Henry Ward Beecher.

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I suppose Mr. Astor carries no more
money with him each day than is
necessary for the incidental expenses
of that day. If some pickpocket re-
lieves him of his wallet down town,
and he puts his hand in his pocket to
pay for a small purchase, he feels a
moment's vexation to think that some
miserable fellow has been keener than
he, and taken his money. But it was
only twenty-five or fifty dollars, and
what is that to an Astor, who might
have a bank on every street in New
York, if he chose. He says, " Let it
go." He has plenty of money, and
what to him is the loss of that little
matter ? So, where a man has his
treasures laid up in heaven, suppose



he does suffer inconveniences here
and there, suppose his pocket is
picked of this or that little pleasure,
does he sit down and cry about it ?

709. God's Heirs not Poor. — You
may be poor as poverty here ; but ah !
God's sons are not poor.

It is inconvenient for an heir that is
traveling in Europe, to find, when he
gets to Paris, that the vessel bearing
his letters has gone down, and that he
is among strangers without a penny in
his pocket. Nevertheless, it is mirth-
ful and ludicrous ; and he says,
" Here am I, worth half a million,
and I have not enough by me to pay
my landlady." And he makes a
shift, as best he can, to live, till inter-
course is reestabhshed between himself
and his agents, and he can lay hold of
his possessions. A man can make
himself feel that he is rich in this life,
because of his relations to the other.



XVII. FAULTS AND VICES



710. Habits Revealed. — We are con-
tinually denying that we have habits
which we have been practising all our
hfe. Here is a man that has lived
forty or fifty years, and a chance sen-
tence or word lances him, and reveals
to him a trait which he has always
possessed, but which until now he had
not the remotest idea that he pos-
sessed. For forty or fifty years he
has been fooling himself about a
matter as plain as his hand before his
face.

711. Small Beginnings. — Faults are
often stepping-stones to heinous sins.
A very slight equivocation or careless-
ness in truth-telling will lead by and
by to the gravest temptations towards
falsehood. This is the reason that the
Master says, " He that is faithful in
that which is least, is faithful also in
much."



712. Small Faults Baits to Larger
Ones. — Small faults are baits and toles
to draw men up to greater ones, so
that their mischief is not measured by
their own diameter, but by that which
they lead to. Foolish birds are the
turkeys, that never lift up their heads
when they are feeding, and never let
them down when they are not. So, in
the West, men are accustomed to
select a sort of slope, or side hill, and
cut a little channel, or path, and hedge
it up with a kind of rail-fence without
roof or any protection. Along this
path they strew corn. And the wild
turkeys come in flocks and pick up
the corn, following the path, and do
not look up to see where they are
being led to till they have passed under
the lower rail, and got into the en-
closure ; and then, there being no
corn there, they hft up their heads,



FAULTS AND VICES



161



and see where they are. They cannot
fly over the fence (a turkey cannot
rise on his wings unless he has a
chance to run), and they cannot get
out unless they lower their heads, and
that they will not do ; and so they are
caught.

Of thousands of faults men say,
"This is not much." No, it is not
much ; but it is laid along your path in
such a way [that the first thing you
know you will find yourself surrounded
by a pen of dishonesty from which you
cannot creep nor fly out. Faults may
lead to things that are worse.

713. Repeated Faults Dim Moral
Sight. — One of these weaving spiders,
perhaps, is in my window, and sets
about making his house there. He
does not seem to amount to much ; but
he has a power that is not to be de-
spised. If I were to say that that little
speck of a spider was an antagonist of
the sun, and that it would beat him,
you would laugh me to scorn ; but it
is so. For presently he has a brood
of spiders — five hundred of them — and
they set to work to spin their webs,
and run them from side to side, from
top to bottom, and from corner to
corner ; and by and by the window is
covered all over. And particles of
dust, flying through the air, settle on
it, and fill up the little spaces between
the threads. And after a while the
spiders spin other webs and cover over
the first ones. And the dust settles on
these. And in a year, let the sun get
through that window if he can ! Big
as he is, and strong as he is, the
spider is more than a match for him.

So a multitude of httle faults obscure
moral sight, and dim a man's outlook,
and substantially put out his eyes, so
that he cannot see. Although each
one of them is very small, they are very
effective. Beware of faults that tend
to reproduce themselves continually.



