone before. Thus the artist pupil is fed by his great master. The young soldier emulates his brave general. The patriot is inspired by his heroic chief. History records the deeds of noble men, not for decorating her pages, but for strengthening the generations that come after. The measure of a nation's civilization is the number of heroes it has had, whose qualities have been harvested for children and youth.
Full oft one hero has transformed a people. The blind bard singing through the villages of Greece met a rude and simple folk. But Homer opened up a gallery in the clouds, and there unveiled Achilles as the ideal Greek. It became the ambition of every Athenian boy to fix the Iliad in his mind and repeat Achilles in his heart and life. Soon the Achilles in the sky looked down upon 20,000 young Achilles walking through the streets beneath. With what admiration do men recall the intellectual achievements of Athens! What temples, and what statues in them! What orators and eloquence! What dramas! What lyric poems! What philosophers! Yet one ideal man who never lived, save in a poet's vision, turned rude tribes into intellectual giants. Thus each nation hungers for heroes. When it has none God sends poets to invent them as soul food for the nation's youth. The best gift to a people is not vineyards nor overflowing granaries, nor thronged harbors, nor rich fleets, but a good man and great, whose example and influence repeat greatness in all the people. As the planet hanging above our earth lifts the sea in tidal waves, so God hangs illustrious men in the sky for raining down their rich treasure upon society.
Moreover, it is the number and kind of his aspirations that determine a man's place in the scale of manhood. Lowest of all is that great under class of pulseless men, content to creep, and without thought of wings for rising. Mere drifters are they, creatures of circumstance, indifferently remaining where birth or events have started them. Having food and raiment, therewith they are content. No inspirations fire them, no ideals rebuke them, no visions of possible excellence or advancement smite their vulgar contentment. Like dead leaves swept forward upon the current, these men drift through life. Not really bad, they are but indifferently good, and therefore are the material out of which vicious men are made. In malarial regions, physicians say, men of overflowing health are safe because the abounding vitality within crowds back the poison in the outer air, while men who live on the border line between good health and ill, furnish the conditions for fevers that consume away the life. Similarly, men who live an indifferent, supine life, with no impulses upward, are exposed to evil and become a constant menace to society.
Higher in the scale of manhood are the men of intermittent aspirations. A traveler may journey forward guided by the light of the perpetual sun, or he may travel by night midst a thunder-storm, when the sole light is an occasional flash of lightning, revealing the path here and the chasm there. But once the lightning has passed the darkness is thicker than before. And to men come luminous hours, rebuking the common life. Then does the soul revolt from any evil thought and thing and long for all that is God-like in character, for honor and purity, for valor and courage, for fidelity to the finer convictions deep hidden in the soul's secret recesses. What heroes are these—in the vision hour! With what fortitude do these soldiers bear up under blows—when the battle is still in the future! But once the conflict comes, their courage goes! On a winter's morning the frost upon the window pane shapes forth trees, houses, thrones, castles, cities, but these are only frost. So before the mind the imagination hangs pictures of the glory and grandeur and God-likeness of the higher life, but one breath of temptation proves their evanescence. Better, however, these intermittent ideals than uninterrupted supineness and contentment. But, best of all, that third type of men who realize in daily life their luminous hours, and transmute their ideals into conduct and character. These are the soul-architects who build their thoughts and deeds into a plan; who travel forward, not aimlessly, but toward a destination; who sail, not anywhither, but toward a port; who steer, not by the clouds, but by the fixed stars. High in the scale of manhood these who ceaselessly aspire toward life's great Exemplar.
Consider the use of the soul's aspirations. Ideals redeem life from drudgery. Four-fifths of the human race are so overbodied and under-brained that the mind is exhausted in securing provision for hunger and raiment. No to-morrow but may bring men to sore want. Poverty narrows life into a treadmill existence. Multitudes of necessity toil in the stithy and deep mine. Multitudes must accustom themselves to odors offensive to the nostril. Men toil from morning till night midst the din of machinery from which the ear revolts. Myriads dig and delve, and scorn their toil. He who spends all his years sliding pins into a paper, finds his growth in manhood threatened. Others are stranded midway in life. Recently the test exhibition of a machine was successful, and those present gave the inventor heartiest congratulations. But one man was present whose face was drawn with pain, and whose eyes were wet with tears. Explaining his emotion to a questioner he said: "One hour ago I entered this room a skilled workman; this machine sends me out that door a common laborer. For years I have been earning five dollars a day as an expert machinist. By economy I hoped to educate my children into a higher sphere, but now my every hope is ruined." Life is crowded with these disappointments. A journey among men is like a journey through a harvest field after a hailstorm has flailed off all the buds and leaves, and pounded the young corn into the ground. Fulfilling such a life, men need to be saved by hopes and aspirations. Then God sends visions in to give men wing-room, and lift them into the realm of restfulness. Some hope rises to break the thrall of life. The soul rises like a songbird in the sky.
