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The Baccalaureate

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The following is President Angelí s Baccalaureate address in mll delivered at University Hall Sunday evemng last : I fear that most persons at the time of gradual ion do not feel the áutyof continuingto cultívate and Btrengthen the character as they do the duty of continuing to cultívate and strengthen the intellect. By character I mean the moral constitution, habit, purpose. JNot that they are indifferent to the ïmportance of a good character, but they do not aparecíate the fact that ït can be and ought to be developed as the intellect is developed. Most men who would be sorry to be lacking in a good character are content to believe that their general purposes and habits are such as do not provoke serious cnticism f rom others or from their own consciences. With the attainmpiit, of maturity men have tain settled habitudes, a general purpose of right living, and with tliis moral outfit they throw themselves into tlieir studies or into the business of life. They may recognize the desirableness and the duty of continuing to the end of their days to enlarge their scholarly or their business capacity, but they rest complacently satisfied with the moral attainments oí early years, and make no conscious'and delibérate efFort to increase the force of their character. They realize the importance of an indefinite increase of their intellectual capital, but seem to think that the quantity of moral capital with which they set out in early manhood will suffice for all the drafts which the duties and exigenciesof life will make on Now it is of the gravest consequence that we all clearly anderstand that in this life at least we can never make such attainments in character that we can wisely dis charge from ourminds the subject of developing our character, and can concéntrate all our thoughton our studies or our meichandise. We shall never have acquired such moral strensrth that we shall not need studiolisly and carefully to increase it. We never shall have perfected our moral habitudes so that they will not need our constant and vigilant care. To cease this culture and training anu perfecting of our character is to begin to lose our character. It is not merely what we are today, but what we are to be to-morrow, which is of the very essence of character. Character does pot consist, in this life, at least, merely in being, but in some respects nmch more emphatically in becominsr. In other words it is not merely au attainment, but it is also a growth and a growing. How this essential trait of character is illustrated in Paui's sturing description of his own purpose and ideáis in his letter to the Philippians : "Not as though I had already attained, either vvere already perfect ; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which. I alsó am apprehended of Ohrist Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended ; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." So all moral character, if it is to be vigorous, must be constan ti y pressing towards some higher mark. It must never assume that it has already attained or is already perfect. Progress, growth, inereasing strength is the mark of genume cnaracter. jmoi 10 ue iraproving under theexperiences and discipline of life is to come short of duty. It is relatively declining. For notice (1) That our opportunities for knowing more and more of our tluties are enlarged with the lapse of, and as a rule our actual knowledge of them is fuller and clearer. Now if with this increased knowledge our characters are not also elevated, if with more light we make no progress, we have really gone backward. For faithfulness to our light is the measure of responsibility and of character. Not to lo and to do better as we see farther and more clearly is to be and to do worse. (2) And notioe again that the exigencies of life, the trials and teinptations which are inevitable, the providences which befall us, all press home their lessons upon our moral nature. They are teachers, often stern, but always eloj quent, in the gymnasium of lift1. Their warnings, llieir persuasidns, their discipline, neve'r leave om moral condition as tliev Ibuiul il For if they do not streogthen and deepen our character,if our manhood is not richer and larger by reasoh of them, then have we actually lost ground. Between the hammer and the anvil of' life we must toughen or weaken, and it is for us to say which. It is for ns to say wiiether we -shall grów stronger and better, as the annealing fire makes the iron tougher and the storins make the roots of theoak longer and stronger. To be only soured and embittered by the discipline of life is to miss the significance of life and practical ly to fa 1 1 to a lower moral plañe. It is clear then that we cannot, if we would, stand still rnorally. We may try to persuade ourselves that we are standing still. We may be so stolid and unobserving that we do not notice that we are floating backwards, as we may sit idly in the boat and stupidly neglect to observe that we are steadily drifting down the stream. But the moment we cease rowing, back we go. Not to go forward is to go backward. I beg of you, who are complacently trustingto your moral attainments as sufficient, to lay this solemn truth to heart. Charaeter is not a completed and Hfeless work, which one may finish as one does a tower, and then stand on it. It is rather the ceaseless flow of moral lile, which needs to be fed from the inward springs of vital moral purposes and desires. In order then to hold our own, to keep