In one of the frontier countries a settler's child was lost in the wilderness, which was still infested by wild animals. The father took his rifle and set out to find his child. Presently he came to a cabin, and in the woods near the cabin he saw prowling leopards. He knew that those leopards threatened the life of any children who might live in the cabin, but his heart was wild with anxiety about his own child. "Why should I stop and shoot these leopards and save these unknown children, when my own child is yonder in the wilderness in peril?" So he started to press on. But his kindlier feelings got the better of him, and he stopped and shot the leopards about the cabin. He then entered the cabin, and lo, there was his own child!
When you act for others you act for yourself—your highest and noblest self, your eternal self.
In Scott's Heart of Midlothian we meet the beautiful character Jeanie Deans, who walked all the way to London to seek a royal pardon for her wayward and fallen sister. Jeanie Deans, who had done all for her unfortunate sister Effie, is the author of that fine saying, "When we come to the end of our life, it is not what we have done for ourselves, but what we have done for others, that will be our help and comfort."
On the bells of one of our New England universities are inscribed these words:
For him who in art beautifies life, I ring;
For him who in letters interprets life, I ring;
For the man of science who widens knowledge, I ring;
For the philosopher who ennobles life, I ring;
For the scholar who preserves learning, I ring;
For the preacher of the fear of the Lord, I ring.
But the one legend which more than any other strikes the major chord of the true purpose of a college and of life, is that on the first bell:
For him who in any station seeks not to be ministered unto, but to minister, I ring.
One of the poets of the South, Sidney Lanier, sings of the journey of a Georgia river, the Chattahoochee, from the hills and the mountains down into the plain. As the river starts on its journey, the waterweeds try to hold it in thrall; the rushes and the little reeds cry and sigh, "Abide, abide"; the chestnut, the oak, the walnut and the pine, overleaning the river, beseech it not to pass by their deep shades and manifold glades. The stones of the brook, ruby, garnet and amethyst, do what they can to bar the way and lure the river from its goal. But the river does not yield to these temptations; it goes on to water the plains far below.
. . . I am fain for to water the plain.
Downward the voices of Duty call—
Downward, to toil and be mixed with the main.
Everywhere life will tempt you, as Sidney Lanier fancied that river was tempted, to stop with yourself; but life's true destination is to help and to bless others. Paul is the most influential man in the New Testament, and Abraham, perhaps, in the Old Testament. And it was to Abraham that God said, "Thou shalt be a blessing" (Gen. 12:2).