Page images



"I Will not go in."-Nehemiah, vi, 11.


NEHEMIAĦ was one of the most amiable and useful men in his day. He finished a great and arduous work, which Ezra and Zerubbabel left unfinished. Zerubbabel conducted the first company of the captive Jews to Jerusalem, and rebuilt the temple. Ezra conducted the second company of the Jews to Jerusalem, and in a measure re-established the public worship of God in the temple. But the city of Jerusalem still lay in ruins, and the people were exposed to the incursions and ravages of their surrounding enemies. As soon as Nehemiah received intelligence of the deplorable state of Jerusalem and of the people there," he sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven." He then made application to the king of Babylon for leave to go and repair the city of his fathers' sepulchres. God, who had the king's heart in his hand, disposed him to grant his request. Having obtained this liberty, he set out, under the king's protection and with letters of recommendation in his hand, and safely arrived at Jerusalem, where he abode three days, before he made his business known to either the rulers, or the priests, or the people. In this interval, he surveyed the desolate and ruined state of the city, and formed his resolution to repair the walls and restore it to its strength and beauty. But in effecting this great design, he met with violent and artful opposition. His enemies used all the means in their power to intimidate him and his people, and cause them to relinquish their work. But Nehemiah had so much courage and resolution, that he disregarded the threats of his enemies and the advice of his timid friends. For when Shemaiah advised him to conceal himself in the temple, he boldly replied, “Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in." This noble reply teaches us,

That energy of mind is necessary in order to do good in the world. It is proposed to show,

I. Wherein energy of mind consists.
II. How it may be acquired. And
III. Why it is necessary in order to do good in the world.

I. Let us consider wherein energy of mind consists. This chiefly consists in confidence, resolution, and courage.

1. Energy of mind partly consists in confidence of one's judgment. A man's judgment is that opinion which he forms in consequence of arranging and comparing his ideas upon any subject that gains his attention. If any sentiment is proposed, we are capable of arranging and comparing our ideas upon it, and forming a judgment, whether it be true or false. If any particular mode of conduct be proposed, we are capable of arranging and comparing our ideas upon it, and of forming a judgment, whether it be right or wrong, wise or unwise, and whether it be best or not best to act in the manner proposed. We are all more or less capable of deliberating upon any question or subject, and of forming an opinion about it; and we generally do form an opinion. Some, indeed, are much more deliberate and accurate in forming their judgment than others, which lays a foundation for some to have a much greater confidence in their own judgment than others. Those who are the most deliberate, and take the most care to form their opinions, are commonly the most apt to rely, and have the most reason to rely upon their own judgment; and will, of course, act with the most energy. This every one knows to be true by his own experience, whether he be more or less judicious. We always act with the most energy, when we have the most confidence in our own judgment. This appears from observation as well as experience. We find those persons firm, stable, and energetic in their conduct, who appear to place the most confidence in their own judgment, whether their opinions are formed with or without the aid of others. In many cases, it is the part of a wise man to take advice, but when he obtains it, he improves-it merely as advice, and does not rely upon it without examination. It is immaterial from what source a man obtains information, if he does but obtain it. But no information can be had, without being understood. One man's telling another what is wise or best, affords him no information, unless he sees why it is wise or best. But if he sees why the

[ocr errors]

advice is good, then he gains real information, and is prepared to act with confidence in his own enlightened judgment. For every man will act with energy, when he firmly believes that he has formed a correct judgment in respect to his object of pursuit. Nehemiah had full confidence in his own judgment in regard to the great object which he was pursuing, and would not relinquish it for the advice of friends or the terror of his foes.

2. Energy of mind partly consists in a man's resolution to execute his own designs. There may be a head to plan, when there is no heart to execute. How

many men form good designs, which they have not resolution to effect? They clearly see their designs to be wise, and know they would answer valuable purposes if executed, and they see no peculiar difficulty or danger in pursuing them ; but through mere irresolution and negligence, never carry them into effect. Such men have no energy, and never accomplish any great and important purposes. But those who possess real resolution, have a readiness and promptitude to accomplish their purposes without delay. Nehemiah had such a resolution. As soon as he had formed his design to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the city, and had sought for divine direction, and gained the king's permission, he immediately pursued his purpose. Paul no sooner embraced the gospel and determined to preach it, than he began the arduous work, without consulting flesh and blood. He did not suffer his pious design to languish by delay, or want of resolution. We never find any men to be energetic, who are slow and dilatory in executing their designs. But we always find energy in those who have firmness of resolution and promptitude in pursuing their designs. This was exemplified in Napoleon, who gained more victories, by his resolution and promptitude in acting, than by any other means. Resolution is an essential quality of mental energy.