Disappointed men find that food itself is not so sweet as dreams. The seamstress toiling in the attic stitches hope in with each thread, and dreams of some knight coming to lift her out of poverty, and her reverie mocks and consumes her woe. The laborer digging in his ditch sweetens his toil and rests his weariness by the dream of the humble home labor and love will some day build. Many in middle life, when it is too late, find themselves in the wrong occupation, but maintain their usefulness and happiness by surrounding themselves with the thoughts of the career they love and beyond may yet fulfill. How does imagination enterprise everywhither! By it what ships are built, what lands are explored, what armies are led, what thrones are erected in thought! When the seed sprang up in the prison cell, the scholar confined there enlarged the little plant until in his mind it became a vast forest, where all flowers bloomed and spiced shrubs grew and birds sang, and where brooks gurgled such music as never fell on mortal ear. Innumerable men endure by seeing things invisible. They retire from the vexations and disappointments without to their hidden-vision life. Their inner thoughts contrast strangely with the outer fact and life. During the Middle Ages, when persecution broke out against the Jews, these merchants were oppressed and robbed, and saved themselves from destruction only by living a squalid life outside and a princely life in hidden quarters. It has been said: "You might follow an old merchant, spotted and stained with all the squalor of beggary upon him, through byways foul to the feet and offensive to every sense, and through some narrow lane enter what looks like the entrance of an ill-kept stable. Thence opens out a squalid hall of noisome odors. But ascending the steps you come to a secret passage, when, opening the door, you are blinded with the brilliancy that bursts upon you. You are in the palace of a prince. The walls are covered with adornments. Rare tapestries hang upon the walls. The dishes that bespread the table are of silver and gold, and the household, who hasten to receive the parent and strip off his outward disguise, are themselves arrayed like king's children." Thus the ideals make a great difference between the man without and the hidden life within. Seeing unseen things, the heart sings while the hand works. The vision above lifts the life out of fatigue into the realm of joy and restfulness.
It is also the office of these divine ideals to rebuke the lower physical life, and smite each sordid, selfish purpose. The vision hour is the natural enemy of the vulgar mood. Men begin life with the high purpose of living nobly, generously, openly. Full of the choicest aspirations, hungering for the highest things, the youth enters triumphantly upon the pathway of life. But journeying forward he meets conflict and strife, envy and jealousy, disappointment and defeat. He finds it hard to live up to the level of his best moods. Self-interest biases his judgment. Greed bribes reason. Pride leads him astray. Selfishness tempts him to violate his finer self. The struggle to maintain his ideals is like a struggle for life itself. Many, alas! after a short, sharp conflict, give up the warfare and break faith and fealty with the deeper convictions. They quench the light that shone afar off to beckon and cheer them on. Persuading themselves that the ideal life is impracticable, they strike an average between their highest moods and their low-flying hours. Then is the luster of life all dimmed, and the soul is like a noble mansion in the morning after some banquet or reception. In the evening, when making ready for the brilliant feast, all the house is illuminated. Each curio is in its niche. The harp is in its place. The air is laden with the perfume of roses. But when the morning comes, how vast is the change! The windows are darkened and the halls deserted; the wax tapers have burned to the socket, or flicker out in smoke; the flowers, scorched by the heated air, have shriveled and fallen, and in the banquet-room only the "broken meats" remain. Gone is all the glory of the feast! Thus, when men lay aside their heroic ideals and bury their visions, the luster of life departs, and its beauty perishes. Then it is that God sends in the heavenly vision to rebuke the poorer, sensuous life and man's material mood. Above the life that is, God hangs the glory, and grandeur, and purity of the life that might be, and the soul looking up scorns the lower things, and hungers and thirsts for truth and purity. Then man comes to himself again, and makes his way back to his Father's side.
Moreover, these vision hours come to men to give them hints and gleams of what they shall be when time and God's resources have wrought their purpose of strength and beauty upon the soul. Man is born a long way from himself and needs to see the end toward which he moves. He has a body and uses a lower life, but man is what he is in his best hours and most exalted moods. The measure of strength in any living thing is its highest faculty. The strength of the deer is swiftness, of a lion strength; but to the power of the foot the eagle adds wings, and therefore is praised for its swift flight. To the wing the bee adds genius for building with geometric skill, and its praise lies in its rare intelligence. Thus man also is to be measured by his highest faculty, in that he has power to see things unseen and work in realms invisible. We are told that Cicero had three summer villas and a winter residence, but he prided himself not upon his wealth, but upon his oratory and eloquence. The grand old statesman of England has skill for lifting the axe upon the tall trees, but he glories in his skill in statecraft. Incidentally man reaps treasures from the fields, finds riches in the forests, and wealth in the mountains; yet his real manhood resides in reason and moral sentiment, and the spirit that saith, "Our Father." For him to live for the body is as if one who should inherit a magnificent palace were to close the galleries and libraries and splendid halls, and opening only the eating-room, there to live and feed.
Happy the man who is a good mechanic or merchant; but, alas! if he is only that. Happy he who prospers toward the granary and the storehouse; but, alas! if he is shrunken and shriveled toward the spiritual realm. To all rich in physical treasure, but bankrupt toward the unseen realm, comes some divine influence arousing discontent. Then lower joys are seen to be uncrowned, and sordid pleasures to have no scepter. The soul becomes restless and disappointed where once it was contented. Looking afar off it sees in its vision hours the goodly estate to which God shall some day bring it. Here we recall the peasant's dream. His humble cottage while he slept lifted up its thatched roof and became a noble mansion. The one room and small became many and vast. The little windows became arched and beautiful, looking out upon vast estates all his. The fireplace became an altar, o'er which hung seraphim. The chimney became a golden ladder like that which Jacob saw, and his children, living and dead, passed like angels bringing treasure up and down. And thus, while the human heart muses and dreams, God builds His sanctuary in the soul. The vision the heart sees is really the pattern by which God works. These fulfill the transformation wrought in the peasant's dream.
Seeking to fulfill their noble ministry, ideals have grievous enemies. Among these let us include vanity and pride. When the wise man said, "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit, there is more hope of a fool than of him," he indicated that he had known fools cured of their folly, but never a vain man cured of his vanity. Pliny said: "It is as hard to instruct pride as it is to fill an empty bottle with a cork in it." Some men are constitutionally vain. They think all creation converges toward one center, and they are that center. The rash of conceit commonly runs its course very early in life. With most it is like the prancing and gayety of an untrained colt; the cure is the plow and harness. Failure also is a curative agent, and so also is success. But chiefly do the ideals rebuke conceit. The imagination is God in the soul, and lifting up the possible achievement, the glory of what men may become, shames and makes contemptible what men are.
Indolence and contentment also antagonize the ideals. Men bring together a few generosities and integrities. Soul-misers, men gloat over these, as money-misers over their shining treasure, content with the little virtue they have. But no man has a right to fulfill a stagnant career; life is not to be a puddle, but a sweet and running stream. No man has a right to rust; he is bound to keep his tools bright by usage. No man has a right to be paralyzed; he is bound to enlarge and grow. So ideals come in to compel men to go forward. It is easier to lie down in a thorn hedge, or to sleep in a field of stinging nettles, than for a man to abide contentedly as he is while his ideals scourge him upward.
Chiefly do the malign elements oppose the ideal life. There is enmity between vulgarity and visions. If anger comes, mirth goes; when greed is in the ascendency, generosity is expelled. If, during a chorus of bird-voices in the forest, only the shadow of an approaching hawk falls upon the ground, every sweet voice is hushed. Thus, if but one evil, hawk-like note is heard in the heart, all the nobler joys and aspirations depart. The higher life is at enmity with the lower, and this war is one of extermination.