what we have, not to decline, ve must constantly and earnestly gaard and strengthen our character. II. If we cannot preserve the cliaracterwehave without constant effort, how much less, without such effort, can we make large and rapid attainments in character. Though every virtuous habit which is fairly formed facilitates the formation of another, vet character has not mnch spontaneous growth. ïhe vigorous effort of the will is constantly required to keep us at all up to" the high level of those worthy pnrposes which we cherish in our best hours. How easy it is to lapse into moods of laxness and moral indifference. And how easy then for temptations to sweep into our souls like a flood and pour their surging tides of vice through all the chambers of our hearts which we had swept and garnished. And when they subside, vrhat an unclean deposit do they leave behind. We do not sufficiently realize the awful fact that every sin leavesits scarsomewhere upon our nature. We cannot afterward with our most heroic endeavor be quite what we should have been but for it. I fear that in our rejoicing over the reformation of men, in the sympathy which the recital of their fearful bondage to vice awakens in us, we are sometimes in danger of losing sight of the stern truth that sin, even though overeóme, has been a calamity, that even the penitent David, exalted as he was in later years, was not the more hut the less exalted by reason of his terrible lapse. It is not David, who is our true model, but the Spotless One, who was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. The mountaineer, who is toiling up the ash-covered peuk of Vesuvius, may in spite of the yiélding ashes beneath his i'eet, at last reach the summit, but every slip backward is a real loss. Let us never glorify sin, because, thanks to the abounding grace of God, the sinner may be redeemed at last. Character is eternal. We are building it every day. The defects in our work will long, perhaps forever, embarrass us, or at least subtract. from the power vvhich, but forthem, we mighthave gained. The work which is seen only of God and of ourselyes is the most important. Examine those works which have stood for eenturies, the Parthenon of G,reece, the pyramids of Egypt, the medüeval cathedrals, you shall find that deep down under ground, where it was supposed that no human eye would ever search, the building is as carefully and conscientiously done as that on the aoade of St. Peter's, which challenges the admiration of the vvorld. ;)h that we could daily feel that in our inner lives, our most secret thoughts and purposes, we are building i'or our whole lives. building for eternity. The great conilicts of lile are not on the open iields of our Waterloos and our Gettysburgs, but deep within the heart. They are not with confused noise of battle, but without sound of gun or trampet Should we bend our energies to that great wofk of building character with at least as tnucfa zeal as we bring to our daily studies and to our professional loil '. III. But now il' we assiduously address ourselves to this highest task oí' man, to the cullivütion of charácter, after what model shall we ktow ï Evidently we shall grów each aller his own ideal oL Qianly and perfect character. Every one who has any aspimtion at all has an ideal. Each of you has au ideal of 'professional excellence or of scholarly culture, or of business success. Whether you are ful'ly conscious öf this or not, such is Uie tact. lou have befo re your visión some Webster or Ohoate in law, some Cooper or Nelaton in surgery, some Leibnitz or Milton in scholarship, some Astor or Vanderbilt in business, whose life and example are conslantly stimnlating and shaping you. The hand of the sculptordoes not more truly fashion the plastic clay than the career and character of these men ïnoukl and fashion your character. Teil us what a man's is, and I we can teil you what he is likely ] to be, so faras hiscapacity fits him to resemble his ideal. But if ouï intellectual developnient is so I argel y determined by our intellectual ideáis, not less so is our moral character determined by our moral ideáis. It is like the patterns we choose f'or it. Unhappily there are so many who do not look up for the pattern. ïhey accept the low ideáis of others as their ovvn. They are satisfied to be on a low plañe, provided there is plenty of company with them. Instead' of being' obedient, like PauLto the heavenly visión which is sometimes vouchsated to them, they are content with the average standards of character about them. Nay, some seem to have what we may cali a perverted ideal, never looking skyward, but ever earthward, for sensual and selfish patterns after which to weave the fabric of their character. Now vvhen one thus begins to do violence to his higher nature, and to pander to his lower, how many hands are ready with diabolical cral't and nimbleness to help one weave the infernal web, those of the tempter with the intoxicating cup, oí the gambier witn nis giittering prizes, of her whose steps take hold on heli, of all the spirits of evil and ruin. What a solemn thought it is that day after day. year "after year, whether we are here or whether we are there, we are ever weaving the web in that " roaring loom " of life, which flings its Bwift shuttle hither and yon at every pulse-beat, bearing now the white thread of virtue, now the thread scarlet with sin, now the thread parti colored with good and evil,- but ever weaving that web, - which shall stand as the record of our deeds, the picture of our character, to be gazed on forever by ourselves, by God, by the whole