Some Examples Of Courage
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
But there are times in life when there is need of great heroism. When a man is called upon to take a stand against evil and fight with all his force against wrong. Such a time came to the late lamented John B. Gough, as he stood by the railroad with the phial of laudanum in his hand, ready to take his own life. And how nobly he fought against appetite, against poverty and disgrace, for half a century ! How he not only conquered himself, but carried inspiration to a thousand others, who, like him, were seemingly lost in intemperance. In the romantic life of this good and useful man there was a marvelous display of indomitable courage such courage as all men need, to meet the exigencies of life. Such a time came also to the heroic woman, who married Mr. Gough. Modest, retiring, delicate, she chose the dangerous task of becoming a reformed drunkard's wife, and for many years stood: beside the temperance apostle, shielding him, encouraging him, inspiring him with her own angelic presence and triumphant faith. The history of humanity will not present another example of such heroism as was shown to the world by these two brave souls. A man at the verge of hopeless ruin turns back to a good and honored life. A woman in the weakness of her sex takes her chosen place between the tempter and a ruined man, to keep two fiery dragons apart. What a picture of devotion ! What a victory nobly won !
A similar heroism was exhibited by Martin Luther, the evangel of the Reformation. He not only overcame the prejudices of the times in which he lived and the religious order to which he belonged, and reasoned his own way to truth; but he brought home this truth to his countrymen and inaugurated the greatest religious reform the world has ever seen. At the beginning of the great struggle he stood almost alone. The odds against him were tremendous. "On one side," said he in one of his later writings, "are learning, genius, numbers, grandeur, rank, power, sanctity, miracles ; on the other Wyckliffe, Lorenzo Valla, Augustine and Luther, a poor creature, a man of yesterday, standing well-nigh alone with a few friends."
At last summoned to Worms by the Emperor to answer to the charge of heresy, he determined to appear before the magnates in person and "beard the lion in his den." Though repeatedly warned, he set forth on his perilous journey--a journey famous in the annals of heroism. When he came in sight of the bell-towers of Worms, he stood up and sang the "battle song of the Reformation: "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott!" While on his way to the meeting of the Diet, an old soldier put his hand on Luther's shoulder and repeated the memorable words :
"My poor monk ! my poor monk ! thou art on thy way to make such a stand as I and many of my knights have never done in our toughest battle. If thou art sure of the justice of thy cause, then forward in the name of God, and be of good courage—God will not forsake thee."—KOESTLIN, P. 236.
The courageous defense of the noble monk before the Diet of Worms, has been told a thousand times and has stirred a million hearts. It forms one of the most brilliant pages in the history of religious opinion. No man ever took a bolder stand or uttered braver words than Luther did in answer to the Emperor.
Hier stehe ich ; Ich kann nicht anders ; Gott helfe mir! (Here I stand ; I cannot do otherwise ; God help me!) And to the indomitable courage of Luther more than to any other cause, do we owe the liberation of modern thought, and the vindication of the great rights of the human understanding.
Courage was one of the predominant traits of John Knox, the hero of the Reformation in Scotland. He had work to do which needed strong and determined powers. He never quailed, even before his sovereign and was sometimes thought to be unbearably rude and uncivil. "And who art thou, that presumest to school nobles and the sovereign of the realm ? " Said the Scottish Queen to him, after one of his boldest utterances. "A subject born within the same," was his cool reply. And more than once his bold words made -Queen Mary weep. As Knox was retiring once from the Queen's presence, one of the royal attendants said in his hearing " He is not afraid of anything." Turning around upon him the Scotch Preacher said, " And why should the pleasing face of a gentleman frighten one ? I have looked on the faces of angry men and yet have not been afraid beyond measure," This prophet has been called a coarse, rough man, who neither feared nor respected greatness; but he was in no sense a hateful man. He had a most terrific struggle with life, "wresting with popes and principalities." Rowing as a galley-slave, wandering in exile, through 'bitter contention and life-long opposition he fought the battle of religious freedom in Scotland. " Have you hope?" they asked of him as he lay dying. He pointed with his finger to the skies and then died, as only heroes die, a martyr to the cause he had courage to espouse and serve. When the great man, worn out with excessive-labor and anxiety, was laid to rest, the regent, looking down into the open grave, said with words that will live forever, " There lies he who never feared the face of man."
