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What has been said already about the energy of Amos Lawrence, together with his decision and singleness of purpose, necessarily implied the indispensable quality of perseverance. This latter trait of character is decision and energy in continued effort. An ignorant negro defined perseverance thus : “It means,” said he, right hold, hold fast, hang on, and no let go.” This definition, though homely, is very correct. It is this holding-on process which now demands particular attention, although it has been indirectly alluded to in foregoing chapters.
It is not necessary to narrate incidents in the life of Lawrence illustrative of this subject. Numerous incidents of his life already laid before the reader equally illustrate this chapter. Then, too, that period of his country's history, when he left his father's house, was such as to demand the constant exercise of this virtue. Then a youth could not expect a high position without surmounting many obstacles. It is easier now, in several particulars, for a person to make headway in the world than it was then. Yet Lawrence, as we have seen, was not disheartened. Neither did he press on rashly to the attainment of his object. Genuine perseverance is cool, deliberate, and determined. Professor Edwards said of it: “Difficulties only excite a more ardent desire to overcome them. Defeat awakens new courage. Affliction nourishes hope. Disappointment is the parent and precursor of success. A resolution so strong is sometimes formed that it seems to enter into the nature of the soul itself. It swallows up the whole man, and produces a firmness of determination, an iron obstinacy of pursuit, which nothing but death can break down." Although the perseverance of Lawrence was not so bold and prominent as this, still it was no less effective. It enabled him to pursue his business without turning back, even when many
around him, of far greater experience, were giving up business from utter discouragement.
It is not difficult to perceive how perseverance contributed to secure to him the confidence of men. The persevering youth or young man gains friends, where others lose them. The boy who works away at a problem in his arithmetic, determined to perform it, receives a smile of approbation from his teacher. He will make a good scholar, and a true man, if he keeps on thus. This is the prediction of all who know his perseverance. Only a few days since, we heard a fond father speak of the perseverance of his little son, and predict that this trait would crown his efforts in any calling with success. Thus are people disposed to regard this quality with favour, and to bestow their friendship and aid upon those who possess it. Young Lawrence, without doubt, enjoyed the confidence which perseverance is sure to win.
It is said of William Cobbett, that, when he was a youth, he obtained the consent of his father to become a seaman. Accordingly, he started one day to a neighbouring seaport to look for a
He was disappointed in every application he made ; but, not discouraged, he went by public conveyance to another town. By the time he arrived there, his money was nearly exhausted, and here, too, he found no opportunity for would-be sailors. A gentleman, whom he met in the coach, was much interested in the appearance of the lad, and advised him to return to his father. But Cobbett refused outright. "No! come what will, I shall not return to be laughed at for being a fainthearted fool. I left home to try another business, and I shall try it.” The gentleman was so much pleased with the perseverance of the lad that he took him home, and secured a place for him as copying clerk. Here we see that perseverance made a valuable friend. The man had confidence in the young stranger, because he saw that he had such determination as promised
There is many a youth who would be very glad to be rich, or learned, or honoured, but he cannot submit to the long-continued exertions necessary to secure the desired object. If he could go to bed in his poverty and wake up a Lawrence, he would rejoice exceedingly. He would like to be learned, but there is too much drudgery in poring over books year after year. If knowledge would only come into his head some night, when he is fast asleep, so that he would wake in the morning a Chalmers or Edwards, he would be well content. He does not like the hard toil of weeks and months to secure a harvest. He would sow and reap on the same week; and then only would he like to work. This is the lad who complains in school of
“difficult sums," and declines performing them because they are “ hard.” His lesson is not learned, because it is “ too long." A thousand other things, too, are left untouched because there is lion in the way.” Of course he accomplishes little or nothing anywhere. He ought to go to the dumb animals to learn a lesson of wisdom. The smallest of all the species reads him a lecture that ought to tingle on his ear. Behold the little coral insect working away at his art in the sea, year after year, adding inch after inch to his coral temple ! While generations of men come and pass away like the ocean waves, he toils on, on, until, at last, he lays the foundation of an island on which towns and cities rise.
King Robert Bruce learned a lesson of perseverance from a spider. He had made six unsuccessful attempts to gain his kingdom and crown. While yielding to despair, and concealed from his enemies in a shattered barn, he observed a spider attempting to cast its silken line from one beam to another. Six times in succession the attempt was made and failed. But the seventh time, the animal triumphed. The incident fired his soul with fresh courage, and he resolved to try again. He bade his heart be of good cheer, and soon he sate upon the throne of Scotland.
“ The proudest motto for the young !
Write it in lines of gold
The stirring words enfold ;
Or fortune's prosperous gale,
« There's no such word as FAIL.'' It is worth while to inquire how much would have
been lost to the world if perseverance had never distinguished men in prosecuting noble enterprises. Where would have been those great improvements which have sent nations rapidly forward in the scale of civilisation ? The steamboat, railroad, telegraph, commerce, and all the wonderful achievements in art and science, which contribute so largely to the comfort and substantial happiness of mankind, and unite the nations more closely in fraternal bonds, would have been unknown. The world would have been comparatively in moral darkness. For, without this quality, the leading spirits of every age would have stopped in their career, and sat down disheartened and hopeless. Moses would have faltered at the head of the children of Israel, and turned back. Luther and Melancthon would have fallen back into the arms of the Papal Church. Galileo, Newton, and Herschel, would have left the tedious paths of science. Washington would have failed to deliver his country from the chains of foreign oppression. And thus on through the whole list of triumphant toilers, who have lived to bless the human race. Even Swartz, Mills, and Judson, would have returned from lands of darkness and superstition, leaving their millions of benighted souls without the lamp of life. Perhaps no sphere of duty has grander examples of perseverance to shew than that of the humble missionary of the cross. Take, for instance, the planting of the Greenland Mission more than a hundred years ago. Two brothers, Matthew and Christian Stark, with the aid of Christian David, all illiterate men, left their homes upon this lofty errand. They had heard that the Greenlanders were without a knowledge of Christ, and they longed to