( Originally Published 1879 )
REV. G. S. WEAVER says: "Continual dropping wears a stone." So persevering labor gains our objects. Perseverance is the virtue wanted, a lion-hearted purpose of victory. It is this that builds, constructs, accomplishes whatever is great, good, and valuable.
Perseverance built the pyramids on Egypt's plains erected the gorgeous temple at Jerusalem, reared the seven- billed city, inclosed in adamant the Chinese empire, scaled the stormy, cloud-capped Alps, opened a highway through the watery wilderness of the Atlantic, leveled the forests of a new world, and reared in its stead a community of states and nations. It has wrought from the marble block the exquisite creations of genius, painted on the canvas the gorgeous mimicry of nature, and engraved on the metallic surface the viewless substance of the shadow. It has put in motion millions of spindles, winged as many flying shuttles, harnessed a thousand iron steeds to as many freighted cars, and set them flying from town to town and nation to nation, tunneled mountains of granite and annihilated space with the lightning's speed. It has whitened the waters of the world with the sails of a hundred nations, navigated every sea and explored every land. It has reduced nature in her thousand forms to ' as many sciences, taught her laws, prophesied her future movements, measured her untrodden spaces, counted her myriad hosts of worlds, and computed their distances, dimensions, and velocities.
But greater still are the works of perseverance in the world of mind. What are the productions of science and art compared with the splendid achievements, won in the human soul? What is a monument of constructive genius, compared with the living domes of thought, the sparkling temples of virtue, and the rich, glory-wreathed sanctuaries of religion, which perseverance has wrought out and reared in the souls of the good? What are the toil-sweated productions of wealth piled in vast profusion around a Girard, or a Rothschild, when weighed against the stores of wisdom, the treasures of knowledge, and the strength, beauty and glory with which this victorious virtue has enriched and adorned a great multitude of minds during the march of an hundred generations? How little can we tell, how little know, the brain-sweat, the heart-labor, the conscience-struggles which , it cost to make a Newton, a Howard, or a Channing; how many days of toil, how many nights of weariness, how many months and years of vigilant, powerful effort, was spent to perfect in them what the world has bowed to in reverence. Their words have a power, their names a charm, and their deeds a glory. How came this wealth of soul to be theirs? Why are their names watchwords of power set high on the temple of fame? Why does childhood lisp them in reverence, and age feel a thrill of pleasure when they are mentioned?
They wére the sons of perseverance—of unremitting industry and toil. They were once as weak and helpless as any of us—once as destitute of wisdom, virtue and power as any infant. Once, the very alphabet of that language which they have wielded with such magic effect, was unknown to them. They toiled long to learn it, to get its sounds, understand its dependencies, and longer still to obtain the secret of its highest charm and mightiest power, and yet even longer for those living, glorious thoughts which they bade it bear to an astonished and admiring world. Their characters, which are now given to the world, and will be to millions yet unborn as patterns of greatness and goodness, were made by that untiring perseverance which marked their whole lives. From childhood to age they knew no such word as fail. Defeat only gave them power; difficulty only taught them the necessity of redoubled exertions; dangers gave them courage; the sight of great labors inspired in them corresponding exertions. So it has been with all men and all women who have been eminently successful in any profession or calling in life. Their success has been wrought out by persevering industry. Successful men owe more to their perseverance than to their natural powers, their friends, or the favorable circumstances around them Genius will falter by the side of labor, great powers will yield to great industry. Talent is desirable, but perseverance is more so. It will make mental powers, or, at least, it will strengthen those already made. Yes, it will make mental power. The most available and successful kind of mental power is that made by the hand of cultivation.
It will also make friends. Who will not befriend the persevering, energetic youth, the fearless man of industry? Who is not a friend to him who is a friend to himself? He who perseveres in business, and hardships, and discouragements, will always find ready and generous friends in every time of need. He who perseveres in a course of wisdom, rectitude, and benevolence, is sure to gather around him friends who will be true and faithful. Honest industry will procure friends in any community and any part of the civilized world. Go to the men of business, of worth, of influence, and ask them who shall have their confidence and support. They will tell you, the men who falter not by the way-side, who toil on in their callings against every barrier, whose eye is bent upward, and whose motto is "Excelsior." These are the men to whom they give their confidence. But they shun the lazy, the indolent, the fearful, and faltering. They would as soon trust the wind as such men. If you would win friends, be steady and true to yourself; be the unfailing friend of your own purposes, stand by your own character, and others will come to your aid. Though the earth quake and the heavens- gather blackness, be true to your course and yourself. Quail not, nor doubt of the result; via tory will be yours. Friends will come. A thousand arms of strength will be bared to sustain you.
First, be sure that your trade, your profession, your calling in life is a good one—one that God and goodness sanctions; then be true as steel to it. Think for it, plan for it, work for it, live for it; throw in your mind, might, strength, heart, and soul into your actions for it, and success will crown you her favored child. No matter whether your object be great or small, whether it be the planting of a nation or a patch of potatoes, the same perseverance is necessary. Every body admires an iron determination, and comes to the aid of him who directs it to good.
