« السابقةمتابعة »
MAN'S INTELLECTUAL CHARACTER.
Put on, therefore, humbleness of mind, meekness.
It is very important that we should estimate justly our intellectual powers. We are to discover what we are capable of, and thereby learn what God requires of us. Humility and meekness are the best companions in this self examination. By some strange inconsistency, a double errour is common on this subject. First, the learning or knowledge, which is the result of patient study, or judicious observation, is attributed rather to the possession of faculties, which are not common, to something which is the gift of nature, and is uttainable by those who do not now possess it, than to that labour and mental exertion, which is the real source of all intellectual eminence. The second errour is, that a man is praised, not for having the fruits of his assiduity, not for being learned, but for possessing talents. He has the reward of merit for that, which was confessedly beyond his power to obtain, and very often he, who by some accident, is thought what is called a genius, although he may be a very idle one, is ranked as superiour to him who possesses all that genius can give except the reputation of it. The errour most to be lament
ed here, is, the discouragement, and wrong estimation of one's own character, which it may produce, and the waste and neglect of talents which may follow from such mistakes. It must therefore be very desirable to all to ascertain the just and proper rank of their minds, how far they are susceptible of cultivation, and how far they are cultivated. This knowledge will preserve those, who desire intellectual excellence only because it gives men rank and reputation, from the mortifications consequent upon inordinate self-estimation, and it will assist those in the use of their understandings, who would improve them as the better part of their nature, and as the means of virtue and happiness. Our intellectual character must then be a worthy and an interesting object of self-examination. When we in
quire into it, we must be careful to make the test of it, our own observation-we must be firm enough to resist equally the praises of a friend, and the aspersions of an enemy; for none but ourselves have all the means of judging. We alone know what are the subjects to which our thoughts spontaneously recur; whether our minds are commonly employed upon subjects of permanent interest, and great importance, or whether our mental strength is debilitated from inaction, or suffered to waste itself upon trifles. The books and the society which we prefer, and the truths that are impressed upon our memories by what we have read and heard, the degree of inclination which we feel to obtain knowledge, the patience with which we persevere in pursuit of it, and the pleasure which new acquisitions afford, are some of the circumstances we should regard. be told that we have ability, must not satisfy us, for we may been observed only in our most favourable states of mind.
Far be it from me to depreciate that generous and exalted sentiment of Pythagoras, where he directs us to preserve, above all things, a constant reverance for our own mind, and to dread nothing more than offending its native dignity. But it is humility which ennobles our powers, and which will display human nature as unworthy of depreciation. True mental dignity and an untainted constitution of soul are congenial with uncorrupt religion.
Let us form our estimate of our intellectual character, from what we accomplish, rather than from what we attempt.
DEVOTEDNESS TO CHRIST.
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.
DEVOTEDNESS to Christ, requires an undivided surrender of our souls to his holy requirements. A temporary compromising obedience will never be accepted. In that soul where God dwells, there the image of Christ is enshrined. All its aims wishes and efforts centre in love and obedience. To such a soul, truth is precious; prayer delightful; saints are beloved; religion is a business; sin is odious; the world is a broken idol, and death wears no terrours. The eastern Magi, presented to the Saviour, gold, frankincense and myrrh. This it was very easy to do. He requires more. He asks not our worldly goods, but our hearts. Who can refrain from tears on account of the promising youth, who seemed desirous of being instructed in the way of salvation, yet reluctant to resign his present attachments; preferring the enjoyment of his large possessions to the grace and salvation of Jesus-who but must weep to see him thus departing from Christ, and at length, as we fear, persisting in his sin? Yet similar cases frequently occur. We would ask all those, who seem frequently desirous to learn the way to heaven, do you unfeignedly consent to the terms which Jesus requires? He does not indeed say to you, "Sell whatsoever thou hast ;" but he will certainly call you to make some painful sacrifices, as an evidence of your regard to him. You must at least be ready to relinquish the dearest objects in life, if he shall so appoint; nor are any of his disciples exempted from the obligation of taking up the cross, and following him through shame, contempt, and suffering. If you comply not with his demands, whatever they may be, you lack the one thing, an integrity of heart, an unreserved submission to him, for which no compensation can be allowed. Would you then depart from him? Oh think again what the consequences must be! Those who know your danger tremble and weep for you, though you feel no pity for yourselves.
