Project Canterbury









Columbia College Law School,

Sunday Evening, May 14, 1871,








Rector of Grace Church, N.Y.








Printed by order of the Trustees of Columbia College.

The publication of this Discourse, delivered, as will be seen, several months ago, has been unavoidably delayed until the present time.

Nov. 1, 1872.


IT would seem from these words, that the young Church of Apostolic days had a place not only for the eloquent preacher, but also, and equally, for that companion and fellow-worker of his, who was a lawyer. The great Apostle to the Gentiles, writing to the Bishop of Crete, bids him bring, or, as the Greek has it, "forward," upon their common journey, not only the gifted minister and erudite Biblical student, Apollos, but also the lawyer, Zenas. The new faith, as it had a welcome for every heathen virtue and every pagan excellence within its ample limits, so had it a sphere for every gift, and a post for every profession within its growing ranks. Did it honor frankness and magnanimity, and courage, and loyalty, and truthfulness, and industry, and purity, and reverence and, taking them all up into its divine companionship, make them something nobler and more honorable than they had ever been before, even so did it welcome every calling to its side, and give it at once a new [5/6] meaning and a loftier impulse, by means of its unique and heavenly inspiration.

It would be interesting, could we know on what errand this lawyer Zenas was to be forwarded by the Episcopal aid and countenance of Titus. We can easily imagine that there may have been many emergencies in the early days of Christ's truth, when the new enterprise needed exactly such aid as the trained mind and clear insight and technical knowledge of an adept in the civil, as well as ecclesiastical law, could furnish. Apollos was undoubtedly abroad upon some missionary errand--founding, perhaps, new churches, and forcing his earnest way into new and diverse communities. Under such circumstances, he might very often have needed just such counsel as only a lawyer could give him. The young faith was perpetually crossing the lines of the elder religions, and confronting the hereditary rights of a traditional heathenism; and revolutionary tho' it aimed to be, it yet forever sought, as its history shows us, to bring about its revolutions, under due submission to "the powers that be." It appeals, as again and again in the case of the great Apostle himself; to the established civil authority; and in proclaiming the new law of love as its perfected code, not to be ignored, amended, or abrogated in the interest of any supreme court under [6/7] heaven, it professes and maintains an unfeigned and consistent respect for the common law of the land. Some important function of counsel and enquiry in this direction, then, it may have been that Zenas, the lawyer, performed, and if he coupled with it some lay-preaching of that Gospel, of which in common with

Apollos, he was a disciple, I venture to believe that he was none the worse preacher because he was a well-earned and skilful lawyer.

His example thus furnishes to us, gentlemen, our theme for this evening the relation of the honorable calling which you have chosen, to the cause and kingdom, in this world, of our common Master. The simple fact concerning the lawyer Zenas, which, as I have shown, the language of the text implies, is one of enduring application, and of undiminished significance. Still the cause of God in the world needs the services of those who are to follow your learned and laborious vocation, and has a place for their varied abilities. Different as are its circumstances from those of primitive days, that cause waits for the help of humanity. Every trade, every art, every profession, in its place, has something to do for the triumph of Jesus Christ. Alexander, the coppersmith, can, if he will, get in the [7/8] way of the new religion, and obstruct it by his malice; and, on the other hand, Zenas, the lawyer, is to be forwarded on his journey, because he, in turn, is looked to, to forward the cause of one who condescends to need and use his personal help and service.

But how? Is Zenas, being bred to the law, and having spent perhaps a laborious youth in mastering the principles of that profession, to abandon it for the calling of a minister, or an evangelist? Is he to renounce the law, that he may preach the gospel? It has been so assumed, in regard to this particular instance, with an unanimity of sentiment which has been as unquestioned as it is surprising. For that there is not the slightest shadow of foundation for such an assumption, there can be no manner of doubt. When Zenas, "the lawyer," is spoken of, it is an utterly gratuitous inference to conclude that the words mean Zenas, who was once a lawyer, but, who, having become a Christian convert has, ex necessitate rei, renounced his former profession. This is at once a reflection upon the honorable brotherhood with which Zenas had hitherto been identified, and a contravention of the precepts of the new religion itself. "Let a man abide in the same calling wherewith he is called," writes the great Apostle of that new religion to his Christian converts at Corinth. [8/9] The soldier was to be only a braver soldier, and the civilian only a purer and honester civilian. Nay, even the bondman was bidden to wear his chains meekly for the Master's sake, waiting patiently in the service to which they bound him, until, in the progress of the centuries, the softening spirit of that Master's gospel, should wholly melt them off.

