Get There And Stay There
( Originally Published 1909 )
THERE are two classes that ought to be especially interested in the subject under discussion. The Presbyterians and the Methodists. The Presbyterians ought to be specially interested in how to get there; they can beat the world staying there, but they are a little slow about getting there. The Methodists ought to be specially interested in how to stay there. They can beat the world getting there, but they are back again next morning before breakfast.
This phrase, " Get there," is peculiarly an American phrase. It was born in the last decade, amid the whistle of our engines, the rush of our commerce, and the click of our telegraph, and there is no phrase so expressive of the life and energy of our American people as the one we select for the subject of this lecture.
First, I might stand here and talk for the time allotted me, on how to get there no socially. But really, when we get into society, we have not gotten very far or very high. The dude and the dudine are the highest expression of nineteenth century social life, and after all a dude is nothing but society gone to seed. A father was one day walking down the streets of a city with his little son. They met a dude. The little fellow turned and looked up at his father, and said, " Papa, what was that? " The father answered, " It is a dude, son." The little fellow said, " Papa, who makes dudes? " The father answered, " God makes them, I suppose." " Well, then," said the little fellow, " God loves to have fun as well as the balance of us."
But God didn't any more make a dude than he made a drunkard or a liar or a gambler. It is a perversion of every God-given instinct in any man to turn out in either of these directions. I have seen social life in this great country from the Atlantic to the Pacific ; from the home of the millionaire in the East, to the wigwam of the Indian in the West; from the White House in Washington, to the humblest cabin in our Southland, and I deal candidly with this audience when I say that the finest type of social life on which my eyes have ever looked is that plain, quiet country home, where a noble father, and a pious, painstaking mother, and the rosycheeked, vigorous boys and girls grow up. See them in all their life, so real and earnest; so helpful and kindly, each to-wards the other. See them as they gather morning, noon, and night at the hearty meal of the hour. See them when the day's work is done, and the early bed hour comes, and the old father gathers them around his hearthstone, and takes the Bible from the little table on which there sits the burning lamp. He reads aloud a chapter to his wife and children, and then they all kneel down in prayer and devotion to God. Look on that picture. I have thought I could see God's old family prayer elevator come down in the midst, and they all mount into it, and go above the stars and commune until they over-vaulted the very throne of God itself.
There they linger, a few moments, looking over the towering spires and jasper walls of the city of God. Then they all come back and retire for peaceful sleep, and next morning before the early breakfast is announced, the same group will gather, and the same God is worshipped.
I want to say to you, my neighbour, that it is out of homes like these that have come the grand men and women who have made the history of America worth writing in the past, and it is from homes like these whence shall come the noble men and women who will adorn all future pages of American history. The real home, the genuine home, where character is fostered and manhood is developed.
We can never lift this country up by putting the leverage under State Capitols or the National Capitol, but when we put the leverage under the homes of this country, then we reach altitudes that will make us honour God and make us the greatest nation on the face of the earth.
Again, I might stand here and talk indefinitely about how to get there financially. But the game isn't worth the candle, for we are all on a pilgrimage here, on a journey, and the less baggage we are hampered with on the way the better off we are. Shrouds have no pockets, and if you have pockets put in your shroud your arms will be so stiff you can't put your hands in them.
The difference between being rich and being poor is all incidental and not accidental. That philosopher is yet to be born who can tell which is the best estate, to be hungry as a dog and have nothing to eat, or have the colic every day from eating too much. I believe I had rather have nothing than have the colic. That philosopher is yet to be born who can tell which is the best estate, to be a millionaire and roll all night on his downy bed and not sleep a wink, or be an old tramp on the roadside, snoring so you can hear him a hundred yards. The old tramp has got the drop on him for the time being.
