No Pain, No Palm, No Thorn, No Throne; No Gall, No Glory; No Cross, No crown
William Penn knew what he was saying when he wrote these words. He was a member of the society of Quakers, or “Friends” as they called themselves. They were persecuted under the Stuart king ; and they knew what pain, thorns, gall and the cross meant. It was Penn who rescued them by getting from Charles II a grant of land in America in 1681. He took many of them out there, and formed a Quaker colony where they could follow their own faith in peace and freedom. It was called, after him, Pennsylvania.
The language Penn uses obviously refers to the sufferings and victory of the Master whom the Quakers and all Christians acknowledge, Jesus Christ. He was crowned with thorns, was given gall to drink at His crucifixion, and suffered pain on the cross. And, according to Christian belief, He thereby won the palm of victory over evil and death, eternal glory, the crown of moral kingship, and a throne in the hearts of mil-lions. So Penn taught his fellow Quakers that it was only through suffering that the followers of Christ could ever win victory.
The general meaning of his words is that nothing worth achieving, certainly nothing great, can ever be achieved with-out effort, struggle and sacrifice. This reminds us of the English proverb, “No pains, no gains”; though this proverb is on a less exalted plane than the words of William Penn. But perhaps on that very account it will suit us better; for it is not likely that we shall have to face persecution for our faith. The word pains in the proverb does not mean so much suffering as care and trouble, as it means in the phrase “to take pains” over anything. The proverb teaches that we can gain nothing worth gaining without effort, care and hard work.
This is certainly true in education and scholarship. As the philosopher told the king, “There is no royal road to learning”. A student can never become a scholar unless he works hard, denies himself ease and pleasure, and “takes pains” over his studies.
Some men are born with great artistic gifts. They have a natural genius for music, painting, poetry, literature, acting. One would think there would be no need for such geniuses to work. But no natural genius has ever become a master of his art and achieved complete success, who has not cultivated and perfected his gift by untiring industry and constant practice.
This is true, too, of character building. Few men are naturally good; and, as a rule, a fine noble character is the result of effort and struggle. To form good habits, to break bad habits, to resist temptation, to develop virtues, call for cease-less moral effort. No man becomes good in his sleep.