But perseverance will not only make friends, but it will make favorable circumstances. It will change the face of all things around us. It is silly and cowardly to complain of the circumstances that are against us. Clouds of darkness, evil forebodings, opposition, enemies, barriers of every kind, will vanish before a stout heart and resolute energy of soul. The Alps stood' between Napoleon and Italy, which he desired to conquer. He scaled the mountain and descended upon his prey. His startling descent more than half conquered the country. He forced every circumstance into his, favor. His greatest barrier proved a sure means of victory. A conquered enemy is often the readiest slave. So a barrier once scaled affords a vantage-ground for our future efforts. Opposing circumstances often create strength, both mental and physical. Labor makes us strong. Opposition gives us greater power of resistance. To overcome one barrier gives us greater ability to overcome the next. - It is cowardice to grumble about circumstances. Some men always talk as though fate had woven a web of circumstances against them, and it is useless for them to try to break through it. Out upon such dastardly whining! It is their business to dash on in pursuit of their object against everything. Then circumstances will gradually turn in their favor, and they will deem themselves the favored children of destiny.
Look at nature. She has a voice, which is the voice of God, teaching a thousand lessons of perseverance. The lofty mountains are wearing down by slow degrees. The ocean is gradually, but slowly, filling up, by deposits from its thousand rivers. The Niagara Falls have worn back several miles through the hard limestone, over which it pours its thundering columns of water, and will by-and-by drain the great lake which feeds its boiling chasm. The Red Sea and whole regions of the Pacific ocean are gradually filling up by the labors of a little insect, so small as to be almost invisible to the naked eye. These stupendous works are going on before our eyes, by a slow but sure process. They teach a great lesson of perseverance. Nature has but one voice on this subject, that is " persevere." God has but one voice, that is "persevere," and duty proclaims the same lesson. More depends upon an active perseverance than upon genius. Says a common sense author upon this subject, " Genius, unexerted, is no more genius than a bushel of acorns is a forest of oaks." There may be epics in men's brains, just as there are oaks in acorns, but the tree and the bark must come out before we can measure them. We very naturally recall here that large class of grumblers and wishers, who spend their time in longing to be higher than they are, while they should have been employed to advance themselves. These bitterly moralize on the injustice of society. Do they want a change? Let them then change! Who prevents them? If you are as high as your faculties will permit you to rise in the scale of society, why should you complain of men?
It is God that arrangea the law of precedence. Implead Him or be silent! If you have capacity for a higher station, take it. What , hinders you? How many men would love to go to sleep beggars and wake up Rothschilds or Astors? How many would fain go to bed dunces, to be waked up Solomons? You reap what you have sown. Those who have sown dunce-seed, vice-seed, laziness-seed, usually get a crop. They that sow the wind reap a whirlwind. A man of mere "capacity undeveloped" is only an organized degradation with a shine on it. A flint and a genius that will not strike fire are no better than wet junk-wood' We have Scripture for it, that "a living dog is better than a dead lion!" If you would go. up, go-if you would be seen, shine. At the present day eminent position, in any profession, is the result of hard, unwearied labor. Men can no longer fly at one dash into eminent position. They have got to hammer it out by steady and rugged blows. The world is no longer clay, but rather iron, in the hands of its workers.
Work is the order of this clay. The slow penny is surer than the quick dollar. The slow trotter will out-travel the fleet racer. Genius darts, flutters, and tires; but perseverance wears and wins. The all-day horse wins the race. The afternoon-man wears off the laurels. The last blow finishes the nail.
Men must learn to labor and to wait, if they would succeed. Brains grow by use as well as hands. The greatest man is the one who uses his brains the most, who has_ added most to his natural stock of power. Would you have fleeter feet? Try them in the race. Would you have stronger minds? Put them at rational thinking. They will grow strong by action. Would you have greater success? Use greater and more rational and constant efforts? Does competition trouble you? Work away; what is your competitor but a man? Are you a coward, that you shrink from. the contest? Then you ought to be beaten. Is the end of your labors a long way off? Every step takes you nearer to it. Is it a weary distance to look at? Ah, you are faint-hearted ! That is the trouble with the multitude of youth. Youth are not so lazy as they are cowardly. They may bluster at first, but they won't "stick it out." Young farmer, do you covet a homestead, nice and comfortable, for yourself and that sweet one of your day-dreams? What hinders that you should not have it? Persevering industry, with proper economy, will give you the farm. A man can get what he wants if he is not faint-hearted. Toil is the price of success. Learn it, young farmer, mechanic, student, minister, physician, Christian. Learn it, ye formers of character, ye followers of Christ, ye would-be men and women. Ye must have something to do, and do it with all your might. Ye must harden your hands and sweat your brains. Ye must work your nerves and strain your sinews. Ye must be at it, and always at it. No trembling, doubting, hesitating, flying the track. Like the boy on the rock, ye cannot go back. Onward ye must go. There is a great work for ye all to do, a deep and earnest life-work, solemn, real and useful. Life is no idle game, no farce to amuse and be forgotten. It is a fixed and stern reality, fuller of duties than the sky is of stars.