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Full text of "The palace of mirrors, and other essays"

Glass _BX!£3i 
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Copyright N° 1 . 



COPYRIGHT DEPOSIT; 



The Palace of Mirrors 
and other Essays 



V BY 

REV. j/FRANK THOMPSON 

Author of Life Lessons 



1S^ 



THE MURRAY PRESS 
BOSTON AND CHICAGO 






Copyright, 191 1, by 
UNIVERSALIST PUBLISHING HOUSE 



©CLA283407 



To 
Archibald Dann, M.D. 

My Friend of Many Years and 

Companion of Many Summer Days, 

This Book is Affectionately 

Dedicated. 



PREFACE 

These essays contain no new phi- 
losophy of life. Their purpose will be 
served if they emphasize the impor- 
tance of truths we already know; and 
since the writer has stated these as 
clearly as he could, a preface may 
seem needless. 

But every author hopes that his 
book will be read by some people 
whose names he does not know, and 
whose faces he may never see, but 
with whom he is glad to share his 
thoughts. To these unknown friends 
the preface is a word of personal 
greeting. 

J. FRANK THOMPSON. 



The Palace of Mirrors 



The Palace of Mirrors 

^pHACKERAY begins his novel of 
" Vanity Fair" by describing J;he 
departure of two girls, of about the 
same age, from the boarding school 
where they had spent an equal number 
of years. One, notwithstanding her 
desire to be at home and her eager- 
ness to begin the larger social life that 
awaits her, regrets the parting from 
her schoolmates, and carries with her 
the recollection of many pleasant 
days spent in their companionship. 
She says that she has experienced 
nothing but good will, affection, and 
kindness in her intercourse with them; 



2 THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 

and she fully believes in the sincerity 
of their professed wishes for her 
future happiness. The other declares 
that she has found only selfishness and 
deceit, and that she will be glad to 
get away and try her fortunes some- 
where else. She thinks that any 
change may be for the better and 
cannot be for the worse. 

But what the writer tells us, and 
proceeds to illustrate in subsequent 
chapters of the story, is that, in so 
far as their dispositions remain un- 
changed, each of these girls will find, 
wherever she may go, about what 
she found in the school which one left 
with gladness and the other with re- 
gret. "The world," he says, in sub- 
stance, "is full of looking-glasses, in 
which we behold our own reflection." 

The metaphor finds ample warrant 



THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 3 

In our commonest experiences. A 
given mirror may, indeed, be cracked, 
or otherwise defective, so that the 
image fails to do us justice; but, in 
the main, the thing reflected is the 
thing that is. 

The material world abounds in such 
mirrors. The summer rain is one 
thing to the farmer whose heart glows 
with satisfaction at the thought of 
the crops that are being nourished, 
and quite another to the boy who 
scolds and mutters his resentment 
toward its interference with his holi- 
day. The falling snow does not look 
the same to youths and maidens who 
expect a sleigh ride, and the homeless 
wanderer who does not know where 
he may find a shelter for the night. 
To the spent traveler, the oasis in the 
desert, with its cluster of dwarfed 



4 THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 

palms and its lukewarm spring, seems 
fairer than the stateliest of groves 
and the coolest of fountains to one 
who has no need of shade and drink. 
We have all observed how easily 
children obtain enjoyment from the 
most trivial circumstance when they 
are already in a happy mood, and how 
fruitless our best efforts to entertain 
them prove when they do not wish 
to be entertained. It is the same 
with ourselves. We get from our 
surroundings the reflection of our 
mood. If that is one of discontent 
and fretfulness, the weather will 
always be too warm or too cold, and 
all the beauty of the sky and land- 
scape will be as if it were not. On 
the other hand, if our hearts are filled 
with hope and cheerfulness, we shall 
be sensitive to all the delights which 



THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 5 

nature offers to our senses. We shall 
be conscious of the grandeur of 
forests and mountains, the peaceful- 
ness of meadows and harvest lands, 
the fairness and fragrance of flowers, 
and the minstrelsy of birds and brooks, 
while the trifling discomforts of which 
we should otherwise complain will be 
only themes for jest and laughter. 

It will be the same if we place oceans 
and continents between us and our 
past surroundings. The Alps and 
Apennines are only larger looking- 
glasses than the Catskills and Adi- 
rondacks; and in the vineyards and 
orange groves of Italy and California 
we shall see only what we saw in the 
cornfields of Illinois or the orchards 
of New York. Rainbows and sun- 
sets have no charm for grazing sheep 
and oxen. There is no awe and 



6 THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 

majesty in snow-clad height or starry 
firmament for minds that lack the 
sense of things sublime; and ocean 
waves will chant their anthems in 
vain for those who have no thoughts 
and feelings with which they har- 
monize. 

In like manner, just as we experi- 
ence an added satisfaction when the 
least pretentious of mirrors gives us 
back a reflection of the glowing cheek, 
the sparkling eye, and the smiling 
lips that betoken abundant health, 
or express the hope and joy and kind- 
ness with which the heart is filled, so 
very little things afford us pleasure 
when, by reflection, they increase the 
pleasure we already feel. It is thus 
also that we love to visit the place 
where we grew up and where each 
f amiliar scene recalls the boy or girl we 



THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 7 

used to be; that old songs move us to 
smiles or tears which have their source, 
not in the words or music, but in some 
past association with them; and that 
lilacs are fragrant with memories of 
our childhood. All these are looking- 
glasses, reflecting what we are or have 
been. 

"The stranger at my fireside cannot see 
The sights I see, nor hear the sounds I 
hear; 
He but perceives what is, while unto me, 
All that has been is visible and clear." 

It is also true that we are interested 
in other people's ideas chiefly when 
they make clear, by reflection, some- 
thing of value that already exists in 
our own minds. All satisfying con- 
versation requires a topic of mutual 
interest. We like to listen to those 
who express what in some measure we 
have thought and felt. The failure 



8 THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 

of a poem, or essay, or sermon to please 
us is no proof that it lacks essential 
worth. The explanation may be that 
we have had no experiences for which 
it provides a looking-glass. It does 
not image the longings we have felt, 
the joys we have known, the griefs we 
have endured, and the truths we have 
proved. In after years, when the 
experience described has become our 
own, we may read the same book, or 
listen to a like discourse, and find it 
rich in meaning. Any one whose 
childhood was spent in the country 
can enjoy Whittier's "Snow Bound." 
But his "Eternal Goodness" is best 
appreciated by those who, at the cost 
of severing human ties that were dear 
to them, have exchanged a creed 
against which their reason and con- 
science alike rebelled for a faith that 



THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 9 

satisfies them both. Tennyson's 
"Brook" delights all lovers of beauty 
and melody as it makes articulate the 
gladness of the summer world through 
which it flows, but we do not greatly 
care for "In Memoriam" unless we 
have known the sorrow it portrays 
and the comfort of which it speaks. 
It is related that one of Mr. Beecher's 
ushers once asked him if he should 
wake up any one in the congregation 
whom he found asleep. "No," was 
the reply, "you are to come into the 
pulpit and wake me up." It was a 
good answer: yet it is probable that 
many people, if they did not sleep 
through some of Mr. Beecher's best 
discourses, listened with little pleasure 
or profit, because there were so few 
things in their own lives which they 
pictured. Even Jesus was obliged to 



10 THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 

confess that, for many of those who 
heard, them, his words were as seed 
that fell by the wayside, since they 
found nothing in them that seemed 
worth remembering. 

In the characters of our associates 
we find a reflection of the good or evil 
qualities which belong to our own. 
If we are coarse, selfish, and unscrupu- 
lous, we shall attribute coarseness, 
selfishness, and injustice to them. If 
we are destitute of benevolence, we 
shall have no faith in their kindness. 
If our honesty and virtue is a pretense 
we shall credit them with an equal 
hypocrisy. In many instances the 
vices we thus discover are real, and 
we could not help perceiving them 
though our own faults were few; but 
even then our familiarity with them 
in ourselves may cause them to seem 



THE PALACE OF MIRRORS II 

much greater than they are. In other 
cases they are transient moods awak- 
ened by contact with our disposition, 
as when a scowl is answered by a frown, 
or an ungracious speech provokes a 
sharp retort, or an injurious deed is 
repaid by a harmful act. Instead of 
finding we create them. We are the 
authors of what we resent. Often, 
however, the depravity of which we 
complain is merely the product of our 
distempered fancy. It has no more 
substance than an image in a mirror. 
We say that we have found our asso- 
ciates rude or unsocial, indifferent or 
quarrelsome; that they care only for 
their own comfort and pleasure; 
whereas the truth may be that we 
have merely been looking at our own 
disposition in a glass, and are dissatis- 
fied with what we have seen. 



12 THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 

The existence of any excellence in 
ourselves is our best help to the under- 
standing of it in others. In propor- 
tion as our thoughts are pure, our 
motives honorable, and our impulses 
generous, such refinement, integrity, 
and kindness as our neighbors really 
possess become visible to us. We see 
and appreciate virtues with which we 
are familiar because they are our own. 
And not only that, but we create such 
qualities where they were wanting, 
or awaken them where they were dor- 
mant. Rude people are made gentle 
by our courtesy; unsocial people re- 
spond to our cordial speech and man- 
ner; and selfish people reflect our 
generosity. We find purity and truth, 
honesty and kindness, sympathy and 
good will wherever we go, because, 
whether they were already there or 



THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 13 

not, we at least carry them with us 
and are surrounded by human mirrors 
that reflect them. And in this we not 
only increase our own happiness, but 
contribute to the goodness of others 
as well. We may, indeed, work no 
miracle of transformation in the char- 
acter of those whose moods have been 
the reflection 'of our own; but some- 
thing at least, not only of transient 
joy but abiding worth as well, has been 
imparted. From a material mirror 
the image vanishes and leaves no 
trace; but the human soul that has 
once reflected the moral beauty of 
another has received what can never 
be entirely lost. 

In the attributes of God's char- 
acter we behold the reflection of our 
own. If we are vain and arrogant, 
we shall think of Him as delighted 



14 THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 

with flattery, and caring more for the 
enforcement of His authority than the 
welfare of those over whom it is 
exercised. If we are wrathful and 
vindictive, we shall fancy that He 
is angry and revengeful. But if our 
disposition is to pity the evil-doer 
while abhorring his deeds, we shall re- 
gard God's sovereign justice as the 
instrument of His Fatherly Love, 
believing that it smites to bless and 
wounds to heal. That the Divine 
will would triumph in the destruction 
or eternal banishment of those who 
had resisted its authority, was the 
dream of human hatred; but human 
compassion and love suggested the 
story of the shepherd's quest, and 
the prodigal's return. The use of 
the thumbscrew and rack and belief 
in an endless hell began to pass away 



THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 1 5 

together; and man has ever discovered 
something more worthy of reverence 
in the character of his God with each 
new excellence added to his own. 

Thus it is that the universe is a 
Palace of Mirrors, wherein we are sur- 
rounded by images of ourselves. We 
project our hopes and fears, our griefs 
and gladness, our memories and fore- 
bodings into the material world, and 
see in its varied phenomena the quali- 
ties with which our moods have in- 
vested them. We find in the thoughts 
of poets and seers the lessons that our 
own experience has taught us. We 
behold the greatness or littleness, the 
beauty or deformity, the nobility or 
baseness of our own souls in the char- 
acter of our fellow beings and the 
disposition of the Deity whom we 
worship. We get what we give. It 



l6 THE PALACE OF MIRRORS 

is only when our own lives radiate 
purity and truth, justice and kindness, 
that they shine back upon us from the 
lives of our human associates. It is 
only when our hearts are forgiving, 
compassionate, and helpful, that we 
can look up to the face of our Father 
in heaven and find it aglow with an 
infinite tenderness and love. 

" There are loyal hearts, there are spirits 
brave, 
There are souls that are pure and true: 
Then give to the world the best you have, 
And the best shall come back to you. 

Give love, and love to your heart will flow, 
A strength in your utmost need: 

Have faith, and a score of hearts will show 
Their faith in your word and deed. 

For life is the mirror of king and slave, 
'Tis just what you are and do; 

Then give to the world the best you have, 
And the best will come back to you." 



