All through the Bible are passages which show that love is a health-tonic, and actually lengthens life.
"With long life will I satisfy him," says the Psalmist, "because he hath set his love upon me." Love is harmony, and harmony prolongs life, as fear, jealousy, envy, friction, and discord shorten it.
Who has not seen the magic power of love in transforming rough, uncouth men into refined and devoted husbands!
There is no doubt that those who are filled with the spirit of love, which is the Christ spirit—whose sympathies and tenderness are not confined to their immediate relatives and friends, but reach out to every member of the human family,—live longer and are more exempt from the ills of mankind than the selfish and pessimistic, who centered in themselves, lose their better part of life, the joy and the strength that come from giving themselves to others.
The power of love is often illustrated in a delicate mother who walks the floor, night after night, whose days pass without recreation or change, week in and week out, and who feels more than compensated if she can only procure relief for her suffering little one.
In no other way than through the marvelous power of love can we account for the wonderful miracles of endurance presented by many mothers in bringing up large families. Think of a mother carrying about, perhaps for the greater part of a day and the night following, the same weight, in merchandise or other matter, as that of a sick child!
She could not stand the strain, she would be ill in a short time. But love lightens her load and makes self-sacrifice a pleasure. She can bear any burden, even poverty, disappointment, or suffering, for the sake of the loved one. This sublimely unselfish mother-love is a prototype of the most exalted creative love that enraptures the universe, that invites us to be partakers and dispensers of this world-tonic, this great panacea for all of the ills of mankind.
"The situation that has not its duty, its ideal," says Carlyle, "was never yet occupied by man. Yes, here in this poor, miserable, hampered, despicable actual, wherein thou even now standest, here or nowhere is thy ideal; work it out therefrom, and, working, believe, live, be free. Fool! the ideal is in thyself."
Not on some far-off height, in some distant scene, or fabled land, where longing without endeavor is magically satisfied, will we carve out the ideal that haunts our souls, but near at hand.
In the humble valley, on the boundless prairie, on the farm, on sea or on land, in workshop, store, or office, wherever there is honest work for the hand and brain of man to do, — within the circumscribed limits of our daily duties is the field wherein our ideal must be wrought.
Wrapped up in every human being there are energies which, if unfolded, concentrated, and given proper direction, will develop the ideal.
Our very longings are creative principles, indicative of potencies equal to the task of actual achievement. These latent potencies are not given to mock us. There are no sealed orders wrapped within the brain without the accompanying ability to execute them.
If the emancipation proclamation is written in your blood, if it is indicated in the very texture of your being, you will have within you—undeveloped, it may be, but always there,—strength to break the fetters that bind you, power to triumph over the environment which hampers you.
No external means alone, however, will accomplish this. You must lay hold of eternal principles, of the everlasting verities, or you never can accomplish what you were sent into the world to do. You never can reach the goal of your highest possibilities until you believe in your God-given power to do so, until you are convinced that you are master of your will, and that the Creator has endowed you with strength to bend circumstances to aid you in the realization of your vision.
Our energies must not be allowed to run to waste in longing without action. Our latent strength must be developed steadily and persistently. All our reserves must be utilized, all our powers concentrated and wisely directed toward the accomplishment of the work we have marked out for ourselves.
With eyes ever fixed on the ideal, we must work with heart and hand and brain; with a faith that never grows dim, with a resolution that never wavers, with a patience that is akin to genius, we must persevere unto the end; for, as we advance, our ideal as steadily moves upward.
Everywhere we see people starving for love, famishing for affection, for someone to appreciate them. On every hand we see men and women possessing material comfort, luxury, all that can contribute to their physical well-being—who are able to gratify almost any wish—and yet they are hungry for love. They seem to have plenty of everything but affection. They have lands and houses, automobiles, yachts, horses, money — everything but love.
Much of what goes by the name of love is only selfishness. Until love extends beyond the narrow circle of relatives and friends; until its stretches beyond the shores of one's own land, it is not real love. The Christ-love is not that which nourishes and cares with greatest solicitude for one's own child, and yet turns a deaf ear to the cry of the hungry and forsaken one in the street. Pure love is in the act, and does not take note of the object.
When Elizabeth Fry visited Newgate Prison, in London, where the women were packed in one room like cattle, without the slightest attention to sanitation, she was much interested in a girl who had committed a terrible crime. One of the London ladies engaged in philanthropic work asked her what crime this girl had committed. "I do not know," she replied. "I never asked her."
