" And, oh, if Nature sinks, as oft she may, 'Neath long-lived pressure of obscure distress, Still to he strenuous for the bright reward, Still in the soul to admit of no decay, Brook no continuance of weak-mindedness, — Great is the glory, for the strife is hard".
It is wonderful how every great religious movement in the past has been marked by a new sense of the need of personal righteousness. 'T was thus when real religion arose among the ancient Hebrews, and a cry went forth from the prophetic lips, " Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me! " 'T was so when Jesus called for a deeper righteousness than even the most religious of his own day practised. 'T was so when Luther threw off the bondage of dead works, and wrote and spoke to the conscience, and said that an act in itself good becomes sinful if its motive is sinful. If I ever have a doubt of the possibility of a religion arising out of Liberalism to-day, it is because Liberalism speaks more of the rights of men than of their duties ; because it talks more of the reform of society than of the reform of ourselves ; because its ideal is philanthropy rather than justice ; because it forgets that " society gains nothing," as Emerson says, " while a man not himself renovated attempts to renovate things about him," or, as John C. Learned says, that those " who are in the wrong cannot cure evils." Let us purify ourselves, let us leave the world's standards behind us, and ask what manner of men we ourselves are; and if we find ourselves unholy, unchaste, passionate, envious, ready to take advantage, petty in spirit and narrow in sympathy, oh, let us leave doctoring the ills of the world, and first cure ourselves !
But life is not all in doing. Duty is not all in striving and battling, — it is sometimes in waiting, in enduring, in bearing what we cannot remove. Perhaps our sharpest battles are with our impatience, and with what seems a cruel fate that assigns us burdens heavier than we can bear. Sympathy often we cannot receive ; often, we cannot tell our griefs. The tragedies of our life are in secret, and this is what makes them tragedies.
I allow myself to believe, however, that nothing is given us in life greater than we can bear. It may seem as if the adversity were too sore, but we can endure it. We cannot always control our bodily health, but we can our spirits. We can bear the death of friends; we can bear the ingratitude of friends, or their unfaithfulness; we can bear to have our hopes defeated; we can bear to have light and joy vanish out of our skies, — bear it without bitterness, bear it with magnanimity. The deep purpose of our being does not lie in anything that can be taken from us. 'T is not in our prosperity, and it may be accomplished in spite of adversity ; 't is not in the relationships of home, in tender companionship with friends, in public honor or regard. Thy worth, 0 Fellow-man or woman, is in thyself, — in thy patient soul, in thine incorruptible will, in thy readiness to accept whatever post the universe assigns thee, in thy quiet faithfulness there, whether amid sunshine or the dark, amid joy or sorrow. We know not any more than Socrates what we ought to wish for ourselves ; we know not, in truth, what is best for us ; we know not what will bring out that which is most truly divine and godlike within us. The lamented Garfield said we could not know any one perfectly well "while he was in perfect health; and as the ebb-tide discloses the real lines of the shore and the bed of the sea, so feebleness, sickness, and pain bring out the real character of a man." Matthew Arnold says of a friend : —
" I saw him sensitive in frame,
I knew his spirits low, And wished him health, success, and fame, —
I do not wish it now.
" For these are all their own reward,
And leave no good behind; They try us, — oftenest make us hard,
Less modest, pure, and kind".
Emerson even says, " Adversity is the prosperity of the great; " and if this seems strained, we do not feel it so when we see some heroic man or woman bearing up under great ills with godlike equanimity and patience. 0 Friend, think not thyself off the track of destiny because things are awry, and fortune does not smile upon thee, and thou hast not, perhaps, a thing that thou cravest! think not that the World Spirit has not any path marked out for thee to follow! The path of duty is still the predestined path; and though it be no longer to do, but to bear, bear but as bravely as thou wouldst do, and never was there better soldier of duty than thou !