( Originally Published 1879 )
The good are better made by ill:—
THE harp holds in its wires the possibilities of noblest chords; yet, if they be not struck, they must hang dull and useless. So the mind is vested with a hundred powers, that must be smitten by a heavy hand to prove themselves the offspring of divinity.
Welcome, then, adversity! Thy hand is cold and hard, but it is the hand of a friend ! Thy voice is stern and harsh, but it is the voice of a friend! There is something sublime in the resolute, fixed purpose of suffering without complaining, which makes disappointment often better than success.
As full ears load and lay corn, so does too much fortune bend and break the mind. It deserves to be considered, too, as another advantage, that affliction moves pity, and reconciles our very enemies; but prosperity provokes envy, and loses us our very friends Again, adversity is a desolate and abandoned state; the generality of people are like those infamous animals that live only upon plenty and rapine; and as rats and mice forsake a tottering house, so do these the falling man. He that has never known adversity is but half acquainted with others or with himself. Constant success shows us but one side of the world; for as it surrounds us with friends who tell us only of our merits, so it silences those enemies from whom only we can learn our defects.
Adversity, sage, useful guest,
Adversity exasperates fools, dejects cowards, draws out the faculties of the wise and industrious, puts the modest to the necessity of trying their skill, awes the opulent, and makes the. idle industrious. A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner, neither do uninterrupted prosperity and success qualify men for usefulness and happiness. The storms of adversity, . like those of the ocean, rouse the faculties, and excite the invention, prudence, skill, and fortitude of the voyager. The martyrs of ancient times, in bracing their minds to outward calamities, acquired a loftiness of purpose and a moral heroism worth a lifetime of softness and security.
It is good for man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
Oaks are made hard by strong discipline. As a gladiator trained the body, so must we train the mind to self-sacrifice, "to endure all things," to meet and over-come difficulty and danger. We must take the rough and thorny roads as well as the smooth and pleasant; and a portion at least of our daily duty must be hard and disagreeable; for the mind cannot be kept strong and healthy in perpetual sunshine only, and the most dangerous of all states is that of constantly recurring pleasure, ease and prosperity.
It seems as if man were like the earth. It cannot bask forever in sunshine. The snows of winter and frosts must come and work in the ground and mellow it to make them fruitful. A man upon whom continuous sunshine falls is like the earth in August ; he becomes parched and dry, and hard and close-grained. To some men the winter and spring come when they are young; others are born in summer and are only made fit to die by a winter of sorrow coming to them when they are middle-aged or old.
It is not the nursling of wealth or fortune who has been dandled into manhood on the lap of prosperity, that carries away the world's honors, or wins its mightiest influence ; but it is rather the man whose earlier years were cheered by scarcely a single proffer of aid, or smile of approbation, and who has drawn from adversity the elements of greatness. The "talent ". which prosperity "folded in a napkin," the rough hand of adversity shook out.
The men who stand boldly for the defense of the truth, in the midst of the flood of errors that surround them, are not the gentlemen of lily fingers who have been rocked in the cradle of indulgence and caressed in the lap of luxury; but they are men whom necessity has called from the shade of retirement to contend under the scorching rays of the sun, with the scern realities of life with all its vicissitudes. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without adversity.
The patient conquest of difficulties which rise in the regular and legitimate channels of business and enter-prise, is not only essential in securing the successes which you seek, but it is essential to the preparation of your mind requisite for the enjoyment of your successes and for retaining them when gained.
Adversity is the trial of principle. Without it a man hardly knows whether he is honest or not. Night brings out .the stars as adversity shows us truths; we never see the stars till we can see little or naught else; and thus it is with truth. When you feel inclined to cry, just change your mind and laugh. Nothing dries sooner than tears.
Adversity certainly has its uses, and very valuable ones too. It has been truly remarked that many a man, in losing his fortune, has found himself and ruined into salvation. Adversity flattereth no man. Oft from apparent ills our blessings rise. Who never fasts, no banquet e'er enjoys. In prosperity, be humble; in adversity, cheerful. If you have the blues, go and see the poorest and sickest families within your knowledge. To bear the sharp afflictions of life like men, we should also feel them like men. The darker the setting, the brighter the diamond. Probably we might often become reconciled to what we consider a hard lot by comparing ourselves with the many who want what we possess rather than with the few who possess what we want. He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is happier who can suit his temper to his circumstances. There is a virtue in keeping up appearances. He is a fool that grumbles at every little mischance. Put the best foot forward, is an old and good maxim. Don't run about and tell acquaintances that you have been unfortunate; people do not like to have unfortunate men for acquaintances. If the storm of adversity whistles around you, whistle as. bravely yourself; perhaps the two whistles may make melody.