1877 - Firth, Josiah Clifton. Lectures on Lions in the Way and Luck. - Lions in the Way, p 3-38

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  1877 - Firth, Josiah Clifton. Lectures on Lions in the Way and Luck. - Lions in the Way, p 3-38
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In the renowned allegory of the immortal tinker, we read that the Pilgrim, in climbing the hill Difficulty, perceived Lions in the Way. "Then he was afraid and would have turned back, for he thought nothing but death was before him. But the porter, whose name was Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt, as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying, 'Is thy strength so small? Fear not the lions, for they are chained. Keep in the midst of the way, and no hurt shall come unto thee.' Then I saw that the Pilgrim went on, trembling, for fear of the lions; but taking heed to the directions of the watcher, he went on safely, for, though he heard the lions roar, they did him no harm."

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Following the example of honest John Bunyan, I propose to place before you some of the obstacles and difficulties, some of the snares and sorrows, some of the temptations and trials--in short, some of the Lions in the Way to which we are all, less or more, exposed in our pilgrimage through the world.

Many of these Lions in the Way are the creation of our own fears and follies. Many of them are chained. But we must not forget that many of them are unchained, which there is no avoiding; and to these we must give battle with valour and discretion.

My subject is a difficult one, not because there is little to be said about it, but because much more might be said than can be said in the limited time at my disposal. It has, however, the advantage, that, should I fail to show you that Lions in the Way are of very frequent occurrence, your own experience will tell you that you have already met with, not a few Lions in the Way, both chained and unchained.

There is, indeed, no age, sex, nor condition, free from them. From infancy to age they meet us at every turn. Poverty and wealth have each their special Lions in the Way. At work, or at leisure, we are constantly beset by them. Individuals,

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Difficulty a Law of Life.

families, communities, nations, are confronted by them. Savagism offers no immunity, civilization but increases and intensifies their attacks; in a word, to meet them is the common lot of all men. In this respect, at least, "the whole world is kin."

The common form in which these Lions in the Way meet us, is that of difficulty, in one shape or another. Now, what is a difficulty? This strange, obstinate, persistent thing--this Frankenstein, that, sword in hand, threatens to bar our progress or cut us down, unless, with manful hearts we give valiant battle--what is it? This bitter ingredient in the cup of life; how came it there? This perverse fellow-traveller of ours accompanying us like our shadow; why is it? And what are its uses?

We are always trying to avoid a difficulty, we frequently endeavour to ignore its existence, and we are constantly hoping to escape from it, but to little purpose. Fret and worry ourselves as we will, it yields nothing to our petulance. Our fears but intensify its power over us.

In our present state of existence, difficulty is simply a condition of life, unavoidable--nay, necessary to the right developement of the capabilities with which the Creator has endowed us.

So general, nay, so universal a condition of things, is no accidental circumstance. Difficulty

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is a law of life inseparable from the feeble, imperfect state to which man has been reduced by disobedience to the Divine commands. It is more than a law; it is a part of the punishment attendant upon the infraction of that law. And yet, bitter though it be, the punishment, if rightly used, becomes, under the Divine government of the world, a wholesome stimulant to aid us to attain to a better, and nobler, and happier life.

We must not, however, suppose that lions in the way are always chained. Sometimes--as the unchained lions of the Roman amphitheatre rushed on the gladiator--they attack us fiercely, and give no quarter. Like the gallant "six hundred," the pilgrims of life often find themselves assailed on every side:--

"Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them,"

and, if need be, like that noble "six hundred," we must meet the foe with courage undaunted:--

"Our's not to make reply,
Our's not to reason why,
Our's but to do or die."

Now let us see if we can find any of these Lions in the Way; these difficulties in the common walks

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From Infancy to Age.

of life. We may as well begin at the beginning, for, as I have already said, they beset us from infancy to age.

