Oh! how I would like to help some boy in this audience stand on his two feet and with clear brain, manly muscle, and moral courage fight and win the battle of life. How it would rejoice my soul if I could, with earnest appeal, throw about some mother's boy an armor of celestial atmosphere against which the arrows of evil would beat in vain, and fall harmless at his feet.
Hear me, boys; never was there a day when character counted for so much as now; never a day when a young man, equipped with education and stability of character, filled with energy and ambition, was in such demand as he is today; while on the other hand, never was there a day when a young man with bad habits was in so little demand as now. The industrial world is closing its doors against young men who are not sober, industrious and competent. Even a saloon-keeper advertised thus: "Wanted—A man to tend bar, who does not drink intoxicating liquors." How would this read: "Wanted—A young man to sell shoes, who goes bare-footed."
Young women, just here I have a question for you. If the railroad company does not want the drinking man, if the merchant discriminates against him, and even the saloon-keeper does not want him for bar-tender, do you want him for a husband? Can you afford to wrap up your hopes of happiness in him and to him swear away your young life and love?
Some young woman may say: "If I taboo the drinking man, I may be an old maid." Then be an old maid, get some "bloom of youth," paint up and love yourself. John B. Gough said: "You better be laughed at for not being married, than never to laugh any more because you are married."
If I could live life over there are some things I would not do. I would not stop smoking as I did thirty-five years ago, because I never would begin and therefore would not need to stop. I am not a fanatic on the question, but I believe every father in my presence, who uses tobacco, will be glad to have me say that which I will now say to the boys who are dulling their brains, poisoning their blood and weakening their hearts by the use of cigarettes.
Boys, I believe a cigar made me tell my first falsehood. When I was fifteen years of age I felt I must smoke if I ever expected to be a man. Father smoked, our pastor smoked, and so did almost every man in our neighborhood. My mother opposed the habit, but I thought mother did not know what it took to make a man.
I heard her make an engagement to spend a whole day ten miles from home the following week, and that day I set apart for learning to smoke cigars. I laid in some fine ones, six for five cents, and when mother went out the gate on her visit, I started for the barn. In a shed back of the barn I took out my cigars, determined to learn that day if it required the six cigars for my graduation. The first cigar was lighted and with every puff I felt the manhood coming; but in about five minutes I felt the manhood going. Just then my uncle called: "George, where are you?" When I answered he said: "Come here and hold this colt while I knock out a blind tooth."
Horsemen before me know some colts have blind teeth and to save the eyes these must be removed. I staggered to the colt, held the halter rein and when the tooth was removed my uncle, looking at me, said: "What's the matter with you? You are pale as death."
"Nothing, only it always did make me sick to see a blind tooth knocked out of a horse's mouth," I replied.
My uncle said: "You better lie down on the grass until it passes off," and I did.
But I kept on after that until I learned to smoke like a man. When years had passed and I became editor of a paper it seemed to me I could write better editorials with the smoke curling about my face.
One morning I finished my breakfast before Mrs. Bain had half finished hers. Lighting my cigar I stood by the fire chatting and smoking until the stub was all that remained. Then, as was my custom, I walked up to kiss her good-bye when she said: "Good-bye. But, I would like to ask you a question. How would you like to have me finish my breakfast before you are half through yours, light a cigar, smoke it to the stub, and with tobacco on my lips and breath offer to kiss you good morning?"
I said: "You don't have to kiss me," and with this I left for my work. On the way her question seemed to be waiting my answer, and I gave it in a resolve that she should never again have cause to repeat that question, and with my resolve went the cigar.
About this time a co-worker joined me in the same resolution, which helped me to keep mine. After tea that evening Mrs. Bain said: "I did not know you were so sensitive, or I should not have said what I did." I did not tell her then of my promise, lest I should fail to keep it. Thirty-five years have passed and not a single cigar have I had between my lips since that morning.
