To think we are able is almost to be so–to determine upon attainment, is frequently attainment itself. Thus, earnest resolution has often seemed to have about it almost a savor of omnipotence. The strength of Suwarrow’s character lay in his power of willing, and, like most resolute persons, he preached it up as a system.
Before Pizarro, D’Almagro and De Luque obtained any associates or arms or soldiers, and with a very imperfect knowledge of the country or the powers they were to encounter, they celebrated a solemn mass in one of the great churches, dedicating themselves to the conquest of Peru. The people expressed their contempt at such a monstrous project, and were shocked at such sacrilege. But these decided men continued the service and afterward retired for their great preparation with an entire insensibility to the expressions of contempt. Their firmness was absolutely invincible. The world has deplored the results of this expedition, but there is a great lesson for us in the firmness of decision of its leaders. Such firmness would keep to its course and retain its purpose unshaken amidst the ruins of the world.
At the battle of Marengo the French army was supposed to be defeated; but, while Bonaparte and his staff were considering their next move, Dessaix suggested that there was yet time to retrieve their disaster, as it was only about the middle of the afternoon. Napoleon rallied his men, renewed the fight, and won a great victory over the Austrians, though the unfortunate Dessaix lost his own life on that field.
What has chance ever done in the world? Has it built any cities? Has it invented any telephones, any telegraphs? Has it built any steamships, established any universities, any asylums, any hospitals? Was there any chance in Cæsar’s crossing the Rubicon? What had chance to do with Napoleon’s career, with Wellington’s, or Grant’s, or Von Moltke’s? Every battle was won before it was begun. What had luck to do with Thermopylæ, Trafalgar, Gettysburg? Our successes we ascribe to ourselves; our failures to destiny.
A vacillating man, no matter what his abilities, is invariably pushed to the wall in the race of life by a determined will. It is he who resolves to succeed, and who at every fresh rebuff begins resolutely again, that reaches the goal. The shores of fortune are covered with the stranded wrecks of men of brilliant ability, but who have wanted courage, faith and decision, and have therefore perished in sight of more resolute but less capable adventurers, who succeeded in making port. Hundreds of men go to their graves in obscurity, who have been obscure only because they lacked the pluck to make a first effort, and who, could they only have resolved to begin, would have astonished the world by their achievements and successes. The fact is, as Sydney Smith has well said, that in order to do anything in this world that is worth doing, we must not stand shivering on the bank, and thinking of the cold and the danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.
Is not this a grand privilege of man, immortal man, that though he may not be able to stir a finger; that though a moth may crush him; that merely by a righteous will, he is raised above the stars; that by it he originates a good in the universe, which the universe could not annihilate; a good which can defy extinction, though all created energies of intelligence or matter were combined against it?
A man whose moral nature is ascendant is not the subject, but the superior of circumstances. He is free; nay, more, he is a king; and though this sovereignty may have been won by many desperate battles, once on the throne, and holding the sceptre with a firm grasp, he has a royalty of which neither time nor accident can strip him.
What can you do with a man who has an invincible purpose in him; who never knows when he is beaten; and who, when his legs are shot off, will fight on the stumps? Difficulties and opposition do not daunt him. He thrives upon persecution; it only stimulates him to more determined endeavor. Give a man the alphabet and an iron will, and who shall place bounds to his achievements! Imprison a Galileo for his discoveries in science, and he will experiment with the straw in his cell. Deprive Euler of his eyesight, and he but studies harder upon mental problems, thus developing marvelous powers of mathematical calculation. Lock up the poor Bedford tinker in jail, and he will write the finest allegory in the world, or will leave his imperishable thoughts upon the walls of his cell. Burn the body of Wycliffe and throw the ashes into the Severn; but they will be swept to the ocean, which will carry them, permeated with his principles, to all lands. _The world always listens to a man with a will in him._ You might as well snub the sun as such men as Bismarck and Grant.
Hope would storm the castle of despair; it gives courage when despondency would give up the battle of life. He is the best doctor who can implant _hope_ and courage in the human soul. So he is the greatest man who can inspire us to the grandest achievements.
“Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven; the fated sky
Gives us free scope; and only backward pulls
Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.”
“How much I could do if I only tried.”