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There is no doubt that, as a rule, great decision of character is

usually accompanied by great constitutional firmness. Men who have been

noted for great firmness of character have usually been strong and

robust. As a rule it is the strong physical man who carries weight and

conviction. Take, as an example, William the Conqueror, as he is

pictured by Green in his history:

"The very spirit of the sea-robbers from whom he sprang seemed embodied in his gigantic form, his enormous strength, his savage countenance, his

desperate bravery. No other knight under heaven, his enemies confessed,

was William's peer. No other man could bend William's bow. His mace

crashed through a ring of English warriors to the foot of the standard.

He rose to his greatest heights in moments when other men despaired. No

other man who ever sat upon the throne of England was this man's match."

Or, take Webster. Sydney Smith said: "Webster is a living lie; because

no man on earth can be as great as he looks." Carlyle said of him: "One

would incline at sight to back him against the world." His very physique

was eloquent. Men yielded their wills to his at sight.

The great prizes of life ever fall to the robust, the stalwart, the

strong,--not to a huge muscle or powerful frame necessarily, but to a

strong vitality, a great nervous energy. It is the Lord Broughams,

working almost continuously one hundred and forty-four hours; it is the

Napoleons, twenty hours in the saddle; it is the Franklins, camping out

in the open air at seventy; it is the Gladstones, firmly grasping the

helm of the ship of state at eighty-four, tramping miles every day, and

chopping down huge trees at eighty-five,--who accomplish the great

things of life.

To prosper you must improve your brain power; and nothing helps the

brain more than a healthy body. The race of to-day is only to be won by

those who will study to keep their bodies in such good condition that

their minds are able and ready to sustain that high pressure on memory

and mind, which our present fierce competition engenders. It is health

rather than strength that is now wanted. Health is essentially the

requirement of our time to enable us to succeed in life. In all modern

occupations--from the nursery to the school, from the school to the shop

or world beyond--the brain and nerve strain go on, continuous,

augmenting, and intensifying.

As a rule physical vigor is the condition of a great career. Stonewall

Jackson, early in life, determined to conquer every weakness he had,

physical, mental, and moral. He held all of his powers with a firm hand.

To his great self-discipline and self-mastery he owed his success. So

determined was he to harden himself to the weather that he could not be

induced to wear an overcoat in winter. "I will not give in to the cold,"

he said. For a year, on account of dyspepsia, he lived on buttermilk and

stale bread, and wore a wet shirt next his body because his doctor

advised it, although everybody else ridiculed the idea. This was while

he was professor at the Virginia Military Institute. His doctor advised

him to retire at nine o'clock; and, no matter where he was, or who was

present, he always sought his bed on the minute. He adhered rigidly

through life to this stern system of discipline. Such self-training, such self-conquest, gives one great power over others. It is equal to

genius itself.

"I can do nothing," said Grant, "without nine hours' sleep."

What else is so grand as to stand on life's threshold, fresh, young,

hopeful, with a consciousness of power equal to any emergency,--a master

of the situation? The glory of a young man is his strength.

Our great need of the world to-day is for men and women who are good

animals. To endure the strain of our concentrated civilization, the

coming man and woman must have an excess of animal spirits. They must

have a robustness of health. Mere absence of disease is not health. It

is the overflowing fountain, not the one half full, that gives life and

beauty to the valley below. Only he is healthy who exults in mere animal

existence; whose very life is a luxury; who feels a bounding pulse

throughout his body; who feels life in every limb, as dogs do when

scouring over the field, or as boys do when gliding over fields of ice.


Yet in spite of all this, in defiance of it, we know that an iron will is often triumphant in the contest with physical infirmity.

"Brave spirits are a balsam to themselves:

There is a nobleness of mind that heals

Wounds beyond salves."

