Robert E. (Robert Elliott) Speer.

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will go right on, really living always.

And this plan is the restful one. It saves
us from the dread, the paralyzing intimida-
tion and surrender of the soul on account of
life's bigness. We realize that we do not
have to live our years all at once, that all that
we have to do is the one thing that wq can
do, merely live our lives a bit at a time. And
so we save ourselves also from the miseries
of memory and the terrors of our imagination
of the future by the simple plea of being
absorbed in present duty. Nine tenths of
the wretchedness of our lives does not spring
from the present. It springs from brooding
over the past and the things in the past
which are beyond recall, or it comes from
apprehensions of the future, most of which
never arrive. In other words, we lose our
lives in thinking of how we did live or failed
to live in the past, or how we will live in the
future. But this is missing the chance to
live, and so w^e die under the thoughts of
life. This is why life grows so uneasy and



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 73



fretful. Let us stop all this and spend each
moment in really living.

By doing this we acquire power for future
living. Lamentation about the quality of
our past living or great purposes about future
living will only weaken us unless they are
expressed in a better and firmer quality of
present living. And if we get into the habit
of living strongly now we shall live that
way hereafter without thinking about it. If
we do the things that ought to be done now,
we shall do them then. The great authori-
ties in any department are the men who grew
into authority gradually. They did what
each moment brought to them, and so, after
a while, no moment brought to them any-
thing which they could not do. The world
soon found that out, and straightway began
to bring everything in their line to them.
"We become authorities and experts in the
practical and scientific spheres," writes one
who was himself an authority, an expert, "by
so many separate acts and hours of work.
Let no youth have any anxiety about the up-
shot of his education, w^hatever the line of
it may be. If he keeps faithfully busy each
hour of the working day, he may safely leave
the final result to itself. He can with per-



74 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



feet certainty count on waking up some fine
morning to find himself one of the competent
ones of his generation in whatever pursuit
he may have singled out. Silently, among
the details of his business, the power of judg-
ing in all that class of matter will have built
itself up within him as a possession that will
never pass away."

In this way also life achieves results.
National greatness is a product of slow edu-
cation, not of great efforts. Germany and
the United States and Japan have forged
ahead of other nations as they have, not be-
cause of national energy or of any sudden
effort, but as the result of a careful and
thorough public-school system which has
trained the people. No emergency effort on
the part of other nations can offset this ad-
vantage. They will have to begin now where
we began years ago and do some living in
the present, instead of spending time dream-
ing of the past or the future. And with in-
dividuals as with nations, results are sums
in arithmetic. The big, personal tasks.
whether in character or in work, are not
done wholesale, but are built up piece by
piece, just as the little coral insects build the
reefs or the ants their huge mounds. ''Do



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



things now," is the way to get many and
great things done.

But while this principle is the key to the
achievement of great results, it is not the
greatness of the results which is of signifi-
cance, but the spirit and purpose and the pro-
cess which produced them. A political writer
has recently compared Gladstone, Bismarck
and Cavour to the disadvantage of Gladstone
on the ground that he erected no new state
as each of the others did. But the results of a
man's work are dependent upon the circum-
stances and materials in the midst of which
his life fell. Not what it added up to, but
how he lived it, how faithfully, persistently,
unselfishly, is the great question regarding
each life. What was the quality and intent-
ness of his living?

In practicing this principle of "Do it now,"
which was Dr. Babcock's motto, the rule of
"Living now the only living," there are two
things that will help. One is, of two duties
always do the harder one first. Do not sub-
stitute an easier thing for a hard one. And
the other is, check all unreal daydreams.
Don't live in the past. Don't live in the
future. Thinking backward and forward is
necessarv, but now is the living time, and



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



we have memory and imagination that by
them we may learn the lessons of the past
and draw upon the inspiration of the future
for the needs of present living.

This was the method of Jesus. His life
seems at times almost to have had no plan.
He stopped to spend hours with any inquir-
ing heart. He was impatient at no inter-
ruption. He seized each moment's oppor-
tunity for living purposes. He put out his
life incessantly. He actually lived. And
God unrolled the wonderful drama of his
life. He did, moment by moment, his
Father's will. "While it is day," was his
motto. Therefore he was at rest. ''The
Father . . . hath not left me alone ; for
T do always the tilings that are pleasing to
him." This should be our law and our life.

