AN accomplishment,in the worldly sense of the word,may be viewed in two ways,—either as the act of a visible personal agent or as the demonstration or proof of an unseen power or law. The great men of the world who have acted as personal agents have not been wholly wrong. Many of their acts have illustrated truth and righteousness,but they have nevertheless been disappointed often in finding that they were credited with being the origin of the evils which prevailed under their rule, and that their good purposes were not comprehended. Expecting praise and honor from men,they usually found that only their flatterers deified them and named them sources of good,whereas with mankind in general there was a deeper look into the facts,and selfishness,pride,and vainglory were unveiled before that steady gaze. The flatterers might glorify as a god the pyramid builder; but humanity would count up the lives sacrificed in toil,the drops of blood that bedewed the sands as the toilers were driven by the lash of the taskmaster,and see no godlikeness in the tyrant who used his power for his own glorification,and who in the process abased and crushed myriads of men.
The conqueror likewise is unerringly appraised by the judgment of mankind. He is not loved as is the hero and patriot who loses his own life that others may live and that his beloved country may thrive. The conqueror destroys men and nations in the hope that his glory may live, and that throughout the ages his name may be remembered as a personal agent who accomplished great things. But could he know that if his name were thus remembered it would only perpetuate his infamy and inhumanity,he would be glad to have it erased from the records of history altogether. What is true in the great is true also in lesser characters. In families as well as in nations there are found individuals determined to rule and oppress others,governing not by any form of right thinking but solely by caprice, and believing that the control of others by their capricious desire testifies to their greatness. If they could know how they are estimated by those whom they oppress,and by the silent observers who judge by the facts,they,like the execrated conquerors,would seek earnestly a different ideal for living.
The agent who tries to build up what will gain for him personal notice,is like the child by the seashore building up at low tide his castles and towers. He calls you to behold the marvel of their construction and to praise him as an architect most wonderful. But the leveling tide lays low his towers,and fills their sunken paths and moats,leaving not a sign of his work. So in the realm of life is the work which takes its origin from the personal thinker. A great authority on medicine declared that any book on the subject ten years old might be discarded as without value. In theologies there is transition from generation to generation,so that within a man's memory the style and doctrinal basis of preaching may entirely change. Philosophies float over the fields of thought like clouds over the meadows,and are scarcely more substantial. Yet the theorist is as much in earnest in the propagation of his temporary dogma or doctrine as if he were trying to establish enduring good. Indeed,he fastens his name if he can to the floating cloud of belief,trusting that he may be famed as an originator of the vaporous appearance of substance. But transient are they all,cloud castles that melt away in light,or sand castles by the shore that the waves level; and alike transient is all building founded on any belief that man is originator or creator.
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