Boys, take one five-cent cigar after each meal, add up the nickels for one year, put the money at interest, next year, and every year do the same, compounding the interest, and in thirty-five years you will have thirty-five hundred dollars—the price of a home for your old age.
I do not hope to convert old smokers, but if I can persuade one young man in this audience to throw away the cigarette, never to smoke one again, then I will have honored this hour's service.
If I could live life over I would take the same total-abstinence pledge I took fifty years ago and have kept inviolate to this day. I would take it, not only because of its personal benefit to me, but because of what it has led me to do for others.
It is said reformers never expect to see the bread they cast upon the waters; inventors may, but not reformers. Yet I have lived to see my bread come back "buttered" in my old age.
I have lived to see thousands of men and women to whom I gave the pledge in their youth, wearing it still as a garland about their brows, and their children, by precept and example of parents, keep step with the onward march of the temperance army.
I have lived to see more than one hundred counties of Kentucky, in which I established Good Templar Lodges, when bottles were on sideboards in the homes, and barrooms in almost every crossroad village, now in the dry column.
I have lived to see seventeen states under prohibition, fifty millions of people of the United States living under prohibitory laws, the Congress of the United States giving a majority vote for submitting national prohibition to the people, and the great empire of Russia going dry in a day.
Sweet is the "buttered bread" that is coming to me after these many years since I cast my bread upon the waters, when days were dark, discouragements many and faith weak. I am waiting now for another slice of this "buttered bread" about the size of old Kentucky dry.
If I could live life over I would put a better bit to my tongue, and a better bridle on my temper. An Englishman said: "My wife has a temper; if she could get rid of it I would not exchange her for any woman in the world."
Two men meet and have a misunderstanding; one flies into a passion, shoots or stabs, while the other stands placid and self-contained, preserving his dignity. The world calls the first a brave man and the latter a coward; but Solomon declared the man who rules himself to be "greater than he that taketh a city."
Oh! the tragedies that lie in the wake of the tempest of temper. On the dueling field such men as Alexander Hamilton went down to death for want of self-control. Andrew Jackson killed Dickerson; Benton of Missouri killed Lucas; General Marmaduke killed General Walker. Pettus and Biddle, one a Congressman, the other a paymaster in the army, had a war of words, a challenge followed; one being near-sighted selected five feet as the distance for the duel, and there educated men, with pistols almost touching, stood, fired and both were killed.
Senator Carmack of Tennessee, criticised Colonel Cooper as a machine politician. Cooper said: "Put my name in your paper again, and I'll kill you." Young Cooper felt in his rage that he must settle the trouble. Did he settle it? The bullet that went through the heart of Carmack went through the heart of his wife, threw a shadow over the life of his child, and draped Tennessee in mourning. Did he settle it? He started a tempest that will howl through his life while memory lasts and echo through his soul to all eternity. Oh! that men would realize that to walk honorably and deal justly insures in time vindication from all calumny.
Abraham Lincoln was called the "Illinois baboon" by a leading journal, but Mr. Lincoln placidly read the charge, and told a joke as a safety valve for whatever anger he may have felt. One hundred years go by and the President leaves Washington and goes on a long journey to stand at a cabin door in Kentucky, there to pay tribute to a man who "never lost his balance or tore a passion to tatters."
I stood in front of the great Krupp gun at the World's Fair, and as the soldier in charge told me that one discharge cost one thousand dollars, and it could send a shell sixteen miles and pierce iron plated ships, its lips seemed loaded with death and it spoke of war and bloodshed and hate.
A little later I entered the Hall of Fine Arts and looked upon that impressive picture entitled, "Breaking Home Ties." The lad is about to go out from the roof that has sheltered him from babyhood, to be his own guide in the big wide world. His mother holds his hand as she looks love into his eyes, and gives him her warnings and blessing; the father, with his boy's valise in his hand, has turned away with a lump in his throat, while even the dog seems to be joining in the loving farewell.
