The Royal Path of Life/Life
We point to two ways in life, and if the young man and maiden. Whose feet are lingering in soft green meadows and flowery paths, will consider these two ways soberly and earnestly, before moving onward, and choose the one that truth and reason tell them leads to honor, success and happiness, they have wisely chosen the "Royal Path of Life." The other way is too well known to need description. It is a sad thing, after the lapse of twenty years, to find ourselves amid ruined hopes; - to sit down with folded hands and say, "Thus far life has been a failure"! Yet, to how many is this the wretched summing up at the end of a single score of years from the time that reason takes the helm! Alas! That so few who start wrong, ever succeed in finding the "Royal Path"; life proving, even to its last burdened years a millstone about the neck.
Dear reader, life is a "Royal Path." And to you it shall be a millstone about your neck, or a diadem on your brow. Decide at once upon a noble purpose, then take it up bravely, bear it off joyfully, lay it down triumphantly. Your greatest inheritance is a purpose in pursuit of which you will find employment and happiness, for
"The busy world shoves angrily aside
The man who stands with arms akimbo set
Until occasion tells him what to do;
And he who waits to have his task marked out
Shall die and leave his errand unfulfilled."
Life is not mean - it is grand. If it is mean to any, he makes it so. God made it glorious. Its channel he paved with diamonds. Its banks He fringed with flowers. He overarched it with stars. Around it He spread the glory of the physical universe - suns, moons, worlds, constellations, systems - all that is magnificent in motion, sublime in magnitude, and grand in order and obedience. God would not have attended life with his broad march of grandeur, if it did not mean something. He would not have descended to the blade of grass, the dew-drop, and the dust-atom, if every moment of life were not a letter to spell out some word that should bear the burden of a thought. How much life means, words refuse to tell, because they can not. The very doorway of life is hung around with flowery emblems, to indicate that it is for some purpose. The mystery of our being, the necessity of action, the relation of cause to effect, the dependence of one thing upon another, the mutant influence and affinity of all things, assure us that life is for a purpose to which every outward thing doth point.
The trees with leaves "like a shield or like a sword" wage vigorous warfare with the elements. They bend under the wind, make music of it, then stand up again and grow more stalwartly straight up toward the heart of the heavens. A man is to learn of the oak, and cling to his plans as it to its leaves till pushed off by new ones; and be as tenacious of life, when lopt, sending up branches straight as the old trunk, and when cut off, sending up a brood of young oaks, crowning the stump with vigorous defenders. He that floats lazily down the stream, in pursuit of something borne along by the same current, will find himself indeed moved forward; but unless he lays his hand to the oar, and increases his speed by his own labor, must be always at the same distance from that which he is following. In our voyage of life, we must not drift but steer.
Every youth should form, at the outset of his career, the solemn purpose to make the most and the best of the powers which God has given him, and to turn to the best possible account every outward advantage within his reach. This purpose must carry with it the assent of the reason, the approval of the conscience, the sober judgment of the intellect. It should then embody within itself whatever is vehement in desire, inspiring in hope, thrilling in enthusiasm and intense in desperate resolve. Such a plan of life will save him from many a damaging contest with temptation. It will regulate his sports and recreations. It will go with him by day to trample under foot the allurements of pleasure. It will hold his eyes waking as he toils by the evening lamp. It will watch over his slumbers to jog him at the appointed hour, and summon him to the cheerful duties of his chosen pursuit. Those who labor and study under the inspiration of such a purpose, will soon soar out of sight of those who barely allow themselves to be carried along by the momentum of the machinery to which they are attached.
Many pass through life without even a consciousness of where they are, and what they are doing. They gaze on whatever lies directly before them, "in fond amusement lost." Human life is a watchtower. It is the clear purpose of God that every one - the young especially - should take their stand on this tower. Look, listen, learn, wherever you go, wherever you tarry. Something is always transpiring to reward your attention. Let you eyes and ears be always open, and you will often observe in the slightest incidents, materials of advantage and means of personal improvement.
