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Puritan forefathers, how little knew they of the results of their voyage, or even of the destiny in store for themselves, when they put to sea from Plymouth, England, for the New World! The one order open to them was to find a place where they would be free to follow their religious convictions according to their own consciences. But in the sealed orders which they brought from a Higher Power were the schools, the churches, the civilization, the character, the popular government of New England and a cordon of free States across the American continent, wherein soul liberty should be guaranteed to all. Our fathers of the Revolution, again, entered that contest with sealed orders in their pockets. They thought to obtain their rights as colonists under Great Britain. To resist unjust taxation, to escape the imposition of a foreign military police, to have the rights of Englishmen,this was their aim. Separation from the mother country was not at first dreamed of. Even when Washington drew his sword in Cambridge as commander-in-chief of all the colonial armies, independence of Great Britain was a sealed book, of whose secret scarcely a whisper was heard. The same lesson is enforced in the remarkable career of that silent man of destiny, General Grant. In the modest beginning of his service in the war of the Rebellion who could have read his great ending? Though he was a graduate of West Point, and had somewhat distinguished himself as a young officer in the Mexican War, he was so modest, so little
known, that his letter to the Secretary of War offering his services in any capacity was not deemed important enough to notice; and, on going to Cincinnati with the thought that he might find a place on General McClellan's staff, he went home again without even gaining admission to that officer's presence. He went back to the work of drilling the volunteer companies of Illinois, which he had taken up from pure patriotism immediately on the issue of President Lincoln's first call for troops, serving for several weeks without even a commission from the governor of his State. But all the time the sealed orders were waiting for him. The worth of the man for the work needed was disclosed whenever there came any kind of test. He was always equal to the task assigned, always ready for the emergency. And so the sealed orders, that contained his destiny and the nation's destiny enwrapped together, were opened one after another, as he went on from success to success, from command to command, until the final seal was broken, and the Rebellion went down before his legions at Appomattox. Or take a career the very antipodes of that of military success, - a career of commanding moral success. Garrison little dreamed of the contest on which he was entering when he began, a mere boy in years, to think and to write on the iniquities of holding human beings in bondage. The Eternal Power that makes for righteousness was testing the moral mettle of the man. It rang true, and little by little the sealed orders of his
career were opened. Each duty, faithfully and courageously discharged, led to the opening of a larger duty. In the first number of the Liberator, in words that rang through the land like the shot of the embattled farmers at Concord and Lexington, he took command of the moral forces of the nation in the gigantic conflict against the domestic, commercial, and national power of the institution of slavery. He little thought that he was to live to see that power demolished. The drama proceeded, one act opening after another; and the moral commander was alert and prepared for every opportunity, equipped for every emergency in the long and bitter conflict. He counselled not with prudence, with policy, with wealth, nor with fame,
not even with the expediency of saving the union as the prior duty. His sole query was, What does justice command to-day? That order opened and obeyed, the next followed in due season, and the next, until the final seal in that contest, too, was broken, and there came the decree of emancipation, and the slave rose up a citizen and a
All the great moral and religious teachers of the world confirm the same lesson, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Jesus. None of them foresaw at the beginning of their careers what they were to pass through, what weight of duties they were to meet. They began their great missions under sealed orders. They went down to their graves without seeing all that they had done. They
wrought in faith, and were ready to seal their testimony with their blood, yet were not permitted to see the full fruit of their works. Within their deeds lay greater deeds concealed. When Jesus went to be baptized of John, he knew not that he carried in his bosom an order to found a new religion, which was to abrogate the dispensation of John's baptism. Confucius began his pre-eminent career of public service in China when a youth of twenty years in being appointed to the humble, though responsible, position of keeper of the public stores of grain. As keeper of the stores he said, "My calculations must all be right; that is all I have to care about." And making his calculations right, putting his virtue into this simple office, the next year witnessed his promotion to the charge of the public fields and lands. Another order was unsealed. And then he said: "The land must be well tilled. The oxen and sheep must be fat and strong and superior. That is all I have to care about." And thus he went on, putting his whole moral faithfulness into whatsoever work he was called to do, until, passing from one office to another, he rose to the position of prime minister, and became the trusted adviser of kings, the moral censor of his country, the collector and transmitter of its ancient wisdom, and the wise educator and example for thousands of generations to come.
And such examples also teach that, though much of the most important work of life, on account of the element of uncertainty running through all
human affairs, must be done as it were under sealed orders, yet this need not and should not lead to any doctrine of fatalism. These persons were able to do the duties assigned them when the time for the revelation of those duties came, because of their docility and their faithfulness in all the minor duties that went before. They had the ready heart, the equipped mind, the prepared spirit. By obedience to each day's command, as it had come to them, however small and however incomplete it might seem, they had placed themselves in the moral latitude and longitude where the larger order, when it was unsealed, could be promptly and effectively obeyed. Their own moral faithfulness to whatsoever light had been given had indeed led the way to the larger and clearer revelation, and made it possible.
Nor, again, is any important order that concerns present duty hidden. The sealed order is for the future. The bridge is not to be crossed until it is reached. But it will not be reached by waiting for it by the roadside. The duty for to-day is always an open one. It may be a humble one, the lot where it is cast may be narrow; yet it is none the less needful, and faithfulness to it none the less. important. It is a necessary and artistic part of the great drama of life, without which the larger and succeeding duties will miss their needed preparation and support.
Further, there are certain moral qualities that are the essential equipment for the right perform