714. Little Faults. — You need not
break the glasses of a telescope, or
coat them over with paint, in order to
prevent you from seeing through
them. Just breathe upon them, and
the dew of your breath will shut
out all the stars. So it does not re-
quire great crimes to hide the light of
God's countenance. Little faults can
do it just as well. Take a shield and
cast a spear upon it, and it will leave
in it one great dent. Prick it all over
with a million little needle shafts and
they will take the polish from it far
more than the piercing of the spear.
It is not so much the great sins which
take the freshness from our con-
sciences, as the numberless petty
faults which we are all the while com-
mitting.

715. Petty Sins. — We do well to
remember that a little tooth, which is
almost too small for the microscope,
may nevertheless be large enough to
cut one thread, and another thread,
and another thread ; and when you
have begun to cut threads, you have
begun to make holes ; and when you
have begun to make holes, the de-
struction of the garment is at hand ;
and a character that is moth-eaten,
that has begun to be pierced by
petty sins and vices, is weakened,
and is being prepared for destruc-
tion.

716. Small Meannesses. — Amanis,
as it were, a cask of wine. A worm
gnaws through a stave. It is a small
worm, not half so large around as a
knitting-needle. The moment he
conies to the wine he draws out his
head, — for worms are not so fond of
wine as men are ! — and a drop follows
him, — only a drop. Another worm,
on the other side of the cask, gnaws
through another stave. He gets a
drop, and draws back. On each end
there are a dozen or twenty other



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SOCIAL LIFE



worms eating their way to the wine.
Not one of them is as big as a mite ;
but fifty or sixty of them together, if
each makes a hole large enough to
allow a drop to pass through it, are
sufficient to cause the waste of all the
precious contents of the cask. After
the lapse of a day, a week, a month,
or six months, the vintner goes to see
his treasure ; and behold, the cask
sounds empty as a hypocrite's heart !
There is not a drop in it. And yet it
looks like a cask of wine. Where
have the contents gone ? Not one
pint has been surreptitiously drawn by
the servant that gets blamed, or by
the thief that the vintner accuses with-
out knowing who he is. The wine has
all leaked out at holes not large
enough to admit of the discharge of
more than one drop at a time.

Now, ten million little meannesses,
selfishnesses, pettishnesses, waspish
dispositions, pierce and puncture the
heart, and all its graces are drawn out.
You are empty because you leak all
over!

717. Little Lies. — Men think that a
great black lie is very culpable. I
suppose it is. But when an armorer
wishes, by scouring, to cut the very
surface of metal down, what does he
do ? Take a bar of iron and rub it ?
No ; he takes emery. Its particles
are as small as a pin's point ; and
these he puts on ; and by scouring he
cuts down the surface — takes off the
enamel. You think that a great lie is
a great sin, and a great shame to a
man ; but after all, little lies are more
dangerous, because there are so many
of them ; and because each one of
them is diamond-pointed. And these
petty untruths which are so small that
you do not notice them, and so nu-
merous that you cannot estimate
them, are the ones that take off the
very enamel of the moral sense.



718. Dangerous Lies. — A lie always
needs a truth for a handle to it, else
the hand would cut itself which sought
to drive it home upon another. The
worst lies, therefore, are those whose
blade is false, but whose handle is true.

719. Half-Truths. — He is consid-
ered a blunderer, nowadays, who tells
a lie. He ouglit to tell the truth so
that it shall tell the lie. It is a matter
of dexterity. The throwing of a
shadow is enough. Men throw shad-
ows on people's paths, and produce
certain impressions on their minds ;
and then when they are arraigned for
having made this or that misstate-
ment, they say, " I did not say so. I
never said any such thing. If you
understood me so, that is your look-
out." Men really trap each other by
half-truths. Half-truths are the devil's
whole lies.

720. Truth-Telling. — Men have an
impression that truth, pure and un-
adulterated, is like twenty-two carat
gold, too soft to wear ordinarily, and
that it must be adulterated to about
eighteen carat, and then it is tough
enough to go. They say a judicious
mixture between a truth and a lie is
the true currency, and they do not be-
lieve in truth. On no subject in this
world is there a greater lack of faith
than as to truth. It is not necessary
that a man should always tell every-
thing ; but whatever he tells, it is nec-
essary that that should always be
truth.

