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reveals the blessing in the arms of toil. It snatches manhood out of the snare and coils of discouragement and hardship. It makes the music which the unending buzz and rattle of machinery cannot silence. It clears the atmosphere of dust and disease and lets in the light and purity of the upper world. The maiden looks through the struggles of her daily task and hearkens for the footstep of a lover and the sound of wedding bells, and watches for the daybreak of hope's morning. The young man faces the burdens of life and raises them to his shoulder and dreams of his own home and his own companion and better days.
Ideals are the stars which God places in the sky of young manhood and womanhood, like the other stars above the pathway of traveller and mariner. The wise men who follow this light always reach a Bethlehem. History furnishes unnumbered illustrations of the world's greatest and best, being led on to satisfaction and victory by this holy vision. The masters in every part of the world, and in every moment of time, have first been mastered by a noble ideal. They stemmed the current, and bridged the stream, and divided the waters while other men were mere scraps of manhood on the
surface of the stream and moving with the current. This is the inevitable result of a vulgar contentment. The upward impulse is the only salvation. The soul's cry for something nobler and better is the food for its growth and the foretelling of its future and ultimate perfection.
A victorious ideal is not an occasional impulse, or a momentary elevation, but a steady aim, and a constant star, and a fixed compass. These shadowy and fleeting thoughts and purposes are like drops of dew on the grass-blade of the summer morning. They sparkle with diamond-like brilliancy, and even reflect a world, but they are evanescent. One breath of an opposing wind scatters them, and all is lost. The valuable manhood is that which transmutes and permanently transforms these ideals into soul-life, and eternal character, and divinest man. He who has a worthy ambition and courageously and wisely seeks it is king.
This great power in life is lost by lack of definiteness or the or the presence of ignoble ambition, or the result of pride and vanity, or the influence of the temporal and material, or impatience, or the want of a deathless determination. A single stroke
of the hammer, without the image in mind, might shatter the statue. Mere pounding is ruinous. Aim and object are essential. Definite purpose and clearly bounded ideals must precede the work of the chisel.
One of the most earnest of modern Gaelic poets, Dugald Buchanan, was first led to think of serious subjects by a cleverly turned phrase, uttered half in jest. "What is your profession?" a pious Highlander inquired of him. "As to that," replied Buchanan, "I have none in particular. My mind is very much like a sheet of white paper." "Then take care that the devil does not write his name upon it," said the other. The remark was the one touch needed to turn the poet to more serious thoughts and a more earnest way of life.
What is the ideal of your life? Art thou a worshipper at the shrine of gold, or fame, or pleasure, or the purely temporal elements of life? If thou art, the muck-rake is in thy hand, and thou art in the mud of the world, and blind to the angel above thy head with a bright crown in his hand. Without a worthy ideal thou canst never bend thy neck in the upward gaze, and reward is lost forever. Life is a failure; thou hast missed the mark. Thou art
a slave to the passing and the perishing. The best that is in thee is benumbed and paralyzed. Tell man the objects of your search and he will pass judgment upon the result of them, and the value of your character. Life is below its possibility and pressing on toward its condemnation. Fix your goal, define your purpose, make the object of all effort and sacrifice worthy of manhood and immortality. Draw the boundary-line about your ideal for human life. Fasten your eye upon it and make it the greatest reality. Destiny is in the very beginning of life and the earliest thought and plan.
A Swedish boy fell out of a window and was badly hurt, but with pressed lips he kept back the cry of pain. The king, Gustavus Adolphus, who saw him fall, prophesied that the boy would make a man for an emergency. And so he did, for he became the famous General Bauer.
Failures and wrecks are all stamped with the lack of high resolve. Good education, best training, brightest opportunity, most perfect example, have been rendered helpless without this leader. The fountain rises only to the level of the stream. Flabby resolution and low ideal are the creators of weak character and low living. He who pur
poses in his heart to maintain a high standard is climbing toward an outlook of beauty and inspiration. He orders not only present events, but is general over the forces of the future. Misfortune and disaster enter his life only to be defeated by a man of iron, unswerved, even by a hair's breadth, from his high resolve and bright ideal. Lincoln rose to one of the thrones of the world by the quenchless persistency of his ideal. "I have talked with great men," he told his fellow clerk and friend Green, "and I do not see how they differ from others. I can be one of them." In order to keep in practice in speaking he walked seven or eight miles to debating clubs. "Practising Polemics," was what he called his exercise. He questioned the schoolmaster concerning the advisability of studying grammar. "If you are going before the public," said his counsellor, "you ought to do it." How could he get a grammar? There was but one in the neighborhood, and that was six miles away. Without waiting further information he walked immediately to the place, borrowed this rare book, and before night was buried in its mystery. Every moment of his leisure, during the hours of day and night, for many weeks, he gave to the study of that