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Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
CXVII.—THE TRUE MAN DOES NOT WISH TO BE
A CHILD AGAIN.
J. G. HOLLAND. 1. It is very natural that a man should be blinded and pained by passing from a shaded room into dazzling sunlight. It is a serious thing to leap from a luxurious enervating warm bath into cold water. All sudden transitions are shocking; and God has contrived the transitions of our lives so that they may be mainly gradual. It is not to be wondered at that many men and women, by having the responsibilities of men and women thrust upon them too early, are shocked, and look back upon the shady places they have left, and long to rest their eyes there. It is not strange that men recoil from a plunge into the world's cold waters, and long to creep back into the bath from which they have suddenly risen.
2. But that men or women should desire to become children again is impossible. It is only the half-developed, the imper
look back to the innocence, the helplessness, and the simple animal joy and content of childhood with genuine regret for their loss. I want no better evidence that a person's life is regarded by himself as a failure, than that furnished by his honest willingness to be restored to his childhood.
3. When a man is ready to relinquish the power of his mature reason, his strength and skill for self-support, the independence of his will and life, his bosom companion and children, his interest in the stirring affairs of his time, his part in deciding the great questions which agitate his age and nation, his intelligent apprehension of the relation which exists between himself and his Maker, and his rational hope of immortality — if he have one--for the negative animal contents, and frivolous enjoyments of a child, he does not deserve the name of a man ;-— he is a weak, unhealthy, broken-down creature, or a base poltroon.
4. Yet I know there are those who will read this sentence with tears and with complaint. I know there are those whose existence has been a long struggle with sickness and trial, — whose lives have been crowded with great griefs and disappointments, — who sit in darkness and impotency while the world rolls by them. They have seen no joy and felt no content since childhood, and many of them look with languid pity upon children, because the careless creatures do not know into what a heritage of sin and sorrow they are entering. I have only to say to them that the noblest exhibitions of manhood and womanhood I have ever seen, or the world has ever seen, are among their number.
5. A woman with the hope of heaven in her eyes, incorruptible virtue in her heart, and honesty in every endeavor, has smiled serenely a million times in this world, while her life and all its earthly expectations were in ruins. Patient sufferers upon beds of pain have forgotten childhood, years ago, and, feeding their souls on prayer, have looked forward with unutterable joy to the transition from womanhood to angelhood. Men utterly forsaken by friends, contemned, derided, proscribed, persecuted — have stood by their convictions with joyful heroism and calm content. Nay, great multitudes have marched with songs upon their tongues to the rack and stake. The noblest spectacle the world affords is that of a man or woman rising superior to sorrow and suffering-transforming sorrow and suffering into nutriment
-accepting those conditions of their life which Providence prescribes, and building themselves up into an estate from whose summit the step is short to a glorified humanity.
6. Before me hangs a portrait of an old man— the only man I have ever loved with a devotion that has never faded, though long years have passed away since he died. His calm blue eyes look down upon me, and I look into them, and through them. I look into a golden memory, -into a life of self-denial, into a meek, toiling, honest, heroic Christian manhood, -into an uncomplaining spirit, —- into a grateful heart, - into a soul that never sighed over a lost joy, though all his earthly enterprises miscarried. The tracery of care and sickness is upon his haggard features, but I see in them, and in the soul which they represent to me, the majesty of manliness. While I look, the kittens still play at the door, and the noise of shouting children is in the street; but ah! how shallow is the life they represent, compared with that of which this dumb canvas tells me! It is better to be a man or a woman than to be a child. It is better to be an angel than to be either. Let us look forward-never backward.
CXVIII.—YOUTH IS STRONG.
HENRY WARD BEECHER. 1. Next I mention that youth is strong by its generosity and sensitiveness to honor. Not that men are not selfish when they are children ; they are. But in age, selfishness
takes on the form of reason. Men say they have found out human life. They have learned men. They have come to suspect them. They have come to measure them. And they justify their various ways of selfishness by pleading discretion and prudence. It is judgment in them. There is animal selfishness in the young; this is a general tendency in them. But the young, being untaught and unacquainted with the ways of the world, are usually generous, frank, confiding, and disposed to think well of men and to trust them.
2. And it is a noble trait. It is a sad thing when a man loses faith in man. Next to the want of faith in God is the disaster of want of faith in man. Nothing can be more damaging to the moral constitution than to have an operative skepticism of mankind. For though men are bad, though there is a great deal in all men that is bad, though there is not one single faculty that has not felt the touch and taint of imperfection and sin ; yet with all their sinfulness and weaknesses there is something divine in them; and no man van afford to lose the habit of reposing confidence in them. A youth is strong because he is genial and generous and frank, and overflowing in his confidence.
3. Then, next, from such conditions, as we might anticipate, springs a much abused but admirable quality of youth-I mean enthusiasm. Enthusiasm has such an intense interest in anything which addresses us, as brings an overflow of zeal to it. It is a term that characterizes degree of feeling. Later in life men restrain and measure their feelings. They are disposed to be no spendthrifts of their emotions. But early in life feeling seems to flow from an inexhaustible fountain. Where a bucket of water would turn the wheel, youth is not disposed to turn it by just enough, but pours forth a whole river, that both turns the wheel and floods it. And it is this abundance, this overplus of feeling that constitutes enthusiasm.
4. And it is more than useful. It is so indispensable that . we can scarcely imagine youth to be worth much without it. In some degree caution may prevent evil, but caution never worked out one positive good in the world. Enthusiasm may drive men into some evils; but it drives them into thousands of benefits, positive and assured. Enthusiasm develops latent powers of the soul; it concentrates and pushes on secret forces; it gives unbounded faith in success; it redeems disaster by promise of victory; it inspires sublime courage, and carries men over troubles and over dangers on which cold calculation would never venture, and from which caution would absolutely flee.
5. It may be a mistake in youth to count this the chiefest virtue, and to despise sober and thoughtful experience and steadiness of principle; but it is an equal mistake, or a worse one, to disesteem or undervalue enthusiasm. And where we are to propagate new views, or old views that are disesteemed, there is nothing comparable to enthusiasm. It is infectious. It is that which enables man to overcome false ideas and influences, more than any other one element of the human mind. Youth is eminently strong in its honest enthusiasms.
6. And how pitiable it is to see man attempt to strip all these things from the young! For there is an impression, ridiculous and mischievous, that family government means to bring up old men on young stalks. But the qualities of age should never be sought in children. It wants men and women to have those qualities. With all its imperfections, youth has its traits of excellence and strength, which should not be ignored. Let our maidens be girls and not women; and let our young men be young men.
7. For, of all things in the world, to see the precision and stiffness and dryness and hardness of an old man, --one that