Sen. Dave Durenberger (R-Minn.) abruptly concluded his defense against charges of financial misconduct yesterday after making a dramatic appeal to his colleagues to see that he did nothing wrong intentionally and deserved their "compassion."

Waiving his right to further hearings after only one day of deliberations by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, Durenberger in effect threw himself on the mercy of the six-member panel of his peers.

"My life and reputation are at stake, and I believe each of you will combine good judgment and compassion in your decision," he told the committee in a clear, crisp manner, his voice faltering only once or twice as he talked about his family and its problems.

Durenberger is accused of violating Senate ethics rules by improperly supplementing his income through a book publishing deal, a condominium swap and acceptance of free limousine service from special interest groups. During the opening day of hearings Tuesday, the committee's special counsel urged that the 11-year Senate veteran be denounced for "reprehensible" conduct.

The committee had scheduled up to two weeks for the hearings but agreed to end them yesterday after special outside counsel Robert S. Bennett and James Hamilton, Durenberger's attorney, agreed to forgo calling of witnesses and rest their cases on the existing record, including a combined total of nearly 600 affidavits, depositions and other exhibits.

The committee is expected to make its recommendation for any action by the Senate in the case after both sides submit their final reports, which the attorneys indicated will be finished in about two weeks.

In his hour-long appeal to the committee, Durenberger spoke of the "strains and vulnerabilities in my personal life" that influenced his actions as well as his "three decades of public service," including what he described as a productive and honorable 11 years in the Senate.

While asserting he had "no intent whatsoever to violate the rules of the Senate," he apologized repeatedly for any pain he may have caused his colleagues as individuals or the Senate as an institution.

"I acted, throughout, in good faith," Durenberger said. "I sought out competent legal and official advice. I worked too hard on your public agenda to attend to my private one. Since my service to you began, I have never sold your vote or bartered your influence to enrich myself.

"But I recognize that real damage has been done by what has been perceived as my desire to push the limits and take advantage of the Senate, and for that I am truly sorry."

While saying he accepted "full responsibility for errors which were made" and insisting that he was making no excuses for his actions, Durenberger attributed his inattentiveness to details of Senate ethics rules in part to the difficulties of his personal life.

He described the pain of losing his first wife to cancer, his second marriage to a Vietnam War widow and their difficulties in raising his four sons while dealing with their own bereavement. "My grief counseling was to throw myself into my work," which was a "serious mistake" that he only later began to acknowledge, he said. Moreover, Durenberger said, he was not a rich man and it is "awfully difficult for ordinary folks to be represented here by people just like them."

Looking straight at his colleagues, he urged them to consider "the whole person of Dave Durenberger, what I did wrong and what I've done right" and to assess him in the context of their own lives. "I trust you will reach a decision that is both fair and true so that when you go home to Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Mississippi {the home states of the six committee members} and folks say, 'Hey, what about this guy Durenberger?' you can put it in the context of your life as well as mine."

The committee members -- Chairman Howell Heflin (D-Ala.), Vice Chairman Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Terry Sanford (D-N.C.), Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) -- sat impassively throughout the speech, as they did during Tuesday's opening presentations by the lawyers.

After Durenberger finished, special counsel Bennett said he found the speech to be "eloquent and touching" and that he regretted any pain he may have caused the senator. "No human being in this room could feel good right now," Bennett said. "I sure don't."

But "across the country others are held accountable to laws that you pass," Bennett said. "If this country means anything, it means no one is above that . . . including Senator Durenberger," he added.

Specifically, Bennett challenged one of Durenberger's main defenses: that he received approval of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Senate committees, including the ethics panel, for all his disputed actions, including the book deal and condo arrangement.

Durenberger is charged with evading Senate limits on honoraria income for outside speeches by disguising speaking fees as promotional income for two books that he wrote and of violating other rules by obscuring his ownership of a Minneapolis condo in order to claim Senate reimbursement for staying there when visiting his home state.

Durenberger contended that he had every reason to believe this was proper because no one ever questioned the arrangement. But Bennett said Durenberger never informed the FEC about critical details of the book deal, including the fact that he had been invited by special interest groups to make speeches for honoraria and not to promote his books. Bennett also cited an affidavit from Wilson R. Abney, staff director and chief counsel of the ethics committee, who said he does not recall inquiries to the panel about the book deal and condo arrangement that were cited by Durenberger and said he would have found fault with both if he had known about them.

In concluding his case without calling witnesses, Durenberger -- faced with the possibility of another week and a half of testimony about his alleged wrongdoing -- said he was "constrained by both resources and this process," the ethics committee procedures, and urged the panel to act swiftly. So long as the public record includes only the conclusions of a "hired lawyer," meaning Bennett, the situation "works strongly and unfairly to my disadvantage," the senator said.

Earlier, Hamilton, Durenberger's lawyer, said it would take six weeks to two months to try the case thoroughly and Durenberger could not afford the expense.

While Durenberger did not address Bennett's recommendation for a denunciation by the Senate, Hamilton said such a verdict would be "much too harsh," implying "moral turpitude" and "venality" that were not being alleged.

Short of expulsion, which Bennett said was not warranted in Durenberger's case, denunciation is one of the strongest disciplinary actions that the Senate can impose for an ethics violation. In the last such vote by the Senate, Sen. Herman E. Talmadge (D-Ga.) was denounced in 1979 for improprieties in handling his campaign and office expense accounts. Facing expulsion for his involvement in the "Abscam" scandal, Sen. Harrison A. "Pete" Williams Jr. (D-N.J.) resigned in 1982 before the Senate voted.