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Doing Good

( Originally Published 1879 )

THERE are trees, like the butternut, that impoverish the ground upon which they grow, but the olive tree enriches the very soil upon which it feeds. So there are natures as unlike in effect as these. Some cold, selfish, absorbing, which chill and impoverish every one with whom they come in contact. Others radiate affluent souls, who enrich by their very presence, whose smiles are full of blessing, and whose touch has a balm of feeling in it like the touch of Him of Nazareth. Squalid poverty is not so pitiable and barren as the selfish heart, while wealth has no largeness like that with which God dowers the broad and sunny soul. Be like' the olive, from whose kindly boughs blessing and benison descends.

One of the old philosophers bid his scholars to consider what was the best thing to possess. One came and said that there was nothing better than a good eye, which is, in their language, a liberal and con-tented disposition. Another said a good companion is the best thing in the world. A third said a good neighbor was the best thing he could desire; and the fourth preferred a man that could foresee things to come—that is, a wise person. But at last came in one Eleazer, and he said a good heart was better than them all. "True," said the master, "thou hast comprehended in two words all that the rest have said; for he that hath a good heart will be both contented, and a good companion, and a good neighbor, and easily see what is fit to be done by him."

Every man should ever consider that it is best for him to have a good heart; having this it will prompt him to not only do good, but it will encompass many virtues. We counsel our friends, then, to seize every opportunity of contributing to the good of others. Sometimes a smile will do it. Oftener a kind word, a look of sympathy, or an acknowledgment of obligation. Sometimes a little help to a burdened shoulder, or a heavy wheel, will be in place. Sometimes a word or two of good counsel, a seasonable and gentle admonition, and at others, a suggestion of advantage to be gained and a little interest to secure it, will be received with lasting gratitude. And thus every instance of kindness done, whether acknowledged or not, opens up a little wellspring of happiness in the doer's own breast, the flow of which may be made permanent by habit.

Influence is to a man what flavor is to fruit, or fragrance to the flower. It does not develop strength, or determine character, but it is the measure of his interior richness and worth, and as the blossom cannot tell what becomes of the odor which is wafted away from it by every wind, so no man knows the limit of that influence which constantly and imperceptibly escapes from his daily life, and goes out far beyond his conscious knowledge or remotest thought. There are noxious weeds and fragrance-laden flowers in the world of mind as in the world of matter. Truly blessed are they who walk the way of life as the Savior of mankind once walked on our earth, filling all the air about them with the aroma which is so subtilly distilled from kindly deeds, helpful words and unselfish lives.

One kernel is felt in a hogshead—one drop of water helps to swell the ocean—a spark of fire helps to give tight to the world. You are a small man, passing amid the crowd, you are hardly noticed; but you have a drop, a spark within you that may be felt through eternity. Do you believe it? Set that drop in motion, give wings to that spark, and behold the results ! It may renovate the world.

None are too small—too feeble-too poor to be of service. Think of this, and act. Life is no trifle. If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble into dust. But if we work upon immortal minds—if we imbue them with high principles, with the just fear of God, and of their fellow-men—we engrave on these tables something which no time can efface, but which will brighten to all eternity. It is a great thing to stand in a place of God, and proclaim His word in the presence of angels and men.

If you would show yourself a man in the truest and noblest sense, go not to yonder tented field, where death hovers, and the vulture feasts himself upon human victims ! Go not where men are carving monuments of marble to perpetuate names which will not live in our own grateful memory ! Go not to the dwellings of the rich ! Go not to the palaces of the kings ! Go not to the halls of merriment and pleasure ! Go rather to the poor and helpless. Go to the widow and relieve her woe. Go to the orphan, and speak words of comfort. Go to the lost, and save him. Go to the fallen, and raise him up. Go to the sinner, and whisper in his ear words of eternal life. A man's true wealth hereafter, is the good he does in this world to his fellow men. When he dies, people will say, what property has he left behind him. But the angels who examine will ask, "What are the good deeds thou hast sent before thee."

Every one of us may in some way or other assist or instruct some of his fellow creatures, for the best of the human race is poor and needy, and all have a mutual dependence on one another. There is nobody that cannot do some good; and everybody is bound to do diligently all the good they can. It is by no means enough to be rightly disposed, to be serious, and religious in our closets we must be useful too, and take care that as we all reap numberless benefits from society, society may be the better for every one of us. It is a false, a faulty, and an indolent humility, that makes people sit still and do nothing, because they will not believe that they are capable of doing much, for everybody can do something. Everybody can set a good example, be it to many or to few. Everybody can in some degree encourage virtue and religion, and discountenance vice and folly. Everybody has some one or other whom they can advise, or instruct, or in some way help to guide through life. Those who are to poor to give alms can yet give their time, their trouble, their assistance in preparing or forwarding the gifts of others ; in considering and representing distressed cases to those who can relieve them; in visiting and comforting the sick and afflicted. Everybody can offer up their prayers for those who need them; which, if they do reverently and sincerely, they will never be wanting in giving them every other assistance that it should please God to put in their power.

Dr. Johnson used to say, "He who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will never do any." Good is done by degrees. However small in proportion to benefits which follow individual attempts to do good, a great deal may be accomplished by perseverance, even in the midst of discouragements and disappointments. Life is made up of little things. It is but once in an age that occasion is offered for doing a great deed. True greatness consists in being great in little things. How are railroads built ? By one shovelful of dirt after another ; one shovelful at a time. Thus drops make the ocean. Hence we should be willing to do a little good at a time, and never "wait to do a great deal of good at once." If we would do much good in the world, we must be willing to do good in little things, little acts one after another, setting a, good example all the time; we must do the first good thing we can, and then the next, and the next, and so keep on doing good. Oh! it is great ; there is no other greatness : to make some nook of God's creation a little more fruitful, better, more worthy of a God ; to make some human hearts a little wiser, more manful, happier; more blessed, less accursed ! The first, and paramount aim of religion is not to prepare for another world, but to make the best of this world ; or, more. correctly stated, to make this world better, wiser, and happier. It is to be good, and do the most good we can now and here, and to help others to be and do the-same. It is to seek with all our might the highest welfare of the world we live in, and the realization of its ideal greatness, nobleness, and blessedness. A most comforting thought is, that the forever will not be a-place of white robes and golden harps and praise singing only, but will also be a place for living, loving and doing. There is pleasure in contemplating good; there-is a greater pleasure in receiving good; but the greatest pleasure of all is in doing good, which comprehends the rest. Do good with what thou hast, or it will do thee no good. The power of doing good to worthy objects, is the only enviable circumstance in the lives. of people of fortune. Napoleon once entered a cathedral and saw twelve silver statues. " What are these," said the Emperor. "The twelve Apostles," was the reply. "Well," said he, " take them down, melt them, and coin them into money, and let them go about doing good, as their Master did." Be always sure of doing good. This will make your life comfortable, your death happy, and your account glorious. Zealously strive to do good for the sake of good. Be not simply good ; be good for something.

How sweet t' will be at evening
If you and I can say
"Good Shepherd, we've been seeking
The lambs that went astray;
Heart-sore, and faint with hunger,
We heard them making moan,
And to ! we come at night-fall
Bearing them safely home!"

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