Turning away from that picture, the thought came: Ah! that means more than Krupp guns. It means the coming of a day when love shall rule and war shall cease, when reason and righteousness shall be the arbitrators for differences between nations, when owls and bats will nest in the portholes of battleships, and each nation will vie with the other in warring against the kingdoms of want and wickedness.
When a man requested Bishop McIntyre to preach his wife's funeral sermon, and told him of her many beautiful traits, Bishop McIntyre said: "Brother, did you ever tell her all these sweet things before she died?"
Just here Sam Jones would say: "Husbands, go home and kiss your wives. Tell them they are the dearest, sweetest things on the earth; you may have to stretch the truth a little, but say it anyway."
A few years ago, just before the Christmas holidays, I wrote my daughter, saying: "I wish you would find out from your mother what she would like for a Christmas gift. However, don't tell her I wrote you to do this. Also suggest something for the grandchildren that I may bring each some little remembrance that will please them." I closed by saying:
"The sands of my life are growing less and less, Soon I'll reach the end of my years, Then you'll lay me away with tenderness And pay me the tribute of tears.
"Don't carve on my tomb any word of fame, Nor a wheel with its missing spokes, Simply let the marble tell my name, Then add, 'He was good to his folks.'"
Boys and girls, don't speak back to mother. You love her and don't mean to offend, but it hurts her. She was patient with you in your infancy; be patient with her in her old age. From her birth she has been your loyal, loving slave. She will go away and leave you after a little while, and oh! how you will miss her when she's gone. Deal gently with her now; speak kindly to her and when she's gone memories of your love and kindness to mother will come to you like sweet perfume from wooded blossoms.
Young lady graduate of high school or college, do you realize what your father has done for you, and the sacrifices he has made that you might have what he has never had—a diploma? Go, put your fair tender cheek against the weather-beaten face of your father, print with rosy lips a kiss of gratitude upon his furrowed brow, and tell him you appreciate all he has done for you.
I have been talking to you an hour about what I would do if I could live life over. If I had life to live over would I do any better than I have done? If I am no better now, than I was five years ago, if I am to be no better five years hence than I am now, then I would do no better if I had another trial.
However, I cannot live life over. The sand in the hour-glass is running low and when gone can never be replaced, and I am not much struck on old age. It is said to have its compensations, in that the "aches and asthmas of old age are no worse than the measles, mumps, whooping-coughs and appendicitis pains of youth." Righteous old age should be better than youth. The ocean of time with its breakers and perils face the young, while for the righteous old the storms are past, and they are
"Waiting to enter the haven wide, See His face, and be satisfied."
I cannot help these grey hairs or the wrinkles on my brow, but I can keep my heart young, and I do. I enjoy the company of old people, but delight more in associating with the young.
Dr. A.A. Willetts lectured on "Sunshine" sixty years ago. In his ninetieth year he was still lecturing; had he lectured on shadows he would doubtless have died many years before, and never been known as the "Apostle of Sunshine."
Solomon said: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." Never lock the door of your heart against the sunshine of cheerfulness, and remember it is not the exclusive blessing of youth but blooms in the heart of any age. With some it seems to be an inheritance. It kisses some babies in the cradle, and the radiance of that kiss lingers through three-score years and ten; while others are born cross, live cross and die cross. A babe of this latter kind came into a home and kept up its wailing for several days. The little six-year old boy of the home said: "Mother, did you say little brother came from heaven?"
"Yes, dear; why do you ask?"
"Well, no wonder the angels bounced him," the boy replied.
I know a woman who is forever telling her trials. If you do not listen to her story you must read it on her countenance. Nearby is another who has lost her parents; indeed all her near relatives are gone; not a flower left to bloom on the desert of old age. Yet, she hides her sorrows beneath the soul's altar of hope and meets the world with a smile. Doubtless the first woman wonders why she is so slighted and the company of the other courted. She should know it is for the same reason that honey-bees and humming birds light on sweet flowers instead of dry mullien stalks, and mocking-birds and canaries are caged instead of owls and rain-crows.