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Yonder is a little child, of two-years old or so. What is he doing? Watch him a minute, and you will see that he has escaped from some careless nurse, or over busy mother, and is toddling his best to a puddle across the road. Like most people, who make longer journeys, he has many ups and downs. Now, he laughs with delight at the horse galloping towards him, or roars with pain as he rolls over a stone, or hesitates as he sees a big dog looking at him; but amidst all, he heads for the puddle across the road. At last his little feet stand on the very edge, and at the moment when hazy schemes of making splashes and dirt-pies are dreamily floating through his little head,--just, indeed, when little Toddles' difficulties are over--a red-haired nurse-girl dashes across the road, and snaps him up, perfectly regardless of his screams, kicks, or scratches. If little Toddles' heart, almost bursting with vexation, could let you know its secrets, you would find that red-haired girl was his Lion in the Way; and, oh! how he hates her for

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A Guardian Angel.

preventing him from having his own way. That difficulty vanquished Toddles. Happily for us, we are sometimes met by a difficulty which makes us fret and fume, but which, like a guardian angel, often bars our progress, in spite of ourselves, towards disaster and ruin.

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Look at yonder schoolboy, fagging at his lessons, and humming in a melancholy key the old schoolboy ditty:--

"Multiplication is a vexation,
Division's quite as bad,
Rule of Three does puzzle me,
And Practice drives me mad;"

is he not beset by difficulty? Later on, the intricacies of grammar, the mysteries of mathematics, quantities known and unknown, sorely bother him. From beginning to end of his school career, he must constantly battle with difficulties.

Not the least of the Lions in the Way of his learning the most necessary of all acquirments-- the learning how to live,--to keep a sound mind in a healthy body, is the absence of all teaching how to do it. Education in these days has come to be regarded as mental training alone. It is true, that of late, "technical training" has been regarded as a necessary addition to the three R's and hie, hac, hoe. That is a step in advance. But it is only one step. Life is the one great

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treasure with which every boy and girl has been endowed by the Creator. But how very few are taught how to keep it in a state of health. Attention has been hitherto chiefly devoted to the developement of the mind. The body has been left out of the question, abandoned to natural instinct, left to parents--themselves often deplorably ignorant of the laws of health--or, when disease has been established in the system by a long course of ignorance and neglect, remitted to medical men. Education under the influence of the modern system of "cram" is forcing the mind at the expense of the body. Ventilation and drainage, what to "eat, drink, and avoid," have received little or no attention. Two factors--the mind and body--exist for the proper working out of the sum of life. The "forcing system" has developed the mind at the expense of the body, with what a miserable result, ruined constitutions and blasted hopes have left many a painful record. How many bright and keen intellects have fallen victims to this terrible defiance of the laws of life. How many young men of splendid abilities after winning the highest honors of our universities, have sunk physically exhausted into a premature grave. Similar results, differing only in degree, are being developed by this modern system in our schools,

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from the highest to the lowest. This iron system demands from the most feeble constitution and most delicate organization terrible, ghastly, and fatal sacrifices. It is to the honor of the Auckland Board of Education that it has been amongst the first--if not the first--in the colonies to provide, in some measure, for teaching the laws of health in the schools under its control. I make no apology for introducing the following extract from the NEW ZEALAND HERALD:--"It is the fashion, we believe, of some, looking down from their pinnacles of superior wisdom, to sneer at the humble workers who try to disseminate a knowledge of the laws of life amongst the people. It may be interesting to our readers to know what one or two men, to whose opinion some weight may perhaps be allowed, have to say on this point. Canon Kingsley writes (we quote from 'Health and Education,') 'Ah, the waste of health and strength in the young! How much of it might be saved by a little rational education in those laws of nature which are the will of God about the welfare of our bodies, and which, therefore, we are as much bound to know and to obey as we are bound to know and obey the spiritual laws whereupon depends the welfare of our souls.' And again, 'Teaching of

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Laws of Health.

this kind ought to, and will, in some more civilized age and country, be held a necessary element in the school course of every child, just as necessary as reading, writing, and arithmetic; for it is after all the most necessary branch of that 'technical education' of which we hear so much just now, namely, the technic, or art of keeping ourselves alive and well.' Mr. Herbert Spencer writes on education:--'We further contend that, as the laws of health must be recognised before they can be fully conformed to, the imparting of such knowledge must precede a more rational living--come when that may.' And 'The teaching how to maintain them (health and spirits), is a teaching that yields in moment to no other whatever... Strange that the assertion should need making! Stranger still that it should need defending! Yet, there are not a few by whom such a proposition will be received with something approaching to derision... so overwhelming is the influence of established routine.' Professor Huxley says, 'If any one is interested in the laws of health, it is the workman, whose strength is wasted by ill-prepared food, whose health is sapped by bad ventilation and bad drainage, and half whose children are massacred by disorders which might be prevented.'"

