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writings will lead to a further acquaintance with them, might be admitted in the case of a newly discovered work; but so long as the natural indolence of man continues, many will be satisfied with so much of an acquaintance with those standard writers, of whom it is a shame to be entirely ignorant, as is afforded by the “ Extracts.” A royal road to learning has been laid out within a few years, though it is said to be exclusively for the benefit of the common people. Lectures are the railways of knowledge. Those who can afford the time and expense, may pursue the old road of investigation and reflection, of comparison and analysis, but those who have but little time for such a course, and those who are ambitious of being general scholars, are warranted a quick and easy, and sure passage to all kinds of information. Those learned men who devote themselves to the improvement of others from motives of real philanthropy, and spend their time and strength in the illustration of truths of great importance, that they may be apprehended, and, as far as possible, reduced to practice, are deserving of gratitude and praise; but those who neglect severe study when they are capable of it, because a popular lecture room furnishes knowledge without labor, and saves the anxiety and toil of investigation, will, inasmuch as they receive their learning at second hand, always be second rate scholars.
The Life of Jeremy Taylor, by Bp. Heber, which has suggested these reflections, has also recalled to mind a question of a distinguished layman, who having sought for a long time in vain for a popular candidate to fill a vacant pulpit, inquired of a minister if he thought that Heaven had made the race of great men to cease? As we think of the long catalogue of illustrious men, especially amongst the clergy, who lived between the reigns of Elizabeth and George the III., and the flood of their intellectual glory breaks upon the mind, we feel as in a dream after listening to a description of the evening heavens in the southern hemisphere. We know that many will plead that this age is more practical, a word which, in vulgar use, distinguishes with favor the material from mind, and is employed by thousands as the easy and unanswerable argument for sacrificing matters of taste and in
tellectual delight to sensuous utility. It would dig down Parnassus to help McAdamize a road, and underlay the
foundations of Castalia and Arethusa with aqueducts. And
there are many good men who are satisfied that things should be as they now are, because, they say, this is a working age preparatory to the millennium. It is a working age indeed, and religious enterprises exceed the expectations of their founders; the churches of our cities and large towns are all in a bustle, and man, woman and child, rich and poor, saint and sinner, are hewing wood and drawing water, or holding forth their money, or their exhortations; religious charities are systematized, and the work, though not as still as when Solomon built his temple, goes on with as great rapidity and strength. This is as it should be; and more than this, these labors must increase, greater sacrifices are to be made, and the efforts of the church must rise with the sound of every falling idol, and with every shout of victory froin the missionary bands. But we know that multitudes will sympathize with the opinion, that these external duties of the church, this organization for benevolent purposes, this prompt activity, this exciting yet delightful show of spirit
, and business-like movement, will be very apt to pass for religion itself, unless those who are most deeply engaged take a double care of their spiritual concerns. If ministers, to whom prayer and the preaching of solemn truths are apt to become a mere business, are so often warned of this liability, the laymen cannot feel themselves safe from danger. The only subjects of conversation with many Christians, are those relating to the external movements of the church. Let these movements proceed with tenfold rapidity, but let it be remembered, that the Saviour has said, “ THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN you.” Let it be remembered, that spirituality is the grand essential means of advancing Christ's kingdom ; and that without it, all efforts to do good will be comparatively inefficient. There is a church, for example, whose members have been trained to noble efforts, and the rich amongst them imitate the primitive spirit of benevolence. But when you meet them, their conversation is upon their flourishing condition, their full house, the success of their benevolent enterprises, large contributions, and the numbers that have joined them from the other side. Go into their church meeting; their business is done with the tact and promptitude of the insurance office. They sing, exhort, and pray, with ease, and the meeting reminds you of a glib machine that runs upon oiled ways. You come away, and feel as if you had been with men of spirit rather than of spirituality. There
is another church where the religious enterprises are as well managed and the contributions as great as in the former, while amongst the members you habitually discover a deep and solemn religious feeling. They make you feel that they are men of prayer, men who live in a spiritual world, and have communion with eternity. Conscious of the danger to which they are exposed at the present day of losing the individuality of their religious character, knowing that benevolent activity is very apt to pass in the soul's estimation for piety, and apprehending the danger from these causes, of a light spirit, a superficial piety, and a kind of mercantile religion, they make a serious duty of private meditation and reflection. They seem in conversation, as if they had been talking with Mr. Flavel · On keeping the heart. If we may judge from their prayers, their reading does not consist merely of reports and newspapers, but having inherited or having purchased volumes of the old and sainted men, their delight is with such writings as the sermons of President Edwards, and to mention no others, the Holy Living and Dying of Jeremy Taylor. When they meet with the church, though they are prompt and efficient in its business, especially in its discipline, they take more pleasure in a devotional, than in a deliberative meeting. They are not those who love discussion and management, but a spirit of earnest, fervent, disinterested, and simple-hearted piety. They are zealous for the purity of the church as well as for the conversion of sinners; they would regard it as tending more to its real welfare, to have an unworthy member cut off, than to receive a number of merely “hopeful” converts.