Are you in earnest?

Seize this very minute.
What you can do

Or think you can, begin it.



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 77



THE HABIT OF HIGH-MINDEDNESS

EACH mind has an altitude of its own.
Some move on low levels. The
thoughts which come to them are low
thoughts, sometimes evil, sometimes vain,
sometimes merely trifling. Such minds seek
what they like. Serious conversation and
books are unattractive to them. They go
where they can find what is not to their dis-
like, where stories are told and language
spoken which involve no tax upon thought
and which feed the tastes of a low-leveled
life. As between the library and the grill
room, the solid book and the empty story,
the talk of men about real questions and life
and the chaff and gossip of the scandal-
spreader and fool-jester, they choose the
lower down. There are many other levels
below and above this. The highest is the
level of the men who try to bring all their
thousfhts and tastes into conformitv with the
best, who by always choosing the upper and
better have sought to acquire the habit of
a high mind, to wdiich evil thoughts do not
naturally come and by which they are re-
jected when they do come. Such men hope



78 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



some day to come to the height of character
set forth in Daniel's "Epistle to the Countess
of Cumberland" :

He that of such a height has built his mind,
And reared the dwelling of his thoughts so strong,
As neither fear nor hope can shake the frame
Of his resolved powers; nor all the wind
Of vanity or malice pierce to wrong
His settled peace, or to disturb the same :
What a fair seat hath he, from whence he may
The boundless wastes and wealds of man survey !

And with how free an eye doth he look down

Upon these lower regions of turmoil !

Where all the streams of passion mainly beat

On flesh and blood ; where honor, power, renown,

Are only gay afflictions, golden toil ;

Where greatness stands upon as feeble feet,

As frailty doth ; and only great doth seem

To little minds, who do it so esteem.

How may we hope to attain to such high-
mindedness that our thoughts will be always
elevated and worthy, firm and consecutive,
that our minds may be busy in good things
and ready always for hard tasks ?

Substantial reading will help us toward
high-mindedness. It will give us a body of
good thoughts. The mind will inevitably
be employed upon something. If it is not
employed upon what is good and high, it



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 79



will resort to what is evil and low. The
radical weakness of human nature appears in
the tendency of our minds and hearts to
drop. There is a law of moral gravity as
well as a law of physical gravity. Unless
the mind is borne up, given good nourish-
ment from without, it will drop into empty
imaginings, or evil will slip in to fill the
place which belongs to good. Occasionally
''a full man," such as Lord Bacon had in
mind, may be made by meditation, but as
a rule he is made only, as Bacon said, by
reading. To be high-minded we shall have
to read substantial books. It is all right to
read books of different kinds. The mind
needs them. Dr. Thomas Arnold was very
positive about this. "Keep your view of
men and things attentive," he urged, "and
depend upon it that a mixed knowledge is
not a superficial one. As far as it goes the
views that it gives are true, but he who reads
deeply in one class of writers only, gets views
which are almost sure to be perverted, and
which are not only narrow but false. Ad-
just your proposed amount of reading to
your time and inclination вАФ this is perfectly
free to every man ; but whether that amount
be large or small, let it be varied in its kind



80 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



and widely varied. If I have a confident
opinion on any one point connected with the
improvement of the human mind it is on
this." When people read at all nowadays,
however, this is not usually the warning they
need. Their difficulty is their diffuse read-
ing. What we need is more concentration
on a few great books which we shall master
and store in the mind. This will elevate its
level.

A wise use of conversation uplifts the
mind. Perhaps sometimes we feel that we
have nothing to give. Often the atmosphere
of a conversation seems to congeal our
minds. We feel a self-consciousness and un-
naturalness which strikes us dumb. At such
times we can at least draw out others. To
appreciate their point of view, to draw out
what cargo their minds carry, will quicken
and exalt our own minds. Even where other
])eople have no reasoned opinion to share
with us they have had their histories, their
experiences of life. They came from a definite
childhood environment. All that we can
draw out of them will enrich them in the
giving and will help to ennoble the tone
of our own minds if we view it with
sympathy.



CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 81



Each day has its opportunities for the en-
richment of memory. "I know over a hun-
dred poems and Psahiis now," said an old
man of humble circumstances but of a high
mind. *'I memorize them on the cars and
whenever I can, and they make me very
rich." A low^ mind cannot long remain low
when filled with the great words which can-
not be kept down, which soar aloft toward
God. Each of these words displaces some
other. The mind has elastic capacities, but
its workinor sections are limited and thev
can be preempted or reclaimed by what is
great and good.

The high-minded man will use rightly and
yet with strong control the floods of news-
paper and magazine literature of the day.
Chinese Gordon at one time stopped his
newspapers altogether, and many people
would be better off without them. They fill
the mind w^th low and trivial interests and
they degrade its tone. The highest type of
mind cannot be produced from a diet of
periodical literature. It can use the papers
that pass in the night, but its light will be
thrown on them, not drawn from them.

Loving true judgments and sound knowl-
edsre for their own sake and not for the sake



82 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



of the commercial uses to which they can
be put, exalts the mind. The mind that
dwells with the truth and that ever travels
with it will always have truth to give, but
the gift will be the richer because free and
not calculated, because it flows from a foun-
tain stored up for its own sake. The love
of truth gives the mind its fullest elevation
and freedom.

The mind is helped to a higher level by
an attitude of appreciation and good will.
If we are ever looking for what we dislike
and disapprove we shall soon feel the down-
pull of such an attitude upon the tone of the
mind. That which we despise the mind
should reject, but its lookout should always
be for the things to which it can assent. In
every conversation it will give most and
gain most by picking out what it can ap-
prove. If we watch ourselves we shall soon
discover how practical and searching this
principle is. The mind soon takes a hint,
and when it learns that it is to see what is
fair and to be blind to all else, it will re-
spond to the appeal of higher things which
this law addresses to it and will uplift itself.

We must check also in the interest of the
highest-mindedness all useless and evil



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 83



vagaries of the imagination. The im-
agination is a great wanderer. It loves to
stray everywhere. There is no nook or
cranny of the universe where it does not go,
and many of its journeys are wasteful or
worse. It goes down into low places and
drags the mind with it. The high mind must
lay a law upon the imagination and keep it
on the heights.

The highest things in the world are prin-
ciples. Whoever associates with principles
is in the loftiest company. The mind which
wants to be higher should be directed toward
principles. Each new principle which it
finds and fixes is a new anchorage to the
highest. When we have defined to ourselves
duty and truth and purity and unselfishness,
we have bound our minds to the noblest we
can know. They will be high minds as long
as they do not forget.

And no principles will m.ore elevate the
mind than the principle of prayer and the
principle of Christ. Prayer checks all down-
ward movement of the mind and spreads out
over its every part the upward pulling of the
Spirit of God. And Christ is the great prin-
ciple of exaltation. He is more than that;
he is the Person who lifts. 'T, if I be lifted



84 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



up from the earth," he said, "will draw all
men unto myself." And to be a Christian
is to have the lower levels shut to us while
the mind seeks the things that are above,
where Christ is. He has now been lifted
up and the mind of the Christian must be
with him, on the high levels of God.



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 85



THE HABIT OF HIGH-MINDED
LOWLINESS

HIGH-MIXDEDNESS never shows it-
self more unmistakably than in the
humility of true unselfishness. The
noblest illustration of this is found in the
incident of the Saviour's washing the dis-
ciples' feet on the evening of the night of his
betrayal. *'Jesus, knowing that the Father
had given all things into his hands," says
John, "and that he came forth from God, and
goeth unto God, riseth from supper, and
layeth aside his garments; and he took a
towel, and girded himself. Then he poureth
water into a basin, and began to wash the
disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the
towel wherewith he was girded." As a
simple statement of fact this is beautiful and
wonderful, but it is more than a statement
of fact. It is a spiritual interpretation.
Jesus rose and stooped. That is the fact.
But he rose and stooped ''knowing that he
came forth from God, and goeth unto God."
That is the deep spiritual interpretation.