And, therefore, the student and disciple of the law, instead of casting aside the professional toga and abandoning the forensic arena, was to serve his new Master right there, amid the scenes of legal strife, and in the service and advocacy of every client.

1. Even so to-day. The Church of God looks to you, my brothers of the honorable profession of the law, to serve her first of all, by the enthusiasm with which, standing in his own lot, each one of you does his own work. Christ himself watches and waits to see each one of you a better lawyer because you are the better Christian. It is a supreme glory of His invigorating truth, that, rightly apprehended, it kindles in every man that receives it a loftier enthusiasm for the secular vocation in which it finds him. A man forever does his work, however lowly it may be, better and more thoroughly, for doing it under lofty sanctions. If [9/10] it be only a horse-shoe that he is hammering on the village anvil, who doubts that he will make a better shoe, and by means of a swifter and readier handling, if, in the making of it, he reminds himself whose servant he is, and how that Master has bidden him" Whatsoever he does, whether he eats or drinks, to do all things to the glory of God." And how does such a motive rise at once in dignity and in efficiency, when we bring it to bear upon a calling so venerable and so honorable as yours! We speak of the ministers of the law, and we do it because, I imagine, we recognize almost unconsciously, that in the duties and functions of your profession there is something that is really sacred. Indeed, what could be more sacred or godlike than the mission of the principles and practice of the law? I mean the production and preservation of order? Looking backward to the infancy of things, we perceive that whatever is, rose out of some dead ground work of confusion and nothingness, and incessantly gravitates thitherwards again; nay, that, without a positive energy of God, no universe could have emerged from the void, or be suspended out of it for an hour. And seeing this, we feel that there is no task more indubitably divine than the creation of beauty out of the chaos, [10/11] the imposition of law upon the lawless, and the setting forth of times and seasons from the stagnant and eternal night. But is not this high and sacred business theirs, whose task it is to distinguish in the manifold issues and conflicts of social and political life, between the indeterminate and chaotic, and the determinate and constituted; to sketch and elaborate a positive system of constitutional law, and bid its vivid lines of order shine on the dark canvass of past negations; to do this not merely by pen but also by voice not merely by the skill with which they indite learned treatises upon the principles of the law, but also by the skill and courage and firmness with which they insist upon the application of those principles when pleading for the innocent, or when bringing to justice the guilty? And this, gentlemen, is your vocation to vindicate the sacredness of law against the arrogant or ignorant disregard, of whatsoever tyranny or recklessness defies it to give to society a wise and steadfast regulation, by your diligent and scholarly study of the sacred traditions of the law, and by your courageous and unswerving loyalty in all your professional practice, to the immutable principles of those traditions. Accept that high vocation, then, under the enduring sanctions of [11/12] the Cross of Christ, and believe .me, you will then, by the very enthusiasm with which you follow your profession, honor Him on whose banner that cross is emblazoned, as verily as did Zenas himself. In an age that is superficial, be it yours to be at once patient and thorough. In an age that is less diligently industrious than irregularly and spasmodically excited, be it yours to be known rather by daily fidelity, than by occasional brilliancy. Above all, in days when professional promotion is oftener sought for in the by-ways of the political arena, than in jealous devotion to the higher calling, which you have chosen, be it yours to serve both the Church and the State more truly than the frothy declamations of political leaders can ever do, by the severe and ardent devotion with which you guard the eminent culture and the well-won dignity of your profession!

