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THE RUDDER, COMPASS, CHART, AND

SAILS IN MAN.

EVE
VERY part of a vessel is curious and admirable.

Among the works of men, this is one of those which most nearly approaches a work of nature, and seems almost alive. A ship is partly copied from a fish, — adapted by its form, like that of a fish, to cut through the water with the smallest resistance. It is also partly copied from a bird ; its sails, like the wings of a bird, are filled with air, and give motion to the body. In a ship every part must be in symmetrical relation to every other part; every spar, block, rope, cable, anchor, capstan, must be exactly proportioned to each other; and so a ship becomes a work of art. From these harmonious proportions, imposed by the stern law of necessity, emerges beauty. Make a thing perfectly useful, exactly adapted to its object, neither too much nor too little, and it becomes a work of art. Let the object be a high and difficult one, and it becomes high art and beautiful art. Perfect utility appears identical with perfect beauty. The men who built ships never thought of beauty: they thought of use; but beauty came of itself with the use.

But, curious as is every part of a vessel to a landsman, the most curious is the steering apparatus. There is a very small heln, almost out of sight, bearing no seeming relation in size to the vessel itself; but a slight change in its direction alters the vessel's course. This appears almost unaccountable. That by means of its helm a ship can be made to sail nearly against the wind, to go about, to lie to, to obey with the docility of an intelligent creature, is truly wonderful. This enormous mass, plunging on through the water, can, by a single touch of the hand on the wheel, be made to go to the right or left, and so can be directed from Boston harbor all the way to China. The rudder of a vessel was a wonderful discovery. To be sure, all that it does is to turn the ship either to the right or to the left; but that power is enough to enable the commander to direct it as he will, in spite of storms or calms, of ocean currents, of fogs, sunken rocks, iron-bound coasts; moving by night and by day, and going round the world to the port determined on by the merchant in his counting-room in Boston.

Man also has in him a rudder, by which to steer at every moment. As the ship's helm is the most mysterious part of its construction, so the rudder in man is the most inexplicable part of his organization. It is the function of free choice. It consists simply in the power, at every moment, of turning to the right or left, of choosing this or that, of doing or not doing, saying yes or no, resolving or declining to resolve. Man is not free to be anything he chooses, or do anything he pleases. He is limited by stern laws, - laws of organization, laws of circumstance. A man born in Africa must be an African, with African character, with African education; he cannot be a Frenchman or a New Englander. It was by no choice of mine that I was born when I was and where I was. It was by no merit or fault of mine that I have such an organization of mind and body, and no other. Human freedom does not give-a man the power of changing his nature; but, being what he is, it gives the power of choosing his aim, and going toward it, under the limitation of these foreordained conditions.

In steering a ship it is not enough to have a rudder; we must have something by which to steer; we must know the direction. On land, the fixed objects around show us which way we are going; but at sea, where all is in apparent motion, we must have something fixed by which to direct our course. The sun by day and the stars by night meet this need; but in cloudy weather and stormy days sun and stars are hidden. Hence extended navigation became only possible when the compass needle was discovered. Like other great discoveries, no one knows precisely when or by whom it came. The need created the invention. Now, by help of the little needle in its hanging box, always trembling toward the north by its mysterious inward attraction, we can cross oceans without sight of sun or stars, and always know which way we are going.

In man, too, there is a similar means of knowing his direction at every moment. The compass in man we call conscience. It always points toward the right. The right is the North star of conscience. Conscience says, “You are doing right,” “You are doing wrong.” It does not, indeed, tell us what is right, or what wrong; but it tells us something is right, and something wrong. It performs a double office; first, it gives us the great ideas of right and wrong, — duty, obligation; and then it approves when we do what we believe to be right; disapproves when we do what we believe to be wrong. It is sometimes objected that if there were such a moral sense in man all men would agree as to what is right and wrong; whereas it is certain that men differ. This objection is valid against the idea that conscience is a code of ethics. It is not. It guides us according to the code we have. But it is the check and restraint on the selfish passions, the selfish will, the personal ambitions. It points forever to a great commanding law above man's egotistical desires, and so lifts us above ourselves. It says, “No matter what you wish, what you desire, there is something which you ought to do.” Thus it emancipates man from the dominion of mere selfish desire. Conscience gives us

warning if we are going wrong. When the sun and the stars are darkened, and the clouds return after rain; when we cannot see God clearly ; when the great intuitions of the soul are clouded over, this inward monitor still continues its faithful, humble task. It says to us, " This is right.” It says, “ This is wrong.” If we attend to its warning we shall hardly ever go astray. We can sophisticate it if we choose ; we can reason ourselves into the belief that black is white and white black; we can put darkness for light, and light for darkness ; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. But in the depths of the soul, when we are quiet, and listen to the still small voice, it will warn us of our danger, and lead us back to the truth and right. We can refuse to attend to it, just as the mariner may neglect to look at his compass; but the compass is there, waiting to be looked at, and conscience is there, waiting to be listened to.

In steering a ship, besides the rudder and compass, we must also have a chart. We must have a chart of the ocean and of its shores, so as to know in what direction to steer, to know the shoals and currents, the soundings off the coasts, the hidden reefs and rocks, the harbors and their bearings. The compass does not tell us all this; this we learn from the chart. The compass only tells us which way is north, and which way south. If we had the compass and rudder, but no chart, we would not undertake a voyage.

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