721. Unseen Faults. — Faults, often-
times, are like mines with which men
blow up bastions and towers of fortifi-
cations. Afar off, they by whom the
work is done break ground, and hid-
den and unseen they dig until they
have carried the mine under the foun-
dation. The occupants of the place
know not what is going on till the last
moment, when the tower leaps into the



FAULTS AND VICES



163



air, as if it were filled with life, and
that which before was a strong de-
fence is a heap of ruins. I know men
who have a mine laid right under the
curtain-wall, which only awaits the
day and hour when it shall be fired.

722. Moral Deterioration. — The
course of some men's morals is like
the course of their raiment. If a man
is careful, and repairs his raiment, it
will last a long time ; but if he is heed-
less, spots will begin to come here and
there upon it, and from time to time it
will become ripped and torn, and, if
he has no careful wife to take care of
him, and takes none of himself, his
coat, in a month, will be indecent, for
want of attention. And men's inside
raiment is worse than their outside.
Many a man has a decent coat that
has not decent linen. And that anal-
ogy may be carried further in. A
man that is clean of body may be
filthy in soul. Men fall little byhttle.
Selfishness leads them to do this or
that thing that is low, they become
coarser and coarser in their thoughts
and imaginations, and gradually they
come to look at things from a more
worldly point of view. They lose the
romantic ; they lose the inspiration of
pure and spiritual things; they nibble
at positive vices.

723. Reclamation of Evil Traits. —
The engineer, by striking channels
through the low, level morass, where
nothing thrives but noisome reptiles
and insects, can drain it and make it
capable of yielding luxuriant growths
useful to men. And a man may sub-
soil and drain himself.

724. Eradicating Bad Habits. — The
difficulty of grubbing up blackberry
bushes is that you cannot get at them
on account of the number of them.
There are big ones, but they are sur-
rounded with little ones ; and if you
attempt to reach in with the pruning-



hook, you get scratched and torn, be-
sides failing in the attempt. You need
to begin at the outside, and cut and
grub away the little ones ; and when
you have done that, you can whack
at the big ones. And so it is with
many habits. If men attempt to touch
those habits first which are far in,
which are in complicity with wicked-
ness, they are torn and scratched with
little ones. But if a man overcomes a
small habit, he takes the first step to-
wards getting at the bigger ones.

725. Pertinacity of Bad Habits. —
When I lived in the West I used to
see the houses of many men without
cellars and built low down on the
ground ; and the swine were inti-
mately acquainted with the whole
family ; and the chickens ran in and
out, and in again ; and the good
housewife would busy herself here and
there every minute, shoo-shooing after
the chickens, and going out with broom
to drive away the swine that were root-
ing at the door.

There are fowls of bad repute and
swine round about the habitation of a
man that has been brought up in
worldliness ; and while he is trying to
do his duty here they do damage
there ; and while he is driving them
out in that direction they are rushing
in in this direction. When a man be-
gins to live a higher, nobler hfe, O,
what a plague his old hfe becomes to
him! He didn't think or care until he
undertook to see about it.

726. Indolence Poisonous. — The
mischief of indolence is like that of
standing water, not that it does not
run, but that, not running, it corrupts,
and, corrupting, breeds poisonous
miasma, so that they who hve in the
neighborhood inhale disease at every
breath.

727. Heedlessness. — If all the small
carelessnesses of one's life were to be



164



SOCIAL LIFE



brought logctlicr into one view, it
would not only amaze the subject of
them, but it would be difficult to per-
suade any one that he was ever care-
ful at all. The words too many, the
things superfluous, the things for-
gotten, the things done bunglingly,
the absolute mistakes, the time wasted
in doing over aright things done
wrong, the waste of force by indirec-
tion, by bad aim, by ill-judged in-
tensity, if it could every day be
summed up, and presented as a
whole, would take the conceit, it is to
be hoped, out of self-satisfied men.

If one considers the human mind as
a collection of exquisite tools, and
watches their use, specially or gen-
erally, he cannot but feel that the
average man is a most unskillful, be-
cause heedless bungler.