Their influence comes down upon their brethren, like dew on Hermon; the church rises fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. Yes, it is terrible to hypocrites; they cannot live in such a church ; they will either seek a dismission, or make their hypocrisy and sin manifest and be cut off. It is terrible to the enemies of God around them, and still more so to the gates of hell. Their minister is greatly encouraged; he is more spiritually minded. He rises over the congregation like a cloud full of rain. Each of the church, awakened in their turn by his example and exhortations, becomes a minister of God to sinners; benevolent efforts of all kinds rise higher and higher, and the influence of that band of Christians is without measure and without end. What is the cause? Its leading members are men of spiritual reflection. They commune with their own hearts and with God in proportion to their temptations from their religious and secular business. In short, they walk with God. The secret, then, of this mighty influence that reaches to the ends of the earth, that makes the heavens bow, and its richest blessings come down, is, spiritual Reflection. How great the effects ! how simple the cause! If Jeremy Taylor were speaking upon the subject, (it was a favorite topic with him,) he would, perhaps, say, So have I seen a pebble dropped upon the bosom of a lake, and from its deep retirement, the little circles, rising one by one, have stretched their pliant natures in wider undulations : and mingling their sympathetic and tremulous motions, the surface was swayed as with a soft compliance, and the imaged firmament yielded its awful form to the momentary joy !
There is a disposition amongst certain good men at the present day, to undervalue mind and intellectual attainments in the clergy. They may not be conscious of the tendency of their remarks, but to others it is very apparent. When we hear a minister indulging in such remarks, we feel that he is doing great injury. To those of our Christian brethren in colleges and seminaries, who feel the importance of a cultivated intellect, and great attainments in the sublime work of the ministry, and strive for their own sakes and for the sake of their fellow men to increase their acquisitions, such a disposition is discouraging because it makes them feel that they will be suspected by their brethren of intellectual pride. When we read an exhortation addressed to ministers to beware of too great an attention to the understanding, and too great a desire for knowledge, we feel as if the danger pointed out had a sufficient antidote in the natural indolence of men. In such a day as this, when the labors of the clergy are so greatly increased by the numerous demands of benevolent and religious enterprises upon their time, and temptations are strong to forsake the study and trust upon the Sabbath to extemporaneous effort, any such advice is decidedly injudicious. Let exhortations to the cultivation of the heart be as solemn and as frequent as possible, but in the present state of learning and of mind amongst us, let not one word be said in disparagement of intellectual culture. We fear that such disparagement has its origin in a great untruth, viz. : that the Bible is unfavorable to intellect and mental cultivation. Because the cultivation of the heart is always made the grand requisite for success in the ministry, the inference seems to be, that the man who feels rightly and with the greatest fervor, is the most eminent of the servants of God.
In regard to this opinion, the following reflections may not be irrelevant.
We read in one of the Gospels, that upon a most interesting occasion, there was leaning upon Jesus's bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. It is a very common impression, that it was merely the softness of John's character which made him beloved of Christ. A moment's reflection will show that this supposition is incorrect. His writings are characterized by the invariable attendant of the highest genius, simplicity. In the introduction of his gospel, we hardly know whether to admire the greatness of the truths, or the proof they give, by the simplicity with which they are expressed, of a superior mind. They are like the firmament. A common observer looks upon the stars with a feeling of pleasure; and though they are systems of worlds upon which he gazes, and not merely shining points, and their intervolving courses, high and dreadful, are beyond the wisdom or power of an angel, and fill the astronomer with awe, yet to the peasant, the only effect is a simple and calm emotion. Look at a few passages in the first chapter of the gospel of John. In Him was life, and the life was the light of
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. Every Christian, however humble, receives some idea from these words; but to those who can penetrate their depths of wisdom, the impressions are as different as those of the astronomer and the peasant.
Yet there is no display of mystery there ; so that we feel that the mind which was so constituted, that, with the Spirit of God directing its natural powers, it could express itself in this manner, was of no inferior order, and that it was not feeling merely which gave it pre-eminence. Then consider the book of Revelation, and we shall not wonder that the author was a man whom Jesus loved. It is not to be forgotten, that this disciple, on some occasions in the early part of his acquaintance with Christ, manifested an impetuous temper. When Christ was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time, he sent messengers before him to a village of the Samaritans, in order to make preparations for a short residence amongst them. But it is said the Samaritans did not receive him, because his face (or purpose) was as though he would go up to