Scaffolding and Building 

TN passing the place where a ma- 
terial edifice is in process of erec- 
tion, we see various temporary struc- 
tures and appliances that are only 
meant for use in constructing the 
permanent building. There are lad- 
ders up which the workmen climb, 
and platforms on which they stand. 
There are also derricks and pulleys for 
hoisting iron girders and blocks of 
granite and swinging them into place. 
All these have their present function; 
but when that has been performed 
they will be taken down and carried 
away, and there will remain only the 
building which the architect planned 
and the workmen fashioned. If that 

serves its intended purpose, the scaf- 

17 



l8 SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 

folding has been rightly used; but if 
the one proves worthless, the time and 
labor bestowed upon the other has 
been wasted. 

The truth thus illustrated is that 
our essential business in this world is 
to build a character and life that shall 
be noble and beautiful in itself, and 
rich in usefulness to others. What- 
ever else we may accomplish is valu- 
able and praiseworthy chiefly as it 
is related to this as scaffolding to 
building. 

Physical health is such a scaffolding. 
He who has it is thus far fortunate. 
But unless he uses it in creating for 
himself and others values that will 
survive its loss, it is like an outward 
and transient framework within which 
there rises no structure of abiding 
worth, and when it is finally taken 



SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 19 

away nothing will remain. It is like 
the strength that Samson employed 
in feats that merely served to prove 
its possession. 

Another scaffolding is that of emi- 
nent social position. Those who oc- 
cupy it have splendid facilities for 
building noble and gracious charac- 
ters, honorable reputations, and be- 
neficent lives. There are so many 
public and private ways in which they 
can minister to the welfare of others, 
while increasing their own kindness 
through its constant use. But if they 
are content to live merely for their 
own comfort and pleasure, their occu- 
pation of the station they hold is not 
justified, and their place upon the 
social scaffolding would be better 
filled by those who were willing to use 
it for building purposes. 



20 SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 

It is so of material prosperity. 
Achievement of any sort, especially 
when circumstances have made it 
difficult, proclaims a power that de- 
serves our admiration. We justly 
commend the intelligence and in- 
dustry, the courage and perseverance 
of the man who has risen by his own 
efforts from obscurity to prominence, 
or from poverty to affluence. A fore- 
sight that enables its possessor. to 
adapt present means to distant ends; 
skill to combine many causes in a 
single result; patience where waiting 
is needed, and promptness when action 
is required — all these are qualities 
that merit our high approval; and 
nowhere are they more clearly mani- 
fested than in the activities and 
achievements of the successful busi- 
ness man. Nevertheless the truth 



SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 21 

remains that whether what he has 
thus effected was worth the time and 
labor that it cost depends upon the 
purpose it has been made to serve. 
If within the outward and temporary 
structure of his success he has all the 
while been building a character of 
which the elements are honesty and 
kindness, all his toil and pains have 
been wisely bestowed. Because the 
more one has to do with the more 
he can do, material possessions are 
greatly worth striving for. With such 
resources there is so much that one 
can do toward making his life helpful 
to others and winning a wholesome 
happiness for himself. With such a 
scaffolding what a splendid structure 
he may build — grand in its moral 
worth and radiant with spiritual 
beauty! But if his wealth has not 



22 SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 

been consecrated to high ideals; if 
the method of its acquirement and the 
manner of its use has added nothing 
to the enrichment of his character 
and the beneficence of his life; then, 
while appreciating the intelligence and 
industry displayed in the construction 
of what, after all, was only scaffolding, 
we are compelled to ask, "To what 
purpose was it all done, since there is 
no building?" To challenge our ap- 
proval upon no better grounds than 
are thus furnished, is like asking us 
to applaud the ingenuity manifested 
in the invention of a machine that 
does nothing except run smoothly; a 
mill that grinds no grist; a loom that 
weaves no fabric; an engine that draws 
no train; an electric motor that, being 
geared to nothing, is as useless as a 
thunderstorm at sea. He says, "See 



SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 23 

what I have done!" and we answer, 
"It is good; but what have you done 
with it? In the creation of what real 
and permanent values have you used 
it for yourself and others?" The 
labor and skill, the courage and 
patience have all been justified if 
when the scaffolding has been taken 
down there remains the brave struc- 
ture of a noble character, founded upon 
the bed-rock of moral principle, built 
of integrity and kindness, and domed 
with God's approval. They have 
been poorly employed if, when the 
sounds of sawing and hammering, the 
throbbing of the engine and creaking 
of the windlass have ceased, when 
the tools have been laid aside and the 
scaffolding removed, there is left only 
a vacant place. 
But outward prosperity is not the 



24 SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 

only scaffolding within and by means 
of which we may build the structure 
of essential worth. What are called 
misfortunes frequently render us an 
equal service. 

Our best intellectual achievements 
are often the product of an adversity 
which, through pressure of need, stim- 
ulates our mental faculties to their 
best performance. Financial ruin was 
the scaffolding on which Walter Scott 
stood to build the structure of his 
literary greatness and renown. It 
was when Hawthorne had lost his 
position in the custom-house that he 
wrote "The Scarlet Letter." To 
divert his mind from the grief of be- 
reavement and the loneliness of exile 
Dante composed the poem that, while 
it is chiefly known by name to modern 
readers, was a peerless contribution 



SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 25 

to the thought of the age in which he 
lived. Through needed effort to cure 
himself of stammering, Demosthenes 
is said to have become the prince of 
orators. The hardships of the Ayr- 
shire farm did more for the genius of 
Burns than the easy life at Edinburgh 
which followed his first success and 
lasted until his money was gone. The 
accident that made Josiah Wedge- 
wood a cripple lifted the manufacture 
of pottery to the dignity of a fine art. 
Beethoven dreamed, and wrote, and 
played for others the music to which 
his own ears were sealed. Because of 
her resolute endeavor to overcome 
what seemed the impassable barriers 
imposed by deafness and blindness, the 
mind and heart of Helen Keller be- 
came enriched, through sense of touch 
alone, with treasures of thought and 



26 SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 

feeling that have made her more than 
the peer of most people who can see 
and hear. 

It is so of moral achievements. Just 
as sunshine and rain, light and dark- 
ness, summer and winter, have alike 
their needed ministry in the natural 
world, so our trials, no less than our 
manifest blessings, have their per- 
mitted uses in the enrichment of our 
inner life with moral strength and 
spiritual beauty. Into what a close 
and tender companionship of the 
heart the members of a household are 
often drawn by some sad experience 
through which they have passed to- 
gether, or some common peril that 
threatens them ! How thoughtful each 
becomes for the needs of the others! 
What blossoms of sweet and self- 
forgetful affection are nourished by 



SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 2^ 

their affliction, like flowers that spring 
from the earth when showers have 
made it fruitful! How sympathetic 
and helpful toward the sorrows of 
others some people whom we know 
have been made by the sorrows through 
which they have passed without the 
loss of their own courage and hopeful- 
ness! Few things better deserve our 
gratitude than the help we thus re- 
ceive from those who have come through 
great tribulation with their garments 
unspotted. In like manner there are 
those whose religious faith has become 
more clear and steadfast because they 
turned to it for strength and comfort 
in adversity and found it sufficient 
for their need. It is as when increas- 
ing darkness reveals the serene and 
watchful stars that we should never 
see if day were never changed to night. 



28 SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 

And because these things are so, it 
follows that the worth of our life must 
be measured, not by our outward 
achievements or the experiences that 
come to us unsought, but the moral 
uses to which they are put. We are 
here to make goodness for ourselves 
and happiness for others, and by so 
much as we fail of this our earthly 
existence is a failure. Poverty and 
wealth, obscurity and fame, compan- 
ionship and loneliness, joys that glad- 
den the heart and griefs that sadden 
the soul — all these are but the scaf- 
folding; and the only question of 
importance is, What are we building? 
If worldly prosperity has been granted 
us, if we have been born to an exalted 
station or achieved distinction for 
ourselves, if we have succeeded in our 
ambitions and our craving for friend- 



SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 29 

ship and affection has been amply- 
satisfied, we are to value these things, 
not chiefly for their own sake, but as 
helps to that moral attainment which 
is the supreme business of our life. 
And if riches and honor have been 
withheld, if our hopes have been dis- 
appointed and our affections bereaved, 
then we must turn our trials and losses 
to a like account — finding in them 
the potency they contain of minister- 
ing to our growth in goodness and use- 
fulness. When we look upon a 
material structure the worth of which 
is evident, we do not ask of what 
materials the scaffold that the builders 
used was composed: whether the trees 
that furnished its planks and beams 
were nourished by a rich or an im- 
poverished soil; whether they were 
buffeted by winter storms, or grew 



30 SCAFFOLDING AND BUILDING 

tall and strong in a land of endless 
summer. It is enough that they have 
served their purpose. In like manner 
if, in our character and life, we are 
pure and honest, just and generous, 
sympathetic and helpful, it does not 
greatly matter what means of our own 
or God's providing have been em- 
ployed to make us so. If outward 
prosperity has furnished the help we 
needed, it is well; and if outward ad- 
versity has served our purpose, it is 
equally well. In either case, the re- 
sult outlasts the means; the structure 
of a manly worth or womanly goodness, 
the edifice of a noble character and 
beneficent life, remains when the 
scaffolding has been removed; and 
that is the only thing that really counts. 



THe KnocK at tKe Door 

TT was Charles Lamb who, living 
long before the era of electric 
bells, said, "Not many sounds in life, 
and I include all urban and rural 
sounds, exceed in interest a knock at 
the door." 

Each person leads a double life. He 
is an individual, and a member of 
society. He has thoughts and feelings 
and employments that are his own; 
and he has also sympathies and in- 
terests and duties that relate him to 
his fellow beings. From time to time, 
these two departments of experience, 
each of which is necessary to the other, 
come in contact; and of that contact 
the knock at the door is often the 
medium, and always the symbol. 
31 



32 THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 

Let us say that the evening meal 
has been finished, and that the various 
members of the household group are 
busied with their occupations of read- 
ing, writing, sewing, or conversation. 
In the midst of these occupations 
comes the interruption of the knock 
at the door, announcing that private 
and domestic interests are about to be 
brought in contact with the larger life 
of the outward world. 

The summons is answered, and the 
expected or unlooked for guest is 
ushered in. The fact that he has 
thought enough about us to pay us this 
visit instantly changes the general re- 
gard, in which we may have included 
him with a great many other people, 
into a special liking; while his frank 
assurance of a welcome helps to create 
it. The conversation, beginning with 



THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 33 

the state of the weather, proceeds 
through inquiries about common 
friends, to the events of the day, and 
so reaches the discussion of books 
and that interchange of personal 
thought wherein mind speaks to mind. 
Perhaps, toward the close of the even- 
ing, the hostess mindful, like Martha 
of old, of bodily wants, provides some 
little collation, and so, with mutual 
good wishes and messages of kind re- 
membrance, the visit is ended. 

Such an event is a benediction to a 
household. Too much isolation is not 
good for either the individual or the 
family. Some one has said that we 
need other heads and hearts, just as 
we do other timepieces, by which to 
correct our own. In the absence of 
such correction, the head or heart, 
like the clock or watch, may go wrong 



34 THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 

without our suspecting it. The char- 
acter of the recluse, developing only 
along the lines of its original tendency, 
is seldom a healthy one. It possesses 
some qualities in excess, while in 
others it is sadly deficient. It is so 
with the family. Its members are 
too much alike to be sufficient com- 
pany for each other. Under the in- 
fluence of isolation, their resemblance 
to one another, and their unlikeness 
to other folks, steadily increases; 
until, at last, they come to be known 
as queer people, whom nobody cares 
to visit. On the other hand, when a 
given household is socially related to 
at least a few others, its life is usually 
fullest and richest in the elements of 
companionship between its own mem- 
bers. There is a domestic as well as 
a personal selfishness; and the evil 



THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 35 

effects of the one resemble those of the 
other. It is as true of families as of 
individuals that those who try to live 
unto themselves begin to die within 
themselves. Just as the water of the 
bay would become stagnant unless 
often renewed by the inflowing tides 
of the ocean, so the private life of the 
family requires channels of communi- 
cation with the social sea; and there 
is always something lacking in the 
home where the knock at the door is 
seldom heard. 

