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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

How to Move the World

page 249

How to Move the World.

One day a philosopher came to Athens, from a far country, to learn the ways of the wonderful Greeks, and perhaps to teach them the great lore he treasured in his heart. The wise men heard him; sought his company in the gardens; talked with him in private. He passed for a wonder with that wonder-loving people. Among those that followed him, was the son of Soplironiscus, an ill-favoured young man, a mechanic of humble rank. He was one of the few that understood the dark, Oriental doctrines of the Sage, when he spoke of God, man, freedom, goodness, of the life that never dies. The young man saw these doctrines were pregnant with actions, and would one day work a revolution in the affairs of men, disinheriting many an ancient sin now held legitimate.

So he said to himself, when he saw a rich man and famous,—" Oh! that I were rich and famous, I would move the world soon. Here are sins to be plucked up and truths to be planted. Oh that I could do it all, I would mend the world right soon." Yet he did nothing but wait for wealth and fame. One day the Sage heard him complain with himself, and said, "Young man, thou speakest as silly women. This gospel of God is writ for all. Let him that would move the world move first himself. He that would do good to men begins with what tools God gives him, and gets more as the world gets on. It asks neither wealth nor fame, to live out a noble life, at the end of thy lane in Athens. Make thy light thy life; the thought, action; others will come round. Thou askest a place to stand on hereafter and move the world. Foolish young man, take it where thou standest, and begin now. So the work shall go forward. Reform thy little self, and thou hast begun to reform the world. Fear not thy work shall die!"

The youth took the hint; reformed himself of his coarseness, his sneers, of all meanness that was in him. His idea became his life; and that blameless and lovely. His truth passed into the public mind as the sun into the air. His acorn is the father of forests. His influence passes like morning, from continent to continent, and the rich and the poor are blessed by the light and warmed by the life of Socrates, though they know not his name.—Theodore Parker.