In the "Marble Faun" Hawthorne describes the beautiful statue in Sculpture Gallery on Capitoline Hill representing the soul and its choice between good and evil—a child clasping a dove to its breast and assailed by a serpent. The symbolism of this allegory fits everybody. A tale of human life which centers about the temptation of a human spirit is never out of date, whether it be the story of Joseph in Egypt or that of the last popular novel.
One of the most distinguished and useful men in the religious world today has written that he regards a certain night in New York as a parting of the way, a turning point, in his life. With his college friends he had gone down from Princeton to New York. Some of these men asked him to accompany them to a place where soul and body would have been defiled. He had the courage and independence to say No, and that refusal he now looks back to as a turning point in his life.
One can almost hear the clock of his heart tick when he stops to remember that there are thousands of young men and women confronted by a similar choice tonight. If it were possible to do so, one would choose for them, so that their recollection of the parting of the way shall be as happy as that of the man to whom I have just referred. Ah for those with whom it will be otherwise! Yet every man must choose for himself. The choice he makes now, tonight, may determine the future course of his life and the destiny of his soul.
At Noyon there were born in a family two brothers, John and Charles. John from his earliest days was studious, thoughtful, and reverent. At the early age of twenty-seven he wrote one of the world's greatest books, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, When he died at Geneva in 1564 he bequeathed to the world the great principles of democracy and religious freedom. The other brother, Charles, pursued a course of profligacy and dissipation and lived life as worthless and infamous as his brother's life was noble and glorious. How do you explain the difference between those two men? Not heredity, not in environment, not in education, for they had the same heredity, the same environment, the same home, the same early influences. The difference is to be explained in choice.
As a boy, hearing the story of the great and good Hezekiah and his wicked father and son, Ahaz and Manasseh, read at morning worship, I used to wonder just what it was that made one king do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord and another do that which was right. I cannot answer that question now; and if I should live for a thousand years, I would not be able to answer it. Only God knows the secrets of the human heart. We cannot tell why one turns in the right direction and another in the wrong direction. But there is no doubt that they do, or that they are responsible for the direction they take. Strange mystery! From the same home, from the same mother's knee, from the same training, one goes out and does that which is right in the sight of the Lord, and another through a long life does that which is evil.
William Phillips, our secretary of embassy at London, tells of an American officer who, by the kind permission of the British Government, was once enabled to make a week's cruise on one of His Majesty's battleships. Among other things that impressed the American was the vessel's Sunday morning service. It was very well attended, every sailor not on duty being there. At the conclusion of the service the American chanced to ask one of the jackies:
"Are you obliged to attend these Sunday morning services?"
"Not exactly obliged to, sir," replied the sailor-man, "but our grog would be stopped if we didn't, sir."—Edwin Tarrisse.
A well-known furniture dealer of a Virginia town wanted to give his faithful negro driver something for Christmas in recognition of his unfailing good humor in toting out stoves, beds, pianos, etc.
"Dobson," he said, "you have helped me through some pretty tight places in the last ten years, and I want to give you something as a Christmas present that will be useful to you and that you will enjoy. Which do you prefer, a ton of coal or a gallon of good whiskey?"
"Boss," Dobson replied, "Ah burns wood."
A man hurried into a quick-lunch restaurant recently and called to the waiter: "Give me a ham sandwich."
"Yes, sir," said the waiter, reaching for the sandwich; "will you eat it or take it with you?"
"Both," was the unexpected but obvious reply.