A corollary of the great principle already enunciated might be formulated thus: _there is no such thing as finding true happiness by searching for it directly_. It must come, if it come at all, indirectly, or by the service, the love, and the happiness we give to others. So, _there is no such thing as finding true greatness by searching for it directly_. It always, without a single exception has come indirectly in this same way, and it is not at all probable that this great eternal law is going to be changed to suit any particular case or cases. Then recognize it, put your life into harmony with it, and reap the rewards of its observance, or fail to recognize it and pay the penalty accordingly; for the law itself will remain unchanged.
The men and women whose names we honor and celebrate are invariably those with lives founded primarily upon this great law. Note if you will, every _truly_ great life in the world’s history, among those living and among the so-called dead, and tell me if in _every_ case that life is not a life spent in the service of others, either directly, or indirectly as when we say–he served his country. Whenever one seeks for reputation, for fame, for honor, for happiness directly and for his own sake, then that which is true and genuine never comes, at least to any degree worthy the name. It may seem to for a time, but a great law says that such an one gets so far and no farther. Sooner or later, generally sooner, there comes an end.
Human nature seems to run in this way, seems to be governed by a great paradoxical law which says, that whenever a man self-centred, thinking of, living for and in himself, is very desirous for place, for preferment, for honor, the very fact of his being thus is of itself a sufficient indicator that he is too small to have them, and mankind refuses to accord them. While the one who forgets self, and who, losing sight of these things, makes it his chief aim in life to help, to aid, and to serve others, by this very fact makes it known that he is large enough, is great enough to have them, and his fellow-men instinctively bestow them upon him. This is a great law which many would profit by to recognize. That it is true is attested by the fact that the praise of mankind instinctively and universally goes out to a hero; but who ever heard of a hero who became such by doing something for himself? Always something he has done for others. By the fact that monuments and statues are gratefully erected to the memory of those who have helped and served their fellow-men, not to those who have lived to themselves alone.
I have seen many monuments and statues erected to the memories of philanthropists, but I never yet have seen one erected to a miser; many to generous-hearted, noble-hearted men, but never yet to one whose whole life was that of a sharp bargain-driver, and who clung with a sort of semi-idiotic grasp to all that came thus into his temporary possession. I have seen many erected to statesmen,–statesmen,–but never one to mere politicians; many to true orators, but never to mere demagogues; many to soldiers and leaders, but never to men who were not willing, when necessary, to risk all in the service of their country. No, you will find that the world’s monuments and statues have been erected and its praises and honors have gone out to those who were large and great enough to forget themselves in the service of others, who have been servants, true servants of mankind, who have been true to the great law that we find our own lives in losing them in the service of others. Not honor for themselves, but service for others. But notice the strange, wonderful, beautiful transformation as it returns upon itself,–_honor for themselves, because of service to others_.
It would be a matter of exceeding great interest to verify the truth of what has just been said by looking at a number of those who are regarded as the world’s great sons and daughters,–those to whom its honors, its praises, its homage go out,–to see why it is, upon what their lives have been founded that they have become so great and are so honored. Of all this glorious company that would come up, we must be contented to look at but one or two.
There comes to my mind the name and figure of him the celebration of whose birthday I predict will soon be made a national holiday,–he than whom there is no greater, whose praises are sung and whose name and memory are honored and blessed by millions in all parts of the world to-day, and will be by millions yet unborn, our beloved and sainted Lincoln. And then I ask, Why is this? Why is this? One sentence of his tells us what to look to for the answer. During that famous series of public debates in Illinois with Stephen A. Douglas in 1858, speaking at Freeport, Mr. Douglas at one place said, “I care not whether slavery in the Territories be voted up or whether it be voted down, it makes not a particle of difference with me.” Mr. Lincoln, speaking from the fullness of his great and royal heart, in reply said, with emotion, “I am sorry to perceive that my friend Judge Douglas is so constituted that he does not feel the lash the least bit when it is laid upon another man’s back.” Thoughts upon self? Not for a moment. Upon others? Always. He at once recognized in those black men four million brothers for whom he had a service to perform.