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No great work can be done unless the worker throws himself into it with the full ardor of enthusiastic belief. But marvellous achievements have been wrought even by one man or one woman, single-handed, who was equipped with the enthusiastic courage of a good conviction and with the needed practical energy to support it. Such workers are wanted to-day. There are neglected and ostracized truths that need them. Educational reform is waiting for them. The manifold problem of the curse of intemperance cries out for their solution. Wronged and struggling women plead for their aid. Oppressed and discontented labor calls for their leadership. The tenement-houses of the poor, reeking in filth and misery and vice, pray for their knowledge and humanity. Corruption in politics demands their most invulnerable conscience in the herculean task of cleansing its stables. The field is vast, the laborers are few. Yet there are large numbers of men and women, sitting in their parlors and in their libraries, with excellent ideas and sentiments concerning the work that needs to be done. But they do not do it; and they will probably go down to their graves dissatisfied with their success in life, because they have lacked the courage and energy to carry their best convictions into execution.
The opportunities are waiting, not only for the clear sight, but the ready hand. Nay, the faith that is alive to humanity's wants makes its opportunities. It does not wait to find them. It does
not stay at home expecting them to come to it. Human beings not only help the world, but perfect themselves, by throwing themselves with generous enthusiasm into the world's work. "Blessed," says Carlyle, "is he who has found his work: let him ask no other blessedness."
HEROISMS IN DAILY LIFE.
My subject this morning is the heroic element in daily life. It is a common impression that heroism must have a rare and conspicuous field for its display. The heroes, it is thought, belonged to the old days of knight-errantry; or they are gallant soldiers, or valiant philanthropists, or, at least, doers of some work by which their names are emblazoned around the world. The General Sheridans, the John Browns, the John Howards, the Garrisons, the Captain John Smiths, the Joan of Arcs, the Grace Darlings, the Ida Lewises,—it is characters like these that are generally thought of as representing the quality of heroism. And these, of course, do represent the quality. But they are by no means its sole representatives. There may be men and women every whit as heroic in the quiet walks of daily duty, whose names will never be known to history or even beyond the boundaries of their own neighborhood. For what is the essence of heroism? It is valorous action, against great odds, for a noble object. And this is a definition that does not cover public and conspicuous deeds alone. The deed may be in secret, it may be curtained in domestic privacy, it may perchance be known only to one's own breast; and yet
it may have all the elements of true heroism. It is the silent heroisms of virtue, never blazoned abroad, known perhaps only to the home or the neighbor or the secret heart, which keep the moral health of mankind.
According to our definition there are three conditions essential to heroic action. First, the action must be valorous, it must manifest courage. You cannot imagine a craven spirit as heroic. Valor is the root-meaning of the word from which our word "heroism" is derived. At first it meant physical valor. But, as human life has developed, valor has come to have a mental and moral, as well as physical, significance. It means the courage of one's convictions, the bravery that can face and do the right without fear or favor. And there may be mental and moral heroism that will stand up fearlessly to do the true and the right, though there may have been little training in acts of physical valor. Second, heroic action is conditioned by great odds opposed to it. It implies hardship, antagonism, a struggle, and battle. It means that there are strong forces to be wrestled with and conquered. They may be physical forces, or they may be mental and moral forces. For Grace Darling and Ida Lewis it was the mighty forces of the winds and the waves that were to be met, as they launched their boats to go out to the rescue of shipwrecked fellow-beings. For John Howard it was depraved moral forces, so hopeless of cure to the thoughtless majority, that he set himself to
For Garrison it was the combined powers of state, church, and society that he, a physical non-resistant, challenged to combat on a practical question of justice. The resistance to be overcome may thus differ in kind; but all heroic deeds imply a hostile power to be fought down, and a hostile force, too, that appears to have the advantage greatly on its side. You would not call any action heroic which was done by spontaneous desire, with no opposition. Such an action may be good, moral; but it is not of the kind called heroic. It is a necessary condition of the heroic act that it should encounter great obstacles. Third, heroic action must have a noble object. Here, perhaps, some persons might at first thought demur. They might object that very valorous deeds have been displayed on the wrong side of great public causes, or even for bad personal ends. But this objection loses sight of the distinction between mere physical valor and the valor that has a moral impulsion,- a distinction that has been growing clearer to mankind as they have advanced in civilization, until now it is precisely this moral quality attached to the valorous deed that entitles it to the praise of being heroic. Of course, a bad cause, as history finally gives judgment, may be espoused by good men, acting from conscientious devotion to principle. And such men may manifest heroism because acting for what to them are good objects. And so, too, in the strifes of a bad cause there may be many incidental occasions for