All she wanted to know was that this poor unfortunate had made a mistake, and that she needed love to heal the wound and help her to reform. It was not the wind or tempest the girl wanted, but the warm, gentle sunlight.
I do not believe there is any human being, in prison or out, so depraved, so low, so bad, but that there is somebody in the world who could control them perfectly by love, by kindness, by patience.
I have known women who had such charm of manner, such great loving, helpful hearts, that the worst men, the most hardened characters, would do anything in the world for them — would give up their lives, even, to protect them. But they could never be reformed, could never be touched by hatred or unkindness or compulsion. Love is the only power that could reach them.
There is a man in New York City who has served, at different times, twenty-five years in State prison. He was one of the most hardened of criminals. No sooner would he get out of prison than he would begin to plan some burglary which would send him back again. The police all knew him.
A great many people tried to help him, and many a time he got a position, only to lose it, because someone who knew him circulated the report that he was an ex-convict.
He happened to fall under the influence of one of these sweet and noble women, who did not ask him what he was sent to prison for or to describe the crimes he had committed. She did not want to have anything to do with the bad part of him. She wanted to forget all that, and wanted him to forget it, too.
She told him that he was not made for such business, that the Creator had given him that marvelously strong, keen brain of his for a great and noble purpose; that he was a success and happiness machine, so fearfully and wonderfully wrought that it had taken the Creator a quarter of a century to bring it to its perfection; that success and happiness were his birthright; that all he had to do was to claim them; that he had no right to look upon himself as a debased creature, but that he should hold perpetually in mind the thought of his divinity; that he was made by a perfect Being and hence his better self must be perfect.
She told him not to go about the streets trying to sneak and to slink out of sight, nor to regard himself as a criminal, haunted and hunted by the police and detectives, but to say to himself, "I am a man, a strong, magnificent man, made in the image of perfection. I must be perfect. There is an indestructible, inviolable something within me which must ultimately dominate my life and bring me into harmony."
The man faithfully followed the advice of his benefactress, and after a while he became so completely transformed that the hardened criminal lines, the sneaking fear lines in his face were replaced by signs of nobility. The uplifting suggestion constantly held in his mind outpictured themselves in his face and changed his expression to one of manhood.
All this was the result of appealing to the best in the man, calling out the qualities which had been buried all those years, which had no chance to grow, which had been smothered by the over development of the brute faculties.
This pure, sweet woman culled out of this man qualities which completely changed his life, and which a hundred years of punishment and cruelty and threatening and torture could never have developed.
Forget yourself. You will never do anything great until you do. Self-consciousness is a disease with many. No matter what they do, they can never get away from themselves. They become warped upon the subject of self-analysis, wondering how they look, how they appear, what others will think of them, how they can enhance their own interests. In other words, every thought and every effort seems to focus upon self; nothing radiates from them.
No one can grow while their thoughts are self-centered. The sympathies of the individual who thinks only of themselves are soon dried up. Self-consciousness acts as a paralysis to all expansion, strangles enlargement, kills aspiration, cripples executive ability. The mind which accomplishes things worthwhile looks out, not in; it is focused upon its object not upon itself.
The immortal acts have been unconsciously performed. The greatest prayers have been the silent longings, the secret yearnings of the heart, not those which have been delivered facing a critical audience. The daily desire is the perpetual prayer, the prayer that is heard and answered.
The real test of a man's success is his daily life. Does he really live? Is he alive in every part of the being, or have his best qualities shriveled and atrophied from disuse?
What matters is how much money one has if there is only a small part of the real man alive, if his sympathies have dried up from the lack of use or cultivation, if his appreciation of the beautiful and his love of the good have become paralyzed?
Is a man whose brain has developed one huge money gland for secreting dollars, while all his other faculties have died from disuse or neglect, a success? Have growth and the unfoldment of all the powers nothing to do with real success? Is living in a business rut for a quarter or a half century, grasping, elbowing one's way, trampling upon other's rights and opportunities, scheming to get something away from others, with indifference to their welfare, cherishing only one great, grasping motive—getting, getting, absorbing—is this real living? Is this character building?
