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Stepping Stones

( Originally Published 1879 )

STEPPING STONES are advantages, auxiliaries, power, etc., and these are attained in no other way than through personal experiences. Our trials of life strengthen us ; discouragements, disappointments, misfortunes, failures, adversities, and calamities, are all stepping stones for us; each successive victory raises us higher in strength and power. It is through trials that stout hearts are made. It is through adversities that our patience and courage are increased.

Men are frequently like tea-the real strength and goodness is not properly drawn out of them till they have been a short time in hot water. The ripest fruit grows on the roughest wall. It is the small wheels of the carriage that come in first. The man who holds the ladder at the bottom is frequently of more service than he who is stationed at the top of it. The turtle, though brought in at a rear gate, takes the head of the table. "Better to be the cat in the philanthropist's family than a mutton pie at a king's banquet."

He who bears adversity well gives the best evidence that he will not be spoiled by prosperity. It has been truly remarked that many a man, in losing his fortune, has found himself. Adversity flattereth no man. Oft from apparent ills our blessings rise. Who never fasts, no banquet e'er enjoys. 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. Many a promising reputation has been destroyed by early success. It is far from being true, in the progress of knowledge, that after every failure we must recommence from the beginning. Every failure is a step to success; every detection of what is false directs us toward what is true ; every trial exhausts some tempting form of error. Not only so, but scarcely any attempt is entirely a failure; scarcely any theory, the result of steady thought, is altogether false; no tempting form of error is without some latent charm derived from truth.

Doubtless a deeper feeling of individual responsibility, and a better adaptation of talent to its fields of labor, are. necessary to bring about a better state of society, and a better condition for the individual members of it. But with the most careful adaptation of talent and means to pursuits, no man can succeed, as a general principle, who has not a fixed and resolute purpose in his mind, and an unwavering faith that he can carry that purpose out.

Man is born a hero, and it is only by darkness and storms that heroism gains its greatest and best development and illustration; then it kindles the black cloud into a blaze of glory, and the storm bears it rapidly to its destiny. Despair, not, then, disappointment will be realized. Mortifying failure may attend this effort and that one; but only be honest and struggle on, and it will all work well.

What though once supposed friends have disclaimed and deserted you-fortune, the jade, deceived you—and the stern tyrant, adversity, roughly asserted his despotic power to trample you down? " While there's life there's hope." Has detraction's busy tongue assailed thy peace, and contumely's venomed shaft poisoned thy happiness, by giving reputation its death blow ; destroyed thy confidence in friendly promise, and rendered thee suspicious of selfishness in the exhibition of brotherly kindness ; or the tide of public opinion well nigh overwhelmed you 'neath its angry waves? Never despair. Yield not to the influence of sadness, the blighting power of dejection, which sinks you in degrading inaction, or drives you to seek relief in some fatal vice, or to drown recollection in the poisoning bowl. Arouse, and shake the oppressive burden from, overpowering thee. Quench the stings of slander in the waters of Lethe; bury despondency in oblivion; fling melancholy to the winds, and with firm bearing and a stout heart push on to the attainment of a higher goal. The open field for energetic action is large, and the call for vigorous laborers immensely exceed the supply. Much precious time is squandered, valuable labor lost, mental activity stupifled and deadened by vain regrets, useless repinings, and unavailing idleness. The appeal for volunteers in the great battle of life, in exterminating ignorance and error, and planting high on an everlasting foundation the banner of intelligence and right, is. directed to. you, would you but grant it audience. Let no cloud again darken thy spirit, or weight of sadness oppress thy heart. Arouse ambition's smouldering fires. The laurel may e'en now be wreathed destined to grace thy brow. Burst the trammels that impeed thy progress, and cling to hope. The world frowned darkly upon all who have ever yet won fame's wreath, but on they toiled. Place high thy standard, and with a firm tread and fearless eye press steadily onward. Persevere, and thou wilt surely reach it. Are there those who have watched, unrewarded, through long sorrowful years, for the dawning of a brighter morrow, when the weary soul should calmly rest? Hope's bright rays still illume their dark pathways, and cheerfully yet they watch. Never despair! Faint not, though thy task be heavy, and victory is thine. None should despair; God can help them. None should presume; God can cross them.

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