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we want is a habit of open-minded approach to the unhabitual in thought and life, so that life may keep its freshness for us, and not degenerate into mere humdrum or routine. And, once we can establish such a habit of cordial welcome to the unhabitual, we shall find that the opportunities to practise it are not infrequent or remote.
Fixity of type and a tendency to variation are the poles between which the evolution of the planet swings secure, and that of all its myriad forms; and the same poles appear, or should appear, in every individual life. There must be stability with variation, or a man will be carried about by every wind of doctrine, by every impulse of his personal and social life. So, too, we must be on our guard lest the new thing that is offered us is not some old and outworn principle or creed. Our social markets, political and religious, abound in panaceas that have been tried and found wanting; and the mirage which is so tempting to the reformer often lights the way to "that Serbonian bog where armies whole have sunk."
But take my thought in its simplicity. It is not, I trust, a bad one for the beginning of another year. It is first the fulness and the richness of the possibilities that lie just beyond the average round of our experience. It is next that these, however they may be assured to us by the surprises of power and genius or by the strenuous fidelities of muchenduring men, are not exhausted by these exceptional examples, but plead with us at doors that open out from the activities of the most ordinary lives, wherever there is thought to think, or help to give, or choice is proffered between less and greater things. Life's countless leasts mount up to larger sums of truth and good than its great moments of heroic energy and daring will. But it is true, as Emerson has written, that difficult duty is never far off; and it is also true that the most difficult, yet most inescapable, is frequently a door that opens for us into some treasure-house of our own being, some better appreciation of our social opportunities, some closer access to the patient heart of God.
THE HOUSE OF PAIN.
What a great House it is! And the rooms in it, how many! They say there are eleven thousand in the Vatican; but there are more in this. Those in the Vatican are great and small; so these. There is the Armenian room, “a symphony in red" for Mr. Whistler's daring hand, one monstrous flow of crimson everywhere, one hundred thousand men, women, and children slaughtered horribly. We think that we are getting on. What splendid things the poets say about the day before us and the night behind! But how far back must we go to find a chapter of horrors in the book of history that is so terrible as this? And we hardly think of it. The great powers of Europe that might by their concerted action put a stop to all this devilry without the firing of a gun are paralyzed by mutual jealousies; and the Sultan. goes his way dancing, how gracefully, along an ever widening stream of blood and tears. How little do we realize the meaning of these things! If they only meant so many murdered, so many killed outright, it wouldn't be so bad. But the intolerable fear, the homeless wandering, the sufferings and horrors worse than death,— these make the Armenian room in the great House of Pain something to make our breathing hard, something to stop the heart, or would if we were not so powerless to imagine what we cannot see. And then, too, we are much engrossed by the sad condition of our own farming population,- so many millions of them starving; not actually, but in the rhetorical exaggeration of the political stump orator and the party press.
This great Armenian room is not at our end of the house. There is another one that is,― the Cuban room. This, too, is furnished in crimson, like the other. But it is not so bad as that. In Cuba the insurrectionists are making such a fight for independence as puts the heroisms of our literature of
blood and iron, so popular at present, quite to shame. These, too, will have their novelists some day, and then men's blood will quicken or will freeze to think of such things done and suffered. Moreover, the Spanish soldiers are something different from the Turkish murderers. Whether they know or not that some one has blundered,
"Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
And if they are not doing much to quell the insurrection, they are dying fast enough,-faster of fever than by sword and shot. And how meagre is our realization of what is going on in this one room of the great House of Pain! For us the twenty thousand young men of the Spanish army who have perished in this monstrous struggle are merely so many Spanish soldiers. But in reality they are so many brothers, lovers, husbands, sons,- loved, cherished, missed, and mourned as tenderly as those whom we sent up to battle in our times that tried men's souls. Here is another scandal of our civilization,- that there should be no comity of nations that can prevail to stay this awful strife. "All men become good creatures," sings the poet, "but so slow." Ah, yes, indeed, so very, very slow.
