“Auspicious hope! in thy sweet gardens grow
Wreaths for each toil, a charm for every woe.”
All that happens in the world is directly or indirectly brought about by hope. Not a stroke of work would be done were it not in hopes of some glorious reward. It matters not that it generally paves the way to disappointment. Ph[oe]nix-like it rises from its ashes and bids us forget the disappointment of the present in the contemplation of future delights. Hope, then, is the principal antidote which keeps our hearts from bursting under the pressure of evils.
Some call hope the manna from heaven that comforts us in all extremities; others the pleasant flatterer that caresses the unhappy with expectations of happiness in the bosom of futurity. But if hope be a flatterer she is the most upright of all the flattering parasites, since she frequents the poor man’s hut as well as the palace of his superiors. It is common to all men; those who possess nothing more are still cheered by hope. When all else fails us hope still abides with us.
Used with a due prudence hope acts as a healthful tonic; intemperately indulged, as an enervating opiate. The vision of future triumph, which at first animates exertion, if dwelt upon too strongly, will usurp the place of the reality, and noble objects will be contemplated, not for their own inherent worth, or with a design of compassing their execution, but for the day-dreams they engender. Hope sheds a sweet radiance on the stream of life, and never exerts her magic except to our advantage. We seldom attain what she beckons us to pursue, but her deceptions resemble those which the dying husbandman in the fable practiced upon his sons, who, by telling them of a hidden mass of wealth which he had buried in his vineyard, led them so carefully to delve the ground that they found, indeed, a treasure, though not in gold, in wine.
Reasonable hope is endowed with a vigorous principle; it sets the head and heart to work, and animates one to do his utmost, and thus, by perpetually pushing and assuring, it puts a difficulty out of countenance, and makes a seeming impossibility give way. Human life hath not a surer friend nor, many times, a greater enemy than hope. It is the miserable man’s god, which, in the hardest grip of calamity, never fails to yield him beams of comfort. It is the presumptuous man’s devil, which leads him awhile in a smooth way, and then lets him break his neck on the sudden.
How many would die did not hope sustain them! How many have died by hoping too much! This wonder may we find in hope—that she is both a flatterer and a true friend. True hope is based on energy of character. A strong mind always hopes, and has always cause to hope, because it knows the mutability of human affairs, and how slight a circumstance may change the whole course of events. Such a spirit, too, rests upon itself; it is not confined to partial views, or to one particular object, and if at last all should be lost it has saved itself its own integrity and worth.
It is best to hope only for things possible and probable; he that hopes too much shall deceive himself at last, especially if his industry does not go along with his hopes, for hope without action is a barren undoer. Hope awakens courage, but despondency is the last of all evils; it is the abandonment of good—the giving up of the battle of life with dead nothingness. When the other emotions are controlled by events hope remains buoyant and undismayed,—unchanged, amidst the most adverse circumstances. Causes that effect, with depression, every other emotion appear to give fresh elasticity to hope. No oppression can crush its buoyancy; from under every weight it rebounds; amid the most depressing circumstances it preserves its cheering influence; no disappointment can annihilate its power; no experience can deter us from listening to its sweet illusions; it seems a counterpoise for misfortune, an equivalent for every disappointment.
It springs, early into existence; it abides through all the changes of life, and reaches into the futurity of time. In the midst of disappointments it whispers consolation, and in all the arduous trials of life it is a strong staff and support. If, in the warmth of anticipation, it prepares the way for the very disappointments to which it afterwards administers relief it must be confessed that, in the severer inflictions of adversity, which come upon us unlooked for, and where previously the voice of sorrow was never heard, it then appears like an angel of mercy, and frequently assuages the anguish of suffering, and wipes the dropping tears from the eyes.
Hope lives in the future, but dies in the present. Its estate is one of expectancy. It draws large drafts on a small credit, which are seldom honored when presented at the bank of experience, but have the rare faculty of passing readily elsewhere. Hope calculates its schemes for a long and durable life, presses forward to imaginary points of bliss, and grasps at impossibilities, and, consequently, very often ensnares men into beggary, ruin, and dishonor. Hope is a great calculator, but a poor mathematician. Its problems are seldom based on true data, and their demonstration is more often fictitious than otherwise.
