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The Ruling Passion Henry van Dyke

IV. The Gentle Life

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"This fair tree that shadows us from the sun hath grown many years in its place without more unhappiness than the loss of its leaves in winter, which the succeeding season doth generously repair; and shall we be less contented in the place where God hath planted us? or shall there go less time to the making of a man than to the growth of a tree? This stream floweth wimpling and laughing down to the great sea which it knoweth not; yet it doth not fret because the future is hidden; and doubtless it were wise in us to accept the mysteries of life as cheerfully and go forward with a merry heart, considering that we know enough to make us happy and keep us honest for to-day. A man should be well content if he can see so far ahead of him as the next bend in the stream. What lies beyond, let him trust in the hand of God.

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"But as concerning riches, wherein should you and I be happier, this pleasant afternoon of May, had we all the gold in Croesus his coffers? Would the sun shine for us more bravely, or the flowers give forth a sweeter breath, or yonder warbling vireo, hidden in her leafy choir, send down more pure and musical descants, sweetly attuned by natural magic to woo and win our thoughts from vanity and hot desires into a harmony with the tranquil thoughts of God? And as for fame and power, trust me, sir, I have seen too many men in my time that lived very unhappily though their names were upon all lips, and died very sadly though their power was felt in many lands; too many of these great ones have I seen that spent their days in disquietude and ended them in sorrow, to make me envy their conditions or hasten to rival them. Nor do I think that, by all their perturbations and fightings and runnings to and fro, the world hath been much bettered, or even greatly changed. The colour and complexion of mortal life, in all things that are essential, remain the same under Cromwell or under Charles. The goodness and mercy of God are still over all His works, whether Presbytery or Episcopacy be set up as His interpreter. Very quietly and peacefully have I lived under several polities, civil and ecclesiastical, and under all there was room enough to do my duty and love my friends and go a-fishing. And let me tell you, sir, that in the state wherein I now find myself, though there are many things of which I may not speak to you, yet one thing is clear: if I had made haste in my mortal concerns, I should not have saved time, but lost it; for all our affairs are under one sure dominion which moveth them forward to their concordant end: wherefore 'HE THAT BELIEVETH SHALL NOT MAKE HASTE,' and, above all, not when he goeth a-angling.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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