In nothing is childhood more strongly distinguished from manhood than in this, that the child has no purpose, no plan of life, no will by which his energies are directed. He lives, in a great measure, to enjoy the passing scene, and to find his happiness in those agreeable consciousnesses which from hour to hour come to him by chance. If his life is governed by a plan, a purpose, it is the purpose of another - not his own. The man has his own purpose, his own plan, his own life aim. The sorrowful experience of multitudes in this respect is that they are never men, but children all their days. Think out your work, then work out your thought. No one can purpose a worthy object, with all the powers of his mind, and yet make his life a failure. A man may work in the dark, yet one day light shall arise upon his labor; and though he may never, with his own lips, declare the victory complete, some day others will behold in his life-work the traces of a great and thinking mind.
Take life like a man. Take it just as though it was - as it is - an earnest, vital, essential affair. Take it as though you personally were born to the task of performing a merry part in it - as though the world had waited for your coming. Take it as though it was a grand opportunity to do and to achieve, to carry forward great and good schemes; to help and cheer a suffering, weary, it may be a heart-broken, brother. The fact is, life is undervalued by a great majority of mankind. It is not made half as much of as should be the case. Now and then a man stands aside from the crowd, labors earnestly, steadfastly, confidently, and straightway becomes famous for wisdom, intellect, skill, greatness of some sort. The world wonders, admires, idolizes; and yet it only illustrates what each may do if he takes hold of life with a purpose. One way is right to go; the hero sees it and moves on that aim and has the world under him for foot and support. His approbation is honor, his dissent infamy. Man was sent into the world to be a growing and exhaustless force. The world was spread out around him to be seized and conquered. Realms of infinite truth burst open above him, inviting him to tread those shining coasts along which Newton dropped his plummet and Herschel sailed, - a Columbus of the skies. Some because they have once or twice met with rebuffs, sink in discouragement. Such should know, that our own errors may often teach us more than the grave precepts of others. We counsel the young man never to despair. If he can make nothing by any work that presents itself now, he can at least make himself; or what is equivalent. He can save himself from the sure death of a pusillanimous, halting, irresolute spirit. Never be cast down by misfortunes. If a spider breaks his web, over and over he will mend it again. And do not you fall behind the very insect on your walls. If the sun is going down look up to the stars; if earth is dark, keep your eye on heaven. With the presence and promise of God, we can bear up under anything; and should press on, and never falter or fear.
It is my firm conviction that man has only himself to blame if his life appears to him at any time void of interest and of pleasure. Man may make life what he pleases and give it as much worth, both for himself and others, as he has energy for. Over his moral and intellectual being his sway is complete.
The first great mistake that men fall into is that they do not use integrity and truth and good sense in judging of what they are fit for. They take the things that they want and not the things that they deserve. They aspire after things that are pleasing to their ambition, and not after things to which they are adapted by their capacity. And when a man is brought into as sphere of his ambition for which he has not the requisite powers, and where he is goaded on every side in the discharge of his duties, his temptation is at once to make up by fraud and appearance that which he lacks in reality. Men are seen going across - lots to fortune; and a poor business many of them make of it. Oftentimes they lose their way; and when they do not, they find so many hills and valleys, so many swells and depressions, so many risings and fallings, so many ups and downs, that though by an air-line the distance might be shorter, in reality the distance is greater than by the lawful route; and when they come back they are ragged and poor and mean. There is a great deal of going across-lots to make a beggar of a man's self in this world. Whereas, the old-fashioned homely law that the man who was to establish himself in life must take time to lay the foundations of reality, and gradually and steadily build thereon, holds good yet. Though you slur it over, and cover it up with fantasies, and find it almost impossible to believe it, it is so.
Rely not upon others; but let there be in your own bosom a calm, deep, decided, and all-pervading principle. Look first, midst, and last to God, to aid you in the great task before you; and then plant your foot on the right. Let others live as they please, - tainted by low tastes, debasing passions, a moral putrefaction. Be you the salt of the earth; incorrupt in your deeds, in your inmost thoughts and feelings. Nay more, incorruptible, like virtue herself; your manners blameless; your views of duty, not narrow, false and destructive, but a savor of life to all around you. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with the salt of truth, honor, manliness and benevolence. Wait not for the lash of guilt to scourge you to the path of God and heaven. Be of the prudent who foresee the evil and hide themselves from it; and not of the simple, who pass on and are punished. Life, to youth, is a fairy tale just opened; to old age, a tale read through, ending in death. Be wise in time, that you may be happy in eternity.