To be truly devoted to Jesus Christ, we must remember him, and we must love him. Now, to remember him aright, implies a heartfelt love for him. Who are the persons whom we remember? Those whom we love. It is the departed parent and child, the lost husband and wife, whose memory we love to preserve, and over whose graves we can still weep. Thus if we would remember a dying Saviour, we must first learn to love him; to love him not with a cold veneration and regard merely, but with a lively, heartfelt, tender affection; with a love which will make us often think of him, often talk of him, and faithfully tread in his steps. We must love him as that poor woman loved him, who washed his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head; as that noble Paul loved him, who counted all things but loss that he might win him, and who could stand up among weeping friends, and say, "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus."
Our devotedness to Christ needs no limits. We cannot go to excess; for we cannot yield a submission too voluntary or too humble, too extensive or too constant. The unfeigned language of true regard is this,-Lord, speak thou, and we will hear; declare, and we will believe ; promise, and we will confide; afflict, and we will endure ; encourage and assist, and we will be faithful unto death.
INTELLECTUAL CULTURE AIDS MORAL ADVANCEMENT.
Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.
INTELLECTUAL and moral education in various ways coincide. There may be a high degree of intellectual with a low degree of moral culture, and the reverse; but, the noblest heights of moral excellence can only be attained, where the intellectual principles receive a suitable cultivation. The memory is requisite, not merely to treasure up the stores of literature and science, but to preserve, for future use, and to recal the dictates of moral wisdom, and the results of moral experience. The habit of observation is essentially necessary to trace out the effects of our conduct on the happiness of others. Without the habit of attention the lessons of the moralist, in whatever form delivered, will have only a momentary influence on the heart. Without the power of calling off the mind from external impressions, the higher and more refined motives would have little effect in regulating the conduct. If the imagination be neglected so as to become incapable of carrying the mind out of the range of the objects of memory or of actual sensation, benevolence will lose some of its most powerful stimuli, and the efficacy of religious sanctions will be materially impeded. Without a proper cultivation of the judgment and the reasoning powers, the decisions of the moral sense will often fail in correctness; the consequences of actions will be incorrectly appreciated; the reasonings of the moral instructor will not be understood; and the mode of carrying into effect the purposes of wisdom and benevolence, will be frequently mistaken. To neglect the cultivation of the intellectual powers, from the idea that they are unnecessary to moral worth of character, would then be acting upon the most erroneous principles. If the moral sense is fairly analyzed, it will appear that it is founded upon the exercise of those powers; and that, in a great variety of instances, it implies their intense operation. As long as we give the judgment the supremacy among them, and cultivate the rest with a view to it, we need not fear lest we should injure the moral culture of the mind. We are fully aware, (and it is a consideration which must delight every heart in which there is a spark of philanthropy,) that by the wise constitution of our nature, happiness is made to depend much more on a proper regulation of the affections and dispositions, than upon the cultivation and refinement of the intellectual powers; and that the former may attain a high state of purity and worth, without eminence in the latter but we conceive also that it cannot be denied, that to make right affections extensively efficacious in promoting the good of mankind, considerable cultivation of the understanding is absolutely necessary; and with the same rectitude of heart, he will be the happier man, as well as the more useful member of society, whose mind has acquired the highest degree of correctness and comprehension. A well-regulated understanding is a most important aid in tracing out the principles of morality, their mutual connections and dependencies, their extent and their consequences. He whose mind has been well trained and disciplined, will be best able to understand the evidence of important truths which do not lie within the reach of sense; and he will best perceive their application, and how they are to be employed for the improvement of himself and others.
May we not, then, call it an axiom, that the understanding and heart must be educated at the same time?
DUTIES OF A SOCIETY DESTITUTE OF A MINISTER.
Be kindly affectioned one towards another, in brotherly love.
CHRISTIAN FRIENDS-You are without a minister, and are taking measures to procure one. Now is a moment of great peril. Your religious character, your temper and modes of proceeding, are subjects of general remark. The future character of your parish, and the comfort of your new pastor, will depend, for years, upon your present conduct.
