In the old cemetery at Princeton there is a row of graves called the "Presidents' Row." The long line of flat stones marks the resting places of the presidents of Princeton College and University. A little to one side is a small, upright stone which bears the inscription, "Aaron Burr, A Colonel in the Continental Army, Vice President of the United States."
The man whose dust lies there had all that heredity and training could bestow. Just at hand is the grave of his pious father, Aaron Burr, the second president of Princeton, and the grave of his renowned grandfather, Jonathan Edwards. Burr's career in the college was one of attainment and brilliancy such as perhaps has never been equaled. Ability of mind and fascination of manner were his, but one thing was lacking.
After the duel with Hamilton, finding that men mistrusted him and would not give him their votes or their confidence, he turned his face toward the Western frontiers. He crossed the mountains to Pittsburgh and floated down the Ohio. Everything that he touched withered. He went into the home on Blennerhasset Island as the serpent into Eden, and that island home became a desolation. After the trial in Richmond he wandered abroad. Ordered out of England, he went to France and was scorned by Napoleon. At length he came back to New York in disguise, landing in the night so that his old friends might not see him, and resumed the practice of law. Had we been alive then, we might have seen the brown-faced little old man sitting by his green desk in his office on Nassau Street, his head resting on his hand, thinking of the days that had been, of what might have been—with no clients coming to disturb his reverie.
After his last wife left him, he took rooms in the basement of a boarding house. While he was still able to walk, he would every day go down toward the Narrows—watching for the return of the Patriot, the ship on which his daughter Theodosia had sailed from Georgia, the ship that never came to port. When no longer able to walk, he hung her portrait where he might gaze upon it, sitting or reclining, the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. Thus he lived, "severed from humanity," until death relieved his loneliness. He was carried to Princeton and buried near the feet of his father and grandfather. The spot was unmarked; and no man to this day would know his sepulcher were it not that some nameless woman came in the night, put the stone over his grave, and departed.
That is the story of the brightest man who ever took a degree at Princeton. His life was long, but neither happy nor useful. It was a life which learned much and acquired much, but which ignored the common and familiar laws ol manhood and character, without which there can be no true happiness—and with which there can be no failure..
The enemies of Daniel were determined to bring him down. But how to do it, that was the question. Daniel administered the exchequer ol the great empire. Possibly they might find some irregularity or peculation in the discharge of his stewardship. But when they looked into the matter they were unable to discover anything which even malice or hate could distort into dishonesty. "He was," it is written, "faithful; neither was there any error or fault found in him." That is the way a man ought to live, so that when his enemies would bring him down they can find no occasion against him. Spurgeon, threatened with blackmail by evil men who said that if he did not meet their demands they would publish things which would ruin his reputation, answered, saying, "Write all you know about me across the heavens."
Some of the acid tests of sanctified character will always be:
Can you labor on cheerfully without earthly reward?
Can you toil on hopefully without tangible returns?
Can you travel the road of frequent criticism without bitterness?
Can you lift and agonize and sacrifice and pray and give, way down out of sight, while others lead the procession and receive the honors? In other words, are you willing to be soil in which providential events may grow, while others fill the places of leaves and blossoms on the trees of time?—Selected.
When James A. Garfield was a young man a printed slip was given him by a friend which he carefully cherished. It reads as follows: "Make few promises. Always speak the truth. Never speak evil of anyone. Keep good company or none. Drink no intoxicating liquors. Good character is above everything else. Be honest if you would be happy. When you speak to a person look into his eyes. Spend less than you earn. Live within your income. Never run into debt unless you see your way out. Good company and good conversation are the essentials of virtue. Good character can be injured only by your own acts. If evil is spoken of you, let your life refute the falsehood. If your hands cannot be employed, attend to the cultivation of your mind. Read the above carefully and thoughtfully." —Watchman-Examiner.
A striking line was found in a story by Margaret E. Sangster. The story told of a man who was looking at a girl, but the latter was unconscious of his presence. Soon he said, softly, to another onlooker, "What a pretty soul she has!" Commenting on this, Miss Sangster made this observation: "Often we say to one another, 'What a pretty frock,' or `What an adorable coat,' or `What an exquisite gown!' But we seldom say, `What a pretty soul—what a charming heart!'" Yet the inner life is the thing of highest value. Said an old and wise writer, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). —Sunday School Times.
Character is what a person is —not what he is supposed to be. It is not shaped by trifles any more than marble is sculptured by puffs of air. Only through hard struggles and stern conflicts with temptation and resolute self-mastery does this Divine principle manifest itself. The sharpness of our trials and the hardness of our lot show what we are and how long we will last.
Character is a fortune. It pays far better dividends than bank or railroad stock. In every emergency it is the man of character who is sought. Character once lost is lost forever. A shattered character may be retrieved in part, but can never be restored to its original strength and perfection. The physician may cure the body and even find a remedy for the diseased mind, but there is no power on earth that can assuage the pain of the hearts that are consumed by terrible and unavailing remorse.
The above may have been written from a nominal Christian, or perhaps only a moral, standpoint; but is there not much truth contained in its statements, and is it not because of this state of affairs that many, having made a misstep in one direction or another, throw their lives away, selling themselves (as it were) to sin and shame? But, while character once lost can never be restored to its original strength and no power upon earth can assuage the pain of hearts consumed by remorse, yet there is hope in Jesus who came from Heaven and of whom it was said, "He shall save His people from their sins." This hope lifts us even above Adamic perfection, making us new creatures, old things having passed away, and all things becoming new, having received a right spirit within us. The world ignores the sinner; Christ lifts him up. —A. L. Haltenaan