Let our rulers, in the new Education Bill, but

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make the teaching of the laws of health and life compulsory in every school, and a Lion in the Way will be removed out of the way of our boys and girls. With this, their school training will give full force to those powerful allies in the contest--obedience and application. For, after all, these are the master keys with which they may unlock every difficulty.

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Master of Himself.



Look at the young apprentice, innocent of the use ot tools, ignorant of the principles of mechanics, simple or complex, cuffed and knocked about by his more experienced fellow-workmen. The first years of his apprenticeship bristle with difficulties, still, if he call to his aid obedience and application, patience and self-control, he becomes, in due time, a competent master of his craft, and what is more--master of himself.

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Very serious difficulties--obstinate Lions in the Way---are needlessly placed in the path of our young men and young women, by the education given to them. Anything, with the exceptions I have named, less suitable as a preparation for rendering their future lives happy to themselves, and useful to their fellows, could not well be devised. The dignity of labour sounds well, but many parents appear to regard labour as very undignified indeed. To attain the priceless treasure of a trained hand, hardly appears to be worth consideration. But if a clerkship, a position in a soft goods warehouse, or behind a bank counter, becomes vacant, a hundred applications will be made for it. To be seen in the grimy livery of honest toil is not respectable, you know; but to wear a black coat, to own a soft white hand, is to be quite genteel. Now, why should difficulties like these be made a bar to the real progress of our young men and young women? Is it not astounding that so many young people are offered

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The Goose Step.

helpless victims at the shrine of a hollow respectability? Need we be surprised that so many fall a prey to temptation? They are often more to be pitied than blamed, for, indeed, the chief fault lies at other doors than theirs.

Young men must expect to find, like the rest of us, difficulties neither few nor far between; Lions in the Way, both chained and unchained. Let them learn to meet a difficulty like men, without whining and grumbling, for that involves loss of mental power, and unfits them to fight and win the real battle when it comes. A soldier with a long march before him would cut a sorry figure if he exhausted himself by growling at his surroundings, and doing the goose-step for half-a-day before he fell in. Take care, then, that there be no waste of force by useless fretting, or talking about your difficulties. Keep them in the main to yourself, very rarely making a confidant beyond your wife. In her you have often the wisest and safest counsellor. Probably some of you young men may say, "That piece of advice does not apply to us, as we have found a difficulty in getting a wife if we want one, or we anticipate a difficulty in supporting her if we do get one." That is quite possible, but as difficulty is the common lot of all men, you can hardly hope to win a good girl, or support her,

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without some trouble. As a rule, whatever is to be obtained without difficulty is hardly worth the having. At all events, that Lion in the Way may possibly be vanquished, by calling to your aid some one of the many good girls you doubtless know; and I venture to say that, if you are a young fellow worth helping, she will do her best to help you. Young men, like some ot their elders, sometimes act in this respect as though they were lords of creation, and expect to lasso a young girl, as another set of lords of creation catch wild horses on the prairies. That is a mistake. Good, clever-handed, high-spirited girls have too much self-respect to be caught by that sort of courtship.

Whilst on this part of my subject, I may say that there has been a great deal of nonsense talked in the press and elsewhere about the expensive habits of the ladies. The farce of the "Girl of the Period" is played out. In this respect, the fair sex have not had fair play. Suppose the cynics exhibit the "Fast Young Man of the Period," and entertain us with witty delineations of his little foibles and expensive habits. The truth is, men have, not unfrequently, the more expensive habits of the two. In the mean time, let me advise all young bachelors to cast off their rings and kid

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In Search of a Wife.

gloves, and look out for a girl who knows how to work, and who knows how to dress herself as well, for, as a rule, a girl who displays neither neatness, taste, nor style in her dress abroad, may be expected to be a helpless, useless thing at home.

When he has got thus far, let him take the well known measures to escape out of the state of cynical single blessedness.

This way out of that difficulty would, I believe, be supported by the ladies--the single ladies at least--as one very well worth trying by any bashful young fellow who fancies himself a victim to the difficulty of finding a good wife.

