Writing in the Spectator, Number 26, on Westminster Abbey, Addison said: "When I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes placed side by side, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates on the tombs, of some that died yesterday and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries and make our appearance together.
Daniel Webster, when secretary of state under President Fillmore, was dining once with twenty gentlemen at the Astor House in New York. Unusually reticent and aloof from the course of conversation, he sank into a reverie. In order to draw him out, one of the men asked him this rather unusual question for a dinner table, or anywhere else: "Mr. Webster, will you tell me what was the most important thought that ever occupied your mind?"
Webster passed his hand over his forehead and said in a low tone to one next to him, "Is there anyone here who does not know me?"
"No," said the man, "all are your friends."
Then Webster said aloud so that all could hear, "The most important thought that ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God." He discoursed upon this theme for twenty minutes, and then rose from the table and retired to his room.
Have you ever been at Pompeii? Then you have some idea of what Sodom must have looked like when God rained his judgment upon it. The fiery lava transfixed and sealed the people in whatever act or attitude it found them—at the theater, the baths, the kitchen, the market place, or in the haunts of sin. Hearts that had burned that day with unholy flame were now forever still, and pulses that had throbbed eagerly with sinful expectation had now forever ceased to beat.
The teachings of Christ are not unlike a river that flows for a long time smoothly and noiselessly between its banks, and then suddenly takes the tremendous plunge of the cataract. In the utterance of Jesus about the coming of his Kingdom we have the cataract note of his preaching. The same lips which pronounced the Beatitudes and spake the quiet parables of growth and development, tell of the coming of his Kingdom and the great and terrible day of the Lord.
In a log cabin in the woods, after Bull Run, General Bee lay dying. His only words were "Find Imboden!Find Imboden!" Imboden had blamed his superior officer, Bee, and cursed him bitterly for leaving him and his battery unsupported. The dying Bee had learned of this and wished to tell Imboden with his own lips that he had given orders for his relief. All through the night the men were scouting the fields and the woods, riding up and down the country roads, searching for Imboden. At length they found him and brought him to the cabin where Bee was dying. Full of regret now, and remorse, too, that he had so mistaken the action of his superior officer, Imboden took Bee by the hand and called him by name. No curses now; he spoke softly, fondly, filially. But there was no answer! Too late now, dying Bee, to make your explanation! Too late now, fierce-looking Imboden, hereafter much to be heard of in this war between the brothers, to take back your reckless and mistaken curses.
In The Stickit Minister Samuel Crockett gives a pathetic instance of the cruelty of false judgment. The people thought that the older brother was a blockhead, and that that was the reason he had left the university and given up the ministry. Hence they dubbed him the "stickit minister." But if they have known the facts, how different would have been their estimate of him, for then they would have learned how he had left the university, given up the scholar's dreams and renounced the high and holy calling because, discovering that he was in poor health and that the death of the father had not left sufficient funds for the education of both sons, he, although the elder, had magnanimously made way for the younger. They would have known that the hard, uncongenial toil in the fields was not the labor of one who had failed but the splendid heroism of a magnanimous soul.
Justice Gray of the Supreme Court once said to a man who had appeared before him in one of the lower courts and had escaped conviction by some technicality: "I know that you are guilty and you know it, and I wish you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser Judge, and that there you will be dealt with according to justice and not according to law."
Among the innumerable legends that come down to us about Professor Blaikie is the story of a student who rose to recite in his classroom and held his book in his right hand. Blaikie told him to take the book with the other hand, but still the student read on with the book in his right hand. Again the angry professor thundered at him to take the book in the left hand. "I cannot, sir," answered the student, as he brought an empty sleeve from behind his back. The students hissed, but the next moment they cheered when the famous Grecian made his earnest apology.
Lips that move and do not speak, sleeves that have no arm within them, this is life; yet we pronounce our rash judgments, the falsity of which would fill us with humiliation and sorrow could we but know the facts.
At beautiful Grassmere Lake in the Lake Country of Cumberland County, England, the haunts of the English poets, there is a jutting promontory called Point Rash Judgment. One day Wordsworth, his sister, and Coleridge were taking a walk along the shore of the lake. In a boat some distance from the shore they saw a man fishing. It was the harvest season, when all able-bodied men were toiling in the fields. They said one to another, "How improvident for this man to be spending his time here fishing when he ought to be at work in the fields." But when they came nearer to him they saw that he was an aged and decrepit man, unable to work in the fields, and that he was doing the best he could. Struck with the falsity and unkindness of their rash judgment, they named the promontory "Point Rash Judgment."
In his diary a lieutenant colonel of a Northern regiment relates this incident which took place near Berryville, Virginia, during the Civil War. In the gathering darkness, while the battle was still raging, the colonel saw three men going toward the rear and leaving the battle, two of them supporting the companion that limped between them. This was a favorite dodge of cowards to pretend that they were carrying a wounded comrade to the rear, and so escape the perils of the battlefield. Convinced that this was another case of pretended injury and wounds, the angry colonel stopped the three men and ordered them to go back to the firing line. The man who was being helped protested that he was wounded, and badly wounded. But the angry colonel said to him, "You are not wounded; are trying to sneak out of the fight in the dark. Go back to your regiment."
The wounded soldier then said, "Give me your hand, Colonel." Not knowing just what he meant, the colonel put out his hand, whereupon the man took it and thrust it into a hole in his shoulder while the warm blood spurted up the arm of the skeptical colonel. Shocked and overcome, the colonel exclaimed, "You poor fellow! You poor fellow! Forgive me; go back to the doctor, quick." The man took a step forward and fell dead. He had given his life for his country; but in the moment of supreme sacrifice he had been mistaken for a coward and a deserter.