But the knock at the door has a 
figurative as well as a literal signifi- 
cance. It symbolizes any occurrence 
that makes us more appreciative of 
such blessings as we already possess, 
or terminates a mood that has lasted 
long enough, or enriches our life with 
some new element of use and happi- 



36 THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 

ness. It is emblematic of any event 
that substitutes variety for monotony 
in our experience ; any appeal addressed 
to our sympathy; any demand upon 
our faith and courage; any influence 
that widens the scope of our interests 
and activities. 

Some of these visitors are, indeed, 
poor company; and we act wisely in 
not encouraging them to prolong their 
stay. It is certain, for instance, that 
physical pain and mental suffering are 
not desirable guests, and that we 
should never choose them except as 
the alternatives to a moral injury that 
would be far more serious. Never- 
theless, their possibility exists in the 
scheme of things, and their experience 
cannot be altogether avoided. We 
need not invite them; but if they come 
unbidden, their visits, like those of 



THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 37 

some people we know, may at least 
serve by contrast to make our joys 
more vivid. It is pleasant, in a way, 
to live where roses bloom all the year, 
and cloudless skies last from May 
to December. But dearer, to most 
people, are the vernal seasons that 
wintry weather separates, and the 
June sunshine that an occasional tem- 
pest helps them to value. Starva- 
tion is never a blessing; but it is well 
for every one that hunger should pre- 
cede eating; and this applies not only 
to physical satisfactions, but to pleas- 
ures of the heart and mind as well. 
It may be well that want and care and 
grief should at times knock at our 
door, though we refuse to let them in. 
Elements of value in our character 
are developed by the necessary effort 
to prevent their entrance, while the 



38 THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 

sight of their faces and the sound of 
their voices make dearer to us the 
comfort, contentment, and gladness 
that daily sit by our fireside. 

I have said that the knock at the 
door symbolizes not only any excep- 
tional experience that makes us more 
appreciative of our constant blessings, 
but any event which terminates a 
mood that has lasted long enough. 
Thus, for instance, it has been wisely 
provided that we should be summoned 
by necessity, if other incentives are 
lacking, from the physical pleasures and 
social enjoyments that serve to renew 
our energies of body and mind, to the 
daily tasks in which we should find 
our highest happiness. Some one has 
said that recreation whets the scythe 
that cuts the grass. He who permits 
himself no diversion mows always 



THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 39 

with a dull scythe, and his work is poor 
in quality; but he who does nothing 
but play keeps the scythe sharp to no 
purpose. It is well to enjoy the so- 
ciety of our chosen friends, to visit the 
theatre, to belong to the club, and to 
permit ourselves the luxury of a sum- 
mer vacation. Still, an existence that 
was all holiday would soon become 
shallow and worthless. Therefore we 
have reason to be thankful that, in the 
midst of our self-indulgence, there 
comes the knock at the door, recalling 
us to that work of hand or brain by 
which we fill our place in the world's 
activities and achieve enduring results. 
It is even true that our religious feel- 
ings would be renewed from spiritual 
sources to little purpose, were it not 
for the frequent demands made upon 
our faith and sympathy by the needs 



40 THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 

of our fellow beings. On the mount 
of transfiguration, the happiness that 
Jesus found in personal communion 
with God passed into ecstacy. But 
down in the valley sounded the be- 
seeching cry of the father who had 
brought his sick child to be healed; 
and that cry was the knock at the 
door which summoned the Master 
back to the life of human service that 
gave to spiritual trust and love their 
practical value. 

And what thus adds usefulness to 
our pleasures, and prevents the loss 
of their wholesomeness, is often the 
best cure for our sorrows. It is not 
easy to resume our customary em- 
ployments when they have been inter- 
rupted by the experience of some 
great misfortune. All ordinary in- 
terests fade into dim remoteness, and 



THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 41 

every trivial incident seems an imper- 
tinence. We resent the practical 
light of day that seeks us out where 
we would fain be left to sit undisturbed 
amid the ruin of our hopes and the 
ashes of our joys. It seems strange 
that a world so changed in other re- 
spects should retain any of the things 
with which we were familiar, and de- 
mand our attention to them. Never- 
theless the common needs of the daily 
life keep knocking at the door, and we 
must go forth to meet them. The 
affairs of his kingdom will not permit 
David to remain in that chamber over 
the gate to which he has retired to 
mourn the fate of Absalom. Maud 
Muller must finish raking her hay, 
though she knows the judge will never 
ride that way again. The housework 
must be done, though the heart seems 



42 THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 

broken. Business must be transacted 
though the incentive that changed 
drudgery to delight has vanished. 
Weeping may endure for a night, but 
on the morrow we must take up the 
burden again. And it is well that this 
necessity is laid upon us. Work is 
a great comforter and renewer, espe- 
cially when it serves the needs of others 
with whose happiness we can sympa- 
thize while we await the return of our 
own. Whatever their trouble may be, 
those who obey the knock at the door 
that calls them back to the routine of 
daily duty usually rise above it, and 
retain, of its effects, only the strength 
and gentleness it has added to their 
character. It is as natural that we 
should renew the gladness of life, if we 
keep a vital hold on the world in which 
we live, as that night should give place 



THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 43 

to morning, and winter change to 
spring. There is an egotism of sorrow 
as well as of joy; and neither should 
be encouraged. Let us be thankful, 
therefore, if, when our self-pity has 
lasted long enough, it is interrupted 
by the knock at the door which bids 
us forget our grief in a renewed devo- 
tion to interests greater than our own. 
And, finally, every wise instruction, 
and every inspiring example is a knock 
at the door of our heart and mind, 
summoning us to a higher plane of 
thought, a purer quality of feeling, and 
a nobler manner of living. It is thus 
that Jesus invites us to the compan- 
ionship of his self-denial for duty's 
sake, and its supreme reward in the 
delights of sympathy and the blessed- 
ness of God's approval. He bids us 
lay down our life with him, that like 



44 THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR 

him we may receive it back trans- 
figured. To each of us he says, "Be- 
hold I stand at the door and knock. 
If any man hear my voice and open 
the door, I will come in and sup with 
him, and he with me." 



THe Essentials of Happiness 

TT is an obvious fact that in the 
-* universal quest of happiness our 
activities are largely governed by 
our ideals. We seek most earnestly 
those things in the possession and use 
of which we hope to find the most 
enjoyment. It is also true that, of 
the various objects of desire, some are 
better adapted than others to our 
actual needs, and, through lack of ac- 
quaintance with ourselves or them, 
our choice may be unwise. The 
things we select may be worthless or 
harmful, or they may afford us less 
pleasure or profit than we would have 
obtained from other things that we 
have renounced for the sake of pro- 
curing them. 

45 



46 THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 

There are, however, certain satis- 
factions essential to the welfare of 
every one, of which few if any of us 
need be altogether deprived, and for 
which our gratitude would still be due 
if all other gifts were withheld. 

First in the list is the physical health 
that makes the mere consciousness of 
existence, apart from any special 
pleasure that may come to us, a con- 
stant joy. To be strong and active; 
to have our daily bread sweetened by 
healthy hunger; to sleep soundly and 
awake refreshed; to breathe deeply 
and feel the prompting of a vigor that 
makes labor a delight; is by no means 
a happiness of which we should be so 
enamored as to ask for nothing else. 
But it is fundamental to all other en- 
joyments; and no one who has it 
should complain that life has proved 



THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 47 

a worthless boon, whatever hardships 
he may have to bear, or whatever 
cravings may be unsatisfied. 

It is, indeed, true that the experience 
of this blessing is seldom an unbroken 
one, and that few possess it in its 
amplest measure. Most of us, how- 
ever, might obtain more by the simple 
method of abandoning ourselves to the 
full enjoyment of what we have. In 
many instances, the chief need of 
people who are not so well as they and 
their friends could wish is the substi- 
tution of such wholesome pleasures 
as their limited health permits for the 
morbid satisfaction they find in the 
contemplation of their real or fancied 
ailments. There are blind people who 
learn to read with their fingers, which 
is surely better than to spend the time 
bemoaning the loss of their eyes. 



48 THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 

There are also invalids who instead of 
carrying the mood of their bad days 
into their good days, enjoy the latter 
with a zest proportionate to the inter- 
val that divides them. It is as when we 
get from the fairness of a perfect day 
in June a delight that makes amends 
for all the discomforts of the week of 
unpleasant weather which it follows. 
Such compensations are permitted us 
all; and the disposition to avail our- 
selves of them will do more than any 
self-pity, or any recital of our woes, 
to make our good days many and our 
bad days few. In this direction lies 
the mental wholesomeness without 
which the increase of physical vigor 
will be sought in vain. 

Next in importance to the happiness 
of physical health is that which we 
find in the faithful doing of our daily 



THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 49 

work, whatever it may be. Apart 
from the uses which it serves, we enjoy 
the employment of our faculties upon 
tasks to which they are adapted — the 
exercise of the intelligence that plans, 
the perseverance that overcomes, the 
strength or skill that achieves. It is 
also good to know that we are not 
drones in the industrial hive, but pro- 
duce at least as much of the honey as 
we consume. Beyond this we realize 
that the values we create are not mo- 
nopolized by those to whom our service 
of hand or brain is rendered, but, 
through the uses to which they are 
put, help to make the whole world 
richer in all the elements of physical 
comfort, mental enjoyment, and social 
happiness. Thus the delight of ser- 
vice is added to that of independence. 
These blessings are within reach of 



50 THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 

every one who has found the work that 
he can do; and the humblest toiler 
who experiences them has at least 
some satisfactions unknown to the in- 
heritor of ancestral wealth who spends 
but does not earn. If we are per- 
mitted to gain a livelihood by render- 
ing the world some needed service, one 
blessing essential to the happiness of 
every human being has been granted 
us. 

There are intellectual enjoyments 
the need of which is universal. It is 
worth our while to acquire a knowl- 
edge that may have no use beyond the 
mental enrichment to which it min- 
isters, and the mental pleasure it 
affords. For this reason, the artisan 
should cultivate an interest in matters 
not related to his craft, and the busi- 
ness or professional man should seek 



THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 51 

an information for which he may not 
hope to find a market. Such satis- 
factions are, as a rule, within reach of 
all who aspire to them, however cir- 
cumstanced their lives may be. In 
this age of cheap and abundant oppor- 
tunities, it rests chiefly with ourselves 
whether our mental horizon shall be 
wide enough to include a general ac- 
quaintance with the facts of science, 
the events of history, and the wise 
and inspiring thoughts of the best 
literature of prose and poetry, or limi- 
ted to the affairs with which, in our 
special vocation, we are directly deal- 
ing. We must keep our craft in the 
mid-channel of our chosen work, avoid- 
ing the rocks and shoals on either side; 
but there is no reason why our vision 
should be limited to the shore line. 
Our voyage will be more interesting 



52 THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 

if we give some heed to the near land- 
scape and the distant mountains. 

No life can be altogether happy to 
which aesthetic delights are wanting. 
And in this respect, as in most others, 
our opportunities often transcend the 
uses to which we put them. Such 
satisfactions may be permitted in 
largest degree to those whose circum- 
stances permit them to visit many 
lands and contemplate all that is 
grand and beautiful in the works of 
God and man; but they are by no 
means withheld from those to whom 
this advantage has been denied. The 
sky with its splendors of dawn and 
evening, and its stars that make the 
night more beautiful than day, encom- 
passes all the world. For those whose 
homes are in the country, nature is 
prodigal of gifts to eye and ear that 



THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 53 

vary with the passing seasons; while 
cheap transportation brings the en- 
chantments of field and forest within 
easy reach of their city neighbors. 
The chief necessity is the power to 
appreciate what is lavishly bestowed. 

"The poem hangs on the berry-bush 
when comes the poet's eye; 
And the whole world a pageant is 
when Shakespeare passes by." 

He for whom the wild rose and the 
thrush's song have no charm will find 
no pleasure in the beauty and fra- 
grance of tropical gardens, or the 
music of larks and nightingales. 

