“Do what thou dost as if the stake were heaven,
And this thy last deed ere the judgment day.”
If you wish to reach the highest begin at the lowest.
What is a man,
If his chief good, and market of his time,
Be but to sleep, and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure He, that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before, and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike Reason
To rust in us unused.
Ambition is the spur that makes man struggle with destiny. It
is heaven’s own incentive to make purpose great and achievement
“Not failure, but low aim, is crime.”
“Endeavor to be first in thy calling, whatever it
may be; neither let anyone go before thee in well
O may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence; live
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
For miserable aims that end with self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge man’s search
To vaster issues.
“Alexander, Cæsar, Charlemagne and myself have founded empires,” said Napoleon to Montholon at St. Helena; “but upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire on love, and at this moment millions of men would die for Him. I die before my time and my body will be given back to worms. Such is the fate of him who has been called the great Napoleon. What an abyss between my deep misery and the eternal kingdom of Christ, which is proclaimed, loved and adored, and which is extended over the whole earth. Call you this dying? Is it not rather living? The death of Christ is the death of a God.”
“No true man can live a half life,” says Phillips Brooks, “when he has genuinely learned that it is a half life. The other half, the higher half, must haunt him.”
“Ideality,” says Horace Mann, “is only the _avant courier_ of the mind; and where that in a healthy and normal state goes I hold it to be a prophecy that realization can follow.”
“If the certainty of future fame bore Milton rejoicing through his blindness, or cheered Galileo in his dungeon,” writes Bulwer, “what stronger and holier support shall not be given to him who has loved mankind as his brothers and devoted his labors to their cause?–who has not sought, but relinquished, his own renown?–who has braved the present censures of men for their future benefit, and trampled upon glory in the energy of benevolence? Will there not be for him something more powerful than fame to comfort his sufferings and to sustain his hopes?”
“If I live,” wrote Rufus Choate in his diary in September, 1844, “all blockheads which are shaken at certain mental peculiarities shall know and feel a reasoner, a lawyer and a man of business.”
I have read that none of the humbler races have the muscle by which man turns his eye upward, though I am not anatomist enough to be sure of the fact.
“Show me a contented slave,” says Burke, “and I will show you a degraded man.”
“They truly are faithful,” says one writer, “who devote their entire lives to amendment.”
General Grant said of the Chinese Wall: “I believe that the labor expended on this wall could have built every railroad in the United States, every canal and highway, and most, if not all, our cities.”
“The real benefactors of mankind,” says Emerson, “are the men and women who can raise their fellow beings out of the world of corn and money, who make them forget their bank account by interesting them in their higher selves; who can raise mere money-getters into the intellectual realm, where they will cease to measure greatness and happiness by dollars and cents; who can make men forget their stomachs and feast on being’s banquet.”
“Men are not so much mistaken in desiring to advance themselves,” said Beecher, “as in judging what will be an advance, and what the right method of obtaining it. An ambition which has conscience in it will always be a laborious and faithful engineer, and will build the road and bridge the chasms between itself and eminent success by the most faithful and minute performances of duty. The liberty to go higher than we are is given only when we have fulfilled amply the duty of our present sphere. Thus men are to rise upon their performances and not upon their discontent. And this is the secret and golden meaning of the command to be _content_ in whatever sphere we are placed. It is not to be the content of indifference, of indolence, of unambitious stupidity, but the content of industrious fidelity. When men are building the foundations of vast structures they must needs labor far below the surface, and in disagreeable conditions. But every course of stone which they lay raises them higher; and at length, when they reach the surface, they have laid such solid work under them that they need not fear now to carry up their walls, through towering stories, till they overlook the whole neighborhood. A man proves himself fit to go higher who shows that he is faithful where he is. A man that will not do well in his present place, because he longs to be higher, is fit neither to be where he is nor yet above it; he is already too high and should be put lower.”
Do that which is assigned thee and thou canst not hope too much, or dare too much. What a man does, that he has. In himself is his might. Don’t waste life on doubts and fears. Spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours or ages that follow it.