universe. IV. What then shall be our ideal of character? On what model shall we build? Have we nu sure guide ? Thanks be unto God, we have the perfect model and exemplar set before us. In Jesus Christ the perfect ideal was realis zed and his blessed life and character are before us. Even those who are most unlike him are obliged to admit that here is the perfect man. But I seem to hear some say, the circumstances of Christ's lii'e were so different fnm ours that we hardly see how he serves as an ensample tor us. What is there in his daily life in Judea in coinmon with the life of me, a student in this University, or in comrnon with the life of 'me, a lawyer, a physician, a merchant, in this faroff western world? How can his character be copied into mine? How can I learn from him how to curry myself in my peculiar temptations and labors and trials? 1 think I could show, were there time, how that life, so rich, so f uil, so many-aided, could sere as your guille in the minute details of your daily life, in your spirit of study, in your friendships, in your annoyances, in what seems to you most peculiar to yourseir. i uuiik I could show you how the scholar, who is training himself for large usefulness, has something lo learn in prolongedand patiënt discipline of himself f'rom him, who daily increasing in wisdom waited witli such sublime selfcontrol until he was thirty years of age and his divine message was fully ready befo re he took up his blessed niinistry. It isthe corn fully ripe which makes the perfect flour. It is the thought fully matured which charges the spoken word with inspiration. Patience! pa tience! my young friend, who are too much ni liaste to íoist your crude work upon the world. But we caimot now attempt to exhaust details. Let us notice two or three of those points, in which if we can imítate Ohrist, we inay affect the very straeture and substance ofour character. Observe for instance how Christ dealt with temptation. We may not fatüom all the mysteries óf tliat dark hourwhen Christ, weary with fastjng, but strong in the spirit, was set upon uy tne power of evil. But we can see that he was urged to act i'roui unworthy aud wrong motives, from vanity or a'mbition. And we can clearly mark I wo points in his action, first, he did pot dally for an instant wilh the temptation; second, he feil at once baci upon the comniand of God as bis guide. ' How often are young men inclined to take a different ! VVhen temptation comes in an alluring iortn, though your conscience warns you bo sharply'that your heart trenibles within you, how prone are you to toy with it, to reinain ia its presence, to keep your eyes fixed on it, to yield just a liltlö, aud perhaps to try aud justify yoursell' with the plea that you are studying the world, that you are seeing iife. Some times you go so far as to try to Dgrsuade yourself aud others that by tlms enlarging your experiences you will be better able to help and warn others from going too. far on the slippery road, on whicli you natter yourself you can saiely -(and. llow many with this speciou8 argument on their lips have: roñe down to ruin. Every instant Ihat one oí'you is thus coquetting with sin yon are weakening your haracter. Yon have already begun to sío backward. Yon have ost gronnd. The silken conls ofsweet dalliance which yon think you can snap at any moment will soon become the unbending letters of iron, which will bind your soul in a fearful servitude. The promptness with which Christ lifted up the commands oí' God as his shield and buckler should be imitated by us in every moral exisency. He, who will sincerely ask in any great moral peril, what would God have him do, is ciad in a panoply against which the shafts of the adversary will beat in vain. He will win victory which shall strengthen bis character and raake the next victory even easier. We do not hear that our Lord was ever assailed again by that kind of temptation which he so decisively overéame. It is a blessed law of our nature that a clean and unquestioned victory, which we gain over any peculiar temptation by obedience to sorae divine command, either strips the temptation oí all iuture power over us, or so reiniorces our strength and nerves our arm that we conquer it far more readily in every subsequent encounter. It is by beving our conscience, which is the'voice of God in us, and by obeying the clearly revealed will of God as made known to us in his word, that we attain, if at all, to moral robustness, to the perfect stature of moral and Christian manhood. The voice then whicli rings out from that 4th chapter of Matthew is " tamper not lor a moment with ëvil, keep your eye fixed on God and, recalling bis divine cotnmand, say to eveiy temptation - Get thee henee, Satan." Again, our Lord shows us how a sensitiva and refined nature may endure the rougfa shocks of actual life without being turned aside from duty. This seems to me one of the most marked as well as one of the most valuable lessons taught by his life. We cannot but suppose that his moral and his intellectual nature was touched to so fine an issue tliat he was sensitive almost bevond our con ception to the rudeness, the obtuseness, the blindiug prejudice, he obliquities, the sins, which he encounteredon everyhand. To me t seems that his great trial must iot have been, as our loóse language or thought sometimes. imdies, finding his welcome chiefly rom the humble and poor. But wliat a daily and unspeakable trial it must have been to him, to whom truth was naked and bare, vvhose eye pierced through all disguises oí' sophistry, to íind that even his ohdsen disciples stumbled over the