1 Kings 2:2
I go the way of all the earth: be you strong therefore, and show yourself a man;
To be a man requires a trinity of qualities: a strong body, a full-orbed mind, and a spiritual nature.
1. Young men, it is your duty to cultivate your physical strength by athletic sports, gymnastics, and other exercises that will help to fortify the noble temple in which God has housed your mind and soul. It matters not how valuable the possessions that are stored in a house, if the house is insecure or the roof leaky. It is no credit to a man to be so careless about the house in which the priceless treasures of mind and spirit are placed that the building becomes worn out before its time. If you and I are going to do efficient work in this the busiest age of the world's history, if we are to hold our own in the fierce competition of this the greatest of all commercial periods, we will need sturdy muscles, stout lungs, healthy livers, and good digestion. A man handicaps himself seriously in the race of life who pays no regard to the rules of health. On the other hand, a man with a healthy body has better chances of success, because health inspires him with hope and ambition. Thomas Carlyle gave to the world a jaundiced view of many things because he had a weak stomach. What misery he caused in his own home, and in the life of that patient martyr-wife of his, has been revealed in the letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle. Many a man who most sacredly keeps the Ten Commandments breaks with impunity the laws of health.
2. The development of the body, however, is not all that makes up man. A prize-fighter has a well-developed body, but his influence does not count for much outside of the prize-ring. There is a mind to be cultivated and a soul. The man who devotes himself entirely to physical development will be apt to forget the needs of the other two parts of his nature. If all the energy in a man's nature is running to brawn, there will be nothing left to run to brain. The men who have compelled the world's attention have not been physical giants hut men of mental and moral muscle. Napoleon, Wellington, and Grant were not great in body. If the ideal of a perfect man consisted only in physical qualities, we should be lower in the scale than certain animals. The ex surpasses a man in muscular strength; the antelope in speed; the hound in keenness of scent; the eagle in eyesight; the rabbit in acuteness of hearing; the honey-bee in delicacy of taste; the spider in fineness of nervous energy. So we cannot measure a man by his body, nor by his material possessions. We have advanced beyond the age in which the world counted as its greatest heroes Hercules, Ajax, Croesus, Miltiades. The world to-day is ruled not by muscle, but by mind and heart. The bravest are the tenderest, the loving are the daring. A young man's value to the world and to himself depends largely on the cultivation of his intellect. Just as in the cultivation of the body you have to regard suitable food and proper exercise, so in the development of the mind you have to consider the kind of food. Every young man ought to mark out for himself a course of reading in history, biography, poetry, and philosophy. Another thing: As you would not knowingly take into your system diseased meat, or decayed fruit or vegetables, in like manner you will not desire to poison your mind by the reading of impure books. The quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our character. Impure thoughts are worms which eat away the tissues of moral character. The man who falls a victim to temptation is the man whose character has become worm-eaten. Guard most sacredly the door of the mind, and keep it closed against the entrance of evil thoughts. Had General Grant been a man of weak will, he never could have carried the campaigns of the Civil War through to success. Yet his memoirs reveal a man with a heart as tender as a girl's, hating war and disliking the very sound of a gun, but possessed of such self-command that to foresee a thing necessary to be done was to command, even though he had to fight it out on one line all summer. Opposition, discouragement, difficulties, never can keep a man of will power down. The party leaders at Rome thought they would get rid of the ambitious young Caesar, so they gave him a commission which necessitated a prolonged absence from Rome and a difficult expedition into the heart of an un-civilised and unexplored region of country. They said: "Rome never again will hear of young Caesar." But the young man conquered Gaul, and returning after a campaign of ten years seized the sceptre of imperial power. It is a sad thing to see a man in whom the will power has gone to decay. Dr. Maudsley, the English scientist, says the beginning of recovery from mental derangement is always a revival of the power of the will. When an expert in an insane asylum finds a patient able to execute some new plan of conduct, and to hold himself in the pursuit of it for hours at a time, he is apt to say that that man will soon go out of the asylum.
3. Let me now come to the final quality that goes into the makeup of symmetrical manhood, and that is the spiritual nature. Physical strength is good, but it is only the cellar foundation of the house. No one would be content to live in the cellar, no matter how well stocked it might be with provisions and other comforts. He would at least want to have another storey to the building, and we have spoken of the intellectual development. But to stop with that would be like dwelling in a library, or art gallery, and never having any higher rooms where we might come into fellowship with the Creator, and with His Son, our Saviour. To change the figure, lev me say that to neglect the spiritual nature, as some men have done, equipping the physical and mental natures with everything needful, is like building a splendid ship and leaving off the rudder. The spiritual nature in a man is the rudder which controls his thoughts and purposes. Sometimes a ship at sea is found flying the signal, "Not under control." That is a very terrible signal. The splendid athlete who can win a boat race, or in the arena knock out his opponent, may be only a baby in his moral manhood. A man with muscles strong enough to fell a horse may be weak enough to yield to some subtle temptation. The secret is spiritual character. You remember what men said of the noble Greek who governed his city by unwritten laws — "Phocion's character is more than the constitution." The power of character in Lamartine was such that during the bloodiest days in Paris he never bolted his doors, and once when he rose to speak the one who introduced him said: "Sixty years of a pure life are about to address you." Emerson says there was a certain power in Lincoln, Washington, and Burke not to be explained by their printed words. John Milton said: "A good man is the ripe fruit our earth holds up to God." If the Roman youth were elevated in spirit by standing one day each week in a room devoted to the statuary of great heroes, and making vows to their imaginary presence, how much more are we ennobled when we go into the presence of the infinite and eternal Jehovah, who is able to impart to us the transforming influence of His Holy Spirit.
(D. H. Martin, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man;