There is a morality in every true hope which is a source of consolation to all who rightly seek it. It is a good angel within that whispers of triumph over evil, of the success of good, of the victory of truth, of the achievement of right. “It hopeth all things.” It is a strong ingredient of courage. Under its guiding light what great events have been wrought to a successful completion! It is a friend of virtue. Its religion is full of glorious anticipations. It encourages all things good, great, and noble.
It is not surprising when we reflect on the nature of hope that we find it to be such a mainspring to human action. It is the parent of all effort and endeavor, and “every gift of noble origin is breathed upon by hope’s perpetual breath.” It may be said to be the moral engine that moves the world and keeps it in action. Every true hope which has for its object some great and noble design is an unexpressed prayer, which flies on angel’s wings to the throne of God, and returns to the struggling one a precious benison of inspiration to go forth on his errand of good.
A true hope we can touch somehow through all the lights and shadows of life. It is a prophecy fulfilled in part—God’s earnest money paid into our hands, that he will be ready with the whole when we are ready for it. It is the sunlight on the hill-top when the valley is dark as death; the spirit touching us, all through our pilgrimage, and then soaring away with us into the blessed life where we may expect either that the fruition will be entirely equal to the hope, or that the old glamour will come over us again, and beckon us on forever as the choicest gift heaven has to give.
“Hope deferred,” saith the proverb, “maketh the heart sick.” But we are prone to be too dictatorial as to how we enjoy life; too positive. We must not determine that their fulfillment must come in just the way we wish, or else we will be miserable in the grief of disappointment. It is not for man wholly to determine his steps. Sometimes what he thinks for his good turns out ill; and what he thinks a great evil develops a great blessing in disguise. It is folly, almost madness, to be miserable because things are not as we would have them, or because we are disappointed in our plans. Many of our plans must be defeated for our own good. A multitude of little hopes must every day be crushed, and now and then a great one.
But while we may be all wrong in our thoughts of the special form in which our blessing will come, we need not fail of the blessing. It may be like the mirage, shifting from horizon to horizon as we plod wearily along; but in the fullness of God’s own time we shall reap if we faint not. There is always a sadness in the, dying of a great hope. It is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone, shadows of the evening fall behind us, and the world seems but a dim reflection of itself—a broader shadow. We look forward into the lonely night. The soul withdraws itself. Then stars arise, and the night is holy.
Hopes and fears checker human life. The one serves to keep us from presumption, the other from despair. Hope is the last thing that dieth in man. Though it may be deceptive, yet it is of this good use to us, that while we are traveling through this life it conducts us in an easier and more pleasant way to our journey’s end. There is no one so fallen but that he may have hopes; nor is any so exalted as to be beyond the reach of fears. “When faith, temperance, and other celestial powers left the earth,” says one of the ancient writers, “Hope was the only goddess that stayed behind.”
The man who carries a lantern in a dark night can have friends walking safely by the light of its rays, and not be defrauded himself. So he who is of cheerful disposition, and has the light of hope in his breast, can help on many others in this world’s darkness, not to his own loss, but to their gain. Hope is an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, that will restrain our frail bark and enable us to outride the storms of time.
There are so many humiliations in this world! The secret is to rise above them, to throw off dissatisfaction, and to grasp some pleasing hope, grateful and beneficial to the mind. We are encompassed by illusions and delusions. We need the comforting promises of the heart—a steadfast faith in the good and true, and hopefulness in all things, especially of futurity. Hope is rich and glorious, and faithfully should it be cultivated. Let its inspiring influence grow in the heart; it will give strength and courage.
Let the cheerful word fall from the lips, and the smile play upon the countenance. The way of the world is dark enough even to the most favored ones among us. Why not, then, gather all the happiness out of life that you can? Why not strive to cultivate the cheerful, hopeful disposition that will enable you to see the silver lining to every cloud? By such a course you will do much to assuage the sorrows and to increase the joys and pleasures of life.
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