728. Carelessness a Crime. — There
are circumstances in which heedless-
ness amounts to crime, to malfeasance,
or to a violation of trust ; and yet
there are many persons who, while
tliey feel that a positive violation of
the rights of property would be
wrong, speak lightly of carelessness.
This is a fault whose roots, if they are
not cut, grow deeper and deeper.

729. Neglect. — The faithful ship-
master who is bringing a thousand
passengers over the deep gives neither
sleep to his eyes nor slumber to his
eyelids ; by night and by day he
watches the sea, and studies the signs
of the weather, that he may not be
surprised by wind or storm ; he is
constantly vigilant ; he well-nigh frets
his life out, in order that he may
bring his precious cargo safe to the
port. If, on the other hand, he were
careless, if he neglected his duty, and
the vessel struck some iceberg, or was
overtaken unprepared by some whirl-
wind or driving storm, and went down
with all its living freight, do you sup-



pose he would rise out of the flood in
the judgment-day without any re-
sponsibility for all the mischiefs that
came from simple neglect ?

730. Indirect Guilt. — Wickedness
which a man can prevent, and which
he does not prevent, inculpates him.
Men are responsible for the mischief
which they could hinder. If you put
the torch to your neighbor's house,
you are guilty in one way ; but if an-
other puts the torch to that house,
and you go by, and see the flames,
and say, " It is not my business ; I
did not kindle that fire ; and, besides,
he is an enemy of mine," you are as
culpable as if you had set fire to the
house yourself.

731. Impatience in Personal Career.
— The ambitions of youth, the far
reach! ngs before we are prepared for
manhood, need patience. Most spend
thirty years of life wishing they were
old, and the last thirty wishing they
were not ; and so the world goes on.
When we enter upon earlier life, we
are aspiring, but we aspire for qual-
ities or for conditions which, in them-
selves, imply unfolding. Peter says
somewhere, that the husbandman is
not in a hurry. He sows his seed and
patiently waits for the harvest. We
sow our seed and do not wait. We
expect our wheat to come up as a
mushroom comes up — the next morn-
ing. Men in early life, by their
impetuosity, by ignorance of the
nature of the qualities which they de-
sire, and their relation to the time,
and the difficulty of unfolding, rush
upon enterprises and into conditions
where they are balked.

732. Desultory Action. — There are
many who diligently occupy them-
selves without aim. A thousand little
doings disconnected from each other
are no more a wise building up of life
than the laying of a thousand bricks



FAULTS AND VICES



i6i



in a thousand difterent places would
be the building up of a house.

733. Unprofitable Energy. — A man
is like an unbroken colt, that, if he
cannot go, champs his bit, and froths
at the mouth. Many a horse spends
as much energy, wastes himself as
much, dancing up and down without
any travel, as would be needed for a
two days' journey. And there is that
kind of untrained, unsubdued energy
in men. There are many who can-
not do a thing profitably because they
do it fretfully.

734. The Soul's Evil Engines. —
Did you ever go through the London
Tower, to see the machines of cruelty
of fontjer ages that are on exhibition
there ? Have you ever seen the vast
collection of weapons of defence and
offence there deposited ? Did you
ever go through the Springfield
armory to see the weapons for the de-
struction of human life that are there
piled high and bright and multitudi-
nous? Let me take you through a
more wonderful magazine — a maga-
zine where ai-ms are to be found more
numerous, more cruel, and constantly
in use. Walk with me into the human
soul. See, on every side, its engines
of destruction in their many forms.
See vanity, with its myriad vexations ;
avarice, kindling fires worse than fires
on dry prairies ; many-bladed selfish-
ness, cutting wherever it goes ; and
lusts without number.

735. Small Transgressions. — The
man that steals one single penny is —
as great a transgressor against the
laws of society as if he stole a thou-
sand dollars? No, not exactly that.
The man that steals one penny is —
just as great a transgressor against the
commercial interests of men as if he
stole a thousand dollars? No, not
that. The man that steals a penny is
just as great a transgressor against ihe



pjirity of /lis own conscience as if lu;
stole a million of dollars. There is an
impression that the culpability of
things bears some proportion to their
magnitude. To steal an apple is not
much. In stealing it you do not get
much ; but you get all the damage
that you would if it was a golden
apple. To betray a small trust has
the same moral effect on the betrayer
as to betray a large one.