siniplest messages he had lor thena, that he was not only traduced by ibes, but misuncíerstood and misrepresented by those on whom he relied to proclaimhia truth, after he should have gone. Still more, how must that pure and holy soul have been wounded and shocked by its rude frietion with the coarse moral natures of the men, with whoni he was passing his life. How do we, with all our imperl'ections, shrink back f rom life in' the atmosphere of men and women steeped in iniquity. Even when, in obedience to duty, we spend our days ín working with them and for them. with what loathing and guisii are we often hllecl. Or, what is worse, what (langer do we run of becoröing in some degree inseusibie to the loathsomeness of vice, of bavïng our own moral percepCions blunted. Think of that spotless and tranquil spirit, walking with outcasts, crowded by sinners of high and of low degree, houndcd bycontemptnous scribes andPharisees, hypocrites, whited sepulchres, f uil of dead men's bones and rottenness, maligned and persecuted by foes, and in lus hours of aupreme need treacheronsly abandoned by those he had reason to count his dearest friends, - and try to imagine what it means for him to be serene, composed, tient, uiishaken m his iaith in his ercand and his truth, and see if there is no lesson for you and for me. Now the scholar, especially when he is lïesh from his lii'e of study, in his ideal world, when he first plunges into the floods actually to swim for himself, is in greát danger of a chili which sha II freéze all lus finest enthusiasms. Schiller tells us in touching words how he eagerly clasp.ed the world to his loving heart only to iind he was embracing a lump of ice. Sojtne men of the iinest edge, like certain keenest blades, are of such. temper that t.hcy crack and break, when they come to actual hard use. " Beware of disgusts " was the sage advice of an experienced master to a yqu'rig scholar who. fresh iïom his studies, was alxmt to enter upon his work. Soine of you, who have been revelling' so long iri those high jöys, with which these years of preparatory study are freighted, the joys of manly study, of daily equipment for the large work of lile, the describablethrill of conscious mental growth, will do well to beware of disgusts, as the petty jealousies and strifes of narrow aad obstinate men, the misunderstandings of' stupid men, and the misrepre sentations of carping critics harass your soul, and seem to neutralize the results of your best labors. The most fortúnate lives are not free from these annoyances, which spoil so many of our most precious hours. And it is so often the l'act that the most gifted men are the most sensitive. and so suffer the largest subtraction from their ei'fective powè reason of this moral and intellectual friotion. It is the fine, strong nature of the poet which makes him tlie irrita bilis vates. Some excellent men spend their lives in running away f rom infelicities of situation, and do nojt at last find that happy yalley, into which these infelicities nèver come. No, every post has them. The manly thing, the (Jhrist-like thing is to meet them with a conrageous, patiënt, hopeful spirit, and stand to the post, at which God has planted you, till he plainly calis you elsewhere. Show that christian culture does not unnerye and emascúlate .you, but that to the bravery, which other men have, it adds the sweetness and victovious patience, which makes tne career oí our .Lord so glorious. ïhose are memorable words, which Mr. Carlyle addressed to a young man, ' Study to do faithfully whatsoever thing ia your actual situalion, tliere and now, you find eitlier expressly ortacitly laid to your charge: that is your post ; stand in it like a true soldier. devour the many chagrins oí' it, as all human situations have many ; and see you aim not to quit it without duing' all that it, al least, requires öf you." Butabove all we shall strengthen our cliaracters, if we imítate (Jhrist so far as possible in supreme loyalty to truth and obedience to the will of' God. So complete was his uevotion to train, so peneci was his example and bis message, that he could say without the least exaggeration, ' I am the truth." So absolute was his devotion to the work which the Father had given liim that it was properly called his meat and his drink, his very lile, to do the Father's will. He was ever in that business. ïliis suprerae devotion to truth is the very essence and being of character. It is character. He who has it must be in perfect harmo,ny with God and with the right relations oí' thíngs and of all beings. There is ïiothing higlier conceivable tor man. What, at thia moment, are your siïpreme aitös, my you-ng friend '. Is it your fixed purpose to live supremely for . truth and for God ? ür is it to gratily your owit ambition, to gain wealth, or to win lame, or to climb to high position? Are yon working ia harmony with the divine will and the eternal la-ws of right and truth, or are you in alienation IVoin Gp,d and throwing your lutle lii'e, athwart his eternal laws of truth and rightj If the latter, the eternal course of things, the victorious powers of truth, are against you and you must go down bef ore them. The hay, wood, stubble caimot endure the day of trial. It is the puré gold of that character, which is at one with God, that can alone come out oí the furnace seven times refined. As you now go fortli to the storma and the conllicts of active lile, máy you come ibrtli from every storm with new moral strength and emerge from every conflict with purer and loftier character.


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