Oh, all ye young hearts! guard well one rock that is fatal to all excellence. If ever you have broken faith with your ideals, lift them up and renew faith. Cherish ideals as the traveler cherishes the north star, and keep the guiding light pure and bright and high above the horizon. The vessel may lose its sails and masts, but if it only keeps its course and compass, the harbor may be reached. Once it loses the star for steering by, the voyage must end in shipwreck. For when the heroic purpose goes, all life's glory departs. Let no man think the burial of a widow's son the saddest sight on earth. Let men not mourn over the laying of the first born under the turf, as though that were man's chiefest sorrow. Earth knows no tragedy like the death of the soul's ideals. Therefore, battle for them as for life itself! The cynic may ridicule them, because, having lost his own purity and truth, he naturally thinks that none are pure or true; but wise men will take counsel of aspirations and ideals. Even low things have power for incitement. No dead tree in the forest so unsightly but that some generous woodbine will wrap a robe of beauty about its nakedness. No cellar so dark but if there is a fissure through which the sunlight falls the plant will reach up its feeble tendrils to be blessed by the warming ray. Yet the soul is from God, is higher than vine or tree, and should aspire toward Him who stirs these mysterious aspirations in the heart.
The soul is like a lost child. It wanders a stranger in a strange land. Full oft it is heartsick, for even the best things content it for but a little while. Daily, mysterious ideals throb and throb within. It struggles with a vagrant restlessness. It goes yearning after what it does not find. A deep, mysterious hunger rises. It would fain come to itself. In its ideal hours it sees afar off the vision that tempts it on and up toward home and heaven. The secret of man is the secret of his vision hours. These tell him whence he came—and whither he goes. Then Christ became the soul's guide; God's heart, the soul's home.
THE PHYSICAL BASIS OF CHARACTER
"Health is the vital principle of bliss."—Thompson.
"Good nature is often a mere matter of health. With good digestion men are apt to be good natured; with bad digestion, morose."—Beecher.
"A man so trained in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will, and does with equal ease and pleasure all the work that as a mechanism it is capable of,—whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic-engine, with all its parts of equal strength and in smooth working order, ready like a steam engine to be turned to any kind of work, and spin the gossamers as well as forge the anchors of the mind."—Huxley.
"Finally, I have one advice which is of very great importance. You are to consider that health is a thing to be attended to continually, as the very highest of all temporal things. There is no kind of an achievement equal to perfect health. What to it are nuggets or millions?"—Carlyle's Address to Students at Edinburgh.
"Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty: For in my youth I never did apply Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood: Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo The means of weakness and debility; Therefore my age is as a lusty winter, Frosty but kindly."
—"As You Like It," ii: 3.
THE PHYSICAL BASIS OF CHARACTER
Ancient society looked upon the human body with the utmost veneration. The citizen of Thebes or Memphis knew no higher ambition than a competency for embalming his body. Men loved unto death and beyond it the physical house in which the soul dwelt. Every instinct of refinement and self-respect revolted from the thought of discarding the body like a cast-off garment or worn-out tool. In his dying hour it was little to Rameses that his career was to be pictured on obelisk and preserved in pyramid, but it was very much to the King that the embalmer should give permanency to the body with which his soul had gone singing, weeping and loving through three-score years and ten. The papyrus found in the tombs tells us that the soldiers of that far-off age did not fear death itself more than they feared falling in some secluded spot where the body, neglected and forgotten, would quickly give its elements back to air and earth. How noble the sentiment that attached dignity and honor to hand and foot! Sacred, doubly sacred, was the body that had served the soul long and faithfully!
The soul is a city, and as Thebes had many gateways through which passed great caravans laden with goodly treasure, so the five senses are gateways through which journey all earth's sights and sounds. Through the golden gate of the ear have gone what noble truths, companying together what messengers of affection, what sweet friendships. The eye is an Appian Way over which have gone all the processions of the seasons. How do hand and vision protect man? Hunters use sharp spears for keeping back wild beasts, but Livingstone, armed only with eye beams, drove a snarling beast into the thicket, and Luther, lifting his great eyes upon an assassin, made the murderer flee. What flute or harp is comparable for sweetness to the voice? It carries warning and alarm. It will speak for you, plead for you, pray for you. Truly it is an architect, fulfilling Dante's dictum, "piling up mountains of melody." Serving the soul well, the body becomes sacred by service. Therefore man loves and guards the physical house in which he lives.