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It is impossible to over-estimate the value of the wise counsel a true woman will give, or, of the sacrifices she will make for the man she loves. In man's sorest and darkest hour of trial, how often does God send a woman to charm the lion of despair from his heart?

Illustrative of this, let me tell you a pretty story, extracted from the columns of an American paper. It is as follows:--Some years ago, a Cornish miner arrived at a mining town in Michigan. Before leaving home, he loved the daughter of an innkeeper, to whom he proposed marriage, but was rejected. On the stormy ocean, on the trackless prairie, in the dank and dismal mine, he hoped one day to return to England, and woo and win "the girl he left behind him." Year after year he toiled on, when one black day a dreadful calamity befel him. A cruel explosion blinded him for ever. With the light of his eyes, the hope of his life vanished also. Strong and courageous he had been, and had proudly said nothing more of his love to the saucy "maid of the inn," in far-away Cornwall. Now, the

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Golden Charity.

terrible blindness stood like a Lion in the Way; yet he bore his evil fate with silent and manly fortitude. Two years passed, and in some way the maid of the inn heard of the awful calamity which had overtaken her old sweetheart, on the distant shores of Lake Superior, and her woman's heart repented.

The other day, a quiet little woman arrived by the coach, and before many hours had passed, she was at the house where the blind and maimed miner was stopping. She came to take him back to England, without fuss or noise, and, if he'll allow her, she intends to care for him as his wife, for the remainder of his days.

The editor of the Michigan newspaper adds, "If there be one seat better than another in heaven, we know a little woman who will be entitled to it when she leaves this world."

Oh! woman, woman, great is thy power. Not in vain did the ancients depict thee as drawing the claws of the lion. Gentle sister, how sweetly canst thou banish the lion of rashness and rage from the heart of thy foolish brother. Winsome sweetheart, how surely canst thou muzzle the lion of temptation which sorely besets thy lover. Faithful wife, who like thee, can comfort and rescue thy fallen husband from the mouth of the lion of despair, into which, crime and folly are driving him? Oh! wandering

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prodigal, devoured by the lions of misery and remorse, return to the loving heart of thy mother, for her gentle tenderness shall bind or vanquish every lion, in the way of thy return to love, and home, and duty.

Oh! sinful daughter, wandering with torn and weary feet in the streets of yonder city, turn to thy forgiving mother, for, when man, like a mean and cruel lion, hath beguiled and ruined thee, and hath cast thee, a soiled dove, away from him; nay, when thy kindred condemn and avoid thee, there is one, who sorrowfully longs for thee, whose nightly prayer is made for thee, whose golden charity forgiveth thee--thy mother.

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Standard of Right.



Let us next glance at the Lions in the Way of business men, who are so often envied by the thoughtless or ambitious portion of their workmen, who, ignorant of the difficulties in which excessive competition, deficiency of capital, or other causes, involve their employers, do not sufficiently realise the fact, that whilst they are contending with their difficulties in the workshop--as it were behind the walls of a fortress--their masters are fighting an arduous battle in the open field. I am not about to excuse the makeshift policy, the lax principles, the want of knowledge, or the immoderate speculations of some mercantile men. On the contrary, I regret and denounce them. At the same time, I am not ignorant of the great difficulties which often attend a business man, in the severe struggle in which he is engaged. If he disregard the plain principles of duty and right, and neglect the dictates of common prudence and sound judgment, he will very soon find himself in difficulties, and must pay the penalty of his rashness.

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We hear a good deal of the difficulty attending the bringing up of a family. It is not merely the difficulty of making ends meet--that will not be ignored--it is the lax government of the household, the non-enforcing of the primary duty of obedience, the disregard of the necessity of setting up an inflexible standard of right in the family, the practical ignoring of their responsibility by parents, the loose religious principle, the alarming absence of sound religious belief, which, in denying man's responsibility to his God, attempts to destroy the last and highest court of appeal; these are amongst the unchained Lions in the Way; the causes which intensify the natural difficulty of training up a family to be an honor to their parents, a benefit to themselves, and a blessing to their country. These are the obstacles which make the right training of a family one of the most difficult problems of the age.

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Drink, and the Love of it.