2. And this leads me naturally to remark, further, that it is your province in the calling upon which you are about to enter, to serve the cause of Christ and His truth, not only by the enthusiasm with which you give yourself to your new vocation, but also by the integrity with which you practice it. The profession of the law is not unique in the manifold temptations [12/13] which surround it, and which combine to deteriorate the moral tone of those who follow it; nor are those temptations, I presume, more numerous or more potent to-day, than heretofore. Ambition, and cupidity, and an unscrupulous lust for personal victory, have degraded the history of others of the learned professions, as far backward as we can trace their record. There have been, too, corrupt and unscrupulous advocates in other ages than ours, and purchasable and immoral judges presiding over other courts than ours. But it has been reserved for our day to witness the extraordinary spectacle of corrupt judiciaries and corrupter legislatures; banding together in a mutual perversion of their sacred trusts in order to stifle the righteous remonstrances of an indignant people, and to see these two, thus degrading at once the profession to which you are about to be admitted, and the highest dignities to which it is wont to lift its members. At such a time, supremely then, you are called upon to remember that no success is permanently valuable which is not built upon the basis of an unequivocal personal integrity. Men may climb to the loftiest station, or win the most substantial material rewards; but what are such successes worth, if they have been gained at the sacrifice of an [13/14] attainted honor or a debauched conscience? Bacon grasped the Great Seal of England at last; but to win that bauble, in the memorable words of Macauley, "he had sullied his integrity, he had resigned his independence, he had violated the most sacred obligations of friendship and gratitude, he had flattered the worthless, had persecuted the innocent, he had tampered with judges, had tortured prisoners, and had wasted on paltry intrigues all the powers of the most exquisitely constructed intellect that has ever been bestowed on any of the children of men." Surely triumphs won at such a cost, no matter how rare the powers that win them, are bought with a price too dear. Who can calculate the influence for evil of one who, while commissioned, whether at the bar or on the bench, to strive for justice between man and man, is ready to sell both justice and truth nay, his own intellect, and his own influence to the highest bidder? On the other hand, who can estimate the influence for good of a personal character in the sacred profession of the law, which is steadfast to God and His truth? The times wait for men, in your high calling, gentlemen, who will not put on and off a reverence for moral uprightness, as an English barrister puts on and off his wig and gown; [14/15] but who will witness to such a reverence, in unspotted and unswerving lives lives unpurchasable by any bribe, and incorruptible in any presence. Such lives will be a testimony to the Master above you, which the most perverse and wayward critic cannot misunderstand. Render such a testimony, I beseech you, not merely for the sake of the sacred cause that needs it, but supremely, because it is at once your noblest privilege and your worthiest dignity.

3. Finally, may I venture to remind you, that it belongs to you, if you will but accept the opportunity, to serve the cause of Christ and His truth in the world, not merely through the enthusiasm and the integrity with which you follow your calling, but also by the catholicity of spirit with which you leaven it. While it is perhaps true that there are very few men who can do more than one thing well, it is equally true that every man will do better what he has to do in his specific calling, by alternating with its peculiar cares and labors, other interests and endeavors, that may be more or less diverse from it. The most vigorous minds have often done their most effective work, after they had at once refreshed and renewed their powers in other fields.

"Rest," says the learned and judicious Hooker, is but a [15/16] change of labor;" and it would be a happy day for many a hard-worked lawyer among us, if he could, at least occasionally, persuade himself to turn aside from briefs and litigations, and give his thoughts to some of the manifold philanthropies, or urgent moral, or social or political reforms, that daily appeal to him for countenance and sympathy. If our system of government shall prove, as not a few are beginning to apprehend that it may, a failure,. it -will be very largely because the minds that ought to have given tone and direction to popular sentiment, have been too selfishly pre-occupied, or too indolently indifferent, to take note of its drift. Under such a system as ours (under any system indeed, but under ours supremely); no man has a right to shut up his personal interests and manners to the narrow and self-seeking routine of his professional arrangements. He was a citizen before he was a lawyer, and the primary meeting and the nominating caucus have as valid a claim upon him, as they have upon the humblest mechanic. He may not honestly wait to go to a political convention, until he goes there with an axe to grind; or if he does, he deserves that the axe shall prove, like so many that are sharpened on the political grindstone one that sooner or later cuts off [16/17] its owner's head! Alike in politics, in philanthrophy, in literature and in art, society needs the catholic interest of men of your profession. To shut up your attention to the legal calendar and the duties that arise out of it, will be as mistaken and unfortunate as to shut up your reading to that substantial but somewhat monotonous literature, which is chiefly to be found in sheepskin bindings.