The man who puts gold above God, chattels above character, and mammon above manhood, has inverted God's order of things, and his pathway will be downward instead of upward. Many men will save and skimp and skin to lay up money for their children. They rob themselves of every comfort, and the wife and mother knows no surcease from toil and labour, and frequently they lay down and die, and leave all their hard-earned money to their children, and the children, many times, buy a through ticket to hell with what is left them, and check their baggage through, and never get off the train until they land. If your boy is any account, he does not need your money.
Then again, I might stand here for the hour, and talk about how to get there politically. Really, if I wanted to ruin a man for both worlds, I would run him for office, and see that he was elected. You ask, " Can't a good man go into office? " Yes, and frequently they do, but who ever heard of a good man coming out of office? A clean hog will go into a mud hole, but just look at him come out. There is not a dirtier cesspool of corruption this side of perdition than politics in this country. A fellow some time ago asked me was I Democrat. I answered, " No." Then said he, " Are you a Republican?" I said, " No, thank God." Then, " Are you a Populist?" I replied, " No; are you a fool? " Then he said, " What are you, Jones?" I said, "I am a gentleman." I suppose most of you would feel a little awkward at the first trying to be a gentle-man, but you would soon get around it, and Iike it. Men may talk about the principles of the grand old Democratic Party, and the principles of the grand old Re-publican Party, but I say to you, in the fear of God, that the highest patriotism and divinest principles that ever stirred the American heart are the patriotism and principles which honour a wife, shield a mother, protect a daughter, and send the boys of this country home sober to their mothers. I am one American citizen who thinks more of the boys of his home, the happiness of his wife, and the sobriety of his boys, than he does of any political party that ever cracked a whip over a human slave. If this makes me a traitor, then brand me the biggest traitor in American history since Benedict Arnold.
I have but two planks in my political platform. I am for everything that is against whiskey, and against everything that is for whiskey. The curse of our politics is that men pray one way, and vote another. A man who prays that his country may be delivered from liquor and his boys from rum, and then gets off his knees and goes down to the polls and votes with these red-nose Democrats and Republicans, ought to come to church next Sunday, and sing, " Thank God, I am still on my journey home," with his index finger pointing down-wards as he sings.
The liquor traffic of America has more influence with the Democratic and Republican parties than any other influence on earth has, and the man who does not know that fact hasn't sense enough to vote at all, and if he knows it, and still votes with them, then it seems that he was either a hypocrite while he was praying or a hypocrite while he was voting.
We must locate the responsibility of this liquor traffic somewhere. No saloon-keeper is dirtier and meaner than his saloon. No saloon is lower down than the law that licenses it, and no law that licenses the saloon is dirtier than the Legislature that enacted it, and no Legislator can be lower down than the voters who put him in.
This problem, like all other problems in America, is square up against the people, and the people only. As for me, I am a consolidated, concentrated, eternal, uncompromising, every-day-in-the-week, stand-up-to-be-knocked-down Prohibitionist from head to foot.
That there are principles in both the Democratic and Republican parties that are wise and good, and will live forever, I won't deny, but I won't run with a gang that is dominated by the whiskey traffic, no matter how good they be nor how wise.
But I will not spend the time talking about how to get there, socially, financially, or politically, but will now take a broader and better view of the subject. How to get there in genuine manhood and noble character.
Get the right sort of a fellow, get him in the right way, and then get a move on him, and he will get somewhere soon. The first spirit I would breathe into such a fellow, who really wants to go to the best destiny, would be the spirit of life. Give me a fellow with enterprise, and vim, and push, and go. Motive makes a man go, like steam makes an engine go. A man really needs but two motives. To illustrate what I mean. I was going down a country road in my buggy. My dog was following along. We passed a country home, and a dog jumped the fence and took after my dog. My dog cut one eye around and saw him coming, and decided on the spot. " The best thing I can do," it seemed to say, " is to move on." Daniel Webster never made a wiser decision or acted more promptly on it. He took off down the road in good style.
