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seldom seen in a public man "labor conspicuous and unceasing for every measure, public or private, for the relief of human suffering, and for the moral and religious welfare of men." This was the power that upheld him through eighteen years of parliamentary struggle and defeat to the abolition of the British slave-trade and permitted him, after forty years of waiting, to rejoice, three days before his death, in the abolition of British slavery itself.
Not long before this latest joy of Wilberforce, a young Scotchman emerges from a Glasgow cotton mill and evening school to thirty years of missionary work and beneficent exploration in the Dark Continent, attended with toils, privations, and endurances almost incredible. The world knows the deeply devout character that sent Livingstone forth and kept him there to the end. He condensed it all in one short sentence addressed to a band of young scholars, his last public words in Scotland: "Fear God and work hard." He epitomized it all in those closing days when he pressed on his way, though forced from his feet to the beast of burden, the shoulders of his men, the palanquin, and the couch, where he was found one morning motionless by the bedside, on his knees.
And thus it is that in every land and every sphere the deepest character becomes the powerful spring of action action that knows no discouragement, shrinks before no obstacle, is baffled by no defeats, and that ends only with the powers of life.
II. Character founded on high principle brings
tranquillity in the labors. On a journey, at some great center of diverging lines and moving trains, what a matter of moment and of comfort it is quietly to know that you are on the right track and in the right conveyance! Men and women are rushing hither and thither, uncertain, anxious, and troubled. You look calmly on, assured that track and train and ticket are right, and if the elements keep faith, your destination, though out of sight, is sure. Even so in the journey of life there is inexpressible satisfaction in having so thoroughly adjusted the whole spirit and aim to the course that is wise and right as to hold on the way without tremor or vacillation. It is then all work and no worry. The steam goes forth in driving the wheels and not in howling to the winds. The weak man hesitates and chafes. and fumes and frets. The strong man settles down solidly and serenely to his work.
We have fallen upon times of general uneasiness, dissatisfaction, and complaint. Labor, service, capital, trade, commerce, politics, education, marriage, morals, religion are all in a state of seismic rumbling if not of volcanic eruption. The elements of life are in a growing uproar. Till the Master comes through the darkness and the storm, saying, "Peace, be still," it is for the disciples to toil in patience at the oars. We need more work and less words; genuine fidelity with its attendant serenity; the still and steady power that holds the helm and stems the tide. It is the privilege of a good man to labor on in the serene dutifulness with which the Master replied to the threat, "Get thee
for Herod will kill thee": "Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected"; with which his great apostle could say, in full view of his troublous career foretold by the Holy Ghost, “Yet none of these things move me." It enabled the great Reformer in the midst of dire confusion to enjoy his home, and the great Chevalier, when ordered to a needlessly fatal exposure, to go saying, "My life is my country's, and my soul I commend to God." It sustained the great Protector, in the form of a Scripture promise, under what he used to say was "a burden too great for man," and it "once did save my life." It made the great Baptist missionary, still without a convert, pronounce the prospect to be "bright as the promise of God." It endowed our great martyr President, under his infinitude of cares, with an infinitude of patience, and often an outburst of mirthfulness misunderstood. What is more, it has enabled many a humble saint, some Phebe Brown or Thomas Cranfield, to keep on in his weary round of daily toil and trial rejoicing.
Character brings steadiness in emergencies. See Gordon go calmly to his immolation in Khartoum, and Stanley once sit still with nine gun barrels pointed at his body; see "Havelock's saints," the men that never quailed, and Cromwell's Ironsides, his "gathered church," the troops that never were defeated. When the great Mexican invader landed in early summer in a wealthy land and a genial climate with nine hundred
men all armed to the teeth, he had to sink his nine vessels to hold his men back from their native Spain. When, a hundred years later, a hundred and two men, women, and children landed helpless in midwinter on a bleak, storm-swept coast, welcomed by showers of Indian arrows, and in four months laid forty-four of their number beneath the sod, they saw their one vessel sail for the old home and not one of them took passage. "Great peace have they which love thy law."
Such a spirit is that which by its steadiness faces difficulties. In a mixed world the straight course is not always the popular course; and it seems to be a growing law of the age that the man who in any line succeeds becomes a target for the men who fail. But the well-compacted character which encounters the opposition is the force to meet it. For against a man armed with "the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith" the fiery darts of the wicked drop shattered and quenched. One who watches the course of human affairs will read that in all such encounters, even in business schemes, much more in the higher activities, opposition as such, sheer and simple, base and baseless, in the long run is a boomerang that recoils on the head of the hurler. I read not long ago that a certain man took a certain place "to put down" a certain other man; but if I read aright, it worked the other way. So Haman undertook to put down Mordecai; but Haman himself was put down, or rather hung up.
But in all this we do not forget the difference between the fine fervor of firmness and a weak and
wicked willfulness; between a Daniel and a Darius; between the prompt decision of an Abigail and the dogged obstinacy of a Nabal. The one is as clearsighted as it is transparent; the other as blind as it is turbid. The one is peace; the other stagnation. The one is a fortress; the other a prison.
Great confidence and tranquillity have they who have honestly and wisely chosen and firmly grasped their general or their special work, and who go resolutely on, casting no look backward or sidewise, but only onward and upward. Such a quiet satisfaction may be rare and difficult in times of restlessness and complaint, of questionings and intermeddlings, of uprisings and upheavals, of cavilings and captiousness; but it is like the diamond or the emerald, all the more precious for its rarity. It is a self-poise that rests on the sterling qualities of mind and heart, sometimes seen in men in public spheres, but oftener far in those who
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
Have " kept the noiseless tenor of their way."
Character commands respect and honor. No doubt men yield a transient and surface homage to lower qualities. The moneyed man commands obsequiousness while the money flows; but if that be all, the coffin lid shuts off alike the money and all the money bought. "How does he cut up?" was the inquiry once made over the remains of such a porcine man. Rank and place for a time impress the populace.