3. Energy of mind comprises courage as well as resolution and confidence. Courage is a disposition to meet whatever dangers, difficulties, or opposition may lie in the way of prosecuting any great and arduous undertaking. Courage is a little different from fortitude, which is a disposition to suffer natural evil. Many persons have fortitude, who are destitute of courage, They can bear evils when they come, but cannot bear to look forward to them without fear. This is the case of the natives in this country. They can support the greatest pains and tortures without sinking under them, but they have no courage to meet dangers, or to face enemies. They are very timid and fearful of evils before they come, but when they

[ocr errors]

come they can sustain them with astonishing firmness and fortitude. But energy has respect to acting, rather than suffering, and therefore requires courage. Men must have courage to meet and encounter opposition, and to conquer everything that is hostile to the great and benevolent designs they are pursuing. Nehemiah had this courage. For he said, " Should such a man as I flee?" I will risk my life before I will go into the temple to conceal myself, or relinquish my great and good work. David had courage to defy the threats and meet the face and arm of Goliath. Paul had courage to go up to Jerusalem notwithstanding the advice of his friends and all the dangers that stared him in the face. Though he knew that bonds and imprisonment awaited him in doing good, yet he had courage to meet every danger to which his duty might expose him. Such courage to encounter all opposition and to meet all dangers and sufferings in prosecuting great and benevolent designs, is one quality which is necessary to constitute energy of mind or decision of character. I now proceed,

II. To show how this energy of mind or decision of character may be acquired. I know, indeed, that a foundation for it must be laid in nature, and that all men are not equally capable of acquiring it to the same degree. Some men are born with stronger nerves and stronger intellects than others, which form a capacity for greater energy of mind. The mind and body mutually strengthen or weaken each other. The same, man has not the same energy at one time as at another. Julius Cæsar, who had superior energy of mind, lost it in sickness, with which one of his enemies reproached him. But though mental energy may be partly owing to nature, yet it may be greatly cultivated and improved, and of course, there are proper means to be used in order to acquire it; and among others the following may be employed.

1. Men should endeavor to have a clear and comprehensive view of every object they pursue. By this they will avoid discouragement from any new and unexpected difficulties, which are connected with their design, and might have been foreseen and expected. Too many form hasty designs before they have thoroughly viewed them in all their relations, connections, and consequences, and this naturally subjects them to doubts and delays, and often to a final defeat and disappointment. Many modes of conduct appear, at first view, very differently from what they do, after a full investigation. Men often see many things which are desirable to be done if they could be done, but find by a proper examination that they are utterly impracticable. Such objects of pursuit ought never to be attempted,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

because those who attempt them will certainly be disappointed. But when men have a clear and full view of what they purpose to do, they will rarely meet with any unexpected difficulties, to weaken their ardor and energy. The exercise of wisdom and sagacity in forming designs, directly tends to create ardor and energy in executing them. Those who undertake any good and great design after due consideration and investigation generally succeed, though they meet with opposition and formidable difficulties. If men wish to act with energy in their public or private concerns, let them form and digest their own plans with wisdom, and they will be in no danger of losing their ardor and energy in executing them, or of failing of suc


2. In order to acquire energy of mind, men must learn to reason in a correct and conclusive manner. All men have occasion to reason upon the concerns in which they engage, and especially in matters of great magnitude and importance. But many are apt to be satisfied with plausible, instead of conclusive arguments, in favor or against what is proposed to be done. Men may reason plausibly against any truth, or against any design however wise or benevolent it may be ; but they cannot reason conclusively against either. Therefore they should never content themselves with mere plausible arguments, whether suggested by themselves or others; but aim to get conclusive arguments in favor of what they adopt, and against what they reject. And as they gain a habit of reasoning conclusively, they will place a dependence upon their conclusions, which will prompt them to act with energy, and without hesitation or delay. Those who are in the habit of reasoning - conclusively, form their judgment readily, and are prepared to aot decidedly and energetically; while those who neglect to reason, place but little dependence on their own opinions and resolutions, and act not with promptitude and decision; and generally choose to hear and rely on the opinion of others. Such men can have no energy or decision of character.

3. Men may acquire energy of mind, by placing themselves under a necessity of acting. So long as they feel themselves under no necessity of forming and executing any noble and important designs, they feel no occasion of acquiring energy of mind. And the great majority of mankind choose to keep themselves in a neutral state, and devolve the business of form. ing and executing useful and important designs upon others. They choose to promote their own private good, and totally disregard the good of the public. They have no disposition to form any great design, or to undertake any great work, which

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »