DEAD IN EARNEST.
It is the live coal that kindles others, not the dead. What
made Demosthenes the greatest of all orators was that he
appeared the most entirely possessed by the feelings he wished
to inspire. The effect produced by Charles Fox, who by the
exaggerations of party spirit, was often compared to
Demosthenes, seems to have arisen wholly from this earnestness,
which made up for the want of almost every grace, both of
manner and style.
Twelve poor men taken out of boats and creeks, without any help
of learning, should conquer the world to the cross.
For his heart was in his work, and the heart
Giveth grace unto every art.
He did it with all his heart and prospered.
The only conclusive evidence of a man’s sincerity is that he
gives himself for a principle. Words, money, all things else
are comparatively easy to give away; but when a man makes a
gift of his daily life and practice, it is plain that the
truth, whatever it may be, has taken possession of him.
“The emotions,” says Whipple, “may all be included in the single word ‘enthusiasm,’ or that impulsive force which liberates the mental power from the ice of timidity as spring loosens the streams from the grasp of winter, and sends them forth in a rejoicing rush. The mind of youth, when impelled by this original strength and enthusiasm of Nature, is keen, eager, inquisitive, intense, audacious, rapidly assimilating facts into faculties and knowledge into power, and above all teeming with that joyous fullness of creative life which radiates thoughts as inspirations, and magnetizes as well as informs.”
“Columbus, my hero,” exclaims Carlyle, “royalist sea-king of all! It is no friendly environment this of thine, in the waste, deep waters; around thee mutinous discouraged souls, behind thee disgrace and ruin, before thee the unpenetrated veil of night. Brother, these wild water-mountains, bounding from their deep bases (ten miles deep, I am told), are not there on thy behalf! Meseems _they_ have other work than floating thee forward:–and the huge winds, that sweep from Ursa Major to the tropics and equator, dancing their giant-waltz through the kingdoms of chaos and immensity, they care little about filling rightly or filling wrongly the small shoulder-of-mutton sails in this cockle skiff of thine! Thou art not among articulate-speaking friends, my brother; thou art among immeasurable dumb monsters, tumbling, howling wide as the world here. Secret, far-off, invisible to all hearts but thine, there lies a help in them: see how thou wilt get at that. Patiently thou wilt wait till the mad southwester spend itself, saving thyself by dexterous science of defence the while: valiantly, with swift decision, wilt thou strike in, when the favoring east wind, the possible, springs up. Mutiny of men thou wilt sternly repress; weakness, despondency, thou wilt cheerily encourage: thou wilt swallow down complaint, unreason, weariness, weakness of others and thyself;–how much wilt thou swallow down? There shall be a depth of silence in thee, deeper than this sea, which is but ten miles deep: a silence unsoundable; known to God only. Thou shalt be a great man. Yes, my world-soldier, thou of the world marine-service,–thou wilt have to be greater than this tumultuous unmeasured world here round thee is: thou, in thy strong soul, as with wrestler’s arms, shall embrace it, harness it down; and make it bear thee on,–to new Americas, or whither God wills!”
With what concentration of purpose did Washington put the whole weight of his character into the scales of our cause in the Revolution! With what earnest singleness of aim did Lincoln in the cabinet, Grant in the field, throw his whole soul into the contest of our civil war?
The power of Phillips Brooks, at which men wondered, lay in his tremendous earnestness.
“No matter what your work is,” says Emerson, “let it be yours; no matter if you are a tinker or preacher, blacksmith or president, let what you are doing be organic, let it be in your bones, and you open the door by which the affluence of heaven and earth shall stream into you.” Again, he says: “God will not have His works made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt, his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.”
“I do not know how it is with others when speaking on an important question,” said Henry Clay; “but on such occasions I seem to be unconscious of the external world. Wholly engrossed by the subject before me, I lose all sense of personal identity, of time, or of surrounding objects.”
“I have been so busy for twenty years trying to save the souls of other people,” said Livingstone, “that I had forgotten that I have one of my own until a savage auditor asked me if I felt the influence of the religion I was advocating.”
“Well, I’ve worked hard enough for it,” said Malibran when a critic expressed his admiration of her D in alt, reached by running up three octaves from low D; “I’ve been chasing it for a month. I pursued it everywhere,–when I was dressing, when I was doing my hair; and at last I found it on the toe of a shoe that I was putting on.”