( Originally Published 1879 )
THE poet Hesiod tells us that the miseries of all mankind were included in a great box, and that Pandora took off the lid of it, by which means all of them came abroad, and only hope remained at the bottom. Hope, then, is the principal antidote which keeps our heart from bursting under the pressure of evils, and is that flattering mirror that gives us a prospect of some greater good. Some call hope the manna from heaven, that comforts us in all extremities; others, the pleasant flatterer that caresses the unhappy with expectations of happiness in the bosom of futurity. When all other things fail us, hope stands by us to the last. This, as it were, gives freedom to the captive when chained to the oar, health to the sick, victory to the defeated, and wealth to the beggar.
True hope is based on energy of character. A strong mind always hopes, and has always cause to hope, because it knows the mutability of human affairs, and how slight a circumstance may change the whole course of events. Such a spirit, too, rests upon itself; it is not confined to partial views, or to one particular object. And if, at last, all should be lost, it has saved tself—its own integrity and worth. Hope awakens courage, while despondency is the last of all evils; it is the abandonment of good—the giving up of the battle of life with dead nothingness. He who can implant courage in the human soul is the best physician.
Earthly hope, like fear, is confined to this dim spot, on which we live, move, and have our being. It is excluded from heaven and hell. It is a dashing blade, with a great estate in expectancy, which, when put in its possession, produces instant death. It draws large drafts on experience, payable in futuro, and is seldom able to liquidate them. Hope is always buoyant, and, like old Virginia, never tires. It answers well for breakfast, but makes a bad supper. Like a balloon, we know where it starts from, but can make no calculation when, where, and how, it will land us. Hope is a great calculator, but a bad mathematician. Its problems are seldom based on true data—their demonstration is oftener fictitious than otherwise. Without the baseness of some modern land speculators, it builds cities and towns on paper, that are as worthless as their mountain peaks and impassable quagmires. It suspends earth in the air, and plays with bubbles, like a child, with his tube and soap suds. As with Milo, who attempted to split an oak, and was caught in the split and killed; the wedge often flies out, and the operator is caught in a split stick. It is bold as Cesar, and ever ready to attempt great feats, if it should be to storm the castle of despair.
When all other emotions are controlled by events, hope alone remains forever buoyant and undecayed, under the most adverse circumstances, "unchanged, unchangeable." Causes that affect with depression every other emotion, appear to give fresh elasticity to hope. No oppression can crush its buoyancy; from under every weight it rebounds; amid the most depressing circumstances, it preserves its cheering influence; no disappointments can annihilate its power, no experience can deter us from listening to its sweet illusions: it seems a counterpoise for misfortune, an equivalent for every endurance. Who is there without hope? The fettered prisoner in his dark cell, the diseased sufferer on his bed of anguish, the friendless wanderer on the unsheltered waste; each cherishes some latent spark of this pure and ever-living light. Like the beam of heaven, it glows with indestructible brilliance, to the heart of man what light is to his eye, cheering, blessing, invigorating.
A true hope we can touch somehow through all the lights and shadows of life. It is a prophecy fulfilled in part; God's earnest money paid into our hand that He will be ready with the whole when we are' ready for it; the sunlight on the hill top when the valley is dark as death; the spirit touching us all through our pilgrimage, and then when we know that the end is near, taking us on is wings and soaring away into the blessed life , where wu may expect either that the fruition will be entirely equal to the hope, or that the old glamour will come over us again and beckon us on forever as the choicest blessing Heaven has to give. We know of no condition in any life which is trying to. be real and true in which ' this power will not do for us very much what we have seen it doing for the man who has to wait on the seasons for his daily bread.
We can cherish a sure hope about our future and the future of those that belong to us, a sunny, eager on-looking toward the fulfillment of all of the promises God has written on our nature. We may be all wrong in our thoughts of the special form in which our blessings will come; we never can be wrong about the blessing. It may be like the mirage shifting from horizon to horizon as we plod wearily along, but the soul is bound to find at last the resting-place and the spring. There is many a father in the world to-day trying hard to get his head above water who will sink, but his boys will swim and reach the firm land, and think of him with infinite tenderness, while he, perhaps, is watching them from above, and their success may be one of the elements of his joy in Heaven. The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone, shadows of the evening fall behind us, and the world seems but a dim reflection itself—a broader shadow. We look forward into the coming lonely night; the soul withdraws itself. Then stars arise, and the night is holy.
Its morality is equally inspiring, rich, and beneficent. It encourages all things good, great, noble. It whispers liberty to the slave, freedom to the captive, health to the sick, home to the wandering, friends to the forsaken, peace to the troubled, supplies to the needy, bread to the hungry, strength to the weak, rest to the weary, life to the dying. It has sunshine in its eye, encouragement on its tongue, and inspiration in its hand. Rich and glorious is hope, and faithfully should it be cultivated. Let its inspiring influence be in the heart of every youth. It will give strength and courage. Let its cheerful words fall ever from his tongue, and his bright smile play ever on its countenance. Entertain well this nymph of goodness. Cultivate well this ever-shining flower of the spirit. It is the evergreen of life, that grows at the eastern gate of the soul's garden.
Hopes and fears checker human life. He that wants hope, is the poorest man living. Our hopes and fears are the main springs of all our religious endeavors. There is no one whose condition is so low but that he may have hopes; nor is any one so high as to be out of the reach of fears. Hopes and disappointments are the lot and entertainment of human life : the one serves to keep us from presumption, the other from despair. Hope is the last thing that dieth in man, and though it be exceeding dutiful, yet it is of this good use to us, that while we are traveling through this life, it conducts us in an easier and more pleasant way to our journey's end. When faith, temperance, the graces, and other celestial powers, left the earth, says one of the ancients, hope was the only goddess that staid behind. Hope's enchantments never die. Eternal hope ! Hope gilds the future. Hope cheers and rouses the soul. Hope and strive is the way to thrive. The man who carries a lantern in a dark night can have friends all around him, walking safely by the help of its rays, and not be defrauded. So he who has the God-given light of hope in his breast can help on many others in this world's darkness, not to his own loss, but to their precious gain.
Hope is an anchor to the soul, both sure and stead-fast, that will steady our frail bark, while sailing over the ocean of life, and that will enable us to outride the storms of time—a hope that reaches from earth to heaven. This hope is based on faith in the immaculate Redeemer, and keeps our earthly hopes from running riot into forbidden paths. The cable of this hope cannot be sundered until death cuts the gordian knot and lets the prisoner go free. To live without it, is blind infatuation—to die without it, eternal ruin.