Trials Of Life
( Originally Published 1879 )
STARS shine brightest in the darkest night; torches are the better for beating ; grapes come not to the proof till they come to the press; spices smell sweetest when pounded; young trees root the faster for shaking ; vines are the better for bleeding; gold looks the brighter for scouring ; glow-worms glisten best in the dark ; juniper smells sweetest in the fire; pomander becomes most fragrant for chasing ; the palm-tree proves the better for pressing; camomile, the more you tread it, the more you spread it. Such is the condition of men; they are the most triumphant when most tempted; as their conflicts, so their conquests; as their tribulations, so their triumphs. True salamanders live best in the furnace of persecution; so that heavy afflictions are the best benefactors to heavenly affections. And where afflictions hang heaviest, corruptions hang loosest; and grace that is hid in nature, as sweet water in rose-leaves, is then most fragrant when the fire of affliction is put under to distil it out.
Do you wish to live without a trial ? Then you wish to die but half a man-at the best but half a man. Without trial you cannot guess at your own strength. Men do not learn to swim on a table. They must go into deep water and buffet the surges. A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against the wind, and not with the wind, even a head wind is better than none. No man ever worked his passage any where in a calm. Let no man wax pale, therefore, because of opposition opposition is what he wants and must have, to be good for any thing. Hardship is the native soil of manhood and self-reliance.
An acorn is not an oak tree when it is sprouted. It must go through long summers and fierce winters ; it has to endure all that frost, and snow, and thunder, and storm, and side-striking winds can bring, before it is a full-grown oak. These are rough teachers ; but rugged schoolmasters make rugged pupils. So a man is not a man when he is created ; he is only begun. His manhood must come with years. A man who goes through life prosperous, and comes to his grave without a wrinkle, is not half a man. In time of war, whom does the general select for some hazardous enterprise? He looks over his men, and chooses the soldier whom he knows will not flinch at danger, but will go bravely through whatever is allotted to him. He calls him that he may receive his orders, and the officer, blushing with pleasure to be thus chosen, hastens away to execute them. Difficulties are God's errands. And when we are sent upon them we should esteem it a proof of God's confidence-as a compliment from God. The traveler who goes round the world prepares himself to pass through all latitudes, and to meet all changes. So man must be willing to take life as it comes; to mount the hill when the hill swells, and to go down the hill when the hill lowers; to walk the plain when it stretches before him, and to ford the river when it rolls over the plain. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
The best of people will now and them meet with disappointments, for they are inherited by mortality. It is, however, the better philosophy to take things calmly and endeavor to be content with our lot. We may at least add some rays of sunshine to our path, if we earnestly endeavor to dispel the clouds of discontent that may arise in our bosoms. And by so doing, we the more fully enjoy the bountiful blessing that God gives to his humblest creatures.
It is far more noble to improve each hour in cultivating the mind, and attuning it to the glory of the Creator. For this end it matters not so much whether we spend our time in study or toil; the thoughts of the mind should go out and reach after the higher good. In this manner we may improve ourselves till our thoughts come to be sweet companions that shall lead us along the path of virtue. Thus we may grow bet-ter within, whilst the cares of life, the crosses and losses and disappointments lose their sharp thorns, and the journey of life be made comparatively pleasant and happy.
Much material good must be resigned if we would attain to the highest degree of moral excellence, and many spiritual joys must be foregone if we resolve at all risks to win great material advantages. To strive for a high professional position, and yet expect to have all the delights of leisure; to labor for vast riches, and yet to ask for freedom from anxiety and care, and all the happiness which flows from a contented mind; to indulge in sensual gratification, and yet demand health, strength, and vigor; to live for self, and yet to look for the joys that spring from a virtuous and self denying life, is to ask for impossibilities.
God knows what keys in the human soul to touch in order to draw out its sweeter and most perfect harmonies. They may be the minor strains of sadness and sorrow ; they may be the loftier notes of joy and gladness. God knows where the melodies of our natures are, and what discipline will bring them forth. Some with plaintive tongues must walk in lowly vales of life's weary way ; others, in loftier hymns, sing of nothing but joy, as they tread the mountain-tops of life, but they all unite without discord or jar as the ascending anthem of loving and believing hearts finds its way into the chorus of the redeemed heaven.