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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Personal Character
By Phillips Brooks (1835–1893)
 
From ‘Essays and Addresses’

AS one looks around the world, and as one looks around our own land to-day, he sees that the one thing we need in high places—the thing whose absence, among those who hold the reins of highest power, is making us all anxious with regard to the progress of the country—is personal character. The trouble is not what we hold to be mistaken ideas with regard to policies of government, but it is the absence of lofty and unselfish character. It is the absence of the complete consecration of a man’s self to the public good; it is the willingness of men to bring their personal and private spites into spheres whose elevation ought to shame such things into absolute death; the tendencies of men, even of men whom the nation has put in very high places indeed, to count those high places their privileges, and to try to draw from them, not help for humanity and the community over which they rule, but their own mean personal private advantage.  1
  If there is any power that can elevate human character: if there is any power which, without inspiring men with a supernatural knowledge with regard to policies of government; without making men solve all at once, intuitively, the intricacies of problems of legislation with which they are called upon to deal; without making men see instantly to the very heart of every matter; if there is any power which could permeate to the very bottom of our community, which would make men unselfish and true—why, the errors of men, the mistakes men might make in their judgment, would not be an obstacle in the way of the progress of this great nation in the work which God has given her to do. They would make jolts, but nothing more. Or in the course which God has appointed her to run she would go to her true results. There is no power that man has ever seen that can abide; there is no power of which man has ever dreamed that can regenerate human character except religion; and till the Christian religion, which is the religion of this land—till the Christian religion shall have so far regenerated human character in this land that multitudes of men shall act under its high impulses and principles, so that the men who are not inspired with them shall be shamed at least into an outward conformity with them, there is no security for the great final continuance of the nation.  2
 
 
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