There is one Lion in the Way which may be seen in our streets at noonday, or be found prowling there at night, in either case with its mouth wide open, "seeking whom it may devour,"--DRINK, AND THE LOVE OF IT. THIS is the lion which the Anglo-Saxon race, with a grim perversity, unchains in every part of the world. I shall not on this occasion cite a terrible array of figures, to show how much we annually pay to enslave and ruin ourselves, to create crime and punish it, to make drunkards, and, to quiet our consciences, fine them five shillings. For the present, I shall speak chiefly of those who have not yet entered the Circean cave as men, and come out as swine; to those to whom temptation comes like a winged fiend, hovering about us, with noiseless wing and seducing song. To these, drink is indeed an unchained lion.

There is Tom Jones, for instance, let us see how the lion of drink meets him. Tom is a handy workman, a kind husband, and a good fellow. On the road from his workshop to his home there lies

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the "Red Lion," a public-house, gay with crimson curtains, brilliant gas-lights, and general glitter. That gay 'public' is poor Tom's Lion in the Way, his sore temptation. If it were not there, of course he would never think about it, but go straight home to his young wife. In fact, these public-houses are simply traps, into which the feet of the unwary too often enter. "Will you walk into my parlor, my cosy little parlor," says the 'gay public' to Tom Jones, as, night after night, he loiters past the door of this duly authorized and perfectly legal trap. At length, Tom can stand it no longer. There, this terrible temptation stands, and at last poor Tom yields, and enters the mouth of the lion. And so, Tom Jones and thousands of his fellows go down to destruction, and their poor wives and children to destitution and ruin.

And so, in this perfectly legal manner, Government--or rather the people, for the people make the Government,--get over the difficulty of raising a revenue. Yes, raising a revenue, by the hideous scheme of passing, through the till of the publican into the Public Treasury, the earnings of the drunkard, the clothing and the very bread of his heart-broken wife and starving children. And then, much of this revenue, wrung from the degradation, suffering, and tears of an injured section of the

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The "Red Lion."

people, is spent, together with large contributions from sober people, in pauperising and punishing the victims of the hideous policy, of first tempting, and then ruining the people, whom it is the sacred duty of the commonwealth to cherish and protect.

And yet, ladies and gentlemen, this system of ruining yourselves, in a perfectly legal and authorized fashion, is your own bantling.

This gilded 'public,' where, at the sign of the "Red Lion," and at the signs of thousands of other Lions, Tom Jones and his fellows are entrapped, has been erected by the authority of the people--at every roadside, in every village, in every town, in every port, and in every city of this Colony--and is YOUR OWN CREATION.

You license these houses. At your command, these unchained lions of drink have sprung into existence all over the land, and, by command of the English people, they roar throughout the Empire.

The responsibility for all the tears, all the sorrows, all the misery, all the ruin they create does not rest only on the shoulders of the publicans, nor does it lie mainly at the door of the Government, but it rests--and justly rests--UPON YOURSELVES.

You have only to resolve that this public-house system shall no longer be "a roaring lion seeking

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"whom it may devour." You have only to decide, that the licensing of public-houses shall no longer rest in the hands of a few gentlemen, who are not likely to be victims. You, who suffer from the public-house, and the fire-water, and the ruin which it circulates amongst you, have simply to decide that you will license every public-house in the Colony, not by deputy, but by the direct vote of every man and every woman, to the extent of two-thirds of their total number in each district. I mean by this, not the power of veto, but the power of DIRECT AUTHORIZATION.

Having fully made up your minds to this plan, register your votes, and at every election, record them against every candidate who will not pledge himself to chain, once for all, this Lion in the Way of real progress and true happiness--and the good work is done.

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Love of Country.



