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True Greatness

To The Editor Of The Occident.

Reverend Sir:

Permit an occasional, and very humble contributor to your pages, to transfer to them some most beautiful and excellent lines, which may possibly not have met the eyes of many of your readers; and a few reflections occasioned by the perusal of them. In the poor judgment of your correspondent, these lines are well calculated by their deep and tender sympathy, and their soul-strengthening suggestions, to encourage the most desponding to aspire after the attainment of that “true greatness” which is so forcibly, yet tenderly, set forth in them; and therefore, though not of Jewish origin, may not be thought unsuitable to appear in such a work as your “Occident.”

Accept, Reverend Sir, the best wishes for your health and general welfare, of one to whom you have shown much kindness, and who, to avoid what might now, perhaps, have the appearance of mock-modesty, reluctantly retains her former signature.

An American Jewess.

Thoughts Suggested By The Perusal Of The Following Lines, Entitled “True Greatness.”

“Ay, men may boast of conquerors, and tell
Of trophies that adorned a Caesar’s car,
Spreading his glory to the world afar,
Until his name become a mighty spell
To wake the hearts of nations:—It is well
That souls should thus be roused; but are there not
Far nobler triumphs in the humble lot
Of him who turns, when passion’s hosts rebel,
Undaunted to the conflict? then the heart
Against itself in warfare must arise,
While one by one the joys of life depart;
And e’en the hope that nerved the spirit dies:
Yet not to him are earthly honours given.
Enough if conquest win th’ approving smile of Heaven.”

The smile of Heaven! what is it? Divest it of all figure, and its plain meaning is the approbation of God. It is not all poetry and imagination, this “smile of Heaven.” He who bravely fights for it in the unseen and noiseless battle-fields of his spirit’s daily life, must be under a thorough conviction that what he contends for is not only real and attainable, but is worth all the sufferings, the combats, the privations that he may be called upon to encounter, without the hope of sympathy or fame, in his struggles for this great and single object,—the approbation of God! In this battle-field woman, too, may (and perhaps most often does) join the ranks; and with true heroism and exhaustless, because faith-founded endurance, self-sacrifice, and perseverance, devote the treasures of her life to the true service of her Maker.

Most of us have but an indistinct idea of the full meaning of these words, the approbation of God. Let us study it out and bring it clearly before us.

If we firmly believe that the approbation of God is an attainable object, we must as firmly believe that God, yes, the Great, Omnipotent, though Invisible Being, who gave us life, and endowed us with all these faculties of mind and heart, which we discover within us, who made us susceptible of enjoyments, and subject to trials of which these faculties are alike the agents; is the constant and only judge and witness of our real life. If this be not so, we can neither hope for His approbation, nor fear His displeasure. If He is regardless of the existence of the humblest individual, unobservant of his actions, or unaware of their motives, it follows that there can be no connexion between any man and his Maker, and God’s law. His promised blessings and His threatened curses are as unreal as if they had never been revealed, are vain and empty words. God must see and know each one at all tunes, or He can neither approve and bless, nor disapprove and denounce punishment against the offender. That grand peculiar, majestic attribute, His justice, disappears entirely.

The words, the approbation of God, include, then, an unrestrained acknowledgment of His existence, of His omnipresence, of His omniscience, and of His unerring justice and condescending mercy. We may ponder upon this as deeply as our powers will enable us to penetrate. This great fact will stand the closest scrutiny, the result of such meditations to each individual mind will be this, and this only. “Yes! the invisible God is with me always; he knows me. ‘He understandeth my thought afar off.’”

Let it be our constant endeavour to realize this great, strengthening, restraining, and consoling truth: and the living and earnest hope for the approbation of God, the occasional consciousness of having obtained it, will be sufficient incentives to the most irksome and unceasing effort. God’s “ways are perfect:” that is, the ways He has pointed out to us are perfect. Obedience to His commandments will lead on to perfection. As years increase upon us, let it be our prayer, seconded by an honest endeavour, that obedience and submission may increase with them, until we become capable of resigning at God’s bidding, with pure trustfulness, even with cheerfulness, all that we have hitherto considered necessary to endear life to us; and in place of the beloved treasures we have been called upon to renounce, we may find ourselves moved by higher interests, and in the possession of a certain degree of happiness which we can ascribe to nothing else than the unseen impartings of God’s grace.

It is this truly Hebrew faith, this genuine, ever-present, living and abiding faith in God’s nearness, in His spiritual intercourse with man, and His mysterious interference in human affairs, individual as well as general, that we, “His witnesses,” are called upon to exhibit in our lives, and thus teach in its purity to the nations of the earth, among whom we are dispersed. We have, indeed, long disregarded with almost willful blindness, our inconceivably high and holy mission, and bitter to us, as was foretold in the powerful language of the Hebrew prophets, have been and are the consequences of our unfaithfulness; but from these same prophets we receive ample assurances that while we have thus, with such unutterable folly and base ingratitude, forgotten the gracious God, our Father, who has elected us above all other people; or remembered Him only with an outward mockery of worship, that is almost worse than forgetfulness, He ever has been and ever will be the Guardian of Israel; and, “blotting out as a thick cloud our transgressions,” will yet fulfill the high destinies of His people. “Remember this and show yourselves men; bring it again to mind, oh ye transgressors.” “Know, therefore, that the Lord thy God, He is the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.—Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he swore unto thy fathers, and he will love thee and bless thee,” &c. Can such language be misunderstood? Is it possible for one true inheritor of the God-given and undying promises to doubt that the approbation and love of God is an attainable object, or to be at a loss as to the means by which he is to secure to himself this beautiful “smile of Heaven?”

November 4th, 1846.