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How To Attain True Greatness
by [?]

“My voice shall yet be heard in those halls!” said a young man, whom we will call James Abercrombie, to his friend Harvey Nelson, as the two walked slowly, arm in arm, through the beautiful grounds of the Capitol at Washington.

“Your ambition rises,” Nelson replied, with a smile. “A seat in our State Legislature was, at one time, your highest aim.”

“Yes. But as we ascend the mountain, our prospect becomes enlarged. Why should I limit my hopes to any halfway position, when I have only to resolve that I will reach the highest point? I feel, Harvey, that I have within me the power to do any thing that I choose. And I am resolved that the world shall know me as one of its great men.”

“Some, if they were to hear you speak thus, James, might smile at what they would consider a weak and vain assumption. But I know that you have a mind capable of accomplishing great things; that you have only to use the means, and take an elevated position as the natural result. Still I must say, that I do not like the spirit in which you speak of these things.”

“Why not?”

“You seem to desire an elevated station more for the glory of filling it, than for the enlarged sphere of usefulness that it must necessarily open to you.”

“I do not think, Harvey,” his friend replied, “that I am influenced by the mere glory of greatness to press forward. There is something too unsubstantial in that. Look at the advantages that must result to me if I attain a high place.”

“In either case, I cannot fully approve your motive.”

“Then, from what motive would you have me act, Harvey? I am sure that I know of none other sufficiently strong to urge me into activity. Both of these have their influence; and, in combination, form the impulse that gives life to my resolutions.”

“There is a much higher, and purer, and more powerful motive, James. A motive to which I have just alluded.”

“What is that?”

“The end of being useful to our fellow-men.”

“You may act from that motive, if you can, Harvey, but I shall not attempt the vain task. It is too high and pure for me.”

“Do not say so. We may attain high motives of action, as well as attain, by great intellectual efforts, high positions in the world.”

“How so?”

“It is a moral law, that any peculiar tendency or quality of the mind grows stronger by indulgence. The converse of the proposition is, of course, true also. You feel, then, that your motives of action are selfish–that they regard your own elevation and honour as first, and good to your neighbour as only secondary. Now, by opposing instead of indulging this propensity to make all things minister to self, it must grow weaker, as a natural consequence. Is not that clear?”

“Why, yes, I believe it is; or at least, the inference is a logical one, though I must confess that I do not see it as an unquestionable truth.”

“That is because your natural feelings are altogether opposed to it.”

“Perhaps so–for undoubtedly they are. I cannot see any thing so very desirable in the motive of which you speak, that I should seek to act from it. There is something tame in the idea of striving only to do good to others.”

“It really pains me to hear you say so,” the friend replied in a serious tone. “But now that we are on this subject, you must pardon me if I attempt to make you see in a rational light the truth that it is a much nobler effort to do good to others, than to seek only our own glory.”

“Well, go on.”

“You have, doubtless, heard the term ‘God-like’ used, as indicating a high degree of excellence in some individual, who has stood prominently before the eyes of his fellow-men?”