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The Ruling Passion Henry van Dyke

IV. The Gentle Life

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"And to these Four Rules I will add yet another--Fifth: when you smoke your pipe with a good conscience, trouble not yourself because there are men in the world who will find fault with you for so doing. If you wait for a pleasure at which no sour-complexioned soul hath ever girded, you will wait long, and go through life with a sad and anxious mind. But I think that God is best pleased with us when we give little heed to scoffers, and enjoy His gifts with thankfulness and an easy heart.

"Well, Scholar, I have almost tired myself, and, I fear, more than almost tired you. But this pipe is nearly burned out, and the few short whiffs that are left in it shall put a period to my too long discourse. Let me tell you, then, that there be some men in the world who hold not with these my opinions. They profess that a life of contention and noise and public turmoil, is far higher than a life of quiet work and meditation. And so far as they follow their own choice honestly and with a pure mind, I doubt not that it is as good for them as mine is for me, and I am well pleased that every man do enjoy his own opinion. But so far as they have spoken ill of me and my opinions, I do hold it a thing of little consequence, except that I am sorry that they have thereby embittered their own hearts.

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"For this is the punishment of men who malign and revile those that differ from them in religion, or prefer another way of living; their revilings, by so much as they spend their wit and labour to make them shrewd and bitter, do draw all the sweet and wholesome sap out of their lives and turn it into poison; and so they become vessels of mockery and wrath, remembered chiefly for the evil things that they have said with cleverness.

"For be sure of this, Scholar, the more a man giveth himself to hatred in this world, the more will he find to hate. But let us rather give ourselves to charity, and if we have enemies (and what honest man hath them not?) let them be ours, since they must, but let us not be theirs, since we know better.

"There was one Franck, a trooper of Cromwell's, who wrote ill of me, saying that I neither understood the subjects whereof I discoursed nor believed the things that I said, being both silly and pretentious. It would have been a pity if it had been true. There was also one Leigh Hunt, a maker of many books, who used one day a bottle of ink whereof the gall was transfused into his blood, so that he wrote many hard words of me, setting forth selfishness and cruelty and hypocrisy as if they were qualities of my disposition. God knew, even then, whether these things were true of me; and if they were not true, it would have been a pity to have answered them; but it would have been still more a pity to be angered by them. But since that time Master Hunt and I have met each other; yes, and Master Franck, too; and we have come very happily to a better understanding.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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