Always objects and places associated with life's deep joys and sorrows become themselves sacred through these associations. The flock passing through the forest leaves some white threads behind. The bird lines its nest with down from its own bosom. Thus the heart, going forward, leaves behind some treasure, and perfumes its path. Memory hangs upon the tree the whispered confession made beneath its branches. No palace so memorable as the little house where you were reared, no charter oak so historic as the trees under which you played, no river Nile so notable as the little brook that once sung to your sighing, no volume or manuscript so precious as the letter and Testament your dying father pressed into your hand. Understanding this principle, nations guard the manuscript of the sage, the sword of the general, the flag stained with heroes' blood. Memorable forever the little room where Milton wrote, the cottage where Shakespeare dwelt, the spot where Dante dreamed, the ruin where Phidias wrought. But no building ever showed such comely handiwork as the temple built by divine skill. God hath made the soul's house fair to look upon. Death may close its doors, darken its windows, and pull down its pillars; still, its very ruins are precious, to be guarded with jealous care. How sacred the spot where lie the parents that tended us, the bosom that shielded our infancy, the hands that carried our weakness everywhither. Men will always deem the desecration of the body or the grave blasphemous. The physical house, standing, is the temple of God; falling, it must forever be sacred in man's memory.
Science teaches us to look upon the body as a thinking machine. As a mental mechanism it exhibits the divine being as an inventor, who has produced a machine as much superior to Watt's engine, as that engine is superior to a clod or stone. In this divine mechanism all intricate and enduring machines are combined in one. Imagine an instrument so delicate as to be at once a telescope and microscope, at one moment witnessing the flight of a sun hundreds of millions of miles away, then quickly adjusted for seeing the point of the finest needle! Imagine a machine that at one and the same moment can feel the gratefulness of the blazing fire, taste the sweetness of an orange, experience the aesthetic delights of a picture, recall the events in the careers of the men the artist has delineated, recognize the entrance of a group of friends, out of the confusion of tongues lead forth a voice not heard for years, thrill with elation at the unexpected meeting! The very mention of such an instrument, combining audiphone, telephone, phonograph, organ, loom, and many other mechanisms yet to be invented, seems like some tale from the "Arabian Nights." Yet the body and brain make up such a wondrous mental loom, weaving thought-textures called conversations, poems, orations, making the creations of a Jacquard loom mere child's play. The body is like a vast mental depot with lines running out into all the world. Everything outside has a desk inside where it transacts its special line of business. There is a visual desk where sunbeams make up their accounts; an aural desk where melodies conduct their negotiations; a memory desk where actions and motives are recorded; a logical desk where reasons and arguments are received and filed. Truly God hath woven the bones and sinews that fence the soul about into a mechanism "fearfully and wonderfully made."
To-day science is writing for us the story of the ascent of the body. Scholars perceive that matter has fulfilled its mission now that dust stands erect, throbbing in a thinking brain, and beating in a glowing heart. Ours is a world wherein God hath ordained that acorns should go on toward oaks, huts become houses, tents temples, babes men, and the generations journey on to that sublime event "toward which the whole creation moves." In this long upward march science declares the human body has had its place. Professor Drummond, famed for his Christian faith, in his recent volume tells us that man's body brings forward and combines in itself all the excellencies of the whole lower animal creation. As the locomotive of to-day contains the engine of Watt and the improvements of all succeeding inventors; as the Hoe printing-press contains the rude hand-machine of Guttenberg and the best features of all the machines that followed it; so the human body contains the special gift of all earlier and lower forms of animal life. In making a reaper the machinist does not begin with the sickle, and then unite the hook with the scythe, afterward joining thereto the rude reaper and so move on through all the improving types. But in the germinal man, nature does adopt just this method. As the embryo life develops it passes into and through the likeness of each lower animal, and ever journeying upward carries with it the special grace and gift of each creature it has left behind, "sometimes a bone, or a muscle, or a ganglion," until the excellencies of many lower forms are compacted in the one higher man. In the human body there are now seventy vestigial structures, e.g., vermiform appendices, useful in the lower life but worse than useless in man. When an anatomist discovered an organ in a certain animal he foretold its rudimentary existence in the embryonic man, and we are told his prophecy was fulfilled through the microscope, "just as the planet Neptune was discovered after its existence had been predicted from the disturbances produced in the orbit of Uranus." As some noble gallery owes its supremacy to centuries of toil and represents treasures brought in from every clime and country, so the human body represents contributions from land and sea, and members and organs from innumerable creatures that creep and walk and fly.
