A Beautiful Life
( Originally Published 1896 )
A beautiful life is not essentially different from a beautiful character,- it is simply character revealed or illustrated. The outward life is the inner character crystallized into action and visible shape. The only true way by which we can judge of a man's real character is by watching his every-day life. What is more beautiful than the rich mosaics that we saw in Florence and in the National Museum at Naples!-delicatepictures, patterns, letters, or any designs made on table-tops, walls, pavements, or surfaces, and composed of fragments of precious stones and minute particles of colored glass almost invisible to the eye and infinite in number and variety, inlaid with thin cement and arranged with such exquisite skill and beauty as to deceive the shrewdest observer, nor can any painting be more soft in its shading or faultless. So the beauty of a holy life is made up of littles-little honesties, little self-denials, little courtesies, little words of sympathy, little acts of kindness, little nameless triumphs over besetting sins, little avoidances of evil - these are the unnoticed threads of gold in life's fabric, the infinitesimal pieces of fine marble and glass which, when skillfully combined, make-up the rich mosaic and gleam out so beautifully in the life-pattern that God loves to smile upon.
All of the elements of true manhood enter into a high-grade, beautiful life. Really beautiful lives are rare in history, only here and there one, like stars of the first magnitude that gild the brow. of night. The life of Moses had its defects, so also the life of righteous Lot and faithful Abraham, while that of David, Solomon, and Peter was sadly marred. In estimating the lives and characters of men, we would givc due consideration to the age in which they lived and their moral and social environments. How beautifully shines out of the prevailing darkness the star of Job's patience, Abraham's obedience, Moses' devotion, Joseph's purity, Daniel's integrity, John's amiableness, Paul's heroism!
That is a beautiful life, indeed, that can bear up bravely and trustfully when the lot in life is hard, when business matters are wearying, depressing, and harrowing, when there is bitter disappointment, inward grief and sore sickness and misfortune. Ah, it is the beauty of moral heroism that, under such trying circumstances, can say, "It is all for the best," as one throws himself trustingly into the arms of Him who said, " Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee."
"There is no pastor, perhaps no individual, who-has not met many a one whose life was a poem, sometimes of exquisite beauty and rhythm. Sometimes it is a widow consecrating herself to her children; again, the oldest daughter who turned from the grave of her mother ' to mother' her little brothers and sisters; again, a daughter consuming her strength in sweet attentions to an invalid mother or fathcr; and, more often than is thought by the superficial, some husband and father struggling ever cheerfully and hopefully with successive disasters, dying at last without a thought of ever having done anything extraordinary, absorbed in his love and rewarded by it."
Some of the most beautiful lives are spent in comparative obscurity, in the faithful discharge of commonplace, lowly duties, where there is no pen towrite their history and no voice to sound their praise. To live a beautiful life is to dwell in love and unselfishness with others, to adorn one's place or calling, as wife, or husband, or friend, with a thoughtful attention and a tender uncomplaining helpfulness. That is a beautiful life which quietly performs each duty, cheerfully bears each burden, heroically fights each battle and patiently endures each sorrow and pain. We may put a touch of beauty upon other lives by the vision of heavenly purity we give in our own sweet lives of hallowed consistency, and thereby we may do more than he who paints a masterpiece. George McDonald says, "If I can put one touch of a rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God." Who would not strive to make the swift years of life beautiful!