Let me urge upon you, with heartfelt anxiety, to cultivate brotherly love and christian forbearance. With these you are safewithout them you are lost. We are Christ's disciples, if we love one another. By studying the things which make for peace, by a conciliatory temper and mutual condescension, we may expect the gracious guidance and the crowning benediction of God. As there may be differences in your religious tenets, and greater differences in your preference of candidates, you must remember, that victory, gained at the expence of peace and brotherly kindness, is a disgraceful triumph. Never hazard such an experiment. Do not act, if possible, until you can act together. Why rend the seamless robe of Christ? -Let those most opposed give up the extreme of their wishes. Some, in the primitive ages, "retained a religious reverence for idols ;" yet, even towards these the spirit of charity was enjoined by the Apostles. With this charity, can we cut off from christian fellowship a brother who differs from us? The presumption, pride, and bigotry of such conduct, are more culpable than any conceivable mistakes in theory or speculation. To the confident, dogmatical and censorious, Christ says, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. By mutual condescension the most distant may be brought to unite. If truth be your aim, this, you must remember, lies between extremes. The heat of controversy seldom works the righteousness of God.-Shun, I beseech you, all party names, and be not over confident in speculative doctrines. Christianity is a practical science. It consists in temper and practice, rather than in sentiment and profession. None of its doctrines are important any farther than as they influence the heart and affections. Here is little room for dispute. Sacrifice not, then, the substance to the form. If you are called to contend for the faith; you may contend earnestly, but not angrily. No situation can be imagined in which faith, in itself, is worth virulent or even unamiable contention. No circumstances can ever occur in which faith is not less than charity. Can you not imagine that wise and distinguished men have come to different conclusions, and then, as christians agreed to differ? He who possesses the spirit of Christ, cannot live in enmity with his neighbour.
All systems of divinity, creeds and forms of faith, composed by uninspired men, are to be viewed as probably containing a mixture of errour. None should be used to try the qualifications of a candidate for the ministry. Are the people accountable to the minister ? Certainly not. So neither is the minister to the people. Let it not lessen a candidate in your esteem, if he disclaims every test of this kind. They should be spurned when presumptuously obtruded into the place of the law and the testimony. As Protestants we can consistently have no other test but the Bible. Every man has a right to interpret for himself. A mind perfectly uncontrouled by human. decisions, is honourary to all christians, but especially to candidates for the ministry.
CONSIDERATIONS IN THE CHOICE OF A MINISTER.
A scribe well instructed-apt to teach.
CHRISTIAN FRIENDS-You are about to elect your spiritual teacher. It is a solemn and momentous duty. You are to act for future generations, as well as for your own good. First, seek the divine guidance. Pray fervently, that you may act with a full view of your responsibility and of the lasting consequences. Avoid haste. How many parishes have had melancholy experience of the folly of a hasty choice! Some who exulted at their thus early securing a minister, have afterwards found that their success was their ruin. In a matter so irreversible, precipitation is derangement. Hear your candidate, if a young man, for two or three months. Take as little upon trust as possible. Engage him to live among you while he is a candidate; and place him in such circumstances as shall elicit his ministerial qualifications. Be well ascertained that his social feelings and habits are such as will attract and influence the young. In order to this, you must not depend on casual reports; you should go to the place of his birth or education, and be fully informed from unquestionable and uninterested sources. A man's true character is generally known by his neighbours.-You are not to lay so great stress on his present advancement, as on his ability and wish to improve. There are the greatest differences in families and individuals in this respect. We see young men, who, from not possessing a professional precocity, are obliged to wait unsettled for years; but who, when the time comes for action, show themselves the lights of the church, far surpassing their once successful competitors.
I will now add other considerations, which you will see are all important. Judge of the qualifications of your candidate by scripture rules. It is of the first importance, that the object of your choice be indeed a member of Christ's body-a Christian in temper and practice, as well as profession. In judging of this his sincerity in the reality of religion, let the rule laid down by our Saviour be your guide" By their fruits ye shall know them." If his moral character be fair and unblemished; if he has feared God from his youth, and has an established reputation for piety, benevolence, and sobriety; with this you ought to be satisfied. Your next inquiry will be, whether he possesses those abilities, natural and acquired, which are requisite in order to his discharging the duties of the ministry with becoming dignity, and so as to answer the important purposes of the institution. In the sacred writings, these are marked with sufficient precision for your direction. He must not be a novice, but mighty in the scriptures-a Scribe well instructed in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God-able from his treasures, accumulated by reading, meditation, and prayer, to bring forth, for the edification of his charge, things new and old, to feed them with knowledge and understanding. He should also possess those talents for communication which are implied in being "apt to teach." It may not perhaps bring any reflection upon your wisdom and good sense, nor be dishonourary to your Christian character, if your church and society should agree in choosing a candidate who possesses these general qualifications of an useful minister. You may lawfully covet the best gifts. I heartily wish you, beloved brethren, the Divine presence and direction in all your affairs, and that it will please God to unite your hearts in the choice of one who will naturally care for you, and who may prove a rich blessing to you and your children after you.