A little further along we passed another house, and the biggest dog in the county jumped the fence, and took after the middle dog. Now, sirs, of all the running I ever saw, that middle dog did it from right there on. And well he did, for he had more reasons for humping himself than any dog I ever saw. First he wanted to get on ahead and catch the front dog and lick him. And in the second place, he knew if that behind dog caught him, he would clean him up. That middle dog had the double motive, and was doing the tallest running I ever saw a dog do.
Every man on earth has that double motive. The mark of the prize alluring him onward and upward, and the devil and all his angels pressing from the rear, and we all have motive enough to keep us moving a mile a minute down the pike.
All things may come to him who waits, but the fellow who has the move on him will get the prize far in advance of the one who is waiting. Not the fellow who stands around waiting for something to turn up, but the fellow who gets under it and turns it up. Not the man who waits for the iron to get hot, but the one who pitches in and pounds it till it is hot, and then shapes it as he wills. Not the fellow who stands on the banks of the river of decision and shivers and shudders and dreads, but the one who runs and leaps into the current and swims to the other shore. The man, who, if he cannot go over an obstacle goes under, if he cannot go through he will go around.
If I had this spirit thoroughly infused into a fellow, the next spirit I would give him would be the spirit of courage. The man who sees clearly the right thing to do, and who has the courage to do it, and the sense that sees that it will pay to do it; this is the fellow that wins. A man with the moral courage to stand out against public opinion.
Moral courage is superior to physical courage. Many men will walk up to the blazing mouth of the cannon without a quiver of a muscle and afterwards cower, and wince, and whine in the presence of public opinion. And it is not the courage that tanks up on liquor and carries a pistol in the hip pocket, for I never see a cowardly dog with a pistol in his hip pocket that I don't warn him that that pistol will go off some day and blow his brains out.
To fight is the first thought of a bulldog, and the last retreat of a gentleman. I was asked some time ago if I would fight if a fellow hit me the first lick. I said, " I would if he hit me the second lick." The man said, " How is that? " " Well," said I, " when a man smites me on my right cheek, and I turn my left, and he smites me on that, then I have no further instructions, and I will proceed to keep the flies off him till the procession moves on."
Not one man in a thousand is brave enough to do right when the tide sets the other way. It takes no courage to go with the crowd, but the man who is willing to stand alone in the right is the truly brave man.
Again I would infuse the spirit of honesty and fair dealing into a man whom I would get there. The world honours and gives the right of way to the honest man, for he is the noblest work of God. Not simply the man who will not steal, but the man who lives up to and will die by his convictions of right. Not simply the man who will pay his just debts, but the man who " sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not."
Courage is an essential element in success. Reckless men rise, but they will fall down lower than they rose upwards.
Perseverance is another quality that I would give the man who would " get there and stay there." Many men have failed be-cause they gave up too soon. Many men have had pursuit but not persistence. For pursuit and persistence bring all possessions. It is the never-let-up lawyer, the stay-by-his-job workman, the faithful-unto-death fellow that gets there and stays there.
With these elements thoroughly infused into the man, and he is in the right way, and headed in the right direction, he is the man who will win.
When I see a young man choose the way of uprightness, sobriety, industry, and honesty, I need no tongue of prophecy to tell me he will go to a grand destiny. But the young man who chooses the way of the saloon, and the gambling hell, and the shameless houses, and indolence will hit the grit, and hit it hard, and hit it a thou-sand times. If the young men could see that the way of the transgressor is hard like the old man can see it, many of them would choose the better way. Then let them get a move on them.