736. Care. — What is care? It is
no specific thing. It is a word which
includes the whole realm of human
experience, and draws something from
every part of it. Whatever thing in
life worries you, chafes you, burdens
you, alarms you, or in any way dis-
tresses you— that is care. Care is the
friction of the human mind.

737. Small Vexations. — As it is
only now and then that we have a
landslide, while we are continually
annoyed by the dust which sifts in at
every crack, and door, and window,
so it is only now and then that we
have a crashing trouble, while we are
perpetually annoyed by little daily
cares and vexations.

738. Cares not to be Emphasized. —
Would you think that man fit for a
hero who should occupy the leisure of
peace in telling what hard commis-
sions he had during the last campaign,
how tired he was on the march, and
how painful it was to carry his arms ?
What idea would you have of a gen-
eral or a soldier who should be more
thoughtful of such contemptible per-
sonalities than of those things that
pertain to the interests of the cause in
which he is engaged ? You that are
called from darkness to light, and
made to know the eternal obligation
of your own souls ; you into whose
hands are put jewels more precious
and glowing than stars in the heavens;
you who are made God's instruments



i66



SOCIAL LIFE



for rcdccniing men, you ought to be
ashamed to talk about your cares and
responsibilities, as if they were onerous.

739. Anxiety. — Water is necessary
for the floating of timber ; but if a log
be saturated with water, it sinks in the
very element which should buoy it
up. Many men are water-logged with
anxiety, and instead of quickening
them, it only paralyzes exertion.

740. Live Above Care. — Dust, by
its own nature, can rise only so far
above the road ; and birds which fly
higher never have it upon their wings.
So the heart that knows how to fly
high enough, escapes those little cares
and vexations which brood upon the
earth but cannot rise into the purer air,

741. Fretting Shows Weakness. —
Fretting is a perpetual confession of
weakness. It says, " I want to, and
can't." Fretting is hke a httle dog
pawing and whining at a door, be-
cause he can't get in.

742. The Habit of Sulkiness. — It is
supposed that ebullitions of temper are
petty, insignificant faults ; but I can-
not consider the opening of a fountain
of unhappiness in the family or the
social circle a petty matter. A single
instance may be excused ; but the
habit of being peevish, sulky, morose,
is not a slight fault. It rises to the
dignity of an ample and multitudinous
sin. For nothing more destroys the
happiness around about men than a
bad temper. It is in the power of one
person in a family to keep that family
in smoke all day long.

743. Needless Worry. — Human life
is much like road life. You stand on
a hill, and look down and across the
valley, and another prodigious hill
lifts itself up on the other side. The
day is hot, your horse is weary, and
you are tired ; and it seems to you that
you cannot climb that long hill. But
you had better trot down the hill you



are on, and not trouble yourself about
the other one. You find the valley
pleasant and inspiriting. When you
get across it, you meet only a slight
ascent, and begin to wonder where the
steep hill is which you saw. You
drive along briskly, and when you
reach the highest point, you find that
there has not been an inch of the hill
over which you have not trotted.
The slight ascent looked almost like a
perpendicular steep ; but when you
come to pass over it, step by step, you
find it to be a good traveling road.

So it is with your troubles. Just in
that way your anticipations of mis-
chiefs hang before you ; and when you
come to where they are, you find them
to be all smooth turnpikes. Men
ought to be ashamed, after they have
done that two or three times, not to
take the hint, and profit by it ; yet
they will not. They will suffer from
anticipated troubles, as much as though
they had had no such experience.

744. Folly of Fretting. — If you
would keep a book, and every day
put down the things that pester you,
and see what becomes of them, it
would be a benefit to you. You allow
a thing to pester you, just as you allow
a fly to settle on you and plague you ;
and you lose your temper (or rather,
get it ; for when men are surcharged
with temper they are said to have lost
it); and you justify yourselves for be-
ing thrown off your balance by causes
which you do not trace out. But if
you would see what it was that threw
you off your balance before breakfast,
and put it down in a little book, and
follow it up, and follow it out, and as-
certain what becomes of it, you would
see what a fool you were.

745. Disputation. — Have you never
met men that were full of questions —
questions about dates ; questions about
inspiration ; questions about doctrines ;



FAULTS AND VICES



167



questions about hard passages ; ques-
tions about symbols and types ; ques-
tions about the church; questions about
everything ? I fall in with them once



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