Michael Faraday was a man of most kindly heart ; but possessed of the greatest courage. Prof Tyndall says of him that in his warm moments he formed a resolution and in his coolness made that resolution good. He showed the greatest energy, persevrance and mastery of difficulties. He was the son of blacksmith and in early life was apprenticed to a-bookbinder. Yet,, in his poverty, he made the most of his opportunities and rose to the foremost place among English scientists. By devoting himself to Analytical Chemistry, he might have amassed a large fortune; but he steadily resisted the temptation and bravely decided to pursue the study of science for the sake of science. He died a poor man, but "his was the glory of holding aloft among the nations the scientific name of England for a period of forty years."
It is by no means necessary to review the lives of great and distinguished. men to find examples of hero-ism. There are men of courage in the lower ranks of life, whose deeds will never be told in histories and biographies. There are women in the humbler homes of our country who have been as truly courageous as Joan of Arc,, Jenny Lind or Charlotte Cushman. They have bravely endured the struggle for existence and reared their families amid difficulties, unknown, except to the poor. These heroines of humble life, almost never receive the reward of their bravery in this world; but we may well believe that in the Eternal City, their crowns shall shine brightly for the glorious lives they have lived in the poor obscurities of earth.
Some years ago, in a country town among the hills, lived a family upon a small, poor farm. The father died.. The farm was sold and the proceeds divided among four children. The youngest daughter resolved to secure a collegiate education. She determined to invest all her patrimony in this, if need. be, and earn still more by teahing as her necessities demanded. She fitted herself ,for admission to the best female seminary in her state. She pursued her studies there with rare diligence, and devotion, teaching from time to time, as opportunity offered, to eke out her small fortune. At last she graduated with the consciousness that she had won her education by her own unaided exertions. She neglected no opportunity and slighted no duty. She received her diploma after the curriculum had been thoroughly and courageously mastered.
She finished her academic course free from debt. Not quite exhausted as to her moneyed resources, she determined to become a physician, and master the study of medicine and surgery. After consultation with her friends and careful examination and deliberation she decided to attend a medical college admitting men. and women as students on equal terms. As a result of this choice, her male fellow-students would be compelled to recognize her in professional practice on equal terms with men. An advantage that could not otherwise be secured.
She was compelled from time to time to stop and teach to pay her way at the lectures. But in due course of time she graduated with credit and honor. She established herself in practice in a large town in her native state. And now came the hour in which her fortitude was severely tried and her resources tested to their utmost. Here the decisive battle of her life had to be fought and won. Old hereditary prejudices had to be met and conquered. Coldness and. neglect had to be endured. She must not lose faith in herself, but hold steadily on and conquer a place beside her brother practitioners.. Fearlessly, patiently, persistently, quietly, she held to her course. She slowly won patients, increased in knowledge, improved by experience, won skill by practice, until she arrived at success and made for herself a prominent place among the physicians of an eastern city.
The history of this woman is a typical one in our American life. A hundred female physicians, reading such a sketch might think they were each intended. Women have quietly taken their place at the bedsides of the sick and dying. They are now an acknowledged force among the medical fraternity. Their skill is unquestioned, their success unrivalled. Many a reader might think that this story was quite out of the common order of things, that this woman was courageous beyond her sex. But it is not so. Thous-ands of women are gracing the teacher's profession, the medical profession and other high walks in life, whose early lives have been no less denying, courageous and persistent than hers.
Courage, high intellectual attainment, brilliant capacity, successful enterprise are of no sex. They -depend not on stature, weight nor physical power. Rank, position, condition in life, wealth, heredity, have little or nothing to do with them. The outward circumstances of country or city life do not effect these constant quantities of truly successful effort. Men and women who dare to do so, win. They may not win what they have sought; but the noblest fruits of daring.
courage, endurance, fidelity, industry, integrity and heroic purpose cannot be measured by any of the conventional standards of society. They cannot be expressed in ledger accounts nor on the cash-book. They cannot be made visible to the natural eye. They cannot be seen by those whose spiritual senses are closed to them. "Virtue is its own reward." So are success, and high attainment, and noble effort, and courageous life their own lasting and permanent reward.