And as for Art, it is surely better 
to understand what is best in the least 
pretentious of collections, than to visit 
famous galleries filled with treasures 
gathered from every age and land, 
which lack of faculty prevents us from 



54 THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 

enjoying. It is also better to possess a 
single picture the intrinsic charm of 
which we can perceive for ourselves, 
than to cover our walls with master- 
pieces which afford us no satisfaction 
beyond that of owning what the judg- 
ment of critics has commended. 

The heart also has its needs, the 
satisfaction of which is essential to 
our happiness. No degree of material 
possession, mental culture, or aesthetic 
sensibility can compensate the want 
of that pleasure which consists in ap- 
propriating, through sympathy, the 
joys of other lives and welcoming them 
to a share in our own. In proportion 
as we have found it, we may rightly 
deem ourselves among the highly 
favored ones of earth, whatever bless- 
ings we may have missed. To be 
associated with at least a few people 



THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 55 

to whom our welfare is precious, and 
for whom we feel a like regard; to 
find in their faith in us an inspiration 
to all worthy achievement; and to 
know that their lives are strengthened 
and made glad by our love and service; 
is to have gone far toward attaining 
the highest good that life can offer. 
And this also is among the blessings 
that do not greatly depend upon 
our circumstances, and are therefore 
within reach of us all. Domestic 
affection is equally possible in the 
cottage or mansion; and material 
wealth or social position, while it may 
enlarge our visiting acquaintance, is 
not essential to our loyal and satis- 
fying friendships. Indeed it may 
easily prove more of a hindrance than 
a help, since the less we have to offer 
them apart from that the surer we 



56 THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 

may be that our associates prize the 
gift of ourselves. But however this 
may be, the fact remains that, whether 
we are rich or poor, obscure or famous, 
our kindness and faithfulness will, as 
a rule, win their merited return. If 
we lack true friendships to sweeten 
the joys of prosperity and lessen the 
hardships of adversity, the fault is 
chiefly our own. 

A blessing indispensable to many 
others, and without which none of 
them can wholly satisfy, is that of 
conscious rectitude. Physical health 
may exist in the absence of self-respect, 
but having that alone, we shall, at the 
best, be comfortable and not happy. 
Mental culture and aesthetic sensi- 
bility may provide channels of enjoy- 
ment; but a life most richly endowed 
in these respects is essentially poor 



THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 57 

if moral satisfactions are wanting. 
Wealth may be dishonestly obtained; 
but it will constitute a worthless pos- 
session. Our friends may be deceived 
into thinking more highly of us than 
we deserve; but our knowledge of the 
fact will go far toward depriving their 
regard of its intrinsic value. On the 
other hand, he whose circumstances 
have made the path of duty difficult, 
but who walks therein with unfalter- 
ing step, carries in his heart a peace 
that is better than any pleasure or 
profit from which he has turned aside 
for the sake of remaining loyal to the 
demands of righteousness. The glad- 
ness that comes of an honorable pur- 
pose unswervingly followed is worth 
the greatest hardship it may impose, 
or the utmost sacrifice it may require. 
It goes far toward taking from poverty 



58 THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 

its bitterness, from loneliness its de- 
pression, from calumny its power to 
wound, and from outward defeat its 
sense of failure. Whatever disap- 
pointment he may have experienced, 
whatever privations he may have 
endured, and whatever injustice he 
may have suffered, the man who has 
done nothing that he need blush to 
acknowledge to all the world is happier 
than if all other ambitions had been 
gratified at the expense of his desire 
to keep his integrity unsullied, his 
honor undefiled. 

A final element, without which 
our happiness is incomplete, is an un- 
faltering trust in God's present and 
eternal love and care for all His chil- 
dren. Such a faith is the richest 
enhancement of our joys and the best 
comfort for our sorrows. It "adds 



THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 59 

new lustre to the day," and puts a 
song in our heart when the shadows 
of night encompass us. It strengthens 
us to achieve and endure with its 
assurance that through all the duties 
to which we are called, and all the 
experiences that befall us, a benefi- 
cent purpose is being accomplished 
by a goodness that will never change 
and a love that can never fail. It 
makes each blessing that ministers to 
our earthly welfare prophetic of the 
better gifts that shall answer to our 
larger needs as we rise from height to 
height of the soul's unending journey. 
I think we may sum up all by say- 
ing that if our capacity for enjoying 
any of these essential blessings is 
represented by a pint cup, it makes 
little difference whether we fill it from 
a wayside spring, or dip it in the brim- 



60 THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 

ming river — since in either case we 
shall have only a cupful; and that, 
since, as a rule, there is always more 
within our reach than we can appro- 
priate, the enlargement of the cup is 
more important than access to a larger 
fountain. Happiness depends more 
upon what we are than how we are 
situated. 

"Let us," says Professor Swing, 
who preached the gospel of "the 
simple life" long before Charles Wag- 
ner became famous as its chief apostle, 
— "Let us learn to be content with 
what we have. Let us get rid of our 
false estimates, set up all the higher 
ideals — a quiet home; vines of our 
own planting; a few books, full of the 
inspirations of genius; a few friends, 
worthy of being loved, and able to 
love us in return; a hundred innocent 



THE ESSENTIALS OF HAPPINESS 6l 

pleasures that bring no pain or remorse ; 
a devotion to the right that will never 
swerve; a simple religion, empty of 
all bigotry, full of trust and hope and 
love — and to such a philosophy this 
world will give up all its empty joys." 



THe D\ity of Happiness 

'T^HAT we have a perfect right to 
be as happy as we can within 
the limits of a just regard for the wel- 
fare of our fellow beings, is a truth 
which we all recognize. The Chris- 
tian world has pretty thoroughly out- 
grown the idea that there is a religious 
merit in self-denial by which no one 
is benefited; and that a sorrowful 
tone and mournful countenance are 
outward signs of an inward grace. 
We may, however, be less inclined to 
believe that cheerfulness is a moral 
obligation, and happiness a religious 
duty. Nevertheless, a little reflection 
should convince us that such is the 
fact. 

One reason for regarding personal 
62 



THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 63 

happiness as not only a privilege, but 
a duty, is that we owe it to God whose 
providence is the source of all our 
blessings. The child who makes no 
attempt to obtain from one or another 
gift that his father has bestowed the 
wholesome enjoyment it was meant 
to afford is guilty of filial ingratitude. 
Since it was intended to make him 
happy, his appreciation of the loving 
impulse manifested should inspire his 
endeavor to find happiness in its use. 
In like manner we prove ourselves 
unthankful children of our Father in 
heaven when we close our hearts 
against the inflow of the many joys 
which He offers us through the chan- 
nels of physical sense, of mental en- 
dowments and of social relationships. 
Since He has bestowed upon us the 
sense of beauty, and made the out- 



64 THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 

ward world fair to behold, He must 
desire that we shall rejoice in its love- 
liness. Since He has implanted in our 
nature a craving for companionship 
He must wish us to find, in the society 
of congenial associates, a constant 
delight. Since He has constituted us 
rational beings, it must be His will 
that we shall derive a rich and varied 
satisfaction from the use of our mental 
faculties. If, for any cause, we have 
lost our inclination to avail ourselves 
of what has thus been placed within 
our reach, our knowledge that in- 
difference to the gift is ingratitude to 
the giver should prompt us to strive 
for its renewal. When our human 
friends have planned some pleasure 
that shall increase our joy or make us 
forgetful of our sorrow, we feel a moral 
obligation to meet their generous im- 



THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 65 

pulse with an effort to interest our- 
selves in what they attempted for our 
sake. It is equally true that since 
God wants us to be happy, and is con- 
stantly seeking to make us so, we have 
no right to be discontented and miser- 
able. We may not always be able to 
fulfill His intent, since our moods are 
not absolutely subject to our will; but 
His kindness deserves that we shall at 
least try. Happiness is fullness of 
life; and we have no more right to 
reconcile ourselves to its absence, 
unless interests greater than our per- 
sonal welfare are thus served, than we 
have to allow ourselves to starve or 
freeze because we no longer care to live. 
And what we thus owe to the good- 
ness of God is likewise essential to the 
welfare of our fellow beings. It is our 
duty to be happy, because we cannot 



66 THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 

otherwise avoid making other people 
miserable. Our feelings are conta- 
gious; our moods are communicable; 
and if it is wrong to give other people 
a fever, it cannot be right to give them 
the blues. While we have no reason 
to suppose that our minds exhale their 
qualities as the rose yields its fragrance 
to the air, and noxious substances send 
forth poisonous gases, it is at least 
certain that our emotions of hope or 
fear, of fretfulness or cheerfulness, of 
grief or gladness, are manifested not 
only by what we say and do, but in 
every tone of the voice, and every 
expression of the countenance. For 
this reason, when we are mournful and 
despondent, we have a depressing 
influence upon every one with whom 
we come in contact. Our housemates 
are made more uncomfortable by our 



THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 67 

manner than by a stove that smokes or 
a roof that leaks. People who sit with 
us at the dinner table conclude that 
they were mistaken in supposing they 
were hungry; and those who meet us 
at a social gathering regret that they 
did not stay at home. Wherever we 
are, our associates incline to wish that 
either we or they were somewhere else. 
We surely have no right to cause so 
much unpleasantness if we can help 
it; and therefore we ought at least 
to try. 

It is indeed true that such a state 
of mind may have a cause so sufficient 
as to inspire a longing to comfort and 
help, rather than a disposition to 
escape. But if others are to help us, 
we must do our part, which consists 
in yielding ourselves to the charm of 
their cheerfulness, instead of soliciting 



68 THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 

them to share our dejection. The 
proverb says that " Misery likes com- 
pany," but what we like is not always 
what we need. It is better for us, and 
better for those who have visited us 
in our affliction, that we should be left 
smiling under the influence of their 
wholesome mood to which we have 
opened our hearts and minds as we 
open doors and windows for the en- 
trance of pure air and cheerful sun- 
light, than that they should go away 
weeping for the grief that refused to be 
consoled. If we have fallen into a way- 
side pit from which we cannot climb 
without assistance, it is one thing to 
grasp the proffered hand of the friend 
who has come to our aid and so be lifted 
to where he stands, and quite another 
to ask him to come down and take 
his place at our side in order that we 



THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 69 

may perish together. The first way is 
evidently best; but very many people 
insist upon being helped in the last, 
without considering the cruelty it in- 
flicts upon the helper. Their manner 
plainly says to those who strive by 
pleasant thoughts on other themes, 
to make them forgetful of their cause 
for sorrow, "We crave your sympa- 
thetic companionship; but we would 
rather drag you down than let you lift 
us up." It is as if a drowning person 
should say to one who endeavored to 
rescue him: "Do not try to save me. 
Above all, do not ask me to make the 
task an easy one by doing what I can 
to help myself. I really have no wish 
to be saved; but if you will kindly 
drown with me, I shall die more com- 
fortably." And the irony of it is that, 
in many instances, when those who 



70 THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 

tried to help them really have 
drowned, they themselves somehow 
manage to reach the shore, and pres- 
ently seem little the worse for their 
wetting. Being of hardier constitu- 
tion, they worry their sympathizers 
to death, and then recover. 

But while a gloomy disposition and 
forlorn air thus lowers the spirits of 
our associates and lessens their pleas- 
ures without adding to our own, a 
joyous heart and cheerful countenance 
constitutes our best qualification for 
ministering to their welfare. They 
receive, in the main, a greater benefit 
from the influence of what we are, 
than from the outward result of what 
we do. There may be some upon 
whom it has little effect, because they 
willfully resist it. But there are far 
more who not only need but welcome 



THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 71 

it; and to these it is like the refreshing 
showers that make the lawns and 
meadows green, or like the warmth 
and brightness of the sun that changes 
folded buds to opening flowers and sets 
the birds singing from orchard boughs 
and wayside hedges. Just to be with 
us when we are thus at our best, makes 
weak people strong, timid people 
brave, and despondent people hopeful. 
Its amplest blessing is bestowed on 
those who share our closest compan- 
ionship; but in some degree its inspira- 
tion is felt by all with whom our lives 
are brought in contact, and who will- 
ingly receive what we are fitted to 
impart. It is our duty to be as happy 
as we can, because it is our best way 
of making other people so. Not when 
we weep with those who are sorrowful, 
but when we win hearts that were sad 



72 THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 

to a share in our gladness, do we best 
perform the office of a comforter. If 
we seek those who dwell amid the 
shadows it should be not to abide with 
them there, but to lead them forth 
into the sunshine; and how can we do 
this unless we have found the sunshine 
for ourselves? 