Thus man's descent from the animals has been displaced by the ascent of the human body. This is not degradation, but an unspeakable exaltation. Man is "fearfully and wonderfully made." God ordained the long upward march for making his body exquisitely sensitive and fitted to be the home of a divine mind. How marvelously does this view enhance the dignity of man, and clothe God with majesty and glory! It is a great thing for the inventor to construct a watch. But what if genius were given some jeweler to construct a watch carrying the power to regulate itself, and when worn out to reproduce itself in another watch of a new and higher form, endowing it at the same time with power for handing forward this capacity for self-improvement? Is not the wisdom and skill required for making a watch that is self-adjusting, self-improving, and self-succeeding vastly more than the wisdom required to construct a simple timepiece? Should science finally establish the new view, already adopted by practically all biologists, it will but substitute the method of gradualism and an unfolding progression for a human body created by an instantaneous and peremptory fiat. But this is a question for specialists and experts. Those scholars who accept this view, including such thinkers as the late President McCosh, of Princeton; Dana, of Yale; such teachers as Caird, Drummond, and scores who could be named, all renowned for their Christian belief and life, find that these new views do not waste faith, but rather nourish it. Formerly men feared and fought Newton's doctrine of gravity, trembling lest that principle should destroy belief. To-day many are troubled because of the new views of development. But it is possible for one to believe in evolution, and still believe in God with all the mind and soul and strength. Strangely enough, some are unwilling to have ascended progressively from an animal, but quite willing to have come up directly from the clod. But either origin is good enough providing man has ascended far enough from the clod and the animal, and made some approach to the angel. Some there are for whom no descent seems possible—they can go no lower; dwelling now with beasts; others seem to have made no ascent whatever, but to be even now upon the plane of things that crawl and creep. Let us leave the question to the scientists. By whatever way the body came, mentality and spirituality have now been engrafted upon it. Man is no longer animal, but spiritual; and the wondrous development of man upon this side of the grave is the pledge and promise of a long progress beyond the grave, when the divine spirit by his secret resources shall lead forth from men, emotions, dispositions, and aspirations as much beyond the present thought and life as the tree is beyond the seed and the low-lying roots.
In this new view of the human body, science not only exhibits the growth and perfection of man as the goal toward which God has been moving from the first, but also throws light upon the sinfulness of man and the conflicts that rage within the soul. Man is seen to be a double creature. The spirit man rides a man of flesh and is often thrown thereby and trampled under foot. There is a lower animal nature having all the appetites and passions that sustain the physical organization; but super-imposed thereon, is a spiritual man, with reason and moral sentiment, with affection and faith. The union of the two means strife and conflict; the doing what one would not do and the leaving undone what one would do. The poet describes the condition by saying: "The devil squatted early on human territory, and God sent an angel to dispossess him." The animal nature foams out all manner of passions and lusts. From thence issue also lurid lights and murky streams. But the under man is not the true man. The soldier rides the horse, but is himself other than his beast. Man uses an animal at the bottom, but man is what he is at the top. Sin is the struggle for supremacy between the animal forces and the higher spiritual powers. The passions downstairs must be subordinated to the people upstairs. In some men the animal impulses predominate with terrible force, and their control is not easy. It is as if a child should try to drive a chariot drawn by forty steeds of the sun. When a man finds that he can not dam back the mountain stream, nor stop up its springs, he learns to use the stream by building a mill, and controlling the pressure of the flood for grinding his corn. Similarly, the problem of life is for the upper man to educate, control, and transmute the lower forces into sympathy and service. The combative powers once turned against his fellows must be turned against nature and used for hewing down the forests, bridging rivers, piercing mountains. Thus every animal force and passion becomes sacred through consecration to mental and spiritual ends and aims.