Some persons seem to relish the "cold soup of retrospect" and persist in picking the "bones of regret," without any appetite for the present or promises of the future. Beside one of these I would place a happy-hearted soul, who laughs through the window of the eye and on whose face you can read,
"Let those who will, repine at fate, And droop their heads in sorrow, I'll laugh when cares upon me wait, I know they'll leave to-morrow.
"My purse is light, but what of that? My heart is light to match it; And if I tear my only coat, I'll laugh the while I patch it."
I know a millionaire, who controls numerous industries, whose wife must apply cold cloths to his head at night to induce sleep. I know another man not so well off in this world's goods, whose wife must apply the cold water to get him awake. Care is often pillowed in a palace, while contentment is asleep in a cottage.
At the close of my lecture at a chautauqua several years ago, a gentleman said to me: "Sir, we live in a very humble cottage in this town, but there is a big welcome over the door for you and we want you to take tea with us." I accepted the invitation and soon was seated on the porch of the small cottage home. While my host was inside getting a pitcher of ice water, I looked across the way and there was the home of a railroad king, his wealth numbered by millions, and the grounds surrounding his home were rich in flower beds, fountains and forest trees. My host, pouring the water, said: "You see we are very fortunately situated here. Our little home is inexpensive and our taxes very light. Our rich neighbor across the way employs three gardeners to care for those grounds; he pays all the taxes, has all the care; they do not cost us a cent, yet we sit here on our little porch and drink in their beauty." There was a philosopher.
John Wanamaker can pay $100,000 for a picture, which he did some years ago, and hang it on the walls of his mansion home, but you go out in the country in the springtime, get up in the early morning while the cattle are still sleeping in the barnyard and the birds silent in the trees, watch the rich glow of the day god as it comes peeping through the windows of the morning, then see the birds leave their bowers, the larks to fly away to the fields, the mocking-bird to sing in the cedar at the garden gate, the robin to chirp to its mate, and you will see a picture which will pale that of the merchant prince.
Or go out on a summer evening just after a rain storm, when nature hangs itself out to dry; when the golden slipper of the god of day hangs upon the topmost bough of the tallest tree. You will see a picture no artist's brush can paint. And God does not hang these pictures on a wall twenty feet by ten, but on the blue tapestry of the sky for the world's poor to admire "without money and without price." Abraham Lincoln well said: "God must have loved the common people, else he wouldn't have made so many of them."
Let me illustrate the two classes of people to which I have referred. An old man who dwelt in the shadows of life said: "My life has been one continual drudgery and disappointment; for fifty years I have had to get up at 5 o'clock every morning while others enjoyed their sleep, then all day in the harness of oppression I have had to work with bad luck dogging my footsteps."
His daughter, thinking to cheer him, said, "Father, don't get discouraged. You have one comfort anyway; it won't be long till the end of toil will come, when you will have a good long rest in the grave where no misfortune can reach you."
"I don't know about that," replied the father; "it will be about my luck for the next morning to be resurrection day and I'll have to be up at daylight as usual."
Another man, who always looked on the bright side of life, and when anything went wrong always looked up something good to match it, happened to lose a fine horse. When friends expressed sympathy he said: "I can't complain; I never lost a horse before." Then his crop failed and he said: "After ten years of good crops I have no kick coming because of one failure." Finally, poor fellow, a railroad train ran over him and both feet had to be amputated at the ankles. A friend called to see him and said: "Jim, what have you to say after this misfortune?"
His reply was: "Well, I always did suffer with cold feet."
Look on the bright side of life, remembering that very often,
"The trouble that makes us fume and fret, And the burdens that make us groan and sweat Are the things that haven't happened yet."
