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Balance Wheel

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

In some of our rolling mills can be seen a pair of shears, used in cutting up old railroad bars. A huge iron beam is hung on a pivot and made to work on a long leverage. With all the ease of a boy cutting wire with a pair of pliers, this machine exerts a force of many hundred tons. The long arm of the lever is raised and lowered by a "cam", adjusted to an immense shaft. At every revolution the great steel tooth, as though in the mouth of a dragon, bites through six inches of cold iron as easily as a man can bite an apple. With no jar nor irregularity of motion the immense beam rises and falls, and each time a section of the bar falls off, glistening and smooth-cut; and the work is accomplished with amazing ease and rapidity. In looking about for the cause of this tremendous force, that works with the regularity of a pendulum, and the power of unmeasured energy, the eye catches a glimpse of the swift-flying balance wheel. Here a huge wheel with a heavy iron rim, weighing many tons, is caused to revolve at a speed of one hundred and fifty revolutions a minute. Here, we find the explanation of the resistless might of these Titanic shears, and all the other wonders of a rolling mill. By this tireless fly-wheel the motion of the machinery is kept uniform. It acts as a great regulator to make all the machinery pass the points of resistance without check or jar. The shears bite off the hard cold iron, the flying rollers seize the hot slugs, and, with the grip of omnipotence, compress them into smooth, straight bars. However great the resistance, the work must be accomplished with regularity and precision or the huge machinery must be broken to fragments. The mighty wheel moves silently, swiftly on and all resistance melts away before it.

No happier illustration can be found of the power of moral principle. When once it is set in motion and the duties and relations of life are brought under its power, no resistance of evil, no force of temptation, no loud clamoring passions can turn back the balance wheel of the soul. In silence, it holds its undeviating course ; it controls thought ; it balances action it holds the man to truth and rectitude. Like the great shears, moral principle cuts asunder the cast-off weakness and sin of humanity. In the fires of the puddling furnace it burns the dross out of his character and life. In the swift-flying rollers of providence and worldly toil, it molds the life into a bar, straight as a line, of current weight and size.

Show me the man of good habits, who has sought to lay his life to the line of moral rectitude, who has started in life with a sound character, and I will show you the man who will live out a good and honored life. I will show you the man who cannot be bought for a price. I will show you the successful man.

There are certain opinions which exercise a controlling influence in every man's life. They may be formed from his own view of truth or through the influence and instruction of others. For instance, a man forms an opinion in regard to a political issue or some question in religion. These opinions recommend themselves to his own reason and judgment. They become enlarged, strengthened, deep-seated ; they begin to affect the man's actions, until finally, all his political activity or religious belief clusters around these opinions. Thus opinion exercises a directing influence upon life and behavior : thus opinion changés to principle. And we may roughly define principle, as established opinion, formulated and set forth as a statement of belief or a theory of action.

In this sense morality and the fundamental principles of right action are but the formulated judgment of past generations and the crystalized opinion of the ages. The great lines of political doctrine have grown up from the opinions of a few. Great parties are formed as men gravitate to one or another opinion of current issues. Their opinions are consolidated into party principles and, in aftertimes, the historian deduces from them the scientific outline of political philosophy. In like manner sects in religion have sprung up around human opinions and traditions. Men wrangle and dispute over the meaning of a Greek particle and divide into warring camps over an opinion of baptizo and baptisma.

Only a few centuries after the apostles, the religion of Christ had become so modified by Orientalism in Asia that a way was made for Mahomet and the Koran. In a similar manner the vivacious Greek intellect gave rise to Armenianism and Athanasianism in the Greek church. So, too, Roman imperialism adapted itself to Christianity in the development of the Roman church. In 1500 half Europe, following the lead of a few reformers, seceded from the Pope and, in two centuries, a dozen sects had seceded from the Reformation.

Thus all along the line of civilization human opinion has molded human conduct and the world has been ruled by principle. The great battles of religious and political freedom have been struggles for principle against the might of oppression. Men have gone to the stake in defense of principle. They have died for truth. The rulers of the world have been slow to learn that the voice of outraged justice is the cry of eternal truth, and that the power of principle is omnipotent among the nations of men.

No less powerfully does principle affect the life of the indvidual. We have our standards of right and wrong—the principles by which we live and judge the conduct of others. These principles are the natural outgrowth of our opinions and are sometimes changed and corrected with increasing experience and knowledge: When principles, thus formed, arc consistent with conscience and our better judgment they always affect our lives for good and are the 'basis of sound character and right behavior.. Habits are formed along the lines of settled belief, and these render permanent the power of principle.

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