"One day," said a noted rope-walker, "I signed an agreement to wheel a

barrow along a rope on a given day. A day or two before I was seized

with lumbago. I called in my medical man, and told him I must be cured

by a certain day; not only because I should lose what I hoped to earn,

but also forfeit a large sum. I got no better, and the doctor forbade my

getting up. I told him, 'What do I want with your advice? If you cannot

cure me, of what good is your advice?' When I got to the place, there

was the doctor protesting I was unfit for the exploit. I went on, though

I felt like a frog with my back. I got ready my pole and my barrow, took

hold of the handles and wheeled it along the rope as well as I ever did.

When I got to the end I wheeled it back again, and when this was done I

was a frog again. What made me that I could wheel the barrow? It was my

reserve will."

"What does he know," asks the sage, "who has not suffered?" Did not

Schiller produce his greatest tragedies in the midst of physical

suffering almost amounting to torture? Handel was never greater than

when, warned by palsy of the approach of death, and struggling with

distress and suffering, he sat down to compose the great works which

have made his name immortal in music. Beethoven was almost totally deaf

and burdened with sorrow when he produced his greatest works. Milton

writing "Who best can suffer, best can do," wrote at his best when in

feeble health, and when poor and blind.

"... Yet I argue not Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot

Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer Right onward."

The Rev. William H. Milburn, who lost his sight when a child, studied

for the ministry, and was ordained before he attained his majority. He

has written half a dozen books, among them a very careful history of the

Mississippi Valley. He has long been chaplain of the lower house of


Blind Fanny Crosby, of New York, was a teacher of the blind for many

years. She has written nearly three thousand hymns, among which are:

"Pass Me not, O Gentle Saviour," "Rescue the Perishing," "Saviour More

than Life to Me," and "Jesus keep Me near the Cross."

"The truest help we can render one who is afflicted," said Bishop

Brooks, "is not to take his burden from him, but to call out his best

energy, that he may be able to bear."

What a mighty will Darwin had! He was in continual ill health. He was in

constant suffering. His patience was marvellous. No one but his wife

knew what he endured. "For forty years," says his son, "he never knew

one day of health;" yet during those forty years he unremittingly forced

himself to do the work from which the mightiest minds and the strongest

constitutions would have shrunk. He had a wonderful power of sticking to

a subject. He used almost to apologize for his patience, saying that he

could not bear to be beaten, as if it were a sign of weakness.

Bulwer advises us to refuse to be ill, never to tell people we are ill,

never to own it ourselves. Illness is one of those things which a man

should resist on principle. Do not dwell upon your ailments nor study

your symptoms. Never allow yourself to be convinced that you are not

complete master of yourself. Stoutly affirm your own superiority over

bodily ills. We should keep a high ideal of health and harmony

constantly before the mind.

Is not the mind the natural protector of the body? We cannot believe

that the Creator has left the whole human race entirely at the mercy of

only about half a dozen specific drugs which always act with certainty.

There is a divine remedy placed within us for many of the ills we

suffer. If we only knew how to use this power of will and mind to

protect ourselves, many of us would be able to carry youth and

cheerfulness with us into the teens of our second century. The mind has

undoubted power to preserve and sustain physical youth and beauty, to

keep the body strong and healthy, to renew life, and to preserve it from

decay, many years longer than it does now. The longest-lived men and

women have, as a rule, been those who have attained great mental and

moral development. They have lived in the upper region of a higher life,

beyond the reach of much of the jar, the friction, and the discords

which weaken and shatter most lives.

Every physician knows that courageous people, with indomitable will, are

not half as likely to contract contagious diseases as the timid, the

vacillating, the irresolute. A thoughtful physician once assured a

friend that if an express agent were to visit New Orleans in the

yellow-fever season, having forty thousand dollars in his care, he would

be in little danger of the fever so long as he kept possession of the

money. Let him once deliver that into other hands, and the sooner he

left the city the better.

Napoleon used to visit the plague hospitals even when the physicians

dreaded to go, and actually put his hands upon the plague-stricken

patients. He said the man who was not afraid could vanish the plague. A

will power like this is a strong tonic to the body. Such a will has

taken many men from apparent death-beds, and enabled them to perform

wonderful deeds of valor. When told by his physicians that he must die,

Douglas Jerrold said: "And leave a family of helpless children? I won't

die." He kept his word, and lived for years.


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