Man’s brain, body, mind, faculties and talents are mere instruments he uses in demonstrating his greatness; in themselves they do nor make him great. A man may have a large brain and a good mind, strong faculties and brilliant talents, and yet he is not a great man unless he uses all these in a great way. That quality which enables man to use his abilities in a great way makes him great. And to that quality we give the name of wisdom. Wisdom is the essential basis of greatness.
Wisdom is the power to perceive the best ends to aim at and the best means for reaching those ends. It is the power to perceive the right thing to do. The man who is wise enough to know the right thing to do, who is good enough to wish to do only the right thing, and who is able and strong enough to do the right thing is a truly great man. He will instantly become marked as a personality of power in any community and men will delight to do him honour.
Wisdom is dependent upon knowledge. Where there is complete ignorance there can be a wisdom, no knowledge of the right thing to do. Man’s knowledge is comparatively limited and so his wisdom must be small, unless he can connect his mind to a knowledge greater than his own and draw from it, by inspiration, the wisdom that his own limitations deny him. This he can do and this is what the really great women and men have done.
Man’s knowledge is limited and uncertain, therefore he cannot have wisdom in himself.
Only God knows all the true and only god can have real wisdom or the right thing to do at all times, and man can receive wisdom from God. Abraham Lincoln had limited education, but he had the power to perceive truth. In Lincoln we see pre-emitently apparent the fact that real wisdom consists in knowing of the right thing to do at all times and under all circumstances; in having the will to do the right thing, and having talent and ability enough to be competent and able to do the right thing. Back in the days of abolition agitation, and during the compromise period, when all other men were more or less confused as to what was right or as to what ought to be done, Lincoln was never uncertain. He saw through the superficial arguments of the pro-slavery men; he saw, also, the impractibility and fanaticism of the abolitionists. He saw the the right ends to aim and he saw the best means to attain those ends. It was because men recognized that he perceived truth and knew the right thing to do that they made him president.
Any man who develops the power to perceive the truth, and who can show that he can be trusted to do the right thing, will be honored and advanced. The whole world is looking eagerly for such men.
When Lincoln became president he was surrounded by a multitude of so-called able advisers, hardly any two of whom were agreed. At times they were all opposed to his policies; at times almost the whole North was opposed to what he proposed to do. But he saw the truth when others were misled by appearances; his judgement was seldom or never wrong. He was at once the ablest statesman and the best soldier of the period.
Knowledge of truth is not often reached by the processes of reson. It was due to a spiritual insight. We see something similar in Washington, whose faith and courage, due to his perception of truth, held the colonies together during the long and often apparently hopeless struggle of the Revolution.
We see something of the same thing in the phenomenal genius of Napoleon, who always knew, in military matters, the best means to adopt. We see that the greatness of Napoleon was in nature rather in Napoleon, and we discover back of Washington and Lincoln something greater than either Washington or Lincoln.
We see the same thing in all great men and women. They perceive truth; but truth cannot be perceived until it exists; and there can be no truth until there is a mind to perceive it. The truth does not exists apart from mind. Washington and Lincoln were in touch and communication with a mind which knew all knowledge and contained all truth. So of all who manifest wisdom.