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So, too, great advocates are at their best only when thoroughly convinced of their case. There have been those among them who would not, for any fee, undertake a cause which they saw to lack a fair foundation. In a celebrated murder trial many years ago in Massachusetts the prisoner's able counsel was paralyzed the moment he found his client was false, Indeed it is worthy of profound consideration how much the weight of all public speech comes from the actual and recognized character of the man that speaks. The right man is always most effective where he is best known; the best minister in his own pulpit. Never has there been in the country a more elaborate and brilliant rhetorician than Edward Everett, a man much to be admired and never to be disparaged. But for five years he and John Quincy Adams were colleagues in Congress. In manner the contrast was great between the perfect finish of the one and the rasping voice, the bald, flaming scalp, and index-finger gestures of the other. But while the House looked with pleasure upon the elaborate periods and careful motions and modulations of the one, they felt in the other a singleness of purpose and a momentum of soul that drew them from the lobbies, committee rooms, and grounds and grouped them all around him with every eye and ear turned to the “old man eloquent." The one was a prism, the other a lens.
Force of character largely molds professionial life. Said an intelligent patient : “I tried in this place an allopathic physician and a homeopathic in that because I believed in the man and trusted him to take care of his practice if not his system.” Before the court the advocate must rely upon the clear, dry light of the law, but with the jury his character or supposed character means more. As Theophilus Parsons once stood with his foot familiarly placed on the round of a chair and talked to the jury with his chin on his hand in a friendly way, a juryman afterward remarked of him : “He seemed to be a good sort of a man but not much of a lawyer ;” but he had won his verdict.
Character is more in the ministry. I will not say it is everything, but without it the ministry is nothing. The sermons of a certain well-known evangelist are plain, simple, and practical, and the preacher unpretending and sometimes ungrammatical, but there is a solid something in the man that makes the sermon and gives it power. Chalmers had but a single gesture and Emmons I think had none, while a late Philadelphia divine in every motion defied the elocutionist; but every time they made their mark. It was the man behind the sermon. I can remember once listening to two public speakers addressing on successive occasions the same audience on practical themes. The one, a man profoundly respected and beloved, spoke in a quiet way with little of gesticulation, and in a voice that deepened and swelled only as the thought rose and the feeling glowed in his manly soul, and every heart, old and young, thrilled to his honest, earnest words. It was the eloquence of character. The other speaker flung his arms, pounded with his hand and foot, reiterated
his words, and exasperated his voice to a whisper and a shout. All in vain. The elders looked inquiringly on; the youngsters smiled. For there was a small group in that audience of whom I knew that he knew that they knew that he was merely their tool, and that mutual consciousness gave his whole utterance, even to those who knew it not, the ring, not of gold but of brass.
Whatever of permanent force is to enter into this our human life, in whatever form, must ally and identify itself with genuine character - a mind and heart resting fixedly on firm principle and working consciously and cheerfully in harmony with the eternal, righteous law of God. And this leads to the further remark that :
V. Character ensures success. I do not mean what men often count success - estate, notoriety, and what not. For we need not forget the ancient inquiry : "Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?” No doubt this seeming success is vastly overestimated when its concomitants and consequents even here are reckoned. The career of the great conqueror has ended in tears, abdication, exile, or assassination. It is a hackneyed truism that neither wealth, rank, office, nor fame has ever brought peace and satisfaction. I know of no more dismal reading than the inner personal history, the actual annoyances and struggles of any whole line of monarchs from the beginning down through, whether English, French, or German, verifying the words : “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Little better on
the average has been the fate of the
merely aspiring politican, whether dependent on the sovereign or the sovereign people. Wolsey spoke for many of his fellows when he said :
Oh, how wretched
And I suppose that one who should comprehend all the cares and burdens of wealth, to say nothing of its uncertainties, would estimate riches as lightly as did Agur in his prayer, unless riches stand for something more. For one need not, for the moral, even call to mind such men as he who twenty years ago was boasting of his twenty millions, was holding in subjection nearly every official not only in the commercial metropolis of the country but of the great state itself, and was hurling out the defiant inquiry : "What can you do about it?” but who, in less than a decade, occupied a felon's cell and died in a jail.
Let all these externals be the best of their kind, yet from Solomon to Chesterfield they alone have proved hollow and empty. On the other hand, there is no honest condition or calling in which the true man does not carry dignity and find opportunity. Said the highland chieftain : “Where the McGregor sits is the head of the table.” But the poet better :
High worth is elevated place; 't is more,
For success does not lie in the place we fill, but in the filling of the place. Character fills it, and to
overflowing; not instantaneously: it is a growth and time is an element in all genuine achievement. “Time and I,” said the first Napoleon. “God and time and I,” says the true Israelite. His patient waiting even is often one of the silent forces indomitable.
“ It is good,” says the good Book, “that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” So waited Job and the aged Simeon ; and so waited Wilberforce and Carey and Howard and Washington and Lincoln -- waited till they saw. Such a man can afford to wait; it is in “hope." He knows that he follows where God leads. He knows that all chance is law, the best luck is pluck, and God makes the majority. If he does not command the ocean, he rides it in his lifeboat.
It is because of this harmony with the universal harmony. Lead sinks, cork floats, water flows, light shines, character wins. The hindrances may be many, the tendency is sure. If life were longer, the result would be clearer. For while passion so commonly makes the fool, how does the right heart make the simple wise! Character poises every faculty and gives momentum to every stroke. It makes talent and genius effective. In a world even as imperfect as this the most stupendous failures and the most signal triumphs have hinged on the moral pivot. Thus the stream of history is lined with wrecks stranded by moral delinquency. Why was it that the most brilliant debater, perhaps, that ever spoke in the House of Commons was so fruitless and so powerless ?
owerless ? Men lacked confidence