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tranquillize the turbulent spirit. The beauty of nature takes us out of ourselves, and soothes the soul with the presence of a divine beauty. Who that in our New England Octobers has seen the glory of the woods, their golden yellows, their rich crimson, the contrast of the deep-blue heaven with the gorgeous coloring of the earth, but has been lifted above himself ? Dr. Channing was once driving with a lady by the shore of the ocean. The lady said, “Oh, Dr. Channing, how small we seem in view of all this !” Dr. Channing replied, “When I am in such a presence as this I do not think of myself at all !” This is the real office of Nature, to free us from all small egotism by bringing us into communion with infinite beauty and wisdom.
But a still better consolation in our sorrow comes to us when we find something to do for others. To do any good work enlarges the heart.
Our own misfortunes sometimes lead us to sympathize with others as we could not do before we had ourselves suffered. So Wordsworth
“A deep distress has humanized my soul.” When we are able to do good to any one we begin to love him. We like those who are kind to us, but we like better those to whom we are kind. Our own hearts will be enlarged when we each day endeavor to make some one else happier. This is the secret of inward peace. Jesus went about doing good. He did not stay at home and wait till
some one asked for help, for he came to seek, as well as save, those who needed aid. His kindness was active, not passive. He took the initiative. Doing good is an excellent way of gaining good. When you wait till you are asked before you help any one, you are thrown into a condition of resistance. When you give, how often it is done “grudgingly and by necessity”! But God loves a cheerful giver; and so do men love a cheerful giver, one whose heart goes with his hand.
This means that we should be not only generous in action, but also generous in thought; that we should take the trouble to think about others, to enter into their state of mind, to learn how to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep. How thankful we are to those who try to understand us; who enter lovingly into our state of mind; who divine the secret of our capabilities and defects; who encourage us to do better, and show us what we are able to accomplish! There are people who only think about themselves; but, thank God, there are also those in the world who think about others, - not to find fault, not to censure and condemn, but to comfort, encourage, and strengthen.
Such persons we have all known. I was once preaching in a small town in Central New York, and I described in my sermon a good woman whom I had once known in a distant State. She was the wise friend and helper of all in the town who were
in any trouble or want. Young and old went to her with their difficulties, sure of finding some help. Her very presence seemed to bring sunlight, she lived in such an atmosphere of serene wisdom and goodness. She was a mother in Israel, spending her life in thinking of others. If any were lonely and neglected, she noticed their solitude, and contrived some way of bringing them into the society they needed. If any youth or maiden seemed in danger of being misled by foolish companions, she ingeniously arranged some plan for counteracting these snares, and interesting them in better things. And why should there not be ingenuity and contrivance for good ends as well as for evil ones ? When Jesus told the story of the unjust steward, he pointed the moral by saying that the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. Good people are too often satisfied with having good intentions, and they let the result take care of itself. But Jesus said, "Be wise as serpents ;” and Paul said, “Do not fight as one who beats the air.” So this good woman of whom I spoke hit on ingenious expedients for helping her friends and neighbors. And after I had finished this description, a gentleman living near the place came to me and said, “I was not aware that you ever knew our good Miss Mappa, but you described her exactly." I had not known her, and I was making a portrait of another person in a distant place; but I found there were two good women of the kind; and if two, why not twenty ? why not many more ? Such people, wherever they may be found, are in their own homes and neighborhood wells of refreshment to the weary and forlorn, full of heavenly intelligence, charitable ingenuity, skilful devices for doing good.
Let us put our mind into some work by which those about us would be made better and happier. If every day we took the trouble of thinking about the best interests of others, we should find ourselves growing in generosity, A man in the Boston Post-Office once said to me: “I have not a great deal to spend in charity, and I have considered how I could make it go furthest. Noticing how many persons lose their letters by the postage being unpaid or insufficiently paid, I make my charity consist in paying the postage on such letters and sending them to their address. Thus by paying one or two cents I may sometimes keep an important communication from going to the Dead Letter Office. Some poor mother, perhaps, gets the letter from her son which she would otherwise lose." I thought this a piece of benevolent contrivance worth imitating. I had another friend who habitually sent newspapers such as we read and throw away, to persons in different parts of the country, who were made happy by receiving them. He had a list of young men and women who had gone from New England to work or teach, in Tennessee or Colorado, and he selected such journals as he thought would help them to the teachers, some journal of education ; to the Episcopalian or Baptist young woman, some paper of her own denomination. This is what Jesus meant by the wisdom of the serpent, — to think about the best way of being useful, and to put one's mind into it.
It is not by doing some one important thing at long intervals that we become generous, but by practising small acts of generosity every day. Many small transgressions make the habit of evil; many small words or acts of kindness create the habit of goodness. Action and reaction are equal in morals as well as in physics. Do a kind action, and it makes you feel kindly. Let us have
“A sense of an earnest will
To help the lowly living,
When we have no power of giving.
A friendly hand to the friendless,
But whose echo is endless.
Wordsworth says that the largest portion of a good man's life consists in his "little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love." It is not the amount we do, but the spirit in which we act, that is the important matter.