We see here first of all the relation of
belief to conduct, of thought to action. His



86 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



deed sprang from his mindedness. His deed
was lowly because his mindedness was high.
What we hold theoretically is bound to de-
termine what we do practically. It is so in
the sciences and arts. The results flow from
theory, and the theory determines the results.
At a Yale alumni dinner some years ago,
Mr. Julian Kennedy, a famous oarsman in
his day and now one of the leading blast-
furnace engineers, took issue with the
modern demand for practical technical train-
ing as against the old-fashioned theoretical
type. He defended the Sheffield Scientific
School for preserving old-time traditions in-
stead of making its courses manual, work-
shop courses. ''It is the man who knows
the theory who does the thing," said he. ''It
is the true theory that counts. The man who
designed the guns used on the American
ships in the Spanish War never had any ex-
perience with a hammer and bench, and he
did not see the guns cast. It was all purely
theoretical. But when the guns went off
the results were not theoretical." And so
in all great modern buildings. The en-
gineers sit in their offices and figure and draw
on paper. In mills which they do not visit,
the girders are made. On ground which



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 87



they have never seen the material is as-
sembled and the bridge or the sky-scraper is
reared, each piece fitting each other piece,
and the whole great structure falling prac-
tically together from mere theoretical draw-
ings: The result flows from the mindedness
of the engineer. And what is true in these
arts is true also in the art of life. There
as truly as in the physical sciences results de-
pend upon our theories, what we do upon
what we think. Professor James begins his
lectures on "Pragmatism" with a quotation
from Mr. Chesterton's "Heretics," in which
he sets forth his conviction : "There are
some people," says Mr. Chesterton, "and I
am one of them, who think that the most
practical and important thing about a man
is still his view of the universe. W^e think
that for a landlady considering a lodger it
is important to know his income but still
more important to know his philosophy. . . .
We think the question is not whether the
theory of the cosmos affects matters, but
wdiether in the long run anything else affects
them." And Professor James adds : "I
think with Mr. Chesterton in this matter. I
know that you ladies and gentlemen have a
philosophy, each and all of you, and that



88 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



the most interesting and important thing
about you is the way in which it determines
the perspective in your several worlds."

What kind of mind we have will determine
what kind of deeds we do, and it is primarily
upon these questions on which Jesus had a
certain mind that all depends. He knew his
origin and his destiny. In a note in one
of his books, Ruskin says there are three
great questions which confront every soul :
"Where did I come from? What can I
know? Where am I going?" What we do
depends on what our mind is with regard to
these. We shall- serve men in the spirit of
God if we have a mind high enough to realize
its heavenly origin and heavenly destiny.

We see also in this incident in Jesus' life
power conscious of itself but used in serv-
ice. That is the end of power. The supreme
virtue of machinery is docility. The history
of civilization is only the story of the taming
of force, the bending of the power of nature
to obedience. Just so Jesus regarded living
power. It was a thing to be used. 'There-
fore doth the Father love me, because I lay
down my life," he said. *T have power to
lay it down, and I have power to take it
again." It was this possession of limitless



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 89



power all subjugated to unselfishness which
made Jesus so calm and steadfast. He had
the habit of lofty-minded self-forgetfulness.
Such self-forgetfulness and unselfishness
are a sign of confidence in one's own posi-
tion, an evidence of easy noble-mindedness.
It is the noble who dare be lowly. Jesus with
his full knowledge of his origin and destiny
in God would stoop to any lowliness. He
was high-minded enough to dare. It is told
by one of the childhood friends of the late
Walter Lowrie, who was drowned at New-
port in 1 90 1, just at the threshold of his
career, that "one summer several young peo-
ple, some guests of the family, and the
Lowrie boys were waiting outside the Tyrone
station for a train. A wretched-looking wo-
man with a little baby in her arms, carrying
a traveling bag, came past, with another lit-
tle child hardly able to walk clinging to her
skirts and following as best it could. One
of the boys, half in earnest, probably, yet
thinking it was like Walter, said, There's
your chance,' and without hesitation Walter
spoke to the woman, picked up the child and
carried it over to the branch train and onto a
car. It was always rather crowded round
the station in the afternoon, and Walter came



90 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



back looking a little foolish, not because he
minded being seen by so many, but rather,
I think, because we could not help showing
that we thought it fine of him, and he had
a horror of showing off." He was sure
enough of his social position to dare to stoop.
A high mind l^red a lowly love.