Many of those eleven thousand rooms in the Vatican must be very little rooms, and the meanest of them are probably much finer than some of the smallest in the House of Pain. What impresses us is the big rooms like those we have been visiting, and the earthquake room, the tornado room, the inundation room, in all of which, however, the destruction of life is not the most tragic incident. But in reality there is always more suffering going on in the smallest rooms of this sad house than in the largest ones. Why but because they are so many, though each had, as so many have, only a single sufferer. The great railway accident which destroys a score or two of lives sends a great shudder through the whole community; but in 1893 there were 2,727 employés killed on the railroads of the United States, 31,729 injured
more or less cruelly. One employé was killed of every 320 men; one injured in every 28. Now, if we could follow up each one of these fatalities into the family, the home, on which it fell, what an amount of suffering, physical or mental, would be brought into our ken, what broken fortunes, broken limbs, and broken hearts! Yet what an infinitesimal fraction it would be of all the suffering the sun and stars look down upon at any given time! I have spoken of the physical, so far, almost exclusively, or of that which has some physical cause. But how small a part is this of the great sum! Another part is furnished by the reverses of fortune or the hopeless struggle against odds, another by the more hopeless struggle with some strong temptation, some besetting sin; and if you would see the veriest torturechambers in the House of Pain you must go into those solitary rooms, some of them beautiful with the loveliest things the artist can devise, where there are men and women who have had their trust most shamefully abused or who have themselves abused the trust of others in some shameful way.
Old is this house of which I tell. Our oldest houses in America, even those of the Aztecs and the cliff-dwellers, are affairs of yesterday compared with this. We have writings thousands of years old which make it plain enough that in that far-off time this "house of many mansions" was already builded huge and strong, but these writings seem like modern literature when we think of the ages of suffering before they were written. For centuries and milleniums before the coming of man their endless corridors recede. The words of the apostles did not exceed the fact: "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now."
Of all the ancient books that made some brave attempt to grapple with the problem of suffering, the grandest and the noblest is the Book of Job. It has had much conventional admiration accorded it as a part of the Bible; but, if it could be discovered now for the first time, what an outburst of genuine admiration there would be! "There is a book for you!" the anti-Bible folk would say. "Nothing in your
Bible to compare with it." Time was when it was piously imagined to be the oldest book in the Old Testament, written long before Moses wrote the Pentateuch. The argument was a very simple and ingenuous one: The book was about the patriarch Job; therefore some patriarch must have written it, probably Job himself. Who else could know so much about his personal affairs, and give such verbatim reports of his own speeches and those of his three friends, and Elihu and the Almighty? Our later criticism makes out the book to be one of the latest in the Old Testament canon. Like the cathedrals of the Middle Ages, which still fill the eye and heart with joy unspeakable, it was centuries in the making, and, like those, its different parts are different in their style. In some of the cathedrals you will find a Norman crypt, and then an early-pointed choir, a decorated transept, and a nave with the flat-roof and characteristic traceries of the perpendicular period. In the Book of Job there are as many styles of thought as there are styles of architecture in such a century-growing pile as that. First came the prologue and the epilogue; and their teaching was that, if the good man suffered (and the whole book is restricted to the problem of the good man's suffering), it was only for a time. In the epilogue Job gets back all that he loses in the prologue, and something to reward him for his sufferings into the bargain. This was the Jewish way of looking at the matter for many hundred years. No suffering, it argued, but as the punishment of sin. If good men suffered, it was because their goodness was not genuine or complete. This was the doctrine of the three friends of Job in the dialogue which makes up the body of the book. Those miserable comforters insisted to his face that he must be a bad man, or he could not be so unfortunate; and he as strenuously denied their allegations. In his denial we find the purpose of the dialogue which is par excellence the Book of Job. The three comforters all harp on the same thing; but Job does not budge a jot from his conviction that he is a righteous man. We have still another explanation of the problem in the speech