In praying for his disciples, Jesus 
said, "For their sake I sanctify my- 
self." In like manner we ought to 
say, "For the sake of those who are 
nearest and dearest, and that of all 
others whose lives are influenced by 
our own, we will be as happy as we can. 
And to this end we will court the in- 
fluences and cultivate the habits that 
make for happiness. We will not sad- 
den ourselves with vain regrets, or 
discourage ourselves with useless fore- 
bodings, or subject ourselves to any 



THE DUTY OF HAPPINESS 73 

disagreeable experience that can be 
avoided without sin. While trying to 
do our work well and find our chief 
enjoyment in doing it, we will have as 
good times, outside its daily routine, 
as we can without breaking any of the 
commandments. We will drink from 
every fountain of wholesome delight 
within our reach. We will read cheer- 
ful books, and seek innocent pleasures, 
and surrender ourselves to the charm 
of wonderful pictures, and listen to 
noble and joyous music. We will 
associate with people who are best 
fitted to help us, in order that their 
companionship may fit us for helping 
others. We will fill our hearts with 
all the gladness which God has made 
possible to us in order that its overflow 
may comfort the sorrow, renew the 
hope, and increase the joy of other lives. 



THe Value of Life 

' I ^HERE are pessimistic philos- 
A ophers who insist that life merely 
cheats us with the promise of a happi- 
ness which it seldom bestows ; and that 
as soon as we have learned to know it 
as it truly is, it ceases to be an object 
of rational desire. They remind us 
of the many physical ills from which 
no one is exempt; the disappoint- 
ments in which our efforts to acquire 
wealth or fame so often end; the social 
mistakes for which there is no remedy; 
and the bereavements that go so far 
toward depriving the brief joys of 
friendship and affection of their value; 
and they affirm that because of these 
things our existence is a gift for which 

74 



THE VALUE OF LIFE 75 

we owe small thanks to the power 
that has bestowed it. 

But whether the arguments for or 
against the value of life be few or many, 
our fondness for it is not greatly af- 
fected by them. Throughout the as- 
cending scale, from lowest to highest, 
a desire to live is the rule, and willing- 
ness to die the exception. This is 
true even when pleasures seem few, 
.and discomforts many. What a brave 
fight the plant on which no rain has 
fallen for many days, or the tree that 
has its roots where there is no richness 
of soil, makes for the mere existence 
from which it appears to derive so 
little satisfaction, and which can never 
attain to any large measure of com- 
pleteness! How reluctant the wild 
creatures of the field and forest are to 
abandon that incessant warfare with 



76 THE VALUE OF LIFE 

unnumbered foes without which their 
lives could not be preserved for a single 
day! How grateful all things seem 
for the return of that good fortune in 
their enjoyment of which all suffer- 
ings are forgotten! To realize all this 
we have only to watch the withered 
verdure revive when the long needed 
shower has come; or note how cheer- 
fully the birds, when the first sunbeam 
announces the passing of the storm 
through which they shivered, call to 
one another from every dripping bough 
or rain-drenched thicket that once more 
all is well, and presently resume their 
interrupted tasks with rhythmic mo- 
tions set to song. It may be that the 
faculty of reason, if they possessed it, 
could not prove that their few and 
brief pleasures were worth the price 
of so many hardships. They simply 



THE VALUE OF LIFE 77 

possess and act upon the instinctive 
conviction that life is a blessing which 
they do well to retain as long as they 
can, and enjoy whenever enjoyment 
is possible. 

Nor do human beings greatly differ 
in this respect from the lower creatures. 
To most people there come at times 
discouraged moods when the mind 
inclines toward the pessimistic theory; 
but it is seldom that a conviction of 
the worthlessness of life sinks deeply 
enough into the heart to become a 
motive for conduct. In one of the Old 
Testament stories we read that once 
the prophet Elijah, discouraged by the 
failure of the national reforms which 
he had undertaken, besought Jehovah 
to take away his life. But we are also 
told that the petition was uttered just 
as he was lying down for needed rest 



78 THE VALUE OF LIFE 

from the long and rapid flight which 
had thus far preserved his life; and 
that, when he awoke, he did not refuse 
the food which an angel had brought 
to strengthen him for the completion 
of his journey. Such inconsistency 
is by no means rare. In many a 
modern instance, a sentimental long- 
ing for death goes hand in hand with 
a desperate endeavor to live; and 
however disposed we may be to 
grumble at the hard conditions which 
confront us in this world, very few are 
really impatient for the summons that 
shall call us to a better one. 

But while our fondness for life is 
thus chiefly a matter of instinct, there 
can be no reasonable doubt that, in 
the experience of most people, there 
actually is far more of happiness than 
misery. As in the world of Nature 



THE VALUE OF LIFE 79 

there are more bright days than dark 
days, and more years of plenty than of 
famine, so in the life of the average 
human being there is more gladness 
than sadness, more laughter than tears, 
more hope than despair. Through 
our senses, our intellect, and our affec- 
tions, we enjoy far more than we suf- 
fer. Our years of health are cheaply 
purchased by our days of sickness; 
our many successes are worth the price 
of our few failures; our friends help 
us more than our enemies harm us; 
and our delight in life, while it lasts, 
is not spoiled by even the lifelong 
consciousness that we must sometime 
die. 

One would almost be justified in 
saying that the joys of childhood alone 
constitute payment in advance for 
more hardships than the majority of 



80 THE VALUE OF LIFE 

people are destined ever to endure. 
I have more than once heard a man, 
who was rich and prosperous in every- 
way, say that he would gladly give all 
that the years had brought him if he 
could thus renew that power to enjoy 
all the simple things of life which he 
had when a boy. The statement was 
doubtless an exaggeration; but it did 
at least testify to his vivid remem- 
brance of the special charm which 
every one finds in the initial stage of 
life's pilgrimage, when the pleasure- 
seeking instinct extracts sweetness 
from innumerable little experiences, 
as the bee gathers his full supply of 
honey from countless blossoms, each of 
which yields only a tiny portion of the 
precious nectar; when freedom from 
care for the morrow permits perfect 
abandonment to the enjoyment of to- 



THE VALUE OF LIFE 8 1 

day; when grief is soon forgotten, and 
gladness long remembered; when a 
year seems a century; and when old 
age, and the death that must come at 
last to all, appear as vague and distant 
as if they occupied no place in the 
world of time, but belonged to some 
far-off eternity. As each year has its 
springtime wherein the earth, feeling 
no presentiment of the autumnal sad- 
ness and the winter desolation, makes 
glad answer with verdure, flower, and 
song to the tenderness of the sky that 
woos it with showers and sunbeams, 
so to every human life has been given 
this one season in which it surrenders 
itself to present gladness without 
thought or care of what the future may 
hold in store. Whatever fortunes the 
after years may have brought us, we 
have all had our Eden. 



82 THE VALUE OF LIFE 

And what the present is to child- 
hood, youth finds in the future. To 
those who stand upon the threshold 
of manhood or womanhood, the path 
of life traverses a landscape obscured 
by golden mists. Just what things 
are really hidden by these resplendent 
vapors, they do not know; but imagi- 
nation and hope fashion there an ideal 
world filled with noble ambitions, per- 
fect friendships, and unf ailing delights, 
all of which are destined to be realized. 
It is in this large world of anticipa- 
tion, and not within the narrow limi- 
tations of the present, that youth lives 
day by day; and just as the beauty 
and fragrance of the flower delight 
our senses none the less because we 
cannot tell what will happen to the 
fruit, so the happiness which such 
dreams afford, while they last, is 



THE VALUE OF LIFE 83 

equally real whether they are fated 
to end in failure or achievement. 
Whether the youth is destined ever 
to live in his air castles or not, he at 
least enjoys building them; and if 
enjoyment is the measure of life's 
value, the season of anticipation is a 
gift that deserves our thankfulness. 

The enjoyments of mature life, 
while of a different kind, are no less 
ample than those that belong to its 
earlier stages. If we are less romantic, 
we are more practical. No longer in- 
clined to search for mythical treasure 
at the foot of the rainbow, we make 
better use of the actual resources 
within our reach. Ceasing to expect 
the impossible, we have learned to 
value the things which our circum- 
stances permit us to win and keep, 
but to which we were formerly indif- 



84 THE VALUE OF LIFE 

ferent. The acquaintance we have 
made with ourselves; the increased 
knowledge of what we are fitted to 
do and become which experience has 
brought; the daily proof of our power 
in the conquest of obstacles; the joy 
of achievement; the growth of nature 
into character; the respect and love 
of our associates, deserved and won; 
the sense of responsibility for other 
lives that cures us of our selfishness; 
our early hopes and dreams corrected 
by experience, and now cherished for 
our children's future rather than our 
own; — all these are among the satis- 
factions which are possible in some 
degree to every one who has outgrown 
the careless happiness of childhood, 
and the boundless expectations that 
gladden the heart of youth. 
It is even true that our transient 



THE VALUE OF LIFE 85 

afflictions may have a permanent use. 
Some add to our character a strength 
or gentleness that could come in no 
other way; while others, because of 
the contrast they afford, assist us to a 
better appreciation of our direct bless- 
ings. Out of the heart of the long- 
brooding winter is born the joy of the 
new springtime, and it is only because 
the radiant days are divided by dark- 
ness that the word " light" answers 
to any conception in our mind. If 
we had never been sick, we could not 
realize the blessing of health; and if 
treachery were a thing unknown, we 
should not rightly prize the sterling 
friendship that on dark days, as on 
bright days, holds our hand in its 
honest grasp. The sense of immor- 
tality is the fairest of earth's flowers; 
but it grows in the valley of the shadow 



86 THE VALUE OF LIFE 

of death. The revelations of God's 
spiritual providence are frequently 
like stars whose beams are lost in the 
noontide brightness, and which are 
seen most clearly through the gloom 
that makes all earthly charms in- 
visible. 

And finally, because in so far as one 
has done the best he could life is worth 
the having lived, that period in which 
hope and achievement have been ex- 
changed for retrospection has also a 
charm peculiar to itself. Sweet is 
the memory of vanished joys; and 
sweeter still the recollection of powers 
and opportunities for serving others 
well employed, and the knowledge 
that while nothing more can be added 
to our life work its benefits will out- 
live ourselves. Because this is so, the 
old age of a well-spent life must be as 



THE VALUE OF LIFE 87 

pleasant in its remembrance of the 
past as its childhood was happy in its 
abandonment to the present, and as 
its youth was joyous in its visions of 
the future. The afternoon is a time 
of peace, and the colors that adorn 
the evening sky rival those which made 
the morning splendid. 

Nor are the notes which sadder 
memories interpolate discordant ones. 
Indeed, such minor chords, no less 
than the tones that speak of gladness 
and triumph, are essential to the per- 
fect harmony that echoes from the 
past and makes the music to which 
old age delights to listen. An aged 
man will speak reverently, as we speak 
the name of God, of the wife who died 
in her youth, of the son who was called 
away in his prime, of the many friends 
whose loss he passionately bewailed 



88 THE VALUE OF LIFE 

when they were taken from him; and 
in his quiet sadness there will be no 
bitterness of rebellion or despair. As 
he speaks and you listen, you both 
feel drawn into closer touch with the 
sacredness of life than the recital of 
any joyous experience could bring you. 
And the fact most evident is that, 
since these things had to be, he is 
glad to remember them; that he loves 
to think about them; that he would 
not forget them if he could. 

