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RIGHT REVEREND JOHN L. SFALDING, D. D.
Right Reverend .John Lancaster Spalding, D.D., was born in Lebanon, Kentucky, in 1840. His education was received at Mt. St. Mary's College, and at the University of Louvain, Belgium. He was ordained to the priesthood, and later was appointed Secretary and Chancellor of the Diocese of Louisville, afterward becoming Bishop of Peoria, Illinois.
How shall I live? How shall I make the most of my life and put it to the best use? How shall I become a man and do a man's work? This, and not politics or trade or war or pleasure, is the question. The primary considera5 tion is not how one shall get a living, but how he shall live, for if he live rightly, whatever is needful he shall easily find. Life is opportunity, and therefore its whole circumstance may be made to serve the purpose of those who are bent on
self-improvement, on making themselves capable of doing 10 thorough work.
Opportunity is a word which, like so many others that are excellent, we get from the Romans. It means near port, close to haven. It is a favorable occasion, time, or
place for learning or saying or doing a thing. It is an invi15 tation to seek safety and refreshment, an appeal to make
escape from what is low and vulgar, and to take refuge in high thoughts and worthy deeds, from which flows increase of strength and joy. It is omnipresent.
What we call evils, as poverty, neglect, and suffering, 20 are, if we are wise, opportunities for good. Death itself teaches life's value not less than its vanity. It is the background against which its worth and beauty stand forth in clear relief. Its dark form follows us like our shadow, to bid us win the prize while yet there is time; to teach that if 5 we live in what is permanent, the destroyer cannot blight what we know and love; to urge us, with a power that belongs to nothing else, to lay the stress of all our hoping and doing on the things that cannot pass away.
* From “Opportunity, and Other Essays,” by Rt. Rev. John L. Spalding. Used by permission of the publishers, A. Č. McClurg & Co., Chicago.
"Poverty," says Ouida, “is the north wind that lashes 10 men into Vikings.” “Lowliness is young ambition's ladder."
What is more pleasant than to read of strong-hearted youths, who, in the midst of want and hardships of many kinds, have clung to books, feeding, like bees to flowers?
By the light of pine logs, in dim-lit garrets, in the fields 15 following the plow, in early dawns when others are asleep,
they ply their blessed task, seeking nourishment for the mind, a thirst for truth, yearning for full sight of the high worlds of which they have caught faint glimpses; happier
now, lacking everything save faith and a great purpose, 20 than in after years when success shall shower on them applause and gold.
Life is good, and opportunities of becoming and doing good are always with us. Our house, our table, our tools,
our books, our city, our country, our language, our business, 25 our profession -- the people who love us and those who
hate, they who help and they who oppose -- what is all this but opportunity? Wherever we be there is opportunity of turning to gold the dust of daily happenings. If snow
and storm keep me at home, is not here an invitation to turn 30 to the immortal silent ones who never speak unless they are
addressed? If loss or pain or wrong befall me, shall they not show me the soul of good there is in things evil? Good fortune may serve to persuade us that the essential good is
a noble mind and a conscience without flaw. Success will 35 make plain the things in which we fail; failure shall- spur us on to braver hope and striving. If I am left alone, yet God and all the heroic dead are with me still. If a great city is my dwelling place, the superficial life of noise and
haste shall teach me how blessed a thing it is to live within 5 in the company of true thoughts and high resolves.
Whatever can help me to think and love, whatever can give me strength and patience, whatever can make me humble and serviceable, though it be a trifle light as air, is oppor
tunity, whose whim it is to hide in unconsidered things, in 10 chance acquaintance and casual speech, in the falling of an
apple, in floating weeds, or the accidental explosion in a chemist's mortar.
Wisdom is habited in plainest garb, and she walks modestly, unheeded of the gaping and wondering crowd. She 15 rules over the kingdom of little things, in which the lowly
minded hold the places of privilege. Her secrets are revealed to the careful, the patient, and the humble. They may be learned from the ant or the flower that blooms in
some hidden spot, or from the lips of husbandmen and 20 housewives. He is wise who finds a teacher in every man,
an occasion to improve in every happening, for whom nothing is useless or in vain. If one whom he has trusted prove false, he lays it to the account of his own heedlessness, and
resolves to become more observant. If men scorn him, he 25 is thankful that he need not scorn himself. If they pass
him by, it is enough for him that truth and love still remain. If he is thrown with one who bears himself with ease and grace, or talks correctly in pleasantly modulated tones, or
utters what can spring only from a sincere and a generous 30 mind — there is opportunity. If he chance to find himself
in company of the rude, their vulgarity gives him a higher estimate of the worth of breeding and behavior. The happiness and good fortune of his fellows add to his own. If
they are beautiful or wise or strong, their beauty, wisdom, 35 and strength shall in some way help him.
The merry voices of children bring gladness to his heart; the songs of birds wake melody there. Whoever anywhere, in any age, spoke noble words or performed heroic deeds, spoke and wrought for him. For him Moses led the people 5 forth from bondage; for him the three hundred perished at Thermopylæ; for him Homer sang; for him Demosthenes denounced the tyrant; for him Columbus sailed the untraveled -sea; for him Galileo gazed on the starry vault; for him the blessed Saviour died.
He knows that whatever diminishes his good will to men, his sympathy with them, even in their blindness and waywardness, makes him poorer, and he, therefore, finds means to convert their faults even into opportunities for
loving them more. The rivalries of business and politics, 15 the shock of conflicting aims and interests, the prejudices,
and perversities of men, shall not cheat him of his own good by making him less just or kind. He stands with the Eternal for righteousness, and will not suffer that fools or
criminals divert him to lower ends. If we have but the 20 right mind, all things, even those that hurt, help us. “That
which befits us,” says Emerson, “embosomed in beauty and wonder as we are, is cheerfulness and courage, and the endeavor to realize our aspirations. The life of man is
the true romance which when it is valiantly conducted 25 yields the imagination a higher joy than any fiction.'
May we not make the stars and the mountains and the allenduring earth minister to tranquillity of soul, to elevation of mind, and to patient striving? Have not the flowers
and the human eye and the look of heaven when the 30 sun first appears or departs, power to show us that God is beautiful and good?
Shall not the great, calm Mother whose fair face, despite the storms and battles of all the ages, is still full of repose
and strength, teach us the wisdom of brave work without 35 noise or hurry? It seems scarcely possible to live in the