We are living in the midst of things;
not at rest, but passing onward;
not at home, but travelers;
not stationary inhabitants, but pilgrims and strangers.
We are like actors, going from stage to stage, leaving on the road one scene of business and pleasure after another, and arriving at the new. What was ours is ours no longer. What is ours will be soon gone from us.Behind us are our childhood, our youth, and our early homes, our first warm loves, our first bright hopes, our early innocence and our early sins; before us are the cares and trials of an unknown destiny, and the duties of an uncertain probation - bereavement, toil, sickness, age, death, judgment.
Improvement is the universal law of God; to which everything in nature, are all conformed.
The herb, the tree, the animal, spring from an insignificant beginning, and reach their perfect stature by a gradual progress. The day does not open on the eye in meridian splendor. The year does not burst into ripe maturity at once. The nation does not arrive at power and fame in a day.
Improvement, then, is a law of the universe. All things alike, great and small, are made to be in progress. Individual human beings are not an exception. We must not allow everything else to move on, and we, ourselves remain stationary.
When the insensible earth and the irrational animals obey the commandment, let not us, who alone are capable of voluntary obedience, alone be unfaithful. When even the all-wise Creator, in unfolding His ways and purposes to His children, observes this rule of constant progression, let not us, with wisdom only of yesterday, children in understanding, let not us think we may rest where we are, and refuse to move forward.
Our very capacity of progress is itself a further reason for striving after perpetual improvement. The plants and animals around us have limits set to their advancement which they can never pass. They go forward by a prescribed course to their maturity, and there they necessarily stop.
The voice which spoke to the sea, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther,” has spoken to all things terrestrial except humanity.
Other things may stop, and become stationary; for they come to an end. But not humanity, for we are to know no end.
Others may be satisfied with a perfection which earth can understand and contain; for they are of the earth, and they shall return to its bosom.
This great progress of the human soul is but begun upon earth. But it is begun. The desire of purity, the love of excellence, the habits of holiness, the relish for spiritual pleasures, are begun below; and he who has made the greatest advances in these during his mortal life, is doubtless best fitted for entering on a future state.
(Adapted from a sermon by Dr. Henry Ware, Jr.)