Among the many solemn mysteries 
of existence few things are more 
strange than this power which a sor- 
row long past has to sanctify the joys 
associated with it, and impart the 
peace of heaven itself to the soul that 
remembers both. It is like what hap- 
pens in the natural world when, a 
tempest has exhausted its fury; and 



THE VALUE OF LIFE 89 

the great masses of blackness, from 
which the lightning issued and the rain 
descended, have melted into fleecy 
vapors or are tinged with golden splen- 
dors; and all the fierce tumult has 
changed to a serene peace which wins 
our hearts into harmony with itself, 
and causes us to feel that in spite of 
all the seeming ills that have ever 
happened or are yet to come, all things 
are and forever shall be well, on earth 
and in heaven. Explain it as we may, 
the truth remains that sorrow nobly 
borne creates a trust in the Eternal 
Goodness more perfect than can be 
inspired in any other way. 

But it is not merely or chiefly for 
its own sake that our present existence 
is a boon to be thankful for. Our 
confidence in the wisdom and good- 
ness that bestowed it inspires the be- 



90 THE VALUE OF LIFE 

lief that all its experiences belong to 
the process of an education begun 
here, but destined to be continued 
hereafter until it results in our perfect 
holiness and happiness. We are even 
allowed to hope that, like the sons of 
Jacob, who had sold their brother into 
slavery, we shall find the cure of our 
remorse for sins committed, which is 
the worst of sorrows, in the discovery 
that what we meant for evil God per- 
mitted for good. The discipline that 
shapes our destiny works toward the 
fullness of righteousness and joy; and 
this shall be its final product. Our 
supreme cause for gratitude to the 
merciful kindness that bestows our 
earthly blessings is the conviction that 
it endureth forever. 

Some one has said, " There are no 
happy lives; there are only happy 



THE VALUE OF LIFE 91 

days." It were wiser to say that 
most lives are mainly happy in spite of 
all unhappy days. Instinct and reason 
both assure us that our existence as 
a whole is a blessing that deserves 
our gratitude. For the bounties of 
nature, and the endowments of mind 
and body that fit us for their use; 
for childhood and youth; for ma- 
turity and age; for present satis- 
factions, and the delights of hope, and 
the pleasures of memory; for the 
ministrations of religion that enhance 
our joys, and comfort our griefs, and 
inspire our virtues; for the life that 
now is, and the better life for which 
its varied experiences are preparing 
us; we do well to render daily thanks. 



THe BrigfHt Side 

"TT\URING the pilgrimage," says 
a Turkish proverb, "every- 
thing does not suit the tastes of the 
pilgrim." In making a long journey, 
we enjoy many pleasures and endure 
many discomforts. No two days, and 
scarcely any two hours of the same 
day, are precisely alike. The scenery 
is sometimes varied and interesting; 
while at other times it is uniform and 
tiresome. There are long stretches 
where the road is shaded by trees, 
and the air is cool with morning 
dew and sweet with the breath of 
flowers; and there are also places 
where we are parched with heat and 
choked with dust. Frequently we fall 

in with companions whose sympathy 

92 



THE BRIGHT SIDE 93 

increases our pleasure, or whose cheer- 
fulness makes us forgetful of our hard- 
ships; and occasionally we are quite 
alone, or would like to be and cannot, 
which is worse. Such things are to 
be expected; they happen to every 
traveler; and the sum of his pleasures 
will be greater or less according to the 
kind of experience upon which his 
disposition inclines him to dwell. 

It is so in the journey of life. The 
one, like the other, has its rough 
places and its smooth; and no traveler 
can hope to escape its hardships while 
enjoying its delights. It lies amid 
scenes of grandeur and beauty; but 
it also traverses many regions that 
are waste and desolate. The portion 
of it already completed has had its 
contrasts of grief and gladness; pain 
and pleasure alternate in its present 



94 THE BRIGHT SIDE 

progress; and there is no reason for 
believing that its remaining stages 
will be marked by either constant 
misfortune or unbroken blessing. 
Whether, subject to these conditions, 
we have found and shall continue to 
find it worth making, depends very- 
much upon whether we have that 
genius for getting the most enjoy- 
ment, and the least discomfort, from 
our varied experiences that they are 
capable of yielding, which constitutes 
one a good traveler. 

It is by no means certain that the 
proportion of good and evil fortune 
is the same in every life. Still, in 
view of the fact that every blessing 
has its price, and nearly every calam- 
ity its compensations, the inequalities 
are often more apparent than real. 
Many poor people have as much to 



THE BRIGHT SIDE 95 

be thankful for as those whose wealth 
is reckoned by millions. A kind dis- 
position may win for an exceedingly 
homely person a love which the rarest 
physical beauty would be powerless 
to inspire. It is even true that in- 
valids frequently have mental and 
social resources that fit them for 
better enjoyments than the most 
abundant health can supply. But 
however this may be, the fact remains 
that health and sickness, possession 
and bereavement, friendship and en- 
mity, attainment and disappointment, 
though variously mingled, are the 
common elements in all our lives. 
They constitute the sweetness of 
memory, and its bitterness as well; 
they make the sunshine and shadow 
of the passing hours; and their 
myriad possibilities give to our vision 



96 the bright side 

of the future its brightness and its 
gloom. 

It is usually possible to discover 
what we constantly incline to search 
for. If in any department of our 
experience we are looking for selfish- 
ness and hypocrisy, we are more than 
likely to find them: but purity, truth, 
and honor lie within equal range of 
our vision. There are people who 
abuse our confidence, and reward our 
kindness with ingratitude; but there 
are also those whose love and con- 
stancy are fully equal to our desert. 
There are plenty of things in our daily 
life to cause the brow to scowl, and 
bring the droop of discouragement to 
the lips, if we think of them alone; 
but there are quite as many causes for 
smiles and laughter, if we yield our- 
selves to their enchantment. 



THE BRIGHT SIDE 97 

And from all this it follows that 
our happiness will largely depend upon 
our inclination to make more account 
of our blessings than we do of our 
misfortunes; to forget our griefs and 
remember our joys; to think more 
about the roses in life's garden than 
the thorns that make their plucking 
less easy than we could wish; and to 
expect the best rather than the worst 
among the many things that may 
befall us. 

There is a familiar story of two 
buckets that hung in the same well, 
and passed each other many times a 
day on their way to and from the 
depths. One day, one asked the 
other what had occurred to make it 
look so melancholy. "Oh, nothing 
new has happened," was the reply. 
"It is the same old story. I was just 



98 THE BRIGHT SIDE 

thinking, as I so often do, how dis- 
couraging it is that no matter how 
full we come up, we always go back 
empty. " " Why, ' * responded the first, 
"that is an odd way of looking at it. 
For my part, I was just congratulat- 
ing myself that no matter how empty 
we go down, we always come up full!" 
There is as much difference among 
human beings as there was between 
these two buckets. Amid the same 
circumstances, with like memories 
and equal prospects, one person may 
be forlorn and another cheerful. 
Their unlike temperaments absorb 
different emotions from the same sur- 
roundings, as lilies distil fragrance, 
and nettles poison, from the same soil, 
and under the same conditions of rain 
and sunshine. There are people who, 
if all the landscape, to the limit of 



THE BRIGHT SIDE 99 

unaided vision, were blossoming with 
blessings, would sweep the horizon 
with a telescope in search of trouble; 
and there are those who, if their life 
contained but a single source of glad- 
ness, would be sure to find it — as 
hardy plants force their roots amid 
the fissures of some granite wall, and 
thence derive nourishment for the 
growth that lifts their leaves into the 
sunlight. 

An eccentric preacher once said that 
some folks are so critical that, being 
admitted to heaven, they would spend 
half their time squinting at the walls 
to see if they were plumb. He might 
well have added that others were so 
fortunately constituted that, being 
consigned to the other place, they 
would take a hopeful view of the situ- 
ation, and at once set about the or- 



IOO THE BRIGHT SIDE 

ganization of a hades improvement 
society. 

But our daily life has its horizon of 
past and future, and needs for its 
completeness the pleasures of hope 
and the joys of memory. These, also, 
are permitted us all; but if their 
needed service is to be rendered, they 
must be separated from the vain re- 
grets and useless fears that are equally 
possible — as grain is winnowed from 
its chaff, and flowers are culled from 
the midst of weeds that the same soil 
nourishes. 

Let us say that we are spending 
a summer vacation in the country. 
The landscape is varied. Without 
much searching, we can find a spot 
where the shade of a tree will protect 
us from the sun; where the open space 
about us will give access to the cool 



THE BRIGHT SIDE IOI 

breeze; where the brook will ripple 
an accompaniment to the rhythm of 
the poem which we read; and where, 
when our eyes are lifted from the 
book, they will rest upon an agreeable 
prospect. On the other hand, it is 
equally possible to find a dense thicket 
on the border of a swamp, where we 
shall be stung by mosquitoes, and 
poisoned by stagnant water, and to 
sit there every day; in which case our 
summer will be worse than wasted. 

Our memories and our anticipa- 
tions constitute such a landscape. In 
our moments of meditation we can 
recall pleasant recollections and con- 
template cheerful possibilities; or we 
can muse upon our sad experiences 
and prospects that are dark and threat- 
ening. The first is evidently the part 
of wisdom; yet how many people 



102 THE BRIGHT SIDE 

there are who do the last, thus en- 
during a thousand times those disap- 
pointments and heart-achings which 
it is bad enough to have borne once, 
and suffering the full bitterness of 
innumerable evils that may never 
happen at all. 

There are people who, when the air 
is soft and balmy, and the golden haze 
of the Indian summer bathes the hills 
in beauty, invariably say that such a 
day is a " weather breeder," and so 
always carry in their minds the chill 
of the coming storm; and there are 
those who, if we met them in the 
fiercest blizzard that ever raged, would 
shout, as they passed us, their con- 
viction that such a^ storm must be 
followed by a great deal of pleasant 
weather! In like manner there are 
those to whom the most absolute 



THE BRIGHT SIDE 103 

prosperity brings no cheerfulness, be- 
cause their thoughts are busy with 
past calamities and future misfor- 
tunes; and there are others whose 
happiness the darkest night of adver- 
sity is powerless to destroy, because 
the glow of yesterday's sunset lingers 
in their heart until their eyes behold 
the dawn that heralds a better to- 
morrow. 

The story used to be told of a man 
who went to consult the famous Scotch 
doctor, Abernethy, respecting some 
rheumatic ailment from which he 
suffered. In describing his symp- 
toms, the patient said, " When I raise 
my arm in this way," — suiting the 
action to the word, — "it hurts so that 
I can hardly stand it." To which the 
blunt doctor answered, "What a fool 
you must be to do it then!" The 



104 THE BRIGHT SIDE 

criticism would have been equally 
sensible if the man had complained 
of a soreness in his memory instead of 
his shoulder. Even if life contained 
but one trouble, we should still be 
always miserable if we were continu- 
ally brooding over that — touching 
the tender spot in our recollection, as 
we sometimes do a bruised finger, just 
to see if it still hurts. 

The tendency toward such folly may 
be an unfortunate inheritance; but 
the fact that it has come through no 
fault of our own avails us nothing, 
since we must bear its consequences. 
It does, however, make a great deal 
of difference whether we fight against 
or encourage it. Unable to change, 
by direct volition, the current of our 
thoughts, we can busy ourselves with 
some employment the full demand of 



THE BRIGHT SIDE 105 

which upon our attention will make 
such fruitless brooding, for the time, 
impossible. We can read a book that 
shall interest us in the fortunes of 
other people, and substitute whole- 
some smiles and laughter for useless 
sighs and tears. If we can find some 
one to laugh with us, that will be bet- 
ter still, since a pleasure shared is 
more than doubled. If we can de- 
vise some means of affording happi- 
ness to one whose need is greater than 
our own, that is best of all. The 
maxim, "Save thou another soul, and 
that shall save thine own" is just 
as true of salvation from sorrow as 
from sin. 