Is a huge tree trunk with all but one of the branches lopped off, and that one developed into an enormous monstrosity because of its having absorbed all of the sap intended for the other branches, a tree? Have symmetry, balance, and beauty nothing to do with a perfect tree? Most of us are at best monstrosities, with one faculty enormously over-developed at the expense of all the others. How rare it is to find a fully poised man, one with perfectly balanced development of faculty, and function!
The best legacy a man can leave his children is the memory and influence of a large, broad, finely developed mentality, a well-disciplined, highly cultured mind, a sweet, beautiful character which has enriched everybody who came in contact with it, a refined personality, a magnanimous spirit.
To leave a clean record, an untarnished name, a name which commanded respect for honesty and integrity which were above suspicion; this is a legacy worthwhile, a wealth beyond the reach of fire or flood, disaster or accident on land or sea. This is a legacy allied to divinity.
To bring your children up to respect themselves, to love the right and hate the wrong, to be self-reliant, strong, vigorous and independent, to do their own thinking so they may become leaders instead of trailers — that is to leave them something worthwhile. They will have power in themselves to help themselves, not imitate or copy, but live their own lives and form their own creeds. They will not need to apologize or sneak or fawn, but stand erect, look the world in the face without wincing, and feel themselves equal to any environment and masters of the situation by virtue of their own power. Such a legacy will enrich them more than all the millions you could amass.
How many people in this country today are really ashamed of the father whose money they are spending! They are glad enough to get the money, but they do not like to say much about their father's character or how they acquired wealth.
Is it not unaccountable how men will struggle and strive in order to pile up money, to accumulate a vast fortune for their children, and to coin their own lives, their very life-blood, into dollars which they leave to their children, often with nothing else—no name, no memory which can be revered? Is it not strange that fathers will contend and crowd so hard for that which is cheap and shallow and unsatisfying, and neglect the development of the more permanent, more desirable, more beautiful and lasting qualities?
These shrewd, long-headed men know very well that the chances are small that a son will develop the power of self-help and self-reliance when everybody is telling him that he is a fool to work, that his father is rich, that he should just pitch in and have a good time. These men know how small are the chances of developing that fibre which makes men, that stamina which makes character in the boy who has a fortune left him; yet many of them go blindly on, not seemingly caring anything about the development of their boys' characters—or their own, intent on amassing fortunes which so often prove the ruin of the children who inherit them.
If a man is too large to be measured by the dollar-mark, or to be enclosed in his estate; if the wealth of his personality has overflowed until all his neighbors feel richer for his life and example; if every foot of land in his community is worth more because he lives there, then the loss of his property cannot materially shrink his inventory.
If you have learnt to be rich without money; if you have, by the cultivation of your mental powers, gathered to yourself a treasure of indestructible wealth; if, like the bee, you have learnt the secret of extracting honey from the thistle as well as from the rose, you will look upon your losses as mere incidents, not so very important to the larger and fuller life.
It gives a sense of immense satisfaction to think that there is something within us greater than the wealth we acquire or our material pursuits; that there is something about us better than our career, better than living-getting, money-getting, fame-getting; that there is something which will survive the fire, the flood, or the tornado which sweeps away our property, which will survive detraction, persecution, calumny; something that will outlast even the dissolution of the body itself. That is, nobility of character, the sweetness and light which have helped people, which have made the world a little better place to live in.
There is something within us which protests against having our most precious possessions at the mercy of accident or uncertainty. We have an innate assurance that, no matter what happens, nothing can possibly injure our real selves or destroy our greatest riches, our grandest possessions. There is a still voice within us which tells us that the true life is beyond the reach of anything that can harm it or rob it of one iota of its substance.
The feeling of serenity, the assurance of stability and of possessing that which no power can shake, gives a satisfaction beyond all words to express, imparting to life its true dignity and grandeur.
Do you not know that the whole creation thunders the Ten Commandments? The very atoms seem to have been dipped in a moral solution. There is a moral tendency in the very nature of things. It looks out of the flowers, it shines from the stars. It grows in the forest, it waves in the grass, it laughs in the harvest. Each form of existence brings from the unseen its own lesson of wisdom, goodness, power, design, and points to something higher than itself, the great Author of its magnificence.
In spite of all the discord, and the sin and the suffering about us, we have an instinctive faith that somehow, somewhere, Nature will rid herself of the last crime, and restore the lost Paradise of Eden.