Nor does a community or a colony escape the difficulties incidental to its position. Numerous wants have to be provided for out of limited means. Most men's time and resources are strained to the utmost, to make good their position, and yet the wants of the community, or the exigencies of the State make the most urgent demands upon both. So great is this difficulty in these Austral Colonies, arising from the fact that infant communities have been blessed, or cursed, by full-grown institutions, that there is too frequently but little more choice left to a good citizen than this--that, if he devote himself to business, he must leave politics alone, so far as to decline to take an active part in working our complex institutions--or, he must devote himself to politics, at the cost of neglecting, and possibly ruining his family and his business. I have no hesitation in saying that, the dilemma and the difficulty in which our costly and complicated system of government has placed us, are the direct results of an ill-regulated ambition, and the natural consequence of a rampant democratic spirit. We

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need not, therefore, be surprised, when we see one colony incurring obligations far beyond its reasonable requirements, and as far beyond its probable powers to meet; nor, if we see another colony resorting to the exploded theories of protection. These difficulties of our own creation, time only can remove, by giving us a larger proportion of men whose wealth, leisure, intelligence and capabilities, will enable them to serve their country FOR THE LOVE OF IT, and who will be able to dispense with the pitiful log-rolling, the still more pitiful system of pay, and the mercenary ideas, which, I am compelled to say, now so frequently exert a potential and sinister influence over our political affairs. I have no doubt whatever that the "payment of members" of our representative bodies has been a grievous error. It has degraded politics and politicians in every colony that has adopted it. There can be little hope for a country, so long as it can be said with more or less truth, that its representatives are anxious to serve it, not so much from a sense of duty, of honor, or of patriotism, but like certain priests of old, "for a morsel of bread."

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Potent Influences.



I must not touch on those wider and grander questions, such as the relations of capital and labor; the causes and the consequences of the vast armaments of European nations; or on the extent to which these may be influenced by the application of mechanical forces to reduce the employment of manual labor; all of which will certainly, in the not distant future, exert a potent influence in solving that other difficult enigma of the migration of masses of mankind to new lands, to aid in the great and primal work of subduing the earth and converting large portions of its surface, from the wild and desolate solitudes they now are, into the abodes of millions of industrious and happy people.

Let it suffice to say, that the age in which we live, is not so much an age of gold, nor yet of iron, as an age of difficulties--of difficulties met and conquered, an age of the gradual chaining of Lions in the Way of true progress. In that, lies its chief glory. Looking at the diffusion of knowledge, at the achievements of art, at the conquests of science,

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at the honest desire to redress wrongs, at the corrective and curative agencies everywhere at work, I see the rampant lions of past and evil days being chained; and therefore, I have no fear for the grand future of our race, to which, in the onward march of the ages, we are slowly but surely advancing--THE ASCENT OF MAN--the hazy hypothesis of the evolutionist, the certain hope of the Christian.

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But Half a Man.



From this cursory and imperfect survey, it will be evident that difficulties are the common lot of all men.

Nor is it desirable that it should be ordered otherwise. Difficulties exert a powerful stimulus upon us. Without them, progress, both in the physical and moral life, would be impossible. Life without a difficulty would sink into a dull stagnant thing hardly worth the having. Were such a condition possible, we might well sit down with Alexander, and weep, because there were no more difficulties to conquer. The man, if such there be, who has never met and conquered a Lion in the Way, is but half a man. The better part of him lies dormant. He knows little of the strength, the endurance, and the power with which God has endowed him, for the noble purpose of perfecting himself and benefitting his fellows. To leave the world better than he found it, has for him no attractions. He is but a cumberer of the ground, and when he is cut down, there is nobody to regret

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that the place which knew him once will know him no more for ever.

Young men, let me advise you not rashly to seek or create difficulties, not always, nor rashly to beard a lion in his den, but to face them boldly when inevitable. Not to flee from them like whining cowards, but to fight them with a brave and heroic spirit. Let your objects be wise and virtuous, pursue them with a valiant ardour, a courageous self-control, and, though you may often be well nigh overwhelmed with the storms of adversity, yet, like the brave and skilful mariner who has a good ship under him, and a safe port before him, you may hope to bring your storm-tossed bark safely into your desired haven.

Resolutely keep a good conscience, and hold fast to the belief in an over-ruling Providence,

"Too wise to err, too good to be unkind,"

and, though often in darkness and tears, you will yet conquer, and in that solemn hour to which we are all steadfastly approaching, when all struggles, and endurance, and difficulties are over, when all Lions in the Way are for ever chained, there surely awaits you the greeting of your Lord, the grand and final welcome of "Well done, good and faithful servants."

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1   A Lecture delivered at the Literary Institute, Newmarket, June 19, 1877.

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