As a rule, it is not well to live much 
in the past, whether its memories are 
sweet or bitter. We should take 
example from Nature who treats the 



106 THE BRIGHT SIDE 

things that have been, only as material 
for the new creations on which she is 
intent. The past is the stepping-stone 
by which we have reached the present; 
and our faces should chiefly be turned 
toward the nobler heights on which 
we are resolved to stand. Even when 
the things that grieve us are not 
merely misfortunes but sins, the time 
spent in bemoaning them may be ill 
employed. There is no virtue in the 
frequent renewal of our remorse unless 
our evil deeds have also been repeated. 
Permitted atonement for our faults 
must be made at any cost; but what 
we are powerless to change is best left 
to the providence of God, while we 
devote to duties still possible the 
time and strength that still remain. 
Even in old age, the backward should 
chiefly be indulged for the sake of the 



THE BRIGHT SIDE 107 

forward look. The value of its en- 
forced leisure is that it enables us to 

"Take rest ere we begone 
Once more, on our adventure brave and 
new, 
Fearless and unperplexed, 
When we wage battle next, 
What weapons to select, what armor to 
endue." 



i Appreciation 

IN whatever we undertake, belief 
in our ability to succeed is essen- 
tial to the highest achievement. It 
minimizes every difficulty that we 
may encounter. It robs danger of 
its terrors and takes from exertion its 
hardship. It is a song in the heart 
that makes us forgetful of the long 
journey which separates us from our 
hearts' desire. It enables us to learn 
from past mistakes wisdom for future 
guidance, and thus makes every failure 
a means toward the final attainment 
on which we are resolved. 

While this faith in ourselves is 
largely due to temperament, it de- 
pends in some degree upon our sur- 
roundings; and among the influences 

108 



APPRECIATION 109 

that renew and sustain it is the proof 
that other people perceive the value 
of what we have already done, and are 
confident of our further performance. 
Such assurance is like food to those 
who need it, or like water to a thirsty 
and drooping plant. We eat and are 
refreshed: we drink and our weak- 
ness is changed to strength. It re- 
sembles the applause of assembled 
spectators that makes the feet of a 
runner swift for the race, or the strains 
of martial music that hearten the 
soldier for the battle. 

We prove this truth in our experi- 
ence with children. When a boy has 
written a page in his copy-book, or 
drawn a map or a picture, or solved 
some difficult problem, the best incen- 
tive for him to do better next time is 
our recognition of whatever excellence 



HO APPRECIATION 

he has thus far achieved. Our ap- 
proval instantly exalts his purpose 
and inspires him with renewed hope 
and vigor. In his flushed cheek, and 
sparkling eye, and in his resolute and 
self-confident bearing, we perceive the 
response of his ability to the stimulus 
of our faith in him. On the other 
hand nothing so discourages and 
reconciles him to failure as the dis- 
covery that we perceive the defects of 
his work but are blind to its merits. 
The more we scold him for his blun- 
ders the more awkward does he be- 
come; and the more we blame him for 
being stupid the less intelligence does 
he display. His expectation of cen- 
sure suggests the conduct that de- 
serves it, and he justifies our rebuke 
because he has no hope of winning 
our praise. And this is not more true 



APPRECIATION III 

of his intellectual performance and 
acquirement than of his moral conduct 
and character. Our belief about him 
is a force that tends to lift him up or 
drag him down toward its own level. 
In taking his selfishness for granted 
we counteract such prompting toward 
generosity as he may receive from 
other sources; while our reliance upon 
his justice or kindness is a potent in- 
centive to its practice. We cannot 
show a lack of confidence in what he 
tells us without encouraging him to 
resort to falsehood whenever it may 
suit his convenience: while if we as- 
sume that he is too honorable to seek 
an advantage for himself by conceal- 
ing the truth from those who have 
the right to know it, no ordinary 
temptation is likely to prevent his 
instinctive response to this expres- 



112 APPRECIATION 

sion of our perfect faith in him. It 
is, of course, unreasonable to demand 
in children a constant perfection 
which many years of experience has 
not produced in us; but if we act 
toward them as if we expected them, 
without compulsion, to speak the 
truth, and reverence their elders, and 
be kind to their associates, and loving 
and trustful toward God, we shall be 
working in the right direction, and our 
faith will, in the main, be justified. 
Such treatment surrounds them with 
a moral atmosphere which is like the 
springtime warmth to which the hid- 
den potencies of buried seeds, and 
dormant roots, and folded buds re- 
spond in growths that carpet the 
fields with verdure, and clothe the 
forests with foliage, and make the or- 
chards beautiful with their fair and 



APPRECIATION 113 

fragrant prophecy of summer fruit- 
fulness. 

In our dealing with grown-up people, 
no less than with children, we dis- 
cover this tendency of human nature 
to conform, for the time at least, to 
our expectation of it. To the roving 
Arab, whose trade is robbery, the 
stranger who comes boldly to his 
tent, and confides in his hospitality, 
is sacred. If you treat the rudest 
and coarsest man as if he were a gentle- 
man, he will probably surprise him- 
self by feeling and acting like one. 
Just as there are few musical instru- 
ments so sadly out of tune that the 
touch of genius cannot evoke melo- 
dies and harmonies that are worth 
the hearing, so there are few souls so 
sordid and selfish as to be incapable 
of answering with a thrill of pure 



114 APPRECIATION 

longing, and generous feeling, and up- 
lifting purpose, to the invitation that 
comes through our faith in their better 
possibilities. Such a faith frequently 
inspires a dormant conscience, a 
withered sympathy, or a palsied will, 
to that exercise of its present strength 
through which more is obtained. On 
the other hand it requires far more 
than the average amount of inherited 
goodness and personal endeavor to 
retain our moral self-confidence when 
we are constantly subjected to adverse 
criticism. For this reason people 
whose faults are watched for, while 
their virtues are quite unnoticed, and 
to whom the knowledge that they are 
always expected to do something 
wrong is a constant provocation, often 
appear at their worst and seldom at 
their best. Not infrequently they 



APPRECIATION 115 

cease trying to do right through utter 
discouragement, and so justify in the 
end all that was said of them before 
the half of it became true. Habitual 
disapproval is the frost that blights 
those blossom buds of right desire 
from which the sunshine of a kinder 
treatment might have won the fruit- 
age of a noble character. We can no 
more scold grown-up people into the 
development of their highest possi- 
bilities than we can scold children 
into physical gracefulness, mental 
acuteness, or polite behavior. Most 
people want to be better than they are; 
and they try harder than we realize. 
They need not so much to have their 
failure chided as their success com- 
mended. 

I do not mean, of course, that we 
ought to treat our neighbors' vices as 



Il6 APPRECIATION 

if they were virtues; to sanction what 
is coarse, to praise what is dishonest, 
or to approve of what is malicious. 
Such treatment only reconciles them 
to their faults; whereas the thing 
needful is to excite their reverence 
and longing for their possible virtues. 
We ought to be as unwilling to per- 
ceive the moral infirmities of our asso- 
ciates as to notice their physical de- 
fects; but if they insist upon thrusting 
them before us and compelling us to 
pass judgment, then nothing remains 
but to manifest our disapproval. Still, 
while doing this, it is usually possible 
to make them understand that we 
know their disposition to have its 
better side upon which we are anxious 
to look; that we do not wish to see 
anything else unless they compel us. 
From such goodness as their better 



APPRECIATION 117 

moods reveal we can fashion in our 
mind an ideal of what they ought to 
be and are capable of becoming; and, 
in so far as their present conduct 
makes it possible, we can act toward 
them as if they were already that. 
We can idealize them as we need to be 
idealized by others. We can treat 
them as the cherishing sunlight treats 
the barren field already rich in the 
potency of future harvests; the empty 
garden where by and by the flowers 
will bloom; the naked tree which 
leaves shall clothe and blossoms adorn; 
and the homely bush whose thorns 
will presently be hidden by clustering 
roses. We can feel and act toward 
them as God feels and acts toward us 
all. This is the supreme service which 
one human soul can render another. 
As we are sensible of moral shrinkage 



II 8 APPRECIATION 

at the touch of disparaging criticism, 
so are we conscious of moral growth 
under the influence of generous ap- 
proval. It has been well said that a 
friend's regard is a perpetual challenge 
to us to become worthy of it. It is 
like the mental vision that inspires 
the sculptor to carve into its likeness 
the block of marble on which he works 
— developing the lines of strength 
and beauty, until the thought and the 
fact are one. 

But those of our associates who will 
thus be helped to outgrow their imper- 
fections are not the only ones who are 
benefited by the recognition of their 
virtues. Even the people in whose 
character and conduct there is nothing 
to blame and everything to praise 
crave and need our appreciation of 
what they are and do. Jesus himself 



APPRECIATION 1 19 

who found his chief joy, as we should 
find ours, in the consciousness of God's 
approval, was not insensible to the 
tokens of human reverence and love. 
He was grieved when only one of the 
ten lepers who had been cleansed re- 
turned to thank him. To Peter's 
recognition of him as the Christ he 
answered, "Blessed art thou Simon 
Bar-jona." He could not be bribed 
to forsake his mission by the promise 
of the kingdoms of the world and the 
glory of them; but he was glad to hear 
the children's voices swelling the ho- 
sanna anthem that welcomed him as 
one who came in the name of the Lord. 
He was strong enough to endure mar- 
tyrdom; but he was grateful to Mary 
for all that was signified by her gift 
of precious ointment. He was never 
alone, since the Father was with him; 



120 APPRECIATION 

yet he craved the companionship of 
the disciples who understood him best, 
alike upon the mount of transfigura- 
tion and amid the shadows of Geth- 
semane. It is so of all who, whether 
in public or private life, cherish the 
same ideals and devote themselves to 
a like service. It may not make them 
better, but it does make them happier 
to know that the loftiness of their 
purpose and the earnestness of their 
endeavor are understood and valued; 
that we love and honor them for the 
faithfulness to duty in which we find 
an inspiration to our own; and that 
our lives really are made sweeter and 
richer by the ministrations of their 
kindness, as they desire them to be. 



The Child in the Temple 

'T^HE feast of the passover was 
■*■ about to be celebrated at Jeru- 
salem. As usual all the country 
people were going. Many weeks in 
advance they began their preparation. 
Mary called upon Martha to ask if she 
would go, and Martha said of course 
she would. Then together they went 
to the homes of Rebecca and Leah, 
where they put the same question and 
received the same answer. It was 
agreed to make up a large party, com- 
posed of many families who would 
journey and eat and camp together. 
The children were not slow to catch 
and even excel the enthusiasm of their 
elders. On the way to and from 
school, and on the play-ground, they 



122 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

talked only of what they would see at 
Jerusalem, and the good time they 
would have going and coming. 

On the night before the eventful 
day there was no slumber in the little 
village of Nazareth — at least among 
the children. Little heads rolled rest- 
lessly upon their pillows: little eyes 
looked through latticed windows, im- 
patient for the first gray streak of 
dawn that should warrant the awak- 
ening of father and mother with the 
news that it was time to get ready. 
By sunrise all members of the party 
had assembled at the house that was 
most convenient for a starting point. 

Hotels being few, and ready money 
scarce, they were obliged to carry 
enough provision to last until the end 
of their hundred-mile journey. As 
there were no wagons, it may be that 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 123 

all the lunch baskets and other lug- 
gage were bound together with a stout 
rope, and fastened to the back of a 
mule that belonged to some richer 
member of the party, and that the 
boys took turns acting as drivers. 

All day they journeyed through 
pleasant byways; across green fields; 
beside sparkling waters; and past 
vineyard hillsides where, by-and-by, 
the purple vintage would be gathered. 
At night, with the earth for bed, and 
the gleaming sky for tent, they rested 
in some grove of olive or palm trees 
that encircled a spring of water. 

At every place where two ways met 
they were joined by other parties, 
formed in the same way, and bound 
for the same destination. The chil- 
dren easily became acquainted; the 
fathers and mothers recognized people 



124 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

whom they had met the year before; 
and, in a little while, everybody knew 
everybody else. As they approached 
the confines of Judea, and when they 
had crossed its boundary, the throng 
increased. Every lane poured its 
contribution into the procession that 
thronged the highway: all individu- 
ality was lost in the crowd; and 
mothers had serious trouble in keep- 
ing the children together. 

