The former president of Czechoslovakia, Dr. Masaryk, who died recently, in his autobiography writes of the high purpose of his life for the establishment of Czechoslovakia as a nation. Speaking of some of the hardships which he endured, he says, "I had a sincere and high purpose, and you can endure a great many difficulties and hardships when you follow a great aim."
Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire will probably endure till many another empire has risen and fallen. In his autobiography the author tells us how the great purpose was born within him: "It was at Rome, on the eleventh of October, 1764, as I sat musing amid the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind."
In June, 1787, twenty-three years later, we find these lines entered at Lausanne: "I have presumed to mark the moment of conception; I shall now commemorate the moment of my final deliverance. It was in the day, or rather the night, of the twenty-seventh of June, 1787, that I wrote the last line of the last page in a summer house in my garden. After laying down my pen, I took several turns in a covered walk of acacias, which commands a prospect of the country, the lakes, and the mountains. The air was temperate, the sky was serene, the silver orb of the moon was reflected from the waters, and all nature was silent. I will not dissemble the emotions of joy I felt in the recovery of my freedom, and perhaps the establishment of my fame.
"But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind by the idea that I had taken everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion, and whatsoever may be the future fate of my history, the life of the historian must be short and precarious."
The price had been great: he had given up much of his freedom; old age was coming on—but the great work had been done. His fame was secure, and one can open his pages and see the walls of Rome go down, and, in the words of Milman, "behold the gorgeous coloring in which Gibbon has invested the dying form of paganism."
The minister who can speak of a sermon of the past as his "great" sermon simply confesses that he has ceased to aspire, for the only great sermon must be the one that has never been preached. The physician who says he has achieved complete mastery of disease and bodily conditions advertises his incompetency. The artist who feels that he has produced his masterpiece tells the world that he is not a master at all. The Christian who can say—what Paul could not say—that he has already attained, has already been made perfect, simply shows his complete ignorance of the fundamental law of Christianity. That law is growth, development. Joshua at the age of a hundred and ten, with his fingers releasing their firm grip upon the sword, went down to death saying, "There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed." (Josh. 13:1.) That showed him to be a great general and soldier. Frederick Watts at eighty felt that he could yet paint better pictures than he had done in the past; and that showed him to be a great painter. Paul the "aged" counted not himself to have apprehended, but reached forth to the things that are before—and that showed him to be a great Christian.
The Shakespearean scholar Furness wrote to Webster in those critical days of the great debate on slavery that if he "would only throw his great nature into the cause of human freedom, his fellow men would behold such a demonstration of personal power as it is seldom given to the world to witness."
Webster's answer was his famous seventeenth of March speech, in which he denounced the Abolition party, said that California and Mexico could come in without any provision regarding slavery, because the nature of the country was such that no man would ever think of taking slaves and settling there. It is difficult to avoid the impression that in making that speech Daniel Webster was seeking to hold the votes of the South while getting the votes of the North for the presidential nomination. If so, he must have been bitterly disappointed. What Horace Mann said, whether true or not, expressed the opinion of many who hitherto had followed him: "Webster is a fallen star, Lucifer descending from heaven."
When Macbeth had his ambition stirred by the three witches and saw his opportunity to become king by assassinating his faithful lord, yet drew back from the dreadful crime, his more hardened wife read his letter hinting at his emotions and mused of him:
Thou wouldst be great;
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it.
What is the illness which should attend worldly ambition? It is a willingness and readiness to lower one's principle, silence one's conscience, and so bow down to Satan for the sake of securing some worldly aim.
When Marshal Foch, that great commander, came to the close of his life, those listening heard his last word, Allons— "Forward." He was watching his glorious army meeting the enemy, being thrown back, and then making an heroic effort to conquer. The greatest word he ever gave, the word that put spirit and power into his soldiers, was "Forward."—The Homilope (church envelope).
God has His best things for the few
Who dare to stand the test;
God has His second choice for those
Who will not have the best.
It is not always open sin
That risks the promised rest;
The better often is the foe
That keeps us from the best.
There's scarcely one but vaguely wants
In some way to be blessed;
'Tis not Thy blessing, Lord, I seek;
I want Thy very best.
I want in this short life of mine
As much as can be pressed
Of service true for God and man;
Help me to be my best.
I want amid the victor throng
To have my name confessed;
And hear my Master say at last,
"Well done! You did your best."
Give me, O Lord, Thy highest choice,
Let others take the rest;
Their good things have no charm for me,
For I have got Thy Best. —A. B. Simpson