I always like a fellow with go, and push, and vim. In Kentucky I have been asked to preach against the blooded horses, but I like them. I have said, I hated to see a fellow raise colts and sell them for 450,000 apiece, and bring up boys that are not worth a dollar a head. I like the fast horses. Give me a horse like Lou Dillon, that will trot a mile in two minutes. I tell you, to stand on the side of a race track and see half a dozen runners prancing, for the start, then see them when the signal is given, as they leap and lunge and run, and then see them off on the home stretch, with nostrils distended and muscles swollen. See them again as they run neck to neck, and nose to nose, why, preacher that I am, I " go one eye" on that. But I have not seen a thoroughbred horse race in thirty years, and never expect to see another. Not that I don't like the thoroughbred horses, but I cannot stand the little scrubby men that stand around and bet on them. If you will breed up your folks as highly as the horses are bred, I will go to the race track, for the horses that are doing the running are thoroughbreds, and the little devils that are doing the betting are little scrubs. I always like to race. When I was a boy, there was not a boy in my town with legs three inches within the length of mine that could beat me running. If I wrestled with him it was every dog fall on his back in the sand. If he knocked a chip off my head I would crawl him in a minute, not that I was specially mad, but I always despised a dull time.
I was coming from St. Louis to Cincinnati sometime ago on the B. & O. South-western Limited train, and she was a hummer. Fourteen miles out of Cincinnati the Big Four Railroad, coming from Chicago, turns a curve, and runs parallel with the B. & O. into the city. Then as we ran up to that point, I looked over to my left and saw the Big Four passenger engine rounding the curve. She pulled her train of passengers in line with us. We ran almost a mile together. I could all but hold the hands of the man in the opposite car. Directly I began to feel racy, and you can feel it come on. I looked around and saw everybody else was feeling it, and then I saw the race was on.
We had a great ten-wheel Mogul Bald-win engine with twelve cars, counting the two Pullmans. They had a lighter Schenectady engine, with only six cars, counting their one Pullman. Their lighter engine with its shorter train, picked up its forces and ran for ten cars ahead. I said to my-self, Shucks, this ain't no race at all. They have beat us quick." But I could feel every pulsation of power as our grand old engine got down to her work with increasing momentum, at every round of her wheels. Directly there was a little decline in the track. Our engine picked up her forces and ran down grade like a thing of life, and when we turned the grade the Big Four engine was right back at my side. I said, " We will beat them now. We have got them beat already." And I felt good all over, and all the passengers in our train seemed to feel that victory was ours. But as I sat by the window I saw the fireman of the Big Four engine scoop the coal into the furnace, and when he shut the furnace door I saw the engineer as he leaped from the cushioned seat by his reverse lever. I saw him shut off the cold water from his boiler. He took hold of the sand rod and shook it a time or two, and got hold of the lever and pulled the throttle wide open. The little engine seemed to lie down and roll over in, the sand. And the sparks began to fly from their engine, and she forged ahead directly; she seemed to leap ahead a hundred yards. I said, " We are beat for good." But our old engine, with increasing momentum, was getting down to her work with mighty force. There came another de-cline in the track. She picked up her forces and shot down the hill like a streak of lightning, and just as we turned the grade, the Big Four engine was back again at my side. I said, " Good-bye, boys, for good. We have beat you now." But I looked again, and saw that old fireman heaving the coal into the furnace, and when he shut the door he wrung the perspiration from his brow. The engineer, with a determined look in his eye, pulled the reverse lever up one notch, and then shook the sand rod a time or two, and pulled the throttle wide open, and the little engine waltzed around a lick or two, and then got up her speed and rushed right in and beat the race, and I said, " Go it, go it. I don't mind being beaten by a thing that can run like that." It was great.
But my mind looks outward and upward into the future, and some day I would love to stand on some hilltop of heaven and see every church of God like a mighty engine out on parallel tracks, loaded down with immortal men, pulling for the Pearly Gates. The old Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Congregationalist, Cumberland, Lutheran, and Catholic engines, each trying to beat the other with their freighted tons. This will be a sight on which I would like to look.
The old Methodist engine, the Presbyterian engine, the Episcopal engine, the ongregational engine, the Catholic engine, the Lutheran engine, and the Cumberland engine, with their freighted tons of immortal souls, each trying to beat the other to the Pearly Gates, and then look down on the river and see the old Baptists and Campbellites steamboats come down the river as fast as their machinery can move them. A sight like that would glad-den the eye of angels and make all heaven rejoice.