And is there not a self-revelation in
haughtiness and pride? Where there is no
lowly love we know there is no true high-
mindedness. The people who are priggish
and snobbish, who act discourteously, betray
an origin and a destiny very different from
the Saviour's, who rose and stooped.

And deeds not only reveal our minds,
haughty deeds low minds and lowly deeds
lofty minds, but deeds also help to make
minds. Humble and loving acts will help to
make us high-minded.

Wouldst thou the holy hill ascend

And see the Father's face,
To all his children humbly bend

And seek the lowest place.
Thus humbly doing on the earth

What things the lofty scorn
Thou shalt assert the noble birth

Of all the lowly born.

On the other hand, unlowly conduct is a
source of deterioration of mind and charac-



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 91



ter. That was why the best sentiment of
the South disapproved of slavery. It might
or might not be bad for the slave. It was
unmistakably bad for the slaveholder. No
man was fit to own another man. The sense
of ownership of a man could not be good
for the man who owned him. And so haz-
ing, often good for the hazed, is invariably
bad for the hazer. All use of power that
is not humble and unselfish is bad for high-
mindedness. The possession of it is pre-
sumption not for its willful exercise, but for
its restraint. We have it only as a trust.

Naught that I have my own I call,

I hold it for the Giver.
My heart, my life, my strength, my all.

Are his and his forever.

He who feels this and acts upon it is the
truly high-minded man.



92 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



THE HABIT OF NOT DAWDLING

THE habit of not dawdling is one of the
most needed and most useful Chris-
tian habits. A dawdler can't really
make a good Christian. If he does, he in-
variably ceases to be a dawdler.

Plenty of boys and girls who are now
dawdlers have in them the making of good
Christians, and one of the first signs of their
real purpose to be Christians will be the lay-
ing aside of all dawdling. Some boys take
twice as long to run an errand as it ought
to take and waste a great deal of time mak-
ing up their minds to run it. Some girls
are so slow in dressing that their mothers
have to do a great many things which their
daughters could have done for them if they
had only been prompt and quick. A great
deal of time and patience is wasted by
dawdlers.

And as a rule the dawdlers are the very
people who complain most when other peo-
ple dawdle and inconvenience them. If the
postman loiters along the way and delivers
the mail late, if the train is slow and does
not arrive on time, if the coachman who was



A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS 93



to meet the train lounges about his work and
is not there, no one is more impatient than
the very people who always dawdle them-
selves and who are now vexed at nothing
but the very principle on which they them-
selves act, the principle of dallying with one's
work instead of doing it.

There is a good word for all dawdlers
in the Second Book of Samuel. It was after
the long war between the house of Saul and
the house of David. At last Abner re-
volted from the house of Saul and sent word
to the elders of Israel, saying, "In times past
ye sought for David to be king over you :
now then do it." That was the manly way
to talk. "Now then do it." Duties are
not to be talked about, they are to be done.
In our work and our warfare with evil and
in our home duties and our achievement of
character, the word for us is Abner's word,
"Do it."

It is foolish to dawdle because of fear
that we cannot do. The only way that
we can find out whether we can or not is
to try at once and to try hard. And all that
we ought we can. There is no such thing
as impossibility in the line of our divinely
assigned work. General Armstrong used to



94 A CHRISTIAN'S HABITS



scorn the idea of impossibility. At an In-
dian Rights conference at Lake Mohonk he
once leaped up, when some one had pro-
nounced a certain righteous course of action


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Online LibraryRobert E. (Robert Elliott) SpeerA Christian's habits → online text (page 4 of 5)