Through His Great Trials He Remained Steadfast in His Hold on God.
THE LESSON—That trouble either adds to our spiritual strength or else casts us down, depending on the stability of our character and our hold on God.
This illustration, especially useful on the occasion of the birthday of George Washington, on
"Boys, how many of you ever flew a kite? Well, that's fine! You will be able, then, to answer the question I am going to ask you. Now, listen. If the wind is blowing from the west, which way do you run to make the kite go up? Yes, you run toward the west, right against the wind. If you run with the wind, the kite won't go up at all, will it? [Draw the kite as in Fig. 84; black outline, red tail.]
"One might think that when a strong wind blew against the kite, it would be blown away like a piece of loose newspaper; but that isn't so. And when a gentle breeze increases to a strong, steady wind, the kite goes higher and higher, PROVIDED it is made of good material, and PROVIDED, also, that someone holds tightly to the other end of the string. But if the string breaks, down comes the kite! Why? Because the very thing which holds it down is the same thing which holds it up!
"You may never have thought of it, but each of us boys and girls and each one of us men and women is a good deal like a kite. When the winds of trouble and worry blow against us they may cause us to rise higher or they may blow us down. Today, I want to tell you how George Washington acted when troubles came to him, and if any man in the world's history was loaded down with soul-trying troubles it was 'the Father of His Country.' Listen while I read for you a few sentences from private letters which he wrote during the Revolutionary war. [It will be well to have these and other extracts written so you may read them verbatim.] 'I am wearied almost to death with the retrograde motion of things, and I solemnly protest that a pecuniary reward of twenty thousand pounds a year would not induce me to undergo what I do, and, after all, perhaps, lose my character.' Again: 'Our affairs are in a more distressed, ruinous, and deplorable condition than they have been since the commencement of the war,' and he adds that unless congress comes valiantly to his assistance at once the country will sink into irretrievable ruin. Again he writes: 'Every idea you can form of our distresses will fall short of the reality. I have almost ceased to hope.' These were dark days, and the winds of adversity were beating mercilessly against the man into whose hands had been placed the cares of the great struggle for national existence. He was like the kite bravely battling against the wind. But he was made of good stuff, and there was a strong hand holding the string, for we read again from his letters:
"'How it will all end, God in his great goodness, will direct. I am thankful for His protection to this time. I have a consolation within that no earthly effort can deprive me of, and that is that neither ambitions nor interested motives have influenced my conduct. The arrows of malevolence, therefore, however barbed and well pointed, can never reach the most vulnerable part of me; though, while I am set up as a mark they will be continually aimed.'
"His trust was in God, and so shocked was he when he learned that the habit of swearing was growing in the army that he issued a general order calling upon officers to set the men a good example, and added, 'The practice is foolish and wicked—a vice so mean and low, without temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it. We can have little hope of the blessing of heaven on our arms if we insult it by our folly and our impiety.'
"No, George Washington was not the man to give way under severe trials. He was not like the kite whose framework breaks or whose paper covering is torn by the force of the wind. Under these conditions a kite must dash to the earth. [Draw the rent in the kite with black. Remove the drawing from the board, invert it, and then re-attach it to the board, Fig. 85.] But when the trials came to Washington he arose in his might to meet them, knowing that God would be with him.
"Let us ever remember that God is our strength, just as he was the strength of George Washington."