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another direction, assuming that a certain lapse of time is all that need be considered before he opens his orders, he may open them too late, or too far from the place of service, to accomplish the task assigned him. If the English government despatches a naval vessel down the Thames to-day with orders to be opened when she reaches the middle of the North Sea, her officer does not go down to the Strait of Gibraltar to open them, assuming that his service is to be in the Mediterranean, nor does he go to the North Sea by way of the Atlantic Ocean. He knows that not only must he open the orders in order to obey them, but that space and time are important elements in respect to his being in a position to obey them when opened. He must therefore first obey implicitly the general directions he has received. In like manner, though we all begin the journey of life under sealed orders, unless, when the time for breaking the seals has arrived, we have reached through educational training a certain moral and mental position, we may not be able to accomplish the service to which our natural faculties call us.
But, even after the period of opening manhood and womanhood arrives, when vocations begin to be chosen, and the special allotments in life begin to disclose themselves, and careers to open, there is still a very large element of uncertainty mingling in human affairs. Man may be sure of his endeavors, but not always of the result of his endeavors. We may know our desires, our choices,
our aspirations, but not whether this or that is to be the fulfilment. We may steer our course to a particular object; but what may develop from that object, what may be hidden behind it, we are unable to say. There are too many personal wills acting besides our own, too many forces in operation besides human forces, too many moral hazards on all sides which may touch our lives, too much of undeveloped and unknown possibility in our own natures, for any person to be able to say at the beginning of life's activities just what and how much he will have accomplished at the end. Thus we embark even on the sea of our special careers under sealed orders. Young persons prepare themselves for some particular work or profession,for law, medicine, art, the ministry, teaching, trade, manufacturing, or mechanical industry; but they little know the special chances, associations, experiences, which their occupation may bring, and which may profoundly affect their characters and their happiness. Marriage is entered under sealed orders. Love is proverbially blind. It knows its present satisfaction. But it little foresees, and it is best it should not, either the possible heights of happiness which may be in store for it if it be genuine and remain true, or the possible disappointments and sorrows which may come even to the truest hearts and into the truest homes. Much less does it picture the depths of misery which may be the fruit of its own falsity; for of that falsity it cannot beforehand dream as even among the possi
bilities. The wife, entering the sacred ways of motherhood, goes down into the valley of shadows for the consummation of the hope of her heart and the hope of the race, but knows not whether she shall emerge on the side of time or the side of eternity. Or, safe from all perils brought, she stands amid the flock of her growing little ones, their mother, their responsible home educator, but still under sealed orders. She sees an opening faculty here, she watches an unfolding temperament there, tries to bring out the good and check the evil, under a keen sense of momentous duty, yet with an ever-growing consciousness that she is working amid mysteries. Could she only see what the future is to bring to these young minds,these buds of mental and moral promise, faculties are finally to turn, for what spheres the temperaments are to adapt themselves, by what means passion might best be trained to self-control, how much more easily could her great obligations be discharged! But she cannot see. seal of the future remains unbroken. She can only do the best she can on present knowledge, and wait in faith for the time when the hidden orders can be opened.
This element of uncertainty clings to our careers through life. We are never quite rid of it, even though we reach life's goals and may be rich with its successes. The morrow is always hidden. Some sealed order that we little suspect may be opened with the dawn of another day. We may be
called suddenly to face some sorrow, to grapple with some calamity. No life is exempt from a change of fortune. Sooner or later the harrow goes over us, the burden comes upon our shoulders, the messenger of death knocks at our door, the summons comes for us to meet quickly some unexpected emergency. And the way in which these orders are met which summon us precipitately to untried duties tests the secret core of character as cannot the ordinary responsibilities of life. the latter one may be on his guard and make a special preparation. For the sudden emergency he must draw on general resources of strength, which may or may not be adequate for all duties. They are the elect souls who are in the best condition to meet and obey the hidden orders of life, at whatever spot or moment these may be opened.
And there are sealed orders that not any emergency in life, but only death, can open. As we came into this life under sealed orders, so under sealed orders do we make our final exit. We sail out upon the great sea of the hereafter, knowing not what awaits us. Even though there be a firm faith, an unshaken confidence, that the future, as the present, must bring life, there is yet no sure revelation, only conjecture how, where, what, that life is to be. The most ardent Christian believer does not profess to define the where or the how of his heaven. Though Spiritualism, with all its claims, were to be admitted, it really answers satisfyingly no questions that go to the depths of things
save the fact of continued existence; and to many minds its petty details of professed revelation mar its evidence of even that fact. We go out of life, as we came into it, therefore, enshrouded in mystery. We leave life's familiar harbor and sail out upon the vast unknown, with only one unsealed order, to set sail. All other directions are hidden till the voyage is begun. We know not whether the country to which that journey leads is beyond the verge of this planet or still connected with it, though invisible to any mortal eyes. Will the stars still be above us as pilots, or will they, too, be hidden? Question as we may, no answer comes. The orders are closely sealed. We only know that we cannot go beyond the limits of an infinite universe, that we cannot be dropped off into empty space, that, even "if our bark sinks, 'tis to a deeper sea."
Let us look at some illustrations of our theme of a public nature. When, four hundred years ago, Columbus set sail westward across the Atlantic, he, too, was under sealed orders. He thought he was his own master, thought he knew his destination, — the East Indies,—and that he had only to follow the chart in his own brain to obtain his expected results. But his ship carried other commands than any he knew, carried a higher master than himself; and, when these sealed orders, held in the hand of historic fate, were opened, it was not a new way to Asia that he was sent to discover, but the New World of America. Our