When they drew near the city and 
saw the sacred hill in the midst, with 
the temple of snow-white marble on 
its side, rising terrace above terrace 
and reflecting the sun from its roof of 
burnished gold, some one began sing- 
ing a sacred psalm. Then the groups 
that were nearest him took up the 
refrain and passed it on to others, 
until all the hills and valleys seemed 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 1 25 

to join in the mighty chorus — accord- 
ing to the saying, "the mountains 
shall break forth before thee into sing- 
ing, and all the trees of the wood shall 
clap their hands." This was the song 
they sang: "I was glad when they 
said unto me, let us go to the house of 
the Lord. Beautiful for situation, the 
joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, 
on the sides of the north, the city of 
the great King. God is known in her 
palaces for a refuge. Jerusalem is a 
city compact together, whither the 
tribes go up to worship, even the 
tribes of Israel. Pray for the peace 
of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that 
love thee. Peace be within thy walls, 
and prosperity within thy palaces. 
For my brethren and companions' sake 
I will now say/ peace be within thee.' " 
Thus, singing as they went, they as- 



126 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

cended the hill, and passed through 
the city street, and entered the courts 
of the temple. 

When the appointed hour had 
arrived, they saw the priests, clothed 
in white, standing about the marble 
altar, and sounding their silver trum- 
pets for the opening service. They 
saw the lamb slain and its flesh con- 
sumed in the fire. They heard the 
Levites sing their psalms to the music 
of silver trumpets, and clashing of 
brazen cymbals, and sweet pleading 
tones of stringed instruments. Then 
the high priest, passing through a 
door surmounted by a golden vine 
that bore clusters of golden grapes, 
entered the sanctuary to burn incense 
there upon an altar where no blood 
was ever shed. When he returned, 
all the people bowed their heads to 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 1 27 

receive his blessing. As they saw and 
heard all these things, a great gladness 
fell upon them because they were the 
children of Abraham, and heirs to the 
promise; and so, when it was all over, 
they carried back to Galilee, back to 
their fishing and farming, a renewed 
sense of their blessing in being in- 
cluded among God's chosen people. 

Among the others was a child whose 
parents were descended from the royal 
family of David. But that family 
was no longer royal; the father was a 
carpenter; the mother had been a 
simple peasant girl; and their child, 
whose life work was destined to be the 
central fact in the world's history, had 
been born in a stable, and reared in a 
humble home, and was being taught 
to earn his daily bread by daily toil. 

This child was now about twelve 



128 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

years old; and already his soul was 
being overshadowed by the conscious- 
ness that Heaven had destined him 
for some high mission, the full mean- 
ing and scope of which he, as yet, saw 
but dimly. 

He had been instructed in all things 
which it was deemed needful that a 
Jewish child should know. He had 
been taught that the God who ruled 
the universe was, in an especial sense, 
the sovereign of the Jews; and that 
His court was held at Jerusalem, where 
His people might go once a year, to 
renew their vows of obedience and re- 
ceive the assurance of their Heavenly 
King's continued providence. 

But it seemed to him that God 
might be found in places nearer than 
the sacred city. To him the summer 
dawn was a living face full of prophecy 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 129 

and promise. The full-orbed splendor 
of noon was an omnipotent provi- 
dence, scattering, with royal prodi- 
gality, sunbeams of blessing upon all 
its creatures — the good and the evil. 
The dewy twilight was the caress of 
an infinite love, real and tender as the 
kiss of his own mother. And when 
he stood beneath the mystic splendor 
of the starry night, and saw the far-off 
snowy summit of Hermon gleaming 
through the vast silence, and the white 
moonlight flooding the rugged land- 
scape and blending all harsh outlines 
into softest harmony, he thought that 
they did greatly err who spoke of 
empty space; for, to him, all space 
between the earth and sky was filled 
with an infinite soul. 

And this ever-present life of things, 
that " wooed the folded leaf from out 



130 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

the bud"; and wove earth's emerald 
carpet in a viewless loom; and gave 
the lily its royal robe; and taught the 
song birds their music; and adorned 
the dome of the sky with pictures of 
sunrise and sunset beauty; and mar- 
shaled the starry processions of the 
night; and through all the channels 
of the universe poured inexhaustible 
streams of blessing to nourish the 
happiness of all its children: he had 
learned to call by the name of Father. 

He had been told that the Book of 
the Law contained the whole duty of 
man: but, in his own heart, he heard 
a never-silent voice, urging him to the 
practice of virtues for which the Law 
had no name; and this voice he called 
the commandment of his Father. 

This child had also the humility 
that belongs to true greatness — the 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 13 1 

willingness to learn, which is the be- 
ginning of the power to teach. There- 
fore he believed in the wisdom of the 
Jewish Rabbis, and thought that per- 
haps they might aid him in making 
clear the full meaning of what the 
voice was saying. That was why, 
although the stately ritual had, per- 
haps, impressed him less than it had 
the others, and seemed less divine than 
what he had found among the Gali- 
lean hills, he yet remained, after the 
crowd had gone, to talk with the wise 
teachers. 

These Rabbis were men who spent 
all their time poring over the pages 
of the written Law, sifting the sense 
of every passage, and applying its 
literal precepts to all the affairs of life. 
They were worshipers of the Book; 
but they had little knowledge of that 



132 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

living spirit, out of whose inspiration 
the Book first grew, and of whose new 
message the world has always as great 
a need as of its past utterances. 

We do not know what it was that 
the child from Nazareth asked them. 
A child may seem rather dull when 
you question him; but he grows 
strangely wise when he begins to ques- 
tion you. The roots of his questions 
pierce deep into the soul of things; 
and we, unable to answer, presently 
become quite ashamed of our preten- 
tious philosophies. 

Perhaps he asked how it is that men 
dare to cherish wicked thoughts, and 
speak false words, and do evil deeds, 
with the pure sky above them, and 
the honest sunshine round about them, 
and God's eyes looking down upon 
them in the white light of stars. Per- 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 133 

haps he asked why people are content 
with the beggar's crust of selfishness, 
when they might easily exchange it 
for the royal banquet of sympathy; 
and how it is that, like savage beasts, 
men will strive to benefit themselves 
by injuring their neighbors, when all 
might be happy together, if only they 
would consent to help one another. 
He may even have asked them why 
they themselves said so much about 
the duty of fasting and formal prayer, 
and had so little to say about those 
practical obligations of truth, and 
justice, and kindness, which men owe 
to God and one another. 

To some of these questions the Rab- 
bis doubtless returned wise answers; 
but concerning others they probably 
said, "The knowledge for which you 
ask has not been revealed in the Law." 



134 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

As for the " Voice/' they had not heard 
it, and doubted if he had. Upon the 
whole, they thought that he would do 
well to give up his idle fancies, and not 
seek to be wise beyond what was 
written. The child was disappointed. 
He had found darkness where he 
looked for light. He had asked bread, 
and been given a stone. 

Disappointed he was, but not dis- 
couraged. Henceforth he would look 
to God, and not to man; and he was 
not without hope that, in proportion 
as he obeyed what he could under- 
stand of the bidding of the voice, its 
utterances would become more clear. 
That this hope was prophetic of the 
fact we are told in the simple but 
sufficient statement that he "grew in 
wisdom and stature, and in favor with 
God and man." With the passing of 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 135 

the years that power of spiritual seeing 
and hearing which is germinal in every 
soul obtained its full development. 
Thus it came to pass that, on the bap- 
tismal day which marked the begin- 
ning of his ministry, he saw the opening 
heaven, and heard the voice of God 
saying, "Thou art my beloved Son 
in whom I am well pleased." 

It is held by some interpreters that 
every Bible story has a mystical as 
well as a literal sense. However this 
may be, the picture of the child in 
the temple, instructing his nominal 
teachers, at least suggests the truth 
that young people, consciously or 
unconsciously, teach us quite as much 
as we do them; and that, in doing 
this, they, no less than Jesus, are about 
their " Father's business." In fact our 
children become the agents through 



136 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

whom God instructs us in life's most 
valuable lessons long before they them- 
selves have acquired any knowledge. 
It frequently happens that the 
character of a woman whose early 
lif e was thoughtless or selfish is utterly 
changed after she has become a mother. 
She has acquired the power of forget- 
ting her own personality. By a subtle 
instinct, she divines the presence of 
joy or grief. In her tone, her manner, 
and her well-chosen words, there is a 
delicate sympathy that goes straight 
to the heart of sorrow or gladness. 
Older people approve of her: young 
girls go to her with their perplexities; 
everybody says, " How greatly she has 
changed; how womanly she has be- 
come!" The explanation is simple. 
The responsibility of motherhood, the 
dependence of her child's weakness 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 137 

upon her strength; the necessity for 
gentleness and patience, and self- 
forgetf ulness — these things have 
quickened in her nature the latent 
germs of pity, tenderness, sympathy, 
and self-denying love, which, when 
developed, constitute the supreme 
beauty of womanly character. It 
may even be that she herself first 
learns to pray by teaching her child 
to say: "Our Father who art in 
heaven" — that she finds her own way 
to the heart of God by taking her 
child by the hand and leading it into 
His presence. 

It is so with the father. The man 
whose companionships and amuse- 
ments have been questionable; whose 
habits have been impoverishing alike 
to his intellect, his morals, and his 
pocket-book, whose life has been tend- 



138 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

ing downward for want of any serious 
purpose to make it tend upward, feels 
that it is time to reform when his boy 
has become old enough to be his critic. 
He is anxious that his son shall avoid 
the mistakes that he himself has made, 
and realize the possibilities that he 
has missed. What is evil in his nature 
he knows full well; but this boy has 
absolute faith in his goodness, and 
will follow where he leads. In the 
child's thought of him he perceives, 
for the first time, his ideal self — the 
sort of man he ought to be. He 
hungers first to keep that respect, 
and presently to be worthy of it. 
Thus, day by day, his ideals and as- 
pirations become of a higher order; 
his character and lif e assume a nobler 
tone; and all who know him say that 
he is a changed man. 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 139 

In the world of human life, as in 
the realm of outward nature, the most 
potent forces are often the gentlest in 
their action. It seems strange that 
the quiet ministrations of sunbeams 
and raindrops should carpet the 
brown earth with verdure and cover 
the gnarled branches of orchard trees 
with masses of fragrant bloom: but 
an equal marvel is wrought when 
giant passions in the souls of men and 
women are held in check by the clasp 
of children's arms; when blossoms of 
peace and joy spring up in the soil of 
home beneath their feet; and when, 
in all our hearts, narrow selfishness 
changes to generous and self-denying 
love at the touch of baby fingers. 

Finally, the child's confidence in 
those whom he loves instructs us how 
we ought to feel toward God. The 



140 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

peasant child teaching the gray- 
haired doctors of divinity truths which 
were beyond their intellectual grasp, 
but which had always been knocking 
at the doors of their hearts, is a sym- 
bol of the rightful supremacy of the 
emotional over the purely intellect- 
ual elements in religion. 

When a mother has lost her child, 
and her heart is an empty nest from 
which the bird has flown, we do not 
talk to her about force and phe- 
nomena — the infinite energy from 
which all things proceed, and the proc- 
ess of evolution that works through 
countless births and deaths toward 
the achievement of its purpose. But 
we do speak of the Divine compassion 
that pities our sorrows, and seeks to 
console our griefs. We speak of Jesus 
comforting Mary and Martha; affirm- 



THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 141 

ing that the centurion's daughter was 
not dead but sleeping; taking little 
children in His arms and blessing them, 
and saying that in heaven their angels 
do always behold the face of the 
Father. 

A religion may be very instructive 
in its picturing of the Divine wisdom 
and power as manifested in all the 
works of creation, and very wise in 
its ethical teaching; but it will fail to 
serve our deepest need unless it also 
causes us to realize that we may live 
in a daily companionship with God 
as intimate and satisfying as that be- 
tween a child and its human parents; 
that, in the life to come, there is an 
infinite tenderness that shall forever 
cherish those who have gone from us 
to it; that the Eternal Father will 
never withhold His forgiveness from 



142 THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE 

those who ask it; and that no soul 
can ever wander beyond reach of the 
love that seeks until it finds that which 
was lost. This is what the Master 
meant when, in after years, he said, 
"Whosoever humble th himself and 
becometh as a little child, the same is 
greatest in the kingdom of heaven." 
This, also, is the supreme meaning 
of the story of the child Jesus stand- 
ing in the temple, and affirming the 
religion of God the Father as distinct 
from that of God the king. 



MAI? 15 1911 



One copy del. to Cat. Div. 

MAK 15 19U