—Pro. XXXI. 2.
THAT heart that looks only at the appearance of things, and not at the reality, at the surface but never into the depths, must constantly be tossed hither and thither, one day upon the crest of the waves of hope, and the next plunging down into the depths of despair. Take one half-hour's walk through one of the streets of our cities; mark the bleared face and tottering gait of the drunkard; see the rags and filth of the beggar, the wan face and emaciated form of the "unfortunate," and the various other grades of society which one may see any day abroad in our towns. There was a time when those sights burned themselves into our brain, they weighed like lead upon our heart, for we said, "if this is chance, and may eventually be the lot of any of us, and must be, whether they choose it or not, whether they live for it or not, the lot of some, then life is scarcely worth the living." But in that day when the knowledge of the law of cause and effect in its universal application came to us, when we looked beneath the surface into the heart of things, we saw also the Great Law of Compensation, and we knew that it was well that we should reap as we sow.
We knew then that no such thing as "bad luck" or "chance" or " misfortune" had brought one to those depths, but that each man, each woman, had paved out for themselves the path their feet now walked. "The wages of sin is death"—there can be no compromise with the Great Law, no hiding from nor escaping the consequences of our own thoughts, words and deeds, those things which go to make up the sum total of each character. "Friend, did'st thou not agree with me for a penny a day?" says Life to each one of us, as she pays us exactly it what we have demanded of her. If any man or woman could reach those depths of degradation, poverty and crime—examples of which we may see about us any day—by the caprice of nature, "bad luck" or "misfortune," then indeed would life be all a hideous dream, and goodness and purity mere empty names. No, the good, the true, the noble and pure shall reap also what they have sown: "Say ye unto the righteous, it shall be well with him," for "the curse causeless shall not come."
How plainly is this set forth in the Scriptures. Jacob, the deceiving son, is deceived in turn by his own sons. "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" cries Ahab the usurper and murderer. "I have found thee," is the reply "because thou hast sold thyself to work evil. In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine." The teachings of Jesus also teem with this same truth. "Put up thy sword into its place," said He, "hast thou not read that he that taketh the sword must perish by the sword?" "Sin no more," said He to one whom he had healed, "lest a worse thing come upon thee." And we are all familiar with such passages as "Judge not, and ye not be judged." "Give, and it shall be given unto you." "With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again."
And when men and women come to a knowledge of this truth there is hope for them, but so long as they lay the blame of their present conditions—whatever those conditions may be—upon "chance," "ill-luck," "misfortune," or the ill-will of others, so long shall poverty and sorrow, pain and weariness dog their footsteps. Rise up, O my brothers and sisters, and stand face to face with your own hearts, and know that "you yourselves are makers of yourselves," that you and you alone have power to alter the present, and make the future what it shall for our todays are the children of our yesterdays, and today shall make tomorrow what it will. I am what I have made myself. As Sir Edwin Arnold puts it:—
And no way were of breaking from the chain,
The Heart of boundless Being is a curse
The Soul of things—fell Pain.
"Ye are not bound! The soul of things is sweet,
The Heart of Being is celestial rest;
Stronger than woe is will; that which was good
Doth pass to Better—Best. Before beginning, and without an end,
As space eternal and as surety sure,
Is fixed a power divine which moves to good
Only its laws endure. It will not be contemned of any one!
Who thwarts it, loses; and who serves it, gains;
The hidden good it pays with peace and bliss,
The hidden ill with pains. By this the slayer's knife did stab himself,
The unjust judge hath lost his own defender,
The false tongue dooms its lie; the creeping thief
And spoiler rob to render. Such is the law which moves to righteousness,
Which none at last can turn aside or stay;
The heart of it is Love, the end of it
Is Peace and Consummation Sweet. Obey!
To reform one's maxims is nothing; it is but to change the title of the book. To learn new habits is everything, for it is to reach the substance of life.
Go forth to meet the shadowy future, with no fear and with a manly heart.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow