* * * * *
The critic with that terrible English trait, an exaggerated sense of the ridiculous, will at this point probably remark to himself, smiling: “I suppose the time will come, when by dint of regular daily practice, I shall have achieved perfect goodwill towards the first object of my attentions. I can then regard that person as ‘done.’ I can put him on a shelf, and turn to the next; and, in the end, all my relations, friends and acquaintances will be ‘done’ and I can stare at them in a row on the shelf of my mind, with pride and satisfaction * * *.” Except that no person will ever be quite “done,” human nature, still being human, in spite of the recent advances of civilisation, I do not deprecate this manner of stating the case.
The ambitious and resolute man, with an exaggerated sense of the ridiculous, would see nothing ridiculous in ticking off a number of different objects as they were successively achieved. If for example it was part of his scheme to learn various foreign languages, he would know that he could only succeed by regular application of the brain, by concentration of thought daily; he would also know that he could never acquire any foreign language in absolute perfection. Still, he would reach a certain stage in a language, and then he would put it aside and turn to the next one on his programme, and so on. Assuredly, he would not be ashamed of employing method to reach his end.
Now all that can be said of the acquirement of foreign languages can be said of the acquirement of goodwill. In remedying the deficiences of the heart and character, as in remedying the deficiences of mere knowledge, the brain is the sole possible instrument, and the best results will be obtained by using it regularly and scientifically, according to an arranged method. Why, therefore, if a man be proud of method in improving his knowledge, should he see something ridiculous in a deliberate plan for improving his heart—the affair of his heart being immensely more important, more urgent and more difficult? The reader who has found even one good answer to the above question, need read no more of this book, for he will have confounded me and it.
THE FEAST OF ST. FRIEND