When our two boys were babies our home was a country cottage and our land possession one acre. Nearby lived a young man whose father left him a blue-grass farm. His home was a handsome brick house; he had servants and drove fine horses. Often when seated on the little porch of our humble home, he would pass by, when the feet of his horses and wheels of his fine carriage would dash the dust into our faces. One evening when he passed I said: "Never mind, Anna, some day we'll live in a fine house, we'll have servants and horses and we'll be 'somebodies'." I thought money would bring happiness, and the more money the more happiness.
We now live in a good home, have servants and horse and carriage; we've traveled several times together from ocean to ocean, yet I have never seen a train of Pullman palace cars that can compare in memory with the two trains that used to leave that little cottage home every evening for dreamland.
"The first train started at seven p.m., Over the dreamland road, The mother dear was the engineer, The passenger laughed and crowed.
The palace car was the mother's arms, The whistle a low sweet strain; The passenger winked, nodded and blinked And fell asleep on the train.
The next train started at eight p.m., For the slumberland afar, The summons clear, fell on the ear, 'All aboard for the sleeping car.'
And what was the fare to slumberland? I assure you not very dear; Only this, a hug and a kiss, They were paid to the engineer."
And I said:
"Take charge of the passengers, Lord, I pray, To me they are very dear; And special ward, O gracious Lord, Give the faithful engineer."
Have some of you had sorrows you could not harmonize with the logic of life? Leave them with Him who "notes the sparrow's fall." Some one has said: "There are angels in the quarries of life only the blasts of misfortune and chisels of adversity can carve into beauty."
Doctor Theodore Cuyler said: "God washes the eyes of His children with tears that they may better see His providences."
Doctor Gutherie said: "Because I am seventy, my hair white and crows' feet around my eyes, they tell me I'm growing old. That's not I, that's the house in which I live; I'm on the inside; the house may go to pieces but I shall live on eternally young."
"This body is my house, it is not I; Herein I sojourn, till in some far off sky, I lease a fairer dwelling, built to last, Till all the carpentry of time is past.
"When from heaven high, I view this lone star, What need I care where these poor timbers are; What if these crumbling walls do go back to dust and loam, I will have exchanged them for a broader better home. This body is my house, it is not I; Triumphant in this faith, I shall live and die."
Since I cannot live life over, since the gate at the end of life's journey swings but one way, and of all the millions who have passed through, not one but the Crucified Son of God has returned, why should I select such a subject for a lecture? When one is on a journey he has never made before it is well to consult one who has traveled the road and from him learn the things best to be done, and the places to shun.
For more than three-score years and ten I have been making life's journey, and for more than forty years have been mingling with the masses and meeting with varied experiences. To those who are climbing the hill toward the noon of the journey my advice should be of value.
With those who with me are facing the sinking sun, and the lengthening shadows falling behind, I thank God for that faith which comes from a diviner source than human science, that tells us,
"There's a place, called the Land of Beginning Again, Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches, And all our griefs and pain, Will be left in the boat, like a shabby old coat, And never put on again.
"I'm glad there's a place for the redeemed of the race, In the Land of Beginning Again, Where there'll be no sighing, there'll be no dying, And where sorrows that seemed so sore, Will vanish away like the night into day, And never come back any more."
It is said "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." It is useless for me to wish to live life over or expect an extension of many more years of borrowed time, but I hope yet that along the shortening path I may open up here and there a spring that will refresh some thirsty soul and plant a flower that will brighten the path of some weary one.
It is my desire that I may close the life I cannot live over in the city where it began, surrounded by loved ones in whose lives I have lived. I can think of no more fitting close to this lecture than to use a thought borrowed from another, in paying a tribute to my old Kentucky home:
On her blue-grass bed in youth I rolled and romped and rested; At the altars of her church I learned in whom I trusted.
'Tis here my honored parents sleep, A dear sweet babe reposes, And o'er my darling daughter's grave Blossom the summer roses.
'Tis here my marriage vows were given, 'Tis here my children found me; My heart is here, and here may heaven Fold angel wings around me.
May sacred memories hold me here, And when life's dream closes, May I the plaudit "well done" wear, Then sleep beneath her roses.