The charities of our day (to indicate a single subject which appeals to your wider interest), offer a problem whose wise and successful solution may well engage the cleverest intellects among us. Happy would it be, alike for the calling you have chosen, and for the often-misdirected and badly organized philanthropies of our day, if the discriminating intelligence, and practical experience, and exact scrutiny of men in your profession, were generously given to many a well-meaning but stumbling enterprise, which, for want of such experience and vigilance, is doomed sooner or later to failure or discredit. And happy would it be for individuals in your profession, if, instead of vibrating, as do too many of them between the courts and their offices and dwellings, they were to turn aside occasionally into the paths of common and lowly, and sometimes suffering [17/18] humanity, and so at once awaken their sympathies, and quicken their unselfish thoughts. Our times demand urgently from your ranks not merely professional ability but catholic sympathies.

But not merely sympathies which include the State and the People, but most of all a sympathy which includes the Cause and Kingdom of Christ. A large minded and large hearted lawyer will be distinguished, in other words, by the catholicity of his spirit, not merely outside the Church, but within it. If the age and the state want men of something more than narrow professional interests, the Church of God wants and waits for them, most, of all. When Lord Elden was Chancellor of England, he received a message, while in London, from Dr. Johnson, who was then dying, requesting him to attend public worship every Sunday." Pleading in mitigation before Lord Ellenborough, that "he attended public worship in the country," he received from the latter this terse and significant rebuke--"as if there were no God in town." It is not surprising that of such a man when, later; some one was extolling him as "a pillar of the Church," it was very promptly remarked, "No, he may be one of the buttresses of the Church, but he is certainly not one of its pillars, for he is [18/19] never seen inside its walls." My brothers, the household of Christ of to-day needs pillars rather than buttresses; men, who being within it, and not without it, will build up its walls, and defend its cause, and extend its victories. It is true that we have no warrant for supposing that, because Zenas became a Christian disciple, he abandoned his legal profession, and turned missionary, but we have as little reason for doubting that he coupled with his professional labors, the exercise of his gifts for the cause of Christ, and the extension of His truth. There was undoubtedly in those primitive days, what there greatly needs to be in ours an order of lay-preachers; men, who having the gift of exhortation, and in addition the especial training and culture of their calling, were bidden to exercise that gift, both in the Church and out of it.

It will be a glorious day for the cause of Christ in the world, when the primitive usage in this particular shall be restored among us when the earnest lawyer shall sometimes be seen leaving his seat and ascending the pulpit on the Lord's day, and so, pleading there for Jesus, shall put his gifts and acquirements to the best and highest use.

Meantime, gentlemen of the graduating class, may it [19/20] be yours to exercise your gifts and acquirements in such a spirit, here and now. Do not wait for events to open for you a path in which to illustrate this catholic and comprehensive spirit and activity, but make a way for yourselves. Go forward in your high calling, resolved to pursue it with enthusiasm, with integrity, but supremely with a large-hearted Christ-like catholicity of purpose and endeavor. Preach Christ in the office, as well as confess Him in the sanctuary. Be His advocate here, that he may be yours above, and then, when at last, the cause to you most eventful of all, your own, shall be called for trial, and you stand shrinking before that August Presence, in which the best and bravest of us may fitly tremble, yours it shall be, pointing to that resistless and omnipotent Advocate who shall then appear in your behalf, to cry with the Apostle, "If GOD be for us, who can be against us? It is Christ that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?"

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